Training mishap results in Lui injury

He is only new to the club, but already he has suffered an injury, with young Cowboys recruit Robert Lui expected to miss some game time, after he suffered a knee injury during a training mishap.

Whilst the extent of the injury is still unknown, the knee injury may potentially, be somewhat serious – with the young play-maker set to undergo scans tomorrow, to confirm the extent of the damage.

“Robert will have scans tomorrow. We should have the results on Monday following consultation between our doctor and medical staff,” Cowboys general manger of football, Peter Parr said.

“We are confident it’s not a serious injury and cannot comment or speculate any further until we have the scan results.”

Bani now a Raider

The Canberra Raiders have strengthened their back-line depth, after announcing the signing of former Manly Sea Eagles and North Queensland Cowboys winger Michael Bani, on a 1-year deal.
Bani brings experience to the club, and will increase the heated competition for spots in the Raiders back-line.
David Hamilton, who is the Player Recruitment Officer at the Raiders said:
“He brings NRL experience to our outside backs which is what we’re looking for. He’s got speed to burn and more than enough ability to put pressure on the other players in his positions which is what we need here.”
Bani is likely to be based with the Raiders feeder side, Mounties, who play in the NSW Cup – but he has joined the squad in training, and will be looking to cement a first-grade spot at the club.
“I’m really happy to join the club; it’s a fantastic opportunity for my career. I’m going to be starting with Mounties and I’ll be taking the opportunity with two hands to work my way up to first grade.”
“I started training with Mounties last night and I was surprised with how good the facilities were there. I’m really looking forward to this season as I was unfortunate last year with injuries and the pressures of living away from my family who were based in Sydney.”
Bani’s agent, Sam Ayoub, is pleased with his client’s decision to head to the nation’s capital.
“I’m pleased that Michael has taken up the opportunity to join the Raiders. He’s certainly a player with a wealth of experience and will certainly press for a first grade spot in the not too distant future.”

Boyd grateful for Bennett’s support of him

Wherever Wayne Bennett went, he followed. When the time came for Bennett to leave the Dragons, Knights fullback Darius Boyd was left with a tough decision – ‘do I go to the Titans, or follow Wayne to the Knights?’

That decision was made easier, when Bennett replied: “Just remember, it’s totally your decision. You don’t owe me anything.”

With the two forming a strong bond, for Boyd, he believes that everything he has achieved so far in the NRL, is because of Wayne Bennett.

“I owe Wayne everything.

“I honestly don’t think I’d be where I am today without him. He’s been great to me from the start.

“Not just with footy but with life in general.”

The possibility of playing for the Titans was a very real one for Boyd, as it would have moved him closer to his friends and family, especially his grandmother, who apart from Bennett, has been the biggest inspirational factor in his life and career.

“My mum brought me up but there were a few issues there and my grandma looked after me the last few years of high school before I went to the Broncos,” he said. “She’s helped me with so much, along with Wayne.

“It’s good that I have people like that in my life because I don’t have too many people I can turn to, to get advice.”

So what was the clincher in choosing Newcastle?

“One day it just clicked in my head that if I went back home, it wouldn’t be for the right reasons,” Boyd said.

“I’d basically been trying to talk myself into it.

“I’d been sort of talking it up to friends and family, trying to convince myself it would be the right move for me. But I want to get better as a player and as a person too and, in the end, I know I can do better with Wayne here in Newcastle.

“Growing up as a kid, I was never a spectacular footy player but I think I’ve improved as I’ve got older and I still want to improve more.

“Wayne’s a big part of that. He can just get the best out of his players and I still want to learn and get better and I just think I can do that under him.”

The bond goes all the way back to 2006 (6 years ago now), when Boyd started out at the then Bennett coached Broncos, as an 18-year old.

Immediately, Bennett became the father figure for Boyd during his time at the Broncos, as he guided him towards success both on and off the field.

“I was only young and there were times when my form wasn’t up to scratch,” Boyd admitted.

“But he still stuck by me. Encouraged me. I guess he just saw something in me back then. I’ve never forgotten that.”

The bond resulted in two premierships for Boyd – 1 in his debut year, and the other in 2010 with the St George Illawarra Dragons.

The aim now, is to win a third premiership, with Boyd excited about what the season will bring, and the expectation that will come with it.

“With Wayne here, I can understand it (the expectation),” Boyd said.

“Wherever he goes, he takes that winning culture with him, so a lot of people will be expecting a lot.

“But Wayne never promises anything – you can’t in this competition.

“Things are going good. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all pans out.”

Hindmarsh dismisses talk of retirement

At the age of 32, Nathan Hindmarsh is always asked, ‘Are you going to retire, when are you going to retire, how is the body feeling?’ Questions like these, is what prompts Hindmarsh to answer with the same question every time.

“All I want to be is a competitive player, and when I stop being competitive, that’s when I’ll give it away,” Hindmarsh said.

With so many approaching Hindmarsh of late wishing him well upon retirement, the reality of the situation, is that Hindmarsh has made no decision on his future yet, but there are several factors to consider.

With Hindmarsh’s wife Bonnie leaving the decision up to the man himself, the suspected increase in the salary cap will also not be a factor for Hindmarsh, as playing NRL has never been about money – and although he is in sight of Darren Lockyer’s 355- game record, he says that that too, is not a motivating factor.

“I want to make sure I don’t go too long and make a dick of myself. I’d like to finish being a competitive player, not back playing with Wentworthville (in the NSW Cup). I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but you really want to be playing first grade in your final year.

“The pre-season has been fine. I think I’m used to the hard training here we have under Steve (Kearney), and if it was harder than last year, I could have thought, ‘geez, this could be my last year’. But it is easier getting through the pre-season, it’s picking yourself up week after week after games. Until I see how I go there, I won’t make a decision.”

What works in the Eels favour should Hindmarsh choose to stay on, is that his contract will be exempt from the salary cap itself, due to the long-serving player concession.

Despite all the retirement talk, you only have to look at the All-Stars game to see how popular Hindmarsh remains not only amongst Eels fans, but with the entire NRL – with Hindmarsh being named in the All-Stars squad.

“You also have to think about the younger blokes chomping at your heels who are faster, stronger and more explosive. There’s still some life left in these legs. We’ve also got some good young talent coming through the club and blokes fighting it out for positions.”

Gower returns to rugby league

It is something that we are seeing more and more of, and now, yet another player has returned to rugby league – with former Penrith Panthers half Craig Gower, leaving his French rugby union side, to play rugby league once more.

Gower will play with ESL side, the London Broncos, and despite having previously thought that a return to league was not on the cards – he is excited at the ESL opportunity.

“I didn’t really see myself playing rugby league again”, Gower said.

“I needed a new challenge and that was to play rugby union but it got to the stage where it wasn’t as enjoyable.

“But this did come as a bit of a surprise.

“I had talks about going to the NRL but I had a knee injury so it was hard to progress those further.

“However, the Super League option came up and that gave me more time to recover.”

Gallop signs new 4-year deal

With the Independent Commission now seemingly set to be confirmed in February, the commissioners have made their first major call – and that is, signing current NRL CEO David Gallop, to a new 4-year deal in the position.

Gallop had support from the new commissioners set to front the IC, and in the process, he has received a pay-rise.

Gallop will soon celebrate 10 years in the top job, and in regards to the challenges that he will face regarding the NRL in the future – he is ready for them.

“The game’s results and incredible growth speak for themselves and we are entering a new period of opportunity that I am excited to be part of,” Gallop said.

“While I had the support of News and the ARL, the commission and I wanted the decision about my future role to be made by John Grant and the new board, and not be part of an agreement by the former partners.

“There is a real sense of optimism about maximising the position that the game is in and that is invigorating for everyone involved. I take a lot of pride in seeing the people in my executive team working really well with the commissioners as we plan for what will be an outstanding year for the game.”

The next key part of business, and one that has fans waiting with bated breath, is the new TV rights deal – which is expected to hit the 1 billion dollar mark.

Cronk open to NRL offers

The salary cap is yet to go up, but Melbourne Storm halfback Cooper Cronk, has seen his management team set his asking price at an incredible $850,000 a season.

If a team agreed such a fee with the Storm, and Cronk was to move – Cronk would be earning more money than Jonathon Thurston, Cameron Smith and Jarryd Hayne.

With rumours flying left, right and centre about Cronk’s location after this season, the South Sydney Rabbitohs appear to be the front-runners, with Cronk keen to test his worth and value on the open market.

Despite the high asking price, what does work in Cronk’s favour, is that the substantial increase in the salary cap come 2013, may allow him to seek a bigger offer at another NRL club.

During the Four Nations tour in the UK last year, Cronk said that he was not going to rush into making a decision about his future.

“Obviously you want to play for as long as you can, (but) I’m not one that’s going to try and start hanging on for every last breath once I start losing the passion,” Cronk said.

“Everyone knows their time. I’m still 28, so I’ve got at least five years left.

“I’ll play footy, I’ll enjoy a holiday and then I’ll sort out what I have to do.”

Chris Orr, Cooper Cronk’s manager, confirmed to Melbourne Chief Executive Ron Gauci, that Cronk was keen to test his value on the open market.

“It’s always hard to tell when everyone is negotiating, but from our point of view he’s an integral part of our team and we’re going to do whatever we can within the rules of the game to keep him,” Gauci said.

“From our point of view, all we ask is that the salary cap auditor monitors the third-party payments that will be used to entice him. And there’s no doubt they will be used to entice him.

“We’re hoping that Cooper’s experience with the club and history with the players around him will come into play when he considers his future. We very much see his future at Storm, hopefully he sees it the same way.

“The impression I get from the conversations we’ve had before Christmas is that he would rather take the field and know what he’s doing rather than have this drag out.”

A second mining magnate keen to start a Perth team

It is news that has been a long time coming, and with the junior and development system in Perth flourishing as they wait for the chance to have an NRL team – their chances have been boosted, with Perth Glory owner and multi-millionaireTony Sage, keen to get a team up and running in Perth.

In his corner, he will have Balmain legend Benny Elias, who has agreed to front the charge for Perth to have an NRL team – with the club now set to work hard to get one of those two spots in 2015.

“As a born and bred Tigers man, I find it hard to align myself with any other club,” Elias said.

“But I’m already on the board of Perth Glory and Tony has asked me to try to make this happen.

“He’s another Nathan Tinkler and he’s determined to get involved. Perth is crying out for a rugby league team and Tony is the guy who could make it happen.”

With the new Independent Commission set to come in, the NRL is keen to expand the competition to potentially 18 teams, with Perth being just one of many bids that will have a chance to be a part of the NRL.

For NRL CEO David Gallop, Perth has been a favourite expansion area of his for some time, due to the games booming economy, and the potential opportunity to have another televised game.

Perth had a rugby league team previously, the Western Reds – before they were made the sacrificial lambs of the Super League era, bringing to an end their brief stint in the competition.

“Perth’s clearly one of the top contenders for expansion although I believe it’s still a few years away,” Gallop said.

“Western Australia provides an extra live timeslot opportunity for television and would increase our national profile in an area where the economy is booming.

“Our recent research in potential expansion areas showed there is a high level of rugby league interest.

“We were surprised by the number of people in Perth who said they were avid fans of our game.

“I’m certainly open for talks with any leading businessman who wants to talk about expanding rugby league when the time is right.”

Should Perth get a team in the NRL, there are players who are from the area, that include Cory Paterson, and the Goodwin brothers, Bronx and Bryce.

Sage, who is a Sharks fan having gone to school in the shire, has 2015 in his sights, as the year for Perth to enter the NRL.

“It makes sense to run a joint operation with Perth Glory exactly the same as Nathan Tinkler has done with the Knights and the Jets,” Sage said.

“Same marketing team, same medical team, same media team all working out of the same area.

“Perth is ready for a rugby league team and I’ve asked Benny Elias to drive it from here and be the initial chief executive. I needed someone based in Sydney with the right business credentials and the right connections.

“I know how closely he is still connected to the Tigers but he’s keen because he wants to see rugby league become a national game.”

The Western Australian Rugby League (WARL), have hosted games in the past, and with South Sydney’s deal with Tourism West Australia, this trend will continue.

“Originally I offered to be a sponsor and take a corporate suite but my interest has grown and I’d now like to get more involved myself,” he said

ANZAC Test heading back to New Zealand

It has been a long time coming, but finally, test match rugby league is set to be played at Eden Park once more – with the first of two test matches in 2012, the ANZAC Test – to be played at the venue.

Eden Park, New Zealand’s largest stadium, will host the game on Friday April 20, with David Kennedy, the CEO of Eden Park, welcoming the move and confirmation of the test.

“It’s great to see New Zealand rugby league’s biggest international of the year coming to New Zealand’s premier stadium.”

Jim Doyle, NZRL CEO said:

“It is now an excellent facility and we want the Kiwis to be playing on the biggest and best stage we have.” Doyle continues, “This promises to be a fantastic night out for all families and fans. We’re expecting a great crowd to come along and support the Kiwis.”

The last time New Zealand hosted an ANZAC test, was back in 1998, when the New Zealanders came out on top over the Kangaroos – winning 22-16.

Tickets for the 2012 VB Test Match go on sale through Ticketek (0800 842 538, and all agencies,) from Friday, February 3.

Captains challenge potentially just around the corner

The idea of it is one that has been talked about in rugby league circles for quite some time, and now, it may be coming closer to materialising – with the NRL set to review the possibility of a challenge system (much like Tennis has), to be a part of their game.

Whilst the idea has potential, referees boss Bill Harrigan is not opposed to the idea itself, but wants to ensure that any grey areas with the rule and system are ironed out, before any serious decision about its future is made.

The discussion of such a system comes after Harrigan spent the last week at the Australian Open, where he had the chance to see how the hawk-eye and referral systems, worked first-hand.

“We had a whole heap of ideas on the table, things like captains’ challenges and shot clocks,” he said.

“Some of them were disregarded, but the captain’s challenge was one we agreed was a priority to have a closer look at this year. Personally, I’m not opposed to it at all. From a referee’s perspective, I’ve got no problems.

“But from a rugby league perspective, there are logistical issues that would need to be worked out.

“For one, I would not like to see it disrupt the flow of the game. Unlike tennis, we’ve got a flowing, running game. You need to work out limits as to when it could be called for. But if we can get it right, I’d have no problem.”

The implementation of such an idea, first arose close to 2 years ago, when then Manly CEO Graham Lowe strongly suggested it be implemented, after his side lost a game in the final minutes, due to a forward pass by the Eels.

Something else that caught the eye of Harrigan during his time at the Australian Open, was how tennis umpires assess the performance of the lines-people.

“It’s great to have cross-pollination and see what the two sports can teach one another,” he said.

“They have a very sophisticated system of assessing lines-people, and I didn’t realise they were ranked according to which line on the court they adjudicate.”