Storm utility back heads to Hull FC

Mahe Fonua

In need of some new back-line players, Hull FC have gone after Melbourne Storm utility back Mahe Fonua and they have their man. The centre/winger has signed a three-year deal with the club.

Fonua, who has been at the Storm for his entire career, recently became the first Melbourne born and bred player to play in 50 games in the NRL.

He came through the club’s pathways and system and the 22-year old now has a new challenge ahead of him, with the club disappointed to see him go but wishing him the best.

“Mahe has come a long way during his time in Melbourne and paved the way for aspiring junior rugby league players in Victoria,” said the Storm’s Director of Football, Frank Ponissi.

“As a Club we are disappointed to lose Mahe but understand he has to do what is best for himself and his family.

“We wish Mahe and his family all the best and know his focus will be to finish the season strongly here at Storm.”

With the departure of Tom Lineham to rivals Warrington, Hull FC knew they had to act and believe Fonua can fill that void.

The Tongan international should fit right into Super League and he is a player that coach Lee Radford believes will excite the fans.

“We were surprised to hear about his availability as a relatively established NRL player and it certainly shows we’re moving in the right direction in terms of our recruitment, as he wants to play for Hull FC and he is a player that excites us and will excite the fans,” said Radford.

“We’ve had some really good references from over there that make me feel really confident in what he can bring to the side.

“I think how he performs and how he plays speaks for itself with some wholehearted performances and I think he’s going to be a fantastic addition to our squad.”

Manly record upset win over “flat” Broncos

Jamie Lyon

Competition leaders for a reason after their brilliant start to the season, it was a very different sort of game for the Brisbane Broncos, as they looked flat and out-of-sorts, comprehensively beaten by a hungry Manly side.

On the flip side, for Manly, it was a tough week for them but they put sagas and dramas behind them and did what they do best – play footy. It was enough as they showed resolve, ticker and hunger to keep their finals hopes alive after the 44-14 win.

The win in Gosford came just four days after current coach Geoff Toovey was told his services are no longer required, as veteran Jamie Lyon and five-eighth Kieran Foran put on a show in front of the 16,280-strong crowd.

Manly burst out of the blocks and held a 20-0 lead at half-time, a deficit that was always going to be tough to claw back for the Broncos.

One of their stars of the future in Tom Trbojevic, who came into the side with Steve Matai out injured, scored two tries to continue his impressive form across several grades.

It continued to rain tries as Lyon’s assist abilities were on show in every facet, putting on pass after pass to get his team-mates over the line.

There was a rare double for Kieran Foran, as his good form as the eyes of Parramatta Eels fans lighting up, with the Kiwi half to join them in 2016.

Gosford is a happy home ground for Manly, with the side winning 13 of their 16 clashes there and Toovey becoming just the sixth coach in their history to coach 100 or more games for Manly.

Not one to shy away from honesty, Broncos coach Wayne Bennett admitted that his side was off the boil from the very start.

“They started extremely well and I thought our start and was as poor as I’ve seen us start,” he said.

Knowing that Toovey is departing, the Sea Eagles wanted to dig deep and get the win for him.

“It was definitely a motivation. We wanted to play well. Geoff was great all week and he got us up for the game and I’m glad we got the win for him,” Lyon said.

Broncos captain Justin Hodges was also honest, admitting that the Manly side just wanted the win more than his team.

“They just wanted it more, they turned up in the right frame of mind and we didn’t,” Hodges said.

Player of the Game:

3. Jamie Lyon
2. Kieran Foran
1. Jorge Taufua

Cowboys dig deep and come from behind to beat the Raiders

Johnathan Thurston

They have done it again. Yet another come-from-behind win by the North Queensland Cowboys that continues their impressive form. Although they still cannot string eighty minutes together, they somehow find a way to win.

It was a slow start for the Cowboys, as they trailed 18-4 at the break, as the Raiders had all the momentum and ascendancy in the first half.

However, in typical Cowboys fashion, the light flickered, switched on and saw the Cowboys come out a side possessed in the second half, repelling the Raiders and winning again.

With both sides donning their respective Marvel Superhero jerseys – Canberra, the Hulk and the Cowboys, Thor – it was the Cowboys forwards that eventually got the roll-on required to set up the win.

In front of almost 17,000 fans, there were plenty of nervous moments and the usual planned structured attack that has worked so well for the Cowboys was missing in the first half.

Completing at just 50% in the first half, the Cowboys needed some fortune in the second and got it when a stray offload saw winger Antonio Winterstein race away to score. From there, momentum was always with the home side.

The Cowboys have now won 15 of their last 16 games and the Raiders missed an opportunity to leapfrog the Warriors into eighth position.

Despite the loss, the efforts from his players drew praise aplenty from Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.

“We are a very, very fit football team and I think we handled the conditions extremely well. We only used three interchanges in the first half,” said Stuart.

“We prepared for it. The way we played the first half is how we prepared. We were such a dominant footy team in the first half, we were wonderful in the first half.”

With interchange players now playing such a big role in the game, it was the impact he received from his bench that pleased Cowboys coach Paul Green.

“He was really good, Benny. He’s been doing a great job; all of our bench have been doing a great job,” said Green.

“Johnny Asiata was really good off the bench there tonight, ‘Bolt’s (Bolton) and Rory Kostjasyn. When they come on in the games the tempo of our play doesn’t really drop which is important.”

Although they missed the chance to make the eight this week, the Raiders remain well and truly in the finals hunt.

“We look at each game (individually),” said Stuart.

“Tonight is disappointing because it probably makes it harder (to make the top eight). But we don’t go out there trying to count numbers and where we’ve got to be and who we’ve got to play and what we’ve got to do. We just worry about next week.”

Player of the Game:

3. Johnathan Thurston
2. Ethan Lowe
1. Jack Wighton

North Queensland Cowboys 32 (Antonio Winterstein 2, Michael Morgan, Gavin Cooper, Jake Granville tries; Johnathan Thurston 6 goals) def Canberra Raiders 24 (Jack Wighton, Edrick Lee, Sia Soliola, Kurt Baptiste tries; Jarrod Croker 4 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Crowd: 16, 207. Half-time: Cowboys 10-4. On Report: Edrick Lee (Canberra, 43rd minute)

Individual brilliance from Holmes leads Sharks to gutsy win

Valentine Holmes

The Cronulla Sharks juggernaut rolls on as they continue to build momentum with the finals close near, after a brilliant solo try by in-form winger Valentine Holmes guided them to a gutsy 18-14 win.

Playing on the road in New Zealand is never an easy task, but the Sharks dug deep after trailing for long periods of the game, taking the lead when it mattered, right at the death.

They had a nervous wait as the last play of the game saw the Warriors go over but video refs ruled that Simon Mannering had knocked on.

Despite trailing at the break, Sharks captain Paul Gallen was confident that if they had some possession and capitalised, that they could win.

“I was really confident at half time and was trying to reinforce that to the boys, to stay confident,” captain Paul Gallen said.

“They scored two tries [in the first half], both off kicks. We were defending in our systems really well.

“I just knew when we had the ball if we just went set for set with them we would be okay. We just hung in there for each other, worked for each other all game.”

The Warriors came out to impress and scored an early try through the barnstorming Konrad Hurrell. All the momentum was with the home side as they produced five repeat sets, with the Sharks repelling all of them.

The nature of the game saw it go back and forth with both sides needing wins for different reasons, but the Warriors loss means that by the end of the round, they are no guarantee to be in the top eight.

Defence wins games and that was the primary aspect that drew praise from Sharks coach Shane Flanagan.

“That was probably our best defensive effort of the season, we were outstanding when defending our own line, courageous,” Flanagan said.

“Some outstanding tackles, a couple on our line there we made. Our two centres made some real crucial tackles there as well.

“Defence in the first half, particularly in the tail end of it ended up winning us that game.”

With the injury to Johnson a big blow for the Warriors, their makeshift halves pairing saw Tuimoala Lolohea move to halfback and despite the loss, Warriors coach Andrew McFadden was pleased with the combination between he and Chad Townsend.

“I thought he [Lolohea] was solid, he didn’t overplay his hand and he did the things he was good at which was running the ball,” McFadden said.

“I think that combination with him and Chad will obviously evolve. I thought it was a pretty decent game [for the halves].”

The game-changer was the brilliant individual effort from Holmes and he was pleased that it paid off to get his side the win.

“I was pretty happy [with how I performed],” Holmes said.

“I didn’t really get involved at the start but worked my way through the game and scored those two tries.

“[Tomkins] is a pretty experienced fullback so he probably would have made the one-on-one tackle, so I chipped it over and got the lucky bounce.”

3. Valentine Holmes
2. Sam Tagataese
1. Simon Mannering

Sharks 18 (Valentine Holmes 2, Ricky Leutele tries; Gordon 3 goals) defeated Warriors 14 (Konrad Hurrell, Simon Mannering tries; Lolohea 3 goals) at Mount Smart Stadium. HT: 10-0. Crowd: 12,481.

Tedesco magic guides Tigers to upset win over the Storm

Jesse Bromwich

Pat Richards and Keith Galloway were playing their last game at the venue and Aaron Woods was playing in his 100th game, and it was the perfect way to cap off all three milestones, as the Tigers upset the Storm with a comprehensive 34-16 win.

Once again led by James Tedesco who has been a shining light for the club this season, it was the collective effort of the Tigers team that saw them get over the line.

Exploiting the defensive weakness of former Tiger Marika Koroibete on the wing, the Tigers ended up scoring four tries down his side, with David Nofoaluma grabbing a double on that side.

The Tigers are now finding form at the right time and coach Jason Taylor knew that a good performance was never too far away.

“It was very good, very pleasing. It was a really strong performance,” Taylor said.

“We were behind early and that wasn’t great but I knew the guys weren’t going to give up. We have gone to another level the past few weeks – it hasn’t looked like it on the scoreboard – but the last fortnight against two of the absolute top teams we have had some really great periods and we were really strong for most of the game on the back of that.”

There was some hands in mouths, though, when James Tedesco went down with what looked like a serious knee injury – his past injuries have been well documented – but he sprang straight back up and played the ball.

Despite the Storm’s best efforts and a monumental performance from prop Jesse Bromwich, they were ultimately outdone by a Tigers side that wanted the victory more.

Speaking about James Tedesco post-game, Tigers captain Robbie Farah praised the ownership and responsibility that the live-wire fullback has taken on board.

“He’s a threat every time he gets the ball – he has genuine pace out the back, he’s an instinctive player, he always seems to turn up in the right spot and he has good hands too,” Tigers captain Robbie Farah said post-game.

“We need to give him as much ball as we can because every time he touches it the opposition defence worries about him.”

With a fair bit of travel over the last month or so, the Storm have struggled at times but coach Craig Bellamy refuses to buy into that.

“At the end of the day, we had a couple of long trips where we went to New Zealand twice in three weeks. But after the first [NZ trip] we came back and we won by 50,” Bellamy said post-game.

“It’s just an excuse. We didn’t look tired at the start of the game so to me we just got soft mentally, decided to take the foot off the pedal and received our just desserts.”

3. Jesse Bromwich
2. James Tedesco
1. David Nofoaluma

Wests Tigers 34 (James Tedesco 2, Dene Halatau, Kevin Naiqama, Pat Richards, David Nofoaluma Tries; Pat Richards 4 Goals) defeated Melbourne Storm 16 (Marika Koroibete 2, Jesse Bromwich Tries; Cameron Smith 2 Goals) at Leichhardt Oval. Crowd: 7,419. Half-time: Tigers 18-10.

Late Roosters surge sees them prevail in Friday night classic

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

Billed as one of the matches of the year, it lived up to the expectations, as the Sydney Roosters defeated the Canterbury Bulldogs 38-28 at Allianz Stadium.

Despite coming back from 22-0 down at one point to take the lead – it would have been the Bulldogs greatest ever comeback had they won – a few tries to the Roosters late on meant that they got the crucial win to cement their top four aspirations.

In a sign as to just how quickly momentum can shift, the first half was a tale of two halves within itself. The Roosters burst out of the blocks and were all over the Bulldogs, before the second stanza of the half saw it reverse.

It was the Bulldogs who then overpowered and manhandled the Roosters defence, as they clawed their way back into the contest before eventually taking the lead at one point.

The shoulder charge debate also reared its ugly head once more, with Roosters prop Kane Evans putting on a perfectly executed shoulder charge on rival prop, Sam Kasiano. Though with the shoulder charge now a banned action in the NRL, Evans was swiftly placed on report.

The Roosters, donning their Marvel Superhero jersey, were treated to a superhero like effort from centre Michael Jennings who appeared out of nowhere and flew through the air to ground the ball for a try that he had no right to get to.

The win is the seventh straight for the Roosters whilst the Dogs are left to rely on other results as to whether or not they drop out of the top eight.

There was one downside to the win, though, with prop Sam Moa potentially requiring season-ending surgery on a wrist injury.

Momentum was the key in this game and Roosters coach Trent Robinson knew just how important it was.

“Everybody had little momentum changes that we were trying to push it back in our favour and eventually we did,” Robinson said.

As for Moa’s injury, Robinson admits he is unsure of the specific diagnosis.

“Dislocated wrist. They’re either trying to put it back in or they’ll get it back in tomorrow (Saturday),” Robinson said.

“I’m not sure [how long he’ll be out]. Possibly, if they can’t get it back in it might [require surgery]. I know they were having trouble when I left so they may have to put him under to get it back in.”

Player of the Game:

3. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
2. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
1. James Maloney

Sydney Roosters 38 (Tupou 2, Jennings 2, Tuivasa-Sheck, Ferguson, Hastings tries; Maloney 5 goals) defeated Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 28 (Thompson 2, Lane, J Morris, Hodkinson tries; Hodkinson 4 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Half time: Roosters 22-16. Crowd: 13,589. On report: Kane Evans.

Tipping Point’s View: Rd 21 Tips

Another week, another tipping round. Last week was marginally easier but tipping accurately this year is getting increasingly harder given the even nature of many teams. Here to help, though, is our tipping guide, Tipping Point. His help will potentially be the difference between a perfect round and a low-scoring round.

Round 21 Tips

Season: 91/151 (60%) Last week: 5/8

At a glance: Storm, Roosters, Sharks, Cowboys, Broncos, Dragons, Souths, Titans

Tigers v Storm, Leichardt Oval

Channel 9 viewers are treated to another Tigers Friday night game as they head to one of their traditional home grounds to take on the Storm, who have flown under the radar to sit just two points outside the top four. Leichardt has been a miserable ground for the Tigers this season, copping three defeats to the Panthers, Raiders and Titans – all non-top eight sides. While they welcome back Robbie Farah, they lose one of their better forwards in Marty Taupau and I expect them to be fairly ruthlessly dealt with by a thoroughly professional Storm outfit.

Tip: Storm

Roosters v Bulldogs, Allianz Stadium

Two Sydney rivals and premiership heavyweights square off in what ought to be a willing encounter. The Dogs will be seething after a pretty poor effort against the Sharks last Sunday so the Chooks will be in for a battle. This strikes me as the kind of game where the Dogs really fire up and Dessie will have them primed, but the Roosters’ form and credentials are hard to ignore: they’ve only lost one game since round nine and knocked over the Dogs fairly easily in round 10. They’re still very much in the hunt for the minor premiership and they won’t want to let this game slip.

Tip: Roosters

Warriors v Sharks, Mount Smart Stadium

This fixture has had me completely flummoxed since last weekend. Put simply, it’s a nightmare. The Warriors are always haunting tipsters, and the loss of Shaun Johnson makes them more unreliable. They’ll also be without Bodene Thompson who has been one of their best this year; they do however welcome back Hurrell, Vatuvei and Hoffman. The Sharkies on the other hand have actually been ticking along nicely, and find themselves firmly in the eight with three straight wins. In fact, they’ve actually won 10 of their last 13 games so if you excuse their shocking start to the season – where they opened with four losses – they’re one of the form sides of the competition. But the loss of Fifita and Luke Lewis, two of their best players, is significant. Coming off a tough Sunday afternoon game there’s a strong case for picking the Warriors – but their poor record against top-eight sides makes me reluctant to pick them. I’ll take the Sharks but I’m already having doubts.

Tip: Sharks

Cowboys v Raiders, 1300Smiles Stadium

I’m really looking forward to this clash which features the NRL’s second- and third-most prolific attacking sides. Both sides are coming off last-round wins with the Raiders jagging a critical victory against the Panthers at Pepper Stadium whereas the Cowboys played twenty minutes of football last Monday against the Eels and walked away with a 46-4 victory. The Cowboys are in a rich vein of form and I think they’ll be too good for the Raiders who, despite having a great away record this season with six wins from nine, may suffer in the humid conditions.

Tip: Cowboys

Manly v Broncos, Central Coast Stadium

After such a torrid week the Manly side and their embattled coach will be keen to focus on footy for a day. Unfortunately, they take on the competition leaders Brisbane who are sitting on an eight-game winning streak and playing an exciting brand of footy that has seen them pegged as near premiership favourites. Manly will be no easy-beats though: they won against-the-odds against the Warriors last week and with their season on the line they will be bringing their A-game. But I just can’t see them knocking off the competition leaders, especially away from Brookie. Manly will also be without Symonds, Sao and Burgess which sees their forward stocks tested even further. I’m sure the Silvertails will rally for Tooves, but the Broncos will whether the storm and come home strongly.

Tip: Broncos

Dragons v Knights, Jubilee Oval

Talk about embattled clubs – the Knights are probably the only ones doing it tougher than Manly. They’ve just punted Rick Stone for a second time, and a cavalcade of former players and personalities have been bagging them deluxe all week about a poor culture. The Dragons aren’t going real flash either, losing seven straight and free-falling out of the top eight. I’m sure Buderus will give the Novocastrians a rev-up – and I’d expect some late changes to the 17 – but the Dragons will win this game. They simply must win to save their season.

Tip: Dragons

Souths v Panthers, ANZ Stadium

I’m not going to mince words: the Bunnies win this game. Penrith’s loss to the Raiders last week ended their faint finals hopes and the injury to Wallace pretty makes the rest of the year a write-off. They’ll also be without the underrated Dean Whare and Nigel Plum against Souths, but they do welcome back Josh Mansour. The Bunnies on the other hand have started a run: they’ve put back-to-back wins together and with their key players back on deck they’ll make short work of the undermanned Panthers. It’s a shame for Penrith because I thought they’d be a real contender in 2015, but they’ve just had shocking luck from the outset.

Tip: Souths

Gold Coast v Parramatta, Cbus Stadium

This game could be close to the least-anticipated match of all-time, and there may well be more match officials in attendance than actual fans. With that said, games between sides with nothing to lose are often quite entertaining with plenty of points: and I reckon the Titans might just get a few more than the Eels. With Sezer and Elgey back and James Roberts due for a big one, I think Gold Coast will get up in a game where defence will not be a priority: a 40-34 scoreline would not surprise.

Tip: Titans
Follow Tipping Point on Twitter: @tpoint1908

Ricky’s View: Greatest Brisbane Broncos Team

Darren Lockyer

Premiership success has come quite often for the Brisbane Broncos and during those times, they have boasted some of the best players of the modern era of rugby league. Since their inception into the league in 1988, one man has been the front-runner behind it all – Wayne Bennett.

From the fans perspective, the Broncos have had many exciting players that can be called Broncos legends and this is our take on the best 17 players that have ever donned the Broncos jersey. Just note, although some of the players selected may have had tenures with other clubs or in other codes, the article will focus on their time and career with the Broncos only.

So, without further adieu, here is the team:

1. Justin Hodges – A Broncos veteran, Hodges is revered by fans of all ages for his leadership, tenacity, aggression and quality play/performances. Born and raised in Cairns, Queensland, he was signed by the Broncos at a young age and made his first-grade debut in 2000. His first stint was short and ended abruptly, and so a move to the Sydney Roosters from 2002 took place. Success immediately followed Hodges, after he was a part of the Roosters 2002 NRL Premiership win and the club’s 2003 World Club Challenge victory. After a mixture of poor form, training no-shows, long-term injuries and another grand final appearance – this time a loss – Hodges returned to the Broncos ahead of the 2005 season. A rejuvenation in 2006 saw Hodges move to fullback and it was the spark the then struggling Broncos needed, as they eventually clawed their way back, made the grand final and won it, giving Hodges his second premiership. In that same year, the veteran centre made his international debut for Australia. 2007 saw Hodges awarded with the Dally M Centre of the Year Award before the following year, fate struck a cruel blow. A long-term shoulder injury that required surgery kept Hodges sidelined before he eventually returned in 2009. 2010 struck an even crueller blow, as Hodges ruptured his Achilles, effectively ending his season before it even began. After two more successful years from a personal level in 2011 and 2012, injury struck yet again – another Achilles injury. He fought his way back once more and was recently a part of the Queensland Origin series win, his final series to focus on club duties.

2. Wendell Sailor – One of the best wingers to have ever donned the Broncos jersey, it was all about swagger, confidence and power with Wendell Sailor. Growing up in Sarina, Queensland, with his adoptive parents, his first foray with the Broncos side came in 1993 when he played a handful of games but had limited involvement over all. Despite that, he won the Broncos Rookie of the Year award and the 1993 RL premiership. The rise was quick for Sailor and before long, not only was he a fan favourite but he cemented a spot in the first-grade side and proved his worth on a regular basis. His first taste of international footy came in 1994 when he was selected in the Australian side to tour Europe, before his first official Test cap came in a match against Great Britain. 1995 brought about the Super League War and as a result, Sailor was ineligible for State of Origin duties during that time. The tune changed in 1996, though, and Sailor made his QLD debut in that same year. 1997 marked the start of a rebel competition – one the Broncos partook in – and Sailor excelled in that year, playing for Queensland and Australia in the process. When the dust settled and the Australian rugby league community unified, Sailor was a part of the Broncos side that won the inaugural NRL premiership in 1998. Sailor’s success continued to grow as he was part of the Australian side that won the 2000 Rugby League World Cup and his name is etched in Broncos folklore. Sailor

3. Michael De Vere – A born and bred NSW-Welshman, not something we saw every day but Michael De Vere was just that. He forged a successful career in Brisbane despite being from across the border and in that time with the Broncos, he too became a favourite player of many. Coming through the ranks with the Appin Dogs in the Campbelltown region of NSW, he was graded by the St George Illawarra Dragons but never actually played for them. In 1996, De Vere wrote a letter to Broncos coach Wayne Bennett and requested a trial, to which the Supercoach – who had a knack for spotting talent – offered the wiry centre/winger an incentive-based contract. That did the trick as De Vere took the opportunity and won the club’s Rookie of the Year award in 1997 and won the Super League grand final in his first year with the club. He was also a part of the Broncos 1998 NRL premiership win, after being brought into the side because of injury to Michael Hancock. He then won another premiership in 2000, making it two NRL premierships in just four seasons. His first taste of the Origin atmosphere came in 2001, when he was selected to play for NSW against a large number of his Brisbane team-mates, something that only four other players have done. His Australian Test debut came two years later when he was picked in the centres, with his last Test coming in 2004. After 8 seasons with the club and numerous successes, De Vere departed the club and made a foray into England. In 2009, after a couple of years of retirement, he did make a return to the club but it was short-lived. After just one game, he opted to retire once more, this time for good.

4. Steve Renouf – Hailing from Murgon, Queensland, the man nicknamed ‘The Pearl’ dazzled Broncos fans with his consistency and incredible try-scoring strike rate. The Broncos were the only club Steve Renouf ever new for some time as he plied his trade within their system to grow and develop as a player, before his first major first-grade opportunity came in 1989. His first try for the club came in 1990 and he went on to set numerous try-scoring records for the club and was the club’s top try-scorer for several seasons in a row. 1992 saw Renouf win his first major trophies, after the Broncos won the-then Winfield Cup and the World Club Challenge. It was not long before his Broncos heroics were noticed by Queensland and Australian selectors with his debuts coming in 1991 and 1992 respectively. He again enjoyed premiership success in 1993, when the Broncos won their second straight title with a win over the St George Illawarra Dragons. Renouf scored four tries on five occasions throughout his career and until 2008, he was the only player to have scored three tries in a grand final. A move to centre was on the cards in the 1998 NRL grand final, which the Broncos again won. Over a decade with the Broncos and in that time, Renouf amassed 142 tries in just 183 games, an incredible strike-rate.

5. Michael Hancock – Hailing from Stanthorpe, Queensland, it was an early stint with the Toowoomba Clydsdales at age 17 that kick-started the career of Michael Hancock. The next year in 1988, he was playing first-grade and held down the spot for the next 13 seasons. A year later in 1989, Hancock was in such good form that he was selected for QLD, the youngest player footballer at the time to have played in a State of Origin game. It was the sheer pace, the brute strength and his evasiveness that served him well during his rugby league days, as he burst onto the scene into a big way. In the same year, Hancock’s rise continued as he made his Test debut as well. As the steadiness in his game was maintained, it all nearly came to an abrupt end in 1996 when he was cut from the Brisbane Broncos side. Appealing to coach Wayne Bennett that he deserved a chance, Hancock asked to be able to train with the side and eventually worked his way back into the team, repaying the faith to Bennett. Following that and after numerous premiership successes, his representative career eventually came to an abrupt end. His role as a player changed at the turn of the century, when Bennett opted to utilise him as an impact winger and back-rower, effectively prolonging his career. His career did finish on a high, though, when in 2000, his fourteenth season with the Broncos, the club won the premiership before Hancock made a move to Salford.

6. Darren Lockyer – Regarded by many as one of the greatest players to have ever played rugby league, any such thought is 100% justified when you think about one simple fact. Lockyer was the only player to achieve success at every level in two different positions – fullback and five-eighth. Hailing from Brisbane, Queensland, Wayne Bennett saw Lockyer for the first time a carnival in Ipswich and after signing a scholarship with the Broncos, Lockyer eventually signed his first contract with the club. Making his debut in 1995, Lockyer was named Rookie of the Year, before spending a lot of time in 1996 playing off the bench. In 1997, came the big change in Lockyer’s career. He was named as first-choice fullback. He had immediate impact as a player and goal-kicker and went on to represent Queensland in that year, as well as winning the Super League premiership. 1998 saw the coveted Test debut come around and yet another premiership, the Broncos second straight. 2000 was another successful year for Lockyer, that saw him guide Queensland to a series whitewash in Origin, another NRL premiership and a Clive Churchill Medal for best on ground. After continuing to assert his dominance and showcase his skills over the coming years, his feats as a fullback were finally recognised worldwide when he won the Golden Boot award in 2003. As a veteran in 2004, life in rugby league changed for Lockyer. He became a full-time five-eighth. Many applauded the move and he picked up where he left off. Excelling. He was named International Back of the Year in the 2004 RLIF Awards. Many believe that 2006 was the greatest year of Lockyer’s career. With many believing he no longer had the natural ability to play, he eventually proved all naysayers wrong as he remarkably guided the Broncos to a premiership win when all seemed down and out, as well as helping QLD win the Origin series in the same year. For some icing on the cake, Lockyer won his second Golden Boot Award and after several more successful years with the club, 2011 was the closing of the curtain. To cap off his career, he helped Australia to victory in the 2011 Four Nations. His name will be etched in both rugby league folklore and Broncos folklore. Rightfully so.

7. Kevin Walters – Born in Rockhampton, Queensland, the first club that Walters played for was surprisingly not the Broncos. Rather, it was the Canberra Raiders. After a couple of seasons there, ahead of the 1990 season, he was signed to play for the Broncos. With Walters playing alongside brothers Steve and Kerrod, the trio soon became known as the Ipswich connection. With his arrival to the Broncos in 1990, Walters slotted straight into five-eighth which forced coach Wayne Bennett to move Wally Lewis into the lock position. He made immediate impact, winning the club’s Player of the Year Award before being selected for the 1990 Kangaroo Tour. He and brother Kerrod were the only twins to play for Australia, before the Morris brothers replicated the feat in 2009. Walters played a crucial role in helping the Kangaroos retain the Ashes in 1992 during the Great Britain Lions Tour and he was also a key player in the Broncos premiership success in the same year. Success did not end there in 1992 for Walters, he again performed well in the 1992 World Cup won by Australia and then capped it all off with a World Club Challenge win. He also played key roles in both the 1993 and 1997 seasons for the Broncos, which saw the club again win premierships. That was followed in 1998 by another premiership, the first NRL grand final. He was then appointed captain from 1999 and again proved to be a crucial player in the Broncos success in 2000. He is an official inductee into the Broncos Hall of Fame and is in the club list of the best 20 players to ever play for the Broncos.

8. Shane Webcke – Hailing from Toowoomba, Queensland, it was in 1993 whilst playing as a schoolboy that a hulking, young prop by the name of Shane Webcke caught the eye of Broncos coach Wayne Bennett. Webcke immediately warmed to Bennett as a father figure and hails him as the greatest influence on his career, particularly after his own father passed away when he was just 19. It would be a couple of years before Webcke made his ARL debut but he did so in 1995 and within two seasons, he had his first premiership when the Broncos won the 1997 ARL grand final. His first Maroons appearance was in 1998 where he won a man-of-the-match award in the decider. In the same year, he also made his Australian Test debut and remarkably, from the time he made his Origin debut to the time he retired after Game 3 in 2004, no other player wore the number 8 jersey for Queensland. A successful few first years was capped off by another premiership win, the first NRL premiership in 1998. 2000 very nearly became unstuck for Webcke after he broke his arm in the finals series but still managed to play in the grand final, yet another win for the Broncos. After several more consistent appearances for the Broncos, QLD and Australia, 2006 came around, where the Broncos won yet another premiership. 2006 would be Webcke’s last in the NRL when he announced in April of that year that he was going to retire.

9. Allan Langer – Born in Ipswich, Queensland, Langer’s journey into the NRL took a slightly different turn compared to some of the other former greats of the club. Whilst playing for Ipswich, then-QLD coach Wayne Bennett made a left-field selection and selected the enigmatic, budding half to play for his state in 1987. Questioned by many, it ended up being a master-stroke, when he was man-of-the-match in the deciding game. His performances led him towards his first NRL contract, when he signed with the Broncos in 1988. He continued to excel at Origin level and made his Kangaroos debut in 1988. 1989 saw him suffer a broken leg, effectively ending his season. In 1992, Langer was made captain of the Broncos side and in the same year, helped Australia retain the Ashes, as well as winning the Rothmans Medal for the best player in the then Winfield Cup. Nicknamed the Little General for his attacking smarts, Langer won the Clive Churchill Medal in 1992 for best on ground in the Broncos premiership win and also captained the side to victory in the 1992 World Club Challenge. He was at it again in 1993, when he guided the Broncos to another premiership win, the first team to finish 5th in the regular season and achieve the feat. After some tough years from 1994-96 and the Super League War that followed, 1997 saw the Broncos reborn when they won the Super League grand final and the World Club Championship. When the dust all settled, the Broncos won the first NRL premiership in 1998, again highlighting their dominance of that decade. That 1998 season was Langer’s best and one that many describe as one of the greatest individual seasons for a player in Australian rugby league history. Langer won an NRL premiership, the State of Origin series and a Test series in that year. There was a shock in mid-1999 when after a poor start to their season, Langer made a call and retired from the sport effective immediately. He returned with a brief stint at the Warrington Wolves and whilst there, he was called out by Bennett to return to the QLD frame and guide them to a win, which he did, at 35 years old. He was lured back for one more season with the Broncos in 2002 and was the NRL’s oldest player that year at 36 years old and 60 days.

10. Petero Civoniceva – One of the best Fijian players to have played in the NRL, Petero Civoniceva’s foray into rugby league came via Redcliffe. In 1998, he was given his NRL debut by coach Wayne Bennett but not in the now familiar position of prop in which he forged his career. Instead, it was at centre and throughout the 1998 season, he came off the bench multiple times and was a member of the Broncos 1998 NRL Premiership winning side. After a lax year in 1999, Civoniceva returned to form in 2000 but missed out on both the Broncos NRL premiership win and the Kangaroos World Cup campaign because of injury. He did return in 2001, though, and eventually made his Kangaroos debut in that same year. In 2003, he was again selected for the Kangaroos in their last official Ashes series. In 2004, he won Brisbane’s Player of the Year Award and again in 2006, where he led from the front all season and eventually helped the club win another premiership, this time in 2006. One of just eight Broncos players to play 200 games for the club in their history, his time at the club ended abruptly when cap concessions forced the veteran out. Life took Civoniceva to the Panthers for a few seasons before he made a triumphant return to the Broncos, much to the delight of many Broncos fans. There was only one more season in him, though, and 2012 shaped as the final curtain in Civoniceva’s illustrious club career. The proud Fijian also represented his home country on numerous occasions.

11. Andrew Gee – Born in Brisbane, Queensland, it was an Australian Schoolboys stint in 1986 that put Gee on the map before he signed with the Broncos soon after. 1989 saw him make his Broncos debut and after just 1 year, he made his QLD debut. 1992 was a turbulent year for Gee – he was injured for large chunks of the season and subsequently, missed out on grand final selection that year, which the Broncos won. He was however, a part of their World Club Challenge side following the premiership win but again, he was in the reserves for large parts of 1993. By 1994, after a lengthy suspension, Gee held down a spot and became a key workhorse in the middle of the field for the Broncos side throughout the 90’s. He was involved in the Broncos 1998 NRL Premiership win and was also the club’s Player of the Year that year. At the completion of 1999, he departed and headed to Warrington like team-mate Alfie Langer, but eventually returned ahead of the 2002 season. After a couple more seasons with the club, he retired from rugby league for good. Since then, he has held and served in numerous roles within the Broncos organisation.

12. Tonie Carroll – Hailing from Christchurch, New Zealand, a move to Brisbane beckoned for Carroll at a young age and after attending Beenleigh High and playing for the Easts Tigers, the utility was signed by the Brisbane Broncos. 1996 was the true start of his rugby league journey, the year in which he won the Brisbane Broncos Player of the Year Award. Surprisingly, despite his Kiwi background and heritage, he was picked in the QLD side during the Super League Origin series. He quickly became known for putting on huge hits and was a member of the Broncos 1998 NRL grand final winning side. Just a couple of years later, he moved to centre for the 2000 grand final, which the Broncos again won.
His career was not shy from controversy, though, when in 2000, ahead of the World Cup, he played for Australia because he had previously played Origin, despite being from New Zealand. As a result, he became the first player in 90 years to have played for Australia and New Zealand. Following the 2000 season, Carroll departed the club and sought a move to the Leeds Rhinos for a couple of seasons. In 2003, the utility returned to the Broncos and toiled as he always did, before being rewarded with another NRL premiership, this time in 2006. In 2007, he was surprisingly picked at five-eighth, a position that was not overly familiar to him. Retirement came in 2008 but Carroll returned to the Broncos side in 2009 when they had a slew of injuries. After that season, his retirement became absolute.

13. Wally Lewis – Born in Hawthorne, Queensland, Wally Lewis began playing in an era when there was no Brisbane-based team in the NSWRFL competition at that time. Subsequently, for some time, Lewis played for the Fortitude Valley side, the Wakefield Wildcats in the Super League and with the Wynnum-Manly Seagulls. Despite that, it did not stop him from making numerous appearances for Queensland and Australia, with the skills and talents of Lewis on display every week for all to see. Several teams were vying for his signature when teams came knocking, but it was ultimately the Broncos who won the race and there was immediate success, with Lewis a part of the side’s 1988 NSWRFL premiership victory. With the Ashes series around the corner after the premiership success, Lewis won the Harry Sunderland Medal, before numerous scintillating man-of-the-match performances in the years that followed saw Lewis’ stature and profile rise even further. With the Broncos seemingly relying so much on Lewis and his ability as a player, coach Wayne Bennett made a controversial move, stripping Lewis of the captaincy to try and have the players lead by someone else and avoid the reliance on Lewis. The arrival of Kevin Walters forced Lewis to move away from his favoured position of five-eighth and instead play at lock. Effectively kick-starting the modern day term of ‘ball-playing lock’. After a short few years at the club, salary cap issues and Bennett’s want for a younger overall team led to the departure of Lewis from the club. He made the trip North and signed with the now defunct Gold Coast Seagulls before ultimately retiring. Post-career, he coached the QLD side and had worked in the media for several years.

14. Shaun Berrigan – He may not be the first player you immediately associate with when you think of the Broncos but his role and versatility for the club over many years will not be forgotten. Shaun Berrigan, one of the first true, modern utility players the game saw, had a storied career with the Brisbane Broncos. Making his debut in 1998, Berrigan was not a part of the 1998 NRL premiership winning side but was lucky enough to be a member of the 2000 side, that also won the premiership. A centre by trade, Berrigan’s versatility was such that he could cover hooker, five-eighth and halfback. His versatility was on show over the course of 18 months when he played an entire series for QLD at five-eighth, the next series all at halfback, before playing for Australia against Great Britain at centre. Injuries forced coach Bennett’s hands in 2005 and a move was made to shift Berrigan to hooker. This was a move that many felt revolutionised the Broncos play and gave them new dimensions in attack. He was playing so well that he was rewarded for his own efforts when the Broncos won the 2006 NRL premiership, winning the Clive Churchill Medal. Much of his career may have been off the bench, but the little maestro made his presence felt and in a big way, helping the Broncos in attack and sparking them to life. At the completion of the 2007 season, the Broncos & Berrigan parted and he went on to enjoy stints at Hull FC, the New Zealand Warriors and the Canberra Raiders. He eventually retired after a decorated, versatile career, at the completion of the 2013 season.

15. Corey Parker – Arguably the greatest modern Bronco to playing the game, the last 5-6 years has seen Corey Parker become not only a club stalwart but a true workhorse of the game. In his debut game in 2001, Parker scored a try and kick-started his now budding NRL career. A versatile forward, Parker can cover the front-row and back-row and has been the primary goal-kicker for the Broncos for the better part of a decade. 2006 saw him lead the club in points scored and he came off the bench in their premiership success that year. In 2007, he was again the leading point-scorer at the club, before breaking the club record for most goals in a match with 10 in 2008. Starting out as a prop, the move that changed Parker’s career came in 2009 when then coach Ivan Henjak made a decision to move him to lock. In the same year, he won the Paul Morgan Medal for the Broncos’ Player of the Year. In 2010, Parker became the second youngest Broncos player to reach 200 games and later in the year in September, he was named captain of the Prime Ministers XIII side. Playing sporadically for QLD and Australia over the first half of his career, in recent years, Parker has become a mainstay in both sides for his workhorse-like nature, his tenacity, his leadership and his work ethic. He was again named the Broncos Player of the Year in 2013 and won numerous awards in the same year including RLIF International Lock of the Year and Dally M Lock of the Year. As it stands, he is the club’s second highest point-scorer and is on track to become the most capped Broncos player at the completion of his contract. He currently sits on 314 games.

16. Gorden Tallis – The Raging Bull often caused havoc for opposition sides and whilst the Broncos is where he truly forged his place in rugby league, his first stint was with the St George Dragons. After a somewhat nonchalant and bitter end to his time at the club, the move he was seeking for 18 months to the Brisbane Broncos materialised and he signed with them ahead of the 1997 season. In that very year, he made his international debut and in 1998, he was subsequently booed by the Dragons faithful for the way he left the club but that was water under the bridge for Tallis. Ultimately, he got the last laugh when the Broncos beat not only the Dragons in that particular game, but also won the NRL premiership in 1998, where Tallis won the Clive Churchill Medal. After many more numerous appearances for the Australian side, for Queensland – including the game where he was told to leave the field by Bill Harrigan in that now infamous Oririn game – Tallis was made captain in 2000. After performing strongly in the 2001 State of Origin series, rugby league very nearly ceased for Tallis when he suffered a potentially career-ending neck injury. He fought his way back, though, and tackled the adversity head on, to make a triumphant return to the rugby league arena. Soon after his return, he was involved in another famous Origin moment – dragging NSW Fullback Brett Hodgson like a rag-doll over the sidelines. At the completion of the 2003 season, Tallis pulled the pin on his representative career and played for one more season with the Broncos before he knew his body could no longer take the rigours of the game. He officially retired after the 2004 season and will go down as one of the club’s best ever forwards. He was inducted into the Broncos Hall of Fame in 2010.

17. Brad Thorn – Born in Otago, New Zealand, Thorn will go down as not only a Brisbane Broncos great but one of the best dual code internationals in the modern era. At just eight, Thorn and his family made a move to Australia and in 1994, he was signed by the Brisbane Broncos as a junior. Surprisingly, despite hailing from New Zealand, he represented the Australian Schoolboys side in that same year and went on to represent Australia in rugby league in all his Tests. His NRL debut also came in 1994 and he was named the club’s Rookie of the Year. 1996 saw Thorn make his Origin debut for QLD, with 1997 the year when he made his official debut for the Australian Kangaroos. His first premiership came in the same year when the Broncos won the 1997 Super League premiership and his second came a year later, when the Broncos again won, this time the maiden NRL Premiership. Further successes at all levels – including another premiership with the Broncos in 2000 and numerous appearances for Queensland Australia – continued, before he made a decision to move back to rugby union. After numerous successes in rugby union, Thorn returned to the league arena in 2005. Once again, he enjoyed further representative honours and added yet another NRL premiership to his name in 2006. But the second stint was short-lived as at the end of the 2007 season, the hulking forward moved back to the game of Union where he remained until his retirement at the end of this current season.

Best Broncos player of all-time: Darren Lockyer.

Injury forces Dragons prop to retire

Dan Hunt

When injury cruelly ends a career, you feel for the player involved and in this case, he thought long and hard about the decision and knew that it was the only decision to make.

The player in question is Dan Hunt, who after 150 first-grades games – all of which came with the St George Illawarra Dragons – made the call to close the curtain on his career due to a chronic left knee injury.

The injury was sustained in this years’ NRL Auckland Nines competition and Hunt, no matter how hard he tried and the effort he put in, could not get his knee to the level it had to be.

“It is no secret that I have been struggling with injuries throughout my career and unfortunately the injury sustained in pre-season has been career-ending,” said Hunt.

“It has come to the point where my left knee cannot withstand the strain that comes with playing first-grade on a regular basis.”

Consulting with numerous medical professionals and independent surgeons, Hunt desperately sought a way to return to the field and play rugby league.

It was not to be and the 28-year old was forced to retire.

“It is not a decision or day that any rugby league player looks forward too and it has been a difficult time and decision, but after several extensive discussions with both the Club’s Medical Staff as well as various other independent surgeons, this decision is the right one to make for my long-term well-being,” said Hunt.

A local junior with the Dapto Canaries, Hunt’s debut came in 2007, with a premiership coming in 2010 and a World Club Challenge in 2011.

He is grateful for the opportunities he has received in rugby league and winning the premiership remains his career highlight.

“I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to represent my childhood Club as many times as I have and it feels like only yesterday I put on the jersey for the first time,” said Hunt.

“I arrived here at an early age and had the opportunity to come through the Club’s junior ranks prior to making my debut and cherished every opportunity to wear the Red V when my chance came.

“Winning the Premiership will always be amongst the many highlights of my career and that period of playing rugby league in general is probably my best time playing rugby league overall.

“To be involved in something like that was very special and coupled with the chance of competing months later in the World Club Challenge and playing several representative games are memories that I will never forget.”

Life after football is not all bleak for Hunt, though, with the 28-year old completing his Level 4 Certificates in Social Welfare and Drug, Alcohol and Mental Health at TAFE Illawarra.

In terms of roles with the Dragons, he moves into an ambassador role with the club within their Dragons Education department and also becomes an NRL State of Mind Ambassador.

“At the Dragons it has always been instilled upon players from an early age that we need to have a focus on life and a career away from rugby league,” said Hunt.

“I am very fortunate to have had the support and guidance of both the Club and NRL to have undertaken study over recent years to help with this moment.

“As an NRL player there is so much influence you can have on the younger generation and I look forward to pursuing this chapter of my life to give back to the community and rugby league.”

The club were quick to praise Hunt for his efforts to the club via comments from CEO Peter Doust.

“Dan has been a proud one-club man, a local junior who has represented the Dragons at the highest level for almost a decade and it is unfortunate that his career provided many injury challenges including one that would ultimately force his retirement,” said Doust.

“Dan is to be respected for his contributions to the Dragons both on and off the field and for the way that he has positively faced his challenges over the years.

“Dan’s commitment to his studies and passion for helping others will ensure that he makes a positive difference to the lives of the youth that he is committed to helping.

Back to the future as a Titans foundation player returns

Nathan Friend

Age is only a number and with some young, developing players within their hooker stocks, the Gold Coast Titans have gone out and recruited veteran Nathan Friend on a 1-year deal.

Friend, who was one of the Titans foundation players when they entered the competition in 2007, made great memories during his first stint with the club and is looking forward to doing the same the secnd time around.

“I’m really looking forward to returning to the Coast and making a contribution to the Titans, and hopefully playing a leading role in better times ahead,” Friend said.

“I have great memories from my five seasons with the Titans, including twice getting to the finals, and I’d love to be a part of getting there again.

“Hopefully my experience and determination can be of value and I can help the club move in the right direction.”

To date, the veteran hooker has played in 215 NRL games with the Brisbane Broncos, the Melbourne Storm, the Gold Coast Titans and the New Zealand Warriors.

Well aware of the need for an experienced player to mentor their younger kids coming through, Titans coach Neil Henry knows how crucial the signing of Friend will be to the side.

“It’s great to have a foundation player return to the Coast, and Nathan’s experience and leadership will be invaluable, especially for our young hookers Kierran Moseley and Karl Lawton,” he said.

“He is one of the most professional and dedicated players in the NRL and we feel still has a lot to offer the club.

“Nathan was an integral part of the establishment of the Titans from 2007 and is excited at an opportunity to return and have a positive influence as part of our leadership group and to finish his career on the Gold Coast.”