Tigers continue to build for future as young forward re-signs

Matt Eisenhuth

A surprise packet in the eyes of many for his smooth, seamless transition into the NRL, has seen Matt Eisenhuth re-sign with the Wests Tigers until the end of the 2019 season.

Recording impressive numbers consistently in his debut season, Eisenhuth said the decision was an easy one in the end based on the Tigers support.

“For me, it was a pretty easy decision to extend my time here,” Eisenhuth said.

“This club stood by me and gave me a shot nobody else was and they rewarded me with a debut and constant first-grade, so in my mind, I wasn’t looking to go anywhere else.”

Eisenhuth’s journey to regular NRL has not been an easy one but his hard work and perseverance have allowed him to reach the level he is currently at.

“It’s been a long road and I’ve had some ups and downs,” he said. “I think I’ve been improving week in and week out, so I’m very happy to be here for the next couple of years.”

“I think I’ve been improving week in and week out, so I’m very happy to be here for the next couple of years.”

As he continues to develop as a player, Tigers coach Ivan Cleary looks forward to his transition into a key member of the Tigers pack over the next couple of seasons.

“On and off the field Matt has shown that he encompasses the values that the Wests Tigers are all about,” said Cleary.

“I’m delighted that Matt will continue to develop his career here at Wests Tigers, he’ll be a highly valued member of the team into the future.”

Storm’s prolific try-scoring wingers both re-sign

Suliasi Vunivalu

Two of the form wingers of the competition both happen to be at the Melbourne Storm and in a tremendous boost for both, the speedster duo has re-signed with the club. 

Suliasi Vunivalu, the Storm’s flying Fijian, has re-signed until the end of the 2020 season with counterpart Josh Addo-Carr – regarded by many as one of the fastest players in the game – has re-signed until the end of 2020.

For Addo-Carr, it was the club environment and culture itself that prompted him to make the decision to stay.

“It’s pretty exciting for me and my family,” said the speedster.

“I wanted to stay around because it’s been good to me and they bring the best out of me.”

With the duo forming one of the best wing partnerships in the competition, Vunivalu admits that it took a few rounds to click but since then, they have both gone from strength to strength.

“It took us a while to click but we’re getting better now and we know when to get in and find the ball,” said the Fijian winger.

“We just listen to Coops [Cooper Cronk] and Billy [Billy Slater] and go from there.”

Addo-Carr also had a glowing endorsement for his wing counterpart.

“I love playing with him,” said Addo-Carr.

“Every time he touches the ball, he dinks the line and I’m the next person to run after him.

“It’s very good playing with him and I know the next thing he’s going to do.”

To re-sign both their Fijian flyer and the man nicknamed ‘the Fox’ is a tremendous boost for the Storm and Director of Football Frank Ponissi knows how invaluable the duo are.

“Suli and Josh are important to the future of the Melbourne Storm so to have them re-signed for three and four years respectively is fantastic for our Club,” said Ponissi.

“There is hardly a better sight in rugby league than seeing the two of them in full flight at AAMI Park. We are delighted our members and fans can continue to see Josh and Suli showcase their skills.

With the Storm constantly setting the bar high in terms of their achievements, Ponissi wants to see the duo get even better and enjoy a prolonged period of wing dominance.

“It is exciting to have our core group of youngsters commit to remaining in Melbourne,” continued Ponissi.

“The challenge now for our young players is to ensure they put in the hard work to get the most out of their ability and help this Club achieve a sustained period of success.”

Josh Addo-Carr

Key Tigers forward re-signs for three more seasons

Elijah Taylor

Making a big impact on the field and in the eyes of fans, Wests Tigers fans are rapt that veteran forward Elijah Taylor will continue his time with the club after signing a new 3-year deal.

Taylor, currently the Wests Tigers vice captain, has donned the club colours on 36 occasions and has played in 142 NRL games to date.

As he gets older and more experienced, every deal becomes more crucial and for Taylor, the chance to continue working under Ivan Cleary – who also coached him at both the New Zealand Warriors & Penrith Panthers – was too good to pass up.

“It was definitely a decision that I took my time with as I’m getting older now but I’m really happy that it’s done now,” said Taylor. “Ivan coming in as Head Coach was a big factor in me deciding to stay. He’s an experienced coach and has coached me at both the Warriors and Penrith, he’s the reason I moved to Australia, knowing what kind of coach he is, what his principles are and the way he likes to play football was probably the biggest factor.

“Ivan coming in as Head Coach was a big factor in me deciding to stay. He’s an experienced coach and has coached me at both the Warriors and Penrith; he’s the reason I moved to Australia and knowing what kind of coach he is, what his principles are and the way he likes to play football was probably the biggest factor.

In somewhat of a rebuilding phase with numerous key departures, Taylor believes that the side is headed in the right direction and wants to be a part of the club’s endeavours moving forward.

“We’re building a good culture here at Wests Tigers and I’m really looking forward to the next three years,” he said. “I’m really excited about the future here, there are a lot of new faces coming, we’re really building something special. I’ve played with a lot of the players coming and it’s going to be good for the club and good for our young players coming through. You want to have older guys come in and show the younger players the ropes, make them understand what it takes to play first grade every week.

“I’m really excited about the future here, there are a lot of new faces coming, we’re really building something special. I’ve played with a lot of the players coming and it’s going to be good for the club and good for our young players coming through. You want to have older guys come in and show the younger players the ropes, make them understand what it takes to play first grade every week.

I’ve played with a lot of the players coming and it’s going to be good for the club and good for our young players coming through. You want to have older guys come in and show the younger players the ropes, make them understand what it takes to play first grade every week.

You want to have older guys come in and show the younger players the ropes, make them understand what it takes to play first grade every week.”

Now seen as one of the more experienced campaigners of the Tigers side, Taylor looks forward to passing on his wisdom and experience with the younger generation at the club.

“You learn a lot as you go on your journey in your career, I’ve learnt a lot being through the Warriors and Penrith systems,” said Taylor.

“I’ve seen a lot on and off the field, probably those things off the field have made me a lot smarter and wiser in decision making and I have a lot of experience that I can pass on to the younger guys coming through here at Wests Tigers.”

Taylor drew praise from coach Ivan Cleary who knows how good of a player he is.

“Elijah is a player that others love to play alongside,” said Cleary. “No task is beneath him and he always puts the team before himself.

“Our fans can look forward to seeing Elijah’s game blossom in the coming years, Elijah will play a pivotal role in the future of the Wests Tigers,” he said.

The Fresh Prince re-signs at the Tigers

Kevin Naiqama

Getting his nickname from Will Smith’s character in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Wests Tigers utility back Kevin ‘The Fresh Prince’ Naiqama has signed a new deal with the club for the 2018 season.

Since joining at the start of the 2015 season, Naiqama has shown his versatility moving back and forth across the back-line to accommodate other changes.

2018 will be the fourth season at the Tigers for Naiqama and he is excited at what lies ahead.

“I really like where the club is heading, the football that we’ve been playing under Ivan over the last month or so shows what we can do when we’re competing for the whole 80 minutes,” said Naiqama. “I love the direction that the club is heading, with

“I love the direction that the club is heading, with getting some big signings coming for next year and I just wanted to be a part of that.

In the end, Naiqama’s decision was easy as he now holds a genuine passion and affinity for the club.

“It’s been great to be able to be here for the last couple of years,” he continued.

I love the club, this year is my third here and I’m stoked to be able to extend my stay at Wests Tigers.”

Tigers coach Ivan Cleary praised Naiqama’s versatility and wants to see him become even better and continue to develop further.

“Kevin has shown great versatility for the team this year covering a number of positions and has handled himself exceptionally well,” said Cleary.

“He continues to work tirelessly on his game and I look forward to seeing him continue to develop as a player in the coming year.”

 

Daley sacked as NSW coach

Laurie Daley

In the eyes of many, it was a move that had to be made after yet another series loss for New South Wales with Laurie Daley given the flick as NSW coach.

The decision was made by the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) after it announced its 2017 review that will result in an organisational overhaul and restructure.

NSWRL Chairman George Peponis released a statement on the decision made.

“I have spoken with Laurie and he understands the decision. He is obviously disappointed but he has enjoyed the journey and appreciated the opportunity,” said Dr Peponis.

“Obviously, we thank Laurie for the significant contribution he has made over the past five years.”

The NSWRL praised the efforts of Daley in what have been some turbulent times for the NSW side.

“He is a legend of the game and has done a tremendous job. He is the only New South Wales coach in the past 12 years who has won a State of Origin Series,” continued Peponis.

“We felt it was time to make a change. All aspects of the business will be looked at from coaching staff to team operations and personnel.”

As for Daley himself, he understands that the NRL coaching world is now a result driven business but despite the fact that he is no longer NSW coach, he will continue supporting them.

“I’ve enjoyed my time working for New South Wales Rugby League.

“I understand that the business is results-driven and I respect the decision of the Board to go in another direction.

“I will always support New South Wales and I wish their team and their coach every success in the future.”

Titans opt to part ways with coach Henry

Neil Henry

Whether you think it is a good move or not or the circumstances behind it, the Gold Coast Titans have opted to part ways with coach Neil Henry.

After meeting to discuss Henry’s future, the decision was made with CEO Graham Annesley addressing the media about the decision.

“The Board took into consideration a number of matters in making this decision and have chosen to end Neil’s time here as Coach,” Annesley said.

“The Board met and addressed a range of issues and were driven by making a decision that was best for the club to move forward into the future.”

The club thanked Henry for his time as head coach and wished him well for future roles and endeavors.

 

Knights back-rower opts to return to England

Joe Wardle

Some overseas endeavours work out and others do not and for Joe Wardle, despite trying to make a go of the NRL with the Newcastle Knights, he made a decision to return to  England.

Wardle, who has so far played 15 games for the Newcastle Knights, previously played for the Huddersfield Giants and will head back to England, signing with the Castleford Tigers.

The Scottish international thanked the opportunity given to him by the Knights and looks forward to his time at the Tigers.

“I would just like to say thank you to Newcastle for working alongside me in what has been a hard time adjusting to life down under,” said Wardle.Rugby careers are short so happiness is key and sometimes things don’t work out, which

“Rugby careers are short so happiness is key and sometimes things don’t work out, which is, unfortunately, the case.

I am really looking forward to getting back home, getting my family settled and teaming up with Daryl and the rest of the boys for the 2018 campaign.”

As for the Castleford club themselves, coach Daryl Powell is pleased to have Wardle signed for several seasons.

“Joe Wardle is a player that I have been a fan of for a number of years since his time at Huddersfield,” said Powell.

“I am delighted that on returning to England he has decided that we are the club to help him achieve his goals in the game.”

His versatility is also a key reason behind the decision to sign Wardle.

“He is a tough player on both sides of the game being a great line runner on attack and a solid aggressive defender,” continued Powell.

“He can play in both centre and back row positions which strengthens us significantly and grows our competition for places within an already awesome squad.

I look forward to his arrival at the club and getting him accustomed to how we play.”

Ricky’s NRL Interviews Pt 6: Brenton Bowen

Our interview series with former players continues with pt 6; with former North Queensland Cowboys and Gold Coast Titans utility back, Brenton Bowen.

With a synonymous surname in rugby league, a love of the game and the skill to boot, Bowen opened up on life prior to first-grade, his career and what the game means to him.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy his open, honest answers.

Q1: Your surname is synonymous in rugby league; what drew you into rugby league?

A: My earliest memory of Rugby League is when I was a kid; I remember my dad and uncles playing for the Mossman Sharks in the Cairns Local Rugby League Competition. I’d sometimes hop on the footy bus with my dad and follow him down to Cairns from Hope Vale to watch him play. When I got a bit older, I loved watching Allan Langer play for the Broncos. I was a big Broncos fan growing up because they had a lot of QLD Origin players.

Q2: With Matthew Bowen being your cousin, what were your rugby league memories growing up with him?

A: We were both very competitive. There was always a competitive rivalry between us from our time growing up at Hope Vale. Every time we played backyard footy or a game of touch footy, we would always be on opposing teams. We always wanted to outdo each other but at the same time had so much respect for each other.

Q3: Born in Cairns, you went on to play for Cairns Brothers at the junior level and then the North Queensland Cowboys; what were those experiences like and what did it mean to you to play first-grade?

A: Although I was born in Cairns, I grew up in Hope Vale near Cooktown. I did my High Schooling years at St. Teresa’s College Abergowrie (near Ingham). It wasn’t until I was 16 that I played for Cairns Brothers and we went on the win the Grand Final that year. I’d make the 3-hour trip north to play footy on the weekends.

I have some of my fondest memories playing footy alongside my school mates. None more special than winning the Confraternity Carnival in 1999 with my St. Teresa’s College schoolmates. Matty Bowen and Palmer Wapau were on the same side also. Palmer went on to play for the Brisbane Broncos.

When the Cowboys entered the NRL competition in 1995, I instantly changed teams from the Broncos to the Cowboys, haha! We had an NRL team to support in our very own backyard. To actually have the opportunity to not only play for them but to actually debut with them was a dream come true. One goal of mine was definitely ticked off.

Q4: After some success at the Cowboys, you moved to the Titans for a sole season in 2008; what prompted that move?

A: At the time, the Titans were offering me a 2-year contract whereas the Cowboys were only offering me a 12-month contract. So I thought I needed something with more stability and decided to sign with the Titans. It was a very tough decision to make to move to the Gold Coast as 2007 was a very good year for me at the Cowboys as I was playing regular first grade. I enjoyed my time at the Titans over the two years that I was there. Although I didn’t play many games down there I got to play/train along side the likes of Scotty Prince, Preston Campbell, Matt Rogers, Chris Walker, Brad Meyers, Luke Bailey etc. I only played a hand full of games in 2008 and spend the 2009 season with The Tweed Seagulls.

It was a very tough decision to make to move to the Gold Coast as 2007 was a very good year for me at the Cowboys as I was playing regular first grade. I enjoyed my time at the Titans over the two years that I was there. Although I didn’t play many games down there I got to play/train along side the likes of Scotty Prince, Preston Campbell, Matt Rogers, Chris Walker, Brad Meyers, Luke Bailey etc. I only played a hand full of games in 2008 and spend the 2009 season with The Tweed Seagulls.

Although I didn’t play many games down there, I got to play/train alongside the likes of Scotty Prince, Preston Campbell, Matt Rogers, Chris Walker, Brad Meyers, Luke Bailey etc. I only played a handful of games in 2008 and spend the 2009 season with The Tweed Seagulls.

Q5: You stayed in rugby league after that and played several seasons with the Northern Pride; did you feel as if that was a demotion or was it refreshing to continue playing at the grassroots level?

A: Yes, once my time with the Titans came to an end at the end of 2009, I made my way back to Far North Queensland to play for the Northern Pride. I felt that it was refreshing to be able to go back to grassroots level. Although, my 2-3 years there was marred by injury and later on doctors found a benign tumour on my Pituitary gland (just under the Brain).

Q6: Post-footy, do you still have an involvement within the game whether it be in a professional capacity or as a fan?

A: These days, I’m just a passionate fan of the game. I’d love to get back involved in the game as I love it and love what it gave me but my work commitments and family commitments take priority in my life now.

Q7: What is your greatest memory from your rugby league career?

A: My greatest memory from my Rugby League career would have to be my debut game; Round 3 2003 vs Manly. I came off the bench that day – Ty Williams got injured – and coach Graham Murray gave me the nod to take the field in place of Ty.

I was up against John Hopoate. After the game, he shook my hand and wished me all the best in my NRL career I thought that was pretty special. Other memories and highlights were obviously getting to play First Grade alongside my cousin Matty Bowen.

Q8: As a successful player, if you could give one piece of advice to any budding player that wants to play rugby league, what would it be?

A: The advice I would to anyone who wants to play at that level is to never give up on your dream. Billy Slater is a perfect example. I am the same age as Billy, he didn’t make many if not any of rep teams through the junior grades he’d always miss out but to his credit, he didn’t give up. Now he’s one of the best players in the world.

One that I use for budding rugby league players from the bush/communities that get homesick is that “home isn’t going anywhere,” it’s always going to be there. There are a lot of talented footy players from the bush/communities that would make it in the NRL but are afraid to move away from home. 

Raiders captain signs new deal at club

Jarrod Croker

Far and away the favourite of many Canberra Raiders fans across the country, Jarrod Croker is a name that is synonymous with consistency, breaking club records and, of course, the Raiders.

Thus, in a boost for the club and its fans moving forward, the fan favourite centre and club captain has extended his deal with the club until the end of 2020.

Already contracted for 2018, the Raiders moved quickly to ensure that Croker’s future was secured for the long-term.

A prolific scorer both in tries and goals, Croker has broken numerous club records and is on track to break more, as well as potentially going on to break NRL records given that at just 26, he has already amassed more than 200 NRL games.

Having been involved with the club for his entire career, Croker said it was an easy decision in the end as he shifts his attention to the Raiders making the finals.

“I’m a proud Raider and to re-sign at the club is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Croker said.

“We’ve got a wonderful group of players and coaches here who I believe have the talent to win a premiership and I’m looking forward to being a part of that.

“We’ve still got the opportunity to play finals footy this year which is exciting and I know the teams focused on winning the last four games of the season and playing in the finals.”

Equally pleased is the club who know how valuable Croker is to their side and the leadership skills he possesses to guide the side.

“Re-signing Jarrod was an easy decision for us as he’s an extremely valuable asset both on and off the field,” said Raiders CEO, Don Furner.

“He’s setting records at the club which may never be broken and we know he’s the right player to lead the team into the future.

As Captain, he continues to impress us with his leadership of the team and we know he commands the respect of his peers and the club’s members and supporter base.”

Manly re-sign talented local junior

Brad Parker

Fresh off the back of a solid performance in the Manly Sea Eagles win, the club has rewarded utility back Brad Parker with a new two-year deal. 

Parker, who is still eligible for the U20’s competition – the Holden Cup – has shown his promise and willingness to perform and despite an early injury setback, he impressed coach Trent Barrett with his attitude towards recovery.

Barrett praised his form in the Roosters match and believes that Parker can hold down a spot long-term.

“Brad took his opportunity well against the Roosters after being 18th man for several weeks,” said the Manly coach.

“He can handle centre and wing without any problems and his team mates have confidence in him.There is no doubt he is set for a long career at Manly where he has come through the junior representative teams into grade,”

There is no doubt he is set for a long career at Manly where he has come through the junior representative teams into first grade.”

It was an easy decision for Parker, who is just excited to sign his first senior contract with a club that he & his family grew up supporting.

“I loved cheering on the Sea Eagles with my family and friends as a kid,” said Parker.

“Jamie Lyon was my hero and to be able to train and play in a few games with him last year was awesome.

I’m stoked to be given an opportunity at such a great club.”