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Mann returns to the Knights where it all began

Former St George Illawarra Dragons utility Kurt Mann

After being granted an early release by the St George Illawarra Dragons, Kurt Mann will return to the Newcastle Knights, his hometown club.

The Knights deal for Mann is for three seasons as they round out their roster ahead of the 2019 season.

The Knights aim is to utilise Mann’s versatility as often as possible, with an eye on him making a more permanent move to hooker.

“We identified Kurt as a player of interest quite some time ago,” Coach Nathan Brown said.

“We believe Kurt has the potential to become a hooker and his ability to play a range of positions is an added bonus in today’s game.

“Kurt expressed a desire to secure a regular position and he’ll be given every opportunity to do that.”

Having played SG Ball and NYC at the Knights and coming through their ranks, Mann is pleased to have the chance to return.

“I’m really excited to return to the Club,” Mann said.

“It all began for me in Newy. I left Queensland as a young kid and was fortunate enough to play SG Ball and 20s for the Knights.

“It’s a homecoming of sorts. I can’t wait to meet everyone and get to work.”

For the Dragons, they admitted that, in the end, Mann received a better offer that they could not match.

“We have been in dialogue with Kurt and his management for a long period of time,” Millward said.

“He was offered a long-term contract and more security in regards to his playing minutes and being a starting player.

“We understood his desires regarding this, one he’s been persistent about it.”

As for his time at the Dragons, Mann thanked the fans for their hospitality over the last three seasons.

“I want to thank the Dragons and its members and fans for all their support over the past three years – it has meant so much to have worn the Red V jumper,” Mann said.

“I am also very appreciative to the Dragons for allowing me the opportunity to shore up my long-term future in the NRL by agreeing to release me.

“It wasn’t an easy decision as I’ve formed many lifelong friendships over the years I’ve spent at the Dragons, and I wish them all the best in the coming season.”

Fans the reason behind Lodge’s decision to re-sign with Broncos

Brisbane Broncos prop Matt Lodge

Some are still annoyed he is in the game but Matt Lodge will be at the Brisbane Broncos for at least two more seasons after re-signing.

After a solid comeback season in 2019 from numerous indiscretions, Lodge won the club’s best Forward award and was second in the Paul Morgan Medal tally.

Lodge paid tribute to the fans for their support as a reason behind his decision to stay.

“Thank you (members and fans) for getting behind me – it was a massive part of why I made the decision to stay in Brisbane,” said Lodge.

“We think we owe something to them and we’re working hard to bring back what everyone wants.”

With his new deal sorted, Lodge is pleased to have some stability and to working under new coach Anthony Seibold.

“It’s good to have some stability, I’ve made the decision to stay up in Brisbane.

“I’m happy with that decision and looking to put in some work with the group that we’ve got coming through to achieve what we all want.

“I’ll always respect Wayne (Bennett) for giving me the chance to come back… but we’re moving on now and we’ve got a new coach in Seibs (Anthony Seibold).

“Training has changed and we’ve all on board with that and we’re excited at what the future holds.”

As he looks to change the perception many have of him, Lodge says that becoming a father has given him more responsibility.

“It’s awesome – he just turned one a few weeks ago and he’s running amok but I love it,” said Lodge.

Lodge also has the full backing of the club who have praised his achievements so far and know he is capable of even more.

“Matt continues to work on every aspect of his life both on and off the field, and he knows he has our full backing as he travels along that road,” said Broncos CEO Paul White.

“He has taken some big strides this year through his dedication and hard work. We applaud what he has achieved and we welcome what is to come in the years ahead.”

Huge boost for Rabbitohs as live-wire Cook re-signs

South Sydney Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook

Some thought he would follow Anthony Seibold but Damien Cook has the South Sydney Rabbitohs a huge boost, signing a new long-term deal.

Cook, who is coming off a career-best season (representing both NSW and Australia and winning the Dally M Hooker of the Year), has re-signed for five years.

With 74 NRL games to his name to date, Cook’s NRL debut came with the St George Illawarra Dragons before he joined the Canterbury Bulldogs.

With a new lease on life since joining the Bunnies, Cook is pleased to have his long-term future sorted.

“I’m very excited to be extending my contract with the Rabbitohs and I’m happy to have my future sorted,” Cook said.

“Souths has been my home for the past three years and I didn’t think it would be possible to be able to secure things for the next five years, but I’m so happy that that will be the case.”

Cook is confident that the club is building nicely moving forward under new coach Wayne Bennett.

“I’ve loved every moment of my time here, even the tough times, and I think we’re building to something nicely,” Cook continued.

“It’s exciting times at the Rabbitohs and I’m looking forward to seeing where we can take it in 2019 and beyond.”

Rabbitohs General Manager of Football Shane Richardson also praised Cook and his recent form.

“Damien has not only proven that he is a top-level NRL hooker, he’s shown that he has what it takes to compete at the highest representative levels of the game,” Richardson said.

“He has taken on every challenge that has been put in front of him and he has overcome them.

Elite try-scoring winger Oates signs new Broncos deal

Brisbane Broncos winger Corey Oates

One of the elite wingers of the game, the future of Brisbane Broncos winger Corey Oates was of much speculation. 

Linked to several clubs, his contract future took a while to sort but the dust has settled, as he re-signed for one year.

Although it is just the one further season, Oates has said he wants to stay with the club for his entire career.

“The best thing to do was to get the one-year deal sorted – I don’t want to go anywhere else,” said Oates.

“I did a one-year deal last season to prove that I deserve a bigger contract, not money-wise, but because I want to stay here for a long time and do whatever I can for this club.”

The one-year deal is what Oates says acts as a motivator as he backs himself to perform.

“There’s been a lot going on in the back end of the season behind the scenes – and the best option was to clear my head, sign the one-year deal and back myself once again,” the representative winger continued.

Sharks look to the future as Flanagan re-signs

Cronulla Sharks halfback Kyle Flanagan

Even though Shaun Johnson is now at the club for a while, the Cronulla Sharks are still planning with the re-signing of Kyle Flanagan.

The new deal will see Flanagan remain at the club until the end of the 2021 season.

A chance to play first-grade in 2019, the Aquinas Colts junior has been involved with the club his entire career.

For the 2017 leading point-scorer, staying at the Sharks, the club he knows, was the best move for him.

“Being a local boy, I’ve grown up watching the Sharks and I’ve always wanted to play for the club,” Flanagan said.

“I witnessed the Grand Final victory and I’d like to think we can replicate the success of 2016 and I can be a part of that in the years to come.”

The chance to play alongside some of the current players and be a part of the club’s new generation, convinced Flanagan to stay.

“We have a core group of experienced players, Paul Gallen, Wade Graham, Josh Dugan, Andrew Fifita and others, who I’m looking forward to playing with and learning from, but I also want to be a part of the next generation,” continued Flanagan.

“I want to become a leader at the club alongside close friends like Bronson Xerri and Blayke Brailey who I’ve come through the junior system with here at the Sharks.

I want to help bring success to the Sharks in the year ahead.”

New long-term Tigers deal for Brooks

Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks

Loyalty is often rare but Luke Brooks has made a decision to re-sign with the Wests Tigers on a new long-term deal.

The club is close to Brooks’ heart, with the halfback playing his entire career at the Tigers.

With 107 NRL games to his name since making his debut in 2013, Brooks is pleased to stay and excited with the club’s direction.

“I’m pretty excited to be here for the next five years, I’ve been here my whole career and I’m happy to stay,” said Brooks.

“We’re building something nice here, with Madge [Michael Maguire] coming in he’s a successful coach and I think he’s going to be good for our team.”

Brooks did not hold back when talking about just how much the Wests Tigers club means to him.

“This club means a lot to me and I really love this club,” the halfback continued.

“I love playing here, I love playing with all of the boys, it’s what I’ve known for pretty much all of my life and I’m happy to be here.”

“This will allow me to just focus on footy and now I’ve just got to play consistent footy and do my job for the team.”

Brooks wants the club to be as consistent as possible and wants to push himself to perform at even greater heights.

“I just want to build on what we did last year as a team and for myself I want to keep playing consistent footy,” said Brooks.

“I’ve been in first grade for five years now and that’s a side of my game that I want to work on, the leadership around training and on the field as well.”

New Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire looks forward to working with Brooks and helping him become an even better player.

“Luke is a well experienced half now and at the prime of being able to take all of the learnings to this point to a whole new level,” said Maguire.

“Sitting down and talking to him about his game he’s hungry to learn and hungry to improve on where he’s at.”

He prides himself on his defence and obviously he’s very keen to learn the different styles of play that I’ve had experience with working with a number of halfbacks over a number of years.”

With lofty goals in mind, Maguire is pleased that Brooks has stayed on as they look to reach for bigger and better honours.

“Luke’s a player who’s really willing and open to learning his style, as well as understanding what others see when they’re playing and that’s something that can help him further develop his game,” Maguire continued.

“He loves the club, he’s a passionate Wests Tigers kid and I’m enjoying working with him.”

“To see one of our local juniors coming through and doing the things that he’s doing is great for this club and for its future and what we want to achieve.”

Mexican stand-off is over as Broncos confirm coaching appointment of Seibold

New Brisbane Broncos coach Anthony Seibold

It took a while and much denial, spin, trickiness and much more but Anthony Seibold is now the coach of the Brisbane Broncos.

Initially signing on from 2020 only, an ongoing saga ensued as Wayne Bennett refused to budge.

In the end, the Broncos earlier confirmed that they would give Bennett sack after his refusal to take the swap on offer.

In the end, the long-serving coach is gone and Seibold is in.

The full Broncos statement is as follows:

“Anthony Seibold will join the Brisbane Broncos as coach effective immediately.

Seibold had already agreed to join the club as coach from 2020 onwards, but he will now coach for 2019 as well after the departure of Wayne Bennett.

Seibold has been granted an immediate release by South Sydney, and will be at the Broncos tomorrow for the first day of preseason training with the full squad in attendance.

The Broncos would again like to thank members, sponsors, corporate partners, players and staff for their patience and understanding through this period of transition.

We now look forward to the start of the 2019 NRL season.”

 

Sharks add Kiwi international Johnson

Former New Zealand Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson

After he made a surprise decision to leave the New Zealand Warriors, Shaun Johnson’s move to the Cronulla Sharks is now official. 

The well-liked Kiwi international will join the Sharks on a 3-year deal.

After a back and forth process and numerous tours, the move has eventuated and Johnson looks forward to what lies ahead.

“It’s been a crazy few weeks but it’s good to lock it all away. I can’t wait to get over here and to rip in. It’s really exciting,” Johnson said.

“I want to add value where I can.

“The Sharks are a tough side, they know how to win and that’s what I’m excited to be a part of.”

The sort of signing that all Sharks fans can be proud of, coach Shane Flanagan knows how hard it is to sign players of this calibre at this time.

“To recruit a current Test half at this time of year is a massive boost to our club, the playing group our members and fans,” Flanagan stated.

“Shaun’s football talent is going to be a huge plus for our team and his experience will undoubtedly help with the development of our younger players.”

Now seen as a stalwart in rugby league, Johnson’s experience will be invaluable for the younger brigade coming through at the Sharks.

“Players like Jayden (Brailey), Kyle (Flanagan) and Blayke (Brailey) are some who can only benefit from having Shaun in our team,” continued Flanagan.

“And added to all of that, he has outstanding character, has done some great work in the community in New Zealand and he will also be an asset to the club off the field as well,”

Fisher-Harris signs new Panthers contract extension

Penrith Panthers James Fisher-Harris

Entering the Penrith Panthers junior ranks in 2013, James Fisher-Harris has come a long way in six years.

Moving to the club from New Zealand, Penrith has become a second home for Fisher-Harris.

“I’m really excited and grateful for the club to give me this opportunity,” Fisher-Harris said.

“It’s surreal when I think about where I’ve come from and where I am today.

“Penrith has become my second home. My family loves living here and all my mates are here too.”

The Kiwi forward believes Penrith’s potential to succeed is limitless.

“It’s crazy how much talent we have at the club,” continued Fisher-Harris.

“I think the sky’s the limit in terms of what we can achieve together.”

Just as pleased are the club, who are looking forward to seeing Fisher-Harris add to his 63 games.

“James has come through the Panthers development system to now be an integral part of our NRL team,” Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould AM said.

“Already a current Kiwi international, James still has the best part of his football career well ahead of him.

“We are delighted he has committed to Panthers until the end of 2022.”

Napa takes up three-year deal with Bulldogs as Roosters grant release

Former Sydney Roosters prop Dylan Napa

With David Klemmer heading to the Newcastle Knights, the Canterbury Bulldogs have replaced him with the signing of Sydney Roosters prop Dylan Napa.

Napa, who was granted an immediate release by the Roosters in order to sign the deal, will be at the Bulldogs for at least three seasons.

The Roosters club and organisation wished Napa the best for his contributions and achievements while playing.

“We have granted this release with the view that it is in Dylan’s best interests to secure his long-term future,” said Easts Group CEO Scott Bennetts.

“Dylan has been a passionate clubman, and he will always have many friends at the Roosters.

“We thank Dylan for his contribution to the Roosters over the years, and wish him every success in the future,” he added.

A notorious aggressor in the front-line, Napa’s move will bring some starch to the Bulldogs pack.

The Queensland and international representative does, however, provide a new and interesting dynamic for the Bulldogs forward pack.

“Dylan has played on the biggest stages and experienced success at Origin and Grand Final level and we are confident that he can bring that uncompromising and winning mentality to the Bulldogs,” said club CEO, Andrew Hill.

Dylan will also add extra steel to what is already shaping to be an outstanding group of forwards.”

Just as pleased is head coach Dean Pay who knew the club needed a hulking prop to replace the departing Klemmer.

“Signing someone of Dylan’s toughness and ability is a major coup for the club,” said Pay.

We really feel that we have got a high calibre footballer who will be a great addition to both our pack and our playing group as a whole.”