Another Kiwi NRL team certain: Travis

They may not be one of the favourites to have a second team included in the NRL when expansion is announced, but according to highly regarded Australian rugby league official Paul Travis, it is simply a matter of when and not if.

Travis, who has had his fair share of roles in Australian rugby league, holding roles such as Advisor, Deputy Chairman, and other advisory roles – he made the call for a second New Zealand team to be considered, and he believed that it would happen in the next 10 years.

“I guarantee there will be a second team out of New Zealand, sooner rather than later. I know it’s going to happen, whether you want it to or not, it doesn’t matter, it’s going to happen, TV tells you.

“The ARL commission is about to do a deal on a billion-plus for NRL rights, all the stats tell me rugby league has huge ratings in New Zealand, so with the right business model there will be a second team, definitely,” Travis said.

“The quality of players would be there. Bear in mind the Cowboys now have talent ID guys in Auckland; a lot of clubs do. There are a lot of good Kiwis coming out of New Zealand, they do need another presence, I don’t know where. What’s it going to cost? Low – $12 million; high – $28 million for the Broncos, so somewhere in the middle.

“Can you do it? Yes you can. You’ve just got to get the right people and it will happen.”

Although there is a strong rivalry in New Zealand between both rugby league and rugby union, Travis says the two sports can benefit and learn from each other, with youngsters encouraged to have a go at playing rugby league.

“My comment would be, you want a little boy, or girl, to play rugby league in juniors so they learn defence.

“For no other reason rugby should be happy for them to play rugby league as cross balance,” he said.

“Matty Bowen, one of the great fullbacks of rugby league, and Jonathan Thurston, one of the great halfbacks, I signed both of those guys, we had them doing a Aussie Rules kicking programme so they can kick right and left.

“We do that all the time. Ewen McKenzie, very close friend, he coaches the Reds, where did he spend last weekend?

“He spent three days with the Souths rugby league club with their coaches learning about defensive patterns. He’s one of the great coaches in world rugby. If Ewen McKenzie can go to rugby league and say help, then why wouldn’t you do that?

“I watched two, what you call college or high school [rugby] games between Kings and [Otago Boys] in Dunedin. They were outstanding, but they can’t tackle. I thought, `they can’t be the best, they’re very good but there’s got to be better’. Well I found out latter they were the best. There was one backrower there that could tackle properly. Rugby league teaches juniors how to be defensive and tackle.”

Another Manly forward joins fierce rivals Parramatta

Daniel Harrison

It was Darcy Lussick who joined not that long ago, but now, a second Manly forward has joined the Parramatta Eels, with Manly back-rower Daniel Harrison agreeing to a 2-year deal with the Eels from the 2013 NRL season.

Harrison, 24, who is Gosford boy, was an attraction to coach Stephen Kearney for his ability to offload the ball, with Kearney now making his 3rd signing for 2013, with Luke Kelly, Darcy Lussick and now Daniel Harrison, all joining the club.

Harrison is in some good form for Manly, with the back-rower playing in 14 of the Sea Eagles 15 games this season.

“It’s impressive how far Daniel’s come along this year,” Kearney said.

“When you look at some of the competition for spots in that Manly team and the personnel they have, it’s impressive how far Daniel’s come along this year,” Kearney said.

“What’s probably not as obvious is he’s got plenty of ability with the ball in hand, particularly on the edges with his offloading ability.

“He’s got plenty of talent and a great attitude…he’s the sort of young player we want at this Club.”

Although he admits that leaving the Sea Eagles will be hard, Harrison is keen for the fresh start at the Eels, and is excited at what they are building towards.

Harrison also paid tribute to his Manly team-mates.

“I came to Manly looking to break into first grade and I got the opportunity under Tooves and Des before him – and I love playing with the boys there,” Harrison said.

“It was a tough decision to leave but they are building a great team out at Parra and I’m really excited to be part of it.

“Their whole setup from the juniors up to the first grade side is impressive and I think it’ll be a good environment for me to play my best footy.

“We’re only half way through this season so for me it’s now all about working as hard as I can for Manly and hopefully gaining more first grade experience as the year goes on.”

Young Warriors prop signs deal with Manly

Liligiifo Sao

They are losing a few players, but Manly have signed an outside player – with boom Warriors prop Liligiifo Sao signing a 3-year deal with the Manly Sea Eagles.

With the deal to start next year in 2013, he is considered one a hot property and a terrific prospect, with the young prop a part of the Warriors Under 20’s Premiership winning season last year.

David Warwick, Manly’s Recruitment Manager, said that the club was pleased to have signed Sao to a contract.

“Ligi is one of the leading front rowers in the Toyota Cup,” he said.

“He plays long minutes and he has great speed combined with great skill.

“He’s very excited about the opportunity to play with the senior, world-class players here and he’s determined to make a go of it.

“We’re looking forward to watching him develop under Tooves (coach Geoff Toovey) and the team.

“We’ve identified some top young talent in Michael Chee Kam, Clinton Gutherson, Jake Trbojevic and now Ligi, so our future certainly looks bright.”

Sharks stop late baby Broncos fightback

Wade Graham

It was well and truly a baby Broncos side that we have seen in the past, but despite that, they could not get the job done, as the Cronulla Sharks were the eventual winners, in what was a physically demanding contest.

Without their two Origin stars in Paul Gallen and Todd Carney, it was an unheralded player who stepped up – with fill-in lock Wade Graham the standout performer for the Sharks in the game, with 1 try assist and a try.

The game went back and forth, as the Broncos fought back from 16-0 down at one stage to cut the deficit to just 4 – but it was not to be, as the Sharks scored 10 unanswered points after that, to win 26-12 in front of 26,268 fans at Suncorp Stadium.

The Sharks win may however be soured, with both Wade Graham and captain Jeremy Smith placed on report, for a shoulder charge making contact with the head and a stray elbow respectively.

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan defended both his players however, and thinks neither incident was overly troubling.

“No one wants to see anyone get injured but for me I thought it was a really good shot,” he said. “Wade went in there with the intent to put a good shot on him and no intent to hit him in the head.

“I just thought it was a good tackle, and Jeremy was put on report as well.

“He’s dived on a loose ball and put his arm up to protect himself.

“We’re trying to soften the game up. That’s happened forever and a day. There was no intent in that either.”

Alex Glenn, who was the fill-in skipper for the Broncos in the absence of Corey Parker – was pleased his side fought back, but disappointed that it was one pass that led to the Sharks intercept try, that changed their fortunes.

“It was a bit heart-breaking,” he said. “We had a lot of momentum and confidence before that intercept.”

For Broncos coach Anthony Griffin, he admitted that he was a bit disappointed with some of the decisions that his halves made, over the course of the game.

“The panic came from the guys you thought wouldn’t panic tonight – Wal and Corey took a few wrong options with the footy,” Griffin said.

Perry signs on as Manly General Manager

David Perry

It is a similar role to the one that Phil Gould currently holds at the Panthers, but the Sea Eagles believe it is the move that has to be made – as David Perry takes on the role of General Manager at the club, for the next 3 years.

With the move confirmed after a fiery board meeting last night, with resistance from both the Penn family and part-owners of the club – the motion was passed in favour of Perry, four votes to three.

It was Perry who was behind the push to retain as many key players from Manly’s 2011 premiership winning year.

“Obviously the board have voted to renew the contract for David Perry, whose position will now be general manager of the club,” said Quantum boss Phil Sidney, who is the board’s spokesperson.

“The contract hasn’t fully been signed off as yet, but the board has approved the contract in principle for another three years.

“We believe David has done an exceptional job since coming to the club, especially through some trying periods.

“In his time at the club he has helped to turn it around financially. We are now getting into a position where, in the coming year, it will operate profitably or in the break-even position without any propagation payments from the Leagues Club.

“He’s had a lot of bad press but we’re very proud of his achievements.

“He’s been maligned as a rookie CEO – quite frankly, if anyone deserves a medal, it’s him as rookie of the year.”

It is believed that the three directors who voted against Perry becoming General Manager, were Scott Penn, Peter Peters and Kerry Chrysiliou.

Shackleton moves to Penrith effective immediately

Shane Shackleton

The mid-season signings are coming left, right and centre, with another one confirmed – with former Roosters and Eels prop Shane Shackleton moving to the Penrith Panthers for the remainder of the 2012 NRL season.

Although Shackleton and Eels coach Stephen Kearney have had their issues in the past, namely due to the ‘Love Shack’ posting up a defamatory Facebook message, one that labelled Kearney as ‘a ****wit*’ in March.

Suffice to say, following that incident, tension was rife between the two, but the previous incident has nothing to do with the departure – with both coming to a mutual agreement on Shackleton’s departure.

Despite all that however, Shackleton has been playing reasonably well for the Eels NSW Cup feeder team Wentworthville, but has been unable to crack into the first-grade side.

Shackleton was denied a prior request to leave in April, when he asked to go to the Sea Eagles, but the club and coach Kearney have agreed to release him this time around, ahead of tomorrow’s June 30 transfer deadline.

With Shackleton a part of the Eels organisation for the last 2 and a half years, both Eels CEO Bob Bentley and coach Kearney, wished Shackleton all the best on his future exploits.

“Shane has been a valuable member of our Club and we wish him all the best at the Panthers,” Bentley said.

“Shack has worked hard for us since coming over from the Roosters in 2010 and he’s always been a really popular member of the team,” Kearney said.

“This is a good opportunity for him we wish him all the best at his new Club.”

Phil Moss, who is the Panthers General Manager of Football said: “Shane is a quality player with a great deal of experience. He will be a welcome addition to the Panthers line-up for the rest of the year.”

Low released by Raiders to join Dogs mid-season

Drury Low

The mid-season transfers have continued, with the Canberra Raiders releasing young winger Drury Low from his contract, allowing him to join the Canterbury Bulldogs effective immediately.

Low was signed until the end of the year, but the club made the decision to let him go, in order to take up a spot with the Dogs.

Low, who is a Raiders junior will be missed, but Raiders CEO Don Furner wishes him all the best.

“Drury has been with the club since 2008 where he played SG Ball and was a member of the Toyota Cup Grand Final premiership Furner said.

“We wish him all the best for the future and thank him for his time at the club.”

Price and Anderson recruited by Kearney to assist

Chris Anderson

Many fans have long been asking for Eels coach Stephen Kearney to be given some sort of assistance, and it has come – with the man himself hand-picking his mentor and 2-time premiership winner Chris Anderson, and Eels legend and 4-time premiership winner Steve Price.

Whilst neither will directly influence the coaching decisions Kearney makes, they will each play their own role – with Chris Anderson to have a Director of Coaching type role, whereas Price will teach the players the intricacies of defence, and the culture the Eels want to have at their club.

Although Chris Anderson’s tenure at this stage will only be for the remainder of the 2012 NRL season, if it works out, the option is there to keep him on board as a Director of Coaching for longer.

Price’s precise role will be that of a consultant, as Mr Perpetual Motion will look to mentor the forwards, as the club gets more bodies and minds onto the coaching staff.

With Price a club legend at the Eels, the man himself said that he was excited to finally be involved in the hands-on side of things at the club.

“It would be good to get them to learn how to win again. And to keep winning,” Price said today.

“I’ve been trying to be a part of this club, to do things for years. It’s always fallen on deaf ears.

“I kept persisting at them, I kept pushing and wanting … and now we’re finally going to have a go.”

Although Stephen Kearney is under pressure, the former captain insisted that the besieged coach is the man to turn around the Eels fortunes, and has not yet ruled out a finals appearance this year, albeit unlikely.

“We might struggle to get there, but it won’t be through lack of trying,” Price said.

“I can teach them about the culture of the game, things they need to do to make them wiser on the field. I can show them a bit in defence”.

“The whole game is about believing in yourself. If the Eels are playing really good football, then rugby league is successful”.

Bob Bentley, the Eels Chief Executive Officer said that Anderson’s official role, would be to act as an additional resource for Kearney, starting from this weekend.

“Chris will act very much as a mentor for Steve, as he has done in the past when the two of them won a Premiership with the Storm in 1999,” Bentley said.

“Both Steve and our Board have been pro-active in identifying areas where we can improve our structure and Chris coming on board in a coaching mentor role is an example of that.”

“Results on the field obviously haven’t been great this year but as a Club we have the right foundations in place to improve, and that’s where the focus remains.”

For Kearney himself, it was the experience that Anderson possesses both in the game and of the game, he sees the addition of Anderson to the coaching staff as a valuable asset for his and the club’s long-term vision.

“Chris and I go back a while and he is someone who I have a lot of respect for and someone whose achievements in the game speak for itself,” Kearney said.

“For me, the common goal here is to get this Club to where it should be and that’s challenging for a Premiership each and every year.

“To have someone like Chris Anderson in our corner is only going to make us stronger. He’s certainly someone who I’ll use as a sounding board on different things.

“No one here is under any illusion our results haven’t been good enough this year but what I can say is we are very confident in the structures we have in place to achieve sustained success.”

Having worked together in the past and knowing what Kearney is like both as an NRL employee and an individual, Anderson said he was looking forward to working with him once again – and he has backed the embattled Eels coach to lead the club out of their current slide.

“I’ve known Steve for a long time and we’ve always had a good relationship,” Anderson said.

“From my point of view I’m here to help him in any areas he feels he could use some assistance.

“I’m excited to be involved with the Club and from what I have seen, there are some strong foundations already in place.

“I’m in a position where I can offer my experience in order to help the Club get to where it wants to go, and I’m looking forward to doing that.”

Ray Price

Fui keen to play on for another 4 years

Fuifui Moimoi

In the current day and age of rugby league, training and conditioning allows players to potentially play for longer, if their body feels up to it – and for Eels prop Fuifui Moimoi, he has plans to do just that.

Despite playing in the position that is perhaps the most physically demanding in the NRL at prop, a position in which players fling themselves at opponents to make the crucial metres – Fui says that he is keen for a 2013 deal, at the Parramatta Eels.

“I can see myself playing another four years. Look at Petero. How old is he?” Moimoi asked.

“He’s still going good. I want to stay at this club. They’ve signed some good young front-rowers, and they’ve signed that front-rower from Manly (Darcy Lussick), so I’ll see what ‘Mooks’ (coach Stephen Kearney) wants.

“I’d love to stay here and be a one-club player. They’re a good club and looked after me since I’ve been here. It’s up to them if they want me. If not, I’ll have to find somewhere else.”

With Moimoi one of several team-mates urged to lift in his performances for last week’s game, following the video session the Eels had, the man who is regarded as a cult hero at the club, responded with flying colours.

“I thought he played well on the weekend, the boys had a chat to him and told him he needed to step up, and he did,” centre Willie Tonga said.

“I know he definitely wants to keep playing.

“Before I got to Parra, I didn’t know how old he was.

“I thought that he was only 28 or 29. But he showed us against Penrith what he is capable of.”

Even Stephen Kearney has been impressed with Fui, who was awarded the Players Player Award last year.

“He’s not past it, and he keeps telling me he’s 25,” Kearney said.

Matulino signs contract extension with Warriors

Ben Matulino

Over the last 18 months, he has been one of the best props in the NRL, and his good form has been rewarded by the New Zealand Warriors – with prop Ben Matulino signing a new deal with the club, that will keep him across the Tasman until the end of the 2015 season.

Warriors coach Brian McClennan has hailed the recent performances of Matulino, and believes he will achieve plenty more in the game.

“They’re both fantastic examples of our development programme,” he said.

“For a player who’s only 23, Ben Matulino has achieved so much and done so well for himself.

“To have already played 100 NRL matches as well as 12 Tests is a great achievement. He’s been in outstanding form for us all season and I know how much it means to him to play for our club.

For Matulino himself, playing for the Warriors is something that he aims to do for the rest of his career – given the country and team, are his home.

“I’m really glad to be playing here for the Vodafone Warriors,” he said.

“To be honest, I can’t picture myself playing anywhere else. I like it here so much, coming through the club with so many players who have been part of the Vodafone Junior Warriors and now the NRL side. There’s so much talent here and I want to be a part of it and do what I can to help the club in every way possible.”