Former Wests Tigers prop continues his English adventure

Just a young, budding player during his time in the NRL for the Wests Tigers, Matt Groat has matured and as a result, so too has his form. That form has seen him sign a deal with English Championship side, the Dewsbury Rams.

A noted aggressor and budding leader, those are the traits that Groat hopes to bring the Rams pack in the 2016 season.

He was well-sought after, with numerous Super League sides and other Championship sides keen on his services but it was the Rams who won it and Groat is pleased that they did.

“I can’t wait to get back over there with the Rams,” said Groat.

“I get all really well with Glenn and I believe in his vision for the club and what the possibilities are.

“I’ve always been impressed when I’ve come against the Rams, because they have a good vibe and a good, positive attitude.

“I hope to bring a strong running game and a bit of aggression,” he added.

Groat hopes to also bring leadership to the table and help the club move forward by helping the pack dominate.

“I think I can be an extra ball player and also provide some leadership,” said Groat.

“I think I can do a job as a strong-running loose forward, but am equally happy with the front row.

“I’d like to say a thank you to Squadbuilder for helping to make the deal happen – I’m already really looking forward to 2016.”

Dewsbury coach Glenn Morrison made mention of the unusual road he took to play in the Championship and is just pleased that it was his club that could sign him.

“He’s 6’ 3” and 115KGs but as fit as anything,” said Morrison.

“He was over the moon about what we could offer him on the playing side of things and the set-up that we offer.

“He’s going to be on the radar of some Super League clubs, so we’re delighted to have him here.”

Groat will join fellow new signing Tony Tonks in the forward pack and together, Morrison believes the duo can have a great impact.

“We mentioned to Matt that we’d signed Tonka and Matt was delighted,” said Morrison.

“He says that they had some great battles against one another in 2015 and that neither of them took a step back”

“I know Matt is really looking forward to getting in the pack with Tonka.”

Career of Jacob Loko in doubt after arrest due to ecstasy possession

Jacob Loko

A talented player but one that could never quite stay out of trouble, the career of Jacob Loko may well come to a sudden end after the latest incident.

Daily Telegraph reports suggest that Loko was found and arrested for possession of ecstasy. Loko, who was attempting to get his career back on track at the Canterbury Bulldogs, may well see his career ended and contract terminated after the latest incident.

At 6am this morning, a Police spokeswoman said officers arrested the 23-year old Loko at the Star Casino and it is alleged that he was carrying a small amount of MDMA.

Whilst he was released without being charged, the police investigation is still ongoing. Loko is not in the clear just yet, with Police reviewing all CCTV footage to determine the next course of action.

The Bulldogs are aware of the incident as is CEO Raelene Castle and the club released the following statement on the matter.

“Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs player Jacob Loko has been investigated by police in relation to possession of the drug ecstasy, a brief media release stated,

“The NRL Integrity Unit have been notified and the club will continue to investigate the issue alongside police.

“Whilst contracted to the club until the end of the month, Loko has been told he would not have his contract renewed for 2016.

“The club will not make any further comment until the investigation is complete.

With his previous indiscretions and now this most recent one, it would be expected that most teams would steer clear of the young player.

Dragons veteran opts to retire

Heath L'Estrange

He may only have been at the Dragons for a year but his impact was felt, as veteran Heath L’Estrange has made the decision to retire from the NRL.

A Hills Bulls junior, L’Estrange played in a total of 192 games across the NRL and the Super League, knowing that the time to retire was coming soon.

“I’m so lucky to have played 12 years of professional rugby league and I’ve loved every second of it, if I could play forever I would,” said L’Estrange.

“It’s not the way I wanted to go but I’m doing what’s right for my family and will now look forward to what lies ahead.”

The 30-year old was quick to thank his family for their support throughout his career.

“A special thank you to my beautiful wife for supporting me through thick and thin and travelling across the world with me as well as bringing our little miracle Grace into the world,” said L’Estrange.

“I also want to say thank you to my family for all of their support and being there from the beginning.”

It was back in 2004 when he made his debut with the Sydney Roosters, before going on to enjoy premiership success with Manly in 2008.

Following that, he then moved to Bradford to play for the Bulls, before returning to Australia and enjoying stints with both the Sydney Roosters and the St George Illawarra Dragons.

“I’m grateful to have played alongside some absolute legends of the game and made many lifelong friends,” said L’Estrange.

“To all the support staff and coaches I’ve been under, you have made my career what it is today and I’ll be forever thankful.

“I now look forward to the next journey and hope to stay in the game as it is my ultimate passion.”

Young Sharks utility decides to retire due to injury

Kyle Stanley

If anyone has followed the career of Kyle Stanley, you would know that it was a case of all the talent in the world to become a quality player, coupled with unfortunate bad luck that culminated in injuries galore.

It is those injuries – more specifically, numerous knee reconstructions – that has seen Stanley come to the decision that he must retire from the game.

Still only 24 and with his rugby league career ahead of him, it was the advice of his surgeon who suggested he should retire from the sport after five knee reconstructions in total.

“Only being 24 years old obviously this isn’t the way I dreamt of finishing my football career but due to countless injuries and after five full knee reconstructions it was the recommendation of my surgeon that I should retire,” said Stanley.

“He didn’t feel my body was fit to play football again.”

Whatever the next chapter may hold for Stanley he looks forward to it and he is grateful for the opportunities he received as an NRL player.

“It has been a tough few months coming to terms with it all but after great support from my family and people around me I am extremely optimistic and positive moving into the future and beginning the next chapter of my life,” said Stanley.

“I am grateful for the years I have been able to spend playing in the NRL and the people I have met along the way.”

Stanley played a total of 45 NRL games, all for former club the St George Illawarra Dragons, with injury unfortunately cruelling him of making a debut for the Sharks.

Stanley did however play for the Sharks in the 2015 NRL Auckland Nines and represented Samoa at the 2014 Four Nations.

Hulking Tigers prop signs new deal

Ava Seumanufagai

One of the club’s role-players and heavy hitters from the bench in Ava Seumanufagai has re-signed with the club for the next two seasons.

With 23 appearances to his name this season, he was a core element in the Tigers side throughout the year and packed a punch in defence and attack for the side.

In total, he has played in 63 games for the Tigers out of a possible 70 since making his debut in 2013.

The hulking forward is pleased to remain with the club for the next couple of seasons.

“I’ve made some good friends here at the Club and I’m really on board with what the coaches are doing,” Seumanufagai said.

“I’m really happy to continue at Wests Tigers for another two years.

“My goal this year was to play every game, and I fell just short of that by one match, but I’ve been fortunate enough not to get injured too much.”

Having been at the club for a few seasons now, it feels like home for the 24-year old, and he is excited about what lies ahead for he and the club.

“I’m really happy to be here because it feels like home,” he said.

“I love it here and I’m really glad that I get to stay.

“I’m pretty sure we’ll see some really good work come out of these guys in the next few years and I’m really happy that I’m going to be part of that.”

His form was something that impressed coach Jason Taylor throughout the year and he is pleased to retain the prop for two more seasons.

“Ava is a tireless worker and a real asset to have on our playing roster,” Taylor said.

“He’s only 24 years old, so I’m confident that his best football is still ahead of him and that’s really exciting for the Club.

“Ava’s re-signing was an important one for us and I’m glad that we’ve secured him at the Club for more two more seasons.”

Those sentiments were echoed by CEO Justin Pascoe.

“We are thrilled to have a player of Ava’s calibre commit his future to Wests Tigers,” Pascoe said.

“It re-establishes the faith that the playing group have in the direction that the Club is heading.

“Ava is yet another exciting young player to have committed to the Club long-term and we look forward to watching him continue his development.”

Veteran halfback crosses the Tasman and signs with the Warriors

Jeff Robson

He may well have stayed at the Sharks but signings on their behalf and opportunities elsewhere led to his departure, as Jeff Robson will cross the Tasman Sea and take up a one-year deal with the New Zealand Warriors.

With 159 games to his name so far across three clubs, the Manly Sea Eagles, the Parramatta Eels and the Cronulla Sharks – who only recently made the finals series – the veteran will have a new challenge ahead of him.

Though cracking the Warriors side will not be easy, with early tips suggesting that the halves pairing may well be Tuimoala Lolohea and the electrifying Shaun Johnson.

Time will soon tell, but the signing does bring some further experience to the Warriors side and coach Andrew McFadden praised the signing of Robson for that reason.

“It’s great to have Jeff joining us. He’s not only a proven performer but he’s also a durable and totally professional athlete,” he said.

“Like Roger (Tuivasa-Sheck), Issac (Luke) and Blake (Ayshford), Jeff enables us to build our depth as well as giving us another player to help to lift our standards across the squad and throughout the club.”

Robson was well revered during his time at the Sharks and coach Shane Flanagan praised the hard work and effort shown by the veteran on a weekly basis.

“Robbo has been an important part of our team over the past four years,” Flanagan said.

“He is popular amongst his teammates and a great clubman. He’s held this team together through some tough times over the last couple of seasons and while sad to see him go, we are all glad he has been given another opportunity with the Warriors.

The new challenge is one that Robson relishes and he was quick to thank all involved at and with the club for their continued support during his time there.

“Whilst I’m sad to be leaving the Sharks, I’m excited and really looking forward to be joining the Warriors next season,” Robson said.

“Over the past four years I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Sharks and I’ve made some lifelong friends.

“I’d like to thank everybody at the club and in the Sutherland Shire for the help and generosity during my time here.”

Former NRL utility signs with Wigan Warriors

Willie Isa

Once upon a time, Willie Isa used to play for the Melbourne Storm and the Penrith Panthers, with fans of those clubs possibly remembering his time with them.

Since departing the NRL, Isa has enjoyed a successful foray into the Super League after stints with the Castleford Tigers and the Widnes Vikings.

Now, he embarks on a new adventure, signing a 2-year deal with the Wigan Warriors.

Isa is also a Samoan international, making 87 appearances for the Widnes team over four years with his two year deal to commence in November.

Wigan coach Shaun Wane admits that the utility was on the club’s radar for some time and he is excited to have him on board.

“I’ve been monitoring Willie for some time and didn’t think twice about completing this deal when we had the chance,” said Wane.

“He is highly thought of here at Wigan. Our senior players, who we consulted, all commented that he is a fierce competitor who is tough to play against.

“At 26 years of age, his best years are yet to come. He is a big pacey player who can play in a number of positions. I think he will really suit our style and the Wigan fans will really warm to him.”

For the man himself, although he is currently injured and not playing, he knew that when this offer came along, he had to take it.

I am absolutely delighted to have joined Wigan,” said Isa.

“There were a few offers on the table but I simply couldn’t turn down this chance when it came along.

“I’m really grateful to Shaun Wane and Kris Radlinski for this opportunity, I’m working hard on some rehabilitation stuff at the moment but will be fit and raring to go next season.”

Experienced forward makes the move to the Tigers

Joel Edwards

Last year was not the best one for him in light of some injuries he suffered but Joel Edwards will embark on a new challenge, signing with the Wests Tigers for 2 years.

The former Newcastle Knights and Canberra Raiders forward can play back-row or lock, and was a mainstay of the Raiders side previously before injury struck.

The 27-year old Cessnock Goannas junior is excited about the new challenge and Edwards is looking forward to working under Jason Taylor.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to join Wests Tigers,” Edwards said.

“It’s a great Club and I’m looking forward to working under JT (Jason Taylor).

“Hopefully I can complement the side nicely and grow with the team.

“It’s a young squad but I’m really excited to work with the boys and hopefully help the Club get into the top eight next year.

So far, Edwards’ two clubs have been smaller, more homely locations but with the move to Concord confirmed, he is excited about life in the big city.

“I’m from Cessnock originally and I went down to Canberra after my time with the Knights, so I’m looking forward to a bit of a change and placing myself here in Concord,” said Edwards.

“It’s a great opportunity to come into a young, exciting team with a lot of potential.”

Edwards has played in 88 games to date and Taylor hopes that that experience will help the Tigers side moving forward.

“Joel is a great acquisition for us and I’m confident that he will complement our current squad well,” Taylor said.

“He has played close to 100 first grade games so he brings a good level of experience into our team.

“I’m looking forward to working with Joel once pre-season training commences in November.”

Former NRL winger extends Catalans stay

Krisnan Inu

Impressing since his move to France, the good form has not gone unnoticed with former NRL utility back Krisnan Inu signing a new deal with the Catalan Dragons.

Since joining the Super League side, Inu has made an immediate impression and has been justifiably rewarded for his play.

A former Kiwi international, the 28-year old is thrilled to stay at the club and thankful for being given the initial opportunity.

“I would like to thank the club, in particular (chairman) Bernard Guasch, Laurent Frayssinous and the staff for having belief in me and my ability to contribute to the 2016 season,” said Inu.

“I’m happy to be a Dragon for another season and I hope to make it a big one for all the players, old and new, and especially for our great fans.”

Inu received praise yet mild criticism from coach Laurent Frayssinous who, on the whole, is pleased with how the utility back has settled in.

“I am delighted that Krisnan has chosen to stay with us next season,” said Frayssinous.

“He is a really talented player who can do what only a few players in Super League can do. He settled in really well here and showed some great qualities with us since his arrival, although he does have to improve his consistency.

“He will have a break during the off season for the first time in two years so it will allow him to recharge the batteries and work hard when the pre-season begins.”

New deal for Sharks forward Prior

Matt Prior

Not one of the big names in their forward pack, Matt Prior goes about his work in his manner but it has been recognised. The versatile forward has signed a new 2-year deal with the Cronulla Sharks from the 2016 season.

Prior, who joined the Sharks at the start of the 2014 season, has been a mainstay in Shane Flanagan’s side and is pleased to be given the chance to continue his association with the club.

“I’m really pleased to have signed this new deal and to be staying at the Sharks for the next two seasons,” Prior said.

“I’ve enjoyed my time here so far and with the team we have and the potential this squad has to do some good things over the next couple of years its exciting for me that I will be a part of it.”

Prior to his move to the Sharks, the forward played in over 100 games for the St George Illawarra Dragons but an injury hit 2014 was a setback. 2015 changed it all, though.

He drew praise from Flanagan who made note of the fact that he may not be a household name, but knows his role and plays accordingly.

“Matty did an outstanding job for us this year and it’s great we will have him on deck again in 2016,” Flanagan began.

“He is one of those players who doesn’t necessarily attract the headlines, but he is important to the team and carries out his role consistently well.

“Matt is the type of player every club needs and I’m more than happy he has re-signed with us.”

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