Roberts stays in QLD and signs with the Broncos

James Roberts

The saga went on and on with what appeared to be no end in sight but that end has arrived, with James Roberts signing at the Brisbane Broncos on a 2-year deal.

The 2-year deal puts an end to the constant speculation, with the talented centre to begin Broncos training on January 4.

Roberts will stay in QLD, and CEO Paul White believes the centre will be a good fit for the club and that they are a good fit for him.

“We certainly did not expect this opportunity and James and his advisor have conducted themselves very well during the negotiation,” he said.

“James is obviously motivated to play for the Broncos for the benefit he will see both on and off the field.

“The negotiations have certainly not been just about the contract value.

“James is one of the most exciting young players in the NRL and we believe playing in the Broncos’ system can help take his game to the next level.”

Ultimately, the Broncos won Roberts’ signature as his advisor Jeremy Donovan and Roberts himself believed that Brisbane was the best fit and location for him.

“This has been a long and exhausting process, but one that has supported James’ growth,” said Donovan.

“He has had the opportunity to make a decision on his playing career and where he believes he will thrive not just as a player, but as a person.

It also came down to family and where he thought he would fit in best.

“James has had the opportunity to consider what club and culture best fits him and his family,” said Donovan.

“He is incredibly grateful for the respect each club has shown him during the course of this process, and is now focused on running out in the Brisbane Broncos’ jersey next season.”

Rick Stone appointed to part-time role at the Roosters

Rick Stone

Some would be usually accustomed to seeing him in a head coaching role of the NRL but there is a new role for Rick Stone, who will be the Sydney Roosters new Central Coast Coaching and Pathways Coordinator.

With the club maintaining a healthy and active relationship with the Country Rugby League and with their feeder club, the Wyong Roos, the depth of talent across the board is plentiful.

These existing partnerships provide appropriate developmental pathways and initiatives, with this now extending to the Central Coast in the new role that Stone will be a part of.

“Its great news for the Central Coast and our Club and partners to have Rick assume this important developmental role,” said Brian Canavan, Roosters Chief Operating Officer, Football,” said Roosters COO, Brian Canavan.

“Rick will work closely with the Centurions coaching staff and players and will be heavily involved in coach education and upskilling for the Central Coast division’s Junior and Senior coaches.

Rick will also participate in rugby league-related community programs across the Central Coast,” he added.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson also praised the signing.

“Having previously worked with Rick, it’s really pleasing to have someone with his experience and philosophies on coaching and player development take on this role,” said Robinson.

Manly confirm Walker signing

Dylan Walker

A new challenge, a new approach and a new adventure for him, Dylan Walker’s move from the South Sydney Rabbitohs to the Manly Sea Eagles is complete.

The young star has put pen to paper on a four-year deal with the Northern Beaches club, and made it clear that if given the opportunity, he would enjoy playing five-eighth..

“I would love to play six alongside Daly Cherry-Evans and inside both Steve Matai and Jamie Lyon,’’ Walker said.

“Five-eighth was my favourite position coming through the juniors and if the coach wants me there I will jump at the opportunity.

“I’m excited to be at such a great Club – once I was moving from Souths, the Sea Eagles was my first and only priority.

“I’m delighted I am now a Sea Eagle.”

Manly have had a strong recruitment drive for 2016 including the likes of Nate Myles and Martin Taupau, and club Chairman Scott Penn praised the efforts of coach Trent Barrett and advisor Bob Fulton to make it all happen.

“Trent Barrett and Bob Fulton have worked tirelessly to attract quality players to our Club together with head management,’’ Penn said.

“Dylan Walker will be a favourite with our Members playing alongside and with some of the best players in the game.”

Barrett is well aware that he has just picked up a tremendous talent for the Manly club.

“He is one of the brightest stars in the game – his team-mates can’t wait to play alongside him,’’ Barrett said.

Despite some earlier doubts about what the season would have been like for Manly, their recruitment drive pleases CEO Joe Kelly and.

“Dylan is a rare talent much sought after by a multitude of clubs. His decision to play in maroon and white is a salute to our history and where we are headed in the immediate future,’’ Kelly said.

Stuart’s the man as he signs new deal to remain Raiders head coach

It is no secret that Ricky Stuart can have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the fans of the clubs that he coaches but current side Canberra Raiders are building nicely.

It is that foundation and platform that has seen the club confirm the re-signing of Stuart as head coach until the end of 2018, confident in what the club is building towards.

As a former player for the Raiders over 11 seasons and more than 200 games, Stuart continues his long association with the Raiders club.

It is the passion and enthusiasm that Stuart has for the club and the region that made the decision all that much easier for the Raiders.

“The Raiders board has decided to extend Ricky’s current contract for a further two seasons, based on what we believe is a coaching philosophy which will continue to take our club in a positive direction both on and off the field,” Dr Allan Hawke, Canberra Raiders Chairman said.

“Ricky has been instrumental in instilling the clubs values of Integrity, Courage, Respect and Professionalism and we know he’s the right person to help us achieve our future goals.”

The decision was an easy one for Stuart, who said the role was a privilege for him.

“There’s a special feeling building around the Raiders and our player program, the Canberra Raiders attitude is about being the best and I’m honoured to be part of that going into 2016,” Stuart said.

“I’m not under any illusions about the job and I’m enjoying the challenge.”

His ties and his family ties with the club only further confirmed to him that staying in Canberra was the right decision.

“I have strong ties with the club. My family are all from here, so we understand the culture of the Raiders and the culture of our community. We love Canberra and the Raiders mean home to us,” said Stuart.

“The people and the way of life here, it’s the greatest you’ll find anywhere”

Titans get some good news as McQueen heads North

Chris McQueen

It has been all about the player movement recently and the merry-go-round, as South Sydney back-rower Chris McQueen packs his bag & signs with the Gold Coast Titans.

McQueen, who was granted an early release by Souths, becomes the sixth Origin player at the Titans.

The 28-year old utility was disappointed to leave Souths because he had been associated with the club for so long but was excited at the opportunity that has come his way at the Titans.

“I’m really excited to come back to Queensland and take the opportunity to play a senior role with the Titans who I think have a good developing young squad,” McQueen said.

“My time at Souths was special, culminating with a premiership. They gave me a chance and stuck with me through a tough period with a knee injury and I have made some great friendships there. But I understand it’s a business now and really excited about this opportunity.

“I still feel I have my best football in front of me and this a fresh challenge after eight seasons with Souths and I can’t wait to meet the boys next week and rip into pre-season training with them.”

Experience and versatility is the key, and Titans coach Neil Henry knows how crucial that is to a side.

“Chris is still 28 and has won a premiership and played State of Origin and I know how keen he is to have an impact with us,” he said.

For Souths, they were quick to wish McQueen all the best who had been at the club for quite some time.

“Chris has been a valued member of this team for many years now and has brought a lot to us both on and off the field,” said Maguire.

“He has evolved as a player from being a winger or centre to being a solid forward who managed to gain representative selection as well as playing a key role in our 2014 Premiership victory.

“He now has the opportunity to secure his long-term playing future elsewhere and we understand that desire. I wish Chris all the very best “

Lafai granted early release to sign with the Dragons

Tim Lafai

A part of the recent back-line merry-go-round across the NRL, Tim Lafai was given an early release by the Canterbury Bulldogs and took up a two-year deal with the St George Illawarra Dragons.

The deal will see Lafai join the Dragons until the end of 2017 and has so far played 72 NRL games to date, as well as representing Samoa.

With Lafai suddenly becoming available after the signing of Will Hopoate at the Bulldogs, the Dragons pounced and the opportunity was too good to pass up by the club.

“Tim is an exciting player whose services became unexpectedly available in recent days and we are delighted that he has chosen to join the Dragons,” said Dragons Executive Manager Football Ben Haran.

“He brings experience and strike to our backline and will fit well into our structures and Club”.

For Lafai himself, he is pleased to have his future settled and looks forward to getting started with the Dragons club.

“I look forward to joining the St George Illawarra Dragons for the next two seasons and am excited by the opportunity to continue my career under Paul McGregor and the other coaching staff,” said Lafai.

“The Club has a strong culture and are building strongly to compete for the Premiership and I feel that I can positively contribute towards this.

“I am excited to meet my new team mates and get stuck into pre-season training.”

With the early release from the Bulldogs, the club released the following statement on Lafai:

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs can confirm that Tim Lafai has been released from the remainder of his contract and has today signed a two-year deal with the St George Illawarra Dragons.

Lafai requested a release last week after the club had signed representative player Will Hopoate. The club granted Lafai permission to explore other options, with the 24-year-old today deciding to join the joint venture club.

Everyone at the Bulldogs wishes Tim and his family all the best for the future and we thank him for the time he spent representing the club.

NZRL Chief Executive resigns to put family ahead of career

Phil Holden

For almost three years, many have been pleased with the work and effort that Phil Holden has brought to the New Zealand Rugby League Chief Executive portfolio.

But the road has been tough for Holden, who has a young family, and he has made a decision to step down from the role in order to spend more time with his family.

Effectively putting his family before his career, he is at ease with his decision but grateful for the opportunity presented to him.

“When I was appointed, this was really a dream job for me,” Holden said.

“Becoming CEO of a national sporting organisation was always something I aspired to, especially New Zealand Rugby League, given my past interaction with the game and many of its stakeholders.

“It has been everything I expected and more, but I also have a young family that I want to give more of my attention and energy to. As a family, we now have a great opportunity to make a lifestyle choice that will set us up as our girls get older and beyond.”

For Holden, life is about balance and finding that is what he aims to achieve in order to spend more time with his family.

“It’s obviously a difficult decision from a career perspective, but I want to explore more of a portfolio of work options that will provide the right harmony between family and work,” said Holden.

“As an organisation, we always say we are about whanau and family comes first, so for me, this is very consistent with those values.”

Holden’s work with the stakeholders of New Zealand rugby league and his work to improve their grassroots did not go unnoticed, and were praised by NZRL Chairman, Gary Fissenden.

“One of Phil’s biggest contributions during his time has been strengthening our relationship with zone boards, where he dramatically lifted communications and engagement,” said Fissenden.

In the interim, Chief Financial Officer Alex Hayton will take over the role whilst the NZRL begin their search for a new CEO.

“One of the key messages we’ve received from all our key stakeholders is their confidence in NZRL leadership,” says Fissenden.

“Alex has been with us through all of our issues – he is totally across all of our strategies and knows all of our key stakeholders.

“He is perfectly equipped to ensure we stay on track while we find a new CEO.”

Panthers win the race for Manly’s Kiwi international

Peta Hiku

It went back and forth for some time and many teams were linked to him, but it was ultimately the Penrith Panthers who won the race, with the signing of Peta Hiku on a three-year deal.

With the Manly Sea Eagles confirming his release earlier today, it allowed Penrith to confirm the signing.

Releasing Hiku gives Manly some breathing room with the cap and CEO Joe Kelly praised the utility back for his efforts with the club.

“Peta has been a consistent performer at NRL level for the Sea Eagles over a number of seasons and has also represented his country with distinction,” Kelly said.

“He is a wonderful young man and has a very bright NRL career ahead of him. We wish him all the best for the future and thank him for his service to the Sea Eagles.”

Hiku will commence pre-season in January with the Panthers, and his experience adds to the Panthers impressive back-line alongside Matt Moylan, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Josh Mansour.

The signing is one that should please fans it is one that certainly pleased Panthers Executive General Manager, Phil Gould.

“The Panthers are delighted to secure the services of such a well-credentialed representative class player as Peta Hiku,” said.

“We are indeed fortunate that Peta became available at this stage of the year. He will perfectly complement the emerging young players we have here at Panthers.”

Gould praised Hiku and his ability and looks forward to having him at the club over the next three seasons.

“The fact that Peta, at a young age, has forced his way into that tremendous Manly backline and has performed so well on the international stage for the Kiwis is indicative of his tremendous ability,” said Gould.

“At 23 years of age he obviously has the best of his career in front of him and we are excited he is going to be a Panther for the next three years.”

Hopoate confirmed as a new Bulldog

Will Hopoate

The whole process took its time as Will Hopoate and his former club the Parramatta Eels sorted out some contractual and off-field issues but the dust has settled, as Hopoate signs with the Canterbury Bulldogs.

The deal for Hopoate at the Dogs is for two seasons, as he joins the arch rivals of his former team Parramatta, where he played for two seasons.

Playing in a total of 60 NRL games to date, his signing is one that has Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle excited.

“Will is an exciting young player who has already achieved so much in the game,” Castle said.

Adding to that was coach Des Hasler, who knows how good Hopoate is and the experience he can bring to the table.

“Will will be a valuable and experienced acquisition for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and I look forward to him joining the club.” Coach Des Hasler added.

Keen to put the past incidents behind him, Hopoate is looking forward to life at the Bulldogs and the adventures he will experience at the club.

“Yeah, I’m excited,” said Hopoate.

“Looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead and to be under Des again is exciting.”

With his Mormon faith something that is near and dear to Hopoate’s heart, routine and structure are two elements he utilises.

“I enjoy being in a routine and getting back into the pre-season,” said Hopoate.

The former Manly and Eels centre chose the Bulldogs for its history, culture and to further himself in his career.

“It’s a strong club and I’ve played with a few of the boys at Origin level,” said Hopoate.

“I’ve been mentored by Des in the past and so it’s great to be here to see what lies ahead.”

Having work with Hasler previously during his time at Manly, the transition to the Bulldogs for the representative centre will be made easier.

“He knows how to coach me,” said Hopoate.

“He has a very good footy mind and mentality and I’m going to be a sponge and take in as much as I can.”

Mal Meninga confirmed as new Kangaroos coach

Mal Meninga

They wanted a full-time coach in the role that could devote all their time to the Australian Kangaroos side and they have one, with the NRL appointing Mal Meninga as the new head coach.

The ARL Commission made the decision to appoint the former QLD Origin coach as the successor to Tim Sheens, up until 2019.

Known for his exploits as a barnstorming player and then as an Origin winning coach with Queensland over numerous years, the role also includes ambassadorial responsibilities.

“Mal’s work with us starts today – so it is a very important day for the Kangaroos,” said the NRL’s Head of Football, Mr Todd Greenberg said.

“Our aim is to win the Rugby League World Cup in 2017 and the job officially begins now.”

For the man himself, coaching the Kangaroos was always an ambition of his.

“For the players, it is the ultimate privilege to the wear the colours of your country, and it is something that they all aspire to,” Meninga said.

“For me, it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. It is truly an honour to be in this position, as the new coach of the Kangaroos.”

The role will also see Meninga work closely with the development of the junior Kangaroos, the Jillaroos and the Australian Schoolboys programs.

“Mal’s reputation as a player and as a coach, and also as a figure in our game, is second-to-none,” Mr Greenberg said.

“This is an incredibly exciting appointment for the Kangaroos.

“We feel that Mal’s appointment will ensure that playing for the Kangaroos is the pinnacle of a player’s career, which is the way it should be.”

The endorsements for Meninga continued, with Greenberg praising Meninga for his success as a coach.

“The progression of Mal from one of the most successful Queensland coaches ever to the Australian coaching position is an appropriate one for the game,” said Greenberg.

“Playing for the Kangaroos should be the greatest honour a player can have and Mal will no doubt bring that mentality to the squad.”

With the Kangaroos side struggling somewhat in recent years at an international level, their revamp and restructure is part of the plan to get them back to their international peak.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to improve the Kangaroos program, developing emerging and high-performance players including the Junior Kangaroos and Australian Schoolboys along the way,” Meninga said.

Current Australian captain and QLD Origin hooker Cameron Smith also praised the move.

“I couldn’t think of a coach more suited to this role, given Mal’s achievements as a former Kangaroos captain and his understanding of what representing Australia means,” Smith said.

“He has a proven record at representative level, as well as a tremendous ability to help his players perform at the highest level.”