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Ricky’s NRL Interviews Pt 8: Shane Muspratt

Shane Muspratt

Another day and another interview and this time, we had a chat with former North Queensland Cowboys and Parramatta Eels player, Shane Muspratt. 

In our chat, he spoke about his rugby league career, his foray into coaching and his exciting work with Zambrero among other things.

So sit back and enjoy the read.

  1. You grew up in Ayr, Queensland; what are your first memories of rugby league growing up in the area?
    Growing up in Ayr, my first memories of Rugby League were as a ball boy on the sidelines of some of the most fierce and competitive Foley shield games. Such a strong comp back in those days, to the point dad helped bring former Australian player Ray Brannigan to the Burdekin to play, which just goes to show the calibre of the comp back in those days.

2. Being as close to Townsville as you were, it made sense for your first-grade debut to come with the Cowboys; were you expecting it and what do you remember of your first game?
Prior to the Super League saga, my focus was more in basketball but once I was invited into the system as a 17-year-old off the back of an open trial, you always aspire/dream to play at the highest level, particularly for your hometown/region.

My debut was made a little more special knowing dad’s business donated resources to help build the ground, so knowing all my family and friends could attend my first game in Townsville was pretty special.

3. In 2004, you moved to the Parramatta Eels for a season; what prompted that move?
I got an opportunity and thought it would be good to experience something different. I had a similar offer to stay in NQ, but I thought I was probably getting a bit stale in my approach to training and they say a holiday is as good as a change so I went because I wanted to experience something different. 

I didn’t have the best footballing year as I was injured for 60% of the year; firstly with a pretty serious neck injury obtained the last week before the season started and then halfway through the season when I managed to come back into first-grade and play a few games, I broke my hand.

Not a great year but I have always been a believer that things happen for a reason and the best thing I took away from this year was that I met some great people during my time in Sydney to the point where I still stay in contact today and when you run into those that you don’t, it’s still good to laugh and catch up.

4. You then returned to the Cowboys in 2005; was it always your aim to finish your career where you started it?
I didn’t expect to be back that quick but with the year of injuries, it was the easiest and most cost-effective thing to do at the time, going home. When I returned home, I worked part-time and played semi-professional with the Cowboys young guns Q Cup reserve grade, which although not playing first grade in that year, I feel this was my best season and most consistent year of football.

I didn’t play a lot of first-grade this time either, only a few more games when injuries occurred.

5. Your utility value was appreciated during your career; what was your favourite position to play?
I liked playing 6. I think my basketball days as a point guard had always seen me play as an organising type runner.

6. Post-footy, how are you keeping yourself busy and do you still have an active interest in the sport?
Staying busy through business and family. I own and operate the QLD development region for the Mexican Food franchise – Zambrero. Between work and family life, spare time is limited particularly having 2 boys – Ethan 5 and Carter 7. I got back into coaching this year, coaching the Wests Panthers (Brisbane) Under 6’s. Had a ball with the kids, not too dissimilar to coaching Q Cup.

HAHA. Jokes aside, coaching for me starting with the Mackay Cutters (feeder team for the Cowboys) was the best 2 years of life lessons I think I learnt in my whole career and something I have really tried to take into business. Although having no regrets about the goods times I had while playing, you appreciate the discipline and management required to be a first-grade coach.

Personally, I think becoming a parent has also had a lot to do with the stability of where my business and family life has ended up and throw in there the lessons I think team sport provides us with at a very young age, I am very appreciative of my time in the NRL albeit only 64 games.

7. If you could give advice to any budding rugby league player, what would it be?
The game is so different nowadays with its media coverage, in particular, social media. Jokingly, I would say do as I say not as I did but the biggest thing I have always said; the players of today need to be more accessible and approachable to fans and sponsors, because it’s this network of people you engage with who will probably be the first call you make when you’re looking for work post your football career, however long that is (speaking from experience).

I was fortunate to have some great mentors post-football who I worked with after finishing coaching with the Cutters (sponsors of the Cowboys). I worked with this family for 4 and half years prior to venturing into Zambrero. I never pretended to be overly academic but I learnt very early from my dad and then further enhanced from my mentors/employers, the importance of building strong relationships is second to known and throw in a bit/a lot of hard work and who knows where life can take you post footy.

 

Sharks junior signs new 2-year deal after impressive 2017

Jayden Brailey

In a boost for the Cronulla Sharks, the club has announced the re-signing of talented hooker Jayden Brailey on a 2-year deal. 

Brailey, already signed on for 2018, has been a promising player for the Sharks since starting the year at hooker.

The Aquinas Colts junior will now remain at the Sharks until the end of 2020 and after a stellar 2017 season, the club are pleased to retain him and watch him develop even further as a player and a person.

“Jayden is only young and he had a tough first year. He needed to play big minutes, then he had the broken jaw but he is tough and resilient,” said Sharks coach Shane Flanagan.

“He came back from the injury and had an excellent season.

“He has the respect of his senior teammates, from players like Gallen and Lewis, which is important, and if Jayden keeps going and keeps doing what he’s doing, he will have a long and successful career at the Sharks and in the NRL.”

In the end, Brailey could not see himself at any other club and so staying at the Sharks was an easy decision.

“I’ve been at the Sharks since I was about 13 and they’ve taught me so much,” said Brailey.

“They’ve been a big part of where I am today and hopefully it’s the start of being at this club for a long time.

“I’m very stoked.”

 

Ricky’s NRL Interviews Pt 7: Dean Collis

Dean Collis

Back by popular demand, our interview series is back! This time, we spoke with Dean Collis, a former Cronulla Sharks, Wests Tigers and Wakefield utility back. 

He opened up about his debut, his appearance for City Origin, his time in England and his post-NRL/SL career.

1. 2003 was a big year for you at the start of your career as you represented the Australian Schoolboys and made your Wests Tigers debut; what are your memories of both those occasions?

A: 2003 was a big year. The Australian Schoolboys was a great experience and a great privilege to be part of. It is a huge honour to represent your country at any level and it is still one of my most treasured jerseys.

My debut for Wests Tigers was a dream come true and I couldn’t believe it came so early. I just remember getting the call on a Monday to say I was playing and I was over the moon. I tore my quad in the warm up and I got through 60 minutes before coming off.

2. In 2006, you became a regular in the centres for the Tigers; what changed in you as a player to make that spot your own?

A: I played a few games in 2005 and started to feel more comfortable around the playing group. I had been in the squad for a few years and I knew that I had to start to push my way into the team. Shane Elford was injured to start the year which opened the door for me to get a start which gave me a chance to cement my spot.

3.  In 2007, you made an appearance for the City Origin side; what was that experience like?

A: To get the chance to play for City when it was still seen as a bit of Origin trial was a great experience. I had the chance to play alongside some great players which I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to do.

4. What prompted your move to the Cronulla Sharks ahead of the 2010 season?

A: 2009 at the Tigers was a poor year for me. My form was poor to start the year and then I broke my arm during the year at training. I was a bit down in the dumps and I just felt like I needed a change.

5.  Following two years at the Sharks, you moved to Wakefield to play there; what did you find was the main difference between the NRL and the Super League at that time and did you have to adjust at all?

A: There was a big difference between NRL and Super League on and off the field. It was a lot more attack-oriented as opposed to the NRL which had a lot more focus on defence. Although it was a huge change, I didn’t feel like I had to adjust much. I felt like the game over there suited me more.

6. You made the decision to return to Australia for family reasons at the end of the 2015 season and are now playing for the Camden Rams in Group 6; was that a decision you felt comfortable with, knowing that you may have had more juice left in the tank at the SL or NRL level?

A: It was a really hard decision to make and I thought about it long and hard. My wife and I had a baby boy the year before and I probably more so than her was struggling not having any family around for a bit of help and assistance.

I have a few regrets that I came home when I did as I still believe I had a bit to offer. I played with Camden Rams when I came back and finished up at the end of 2016.

7. If you could give any advice to budding rugby league players; what would it be?

A: Enjoy it while you can and try and make every opportunity count because you never know when the next one might come along.

Dubbo local handed new deal at Penrith after solid 2017 season

Isaah Yeo

After impressing and cementing his spot in the back-row for the Penrith Panthers in 2017, the club has extended the contract of Dubbo local, Isaah Yeo.

The new deal has added a further two years to his contract which will see him stay at the Panthers until the end of the 2021 season.

Yeo is excited to remain with the club that he now calls home.

“I’m stoked with the situation and how it all panned out,” Yeo said.

“The club has shown tremendous faith in me and I’m looking forward to trying to repay that faith on the field with my performances.

“I think the last two years have been successful, especially given the age of our playing group, and I’m very confident with where this team is heading.

“I’m really excited to be here. It’s where I call home now.”

Yeo won back-to-back premierships, the first in 2013 with the Penrith Panthers Holden Cup side and then again in 2014 with their Intrust Super Premiership side.

The club sees him as an invaluable player and is aware that he will only get better moving forward.

“Isaah is an outstanding young man,” Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould AM said.

“He has come through the Panthers development system and now established himself as a mainstay in our NRL team.

“Isaah already displays tremendous leadership qualities and we are delighted he has committed his long-term future to our club.

“I have no doubts he will be a representative player in the years to come.”

Freddy gets the nod as the next NSWRL coach

Brad Fittler

After much speculation as to whether he would get the job, the NSWRL have today confirmed that Brad Fittler has been appointed as the new NSW Blues coach for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

The position was highly sought after by numerous coaches with experience at the highest level but in the end, the decision was made to go with Fittler.

“Given the importance of this appointment, the Board has taken the appropriate amount of time to fully consider the issue,” said NSWRL Chairman, George Peponis.

“A number of highly qualified candidates expressed an interest in the position. I have no doubt that any one of them could have done a great job if the Board had decided to appoint them.

Ultimately, the Board was unanimous in the view that Brad Fittler should be appointed to the position.”

Peponis praised Fittler’s qualifications and made mention of his solid RLWC outing as Lebanon coach as they look forward to seeing what he can produce as NSWRL coach.

“Brad’s qualifications for the role are impeccable and his standing within the game is pre-eminent,” continued Peponis.

“His recent efforts in the Rugby League World Cup with Lebanon serve as a reminder of his talents as a coach and they provide a window into the exciting future which he will bring the New South Wales State of Origin team.”

Equally pleased was NSWRL Chief Executive David Trodden, who praised Fittler for his appointment as well as for his previous work with the NSWRL.

“I couldn’t be happier for Freddy with this appointment,” Trodden said.

“In the last few years, he has made a massive impression on everyone in the NSWRL with the work he has done with our KARI City Origin team and our Pathways teams.

He has achieved outstanding success with these teams and in reality, he has spent those years preparing for the role which he has now been appointed to.

NSWRL is in for a great ride and sustained success in the next few years beckons.”

The Chase is over as Rangi cops 2-year drug ban

Rangi Chase

In a bitter blow for any ambitions he may have had to continue playing rugby league at the highest level, Rangi Chase has tested positive for cocaine and will serve a 2-year suspension.

The former England half-back was suspended by his club Widnes at the time, after failing a drugs test following a loss to Wakefield in July.

The UK Anti-Doping organisation (UKAD) said that Chase tested positive for a metabolite of cocaine – benzoylecgonine.

UKAD Chief Executive Nicole Sapstead made it clear that failing drug tests in sport is serious and that players will face the appropriate repercussions.

“As an experienced rugby league player who has represented both New Zealand Maori and England, as well as Super League clubs, Castleford Tigers and Salford Red Devils, Rangi Chase has tarnished his well-established career with this sanction,” Sapstead said.

“His two-year ban serves as a stark warning to athletes about the very real consequences of taking recreational drugs whilst competing in sport.”

Remarkably, Chase was one of three players to test positive for cocaine in 2017; Zak Hardaker and Adam Walker being the other two.

 

A Mata’utia brother granted a release from his contract

Chanel Mata’utia

After consideration regarding his future, Chanel Mata’utia was officially given a release from the final year of his contract by the Newcastle Knights.

Mata’utia made the decision after realising that it was the right time for him to step away from the game, one that he is comfortable in making.

“The Club has been great to me and I will miss everyone, but it is the right time for me to step away from the game at this level,” Mata’utia said.

“I plan to play in the local competition and find a job, as my family and I move on to the next stage of our lives.

“I am comfortable with my decision and want to thank everyone at the Club, and also the fans, for all of the support.”

A Knights junior, Mata’utia went on to play a total of 13 NRL games for the club as they wished him the best in his endeavours.

“We thank Chanel for his contribution to the Club and respect his decision to make this change,” General Manager Football Darren Mooney said.

“We wish Chanel and his family all the best for the future.”

Pearce gets his release but where will he end up?

Mitchell Pearce

Although his release from the Sydney Roosters has been officially confirmed, conjecture remains over where his new home will be as Mitchell Pearce considers the options available to him. 

After a Roosters career that began when he was just 17 years old, the halfback has played in 11 seasons for the club and had a love-hate relationship with the fans.

Like any decision that a player makes regarding their future, it is never easy, however, Pearce felt like moving away from the Roosters was the best one to make.

“Obviously, this hasn’t been an easy decision for me to come to, but I feel that it’s the right one,” said Pearce.

“I’ve been with the Roosters since I was 17 and have grown into a man here.

I’ve made a lot of close friends at the Club, and I’ve always been proud to wear the Roosters jersey.”

Although the club itself means a lot to Pearce having been a part of him for so long, he looks forward to the challenges that lie ahead at his new club once he makes that decision.

The Roosters Club and people there will always mean a lot to me, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity and challenge joining a new club will bring, while continuing to push myself to be the best halfback I can be,” Pearce continued.

“Now that I’ve made this decision, hopefully, I’ll have the rest of my future sorted over the next few weeks,” he added.

Despite his departure, Pearce drew strong praise and well wishes from club Chairman Nick Politis.

“Mitchell has been a big part of the Sydney Roosters Club for more than a decade,” Politis said.

“He’s played 11 seasons of NRL and is among the most-capped players in our Club’s history.”

In the end, as Pearce and the Roosters know, rugby league is a business and the club respects the decision made by their now former play-maker.

“We all love Pearcey – he has developed very strong relationships with a number of people at the Club and we have been through a lot together,” Politis continued.

“While it would have been great to see him continue to add to his legacy at the Roosters, we respect his decision.

“Mitchell will always be a Rooster, and he leaves with our sincerest thanks and very best wishes.”

Someone who has been through all the ups and downs with Pearce is Roosters coach Trent Robinson, who also praised the halfback for his contributions to the Tricolours.

“We’ve been through a lot and I have a lot of respect for Junior both as a footballer and as a man,” Robinson said.

“I’d personally like to thank Pearcey for the role he’s played at the Roosters.

He’s a good person who will always have many friends at the Club and I know I speak on behalf of everyone in wishing him all the very best.”

 

 

Penrith re-sign young playmaker after dynamic debut season

Tyrone May

Thrust into the halves role on a whim due to injuries, Tyrone May thrived and performed well enough, impressing Penrith Panthers officials as they rewarded him with a new contract. 

The new deal for May will run until the end of the 2020 season, a sign as to how much the club value him, his play and his versatility.

Although May injured himself at the back end of the 2017 season, his good form prior to that justified the new contract and he is pleased to have the opportunity to prolong his Penrith stay.

“I was always focused on staying here and I never really wanted to leave,” May said.

“When the (contract) offer came up, I just accepted and was really happy and excited.

“It’s really good that Panthers have shown faith in me even though I’ve got an injury.”

A Penrith junior, May was part of the Panthers 2015 Holden Cup premiership-winning season with five tries in his nine NRL games to date, he is a player that has impressed the coaching staff.

“Tyrone is another local junior who has been a part of the Panthers development system since he was 15 years of age,” Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould AM said.

“It was exciting to see him come through to NRL level last season and he acquitted himself brilliantly.

“We are grateful to have him as part of our club. I’m confident he has a long and successful career ahead.”

Key English hooker re-signs with the Raiders long-term

Josh Hodgson

In a huge boost for the Canberra Raiders premiership aspirations, Englishman Josh Hodgson has re-signed with the club on a new long-term deal. 

Already contracted for the 2018 season, the new deal begins in 2019 and will see Hodgson remain in the lime green until the end of the 2022 season.

Currently in the English camp preparing for his country’s semi-final clash with Tonga, Hodgson’s focus at present might be on the World Cup but his sights are firmly set on chasing premiership glory with the Raiders upon his return.

“There’s no way I’d sign long term if I didn’t believe this group of players were able to achieve great things, so a big part of the decision was staying at a club who I believe will have long-term success,” he said.

“We know our results last season were not acceptable and I know the group is already back in Canberra working hard to make sure things are better in 2018 and beyond that.”

Although the chance to play at a World Cup is an exciting one for Hodgson, he knows what the Raiders side is capable of and wants to get stuck back into pre-season training.

“I’m really enjoying the World Cup experience and hopefully we can continue through the tournament, but I’m also looking forward to getting home and working with the rest of the squad as we get ready for next season,” continued Hodgson.

With Canberra now Hodgson’s home away from home, he said that he and his family could not imagine moving anywhere else, and because of that, he made the decision to re-sign long-term.

“Canberra’s been a home away from home for us and I know my wife Kirby and I have really enjoyed our time here and want this to be our home for the next few years as we raise our family,” Hodgson said.

“The club was fantastic in helping us make the transition from England to Australia, and so far, we’ve been able to make some wonderful friends and settle into the community.

“The players were fantastic from the moment we arrived and the current group is a wonderful bunch of blokes who I believe have their best footy ahead of them.”

Knowing how crucial he is to the club both on and off the field, Raiders CEO Don Furner knows that his retention was so important for their ambitions.

“It’s the longest contract we’ve done for some time and it reflects our faith that we have in Josh of being a leader of this group and how committed to the Raiders he is,” Furner said.

“Josh moved to Canberra with his wife and then started a family here, so it’s also a great endorsement for our club and city to have him commit long term.”

Furner had nothing but praise for Hodgson’s on-field and off-field endeavours.

“From a football perspective Josh brings experience, leadership and professionalism to the team and he’s demonstrated over the past three seasons how valuable he is to our organisation,” continued Furner.