Category Archives: Australian Interstate Rugby League

Former rugby league player becomes new CEO of the Northern Pride

Rod Jensen

Rod Jensen. His name may sound familiar and you may remember him as a former rugby league player in both the NRL and the Super League. Now, in 2015, he has a new role and a big one at that.

Jensen has been named as the new CEO of Intrust Super Cup side, the Northern Pride. With close to 150 professional rugby league games to his name and a further 68 for the Pride as a player, Jensen retired from playing duties in 2012.

Life after football saw Jensen become a qualified teacher and the leader of the Pride’s Take Pride program and the Learn Earn Legend! Program supported by the Federal Government.

Jensen will begin in the role due to current CEO Brock Schaefer moving to Sydney to take up a role with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Also occupying himself as a player-coach of a team in the Cairns rugby league competition, Jensen is thrilled to have this new opportunity.

“It’s a rare privilege to have the chance to lead such a club and I thank the Northern Pride Board for appointing me to the position,” Jensen said.

“It is a special time for this footy club with a record-breaking treble-winning season in 2014, and the excitement of a new season ahead of us with a new head coach and a thrilling squad of players.

“It’s no secret that I have a massive passion for rugby league, particularly the Northern Pride and the sport in general in North Queensland, and I aim to continue the great work of my predecessors.”

Jensen knows the team and the area well, perhaps more than most, as he looks forward to all the thrills and challenges that come with the role.

“I’m a local guy who has been at the club for six years now, first as a player and more recently as part of the administrative and business management team, and I’m really excited about the future,” said Jensen.

“The great successes of this club are a reflection of the aspiration, commitment and passion of our players, our corporate partners, and our season members.

“I look forward to spending the next few weeks and months speaking to as many of our supporters, sponsors and volunteers as possible.”

The Pride are confident that Jensen is the right man for the job.

“Since his playing career ended, Rod has displayed all the attributes necessary in handling administration and business management duties through his work with the Pride’s community engagement programs,” said Northern Pride Chairman, Mr Bob Fowler said.

“I think it’s another example of the excellent career pathways our great club provides for not only our players, but also our staff, and we’ve no doubt Rod will continue to steer the club in the right direction.

“We’ve all been impressed by Rod’s views to transform and strengthen our organisation and look forward to supporting him, our staff and players to have our club recognised as the most professional and successful state league sporting club in Australia.”

In addition to Jensen being made CEO, the Pride have also inaugural former Pride CEO Denis O’Keeffe in a consultancy role to assist Jensen.

“Denis has more than 25 years of senior management experience in professional rugby league, basketball and has an impressive contact list in Far North Queensland,” Mr Fowler added.

“He will assist the club in delivering our sales and sponsorship functions.”

NRL veteran signs with new QLD Cup side, the Townsville Blackhawks

Neville Costigan

The newest addition to the Intrust Super Cup, the Townsville Blackhawks, have been forced to work hard to form a competitive side and their recent addition is their best one yet.

Just who is it? One NRL veteran in Neville Costigan. A former QLD Origin player and Papua New Guinean international, the veteran forward has signed a 2-year deal with the Blackhawks.

Having played almost 200 games across the NRL and the Super League for a variety of clubs including the Brisbane Broncos, the North Queensland Cowboys, the Newcastle Knights, the Canberra Raiders and Hull Kingston Rovers, his signing is a huge one for the new club.

“I am looking forward to a new challenge both on and off the field and I am thankful to Hull KR for the understanding and professionalism they have displayed in allowing me this opportunity to return to Queensland and play in the Intrust Super Cup.” Costigan said.

The club are pleased to have such an experienced player in their ranks and for the Blackhawks Football Operations Manager Adrian Thomson, the signing will have a big impact for the club.

“Signing a player of Neville’s caliber will have a significant impact on our club as well as the entire competition because players like Neville excite the fans and raise the profile of the game in the region,” said Thomson.

“A player of his standing not only bolsters our forward stocks on field but also contributes to our off-field success”.

Costigan has been training with the side since November and as a fierce competitor, Blackhawks coach Kristian Woolf knows how valuable his side can be.

“Neville is well respected in the playing group and he has a unique strength about him as a competitor,” said Woolf.

“He is a welcome addition to our team and I am sure he will impress when he takes to the field.”

A Kiwi and a Samoan join the Mackay Cutters

Steve Rapira

In a clear sign that they mean business for the 2015 season, the Mackay Cutters have pulled off a signing coup, with both Steve Rapira and Michael Sio to join the club.

Steve Rapira is a former New Zealand Warriors and Salford Devils forward, with the prop/back-rower playing in 57 NRL games throughout his career despite some setbacks.

The Cutters are no strangers to Rapira, with the forward playing for them during his stint with the North Queensland Cowboys.

As a veteran, the club is looking to Rapira to lead the younger players at the club around.

The other signing is also a former New Zealand Warrior, with Samoan hooker Michael Sio joining the Cutters. Still only young, he has represented Samoa five times, most recently at the Rugby League World Cup.

The move is a chance for Sio to cement an NRL spot moving forward and for the club themselves, the signing of the duo has them chomping at the bit to start.

“I couldn’t have wished for two better players to choose our club to continue their careers,” said Mackay Cutters coach, Kim Williams.

“Steve is an outstanding player who will add quality and experience to our young group and Michael is an up-and-coming future star who has chosen us over a host of NRL clubs who were chasing his signature.

We are delighted to have them on board and we expect them to make an immediate impact within our club when they arrive next week.”

Michael Sio

Former Eels hooker becomes Junior Development Officer of the Burleigh Bears

Matt Keating

He enjoyed a long, healthy career in the NRL and after a stint with the Burleigh Bears in the Intrust Super Cup, Matt Keating retired and thus ended his playing career.

Fast forward to the present, though, and Keating will have a new role at the Burleigh Bears, with the club appointing him as their full-time Junior Development Officer.

It is a new role that Keating looks forward to as he embarks on the next chapter of his career.

“It’s great to finish my footy career and then go into a rugby league job. I’m very passionate about it and I’m ready to learn,” said Keating.

The role will see him work closely with the Burleigh juniors, the Mal Meninga and Cyril Connell teams, as well as well as the FOGS Colts team.

In addition to that, he will work closely with Gold Coast schools such as PBC, Coomabah and Marymount College – something he relishes.

“I want to focus on getting juniors through the system rather than just relying on bringing in somebody from outside all the time. If you’ve got that talent, you’ve got to use it and develop it,” said Keating.

“We want juniors to develop themselves, come through the grades on the Gold Coast and at Burleigh and become an Intrust Super Cup player. That’s what the club wants to see, that’s the goal for me and that’s how I’ll see results over the years.

Keating knows he has his work cut out but he is committed to promoting junior talent in Burleigh and believes there can be a lot of positives to come from it long-term.

“What’s happening at the top and what Jimmy Lenihan is going to do and implement is great,” said Keating.

“If I can put those systems in place down the grades, we’re going to see results and I really believe we’ll have some good stories coming in the years ahead.”

In addition to the new role for Keating, the Burleigh Bears have announced that I Luv Coffee have extended their naming rights deal with the club for a further two years.

Bears CEO Damien Driscoll was looking forward to the continued partnership between the two organisations.

“The support from I Luv Coffee for the next two years will ensure the Burleigh Bears will continue to thrive and grow” Driscoll said.

“Right from the start of our partnership, I luv Coffee have been great supporters of the club and we look forward to repaying their faith in us.

I Luv Coffee are just as pleased to continue their tenure as a corporate partner and sponsor of the Burleigh Bears.

“I Luv Coffee has been extremely proud to partner with the Burleigh Bears for the last five years and looks forward to working even closer with the club over the next two seasons,” said Grant Nordin.

“We look forward to continuing our strong relationship and look forward to the Bears on field success.”

Experienced trio sign with the Northern Pride

Luke George

Their sights are set on silverware and the Northern Pride have recruited strongly to give themselves every chance, with experienced English trio Luke George, Ben Jeffries and Dean McGilvray signing for 2015.

In three strong signings for the Pride, Luke George is a 27-year old utility back who has enjoyed Super League stints with the Wakefield Wildcats, the Huddersfield Giants, the Bradford Bulls and the Hull Kingston Rovers.

As for the veteran Jeffries, the 34-year old has played 281 games and enjoyed stints with Super League sides the Bradford Bulls and the Wakefield Wildcats as well as NRL sides the Wests Tigers and the St George Illawarra Dragons.

Jeffries will also join the Take Pride Program initiated by the club and assume the role of Development Officer in addition to playing. He is also the only Australian player to play for 10 years in the Super League.

Lastly, McGilvray has previously played for St Helens as well as English Championship sides the Leigh Centurions an the Barrow Raiders.

For the club themselves, they have previously welcomed international players – all of whom have excelled – and this is another chance for the Pride to put themselves on the map.

Ben Jeffries

“We’ve proved over the past two years with the likes of Sam Obst, Tyrone McCarthy and Semi Tadulala, that these kinds of players can help take us to the next level,” said Northern Pride coach, Joe O’Callaghan.

“They provide a great example to our younger local boys, and when Luke, Ben and Dean became available, I had no hesitation in seeing the positives for having these guys at our club.

“We’re thrilled to have them on board and they will add great depth and experience to our backline next season.”

The club also confirmed that they will have more signings to come.

Dean McGilvray

Penrith back-rower joins the Northern Pride

Vaipuna Tia-Kilifi

He happened to play against the Northern Pride in the inaugural State Championship but now, Vaipuna Tia-Kilifi will be playing for them, with the back-rower signing a 1-year deal to head North.

At just 22, his profile has dropped somewhat, considering he was regarded as one of the most promising Penrith Panthers NYC youngsters in recent years.

With a new opportunity and chance to make a name for himself at the Northern Pride, his signing comes after the departure of Blake Leary from the club.

It was his soon-to-be team-mates that played a role in getting him to the club, highlighting just how much of an impact he had during the State Championship.

That was all the Northern Pride players were talking about and it was all the club needed to act and sign him, as club coach Joe O’Callaghan explained.

“All the guys said after that State Championship game how much he dented the line,” Pride coach Joe O’Callaghan said.

“It was actually after that when we started talking.

“He has aspirations to get (to the NRL) and thought this was his best opportunity.

“We all agreed that this is a good chance for him to reach his potential.

“I see him as someone who could play that role like Blake where he is a damaging ballrunner on the fringes.”

The club are expected to confirm more signings for the 2015 season in coming weeks.

PNG side name their coach for maiden Queensland Cup campaign

It is a momentous occasion across the board for any Papua New Guinean rugby league fan and the next step is complete, with the newest Queensland Cup side naming their coach for the competition – one Michael Marum.

Sandis Tsaka, PNG’s Rugby League Football Deputy Chairman, said that the appointment of Marum means the coach has full control and leeway of the PNG franchise.

Tsaka’s insistence that Marum would call the shots sees the coach making all the decisions and that when it comes to any matters, back-room staff and other figures have to respect the judgements made by Marum on the team.

For Marum himself, whilst he is aware that the role is a big challenge for him personally, it is one that he looks forward to.

“It was a big challenge for me,” said Marum.

Brad Tassell, who is the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the PNGRFL, says that Marum is the right man for the job over the next three years.

“This is a momentous announcement,” said Tassell.

“Michael (Marum) is without doubt the right man to get the best out of the players. He also has a very strong support network around him to ensure he is given the best possible chance to be successful, which I have no doubt, he will be.”

Marum is no stranger to coaching, having been involved with it since 2001 and guiding the Rabaul Gurias to Digicel Cup Premierships as well as assisting PNG World Cup coach Adrian Lam as an assistant in both 2008 and the recent World Cup.

Irish international signs with the Northern Pride

Tyrone McCarthy

In perhaps their biggest signing to date and a huge signing for the Intrust Super Cup in general, the Northern Pride have secured the services of Irish international Tyrone McCarthy.

McCarthy, who has previously played for the Warrington Wolves in the English Super League most recently, captained the Irish rugby league side at the Rugby League World Cup and has been impressive in his career so far.

Someone who knows McCarthy well is current Pride coach Jason Demetriou, having played alongside the Irish international during his loan spell at Wakefield, as he looks forward to forming a strong connection once again.

“Tyrone’s a guy who has played 50-odd games of Super League at one of the biggest clubs in England,” Demetriou said.

“When I was over in the UK, I was fortunate enough to watch him and play with him, and I’m absolutely thrilled he’s turned down the chance to stay in Super League for a new adventure at the Pride.

“I think he’s been one of the stars of the World Cup, and his defensive work in particular at the weekend against the Kangaroos was outstanding.

Known for his crafty play and bringing out the best in other players, Demetriou expects to see the best out of McCarthy during his time at the Pride.

“I’m expecting a certain level of quality from him and he’ll offer real maturity and a strong voice to our current squad,” said Demetriou.

“He’s a very good carrier of the ball with excellent footwork, and is strong and aggressive in everything he does.”

For McCarthy, whilst it was not an easy decision, he felt like it was the best one, as he made the decision to move to the Pride in order to further his career.

“I decided to leave my home town team, as I felt I needed to challenge myself in order to become a better player,” he said.

“And after speaking to Jason and seeing how the team has performed over the last year, I feel that the club’s environment will provide me with the best opportunity to do that.

“Everyone back home talks about the Australian game and the high standard it is played at, and I wanted to test myself in a tough competition like the Intrust Super Cup.

Knowing full well that despite his experience, that he is not guaranteed a spot, McCarthy knows that hard work is required and that he has to set goals and ambitions during his time at the club.

“I will be working hard in training, as I know I am not guaranteed a place in the team with the quality around, but hopefully I can get in there and get playing regularly.

“I have ambitions to test myself in the NRL, but I know that in order to achieve that I have to give everything and be focused on being successful with Northern Pride.

“I can’t wait to get started and join the boys at training, as I am sure that more success will come the club’s way in 2014.”

With the recent successful transition for other Englishmen to the NRL in full swing – such as the Burgess brothers, Gareth Ellis and James Graham – Demetriou believes that there is no reason as to why McCarthy cannot become a success in Australia as well.

“The younger guys coming over from the UK have certainly found that playing over here can help their development, and that is what’s attractive for Tyrone,” said Demetriou.

“He’s an ambitious man, and the kind of character we want around our club.

“Pride fans will love his style of footy, and I have no doubt he’ll make a big impression as we go for the premiership in 2014.”

Eldest Fifita brother joins the Northern Pride

Latu Fifita

If his last name happens to ring a bell, then you can presume that he is related to Andrew and David Fifita – he is, Latu is the older brother – as Latu Fifita signs on with Intrust Super Cup side, the Northern Pride.

The deal, which is for 1-year, will see Latu link up with his new team-mates on the 18th of November, as Pride coach Jason Demetriou looks forward to having Fifita on board and seeing the path he takes on the road to the NRL.

“He’s trying to follow a similar path as his brother into the NRL, and he certainly has the same physical attributes as Andrew,” Demetriou said.

“He wants to come up here and do really well, and hopefully open up some doors for himself into the NRL.

“He’s a prop or second-rower who is very strong, carries the ball well and regularly dents the line.

With some hard work ahead of him, Demetriou knows that Fifita has what it takes and looks forward to seeing him play for the Pride in 2014.

“It’s a big change for Latu, and he’ll need to get himself physically and mentally ready, but I’m in no doubt whatsoever that he’s going to be a great success for us,” said Demetriou.

“I’m really excited that he’s joining the Pride and our fans can expect to see a guy who is determined to help us achieve our goals for next season.”

Managed by Scott Hill – a former NSW Origin player and Melbourne Storm utility – it was after Hill came up to mentor some of the Pride players, that Demetriou first heard about Fifita.

“Scott explained that Latu is determined to further his career and sees the Pride as the perfect place for him to achieve that,” Demetriou said.

“I think that’s a great compliment to everyone associated with the club that we can attract these higher-profile players to Barlow Park.”

South Australian rugby league begin season with Schweppes “KO” Cup.

To see rugby league flourishing around Australian in a region where there is no NRL team and support is slowly growing is fantastic, and in South Australia, they are keen to make rugby league a big sport, as the Schweppes “KO” Cup was held on Saturday, ahead of the start of the season.

The knockout competition that was held in Dry Creek, pitted several South Australian teams against each other, with the Eels RLC side hosting the event – with reigning premiers Central Roosters winning the Cup 8-4 against the Northern Dragons.

For SARL Competition Coordinator Wayne Sellars, the day was a success.

“The day went well, with all teams participating in a friendly and competitive atmosphere,” SARL Competition Coordinator Wayne Sellars says.

“Congratulations to Centrals, they were a deserving winner.”

The Roosters were not the only winners on the day, however, as the Eels RLC side defeated TEC Titans RLC in the Schweppes Plate Final, winning 16-8.

Full Results Pool A

Tigers 16 def. Souths 4.
Norths 12 def. Eels 0.
Centrals 20 def Tigers 8.
Norths 8 def. Souths 0.
Centrals 12 def. Eels 4.

Full Results Pool B

Henley 24 def. Raiders 12.
Cougars 12 def. Titans 4.
Henley 4 draw with Cougars 4.
Knights 12 def. Titans 4.

Semi Finals

Centrals 22 def. Cougars 8
Norths 16 def. Henley 12
Titans 12 def. Tigers 8
Eels 24 def. Knights 16.

Plate and Cup Finals

Schweppes Plate Final: Eels 16 def. Titans 8

Schweppes Cup Final: Centrals 8 def Norths 4.