Dragons youngster sacked for breaching contractual obligations

Addin Fonua-Blake

Just yesterday, the St George Illawarra club was celebrating the signing of a powerful forward. Today, they have been force to sack one, with talented youngster Addin Fonua-Blake given the flick for breaching contractual obligations.

After an incident on Sunday January 18, Fonua-Blake was stood down from all club duties and received counselling support from the club during the time away.

Following investigations by both the club and the NRL’s Integrity Unit, it was found that Fonua-Blake breached clauses within his contract, leaving the Dragons with no choice.

“The decision followed a detailed investigation by the Club and the NRL Integrity Unit as well as a Hearing before the Board of the St George Illawarra Dragons,” said Dragons CEO Peter Doust.

“Addin’s actions breached clauses in his contract and upon review of all information by the Board of the Dragons, the decision was made that termination of his contract was the appropriate outcome.

“This circumstance is unfortunate for both Addin and the Club, Addin has been at our Club for a number of years and was a player our coaching group had targeted for NRL this season.”

Rd 17 NRL Teams

The last of major bye rounds, with many interesting clashes to take place this week. Some teas are rising, some teams are dropping and some need wins to maintain their spots. Just one game each day this week but they will prove to be entertaining clashes. Just who will win them, we will find out.

So, without further adieu, here is the teams for Rd 17:

Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs (#NRLpensgi); Pepper Stadium, Penrith; Friday July 3. Kick-off: 7:35pm.

Panthers: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Josh Mansour 3. Dean Whare 4. Waqa Blake 5. David Simmons 6. Jamie Soward 7. Peter Wallace 8. Nigel Plum 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 11. Isaah Yeo 12. Bryce Cartwright 13. Elijah Taylor.

Interchange: 14. Lewis Brown 15. Sam McKendry 16. Jeremy Latimore 17. Tyrone Peachey 22. Sika Manu (One to be omitted).

Coach: Ivan Cleary.

Souths: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Joel Reddy 3. Dylan Walker 4. Bryson Goodwin 5. Aaron Gray 6. Luke Keary 7. Adam Reynolds 8. George Burgess 9. Issac Luke 10. Tim Grant 11. Glenn Stewart 12. John Sutton (C) 13. Chris McQueen.

Interchange: 14. Ben Lowe 15. Chris Grevsmuhl 16. Dave Tyrrell 17. Thomas Burgess 18. Jason Clark 19. Cameron McInnes 20. Daryl Millard (Three to be omitted).

Coach: Michael Maguire.

St George Illawarra Dragons v North Queensland Cowboys (#NRLsginql); WIN Stadium, Wollongong; Saturday July 4. Kick-off: 7:30pm.

Dragons: 1. Jason Nightingale 2. Yaw Kiti Glymin 3. Euan Aitken 4. Peter Mata’utia 5. Eto Nabuli 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Benji Marshall 8. Leeson Ah Mau 9. Mitch Rein 10. Ben Creagh (C) 11. Will Matthews 12. Jake Marketo 13. Mike Cooper.

Interchange: 14. Nathan Green 15. George Rose 16. Rory O’Brien 17. Heath L’Estrange 18. Craig Garvey (One to be omitted).

Coach: Paul McGregor.

Cowboys: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Matt Wright 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Kane Linnett 5. Antonio Winterstein 6. Ray Thompson 7. Robert Lui 8. Ben Hannant 9. Jake Granville 10. Sam Hoare 11. Gavin Cooper (C) 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Jason Taumalolo.

Interchange: 14. Rory Kostjaysn 15. John Asiata 16. Scott Bolton 17. Patrick Kaufusi 18. Glenn Hall 20. Ben Spina (Two to be omitted).

Coach: Paul Green.

Manly Sea Eagles v Cronulla Sharks (#NRLmancro); Brookvale Oval; Sunday July 5. Kick-off: 4pm.

Manly: 1. Brett Stewart 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Peta Hiku 4. Steve Matai 5. Tom Trbojevic 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Jake Trbojevic 9. Matt Ballin 10. Luke Burgess 11. Feleti Mateo 12. Tom Symonds 13. Dunamis Lui.

Interchange: 14. James Hasson 15. Ligi Sao 16. Justin Horo 17. Willie Mason 22. Josh Starling (One to be omitted).

Coach: Geoff Toovey.

Sharks: 1. Michael Gordon 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Gerard Beale 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Valentine Holmes 6. Jack Bird 7. Jeff Robson 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Michael Ennis 10. Matt Prior 11. Luke Lewis 12. Wade Graham (C) 13. Chris Heighington.

Interchange: 14. Jayson Bukuya 15. Ben Barba 16. David Fifita 17. Sam Tagataese.

Coach: Shane Flanagan.

Wests Tigers v Parramatta Eels (#NRLwstpar); ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park; Monday July 6. Kick-off: 7pm.

Tigers: 1. James Tedesco 2. Kevin Naiqama 3. Delouise Hoeter 4. Nathan Milone 5. Pat Richards 6. Mitch Moses 7. Luke Brooks 8. Sauaso Sue 9. Dene Halatau (C) 10. Keith Galloway 11. Kyle Lovett 12. Chris Lawrence 13. Martin Taupau.

Interchange: 14. Manaia Cherrington 15. Ava Seumanufagai 16. Matt Lodge 17. Brenden Santi 18. Jack Buchanan (One to be omitted).

Coach: Jason Taylor.

Eels: 1. Corey Norman 2. Semi Radradra 3. Ryan Morgan 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Bureta Faraimo 6. Luke Kelly 7. Chris Sandow 8. Junior Paulo 9. Cody Nelson 10. Tim Mannah 11. Manu Ma’u 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Anthony Watmough.

Interchange: 14. Pauli Pauli 15. Darcy Lussick 16. Danny Wicks 17. David Gower 18. Joseph Paulo (One to be omitted).

Coach: Brad Arthur.

Hulking prop returns to Australia and signs with the Dragons

Mose Masoe

The St George Illawarra Dragons fans have been crying out for some big boppers in their team and they may have the man they are after, with Mose Masoe to return to Australia after signing a 2-year deal with the club.

Currently playing for St Helens in the Super League, Masoe is a Samoan international and has been capped seven times for his country and was a member of the Saints premiership-winning season last year.

Originally at the Roosters before then signing with the Penrith Panthers, Masoe has forged a reputation on being a hard hitter and a hard runner, assets that will only boost the Dragons forward pack from 2016.

A Randwick Kingfishers junior, Masoe has played in 108 first-grade games in the NRL to date and the club are excited to have him on board for next year.

“Mose will be a welcome addition to the Club as he is able to provide both the additional size and go-forward which is vital in all strong forward-packs,” said Dragons Director of Recruitment & Retention Peter Mulholland.

“He is presently playing his trade in the traditionally-physical Super League competition and is a key player for the strong St Helens club.

“We look forward to welcoming him to the Club during the off-season.”

A crucial part of the St Helens forward pack over the last couple of seasons, the club are keen to end his tenure on a high.

“We’re sad to be losing Mose Masoe as he has been a popular member of the squad and been at the hub of a pack that has been superb this year,” said St Helens coach Kieron Cunningham.

“He is a really good bloke who I know will want to end his Saints career with more winner’s medals.”

With the desire to return home, whilst they are disappointed to lose Masoe, the Saints were not going to stand in his way.

“Naturally we’re disappointed to lose Mose but we wouldn’t stand in the way of a player who wants to return home,” said St Helens Chairman, Mike Rush.

“He is enjoying his time in St Helens and has settled in well – becoming a real fans’ favourite.

“Having spoken to Mose, he is determined to finish the rest of this season on a high and once again cap it with a Grand Final winner’s medal.”

Warriors consolidate top 8 spot with comfortable win over Canberra

Ben Matulino

Once again, the brilliance of Shaun Johnson in the match was a telling factor as the New Zealand Warriors ended up as comfortable winners at Mt Smart Stadium, defeating the Canberra Raiders 30-8.

It was the right edge for the Warriors side that produced levels of potency that the Raiders could not match with their defence, as they eventually ran away with the game.

The Warriors were rampant as they dominated possession and completed a remarkable 80% of their sets, with their victory the second straight by a margin of 22 points.

The Raiders did have the lead at one stage around halfway through the first half but the right side attack of the Warriors was awoken as the game wore on.

Their play was too good for the Raiders to keep up with after that and the Warriors now have the bye to recover, without the threat of any long-term injuries.

Warriors star Shaun Johnson very nearly missed the clash with a back injury but he recovered and helped his side to an easy win.

“I was pretty sore yesterday and wasn’t able to do the captain’s run. I looked after it and the physios did a good job,” Johnson said.

“It did [bother me during the match], but I guess when you are in the middle of it all you don’t really think about it, it’s just when you stop – when the ball goes dead or scrums – it goes back to it.”

The defensive effort was the key for the Warriors and it was that area that pleased coach Andrew McFadden the most.

“Obviously very good, we kept the best attacking team in the competition to eight points,” McFadden said.

“I think both last week and this week have been similar themes. We build pressure through our kick game and defensive effort, and then out points come off the back of that.”

Forced to make a significantly large number of tackles, that added defensive responsibility took its toll on the Raiders and coach Ricky Stuart knows it.

“Yeah it’s hard, it’s been the last two weeks,” he said.

“That weight of possession it’s always going to be very hard, especially against a quality team like the Warriors.

“We probably made enough tackles over the last two games for four games when you look at the stats.

“The amount of possession we had to defend in the first 40 probably hurt us in the overall game.”

3. Ben Matulino
2. Shaun Johnson
1. Manu Vatuvei

Warriors 30 (Lolohea 2, Thompson, Johnson, Vatuvei tries; Johnson 5 goals) def. Raiders 8 (Wighton tries; Croker 2 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Crowd: 13,110. Half-time: 14-8.

Potential long-term injury for McGuire mars Broncos win

Matt Gilett

Whilst the celebrating will continue for the Brisbane Broncos after a resounding 44-22 win over the Newcastle Knights in Brisbane, the major talking point is the potential long-term injury to prop Josh McGuire.

It was an innocuous looking injury at first as he turned around in defence before hitting the turf, with fears that he has injured his Achilles tendon.

Someone who is familiar with that sort of injury is Justin Hodges and having done it twice, he believes the hulking prop can come back fitter and stronger in 2016.

“It’s devastating for him – it’s a big injury,” Hodges said.

“He’s a guy who works hard and takes no shortcuts so he’ll get back. If he works hard [in recovery] and do the little things right he’ll be back before you know it.”

There were injuries galore in the clash, as Dale Copley also left the field with concussion, whilst Knights players Beau Scott (shoulder) and Robbie Rochow (broken arm) also left the field early.

The straight-forward win for the Broncos sees them in outright first at the moment and continues their tremendous momentum and run of wins.

It was one-way traffic to begin with, as the Broncos raced out to a 20-0 lead, before two late tries in the first half reduced the deficit to 20-10 leading into half-time.

The tries then went back and forth for a while as both teams produced some exciting footy, before the Broncos eventually held firm and ran away with the contest.

Finding his mojo over the last month after a tough start to his time at Brisbane, five-eighth Anthony Milford was again one of the key men and is fast becoming a fan favourite.

He drew immediate praise from captain Justin Hodges who is well aware of just how good Milford is as a player.

“Everyone knows what he can do. He’s got so much speed and so much talent, you just give him a little opportunity like that and it’s all over,” said Hodges.

“It’s just good to see him in full flight and how fast he is; it’s about time the little fella showed it.”

The performance also drew praise from coach Wayne Bennett, particularly their defence in the second half.

“They showed the qualities of a good side,” Bennett said.

“They lifted when they had to. There were a couple of times where they had to lift themselves and they did, 20-16 was one of those times and they got themselves going again and that’s what the good sides do.”

After the potential long-term injury to Rochow, the Knights may have to do some last-minute mid-season shopping, just to shore up their forward depth.

“We need some forwards. Robbie might not play again this year; we’ve got a couple of front-rowers out that won’t play for a while so that’s our priority at the moment,” Stone said.

Player of the Game:

3. Matt Gillett
2. Paterkia Vaivai
1. Anthony Milford

Brisbane Broncos 44 (Matt Gillett 2, Lachlan Maranta 2, Corey Oates, Andrew McCullough, Anthony Milford, Darius Boyd tries; Corey Parker 5, Ben Hunt goals) def. Newcastle Knights 22 (Dane Gagai, Akuila Uate, Danny Levi, Korbin Sims tries; Kurt Gidley 3, Gagai goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 27,246. Half-time: Broncos 20-10.

Big hits galore as Souths defeat Manly in entertaining contest

Aaron Gray

In a game that produced big hits frequently – including a potential hit of the season by Manly Sea Eagles centre Steve Matai – it was the South Sydney Rabbitohs who came away with a 20-8 win over Manly.

Forced to play much of the game without key play-maker Adam Reynolds who left the field due to concussion, it was Luke Keary and Aaron Gray that led from the front, guiding Souths to victory.

Manly tried persistently to score against the sturdy Souths defence but were their own enemy at times, as the Souths defence held firm. Eventually, Manly did score, opening the scoring in the 26th minute through Peta Hiku.

The Bunnies bounced back through Aaron Gray, who scored the first of his two tries, before a penalty goal put Souths up 6-4 at half-time.

With the game billed as one that would see the Burgess brothers (George and Tom for Souths) and (Luke Burgess for Manly), go head-to-head – bragging rights went home with the Souths duo.

Despite Manly’s best efforts to stay in the game, they were overpowered by Souths, with youngster Aaron Gray playing his best game of the season to continue his already quality form.

The poor mistakes and execution cost Manly, as coach Geoff Toovey was quick to point out the superior play of the Souths side.

“I thought we dominated large portions of the first half but I thought Souths came out a bit more enthusiastic than us and when you do that things tend to go that way,” Toovey said.

“It was just one of those things, South Sydney are a quality side and obviously when a team like that gets momentum they’re hard to stop.”

Gray’s performance drew raucous praise from Souths coach Michael Maguire, who is pleased to see the youngster fitting in so well.

“Off the back of a really hard working forward pack and the halves Aaron has learned how to finish really well there so I’m really pleased with his progress,” Maguire said.

“To see Aaron run around with some of his best mates in Dylan Walker and Alex Johnston, it’s good to be a part of watching these kids grow.”

Player of the Game:

3. Aaron Gray
2. George Burgess
1. John Sutton

South Sydney Rabbitohs 20 (Aaron Gray 2, Bryson Goodwin, Luke Keary Tries; Issac Luke 2 Goals) defeated Manly-Waringah Sea Eagles 8 (Peta Hiku, Steve Matai Tries) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 14, 236. Half-time: Rabbitohs 6-4.

Tipping Point’s View: Rd 16 Tips

The business end of the season is upon us and yet, it is still so hard to be able to pick the winners when it comes to tips. Some teams are flying, some teams need wins, and there’s plenty of quality games this week, many of which are hard to tip. Our tipping guru Tipping Point will try and help you out.

Round 16 Tips

Season: 66/116 (57%) – Last week: 6/7

At a glance: Broncos, Souths, Warriors, Cowboys, Dragons, Tigers, Roosters, Bulldogs

Broncos v Knights, Suncorp Stadium

This is one of those games that’s such an overwhelming lock you half expect an upset to materialise – but I don’t think it will happen. The Broncos are in ominous form, have five wins on the trot at Suncorp and are playing a team very low on morale and confidence. I reckon the Knights will have a decent dig after last week’s capitulation to the Sharks, but other than that there’s absolutely no reason to tip Newcastle in this game.

Tip: Broncos

Souths v Manly, ANZ Stadium

Souths were poor in their last FNF fixture against the Tigers, but I think we can excuse that performance as they were without GI and backing up after the dreaded Perth road trip. I expect them to be pretty fired up for this game; fresh off the bye and with Reynolds back on deck and Luke a rumoured late inclusion, I reckon they’ll get the job done. Manly are poor travellers, losing 11 of their last 12 on the road and I think their lightweight pack will get monstered.

Tip: Souths

Warriors v Raiders, Mt Smart Stadium

This game is a lot closer than the betting would make you think. While the Warriors look the more likely, don’t discount Canberra: with 5/7 on the road in 2015 their away form is behind only the Cowboys and the Broncos, and no side has scored more points than them this season. The Warriors on the other had have been pretty hit and miss all year, and even at home they’re only 3/6 which is well down on their usual record. Both sides like to throw the footy around so expect some points, but I have the Warriors just ahead – Tomkins’ availability was a key factor, as was their good record over the Raiders.

Tip: Warriors

Cowboys v Sharks, 1300Smiles Stadium

The Cowboys have opted to rest JT which makes an otherwise straightforward tip slightly awkward. Their record without JT isn’t great, and with 11 straight they’re surely edging closer to a loss – but you’d be a brave tipster to take the Sharkies in Townsville. This game essentially picks itself, but it wouldn’t surprise to see the Sharkies get up, especially if Gallen plays.

Tip: Cowboys

Eels v Dragons, Pirtek Stadium

Boardroom dramas, recruitment woes, fans in revolt, injuries galore: can things possibly get worse for the Parramatta Eels? Yes, starting with this Saturday’s game against the Red V. I do not think the Eels are good enough to knock over the Dragons, who will be desperate to get their season back on track after a couple of losses. To me, the Dragons look like a side that can dispatch of non-top eight sides and based on recent performances, the Eels will give them plenty of chances. Interestingly, the Eels have lost four in a row at Pirtek while the Dragons haven’t won there since 2010. Someone’s going to break a run of outs, and I expect it to be the Dragons quite comfortably.

Tip: Dragons

Tigers v Panthers, Leichardt Oval

This is a really close call, the toughest of the week in my opinion. The Tigers have showed some improvement in the last few weeks with a good win over the Bunnies and a close loss to Manly at Brookie, whereas the Panthers just cannot get their season started: Segeyaro went down last week (much to the chagrin of thousands of Supercoach players) which robs them of one of their best players, and with Moylan also out – possibly for the season – I think the Tigers are slightly ahead, despite the game being at Leichardt where they have, surprisingly, a poor record. Farah’s inclusion is massive – without him playing, I’d probably take the Panthers.

Tip: Tigers

Roosters v Titans, Central Coast Stadium

This game can also be filed under “overwhelming lock”; there’s just no way the Titans can win this game. Not with their injury toll, not without Sezer, and not against a side starting to flex its premiership muscle. The Roosters will win this, and should win it easily.

Tip: Roosters

Bulldogs v Storm, Belmore Sports Ground

The Doggies return to Belmore for the first time since 1998, rekindling memories of the likes of Craig Polla-Mounta, Rod Silva and Daryl Halligan. The Dogs have a good record over the Storm with four straight wins, and I expect them to make it five on Monday night. With massive doubts over Cronk’s availability I can’t take the Storm here, and I really like the look of the Doggies line-up when the Morris twins play. The Storm are solid enough when one of the Big 3 goes down, but missing two is just a bridge too far, as they showed last week against Brisbane when they were unable to break the Broncos’ line despite having all the ball and territory.

Tip: Bulldogs

As a side note, if your tipping comp has a joker round where you get double points, now would be the time to play it. I reckon there are at least four bankable tips and even if you bat at 50% for the other four, you’re still going to come out with a decent score. Touch wood.

Raiders prop heads North and signs with Titans

David Shillington

Speculation grew that he was headed for a move away and that has eventuated, with in-form Canberra Raiders prop David Shillington to head North after signing with the Gold Coast Titans.

The two-year deal with the Titans will mark the end of a 7-year tenure at the Raiders that has seen ups and downs for Shillington throughout that time.

Shillington has played over 100 games for the Raiders and represented both the QLD Maroons and the Australian side during his time at the club.

In 2010, Shillington won the club’s Mal Meninga Award and is excited about the new adventure that lies ahead of him on the Gold Coast.

“I am very grateful to the Raiders coaches and management for the opportunity to develop into the player I am and while I’m excited about the future, I’m very much committed to the Raiders for the remainder of 2015,” Shillington said.

With 194 NRL games to his name to date, Shillington’s return to the Raiders starting side has seen him reproduce his quality form, as the Raiders overall form improves.

The Titans are pleased to have signed the veteran prop as a direct replacement for the experienced forwards they have already lost.

“David has a wealth of experience at NRL, Origin and Test level and at 194cm and 112kg brings us size and power,” said Titans coach, Neil Henry.

“He has consistently been one of the Raiders’ best metre-gainers over the past few seasons at over 120 metres a game and has a good work-rate and ethic and can play a key role around some of the young forwards here.”

Broncos forward departs for SL side Leeds effective immediately

Mitch Garbutt

Opportunity can be hard to come by in the NRL and sometimes, players seek greener pastures where there might be more chances to play. For Brisbane Broncos forward Mitch Garbutt, he has a chance to play more regularly at Super League side, the Leeds Rhinos and has thus accepted a three-year deal from the club.

The deal will begin effective immediately, with Garbutt a chance of playing in the Rhinos fixture this weekend.

He will join former Bronco Joel Moon at the club, as well as former NRL players Adam Cuthbertson and Brett Delaney.

With the opportunity present, the Broncos were not about to stand in Garbutt’s way and wished him all the best.

“Mitch has certainly done everything the club has asked of him, so we were not going to stand in the way of a wonderful opportunity for him like this,” said Broncos CEO Paul White.

“We wish him and his young family well in their new adventure overseas, and hope he finds every success in the English Super League.”

The Rhinos are pleased to have Garbutt joining them and believe he can fit into their system and team well.

“We are delighted to welcome Mitch to the club,” said Leeds Rhinos’ Head Coach Brian McDermott.

“I have spoken to a number of people in Australia who rate him and the job he can do for a team.

“He is someone I have been looking at for some time and I think his style of play will fit well within our team and the Super League competition.”

For Garbutt himself, the new opportunity gives him a chance to test himself and he looks forward to making the most of it.

“Very excited when the opportunity came up to go over to such a great club like Leeds,” said Garbutt.

“Gary [Hethrington] and Brian [McDermott] have been really good with it all and kept in contact with me and I’m excited about coming over.”

Playing well at his first side, the Melbourne Storm, things did not quite pan out as many thought at the Broncos and Garbutt sees the Rhinos opportunity as one that can help him to further his career.

“It’s a good opportunity to really kick on,” said Garbutt.

“I don’t have any personal friends at the Rhinos but just from watching on TV, it’s what I’ve gone off. They’re always competitive.”

“I think I can do some things there which will help and I’ll help the team out in any way that I can.”

Family is a big part for Garbutt and they are also excited about the move.

“I just can’t wait to land and get settled,” said Garbutt.

“My wife and young baby are both excited about the move.”

Samoan international re-signs with the Dragons

Peter Mata'utia

A surprise inclusion when he was included in the St George Illawarra Dragons side, Peter Mata’utia surprised many by performing consistently and holding down his spot and it has led to being re-signed by the club.

The new deal for Mata’utia will see the Samoan international remain at the Dragons until the end of 2017, so for another two seasons.

Recently named in the NSW Cup 2015 Representative Team, Mata’utia has been named across numerous positions across the Dragons back-line this year but has cemented a centre position as his own.

The man himself was happy and pleased that his future and that of his family, was now sorted.

“I am very happy to have been given the opportunity to continue representing the Dragons and it is now up to me to repay the faith by continuing to train hard,” said Mata’utia.

“My family have settled within the area which was an important part of the choice as well as continuing to learn under Head Coach Paul McGregor.”

Equally pleased is the Dragons Director of Recruitment and Retention Peter Mulholland.

“Peter is a very versatile young player who can cover a number of key areas which is invaluable in the modern game,” said Mulholland.

“He is a hard trainer who is well-liked throughout the playing squad and we look forward to seeing him continue his development here at the Club.”