NRL Teams Rd 12

Another week and another set of team-lists, this time for Rd 12. Once again, the time flies, as teams shape up for a crucial period over the next 4-6 weeks with the Origin period well and truly upon us. Who will be rested for club games, if anyone? Will some players back up and play for their clubs? Time will tell.

Without further adieu, here are the Rd 12 teams:

Penrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels (#NRLparbri); Pepper Stadium, Penrith; Friday May 29. Kick-off: 7:45pm.

Panthers: 1. Matt Moylan 2. Josh Mansour 3. Waqa Blake 4. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 5. David Simmons 6. Jamie Soward 7. Peter Wallace (C) 8. Nigel Plum 9. James Segeyaro 10. Sam McKendry 11. Lewis Brown 12. Isaah Yeo 13. Elijah Taylor.

Interchange: 14. Bryce Cartwright 15. Jeremy Latimore 16. Sika Manu 17. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 18. Apisai Koroisau (One to be omitted).

Coach: Ivan Cleary.

Eels: 1. Reece Robinson 2. Semi Radradra 3. Will Hopoate 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Ryan Morgan 6. Corey Norman 7. Chris Sandow 8. Danny Wicks 9. Nathan Peats 10. Tim Mannah (C) 11. Manu Ma’u 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Anthony Watmough.

Interchange: 14. Junior Paulo 15. Joseph Paulo 16. Daniel Alvaro 17. Pauli Pauli.

Coach: Brad Arthur.

Gold Coast Titans v South Sydney Rabbitohs (#NRLgldsou); Cbus Super Stadium, Robina; Saturday May 30. Kick-off: 3pm.

Titans: 1. Josh Hoffman 2. Anthony Don 3. James Roberts 4. Will Zillman 5. Kevin Gordon 6. Aidan Sezer 7. Kane Elgey 8. Luke Douglas 9. Kierran Moseley 10. Nate Myles (C) 11. Ryan James 12. David Taylor 13. Lachlan Burr.

Interchange: 14. Matt White 15. Eddy Pettybourne 16. Ben Ridge 17. Daniel Mortimer 18. Mark Ioane (One to be omitted).

Coach: Neil Henry.

Souths: 1. Greg Inglis 2. Alex Johnston 3. Dylan Walker 4. Bryson Goodwin 5. Aaron Gray 6. John Sutton 7. Luke Keary 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Issac Luke 10. David Tyrrell 11. Ben Lowe 12. Chris McQueen 13. Jason Clark.

Interchange: 14. Cam McInnes 15. Nathan Brown 16. Tim Grant 17. George Burgess 18. Chris Gresvmuhl 19. John Olive.

Coach: Michael Maguire.

Canberra Raiders v Brisbane Broncos (#NRLcanbri); GIO Stadium, Canberra; Saturday May 30. Kick-off: 5:15pm.

Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Edrick Lee 3. Jarrod Croker (C) 4. Sisa Waqa 5. Jeremy Hawkins 6. Blake Austin 7. Sam Williams 8. Paul Vaughan 9. Josh Hodgson 10. David Shillington 11. Josh Papalii 12. Iosia Soliola 13. Shaun Fensom.

Interchange: 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Jarrad Kenned 16. Frank-Paul Nuuausala 17. Luke O’Donnell.

Coach: Ricky Stuart.

Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Jordan Kahu 3. Jack Reed 4. Justin Hodges (C) 5. Lachlan Maranta 6. Anthony Milford 7. Ben Hunt 8. Josh McGuire 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Sam Thaiday 11. Alex Glenn 12. Matt Gillett 13. Corey Parker.

Interchange: 14. Jarrod Wallace 15. Adam Blair 16. Corey Oates 17. Francis Molo 18. Daniel Vidot 19. Joe Ofahengaue 20. David Stagg (Three to be omitted).

Coach: Wayne Bennett.

North Queensland Cowboys v Manly Sea Eagles (#NRLnqlman); 1300 Smiles Stadium, Townsville; Saturday May 30. Kick-off: 7:30pm.

Cowboys: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Matt Wright 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Kane Linnett 5. Antonio Winterstein 6. Michael Morgan 7. Johnathan Thurston (C) 8. Matt Scott (C) 9. Jake Granville 10. James Tamou 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Jason Taumalolo.

Interchange: 14. Ray Thompson 15. Ben Spina 16. Ben Hannant 17. Sam Hoare 18. John Asiata 19. Rory Kostjaysn 20. Patrick Kaufusi (Three to be omitted).

Coach: Paul Green.

Manly: 1. Brett Stewart 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Jamie Lyon (C) 4. Steve Matai 5. Peta Hiku 6. Tom Symonds 7. Kieran Foran 8. Jake Trbojevic 9. Matt Ballin 10. Luke Burgess 11. Blake Leary 12. Justin Horo 13. Dunamis Lui.

Interchange: 14. Feleti Mateo 15. Willie Mason 16. James Hasson 17. Ligi Sao.

Coach: Geoff Toovey.

New Zealand Warriors v Newcastle Knights (#NRLwarnew); Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland; Sunday May 31. Kick-off: 2pm.

Warriors: 1. Sam Tomkins 2. Jonathan Wright 3. Tuimoala Lolohea 4. Solomone Kata 5. Manu Vatuvei 6. Chad Townsend 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Jacob Lillyman 9. Nathan Friend 10. Ben Matulino 11. Bodene Thompson 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Simon Mannering (C).

Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili 15. Sebastine Ikahihifo 16. Sam Lisone 17. Albert Vete.

Coach: Andrew McFadden.

Knights: 1. Dane Gagai 2. James McManus 3. Sione Mata’utia 4. Joey Leilua 5. Akuila Uate 6. Kurt Gidley (C) 7. Tyrone Roberts 8. Kade Snowden 9. Adam Clydsdale 10. David Fa’alogo 11. Beau Scott 12. Tariq Sims 13. Jeremy Smith.

Interchange: 14. Tyler Randell 15. Chris Houston 16. Korbin Sims 17. Jack Stockwell 18. Jospeh Tapine (One to be omitted).

Coach: Rick Stone.

St George Illawarra Dragons v Cronulla Sharks (#NRLsgicro); WIN Jubille Oval, Wollongong; Sunday May 31. Kick-off: 4pm.

Dragons: 1. Josh Dugan 2. Eto Nabuli 3. Euan Aitken 4. Peter Mata’utia 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Benji Marshall 8. Leeson Ah Mah 9. Mitch Rein 10. Mike Cooper 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Joel Thompson 13. Trent Merrin.

Interchange: 14. Heath L’Estrange 15. Ben Creagh (C) 16. Jack de Belin 17. Will Matthews 18. Jake Marketo (One to be omitted).

Coach: Paul McGregor.

Sharks: 1. Ben Barba 2. Valentine Holmes 3. Gerard Beale 4. Blake Ayshford 5. Michael Gordon 6. Jack Bird 7. Jeff Robson 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Michael Ennis 10. Matt Prior 11. Jayson Bukuya 12. Wade Graham (C) 13. Luke Lewis.

Interchange: 14. Sami Sauiluma 15. Tinirau Arona 16. David Fifita 17. Sam Tagataese 19. Tim Robinson.

Coach: Shane Flanagan.

Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm (#NRLsydmel); Allianz Stadium, Moore Park; Monday June 1. Kick-off: 7pm.

Roosters: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Michael Jennings 4. Mitch Aubusson 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. James Maloney 7. Mitch Pearce (C) 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend (C) 10. Sam Moa 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Isaac Liu.

Interchange: 14. Jackson Hastings 15. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 16. Kane Evans 17. Dylan Napa.

Coach: Trent Robinson.

Storm: 1. Billy Slater 2. Mahe Fonua 3. Will Chambers 4. Kurt Mann 5. Marika Koroibete 6. Blake Green 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cam Smith (C) 10. Tim Glasby 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Tohu Harris 13. Dale Finucane.

Interchange: 14. Ryan Hinchcliffe 15. Kenny Bromwich 16. Dayne Weston 17. Felise Kaufusi 18. Christian Welch 19. Ben Hampton 20. Hymel Hunt.

Coach: Craig Bellamy.

Ricky’s View: Greatest Cook Islands Team

Zeb Taia

Here we are again, another greatest team. This time, it is on the Cook Islands. One of the smaller Pacific nations in terms of rugby league, they have a hearts of gold as they put their bodies on the line and show passion, desire and heart to win and perform well. Boasting some talented players in their own rights, they are building and emerging as a talented rugby league nation.

So, without further adieu, here is our take on the greatest Cook Island side:

1. Johnathan Ford – If things had turned out differently, Ford could have been representing Ireland but instead, he opted to play for the Cook Islands at the international level. The bulk of his success came during his time at French rugby league side Olympique Toulouse but he did have a stint with the Sydney Roosters over two seasons, if the Roosters fans can remember him. He only played three games over that two year period but found his feet in France. He has since returned to Australia, most recently signing with the Wyong Roos in the NSW Cup where he has, again, excelled and helped Wyong become a quality side in the competition. As for where he played at junior level, it was the Macquarie Scorpions that gave Ford his first opportunity and that led to playing with the Newcastle Knights in the Holden Cup in 2008 and 2009. Ford has played for the Cook Islands in both the 2009 Pacific Cup and the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

2. Anthony Gelling – He has forged a solid career out at the Wigan Warriors but what may not be known to all, is that at one point, he was a promising Sydney Roosters youngster. Hailing from New Zealand, his first club was the Horwick Hornets before he joined the Roosters and played for their Holden Cup side in 2009 and 2010. At that time, he is most famous – or, perhaps infamous – for defecating in a hotel room that led to his sacking from the club. After the sacking, he returned to New Zealand and played for the then Auckland Vulcans and his former junior side, the Howick Hornets, who won the 2011 Fox Memorial Competition. Then came Gelling’s big break, when on the recommendation of two former Wigan Warriors Kevin Iro and Dean Bell, the club signed him and gave him an opportunity. Since then, he has taken it in his stride and cemented a spot at the club. The centre/winger has played for the Cook Islands in the 2009 Pacific Cup, a test against Lebanon and at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

3. Brad Takairangi – Home is where the heart is and Takairangi has played all his footy in NSW, coming through the ranks as a Cronulla Sharks junior. In 2008 and 2009, he moved to the South Sydney Rabbitohs and played with their Holden Cup side during that time. His versatility has seen him cover numerous positions across the sides he has played, including back-row, five-eighth, lock and centre. 2010 saw him rewarded with his good form, earning a first-grade debut at the Sydney Roosters, whom he moved to. Over a three year period, Takairangi was used predominantly as a back-rower, before he made a move North to sign with the Gold Coast Titans. It was here that Takairangi was exposed to the five-eighth position, one he ended up performing well in as he showcased his creative, attacking nous. After showing his class at the Titans, Takairangi was all set to sign with the Wests Tigers before they unexpectedly backflipped on the deal. Instead, Takairangi then opted to sign with the Parramatta Eels ahead of the 2015 season. With five representative games for the Cook Islands to his name so far – a Test v Samoa and numerous World Cup appearances in 2013 – that is expected to rise as Takairangi plays more footy.

4. Peter Lewis – Hailing from the Upper Hutt region in Wellington, Lewis was picked up and signed early on by the then Auckland Warriors in 1998. He was a member of the Warriors unbeaten reserve grade side in 1998 and as a result, was selected in the Junior Kiwis squad. With other clubs interested, Lewis opted to remain with the Warriors for the 1999 season and was rewarded, playing in 11 games. That was the end of his appearances, though, and he spent most of the subsequent few years after that playing in the Bartercard Cup. In 2003, he caught another break, when he was picked up by the Penrith Panthers where he played two first-grade games. When he was not playing with the Panthers, he was playing for the St Mary’s Cougars side in the then NSWRL Premier League. 2006 saw him change clubs again, this time signing for the Parramatta Eels. Again, though, he only played in two first-grade games. After that time, he again returned to the Premier League. The first representative exposure for Lewis came in 1999 when he was picked in the New Zealand Maori side but after that, he only represented the Cook Islands. He played for them in the 2000 World Cup and the 2004 Oceanic Pacifica Rugby League Tournament. He played for them again in 2006 during 2008 World Cup Qualifying matches.

5. Steve Berryman – Huntly College is where it all started for Steve Berryman, as the first team he played for was the Taniwharau Rugby League Club in the Waikato Rugby League Competition in 1993. A true utility for his ability to cover five-eighth, centre, back-row and lock, it was not too long before Berryman became a representative of the Waikato Cougars side. In 2000, he made the move to the Wainuiomata Lions to play in the inaugural Bartercard Cup where he was captain and playing alongside former NRL player, David Faiumu. In 2001, good form saw him join the Manly Sea Eagles whom he played for in the NSWRL First Division. In 2002, he opted to stay on with the Northern Eagles. His first representative exposure came in 1999, when he was selected by the New Zealand Maori side and again in 2000, before he made a decision to switch his allegiances to the Cook Islands. Winning caps for the Cook Islands during their 2000 World Cup campaign, Berryman decided that a move to rugby union was the right thing to do. He played for Te Whanau in the Central Coast Sevens Rugby Tournament before he eventually returned to league. As it stands, he is currently captain-coach of the Toukley Hawks in the Central Coast Division of Country Rugby League.

6. Craig Bowen – A member of three now defunct Australian rugby league sides, Bowen’s career began for the Wests Panthers in the Brisbane Rugby League competition. Playing alongside Barry Berrigan at Wests, the five-eighth eventually forced his way into a rugby league system through hard work and determination. Opportunity first came in 1995 when he was signed by the Illawarra Steelers but they did not play him during his time at the club. His debut in the then Australian Rugby League came with the South Queensland Crushers. Playing in four games for them, he then moved to the Gold Coast Seagulls in 1997, before moving again, this time to the Adelaide Rams in 1998. He ended up playing a total of 9 first-grade games over those three years, scoring 2 tries in the process. After that, he returned to the Wests Panthers side in the Queensland Cup. His first representative honour came in 1995 when he was selected for the Cook Islands in the Emerging Nations Tournament, before he represented the Cook Islands again at the 2000 World Cup.

7. Isaac John – Born and raised in New Zealand, it was in Tokoroa whilst attending Forest View High School that saw John get his first taste of rugby league. Playing for local club, the Pacific Sharks and the Turangawaewae team in the Ngaruawahia Maori rugby league competition, John then played for the Waicoa Bay Stallions in the Bartercard Cup. His big break came after that when he played for the New Zealand U16’s side in 2004 and then the Junior Kiwis side in 2006. In 2007, he was signed by his first official NRL club, when the New Zealand Warriors came knocking. In that same year, he played in the NSWRL Premier League with the Auckland Lions, in addition to playing for the Stallions side in the Bartercard Cup. When the inaugural Holden Cup was introduced, John became an immediate fixture for the Warriors in that side, as he finished up with 25 appearances, one goal and four field goals. In 2009, John joined the Warriors full-time squad and after playing in the NSW Cup and the for the Howick Hornets, he got the opportunity he was after. First-grade in Rd 19 of 2009. In that year, he played in 3 games in total, 5 games in 2010 – including his maiden first-grade try – and just the one game in 2011. That prompted a move away and an opportunity presented itself in England with the Wakefield Wildcats, one that John took. In 14 matches, he scored 1 try and kicked 9 goals, before he was releasd by the club at season’s end. The Penrith Panthers was his next and current destination, with John filling in well over the last few years when there have been injuries to the Panthers squad. 2013 saw him represent the Cook Islands on four occasions in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup and surprisingly, in 2014, he earned an unexpected call-up to play for the Kiwis side for the 2014 ANZAC Test.

8. Jason Temu – Born and raised in New Zealand, the Marist Saints were the first team that prop Jason Temu represented and then in 1994, he followed coach Stan Martin to the Counties Manakau Heroes in the newly-founded Lion Red Cup competition. His form for the Counties side did not go unnoticed, as English side Oldham came knocking and offered him a three-year deal. He did not disappoint and quickly became a favourite as his powerful runs often laid the platform for the club over three years and 77 games. 1995 saw him experience his first taste of representative footy with the Cook Islands, when he was named in their Emerging Nations Tournament Squad, which the Cook Islands won. In 1998, after a successful stint with Oldham, Temu moved to the then Hull Sharks – now known as Hull F.C. – and spent the season with the club. That was followed by a stint at the Newcastle Knights, though that only produced three first-grade games for Temu and resulted in a move across the Tasman and back home, to the New Zealand Warriors. That was in 2001 and although he only played in four games, he was a mentor and advisor for the younger props coming through the ranks at the time. In 2000, Temu again represented the Cook Islands, this time in a World Cup, and was named as vice-captain of the team. After 2001, he retired from rugby league.

9. Daniel Fepuleai – A local Hurstville United junior, he was a part of the Endeavour Sports High squad that won the then Arrive Alive Cup in 2006. Signing with the St George Illawarra Dragons as an 18-year old soon after that tournament, he played for both their SG Ball side and their Holden Cup side. In 2009, during a stint with the Shellharbour Sharks, he was picked in the 2009 Cook Islands Pacific Cup squad. Ahead of the 2010 season, he signed with the Sydney Roosters but only made one appearance for the side across the season. Additionally, Fepuleai has also played overseas in the United States, playing for the New Jersey Turnpike Titans in the USA Rugby League competition. Fepuleai was also a member of the ‘Kukis’ side at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. Currently, he plays for the Concord-Burwood Wolves in the Ron Massey Cup.

10. Fabian Soutar – Hailing from the mighty town of Wanganui in New Zealand, Soutar first dabbled in rugby league for the New Lynn Stag U13’s side. He then moved to the Glenora Bears and was a member of the Kelston Boys High Rugby League team that won the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championship. At the tender age of 17, Soutar made his debut in the Bartercard Cup in 2004 playing with the Mt Albert Lions, who won three straight titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Soutar was then called into the New Zealand Residents team that won the Trans Tasman Rugby League Cup. 2008 saw him move to Queensland to play for the Easts Tigers side in the Queensland Cup/Intrust Super Cup. He started out in the FOGS Cup and represented a Brisbane FOGS team in the Toyota Centenary Cup Tournament. After several years at the Tigers, Soutar now plas for the Central Queensland Capras.

11. Tinirau Arona – Born in the lovely city of Dunedin, New Zealand, as just 11 years of age, Arona move to Sydney and played his first junior footy with the St Clair Comets. As a result, he signed up with the Penrith Panthers junior ranks and was a member of their Holden Cup side in 2008 and 2009. At just 17, he made his international debut for the Cook Islands when he came off the bench in a loss to Samoa. In October of 2009, he then played in two more internationals for the Cook Islands. The next adventure saw Arona sign with the Newtown Jets in the NSW Cup in 2010 and after winning the club’s best and fairest award, the big opportunity came knocking when he signed with the Sydney Roosters. Making his debut for the club in Rd 4, 2011, he played in 13 matches in that year. 2012 saw him play in a further 20 games whilst 2013 was a down year for Arona, only playing in 3 games for the Roosters the entire season. This was the springboard for a move away where there was more opportunity and that came at the Cronulla Sharks. He made his debut at the start of the 2014 season and to date, over two seasons, he has played in 26 games for the club. Interestingly, Arona is cousins with current Penrith Panthers back-rower and Cook Islands team-mate, Tupou Sopoaga.

12. Zeb Taia – A prolific try-scorer for a back-rower – especially at his current club, the Catalan Dragons – Taia was a popular player among the fans of the numerous clubs he has represented. Born in the NSW town of Auburn, the junior footy for Taia was played at the Enfield Comets and the St Clair Comets, before the opportunity came to sign with the Parramatta Eels. He played reserve grade for them in 2005 before the first-grade opportunity came in 2006. After spending just two seasons there, he was granted a release and made a mid-season move to the Newcastle Knights. It was here that he established himself as a workhorse and a valuable player, becoming a mainstay in the Knights back-row for a total of six seasons. Grateful for everything the Knights did for him, the 2013 season saw Taia head to the other side of the world and sign with the Catalan Dragons, a team in the English Super League. His first representative appearance actually came with the New Zealand Kiwis when he was picked for the 2010 ANZAC Test but in the same year, he also played in his first representative game for the Cook Islands. His official Cook Islands debut came in a game against Lebanon in 2012 and he was captain of the ‘Kukis’ side at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

13. Meti Noovao – A versatile player during his rugby league days, Noovao started out at the Otahuhu Leopards in the local Auckland tournament. When the Lion Red Cup was formed in 1994, he joined the Auckland Lions and when the Auckland Warriors became an Australian rugby league team, he was immediately signed up as a junior. He was a member of the 1993 Junior Kiwis side and although his Lion Red Cup side lost in the 1995 grand final, his talents as a player and as a kicker were on display. In 1997, he made his first-grade debut with the Auckland Warriors but only managed to play the one game overall. He also played for the Warriors in the 1997 World Club Championship. This prompted a move to Australia and it was the now defunct Adelaide Rams team that came calling. That season did not go as well as he would have liked and again, Noovao only played in one game all season. 1999 saw him head to Queensland where he played for the Burleigh Bears in the QLD Cup and made a name for himself. After a few successful years there, he returned home to Auckland and played for the Otahuhu Leopards once again. His representative appearances for the Cook Islands started in 1995 when he was playing for the ‘Kukis’ at the Emerging Nations Tournament. This was followed by international appearances in both 1996 and 1997 at the Super League World Nines before it was capped off with performances and appearances at the 2000 Rugby League World Cup.

14. Patrick Kuru – He may have been limited to the New Zealand competitions but Patrick Kuru was still a big-name player when it came to representing the Cook Islands. In 1996, he played for the Bay of Plenty Stags in the Lion Red Cup and scored two tries in the back-row in a semi-final loss. His adventures have taken him to numerous teams and most recently, he is playing for Victorian rugby league side, the Altona Roosters. He captained the side to a title in 2010 and in 2005, he was chosen in an Australian Affiliated national side, representing Victoria. His Cook Islands debut came in 1997 at the World Nines Tournament, before a World Cup opportunity presented itself when he was selected in the 2000 Rugby League World Cup squad. After that, Kuru represented the Cook Islands in Test series against the New Zealand Maori side in 2003 and against Fiji in 2004.

15. Tere Glassie – The ‘I’ve been everywhere man’ type player, Glassie has been to a lot of clubs and enjoyed success at all of them in some form. His first major break came during a decent stint with the South Sydney Rabbitohs where he played three games. After that, came the stints in the lower grades with the likes of the Balmain Tigers, the Newtown Jets (two spells) and the Wests Magpies. After that, he headed across to England and numerous successful stints with Oldham, Leigh, Castleford and Dewsbury. Once those adventures were complete, he then returned to Australia and played in his second stint with the Jets. Currently, he plays for the Mounties side in the NSW Cup. International experience is something that Glassie has a lot of and it all came with the Cook Islands. He was a member of the 2000 World Cup squad and was also involved in the Cook Islands 2009 Pacific Cup clash.

16. Adam Tangata – A talented player that came up through the ranks of the Canberra Raiders, the hulking prop has made his mark when it has counted. That was in 2011 and saw him retained by the club’s feeder system Mounties, whom Tangata played for at both the NSW Cup level and the Ron Massey Cup level. As of earlier this year, Tangata embarked on a new adventure and headed overseas, signing a deal with English Championship side, Halifax. Already making inroads there, Tangata has the makings of a talented prop moving forward. At just 24, Tangata has made numerous appearances for the Cook Islands, including several at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

17. Keith Lulia – Born in Wollongong, rugby league was always in Lulia’s blood. His first taste of professional rugby league came in 2007 when he made his debut for the St George Illawarra Dragons. Across the season, he played in 7 games, before he made the move to a club where he truly established himself, the Newcastle Knights. It was during the Brian Smith era when Lulia joined the Knights and over four seasons with the club, he played in 46 games. During that time, he was used mainly as a centre and a winger, but Lulia is verastile and able to play in the back-row and at lock. After that stint was finished, he headed to the Super League and signed a deal with Bradford. Again, he performed well across the board and had a knack for scoring tries over his two seasons at the club, all of which came as a centre. 2013 saw him return to Australia as he signed with the Wests Tigers. Used rather sporadically across his time at the club – which he is still at and contracted to – he did equal a record, scoring the most tries by a Wests Tigers player in the NRL competition with 4. From a representative standpoint, Lulia has represented the Cook Islands five times at the 2009 Pacific Cup and as a member of their 2013 Rugby League World Cup squad.

Spanish rugby league announce competition in the South

They have taken big strides in rugby league development over the years and continue to do so, with the Spanish Rugby League Association (AERL) announcing the start of the Andalusian Regional League on May 30.

The competition will play host to teams from three provinces – Cordoba, Sevilla and Malaga – with 12 matches to played in total up until in July.

Miguel Angel Mudarra, the President of AERL Andalucia, knows that they have worked hard to make this competition a reality and is excited at the potential on show.

“We are really proud of the work we have done at club level to organise the first regional rugby league championship in Spain,” said Mudarra.

“The work of the last couple of months has been huge, both at the organisational, logistical level as well as increasing the training given to our referees.

We believe it will be an exciting and very competitive championship and I wouldn’t like to predict a winner.”

Andalusia has been the focus of the Spanish rugby league officials for some time now and as they continue to develop the sport in the region, they now have a total of six teams. Just one behind the Valencian region, the birthplace of Spanish rugby league.

Aitor Davila, one of the most famous names involved with Spanish rugby league and the general secretary of the AERL, says the rapid development of rugby league in Andalucia has been remarkable and he expects the championship to be a big hit.

“Andalucia is already the second biggest regions in terms of the number of players and clubs and the championship we’re announcing today is evidence of the game’s progress in the south,” said Davila.

“Andalusia, like Valencia, is witnessing rapid development and interest and with the best possible level of coaches and referees, thanks to the help of the RLEF.

From the AERL’s point of view, we have high hopes for the future in this championship.”

No one is prouder than Javier Vergara, the director of the Andalusian competition. His hard work has paid off and he was quick to thank all those involved in setting the competition up.

“Today we have the honour to announce the first regional league in our country, and I would like to thank our clubs, the volunteers as well as the AERL and RLEF,” said Vergara.

“The Western Development League the AERL launched with southern and Madrid clubs, and the coach and referee courses run in our region laid the foundations of this competition and as our President said, we all hope they will be very competitive. “

VB NSW Cup Wrap-Up Rd 11

Already the end of Rd 11, can you believe it?! Time flies in rugby league and yet again, the NSW Cup heavyweights proved their mettle. Conversely, other teams are still struggling and languishing at the bottom. Although there is a long way left to go in the season, it is a tall order to claw their way back at this stage. Here is the weekly NSW Cup wrap-up.

No more waiting, the NSW Cup results for Rd 11:

Illawarra Cutters 38 (J Hunt 2, T Cranston, D Farrell, C Runciman, D Hutchinson, B Wallace tries; Wallace 5 goals) bt Manly Sea Eagles 18 (D Reardon 2, M Chee Kam tries; K Aldridge 3 goals).
Ricky’s View: Despite a spirited Manly fightback, it was an easy victory for the Cutters in the end. It was Justin Hunt’s work from fullback that inspired the side to victory, as he kept defenders at bay and frustrated the Manly players all game.

Wyong Roos 26 (A Papalii 2, O Slaimankhel, S Langi, J Siejka tries; T Cornish 3 goals) bt Wests Tigers 14 (J Sila, K Rowe, A Fiagatusa tries; J Drinkwater goal).
Ricky’s View: Keen to make amends for a poor first half, the Wyong Roos came bursting out of the blocks and scored 26 unanswered points to win. Experienced hooker and captain Mitch Williams was the star, producing some deft passing to help guide the Roos in their comeback.

Newtown Jets 26 (M Brown, J Roqica, P Politoni, D Wells, D Abou-Sleiman tries; N Gardner 3 goals) bt Wentworthville 12 (B Crooks, T Kamikamica tries; B Henry 2 goals).
Ricky’s View: Despite showing heart and character throughout, it was another disappointing end to the game for the Magpies, as they struggled to find their feet in 2015. They had no answer for a rampant Dallas Wells, who made it his mission to be involved in as many attacking plays as possible.

Warriors forward heads overseas and signs with Huddersfield

Sam Rapira

The New Zealand Warriors confirmed his release a little while ago and Sam Rapira now has a new home, with the veteran forward opting to go overseas.

Rapira’s new club will be English Super League the Huddersfield Giants, in what represents a new challenge for the 28-year old.

Having been a part of the Warriors organisation for so long, he relishes the new challenge with his new team.

“After 10 years at the Vodafone Warriors, I can’t wait for the new challenge of playing English Super League,” said Rapira.

“I decided to sign up with the Giants because I’ve heard positive things about the club and they have shown a lot of enthusiasm in getting me over there.”

Knowing how crucial the game of rugby league is for his career and family was a big factor for Rapira and he sought the advice of current team-mates who are also headed to England.

I’m really grateful for this opportunity and I look forward to working with Paul Anderson and the boys,” said Rapira.

“The thought of moving to the other side of the world with our two daughters is a bit daunting but our friends and family have been supportive throughout this process and we are excited to experience a new country and culture.

We’ve had lots of advice from Sam Tomkins and his partner Charlotte and it’s nice to know that we’ll have a few English friends over there in addition to our Kiwi friends.”

With the need for some forwards next season, Giants coach Paul Anderson believes Rapira is a great player to have come into the club.

“He has played at the very highest level throughout his career and to choose us to spend time with in the UK is great testament to what we have built up over the years here and a clear message of where we want the club to be,” said Anderson.

“Sam is a winner and a tough competitor who will enjoy the conditions here after he has finished his outstanding NRL career. He had options here and in Australia so we are delighted he has joined our club in the face of a lot of other possibilities.

“He is an out and out prop forward and someone who we will look to for the simple but effective and necessary role in getting the side moving forwards and making our middle unit a tough spot to run into.”

Ricky’s View: Greatest Tongan side

Tevita Vaikona

It continues, our take on the greatest players to have played for numerous Pacific Nations, this time Tonga. Tonga has enjoyed limited success across the international rugby league spectrum but have always been able to call upon a plethora of talented, elite players from the NRL and abroad when need be. With many quality players representing them over the years, we will cast our eye on those that made the biggest impact and those that had the greatest successes.

So, here it is. Our take on the greatest Tongan side ever:

1. Tevita Vaikona – Another Tongan dual international, Vaikona is perhaps one of the most noted Tongan rugby league players in more recent times. Rugby league was the game he first picked up, playing at Lincoln University in Christchurch. In 1994, he played for the Junior Kiwis side and played for the Canterbury Country Cardinals in the Lion Red Cup. His first big break came when Hull came knocking to sign him, with the powerful winger excelling from the get-go. A rangy yet strong winger, he had his first taste in the international arena when he was selected by the Tongans for the 1995 Rugby League World Cup. After 95 games at Hull over four years and a remarkable 70 tries to boot, a move to Bradford eventuated for Vaikona. After a solid first two years, it all took off for Vaikona at Bradford from 2000. He again represented Tonga at the 2000 World Cup and was their highest try-scorer and the following year, he was a part of the Bradford side that won both the 2001 English Super League title and the 2002 World Club Challenge. He again completed that very same double a couple of years later when Bradford won the 2003 title and the 2004 World Club Challenge. After scoring 90 tries in 147 games at Bradford, whilst he was still playing league, Vaikona made an appearance in the Rugby Sevens at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. This led to a move to Saracens F.C. where he was named player of the year in his first season. He then moved to French side Racing Metro and then onto the Hull Rugby Union Football Club. Throughout, he represented Tonga numerous times.

2. Albert Fuliavi – Originally a rugby union player at St Edmund’s College, Fuliavi did not venture into league until some years later. In 1986, he was captain of the Australian Schools Rugby Union team and enjoyed some success as a Union player. His foray into rugby league began in 1993 when he joined the Canberra Raiders, forging a career as a strong, reliable winger. Playing in 44 games from 1993-1998 with the Raiders, Fuliavi scored 22 tries in that period and became somewhat of a cult hero. He represented Tonga in the 1994 Pacific Cup and would have represented the Island nation at the 1995 Rugby League World Cup, had it not been for injury.

3. Cooper Vuna – One of the favourite sons of the Newcastle Knights during his time there some years ago, Vuna is also a dual international but for two different nations. Life in sport for Vuna began in rugby union, the sport he played in high school until he was 15. When he was scouted by the New Zealand Warriors, though, he started playing league with the Otahuhu Leopards. He then went on to represent the Auckland Lions in both the Bartercard Cup and in the NSWRL Premier League. It was late in 2004 when Vuna made his first-grade debut at the New Zealand Warriors but after playing just three games over five years, he sought a move and found a new home in Newcastle. He quickly established himself as a player and became a fan favourite. He is the joint-record holder for most tries scored in a single game by a Knights player with 4 and after 50+ games for the Knights over a few seasons, he sought out a move to rugby union. That was not before he represented the Tongans at the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. A move to rugby union came after that and Vuna has had stints with the Melbourne Rebels, Toshiba Brave Lupus and currently plays union for the Worcester Warriors. In addition to that, he received 2 caps for the Wallabies side in 2012.

4. Phil Howlett – His brother Doug Howlett forged a career in rugby union but for Phil, rugby league is where he plied his trade. Whilst attending John Paul II College in 1993, Howlett represented the Australian Schoolboys side and was given his first crack in rugby league before the NRL era. A debut with the Penrith Panthers in 1993. This led to a move to the Parramatta Eels where over two seasons, Howlett played in 24 games and scored 6 tries, before a move to the South Sydney Rabbitohs produced even more game-time with 45 games and 12 tries. After those three stints, the Super League beckoned and he made his way to the Bradford Bulls for one season but he played only 6 games. Howlett represented the Tongan national team at both the 1995 and 2000 World Cups and was one of a select few players to represent a Rest of the World side during the Super League war.

5. Malupo Kaufusi – A former winger that played for both Australian sides and an English side, Kaufusi was a Tongan representative that had the honour of playing for his country at the 2000 Rugby League World Cup. He had the majority of his success at the Northern Eagles in 2002, playing in 19 games overall and scoring 2 tries. After spending the one season with the club, he moved onto the Parramatta Eels in 2004 but played only one game before he signed with the London Broncos in the same year, playing in 4 games for the club.

6. Asa Amone – A dual international for Tonga, Asa Amone has been everywhere as a player. Whether it was flying high for Tonga in the 1987 Rugby World Cup or doing the same thing for Tonga in the 1995 Rugby League World Cup, he has done well to forge a career that he can be proud of. Union came first for Amone and he performed well as a fly-half during his time in the sport before a move to rugby league followed. A fullback/centre in rugby league, he was a member of the Halifax side for numerous years. He was a part of the club’s defeat in the 1998 First Division Grand Final.

7. Willie Wolfgramm – It was a family thing for Tonga and Wolfgramm, with Willie’s cousin Greg also a Tongan international. Playing local rugby league to begin his career, Wolfgramm’s first appearance in the Tongan jumper came during the 1992 Pacific Cup. He had a brief stint at Manly without playing first-grade, before he returned to New Zealand and played for the Counties Manakau Heroes in the Lion Red Cup. He was a part of the side that made the 1994 grand final. In 1996, Wolfgramm signed with English side the Swinton Lions before playing in the Super League Nines tournament for Tonga in 1997. Then, in 1999, as a part of Group 20 side the Narrandera Lizards, he won a rugby league premiership as captain-coach. This led to being a part of the Tongan World Cup side in 2000 and following that, he had stints with local Canberra sides the West Belconnen Warriors and the Valley Dragons. His rugby league adventure was not over there, as he returned to the Bartercard Cup and played for Counties Manakau Jetz and again for Tonga in the 2006 Pacific Cup, where he won man of the match. His final foray in rugby league saw him play for Auckland rugby league side Bay Roskill Vikings as player-coach in 2010 and 2011.

8. John Fifita – The most famous stint for Fifita came over a 6-year period when he played for the St George Dragons. Debuting for them in 1985, over that six-year period, Fifita played in 74 games for the club. The prop/back-rower became a quality player over that period, with the fans praising his hard-running style and hard hits. During the 1987/88 off-season, Fifita also played for English side Castleford and was a member of their Yorkshire Cup final side and of their side during the replay, which Castleford lost. As for representing Tonga, Fifita was a part of both the 1986 and 1988 Pacific Cup sides. He was also named in the Team of the Tournament for the 1986 competition. Current rugby league players Andrew Fifita and David Fifita are his nephews.

9. Tevita Leo-Latu – Rugby league entered Leo-Latu’s career at a young age when he played for the Richmond Rovers. Although Leo-Latu did not contemplate a career in league that point, it was not until he played for Brothers in the Bartercard Cup where his skills were noticed. This led to the New Zealand Warriors signing him. It was during the midpoint of the 2003 season when Leo-Latu made his NRL debut and whilst he made a good start to his career, he fell in and out of the side under different selection policies and coaches and eventually left. The next journey came when he signed with the Cronulla Sharks, to which Leo-Latu provided spark and energy off the bench. His Sharks career ended prematurely, however, when the hooker was involved in an altercation in 2003 that eventually led to an assault. The club were swift in their actions and terminated his contract immediately. The next team that came knocking was the Wakefield Wildcats in the English Super League. There, Leo-Latu played 82 games over a period of 5 seasons and became a regular within the team. Following that, he joined the former Central Queensland Comets side, before heading back to New Zealand and joining the Point Chevalier Pirates. After a stint with the New Zealand Warriors NSW Cup side and the Akarana Falcons in 2013, he rejoined the Pirates side, where he currently plays. As for international duties, he actually represented New Zealand first in a one-off Test. His Tongan appearances came in 2008 during the Rugby League World Cup. He also played representative football for the Auckland side.

10. Solomon Haumono – Whilst everyone may now know of him as a boxer, before all that, Solomon Haumono was a former rugby league player. It all started during his high school days when he was a student at Newtown Boys High and Christian Brothers High, where he represented the NSW Combined Catholics College Australian Schoolboys side in 1993. Soon after that appearance, his name was on rugby league map and it was the Manly Sea Eagles who first came knocking and offered him a contract in 1994. After that, he played for the Canterbury Bulldogs, the Balmain Tigers and the St George Illawarra Dragons, before he made a move into boxing. Effectively, for a few years, he retired from rugby league to pursue his boxing career. He would return to league, though, and in 2003, he again joined Manly before he took his talents overseas and signed with the London Broncos. That signalled the end of his rugby league career as Haumono again pursued his boxing career. He represented a few different international teams in his career including one appearance for Australia during the Super League era as well as few games for NSW in the same time period. Tonga came calling on two occasions and the forward responded by playing for them.

11. Awen Guttenbeil – A New Zealand Warriors man through and through, the name of Awen Guttenbeil is synonymous with the Warriors club. At just 3 years old, Guttenbeil started his rugby league career when he fronted up for the Portland Pirates. This led to a move to Auckland where he then played for the Point Chevalier Pirates alongside future team-mate, Stacey Jones. After an Auckland Development Tour in Australia, several clubs were after the hulking forward. As a result, he very nearly signed with Manly and his career would have taken a very different turn. Instead, after opting to go towards the yet to be created Super League, his career with the then Auckland Warriors and now New Zealand Warriors, was born. His debut came in the 1996 ARL season, though his early years at the club were hampered by persistent injuries. After he forced his way back into the side during the tough period to begin with, there was no turning back. Guttenbeil became a mainstay of the Warriors side and was a part of their 2002 grand final team. His career is one that has been forged on hard work and desire and after playing eleven seasons with the club, Guttenbeil was only the second Warriors player to receive a testimonial and the first to have a club jersey designed specifically for him. A move to the Castleford Tigers was next for Guttenbeil and whilst they were relegated in 2007, he stayed with the club and helped them gain promotion once more the following year. On the international arena, although overall, Guttenbeil played more games as a Kiwi, his end to representative footy was capped off with appearances for Tonga at the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, where he made his mark and cemented his spot as a truly great player.

12. Manu Ma’u – If there was ever a rugby league story about overcoming hardship and adversity, it is that of Manu Ma’u. Hailing from New Zealand, Ma’u was all about the rugby league from a very early age. Attending St Paul’s College in Auckland, he enjoyed stints with both the Richmond Rovers and the Marist Saints. That is where it went downhill for Ma’u. His part involvement and association with gangs in New Zealand was well-documented and after an altercation in 2007, Ma’u was eventually set to jail for his involvement in the altercation for a period of three years. It was a tough road back for Ma’u but he was determined to make the most of a promising rugby league career following his release in 2009. Fast forward to the present day and Ma’u is now a reformed man. Seeing the error of his ways from the past, he is all about family and footy. “I want to build a future. I want my partner Alisi and my kids [Melino and Levi] to be proud of me and I want my family to realise I’m not that naughty boy that caused them pain,” said Ma’u. That road back started with a stint at the Auckland Vulcans in the NSW Cup and at first, he was denied the chance to play in the NRL because the Australian Immigration Department would not grant him a visa due to his criminal history. So Ma’u fought on and he earned a spot with the Wentworthville Magpies in the NSW Cup where he played well and made a name for himself. That led to an opportunity with the Parramatta Eels and it is one that he has taken in his stride, cementing his spot in the side. He made one appearance for Tonga, this year, playing in their 2015 Pacific Cup game.

13. Feleti Mateo – Rocks, diamonds, consistency or no consistency. As talented as Feleti Mateo is, fans have always had their concerns about him and whether he can remain a consistent player throughout his career. Known as a very versatile player overall, it has served him well in the past, having played at five-eighth, back-row and lock, proving effective at times in all three positions. Rugby league started for Mateo whilst attending Westfield Sports High and Terra Sancta College, whilst playing for the St Patricks Shamrocks and the Lalor Park Kookaburras. It was then, in 2004, when Mateo got his big rugby league break, signing with the Parramatta Eels. He only ended up playing the one game that year and as a result, sought opportunity overseas, signing with the London Broncos. Returning to the Eels in 2006, Mateo was named as the NSWRL Premier League Player of the Year, in what rejuvenated his NRL career. From then on, his versatility and creative ability, saw him become a regular in the Eels side over the course of four seasons. He played in the Eels 2009 grand final side and as the 2010 season ended, he signed a deal to head across the Tasman and put pen to paper with the New Zealand Warriors. Again, he established himself as a regular in the Warriors side to begin with but as form dwindled, so too did his opportunity. He sought greener pastures and headed to Manly, where he currently plays. As for representing Tonga, Mateo has always enjoyed playing for the Pacific nation and has made 12 appearances for them. He was also named the Tongan Player of the Year at the RLIF Awards dinner in 2011.

14. Antonio Kaufusi – Born and raised in Tonga, Kaufusi has always played the game with rigorous intent and a desire to perform well. Representing a number of different teams throughout his career, his professional rugby league career began in 2003, when he was signed by the Melbourne Storm. Missing out on the 2007 premiership success due to injury he did return in 2008, only to be a part of the losing grand final side. In 2009, he headed North to Townsville and played for the Cowboys but time was short lived, as he was let go by the club after just one season. He made a return to NSW and signed with the Newcastle Knights for a couple of seasons, playing in 33 games for them before he moved once more. This time, he sought the lure of an overseas opportunity and signed with the London Broncos. He had a bit more success here, playing in 56 games over two years before joining both the Huddersfield Giants and the Bradford Bulls. As it stands, he currently plays for the Canterbury Bulldogs, having joined them prior to the start of the 2015 season. With one cap to his name for both Queensland and Australia, his most recent representative games came in 2008 when he was a part of the Tongan side at the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.

15. Andrew Lomu – A front-rower in the NRL, Andrew Lomu played hard, hit hard and enjoyed some success as a rugby league player in the NRL. His debut came in 2000 with the Sydney Roosters and after 51 games with the club, including a premiership in 2002, a move beckoned for the hulking Tongan prop. The Cronulla Sharks were the next team to acquire his services but his time there was brief, playing in 22 games over a 2-year period before he was once again on the move. This time, he headed to the nation’s capital and played for the Canberra Raiders over a couple of seasons. After that time, he was again looking for a new club and headed North to Brisbane but only ended up playing in one game for the Brisbane Broncos. His three Tongan representative appearances came in 2000, when he was a part of the World Cup squad, before he represented New Zealand on one occasion in a Test against the Kangaroos.

16. Filimone Lolohea – Ellerslie is where rugby league started for Filimone, with a stint at local New Zealand side, the Ellerslie Eagles. After that, he joined the newly-formed Auckland Warriors franchise in 1995 and was a part of the U19’s team at the time that lost in the grand final in 1997. Then, in 1999, he made his international debut for Tonga in a one-off Test against the Kiwis, before he was picked as a member of Tonga’s 2000 World Cup squad. His first taste of rugby league in the NRL came for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, after they acquired the forward in 2002. Playing just nine games over three years at the club, he sought further opportunity and found it overseas. He signed with the London Broncos in 2005 and forced his way into the side, playing in a total of 32 games across two seasons. Following that, he opted to retire from the sport of rugby league.

17. Epalahame Lauaki – While much of his career has been spent overseas in the English Super League, Lauaki did have a successful stint at the start of his NRL career with the New Zealand Warriors. The Tongan born utility forward started out at Waitakere College and Kelston Boys High School, playing for the Waitemata Seagulls and Glenora Bears in the Auckland Rugby League Competition. This led to signing with the Warriors side and it was in 2004 when he made his professional first-grade debut. Playing mostly as an impact player off the interchange bench, he became a fan favourite for just that, providing much-needed impact. After 5 years in total as a New Zealand Warrior, a move beckoned overseas for Lauaki and this is where Hull FC came in. Needing a forward to bolster their stocks, they pounced and he quickly became a fan favourite for his brutal commitment to his game and the team. His quick feet and powerful play saw him play at Hull for three years for a total of 56 games, before he moved again, this time to the Wigan Warriors. There, his opportunity dwindled even though his game did not and after three seasons at Wigan, he moved again. This time to Bradford, where he has so far played in eight games this season. From a representative perspective, it was all New Zealand for Lauaki at first. In 2006, he played for New Zealand ‘A’ before he was named in the Kiwi side to tour Great Britain, playing in two games. What most players do not do but Lauaki did, was change his allegiance to their state of birth. As a result, Lauaki was picked in the Tongan World Cup squad in 2008.

Dragons re-sign Samoan international for three more seasons

Leeson Ah Mau

Yesterday it was Mike Cooper, today it is Leeson Ah Mau, with the St George Illawarra Dragons re-signing the Samoan international on a new 3-year deal.

Ah Mau has played in 59 first-grade games for the Dragons and a total of 94 games to date, since arriving at the Dragons from the North Queensland Cowboys.

The Samoan international has played in a total of eight Tests for Samoa, most recently in the Pacific Test win over Tonga.

Ah Mau is pleased to have re-signed with the club and is grateful for the opportunities he has been given.

“I am really happy to be able to continue representing the Club for at least another three years,” said Ah Mau.

“It has been great learning under Head Coach Paul McGregor and all the other coaching staff and I am very thankful for the opportunity to remain here.

“I intend to work hard to repay the faith that has been shown in me.

“We have a great squad and a really positive environment here at the Dragons and I am very happy to be able to stay.”

The club are also pleased to re-sign the Samoan international, well aware of how far he has come as a player.

“We were keen to see Leeson extend his stay and are pleased that we have been able to come to an arrangement that will see him remain at the Dragons at least until the end of 2018,” said Dragons Head of Recruitment and Retention, Peter Mulholland.

“Leeson has established himself as a quality starting prop in his time at the Club and will be a key part of our squad make-up over the next few years”.

Former NRL forward returns and signs with the Knights

Mickey Paea

Way back in 2005, Mickey Paea was given a first-grade opportunity with the Sydney Roosters and became a mainstay of their side for a number of years.

Now, he returns to the NRL following a stint in England, with the Newcastle Knights re-signing with the club for two seasons.

Paea played in 56 first-grade games during his first stint in the NRL before he made the move to England. Most recently, he has been playing for Hull FC but sought an opportunity to return to Australia, one that was granted by the English club.

The club are excited to have an experienced forward like Paea in their ranks from next season, with Director of Football Michael Hagan confident Paea can add some starch to their pack.

“Mickey will add some size, strength and experience to our forward pack,” Director of Football Michael Hagan said.

“He comes highly recommended and we are delighted to have him join our football club from next season.”

For Paea, the opportunity to return to the NRL after four seasons in the Super League was too good to refuse and it was the Knights offer that intrigued him most.

“I am delighted to be able to return to the NRL after four years in the UK Super League,” Paea said.

“Whilst I have enjoyed every minute of the UK Super League and experience living life in Hull, I’m very excited to be returning to the NRL.

“The Newcastle Knights greatly appealed to me as I know members of the coaching staff and I’m impressed with their vision for the first team in 2016 and beyond.”

Young Cowboys forward signs new deal

John Asiata

Enjoying a prolonged starting stint in light of some injuries to other players, John Asiata has shined and made the most of it and has since been rewarded as a result.

Asiata, a young, emerging forward, has been re-signed by the North Queensland Cowboys for a further two seasons until the end of 2017.

The club are excited that he has opted to stay with the club and look forward to helping him develop as a player.

“John is a fantastic young player and the club is delighted that he will continue his football and personal development with the Cowboys,” Cowboys General Manager of Football Peter Parr said.

“He is improving with every match and we look forward to him continuing his career at the club that gave him his NRL debut.”

Playing in 13 NRL games over the past two seasons, his debut came in Rd 12 of 2014, as he has cemented a spot in the Cowboys top 17 each week.

For Asiata himself, he is pleased to have re-signed with the club that has given him support.

“The Cowboys have been brilliant for my rugby league career and I look forward to continuing to represent the club on and off the field,” he said.

“(Cowboys head coach) Paul Green gave me my NRL start and I’m loving running around with my Cowboys teammates each weekend.”

Dragons re-sign their in-form Englishman

Mike Cooper

Coming to the NRL can be daunting for an overseas player given the expectation but after a terrific start to his 2015 season, St George Illawarra Dragons prop Mike Cooper is here to stay.

The Englishman has been a leader of the forward pack for the Dragons and has signed a new deal that will see him remain with the club until the end of the 2017 season.

Playing in 32 games for the Dragons to date after joining from the Warrington Wolves, Cooper has played in a grand total of 154 games across different leagues to date.

Named in the English Four Nations squad last season, the Latchford Albion junior knew that it was an easy decision to make in terms of remaining with the club.

“It was a very easy decision for me to make in regards to extending my stay here with the Dragons,” said Cooper.

”I didn’t put too much pressure on myself when I first came out here, I just wanted to make the starting 17 and play NRL and things have gone from there.

“The players and the coaching staff are first class and I think everyone is getting the best out of me, my game is developing here and I just really want to be a part of the future here at the Dragons.”

Forging a reputation on hard work and hard hits, Cooper has become a mainstay in the Dragons side and the club are pleased to have retained him.

“Mike is a quality person, he has adapted well and has really improved his game in the Dragons and NRL environment,” said the Dragons Director of Recruitment and Retention, Peter Mulholland.

“He is an enthusiastic and important part of our squad and everyone at the Club is happy to see him remain for at least a further two seasons.”