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Host and Milne added to Rabbitohs roster

Newly signed South Sydney Rabbitohs forward Jacob Host

The South Sydney Rabbitohs have moved quickly to shore up some remaining spots for 2021 and beyond, signing Jacob Host and Taane Milne.

Host, who has played in 51 NRL games, made his debut for the St George Illawarra Dragons and has signed until the end of 2023.

A City Origin representative in 2017 and a junior Kangaroo in 2016, Host brings versatility and premiership-winning experience.

This of course refers to the 2016 success of the Illawarra Cutters in the NSW Cup, the same year Host was named in the NSW Cup team of the year.

Milne has played in 19 games across two sides, the New Zealand Warriors and the Dragons.

Milne also has nine caps for Fiji to his name and has impressed on the international stage in the past.

Rabbitohs Head of Football praised the signing of Host, who will get to work alongside Jason Demetriou once again.

“We’re really looking forward to Jacob and Taane joining us next season,” Mr. Ellison said.

“Jacob comes highly recommended by JD (Demetriou) and he has been on our radar for a number of seasons.

“He has performed strongly for the Dragons in the opportunities he’s been given and we’re looking forward to him pushing for a spot in our top 17 on a weekly basis.”

In and out of sides in first-grade so far, Ellison believes that if given the consistent chance, Milne can perform at a high level.

“Taane has had limited opportunities to impress in the NRL, but when he has been given a shot, he has shown he has what it takes to perform consistently well at the top level.

“We’re looking forward to having them join our squad for the 2021 pre-season and seeing what they can achieve under the guidance of Wayne (Bennett) and ‘JD’.”

Newly signed South Sydney Rabbitohs utility Taane Milne

Eels add Opacic, Papali’i and Lussick

Newly signed Parramatta Eels centre Tom Opacic

Needing reinforcements to round out their top 30, the Parramatta Eels have signed Tom Opacic, Isaiah Papali’i, and Joey Lussick. 

Opacic, who was most recently with the North Queensland Cowboys, has signed a one-year deal.

With 43 NRL games to his name, Opacic has a chance to add to that and start at the Eels, depending on what happens with Michael Jennings.

Papali’i, who was released by the Warriors a few weeks ago, joins the Eels on a two-year deal.

The versatile forward has played in 59 NRL games and has also represented both New Zealand and Samoa.

Newly signed Parramatta Eels forward Isaiah Papali’i

Lussick returns to the Eels after coming through the Eels pathways back in 2014 and 2015.

He made his debut in 2017 for the Manly Sea Eagles and has recently been playing in the Super League for the Salford Devils.

The signing of the trio was praised by Eels General Manager of Football Mark O’Neill, who backs all three to fit in with the club culture.

“We are excited to welcome Tom, Isaiah, and Joey and I have no doubt that these three men will be a great cultural fit with our club,” O’Neill said.

“All players will add class, depth, and balance to our overall squad and they will be relocating from their current destinations in readiness for the 2021 pre-season.”

Newly signed Parramatta Eels hooker Joey Lussick

Burr links up with Payten again at the Cowboys

Newly signed North Queensland Cowboys prop Lachlan Burr

The two know each other from their time at the New Zealand Warriors and Todd Payten and Lachlan Burr will now link up again at the North Queensland Cowboys.

The move to the Cowboys marks a new chapter for them both, as Burr looks to cement a spot in the Cowboys forward pack.

With the Warriors forward pack now jammed for spots, more opportunities may exist for Burr, who has played 61 NRL games.

Burr’s NRL debut came with the Canterbury Bulldogs, which was then followed by stints at the Gold Coast Titans and the Leigh Centurions.

Payten was pleased to have the chance to bring Burr over from the Warriors to the Cowboys.

“We’re really excited to bring Lachlan to North Queensland,” Payten said.

“He’s a big body, he’s got a good motor and he’s physical.

“On top of those on-field attributes, he’s a dedicated professional and a really good person.”

Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs Preliminary Final Preview

South Sydney Rabbitohs five-eighth Cody Walker

The stage is set for a thrilling preliminary final between the high flying Penrith Panthers and the red hot South Sydney Rabbitohs. 

Penrith booked their spot with a thrilling one-point win over the Roosters in the first week of the finals.

Whilst the Rabbitohs continued on their winning ways dispatching Parramatta last weekend, despite trailing early.

There has been much to be excited about this year at the foot of the mountains.

The current stars such as Cleary, Luai, Kikau, and others have no doubt evoked memories of the dominant Panther sides of the early 90s when the likes of Alexander, Geyer, and Fittler propelled the Panthers to glory.

Penrith last tasted premiership success in 2003 in an upset against the Roosters.

The Panthers should be well-rested, fresh, and ready to go after their week off.

Penrith Panthers prop James Fisher-Harris

However, the loss of Kikau is significant. Whilst Capewell is a good player, he doesn’t possess the game-breaking ability of Kikau.

Finals time and its Wayne’s time! The Bart Cummings of the NRL has his troops firing at the right time of the year.

After a sluggish first half last week, the Rabbitohs roared home in the second half to completely demolish the Eels.

Whilst the Rabbitohs are very unpredictable in attack, they also have some excellent structures and set pieces.

Last week, Cook really clicked into gear and was dangerous every time he touched the ball. Their unheralded pack continues to get the job done.


For Penrith, they will look to capitalize on their fast play the balls provided by Fisher-Harris, Yeo, and co.

Look for some early shifts to try and unsettle the Rabbitohs defence.

The markers and A defenders for the Bunnies will need to on their toes as Koroisau can really damage the opposition around the ruck.

South’s will be hoping to get out of the blocks quickly. If they do, look for Reynolds to turn the screws with his kicking game.

Look for Walker to again bob up on both sides of the ruck or late in the half, slicing back through the middle looking to link with Cook.

South Sydney Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook

The Bunnies will feel comfortable having to chase points if needed. Especially given their attack.

However, a strong start may create issues for the young Panthers, many of whom are inexperienced in NRL finals.

In saying that, many players in the squad have had decorated junior and lower grade careers.


Final Word

Such a difficult game to pick. Penrith has been unbelievably dominant this season and are deserved favourites.

However, the Rabbitohs are such a dangerous side and restricting points will be a massive assignment for the young Panthers.

Penrith Panthers hooker Apisai Koroisau

Tipping the Rabbitohs to sneak home, with no real confidence.

After missing out last week, for those that are punting – either team under 8.5 looks a great play, as does the Bunnies at the start.

Enjoy your finals footy!


 

Watson to stay on with the Knights for 2021

Newcastle Knights utility Connor Watson

Injury robbed him of playing regularly in 2020 but Connor Watson will stay on with the Newcastle Knights for 2021.

The utility re-signed with the club and could not be happier to stay in the red and blue.

“It was an easy decision to re-sign,” Watson said.

“I feel like there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

“We are building something special here and I’m looking forward to being part of that.”

Watson admits that he was worried that he was injured, it meant uncertainty over his job security.

“Getting injured and not having a deal locked up for next year was pretty scary but I’m grateful the Club is putting their faith in me and have re-signed me,” Watson said.

“I want to thank the supporters and Club for making the last three years so enjoyable and I’m excited to continue building and hopefully bring a premiership to Newcastle.”

Aekins makes the move to the nation’s capital to link up with the Raiders

Newly signed Canberra Raiders fullback Caleb Aekins

Opportunity is everything in rugby league and Caleb Aekins will leave the Penrith Panthers and join the Canberra Raiders in search of it.

Aekins, still only 22, is a Penrith junior and has 12 games to his name to date, eight of which have come in 2020.

In the end, the chance at playing potentially more rugby league dawned on Aekins and he jumped at it.

“I’m really excited about joining the Raiders next season, they’re a great club and they have a record of giving players an opportunity, Aekins said.

“Before that though, I’m still committed to the Panthers and I’m ready to go if I’m needed before the end of the season.”

Peter Mulholland, the Raiders Recruitment and High-Performance Director looks forward to having Aekins at the club.

“Caleb is an exciting young player who we think will be a good fit for our squad next season,” Mulholland said.

 

Hetherington makes the move to the Bulldogs

New Canterbury Bulldogs signing Jack Hetherington

Continuing to build their roster for 2021, the Canterbury Bulldogs have now added Jack Hetherington for two seasons.

Hetherington, a talented prop at the Penrith Panthers, has been in and out of first-grade but when in, he has performed.

Although ill-discipline might let him down at times, his defensive pedigree and tough approach adds some starch to the Bulldogs pack.

As incoming coach Trent Barrett continues to mold his side accordingly, the addition of Hetherington gives the Bulldogs a boost.

A boost that club CEO Andrew Hill knows all too well as he looks forward to seeing Hetherington in the blue and white of the Bulldogs.

“Having someone of Jack’s ability want to be part of what we are building at Belmore is fantastic news for our Members and fans,” Hill said.

Jack is a quality young player who will add a great deal of starch to our forward pack and we believe that he will continue to develop under Head Coach Trent Barrett, who he has worked with in recent seasons.

We are continuing to build out the depth in our squad and we believe that Jack will be a real compliment to the group of forwards that we have.”

Titans rising star Boyd signs new deal with the club

Gold Coast Titans utility Tanah Boyd

Buoyed by their late-season resurgence in 2020, the Gold Coast Titans continue to add to their roster and have re-signed utility Tanah Boyd.

Boyd, who made his NRL debut in 2019, added to that in 2020 with 13 games under the Justin Holbrook coached Titans.

Still only 20, Holbrook knows it is important to blood the youngster in gradually as he looks to take on a bigger role in 2021.

“I think it is a really smart decision from our Club to extend Tanah,” Holbrook said.

“He’s 20-years-old and I’ve blooded him slowly into first grade and he’s done a really good job.”

With some uncertainty around the makeup of the Titans halves for 2021 and beyond, Holbrook expects Boyd to challenge for a position.

“Over the next couple of years, I expect him to really improve a lot and he wants to push for the halves starting position which he will do his best for and we’re confident he can get there,” Holbrook continued.

“It’s great that he is locked in for a couple of years now with us.”

NRL journey for Davey continues as he takes up deal with Manly

Newly signed Manly Sea Eagles forward Andrew Davey

Bursting onto the scene at 28 for the Parramatta Eels, Andrew Davey will change clubs from 2021 and head to the Manly Sea Eagles.

Davey, who was close to giving the game away prior to earning his first-grade opportunity at Parramatta, performed well.

His 10 first-grade games were enough to convince Manly that they needed to sign him and they have for two seasons.

The local Queenslander who spent time in the Queensland Cup with several sides brings some punch to the Manly pack.

Pleased with the signing, Manly knows just how important players of Davey’s quality are.

“Andrew will be a very handy acquisition and will add plenty of depth to our NRL squad,’’ Sea Eagles Recruitment and List Manager Noel Cleal said.

Broncos make another NRLW grand final with win over Dragons but coach rues mistakes

Brisbane Broncos prop Millie Boyle

It was not an easy win but the Brisbane Broncos fought hard to secure an 18-4 win over the St George Illawarra Dragons in the NRLW. 

The Dragons, whose loss was compounded by the injuries to star duo Kezie Apps and Isabelle Kelly, with their season now finished.

Both sides will also face nervous waits with Ali Brigginshaw (dangerous contact) and Shaylee Bent (crusher) put on report.

Despite sustaining some early pressure, the Broncos would hold on and be the first team to score.

After her four-try effort last week, Tamika Upton would turn provider to set up the Broncos opening try.

Taking the line on, she spiralled a ball out to Julia Robinson who cut inside, went low and grounded the ball to score.

Brigginshaw then stepped up when she burst through the line and found prop Millie Boyle on her inside to score under the posts.

At 12-0 at the break, the Dragons were not down and out, and they would open the scoring in the second half.

Opting to run it on the last tackle, Jess Sergis ran the perfect line off a Keeley Davis pass to crash over and cut the deficit to just eight points.

With the game evenly poised, the icing on the cake came when Lauren Brown burrowed over from dummy half.

Her try would seal the Broncos win, confirming their status as the most consistent side in the NRLW competition.

Despite his side’s win, the number of errors frustrated Broncos coach Kelvin Wright.

“As a performance, I wasn’t very pleased,” he said.

“I thought there was just too many errors.

“The start of the game I thought we created plenty of opportunities but we just pushed it too early.

“I just thought our end-of-sets were quite poor as well. We didn’t really get to our kick much and our choices weren’t great.”

Dragons coach Daniel Lacey was not happy post-match, particularly at the hair-pulling incident that then saw Isabelle Kelly injured.

“I’ve coached women’s footy for a while now and I’ve coached a lot of young girls, and when you pull someone’s hair you let go. You let go. You don’t go on with it,” Lacey said post-match.

“I don’t think it’s a reportable offence by the rules, but you’ve seen the consequences of what happened.

“I’ve lost my best player, my best outside back. She’s shattered, she’s in a moon boot. Just let go. It’s all that needs to be said.”

NRL News Player of the Game

3. Millie Boyle (BRI)

2. Jess Sergis (SGI)

  1. Tallisha Harden (BRI)
St George Illawarra Dragons centre Jess Sergis