Former NRL player convicted on drugs charges

Shane Tronc

You may have been wondering where he disappeared to, but you will not have to wonder anymore – with former Bronco and Cowboy Shane Tronc back in the spotlight, albeit for the wrong reasons.

Tronc, 30, is remembered for his days as a hard-running, hard-hitting prop for the Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys, before retiring last year, due to a neck injury.

Tronc has been charged for supplying dangerous drugs, and was issued with a notice to appear on the charge.

He will face Townsville Magistrates Court on August 8.

Houston re-signs with the Knights

Chris Houston

There were rumours that he was headed out, but any such rumours can now be dispelled, with Newcastle Knights back-rower Chris Houston re-signing with the club, for a further 2 seasons.

For Houston, there was no other team in his mind, that he could have envisaged himself playing for.

“I start by saying that I love Newcastle, the place, and the people here,” Houston said.

“I have Newcastle home since 2008, and I could not think of any other place I would rather play football.”

Houston has progressed further under the coaching eye of Wayne Bennett and Rick Stone, a partnership that he looks forward to work with more, in the future.

“I am enjoying working and learning under Wayne Bennett, Rick Stone and the other new coaching staff we have at the club”, Houston said.

On top of that, Houston is excited at what the club is building towards, both in terms of their first-grade side and off-field matters – as well as the junior system that the club has in place.

“I am excited about our current team, the players the club has recruited, and the young players coming through our junior programs”, Houston said.

“Most importantly, I am confident with what we are building towards here. I believe we can win a premiership in the next few years, and that is without a doubt my main focus.”

Thorby eyes a new Cowboys contract

Ricky Thorby

He may not be the flashiest player, nor the most famous player in the team, but every team needs a player like Ricky Thorby – a solid, honest toiler, who does the hard work necessary, with the 26-year old prop keen to remain at the Cowboys, beyond this season.

Thorby sees his tenure at the Cowboys, as one handed down to him by the Gods – with negotiations for Thorby to stay at the club, progressing quite well.

“The club know what my intentions are and hopefully it’s not too long until I re-sign and can stay here,” the New Zealander said.

“The players are happy with me, the coaching staff are happy with me and I’m happy with myself.”

Initially a rugby union star, he was only introduced to league when the union team he was about to play for, folded – before a letter from a New Zealand rugby league competition, gave him the start he needed, to progress to where he is now.

“Everything has been by sheer luck, a lot of the times I’ve been in the right place at the right time,” Thorby said.

“When I got the letter I thought ‘I’ll focus on that’, because obviously I couldn’t play if I went away and did my three-month basic induction in the Army, so I went away and tried out for that and was successful. Now I’m playing NRL.”

Peter Parr, the Cowboys Football Manager, met with Thorby’s agent David Riolo – with the club confident they can work something out with Thorby.

“We had a good discussion, I thought it was positive … I’m confident we’ll be able to work something out,” Parr said.

Proving himself as a handy forward off of the bench, to relieve the likes of James Tamou and Matt Scott of minutes, Thorby is serving as the club’s impact player off the bench.

“He’s produced what we thought he would be capable of,” Parr said.

“To his credit, he had a really good off-season, he put his head down and now he’s reaping the benefits. He’s played some really decent football and he’s popular among the players so he’s someone we’d like to have continue with us.”

For Thorby, every game is the chance to prove his worth, as he strives to get better each game.

“Every game I pretty much play to prove myself,” he said.

“I like to try and play as hard as I can whether I have a six-year contract or a six-month contract.”

Rugby league in Papua New Guinea can now move on

In what can only be described as as turbulent time for rugby league in the country, Papua New Guinea is now free to move forward in their RL developments – following the dismissal of a court case, filed against their interim RL administration.

Ivan Ravu, who is the interim administrator at the PNGRFL was pleased with the court’s decision, saying that the game in Papua New Guinea could now move forward – rather than dwelling on the past.

With the annual Australian game against the Papua New Guinean Presidents XIII coming up in 8 weeks time, Ravu will have his work cut out in formulating a side for the fixture.

Things very nearly got ugly for Papua New Guinean rugby league, with Wabag RL president Joseph Kilipali, the President of the other 18 highlands, and Joe Tokam, were all against the interim PNGRL administration.

Due to the complexity of the case, it took some time – but the National Court dismissed the case against the interim administration in its entirety, citing a case that was without merit, as well as amounting to abuse throughout the process.

It was the Court’s ruling, that the payment by 18 highlands leagues and several others to Joe Tokam (who is a former highlands development officer), into a specified account, was improper.

“Those leagues are not recognised affiliates or members of the PNGRFL unless the affiliation fees are paid into the PNGRFL account in Port Moresby” the court said.

The Court also ruled, through Justice Ere Kariko, that because Tokam is no longer employed by the PNGRFL, he has no business or authority, to conduct any business related matters for the PNGRFL.

Kariko cited Tokam’s supposed authoritative gesture to collect money, something the Justice said Kariko was not allowed to do.

With the case now dismissed, Kariko stated that all the plaintiffs were responsible, for accruing the legal costs of the Court case.

Mitchell’s move back home is a positive one

Anthony Mitchell

He sought an early release from the Roosters to the Cowboys, but for the former Eels and Roosters hooker Anthony Mitchell, he has no regrets about the mid-season move – as he eyes that elusive premiership ring.

North Queensland was the club that Mitchell had dreamed of playing for, early in his career – having played for the local side, Townsville Brothers.

The move proved to be a good one for Mitchell, as the Cowboys look to cement their spot in the top 4 – with the Townsville junior emerging as a useful backup for the Cowboys starting hooker in Aaron Payne.

“It has been a good move for me,” said Mitchell.

“The club is run really well here, that’s what I was after.

“The side is really good as well and I was lucky that the opportunity was there for me to come back home and cement my spot.”

Mitchell described the feeling of scoring his first try for the club, as ‘surreal’.

“I grew up in the stands watching these boys play, it feels awesome to play for the Cowboys and it was nice to get across the tryline,” he said.

“I’ve got a way to go still, but hopefully I get there.”

Although the Cowboys are in the box seat for a finals berth, as well as a potential grand final berth, Mitchell says that both he and the club are not going to get carried away, at this stage.

“That’s something exciting to look forward to,” he said of a potential Cowboys premiership.

“But at this stage we are trying to get through games and produce some good footy.

“We’ll be up against some good teams in the next few weeks, so if we can get away with some wins that’s what we are after.”

Arthur starts NRL coaching career with a resounding win

Chris Sandow

Statistically, he is the only coach with a 100% coaching record in history, though he has only been in charge of one game – a game that saw the Eels led by new coach Brad Arthur, defeat the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, in a rather resounding fashion.

Rated next to no chance of winning last week against the Storm, let alone this week against the Broncos, both by fans and the bookies – the Eels burst out of the blocks, racing to a 30-6 lead at half-time.

Despite their successive wins over two competition heavyweights, the Eels are refusing to get carried away – with the impetus to now back up and these performances, and win consistently.

“We’ll saviour it, don’t worry. We’ll take the good bits out of it but it’s just one game,” said Eels retiring skipper, Nathan Hindmarsh.

“We got to do it again next week and, I know that sounds really boring and you’re not going to write about it, but we got the Tigers next Monday night and we’ve got to do it again and do it for the rest of the year.”

With the players given free reign to play their natural game, they did so – but for Hindmarsh, it was again their resolve and determination in defence, that he believes won them the game.

“Our defence frustrated them when they had the footy and that’s what we did to Melbourne last week,” said Arthur.

“I said to the boys and Hindy as well I wanted us to play a bit of footy.

“But it if you’re going to make errors, you’ve got to be able to defend them.

“If we’re going to turn up in defence for each other then we’ll keep playing that way.”

For Brad Arthur, nervous as one can be in their first NRL game as a coach, he embraced it well – cracking jokes at the press conference, before moving to a more serious tone.

It’s one game.

“After half time, the way we started (Brisbane scored two tries in five minutes) I was looking for the exit after 10 minutes.”

Broncos coach Anthony Griffin was rather disappointed with his side’s effort, his post-game words summing up how he felt overall.

We got what we deserved, tonight was an embarrassing effort.”

His thoughts were reiterated by captain Sam Thaiday, who described his team’s effort as terrible.

“We’ve got to go back and hit the reset button, we were terrible out there tonight,” he said.

“We have to find a bit of character, get back to playing some tough football.”

“We’re not playing like a finals side, we can’t think about the finals.”

With the spoon still a real threat for the club, the Eels are not thinking about it, but instead are choosing to focus on one game at a time.

“It hasn’t been spoken about unless it’s asked by one of you guys,” said Hindmarsh.

“We’ve come to the conclusion if we get it, we get and who cares really.

“As long as we’re going out there every week and playing our best and working hard for each other we’ll cop whatever at the end of the year.”

Young Eels prop slapped with 12-game drug ban

Rodney Moefaauo

The NRL has taken a hard-line stance on drug use in the game, with the Parramatta Eels Under 20’s prop Rodney Moefaauo suspended for 12 games, following a positive test result to cocaine.

The positive result came after a test conducted on game day of March 12, with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, informing the NRL of Moefaauo’s positive result.

Moefaauo, 19, accepted the 12-game ban with no objections, meaning that a hearing at the anti-doping tribunal, was not needed.

This was the young prop’s first year at the Eels, having previously spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons, at the Cronulla Sharks, though is yet to make his NRL debut.

Shane Mattiske, who is the acting NRL CEO, hopes that the suspension serves as a reminder to all NRL and NYC players, that the organisation takes drug use very seriously, and that players risk bans if they exploit the use of drugs.

“The simple message is that anyone using any drug in Rugby League can expect to be tested and held accountable to international standards,” Mattiske said.

Pearce happy to stay at the Roosters

Mitchell Pearce

There have been rumours galore about his future destination, and that he has a rift with the current Roosters coach, Brian Smith – but for Mitchell Pearce, he denies all such rumours, and denies there is a rift between he and the coach.

The rumours at one stage went so far, as to suggest that neither Pearce nor Smith were on speaking terms with each other, but Pearce denies that that is the case – and denied other reports that said he had asked for a release.

“We had a meeting last week and everything’s sweet,” Pearce told reporters on Monday.

“I love the club. There’s not roses flying around the room because we’re obviously not winning.

“Everyone in the club’s lacking confidence at the moment, obviously. Watch the way we’re playing. It’s just a matter of facing it head-on.”

Those are not the only media reports that are pestering Pearce, with reports in recent times putting the Roosters halfback under pressure, for his perceived playboy lifestyle.

“I’m definitely committed to football,” Pearce said.

“Everyone’s saying I’m partying and hanging out with these chicks but you guys aren’t at my house.

“I’m not proud of the perception, never once have I come out and said I’m proud of it, I’m embarrassed by it all to be honest. I’m sick of all the media, sick of the papers.”

When talk of the captaincy comes up, Pearce is quick to shy away from putting his hand up – instead saying that club stalwart and future legend Anthony ‘Mini’ Minichello, should be the one to assume the captaincy.

Perth and WA hope to host more NRL games

If a crowd of over 20,000 fans is not enough to suggest that Perth and Western Australia need a team in the NRL, then perhaps the chance to get such crowds for future games is an option – with officials meeting to discuss the possibility of playing more games in Perth.

As it stands, there is one to two games played in Perth, but under a possible new plan by the ARLC, we may see more regular Sunday games played, in order to broadcast them in all Eastern states on Sunday evening.

Shane Mattiske, who is the current interim CEO of the NRL, and Director of Development Andrew Hill were both in Perth for the clash at Patersons Stadium, and met with numerous WA officials and Government figures, to discuss the possibility of more frequent Perth games.

Western Australian Rugby League chief John Sackson, confirmed that there are plans in place to see Perth host at least three NRL games next season.

“The networks are looking at how they can best leverage the time difference and I have heard that they are looking at the prospect of twilight games on a Sunday,” Sackson said.

“The NRL are already talking about the likelihood of three fully fledged NRL fixtures over here next year. They have identified Western Australia as a real key, priority market and they are looking at ways and means they can continue to develop the game here.

“One of the ways they are looking at it is to get at least three games into Perth next season and perhaps the year after. Hopefully that will lead into us having a West Coast Pirates team running out every second week.”

The 20,095 fans in attendance for the Manly v Warriors clash, was the highest crowd attendance that Patersons Stadium and Perth have seen in recent times – with Sackson pleased that both sides took the gamble to play in the area.

“David Perry and Scott Penn from Manly rolled the dice, and I guess it took a bit of a gamble to play here, but they were very happy with the game financially, and obviously the icing on the cake was the result,” Sackson said.

The Bunnies still have one year remaining on their existing 5-year deal to take a game there, with teams like the Melbourne Storm, the Brisbane Broncos and Wests Tigers, teams that the ARLC are eager to see play in Perth.

“We had a couple of Government departmental meetings with Shane and Andrew on Friday, and all of those Government departments reflected their support for the game, and the prospect of an NRL franchise in Perth,” Sackson said.

Souths crush injury depleted Tigers

Dave Taylor

You could use their large injury toll as an apparent excuse behind why they were defeated heavily, but for Tigers coach Tim Sheens, he has no intention to do that – instead saying that his team lacks the finals mentality, heading into the back end of the season.

The Tigers looked flat for the majority of the game, as they were humiliated by a rampant Souths outfit, as the Bunnies took the game 32-6 in front of almost 30,000 fans, to move into second spot.

Sheens thought that his team had one eye on the draw, expecting other results to go their way, rather than focusing on the game itself, and winning the game.

“It’s amazing the strength you (can) find when you’re in that position,” Sheens said.

“Gold Coast and others are playing with that desperation (and a) ‘we’ve got to win, we’ve got to win’ mentality.

“That’s where we’re at now.”

The Tigers, who haven now dropped out of the eight on for and against, admitted that they are now part of the chasing pack – with Farah lamenting his side’s poor game, as well as the poor game he and halves partner Benji Marshall had.

“We just didn’t play the way we liked (to),” Farah admitted.

“That’s probably the worst game I’ve played in a long time and I don’t think Benji would be too happy with his game.

“We control that team (and) touch the ball the most out of any other player and when we play poorly, we’re not going to win games.

“I’ve been around a while and thought I could handle it (positional changes) but obviously I didn’t do as well as I would have liked.”

Although the Tigers may see Tim Moltzen and Keith Galloway return next week for the Monday night clash against the Eels, Sheens said that that will not be an instant solution.

“We’re not going to offer any excuses. We just weren’t good enough today,” a dejected Sheens said.

“People tried hard but we didn’t work together as a unit … it was pretty disappointing.”