Hagan could be set to coach again

Michael Hagan coaching Origin Queensland NRL returnFormer Eels and Premiership winning Knights coach Michael Hagan is already signed as a replacement for Neil Henry in the Maroons camp for 2010, but could this be the first step back to a fulltime NRL coaching role?

Hagan had initial success with the Eels in 2007, taking them one game from the Grand Final and in that year, they were the only NRL side to trouble the unstoppable Melbourne Storm.

Things looked good for both Hagan and the Eels.

But only 12 months later, there were cracks appearing all around the likeable Hagan.

When you assess the 2nd year at Parramatta that was Hagan’s undoing, there were a lot of forces all combining that ultimately brought him down.

There was the Tim Smith breakdown, attacking weapon Timana Tahu had left at the end of 2007, hoooker Mark Riddell had signed with Wigan and would depart at years end and the young Polynesian players were proving difficult to discipline, many fearing they were abusing the freedom allowed by the relaxed Hagan.

It all led to Hagan walking away from the Eels, he cited health reasons – with stress proving a big factor. There was no doubt that the Sydney spotlight and commuting from Newcastle was taking it’s toll on Hagan – but some suggested the likes of Denis Fitzgerald had also conspired to urge the coach to move on.

It was a massive lesson for Hagan who had previously only enjoyed the insular setting at Newcastle with early success.

But after agreeing to come back into the secondary Queensland origin coaching role, it could be a step towards a full blown NRL coaching return.

There has been a shortage of quality experienced coaches in the NRL for some time, with rookies and unknowns stepping in the breaches in recent years. Ivan Cleary, Jason Taylor, Ivan Henjack, Rick Stone and Kevin Moore all coming from lower ranks.

And while the likes of Moore have had early success; Taylor has fallen away, Cleary is doing it tough, the jury remains out on Henjack and Stone has it all to prove in 2010.

But as the axe hangs over the heads of several coaches in 2010 – the likes of Hagan would prove extremely valuable to an NRL team.

While success at Origin level would be a real boost to Hagan – regardless – if he enjoys the overall experience, expect the respected clipboard man to make himself available should a chance pop up in the NRL coaching ranks.

Raiders players all pitch in

Alan Tongue Raiders CaptainThe reliance on NRL club memberships becomes greater every single year.

Unlike the AFL who have football club members galore, the National Rugby League has always struggled to lure fans for yearly club memberships.

It’s a major frustration to all involved with Rugby League, given the TV coverage and passion for NRL – every single club should be able to achieve 10,000 memberships no problem at all.

However, at the Canberra Raiders – they are totally leading by example.

Every player in the first grade squad this year has agreed to buy a club membership to demonstrate their passion for the club and the importance of club memberships to the Radiers’ future.

Here’s what Alan Tongue had to say about it:

“Season 2010 promises to be an exciting year for the Canberra Raiders.

There’s nothing better than playing at a Canberra Stadium full of loud and proud Raiders fans, especially members.

This year all of the boys decided to become Green-Eyed football club Members. We understand the importance of membership to the survival of an NRL club and that every single membership counts.

Please Raiders fans, do your bit and get behind the club you love and experience a huge range of benefits and extras. Membership is vital to the success of our club, so sign up and help support the team we both love.”

So come on all NRL fans, do your little bit for the club you love – at the very least, signup for a football club membership!

Will Panthers fans accept Fittler?

Brad Fittler NRL Coach Penrith RoostersIt was a news article that made some Panthers’ fans blood boil, last week reports suggested former Penrith prodigal son – Brad Fittler was back in town and could be involved in some official form with the club.

Fittler has been working out west at the NSW Rugby Leagues Western Sydney Academy, the young group share some facilities at Penrith Park.

But while working with upcoming talent at the Western Sydney Academy, Fittler has on several occasions caught up with current Panthers coach Matt Elliott for coffee and a chat.

There was suggestion that Elliott could bring Fittler into the NRL fold as a skills and halves coach for 2010.

But would the involvement of Fittler be welcomed by fans?

After being shown the door by the Roosters after a short stint at the helm, is it fair that Freddy trots back out to Penrith with cap in hand?

When you speak to Panthers fans, what makes them angry is not so much that Fittler left the fold to link up with the Roosters – but it was his actions and comments about his new club that made them hopping mad.

When the Panthers had a ceremony to announce their best team of all time, of which Fittler was named – the former pivot didn’t accept the invitation to turn up and celebrate his role in the best side since 1967.

There was a bit of fuss kicked up about Freddy not attending, but Fittler rubbed more salt into the wounds suggesting he was a Rooster for life and hasn’t looked back since settling into the Bondi den.

But as with everything in NRL and Rugby League, things change quickly.

Freddy found himself out in the cold after Bondi hung him out to dry –

Should he be welcomed back with open arms at Penrith? Certainly the involvement of Fittler would help develop the current rookie halves pairing.

But would it cost the Panthers fans at the turnstiles? The Penrith faithful are diehard, loyal supporters – but when loyalty isn’t shown back, they might just walk away.

Full NRL Allstars Team Announced

NRL Allstars LogoThe remaining votes have been counted; with Matt Cooper winning his spot for the Dragons, English import Gareth Ellis getting up for the Wests Tigers, speed man Michael Jennings winning the Panthers spot from Petero Civoniceva and finally, the Roosters getting Nate Myles into the frame.

The team will assemble on Sunday, February 7, with its first public appearance at Blacktown on Monday, February 8.

“With the names unveiled today the fans have certainly delivered an amazing side for the Harvey Norman All Stars match,” NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said today.

“The prospect of Darren Lockyer, Jarryd Hayne and Benji Marshall together against players like Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis, Scott Prince and Preston Campbell is an incredible one for every sports fan.

“Over the last few months, 50,000 voters have made it clear that these are the players the fans want to see and I think everyone is now counting down the days to kick-off.”

The full NRL Allstars Squad is as follows:

1. Billy Slater (Storm)

2. Israel Foloau (Broncos)

3. Mick Jennings (Penrith)

4. Matt Cooper (Dragons)

5. Manu Vatuvei (Warriors)

6. Darren Lockyer (Broncos)

7. Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers)

8. Adam Blair (Storm)

9. Cameron Smith (Storm)

10. Dave Taylor (Souths)

11. Anthony Watmough (Manly)

12. Gareth Ellis (Wests)

13. Luke O’Donnell (Cowboys)

14. Kurt Gidley (Knights)

15. Nate Myles (Roosters)

16. Alan Tongue (Raiders)

17. Anthony Tupou (Sharks)

18. Luke Bailey (Titans)

19. Josh Morris (Bulldogs)

20. Jaryd Hayne (Eels)

NRL All Stars Side Named Today

Dave Taylor NRL Allstars sideThe voting for the NRL Allstars team closed at midnight last night, but due to extremely close voting for the Dragons, Wests Tigers, Panthers and Roosters – the full official side will not be named until midday today.

As it stands now, the following players are confirmed in the NRL Allstars Squad

Hayne (Eels), Slater (Storm), Folau (Broncos), Vatuvei (Warriors),  Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles), Josh Morris (Bulldogs), Kurt Gidley (Knights), Alan Tongue (Raiders), Luke O’Donnell (Cowboys), Luke Bailey (Titans), Anthony Tupou (Sharks) and David Taylor (Rabbitohs) will join automatic selections that included Darren Lockyer (Broncos), Benji Marshall (Wests), Cameron Smith (Storm) and Adam Blair (Storm).

Folau and Slater dominated the fans’ overall voting while Hayne, the Dally M Medal winner and RLIF International Player of the Year, withstood a strong challenge from team-mates FuiFui MoiMoi and Nathan Hindmarsh to win his place in the squad.

Over 50,000 supporters cast their vote for the NRL All Stars and Indigenous All Stars squads. The aim of the promotional NRL game is generate $1 million for community projects this season, with special assistance to Indigenous causes.

The Harvey Norman All Stars game will kick off at the Titan’s Skilled Park on the Gold Coast on February 13.

John Lang: The Pied Piper

John lang souths coach NRLBack from the shadows, former Penrith Premiership winning coach John Lang takes the helm of the Bunnies for a tilt at glory in 2010.

There is no questioning the experience that Lang brings with him, but what will help most is his ability to relate to all players. The Pied Piper effect, a virtually invaluable asset in any form of coaching that almost stands above all else.

Every coach has their own little intricacies;

Take Wayne Bennett, he gains player respect and confidence by protecting them from everything. They don’t have to worry about the media, a couple of bad performances or injury – he will stand-by them through almost anything.

Phil Gould used to tell spine tingling war stories in the sheds before and during games, ultimately getting the players fired up and ready to win.

Ricky Stuart does his thing through sheer passion, his players hanging on every word as his intensity remains at fever pitch for the most past.

Brian Smith is the ultimate tactician, covering every possible scenario in a game before it’s played out. School teacher style, he’s extremely well prepared.

But for John Lang – his strength is being able to get through to any player in his squad and find his ‘hot button’.

It’s easy to see what Lang achieved at Penrith, taking the rag-tag bunch of Panthers all the way in 2003, in a year that most said they couldn’t win because of their scratchy defence.

Penrith have struggled ever since Lang left.

His ability will work wonders at South Sydney. The Bunnies have had some quality players in their ranks in recent years, and while Taylor was an astute, hard working coach – it was a hard task to bring them all together.

Lang himself will tell you how he singles out each player and strives to find what makes them tick. His ability to connect with the Polynesian players is unmatched, he is able to extract the best from these guys, who at times can be hard to keep focused.

Lang used to joke that he sometimes hugged and kissed the Polynesian players prior to a game, gently urging them to put in for a big game.

Former players like Craig Gower always needed to be challenged recalled Lang. The talented Gower would go missing if you didn’t set him high goals, Lang always had to push him and keep him on his toes.

Other players such as Ryan Girdler were singled out as ‘go-to men’ for Lang. The veteran coach knowing that players like Girdler rarely needed pumping up – they always wanted to win and you could count on them every time.

This is why Souths fans should be extremely excited about 2010.

Just look at the stock they have at their disposal – battering ram Asotasi, new sensation Sam Burgess, experienced Michael Crocker, returning Ben Ross and the giant Dave Taylor from Brisbane.

Not to mention Rhys Wesser, Merrit and John Sutton – the list goes on. These guys have a very powerful roster, and should almost certainly make the Top 8.

Departing coach Jason Taylor was ideally suited to bring in the new systems in place at Redfern as the club grew under Crowe and Holmes a Court management.

But the experienced Lang is the ideal man to take things to the next level. Get ready for him to play his pipe and with a bit of luck – this massively talented squad can do some major damage in the 2010 NRL Premiership.

Bulldogs patience pays off

The patience shown by the Bulldogs has paid off, with the Belmore based club finally nabbing a sponsor for their vacant sleeve position.

Recently vacated by the Bankstown Sports Club, their sleeve sponsorship which was estimated at over $300,000 per season has been snapped up by Doltone House.

Some suggested that the cost was a little high, including Bankstown Sports who refused to sign-on for an additional term. But the Bulldogs’ patience has paid off – with a new sponsor seeing good value in the sleeve sponsorship.

Bulldogs Chief Executive Todd Greenberg was a happy man as he announced the Club’s commitment to family has been rewarded with Doltone House signing on as sleeve sponsor for the next three years in a million dollar deal.

As winners of the 2009 Family Business of the Year and with their newly opened function centre, Darling Island Wharf, the first venue in NSW to be housed with a 6-star Greenstar building, the directors of Doltone House felt a strong alignment to the family heritage of the Bulldogs and its current position in Australian sport as a leader in corporate and social responsibility.

“We understand that the Bulldogs are one of the most watched sporting clubs in Australian sport however it is the family centric nature of their demographic and the work they do in the community that has us most excited,” said Managing Director Mr Paul Signorelli.

“Considering the products and services that we offer, having the ability to directly reach a demographic firmly anchored in the 18-44 year old range (71%) is a marketers dream.”

A family owned and operated company with a significant portfolio of waterfront entertainment and catering venues, including Jones Bay Wharf and Darling Island Wharf, the Doltone House Group is about to launch their own food brand/store, Signorelli Gastronomia.

Chief Executive Mr Todd Greenberg says the Bulldogs will work hard to deliver a return on investment that goes well beyond the expectations of the Doltone House Group.

“The synergy in our values is undeniable. The best family business in NSW partnering with the family club at a time when both wish to grow to the next level is perfect,” Mr Greenberg said.

In a further boost to the Club’s preparations for the upcoming season, the Membership program has already grown by 14% to just over 8,000 and further increases are expected as the game moves into the key purchasing period for fans.

Doltone House – awards and achievements:

* Winner 2009 family business of the year NSW/ACT (2nd Generation)
* Winner 2009 Italian National Day awards – Italo-Australian of the year- (Managing Director’s Award)
* Winner 2008 meeting & events industry awards – meeting venue of the year
* Winner 2008 meeting & events industry awards – corporate social responsibility award
* Winner 2007 meetings & events industry awards – meeting venue of the year
* Winner 2007 city of Sydney business awards – business of the year
* Winner 2007 city of Sydney business awards – best entertainment venue
* Winner 2007 Deloitte NSW family business growth awards
* Winner 2007 Italian chamber of commerce awards of excellence

Willie Mason, fits well in Cowboy land

Willie Mason North Queensland Cowboys DealThe potential marriage between Willie Mason and the Cowboys could be a good fit for both parties, with Willie almost friendless and looking for somewhere to park his Hummer and the struggling Cowboys looking for some X-Factor to reignite their Premiership campaign?

The other interesting twist to this deal is the future of Jonathan Thurston. JT is keen to reunite with Mason and if the big man is taken in by the Cowboys, then North Queensland will go a long way to securing Thurston into the future also.

After a period of resurgence a few years back, the Cowboys have done it tough in the past 18 months or so – a period that was surprising given new coach Neil Henry came on board and a playing roster than certainly impresses on paper.

After some internal bickering towards the end of Graham Murray’s tenure, the North Queensland outfit were set to go all the way given that a new coach and new culture were being instilled.But despite this, the Cowboys still struggled. Continued talk of unhappiness remained and it seemed that Murray was certainly not the issue in the North of Queensland.

But this is where Mason comes in.Big Willie might not be an angel, but he will bring passion and could be just the player to bring the group together. Love him or hate him, Willie is a character and loves to win.

Mason could unite the forwards and be the player that the others will lift for.The only problem seems to be with authority. Mason needs a certain coach to keep him happy and performing.At the Roosters, insiders suggested that Mason at times underminded Fittler – the rookie coach not ideally placed to control Mason and get him performing at his peak.

Veteran Steve Folkes must have been doing a good job at the Bulldogs; while Mason might have been in the headlines – he was still performing well on the field.Henry while proving successful during his Origin tenure, is yet to consistently prove himself at NRL level. Many speak highly of Henry and expect big things in the future from the upcoming coach – but can he handle Mason?

This is probably the only question the Cowboys officials are asking themselves right now – because the money would be right for Mason, his fit into the side and culture should be good (given it hasn’t been ideal is North Queensland over the past 18 months anyway) -But will the Willie Mason / Neil Henry relationship work?

Storm punish Proctor for drunken behaviour

Kevin Proctor Melbourne Storm fined drunkThe Melbourne Storm has acted quickly to punish rookie forward Kevin Proctor by the club for engaging in anti-social behaviour last month.

Proctor has been fined $4,000 by the club and ordered to undergo alcohol counselling sessions for his part in a minor incident on the Gold Coast on December 27. The incident up until now has received little if any press, and the Storm are to be applauded for punishing and making the situation public now it’s been dealt with.

Proctor was this morning fined $400 in the Gold Coast Magistrates Court for behaving in a disorderly manner just after Christmas while out and about on the Gold Coast.

No conviction was recorded and Proctor was not required to attend the court hearing in person.

Acting Storm CEO Matt Hanson said the club had acted swiftly in sanctioning Proctor.

“The clear message is that when players are out in public they must act in a manner that is socially responsible,” Hanson said.

“That is a non-negotiable for players and staff when they become a part of this club.

“Kevin understands that and has accepted the sanctions imposed. We are confident that Kevin will learn from this mistake and not place himself at further risk in the future.”

Manly say no to Willie Mason

The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles today shut the door on Willie Mason, ruling out the former Australian forward as a possible starter at the club in 2010.

After initial interest, club boss Graham Lowe confirmed that Manly doesn’t have Willie Mason in their plans for 2010. Lowe said that the officials and coaching staff are happy with the existing squad of players for the upcoming NRL season.

Lowe felt compelled to quash the talk about Mason joining the Manly club, his fear was that continued speculation could disrupt the clubs pre-season.

The latest speculation regarding Mason is that his management have met with North Queensland officials in the hope of thrashing out a last minute deal; with the Cowboys remaining his final hope of securing an NRL birth this season.

Should Mason not find a new home, the Roosters have hinted they could keep their marquee forward behind the scenes in the Newtown Jets feeder club.