Havili rewarded with new Raiders deal

Canberra Raiders hooker Siliva Havili

Deputising for Josh Hodgson before he returned to the Canberra Raiders side, the club has re-signed Siliva Havili.

Havili, who joined the club following his 2017 World Cup campaign with Tonga, expected to fight for the spot.

When Hodgson went down with an ACL injury during the tournament, however, he became the go-to man at hooker.

Playing across hooker, lock and from the bench, Havili impressed many and as such, has now been given a new two-year deal.

It was an easy decision for Havili to stay, who believes that the nation’s capital is the best place for him to be right now.

“Canberra is the best place for me to be in terms of my career and I’m really excited about re-signing with the Raiders,” Havili said.

“Ricky Stuart and the players and staff have really welcomed me into the club and I’m really enjoying being part of this team.”

There was nothing but praise from the club also, making note of Havili’s versatility.

“Siliva has done a wonderful job for us this year and has gone from a player who could handle a few minutes from the bench to a player who is capable of putting together a full 80-minute NRL performance,” Raiders Recruitment and High-Performance Director Peter Mulholland said.

“He’s a versatile player who can play a number of positions and roles for us and we believe he will continue to improve as a player with the more matches he plays at the top level.”

New pastures for Lolohea as he signs with Leeds

Wests Tigers utility back Tui Lolohea

After a brief Wests Tigers stint, Tui Lolohea will take his abilities to England after signing with the Leeds Rhinos. 

What made his decision easier was having previously played at Headingley, when he was a part of the New Zealand Kiwis side in 2015.

“I have always remembered that game back in 2015 when I played at Emerald Headingley with the Kiwis,” the utility back said.

“The singing and support for the Leeds boys was amazing and I can’t wait to play for those supporters.

In the end, the passion of the fans stuck with him and that prompted his decision to sign for Leeds.

“That game was Kylie Leuluai’s farewell game for the club and I remember the warmth and passion the supporters had for him and the team, that was special,” Lolohea continued.

“People talk about the passion that the English fans have for the game but I had seen it for myself and it was definitely a factor when I was thinking about who to sign for.”

Although he is a long way from home, the move excites Lolohea and he wants to take the chance presented to him.

“I am really excited, it is a long way from home but a different challenge for me and something I am looking forward to,” Lolohea said.

“I want to be part of the Rhinos team and I can hopefully bring my energy to the game over there.

“It will be very different for me and a new way of life.

I am still really young and this is a big journey for me and I want to make the most of my career and my time in England.”

With the move now sorted, Lolohea’s sights are focused on finishing his 2018 season with the Tigers strongly.

“I have had a couple of injuries this year that have held me back at bit but I am looking forward to finishing the season strongly with the Tigers and then making the most of the opportunity to come over to Super League,” added Lolohea.

Recently appointed Director of Rugby Kevin Sinfield praised the signing and knows Lolohea will be a good addition to the side.

“I have seen Kevin play for a number of years and admired him,” Sinfield said.

“The professional level that he brought to his whole playing career is going to be massive for the whole team.

I am looking forward to being part of his team.”

In a brief statement released by the Wests Tigers, the club thanked Lolohea for his service to the club and wish him well upon his departure at season’s end.

New deal for Jayson Bukuya at the Cronulla Sharks

Cronulla Sharks back-rower Jayson Bukuya

One of their more unheralded players, the Cronulla Sharks have retained Jayson Bukuya on a 2-year deal. 

Making his debut as a 19-year old back in 2008, Bukuya has since played in 141 NRL games for the Sharks.

In between his two stints with the club, there was one season at the New Zealand Warriors where he played in 18 NRL games.

The new deal pleases Bukuya and gives he and his family job security.

“I am pleased with the deal, for me and for my family,” Bukuya said.

“It gives us a bit more security and to represent the Sharks for the next two years is something special.”

The back-rower is proud to don the Sharks jersey.

“The majority of my football has been here at the Sharks and I’m pleased to stay here,” Bukuya continued.


NRL Teams Rd 18

Here we are! NRL Teams Rd 18 and back to the full quota of games. 

There is still plenty to play for at the top as teams vie for the minor premiership, top eight spots and to avoid the wooden spoon.

So, here we are; NRL teams for rd 18 of the NRL Telstra Premiership:

Penrith Panthers v Cronulla Sharks (#NRLpencro); Panthers Stadium, Penrith; Friday, July 13. Kick-off: 6 pm. 

Panthers: 1. Caleb Aekins 2. Christian Crichton 3. Waqa Blake 4. Dean Whare 5. Tyrone Phillips 6. Tyrone May 7. Jarome Luai 8. Trent Merrin 9. Sione Katoa 10. James Tamou 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Isaah Yeo (C) 13. James Fisher-Harris.

Interchange: 14. Wayde Egan 15. Corey Harawira-Naerea 16. Jack Hetherington 17. Moses Leota.

Reserves: 18. Liam Martin 19. Kaide Ellis 20. Tyrone Peachey 21. James Maloney 22. Nathan Cleary.

Coach: Anthony Griffin

Sharks: 1. Valentine Holmes 2. Sione Katoa 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Edrick Lee 6. Matt Moylan 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen (C).

Interchange: 14. Joseph Paulo 15. James Segeyaro 16. Aaron Woods 17. Jayson Bukuya.

Reserves: 18. Scott Sorenson 19. Ava Seumanufagai 20. Sosaia Feki 21. Kyle Flanagan.

Coach: Shane Flanagan.

Newcastle Knights v Parramatta Eels (#NRLnewpar); McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle; Friday, July 13. Kick-off: 7:55 pm. 

Knights: 1. Nick Meaney 2. Ken Sio 3. Sione Mata’utia 4. Cory Denniss 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Connor Watson 7. Mitchell Pearce (C) 8. Josh King 9. Danny Levi 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Mitch Barnett 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Herman Ese’ese.

Interchange: 14. Nathan Ross 15. Chris Heighington 16. Jamie Buhrer (C) 17. Jacob Lillyman.

Reserves: 18. Luke Yates 19. Sam Stone 20. Jack Cogger 21. JJ Felise.

Coach: Nathan Brown.

Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson (C) 2. Bevan French 3. Michael Jennings 4. Jarryd Hayne 5. George Jennings 6. Corey Norman 7. Mitch Moses 8. Daniel Alvaro 9. Cameron King 10. Siosaia Vave 11. Marata Niukore 12. Brad Takairangi 13. Nathan Brown.

Interchange: 14. Tepai Moeroa 15. Tim Mannah (C) 16. David Gower 17. Peni Terepo.

Reserves: 18. Kane Evans 19. Kirisome Auva’a 20. Jaeman Salmon 21. Kaysa Pritchard.

Coach: Brad Arthur.

Canterbury Bulldogs v South Sydney Rabbitohs (#NRLcbysou); ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park; Saturday, July 14. Kick-off: 3 pm. 

Bulldogs: 1. Will Hopoate 2. Brett Morris 3. Josh Morris 4. Kerrod Holland 5. Reimis Smith 6. Lachlan Lewis 7. Jeremy Marshall-King 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. David Klemmer 11. Josh Jackson (C) 12. Rhyse Martin 13. Adam Elliott.

Interchange: 14. Fa’amanu Brown 15. Clay Priest 16. Ofahiki Ogden 17. Danny Fualalo.

Reserves: 18. Asipeli Fine 19. Matt Frawley 20. Francis Tualau 21. John Olive.

Coach: Dean Pay.

Rabbitohs: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Campbell Graham 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Dane Gagai 5. Robert Jennings 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. George Burgess 11. John Sutton (C) 12. Angus Crichton 13. Sam Burgess.

Interchange: 14. Adam Doueihi 15. Cameron Murray 16. Mark Nicholls 17. Tevita Tatola.

Reserves: 18. Matt McIlwrick 19. Braidon Burns 20. Dean Britt 21. Kyle Turner 22. Billy Brittain.

Coach: Anthony Seibold.

Manly Sea Eagles v Melbourne Storm (#NRLmanmel); Lottoland, Brookvale; Saturday, July 14. Kick-off: 5:30 pm.

Manly: 1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Matt Wright 3. Moses Suli 4. Brian Kelly 5. Brad Parker 6. Dylan Walker 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (C) 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Manase Fainu 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Shaun Lane 13. Jake Trbojevic.

Interchange: 14. Trent Hodkinson 15. Kelepi Tanginoa 16. Frank Winterstein 17. Taniela Paseka.

Reserves: 18. Jorge Taufua 19. Thomas Wright 20. Tevita Funa 21. Toafofoa Sipley 22. Lloyd Perrett.

Coach: Trent Barrett.

Storm: 1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Curtis Scott 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith (C) 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Kenny Bromwich.

Interchange: 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tim Glasby 16. Christian Welch 17. Joe Stimson.

Reserves: 18. Cheyse Blair 19. Tui Kamikamica 20. Young Tonumaipea 21. Ryley Jacks 22. Brodie Croft 23. Albert Vete.

Coach: Craig Bellamy.

Canberra Raiders v North Queensland Cowboys (#NRLcannql); GIO Stadium, Canberra; Saturday, July 14. Kick-off: 7:35 pm. 

Raiders: 1. Nick Cotric 2. Michael Oldfield 3. Jarrod Croker (C) 4. Joey Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Aidan Sezer 7. Sam Williams 8. Dunamis Lui 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Junior Paulo 11. Joseph Tapine 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Josh Papalii.

Interchange: 14. Blake Austin 15. Luke Bateman 16. Siliva Havili 17. Iosia Soliola.

Reserves: 18. Liam Knight 19. Jack Murchie 20. Royce Hunt 21. Craig Garvey.

Coach: Ricky Stuart.

Cowboys: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Enari Tuala 4. Kane Linnett 5. Antonio Winterstein 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Johnathan Thurston (C) 8. John Asiata 9. Jake Granville 10. Scott Bolton 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo.

Interchange: 14. Ben Hampton 15. Shaun Fensom 16. Shane Wright 17. Corey Jensen.

Reserves: 18. Justin O’Neill 19. Ethan Lowe 20. Mitchell Dunn 21. Francis Molo 23. Jake Clifford.

Coach: Paul Green.

Brisbane Broncos v New Zealand Warriors (#NRLbriwar); Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane; Sunday, July 15. Kick-off: 2 pm.

Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd (C) 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Jordan Kahu 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Anthony Milford 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Matt Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Sam Thaiday 11. Alex Glenn 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Josh McGuire.

Interchange: 14. Kotoni Staggs 15. Joe Ofahengaue 16. Korbin Sims 17. Tevita Pangai Jr.

Reserves: 18. Jonus Pearson 19. Patrick Mago 20. David Fifita 21. Sam Tagatese 22. Jake Turpin 23. Tom Opacic.

Coach: Wayne Bennett.

Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. David Fusitu’a 3. Peta Hiku 4. Solomone Kata 5. Gerard Beale 6. Blake Green 7. Shaun Johnson 8. James Gavet 9. Issac Luke 10. Agnatius Paasi 11. Isaiah Papali’i 12. Simon Mannering 13. Adam Blair.

Interchange: 14. Jazz Tevaga 15. Tevita Satae 16. Joseph Vuna 17. Anthony Gelling.

Reserves: 18. Ligi Sao 19. Karl Lawton 20. Blake Ayshford 21. Mason Lino.

Coach: Stephen Kearney.

St George Illawarra Dragons v Wests Tigers (#NRLsgiwst); WIN Jubilee Oval, Wollongong; Sunday, July 15. Kick-off: 4:10 pm. 

Dragons: 1. Matt Dufty 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Euan Aitken 4. Tim Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop (C) 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. Jack de Belin.

Interchange: 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Kurt Mann 16. Leeson Ah Mau 17. Luciano Leilua.

Reserves: 18. Patrick Herbert 19. Hame Sele 20. Blake Lawrie 21. Reece Robson 22. Jai Field 23. Darren Nicholls.

Coach: Paul McGregor.

Tigers: 1. Moses Mbye 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Esan Marsters 4. Kevin Naiqama 5. Corey Thompson 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Russell Packer (C) 9. Robbie Farah 10. Ben Matulino 11. Chris Lawrence 12. Josh Aloiai 13. Elijah Taylor.

Interchange: 14. Alex Twal 15. Sauaso Sue 16. Michael Chee-Kam 17. Matt Eisenhuth.

Reserves: 18. Jacob Liddle 19. Luke Garner 20. Tim Grant 21. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak.

Coach: Ivan Cleary.

Gold Coast Titans v Sydney Roosters (#NRLgldsyd); Cbus Super Stadium, Robina; Sunday, July 15. Kick-off: 6:30 pm. 

Titans: 1. Michael Gordon 2. Anthony Don 3. Konrad Hurrell 4. Brenko Lee 5. Philip Sami 6. AJ Brimson 7. Ash Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Nathan Peats 10. Ryan James (C) 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Keegan Hipgrave 13. Jai Arrow.

Interchange: 14. Mitch Rein 15. Moeaki Fotuaika 16. Will Matthews 17. Jack Stockwell.

Reserves: 18. Morgan Boyle 19. Leilani Latu 20. Kane Elgey 21. Brendan Elliott 22. Jai Whitbread.

Coach: Garth Brennan.

Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend (C) 10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 11. Nat Butcher 12. Victor Radley 13. Isaac Liu.

Interchange: 14. Zane Tetevano 15. Lindsay Collins 16. Mitch Aubusson 17. Kurt Baptiste.

Reserves: 18. Matt Ikuvalu 19. Sitili Tupouniua 20. Ryan Matterson 21. Sean O’Sullivan 22. Paul Momirovski 23. Poasa Faamausili.

Coach: Trent Robinson.


Move to England beckons as Austin signs with Warrington

Canberra Raiders utility Blake Austin

He was linked to NRL clubs but it is a Super League that has snared the signature of Blake Austin, with the Canberra Raiders utility joining the Warrington Wolves.

The three-year deal will begin for the 2019 season and during his time at the Raiders, Austin has had his ups and downs.

Joining the club in 2015, he immediately impressed and went on to win the 2015 Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year Award.

Since then, he has, at times, struggled to replicate that form, eventually leading to his moving in and out of first-grade.

Despite those inconsistencies, Austin praised the Raiders for the last four years he has spent at the club.

“I’d like to thank Ricky, Don and the club for presenting me and my family with the opportunities they have over the past four years,” Austin said.

“Thanks to my team mates and the Canberra members and fans for embracing me as one of their own.”

Although the move is confirmed, the Raiders are still in the finals hunt and Austin wants to play at his best to help them make it.

“I hope to be remembered as a guy that gave his all in green,” the utility continued.

“I look forward to playing the best footy I can for the remainder of the 2018 season.”

The Wolves are pleased to have signed someone of his calibre, and he is a player that coach Steve Price has watched closely.

“I’ve watched Blake closely for a number of years over in the NRL and he’s a guy who, when you come to review the opposition, your game plan heavily revolves around which says a lot about the type of player he is,” the former NRL coach said.

Price continued with his praise for Austin, highlighting specific areas of his game.

“He has an outstanding running game and is always a threat with the ball in his hand,” continued Price.

“He’s a big body so hard to handle with electric footwork.

“I feel he is going to be a quality signing for our club and I’m excited to be able to work with Blake next year.”

With his move now confirmed, Austin is excited to experience the English culture and the Super League come 2019.

“I’m really excited to be joining the Warrington Wolves,” Austin said.

“No-one I’ve spoken to has had a bad word to say about the club.

“I’m stoked I get the chance to come over in what I believe can be the best years of my footy career, and not a cameo at the tail end of my career.”

Austin is looking forward to embracing his English experience and playing alongside his new team-mates.

“My partner and I have always wanted to experience England and the Super League, and can’t wait to embrace the Wolves and everything Warrington has to offer,” Austin continued.

“I look forward to working with Pricey and all the boys, with the goal of delivering silverware to the club.”


Ah Mau the latest player to return home to New Zealand

St George Illawarra Dragons prop Leeson Ah Mau

He is not the first and will not be the last as St George Illawarra Dragons prop Leeson Ah Mau opts to return to the New Zealand Warriors.

Making his debut with the Warriors back in 2009, Ah Mau eventually moved to the Dragons side in 2012.

Since then, he played in 130 games for the Red V, won Players’ Player in 2015 and has been a fan favourite.

In the end, a return home was too good to turn down and the club understand Ah Mau’s decision, praising his time at the club.

“Leeson is a player we tried to retain but we also understood that there were a lot of other implications and they’re not always about money,” Director of Rugby League Pathways Ian Millward said.

“He’s given outstanding service – not only this season, but his previous seasons – and he’s been a real benchmark for our other forwards in terms of how he’s gone about his business and the way he’s played the game.

The announced move now gives the Dragons a chance to search for an appropriate replacement on the open market.

“At the end of the day, we’re really delighted he’s been able to secure a contract,” continued Millward.

“We understand the reasons why he didn’t accept our offer and we can’t applaud him enough for what he’s done for the Dragons.

“We also appreciate that he signalled his intentions early so we have been active in the market place seeking a replacement for Leeson.”

The Dragons will always be near and dear to him but in the end, family means everything to Ah Mau.

“I love all the boys, the coaching staff and the fans so it was very tough,” Ah Mau said.

“I had to do what was right for my young family though. Having the support around my wife and daughter was the major factor.

“The Dragons will always hold a special place in my heart.

Despite his tenure ending at the end of the season, Ah Mau praised the club’s fans and wants to finish the 2018 season strongly.

“I definitely enjoyed my time here and I’m looking forward to finishing the year on a high,” the prop continued.

“I’ll miss everyone, especially the fans. They’ve been wonderful to me over the past seven years and I always love playing in front of them.”

The addition of Ah Mau is a boost for the Warriors pack and the club are pleased.

“Leeson will be a wonderful addition to our squad from next season,” said Warriors coach Stephen Kearney.

“He’s a big forward who is consistently one of the Dragons’ best week in, week out.”

Ah Mau is just the sort of player the Warriors are looking for and Kearney knows he will have a good impact.

“He fits the mould of the type of player we’re building our squad around – tough, durable and with a tremendous attitude in all he does on and off the field,” the Warriors coach continued.

“We’ve always had an interest in him as did a number of clubs, so we’re really excited he was keen to come back home and join the club he started with.”

Ricky’s NRL Interviews Pt 13: Steve Mavin

Former South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury Bulldogs player Steve Mavin

Back again as our NRL interviews series continues; this time, we had Steve Mavin chat to us. 

The former South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury Bulldogs player played alongside some greats and enjoyed a relatively successful career.

Here is our chat with him:

1. What are your earliest memories of rugby league?
Playing for Botany United at Booralee Park & watching the Rabbitohs from the hill at Redfern Oval.

2. You made your debut with the Rabbitohs at just 19 years old; were you expecting the opportunity to come so early?
I was lucky that the opportunities that led to my debut all fell into place. I was called up to grade from Souths Jersey Flegg as a forward when I was 18yo in 1986 and made my way into a fabulous u23s pack that won the comp that year.

That team included Ian Roberts, Joe Thomas & Ross Harrington to name a few so I had some great blokes to learn from. I also played a few reserve grade games and packing down against some older heads was a real eye opener but also gave me the confidence that I could compete at that level.

In 1987, I was elevated to trial with the 1st grade team & made my way into the centres because our formidable forward pack contained the likes of Les ‘Bundy’ Davidson, David Boyle & Mario Fenech.

Playing alongside my centre partner Paul Roberts, we put on a few tries in the pre season, I ended up playing every game for the Bunnies that year and was leading try scorer for the club.

3. You then played for the Canterbury Bulldogs; tell us a bit about your time there?
I played one season at the Dogs in 1991 & it’s a tremendous club & my teammates were a great bunch of blokes.

It was a side full of talent with the freakish ability of Ewan ‘Panda’ McGrady alongside the likes of Darren Smith, Jarrod McCracken, Dean Pay & the ‘Welsh Wiz’ Jonathan Davies.

Best of all was playing with the great Terry ‘Baa’ Lamb, it was something special. His knees were gone so he couldn’t really train during the week but on game day the champion player would always take the field & do his thing, carving teams up and always putting himself in the right position at the right time.

His timing was impeccable, what a player! My fondest memory was actually backing him up to score the winning try against the Broncos at Lang Park, I’ll never forget that one!

4. You were well known for your swan dives when scoring tries; was that just something you had always done or was there a reason for it?
As a kid, I always liked sliding to the line to score with the ball tucked away like Steve Rogers used to do and I suppose the swan dives evolved from that, I just added a bit of air to the routine.

5. You returned to the Bunnies in 1992 for a final swansong; how much did the club mean to you?
I’ve always loved the Rabbitohs being born and bred in Botany which is the heart of Souths territory so it was a dream come true to be player number #757 for the club.

We had some lean years for a long time and I’ve been part of that heartache both as a fan & a player. I was at the GF in 2014 with my wife when we finally ended the drought and we were in the corner where GI scored & did the Goanna.

We went back to Souths Juniors & we were able to celebrate with the team. That was one of the best days ever to finally chalk up another win for this famous club, what a day!

My 1992 season was a disaster; I ran from dummy half in the 1st game of the season at Parramatta Stadium, Brett Kenny tackled me, my leg broke & my season was over.

6. How have you kept busy post-footy? Are you still involved in the game in some capacity?
After footy, I ran a tree lopping business for about 10 years and I’ve been a wharfie at Port Botany for the last 12 years.

I’ve got about 500 work mates here & there’s also a full squad of ex players that includes Darren Brown, Corey Hughes & David ‘Cement’ Gillespie.

I have 2 daughters that never played league so I didn’t get involved in coaching or anything but I still follow the game closely. The 2018 Rabbitohs are playing some great footy, they are just enjoyable to watch.

The backs are moving the ball beautifully & the forwards are laying a solid platform through the middle. Sutto has wound back the clock & the Burgess boys are playing awesome footy.

Damien Cook has added another dimension with his speed at dummy half & young Cameron Murray is a star on the rise.

Anthony Seibold is doing all the right things & I hear he’s a terrific bloke as well, what a coach!

7. If you could give any advice to budding rugby league players, what would it be?
Practice hard on all your skills. Develop a decent fend to swat away defenders & perfect your tackling technique, there’s nothing better than grassing your opponent in a cover tackle.

Enjoy your footy, look after yourself & eat healthy. Work extra hard, train your heart out & don’t take any shortcuts, give it everything you’ve got while you can because commitment reaps rewards.

Don’t just rely on your ability because your time in the game will come & go fast so make the most of it.

Supersub Blake Austin rescues Canberra Raiders in dramatic comeback win over Canterbury Bulldogs

Canberra Raiders utility Blake Austin

Is his role now as a supersub? Last night’s result suggests so as Blake Austin turned on the magic in the Canberra Raiders late comeback victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs.

Despite a remarkable 24 points from Bulldogs back-rower Rhyse Martin (3 tries & 6 goals), all the plaudits will go to Austin.

After a poor showing last week, he was dropped to the bench and replaced in the halves by Sam Williams.

It was far from all roses for the Raiders, though; Brad Abbey suffered concussion, Shannon Boyd a calf injury and Joseph Tapine facing suspension.

It was a terrible start by the Raiders. Williams kicked the ball out on the full in the third minute before the Dogs scored soon after.

Jeremy Marshall-King slicing through some soft defence off a scrum play to score.

The Raiders would hit back as Jarrod Croker used all his experience to outmuscle Kerrod Holland, before finding Williams inside to score.

A penalty goal put the Dogs back in front before Croker did it again. Overpowering Holland close to the line to get himself on the scoresheet.

Martin then scored the first of his tries, running onto a lovely short ball from young Dogs half Lachlan Lewis.

Croker was then involved yet again in the Raiders try; this time offloading for Nick Cotric to score in the corner.

It all went downhill from there and Joey Leilua was the culprit.

First, he lost the ball in the Raiders search for points. To make it worse, he piped up with backchat to the officials and was then penalised.

Martin’s second try then came off a Lewis kick that was batted down by Josh Morris.

Not long after, the back-rower had his hat-trick. Josh Morris made the break, busted tackles and then found Martin to cross the line.

The Raiders looked down-and-out, with errors plaguing their chances to score.

Enter the supersub, Blake Austin. Perhaps not quite the supersub in the Dean Widders mold, Austin produced a worldly performance to miraculously get the Raiders a win.

He got one back in the 75th minute with a huge step to score.

Tapine then got his name on the scorers list when he crashed over before, somehow, the Raiders scored again; three tries in five minutes.

It was Austin again, making the break before Leilua redeemed himself; powering over the Morris twins to score and win the game for the Raiders.

There was no-one to blame but themselves for the loss, as Dogs coach Dean Pay lamented his side’s poor finish.

“For all the hard work they put in, we just did a couple of poor things at the end there, we missed some tackles, easy one-on-ones,” Pay said post-game.

“We didn’t get the ball back off the kick off, had the ball stripped from Lich (hooker Michael Lichaa).

It was an accumulation of things that went against us and we couldn’t stop it.”

Austin drew nothing but praise from Canberra coach Ricky Stuart.

“After last week’s game [26-22 loss to Broncos] I felt for Blake because he’s had a tough week,” Stuart said.

“He certainly added a bit of vibe and feel to the team, some spark that we lacked all game.”

Player of the Game:

3. Blake Austin

2. Rhyse Martin

  1. Jarrod Croker

Broncos forward Thaiday calls time on decorated rugby league career

Brisbane Broncos forward Sam Thaiday

We knew it was on the cards but Brisbane Broncos forward Sam Thaiday has today confirmed that 2018 will be his last. 

An ironman of the NRL for 16 years, Thaiday achieved everything there is to attain in the game.

He won a premiership with the Broncos, numerous Origin titles with Queensland and a World Cup with the Kangaroos.

With nearly 300 NRL games to his name, 29 Origins and 32 Tests, it was the right time to step down.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be a Bronco for 16 seasons, and played for my State and my country,” Thaiday said.

“I’ve seen the game change – from 12 to eight interchanges, from one to two referees, to the bunker, live streaming, and the effect of social media.

“I’m definitely one of the lucky ones who has turned a fun game I played as a kid into a job I love as an adult.”

He praised everyone who has been involved in his career and knows the rest of the season still beckons.

“But my time has come,” the veteran continued.

“Thank you all for the support throughout my career thus far, and of course for the rest of the season.”

Young play-makers guide Storm to win in 14-try thriller

Melbourne Storm utility back Jahrome Hughes

With their Origin players missing, the Melbourne Storm’s young guns in Jahrome Hughes and Brodie Croft stepped up in a 14-try thriller.

In a game that saw a total of 82 points scored, the Storm finished up 52-30 winners at AAMI Park.

It was a late change that prompted Hughes move to fullback and it was justified, with the utility back involved in everything.

In a somewhat cool night with windy conditions, the teams initially went tit-for-tat when it came to tries.

Curtis Scott opened the scoring for the Storm, before Kurt Mann hit back for the St George Illawarra Dragons, capitalising on a swift play.

Croft then turned on the afterburners as he sliced through some lazy Dragons defence to put the Storm up 12-6.

Scores were then level yet again as a Gareth Widdop cut-out pass found Nene Macdonald who finished acrobatically in the corner.

Cheyse Blair and Euan Aitken then scored further tries for their sides.

Though on the stroke of half-time, veteran Ryan Hoffman burst through a gap, dummied to bamboozle Matt Dufty and went over to score.

As the second half ensued, it was the Dragons who would score first and again hit back.

Young back-rower Luciano Leilua ran the perfect line to stroll over for his maiden NRL try.

The Storm were not about to rest on their laurels, though; as Hughes was on the end of a barnstorming Nelson Asofa-Solomona break to score.

The Dragons then took the lead as Mann grabbed his second with a rare shortside play off the scrum.

That would be it for the Dragons, though, as the Storm scored four tries in the last fifteen minutes to notch the 50-point mark and get the win.

With Billy Slater on Origin duty, Storm coach Craig Bellamy gave Hughes the chance at the back and praised him for his performance.

“Jahrome was tremendous, Jacksy did a really good job,” Bellamy said.

He ran the ball and was really hard to handle. I thought those guys were really outstanding.”

Storm captain Cameron Smith made some comparisons between Hughes and Dragons fullback Dufty.

“We spoke about one of their opposition players, Dufty, the fullback, and any opportunity to find or see space that he is a dangerous runner,” Smith said.

“I think Jahrome Hughes is much the same. Any opportunity to get in some space or in between defenders, he took it tonight.

“Since he’s come into the first grade side, he’s been outstanding.”

Dragons coach Paul McGregor was honest in his post-game assessment, offering no excuses.

“I thought we attacked well,” he said.

“We had some really good movement with the footy once we got into any decent field position.

Defensively, our right edge was affected a little bit by the interchange early, and it wasn’t efficient enough after that.”

Player of the Game:

3. Jahrome Hughes

2. Cameron Smith

  1. Nelson Asofa-Solomona

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