Category Archives: ESL/International RL

Former Penrith Panther and Englishman Zak Hardaker cops 14-month ban for cocaine use

Former Castleford utility back Zak Hardaker

After failing a drugs test in the lead-up to the 2017 Super League grand final, Zak Hardaker has been given a 14-month ban.

Suspended by Castleford after failing the test in September, he was then sacked by the club in February.

The indiscretion also ruled Hardaker out for selection for England at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

“UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) today confirmed Zak Hardaker has been suspended from all sport for 14 months following an Anti-Doping Rule Violation,” England’s governing body in rugby league said in a statement.

Hardaker tested positive for a metabolite of cocaine and is suspended from all sports until November 8.

His legal team praised the professionalism of the tribunal in reaching a decision they felt suits the indiscretion.

“We believe the correct verdict has been returned and we would like to thank the tribunal for their professionalism,” Hardaker’s legal team said.

“This was a truly exceptional case, where the drug use was never linked to performance enhancement.

“In this regard, Zak would never take any substance to achieve an unfair advantage and we are pleased that the decision of the tribunal has recognised this fact.”

His legal team also asked for privacy as Hardaker recovers from some personal traumas in addition to the ban.

“The last two years have been an extremely difficult period for Zak who, away from the public eye, has bravely battled a number of personal traumas,” continued his legal representative.

“Zak has asked for privacy at this time but thanked his family and close friends for helping him through this difficult period.”

Sean Rutgerson appointed as new USA Hawks coach

Former American rugby league player Sean Rutgerson

Following the sudden departure of Brian McDermott, the USA Hawks have appointed Sean Rutgerson as their new head coach.

With American rugby league on the rise and their desire to make the next World Cup, a local like Rutgerson could prove to be a masterstroke.

With qualifiers looming, it shapes as a crucial time for Rutgerson and his Hawks side.

“I’m really happy and excited to take over and am looking forward to a big year for the USARL,” said Rutgerson.

“First thing on my list is to get my staff on board and organized.”

Rutgerson is no stranger to the system, having worked as a domestic assistant under McDermott.

Rutgerson will retain some elements used by McDermott and incorporate some of his own.

“As far as strategies, we will not be doing too much different from what Mac put in place, but I will be adding some ideas as we go,” he added.

“I definitely will be sticking with the Facebook page. There will be a few changes to it and am currently working on those.

There will be some standards that will need to be met.”

Also coach of the Jacksonville Axemen, it was his rugby league pedigree and nous that got him the job.

“Sean was an accomplished NRL player at Canberra Raiders and English Super League player at Salford City Reds,” USARL Inc Chairman Peter Illfield said.

“He’s an accredited Level 2 NRL coach and sports trainer, Level 2 ASCA strength and conditioning coach and has a diploma in personal training.”

Fans may remember Rutgerson during his playing and coaching days with NRL teams.

“He had six years as assistant coach with NRL club Wests Tigers’ NSW Cup team,” Illfield continued.

“He’s coached at Jacksonville Axemen (2009, 2016, 2017) and again for 2018.

“He was also assistant coach to Brian McDermott for USA Hawks RLWC2017 Qualifiers campaign in 2015, going on to RLWC2017 as strength and conditioning coach for USA.”

Should he have success with the Hawks at the qualifiers level, a long-term deal is on the table for Rutgerson.

“Immediate expectation for Sean is to recruit his management and support staff for international fixtures,” said Illfield.

“Long-term expectations are to develop a suitable player selection process inclusive of domestic and heritage players, and development of an elite player program to raise the skills and fitness worthy of USARL representation.”

Stanley becomes latest Wolfpack recruit

Canterbury Bulldogs utility back Chase Stanley.

Released by the Canterbury Bulldogs at the end of 2017, Chase Stanley has a new home, signing with the Toronto Wolfpack.

Still only 28, Stanley slowly made a name for himself coming through the ranks at the St George Illawarra Dragons.

This prompted the opportunity to make his first-grade debut for the Dragons, as well as stints at the Melbourne Storm and the Canterbury Bulldogs.

In total, Stanley played in 110 NRL games and scored 28 tries in that time.

It could have been more, however, had it not been for chronic knee injuries cruelling his career.

Fit and raring to go now, Stanley makes the move to the Wolfpack and is excited by the challenge that lies ahead.

“To play football overseas is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Stanley.

“The opportunity to challenge myself both as a player and as person in a different part of the world is something I’m looking forward to.

“For me personally, I’m keen to embrace the culture of the Wolfpack and play some tough and consistent football.”

With the Wolfpack setting their sights on the Super League, Stanley believes the club is primed to reach their goals.

“I believe this club can achieve its ultimate goal of reaching Super League so this move is the chance to be a part of something really exciting,” he continued.

“I can’t wait to get over to Canada.

I’ve never been, so to be able to play rugby league over there and put it on the map is a bonus and great for the game.”

Wolfpack head coach Paul Rowley welcomes the addition of Stanley to the squad and the team.

“Chase is a welcome addition to the team and adds real quality to our backline options,” said Rowley.

“I’m looking forward to working with Chase and excited to see him play in our colours.

He’s a fantastic player and a quality person who has worked within some first class environments so we’re looking forward to him getting started.”

Centurions continue signing spree as they add PNG hooker

Kurt Baptiste

They mean business in their quest to return to the Super League and the Leigh Centurions have further bolstered their roster with the signing of Canberra Raiders hooker Kurt Baptiste. 

The Papua New Guinean international who most recently played at the Rugby League World Cup has signed a 1-year deal with Leigh.

WIth 60 NRL games to his name for both the Brisbane Broncos and the Canberra Raiders, Leigh head coach Neil Jukes sees the signing as a coup for the club.

“On and off the field, he will add great leadership values and bring the quality trends he has developed from two elite environments in the Broncos and the Raiders,” said Jukes.

“His energy, control and running game will be infectious for the players around him and with the staff look forward to enhancing those skills further.

“He’ll join up with the boys after the New Year and jump straight into our preparations for 2018.”

Leigh owner Derek Beaumont also praised the signing as well as the other additions the club has made on and off the field.

“Kurt’s capture is a further statement of our intention to regain our Super League place at the first opportunity and with the quality backroom additions of Adam (Seymour) as head physio, Scott (Hill) as nutritionist and Bubble (Chris Baron) as head conditioner alongside Kez and Jukesy and the rest of the staff we have a fantastic off-field team to help us achieve that,” Beaumont said.

Former NRL utility back makes the move to Widnes

Krisnan Inu

With the need for experience and quality in a rugby league team so high, the Widnes Vikings have sought exactly that, with former NRL utility back Krisnan Inu joining the club.

The talented Inu has signed a 2-year deal at Widnes, joining the club from Perpignan-based Super League side, the Catalans Dragons.

With more than 200 games to his name across the NRL and SL, Inu has previously played for the Parramatta Eels, the Canterbury Bulldogs, the New Zealand Warriors and Catalans.

The Inu signing pleases Widnes coach Denis Betts who praised the veteran back’s experience at the NRL, SL and international level (Inu has represented both New Zealand and Samoa previously).

“We are delighted to secure the services of Krisnan Inu,” Betts said.

“Krisnan has exceptional playing abilities and understands the English game well.

“He will bring real quality to our edges and I am excited about the impact that he can make on the field.

“Importantly, Krisnan offers real experience too, as someone who has consistently proved himself in the NRL, Super League and internationally.

“I am looking forward to seeing him in action in 2018.”

Having played against the Vikings before, Inu knows what to expect of them and how they pride themselves on achieving their best and he is excited to get involved with the club.

“I’m very excited to be playing for Widnes Vikings in the Super League next season,” Inu said.

“I know from experience that Widnes Vikings are a tough team to play against and have great supporters, so I am pleased to be joining the team.

I‘m looking forward to starting training with the boys and meeting all the supporters very soon.”

Leigh go from strength-to-strength with the signing of Tigers back-rower

Kyle Lovett

The Wests Tigers fans gave Kyle Lovett plenty of flak often over numerous seasons but a new challenge now beckons for the back-rower after signing a two-year deal with English Championship side, the Leigh Centurions.

Lovett, who played in 50 games for the Wests Tigers, does have some upside being only 24 and a player that can add some defensive starch to the team.

Leigh has always prided themselves on signing elite players to strengthen their squad and with an already impressive roster, the signing of Lovett further adds to it.

Lovett was praised by Leigh owner Derek Beaumont as a player with NRL experience that can make a difference for the Leigh side.

“Kyle is another great addition to our squad who is young and energetic with plenty first grade NRL experience for his age,” said Beaumont.

“It is a further statement of our intent to build a side capable of returning to Super League and one that we can grow and develop to improve to greater things.

I am really looking forward to seeing his strong carries in a Leigh shirt.”

Lovett tasted premiership success with the Wests Tigers Holden Cup side in in 2013, with the Leichhardt junior drawing praise from Leigh head coach Neil Jukes.

“Kyle is a fast, direct, strong running forward who consistently in defence notches up 40 plus tackles a game,” Jukes said.

“His durability will also add a real competitive edge to our team in a number of other positions too.

“We will continue to monitor his preparations in Australia for the next few weeks now so he is ready to hit the ground running when he arrives at the beginning of December.”

Former NRL winger signs with Warrington

Mitch Brown

A new chapter awaits former NRL winger Mitch Brown, who has signed with Super League side Warrington on a 1-year deal.

Brown, who most recently played for the Leigh Centurions, scored 8 tries in his 26 appearances with the club.

The former Wests Tigers, Canterbury Bulldogs and Cronulla Sharks winger played 132 NRL games and scored 39 tries in that time.

Brown praised his new side’s recruitment drive and looks forward to the chance of working with Steve Price.

“Warrington’s a power club in the Super League and they have a great team for next year,” said Brown.

“They had a good base to start with, have recruited strong and with Pricey (Steve Price) coming over it’s a good opportunity.

“I like the way Pricey coaches, the way he structures things, and he’s a good person off the field as well. Hopefully, he’ll bring a good culture to Warrington too.”

Brown will have no feelings of being alone, having worked alongside Price before at the Sharks and also being friends with new Wolves signing, Bryson Goodwin.

“It’s always hard going to a new team, meeting new faces, but there will be a lot of boys in the same boat even the coach here,” continued Brown.

“I know Bryson pretty well and have been coached by Pricey before so that will help. There are the same personalities just different faces on every team, and everyone is always very welcoming.”

Wolves coach Steve Price was after players that he believes have genuine first-grade experience and in his eyes, Brown is a player that can help develop the club culture.

“The culture I want to create is about players who are team first and willing to work extremely hard, having been involved with Mitch at Cronulla he certainly ticks those boxes,” said Price.

“He’s an outstanding quality person and will add a lot to the club culture which we are building.

“He understands the systems which I am implementing here at the Wolves and he knows that there are positions up for grabs in the wing spots and no places are guaranteed as it will all come down to how each performs in pre-season and the friendlies.”

Former Penrith half signs new deal to stay at Catalans

Luke Walsh

Luke Walsh will continue his Super League adventure, re-signing with French-based side Catalans Dragons on a 12-month deal. 

Having previously played for fellow Super League side St Helens, Walsh helped Catalans narrowly avoid relegation as he played in 29 games over the course of the season.

As the club looks to rebuild and perform more consistently in 2018, Dragons coach Steve McNamara pointed out just how crucial Walsh is to their side.

“Luke is a hugely influential member of our club and his re-signing is very important for us moving forward into 2018,” said McNamara.

“We will be looking to add to him even greater responsibility and control within the team as we look to develop and build our game.”

Being able to play his own game and being a leader both on and off the field is something that appeals to Walsh.

“I’m very pleased to be given the opportunity to stay with a club that is on the verge of doing something special,” said the veteran halfback.

“Steve has let me play my game and be a leader on and off the field.”

In the end, his family was comfortable in Perpignan and Walsh wants to make the most of the opportunity for both he and his family.

“I love it here in Perpignan,” continued Walsh.

“It’s a great culture, they are great people and it’s a great opportunity for me and my family to learn and benefit from it.”


Melbourne to host the 2018 World Club Challenge

For just the third time in the tournament’s history, the World Club Challenge is set to be played in Australia after the NRL confirmed this morning that the fixture would take place at AAMI Park.

With the battle for supremacy set to begin, both the Melbourne Storm and the Leeds Rhinos will go head-to-head on February 16 to determine which club is rugby league’s best.

Previously, the game had been held in both Brisbane and Sydney but this is the first time that Melbourne is hosting the event.

The Storm and Rhinos have gone head-to-head in a World Club Challenge on three previous occasions, with the Storm winning two of those in 2010 and 2013.

With the game now locked in, fans can make some early plans to watch footy at AAMI Park and the NRL is pleased that such a game has been confirmed.

“It’s important for the growth of both the NRL and international game that major events like this go ahead each year, so we’re glad to have ensured this important match takes place in what is a shortened pre-season post the Rugby League World Cup,” said the NRL’s Head of Strategy, Mr David Silverton said.

“To have the match take place on home soil for the first time in four years is an added bonus for Australian rugby league fans too.

“A special thank you must go to all those involved from the Super League, Melbourne Storm, Leeds Rhinos and Channel Nine for joining forces and committing to make this showpiece event happen.”

Equally pleased is Victoria’s Minister for Sport, Tourism and Major Events, with John Eren stating that the tournament is right at home in Melbourne and that they are thrilled to host it.

“The World Club Challenge is right at home in the sporting capital. We can’t wait to get behind our Storm and help make them the world’s best rugby league team,” said Eren.

“It’s yet another coup for the sports capital that will bring more visitors to Victoria – boosting businesses and supporting local jobs.”

The Storm themselves are excited to have the opportunity to host the World Club Challenge as CEO Dave Donaghy praised the event.

“There’s no better venue or city to host a game that decides the world’s best rugby league team than AAMI Park and Melbourne – Australia’s sporting capital.

“It will be fantastic to see rugby league take centre stage again at AAMI Park, having hosted record Storm crowds and the Rugby League World Cup in 2017.”

For the fans that want to watch the game, it will be broadcast live on Channel Nine in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

“We’re really excited about this match – the two best rugby league teams in the world squaring up against each other for the title of champions,” said Nine’s Director of Sport, Tom Malone.

“Wide World of Sports will be the best place to catch all the action – live and free and in HD.

Club members of both the Storm and the Rhinos are able to purchase tickets on today before public tickets go on sale on Tuesday November 21.

Tongan international makes the move from Penrith to Catalans

Samisoni Langi

A versatile player who has perhaps not seen as much first-grade action as he may deserve based on his ability, Samisoni Langi will don the white, red and gold of the Catalans Dragons next year, signing a 2-year deal.

Langi, who has previously had stints in the NRL with both the Sydney Roosters and the Penrith Panthers, as well as with the Leigh Centurions, embarks on the new challenge as he looks set to embrace his role as a utility in the side.

Catalans coach Steve McNamara knows how good Langi is having worked alongside him at the Roosters in 2014 during his time as an assistant coach there.

“Samisoni is a tremendous signing for the club,” said McNamara.

“Having worked closely with him at the Sydney Roosters in 2014, I know exactly the quality he will bring both on and off the field.

“He is a young, ambitious man who is an exciting attacking player and one who wants to compete on every play.”

Langi is excited about the move and confident that he can help Catalans move up the ladder in 2018.

“I believe my best years are ahead of me and I want to play a big part in the club’s climb up the Super League ladder in 2018 under Steve McNamara, someone I have confidence in who will take my game to the next level,” said Langi.