FORMER England half-back Rangi Chase has signed a new contract with Betfred League One club Doncaster.
The 33-year-old one-time Man of Steel began playing for the South Yorkshire club in July following the completion of a two-year suspension for cocaine use and has now decided to extend his stay until the end of 2020.
“I’m happy to get it over the line,” Chase told the club’s website.
“In my mind, I was always going to stay here but it is good to get it all sorted and I can look forward to the future.”
Doncaster chief executive Carl Hall said: “Rangi has shown his class both on and off the pitch since joining the club and has given us an added threat in our attacking game.
“Richard Horne made it clear how important it was that we got the deal done, with Rangi being such an important player and other clubs showing a keen interest in him.
“To have secured his signature for next season is massive for our club.”
MARK Minichiello isn’t one to make a fuss over his lengthy career in rugby league.
He keeps himself to himself, leads a private life and he doesn’t sing about his considerable achievements.
But as he prepares to reflect on his 18-year career as a professional, he wears the expression of a man who is about to start a new chapter in his life.
Last month, Minichiello announced that, as many people expected, he will hang up his boots at the end of the season and draw the curtains on a playing career that has seen him play for some of the most historic clubs in the sport.
Depending on Hull FC’s success this season, Minichiello has a minimum of just three games left before he leaves the KCOM Stadium and heads back to Australia for a new start.
The 37-year-old’s exit will be one of several this autumn, spelling the end of an era for Lee Radford’s side and despite his age, he didn’t make the decision lightly.
“It’s always difficult when you’ve done something for so long,” he says.
“After almost 20 years playing professionally, you never want to give that up, it almost becomes part of you.
“It was a difficult decision but it’s one that has to be made.
“You can’t play forever that’s for sure but I’m still enjoying it and the body still feels good.
“There comes a time when you need to move on and do something else. I feel like this is the right time.”
In fact, having picked up a rugby ball at the age of six, the sport has shaped his personality and his life. But will he miss it?
“No one likes doing pre-seasons, do they?” he laughed.
“It’s part of the game and I’ve done almost 20 of them. It’s quite strange but I think my body is going to thank me.
“I’ve already been laughing with the blokes in the dressing room that they’ll be doing pre-season next year and I’ll be on the beach somewhere.
“This is my 18th full-time season so it’s a lot of games.
“Not many players get to play to 37.
“I’ve had a great time playing the game I love and not many players get to play that long.
“I’ll come across different sorts of challenges out of the game and I’ll meet them face on and see where that goes.”
Prolonging his career for a few more games is at the forefront of the back-rower’s mind at present, though.
The Black and Whites sit fourth in the Super League table and should they land a top three spot this season they could be just two games away from reaching the Grand Final.
It would not only be the club’s first since losing to St Helens in 2006, but also give Minichiello the chance to end his career with what would undoubtedly be a career high.
Despite featuring for Sydney Roosters, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Gold Coast Titans, the first silverware he got his hands on was the Challenge Cup in 2016.
A Grand Final berth has eluded him in both hemispheres so far, having lost a number of semi-finals, but with time running out, the Super League trophy is firmly in his crosshairs.
“It’s something that growing up in Australia you always want to play in a Grand Final because it’s the only trophy you play for,” he said.
“I know the Challenge Cup is held in high regard here but I believe that Super League trophy is the pinnacle. To win that you have to be consistent and that’s something I’d love to finish on.”
Warrington co-captain Jack Hughes wore a cricketer’s box to help him get through the pain and play a huge role in his side’s shock Challenge Cup triumph.
The Wolves turned the form book on its head with an 18-4 victory over neighbours St Helens, the runaway Super League leaders who went into Saturday’s game as heavy favourites.
Hughes was one of Warrington’s heroes, pushing hooker Daryl Clark for the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match, just three weeks after suffering a ruptured testicle that put his Wembley appearance in doubt.
“I was always confident of playing,” he said.
“There was just that contact side of things that meant there was a bit of doubt.
“I had a box on, similar to what the cricket lads wear, and it did the job.
“It was pretty uncomfortable at the start but, once you get out there, you don’t think about it.”
Hughes’ former Wigan team-mate Josh Charnley led the praises for the England Knights captain, who has been promoted to Wayne Bennett’s senior squad for the end-of-season Great Britain tour.
“I came through the system with Jack and played many games with him so I’ve seen him grow into the player he is,” Charnley said.
“I reckon he’s the most underrated player in the comp.
“He’ll play anywhere and he’s a true leader.”
Steve Price’s men rode their luck early on, withstanding a torrent of Saints pressure, before gaining confidence from substitute Joe Philbin’s solo try and adding a second before half-time when Hughes got Ben Murdoch-Masila charging over to open up a 12-0 lead.
St Helens threatened a comeback when Theo Fages went over for a 56th-minute try but Clark finished them off with his side’s third try nine minutes from the end.
After receiving the trophy with co-captain Chris Hill from Prince Harry, Hughes says the victory helped make up for their defeat as favourites to Catalans Dragons 12 months earlier.
“This is something we’ve been striving for since Steve arrived at the club,” he said.
“We reached two finals last year and we felt we had to take that next step as a team.
“They say third time lucky but I don’t think it was lucky. There was a lot of talk about our form going into it but we had that confidence, that belief.”
St Helens, 16 points clear at the top of Super League, remain favourites to win at Old Trafford but Warrington’s victory will give renewed hope to the chasing pack and Hughes says they have found the secret to beating them.
“It’s a matter of containing one or two individuals, starting with Tommy Mak (Makinson) and Regan Grace coming out of their half and then you’ve got the two big boppers in (Luke) Thompson and (Alex) Walmsley,” he said.
“We put a massive emphasis on those individuals and I thought we did a pretty good job on them.
“You’ve got to do it against Saints for the full 80 minutes.
“Previously this season we got to 60 or 65 and then sort of crumbled. We made sure we didn’t crumble again.
“We got one over on Saints last year when it mattered and we’re confident we can do it again this year.”
THE Rugby Football League in England have confirmed the 2020 Challenge Cup final will be played on Saturday, July 18.
The July date is available as a result of Wembley’s extensive involvement in the UEFA Euro 2020 football finals in June and July.
It will be the first time since 2004 when St Helens beat Wigan in Cardiff on May 15, that the Challenge Cup final has not been staged in August.
Tickets will go on general sale in October.
RFL chief commercial officer, Mark Foster, said: “Moving the 2020 Coral Challenge Cup final to mid-July in 2020 presents us with a real opportunity to attract a capacity crowd for rugby league’s showpiece event at Wembley.
We wanted to give our supporters as much time as possible to plan for that.
“It means that rugby league’s big weekend at Wembley will occur on the weekend after the final of the Euros and Wimbledon and the weekend before the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics, so a fantastic opportunity within the summer of sport next year.
“It will also be at a time when fewer people are away on holiday and we will be working hard over the next 11 months to make sports fans, families and event-goers aware of what an amazing event it is with such extraordinary athletes performing on the pitch.
“With the final being played during term time, it gives us a great opportunity to work with schools that play rugby league, particularly focusing on the significant number of schools in London that play our sport.
“It will be the first time in the Challenge Cup’s 123-year history that the final has been played in July.
“We hope that rugby league supporters will embrace that opportunity and help us make it a big success.”
NEW Zealand international Bryson Goodwin admitted that he didn’t really know what to expect when he made the move to Warrington at the start of last year.
A proposed move to Leigh fell through after the Centurions lost their place in Super League before the centre was snapped up by the Wolves.
But after spending the best part of two years in the town, Goodwin will say goodbye at the end of the year to re-join the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
And after experiencing some real highs and lows during his spell in England, he will always reflect fondly on his time at The Wire.
“I’ve loved my time in Warrington, especially making the two finals last year, and I’ve got the Challenge Cup final and the back end of the Super League season to look forward to,” said Goodwin.
“I didn’t really know what to expect when I first came over, but the club and the people of Warrington have made it really easy to fit in.
“All I can do is go out there and try my best, so if the fans are happy with me then it must mean I’m doing something right.”
A definite blot on his time at the club though was last season’s Challenge Cup final defeat, which is something Goodwin is looking to put right this week.
“A lot of people wrote Catalans off going into the game, but they played really well and managed to get the win,” he continued.
“We didn’t play our best game that day, but hopefully we can put in a better performance this year and we know as a team that if we play good, we win.”
“Nobody ever wants to feel that losing feeling and plenty of the boys in this team have experienced losses in big games, so we need to get that feeling out of our club and start to build a winning culture.”
Away from rugby though, Goodwin insists he has thoroughly enjoyed living in England, and there are certain parts of British life he will sorely miss.
“One of the biggest things I’ll miss are these cookies from Tesco that I probably eat too many of but they’re just unreal,” he admitted.
“Aside from that, the biggest thing will be not having Europe on my doorstep, as I’ve got the travel bug and try and jet off somewhere new whenever I get the chance.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve visited Iceland, the French Alps, Spain, Italy and a heap of other places, so it’s been great to experience other parts of the world.
“In Australia, you can’t really go anywhere unless you go for a few weeks because of the distance, so having Europe so close has been a highlight.”
Of course, living in England and Warrington in particular does have its downsides, and there are some things Goodwin is happy to be leaving behind.
“The swing bridges are like something from the Stone Age and they really wind me up, so I definitely won’t miss them,” he joked.
“I find it outrageous that you have to pay for a TV licence over here and I hardly watched any TV last year, so I refused to do pay for one this year and I just watch Netflix in my spare time.
“The weather is obviously not great as its supposed to be summer and it’s rained for the last four weeks, but I will miss the cold Christmases as we don’t get them back home.
“But living near the beach in Sydney is a pretty good lifestyle and the kids will be close to the family and all of their cousins.
“I will be sad to leave at the end of the season and I’ll miss the people of Warrington, my teammates and just being a part of the town in general, but it was the right decision in the end for me and the family.”
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.”