Category Archives: ESL/International RL

Fonua set to return to Hull FC for a second stint

Departing Wests Tigers player Mahe Fonua

He went to England, returned to the NRL with the Wests Tigers and will now rejoin Hull FC on a three-year deal. Yes, that’s right, everyone’s favourite mullet in Mahe Fonua is back at Hull FC!

Joining the Tigers at the start of the 2018 season, Fonua quickly became a hit with fans, even if support wavered here and there.

Although currently sidelined and unlikely to play again this year, Fonua played 21 games and scored eight tries for the Tigers.

As he departs, Fonua believes he has learnt some new things about his game as he seeks to become a better player.

“Certain aspects of my footy game have improved during my time at Wests Tigers,” Fonua said.

“I have played under two great coaches here; I have learned a lot from them and I’m grateful for the knowledge they have passed onto me.”

Although unlikely to play again this year, Fonua is hopeful he can still contribute to the Tigers finals hopes in 2019.

“The club are in a good position at the moment and could be competing in a finals campaign,” the cult hero continued.

“I’d love to be back fit and ready before the end of the season and get a few games under my belt to hopefully represent the club before I leave.”

As for his decision to return to Hull FC, Fonua says it was an easy one.

“I’m really pleased to be heading back to Hull FC,” he went on.

“Me and Lee (Radford) have kept in contact over the past few years while I’ve been in the NRL, so to come back to a club that I have a history with is special for me and my family.

“For me, it was an easy decision.

“There isn’t any other Super League team out there that I would have the same chemistry with than Hull FC.”

In the end, the love of the fans no matter where he has been, and the allure of potentially winning more titles was a big part.

“From the get-go when I first arrived at Hull FC in 2016, the fans welcomed me with open arms and they have followed my career back to the NRL,” Fonua said glowingly of the fans.

“Even though I haven’t been at the club, they’ve shown me some mad love.

“Obviously with the two Challenge Cup wins, that made some really special memories for me and my family, so when the opportunity to come back to Super League, FC was always going to be my number one choice.”

Returning Hull FC cult hero Mahe Fonua

Titans sign talented Englishman Watkins

Soon-to-be Gold Coast Titans utility back Kallum Watkins

Already departing at season’s end, Kallum Watkins’ move will take place quicker, as he signs with the Gold Coast Titans from July 1. 

Watkins deal with the Gold Coast club will run until the end of the 2021 season.

Although their last dive into the English player market in Dan Sarginson did not go according to plan, they are hopeful Watkins can provide some intensity.

“Kallum is an exceptional talent,” Titans Head of Performance and Culture Mal Meninga said. “I have had to coach against him with the Kangaroos, and he is a very dangerous player.

“Importantly for the Titans however, he is also a very experienced player and a terrific leader.

“As captain of the Rhinos, he has shown the leadership qualities that will be a tremendous asset for the Titans.”

Meninga also said the signing of Watkins and young half Tanah Boyd is signalling the club’s intent to compete.

“After the signing of Tanah Boyd, we have made a statement about the future of the Titans,” Meninga continued.

“Now with Kallum, we are showing that we are also investing in immediate success, and that this club is capable of attracting the best talent in the game, from right around the world.”

Although he is excited about the new deal and what lies ahead, Watkins’ focus remains on the remainder of the Leeds Rhinos campaign.

“I am excited to be going to the Titans and the new challenge for me and my family,” Watkins said.

“It has all happened so quickly but my focus for now is on helping the Rhinos climb the table.

“I have had so much great support from our fans, sponsors players and staff and I will be doing my best, as I always do, before I leave.”

Linnett’s English adventure begins after signing with Hull KR

North Queensland Cowboys centre Kane Linnett

As the North Queensland Cowboys go through a rebuild of sorts, Kane Linnett was one player allowed to leave and he has signed with Hull KR. 

His new deal with the Super League side is for three seasons.

Linnett, an NRL premiership winner in 2015 with the Cowboys, began his NRL career as a Sydney Roosters player in 2010.

A Scottish international, Linnett is a player that brings experience to the Rovers side and a signing coach Tim Sheens has praised.

“Kane is obviously a very experienced NRL player with over 180 first-grade games, he’s 29 years old and plays both centre and second row which will give us a lot of depth in that area,” Sheens said.

“Kane is a very professional player, a very good player but also a very good person so I think he will add to the culture of the club.”

For Linnett, playing in the Super League has always been an ambition of his.

“I always wanted to finish my career in the Super League,” the veteran centre said.

“I’m really excited to get over there and meet a new bunch of boys, get settled in, work hard and hopefully have a good year.”

With experience under his belt, Linnett is keen to help the younger players develop in any way he can.

Having a senior role, I’ve got a lot of experience in the NRL so I’d like to help some of the younger boys through and it would be great to win a Super League title,” he continued.

“I’ve played a couple of finals here in the NRL, so that would be the ultimate achievement.”

Merrin becomes Rhinos latest signing

Penrith Panthers prop Trent Merrin

Just a week ago, he was staying at the Penrith Panthers. Today, Trent Merrin will join the Leeds Rhinos. 

The representative prop will join the Super League club on a four-year deal.

A premiership winner with the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2010, Merrin is a player Leeds are excited to sign.

“We are delighted to have signed Trent and look forward to welcoming him to the Rhinos club,” said Director of Rugby Kevin Sinfield.

“He is an international class forward who was a regular last season for Penrith Panthers in the NRL. ”

Sinfield went on to praise Merrin’s leadership, experience and knows he will become a valuable piece to the side.

“He has an outstanding reputation in Australia for his leadership within a group and is someone who has played for a decade at the highest level of the game,” the former Leeds player continued.

“He will complement our current group of forwards and is another indication of the ambition of the club to move forward into a new exciting era.”

Merrin also drew praise from Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould, who gave him a glowing endorsement.

“Trent Merrin has given our club three years of outstanding service, both on and off the field,” said Gould.

“Panthers played finals football in each of the three seasons he spent at the club.”

Gould wished Merrin all the best with his new side.

“Apart from the tremendous football he has played, Trent has been instrumental in mentoring the careers of a number of our young players,” continued Gould.

We wish Trent well with his new challenge in the English Super League. Leeds has secured itself a very good man.”

As for the man himself, his goals in the NRL are complete and he felt ready to take on a new challenge.

“I have done everything I possibly could in the NRL and this is a great opportunity for me to come to a great club with a fantastic culture and hopefully achieve some goals together,” said Merrin.

“It is good to have clarity about my future, I am looking forward to coming to a new country, stepping outside of my comfort zone and being part of something special with Leeds.”

Although his NRL journey is over, there is plenty he has his sights set on and he wants to start on the right foot.

“There is a lot I still want to achieve. I want to put my best foot forward and, when I eventually come back home, I want to be able to look back on a special period in my life,” continued the prop.

“I have spent time with Dave Furner in camp before and enjoyed the experience.

“He is obviously well respected at Leeds from his time there as a player and has built an impressive coaching career in the NRL since then.”

Sio to return to England after signing with Salford

Newcastle Knights winger Ken Sio

After a previous stint in the Super League with Hull KR, Ken Sio will depart the Newcastle Knights and head back to England, signing with the Salford Red Devils.

Sio’s ability to find the line has been on show over the years at the Parramatta Eels, Hull KR and the Knights.

With that knack for scoring also comes back-line versatility, with Sio able to cover fullback, wing and centre, a trait that pleases the club.

“We are delighted to add Ken to our team and would like to welcome his wife and children to Salford,” said Salford head coach Ian Watson.

“This signing is an outstanding capture for the Club as Ken is a player who can play full-back, winger and centre and comes with great experience.”

With his future sorted, Salford look forward to having the calibre of Sio on board.

“Ken is a fantastic person with an excellent work ethic which is essential in our environment here at Salford Red Devils,” continued Watson.

“His all-round ability and track record as a proven finisher in both the Super League and NRL will only add to our back line and help us build momentum as we head into the 2019 season.”

Hastings to remain with Salford for a further year

Salford Red Devils utility Jackson Hastings

After impressing the club and its fans, Jackson Hastings has opted for a further year with Super League side, the Salford Red Devils.

Arriving in July, his solid performances helped Salford finish first in the qualifiers and the club wanted to see more over a full season.

The decision was an easy one for Hastings, who lauded the fans and the club for how they have welcomed him.

“In the end, it was a pretty easy decision to be honest,” said Hastings.

“When I laid in bed at night weighing up my options, I really couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else over here.

“The amount of support the Club gave me through a tough time in my life, the love that I’ve got from the fans.”

Hastings also praised his team-mates who embraced his arrival.

“The respect I’ve got from the playing group is something that if I’d walked away from it I know I wouldn’t have been happy with,” the utility continued.

“I’m happy with my decision and hopefully we can kick on and have a good season next year.”

Just as pleased are the club, who know how valuable the former NRL player is to the club and their ambitions.

“Signing Jackson for the 2019 season is a great piece of business by the Club and a great piece of business for Super League as a whole,” said Salford head coach Ian Watson.

“His energy and enthusiasm around the Club and the boys is infectious and you can see in the games he’s played how it lifts people around him.”

Fitting in well with team dynamics, Watson continued to praise Hastings for his approach to the team and their play.

“We have always had effort and commitment from our team but Jackson has lifted the pressure and allowed others to just play and enjoy the game,” continued the Salford coach.

“Jackson wants to lead a team and be the dominant half and that fits perfectly within our team dynamics.

“I hope Jackson can continue to enjoy his football and show everyone over the next twelve months how good a signing he is.”

Barba returns to NRL signing one-year deal with the Cowboys

St Helens fullback Ben Barba

After a brief stint in the Super League with St Helens, Ben Barba will return to the NRL with the North Queensland Cowboys.

On the back of what has been a great individual season for Barba in England with 26 tries (1st in league) and 24 try assists (third), he’ll play for his fourth NRL club.

Needing just one more try for 100 career NRL tries, Barba has played in 168 NRL games to date.

Initially contracted to St Helens for next season, the club gave him an early release to return home.

A local Mackay product, Barba is being welcomed with open arms by the club.

“Ben’s form this year for St Helens has been of the highest standard,” Cowboys Director of Football Peter Parr said.

“He’s been the best fullback if not the best player in the English Super League.”

The club are pleased to be able to give Barba the opportunity to play for them.

“He is from Mackay and has always had a desire to play for the Cowboys, but for whatever reasons the stars never aligned until now,” Parr continued.

“Ben has been looking to return to the NRL and with an opening at the fullback position at our club it presented the opportunity for him to do that.”

Equally pleased is club coach Paul Green who knows how much value Barba will add to the side.

“Ben is an extremely gifted player and I believe he can be a huge asset for our side next season,” Green said.

“He has been in fantastic form for St Helens and he still has a great deal to offer at NRL level.

“Ben hails from North Queensland and he is excited to be able to return home and represent the region.”

Bateman the latest to test himself in NRL after signing with Raiders

Wigan Warriors utility John Bateman

An English international and successful with the Wigan Warriors, John Bateman will head to the NRL in 2019 after signing with the Canberra Raiders. 

The 24-year old has played in more than 150 Super League games and joins the Raiders on a 3-year deal from 2019.

After the success of fellow Englishmen Elliott Whitehead and Josh Hodgson, the Raiders will hope Bateman can have a similar effect.

Able to cover both centre and back-row, Bateman is a player that the club praised.

“John is a wonderful talent who has the ability and skill set to play a number of positions,” Raiders recruitment and High-Performance Director Peter Mulholland said.

“We’ve already seen the success of both Elliott Whitehead and Josh Hodgson transitioning from the Super League to the NRL and we see John as being a player who can make a similar impact in this competition.”

“At 24, he’s got the perfect mix of experience and youth and we’re really looking forward to seeing him in green in 2019.”

Bateman admits that Wigan did their best to keep him at the club but his desire to play in another league prompted his move.

“This has been an incredibly tough decision for me to make as I have enjoyed my time at Wigan so much but, ultimately, I have always had the desire to play in the NRL at some point in my career so this opportunity something I didn’t want to turn down,” Bateman said.

“Wigan did all they could, in my opinion, to keep me here but I was always upfront with them regarding my motivation to play in a different competition.”

It is not all doom and gloom for Wigan fans, however, as the completion of his Raiders deal will see them return to Wigan.

Wigan aimed to get the best deal for all parties and are pleased with the outcome of Bateman’s departure for now and eventual return.

“John was adamant that he wanted to try his hand in the NRL and, once it became clear to us that he couldn’t be persuaded, we wanted to ensure that the Club gained the best deal in these set of circumstances,” Chairman Ian Lenegan said.

“I believe we have done so.

“Despite John’s experience, he is still only 24-years old and, throughout our discussions, he has made it clear to us that he is determined to return to Wigan in the future.

He will do so as a better player then, entering the peak years of his career, so we will look forward to welcoming him back to the Club.”

English adventure for Gubb as he signs with the Widnes

Canberra Raiders prop Charlie Gubb

Not getting much opportunity with the Canberra Raiders, Charlie Gubb has moved to the Widnes Vikings for the remainder of the season. 

Gubb, who began his career in the New Zealand Warriors youth system, has had a roundabout career.

Featuring heavily in the Warriors NYC 2010 campaign and eventual premiership before moving to Australia.

After playing for Wynnum-Manly, winning the 2011 Queensland Cup grand final and playing for Queensland Residents, Gubb returned to New Zealand.

From there, he made his NRL debut and played 39 games for the Warriors and a further five for the Raiders.

Gubb is excited at the opportunity to join the Vikings.

“It’s been a bit of a surreal 24 hours, but I’m excited by the opportunity that has emerged to join Widnes Vikings,” Gubb said.

“I had a few different opportunities to consider, but I was excited by the one presented to me by James Rule and Widnes Vikings.

I know that the Vikings have some quality players and some very exciting young talent, so I’m looking forward to joining them in the fight to sustain their Super League status.”

Gubb looks forward to donning the Widnes jersey and playing in front of their passionate fans.

“I’ve heard great things about the club and its supporters, so it will be a great honour to wear the Vikings shirt and represent the team,” the prop continued.

Widnes coach Francis Cummins was quick to praise Gubb and highlighted him as a key signing.

“Charlie is a no-nonsense front rower with an appetite for chasing people down,” Cummins said.

“He has the power and desire to assert himself on his opponents and, naturally, these are qualities that we want to add to our team.

“His signing, and the recent moves for Harrison Hansen and Liam Finn, have given us options and depth that we’ve lacked all season.”

With young front-rowers at the club, Cummins wants Gubb to use his experience to help guide and nurture them.

“Charlie brings maturity and experience to the team, and that will help to influence and support our own talented young front-rowers,” the Widnes coach continued.

“He will improve the team, in terms of how we perform both on and off the field.”

Bodene Thompson departs Leigh and joins Warrington for rest of 2018 season

Leigh Centurions forward Bodene Thompson

Former NRL player Bodene Thompson will link up with the Warrington Wolves for the rest of 2018 following his departure from the Leigh Centurions.

Thompson, a former Wests Tigers, Gold Coast Titans and New Zealand Warriors back-rower, will boost the Wolves forward pack.

Wolves coach Steve Price did not mince his words; he praised Thompson and knows how valuable he can be to the side.

“I’ve followed Bodene’s career closely,” Price said.

“He is a player who comes with a high work rate and people I trust in the game speak very highly of his professionalism.”

Versatility is a big thing in rugby league and Price believes Thompson can cover any position in the forward pack.

“I see him playing a big part in our team over the back end of the season as he has the ability to play in the middle and also on the edge,” the head coach continued.

“We look forward to welcoming Bodene into the squad.

When opportunity arises, it can be hard to turn down and that was the case for Thompson who jumped at the chance to play for the Wolves.

“The opportunity arose to come here and Warrington is up there as one of the top clubs in Super League so it was a no-brainer really when I got the call,” Thompson said.

“I’m looking forward to the next couple of months; it’s going to be a big step up but I know that and I need to make sure I come here and bring my best, work hard and do all I can for the team.”

Committed to doing his best, Thompson will have company at the Wolves, knowing two other former Wests Tigers players.

“I’m a player that gives my all,” Thompson continued.

“I don’t like leaving any stone unturned.

“It will be good getting to know the boys too; I do know a couple already from over in Australia, Sitaleki Akauola and Ben Murdoch-Masila, which is good.”