Category Archives: ESL/International RL

Dragons winger signs new 2-year deal

Damien Blanch

In a sign that the Catalans Dragons mean business heading towards the future, the club has re-signed talented winger Damien Blanch, on a new 2-year deal.

Blanch, 29, will remain with the club until the end of the 2014 ESL season, and is happy to stay at the Perpignan based club for the next couple of seasons.

“I’m of course disappointed with Trent Robinson leaving at the end of the season. The last two seasons were really good for me, I’ve probably played my best rugby for the last two years.”

“But I’m more than happy to extend my contract for the next two years. My family loves the life here and I love the football life, on and off the field.”

The Irish winger was recruited from Wakefield last year, and topped the try-scoring list for the Dragons, and he is eager for the future at the club, even if current coach Trent Robinson is leaving.

“Early in my career, I would never have thought that I would have been in a position to be in a club who can win a Final. And even without Trent next year, we will still have a chance to chase for a title with the quality players we’ve got here.”

Out of favour Tongan prop leaves New Zealand for Huddersfield

Ukuma Ta'ai

He seemingly fell out of favour at the New Zealand Warriors, but in the game of rugby league, new opportunities are everywhere – and for Ukuma Ta’ai, this was the case, with the prop signing a 3-year deal with the Huddersfield Giants in England.

Ta’ai, who is known for his hard-nosed, no-nonsense approach to footy, will join the club in November, but does have all the necessary paperwork and visa requirements sorted.

Paul Anderson, the head coach of the Giants, said that Ta’ai was a player on his radar for some time.

“Ukuma has been on the Giants radar for quite a while, and when I heard he may be available for a UK move, I earmarked him as a priority signing,” said Anderson.

“He can play at prop or back row and we will work out how to utilise his skills best during the pre season.”

“He is physically a very strong man with natural size and strength, which allied to his aggressive style and off loading ability, makes him a dangerous Rugby league player. I want players with size and strike as we call it in the game, and Ukuma ticks all the boxes.”

Ta’ai himself is pleased with the new opportunity, and looks forward to play for the Giants.

“It will be a new adventure for me and my family overseas, and Huddersfield have a wonderful reputation here down under now as a good club to be at,” said Ta’ai.

“They are always in the play offs and I am excited about helping move them forward next year, and will be supporting them in this years play offs from here at home.”

“I think their style will suit my strengths as will the Superleague in general, so all we need do now is tie up the paperwork and plan for the move to the UK. It will be sad to leave the Warriors who have been very good to me, but the opportunity at Huddersfield excites me and my family.”

Fiji and Italy to do battle in one-off test

In a boost for both nations as well as for international rugby league, the Fiji Bati rugby league side will take on the Italian side in a one-off test match on October 12.

Whilst the venue is yet to be confirmed, Jo Rabele, the Fijian national Assistant Coach, said that this game shapes as the country’s only international fixture before the World Cup.

“We have managed to secure this one-off Test match against Italy, which we will use to prepare the Fiji Bati team for the World Cup,” he said.

“We are also planning for a tour to Vanuatu, but there is no confirmation on this yet.”

The representatives for the Fijian side will be selected, based on how players perform at the Battle of Bati tournament.

“But if the team from Queensland doesn’t turn up, then we will have a Fiji Residents under-20 team in the competition,” Rabele said.

“Coach Rick Stone wants to give the U20 players a fair chance in the Fiji Bati team selection for the World Cup.”

St Helens trio re-sign with the club

Paul Wellens

St Helens have moved quickly to secure the services of three of their key players, with captain Paul Wellens, former New Zealand Warrior Francis Meli, and prop Paul Clough, for 1 year, 1 year and three years respectively.

It comes as a boost for the club, with speculation surrounding potential moves for the three players, with Eamonn McManus, the Chairman of the club, pleased to have their futures settled.

“It’s great to go into the play-offs with three key signings for next year settled,” St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus said.

“Paul Wellens is playing as well as ever and is the ultimate ambassador for the club.

“Likewise, Francis Meli is on top of his game and provides real experience in an otherwise youthful back line.

“Paul Clough is a real Trojan and it’s good to sign him through to his testimonial season in 2014-15.”

Experienced Catalans prop to retire

David Ferriol

As a player, you know when the time to retire is right, and for Catalans Dragons and international test prop David Ferriol, that time is now – with the veteran announcing he will retire at season’s end.

At the age of 33, Ferriol will hang up the boots, and move to the South of France to work full-time on his vineyard.

“It’s been a hard decision to make, but it’s a new chapter in my life and I’m really looking forward to work in my vineyard,” he said.

“I’d like to thank everyone at the club and wish all the best to all the young players who are coming through.”

Ferriol, who made 126 appearances for Catalans since arriving from Limoux in 2007, will leave with praise from Dragons Chief Executive Christophe Jouffet.

“It’s a big hole for the club and for French rugby league.

“He was an outstanding player in and out of the field, and is a true icon in the club and the competition.”

Super League Hull FC sign talented Australian half

Daniel Holdsworth

In a sign that they are intent on producing good results consistently over the next few years, Hull FC have signed in-form Australian half Daniel Holdsworth, on a 2-year deal.

The team known as the Black and Whites, staved off interest from NRL clubs as well as rival Superleague clubs to sign the former Dragon, Bulldog and Salford Reds player, with Holdsworth excited to continue his career in Hull.

“It’s a big move to a bigger club and a prestigious club like Hull FC, but I’m looking forward to it and it’s very exciting,” said the 28-year-old.

“Hull FC are pretty much always in the eight and they play finals footy and that is what I want as a professional.

“I’ve been to Hull a few times now and it’s always good to play there, it’s a great ground with a massive crowd and everybody sings so I’m looking forward to that.”

With halfback a key area for Hull FC, Australian coach Peter Gentle feels that the club has made the right move, and they cannot wait to have a halfback of his calibre, working at the club.

He said, “Daniel is a quality player, he has one of the best general kicking games in the competition and he’s going to add another dimension to our side in that respect.

“He’s also got very soft hands and he is one of those players that creates time on the ball for himself and his teammates. With him coming into a very good squad, he’s going to improve as a player and he’s going to improve us as a team, so it’s a win-win situation.

“He’s an accomplished player, he’s over here and settled and he’s not a risky signing. He isn’t coming from Australia, he has played over here already and there is no risk from that point of view.

“I haven’t crossed paths with him before but I’ve admired the way he plays the game from afar, even when he was coming through as a youngster in the NRL, and we are delighted to have him on board from next season.”

For Holdsworth himself, he considered the other options available to him and decided on Hull FC, because he thought it would be the best fit for him, at this stage of his career.

“I had some options and the chance to go back to Australia, but I had a few things to think about including my partner who is here with me,” Holdsworth said.

“I knew once I made the decision to stay in England and join Hull FC I was happy and I am really excited.

“It’s exciting to come to a club and play with some really good players, internationals and England players, plus work with Peter Gentle. I’m just really looking forward to getting out there and dedicating myself to Hull FC.

“For a half back, it’s exciting when teams play attacking rugby, so it’s a good move for me to come here. I’m now looking forward to getting the game plans sorted and getting out there on the field.”

A big factor in Holdsworth joining the club, was the opportunity to play alongside English back-rower Gareth Ellis, an opportunity that the halfback says he could not pass up.

“Getting to play with someone like Gareth Ellis is a once in a career type thing, looking at what he has achieved. Hopefully playing alongside him for Hull will be a good combination,” he said.

“From an outsider looking in, it looks like the club is heading forward and wants to be a top two or three side and win things.

“That’s why I am coming, I want to play my part, dig in and help the boys out and see if we can win something while I’m here.”

Boost for Papua New Guinean rugby league, with game to be broadcast on The Gameplan

In a huge boost for the international awareness of rugby league in Papua New Guinea, the PNG NRL bid and the Digicel Cup, have joined forces to promote rugby league from the country on an international scale.

The NRL show, The Gameplan, will have representatives travel to Port Moresby, to watch the Digicel Cup Grand Final between the Agmark Gurias and the Mendi Muruks this Sunday – before showing the game (either in full or via highlights) on their show, at 8:30pm on Thursday evening.

Brad Tassell, the Bid Chief Executive, said that the increased awareness and exposure, was a move forward for rugby league in the country.

“We have developed strong contacts in Rugby League and the media internationally, and use these to help promote the game and the nation positively,” Tassell said.

“The opportunity to feature the PNGNRL Grand Final on the “Game Plan” show is a fantastic one for PNG, and I thank PNG NRL chairman Sudhir Guru for partnering with the Bid to deliver this opportunity.”

“Both Sudhir and I believe its important that we take these opportunities to showcase what is good about rugby league, and how fanatically it is supported up here.”

“At the end of the day, this is about the game and the people who play it, officiate and support it.”

“By working together in the best interests of the game, we can move rugby league forward in PNG.”

Sudhir Guru, the PNG NRL Chairman agreed with Tassell’s comments, and is excited at the exposure this can have for rugby league in Papua New Guinea.

“I have a good relationship with Brad, and I think its great that two sporting organisations can come together and do something positive to advance the game and improve our image,” Guru said.

“The Bid and NRL have worked on a number of projects over the past year and we, like the Bid, are dedicated to raising the level of professionalism in administering the sport in thge country.”

“Having Network 10 recognise our competition is a positive step forward. I would now call on the PNG public attending the game to be at their best behaviour.”

“Support your team passionately but in the right way.”

The Gameplan will also cover footage of the Southwest Junior Grand Final day (U13, U15 and U17), all a part of the PNG NRL bid’s national All Schools development program.

“We have a fantastic National programme which is achieving real results, and providing a dedicated pathway for PNG Youth to improve as footballers and people.”

“It’s important that we show that there is development of our juniors going on, and that PNG can manage a professionally structured programme that can produce not only great footballers, but good people,” Tassell added.

Adam Thompson from The Gameplan, said that the network and the show were full of excitement at the chance to broadcast footage of rugby league in Papua New Guinea.

“Everyone in Australia hears about how passionate the PNG people are about their game,” Thompson said.

“However, most Australians would not even know that PNG has a semi-professional national rugby league competition.”

“As Brad has said in our discussions, this is a chance for PNG to really showcase how rugby league in PNG is more passionately supported than any other nation in the world.”

“It will also show that there are good things being done in development on a national level.”

“I am really looking forward to my first visit to PNG and to the Digicel Cup grand final.”

Wolves form link with German rugby league for the future

John Bastian & Uwe Jansen

In a terrific boost forward for both the English Super League and for rugby league in Germany, the Warrington Wolves and Rugby League Deutschland (RLD), will officially form a partnership, following a successful meeting and visit by German officials to the region.

With the game in Germany still growing and thriving, this new partnership will support the processes and developments of German rugby league, as well as the structure.

John Bastian, the Warrington Director of Youth Development, returned from the German region, giving him a better understanding of rugby league in the country, as well as the morals and values of the people.

The aim of the entire trip, was to increase and advance all facets of German rugby league, with areas such as: educating the coaches, providing tactical and technical knowledge, developing skills, supporting strength and conditioning, as well as backing the junior development in German rugby league.

“The German people are very enthusiastic about creating sporting opportunities linked alongside strong family values and good education for their children,” Bastian said.

“I found the German people and children to be very disciplined and were morally very respectful in how they conducted themselves throughout my stay in Heidelberg. They were very pro-active within sport and under the guidance of Uwe Jansen, are working hard to develop and progress Rugby League within the German sporting culture.”

“We at Warrington Wolves will look to help progress and educate Uwe and his team of coaches alongside the young players, who show so much enthusiasm in wanting to improve their knowledge and understanding of Rugby League.

“I must also mention that Serbia, who were involved in a two-game u16s Test series against Germany, were also a credit to themselves in how they conducted themselves throughout the tournament.”

Development Manager of Rugby League Deutschland Uwe Jansen was pleased with the new partnership, in what he hopes is a valuable and fruitful relationship for both parties.

“Firstly, I want to thank John and the Warrington Wolves for giving us the opportunity to present ourselves. It was one of the best experiences German Rugby League has had,” Jansen said.

“I am certain we will all profit from this partnership, especially the support for our youth development which is the key to success for the game in Germany. We’ve installed a four year development plan for our boys, those born from 1996-1999. These players are the base of the first generation of Germany’s purely Rugby League playing seniors of the future.”

Danny Kazandjian, the General Manager of the Rugby League European Federation, is keen to see this new partnership evolve over the years, into something special.

“Every level of the game in Germany will benefit from this relationship, and our first focus will be on ensuring that RLD establishes a structure that will ensure more German Rugby League players are playing our sport more often than ever before,” Kazandjian said.

“That’s the priority. Further to that, Germany’s coaching personnel will benefit from the expertise of John and his colleagues, and I look forward to working with both the club and RLD.”

German international extends Leeds contract

Jimmy Keinhorst

He may only be a part-time player at this stage, but his experience at the international level for Germany, and his solid form for Leeds in his games so far, has seen German Jimmy Keinhorst rewarded with a new 3-year deal by the club.

Keinhorst, 22, is currently in his third year at Leeds Metropolitan University, studying a degree in sports science, and has played in 4 games so far, making his first start against Salford last week.

“I am really happy to have signed a long-term contract with the club,” he said.

“Studying at Leeds Met has been great for me, and I definitely would not have got the chances I have had in rugby league without the close ties between the university and the Rhinos.

“I am going into my final year now and I know it is going to be tough, but it is something the Rhinos are fully supportive of.

“I am excited about the opportunities I have at the Rhinos, but I also want to finish with a strong degree after three years hard work, so it will be a busy time.”

Brian McDermott, the Leeds head coach was full of praise for Keinhorst.

“Jimmy has impressed everyone at the club this season with his performances for the Under-20s and the first team, and he deserves this new deal.

“For a 22-year-old to have played at Wembley in his fourth senior appearance is an incredible achievement, and something that will stand him in good stead for years to come.”

Mariano earns new 1-year deal with Wakefield

Frankie Mariano

He was not quite hitting his straps early on in the season, and there was reluctance to re-sign him – but now, Wakefield Wildcats back-rower Frankie Mariano has been rewarded with a new deal, following stellar performances over the last 6-8 games.

The 25-year old did enough to earn a new one-year deal, that will take him through to the end of the 2013 ESL season.

“Frankie’s really earned his new deal,” said coach Richard Agar.

“He has had a stop-start year.

“He wasn’t hitting the levels that we needed him to hit for him to be a player that would contribute enough for our team.

“We laid some challenges down to him five or six weeks ago and he has now totally gone the other way and was once again one of our best players last week.”