Eels cult hero prop joins Championship side Leigh

Fuifui Moimoi

In the years he was at the Eels, he was a cult hero. A cult figure who gained a following and was a fan
favourite of many fans.

In the rugby league world, however, all good things come to an end as Fuifui Moimoi embarks on a new chapter in his rugby league career, signing for 2015 with English Championship side, the Leigh Centurions.

With 201 games in the NRL to his name and representative appearances for both New Zealand and Tonga, the signing of Moimoi by Leigh is one of the biggest in the club’s history.

Looking to build on their premiership success last season, the Centurions are building nicely for 2015 and coach Paul Rowley knows how much impact a forward like Moimoi will have for them.

“The signing of Fui is a strong indication of Leigh Centurions’ ability to attract world-class talent in the face of fierce competition from Super League clubs,” said Rowley.

“It is a positive sign that the Club has grown in reputation both on and off the field and that word of mouth has reached foreign shores at the most elite level.”

The club is keen to have Fuifui on board and know that he will provide the presence, power and go-forward they need in 2015.

“Fui is a world-class player who will not only bring profile to our Club off the field but a huge presence and class on the field,” said Rowley.

“I am looking forward to coaching Fui and helping him to enjoy and flourish in his time within our Centurions family.”

Although some Super League clubs came knocking to sign the 35-year old, Leigh ended up being the best option for him and he made the call to sign with them.

“There was a lot in interest in me going to England including Super League but in the end my team advised me that Leigh was my best option and I’m very happy to be going to Leigh,” said Moimoi.

“I was there at the World Cup and I trained and played at the Leigh Stadium. I met a few people at Leigh and obviously I met the owner who is a really nice guy. The people there are really good and friendly and I can’t wait to meet them and to be part of Leigh Rugby League Club. It’s an honour for me to play my footy there next year.”

For Fui, his plan is simple. To work hard, play hard and be the best player he can be whilst giving it everything he has every week.

“I just want to play footy; train hard and play hard. I love the smash,” said Moimoi.

“I love to get hit and challenge the other team and players and see who’s the strongest and most skilful in my position. I want to play some good footy but I do love the smash. I’m looking forward – I can’t wait to meet my new team-mates and my new coach and work with them.”

After some tremendous years at his former club, the Parramatta Eels, Moimoi is sad to be departing but excited to embark on the new challenge.

“I’ll miss the fans and my team-mates (at Parramatta) but I’m looking forward to playing in England,” said Moimoi.

“The fans are crazy there, they love their footy and I can’t wait to get there and see all the fans in the UK.”

Daniel’s View: Were the 2014 rule changes a success or a flop?

There were a number of rule changes ahead of the 2014 season and this article from passionate NRL fan Daniel will assess whether or not they worked. Would you change any existing rules or introduce any of your own?

How did the NRL 2014 Rule changes fare?

“Faster, safer and more thrilling finishes.”
This promise, found on the opening line of NRL press release on the 26th of January 2014 outlying the most extravagant changes to have hit rugby league in the 106 years.
Did Head of Football Todd Greenberg deliver on his promise?
Well don’t worry Mr Greenberg, enjoy your summer break. We will complete the end of season review on your behalf. Go party with Todd Carney and tweet with Gal. We have this one covered.

Rule Change 1: Zero Tackle from 20m restart.

The first tackle of a 20m restart is constituted as a zero tackle, generating a 7 tackle set.

The purpose of such a rule was to eliminate the negative tactics of kicking the ball into the crowd, just so no one could watch the feats of Milford, Hayne, Inglis and co. run the ball back and entertain the crowd. How selfish.

It is an hefty penalty against the attacking team in situations where attacking kicks fall millimetres short of being a four pointer. Despite this the rule has been an overwhelming success with attacking football the name of the day.

Result: Flowing, end to end football prevailed, with the fullbacks remaining as the superstars of the NRL.

Verdict: A great addition to the spectacle of the modern game providing a platform for attacking football to flourish.
Grade: A

Rule Change 2. 40/20 Restarts

The team that kicks a 40/20 kick will restart play with a tap kick, instead of a scrum.

This rule brought excitement and controversy to the game in droves, with BallBoygate forcing Parramatta Eels out of the finals for the 5th consecutive year.

The rule led to fast paced action, and was an exceptional tool used to turn momentum late in the game.

Result: Tries were scored, excitement raged and inconsistency reigned.

Verdict: A valuable addition to the game, with the removal of a modern scrum always a bonus.
Grade: C

Rule Change 3: Stop the clock

In the final 5 minutes of a match, the clock will stop following a conversion or penalty kick until play restarts at halfway.

This change took the game further towards the entertainment industry, tailoring the game to the large television audience, ensuring exhilarating finishes to the 80 minute contest.

The memorable semi-final clash between the Canterbury Bulldogs and Manly Sea Eagles was a valuable exponent of the change, highlighting the theatre of rugby league.

Headlines raged throughout 2014 regarding the timekeeper, not stopping the clock at a noisy Brookvale preventing a Penrith Panthers win in Round 25.

Result: A rush of last minute, nail-biting finishes creating headlines for days.

Verdict: Positives can be sought from this rule change, but the change did not provide enough of an impact to validate such a change from the traditional laws of the game
Grade: C

Rule Change 4: Quick Taps

The re-emergence of the quick tap was one to excite rugby league fans, who drool over the sight of an agile back slicing through the heavy forwards.

Many a rugby league fan does not even remember the tap ever leaving the game, with the rule previously relying on what mood the referee was in.

The quick tap led to a large number of full field tries, eliminating precious wasted minutes from the 80 minutes game whilst providing a test of endurance for the athletes on the field.

The players on the field loved it, no more than the Titans evergreen Luke Bailey

Result: Less stoppage time and more flair entering the game.

Verdict: The number of quick taps per round was limited, and while the thought process behind the rule adaptation was admirable, it was not substantially productive.
Grade: B+

Rule Change 5: Goal Kicking Time Limit
The Referee will call time-off at approximately 1 min 20 secs following a try, with fines applying to clubs who take longer than 1 min 40 secs to take a conversion.

This rule was virtually non-existent throughout the 2014 Premiership. No fines were issued at all regarding length of goal kicks, and in a season with hundreds of goal kick attempts, it appears laughable that not one goal kick was worthy of a fine.

Result: Nothing

Verdict: In principle, the rule is magnificent. In practice, the NRL have a lot of work to learn how to implement the rule.
Grade: D

Rule Change 6: Cannonball and Crusher Tackles

The Cannonball tackle was officially illegal, with crusher tackles to be directed straight to the Match Review Committee.

No one involved in rugby league enjoys watching thuggery take place on the field, and this rule did a grand job in obliterating this blight from the NRL.

High level suspensions for crusher tackles were rife throughout the NRL, with players of all levels suspended for the art, including Australian representative Sam Thaiday.

The word cannonball was removed from the NRL vocabulary for 2014, whilst crusher tackles definitely achieved harsh suspensions, even attracting mild criticism from experts.
The safety of the players is paramount, and these rules went a long way to generating a safe environment for the players to enjoy rugby league.

Result: A safer environment, with player welfare paramount.

Verdict: The perfect balance between the physical nature of rugby league and the welfare of the individual.
Grade: A +

A Kiwi and a Samoan join the Mackay Cutters

Steve Rapira

In a clear sign that they mean business for the 2015 season, the Mackay Cutters have pulled off a signing coup, with both Steve Rapira and Michael Sio to join the club.

Steve Rapira is a former New Zealand Warriors and Salford Devils forward, with the prop/back-rower playing in 57 NRL games throughout his career despite some setbacks.

The Cutters are no strangers to Rapira, with the forward playing for them during his stint with the North Queensland Cowboys.

As a veteran, the club is looking to Rapira to lead the younger players at the club around.

The other signing is also a former New Zealand Warrior, with Samoan hooker Michael Sio joining the Cutters. Still only young, he has represented Samoa five times, most recently at the Rugby League World Cup.

The move is a chance for Sio to cement an NRL spot moving forward and for the club themselves, the signing of the duo has them chomping at the bit to start.

“I couldn’t have wished for two better players to choose our club to continue their careers,” said Mackay Cutters coach, Kim Williams.

“Steve is an outstanding player who will add quality and experience to our young group and Michael is an up-and-coming future star who has chosen us over a host of NRL clubs who were chasing his signature.

We are delighted to have them on board and we expect them to make an immediate impact within our club when they arrive next week.”

Michael Sio

Former Eels hooker becomes Junior Development Officer of the Burleigh Bears

Matt Keating

He enjoyed a long, healthy career in the NRL and after a stint with the Burleigh Bears in the Intrust Super Cup, Matt Keating retired and thus ended his playing career.

Fast forward to the present, though, and Keating will have a new role at the Burleigh Bears, with the club appointing him as their full-time Junior Development Officer.

It is a new role that Keating looks forward to as he embarks on the next chapter of his career.

“It’s great to finish my footy career and then go into a rugby league job. I’m very passionate about it and I’m ready to learn,” said Keating.

The role will see him work closely with the Burleigh juniors, the Mal Meninga and Cyril Connell teams, as well as well as the FOGS Colts team.

In addition to that, he will work closely with Gold Coast schools such as PBC, Coomabah and Marymount College – something he relishes.

“I want to focus on getting juniors through the system rather than just relying on bringing in somebody from outside all the time. If you’ve got that talent, you’ve got to use it and develop it,” said Keating.

“We want juniors to develop themselves, come through the grades on the Gold Coast and at Burleigh and become an Intrust Super Cup player. That’s what the club wants to see, that’s the goal for me and that’s how I’ll see results over the years.

Keating knows he has his work cut out but he is committed to promoting junior talent in Burleigh and believes there can be a lot of positives to come from it long-term.

“What’s happening at the top and what Jimmy Lenihan is going to do and implement is great,” said Keating.

“If I can put those systems in place down the grades, we’re going to see results and I really believe we’ll have some good stories coming in the years ahead.”

In addition to the new role for Keating, the Burleigh Bears have announced that I Luv Coffee have extended their naming rights deal with the club for a further two years.

Bears CEO Damien Driscoll was looking forward to the continued partnership between the two organisations.

“The support from I Luv Coffee for the next two years will ensure the Burleigh Bears will continue to thrive and grow” Driscoll said.

“Right from the start of our partnership, I luv Coffee have been great supporters of the club and we look forward to repaying their faith in us.

I Luv Coffee are just as pleased to continue their tenure as a corporate partner and sponsor of the Burleigh Bears.

“I Luv Coffee has been extremely proud to partner with the Burleigh Bears for the last five years and looks forward to working even closer with the club over the next two seasons,” said Grant Nordin.

“We look forward to continuing our strong relationship and look forward to the Bears on field success.”

Former Eels and Knights utility crosses the Tasman

Api Pewhairangi

He is a New Zealand Maori international, an Irish World Cup representative and a former Newcastle Knights and Parramatta Eels utility but now, he has a new challenge ahead of him.

The player in question is Api Pewhairangi, who has crossed the Tasman Sea and signs a 1-year deal with the Warriors.

Playing in four games in 2013 for the Eels, much of the 2014 season for Pewhairangi was spent playing for the Wentworthville Magpies in the NSW Cup.

Playing rugby union to begin with before a move to rugby league, the club are excited to have him on board for their depth.

“We were well aware of Api’s ability after watching him come through the NYC and New South Wales Cup as well as playing some NRL football for the Eels,” said Vodafone Warriors general manager football Dean Bell.

“He was a real standout at our New South Wales Cup trial. We immediately invited him to join our squad for offseason training and he has continued to make a big impression which has now resulted in him being contracted.

“He has played in the centres but we like the look of him in the halves where he will definitely add to our depth.”

In addition to Pewhairangi’s signing, utility Steve Waetford also re-signed with the club.

Former Junior Kiwi coach appointed as Belgium’s new Sport Director

Tony Benson

Keen to make a mark in the European rugby league community, the Belgian officials have taken a big leap towards achieving that, appointing former Junior Kiwi Tony Benson as their new Rugby League Sports Director.

With Benson to officially commence in the role in 2015, his main priorities will be to formulate a youth culture among Belgium’s rugby league system.

In addition to that, he will also work towards the setup of an elite rugby league program that will allow Belgium to field a side in the 2016 Eurocup C competition.

The Belgium rugby league themselves are thrilled to have the experienced Benson on board and believe he is a solid fit for their budding aspirations.

“His knowledge and proven ability to bring the very best out of players makes him an ideal fit for Belgian Rugby League,” said Belgian’s league Chairman, Yves Kazadi.

As for Benson’s previous roles in rugby league, he was the Junior Kiwi coach in 2003 before moving onto Leigh Centurions in the 2006 season.

Following that, he then became a part of the Ireland Wolfhounds back-room staff and then moved onto a head caoching role with the London Skolars.

That was followed by two years at Oldham with successive grand final appearances, before his final role – before this one – saw him coach Oxford Rugby League.

Harry’s View: Is the NRL season too long in its current format?

Passionate Newcastle fan Harry writes his first article for NRL News and casts his eye over the NRL season and asks the question, is the season too long? Is a shortened season the way to go? Do you agree?

The NRL has long been an organisation that has been criticised for being unable to make the tough decisions on the games future.

I can’t help but get the feeling that something needs to be done about the overall structure of the competition.
This argument normally comes up during State Of Origin but reared its head once more on the back of a successful Four Nations tournament which highlighted the importance of playing Rugby League on the international level.

All the critics lined up to write it off as a Mickey Mouse tournament which was nothing but a waste of time.

Everyone was reminded of how important the likes of a successful New Zealand team is to the growth of the sport while England were extremely unlucky to not appear in the final after two close losses to the Kiwis and Australia.

Samoa were well coached and played with unbridled enthusiasm which got them to within minutes of causing upset victories over England and New Zealand.

Samoa being this competitive was nothing more than a pipe dream a year ago.
They have given the NRL a compelling case to show that they should be playing Test matches on a regular basis and other nations like Fiji and Papua New Guinea should be nurtured also.

But where to fit all these international games in on the Rugby League calendar? How does the game look after its top stars?

It’s a simple answer for me. Reduce the NRL season.

The game wants to have the Auckland Nines and NRL All Stars on the calendar and they both serve a great purpose.
State Of Origin brings $100 million worth of revenue to the game so they aren’t willing to make drastic changes to the concept.

For me, reducing the NRL season by four weeks seems the logical option.
If the amount of club games was reduced to 20 instead of the current 24, it would allow the season to finish a month earlier allowing for Internationals to be played during September instead of mid-October and into November.

This would allow even the elite players to have a full month off before resuming pre-season training.
State Of Origin can remain in its current format or it can be moved to stand alone fixtures like the June internationals in Rugby Union.

Teams would have 10 home games and 10 away games and you can still allow room for two byes in a 22 week season.
If my provised 22 week NRL season was to come in during the 2015 season, it would look something like this.

January 31 – February 1 Auckland Nines
February 14 – NRL All Stars match
March 5 – May 24 Round One until 11 begins with all teams playing with no byes.
Australia vs New Zealand ANZAC test scheduled for early may would be moved to the end of the year.
May 27 Origin One
May 29 – June 7 rounds 12 and 13 allowing for byes to take place.
June 10 Origin Two
June 12 – June 21 rounds 14 and 15 allowing for byes to take place.
June 24 – Origin Three
June 26 – August 9 round 16 – round 22 with all teams active every weekend.
August 14 would be the start of the NRL finals series which would give us a Grand Final on Sunday the 6th of September.

The competition finishes a month earlier than 2014 which would then allow for International matches to be played.
This is just a draft model of how would like to see the NRL operate and believe it is perfectly viable.

Ethiopia become sixth African nation to be awarded RLEF Observer status

They have toiled, worked hard and after three years, it has all paid off. Ethopian rugby league has officially become the sixth African nation to be awarded RLEF Observer status.

Based at the Nicholas Robinson School in Mekelle, more than 1300 children across the region from the ages of 7 to 17 have been learning the rules and skills involved with rugby league.

The brainchild behind it all is Ethopian teacher, Abebuker Ahmed Tadesse, the President of Ethopia’s recently founded rugby league organisation.

“We are introducing rugby league football in Ethiopia – through the Tigray Region – at youth level, so as to create a firm foundation for future growth,” said Abubeker.

“We are beginning in schools and universities in the north of Ethiopia, and we will spread our sport to the rest of the country.”

In order to be recognised as an official sport by the Federal Ministry, three other regions in the country must adopt the sport and in doing so, providing the sport with sufficient resources.

Additionally, more referees and coaches will be trained and developed in rugby league, with RLEF MEA Director Remond Safi to conduct those when he visits Africa.

He will teach 20 coaches and meet with Government officials.

Sharks appoint former soccer boss as their new Group CEO

Lyall Gorman

The Cronulla Sharks have been crying out for some good news and they finally received it, with the club appointing Lyall Gorman as their new Group CEO.

Gorman, who had strong ties in soccer related administration roles in the past – specifically with the A-League and the Central Coast Mariners – brings 30 years of experience to the helm.

Gorman’s role at the Sharks will involve overseeing the football club, the leagues club and any additional development work carried out by partners, Bluestone Constructions.

With the need to appoint a well-known CEO that knows the business, the game and how to run a business, Sharks Chairman Damien Keogh believes Gorman is a quality fit for the role.

“The appointment heralds a new beginning for the Sharks,” Keogh said.

“Lyall has a mandate to take this club into the future and through the meetings with myself and other Board members during the recruitment process it is clear we share a vision for the type of club we want to build.

“While known for his recent accomplishments as a Football administrator, Lyall has a strong background in rugby league as a player, coach and referee over many years and we welcome him back to the sport in this significant role with the Cronulla Sharks.”

Gorman’s track record has seen him enjoy a successful stint as a soccer administrator for some years now. He was the brainchild behind the formation of the Western Sydney Wanderers and was a key factor in their development.

Additionally, Gorman was in charge of the A-League in 2010 and was also the Executive Chairman of the Central Coast Mariners for six years.

With experience in several different administrative areas, Gorman is excited with the new challenge ahead of him in a new sport.

“I am both delighted and honored to be appointed to this role” said Gorman.

“The opportunity to harness the tremendous pride, passion and parochialism that exudes across the members and supporters of this club and the broader Sutherland Shire provides the perfect platform to build a successful and winning high performance culture on and off the field.

“Combining those ingredients, with a Board which has a very clear vision for the future; an exceptionally talented playing roster across all teams in the club; a professional and committed football, management and administration staff; a wonderful Junior League Association and a very committed group of corporate partners and supporters, has been the carrot to convince me that this is where I want to be,” Gorman continued.

With the Sharks issues in past seasons – internal and external – Gorman is keen to get started in the role and aid the club to become bigger and better in the future.

“I have no doubt that with the consistent application of the right vision, values and culture this club’s future is one of endless possibilities,” Gorman said.

“The future of our club will be built on the back of everyone associated with it working together in the same direction.

“I look forward to the journey ahead and to working with all stakeholders both inside and outside, to set a new benchmark across the NRL while simultaneously making a significant contribution and difference to the wonderful people and region that is the Sutherland Shire,” he added.

Former NRL player returns to rugby league with Salford

Cory Paterson

It was not that long ago that he opted to retire from rugby league to pursue a boxing career but when you play league, it stays with you and it was only a matter of time before Cory Paterson returned.

That’s what the former Newcastle Knight and Wests Tigers utility has done, signing with the Salford Devils for the 2015 season.

Whilst his boxing career has been going well, Paterson was bound to return to league eventually and after speaking with Salford owner Dr. Marwan Koukash, it all fell into place.

“It became apparent this week that Cory wanted not only to get back into rugby league but also that he really wanted to do so with us,” said Koukash.

“The deal has moved very quickly and Cory will join us in January on a one-year deal with an option of a second. It is a great opportunity for both parties.

Cory will come in and make our pack even stronger and for him it allows him the opportunity to continue to prove himself at the highest level.”

With a solid back-row rotation, Paterson will need hard work to play but with commitment across the board, it should be expected that he will see regular game-time.