Raiders prop heads South to Melbourne

Tom Learoyd-Lahrs

It is often said that a coach like Craig Bellamy can turn a player around and Melbourne Storm fans will hope that it is the case, with the club signing Canberra Raiders prop, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs.

Lahrs, who was once a mainstay in the Raiders forward pack has recently been hit hard by injuries and as a result, lost his spot in the Raiders side due to the emergence of props Paul Vaughan and Shannon Boyd.

Over a 9-year career, Lahrs has played for the Raiders and the Brisbane Broncos, notching up 119 first-grade games in total, as well as representing both NSW and Australia.

For the Storm, the club are hopeful that despite his recent injuries, Learoyd-Lahrs can make a steady impact for their side next season.

“Tom is an experienced forward whose skill and size will be a valuable asset to our forwards,” said the Storm’s Director of Football, Frank Ponissi.

“While he has been restricted due to injury over the last 12 months, a chat with Craig on what he can bring to Melbourne Storm and after a successful medical screening, we had no hesitation to sign him.”

For Learoyd-Lahrs, he is just pleased to have another NRL opportunity.

“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity Melbourne Storm have provided in enabling me to hopefully re-establish my NRL career.

“It will be an honour to have the chance to play with such great players as Melbourne possesses, once I spoke to Craig, I knew that working under his guidance was the best opportunity for me to get back to playing regular week to week NRL.”

His current club, the Canberra Raiders, issued a statement surrounding his departure.

Tom Learoyd-Lahrs has confirmed he will depart the Raiders at the end of the 2014 season, to take up a one year contract with the Melbourne Storm.

Learoyd-Lahrs arrived in Canberra at the beginning of the 2006 season and played over 100 matches for the Raiders, representing NSW Country, NSW State of Origin and Australia in his time at the club.

The Raiders would like to take the opportunity to thank Learoyd-Lahrs for his contribution to the Raiders during his time at the club and wish him all the best in the future for him and his family.

Veteran Titans prop to retire

Luke Bailey

He has been involved with the Gold Coast Titans team and brand since its inception and after an illustrious NRL career, veteran prop Luke Bailey will retire from the NRL.

A Titans foundation player, Bailey had plans to continue his playing career but when he could not come to terms with the Titans, he felt it was best to retire .

“My body felt good and I’d had talks with the club and was hoping a further one-year deal but I can understand that the club needs to look to the future and I accept that,” Bailey said.

“I don’t really want to move and play for another NRL club and packing up the family and going overseas for just one season didn’t really appeal, so it’s time to call it quits.

“I feel very fortunate to have been in the game for as long as I have and I have few regrets.”

For Bailey, he wants to be remembered as a player that played the game hard and well and as a player that gave it his all. He was quick to praise the family for what they had done for him throughout his career.

“I’d like to think I’ve always been a player that had a crack and was consistently above average for 15 years and I am proud of that.

“And that was possible with the support of my family, my wife Rebecca and our children and my mum and dad.

“My one regret has been not reaching a grand final but I will settle with having a great, healthy family and being healthy myself.”

Someone who knew Bailey well was inaugural Titans coach John Cartwright, who coached him for a total of 8 years.

“I’d like to think I’ve always been a player that had a crack and was consistently above average for 15 years and I am proud of that.

“And that was possible with the support of my family, my wife Rebecca and our children and my mum and dad.

“My one regret has been not reaching a grand final but I will settle with having a great, healthy family and being healthy myself.”

Former Roosters prop stays in Super League, signing with Catalans

Lopini Paea

Although it has been some time since he played for the Sydney Roosters, fans will remember prop Lopini Paea well – brother of Mickey Paea – with the name once synonymous in Roosters circles.

For the hulking prop, who has been in the Super League for a number of years now, he embarks on a new journey as he signs a 1-year deal with the Wakefield Wildcats.

Plying his trade with the Catalan Dragons for a few years and making 76 appearances as a result for the French based club, a move to Yorkshire is now on the cards for Paea.

Enjoying a stellar season with the Dragons so far, the addition of Paea is the fourth to the Wildcats squad for next season and Paea relishes the challenge ahead of him.

“It’s a new challenge for me, a new lifestyle and I feel like a big kid starting all over again,” said Paea.

“I’m really looking forward to coming to Wakefield and recapturing some of my best form again. I’ve been really impressed with the way the team have been playing for each other since James Webster has taken over and as a player that’s something you want to be part of.

“I’ve spoken to him a couple of times and I was really impressed with what he had to say.”

With all of the Wildcats’ other props re-signing, Paea is well aware of what they can do and believes the Wakefield forward pack will excel in 2015.

“I think we’ll have a good balance of options in there,” said Paea of Trinity’s front row forwards,” said Paea.

“There’s some experience, some grunt and some impact. We all bring our different styles and I think they can complement each other to help take the team forward.”

Knowing what he was capable of at Catalans, Wildcats coach James Webster is pleased to have Paea on board.

“He’s an experienced player and been a pivotal part of what is a very big and aggressive pack at Catalans,” said Webster.

“We’re extremely happy to have him with us for next year.

“I think we’re well covered with Simon, Scruton, Anderson, Paea and Daniel Smith coming through as well. We’re looking a lot stronger in that area for next year.”

Eels young gun heads North and signs with the Cowboys

Kelepi Tanginoa

Although recent injuries have held him back, many Parramatta Eels fans and rival fans are of the belief that Kelepi Tanginoa will be a future star.

For Eels fans, who have watched him grow, develop and mature into a talented, exciting player, they will have to keep tabs on his development from afar now, with the young back-rower signing with the North Queensland Cowboys.

Tanginoa has signed a 2-year deal with the club who are excited to have him on board.

“We believe Kelepi is one of the best young back-row talents in the NRL and expect he will thrive with the Cowboys,” North Queensland’s general manager – football Peter Parr said.

“He’ll be determined to become a regular first grader in 2015 and he’ll get the opportunity to do that with us.

“We’re confident he will be a long-term success and our members and fans will thoroughly enjoy watching him play his footy.”

Having to replace the departing Tariq Sims was no easy task but in Tanginoa, the club believe they have found a good fit to replace the departing back-rower.

“Once we lost Tariq we wanted to try and find a similar type player,” Parr said.

“We wanted to try and ensure we got somebody with some youth on their side and all our research on Kelepi has come up 100 per cent both on and off the field.

“We think he has a really exciting future and we’re delighted that he’s chosen to come to us.”

Additionally, the Cowboys have heard only good things about the young back-rower and they believe he will fit in perfectly with their culture and club ethos.

“Ability is a really important thing but it’s got to be balanced out with what they do off the field,” he said.

“We’ve heard nothing but good reports about Kelepi off the field.

“I do know that he’s very diligent in his preparation and I’ve met him a couple of times and he’s very respectful young fella and we haven’t heard anything negative said about him on or off the field.”

The Eels issued a brief statement regarding the release of Tanginoa:

The Dyldam Parramatta Eels confirm front-rower Kelepi Tanginoa has been granted an early release from his contract with the club to join the North Queensland Cowboys in 2015.

The club wishes him all the best for his future.

Castleford replace Sneyd with Bradford half

Luke Gale

Finding the right players to replace those that have left is never an easy task but the Castleford Tigers have acted quickly and signed a half they believe can help them moving forward in Luke Gale.

The current Bradford Bulls half is a direct replacement for the departing Marc Sneyd, with 26-year old signing with the Tigers for the next three seasons.

The signing of Gale is the club’s sixth of the season and the man himself cannot wait for the opportunity. .

“I am really excited to be here,” he said.

“Castleford have had a great season, and Daryl and his team around him have fulfilled the potential, and they have turned Cas into a proper team.”

“I am jumping at the opportunity and I cannot wait. Daryl showed a bit of interest, and I have worked with him at the England Knights and at Leeds before. I like how he goes about things, and even though there was other interest, once I spoke to Daryl that was it – I wanted to join Castleford.”

Having seen how they play first-hand, Gale also believes that Castleford and coach Daryl Powell are the best fits for him moving forward.

“I love how Castleford play to be honest. They play good rugby and pass it about, always playing expansive football,” he added.

“Everyone seems to work for each other and there is no standout, and everyone puts a shift in. I spoke to Daryl and I felt he can take me and the club to that next level, and I want to be playing in those big games.

I want to be in the England squad too, and I had aspirations to be there this year, but obviously things at Bradford did not go too well.”

“I also know Danny Orr from my time at London, and when I moved there at 18 Danny took me under his wing and was a mentor figure for me.

Obviously Danny is involved and I know Luke Dorn, who is one of the best players I have ever played with, so all of those reasons add up.”

Gale, who has come close to international honours in the past, is once again hoping to get there. Someone who believes he can push for such a spot yet again is Castleford coach Daryl Powell.

“I am delighted we have been able to secure the services of a quality half back who not long ago was just on the edge of international recognition,” said Powell.

“Luke’s organisational ability alongside his willingness to both play at the defensive line and indeed through it will fit neatly into how we want to play next season. His passing and kicking game are top quality.

Luke alongside Ben Roberts and Liam Finn give us variety and quality at half back with Ben Reynolds proving he can also step up when needed, giving us additional depth in such a pivotal position.”

Bunnies spoil a club farewell for Michael Ennis and move into first

Sam Burgess

A win would have seen them move into equal first and a win is what they got, as the South Sydney Rabbitohs spoiled the club farewell for Canterbury Bulldogs skipper Michael Ennis in the process.

In what was an overall gritty game, Souths eventually got the win, coming from behind to defeat the Bulldogs on the back of another terrific game from Englishman, Sam Burgess.

The win may have come with a bitter taste, though – both Sam Burgess and Chris McQueen left the field due to injury. Burgess eventually returned, but his hip injury will be monitored by club staff in the coming days.

To leave a further bitter taste in the mouths of Souths fans, Adam Reynolds – who kicked the decisive field goal for Souths – will come under scrutiny from the match review panel after being put on report for a lifting tackle.

Fellow team-mate Issac Luke will face similar scrutiny, put on report for lashing out at a Bulldogs player with his foot.

The big fanfare was all around Ennis, though, and being his club farewell, the fans and the team were keen to send him out on a high, though it was not to be.

He made the crowd cheer, however, with a great early tackle to set the tone as well as scoring a try after he dummied from dummy half and cruised over to score.

Despite Souths win, coach Michael Maguire is still refusing to get carried away.

“That’s up to us, really. I mean, one thing at the moment, we haven’t done anything yet,” Maguire said.

“We’re performing and we’ve got to keep growing as a team, but we’re well aware that we’re going to be playing against a very good team in a week’s time. And that’s going to be our focus because that’s what’s in front of us now.”

Even the players are distancing themselves from the premiership talk, with stand-in skipper Greg Inglis pointing out that such thoughts are not in the players minds right now.

“To be totally honest, we’ve got a good bunch of leadership group in our club and we put all that aside. That’s in the background where we can’t control,” Inglis said.

“But what we can control is what we believe in and what we do each and every week. So that’s all put aside. Our focus is the Roosters now. We can’t control what’s been said in the papers, we can only control what we do.”

Knowing that his side had every opportunity to win the game, Dogs coach Des Hasler lamented his side for their poor ball control that led to errors.

“We were probably guilty of too many unforced errors,” said Hasler.

Aside from that, Hasler was very critical of the referees performance.

“I thought the referee was poor,” said a disappointed Hasler.

“It was very, very poor. It’ll take more than a bunker to fix this mob.”

When prompted, Hasler went on to give reasons as to why he thought that was the case.

“I think when James Graham carried the ball and collided with a Souths player, it should have been called to play on,” said Hasler.

“It’s the little things that have a huge impact.”

Eldest Naiqama brother jets off to the London Broncos

Wes Naiqama

A veteran of the game and a fan favourite among many of the teams he has played for, current Penrith Panthers utility back Wes Naiqama will depart the club at season’s end, signing a 2-year deal with the London Broncos.

With the move subject to a work visa, the NRL and Fijian veteran will embark on a new challenge with a side that is looking to return to the Super League.

Prior to joining the Panthers, Naiqama was also a part of the St George Illawarra Dragons and Newcastle Knights, as well as playing in 13 games for Fiji throughout his career.

For the club, coach Joey Grima is pleased to have the veteran on board and after speaking with a number of people across the globe, they all had only good things to say about Naiqama.

“Over the last four-to-five weeks I’ve been doing my due diligence on Wes and I’ve spoken to some high profile people in the world of rugby league, including players from Penrith and they all have a huge amount of respect for Wes,” said Grima.

“He’s holds a senior player role and was part of the Fiji leadership team and he’s the type of person we are attracting.”

“I’m really pleased that the environment and the culture that we’re creating at the club is attracting good players from Super League, the Championships and the NRL. I’m proud that people are buying into what we’re doing.”

For Naiqama, the new challenge is one that he looks forward to, highlighting that it was always a goal of his to play rugby league in the United Kingdom at some point.

“I’m very happy with my decision to sign with the club,” he said.

“It was always a goal of mine from early in my career to some stage play in the UK at some stage. Thanks to Joey I’ve been given this opportunity, and I can’t wait to get over, meet my new coach, staff, team mates and supporters and start preparing for exciting times ahead.”

“I got to chat to Joey and his enthusiasm and energy is definitely infectious. He has a great vision for the club going forward and I’m very excited about being a part of the culture and development he is creating there.

“I’m coming over with my partner Jessica and can’t wait to experience the culture and live in that beautiful city.”

Knowing that the club was relegated, Naiqama hopes to be a part of a successful season and resurgence to get them back into the Super League.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of helping London win promotion. It’s unfortunate the club got relegated this year, but I feel the current squad will be better for the experience and will be hungrier than ever for it,” said Naiqama.

Former Wolves forward departs Australia and signs with Hull KR

Tyrone McCarthy

In what has been an impressive recruitment drive for Hull KR to date, they have added yet another solid name to their list – with the signing of former Warrington Wolves forward, Tyrone McCarthy.

Signing a 2-year deal with the club from the 2015 season, McCarthy has enjoyed a so far stellar season in Australia’s Intrust Super Cup – or, Queensland Cup – playing for the Northern Pride.

Adept at playing anywhere across the forward pack, McCarthy, an Irish international, says he is grateful for his Australian experience and cannot wait to get back to playing in England.

It’s been a great experience playing in Australia and it’s going to leave me in good stead coming back to Super League with Hull KR,” McCarthy said.

“I could have stayed at Warrington this year and been comfortable but I wanted a challenge. I’ve developed physically and I’ll be coming back bigger, stronger and probably the fittest I’ve ever felt.

“I’ve been playing back row this year and that’s been good for me in terms of my execution of plays and getting my hands on the ball, but I’ve played a lot of my career in that middle part of the park too.

With Hull KR keen to succeed moving forward, the foresight, vision and desire to be a top side were the areas that impressed McCarthy most after talking with Hull KR coach, Chris Chester.

“Speaking to Chris, what really attracted me to coming here was being part of what the club is trying to achieve. Whenever I’ve played against Hull KR in the past, it’s always been a tough place to come to but the consistency has probably let them down a little bit,” said McCarthy.

“With all the new boys that are coming in for next season, everybody is wanting to kick on their own career but the recipe is there to build something for the club and fans as well. We want to create that culture where just competing isn’t good enough and we want to be striving for success ourselves.”

With McCarthy the sixth signing for Hull KR so far, the club are pleased to have signed the Irish international, particularly straight after current forward Rhys Lovegrove opted to return home.

“Tyrone gives us plenty of options in the forward pack next season and he’s a player who is comfortable playing either through the middle or on an edge,” said Chester.

“With us losing Rhys Lovegrove for next year, he’s a like for like replacement and he brings big game experience. Tyrone’s at the age where he is about to enter his prime as a forward and he’s had big raps over in Australia for his professionalism both on and off the field, so he’ll be a good fit for us.

“He’s come through a good system over at Warrington too so he’ll really add to the sort of culture we want to be creating in the squad and we’re thrilled he’s come onboard.”

Veteran Manly prop to retire at season’s end

Jason King

For any NRL player, they know when the time is right to retire and for Manly Sea Eagles prop Jason King, that time is now.

The veteran prop will hang up the boots at season’s end and admits that the decision was not an easy one.

“It’s not an easy decision to step away from the game I love. I’ve thought a lot about it, discussed it many, many times with my family and simply feel that it’s the right time to hang up the boots at season’s end,” said King.

“The Sea Eagles are a part of me and will always be. I was a even Belrose Eagle as a young one, so to have had the privilege of playing first-grade football for such a long period of time for my local team makes me incredibly proud.

“The aura that surrounds the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles was built well before my time. People like Ken Arthurson, Bob Fulton, Terry Randall, Geoff Toovey and Steve Menzies come to mind. I hope in any small way over the past 14 seasons I have contributed to keeping this aura alive.

Along the way, King has played in and won numerous grand finals and made representative appearances and after a stellar career, he was quick to thank all those involved throughout.

“To all the people who helped me along the way, I want to take this opportunity to thank you. To the members, supporters, fans, sponsors and staff of the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles – I can’t thank you enough for the support you have shown me over the years on and off the field,” said King.

“To all of my teammates and coaches over the years, I sincerely thank you. To Geof, my current teammates and coaching staff, I’m looking forward to working alongside you all as hard as ever over these next few weeks. We’ve still got a job to do.

“Lastly, but most importantly, I would like to thank my family; my parents for everything they have ever done for me, guiding me along the way at each corner and especially my wife Jackie and our son William for their unconditional love and support. The time spent with you guys when all this is done is what I will treasure the most.”

Loyalty is often a dying art in rugby league but coach Geoff Toovey praised King for staying with Manly for such a long period of time.

“Jason has spent half his life with the Sea Eagles, and has been amazing player, clubman and role-model throughout that entire time,” said Toovey.

“He is a wonderful leader and his impact on our Club and its culture since he started is unquestionable. He has lead from the front at all times through his efforts and dedication both on and off the field.

“I want to thank Jason for his contribution to the team and the Club, and we all look forward to trying to send him out in the best possible way in a few weeks time,” said Toovey.

With his rugby league career set to cease, King has his eyes on both spending time with his family and on his law degree.

“I‘ll be having a well earned rest to begin with, but I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life beginning. I will be spending as much time with my family as possible, and focusing on finishing my studies (Law at Macquarie University),” said King.

“That all being said, my sole focus right now is playing the best I can for team during the remainder of the 2014 season. That hasn’t changed since I made my debut all those years ago – I just want to win more than ever now,” he added.

Experienced centre signs with the Eels

Beau Champion

Injury has not been kind to him in 2014 but NRL centre Beau Champion is keen for a new start and a fresh opportunity and he has one, signing with the Parramatta Eels for the 2015 season.

After completing his current deal with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the 27-year old centre will make the move West to the Eels, a move that coach Brad Arthur is pleased with.

“Beau is a great competitor and athlete, and will be a valuable addition to our side for 2015,” said Arthur.

“He will bring back line experience to our team, and maturity to our young squad.”

For Champion himself, who has previously played for the Bunnies, the Melbourne Storm and the Gold Coast Titans, he feels honoured to be a part of a club on the rise and with so many talented players.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to come to a club that I believe is on the rise, with a lot of young talent,” Champion said.

“I’m looking forward to the chance to play alongside these young players and be part of the Eels next year.”

Eels CEO Scott Seward also applauded the signing, acknowledging the depth Champion offers within the team.

“It’s a great sign for the Eels to have players of Beau’s calibre interested in joining our ranks,” Parramatta Eels CEO Scott Seward said.

“The club is building a squad with depth and balance in key positions, and I look forward to seeing what Beau will bring next season.”

The Souths club was like a home to Champion and with 80 of his first-grade games coming at the club – including his NRL debut – he is forever indebted to the club.

“I want to say a big thank you to the Members and fans of the Rabbitohs, and everyone in the South Sydney community, for the support they’ve given me over the past ten years,” Champion said.

“They have helped create some great memories for me that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

“I’m a South Sydney junior and I was very proud man every time I’ve had the opportunity to pull on the red and green jersey.

“I also want to thank the South Sydney Football Club for the opportunity to play first grade for this club originally in 2005 and when I returned in 2013.

“Unfortunately this year hasn’t been the best personally on the field for me, but I’ll be cheering the boys on for the rest of the season and through the finals.

“The Rabbitohs will always be part of me.”

Knowing that he is departing, Souths coach Michael Maguire praised Champion for his continued commitment to the club even though he is injured.

“Beau has been great for us despite not being able to play a lot of games since coming back to the Club last year,” Maguire said.

“He is a South Sydney man and one of the great clubmen amongst this squad.

“We’re pleased he’s going to get another opportunity to play in the NRL at Parramatta and we wish him the best of luck for next year.

“For now, he’s very much part of our squad and we’re looking forward to enjoying the rest of the season with him.”