Souths grind out defensive win in preparation for finals

Sam Burgess

They say that defence wins games in the NRL, and Souths are doing their chances of backing that up no harm – after a solid defensive display kept the Newcastle Knights at bay, as the Redfern side won 18-6 at ANZ Stadium.

Although the game may well be remembered for a try-saving tackle by Greg Inglis on Akuila Uate, as well as a controversial Darius Boyd try – it is the defensive efforts that Souths should be pleased by, as they brace themselves for finals footy.

“What was thrown at us and how hard the boys worked for each other, that’s how you’ve got to play over these next few weeks and it’s really pleasing to get that hit-out,” he said.

With the game in the balance, it was a tremendous try-saving tackle from Greg Inglis on Knights powerhouse Akuila Uate, that almost single-handedly secured the game for the Bunnies.

“Unbelievable. Greggy is able to do those things for his team over and over again and the excitement he has playing for this team and playing for his teammates is the most pleasing thing about Greggy at the moment,” Maguire said.

Whilst Knights coach Wayne Bennett was pleased with the way his side played and their overall desire, he knows that they have a lot of work to do in 2013, after falling two wins short of the top eight.

“We’re just a little bit off the pace compared to the top teams and they didn’t try any harder than us tonight, they weren’t any more committed than we were, they just did things a little bit better than we did,” Bennett said.

“That’s the difference, but we’re bridging the gap and we’ll get it right.”

Young Tigers forward signs contract extension

Ben Murdoch-Masila

They might face a very tall order to make the finals, but the Tigers will have some good news heading into their clash this weekend – with young, talented forward Ben Murdoch-Masila signing a contract extension, that will see him remain at Leichhardt, until the end of the 2015 NRL season.

“I’m really pleased with this new deal, which will allow me to further develop my career with Wests Tigers’’ Murdoch-Masila said.

“My goal is now to be a permanent member of the team each week, and whilst it’s been good coming off the bench up until now, I’d like to force my way into the starting line up next year.”

As talented as Murdoch-Masila is, the key for Tigers coach Tim Sheens is to continue to develop him, in order for the young forward to become an even better player.

“There is no doubt Ben has enormous talent and potential. He is a strike weapon and can become a top line player of the game with the right kind of commitment to his training regime,” Sheens said.

Talented youngster re-signs, as Rookie of the Year also joins the Cowboys

Wayne Ulugia

You could tell from the minute he started playing footy in the NYC that he was going to be something special, and for Cowboys utility back Wayne Ulugia, he has been rewarded for that continued solid run of form – signing a new 2-year deal with the Cowboys.

Ulugia, 20, is a Junior Kiwis representative, will play in his 88th NYC game, the record for most games played in the National Youth Competition – with the talented back seen as a future star of the Cowboys NRL team, according to General Football Manager, Peter Parr.

“He has the ability to play at fullback or the wing and has undergone a thorough apprenticeship,” Parr said.

“Wayne’s been part of our full-time NRL squad for the past two years and isn’t that far away from breaking through into our first grade team.

“The coaching staff have been very impressed with his performances for the Pride since he started playing there midway through the year.”

“He’s been with our club since school and I know he’s looking forward to being here for at least another two years.

The club has also signed talented youngster Ethan Lowe, who won the Rookie of the Year in the Intrust Super Cup this year, playing for the Northern Pride.

“He’s had an exceptional year for the Pride and we believe he is ready to take the next step up and play NRL football,” Parr said.

Versatile utility re-signs with the Knights

Marvin Filipo

He certainly is not regarded as a household name, but he is a player that everyone at the club loves and wants to see do well – and for Newcastle Knights utility Marvin Filipo, he will have a chance to do just that, re-signing with the Knights for the 2013 NRL season.

“We are pleased to have Marvin stay on,” Bennett said.

“He has had a tough season with a couple of injuries, one more serious when playing NSW Cup but we believe he has quite the future at the Knights.”

Filipo, who has been out of action since Rd 21 after suffering a fractured eye socket, says that he is pleased to have signed a new deal, that will see him with more chances to live his dream – playing NRL.

“This contract means I have another year to live my dream and to improve on the things I could have done better this year,” Filipo said.

“I love it here in Newcastle, I have been here for nearly four years and I can’t picture living anywhere else.

“It is awesome that the best coach in the business wants me to be a part of what he is planning here.

“As I said, I look forward to working on things I could have done better this year and hopefully I am getting closer to playing in a regular position.”

Two Broncos legends to be inducted into the club’s hall of fame

Wally Lewis & Gene Miles

Whilst the focus during and after the game will be on retiring Broncos prop Petero Civoniceva, the do-or-die clash against the Panthers in Brisbane will be special for another reason – with Broncos and QLD legends Wally Lewis and Gene Miles, to be inducted into the Broncos Hall of Fame pre-game.

With the threat of 6 consecutive losses looming, the club hopes that the announcement of the two legends as Hall of Famers, can inspire the players to a victory, and potentially, a finals berth.

Lewis and Miles were the first two players signed by the club in 1988, but their strong friendship almost took a hit, when their then coach in Wayne Bennett, controversially stripped the captaincy from Lewis, and gave it to Miles.

“This is a real highlight for me, I am very honoured,” said Miles, who played 72 games for the Broncos between 1988-91.

“I started at the Broncos late in my career but it was very special to be part of their foundation team.

“To captain the side after Wally wasn’t ideal, but it’s nice to know everyone has moved on.

“It was a shame the way it did happen, we had our differences for a few years, but time has healed everything and we’re good mates now.”

He may have only played two seasons with the club, but for Lewis, he treasured every minute and every game, during his time with the Broncos.

“This means a lot,” Lewis said of his Hall of Fame status.

“It was an honour to be part of the first Broncos team and it provided an immediate challenge.

“We always used to cop the criticism that those blokes from Queensland can play Origin but they wouldn’t make it in the Sydney competition.

“We proved them wrong. There weren’t too many more memorable moments than that first game, thrashing Manly (44-10) was a performance that lives long in the memory.”

Broncos CEO Paul White also had a say: “It’s fantastic. Wally and Gene were our first two captains and there’s no doubt we were able to build the club around them.

“They gave us instant credibility.”

Stewart finally agrees to new Manly deal

Brett Stewart

It was a saga that lingered and lingered and then lingered some more, but finally, the Manly Sea Eagles have announced that fullback Brett Stewart has re-signed with the club, on a 4-year deal.

Stewart, 27, said that he always wanted to finish his career in the maroon and white.

“I love Manly, I’ve never wanted to be anywhere else and it’s really satisfying to know I can play out my career here,” Stewart said.

“We have a really tight playing group, a really positive culture and I want to be part of that for as long as I can.”

Manly coach Geoff Toovey is pleased that Stewart has decided to remain at the club, as he sees him being a crucial part of the club’s leadership group.

“Brett is a quality player and a quality person and is an integral part of our leadership group,” Coach Geoff Toovey said.

“Needless to say, he’s highly respected by everybody at the club and it’s outstanding he remains a one-club player.”

Former Bears and QLD great throws support behind Central Queensland NRL bid

Gary Larson and Jason Hethrington

When you have former greats of the game in your corner to have your team in the NRL, you know that you are doing something right – and for the Central Queensland bid, they have none other than North Sydney Bears and QLD legend Gary Larson, in their corner.

Larson, who was born and raised in Gladstone, an area counted as a part of Central Queensland, and now coach at the Seagulls, says that for the region to have their own NRL team, would give the younger generation of players the opportunity to strive.

“We do have the talent, that’s for sure, but it’s how that talent is nurtured,” he said.

“Having a professional club will bring the coaching quality up in the region and in turn improve the players.”

To illustrate just how hard it can be to make it, Larson says that a good number of players from the region have had to give up either their job or their family life, just to play in the NRL.

“They’ve had to make sacrifices to go where the professional teams and better quality coaching is,” he said.

He also believes that the love and support is there in Central Queensland, to house an NRL team, one that can thrive.

“We’re in good hands with Dennis Keeffe and Geoff Murphy. They’re passionate about it,” he said.

“It’s long overdue in the area.”

Rugby League museum set to open

In order to commemorate all of the colourful rugby league events in Australia of years past, the ARLC have today unveiled a rugby league museum, with doors officially opened.

The memorabilia at the museum goes some way back, with items such as Dally Messenger’s cap, the first ever Premiership trophy, some of the most famous and iconic jerseys that the game has ever seen, as well as tributes to those players in the Hall Of Fame, the Team of the Century and the Immortals.

“We are very proud to be here today unveiling what we hope can be considered one of the greatest archives of our game’s brilliant history,” ARLC Chairman, Mr John Grant, said.

“The artefacts that occupy this beautiful space have taken over 100 years to collect and have been painstakingly put together. I’d like to thank all the club members, current and former players and their families who have contributed to this wonderful display.”

The museum will also house a ‘Heroes and Legends’ exhibition, that takes illustrates how rugby league has developed in the country from the early years to now, in a visual, chronological fashion.

“It was our intention in creating the Museum to leave a legacy of Rugby League’s Centenary Celebrations,” ARLC Interim Chief Executive, Mr Shane Mattiske said.

“The Rugby League Museum allows us to share with the Australian public a collection which honours the game’s long and colourful history.

“It will enable us to tell stories about the pivotal moments and the people who have contributed towards the making of the game as it stands today.

“It also provides a focal point for visitors to the Moore Park-SCG precinct in Sydney and acts as a tremendous resource for the further academic study of the game.”

It is former Panthers prop Frank Puletua, who is also the Museum manager, who has collected all the memorabilia that will be on display at the museum.

“The Rugby League Museum will initially be open two days a week from Wednesday 6 September from 11:00am – 2:00pm with free admission,” Puletua said.

“We are working with the Men of League who will help conduct the tours allowing people to embrace this amazing collection, share the timeless stories and recognise the men and women who serviced and played the great game of Rugby League.”

Rabbitohs sign talented QLD youngster

Mitchell Buckett

There have been some complains that their back-line depth is rather thin, but the South Sydney Rabbitohs have sought to rectify that – signing talented Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles winger/centre Mitchell Buckett, to a 2-year deal, starting in 2013.

Buckett, 20, comes from the Queensland area of Caboolture, and is a qualified carpenter by trade – as he comes with some kudos behind him, having won the Sunshine Colts Player of the Year in 2011, that saw him earn a trial with the Manly Sea Eagles.

Whilst it is not going to be easy for Buckett to break into the first-grade line-up, he will have the chance to show the NRL world and Rabbitohs fans what he can do, should he be named in the club’s Return to Redfern trial game.

Michael Maguire, Souths coach, is pleased to have the talented youngster on board.

“Our Recruitment Manager Mark Hughes went to have a look at him recently on the back of some promising reports from our eyes in Queensland, and we made an offer to Mitch based on what we’ve seen of his performances for the Sunshine Coast,” Coach Maguire said.

“He’s very much in the Matt King mould – tall, rangy and can find a second burst of pace. He’s aggressive in defence and attack, and we’re keen to see what he can produce following a full pre-season with us, leading into Christmas and in the New Year.”

Stephen’s Game of the Week: Rd 26

Our Dragons and NRL tragic is back, with his take on the game of the week in Rd 26. Do you agree? What are you expecting from the game?

MATCH OF THE ROUND: ROUND 26 – Cronulla Sharks V North Queensland Cowboys – Sunday, Toyota Stadium. 15.00 local time, 17.00 NZ time.

LAST WEEK: Cronulla were pipped at the post by the Melbourne Storm 20-18.

It was another notch in the belt of this North Queensland side as they took a hard fought win over Newcastle Knights 22-14

THIS WEEK: The Sharks sitting sixth will take on the team one place above them on the table. A home fixture is going to play in to their hands too. This is going to be a solid challenge in the last week before finals football starts for both these sides. Cronulla have been a great story for this season and need to back that up with a good win heading in the the finals.

The Cowboys have travelled a lot better this season than years gone by, but a sold out Shark Park is never an easy place to play. Getting some key members back from injury in the back of the season has bolstered this sides run to the finals. Before they can think about that though, they need to get their heads ready for this one. Mentally this game will be a challenge.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Cronulla to show their worth and to prove they deserve to be there next week in the finals. A clean cut performance is expected to be delivered to get them on the right track before the finals. The barn-storming forwards to continue to run all day, and get the glory hogs out wide to take all the praise.

North Queensland have excellence all over the field. Pairings of brilliance to shine when needed the most. Hard work has got them this far, and it’s more of the same that will give them the recipe for success once again. This team will be a dark horse of the finals.

THE BATTLE OF: Five-Eighths! Todd Carney has had a stellar year at the Sharks and has a lot to owe the after the much publicised rubbish at the Roosters last year. He has the skills to be remembered as one of the games best, and needs to deliver this against his Origin opponent.

Johnathan Thurston has made a seamless transition from 7 to 6. The Cowboys have still had the worlds best player dictate everything for them when needed. Whether he’s racking up try assists, or scoring them himself – he is the player everyone wants to be.

KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Isaac De Gois – He’s played his best football this year, and he has been more physical and demanding at the ruck. De Gois is the player this club needs.

Ashton Sims – This beast of a lad just has the seek and destroy attitude when running with the ball. Dangerous. Deadly.

I can’t split this one, but I know that defence will be too strong and tries will be at a minimal. 14-10 Cronulla.

SWT Gallagher