All posts by ricky

Mahoney given upgraded Eels contract

Parramatta Eels hooker Reed Mahoney

Desperate for a crafty player from dummy half, the Parramatta Eels found their man last year in Reed Mahoney.

Now, after previously being on a development contract only as a young player, the club has announced an upgraded contract for the fan favourite.

Mahoney’s new contract will run until the end of the 2020 season as he moves into the Eels top 30 players for 2019.

Mahoney played in nine games last season after his round 14 debut and was named Steve Ella NYC Player of the Year.

To top it all off, the live-wire and tenacious hooker represented QLD in the U18’s Origin clash last year.

Warriors secure Kearney as head coach long-term

New Zealand Warriors coach Stephen Kearney

He has his fans and he has his detractors but New Zealand Warriors fans will see Stephen Kearney in charge for a while, after he re-signed as club coach until 2022.

Kearney’s new role will see him remain as Warriors head coach for six years, equalling the previous longest tenure held by Ivan Cleary.

For the club, it was all about stability and keeping a core group of personnel together.

“Securing Stephen for another three years is a huge boost for us as we prepare to begin our 25th season in the competition,” said Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George.

“We haven’t enjoyed a lot of stability as an organisation, especially in the coaching area.

“Without stability in our football department it’s extremely challenging to improve and to achieve continuity.”

George offered a glowing endorsement of Kearney, his coaching style and what makes him the right coach for the club.

“It’s vital to have the right people in the right roles and in Stephen we have someone who absolutely fits what we need.

“He has all the characteristics you would want as both a coach and a person.

“We’ve been talking with Stephen for some time about ensuring he remains to continue the work that has been going on and we couldn’t be more pleased he’s staying on for another three years.

“He’s very professional, he has a very good relationship with his staff and players and has hands-on experience as a premiership-winning player, a Test player and a coach who has all the attributes need.”

Kearney has long been associated with the Warriors club both as a player in his early career and now as coach.

With his future sorted, Kearney is raring to go and knows that his side will need to be at their best if they are to achieve good results.

“When I first came back to the club, I was honoured to be given the opportunity to help the club move forward and improve,” he said.

“I’m pleased to have my future sorted out with this new contract and to know I’ll be with the club for a few more years.

“We made progress last season but, to be honest, the focus for me is always what’s next for us and that’s preparing for this week’s trial against Wests Tigers in Whangarei.”

Ricky’s NRL Previews Pt 9: Newcastle Knights

Oh, it is that time again! NRL Previews with part 9 this time, the Newcastle Knights.

The Knights have been through some very lean years but as they look to rebuild under Nathan Brown, can they crack the top eight?

Boasting star recruits and a side already littered with talent, meshing and gelling remain the key to success.

But is their side ready to embark on a successful journey or will there be some growing pains?

Ponga; fullback or 5/8?

Some will say that the two positions are ultimately one and the same but it must be asked; are they?

For a player as gifted as Kalyn Ponga, where he plays may not matter in the scheme of things.

However, it may matter in terms of team dynamics. Ponga’s season for the Knights was electric at fullback before injury struck him down late on.

Rarely has a player so young performed so well, to the point where the Dally M was a whisker away from heading in his direction.

With his own future bright, his best position is the subject of much debate among Knights fans.

Newcastle Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga

Is it at fullback, where he played most of the 2018 season, and was in fine form?

Or is it five-eighth, a position where you get your hands on the ball more often and can usually set more plays up and achieve repeat sets?

Wherever Ponga plays, such is his ability, that he should be expected to succeed and form a part of a strong nucleus at the Knights moving forward.

Coach Brown and his contract

For the most part, the Knights fanbase like Nathan Brown and what he has done to and with the Novocastrian side.

Although some out there are of the belief that he is not the man for the job. So let’s dissect a little bit.

In what has been a long, tough road for the Knights in recent years, Brown has made some tough decisions.

He has removed some older heads and replaced them with up-and-comers. In theory, the application of this approach can work.

In practice, ridding yourself of too many older heads can see too much pressure placed on the young guns.

With that in mind, though, there are enough older heads to help guide the promising players.

Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown

The likes of Mitch Pearce and Aidan Guerra will play crucial roles in Brown’s side, as he looks to help the Knights to a finals berth.

As for his contract – a very unique one at that – there is no set contract length.

Brown’s contract is one that is based on the performance of the Knights side over 2019 and beyond.

If the Novocastrians perform well and to the club standards, he stays in the role. If not, he will be let go.

Brown has agreed to that stipulation and contract and knows what is involved but relishes the chance to be the man to guide Newcastle to the promised land.

Leading by example

Named as the sole captain of the Newcastle Knights, Mitchell Pearce is expected to lead from the front.

A leader among men in the eyes of the club and its fans, Pearce has the experience to bring the troops together and prepare them for battle.

He will not be alone in the experienced stakes, however, with Aidan Guerra and Shaun Kenny-Dowall also boasting veteran status.

Despite that, Pearce is seen as the man to lead the Knights forward into a new generation of stars and talent.

With the likes of Ponga, the Saifiti brothers, Lachlan Fitzgibbon and others all performing strongly, Pearce’s role becomes even more critical.

Newcastle Knights back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon

As the captain of not only the team but of the way in which the team plays on the field, he looms as the key man if the club are to make any inroads into the top eight.

He is capable of it and has juggled captaincy and playing before; although that was at a team many deemed more potent and attacking.

Nevertheless, Pearce has a chance to show just how good of a leader he can be and just how much he can extract from a developing side.

2019 Gains and Losses

Gains: Hymel Hunt (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2019),  Zac Woolford (Canterbury Bulldogs, 2019), James Gavet (New Zealand Warriors, 2020), Mason Lino (New Zealand Warriors, 2020), Jesse Ramien (Cronulla Sharks, 2020), Tim Glasby (Melbourne Storm, 2021), Edrick Lee (Cronulla Sharks, 2021), Kurt Mann (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2021) and David Klemmer (Canterbury Bulldogs, 2023).

Losses: Jack Cogger  and Nick Meaney (both Canterbury Bulldogs), JJ Felise (Canberra Raiders), Cory Denniss (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Brock Lamb (Sydney Roosters), Ken Sio (Salford Red Devils) and Luke Yates (London Broncos). Chris Heighington (retired). Chanel Mata’utia, Pat Mata’utia, and Dylan Phythian (all released).

Player to Watch

Although their prop depth is considerably strong, one young player on the lips of every Knights fan is Pasami Saulo.

Coming through the club ranks, Saulo has impressed many coaches at all levels during his time with the club.

Strong performances in the Intrust Super Cup eventually led to three NRL games in late 2018 and he did not disappoint.

Although opportunity may not be forthcoming immediately, he will have the chance to stake his claims in reserve grade.

Should he continue to play like he has in the past and prove himself, further opportunities may not be too far away.

NRL News Predicted Team

  1. Connor Watson
  2. Shaun Kenny-Dowall
  3. Tautau Moga
  4. Jesse Ramien
  5. Edrick Lee
  6. Kalyn Ponga
  7. Mitchell Pearce (C)
  8. David Klemmer
  9. Kurt Mann
  10. Tim Glasby
  11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon
  12. Sione Mata’utia
  13. Aidan Guerra

14. Herman Ese’ese
15. Danny Levi
16. Mitchell Barnett
17. Daniel Saifiti

Coach: Nathan Brown

Ricky’s NRL Previews Pt 8: New Zealand Warriors

Can the New Zealand Warriors do it again? Does a consecutive finals berth beckon? All that and more in part eight of our NRL previews as we dissect the big issues across the Tasman.

Coming off one of their best seasons to date, things seem to be clicking and falling into place for the Warriors.

That was until stalled contract talks threatened to see Shaun Johnson leave which he eventually did.

Johnson, formerly such a crucial player in the Warriors set up, will be hard to replace but can the Warriors overcome that barrier?

Is there enough experience in the side to guide them towards success or will Johnson’s loss prove to be their downfall?

Goodbye, Johnson

For years, the Warriors hopes were pinned on Shaun Johnson. Their main man, a tremendous play-maker and a loyal servant.

In 2019, however, the Warriors will be without Johnson for the first time since his debut in 2011.

How will they cope from such a loss to their halves? With Mason Lino having already departed, the youth will have to step up and make themselves known.

Lino would have been the perfect foil having previously impressed when given an opportunity.

That will no longer be an option as the New Zealand Warriors turn to either Chanel Harris-Tavita or Hayze Perham.

Both are talented in their own right but as is the case with a youngster, a team nor its fans can be sure if a player will sink or swim.

Harris-Tavita is a young player that has been around the Warriors setup for numerous years now and looms as the front-runner.

A talented, direct half, his role will not be to replace Johnson but merely to support Blake Green, who takes on added responsibility.

If he fires and Green continues with his relative consistency, the combination could work.

If he fizzles, however, the Warriors might be in for a lean season.

New Zealand Warriors half Blake Green

Momentum

Fresh off the back of their first finals appearance in some years, the question on everyone’s lips is; can the Warriors do it again?

Last year was no fluke as the Warriors put together a slate of wins late-on, in contrast to their end-of-season slide.

But with the aforementioned loss of Johnson, just how does that affect them moving forward?

Although not seen as an immediate premiership threat, the Warriors will always have an unpredictability about them.

With genuine stars of the game in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tohu Harris, Adam Blair and others, the firepower is there.

They just need further consistency and the right man alongside Green if results are to go their way.

Such work will not be easy given how many teams have improved this off-season but they will bank on captain Roger to guide them forward.

New Zealand Warriors fullback and captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Captain Roger

One of the most naturally gifted players in the game, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck now looms as the key man for the Warriors.

With Johnson’s departure, the Warriors will need their captain to use all his experience to set the tone and lay a foundation for the rest of the team.

Blessed with some of the quickest feet you will ever see in the game, Tuivasa-Sheck’s consistency and link-up play will help a Warriors side in many ways.

With a lot of pressure set to be placed upon a young gun in the halves, it will be up to RTS to make their transition into first-grade easier.

To chime in as a second or even third receiver if need be and allow the young gun time to develop as a player in the toughest league around.

With so much expectation on the Warriors and RTS, will he and the team swim for a second successive season or sink?

Gains and Losses

Gains: Jackson Frei (2019), Adam Keighran (Penrith Panthers, 2020), Lachlan Burr (Canterbury Bulldogs, 2020) and Leeson Ah Mau (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2021).

Losses: James Gavet and Mason Lino (both Newcastle Knights), Anthony Gelling (Widnes Vikings), Shaun Johnson (Cronulla Sharks), Albert Vete (Melbourne Storm), Simon Mannering (retired) and Manaia Cherrington and Zac Santo (both released).

Player to Watch

With the likelihood that he starts the year for the Warriors rising, it should be no surprise that the man we will be watching is Chanel Harris-Tavita.

Impressing consistently for the Warriors Intrust Super Premiership side, a first-grade berth was destined at some point.

Although it may now come earlier than expected, he has all the tools to succeed and has maintained a strong level of play for much of his career to date.

With a veteran and composed half in Green alongside him, Harris-Tavita’s will not have to worry about setting the world alight straight away.

He can ease himself into the first-grade environment and identify which parts of his game will work with the most fluidity and freedom.

Those that do not, he can go back to work on them and develop his game further to become a key player for the Warriors moving forward.

NRL News Predicted Team

  1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (C)
  2. David Fusitu’a
  3. Solomone Kata
  4. Peta Hiku
  5. Ken Maumalo
  6. Blake Green
  7. Chanel Harris-Tavita
  8. Leeson Ah Mau
  9. Issac Luke
  10. Adam Blair
  11. Tohu Harris
  12. Isaiah Papali’i
  13. Agnatius Paasi

14. Jazz Tevaga
15. Bunty Afoa
16. Sam Lisone
17. Tevita Satae

Coach: Stephen Kearney

 

Ricky’s NRL Previews Pt 7: Melbourne Storm

Another day, another dive into our NRL previews, as the Melbourne Storm come under the microscope in part seven. 

Another big three player is gone with Billy Slater’s retirement, leaving just Cameron Smith. Is it all doom and gloom for the Storm despite Slater’s retirement, though?

All that and more, as we look at the big issues out Storm way and how they can potentially combat them to remain a premiership force.

The man, the legend, Cameron Smith

There is no denying in any way, shape or form, that Cameron Smith is a legend of the game.

Love him or hate him for whatever reason, his impact for the Storm, the Queensland Maroons and the Kangaroos has been on show for the better part of the decade.

As his career reaches its final  curtain – how many years that will be is up to Smith – his impact remains the same and perhaps, becomes even more crucial.

If ever you needed a player to flick a switch, turn a game on its head and get the Storm back into a contest to win it, Smith is your man.

Time and time again, he has done this, putting an end to a team’s dominance and instead, having that dominance play out in the Storm’s favour.

As he gets older, however, many believe he may lose a step. Though if you watch Smith closely enough, you will know that he is as fit as a fiddle.

Melbourne Storm captain Cam Smith

Evidenced by how often he plays, how involved he is and how hard he works both on the field and in training.

Although he is now the last of the big three left, Smith has long had confidence in the emerging players around him.

With his leadership and galvinisation of the players around him, Smith and the Storm faithful will believe that they can remain a premiership force.

A harder task than an easier one, confidence and execution are the keys, as the Storm reshape their side yet again following retirements and new players.

Melbourne Storm utility back Cameron Munster

The Storm’s new spine

The biggest talking point out of the Storm’s 2019 preseason is just what their spine is going to look like.

There are several options they can consider for the vacant spots available – all tempting and all bringing something different – but which is best?

Smith is the certainty at hooker and Munster will feature in the side but the make-up of the other two spine spots remains a mystery.

A lot will hinge on whether Munster replaces the retired Billy Slater at fullback or whether he stays at five-eighth.

If he makes a move to fullback, it could be a chance for Scott Drinkwater to make a name for himself in the NRL.

A budding talent, Drinkwater has proven himself at the Intrust Super Cup level and impressed Storm fans.

Melbourne Storm halfback Brodie Croft

The risk would come in partnering him with Brodie Croft in the halves, however, given the relative inexperience between the two.

Although Croft has shown signs of good form, he is still not the finished product, if the Storm should go down that line.

Of course, should Munster stay at five-eighth, the argument for Croft increases to have a more level head alongside him that has the experience.

Should that be the case, the fullback ranks will make for interesting analysis. Jahrome Hughes is the first name that springs to mind.

In Slater’s absence last year when he was injured, Hughes showed that he is an able fullback that can penetrate the line and create opportunity.

Melbourne Storm utility back Jahrome Hughes

He would appear to be the likely option but a young man by the name of Ryan Papenhuyzen will also make a play for the spot.

A prodigious talent in the Balmain ranks across SG Ball and Harold Matthews, the young fullback has performed well at Intrust level.

Whichever way the Storm go, it will be a young spine overall but with the guidance of Munster and Smith, it might just be the rejuvenation the side needs.

The Storm’s Consistencies

It goes without saying that for the better part of a decade now, the Melbourne Storm have been one of the most consistent sides.

Sure, you point the finger at having three once-in-a-generation players but if you look deeper, it is more than just that.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy has the knack to pluck a player from obscurity, be it young or old, journeyman or not, and make them a winner.

Over the years, numerous players have enjoyed success under him to varying degrees and it is a testament to his approach.

Players like Jaiman Lowe or Bryan Norrie, both cast asunder by other NRL teams, only to win a premiership in 2012.

Journeymen like Todd Lowrie or Richie Fa’aoso, who bounce from club to club, also a part of the same team.

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy

It is Bellamy’s uncanny ability to draw out the very best from all his players that has made the Storm successful.

He demands a high work ethic and commitment to the cause. For Bellamy, hard work means good results.

Which is why so many view him as the new benchmark for coaches in the NRL.

That ability to galvanise an entire side, no matter the issues you face or the players at your disposal and make them winners.

Gains and Losses

Gains: Tom Eisenhuth (Penrith Panthers, 2020), Marion Seve (Brisbane Broncos, 2020) and Albert Vete (New Zealand Warriors, 2020).

Losses: Tim Glasby (Newcastle Knights), Ryley Jacks (Gold Coast Titans), Lachlan Timm (St George Illawarra Dragons), Louis Geraghty and Young Tonumaipea (both released) and Ryan Hoffman and Billy Slater (both retired).

Player to Watch

He has already had a small taste of rugby league action but if there is one man to cover life after Cameron Smith, it is Brandon Smith.

Not related – one being Australian, the other Kiwi – Brandon has had the perfect mentor since joining the Storm system in Cameron.

Seen as the best hooker of the modern era and even of all-time, Cameron Smith has the tools and knows all the tricks to be successful to guide young Brandon.

Already a nifty player in his own right, Brandon Smith has so far fit in well with the Storm system and is seen as Cameron’s replacement.

When that will be, no-one quite knows yet but the faith shown in him by Bellamy is a testament to how much Brandon has impressed the long-time Storm coach.

Sooner rather than later, it will be Brandon Smith playing week in and week out, and he is ready for it.

NRL News predicted team

  1. Jahrome Hughes
  2. Suliasi Vunivalu
  3. Will Chambers
  4. Curtis Scott
  5. Josh Addo-Carr
  6. Cameron Munster
  7. Brodie Croft
  8. Jesse Bromwich
  9. Cameron Smith (C)
  10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona
  11. Felise Kaufusi
  12. Joe Stimson
  13. Dale Finucane

14. Kenneath Bromwich
15. Christian Welch
16. Albert Vete
17. Brandon Smith

Coach: Craig Bellamy.

 

Ricky’s NRL Previews Pt 6: Manly Sea Eagles

NRL Previews part six now as we dissect the Manly Sea Eagles. So much has happened for them, much of it not good, but can they bounce back and put things in the past?

Coaching struggles, the return of an old coach, players in trouble, players surprisingly leaving but still some talented players.

Can Manly put all the negativity behind them and perform on the field when it matters?

The Return of Des

In late 2011, Des Hasler’s time at Manly ended abruptly. Very abruptly.

Despite his previous success with the club and building a consistently good team, Hasler was sacked.

That sacking came as a result of the club accusing Hasler of contract breaches pertaining to convincing Manly players to join the Bulldogs.

However, that was then and this is now. All is forgiven and Des is back! What does it mean for Manly, though?

Although Hasler is a favourite son of many, will his return lead to success at Manly or contract issues and dilemmas?

With the need to address several positions and particularly in light of Dylan Walker’s alleged domestic violence charges, the make-up of their team remains largely unknown.

As they look to enter a bit of a rebuilding phase, they will have to work doubly hard to keep up with some of the more elite teams.

Though with Hasler at the helm, they will dig deep and grind out as long as possible in games.

Manly Sea Eagles halfback and captain Daly Cherry-Evans

The halves merry-go-round

Since the departure of Kieran Foran from the club, finding a stable halves partner for Daly Cherry-Evans has not been easy.

Without going out to actively sign one, the club has tried to rely from those from within.

Whether that be natural halves in the ranks or utilising other players with utility value.

That approach has seen the likes of Apisai Koroisau, Lewis Brown, Dylan Walker, Blake Green, Tom Wright and others tried but with no success.

Some players ultimately moved on early, and perhaps we will never know what could have been had they stayed.

More recently, although he was at times consistent, Lachlan Croker proved a decent foil for Cherry-Evans at Manly.

His injury late in the season nipped any consistency among the two halves, however, forcing a reshuffle.

Halves, their combinations, their partnership and how they work together, is such a crucial aspect in the game today.

Former Gold Coast Titans now Manly Sea Eagles half Kane Elgey

Cherry-Evans is a good halfback but has been criticised previously for not taking control when needed.

With the right half alongside him that can take some pressure off – a genuine half – it could be the key pump up this Manly side.

A side still smarting from all the recent off-field turmoil embroiling their club.

Bouncing back from off-field turmoil

Manly are a club that prides themselves on success, both on and off the field, as well as maintaining a good culture.

With a litany of success in recent years to back that up and plenty of consistency over the years, the trend would seemingly continue.

As the inconsistency crept into their overall game, however, as players were in and out of form, things slowly began to change.

The relationship between coach and the powerbrokers became stagnated and bitter, to the point where immediate change was made for 2019.

Under Trent Barrett, although results were not where they could have been, things seemed ok.

However, as time went on, the situation become almost untenable and the heavy hitters at Manly reacted.

Barrett was given the flick as head coach, though he would still be paid for the role in accordance with his existing contract.

Manly Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler

Entering is Hasler, who Manly fans will hope can reinvigorate the club again and bring back the culture so many fans have come to know.

Doing so will be no easy feat, however, as he wrestles with the ongoing saga surrounding Dylan Walker and his alleged domestic violence dispute.

Among other things, Hasler will have to coach a side that is perhaps not as strong in the eyes of many and work with what he has to achieve success.

If Manly want anything to go their way in 2019, they have to fix the culture first and Hasler may just be the man to do that.

Gains and Losses

Gains: Jade Anderson (2019), Cade Cust (2019), Albert Hopoate (2019), Sean Keppie (2019), Semisi Kioa (2019), Luke Metcalf (2019), Haumole Olakau’atu (2019), Brendan Elliott (Gold Coast Titans, 2019), Reubenn Garrick (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2019), Trent Hodkinson (Cronulla Sharks, 2019), Corey Waddell (Penrtih Panthers, 2019) and Kane Elgey (Gold Coast Titans, 2020).

Losses: Lewis Brown (released), Jackson Hastings and Joey Lussick (both Salford Red Devils), Brian Kelly (Gold Coast Titans), Shaun Lane (Parramatta Eels), Darcy Lussick (Toronto Wolfpack), Akuila Uate (Huddersfield Giants), Tom Wright (rugby union) and Jonathan Wright (retired).

Player to Watch: His father is synonymous with the Manly club and his brother also donned the Manly colours but Albert Hopoate will look to forge his own path in rugby league.

Regarded by some as the best of the Hopoate brothers to have played rugby league, he took the Harold Matthews landscape by storm with some dominant displays.

Still only a young buck at 17, however, Hopoate will be unable to play first-grade but he does appear to be in the overall squad to gain that exposure and experience.

As his development continues and as his overall game expands and grows, the Manly faithful will be hoping that Albert can be around long-term.

NRL News predicted line-up

  1. Tom Trbojevic
  2. Jorge Taufua
  3. Dylan Walker
  4. Moses Suli
  5. Albert Hopoate
  6. Kane Elgey
  7. Daly Cherry-Evans (C)
  8. Addin Fonua-Blake
  9. Apisai Koroisau
  10. Martin Taupau
  11. Joel Thompson
  12. Curtis Sironen
  13. Jake Trbojevic

14. Frank Winterstein
15. Jack Gosiewski
16. Lloyd Perrett
17. Taniela Paseka

Coach: Des Hasler.

 

New home for Robert Jennings in 2019 as he heads West to the Tigers

Former South Sydney Rabbitohs now Wests Tigers winger Robert Jennings

Despite what was a breakout year for Robert Jennings at the South Sydney Rabbitohs, he will start 2019 in new colours; those of the Wests Tigers.

Jennings, who made 34 appearances for the Bunnies and scored 23 tries in the process impressed many fans who expected him to stay.

Despite Souths’ best efforts, though, that was not to be and Jennings has now departed to the Tigers.

“We tried everything we could to keep Robert at the Rabbitohs but unfortunately, we aren’t in a position to be able to keep him as part of our squad due to salary cap constraints,” said Shane Richardson, the Rabbitohs General Manager of Football.

“He had a break out season last year, and he worked very hard to earn a spot in our NRL squad, performing strongly on the left wing outside of Greg Inglis.

“Robert is a quality person. We wish him and his young family the very best of luck at his new club.”

Jennings is no stranger to new Tigers coach Michael Maguire, who looks forward to working with him once more.

“Robert is a quality young man who I’ve worked with before and seen develop in to the talented rugby league player he is,” said Maguire.

“He adds size, power and speed to our edges and is an excellent addition to our squad.

“Off the back of a strong season, I have no doubt he is going to fit extremely well in to our systems and I looking forward to watching him take the next steps in his career at this club.”

Ricky’s NRL Previews Pt 5: Gold Coast Titans

Success has been hard to come by for the Gold Coast Titans but as they continue to rebuild, is 2019 their year? All this and more in part five of the NRL previews.

Although the Titans have had some high profile recruits in the past, the inconsistency and player upheaval has left them high and dry.

Under coach Garth Brennan who has worked hard to get the team he wants, can the Titans buck the trend and make a deeper run into the finals?

What to do with Cartwright?

Bursting onto the scene with the Penrith Panthers, the sky was the limit for Bryce Cartwright.

Very nearly reaching that limit, many wondered just how far he could go in the rugby league world.

Just when all seemed well and good, however, his Earth soon came crashing down from a personal perspective.

Attacked and criticised by an ex-partner across the media on numerous levels, it all bubbled up to the surface.

In the end, he decided to leave and so his Titans journey began.

Joining with much fanfare, it was a chance for a new start, a new opportunity, all away from the pains of home.

It proved anything but smooth sailing, however, as his form was heavily criticised by the media and by the club coach.

As 2019 rolls around, Cartwright has a chance to make amends. His ability is known, he just needs the consistency.

He needs the chance to prove that he can perform at the highest level well-enough to keep a spot.

Whether he can do that remains to be seen but if he digs deep and works hard, it may just be a goer.

Gold Coast Titans utility Bryce Cartwright

The Peachey conundrum

Tyrone Peachey. A talented player, a versatile player, but just which position is his best in the NRL?

Versatility is nothing new in rugby league players; most players nowadays are more than capable of covering dual positions.

When you look at Tyrone Peachey, however, there is a lot of spread across all positions without one particular standout.

In the eyes of many, the lack of a true position damages his overall ability.

To some extent, being too versatile can mean you need more time to readjust when a positional change occurs.

Though Peachey must be doing something right seeing as he has been selected for Origin.

But back to the original point of where he fits in. The likely option would be the backline  given the departure of several centres.

Though if the need for a back-rower arose, Peachey could very much fill that void.

For the Titans fans, where does he fit in for you?

Former Penrith Panthers utility Tyrone Peachey

Breaking the finals hoodoo

For some years, the Titans have had rather good rosters. Good enough to challenge for top eight spots.

When push has come to shove, however, those sides have fallen at the wayside, unable to cope with expectation.

The talent was there, the experience was there, but the execution was not and as a result, finals appearances have been few and far between.

With just three finals appearances in twelve years, you could say that the Titans are due and they have no better chance to strike.

With some astute signings, promising youngsters showing their class and existing players proving their mettle, the bull is ready to be taken by the horns.

As the culture builds under Garth Brennan who enters his second year with the club, time will tell for the Titans as to whether this can be the year they rejoin the finals.

Gains and Losses

Gains: Jesse Arthars (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2019), Ryley Jacks (Melbourne Storm, 2019), Brian Kelly (Manly Sea Eagles, 2021), Tyrone Roberts (Warrington Wolves), Tyrone Peachey (Penrith Panthers, 2021) & Shannon Boyd (Canberra Raiders, 2022).

Losses: Kane Elgey and Brendan Elliott (both Manly Sea Eagles), Joe Greenwood (Wigan Warriors), Konrad Hurrell (Leeds Rhinos) & Ryan Simpkins (retired).

Player to Watch

As potential spots in the Gold Coast Titans forward pack, one player on the cusp of regular selection is Jai Whitbread.

With just the one appearance to his name to date at the club, the hulking young prop made his impact felt with impressive runs.

As 2019 comes around, opportunity will be rife for Whitbread and with the club rating him highly, it may not be too long before he is a regular.

Another local junior to come through the club’s system, the young prop has impressed many with his work-ethic and approach in the Intrust Super Cup.

They have served him well as he fights for a spot in 2019.

NRL News Predicted Team

  1. Michael Gordon
  2. Philip Sami
  3. Tyrone Peachey
  4. Dale Copley
  5. Anthony Don
  6. AJ Brimson
  7. Ashley Taylor
  8. Jarrod Wallace
  9. Nathan Peats
  10. Ryan James (C)
  11. Kevin Proctor
  12. Keegan Hipgrave
  13. Jai Arrow

14. Tyrone Roberts
15. Shannon Boyd
16. Moeaki Fotuaika
17. Bryce Cartwright

Coach: Garth Brennan.

Cowboys rising star Hola signs new long-term deal

Since joining the North Queensland Cowboys in 2017, Peter Hola has slowly become an elite rising star. 

On the back of his good form in the lower grades, Hola has been awarded both a top 30 spot and a new long-term deal at the Cowboys.

The new deal will see Hola remain at the Cowboys until the 2022 season.

Performing strongly for the Northern Pride U20’s side, Hola is held in high regard by the club.

“We think Pete is one of the better young forwards in the game,” Cowboys Director of Football Peter Parr said.

“To be able to play Queensland Cup last year and hold his own at such a young age in the middle of the field, showed us we had a special talent on our hands.

“Even though we had him on contract for another two years, we thought it was the right time to extend him, which shows how excited we are about his future at our club.”

Setting him with goals and challenges as he gets older and more mature, Cowboys coach Paul Green has been pleased with Hola’s development.

“Pete is progressing really nicely and we think his development is heading in the right direction,” Green said.

“He has met every challenge we’ve set so far and we’re really excited to have him in our top squad for at least the next four seasons.”

Ricky’s NRL Previews Pt 4: Cronulla Sharks

Paul Gallen’s last year, the signing of Shaun Johnson and a possible coaching change. Drama for the Cronulla Sharks and it is still only 2018.

Just how will all of that affect their chances in 2019 and can they overcome the adversity they face?

Since flying high following their maiden premiership success, inconsistency has crept into the Sharks overall game, as we dissect the issues plaguing their team.

Johnson changes the dynamics

The signing is confirmed! Shaun Johnson will join the Sharks from 2019. Is he the man and player they need to propel them even further, though?

A gifted player and ball-runner on any day, Johnson is a player that can make a difference for your team but who also needs a stabiliser alongside him.

If Townsend can step up to the plate and allow Johnson to just focus on his running game – his strength – the combination could work.

This would ideally be the combination for the Sharks, given Johnson and Matt Moylan are similar players when it comes to their style of play.

From a different perspective, the other answer in the halves could be Kyle Flanagan.

Many Sharks fans see him as a potential star but with the signing of Johnson, there are really just two options out there.

Cronulla Sharks halfback Shaun Johnson

The first; he is a surprise selection in the halves alongside Johnson, seeing as he is also a stabiliser and can control games when needed.

The second – and perhaps the least popular of the two – is that he is not named, grows impatient with no opportunity and opts to leave.

Signing Johnson unfortunately makes that a very real possibility and so weighing up when and how to appropriately blood Flanagan is crucial.

If he is indeed set for stardom in the NRL, he will want the opportunity to shine sooner rather than later.

And, in many ways, he has a great mentor and leader in Johnson alongside him to bring up to NRL speed.

Cronulla Sharks back-rower Wade Graham

Replacing Graham

When fit, he would be the first back-rower selected in the Sharks side. Unfortunately, Wade Graham’s injury means he will miss a decent chunk of the 2019 season.

That is perhaps the biggest blow and downside for the Sharks heading into the new season in more ways than one.

A hard-runner on the edges, the dynamic that Graham brings to any club or team he might play for is very unique.

Traditionally, back-rowers run set lines,  hit gaps and feed off their halves.

For Graham, he can just set those plays up himself given his ability to steer the ship and control the ball.

Having previously played 5/8, Graham utilises those skills to provide the Sharks with an extra dynamic out wide.

Whether it is a draw and pass to suck a defender in, whether it is a deft kick behind the line for a repeat set or a crafty pass, Graham has that ability.

With his injury, the team dynamics shift significantly and they are left with one less play-making option in case the going gets tough.

Cronulla Sharks utility back Josh Dugan

No Holmes, no fanfare?

Valentine Holmes. What a season he had in 2018. When many thought he would take a while to transition to fullback full-time, he excelled.

Putting on a show and carving up individual defences on his own, Holmes’ loss is perhaps bigger than many might realise.

Although the Sharks do have two experienced players that can play fullback in Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan, the two are very different players.

Holmes excels at carting the ball back from a kick and can single-handedly produce a play or a moment to spark the Sharks attack.

Moylan and Dugan do have game-breaking abilities of their own but not to the extent that Holmes does, which could be costly.

Moylan’s strengths lie in his ball-playing ability. Having played plenty of five-eighth in his career, he is comfortable when it comes to assisting and setting tries up.

For Dugan, who has recently transitioned into more of a centre, he was, at one point, close to being an elite fullback.

Injuries struck him down, however, and he has not been able to recapture that same sort of magic or form.

His very own style is not too dissimilar from that of Holmes’; the difference being his age and the injuries that have recently held him back.

Of course, an option from left-field that we do not yet know about could emerge and surprise us all.

When push comes to shove, though, the loss of Holmes may just be larger than many people think.

Cronulla Sharks utility back Matt Moylan

Gains and Losses

Gains: Josh Morris (Canterbury Bulldogs, 2020), Braydon Trindall (2020), Shaun Johnson (New Zealand Warriors, 2021) and Aaron Woods (Canterbury Bulldogs, 2021).

Losses: Kurt Dillon (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Edrick Lee and Jesse Ramien (both Newcastle Knights), Trent Hodkinson (Manly Sea Eagles), Ricky Leutele (Toronto Wolfpack), Joseph Paulo (St Helens), James Roumanos (Canterbury Bulldogs) and Luke Lewis (retired).

Player to Watch

Although all the focus might just be on Kyle Flanagan, there is another young Shark that has many fans excited.

His name is Bronson Xerri. Now at the club until at least 2021, he has successfully come through the club ranks.

A strong performer, a talented player and still only 18, Xerri’s ability has been raved about by Sharks fans in the past.

With a potential NRL spot up for grabs in the centres, it remains to be seen whether the club believe Xerri is up for that opportunity.

When it arises, however, the U18’s and U20’s NSW Origin player is sure to impress and get people’s attention.

NRL News Predicted Line-up

1. Matt Moylan
2. Sosaia Feki
3. Josh Morris
4. Josh Dugan
5. Bronson Xerri
6. Shaun Johnson
7. Chad Townsend
8. Andrew Fifita
9. Jayden Brailey
10. Matt Prior
11. Wade Graham (when fit)
12. Kurt Capewell
13. Paul Gallen (C)

14. Aaron Woods
15. Scott Sorenson
16. Jayson Bukuya
17. Ava Seumanufagai

Coach: John Morris