Category Archives: ESL/International RL

Veteran Titans back-rower signs with St Helens

Zeb Taia

In what will be a player swap – although the Joe Greenwood to the Gold Coast Titans transfer is yet to be confirmed by the Titans – Zeb Taia has headed in the direction, signing a deal with English side St Helens effective immediately.

The veteran back-rower signed a deal until the end of the 2019 season and has experienced at both the NRL level and the international level.

Initially making his debut for the Parramatta Eels, Taia then moved to the Newcastle Knights. Following that, he signed with Super League side, the Catalan Dragons, and became a different player whilst he was there.

Upon his return to the NRL, Taia signed with the Gold Coast Titans and enjoyed a successful 2016 season which, in the eyes of some, makes the decision to sell him even more interesting.

With more than 200 first-grade games to his name, that experience is what Saints coach Kieron Cunningham hopes to draw upon throughout the season.

“We’re delighted to have signed a player of Zeb’s calibre and he will bolster our squad immediately,” said the St Helens coach.He is powerful, possesses a great offload and like our other signings this season, will bring big game experience to the Saints.”

“He is powerful, possesses a great offload and like our other signings this season, will bring big game experience to the Saints.”

In the end, despite his departure from the Titans, the club applauded Taia’s efforts at the club.

“Zeb wanted to prove last season that he was still able to perform in the NRL and he certainly did that, playing in every game except the finals fixture,” Henry said.

“He was a regular mainstay in our starting 13 last season and he provided great leadership both on and off the field.

“I’d like to wish Zeb, Nikki and their young family all the best for the future. I’m sure he will be a strong addition to the St Helens playing roster.”

Former Manly coach appointed as new head coach of Bradford

Geoff Toovey

Relaunched as a club, the new Bradford team have made an astute performance in the head coaching department, appointing former Manly Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey.

Finding the right candidate was the key and after searching for that, new club owner Graham Lowe said Toovey was the man for the job.

“We wanted a coach that was courageous, experienced and was a good person. Respect was important as well,” said Lowe.

“At this time of year, it’s not an easy thing to come up with, to appoint a coach of the calibre that this club deserves.

“We scratched our heads and identified a number of people that could do a job and deliver the club to where it needs to be.”

Lowe is familiar with Toovey and what he can do during his time also working with the Manly club and knowing Toovey as a coach and person convinced Lowe he was the right fit.

“I started to think about coaches that I knew and players that I’d coach who I’d seen perform under pressure and perform courageously,” Lowe added.

“When I went to Manly in Sydney I met a gentleman that quickly became one of my dearest friends and one of the greatest players I’ve coached.”

Lowe is confident that the fans and players will like Toovey and backs him to guide the new Bradford side in a positive direction.

“Everybody is going to like Geoff. He’s a proud person and he’s not coming here to muck around. He’s a fantastic coach, a proven coach and an uncompromising coach,” said Lowe.

“He’s up for a challenge all the time and I can’t wait for him to get here. I think we’ve got a great rugby league person in this part of the world.”

Toovey, who can understand how tough the process has been on everyone, is looking forward to the role and making the most of it.

“I understand how tough it has been for everyone attached to the club but this is our time now to turn things around and get Bradford back to where they belong – playing entertaining rugby league,” said Toovey.

“I’m well aware of the challenge ahead of us but as coaches and players, these are the things that encourage us to do better and achieve our goals.

“I’m really excited about this role and can’t wait to start getting things together at the Bulls.

“The club, staff, players and fans deserve the best and that’s what I aim to deliver.”

Huddersfield sign former Dragons/Cutters prop

Shannon Wakeman

A player that many Dragons fans wanted to have play more first-grade, Shannon Wakeman – for the time being – will not be doing so, having signed a deal with SL side, the Huddersfield Giants.

A strong performer for the Illawarra Cutters in the NSW Cup or Intrust Super Premiership, Wakeman was a fan favourite of Dragons fans.

With the move now done, though, Wakeman says he looks forward to the challenge of playing in a new league and with the Giants.

“I am happy to have a new challenge overseas and in the Super League at Huddersfield,” said Wakeman.

“I’ll be teaming up again with my front row partner Sebastine Ikahihifo who played last year with us for a while before he moved to the UK so it’ll be good to have a familiar face when I get there.”

The opportunity is one that he looks forward to and Wakeman is eager to get stuck in and perform.

“I’ll spend Christmas here in Australia and then as soon as my documentation comes through I’ll be straight across and ready to rip in for the Giants,” he added.

“I’ve wanted a crack full time in the top grade for a long time now and reckon I’ve served my apprenticeship so the opportunity at Huddersfield is great for me and one that I want to make the most of.”

The Giants decision to sign Wakeman came after a sudden departure by Craig Huby.

“Obviously the move away by Craig came a bit out of left field and left us searching for an established and experienced out and out front row forward,” said Huddersfield coach, Rick Stone.

“I had already considered Shannon for further down the line for us but when our situation changed then Shannon was my go to guy to come across.”

Stone says he Wakeman is the exact type of forward the club wanted to sign, citing his high motor and work-rate.

“I have seen plenty of him in action back home and he is a big mobile type of front rower and I know he wants a crack at the top flight which is something I am pleased we can give him,” said Stone.

“He is at the stage of his career now where if he is going to make the big breakthrough then he needs an opportunity and a start – we can provide both for him and I am quietly confident that he can bring a lot to our squad.

He is a big man around 6’2 and as you’ll have seen from his highlights clips he can motor a bit.”

Quinlan makes his return to England

Adam Quinlan

Not quite getting the first-grade exposure he was after in the NRL with the St George Illawarra Dragons, Adam Quinlan has opted to return to England, signing a deal with Hull KR.

The recently relegated team has signed the utility back on a 2-year deal and whilst that surprised Quinlan, he knows that Hull KR are still a big club and he is excited to don the jersey.

“I feel very privileged to be offered the opportunity to come and play for Hull KR,” Quinlan said.

“When I played in Super League a couple of seasons ago, Rovers were a big team and they still are so it’s a great opportunity for me to come over and represent a good club.

“It came as a bit of a shock to me to hear they had been relegated but from what I’ve heard I think we’ve got what it takes to bounce back and get the club back into Super League where they belong. I’m truly excited to help do that.”

Quinlan, who had a previous stint in England with St Helens, looks forward to the new adventure and believes that the style of play suits him more than the NRL.

“I really enjoyed my time over in the UK the last time I was there so this was a no-brainer for me when I got the offer,” he said.

“The style of play over there suits my game a lot more. There’s a lot of offloads and it’s more free-flowing, so it really benefits how I like to play.

“It’s not going to be ideal coming over a bit later in pre-season but I’m sure my time over there before will stand me in good stead. Hopefully, I’ll get used to things pretty quickly.”

Set to be coached by top Australian coach Tim Sheens, Quinlan looks forward to working under him.

“I’m really looking forward to working with Tim as well,” said Quinlan.

“I’ve never played under him before but he was another big factor in me coming over. I’ve played with a few guys who have been coached by him and I’ve heard nothing but good things.

He’s a Grand Final winner in the NRL and an international coach so he knows what he’s doing and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from him.”

Sheens himself praised the new signing, highlighting the versatility that Quinlan provides.

“Adam’s speed will be really important for us as well as his experience out the back,” the veteran coach said.

“He’s a good talker who organises the line and he’s played in the halves too. That’s what you want from your number one, somebody who can move the ball and provide another option.

“He’s had a great year winning the State Cup in New South Wales and then beating the Queensland side to be Australian champions. He’s been in good form and he’ll be a great fit for us with the style we want to play.”

Knights release Mamo who joins Huddersfield

Jake Mamo

With the Newcastle Knights and Jake Mamo mutually agreeing to part ways from the final year of his contract, the utility back has signed with the Huddersfield Giants.

Having previously played under Rick Stone, Mamo heads to somewhat familiar territory.

Making his NRL debut in 2014, he has since gone on to play in 29 NRL games, as the club thanked him for his contributions.

“Jake should be proud of what he has achieved at the Club and we thank him for his contribution,” coach Nathan Brown said.

“Jake has our very best wishes for the future.”

Whilst his visa is being arranged, Mamo will continue to train with the Knights. Looking forward to the opportunity ahead, Mamo will miss playing for the club that he grew up supporting.

“Thank you to all the fans and everyone that has supported me, and to the Knights for the opportunity,” Mamo said.

“While I am going to miss playing for the Club I grew up supporting, I am excited for the opportunity to play and live overseas.”

Stone is familiar with Mamo’s ability and is confident that Mamo can provide entertainment for the fans.

“I have worked with Jake for the last few years and I know what he is about and to have him coming to the Giants for the next few years is a great boost,” said Stone.

“Jake is an explosive quality, who brings plenty to the table offensively.

He’s courageous, fit and really quick. I’m sure the crowd are going to really enjoy watching him play and hopefully, he will score plenty of tries for the Giants in the next couple of years.”

Stone went on to say that he believes Mamo can become a crucial part of the Giants setup over the couple of years that he is there.

“Jake’s just finishing three years of first grade experience with the Newcastle Knights, he’s one of the real upcoming players in the NRL and as we have all seen on a couple of highlights footage, Jake can do some really spectacular things,” added Stone.

“I’m sure first of all that he is going to enjoy his time in Huddersfield and become a really valuable member of our team and hopefully lift us up the table in 2017.”

The opportunity is one that Mamo looks forward to, in what will be his first time away from home.

“I’m really excited to be joining the Giants,” Mamo said.

“It’s a new experience for me coming over to England, as I have only ever lived at home, but I’m excited by the opportunity and can’t wait to get started.

Working with Stone will be a boost for Mamo, who has formed a solid relationship with the now Giants coach.

“The move has been in the works for a while now, so it’s a relief to have it sorted,” the utility back said.

“I’ve known Rick since I was 18 and have been coached by him before and we’ve always got on well, so it’s good to join back up with him.

With the fullback position up for grabs, Mamo is confident that he can make it his own once he has recovered from his injury.

“I feel like I’m ready for a new challenge in my career and I think coming over to England will be good for me,” He added.

“I’m injured at the moment but once I’m fit and back in training, I’m keen to cement that full-back position as my own.”

Knights sign Wardle a year early after release of Mamo

Joe Wardle

A player highly rated by the Huddersfield Giants fans, they were initially expecting him to move in 2018. However, after the early release of Jake Mamo to the Giants, the Newcastle Knights were able to sign Wardle on a 3-year deal starting in 2017.

Once he has a visa secured, Wardle will join his team-mates for pre-season training. Wardle has played in 140 games for the Giants and coach Nathan Brown is familiar with what he can produce.

“I coached Joe during my time in England and know he will be a great addition to our young squad,” coach Nathan Brown said.

“Joe comes with plenty of Super League experience and adds some real versatility to our squad. He is as comfortable in the second row as he is at centre.”

Brown went on to say that Wardle was a player they had been targeting for a while.

“We identified him as a player we wanted at the Club, so we are obviously pleased Joe joins us for next season,” Brown added.

Former NRL forward signs with new Championship side Toronto

Fuifui Moimoi

A cult hero during his time in the NRL with the Parramatta Eels, Fuifui Moimoi enjoyed a mass following among the Eels fans for his on-field force and off-field quietness.

A quiet, humble character, Moimoi eventually departed the Eels and signed with the Leigh Centurions where he also became a cult hero among their fans.

As is the case with many players, though, opportunity is the key and for Moimoi, he has signed with the newest team in the second division of the English Championship side, the Toronto Wolfpack.

The Canadian-based team are slowly building their player stocks and signing experience prop Moimoi is a tremendous boost for the new club.

“It’s a magnificent coup for the Wolfpack to acquire Fui’s services,” said head coach Paul Rowley.

“He’s an iconic brand and will add an additional physical presence to an already impressive lineup. His wealth of international and club experience will be a great benefit both on and off the pitch.

I also think that our club fans especially those based in Toronto and North America will love his free flowing and aggressive style of play, as we all know, he has left dents all over Australia, New Zealand & the UK.”

Moimoi is just as pleased to be involved and can’t wait to play for the club and its fans.

“I would like to thank everyone at the Wolfpack for this opportunity and am looking forward to being a part of the team and hitting hard for the fans,” said Moimoi.

Hull FC sign former NRL half and re-sign Michaels

Albert Kelly

Defecting to arch rivals Hull FC may attract the ire of Hull KR fans but following Rovers’ demotion to the championship and falling out of favour, Albert Kelly decided to start afresh and joined Hull FC.

Not playing in a while due to off-field indiscretions, Kelly will join the Challenge Cup winners on the same day that veteran utility back Steve Michaels re-signs.

Despite that, Kelly is looking forward to the new adventure and enjoyed Hull FC’s Challenge Cup success due to several friends of his playing in their team.

“It was pretty exciting seeing Hull go to Wembley and win the Challenge Cup. Some of my good mates were in there and to see them smiling and lifting the trophy is something I want to do as well,” Kelly said.

“I think because the boys won it last year, we can go back-to-back if we put in performances each week.”

As for Michaels, at one stage, it appeared that he was set to depart East Yorkshire club. Though that was not the case, as he looks forward to another year with Hull FC.

“I’m really happy to be on board for next season. I love the players, the fans and the club. I’m really happy to commit my future to Hull FC,” said the 29-year-old.

Steve Michaels

Former Raiders and Penrith centre packs bags and joins Hull KR

Andrew Heffernan

The Canberra Raiders fans and Penrith Panthers fans will have heard of him and although he could not crack the first-grade sides at either clubs, his talent was well-known and always on show.

In a bid for regular first-team action, Andrew Heffernan has opted to leave the Australian setup to sign a 1-year deal with English side, Hull KR.

A solid, consistent centre, Heffernan can also play at fullback and in the halves but the current Hull KR setup is expected to see him feature at centre.

His strong performances in the Holden Cup and the Intrust Super Premiership caught the eye of Hull KR coach Tim Sheens, who looks forward to having the talented youngsters on board.

“Andrew was highly rated when he came through the system at Canberra and Penrith pulled out all the stops to take him there,” said Sheens.

“Unfortunately for him, he was stuck behind some excellent outside backs at the Panthers which has opened the door for us to bring him on board.

“He’s quick, skilful, has excellent footwork and can play in a few positions. We see him playing mainly at centre for us but his versatility gives us options within the squad which will be important next season.”

Whilst Hull KR fans may not have seen or heard a lot about him, Sheens is confident he can become a quality player for them in 2017.

“Andrew is somebody who a lot of supporters over here won’t have seen before but I’m confident that after four or five games everybody will know what he’s about,” Sheens said.

“He’s an exciting player to watch and we expect him to establish himself as an important member of the squad in 2017.”

Heffernan, set to join Hull KR for their pre-season in the near future, is excited about the new challenge ahead.

“I’m really excited about having the opportunity to play for such a proud club with a rich history,” said Heffernan.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead of us in 2017 and can’t wait to get over there and start training with the squad.”

Manly winger makes the move to Perpignan

Brayden Wiliame

A surprising performer for the Manly Sea Eagles in 2016, Brayden Wiliame will no longer be a part of the team after signing a 2-year deal with the Catalan Dragons.

In the end, the Sea Eagles were not going to stand in the way of Wiliame who knew that it was too good of an opportunity for him to pass up.

“This is a great opportunity for Brayden to secure his playing future for the next two years and we didn’t want to stand in his way, even though he was contracted for next season,” Barrett said.

“It was a pleasure to coach Brayden and his versatility at being able to play full-back, wing, or centre was always valuable.

“I like to thank Brayden for his service to the Sea Eagles. The club wishes him and his family all the best at the Catalans Dragons.”

The opportunity to play alongside Greg Bird is one that Wiliame is looking forward to.

“I am very excited to join the Catalans Dragons,” said Wiliame.

“I really enjoyed my time at Manly but I’m looking forward now to play here, alongside a player such as Greg Bird and help the club win a title.”

The club is also pleased to have Wiliame, highlighting his experience and versatility as crucial elements for their setup.

“I am very pleased with the signing of Brayden, who has exactly the profile we were looking for to know a young player, ambitious and with a real sense of professionalism on and off the field,” said head coach, Laurent Frayssinous.

“He already has a great experience in NRL despite his youth and versatility in the ¾ line is a real asset for him. He is a powerful and agile player who likes to play in the spaces and has a very good technique veneer.”