Eels breathe sigh of relief as military camp comes to an end

Since his arrival at the Eels, Stephen Kearney has had one thing on his mind. That one thing, is pushing the players to the limit and getting them as fit as they can be for the 2011 NRL season.

Very rarely, do we see players put through their paces in such vigorous ways, but Kearney felt it was necessary to push them to their limit to prepare them for the new season.

At a session that ran for 48 hours with no sleep and minimal food, the Eels players were pushed to breaking point as the session was tough and physically demanding.

Pulling tyres with a rope through a creek while submerged in water fully clothed, or dragging an army truck 10km after two days without sleep, were just some of the rigours the players endured to name a few.

The hard-line stance in training, similar to that of the military is one that is often employed from the supercoach Wayne Bennett, and the mastercoach, Craig Bellamy.

“We wanted to keep it pretty much hush-hush,” Kearney said. “The big thing for us was it was an opportunity to get ourselves together before Christmas and work hard. Some of the exercises, the group had to really work together.

“Without a doubt we got what we wanted out of it. I thought the whole group was great.”

With Jarryd Hayne being identified as a weak link by his own players in regards to training, he gave it his all, and was pushed to his limit, as he is still hindered somewhat by his hamstring injury.

The one man however who just wouldn’t break no matter how hard the work got, was Eels stalwart and defensive workhorse Nathan Hindmarsh.

“Nathan’s been around a long time and I think people know by the way he conducts himself generally that he’s going to be a standout in that type of situation,” Kearney said.

The Eels strength and conditioning coaches Hayden Knowles and Craig Catterick were on hand purely from an observation perspective as well as to account for any injuries.

Update on Italian Rugby League

The Italia Rugby Football League began with a bang similar to an Independence Day fireworks event as the public announcement was officially published on July 4th – with the formation of this Rugby League Federation in Italy, hence the ITALIA RFL and the pathway for growth set.

The Campionato Italia Rugby League (iRFLeague) brought our code – Rugby a XIII to Central and Southern Italy for the very first time, involving teams from Roma, Tuscany (Florence) and Sicily (Catania). The creation of strict Rugby a XIII teams had been produced – seeing Gladiators Roma Rugby League, Magnifici Firenze Rugby XIII and (Spes) Spartans Catania Rugby XIII. With the fourth team being invited in the latter stages due to certain circumstances and very willing to take part in the rebirth of Rugby a XIII, which was a Serie C (amateur) Rugby club formed in 1980 known as Arvalia Villa Pamphili Rugby Roma’.

The iRFLeague was formed through the divide of an inaugural Italian (exhibition style) League with only 3 rounds allocated for the Northern and Central-Southern Conferences by the FIRL Federation, which teams were unhappy with. The majority of the stronger teams (together with 2 former members of the FIRL) quickly disagreed with the management behind it through many major and minor reasons, which than soon began the initial formation of the Italia Rugby Football League.

Despite disruptions – the ITALIA RFL were able to effectively organise the historic Television Coverage through a number of National and Local TV Companies for the iRFLeague Championship Grand Final in July. A huge outcome for a new or developing Rugby League Federation anywhere that helps spread the game of Rugby League and an awareness of the game.

Championship (Campionato) Overview:

The first round saw the momentous debut of Rugby League into the Central and South of Italy with the Magnifici Firenze Rugby XIII playing the Spes Spartans Catania XIII on Saturday 19th June 2010 (when Rugby League was strong in the 50s and 60s it was only in the North until the game was lost, until now!). The match was played in Florence at ‘Padovani’ – the home ground of the ‘Magnifici’ (Magnificants) with the home side earning victory against the travelling Spartans from Sicily – 28 to 16. The attendance was close to 300 interested new supporters.

The second round set the scene with the historic first match for a team representing Rome. The Gladiators Roma were ready to play their debut match at their home ground ‘Campo dell’Unione’ – against the Magnifici Firenze Rugby XIII on 26 June. The result showed the added benefit of having experience with the ‘new sport’ with Pierluigi Gentile guiding his new players – the Gladiators Captain/Coach who has played in the top Union Competition, but represented Italy for Rugby League previously. However Magnifici possess a Coach and Manager who has strong experience and contacts in Rugby also, currently playing for Aironi (a top Italian franchise). Gladiators won over Magnifici 58-22.

The third round of the iRFLeague installed a Sicily and Roma rivalry at the Spartans Catania home field (Campo Cittadella Universitaria), however it was not to be for Spes Spartans as they lost 38 to nil against a sharp Gladiators outfit, who sealed an iRFL Grand Final birth in their home city of Roma. The result set an iRFLeague Gran-Finale battle between Gladiators Roma XIII and Magnifici Firence XIII in 2 weeks in Rome. A pre-Grand Final match was played with Arvalia Villa Pamphili Roma and Spes Spartans Catania XIII.


The Gran-Finale Day was played on July 18 at Campo dell’Unione Capitolina in Rome – with a modern Roman battle set in the form of Gladiators Roma XIII and Magnifici Firenze XIII – with the winner being crowned Campioni Italia (iRFLeague Champions) and the ‘curtainraiser’ was between the newly invited Arvalia Villa Pamphili Roma Rugby and Spes Spartans Catania XIII for the right of 3rd place. Admission for the match was free to ensure a better attendance, however the end crowd was affected by scorching and abnormal European temperatures upward to 40*C in Rome!

The Spes Spartans Catania fielded a determined team against debutants Arvalia Villa Pamphili Rugby Roma that was were motivated to earn third place in the ‘iRFLeague Championship’ and managed to control most of the match. But Villa Pamphili earned respect to fight back late in the match. The final result was 42 – 14 to Spes Spartans Catania.

Just before the Grand Final kick-off – the Italia RFL had a minute silence in memory of Mr Giorgio de Angelis who was a man of any Rugby and Namau founder (died March 26), Namau is a kind sponsor of the Gladiators.

The Grand Final match was a tight tussle with the score at half time 16 to 10 for Gladiators. After the break through the leadership of captain Pierluigi the Romans showed good attacking displays to increase their lead, until the Ferraro coached Magnifici increased their determination and grit to score two tries in 5 minutes – locking up the scores at 22-22 with 15 minutes to go. The teams than reach boiling point minds began to heat up and ignite Italian fire, outcome was a temporary sin-binning on a Gladiators player and 5 minutes later a Magnifici player receiving a sin-bin. The match was heading into a MAGNIFICO ending, until Gladiators scored with 5 minutes left and 1 minute to go. The final result was 36-22, but a close and exciting match to show the attendance and beneficial for the live and delayed TV Coverage set for the Italia RFL.

The coaches were reported with these statements made:

Magnifici Firenze, Coach-President – Luigi Ferraro – “We did very well in terms of attitude, we didn’t let go until the end when we stayed with a man short for a yellow on our Captain Mafara. Also from the physical point of view we have held up well in the impact of the eighty minutes and one to one in both attack and defense we were able to keep up and sometimes exceed the gladiators though many of them play all season with more technical and athletic than ours. As a coach I am very satisfied with the evidence of all the guys, nobody has pulled back and put all that extra that was missing in the first ever trip to Rome with the Gladiators, and there has allowed to remain always in the game, we even passed the first lead and 15 minutes from the end we lost by 24-22.”

Gladiators Roma, Captain-Coach – Pierluigi Gentile “I am very pleased with our performance and how we played throughout the league. The Magnifici in just a few weeks have been able to improve so much and this does nothing but increase in me esteem for my fellow players, despite the resistance of opponents to hold on and take home the match. Now that the door is open, we hope to continue and develop this version of Rugby.”

The first championship cup of iRFLeague was delivered by Mrs de Angelis for the Gladiators, while a special award was presented to Mafara Simone for his playing closure “as a thirteen” after his long Rugby career.

iRFLeague Gran-Finale Day TV Coverage:

Historic live and delayed TV coverage for both of the Rugby League matches were invested in (despite barriers) and achieved by the Italia RFL that consisted of a number of local digital TV channels, including t9, teleroma56, supernova, Canale Zero, Telepontina and National Companies, which included Sport Italia and Sky Italia (highlights shown at later dates and interviews). The popular ‘Sport Italia 2’ showed highlights (coverage) on Sept 16 at 11.30pm for National TV Coverage.

The delayed (Rome Local) TV coverage was shown between the 1st and 14th of August with a series of broadcasted sessions of the iRFL Championship Grand Final between Gladiators and Magnifici. The TV coverage dates were set for 9pm Monday on Supernova, Wednesday 9pm Supernova, Friday 10pm on Canale Zero, Thursday 10.30pm on Telepontina and Sunday 3pm Telepontina.

Four Nations TV Coverage:

Another exciting move for TV coverage was the 2010 Four Nations Rugby League tournament being picked up in an arrangement with EUROSPORT 2 for not only Italy, but other countries in their network, including the likes of Germany and Spain (original press release on RLIS). This further benefited the IRFL cause by deliverering steady exsposure, promotion and knowledge of Rugby League in the country, while again spreading the game into the Italian Population.

Youtube Highlights:

Round 2 – Gladiators Roma Vs Magnifici Firenze

Round 3 -Gladiators Roma Vs Spartans Catania

The Italia Rugby Football League (IRFL) want to again thank everyone who was involved and committed to our cause of Rugby a XII. The players, technicians, medical staff, spectators, the RU clubs for allowing all players, blogs, all Italian and Rugby League media, sponsors and fans that gave us visibility and support this year! The doubters will be proven wrong in 2011 as planning has been well underway since August.

We are looking for even more Team Sponsors, but also new Federation sponsors for 2011, in particular jersey provider / sponsor – see this link for details.

Our new Website will be online soon at the current location –

Please join our Facebook and also Twitter pages.

Have a Happy New Years – Thank you – Regards the Italia Rugby Football League

Bulldogs can’t simply rely on new signings for results

They have recruited virtually an entirely new side sparking debate that they are over the cap, but new recruit Aiden Tolman says that despite all these signings, he insists that they can’t simply rely on their new signings for results.

Whilst the club undoubtedly has the strength on paper, Tolman says that games aren’t won on paper, and that the expectations are high as a result, and failing to make the 8 will be a disappointment.

“The club’s bought good in the off-season,” Tolman said.

“They’ve bought really good players, but names don’t mean much until you get on to a training paddock. You’ve got to do your best and hopefully when you start the trials you’re fit and ready.

“Just because we’ve got all these big names doesn’t mean things will just change. Everyone knows that. We’ve been working hard for seven weeks so hopefully when round one comes around we’re firing and playing to our potential.”

Tolman, who has joined the Bulldogs from the Melbourne Storm, says that the Bulldogs have the pack to become the most dominant pack in the NRL much like the Melbourne Storm had from 2007 to 2009.

Tolman believes he can get back on track and get back to the form that saw him on the cusp of Origin football, before injury reared its ugly head, thus denying him that chance.

Greg Bird escapes injury in motorcycle crash

Following a motorcycle crash involving Greg Bird at Maitland in the Hunter Valley, police are investigating the incident, as they seek to get to the bottom of it.

The incident involved Bird and his stepfather, who was taken to Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital with abdominal injuries.

“It was one of those incidents that happen so quickly and we were lucky that neither myself nor my stepdad were seriously injured,” Bird said yesterday.

“Given he has many years of experience with bikes and driving on country gravel roads, and [the fact] he lost it makes you realise how easily accidents can happen. Fortunately we are both OK and not seriously hurt.”

The family was evidently shaken by the news of the crash according to one family member.

Bird and his stepfather were travelling along Trappaud Rd in South Maitland when the crash occurred says Central Hunter Duty Officer and Acting Inspector Joe Krzanic.

Due to his being in hospital, Bird’s stepfather is unable to talk to police at this stage, but they plan to do so when he is fully recovered, and out of hospital.

It is unlikely though that action will be taken against Greg Bird in this case.

Battle for NRL’s next Queensland team wagers on

With neither bid giving an inch to the other, both the Central Queensland bids and the Ipswich bids for the NRL, have been involved in a dog-fight as they argue why their bid should reign supreme over the other.

In what is sure to produce a lot of debate about pros and cons, and how their future induction will affect the NRL, there are some factors going heavily against both bids, but also factors going in their favour.

For the Ipswich bid, they have a rapidly expanding economy and population, they can share Suncorp Stadium with the Broncos and they have the foundations in place already with an Ipswich team in the QLD Cup.

On the negative side however, they will more than likely play second fiddle to a stronger and more recognised Broncos side, they could eat into the Gold Coast Titans reserves and juniors being so close to the area, and they lack any corporate backing, or big financial push.

In the case of the Central Queensland bid, they have massive financial support with the backing of the gas and mining industries in the area, the area is situated in the centre of the Brisbane area and the North Queensland area, and Geoff Murphy, construction tycoon heavily favours the Central Queensland bid.

They too have negatives however given that they will have to invest heavily in a brand new stadium given they don’t have an official stadium to play in, their population is also a concern, only having a third of the population of Ipswich and the Cowboys could be in danger if their fans decide to switch teams and support the Central Queensland team.

With a concrete decision unlikely to be made until midway through 2011, as the pressure mounts on the NRL to include another Queensland team in the NRL competition.

”It’s hard for us to judge where we’re at, but we’re confident we are making a compelling argument to be the best place in Queensland for expansion and hopefully the best place overall,” says CQ bid chief executive Denis Keeffe, who impressed News Limited executives with his managerial skill as the former CEO of the Cowboys.

”Naturally we’re biased, so I’ll let the independent commentators make a call on where we rate. But I don’t see too many deficiencies in  our bid.”

Since they first launched their bid 18 months ago, Central Queensland have hit the ground running, recruiting construction tycoon Geoff Murphy into their corner as well as 20,000 people signing a petition for the team to be in the NRL, and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh pledging $150 million for a new stadium in the area.

With Murphy in their corner, the Central Queensland bid is gaining stature. Murphy even went as far to personally fly NRL Chief Executive David Gallop to the area for a 2-day tour of their bid and the region.

‘We are going to convince you,” says Murphy. ”We have to show David Gallop what we can do for the NRL.
We tick all the boxes.

”We’ve got the population, the passion, we have no other national sporting teams in CQ, we basically shore up the east coast (of Australia).

”I’m very confident of getting an NRL licence and always have been.”

Ipswich are also confident however. Steve Johnson, the Ipswich bid chief and according to him, the NRL needs a Queensland team situated in and out of Ipswich.

”We could start a rugby league club tomorrow,” Johnson says. ”We haven’t got the players of course, but we have the infrastructure at the Ipswich Jets (Queensland Cup club), it would just be an expansion of that.

”I’m not going to be disrespectful to CQ, they are passionate league people and that’s what the game is built around.”

The Ipswich bid have also gone all guns blazing recruiting former Roosters CEO Brian Canavan as a consultant, and an adviser as the best way to approach the bid.

NRL Chief Executive David Gallop only two years ago, flagged Ipswich as a viable area for expansion in the future.

He is also impressed by the pulling power and the financial backing of the Central Queensland bid, with their billion dollar resource industry.

”One of the things I like about this area is that it doesn’t have a national team in any other code,” he says.

Shaun Berrigan set to return home to the NRL

He has had a successful stint with Hull FC in the ESL, but now, Shaun Berrigan has decided that the time is right to return home to the NRL.

Berrigan, who is primarily a hooker, but provides good utility value, can also play centre, wing, five-eighth and lock.

The 32-year-old signed a 4 year deal with Hull, and three years into it, he was granted a release by Hull, with the Gold Coast Titans and the New Zealand Warriors the interested parties.

At this stage, the Warriors seem favourites to secure his signature, in what a move that is sure to boost their squad.

Since joining Hull for the 2008 season and beyond, Berrigan made 74 appearances for the KC Stadium outfit, and he also won the player of the year award in his debut season, that also included a surprise appearance in the Challenge Cup Final for Hull.

Injuries have always been a problem for Berrigan however, and his form dipped somewhat over the last two years, with chopping and changing going on in light of injuries and shifting positions.

“I have loved my time at Hull FC and leave with many happy memories and friendships,” Berrigan said.

“After a tough year personally in terms of injuries and the passing of my father earlier this year, I want to move closer to my mum and family and I’m looking forward to spending more time with them.”

Hull’s chief executive, James Rule, added: “On behalf of the directors, staff, coaches, players and fans, I would like to thank Shaun for his contribution to Hull FC and wish him and his family the best of luck for the future.”

Concerns over GI’s fitness put forth by leading fitness expert

Dean Benton, one of Australia’s leading fitness and performance experts has grave concerns about Greg Inglis and his fitness, going as far to say that Inglis will be a “bad buy” for any club in the 2011 season.

Benton, who is the chief football consultant for the Queensland Reds and the Adelaide Crows has major concerns that in light of operations on his shoulder and hip, resulting in GI tipping the scales at 121kg, that he might not shine in 2011.

“He’d be a bad signing for a two-year deal. You’d really only be getting a player for one year,” Benton said.

After a saga that should have been settled months ago, there are lingering concerns about not only the ballooning weight of Inglis, but also his personal dramas, all of which play a part in the concerns people have about him.

The injuries Greg Inglis has sustained have seriously affected his training also, with Inglis unable to row or lift upper-body weights due to his shoulder injury, as well as being unable to run effectively due to his hip injury.

Benton believes that Inglis has to lose at least 15 kilograms to be effective again, but says that it will take at least four months to shed the weight.

“You’d have to assume a fair bit of his weight is fat,” Benton said.

“Even in the best-case scenario, in the best performance environment in training with the aid of a nutritionist, you’d be looking at a kilo a week or 10 millimetres of fat reduction a week, which is the best I’ve seen.

“If you do the maths and he has to lose 15 kilos, it would take him 15 or 16 weeks to trim down.

“The other issue is his hip injury. I’m not sure of the nature of surgery or his rehabilitation, but just with his shoulder, the best-case scenarios are typically 16 weeks for a basic shoulder reconstruction.

“Unless he’s hired the services of a strength and conditioning consultant, a medical consultant and dietitian, you’d have to think his rehab would be compromised by both his hip and shoulder.”

Beau Champion’s dream comes to an end

Now that he’s moved to the Storm, the dream that Beau Champion had of playing only for the Rabbitohs for his whole career has come to an end.

But the former Bunny knows that to do so these days is hard given that the salary cap is a key player in the NRL and for NRL clubs these days.

Despite his dream not being realised, for Champion, leaving the Bunnies was difficult as he looks to become a better player and further his career under Craig Bellamy, one of the best coaches in the NRL.

It is never a good feeling when a player is told to look elsewhere by a club, especially when they still have time left on their contract, and Champion admits he was hurt when Souths told him to do so.

“Everyone knows how much I love the club,” Champion said.

“Every time I pulled that jersey on I gave it my all. As a kid my dream was to play for the Rabbitohs. I have accomplished that now and that is something that will always be with me.

“I always wanted to play my career out here, but these days it is almost impossible to be a one-club man. It’s very difficult with the cap.”

In order to accommodate new recruit under the salary cap, the Bunnies threw up three names, Champion being one of those to move on, and he admits that he was hurt by the whole ordeal.

“I was a bit hurt at first,” Champion said. “They said, ‘Beau, you can stay if you want this year but you are off [contract] at the end of the year. We can resign you, but the amount of money you get won’t be as good as you can get elsewhere’.

“They basically said we have five players off and we can only keep three. They were very up front and honest. They said they would love me to stay but they explained their financial position.”

Champion knows that the move is for the best, as he looks forward to the newest chapter in his life at the Melbourne Storm.

“It has been the biggest decision of my career,” Champion said.

“But I basically had no choice. When I looked at it deeper and deeper, it was just too hard to fit it all in my head. The decision I made was inevitable because of their situation. If it didn’t happen now, it would have happened at the end of the year.

“In the end, the salary cap has brought this upon them. We just have too many players at the club and something had to give.”

Ironically, it was Champion who first made contact with Greg Inglis about joining the Rabbitohs, given that the two are second-cousins.

“The club is getting one of the best players in the world,” Champion said. “They have an opportunity to have Greg and improve their chances of winning a comp. I am happy that Greg can stay in rugby league. I have no hard feelings at all towards him.

“I haven’t talked to him much, because everything has been all over the shop lately. We had some quick words when all the talk started but there was a lot of the unknown. Greg is a champion player and bloke but this decision is about me, not him.”

Despite it all however, Champion has no hard feelings towards the club, and thoroughly enjoyed his time there.

“In the end, Souths have been fantastic to me,” he said. “They gave me the opportunity to play first grade and have always looked after me with anything I wanted to pursue. I have no hard feeling towards them at all. It is going to be tough to leave all my mates but this is something I have to do.”

Nathan Gardner re-signs with the Sharks

In what was his first year in the NRL in 2010, boom Sharks fullback Nathan Gardner has given Sharks fans the perfect Christmas present, re-signing with the club until the end of the 2013 season.

John Frare, Gardner’s manager was keen for both his client, and the Sharks to get the deal sorted, and put pen to paper before the New Year came around.

“It’s exactly what I wanted,” Gardner said.

“I didn’t want to start the season off contract so it’s good to know I’ll be here for at least another three years.

“I couldn’t be happier with the club, everyone has been amazing and I love playing for the Sharks.”

Gardner finished as the Sharks highest try-scorer for the season in 2010 including a breathtaking solo effort against the Roosters that was unlucky not to win try of the year.

“2010 was obviously a massive year for myself in so many ways.”

“I joined the club at the start of the season and was just hoping to get one game under my belt, but I ended up playing sixteen straight and couldn’t have asked for anymore.”

“My big test now is to really cement the fullback spot and make it my own and to do that I need to keep improving my game and playing consistent footy.”

In Gardner’s view, having experienced representative players such as Jeremy Smith and Paul Gallen in their team was a bonus for the Sharks as they look to have a better season in 2011.

“Having such experienced and competitive players in the side gives you so much more confidence.”

“I’m so excited for the 2011 season to kick off and knowing that we have a solid team with a great coach puts no doubt in my mind that we will be successful.”

“The Sharks are only on the up and I’m very happy being a part of it.”

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan is also over the moon that Gardner has re-signed with the Sharks, describing him as an integral part of the team

“It’s great news for the Sharks and I’d like to think Nathan will be our fullback for the next five to ten years,” Flanagan said.

“I look back at some of the successful Sharks era’s and they’ve all had a quality fullback like Peachey and Docking.

“I had doubts about his size early on, but I’m confident Nathan can be that player and really stamp his authority on the game.

“He had a brilliant first season, scoring two length of the field tries and he has certainly taken some steps during the pre season to ensure 2011 will be just as good, if not better.”

Storm sign Champion as Inglis is officially released

After a saga that had the potential to go on for much longer, we seem to have finally reached a finite conclusion with a direct swap being made between Souths and the Storm.

With Greg Inglis now a Rabbitoh, representative centre Beau Champion has moved the other way, signing a 3 year deal with the Storm.

With the final decision now seemingly made, it puts an end to the saga that had many fans around the NRL scratching their heads, all of whom can now rest in peace with the decision that has been made.

Whilst Storm CEO Ron Gauci is delighted to see the problem resolved and pleased to see Greg happy, he’s ecstatic at the fact that the Storm have managed to sign a quality centre in Champion for the next 3 years.

“Storm, the NRL and Souths have been working in collaboration tirelessly for what is a magnificent result for each of the players, the Clubs, the League and the game in general,” said Gauci.

“We believe Champion is an exceptional talent with a bright future as a possible State of Origin player.

“I’ve spoken with Beau and he is genuinely excited to be coming to Melbourne to work under Head Coach Craig Bellamy, and alongside some of the world’s best players such as Cam Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk.

“We are pleased Greg has been able to find his way to the club of his choice and can now concentrate on his football, and everyone at Storm wishes him the best for the future.”