Scottish international signs for Welsh side South Wales Scorpions

Shae Lyon-Fraser

Signing any international player to your side is an added boost, and that is exactly how the South Wales Scorpions, a Welsh side feel – confirming the signing of Scottish international Shae Lyon-Fraser, who previously played for Super League side, the Wigan Warriors.

Lyon-Fraser, who was born in Glasgow, made his full, official Scottish debut last year follwoing a rapid rise through the ranks.

Having already played for the Scorpions in 2012 because of the dual registration contract the club had agreed to with Wigan, Lyon-Fraser will now move to the Scorpions permanently, after some fantastic games for the club last year.

We’re delighted to have signed Shae for the 2013 season. I’m sure that he will be a fantastic asset to the side and I know that he is welcoming the potential to play first team Rugby League throughout 2013,” said Scorpions coach Dave Clark.

“Shae’s signing means that we now have the potential to have players in five World Cup squads at the end of the year. James Tutuila is a Tongan international, Chris Vitalini has ambitions to play against Wales at the Millennium Stadium for Italy, Haydn Peacock has Irish grandparents and has declared his interests for the men in green, plus of course we have a number of Welsh international players.

“We’re now all looking forward to our first match of the season, against London Skolars at The Gnoll in Neath this Sunday.”

Lyon-Fraser’s departure as the full blessing from Wigan, who wish him all the best in Wales as he gains first team-experience.

“This is a great opportunity for Shae to get some first team experience and we wish him well at the Scorpions,” said John Winder, the Wigan Warriors Head of Youth Development.

Rabbitohs trio sign new 2-year contracts from 2014

Whilst the focus at the Bunnies may be centred around the likes of Greg Inglis, Adam Reynolds and Sam Burgess – it is the lesser-known players and depth players that also play a crucial role and the South Sydney Rabbitohs have recognised this, re-signing Chris McQueen, Kyle Turner and Luke Burgess for 2 more seasons.

Burgess, who some of you may know as the brother of English forward Sam Burgess, has played in more than 100 first-grade games across the NRL and ESL – 28 of them coming for the Bunnies – with Luke also an English international.

McQueen, who is one of the under-rated players of the Bunnies side, will start the year playing in his 50th NRL game and is a member of the emerging QLD Origin side.

Kyle Turner, who is just 21, is regarded as a budding prospect at Bunnies headquarters, and earned a full-time contract with the club for 2013.

The club is excited to have re-signed the trio, with head coach Michael Maguire pleased with the development that the three players made throughout last season.

“All three of these guys have been part of what we’re building at the Club, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with them at the Rabbitohs,” Coach Maguire said.

“Both Luke and Chris have become seasoned first graders in our team, and Kyle has been developing in our junior ranks and has a shot at playing first grade this year.

“They’re all valuable members of the squad and good people, and we’re glad that we can reward them for their hard work and dedication with contract extensions.”

Ricky’s Season Previews Part 9: Parramatta Eels

9 days in and we’ve reached the season preview of the Parramatta Eels – a side that as we all know, had a disappointing 2012 season that finished the wooden spoon, but in 2013, new hope, belief and confidence emerges, with new coach Ricky Stuart at the helm.

2012 is a season that many Eels fans will want to forget, given that they finished the year with the wooden spoon. It was a season that saw Stephen Kearney sacked for a string of poor results, with interim coach Brad Arthur also unable to rally the Eels for long enough to climb away from 16th, despite recording some late wins in the process.

As the 2013 season draws closer, however, with that comes a renewed sense of hope, belief and optimism for the Eels, for many reasons, ranging from the coach, the players and the off-field work that has been done to turn the club around across the board.

The Eels head into 2013 with a new coach at the helm and a veteran of coaching, in Ricky Stuart, who has coached at club level and representative level before.
Facing criticism during his time at other clubs (club and state), it is his mantra of working hard, training hard and playing hard, that has Eels fans confident that the 2013 season will be an improvement.

Stuart is not the only thing to change at the club, however, as the Eels underwent a dramatic and major shift off the field over the last 6 months, bringing in experience CEO Ken Edwards who has had an immediate impact and become an instant hit with fans for his correspondence, his social media interaction with fans and the way he has conducted and dealt with issues facing the club – but also behind the scenes, as the Eels revamped several key positions and brought in new people to move the club in a new direction.

With the positive elements all coming into place off the field, the big question will be whether or not that can transcend to a change on the field, as the Eels look to improve on their last place finish in 2012.

On the field, as the club look to get off to a good start in Rd 1 against the Warriors, a lot of the attack and overall play will once again rely on the brilliance of Jarryd Hayne, with consistent cameos from the other players around him.
Hayne, who was simply electrifying in 2009, when it looked like he could do nothing wrong, has yet to once again reach those heights since, but he has recorded rather decent statistics for the Eels since then, as he looks to take his game to the level it was in 09.
What helps him to do so, is that he’s fully fit and over his knee concerns from 2012 – a season that saw him miss a good number of games, ultimately affecting the side as a whole.
When on song and in form, Hayne is regarded as one of the game’s best fullbacks and is in the echelon of star fullbacks like Billy Slater and Greg Inglis.
The question will be – can Hayne have that big year that the Eels will need from him and will he be able to have an injury-free year in 2013?

Just as Hayne looks to have a big year and bounce back, another Eels player that will be looking to impress is halfback Chris Sandow.
Heavily criticised in 2012 for not getting involved as much as he should have, Sandow had some stellar moments in 2013 that saw him take the line on causing havoc for defences, or producing his off-the-cuff style of footy that saw him seemingly back to his best and genuinely happy.
In 2013, the key for Sandow will be consistency across the board, and sporting a leaner, meaner look overall having shed a few kilos, Sandow will be looking to press on from his solid trial form into the season, with the live-wire, dynamic halfback keen to show Eels fans and the NRL, that he can play a key role in the Eels potential march to the NRL finals.

On paper, despite all the criticism the Eels cop, they have quite a handy side, boasting a back-line mixed with youth and experience, two young halves that have their entire NRL careers ahead of them, and a forward pack that has representative experience and club experience – as the team as a whole look to improve on 2012.
With the new season approaching, 2012 would be a distant memory for the Eels players, with all of them keen to have Stuart on board and excited to work under him – many of them already praising the work and effort he has applied off the field to make them better, stronger players- a sign that bodes well for the Eels, as they look to get off to a good start.
As we all know, however, games are not won on paper – so, can the Eels challenge for the top spots in 2013 or do they face another challenging year overall?

The Eels have largely the same squad, but have made a few additions, signing Queensland Cup forward Ken Edwards who made a very good impression in the trial against the Wests Tigers, Manly duo Daniel Harrison and Darcy Lussick, another QLD Cup forward in Lorenzo Ma’afu who might have the aggressiveness that the Eels have lacked in the past and other young recruits like Api Pewhairangi and Brayden Williame.

Perhaps the key recruit for the Eels, is that of Darcy Lussick.
Lussick, who was formerly at the Manly Sea Eagles, plays with a brash, aggressive nature when on the field, something that Eels fans have been critical of across the board – saying their team lacks true enforcers.
With Lussick now at the club, a prop who hits the line hard and with speed, playing in a hard-nosed manner, a lot will rest on his shoulders to relieve some of the pressure off the likes of Tim Mannah and Fuifui Moimoi.
His time at Manly saw him start mainly from the bench, but limited game time at times, but that didn’t stop him from making an impact – impact that saw him as one of the Eels best players in the Panthers trial, and impact that the club will hope they see from him in Rd 1.

One player who will be keen for a big year also, is current Eels prop and former NSW player, Tim Mannah.
The Mannah family suffered some horrible news during this off-season, with Tim’s brother Jon unfortunately succumbing to cancer after a brave battle with the illness – an outcome that rocked Tim and the family quite hard.
Using his faith and the support of the club and his team-mates, Mannah has rallied back, however, and will be keen to impress and have a good season in memory of his brother and his best friend.
Mannah for me, is the sort of player that will always give his all and will always stay loyal to those that are loyal to him – doing everything he can to make sure the side wins, but also doing what he can to get the best out of players to help the side win.
Can Mannah get back to the form that saw him play State of Origin, or is that beyond his reach?

Two players to keep an eye out for in 2013 for the Eels are both youngsters, one with first-grade experience and the other a budding prospect wreaking havoc in the NYC.
The first, Jacob Loko. Coming off successive knee reconstructions after aggravating a knee injury during his recovery, Loko is a player that made an immediate impact when given the chance to play, even at one stage, outplaying then veteran centre Mark Gasnier, who immediately acknowledged this and went over to congratulate the young back on his performance after the game.
In 2013, Loko is back raring to go and fitter than ever, and with the very real possibility that he might start in the centres or even come off the bench as a forward, given a move to the back-row has long been touted for Loko, there is no doubt that when it comes to talent, Loko has it and he is a player to look out for.

The second Eels player to keep an eye out for, is a name that many may not have heard of, but you will very soon – Kelepi Tanginoa.
At just 18, Tanginoa was promoted to the Eels NYC side from SG Ball at 17 and made an immediate impact with a damaging running style on the fringes of the ruck, causing havoc for opposition defences.
What makes Tanginoa and his running style so effective, is his stockiness combined with his huge upper body strength. He’s one of those players that you think you have wrapped up, before he carries you on his back or drags you forward 10m, all whilst gaining momentum.
When you’re touted as the Eels best back-row prospect since Nathan Hindmarsh, you know that you’ve got some shoes to fill – but for me personally, having seen Tanginoa play in the past and with the opportunity to once again watch him this year, he’ll be a destructive force for the Eels sides in years to come, and is definitely a name to remember.

All in all, the Eels season has the potential to be one full of promise, so long as the players play for each other, so long as they all perform their roles adequately, and as long as their attitude in attack and defence is at the level it has to be, they have the ability to push teams all the way.

1. Jarryd Hayne (C)
2. Ken Sio
3. Willie Tonga
4. Jacob Loko
5. Ryan Morgan
6. Luke Kelly
7. Chris Sandow
8. Tim Mannah (C)
9. Matt Keating
10. Darcy Lussick
11. Ben Smith
12. Matt Ryan
13. Reni Maitua (C)

14. Fuifui Moimoi
15. Joseph Paulo
16. Mitchell Allgood
17. Ken Edwards

Roosters back signs new long-term deal at the club

Daniel Tupou

It was not the smoothest road into the rugby league world for Daniel Tupou, but at age 21, he is finally making the best of his talent, talent that the Sydney Roosters can see – with the club confirming that that the talented back has re-signed with the club until the end of the 2015 NRL season.

Tupou’s extension is one that he is happy about, as he enjoys the club and everything about it.

“I’m really enjoying being a part of the Roosters. I’m learning so much and I wanted to stay a Rooster and build a career here.

“I still have lots of room to improve and I hope to continue to learn and hopefully secure my opportunity to play some good football for the club.”

Tupou is not the only happy camper, with the club themselves excited to have retained the services of Tupou for the long-term, with the club confident he will become a staple of the side for years to come.

“Daniel is an exciting young talent and has been a wonderful asset to the club both on and off the field,” said Roosters Chief Operating Officer, Brian Canavan.

“Tall, strong and with great footwork, Daniel has the ability to grab some AFL type marks and become a real crowd favourite. He has applied himself diligently across all aspects of professional football and we look forward to him continuing to be a key contributor in the years to come.”

Rugby league in Ghana takes first steps towards longevity

Sylvester Wellington

It might well be one of the last countries you would expect to see or hear about rugby league, but in Ghana, they take their rugby league seriously – with the first official RL matches taking place in Accra.

The games, which were held as a part of the UK Sport International Leadership Symposium in Accra, saw three teams from Ghana (University of Ghana, Nima and Monprobie) play in three 40 minute games, with a plethora of dignitaries and local schoolkids watching the games.

The game was not only watched by schoolkids however, with several project leaders from sub-Saharan African countries, UK Sport officials and officials from affiliated organisations in attendance to watch.

With recent graduates of the leadership program organising the festival and Ghana’s Rugby League Development Manager Sylvester Wellington refereeing, Wellington says that things have been going well so far.

“Everything has been going great,” said Wellington.

“We’ve been able to form six local clubs. We have about 20 schools on board and we’ll be starting our championship in June.”

Ghana’s notoriety in rugby league is not only confined to their own country, though, as RLEF General Manager Danny Kazandjian accompanying Wellington to several training sessions, pleased with what we saw and praising the numbers playing rugby league.

“I saw the enthusiastic reception the schoolboys gave the sport,” said Kazandjian.

“The internal ‘house’ system employed in Ghana coupled with the willingness of the schools to include rugby league in their stable of sports means that some will have 10 teams playing in-house competitions before they even select a school team. Having an average of 60 boys playing per class means that the numbers could be remarkable.”

Whilst they know that there is still much work to do, their tireless nature in seeing rugby league has Wellington and others eager to ensure that the game is a success in Ghana.

“The surprising thing has been that, although we’re working with people who didn’t know rugby league six-months ago, all of a sudden they are tackling and playing,” said Wellington.

“It seems as though they’ve been in the game for so long, it’s amazing.”

A key step in that process is to establish an official Ghana rugby league Federation, and that is one step closer after Wellington, Kazandjian and University of Ghana Director of Sports Dr Emmanuel Owusu-Ansah visited the National Sports Authority to discuss the matter.

“The meeting was as encouraging as it could possibly have been,” said Kazandjian. “The Director General’s office is aware of our ongoing development work, has a good relationship with our local partners and pledged to recognise the federation upon receipt of our application, which will be completed within a fortnight.”

Ricky’s Season Previews Part 8: Newcastle Knights

We’re officially halfway through the season previews, with this one, the 8th, to be all about the Newcastle Knights and their chances as well as the things/situations that may test them.

For the Knights in 2012, it was meant to be a special season being their 25th season in NRL/NSWRFL competitions, but that was not the case, however – as not even Supercoach Wayne Bennett in his first year with the club could get the players gelling together well enough, their season not helped by the season-ending injury to captain Kurt Gidley.

As the 2013 season gets closer and closer, the return of a fully fit Gidley is a bonus for the Knights side, with the captain keen to not only get stuck into things once more, but also to help his side to what they hope is a successful 2013 season.
Set to play at halfback this year and with questions always being asked as to whether he is suited to playing that role, he will partner up with Jarrod Mullen in the halves – a player who when in form is a top five-eighth, but when he’s out of form, it plays a telling part in the Knights overall performances.
With Gidley at the helm in pivotal role of halfback and often a calming influence, the veteran may be able to get the best out of Mullen in 2013, as they both look to have consistent seasons this season.

When it came to the transfer market, the Knights were quite busy in both their buying and selling of players, some transfers more telling and influential than others.
Veteran players Richie Fa’aoso (Manly), Wes Naiqama (Penrith), Zeb Taia (Catalan Dragons), Evarn Tuimavave (Hull KR) and Junior Sa’u (Storm) all departed, but to replace those departed players – all of whom were Knights favourites, the club brought in players that can hopefully fill the void.

Such players include Jeremy Smith from Cronulla, Beau Scott from St George, Anthony Quinn from Melbourne, Joseph Leilua from the Roosters and David Fa’alogo from Huddersfield.
Now boasting one of the best packs in rugby league, the Knights will be looking to start their games with vigorous enthusiasm and aggression, in order to garner a hold of the game allowing the likes of Gidley/Mullen to then take over and set up points for the club.
Perhaps the key out of their recruits in my view, is that of Jeremy Smith – deemed as a hard-running, hard-nosed aggressive back-rower, Smith is coming off quite a decent year at the Cronulla Sharks in 2012 and will be looking to emulate that in his first season at the Knights.

A major sticking point that will also dictate how the Knights go in 2013, at least in the early rounds of the season, is who will step up at hooker with Danny Buderus out for at least 4-6 weeks with injury.
With young Travis Waddell previously gunning for a spot, one that now looks unlikely given his probable departure elsewhere – the role now falls into the hands of veteran utility Matt Hilder and Chris Adams, who in rugby league terms, is still a bit of an unknown.
Whilst a veteran of the game and pushing his mid 30’s, Buderus is a player that will give his all every game and despite his age, he’s quite active in both attack and defence for the Knights.
The key for his replacement, whoever that may be, is to attempt to have a similar effect on the game and be prepared to potentially play for 80 minute periods until Buderus returns.
Personally, I’d give Hilder the nod, given his experience.

Whilst not a sticking point as such, Knights fans will be seeking a lot from fullback Darius Boyd and expecting a big season from him, following previously inconsistent seasons.
Boyd, who took his game to another gear following the Origin period last year, will want to start with that same intensity and ascendancy early on in the season, in order to give the Knights the best chance of winning games.
When in form, Boyd is a dangerous fullback not only when he runs the football back but also with the ball in hand, often able to link up with the halves and backs down the left hand side of the attack, producing points.

He had great success in such back-line movements during his time at the Dragons, so the Knights will be hopeful that 2013 can be the year he has similar success and get himself more involved in the game, whether it’s scoring or tries or creating opportunities to set them up.
If Boyd can get his head in the game early on in the season and produce the form we know he is capable of, he may move back into the echelon of the top fullbacks in the game – an accolade that when in form, he deserves to be a part of.

Any Knights season preview would not be complete without mentioning Willie Mason.
Given a chance by Wayne Bennett during the 2012 season to return home to Newcastle, Mason took it, and he did not disappoint.
Playing with hunger, intensity and ruthlessness that we hadn’t seen from Mason in a while, he finished the season as perhaps the Knights best forward, putting in performances that Bennett would have been proud of, and performances that can leave Willie holding his head up high.

Performances like that in 2013 will go a long way to not only setting the platform for the Knights in games early, but it may well, potentially, put Mason in the frame for a potential NSW Origin spot – something that he still has aspirations of doing, should the opportunity arise.
Regardless of what one thinks of Mason based on what has happened in the past, it cannot be denied that the resolve he has shown to bounce back is now paying dividends, evidenced by his solid year last year – something that he will seek to emulate in 2013.

All in all, I think the key for the Knights is getting the required consistency out of their halves (both Mullen and Gidley), not to mention the forward pack gelling together quickly and setting the aggressive tone in games early, in order to get a good start to the year.
Should their captain in Gidley get injured again (something that any NRL fan hopes is not the case), the Knights will need to find a way to win without their inspirational leader, as they look to improve on their 12th place finish last season.

They have the team and the weapons to make the 8, they have the best coach in the game at the helm – it’s simply a matter of producing the required on-field results.

On a final note, two players I think that everyone should look out for in 2013, are Dane Gagai and Korbin Sims.
Gagai, who left the Brisbane Broncos last year following some indiscretions, became a revelation at the Knights, linking up well with veteran winger Akuila Uate and producing the sort of football that we all know he’s capable of. If he can have similar success with Uate on that side, it will be an area that the Knights will look to exploit against teams.
Finally, Korbin Sims. The younger brother of Cowboys duo Ashton & Tariq, Korbin is a monster of a kid and it shows with his performances, as he physically dominates opponents and is incredibly hard to bring down and stop. Coming off a stellar year with the Knights NYC team, if injuries should hit the Knights forward pack, it’s very possible that he will be given an opportunity, one that he will gladly take.

1. Darius Boyd
2. Akuila Uate
3. Timana Tahu
4. Joseph Leilua
5. Dane Gagai
6. Jarrod Mullen
7. Kurt Gidley
8. Wille Mason
9. Matt Hilder
10. Kade Snowden
11. Chris Houston
12. Beau Scott
13. Jeremy Smith

14. Neville Costigan
15. Alex McKinnon
16. David Fa’alogo
17. Zane Tetevano

Air Pacific signs 1-year sponsorship deal with Fijian rugby league ahead of Rugby League World Cup

With Fijian rugby league continually on the rise and looking for new ways to boost their profile, they have received significant news heading into the Rugby League World Cup later this year, with Fiji’s national airline Air Pacific, agreeing to sign a 1-year sponsorship deal.

The deal, worth just under US$20,000 to Fiji Bati will be one of 14 teams competing in the World Cup.

Josaia Rawaya, the Air Pacific Regional General Manager says that the deal and the company will assist Fiji Bati with all travelling, administration and other expenses.

“Our starting F$35,000 deal will assist the team’s travelling, administration and other expenses before and during the 2013 World Cup campaign,” said Rawaya.

Peni Musunamasi, the FNRL Chairman, said that they are delighted to have signed the deal with Air Pacific, who were also a sponsor during the 2008 World Cup.

“We are happy that this sponsorship has come in such opportune time as we prepare for the World Cup. We were partners with Air Pacific during the 2008 Rugby League World Cup and we are glad that they are back in time for the next World Cup,” said Musunamasi.

Bulldogs confirm that Ben Barba will be stood down indefinitely

Ben Barba

In news that nobody would have been expecting, the Canterbury Bulldogs have confirmed that star fullback Ben Barba has been stood down indefinitely and suspended from all contractual duties with the club, until further notice.

Barba’s indefinite suspension means that his scheduled appearance at the NRL’s season launch on Wednesday will not take place, with the decision made by the club after they became aware of numerous behavioural issues.

“Whilst we all know the undoubted on-field attributes and abilities that Ben displays, we must always maintain our focus on the more important issues of personal development and accountability,” Chief Executive Officer Todd Greenberg said.

“It is our hope that the media and the many rugby league fans understand and respect the need for privacy in order for Ben and his family to make the relevant adjustments that are required for him to return to the playing field.”

Barba himself also made a statement of his own, as he looks to overcome the issues that he admits he has (whatever they may be), and to also become a better player and person as a result of his time away from the game.

As Barba looks to confront everything head on, he feels that stepping aside to fix the issues is the best thing he can do for the Bulldogs club, himself and for his family.

“Today is a very difficult day for me as I feel I’ve let my family, children, Club and supporters down,” said Barba.

“My issues relate to seeking help for personal issues that I face day to day.

“I’m incredibly sad to be stepping aside as I’ve been so blessed with what’s happened to me over the past few years, but I feel as though I would be wearing a mask if I didn’t confront the matters I’ve been dealing with until now.

“I feel it is best to deal with these problems front on and I believe that by doing so this will make me a better person and player in the future.

“This will be a step by step process for me and whilst I hope to return to football soon, I hope that through this next period you can respect my privacy so that sooner rather than later I can return to playing rugby league as best I can.

“When I do, I hope that everybody sees a better person.”

Ricky’s Season Previews Part 7: Melbourne Storm

We’re almost half way through the season previews here, with this being Day 7 where it’ll be the Melbourne Storm who are analysed, scrutinised, praised and critiqued, as they look to win successive premierships.

Without a doubt, in 2012, the Storm were the side that deserved to win the grand final following their impressive display over the Bulldogs – one that saw a lot of players step up to make a difference.

As their opening game of 2013 rolls around, the big question for the Storm will be – can they go back-to-back? In recent years, very few teams have gone back-to-back when it comes to winning premierships, with the task of doing so for the Storm perhaps even harder, as teams look for ways to close them down over the course of the season.

Despite their 2012 premiership win, however, no team is perfect or flawless, as the Storm underwent a bit of player turnover losing experienced players such as Todd Lowrie and Dane Nielsen to the Warriors, Sika Manu to the Panthers and Anthony Quinn to the Knights.

Despite that, the Storm made some keen, astute buys to replace their departing players with solid forward Junior Moors joining the club from the Tigers, former Dragon and Bronco Lagi Setu returning from his 2-year Mormon mission, returning half Brett Finch who enjoyed a previous stint at the Storm and Newcastle Knights centre Junior Sa’u.

Whilst neither of the players that they signed are household names, they will all play a roll for the Storm in their quest for successive premierships, particularly during the tough Origin period.

The players signed may well become key, influential figures at the club because of Craig Bellamy, the Melbourne Storm coach, who has an uncanny knack of turning a player that isn’t living up to potential or released by their former clubs, and turning them into a solid player who makes the first-grade side consistently.
You only have to look at past players to see the effect Bellamy has in that regard, with the now retired Jaiman Lowe enjoying a successful stint at the Storm, former Knights prop Bryan Norrie who was working at a bar as a waiter/bartender at one stage, and Maurice Blair, who was let go by Penrith and is first cab off the rank during the Origin period to some capacity.

Moving on from the way that Bellamy transforms players into solid first-graders, the period of time that always brings some doubt into Storm fans, is that of the infamous Origin period.
With the Storm’s three strike players in Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith all certainties to fill in for QLD, the key for Melbourne over that 2-3 month period is how will the players filling in step up. Will they be able to step up and fill the void left by those playing Origin?
Or, will we see the Storm struggle during that period, with players unable to work cohesively together without the influence of their top players.

In saying that, outside of the Origin period, it could be argued that the Storm have the best spine in the game – with the inclusion of five-eighth Gareth Widdop, who is starting to form dangerous partnerships on the left hand side with the Storm forwards, as he too continually improves his game.
Widdop, who is English, is slowly becoming a key factor for the Storm in all of their games, but will be called upon to lead from the front in the Origin period, a role that will be made easier for him with the arrival of veteran half Brett Finch.

Fresh off their win against Leeds in the World Club Challenge, the Storm will be looking to start their season on a high against the Dragons – but the Australian teams who participate in the WCC can, at times, start the season in a bit of lethargic manner, something that the Storm can ill-afford at the start of the year.

On that note, if there’s one thing that you know about the Storm, it’s that you never discount them out of any game or any title race in general, as they showed last year – when many thought they were down and out following a run of poor games and losses, only to bounce back when it mattered, ultimately winning the premiership.

Overall, a side that has three of the best players in their respective positions in the game, a side with great experience overall from players like Jason Ryles, Ryan Hoffman, as well as a side with promising youngsters like Tohu Harris, Young Tonumaipea and Denny Solomona, they will once again be a force to be reckoned with.

Just on Harris, following an impressive display in the World Club Challenge, he may well start the year from the bench for the Storm, in light of an open position available there.
If you had to pick any one current Storm youngster to make a name for himself in 2013, that would be Harris and with the way he performed in the WCC, you wouldn’t put it past him to perform for the Storm over the course of the season.

1. Billy Slater
2. Mahe Fonua
3. Justin O’Neill
4. Will Chambers
5. Sisa Waqa
6. Gareth Widdop
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Jason Ryles
9. Cameron Smith
10. Jesse Bromwich
11. Ryan Hoffman
12. Lagi Setu
13. Ryan Hinchcliffe

14. Bryan Norrie
15. Siosaia Vave
16. Junior Moors
17. Tohu Harris

Storm’s Rookie of the Year: Tohu Harris.

Tomkins comes under fire from Wigan coach despite solid victory over London

Sam Tomkins

As a player, you know that you are in trouble when the coach singles you out – and for Wigan fullback Sam Tomkins, he faced the brunt of an angry Wigan coach in Shaun Wane, after he was sin-binned during his side’s win against the London Broncos, 48-18.

Returning from a shoulder injury, Tomkins was sent to the sin-bin after vehemently disputing a decision that was made by match referee Robert Hicks and the on-field officials.

For Wane, whilst he thinks the sin-bin itself was a mistake, he also lambasted Tomkins for putting himself in that situation and thus resulting in his sin-binning.

“That was the wrong call from the in-touch judge but that is no excuse and it won’t happen again,” said Wane.

“It was the wrong call but that happens in games, the referees make mistakes just like players.

“They are incidents for me to sort out in the week and not for Sam to do it on the field.

“He is a competitor, I understand he wants to win but he just cannot do that. I don’t know what he said to the referee but it must have been severe for him to sin-bin him.”

For London Broncos coach Tony Rea, he was pleased with how his side performed in the first half, but disappointed that his side could not maintain the same intensity in the second.

“You don’t get points for playing well in the first half,” said Rea.

“We had to get out and do the same in the second half and we didn’t do that.

“We have had a bad few days and the players have been a bit down but not on each other.

“They will be okay, we will all keep pulling in the right direction and we will have our moments.”