Despite overtures from rival clubs, Sharks back-rower re-signs

Wade Graham

For a while there, Cronulla Sharks fans were worried that future leader and potential State of Origin star Wade Graham was going to depart the club but they can rest easy, with the back-rower re-signing for a further three years.

Joining the Sharks from the Panthers back in 2011, the 23-year old is held in high regard by all at the club and retaining him was the key for the Sharks as they want to build their side around him.

“For a young man Wade shows great character, leadership and maturity beyond his years and his signing is a significant one for the Sharks,” Cronulla Sharks CEO Steve Noyce said.

“He is the sort of player we can build a team around and we are thrilled he has decided to stay with us for the next three years.”

Equally excited about the retention of Graham is Sharks head coach, Peter Sharp.

“He is a quality young man and a very good player. He is a future leader of this club, a great player and it is a real boost for us to re-sign him,” Sharp said.

A key behind Graham’s decision to stay was the direction the club is headed in. Although current results have not been what the club would have wanted, they are working their way towards bigger and better things.

“I’ve been here for four years now, feel at home in Cronulla and I’m close to the playing group. I see it as a club moving forward and I want to be a part of that,” Graham said.

“We’ve had a tough start to the season this year but with players at the club like Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Todd Carney, as well as some of the good kids we have coming through the 20’s, we can bounce back this year and be serious contenders over the next couple of years.

“We are heading in the right direction and I want to be a part of what’s happening here at the Sharks,” Graham added.

Last-gasp field goal gives Bulldogs a win over the Warriors

Josh Reynolds

It was not an easy week nor lead-up for the New Zealand Warriors heading into their clash with the Canterbury Bulldogs and it was not the finish they were after, either, as a last-minute Trent Hodkinson field goal gave the Bulldogs a 1-point win.

In front of more than 22,000 fans at Eden Park, they were treated to a narrow and closely-fought contest, before Hodkinson stepped up and slotted a field goal to give the Dogs a 21-20 win.

Statistically, it could have been argued that the Dogs were the better side but despite fighting valiantly, they only managed to grab the lead in the 78th minute.

Goal-kicking ultimately let the Warriors down, with Shaun Johnson missing 2 crucial conversions – a factor that was ultimately telling.

An old combination for a new club emerged with Sam Tomkins and Thomas Leuluai – familiar with each other from their days at the Wigan Warriors – combining for an early try.

Perhaps the crucial move for the Warriors, though, came with the decision to move Ben Matulino into the back-row. Firing on all cylinders, he got his team going and was proving a handful for the Bulldogs defence at times.

Hodkinson – called ‘Hokko’ by his team-mates – was praised by coach Des Hasler for his composure under pressure late in the game.

“He did a great job for us there,” Hasler said.

“Hokko has been in good form this year, he has been in that situation before and he is that kind of player that is pretty composed, always cool and calm and always seems to have plenty of time with it.”

Captain Michael Ennis was also quick to praise Hodkinson for his efforts as well as halves partner Josh Reynolds.

“He (Hodkinson) is a very calm and composed guy, he has been like that for a number of years now,” Ennis said.

“He is a very controlled player and his combination with (Reynolds) is fantastic, and they are getting better and better each week.”

For the Warriors, it was not a fairytale start for new coach Andrew McFadden, with the club left to rue missed opportunities that could have won them the game, had they been executed.

“We only had to make one less mistake and we probably would have got there,” McFadden said.

“It is very disappointing, obviously. I think the players threw everything they could, but ultimately I think we let ourselves down with execution.”

Their cause was not helped by injuries to Sebastine Ikahihifo (concussion) and Ben Matulino (ribs).

“It certainly had a big impact on our strategy around our interchanges, but Sam Rapira and Jacob Lillyman did a pretty good job of making up that time that we needed, so it certainly wasn’t an excuse for getting beat,” McFadden said.

Despite the loss, though, newly re-signed captain Simon Mannering said things are looking positive for the Warriors.

“It would have been nice to get a result but it’s good we made steps forward in our performance,” the second-rower said.

“Hopefully we can see that in training next week ahead of the Dragons game.

3. Josh Reynolds
2. Konrad Hurrell
1. Sam Perrett

Farah injury and a poor crowd ruin solid Tigers win

Robbie Farah

The Wests Tigers may have won the game but the win is not what fans are talking about, with Robbie Farah suffering a possible dislocated elbow – although it was apparently popped back in – and a rather poor crowd attendance at Campbelltown Stadium.

In front of just 6456 fans last night – an effort that has some Tigers fans disgusted – it became the major talking point and not the game, one that saw the Tigers defeat the North Queensland Cowboys 16-4.

As for Farah’s injury, he was taken to Campbelltown Hospital immediately, with the incident occurring due to some friendly fire from lock Adam Blair.

“Robbie’s in a bit of pain. Two minutes to go, he’s dislocated his elbow I think. So he’s getting some oxygen or whatever they take,” said coach Mick Potter.

With scans to reveal more, Potter said that he does not know the severity of the injury just yet.

“I don’t know, I’m not a doctor,” Potter said.

Despite his injury, it was another tremendous display from the inspiration Tigers captain, with his team-mates praising his efforts once again.

“He does that every week though, it’s good to have that type of player,” said teammate David Nofoaluma.

“It’s good from him, backing up every week and being consistent, just doing his role, that’s what makes him the player he is.

“He’s one of our key players and of course he’s going to be a major loss. I guess we’ll have to work very, very hard because he does a lot of work on the field. He’s one of our main players and he’s our captain. So it’ll be a major loss for us.”

As for the poor crowd figure, Wests Tigers CEO Grant Mayer was left scratching his head at what the club have to do to get more fans to attend games in the West.

“I thank the 6500 fans for coming out. They are die-hard fans. I scratch my head wondering what more we can do to attract a crowd at Campbelltown Sports Stadium,” CEO Grant Mayer said.

As for the Cowboys, although they tried valiantly and put in the effort, it was not to be, as despite a last-start win over Newcastle, they could not produce the goods once more.

Looking flat at times and lacking the execution required, coach Paul Green knows that their short turnaround did not help their cause.

“Monday night game into a Saturday game with a flight, so [it was] very tough to get yourself physically ready,” Green said.

“I thought we did a good job but our execution in good ball tonight probably let us down. We worked really hard, particularly in that second half.

“We had the ball two sets out of 10 sets there and most of those sets the Wests Tigers were on our line. We managed to defend them, worked really hard to get an opportunity down the other end of the field, and just couldn’t build any pressure out of that.”

With the game their third in twelve days, co-captain Matt Scott denied that it was the reason behind the mixed bag of tricks that is their season so far.

“It’s a tough couple of weeks for us but that’s something we should be used to,” he said.

“It’s not new to us. Travel’s a part of our game, based where we are. We’ve put things in place to recover properly and get ready for these games.

“But I think Greeny’s sugar-coating a little bit for the players there, it was a poor performance from our part.”

3. Robbie Farah
2. Tim Simona
1. Johnathan Thurston

Steely resolve sees the Eels win a thriller at Pirtek over the Roosters

Jarryd Hayne

One month ago, the Sydney Roosters were all over the Parramatta Eels in every sense. They defended better,
attacked better, ran the ball better, held onto the ball and just demolished a rather poor Eels side.

Last night, one month later, a new Eels side emerged – one that has won three games on the trot – as they showcased their resolute defence and produced perhaps one of the upsets of the season so far, defeating the Roosters 14-12 at Pirtek Stadium.

In a match that had everything – great line-breaks, crafty runs, fantastic vision, big hits and resolute defence from both sides – it was the Eels who hung on to win, producing a defensive performance that the players and fans can be proud of.

Both teams slogged it out but for the Roosters, it leaves them with some work to do, as they have now lost three games on the trot.

The last 15-20 minutes were nervous moments for Eels fans as the Roosters – who were trailing – threw everything at the Eels but could not crack the line.

The two key defensive moments came from the Eels. The first one saw Daniel Tupou race away before Eels halfback Chris Sandow pushed him over the sideline, and the second came after Jarryd Hayne miraculously stopped a rampant Sonny Bill Williams charging through with a try-saving tackle.

Not noted for his defensive efforts, it is an area that Hayne has improved in over the last couple of years and it is the little things that Hayne is doing that has Eels coach Brad Arthur impressed.

“The six games we’ve played he’s been making little efforts like that in those whole six games,” Arthur said after the game.

“Last week [against Brisbane] he came up with a couple of good chases, he got out of the in-goal (another freakish effort to defuse a certain 40/20 then somehow get back into the field of play from close to the dead ball line).

“He’s been coming up with some special big plays which probably a lot of people don’t notice because he’s not throwing a 20-metre cut-out pass or chipping for himself. He’s coming up with some real little one-per-center plays and it means a lot to him.”

Also praising Hayne was Eels co-captain Tim Mannah, who pointed out that it the ‘dirty little things’ Hayne does to save his side, often go unnoticed.

“Those little things that as a teammate you really appreciate the work he’s doing. But it’s not just him and that’s the pleasing thing is we’ve got 17 guys turning up on game day willing to do their job,” said Mannah.

For the man himself, he had no clue as to how he managed to hold up SBW but he knew straight away that he had done so and prevented the Kiwi from scoring.

“I don’t know how I did it, how I got in that position, he’s a huge human. As soon as the tackle was complete, I was extremely confident I held him up.

“Sonny thought he might have hit the line but the ref was in a good position and if you look at the replay I think they got it right.”

For the Roosters, the loss is their third on the trot and it is affecting coach Trent Robinson, who was agitated that his side missed a great opportunity to break their duck.

“It was a tough contest. Parramatta only made two mistakes in the game. Put it back in our court, we created a lot of opportunities but just didn’t ice any and didn’t execute well enough to win the game,” Robinson said.

“We’re playing some really tough footy. We’re coming up against some really good opposition. We’re just lacking enough steely edge to finish the game. We’re definitely not far away [from a win] but it hasn’t been good enough for three weeks.

“We weren’t good enough to finish, quite simply.”

Roosters captain Anthony Minichiello put the loss down to dropped ball and made it rather blunt that they have to improve in that area.

“I suppose we didn’t handle our possession well enough when we got into good ball – there was a lot of dropped ball,” Minichiello said.

“We just couldn’t put the pressure on with Parramatta there and we gave away some penalties as well. It’s an area we definitely need to fix. Our defence is going OK but when we get into good ball we’re just not executing to the best of our ability.”

3. Jarryd Hayne
2. Tim Mannah
1. Chris Sandow/Sam Moa

Mannering re-signs with Warriors along with promising young stars

Simon Mannering

Re-signing players that make a big impact on your side is crucial and for the New Zealand Warriors, they know the importance of leadership and impact players, which is why they have re-signed Simon Mannering until the end of the 2018 NRL season.

The new 4-year deal for the Warriors captain is seen as one of the most significant in the club’s history by co-owner, Eric Watson.

To add to that re-signing of Mannering, the club also extended the contracts of prop Jacob Lillyman (2017) and utility forward Sione Lousi (2016).

“This a signal of how much the Vodafone Warriors mean to Simon, Jacob, Sione and all the other players who have re-signed,” Watson said.

“It’s also a tribute to the work Dean Bell (general manager football operations) is doing with Wayne Scurrah (chief executive) with our recruitment.”

The re-signing of Mannering is the most crucial, though, given the club know what he is capable of both on and off the field and for the leadership skills he brings.

“Simon’s signing is a fantastic coup and a huge boost for the club,” he said.

“He is exceptional across the board as our record-holding captain, a player of the highest order and also a person of tremendous quality.

“I’m elated he is extending his career with us to what will be 14 seasons. Only a few in the game today can measure their dedication to one club in such terms.”

Mannering, 27, drew interest from other clubs but it was ultimately a love for the Warriors team and franchise and family reasons, that were behind his decision to stay.

“This is the biggest contract of my career because it could possibly be my last,” he said.

“I love this club and always will. I’m keen to be a part of our future and have the greatest faith in the direction to the club is heading. We have much to offer this season and in years to come.

“It’s not just about football, though. I also have my family to consider. That was a big part of the decision and I’m really happy it has all worked out.”

New to the coaching world but familiar with Mannering is current head coach Andrew McFadden, who expressed his delight at the decision by Mannering to stay at the club.

“I have the greatest admiration for Simon and what he means to the team and the club,” he said.

“It’s the same with Jacob. Like Simon, he’s such an experienced and consistent performer, the type of player we place the highest value on in our squad.

“Sione started the season really well after his injury trouble last year and has a lot to offer us as do all the players re-signed.”

In addition to the NRL trio re-signing, several young players have been re-signed by the club.

John Palavi, who recently made his NRL debut, has re-signed until 2016, as has prop Charlie Gubb.

David Bhana, Sam Lisone, Solomone Kata, Brad Abbey and David Fusitua – all talented youngsters – re-signed until the end of 2016.

Tuimoala Lolohea, one of the Warriors’ most talented kids coming through the ranks has a new deal until 2017 and prop Suaia Matagi has a new 1-year deal until the end of 2015.

Knights get season back on track with solid win over Canberra

Beau Scott

A win is what they desperately needed and a win is what they got, although it was the second half that won the game, as they kicked on with things and fought hard.

With the scores deadlocked at 12-all at the break, things were evenly poised but it was the key players that stepped up for the Knights to record just their second win of the season.

The return of five-eighth Jarrod Mullen sparked the Knights and the combinations were slowly starting to form once more as the Knights took the ascendancy in the second half and proved too much for the Raiders.

For the Raiders, the loss continues their current losing streak at home and although their season is not in a precarious position, the loss halts their momentum.

Perhaps the biggest key for the Knights has been the tremendous form of back-rower Beau Scott. His name is not often heard but his impact has been profound in 2014 and on form alone, he is currently in the top echelon of back-rowers.

His form has been noticeable and Knights coach Wayne Bennett was quick to point it out post-game.

“He is the form player in the comp in terms of forwards,” Bennett said of Scott.

“He has been outstanding every game, he has won four players’ player (awards).

“He got a cork there near halftime but really toughed it out.”

Equally, the work of Mullen in his return gamae did not go unnoticed by Bennett.

“He (Mullen) was really good for us today, it is good to have him back,” Bennett said.

The downside for the Raiders – far too much dropped ball.

“We dropped too much ball in the second half and couldn’t build any decent momentum,” bemoaned Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.

With the return of back-rower Josh Papalii from the bench, not even he was able to conjure up anything to get the Raiders in the game, as they are left with work to do ahead of a clash next week.

3. Beau Scott
2. Joey Leilua
1. James McManus

Souths resurgence continues as they defeat Penrith in horrid weather

Greg Inglis

Their start to the season was not what they would have hoped for but the calibre of South Sydney Rabbitohs players is shining through as they cruised to an 18-2 win over the Penrith Panthers.

Playing in horrible weather conditions at Sportingbet Stadium in Penrith, conditions made the ball difficult to hold on to and it was Souths who eventually made the most of their opportunities, especially in the second half.

The lopsided possession count was working against Souths for much of the game but it was resolute defending that kept them in the game, as they held out the Panthers for numerous sets on end.

For all their dominance in the first half especially, Penrith just could not penetrate the Souths line in the first-half.

The Souths win was made even better by the fact that winger Nathan Merritt scored his 145th try to become the highest try-scorer in Souths history, passing Benny Wearing.

There were downsides for both sides, though, with Adam Reynolds and Jamie Soward both placed on report for a chicken wing tackle and contact with the head respectively.

For Maguire, with Souths now back on the right track, he was pleased with his players efforts and how they have bounced back.

“Really proud of the effort by the players,” said Maguire.

“A couple of weeks ago, we were probably not at our standard and the boys really stuck their heads down and spoke about their defence.

“Over the last two weeks, there has been massive improvement and really showed tonight with their defence.”

Merritt, who has always been a quiet achiever in the NRL, was aware of the record that was there to be broken and he enjoyed the euphoria that the moment brought with it.

“There was a real buzz about it and all the boys came over,” said Merritt.

“It was a great feeling and I wouldn’t have wanted to score a try without the boys being there.”

For Penrith, it was the opposite during the game.

Their execution just was not there and they could not capitalise on their possession and opportunity.

“We gave ourselves a chance to win the game, that’s for sure,” said Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.

“We were a little bit unlucky when we had a lot of the ball at the start of the game when the conditions were just horrendous.

“They got their defensive rhythm and got some confidence out of stopping us a few times.”

3. Greg Inglis
2. Sam Burgess
1. Dylan Walker

Last-minute Titans try gives them win over local rivals Brisbane

David Mead

Games often come down to the last minute in the NRL and as the old saying goes, ‘it’s all just a game of inches’, inches are what awarded the Gold Coast Titans win as Aidan Sezer soared high and grabbed the ball from the hands of Ben Barba to score the winning try for the Titans.

The win cements their first spot in what has been a very promising start for the club, given their previous failures to make the finals in recent years.

With five wins from six, the Titans now enjoy a 4-point buffer on the ladder – albeit for 24 hours most likely – as they enjoy the view from the top.

To the satisfaction of just over 20,000 home fans, it was a win that the Titans can be proud of, given they fought until the end and showed grit to overcome the deficit.

Although the Titans would have preferred an easier win, they know that it is not always the case.

“You want to win easy against good opposition, but it never happens,” said Titans coach John Cartwright.

“To win tonight, I always thought it was going to be a tight affair and it worked out that way.”

Their success is not down to just one factor, with co-captain Nate Myles putting their good form so far down to the fact that each player is playing their role.

“Everyone has just stepped up a little bit in regards to our they are at training and away from football as well,” said Myles.

“I have no doubt that if we lose that little edge and some of the professionalism that it will no doubt show on the field.”

“We need to keep working hard and try to improve.”

The Broncos were left disappointed post-game, feeling that it was a game they should have won. With the momentum in their favour, captain Corey Parker knows there is work to do for the entire side.

“It was building nicely there and as Hook said, we probably didn’t execute the way we should have,” said Parker.

“That try they got off the kick certainly didn’t help, so they got some momentum off that.

3. David Mead
2. Luke Bailey
1. Ben Hunt

Former NRL winger signs new long-term deal at Castleford

Justin Carney

Long-term contracts are rare in the world of rugby league but when they are signed, it signals an intent from the player to stick around at a club for a lengthy period and intent from the club to have that player among their ranks moving forward.

For former NRL player Justin Carney, he is now in the long-term re-signing category, after he made a decision to extend his stay with the Castleford Tigers for a further five seasons.

Carney, who has played in the NRL for the Sydney Roosters and Canberra Raiders has scored 31 tries in 28 games for the Tigers and with the support he has received from fans since his move to the club, he is thrilled to have his future settled.

“It’s a good feeling; there’s been a few stressful months trying to figure out what I wanted to do, but I knew that I really wanted to stay and I’m pleased that it all worked out in the end,” said Carney.

“I didn’t realise that there were so many people wanting me in their team, but I think that I belong here. At the end of the day, my family and I are happy here and that’s all that matters.

“It’s a big statement from the club and a big decision for me as I’ve secured mine and my family’s future. I’ve worked really hard over the years to try and get a lengthy deal and it’s paid off now because I’m really happy here and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else – I just love it here.”

With Carney now being able to concentrate on football related matters, the man himself knows that he is a part of something special at the Tigers as they mount a charge towards the ultimate glory – a premiership.

“I don’t want to be complacent, but I can just concentrate on my footy now,” said Carney.

“When you know your future is sorted it puts your mind at ease and you can take a step back and focus on what’s important which is us winning every week. It’s not going to come easy, but that’s our goal and I’ll be busting a gut and doing everything in my power to help us do it.

“The people that I play with are my best mates off the field; they’ve made me feel at home since the day I got here. I hold most of the people here as close friends for life.

“It’s a good feeling to be a part of something like this – it’s very special, especially with the way we’re going at the moment. It was a big culture change at the start of the year with new people coming in with a lot of experience and it’s great to be a part of it.”

Given how well he has played for the Tigers since joining, re-signing him was a given and for head coach Daryl Powell, he is pleased to see the exciting winger extend his stay.

“I am delighted that a player of Justin’s standing both at Castleford Tigers and within the wider game has decided to re-sign with the club,” said Powell.

“Both the fact that he sees his future with us and the length of the contract is a huge statement for our club and the environment that we have created.

“Justin is a personality both on and off the field and I know all at the club will delighted with the news.”

Talented Tigers winger signs new deal with the club

David Nofoaluma

One of the most exciting young prospects at the Wests Tigers, many fans still remember that astonishing acrobatic try he scored last year and there is every chance Tigers fans will see similar moments, after David Nofoaluma re-signed with the club for a further three seasons.

Nofoaluma, who is a Campbelltown Collegians junior has so far played in 19 NRL games after making his debut back in Rd 10 of 2013.

After helping the Wests Tigers Holden Cup side to a premiership in 2013, he also represented the Junior Kangaroos side and for the man himself, there is no better team for him than the Tigers.

“The Club has been great to me over the years and I’m really enjoying my football,” Nofoaluma said.

“Being a local junior, I’ve made some great friends coming through the grades at Wests Tigers and playing alongside those guys is something I cherish.

“I’ve always supported the Wests Tigers; it’s a great feeling to be now playing NRL for the Club and I’m thankful for the opportunity I have been given,” he said.

Equally excited about retaining Nofoaluma is Tigers head coach, Mick Potter.

“David is yet another local product that the Club has secured on a long-team deal,” Potter said.

“He is a pleasant young man who is great to work with and is always great to coach.

“We have already seen how talented David is and he keeps on getting better. He no doubt has a long, bright future ahead of him,” he said.

The key for the Tigers has always been their talented youngsters and with CEO Grant Mayer at the helm, retaining their off-contract juniors is paramount.

“This is a significant step forward for the Club in completing the retention of our local juniors,” Mayer said.

“David has been dynamic since his debut against the Rabbitohs last year and has quickly become a crowd favourite.

“To retain him with so much interest from other clubs is a real coup and a testament to the culture that we are building at Wests Tigers.”