Science saves Tupou’s career

Very rarely do we see science correlating with rugby league, but in this particular case, we have – with Sharks forward Anthony Tupou undergoing a cutting edge stem cell operation, described as a ‘miracle’.

Although stem cell research is something that still has a long way to go, the potential is there for it to transform player’s careers, with Tupou one of the first NRL players, to undergo the experimental stem cell procedure – called Regeneus HiQ cell procedure.

He had the procedure done in October, and the 28-year old Tupou says that he has never felt better in his life, in regards to his fitness.

With Tupou off-contract at the end of the year, this breakthrough in science has all but resurrected his career, and given him the chance to prove his worth to the Sharks – after Tupou’s injury at times, prevented him from running and playing, due to severe swelling.

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said: “He was headed for retirement. There were weeks when he couldn’t train at all.

“To be fair he was far from his best. Last year he limped around. He didn’t enjoy playing footy because all he could think about was his knee.

“I’ve never seen him look better (now). He’s stronger, more powerful than ever and he’s trimmed down a bit.”

David Giveny, the Sharks doctor, was amazed at the success of the radical procedure, and believes that within just 5 years, it can become a staple procedure in the NRL.

Although Tupou is not yet back to his top fitness levels, he believes that the procedure has worked well for him.

“I don’t feel it at all,” Tupou said. “I’m ready to go. I feel a lot better.”

Austin re-signs with the Panthers

In a timely boost for the Panthers before their Rd 1 clash with the Bulldogs, talented local junior Blake Austin has re-signed with the club for a further 2 years.

The new deal will see the young utility stay with the club until the completion of the 2014 NRL season, with Austin himself pleased to have his future settled.

“I’m very happy to have secured my place here at Penrith, especially for my young family.”

“I’m really enjoying the new vibe around the place – there’s plenty of energy.”

“I want to remain a one club man – Penrith is my home and that’s where I want to stay.”

Ellis to leave contract early to head home

It is news that will devastate Tigers fans, but family comes first – with Wests Tigers second-rower Gareth Ellis revealing that he will leave the club at the end of the 2012 season, despite having 1 year left on his contract, due to family reasons.

Ellis, who is rated as one of the world’s best second-rowers asked the club for an early release, citing personal and family reasons.

“Whilst we are disappointed, we have granted Gareth his wish to return to England at the end of this year,’’ said Wests Tigers CEO Stephen Humphreys.

“Gareth has been an integral member of the Wests Tigers team in recent years. He has taken his game to another level under Club and Australian Test Coach Tim Sheens and is held in the highest esteem by everyone at Wests Tigers.

“Gareth will leave Wests Tigers with our blessing – and hopefully an NRL premiership.”

Ellis, who turns 31 this year, made his debut for the Wests Tigers in 2009 and has played in 64 NRL games to date – as well as winning the Tigers Player of the Year award for three straight years, the only player to do so.

“I feel the time is right for me to return to England,’’ Ellis said.

“It was a difficult decision to make as I have really enjoyed my time at Wests Tigers. Everyone at the Club has been terrific to me and my family. I couldn’t ask for more.

“I have a young son now. My wife Rachael and I feel it is time to head home to our families at the end of this season.

“I can assure Wests Tigers supporters I will be giving it my all to ensure the team finishes high up as possible so we can give ourselves another strong chance of winning the Telstra Premiership.”

Aubusson primed and ready for 2012

The Roosters 2011 was not one of the best, and they know that – with the club using the traditional Mad Monday celebrations to drown out their sorrows and poor showings from that year.

Whilst most team-mates were out celebrating Mad Monday  however, one Rooster was focused on training and getting himself fit and 100% ready for the 2012 season.

That player, was Mitchell Aubusson.

After undergoing shoulder surgery during the season, Aubusson missed the last 18 games as a result – but after a lengthy pre-season battle, spanning a total of 6 months, Aubusson will be back playing again, in the Roosters Monday night clash against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

”As soon as the boys knocked off for their Mad Monday, I was straight in there the next day and kept training,” he said.

”It’s been a long pre-season but I feel like I’m starting to reap the rewards for it. I made a pact to myself last year, that as soon as the season finished I would get straight back into training and get ready for what hopefully is a good year this year.”

As a result of his lengthy injury lay-off, season 2011 is one that Aubusson wants to forget about completely.

”It was one of the worst things I’ve ever been through,” Aubusson said.

”Just sitting there was very hard. It’s one thing being around the boys at training and trying to help them out, but there is nothing like actually being out there on the field. You can’t do anything to help your mates out who are struggling. All you want to do is go in and do something to lift them but there is not much you can do when you’re injured.”

With the Roosters having a few injury concerns to their starting centres, it is likely that Aubusson will start in the centres in their place.

”Brian didn’t really speak to me about it in the off-season but I’m in a position where I’ll play in the centres if someone goes down, like Shaun did at training, and I’ll be more than happy to fill in,” he said.

”After a six month lay-off, I’ll be happy to do whatever to get on the field. The first 20 minutes of my first trial I couldn’t get the smile off my face running around with the boys, but towards the last 20 minutes the smile’s gone and you’re just hanging on. It’s nice to feel that pain again.”

Jennings to have Gus in his corner

In rugby league circles, he has a bit of a bad reputation – but, after he was fined $50,000 by Panthers General Manager Phil Gould, he has turned the corner – with Panthers centre Michael Jennings changed, and with Gus eager to see him play.

“Michael Jennings has been one of the standout performers this summer, both on and off the field” Panthers boss Phil Gould said.

“His training has been first class, his community involvement has been exemplary. His management have seen a real change in his attitude and a desire to become the professional athlete we all know he is.

“We have seen a visible change in his demeanour, his approach. I’ve got to say he has been one of the standout performers this summer, he has been really good.”

The question will be whether his new and improved off-field training techniques and commitments, will transcend onto the field itself.

“I still think his best is easily in front of him, easily in front of him,” Gould said.

“People are a product of their environment and what happened between Michael and I and others was all a product of a change in that environment.

“And if anything has come out of that, Michael is one of the success stories in turning around that attitude and that culture.

“Now it’s up to Michael, he has the talent and now it appears his professionalism or his attention to detail with professionalism is catching up to that talent.”

Jennings, who is still only 23 and entering his sixth season in first-grade – says that his fitness, is even better now, than it was when he was a teenager.

“I think I was getting too comfortable with my position at the club,” he said. “I’d say this time last year I wasn’t fit. I feel as fit now as I did when I first came into first grade.”

“You know, in your career, you are going to make mistakes but it is about not making them twice.

“That’s when it becomes a problem. All I can do is learn from it. I know I can get better.”

Stephen’s NRL Countdown Pt 3 & 4

8th: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Hello: James Graham (ST Helens-ESL), Des Hasler (Sea Eagles)
Goodbye: Jamal Idris (Titans), Ben Roberts (Eels)
A family club with family values which have a lost a whole heap of their 2011 squad. The controversy over Des Hasler has paid in the Bulldogs favour, as the premiership winning coach now joins what could be many years of a dynasty at this young club. With some big props running around in their ranks, the solid platform up front will give them a huge boost this season.
It could be a slow start for the Bulldogs, with a lot of personnel missing from last year it might take some tinkering before the right team is there every week.
A new coach means a fresh breath – To me this is what the Bulldogs definitely needed.
7th: Cronulla Sharks
Hello: Todd Carney (Roosters), Ben Ross (Rabbitohs)
Goodbye: Kade Snowden (Knights), Luke Douglas (Titans)
Sporting an improvement last year – things can only go up for the boys from the Shire. Fielding one of the most physical forward packs in the NRL this season, if they can get a decent roll on they will upset a few sides and string a few wins together. Carney’s influence will be a massive bonus too. Through Cronulla is definitely not the safest place for him, as the culture of drinking at the Sharks has been publicised before.
Are slow starters. They need to hit the ground running in 2012 to make teams take a look at this dangerous side.
Lost two of their best props and replaced them with two good props. There is nothing lacking about this forward pack whatsoever.
6th: St George Illawarra Dragons
Hello: Chase Stanley (Storm), Jeremy Latimore (Warriors)
Goodbye: Wayne Bennett (Knights), Darius Boyd (Knights)
The second half of their 2011 season left a lot to be desired for this club. Now with a fresh faced coach, and a new crop of players this will be a massive test for the Dragons. Will they be able to produce consistent, threatening performances of years gone by? Or has Uncle Wayne’s departure left a huge hole which could take years to repair.
A loss of experience to retirement and other clubs has left the Dragons extremely vulnerable.
A stable halves combination which has proven themselves time after time.
5th: North Queensland Cowboys

Hello: Kane Linnett (Roosters), Robert Lui (Wests Tigers)
Goodbye: Willie Tonga (Eels), Will Tupou (Rugby union)

The Cowboys had a solid, injury free 2011 which saw them leap in to the top eight for the first time in awhile, something built on the back of a healthy Johnathan Thurston. Now paired with a credible halves partner in Robert Lui, the Cowboys can say they are reaching an all round solid squad which will be able to compete all season long. Their youth will only have gotten bigger, stronger and more experienced and this is going to play very much in their court.

They have not yet proven themselves as a consistent side, and consistency is a major key to success in the NRL.
A very similar squad from last year which is only going to build up their success.
Here it is, your top four this season predicted by myself!
4th: Newcastle Knights

Hello: Wayne Bennett (Dragons), Danny Buderus (Leeds-ESL)
Goodbye: Adam MacDougall (Retirement), Steve Southern (Wakefield-ESL)
A club being built from the ground up. There is a lot of great things happening at Newcastle. A solid looking squad coached by Wayne Bennett, with Paul Harrigan and Matt Gidley involved on the official side of things – everything is shaping up for a good year for the Hunter boys. Everything is really taking shape off the field, it’s now down to what they can do on it.
For a brand new team, it always takes awhile to glue together. This means we might not get the best Knights performances for awhile.
It’s a desirable club. If they get the right results this season only more and more will want to join them.

3rd: Melbourne Storm

Hello: Ryan Hoffman (Wigan-ESL), Jason Ryles (Roosters)
Goodbye: Adam Blair (Wests Tigers), Beau Champion (Titans)
A team which can overcome adversity, and have proven themselves as premiership contenders consistently for years really, are bound for another successful season. A well disciplined and well coached side, have boosted their forward pack despite the loss of Adam Blair with Ryan Hoffman and Jason Ryles. A team strong all over the park will always be hard to beat.
Lose so many players to Origin that they are heavily affected, in order to become true contenders they will have to battle harder.
A team which looks very tough and wise. Ominous for other clubs.

2nd: New Zealand Warriors
Hello: Nathan Friend (Titans), Brian McClennan
Goodbye: Shaun Berrigan (Raiders), Aaron Heremaia (Hull-ESL)
Last year the Warriors fell short in the big one. This year they will go close again. A new coach which has the team fizzing, the youthful Warriors have a good thing going in Auckland and a lot of the other clubs always fear the match against the Warriors. If they can harness the talent and experience the club obviously has, it could be a season to remember.
A big loss of personnel has left a lot on the shoulders of some young players.

Young, strong and talented. Three characteristics which can see them win a game from anywhere on the park.

1st: Wests Tigers
Hello: Adam Blair (Storm), Joel Reddy (Eels)
Goodbye: Bryce Gibbs (Sharks), Robert Lui (Cowboys)

This year is the year of the Tiger. Tim Sheens is a great coach, they have a team which on paper looks to be the best in the competition by far. A club with a lot to prove this season. They need to change from “there or there abouts” to front-runners. The mind boggles at the prospects of the Wests Tigers this season. They really do look the goods.

THUMBS DOWN: Pressure. They need to step up and be counted. Seasons gone by they have gone by the way side when it counts.

THUMBS UP: They are just so strong in every position. The Tigers are my Minor Premiers and Premiers for 2012.

SKD’s playing future in doubt

It is an injury you would not expect to see in league very often, but one that is common in car crashes – but for Roosters back Shaun Kenny-Dowall, he suffered a painful injury, that has put his immediate playing future in doubt.

It was a collision with a Roosters rookie at training 2 weeks ago, that resulted in Kenny-Dowall making a dash to the hospital, after the NZ centre realised that something was not right.

The injury is that bad, that he faces uncertainty over his immediate playing future, and is unsure as to when he will return to football.

It was due to an accidental knee in the back two weeks ago at Roosters training, that had Kenny-Dowall immediately worried.

“I went home and it all went downhill from there,” Kenny-Dowall said.

“I started getting real dizzy and started peeing blood. I got really worried and drove myself to hospital.

“I new I had to get help.

“I was pretty scared when I saw the blood. I knew that wasn’t normal. I can tolerate a fair bit of pain, but this was different. I knew when I went to the toilet and my urine was getting darker and darker that something wasn’t right. And the pain was excruciating. I couldn’t move.

“I had a weird feeling that I have never had before when I have been injured and I started to worry. So I drove myself to hospital and they gave me painkillers straight away and I felt better after that.”

He was diagnosed with a torn and bruised kidney, an injury that his doctor said is more likely to occur in car-crashes, than on the football field.

“The doctor told me that he had never seen an injury like this on a football player,” Kenny-Dowall said.

“He told me it was a car-crash injury.

“I also talked to our club doctor (John Orchard) and he hasn’t seen an injury like this, and he has been around for 20 years or so.

“They didn’t operate, but I think they were pretty concerned. They had to monitor me, monitor the urine and I had to get regular blood tests to check my blood count. They had to make sure my kidney had stopped bleeding.”

He will not be available for the Roosters Rd 1 clash on Monday night, and at this stage, is out indefinitely.

“I am feeling pretty good, but at this stage I don’t know when I will be back,” he said.

“I just have to wait and see. I am up and moving and feeling heaps better about things, but I have been told just to rest.

“I have been resting and slowly getting there.”

De Belin is a diamond in the rough

A country boy with a big smile. Does he have it – you bet he does. That is the message from Dragons forward Dean Young, who says that the Cootamundra local, has plenty of potential, and will make it in the NRL.

“I know a bit about him, I know he’s going to be good. He’s going to be real good.

“He’s tough, he takes no prisoners, trains hard, and the boys love playing with him.

“He certainly doesn’t have any fear, I know that.”

Growing up, there was one player that De Belin idolised. The man they call the raging bull – otherwise known as former Broncos and Dragons second-rower, Gorden Tallis.

“He was just tough, he was always looking to take the ball forward,” De Belin recalls. “And he was just aggressive.

“I’m not a very aggressive guy but you’ve got to be like that if want to make it.”

For De Belin, he has one goal – to make it in the NRL in season 2012.

Having made 3 first-grade appearances under Wayne Bennett last year, new coach Steve Price has bigger plans for De Belin, and plans to use him in a bigger role this season.

Studying PE away from footy, De Belin knows that in the NRL, you take nothing for granted, and have to work hard.

“You’ve got to make sacrifices,” he said. “There is a big opportunity coming this year and I want to step up and take it.

“Hopefully, I can get a spot in the team somewhere. It’s hard to believe after just two years I am where I am now. Like at school, you would have never dreamed of this.”

Wallace and Norman stay on at the Broncos

There were rumours that he may have headed elsewhere, but they can all be put to bed – with Broncos halfback Peter Wallace extending his Broncos contract until the end of the 2014 NRL season.

His halves team-mate Corey Norman, has also extended his contract, with the young utility extending his contract until the end of the 2013 NRL season.

With the Broncos season launch scheduled for tonight, the news is timely for the club, particularly with their season opener against the Parramatta Eels just 7 days away.

Wallace, who still has family in the Blue Mountains, an area of his former club Penrith – said that he just could not see himself leaving the Broncos, and rejected some big-money offers, to move back to Sydney.

“I was really happy to agree to terms and it is great to be here for another two years,” he told Bronco TV.

“I have really found a home here and have enjoyed my time here.

“I am really happy to be here for at least another couple of years.

“The club itself is in a good place for the future.”

Stephen’s NRL League Countdown Pt 2

Our resident Dragons tragic Stephen is back again, this time with Part 2 of his NRL countdown.

So yesterday, I linked you up with 16th-13th positions on the 2012 NRL preview. Today we look at 12th-9th, to round out the bottom eight.
12th: Parramatta Eels
Hello: Chris Sandow (Rabbitohs), Ben Roberts (Bulldogs)
Goodbye: Joel Reddy (Wests Tigers), Jeff Robson (Sharks)
The Parramatta Eels are a side that you know can just do so well, but are just not consistent enough week in week out. Chris Sandow would have to be the buy of the season though – and for the Eels to have him is a very good thing for Parra. Coach Stephen Kearney does not know yet what his best halves combination will be. Have the trials proved their worth or will it take some tampering mid season which could spell disaster for this club?
Consistency is my main problem with Parramatta. A brilliant side to watch, but need to be brilliant to watch every week.
Chris Sandow – I know a club tries not to revolve around one player but his form for South Sydney was match winning. This could be the steady sail that the Eels need.
11th: Gold Coast Titans

Hello: Jamal Idris (Bulldogs), Nate Myles (Roosters)
Goodbye: Preston Campbell (Retirement), Nathan Friend (Warriors)
The Titans had a huge season to forget in 2011, and with a whole new side for this season – it could take awhile for everything to click in to place. They have a good team on paper – but sometimes paper does not transfer on to the field. Who will really stand up though, and take control of this side? The Wooden Spoon last year will be definite motivation for the club with a lot of room for improvement.
A lack of stability throughout the side could hinder their chances this season.
Have recruited very well for 2012 and beyond. Investing in the future is the key here.
10th: South Sydney Rabbitohs

Hello: Matt King (Warrington-ESL)
Goodbye: Chris Sandow (Eels), Ben Ross (Sharks)
The Rabbitohs are always there or there abouts, and with a horrid run of injuries in 2011, they would hope their luck will improve for the upcoming season. However they need a lot more than luck. A gaping hole called the halfback jersey is their first problem.
John Sutton’s inconsistencies are a blemish on the skin of this South Sydney face. Paired with Adam Reynolds – if these two turn in to passengers in 2012 it could mean misery and frustration for many fans.
They have one of the most brutal forward packs in the competition. One of my favourite packs.
9th: Canberra Raiders

Hello: Shaun Berrigan (Warriors)
Goodbye: Alan Tongue (Retirement), Josh Miller (Dragons)The Raiders were tagged as the side to watch in 2011 after an impressive second half to their 2010 campaign, but were less than ordinary. 2012 will be a much better year for them but a lack of toughness mentally and physically could see them just miss out in the last 20 minutes in those crucial matches.
THUMBS DOWN: Lacking up front big time. The retirement of Tongue will hurt this team big time. They need to quickly find their strong pin.
Terry Campese is fit and ready to go. We all know what he is capable of, and I personally hope to see it on tap in 2012.

SWT Gallagher