Panthers veteran winger opts to retire at season’s end

David Simmons

Currently in a rich vein of form over the last few seasons, David Simmons has always been the true professional both on and off the field and has decided that 2015 will be his last season.

The veteran winger will play in his 200th and final NRL game in Rd 26 at home against the Newcastle Knights, capping off a solid NRL career.

Retirement was something that weighed on his mind even before the season began and as it went along, Simmons says it felt like the right thing to do.

“I sort of thought about it even before the season began,” said Simmons.

“I was just going to see how the body was going and how I was playing.

“I made the decision early on in the year that this was going to be my last one. I kept it to myself and I haven’t changed my mind since.

“I’m happy to finish now and it just feels like the right time. It’s nothing to do with injury or the club not wanting me, I just feel like it was the right time to finish.”

Simmons is proud of what he has achieved and the 200th game would be the icing on the cake before he hangs up the boots.

“If I get to 200 games, it’ll just cap it off,” said Simmons.

Manly’s Snake signs contract extension

Brett Stewart

One of the club’s most decorated players in recent history, Brett Stewart has signed a 1-year contract extension with the Manly Sea Eagles for the 2017 season.

Already signed for 2016, both club and player came to further terms for the following season, with the fullback set to become a one-club player.

Having been around the club for so long, the decision to re-sign was an easy one for Stewart in the end.

“I am a very pleased to have my current contract extended,” Stewart said.

“The Sea Eagles have been a massive part of my life for a long time now and to know I am here until at least the end of the 2017 season is very exciting.

“I am very happy here at Manly Warringah and look forward to playing a major role in getting the Club back to the top where we belong.”

Just as pleased with the decision is CEO Joe Kelly.

“Brett has been a tremendous player for thirteen years at the Sea Eagles and we are thrilled to have extended his current contract until the end of 2017,” Kelly said.

“He remains one of the best full-backs in the NRL competition and his experience is invaluable to some of our exciting young players such as Tom Trbojevic.”

Nicknamed ‘Snake’ or the ‘Prince of Brookvale’, he has forged a strong relationship with the fans and turned into one of their favourites.

Tipping Point’s View: Rd 25 Tips

The tipping guru himself, Tipping Point, joins us for another week, as he casts his eye over who will win and why. If you are struggling to tip this week, or any, Tipping Point is your man, as he helps you make the best decision.

Round 25 Tips

Season: 110/183 (60%) Last week: 4/8

At a glance: Broncos, Manly, Sharks, Bulldogs, Storm, Tigers, Dragons, Raiders

Rabbitohs v Broncos, Allianz Stadium

It’s hard to believe that we’ve had twenty four rounds of football since these two sides last duked it out, and the Rabbitohs’ win in game one, round one 2015 seems like a lifetime ago. Souths will be playing out of an unfamiliar arena in Allianz Stadium and the Broncos playing on an unfamiliar night of Thursday in clash which has massive ramifications for the top four and the minor premiership. The Bunnies were ordinary against the Dogs last week and will have to cope without GI for a number of weeks after he injured his knee. They do welcome back Keary and Luke from suspension which will make a massive difference to the side, but I really like the Broncos in this clash. They weren’t far off the Roosters last weekend and I think they’re a cut above the Bunnies, especially without their champion fullback. The Broncos have a real air of consistency and quality about them and I expect them to keep the pressure on the Roosters for the JJ Giltnan Shield.

Tip: Broncos

Manly v Roosters, Brookvale Oval

It’s the last throw of the dice for the Sea Eagles this Friday and the challenge doesn’t get much bigger than the current competition leaders. The Roosters are on a ten-game winning streak but come into the match with some significant injury worries: JWH is out for the year and Pearce will be gone for a number of weeks, and Jennings is also out due to suspension. They are still putting out a fair side, but I like Manly in this game. With their season on the line in front of a full house at Brookie I think they’ll come out all guns blazing. They were poor against the Eels but they’ve shown us over the back-end of this season that they are a quality side. The Roosters are going to drop a game at some point and you get the feeling this could be the one.

Tip: Manly

Eels v Sharks, Pirtek Stadium

It feels like an eternity since the Eels last played at Pirtek – probably because it has been. Their last game at their spiritual home was in round 16 and the complexion of their season has changed dramatically since then. They come into this game off a great win over Manly and a close loss to the Roosters: they’re definitely playing some tough footy but they come up against a side that set the benchmark in winning ugly. The Sharks could well be in the top four at the end of this weekend and I don’t think they’ll let the chance slip against the Eels, despite only winning one of their last five matches against them and being the dreaded “away favourite”.

Tip: Sharks

Knights v Bulldogs, Hunter Stadium

It’s Old Boys’ Day at Hunter Stadium and with Kurt Gidley playing his farewell match the stage is set for an epic performance from the Novocastrians, who were absolutely outstanding in knocking over the Storm last weekend. The Knights got themselves out of spoon territory off the back of a sublime performance from Tyrone Roberts and a dominant effort from their forwards. The Dogs will be a massive test though. They’re awkwardly placed in seventh spot and would dearly love a home final in week one of the semis; I think they’ll be too good but the Knights won’t be easy-beats.

Tip: Bulldogs

Storm v Cowboys, AAMI Park

It must have been a rather uncomfortable dressing room for the Storm players after last Monday’s game against the Knights because they were completely outmuscled and humiliated on their home turf. The Storm have dropped a few games unexpectedly this season but they do tend to aim up when the heat is on and historically they rarely play poorly in back-to-back fixtures. The Cowboys chalked up a big win over the Warriors but it came at a cost with Michael Morgan ruled out for the year with an ankle injury. Morgan has been a big part of the Cowboys’ surge this year and I think his absence will be the difference in this game and puts a massive dint in their premiership hopes.

Tip: Storm

Tigers v Warriors, Campbelltown Stadium

Wests’ year went from bad to worse this week with their leader Robbie Farah told to look for a new club for 2016 in what is surely a morale-killer at the club. What exactly this means from a tipping perspective is hard to say: we often see sides ride a wave of emotion in the opening exchanges of matches before falling away as sentiment does not win footy games – particularly when your side is stone cold last. If it were anyone except the Warriors I wouldn’t be going near the Tigers, but I can’t see the Warriors offering too much in this game. The Tigers will rally around their skipper and send him out a winner.

Tip: Tigers

Titans v Dragons, Cbus Super Stadium

This is definitely an awkward tip. The Titans have been spoilers all year, often winning matches we don’t expect – as was the case last weekend against the Raiders. The Dragons have won three of their last four but those wins came against the Panthers, Warriors and Knights so the record is flattering. That said, they should have a touch more class than the Titans who despite being pretty robust and willing, make far too many errors and concede too many penalties to stay with a reasonably well-disciplined side like the Dragons, who are also playing for a top eight spot. I worry about this game though, and once again I’ve picked an away favourite which is always risky.

Tip: Dragons

Raiders v Panthers, GIO Stadium

The Panthers enjoy the long Thursday-night-Monday-night break between rounds and should be well-rested for the trip to the Nation’s capital. While Monday will be the last day of winter the temperature is still expected to drop below zero overnight so it should be chilly conditions for two sides well out of finals contention. Canberra’s poor home record (2/11) has been well-documented and coming off their worst performance of the year they will have plenty to prove. The Panthers injury ward welcomed a new addition last week with skipper Elijah Taylor ruled out for the year, and I really can’t see them winning this game with so many players out. They play with plenty of ticker but I don’t see them spoiling the Raiders’ farewell home game for the year.

Tip: Raiders

Veteran Storm fullback signs new 2-year deal

Billy Slater

One of the greatest players to have ever played for the club, for many years now, Billy Slater has wowed fans across the rugby league with a vast array of skills.

Fans will get the chance to see that for two more years, with the veteran fullback re-signing with the Melbourne Storm for a further two years.

With 277 games to his name, the representative star will reach the coveted 300 mark next year, pending injury.

It was quite simple for Slater, who admits that the thought of playing elsewhere never crossed his mind.

“I’m thrilled to get an opportunity to remain at Melbourne Storm, I’ve never once entertained the prospect of playing anywhere else but for this Club.

“I’m very fortunate to be in this position and grateful for the opportunity Storm has given me, not just for this contract, but for the 15 years prior to this also.”

As it stands, Slater is the Storm’s highest try-scorer and is on 172 total career tries, third on the list for most tries scored.

The club are just as excited to retain Slater, with Director of Football Frank Ponissi praising the fullback.

“It’s fantastic news,” said Ponissi.

“He’ll be a one club player and this is where he’ll finish.

“He’s an incredibly hard worker. He just worked and worked and worked.”

Eels re-sign two and sign a former Dragon

Ryan Morgan

The Parramatta Eels have moved to shore up their depth ahead of the 2016 season, with centre Ryan Morgan and prop Daniel Alvaro both re-signing.

Morgan, 25, made his club debut for the Eels in 2011 and has recently been in and out of the side over those years, cementing a spot in the side over the last 6-8 weeks.

He re-signs for two years until the end of the 2017 season, to take his total number of years involved with the club to 7 seasons at the completion of the new deal.

Also re-signing is emerging prop Daniel Alvaro, who has been given opportunities this year with some injuries to the Eels forwards, making the most of it.

Daniel Alvaro

It was in Rd 12 when Alvaro made his first-grade debut on the back of some strong performances for the Wentworthville Magpies.

His new deal is for the 2016 season and he will look to build on the personal success he has achieved this season.

Head Coach Brad Arthur praised the re-signings of Morgan and Alvaro, both remaining key parts of the Eels side as a whole.

“Daniel has impressed everyone with his attitude to training and his respect for the elder players at the club, and is very deserving of his first grade spot, while Ryan is an experienced first-grader, and is a versatile part of our backline,” said Arthur.

The Eels have also signed prop Rory O’Brien from the St George Illawarra Dragons, who recently released him from his playing contract for next season.

“Rory is a hard working prop whose dedication and effort has paid off with him making his first grade debut this year,” Head Coach Brad Arthur said.

Rory O'Brien

Highly-sought after Nikorima brother signs with the Roosters

Jayden Nikorima

Regarded as one of the best young prospects yet to play first-grade, Jayden Nikorima has had heads turning and fans applauding after a recent spectacular run of form the Brisbane Broncos.

Come next year, they will no longer have the opportunity to see that, with the Sydney Roosters beating out a handful of NRL sides in the quest to sign Nikorima.

The live-wire utility who has wowed fans and excelled in numerous positions over the past couple of seasons, has signed a 3-year deal with the Roosters from 2016.

Such is his talent that many believe it is a matter of when and not if he plays first-grade and Roosters Recruitment Manager Peter O’Sullivan knows he has the quality to do so.

“Jayden is a wonderfully talented young man who can play in the halves, at hooker or fullback and we’re pleased to have secured his services,” said O’Sullivan.

“Jayden possesses brilliant speed and a running game to bring balance to our squad and we look forward to watching him develop on and off the footy field in the coming years,” he added.

NRL Teams Rd 25

Just two games of the regular season left and the majority of the top eight is done and dusted. Positionally speaking, things can change and with some teams needing wins or other teams to win on their behalf to make it, Rd 25 will prove to be an interesting one for many reasons.

Without further adieu, here are the teams for Rd 25:

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Brisbane Broncos (#NRLsoubri); Allianz Stadium, Moore Park; Thursday August 27. Kick-off: 7:45pm.

Manly Sea Eagles v Sydney Roosters (#NRLmansyd); Brookvale Oval; Friday August 28. Kick-off: 7:45pm.

Manly: 1. Brett Stewart 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Jamie Lyon (C) 4. Steve Matai 5. Peta Hiku 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Jake Trbojevic 9. Blake Leary 10. Willie Mason 11. Feleti Mateo 12. Justin Horo 13. Ligi Sao.

Interchange: 14. Jesse Sene-Lefao 15. Michael Chee-Kam 16. James Hasson 17. Josh Starling.

Coach: Geoff Toovey.

Roosters: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Mitch Aubusson 4. Blake Ferguson 5. Brandon Elliott 6. James Maloney 7. Jackson Hastings 8. Sam Moa 9. Jake Friend (C) 10. Dylan Napa 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Sio Siua Taukeiaho.

Interchange: 14. Matt McIwlrick 15. Isaac Liu 16. Kane Evans 17. Suaia Matagi 18. Willie Manu (One to be omitted).

Coach: Trent Robinson.

Parramatta Eels v Cronulla Sharks (#NRLparcro); Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta; Saturday August 29. Kick-off: 3pm.

Eels: 1. Reece Robinson 2. Semi Radradra 3. Will Hopoate 4. Ryan Morgan 5. Bureta Faraimo 6. Corey Norman 7. Luke Kelly 8. Junior Paulo 9. Issac De Gois 10. Tim Mannah (C) 11. Manu Ma’u 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. David Gower.

Interchange: 14. Pauli Pauli 15. Darcy Lussick 16. Daniel Alvaro 17. Peni Terepo.

Coach: Brad Arthur.

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

Interchange: 14. Matt Prior 15. Anthony Tupou 16. Tinirau Arona 17. Jayson Bukuya.

Coach: Shane Flanagan.

Newcastle Knights v Canterbury Bulldogs (#NRLnewcby); Hunter Stadium, Newcastle; Saturday August 29. Kick-off: 5:30pm.

Knights: 1. Jake Mamo 2. Nathan Ross 3. Sione Mata’utia 4. Dane Gagai 5. Akuila Uate 6. Kurt Gidley (C) 7. Tyrone Roberts 8. Kade Snowden 9. Adam Clydsdale 10. Korbin Sims 11. Beau Scott 12. Tariq Sims 13. Jeremy Smith.

Interchange: 14. Tyler Randell 15. Joseph Tapine 16. Chris Houston 17. Clint Newton.

Coach: Danny Buderus

Bulldogs: 1. Brett Morris 2. Curtis Rona 3. Josh Morris 4. Tim Lafai 5. Sam Perrett 6. Moses Mbye 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Damien Cook 10. James Graham (C) 11. Josh Jackson 12. Frank Pritchard 13. Greg Eastwood.

Interchange: 14. Lloyd Perrett 15. Shaun Lane 16. David Klemmer 17. Tim Browne 18. Danny Fualalo.

Coach: Des Hasler.

Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys (#NRLmelnql); AAMI Park, Melbourne; Saturday August 29. Kick-off: 7:30pm.

Storm: 1. Cam Munster 2. Marika Koroibete 3. Will Chambers 4. Kurt Mann 5. Matt Duffie 6. Blake Green 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cam Smith (C) 10. Tim Glasby 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Tohu Harris 13. Kenny Bromwich.

Interchange: 14. Ryan Hinchcliffe 15. Felise Kaufusi 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 17. Jordan McLean.

Coach: Craig Bellamy.

Cowboys: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Kane Linnett 5. Antonio Winterstein 6. Ray Thompson 7. Johnathan Thurston (C) 8. Matthew Scott (C) 9. Jake Granville 10. Ben Hannant 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Jason Taumalolo.

Interchange: 14. Rory Kostjaysn 15. John Asiata 16. Ben Spina 17. Scott Bolton.

Coach: Paul Green.

Wests Tigers v New Zealand Warriors (#NRLwstwar); Campbelltown Stadium; Sunday August 30. Kick-off: 2pm.

Tigers: 1. James Tedesco 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Kevin Naiqama 4. Tim Simona 5. Pat Richards 6. Mitch Moses 7. Luke Brooks 8. Aaron Woods 9. Robbie Farah (C) 10. Sauaso Sue 11. Curtis Sironen 12. Chris Lawrence 13. Martin Taupau.

Interchange: 14. Kyle Lovett 15. Keith Galloway 16. Ava Seumanufagai 17. Dene Halatau 18. Manaia Cherrington (One to be omitted).

Coach: Jason Taylor.

Warriors: 1. Sam Tomkins 2. Matt Allwood 3. Dominique Peyroux 4. Solomone Kata 5. Jonathan Wright 6. Mason Lino 7. Tuimoala Lolohea 8. Sebastine Ikahihifo 9. Nathan Friend 10. Ben Matulino 11. Ryan Hoffman 12. Bodene Thompson 13. Simon Mannering (C).

Interchange: 14. Konrad Hurrell 15. Sione Lousi 16. Charlie Gubb 17. Sam Lisone 18. John Palavi (One to be omitted).

Coach: Andrew McFadden.

Gold Coast Titans v St George Illawarra Dragons (#NRLgldsgi); Cbus Super Stadium, Robina; Sunday August 30. Kick-off: 4pm.

Canberra Raiders v Penrith Panthers (#NRLcanpen); GIO Stadium, Canberra; Monday August 31. Kick-off: 7pm.

Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Edrick Lee 3. Jarrod Croker (C) 4. Brenko Lee 5. Sisa Waqa 6. Blake Austin 7. Sam Williams 8. Frank-Paul Nuuausala 9. Josh Hodgson 10. David Shillington 11. Josh Papalii 12. Jarrad Kennedy 13. Shaun Fensom.

Interchange: 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Luke Bateman 16. Paul Vaughan 17. Shannon Boyd.

Coach: Ricky Stuart.

Panthers: 1. Will Smith 2. Josh Mansour 3. Waqa Blake 4. Lewis Brown 5. David Simmons 6. Apisai Koroisau 7. Jamie Soward (C) 8. Sam McKendry 9. James Segeyaro 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 11. Bryce Cartwright 12. Tyrone Peachey 13. Isaah Yeo.

Interchange: 14. Tupou Sopoaga 15. Jeremy Latimore 16. Leilani Latu 17. Sika Manu.

Coach: Ivan Cleary.

Veteran Titans prop heads South and signs with Melbourne

Matt White

A veteran forward with a wealth of experience, Matt White knows what it takes to play rugby league. And where there is opportunity, you follow it, with White signing at the Melbourne Storm for a season.

The current Gold Coast Titans prop has been with the club for seven years is originally from Inverell in NSW and with 151 first-grade games to his name, his experience is there for all to see.

The Storm look forward to White joining the club and club Football Director Frank Ponissi says they had their eye on White for a while.

“Matt is a player we’ve followed for a while so we are pleased to have him join the Club next season,” said Ponissi.

“The Club has a history of successfully recruiting experienced front rowers that have had an significant impact on the Club such as Bryan Norrie, Jaiman Lowe, Jason Ryles and Brett White and we believe Matt will make a similar contribution to the one these players have.”

The 31-year old is expecting a child with partner Nikita and after his time with the Titans, he has no regrets about his career to date.

“I leave with no hard feelings at all; I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my seven years here and given my best,” he said.

“I feel privileged to have played over 120 games for the Titans with a great bunch of blokes but I’m excited about a new challenge next year. I’d like to thank them, the fans and the coaches I’ve had in John Cartwright and Neil Henry and their coaching staff.

“I still have some goals left to achieve including playing finals footy again. It’s been a while, and hopefully I get to do that with the Storm next season.

“They have a great roster led by Cameron Smith and it’s a good opportunity I’m looking forward to.”

The Titans gave their well wishes to White at the completion of the season, well aware of the hard work and determination he possesses.

“Matt has been a tremendous clubman at the Titans for seven seasons and played over 120 first grade games who always gives 100 per cent,” said Titans coach Neil Henry.

“There was an opportunity for him to take on a fresh challenge at the Storm, who have been consistently in the finals and I only wish him every success.”

On joining the Storm, White said the following.

“I’m really looking forward to joining Storm, it’s a great opportunity and I’ve heard so many good things about the Club and living in Melbourne,” White said.

“I’m excited by the chance to play under Craig Bellamy and be part of a playing group that’s lead by Cameron Smith.

“I’ve had a great seven seasons at the Titans and feel privileged to be part of a Club with a great bunch of guys and I’d like to thank my teammates, coaches and the fans for the support they’ve shown me.”

The veteran prop will join his new Storm team-mates in November.

Dragons remain in the top eight after win v Panthers albeit unconvincingly

Gareth Widdop

A win is a win but the St George Illawarra Dragons know they will have work to do, after a scrappy, unconvincing win against a dogged and defiant Penrith Panthers side.

Emerging 19-12 victors after trailing during the second half, the Dragons will face nervous waits both from other results this week and for three of their players that were put on report.

The Panthers, for the most part, were the better side throughout the game, though they failed to capitalise on a lot of their chances and that was what allowed the Dragons to take the lead when they did.

The player likely to be in the most strife is Dragons back-rower Tyson Frizell, who was put on report for tripping. Euan Aitken (knee to the head) and Jake Marketo (dangerous throw) are also expected to come under scrutiny.

The game was a tense affair throughout, locked up at 10-10 and then 12-12, before a Gareth Widdop try and a field goal by Benji Marshall put the game beyond doubt.

Collectively, the two teams made 27 handling errors, conceded 16 penalties and 42 missed tackles, further illustrating the scrappy and at times dour nature of the clash.

There was further bad news for the Panthers, with lock Elijah Taylor likely to be out for the rest of the season with a broken arm.

His side may have won but McGregor knows that there was very little to take out of the clash apart from the two points.

“It was a scratchy win,” McGregor said.

“But it was a win and we’ve won three of our last four so that’s really important.

“It keeps us alive but we’ll push that aside and look forward to the Titans.”

The errors cost his side and Panthers coach Ivan Cleary knows they did not respect the ball.

“We kept turning the ball over – that’s what we did,” Cleary said.

“Every time we had momentum or looked like something was going to happen, someone made a bad decision.

“We just didn’t want to grind away.”

Panthers captain Jamie Soward echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“It’s tough when you don’t respect the ball and you want to throw offloads. I’m guilty of it as well and you get beat,” Soward said.

“We just didn’t do it in the second half. If we had held the ball we would have won.”

Player of the Game:

3. Gareth Widdop
2. Jack de Belin
1. Lewis Brown

Tigers back-rower signs new deal

Kyle Lovett

One of the surprising selections in the Tigers side at the start of the season, his form has seen him do enough to retain that spot and earn a new deal, with Kyle Lovett re-signing at the Wests Tigers.

The new 2-year deal is a welcome reward for Lovett who has impressed since making his NRL debut in Rd 1 of this season.

With 19 first-grade games to his name so far, the Leichhardt junior is pleased to re-sign and admits he did not except first-grade to come so early for him.

“I’m stoked with the new deal,” Lovett said.

“I love playing for the Club and I’ve really enjoyed this season in the NRL.

“It was obviously a goal of mine to play first grade this year and that opportunity came in Round 1, which I wasn’t really expecting, but I’ve enjoyed the challenge.

“Getting the contract out of the way is something I was looking forward to; I’m keen to finish this season strong and to keep working on my consistency.”

Head coach Jason Taylor is just as pleased with Lovett, who has impressed him since making his debut.

“Kyle has exceeded all expectations this year,” Taylor said.

“He made his debut at the beginning of the year and we had expected a handful of games from him – given it’s his first year in the NRL – but he has been really impressive and played close to every game.

“That effort is a credit to himself and the Club because he’s done probably three times more than what we had hoped for and that’s really pleasing.”