Bruising Tigers forward gets early release and heads to Manly

It will leave some questioning what contracts are worth these days but the move has happened regardless, with the Manly Sea Eagles confirming that Martin Taupau has signed a four-year deal with the club.

Taupau, now a former Wests Tigers player, played in 45 games for the club over two seasons but ultimately, the decision to release him from the contract was one that came after much debate by the club.

“While it’s disappointing for our Members and fans to see Taupau leave the Club he had made it clear that he intended on playing elsewhere from 2017 onwards,” said Wests Tigers CEO, Justin Pascoe.

“Earlier this year the Club was negotiating with Taupau to extend his stay at Wests Tigers. We put on the table what we believed was a fair offer but ultimately he has decided to continue his playing career elsewhere.

“The decision to release Taupau early not only improves the Club’s salary cap position but as a consequence will also help to secure some of the young talent already with the Club.”

The way it was all revealed was not the way the Tigers wanted it to happen, though.

“The negotiations regarding releasing Taupau have been going on over the last week and our organisation has been doing everything possible to be respectful to Taupau, our Members and fans as this is a sensitive issue for all,” said Pascoe.

“To see all of that work being undone and for the story to come out in this way is disappointing and almost comical.”

Despite the loss of Taupau, Tigers coach Jason Taylor is confident they have the players to replace him.

“We’re confident that our roster, including a number of new recruits, will lead this Club well next season,” said Taylor.

“The Club has been working hard to improve depth across every position and we have players ready to step up.

“We return to pre-season training next week and all of the players are keen to get back onto the field and prepare for next season,” he said.

As for Taupau himself, it was about the opportunity and he will have the chance to play alongside some of his Kiwi team-mates.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for me to play in a strong team alongside some of the game’s biggest names in Jamie Lyon, Brett Stewart, Daly Cherry-Evans, Peta Hiku and Steve Matai,” Taupau said.

“The Sea Eagles have recruited well for next season and to have the opportunity to play with Australian and Queensland prop Nate Myles, and fellow Kiwi international Lewis Brown, was an added bonus in securing my future with Manly.

“It is a fresh beginning at the Sea Eagles under new Head Coach Trent Barrett and I’m really looking forward to playing under him.

“The Sea Eagles are one of the most successful clubs in the history of rugby league and I want to be a big part in getting them back into the finals next season as they celebrate their 70th Anniversary.”

New coach Trent Barrett welcomed the signing of the hulking forward to the Manly club.

“Marty is a very damaging and aggressive forward who can certainly win you a game,’’ Barrett said.

“He has really come on over the past 12 months and I am looking forward to developing his game. We are still yet to see the very best of Marty and it is great that he will have the opportunity to take his skills to another level at the Sea Eagles.”

With their forward packing boasting some big name already, club CEO Joe Kelly is pleased to add another one.

“To have secured one of the very best forwards in the competition is a real coup for the Sea Eagles,’’ Kelly said.

“Marty has made a great impact in such a short time and he has a real cult following in the game.

“It is going to be a great forward pack with the likes of Nate Myles, Lewis Brown, Jake Trbojevic and now Martin Taupau. We look forward to welcoming Martin to the Sea Eagles family.”

Dragons get NRL approval to sign former Warriors prop

Russell Packer

His incidents were well documented and covered in the media and he served his time and if we fast forward to day, Russell Packer’s hopes have been granted.

The NRL have approved his return to the game and as a result, the St George Illawarra Dragons have confirmed his signing for the next two seasons.

The two-year deal will see Packer play for the Dragons but also uphold and continue his commitment to Dragons Community Programs and his personal and professional development away from the game.

“I am very thankful and grateful for the opportunity to return to the NRL with the Dragons,” said Packer.

“I have learned a great deal and changed a lot over the past two years and I couldn’t be happier with where things are at for me and my family.

“My family and so many people at the Dragons and the NRL have shown great faith in me and I look forward to repaying them for their belief and support over the coming seasons both on and off the field”.

Earlier this year, he was given the approval to play in the NSW Cup for the Dragons feeder team, the Illawarra Cutters where he finished the year as both the team captain and the Player of the Year.

Then, in August this year, Packer was given the all-clear to commence training with the NRL squad whilst undertaking a Bachelor of Business after completing an earlier TAFE course.

“Our Club has strong programs and standards with respect to Education and Welfare and Russell’s commitment and progress this year has been exemplary;” said Dragons CEO Peter Doust.

“Russell has achieved above and beyond the established requirements and he has had a very positive attitude and approach to not only what has been required, but also to the additional activities that he has chosen to initiate and complete of his own accord with respect to his professional and personal development.

“Russell has already proved to be a valuable contributor through his work with our younger players and in our Dragons Community Department where he played a key role in a number of programs, including our ‘Score Dragons’ program that recently won the NRL Club Community Program of the Year.

Warriors duo sign with the Knights

David Bhana

Once upon a time, he was touted as the potential successor to current New Zealand Warriors captain Simon Mannering but with limited opportunities where he is, David Bhana had to make a decision.

His decision was to leave the Warriors and head across the Tasman, signing with the Newcastle Knights for the 2016 season.

As hard as it was for Bhana to make that decision, he knew his family came first and he had to do what was right by them.

“It was a hard decision, but I had to think about my family,” said Bhana.

“That’s just how professional footy is.”

With new coach Nathan Brown at the Knights and a rebuild going on, it is an atmosphere and environment the workhorse forward looks forward to.

“They’ve been doing a lot of recruiting in the off season, they didn’t have a good 2015, so I’m excited about the rebuild” says Bhana.

To make the move easier for Bhana, fellow youngster Sam Cook is also headed over to the Knights and already at the club is a former Warriors prop, James Taylor.

The trio all came through the grades at the Northcote Tigers Rugby League Club on Auckland’s North shore.

“We’re all staying together over there – so that’ll be cool,” adds Bhana.

Hulking Raiders prop re-signs at the club

Shannon Boyd

Young, tall, big and making a huge impact in the NRL, Canberra Raiders fans will get to see Shannon Boyd in action for a few more seasons yet, after the hulking prop re-signed with the club until the end of 2018.

Boyd, who was still contracted to the club for the 2016 season, has officially signed a new 2-year deal, and is excited to stay in the nation’s capital.

“I love Canberra. It’s like a big country town and I didn’t want to leave so having the chance to sign up for another three years is awesome and I’m looking forward to being a Raider long-term,” Boyd said.

With some of their veteran forwards leaving and the onus now on those left to take up the mantle as forward pack leaders, Boyd relishes the chance to have that opportunity.

“With Tilsey and Shillo no longer here at the club, I know it will be up to me and the other props to step up next year and I’m really excited about the challenge,” said Boyd.

Re-signing Boyd was crucial for the Raiders and club CEO Don Furner is hopeful to have more re-signings confirmed in coming weeks.

“Shannon was given an opportunity under Ricky to make the step into first grade and he’s been able to take it with both hands and is becoming a very promising young player for our club,” Furner said.

“We’re very excited about having Shannon commit to the club long term and we’re working on a number of other current players to keep what we believe is developing into a very high standard NRL squad.

Young Panthers half signs with Queensland’s Easts Tigers

Daniel Foster

With new opportunities come greener pastures and with that, comes the chance to cement a spot at another team. For young Penrith Panthers half Daniel Foster, he has the chance to start afresh, signing a 2-year deal with Intrust Super Cup side, the Easts Tigers.

Most recently, at a club level, Foster has been contracted to the Penrith Panthers playing in the NSW Cup and at times, for the Windsor Wolves in the Ron Massey Cup.

Most recently, Foster was a part of the Tongan side that won a recent World Cup qualifier over the Cook Islands but 2015 has not been the best year for him overall.

Injury struck him down early on and that limited him to just a handful of games to start the season, only returning in June of this year.

The move is a new one for Foster but will be made easier with some of his partner’s family living in the area.

“It is an exciting new chapter in my life being able to move to the Sunshine State, so I’ll see how I go.” Foster said

“It’s a massive change. The thing that helps me though is that my partner’s family lives up there so it’s a second home for me already.”

The club are excited to have Foster on board from the 2016 season.

Ricky’s View: Who should be the new NRL CEO?

In light of the recent departure of Welsh banker David Smith as CEO, speculation is rife and rampant about who the next CEO of the game will be. Already, in just a few short weeks, we have seen countless names linked to the role and we thought it would be a good idea to go over the primary candidates, what they bring to the table and how good their chances of getting the job are.

With a total of five to six already linked to the role with an active involvement in the NRL in some capacity, we will also include individuals from outside the rugby league world that should at the very least be considered, given their experience and professionalism as bosses in their current sports.

So, here it is, a run-down of all the candidates:

Graham Annesley: Some may know him as the former NRL referee, others may know him as the current Gold Coast Titans CEO, but did you know that Annesley also had a stint in NSW Parliament as the Member for Miranda and as the Sport and Recreation Minister under former Premier, Barry O’Farrell. Years ago, Annesley foray and experiences into/with rugby league began as a referee at the Parramatta District Rugby League Referees Association as a 13-year old, before he moved onto administrative roles with the association including Secretary (1979-1980) and President (1985-1988). His work and commitments to the organisation saw him awarded Life Membership by the PDRLRA. Coinciding with his role as President of the PDRLRA, Annesley also rose to the very top as an NRL referee, officiating a total of 244 games from 1982 to 1997.
Although his political stint was a brief one, Annesley was upfront about it all saying that he never saw himself as politician but rather, as a sports administrator.
His business experience and acumen is littered with high-profile organisations including DHL Worldwide Express, McWilliams Wines, Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) and the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA). He is also no stranger to roles within the NRL, having previously served as both Director of Football in 1995 before being promoted to Chief Operating Officer in 2002. Currently CEO of the Gold Coast Titans as previously mentioned, there is very little that Annesley has not done and with experience like his, business acumen and a genuine love and desire for the game of rugby league, in our books, he is one of the prime contenders for the role.

John Ribot: A heavy-hitter as both a player and a sports administrator, John Ribot is another candidate that some are pushing for. Starting his rugby league in QLD playing club football for Western Suburbs and then Fortitude Valley, Ribot won a premiership in that time and represented QLD. A move to the Newtown Jets was next on the agenda, before stints with Wests and Manly, and eventually, a return to Brisbane with Redcliffe. He ended up playing for both NSW and QLD throughout his career and was eventually named in the Wests Magpies team of the 80’s.
The move into the sporting administration realm came quickly for Ribot, when he became the Development Manager of the Queensland Rugby League and then the inaugural Brisbane Broncos CEO in 1988. Over his years in that role, he clashed with the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) with the final straw being when they dumped Ribot from their Premiership Policy Committee. After a disgruntled end to that tenure, he saw an opportunity with News Ltd and moved onto the role of the CEO of the Super League. His vision for rugby league came true but just like he had done at his Broncos post, Ribot also resigned from this role after a relatively short period of time. The eventual reunited NRL came about and Ribot moved into another CEO role, this time with the newly formed Melbourne Storm side. After a lengthy stint with the Storm, Ribot took his sports administrative portfolio to another sport altogether, becoming the Chairman of the Brisbane Roar before resigning from that role in 2008. Additionally, Ribot served on the board of TAB Queensland, is still a Director of the Victorian Major Events Company and is a Director of iSonea.

James Warburton: The first non-league candidate to make the list but he boasts a hell of experience and man hours as a CEO and administrator across numerous companies. Currently, James Warburton is the CEO of the V8 Supercars and very recently – in fact, earlier this year – he denied reports that he was set to leave his post but his name has since been linked with the now vacant NRL CEO role. Previously, he was Chief Executive at Channel 10 and most recently, he was subject to an approach by Channel Seven to get him at their network. His work to improve the V8’s has not gone unnoticed, making several changes and implementing new ideas that have so far worked. For those that would question his links to league, he is apparently a Canterbury Bulldogs fan, so his connection to the game is there. Should the NRL go with someone who has fewer ties to the game or is that too much of a risk and not what the NRL is looking for?

Paul White: Most recently, he took a leave of absence to recover from some health issues but that aside, Paul White has handled his role as the Brisbane Broncos CEO in a fantastic manner and many are apparently making a claim for him to be considered as the next NRL CEO. At one point, White was captain-coach of the Townies Rugby League Club in Mt Isa, then went on to take charge of the local police station for several years before having a stint with Xstrata Zinc. It is his humble and willing nature, that make White a favourite among many Broncos fans as a leader and a CEO. For him, remembering where he came from means a lot and if he got the role, the grassroots of the game would be better off for it.

Warren Wilson: You may know him as the Penrith Panthers Group Chief Executive but he may not have be where he is today had it not been for an offer as a 19-year old, to become the Treasurer of newly formed St Marys Rugby League Club at the time. Prior to that, Wilson had been a player in the Panthers lower grades. Since that time, the last three decades have seen Wilson accumulate a love and knowledge for rugby league and work in numerous roles across different mediums. He was part of the restructuring at SKY Channel, before further showing off his astute business acumen with a five-year stint as the TAB CEO. In 2012, he stepped into the role he now has and embraces the challenges that come to him. Interestingly, just a few short years ago when former CEO David Gallop left the role, Wilson’s name also emerged as a candidate so he is not short on experience, credentials or support.

Geoff Toovey: We all remember his exploits as both a rugby league player and an NRL coach, but how would Geoff Toovey go as CEO? You may not know it, but the business aspect of life is not a stranger to the former Manly player and coach. He is a qualified chartered account and has served as a director on the board of the NRMA. That, coupled with his extensive work as a player and coach over the years with the Manly Football club, he may well be a darkhorse for the race, particularly if the NRL want someone who is in-tune with the modern game. If you were the NRL, would you pick this darkhorse?

Todd Greenberg: If his cricket career blossomed further, he may not even be in this list let alone involved with the NRL but life did not take that path for Todd Greenberg. Instead, he opted for the administrative side of things and the role he is most well-known for, is that of the Canterbury Bulldogs CEO position. At the time he came into that role, there was a lot of uncertainty as to how he would handle the role and how receptive players and fans would be to it given his relative young age and inexperienced, if you will. But, he stuck to his guns, and quickly changed fans’ views and opinions on him during that time and by the time he left, he was revered by Dogs fans for the tireless effort and hard work he put in. He left after he was appointed as the NRL’s Head of Football at the same time David Smith was made CEO. Smith has now left but Greenberg remains and has copped flak for a number of reasons, none of which are relevant to this list. That all in mind, if the NRL wants to recruit internally, Greenberg is without question the man they turn to.

Raelene Castle: The woman on this list as she is the only one that has been linked to the role but when you look at what she has done, Raelene Castle may not be a bad option by any means. Bulldogs fans certainly appreciate the work she has done as their CEO during her time in the role, and she has held prominent roles in the past. A diehard North Sydney Bears fans growing up, after struggling to find her path growing up, she happened upon marketing and that changed her life forever. Her first official role came at Fuji Xerox NZ and it was there that the passion for marketing and administration only grew. As a result, that led her to role with Telecom NZ as Head of Business Marketing. Following that, in 2007, she was appointed CEO of Netball New Zealand its team the Silver Ferns before the Bulldogs came knocking on her door in 2013. Since then, she has held the mantle as Bulldogs CEO and she may be the only woman on the list but no doubt her name will continue to be raised as the NRL search for a new CEO.

Our personal pick? Well, that is an easy call. Graham Annesley.

Martin’s View: The Curse the Broncos must overcome to win in 2016

Joining us today with a debut article is Martin, who casts his eye over the Brisbane Broncos, 2016 and the hoodoo that awaits them. Hoodoos and curses are a tough nut to crack but with a quality side like the Broncos, do they have what it takes to break the shackles and reverse the curse?

After coming within one tackle of winning this year’s premiership, the Broncos are most people’s tips to go all the way in 2016. Not only do they have the best halves pairing in the game, but they also have the most successful coach of the modern era.

The reduction in interchanges will suit their style of play, and it is widely believed that grand final losses are the greatest motivator in rugby league. Brisbane are the outright favourites with most bookmakers; but what if I told you that the Broncos had no chance of winning in 2016?

Going back-to-back is virtually impossible. No side has done it since the 1992/93 Broncos (excluding Super League), while no side has finished runners-up in consecutive seasons since the 2003/04 Roosters.

So why are the Broncos destined to fall short in next year’s decider as well? History is something that should never be ignored – especially when trying to predict sport.

Cast your minds back to the 2003 Roosters. The raging favourites were expected to make light work of the Penrith Panthers, in what would have been their second premiership in a row. Alas, they were outclassed by Luke Priddis and co on a slippery Sunday night in October.

Fast forward ten years to 2013. A decade after losing the big one 18-6, the Roosters finally got their hands on the shield with a 26-18 triumph over the gallant Sea Eagles. Was it a coincidence that they were able to reverse the grand final result 10 years later?

The simple answer is no. Back in 2004, a heroic Andrew Ryan tackle inspired the Canterbury Bulldogs to a 16-13 win over the Roosters in the grand final.

Then, in 2014, the Bulldogs found themselves in another GF, only to lose that one 30-6. Just like the Roosters, Canterbury’s grand final fortunes were reversed – this time negatively. The ten year curse had claimed its second victim in as many years. Surely it couldn’t happen again.

That brings us to the Cowboys. Separated by a decade, North Queensland’s two grand final appearances rank as some of the most memorable of all time. Their 30-16 loss to the Tigers in 2005 was one for the ages, but it was dwarfed by what happened ten years on.

The NRL’s most recent GF saw the Cowboys exact revenge – albeit a decade later – with a miracle 17-16 win over the Broncos in golden point.

When something happens once, we tend to ignore it. When it happens twice, we start to pay attention. But when something out of the ordinary happens three years in a row, we must recognise it as a trend.

That’s where the 2016 Broncos come in. Looking at the cold hard facts, they are destined to lose. The Roosters had a positive turnaround from 2003 to 2013. The Bulldogs went the other way in 2014, while the Cowboys enjoyed 2015 much more than 2005.

Even more incredibly, the Roosters conceded 18 points in both those grand finals, while the Cowboys scored 16 points in both games (not including golden point).

The 2006 Broncos celebrated grand final day with a 15-8 win over the Storm, yet the aforementioned stats suggest they will lose the 2016 grand final. As good as they were this year, and as good as they are expected to be next year, Queensland’s most successful club is set for more heartbreak.

Nothing in rugby league is ever set in stone, but streaks and curses are horribly hard to break. If Wayne Bennett’s Broncos can buck this quirky trend, then he will go down as the greatest coach of all time. Only time will tell.

Titans hooker makes the move to Leeds

Beau Falloon

Knowing that there was no future for him at the Gold Coast Titans, Beau Falloon went on the lookout for a new club and he has found one, signing a 1-year deal with Super League side, the Leeds Rhinos.

Falloon, who started his career with the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2008, has spent the last four seasons with the Titans and has played in over 80 first-grade games throughout his career so far.

The live-wire, enigmatic hooker is excited about the new opportunity and cannot wait to join Leeds and run out in their jersey.

“I am really looking forward to joining the Rhinos and getting involved in Super League,” said Falloon.

“I have watched a lot of the games this year and I can’t wait to pull on a Rhinos jersey. The team have achieved a lot this year and hopefully I can come over and help the side continue that tradition. I have played against a few of the boys in the NRL and I am looking to getting over as soon as possible so I can get to know them and earn their respect.”

At 28 years of age, Falloon thought it was a good time to come over and experience a new environment and culture.

“Being a hooker, Leeds have got a great forward pack who like to go forward and that excites me. Leeds has a proud history and it will be special to play for them. I am 28 years old and I thought it was a good time to come over and have a new challenge in my career,” said Falloon.

“I am player who goes out and wears my heart on my sleeve. I try and do my job every week and look to get out there and get involved.”

The signing of Falloon is a direct replacement for the loss of Paul Aiton, another former NRL player, and Leeds coach Brian McDermott is looking forward to Falloon performing well for the club.

“We are pleased to have signed a player with the experience that Beau has,” said McDermott.

“He has been playing in the NRL for eight seasons and, having spoken to him, I know he is very excited about the challenge of coming to England and playing with the Rhinos.

We obviously lost Paul Aiton for a long period this season and it will be good to have more options in our squad for next season and Beau certainly offers that as we look to build on our achievements in 2015.”

Burgess brothers re-signs at Souths

George Burgess

Good news for Bunnies fans, with their favourite English sons in George Burgess and Thomas Burgess re-signing with the club until the end of the 2018 season.

Both have become mainstays for the current Rabbitohs side as prop forwards and the English duo have also represented England, with Tom recently named in the squad to play France.

All forward packs need leaders and hard players and Souths coach Michael Maguire believes the Burgess brothers provide that for the club.

“George and Thomas are two of the pillars of our forward pack and we are very happy to have them extend their time with the Club to cover at least the next three seasons,” Maguire said.

“They are both great athletes and have made a real impact on our forward pack over the past few years.

“They are both leaders-in-the-making and we’re happy to have the boys in red and green.”

It was an easy decision for George, who says Redfern is now his home.

“This Club is my home now and I’m happy to have my future sorted,” George said.

“We’re building something great at this Club and with commitment and dedication we can achieve our goals.”

As for Tom, he feels the same way and the thrill of running out onto the field in front of Souths members and fans is what convinced him to stay.

“Much has been made about the Burgess brothers at Souths, but we’re all brothers here at the Club,” Thomas said.

“We’ve had varying levels of success over the past few years and if we all stick together and put the work in then we will get the results we’re after for our Club and our Members.

“We love running out in the red and green to all of our wonderful Members, and I can’t wait to get stuck back into it in the new year.”

Thomas Burgess

Eels sign Cowboys duo and a Raiders half

Mitch Cornish

Links were made to this trio on numerous platforms in the past but no more, as the Parramatta Eels confirm the signings of North Queensland Cowboys duo Kelepi Tanginoa and Scott Schulte, as well as Canberra Raiders half, Mitch Cornish.

The trio have been signed for the 2016 season, with Cornish a halfback, Schulte a winger and Tanginoa a forward.

Cornish played mostly for the Mounties side, the Raiders feeder team in the NSW Cup and was named in the NSW Cup Team of the Year this season.

Tanginoa returns to the Eels, after one season at the Cowboys. Tanginoa made his NRL debut back in 2013 with the Eels.

Kelepi Tanginoa

As for Schulte, the Holden Cup winger comes off a stellar season with the club, finishing in the club’s top 3 for most tries scored.

The signings only strengthen the Eels side and coach Brad Arthur acknowledges that.

“These three players will add a lot of depth in key positions to our side for 2016, and I’m looking forward to having them here in November,” Arthur said.

“I’m sure we’ll have a very healthy competition for a place in our first grade side this season, which will only improve our team.”

Scott Schulte