Campbell-Gillard granted immediate release by Panthers to join arch rivals Eels

Newly signed Parramatta Eels prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard

They needed a prop and the Penrith Panthers were happy to oblige, releasing Reagan Campbell-Gillard effective immediately to the Parramatta Eels. 

Still only 26, RCG brings with him the pedigree of playing for New South Wales, Australia and an NYC premiership in 2013.

It was the Eels who made the approach to take Campbell-Gillard off the Panthers hands and from there, negotiations ensued.

“Earlier this year Parramatta approached our club to express an interest in acquiring Reagan’s services,” Panthers General Manager Rugby League Matt Cameron said.

“After lengthy discussions between Panthers, Reagan’s management and Reagan himself, a mutually agreed position was reached.”

With purported cap issues a reason behind the release of several players, Campbell-Gillard’s departure gives them some much needed cap flexibility.

“The decision to grant this release was not taken lightly,” continued Cameron.

“Management of the club’s salary cap is a detailed and complex exercise that at times requires difficult decisions to be made to ensure sustainability.

“While it is always disappointing to see local juniors leave Panthers, this outcome provides our club with crucial salary cap flexibility not only next year but also in future years.

“As a club we thank Reagan for his service and wish him the best of luck moving forward.”

Also a Fijian international, the signing is one that the Eels welcome for the 2020 season as they bolster their roster.

“We’re continuing to build our roster and the addition of Reagan, a representative forward, is a great fit for our team,” said Parramatta Eels General Manager of Football, Mark O’Neill.

NRL Finals Week 1 Preview

Sydney Roosters back-rower Angus Crichton

Sydney Roosters v South Sydney Rabbitohs @Sydney Cricket Ground

The hallowed turf of the SCG will play host to these two bitter rivals.

Roosters Coach Trent Robinson would have been doing his best to ensure his players quickly licked their wounds from last week’s upset loss at the hands of the Rabbitohs.

The tri-colours had been on a seven game winning streak prior to last Thursday night’s loss and have only lost one game at the SCG all year – a round one loss, again at the hands of the Bunnies.

South Sydney looked in all sorts a month ago, but after losing three straight they bounced back with three wins, culminating in their confidence boosting performance against the Chooks.

Coach Wayne Bennett is a master at getting his team firing at the right time of year and he looks to have the Rabbitohs fine-tuned for another finals tilt.

Russell Crowe had the much fabled ‘book of feuds’ open out Redfern way this week and has likely written another chapter given Sam Burgess was outed by the judiciary for this contest.

Jared Warea-Hargreaves was found not guilty and free to play despite an ugly looking incident last week which left Rabbitohs bookend Liam Knight dazed and bloody.

Sydney Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary

TEAM CHANGES: The Roosters were resting a number of stars last week with Luke Keary, Brett Morris, Mitchell Aubusson and Siosiua Taukeiaho returning to the 17.

Their inclusions mean Billy Smith. Drew Hutchison, Lindsay Collins and Sitili Tupouniua drop out of the squad whilst Angus Crichton and Nat Butcher shuffle back to the bench.

With Sam Burgess out suspended, Tevita Tatola has been named to start up front. Dane Gagai has been ruled out with a hamstring strain, but strike centre James Roberts returns from suspension to replace him.

South Sydney Rabbitohs centre Dane Gagai

Roberts will likely line up on his preferred right side with Campbell Graham shifting back to the left.

Burgess twins Tom and George have been named in the 21 man squad with Tom named on the bench in place of Tom Amone and George in the reserves.

Both are expected to play on Friday night and there’s every likelihood one will end up starting.

KEY MATCH-UP: Luke Keary v Cody Walker

The absence of Keary was noticeable last week as the Roosters were unable to provide enough space for their normally lethal left-edge attack.

Walker meanwhile is just starting to hit his straps again after going into his shell a little following his failed state of origin stint earlier this year.

Respective halves Cooper Cronk and Adam Reynolds will be playing their roles in getting their troops around the park, but it will likely be a touch of Keary or Walker brilliance that ultimately decides the outcome.

South Sydney Rabbitohs five-eighth Cody Walker

RECENT HISTORY: The Rabbitohs have a 3-2 advantage in the last five clashes and were victorious in both encounters this year.

Campbell Graham and Cody Walker crossed for tries in both matches this year. In the last finals game played between the two, the Roosters triumphed in last year’s preliminary final.

Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders @AAMI Park

After claiming another Minor-Premiership, the Storm come into this encounter after winning four of their last five including a crushing victory over the Sea Eagles at Lottoland two weeks ago which was a real statement heading towards this finals series.

The one loss during that period did come at the hands of the Raiders who overcame an 18 point deficit and two players in the sin-bin to record a remarkable win which sent a warning shot to the rest of the competition that the Raiders were in fact the real deal in 2019.

Before last week’s upset loss to the Warriors, Ricky Stuart’s men faced off against the Roosters, Storm, Sea Eagles and Sharks in a gruelling month of football that make them the most battle-hardened outfit heading into this finals campaign.

Melbourne Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr

TEAM CHANGES: Both teams chose to rest a number of players in the penultimate round of the regular season.

For the Storm, Josh Addo-Carr, Cameron Munster and Brandon Smith all return at the expense of Sandor Earl, Brodie Croft and Harry Grant.

For the Raiders, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jordan Rapana, Iosia Soliola and John Bateman return from their week off, whilst Joey Leilua and Joseph Tapine also return from suspension and injury respectively.

Rookie back-rower Hudson Young is the big out for the green machine after being handed an eight week suspension at the judiciary on Tuesday night. He will join Michael Oldfield, Siliva Havili, Emre Guler and JJ Collins watching from the side-lines this week.

Canberra Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson

KEY MATCH-UP: Cameron Smith v Josh Hodgson
The big match experience of these two men will be crucial in the outcome here.

Smith is the master of controlling the tempo of a match and Hodgson isn’t far behind these days. Expect one of these two to come up with the influential play that decides this one.

Melbourne Storm captain and hooker Cameron Smith

RECENT HISTORY: The Raiders will be full of confidence after their last start win over the Storm, but that won’t affect the psyche of this Melbourne team who’ve won four of the last five between the two teams.

Jarrod Croker scored a double in both games played between the two this year and Suliasi Vunivalu has crossed for six tries in his last four games against the Raiders.

Manly Sea Eagles v Cronulla Sharks @ Lottoland

After upsetting the Raiders in Canberra three weeks ago, the Sea Eagles were flying high and looked on track for a top four birth.

In the ensuing two weeks, they were comprehensively beaten by both the Storm and Eels, but the real story is the club being decimated by injuries and suspension that has left the Northern beaches side extremely thin on troops for the most important game of their season.

Still, Manly historically thrive when in these backs to the wall scenarios and Coach Des Hasler loves nothing more than flying under the radar coming into the big end of season games.

The Sharks meanwhile have been the sleeping giants of this

competition for most of the year.

With a squad stocked with representative stars, most people expected the Sharks to go on a run at some stage.

They have won three of their last four heading into this and the lone loss was a golden point thriller against the Raiders two weeks back.

Manly Sea Eagles lock Jake Trbojevic

TEAM CHANGES: Already missing Tom Trbojevic, Joel Thompson and Morgan Boyle to injury, things got a whole lot worse for the Sea Eagles in their last start loss.

Curtis Sironen and Taniela Paseka went down in what look to be season ending injuries and gun prop Martin Taupau was suspended for a high shot.

In somewhat of a reprieve to the injury crisis, they do welcome Jack Gosiewski and Toafofoa Sipley.

They also convinced the NRL to allow them a roster exemption with Tony Williams named in the reserves and expected to come into the game day 17.

Manly Sea Eagles back-rower Tony Williams and coach Des Hasler

Prop Sean Keppie has been named to replace Taupau up front in just his second NRL game.

Sharks Coach John Morris has selected Aaron Gray on the wing in place of the suspended Ronaldo Mulitalo.

Matt Moylan has again been named in the reserves and is rated a 50/50 chance of suiting up on Saturday night.

Cronulla Sharks fullback Matt Moylan

If he can prove his fitness, he would likely slot in at fullback with Josh Dugan moving onto the wing in place of Gray.

KEY MATCH-UP: Addin Fonua-Blake v Andrew Fifita

Fifita has been named on the bench, but if he’s promoted to the starting side as he was last week we could be in for a ferocious opening with these two going hammer and tongs.

Both players provide a rare x-factor up front for their respective sides with their ability to bust tackles and create second-phase play with their offloads.

Fifita is getting somewhere near his best at the right time of year after struggling with an ongoing knee injury for much of the season.

Fonua-Blake meanwhile is enjoying his most consistent season to date, but with no Taupau alongside him, needs to produce the game of his life to give the Sea Eagles a chance here.

Cronulla Sharks prop Andrew Fifita

RECENT HISTORY: It’s been well documented Manly hold a superior record over the Sharks and the recent history isn’t much different.

The Sea Eagles hold a 4-1 advantage in their last five clashers. Dylan Walker has crossed for a try in his last three games against the Sharks.

Parramatta Eels v Brisbane Broncos @ Bankwest Stadium

If the golden point thriller that was played out by these two teams at Suncorp Stadium two weeks ago is anything to go by, we should be in for a cracking contest to close out the opening weekend of finals action.

Both teams have won three out of their last five coming into this match and it was only a barnstorming charge from David Fifita and a Jamayne Isaako field goal that proved the difference in Round 24.

Brisbane Broncos young back-rower David Fifita

The Eels did score three tries to two on the night with goal-kicking letting them down.

In a contrast of styles, the Broncos play off their hungry young pack whilst the Eels seem to have more direction from their key men and more strike out wide.

TEAM CHANGES: Eels Coach Brad Arthur has lost Kane Evans to suspension and he will need to be replaced after being named in Tuesday’s team list prior to his failed judiciary hearing.

The likely scenario is Daniel Alvaro coming back into the starting side with one of Tepai Moroera or Peni Terepo joining the bench.

The Eels do however receive a big boost with their forward leader Nathan Brown returning from a two week suspension to lock the scrum.

Parramatta Eels lock Nathan Brown

The Broncos will also welcome back their regular lock forward with Joe Ofahengaue returning from injury.

His inclusion will push Patrick Carrigan back to the pine where he will be joined by centre Gehamat Shibasaki who’s earned a recall to the 17.

KEY MATCH-UP: Clinton Gutherson v Anthony Milford

Different styles of fullbacks, but both are just as important to their respective teams.

Gutherson is the ultra-consistent team man who has a knack for turning up at the right time with his exceptional support play.

Milford has all the talent in the world with his skillful kicking, passing and running games.

Parramatta Eels fullback Clint Gutherson

He’s been a little underwhelming since moving to fullback, but the stage could be set for him to deliver when his teams need it the most.

With the two forward packs cancelling each other out in their recent match, it could be a bounce of the ball with one of these fullbacks on the spot that proves the difference.

RECENT HISTORY: The Eels hold a slim advantage in the last five played with the ledger reading 3-2. Michael Jennings and Corey Oates have both crossed for three tries throughout that period.

English duo Whitehead and Ran Sutton sign contract extensions with Raiders

Canberra Raiders utility Elliott Whitehead

Two of the key players at the Canberra Raiders, Elliott Whitehead and Ryan Sutton have both signed contract extensions with the club. 

The new deals will run through until the end of the 2022 season, with both establishing themselves within the side.

There was no other club in mind for Whitehead, who said the decision was an easy one.

“I’ve absolutely loved my time at the Raiders so far, so to extend for another two seasons is fantastic and I know we’re on the right path to achieving success,” Whitehead said.

“I’ve seen this squad grow into something special over the past few seasons.

“I really wanted to make sure I stayed in Canberra and be a part of what we’re building. I didn’t want to go anywhere else.

“It’s great news to get the deal sorted and my focus is now on having a really strong finals series for the Raiders and hopefully helping the club win a competition.”

In his first year with the club, Sutton has surprised many by making a smooth transition.

Despite playing well, Sutton knows that he can get even better over the course of his deal.

“I set my sights on coming out to Australia and getting my foot in the door with the Raiders and I’ve been lucky enough to play more games than I expected in my first year,” Sutton said.

“It’s my goal now to keep getting better and better each year of this contract and hopefully establishing myself as an NRL player for the rest of my career.”

“I really want to thank Ricky and the coaching staff for giving me the opportunity and I’m looking forward to becoming a better player in the future for the Raiders.”

Canberra Raiders prop Ryan Sutton

Coote ‘has proven his commitment’ to Scotland

Scotland fullback Lachlan Coote

EX-SCOTLAND coach Steve McCormack has backed Lachlan Coote’s inclusion in the Great Britain squad – and revealed the full-back lost money to play for the Bravehearts.

Saints No.1 Coote was this week included in Wayne Bennett’s 29-man training panel for the Lions tour in autumn, having qualified through his Scottish ancestry.

His selection was met by criticism in some quarters because he was born and raised in Australia.

But Wiganer McCormack says the 29-year-old has more than proved his commitment to Scotland and shed light on the sacrifices he made to play for the nation during the Four Nations in 2016.

“He’d just come off the back of an NRL season, his body need fixing up but he really wanted to play for Scotland and he was immensely proud to do so,” said McCormack.

“I can’t speak highly enough of him and the commitment he showed to representing Scotland.

“He was over here for six weeks, away from his family, and he lost money to play for us.

“It would have cost him money to play for Scotland, but he was so motivated to represent his heritage, and he did with some fantastic displays.

“He’s very proud of his ancestry and he was absolutely top class, and I’m delighted he’s been selected in this squad.”

Warrington Wolves utility Blake Austin

Another Aussie – Warrington’s Blake Austin – is also in the squad, having previously been included in the England training squad because of his heritage.

McCormack, who left his role with the Warriors earlier this year for a role with the charity Rugby League Cares, coached Scotland for more than a decade before stepping down in 2017.

“I do understand the criticism of picking Australian-born players, I do – and sport is all about opinions,” he added.

“But Lachlan is eligible under the rules and as I said, he has certainly shown his commitment to Scotland.”

Chase sticks with Doncaster

Doncaster RLFC halfback Rangi Chase

FORMER England half-back Rangi Chase has signed a new contract with Betfred League One club Doncaster.

The 33-year-old one-time Man of Steel began playing for the South Yorkshire club in July following the completion of a two-year suspension for cocaine use and has now decided to extend his stay until the end of 2020.

“I’m happy to get it over the line,” Chase told the club’s website.

“In my mind, I was always going to stay here but it is good to get it all sorted and I can look forward to the future.”

Doncaster chief executive Carl Hall said: “Rangi has shown his class both on and off the pitch since joining the club and has given us an added threat in our attacking game.

“Richard Horne made it clear how important it was that we got the deal done, with Rangi being such an important player and other clubs showing a keen interest in him.

“To have secured his signature for next season is massive for our club.”

NRL Round 25 Best Bets and Predictions

Parramatta Eels winger Blake Ferguson

NRL round 25 best bets and predictions

This article contains some of the best bets of round 25 of the NRL. The lines, odds and totals listed may change as we get closer to the weekend.

Eels vs Sea Eagles

Round 24 was one Manly may wish never happened.

They were embarrassed by the Melbourne Storm at home and lost star player Tom Trbojevic to a torn pec, ruling him out for the rest of the 2019 season.

Trbojevic has been a transcendent talent for Manly over this season. From making game changing plays, to also being a key piece in the bulk of their attacking pieces, his loss will heavily affect Manly’s finals hopes.

Manly will, as a result, have to re-shuffle their team and game plan. Brendan Elliot will move to fullback and Corey Waddell from the bench, into the starting side.

The Storm were able to expose Moses Suli and Brad Parker on the right edge in their encounter last week.
Josh Addo Carr and Justin Olam combining for three tries attacking that side of the field.

I expect for the Parramatta Eels to take full advantage of this and they will shift the ball a lot more and attack Manly’s weak edge defence.

The Parramatta attack has improved with the late season addition of Waqa Blake.

Blake Ferguson and Blake played their first game together last round against the Broncos.

The centre/wing combination have had a full week training and a game together so any issues of cohesion we saw should be ironed out.

The Eels did have a small hot streak after stringing together three victories in a row against the Titans, Knights and Dragons.

Heading into this week though, they are coming off close losses to both the Bulldogs and the Broncos.

The Eels will want to regather the momentum they had and build some confidence heading into the first week of finals.

Best bet– Parramatta Eels -4 $1.90 (Bet Easy) Parramatta Eels HT/FT $2.10 (TAB)

Value- Parramatta Eels 13+ $3.15 (Bet Easy)

Try scorer– Michael Jennings $3.00 (Bet Easy)

Titans vs Dragons

Two people are watching this game: those on super coach, or degenerate gamblers like myself.

However, there is still money to be made.

Both teams have had significant changes to their team. Notably, Cameron McInnes, who is out with a broken leg.

The Dragons will miss his presence in and around the ruck as McInnes leads the NRL in tackles at 1,146, and has the 3rd most dummy half runs in the NRL.

St George Illawarra Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes

He has been the Dragons’ best player in 2019 despite going un-noticed because of his team’s disappointing season.

Honestly, I have no idea who will win this game.

Both teams are playing plenty of new and young talent with the hopes of them gaining some experience heading into 2020.

I can see, as a result, this game being high scoring. The last time these teams met, remember, there were 68 points on the board!

With both teams playing for nothing besides pride, they will play an open style and won’t be afraid to shift the ball and play some footy.

Best bet– Over 43.5 $1.88 (Neds)

West Tigers Vs Sharks

Sudden death.

Nervous tension will fill the air at Leichardt on Sunday afternoon, as when the final siren blows, one team will be moving into finals and the other will be preparing their mad Monday outfit.

The Tigers are coming off two convincing wins which highlighted their ability in attack but also their strong defence.

Michael Maguire is a defensive minded coach, who likes his teams playing physical and tough.

This can be seen through the Tigers 598 missed tackles – one of the best in the NRL.

Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire

The Sharks had a disappointing loss, leading the Raiders by twelve points at half time, and losing in golden point 14-13… I can’t bet the Sharks this week.

That golden point stuff is against my gambling morals. Once a team loses like that, I can’t back them.

With my bias is in play, I can’t bet against the Tigers at Leichardt on a Sunday arvo.

The Sharks are too inconsistent and make crucial mistakes as they lead the comp in errors at 273.

The Tigers are a team who will be able to take advantage of any slip-ups while also clamping the Sharks on defence.

Best Bets– Tigers Win $2.10 (TAB) Tigers +2 $1.91 (Points Bet) Under 40.5 1.90 (Points Bet)

Value– Tigers 1-12 $3.30 (TAB)


Blistering form sees Charnze Nicholl-Klokstad rewarded with new Canberra Raiders deal

Canberra Raiders fullback Charnze Nicholl-Klokstad

Proving to be one of the buys of the season, the scintillating form of Charnze Nicholl-Klokstad has seen him rewarded with a new Canberra Raiders deal.

Still contracted for 2020, the club knew they had to act fast, re-signing Nicholl-Klokstad for a further three seasons until 2023.

With the full quota of 23 games to his name this year, 11 tries to boot and great form, it is a far cry from the off-season when he may not have been first choice.

For Nicholl-Klokstad, he is just pleased that he gets to keep playing in the NRL.

“I’m really happy to be staying in Canberra,” the Raiders fullback said.

“I still pinch myself every week that I get to play in the NRL and to get the opportunity to stay at this wonderful club for another three years on top of this year is fantastic.”

With both the club and player wanting stability, Raiders CEO Don Furner knows the potential is there for Nicholl-Klokstad to only get better.

“Charnze has had a wonderful first season for the club after joining us late in the pre-season,” Furner said.

“He’s taken his opportunity with both hands and has established himself as an NRL player.

“We see him as our long-term fullback and it’s a credit to his dedication and work ethic to see him rewarded with this new deal.

“We believe the best is still yet to come for Charnze as he continues to work on his game and become a more experienced player at NRL level.”

Knights get their man with O’Brien named head coach

Incoming Newcastle Knights coach Adam O’Brien

The search is over and although it may be a choice some Newcastle Knights fans wanted, Adam O’Brien has been handpicked as their new head coach. 

O’Brien comes with all the pedigree you would want for a first time coach stepping into the hot seat.

He has served under two elite modern coaches in Craig Bellamy and Trent Robinson for several years now.

In the end, the club determined that O’Brien was their man from a list of lengthy candidates.

“We are very excited to have Adam coming in as Head Coach,” Mr Phil Gardner, Knights club Chairman said.

“Aside from quality coaching, we want quality people within the organisation and Adam ticks all of those boxes.

“Adam has had extensive experience in development and transition programs, along with his experience in leading premiership winning clubs.”

Gardiner was quick to praise the Sydney Roosters for their role in allowing the move to happen so quickly.

“We’d like to thank the Roosters and in particular, Trent Robinson, for allowing Adam to go through this process.

“There is nothing better for us, then to have Adam come to the Knights from a premiership winning system.”

O’Brien is excited by what he has seen from the Knights club and praised their extensive nursery.

“The Knights are a strong Club with a significant and passionate supporter base through the Hunter region and beyond,” the soon to be Knights coach said.

“They have stability off the field via the Wests Group and a rich nursery of junior talent.

“I have been patient throughout my coaching career, but the time is right to make this move and all of these attributes made the move to Newcastle an easy decision.”

With what many deem as a strong roster, O’Brien looks forward to working with them all.

“The playing list excites me and the Hunter community excites me,” O’Brien continued.

”There is a lot to look forward to.”


Cowboys veteran Cooper goes on for one more year

North Queensland Cowboys back-rower Gavin Cooper

A club stalwart, a three-hundred gamer and a crowd favourite; North Queensland love him and Gavin Cooper will go around for an 11th season.

Cooper has re-signed for the 2020 season and will add to his 231 games for the Cowboys, currently the fifth most capped player.

With both Matthew Scott and Scott Bolton departing the club, retaining experience was crucial for the club.

“We have a number of talented young edge back rowers at the club who we think are going to develop into really good NRL players and another year with Gavin is going to assist their development,” Cowboys Director of Football Peter Parr said.

“Re-signing Coops also ensures we retain a strong leader, which is important with Matthew Scott and Scott Bolton leaving the club at the end of the season.”

Despite his age, Cooper has shown his durability by playing every game in 2019, and this factored in their decision.

“He has also played every game this year, so he’s stood the test of time and shown great durability and our medical staff see no reason why that can’t continue for another 12 months,” Parr continued.

“When we weighed everything up, we thought another year was appropriate because of the value he brings on and off the field.”

Mentoring the young squad coming through, playing in a new stadium and other factors all influenced Cooper’s decision.

“I still love playing footy and I still feel like I have a lot to offer the game,” he said.

“We have an exciting squad and the chance to mentor the younger players at our club is something that appeals to me.

“The opportunity to play at our new stadium in 2020 in front of Cowboys fans also played a part in our decision.”

Koroisau heads West and signs with Penrith

Returning Penrith Panthers hooker Apisai Koroisau

The Bulldogs seemed like the place for him to go but instead, Apisai Koroisau has joined the Penrith Panthers. 

Koroisau, who had apparently all but joined the Bulldogs according to some reports, now has a three year deal with the Panthers.

A dynamic player, Koroisau has seemingly seen his minutes cut at current club Manly, due to the emergence of Manase Fainu.

Told he can look elsewhere should a better deal come along, a move out West emerged.

For the club themselves and for coach Ivan Cleary, it is a move that pleases everyone as Koroisau returns to the Riff.

“I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to bring Api back to the club,” Cleary said.

“I had a high opinion of Api when I coached him previously and his game has only continued to develop in recent years.

“He’s a man of good character and will provide valuable experience and leadership for our young squad moving forward.”

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