Category Archives: ESL/International RL

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.”

Edwards, former NRL player, signs deal with York City Knights

Former NRL player Joel Edwards

Somewhat sneaking away quietly, many may not know that Joel Edwards has signed with the York City Knights.

The English club, who are on the rise in their respective English championship, view the signing as a huge coup.

“I’m delighted to bring Joel to York, pending RFL paperwork,” said James Ford, York head coach.

“He’s an incredibly talented footballer and someone who improves our squad at an important time in our season.”

Edwards, a former Newcastle Knights, Canberra Raiders and Wests Tigers forward, last played NRL in 2017.

After that, a move to French rugby league side the Limoux Grizzlies eventuated before this move to York.

Ford is looking forward to Edwards joining and getting stuck in at the club.

“I’d like to thank Jon [Flatman, Knights Chairman] for all his hard work in getting this deal over the line, as well as the fantastic fans and sponsors of the club who’ve made this happen,” the head coach continued.

“I’m looking forward to Joel linking up with the rest of the squad and making a positive contribution as soon as possible.”

Sydney Roosters sign English winger Ryan Hall

Leeds Rhinos winger Ryan Hall

Just recently, the Leeds Rhinos confirmed his departure and today, the Sydney Roosters have confirmed the signing of Ryan Hall. 

Ryan Hall, a prodigious scorer and winger for both Leeds and England in recent years, has signed a 2-year deal at the Roosters.

On the back of 327 games for Leeds since his 2007 debut and 231 tries in that time, he comes with a scoring pedigree.

Having previously admitted to wanting to play NRL, the Roosters are happy to give Hall that opportunity.

“Ryan has expressed a desire to test himself in the NRL, and we are pleased to have secured his services,” Roosters Recruitment Manager Adam Hartigan said.

“A natural finisher blessed with size, speed and strength, we believe that Ryan will be a terrific fit within our squad and we look forward to welcoming him to the Club later this year.”

New pastures for Lolohea as he signs with Leeds

Wests Tigers utility back Tui Lolohea

After a brief Wests Tigers stint, Tui Lolohea will take his abilities to England after signing with the Leeds Rhinos. 

What made his decision easier was having previously played at Headingley, when he was a part of the New Zealand Kiwis side in 2015.

“I have always remembered that game back in 2015 when I played at Emerald Headingley with the Kiwis,” the utility back said.

“The singing and support for the Leeds boys was amazing and I can’t wait to play for those supporters.

In the end, the passion of the fans stuck with him and that prompted his decision to sign for Leeds.

“That game was Kylie Leuluai’s farewell game for the club and I remember the warmth and passion the supporters had for him and the team, that was special,” Lolohea continued.

“People talk about the passion that the English fans have for the game but I had seen it for myself and it was definitely a factor when I was thinking about who to sign for.”

Although he is a long way from home, the move excites Lolohea and he wants to take the chance presented to him.

“I am really excited, it is a long way from home but a different challenge for me and something I am looking forward to,” Lolohea said.

“I want to be part of the Rhinos team and I can hopefully bring my energy to the game over there.

“It will be very different for me and a new way of life.

I am still really young and this is a big journey for me and I want to make the most of my career and my time in England.”

With the move now sorted, Lolohea’s sights are focused on finishing his 2018 season with the Tigers strongly.

“I have had a couple of injuries this year that have held me back at bit but I am looking forward to finishing the season strongly with the Tigers and then making the most of the opportunity to come over to Super League,” added Lolohea.

Recently appointed Director of Rugby Kevin Sinfield praised the signing and knows Lolohea will be a good addition to the side.

“I have seen Kevin play for a number of years and admired him,” Sinfield said.

“The professional level that he brought to his whole playing career is going to be massive for the whole team.

I am looking forward to being part of his team.”

In a brief statement released by the Wests Tigers, the club thanked Lolohea for his service to the club and wish him well upon his departure at season’s end.

Move to England beckons as Austin signs with Warrington

Canberra Raiders utility Blake Austin

He was linked to NRL clubs but it is a Super League that has snared the signature of Blake Austin, with the Canberra Raiders utility joining the Warrington Wolves.

The three-year deal will begin for the 2019 season and during his time at the Raiders, Austin has had his ups and downs.

Joining the club in 2015, he immediately impressed and went on to win the 2015 Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year Award.

Since then, he has, at times, struggled to replicate that form, eventually leading to his moving in and out of first-grade.

Despite those inconsistencies, Austin praised the Raiders for the last four years he has spent at the club.

“I’d like to thank Ricky, Don and the club for presenting me and my family with the opportunities they have over the past four years,” Austin said.

“Thanks to my team mates and the Canberra members and fans for embracing me as one of their own.”

Although the move is confirmed, the Raiders are still in the finals hunt and Austin wants to play at his best to help them make it.

“I hope to be remembered as a guy that gave his all in green,” the utility continued.

“I look forward to playing the best footy I can for the remainder of the 2018 season.”

The Wolves are pleased to have signed someone of his calibre, and he is a player that coach Steve Price has watched closely.

“I’ve watched Blake closely for a number of years over in the NRL and he’s a guy who, when you come to review the opposition, your game plan heavily revolves around which says a lot about the type of player he is,” the former NRL coach said.

Price continued with his praise for Austin, highlighting specific areas of his game.

“He has an outstanding running game and is always a threat with the ball in his hand,” continued Price.

“He’s a big body so hard to handle with electric footwork.

“I feel he is going to be a quality signing for our club and I’m excited to be able to work with Blake next year.”

With his move now confirmed, Austin is excited to experience the English culture and the Super League come 2019.

“I’m really excited to be joining the Warrington Wolves,” Austin said.

“No-one I’ve spoken to has had a bad word to say about the club.

“I’m stoked I get the chance to come over in what I believe can be the best years of my footy career, and not a cameo at the tail end of my career.”

Austin is looking forward to embracing his English experience and playing alongside his new team-mates.

“My partner and I have always wanted to experience England and the Super League, and can’t wait to embrace the Wolves and everything Warrington has to offer,” Austin continued.

“I look forward to working with Pricey and all the boys, with the goal of delivering silverware to the club.”

 

Suaia Matagi makes the move to England after signing with Huddersfield

Parramatta Eels prop Suaia Matagi

After a few seasons with the Parramatta Eels, Suaia Matagi will depart and head to England and join the Huddersfield Giants. 

Coached by former NRL player Simon Woolford, he was after a player with size, grunt and power.

“I was looking for some real grunt and aggression in the front row and Suaia will bring that and a whole heap more,” Woolford said.

“The fans will love his action packed style and he is a man that won’t take a backward step and he relishes the tough stuff up front.”

With more than 100 NRL games to his name, the Kiwi and Samoan international brings a wealth of experience to the Giants.

“We have a number of relatively younger front rowers in Dickinson, Smith and English who will benefit enormously from having a man like Suaia around them at training,” Woolford continued.

“On the pitch, his presence will bring confidence and leadership to the forward group.”

Matagi is pleased at the new adventure and looks forward to donning the Giants colours.

“I am extremely excited to take my football to the next level under the leadership of Coach Simon Woolford and I’m also looking forward to the challenge of playing in the English Super League,” Matagi said.

“Joining a proud Club like the Huddersfield Giants is a privilege and I will represent our fans to the best of my ability.”