Sio returns from Super League and signs with the Knights

Ken Sio

Whilst many Eels fans may have wanted to see him return to their own club, that move will not happen for a while yet, as Ken Sio returns to the NRL after signing a 2-year deal with the Newcastle Knights.

Sio, who was an Eels junior and came through the club ranks, playing in 57 NRL games for the Eels before making the shift to the Super League with Hull KR.

Over two quality seasons in the Super League, Sio played in 48 games for the Rovers and with the Knights in need of some quality and experience, coach Nathan Brown saw Sio as a good fit for the team.

“We are pleased to be able to add Ken to our group after he had two good seasons in the English Super League,” coach Nathan Brown said.

“While still only 26-years-old, he brings valuable experience to our squad having made his NRL debut at a young age.”

Sio started out as a winger at the Eels but showed his versatility by playing fullback, wing and centre. He demonstrated this versatility further by becoming a mainstay for Hull KR, predominantly at fullback.

Sio will commence pre-season training at the Knights on November 7.

Fifita signs new deal at Wakefield

David Fifita

Hear the name Fifita and you probably immediately think of Andrew but in this instance, David is the Fifita in question, with the forward re-signing at the Wakefield Wildcats for another season.

Joining the club in June from the Cronulla Sharks, he had an option in his favour which he took up and is excited to continue playing for the club.

“I am really excited to get an extra year under my belt at Wakefield,” said Fifita.

“It is a fantastic club with a great set of fans and I cannot wait to get back into pre-season and get back out there on that field to repay all of their continued support.”

Making 13 appearances for the club since joining them, the club are also pleased to have him extend his tenure.

“I am delighted that David (Fifita) has agreed to a new contract with us, especially as I know how much this means to the Wakefield supporters,” said Wakefield head coach, Chris Chester.

“He is an important member of the squad who adds a lot of passion into the side with his big personality both on and off the field.

I know that he has got a lot more to show us this coming year and I am looking forward to working along side him in 2017.”

Former Warrior re-signs at Huddersfield

Ukuma Ta'ai

Whilst it may have been a while since he played for the New Zealand Warriors, their fans will no doubt remember him and some would have kept track of his progress at Huddersfield.

On the back of a solid season at the Huddersfield Giants, Ukuma Ta’ai has re-signed with the Claret and Gold until the end of the 2018 season.

Making 114 appearances for the Giants to date, he has scored 33 tries and did not miss a game in 2016 for the club.

Ta’ai is excited at the chance to continue his tenure with the club.

“I am so excited that the club has given me the opportunity to stay,” said Ta’ai.

“I love Huddersfield, it’s a small town but the fans are fantastic and I am excited to be given the chance to stay here for another two years.

The recent addition of Rick Stone as coach was played a role in his decision to stay.

“Since Rick [Stone] has been here, he has been great for us and I’m looking forward to pre-season so we can achieve more next season and hopefully the fans get behind us and buy a Season Ticket because they have really lifted us this year,” added Ta’ai.

The club is also pleased with the re-signing of Ta’ai, and praised both he and the club.

“The Ukuma retention was done some time back but as with other deals done there have been legalities which prevent immediate announcements,” said Giants Managing Director, Richard Thewlis.

“As and when we are able to make announcements regarding the 2017 squad, we will do so but the forefront of our thinking is player welfare and supporters have to recognise that and be assured that the club is making every endeavour on the back of the season ticket launch to have the first full year of “The New Stone Age” as a memorable one.”

Former NRL half shifts Super League clubs and joins Catalans

Luke Walsh

An experienced campaigner across both the NRL and the Super League, Luke Walsh knows what it takes to perform at the highest level and at teams where he fits in.

After a previous Super League stint with St Helens, Walsh has shifted Super League clubs, signing with the Catalan Dragons.

Playing in 48 games for St Helens, Walsh is excited about the new challenge that lies ahead for him.

“I am very excited to be linking up with Catalans,” said the 29-year-old.

“The guys are pulling together a very good side and I’m expecting big things at the Dragons in 2017.”

The club know just how crucial experience is, with Catalans CEO Christophe Jouffret outlining just how much he can bring to the team.

“Leaders are always crucial parts in a team and around Richie Myler, Thomas Bosc and Lucas Albert, it was necessary to enlist an experienced player who will quickly settle into the group,” said Jouffret.

Maguire signs new deal to remain Souths coach

Michael Maguire

South Sydney Rabbitohs fans have expressed their division over Michael Maguire and his tenure as Souths coach but the board have opted to re-sign him until the end of the 2019 season.

Winning a premiership in 2014, Maguire is regarded as one of the elite coaches in the game at present. He also enjoyed success during a Super League stint with the Wigan Warriors.

The current extension of his deal will take his tenure as Souths coach to 8 years equal with club legend Jack Rayner and behind only Clive Churchill (10 seasons) and Charlie Lynch (11 seasons).

Aiming for further premiership success, Souths General Manager of Football Shane Richardson is confident in Maguire’s ability to succeed further.

“Michael has enjoyed great success as a coach including leading our team to the 2014 NRL Premiership, and we’re certain that he is the man to lead the team back to the top,” Mr Richardson said.

“The Club has been working hard to sign our elite player group for the long term to create stability and Michael’s signing gives us a great leader to take this group of young men to the top.

“He’s a fantastic manager of people, has a sharp football brain, is a great family man, and we know he is the best coach to take South Sydney forward.”

Maguire is pleased to remain as the coach of the club, one that he has grown with over the years.

“I’ve loved every minute of coaching this side and being part of this Club. I believe in this playing group and I believe in this organisation,” Coach Maguire said.

“Everyone at this Club knows what it takes to be successful, everyone knows the hard work that’s in front of them and everyone is hungry to achieve success, and that’s something we’ve built up over the past five years.

“We all want to return to the top end of the ladder and we’re dedicated to achieving that this season and into the future.”

He praised the players, the fans, the organisation and the junior system that the club has in place and looks forward to both continuing and developing relationships across those mediums.

“I have a committed group of players, coaches and support staff that are prepared to work harder than ever before to achieve the results we want to achieve,” said Maguire.

“We have great relationships with Souths Juniors and the North Sydney Bears in creating the pathways we need to keep this Club successful in the coming seasons.

“I really enjoy seeing the way the Club and the team connect with our community and seeing how proud people are of our team. Being able to put something back into the community and put smiles on people’s faces is something very special.”

He was also grateful for the club giving him the initial opportunity and he looks forward to what lies ahead for him at the club.

“We also have a great connection with our corporate partners, and most importantly our Members, who ride this wave with us each and every season,” said Maguire.

“I’m very grateful for the commitment that everyone makes to this Club and I can’t wait to see what we can all achieve together over the coming years.

“My family and I couldn’t be happier to know that we are staying here at this Club which has become our home.”

New home for Rein at the foot of the mountains

Mitch Rein

Told he was unwanted at the St George Illawarra Dragons, Mitch Rein was on the hunt for a new club.

Several options loomed but it was the Penrith Panthers who won the race for his signature, signing the hooker on a 2-year old.

Rein has played 132 NRL games and is excited to add to that total at the Panthers.

“I am really excited to be joining the Panthers,” said Rein.

“It’s a young team with so much potential and the facilities are world-class, like nothing I have ever seen you in the NRL.

“I can’t wait to join the squad in pre-season and get started in 2017.”

Hailing from Kiama, the signing of Rein gives the club further hooker depth and is a signing that Executive General Manager Phil Gould is pleased about.

“It is very much to our club’s advantage to pick up a high calibre player for great value just prior to the commencement of our pre-season training program,”said Gould.

“Mitch is a representative class player and will provide our roster with tremendous depth and competition in key positions. I’d also like to think this could turn into a long term association down the track.”

“For now though, we are delighted to welcome Mitch to the Panthers. It is a tremendous signing.”

Bradford sign Titans utility

Lachlan Burr

A new adventure is on the horizon for Lachlan Burr, with the former Canterbury Bulldogs player and Gold Coast Titans utility joining the Bradford Bulls.

Burr played in 14 NRL games for the Titans and was a member of the Burleigh Bears Intrust Super Cup premiership winning side.

Burr, predominantly a lock, can also play back-row and a couple of other positions, with the 1-year deal at Bradford something he looks forward to.

“It’s going to be life changing and a good experience,” Burr said.

“I’m pretty excited about joining the Bulls, even just to move to another country and experience that and the footie as well.”

He will again have the chance to work under Rohan Smith, a former assistant at the Titans, who is now the head coach of the Bulls. An opportunity that he looks forward to.

“It’s going to be a different kind of footy which I’m looking forward to. It’s a chance to work under Rohan again as Head Coach and it’s something I’m excited for,” Burr said.

“I always liked Rohan as a coach at the Titans. He’s a good coach and when I heard he was interested and wanted me to come over, it definitely drove me towards coming to the Bulls.”

Smith is also looking forward to working alongside Burr once more and knows what he is capable of.

The ultimate goal for Burr is to hold down a spot, preferably the lock position.

“At this stage, I definitely want to stay in the middle – lock position, preferably,” Burr added.

“I want to work on being an 80-minute lock and if I can do that then I’ll be pretty happy.”

“Lachlan is a tough, fit, hard-working back-rower and I am looking forward to working with him,” said Smith.
“He can play back row or at loose forward and is very capable of playing 80 minutes each week.

“Lachlan has come through two quality systems in the NRL at Canterbury Bulldogs and Gold Coast Titans and is keen to establish himself as a key member of a team.”

Idris returns to rugby league after taking up Wests Tigers deal

Jamal Idris

18 months away from the game is a long time to reflect on your career and evaluate where things are at and after time to think, Jamal Idris is back in the NRL.

Idris will take up a 1-year deal with the Wests Tigers in 2017, having previously spent time with the Canterbury Bulldogs, the Gold Coast Titans and the Penrith Panthers.

With a total of 131 NRL games to his name since his debut back in 2008, Idris was the 2009 Rookie of the Year and a star on the rise.

However, like many young players, the struggles came and he was forced to take time away from the game to set himself on the right path and get his off-field life back on track.

Now, with a fresh outlook and a rejuvenated passion for the game of rugby league, Idris is back in the NRL and is excited at what lies ahead for him.

“For me, it’s so exciting as there are a lot of up-and-coming young players here,” said Idris.

“The average age is really young, and they’re only going to get better and more experienced. If they do that together, then they’re going to gel well as a team and that’s really exciting.

“I’ve learned a lot over the last year, and the biggest thing was that I was playing rugby league for others. This time, I’m playing rugby league for myself.”

Idris is eager to get involved in not only the game of rugby league once more but with the Wests Tigers club itself.

“There’s no better way to get back into it then to get stuck into training, and I’m improving a lot every week. I’m just hoping to do it now, week in and week out,” said Idris.

“I can’t wait to meet all the new fans and Members of Wests Tigers.”

“This Club has a great history and supporter base, and I can’t wait to meet and get to know so many more fans.”

Fans have always known that Idris has the ability to play the game and with the off-field elements now sorted, Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe is excited to have Idris join the club.

“As a Club, we are really pleased to have Jamal at Wests Tigers next year,” Pascoe said.

“We’re thrilled that he’s decided to embark on the next stage of his playing career with us.

“We all know what he can do on the field and we look forward to seeing him do it in a Wests Tigers jersey next season,” he said. “Jamal’s been a fan favourite everywhere that he’s played and I’m sure that Wests Tigers Members and fans are excited to have him with us.

“We had a lot of positive signs both on and off the field in 2016 and Jamal’s signing is another step in the right direction for this organisation.”

Equally pleased is coach Jason Taylor, who will be able to have a fully committed Idris ready to play in 2017.

“We’re really looking forward to having Jamal join us ahead of the 2017 season,” said Taylor.

“He brings a lot of size and strength to our outside backs which is something that we identified that needed to be improved on for the coming year.

“Jamal has played the game at the highest level and comes to Wests Tigers with a lot to prove.”

“He’s been working hard over the last couple of weeks to ensure that he’s ready for the start of pre-season and he’s incredibly motivated to get back into the game and we’re really happy that he’s decided to do it with us.”

Former England coach appointed assistant at the Warriors

Steve McNamara

Underdoing a slew of coaching changes ahead of the 2017 season, the next piece of the puzzle is complete at the New Zealand Warriors with the appointment of a new assistant coach.

That new assistant coach is former England coach Steve McNamara who has agreed to a two-year deal with the Warriors.

Most recently, McNamara was assistant coach of the Sydney Roosters for the last three years.

His coaching experience was a big factor in the decision to appoint him as an assistant.

“Steve has tremendous coaching credentials through his time as England’s head coach as well as his experience with Bradford in the Super League and now the Roosters in the NRL,” said Vodafone Warriors managing director Jim Doyle.

“In joining Stephen, Cappy (Andrew McFadden) and Stacey (Jones), Steve completes our NRL coaching staff for next season.

“We’re excited about being able to bring this group of coaches together as we strive to lift our standards. Certainly our senior players and the whole NRL squad will now have better coaching support than they’ve ever had before.”

Equally pleased is McNamara himself, who is looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead at the Warriors.

“I’ve learnt so much about the NRL in my three seasons with the Roosters, adding to past experience with England and Bradford,” he said.

“Now I’m really excited about this next step in my coaching career, coming to Auckland and working with Stephen and a great coaching group.”

McNamara is also looking forward to working with Kearney and believes the Warriors have all the potential in the world to succeed.

“I am in no doubt that the Vodafone Warriors have the players to make a mark in the NRL and I want to do all I can to help make that happen,” said McNamara.

“I have the greatest admiration for Stephen from the days when we were opposing coaches of our national teams. He has done wonderfully well with the Kiwis and I’m sure he’s going to do a terrific job with the Vodafone Warriors.”

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney also praised the signing and knows that despite once being adversaries, that the two can get along well in the coaching ranks.

“While Steve and I were adversaries in our roles with our national teams, we formed a great relationship,” he said.

“He brings qualities that will give us a really strong and experienced coaching group as we look ahead to take the Vodafone Warriors to the level we collectively expect of this club.

“There’s much work to do but with Steve, Cappy and Stacey we have a coaching team that can really lift standards and bring about the improvements we must make to be consistently competitive in the NRL.”

The flying French re-signs at the Eels

Bevan French

For some time now, Parramatta Eels fans have been raving about Bevan French. The talk was justified as he set the NRL alight with pace, speed and good plays.

An exciting player to watch, French has signed a new deal until the end of 2019 that will have Eels fans cheering.

Joining the Eels in 2013, the Tingha local was a strong performer in the Holden Cup before getting his chance in first grade in 2016.

The new contract is just rewards for French who has had a very solid debut season.

“Bevan’s development this year was a real positive for the club and I’m sure our members and fans are pleased that we have secured Bevan for another three seasons,” said head coach Brad Arthur.

“We have had a strategy over the last two years to retain our key players and provide strong additions for our squad going into 2017.

“We have made good progress so far and it’s our intention to continue this strategy as we head into the 2017 pre season.