Category Archives: NRL Club News

Individual NRL Team and Club News

Cowboys appoint new CEO

After a lengthy search to find a new CEO, the North Queensland Cowboys have their man, with Greg Tonner appointed as the club’s new CEO.

Seeking someone with the right skills and experience was important for the club and Chairman Laurence Lancini believes that Tonner was the guy for the role.

“Chairman Laurence Lancini confirmed the former North Queensland local, who has extensive experience in sales and commercial roles nationally and internationally, would be a wonderful asset to the club,” said Lancini.

“We conducted an extensive search to find the right person and considered some truly outstanding candidates. We believe Greg, with his professional background and family connection to North Queensland, is the right person for the job.”

“We are delighted he is coming aboard.”

Townsville is not a foreign area for the new CEO, as Tonner will take over the CEO role mid-season once his current employment commitments are complete and he is excited at the new role ahead of him.

“It’s a privilege to work for the Cowboys. I’m incredibly enthusiastic about strengthening ties to this fantastic club right across the north, and helping the club get to the next level,” said Tonner.

Boom Cowboys back-rower ends speculation and re-signs

Jason Taumalolo

It finally happened and after much speculation that had him linked to other clubs, Jason Taumalolo has re-signed with the North Queensland Cowboys until the end of the 2017 season.

With many teams interested in signing the hulking back-rower after a solid finish to the 2014 season and a blistering Auckland Nines tournament, Taumalolo showed that some element of loyalty does still exist in the game.

The club are ecstatic that the in-form back-rower has opted to re-sign with the club.

“We know Jason has an incredibly bright future in the game and we’re delighted that future will be with the Cowboys,” said Cowboys General Manager of Football, Peter Parr.

With his future settled, Taumalolo is keen to get down to business, play well and enjoy the seasons ahead with his team-mates.

“I couldn’t be happier knowing that my future is secured with the club, and look forward to a big season with the boys,” Taumalolo said.

Knowing just how good he can be, the club know he still has a lot of upside as he becomes an elite player in the game.

“Jason enjoys being part of our tight-knit club and we believe his presence in our lineup will help us achieve some big things,” Parr said.

“Jason is still only a young man and has plenty of development left in his game.”

Talented Panthers back-rower and centre both re-sign until 2017

Tyrone Peachey

Retaining key, upcoming players is a boost for any club and the Penrith Panthers have acted swiftly, re-signing back-rower Tyrone Peachey and utility back, Waqa Blake until 2017.

It was at the end of the 2013 season when Peachey first joined the Panthers from the Cronulla Sharks and although injury cruelled his finish to the 2014 season, he is excited to stay on board at the club.

I’m really grateful to have the chance to stay on with Penrith for another two years,” said Peachey.

“I have loved my time here so far and I’ve made some really great mates, and the support from members and fans has been amazing. I think I’m playing my best footy at the moment, and Ivan is giving me plenty of opportunity to prove myself, which makes me want to work even harder”.

For Blake, it was an easy decision. With the time and effort the club have put in him and his development over the years, he wanted to repay their form their hard work.

“It is a real privilege to re-sign with Panthers for another year. Ivan (Cleary) and Gus (Gould) are such great mentors and I have learned so much during pre-season training,” said Waqa.

“My goal is to try and make first grade this year, and I’m really keen to see how far I can take my career with Penrith.

“I just want to thank the club for this opportunity, and our members and fans for all of their support.”

Knowing how talented the duo are, Penrith District Rugby League CEO Justin Pascoe says the club is excited to retain the promising players.

“Tyrone is an enjoying an exciting period in his career with his recent selection and performance in the Indigenous All Stars, and we are looking forward to watching him develop further as a player, and as a young man,” said Pascoe.

“And Waqa is a remarkable young man who has the NRL world at his feet. Everyone here at the club is keen to see him reach his full potential, and we will strive to ensure he has all the tools and resources he needs to grow.”

The Panthers have always been about junior retention and re-signing this duo was always a priority for the club.

“To have both Tyrone Peachey and Waqa Blake agree to extend their contracts with our club is a huge vote of confidence in the culture, coaching and development programs our Head Coach Ivan Cleary and his team have created here at Panthers,” said Penrith Panthers Executive General Manager, Phil Gould.

“And Tyrone Peachey excites me. Eighteen months ago I predicted representative football was definitely in this young man’s future and everything I’ve seen from him since he arrived at Panthers has convinced me this will become a reality. Tyrone is a quality person and an absolute delight to have as part of our club”.”

Having seen Blake come through the ranks, Gould knows it is only a matter of time before he plays first-grade.

“We feel so fortunate to have young Waqa as part of our club for the next three seasons. Waqa is yet another graduate from our Premiership winning NYC squad from 2013. I have no doubt this quality young man has a long and distinguished NRL career in front of him,” said Gould.

Waqa Blake

Sunshine Coast Falcons secure new major sponsor

Continuing to develop and mature as a rugby league club in the Intrust Super Cup, the Sunshine Coast Falcons have received a huge boost, with Vantage Homes signing on as the club’s major sponsor for the 2015 season.

The partnership with the local business will see the club renamed the Vantage Homes Sunshine Coast Falcons and CEO Chris Flannery is excited to begin the association with their new major sponsor.

“Vantage Homes have built an enviable reputation as a leading builder throughout South East Queensland, in fact the HIA rates them as the 13th largest building firm in Queensland so it’s great to have such a successful local company supporting us in 2015,” said Flannery.

“We’ve been ultra impressed with Vantage Homes’ directors Shane O’Brien and Glenn Carmichael and it’s clear that they are backing the direction we are taking with our commitment to climb to the top of the Intrust Super Cup.”

Equally excited are Vantage Homes themselves, who look forward to the prospect of aligning themselves with the Falcons and have looked at the possibility of extending the partnership.

“Having an alliance with an NRL club is really powerful and we saw the benefit of this first hand when the former Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles were aligned to Manly. We are confident that the Vantage Homes Sunshine Coast Falcons can emulate the same success over the next few years,” said Vantage Homes General Manager, Chris Lewis.

“There’s exciting times ahead and we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get on board and become the major sponsor before someone else took it up. This is initially a one year commitment on our behalf but we have plans to continue the relationship should things go as planned.”

For Vantage Homes, they want to take it further. They want to appeal to the fans, players, support staff and their own clients, in a bid to increase the portfolio and brand of the Falcons.

“We will be taking it to another level by calling on our suppliers and contractors to take up season memberships so they can come and enjoy the game, meet some of the other sponsors and help to create a cauldron like atmosphere to support the Vantage Homes Falcons at Sunshine Coast Stadium,” he said.

Promising front-rower re-signs with the Storm

Jordan McLean

Every team needs talented props within their ranks and the Melbourne Storm have re-signed one of theirs, with boom forward Jordan McLean re-signing until the end of 2017.

The deal was a 2-year extension starting from the 2016 season and with 30 games to his name over his two seasons in first-grade so far, he will look to build on that in 2015.

Hamstring injuries hampered him early on and prolonged his debut but since that time, he has matured into a handy prop in the club’s forward rotation and has pleased Storm officials.

Knowing how powerful of a player he is and what he can bring to the table, Storm’s Director of Football Frank Ponissi was pleased to see McLean re-sign.

“Jordan’s signing is terrific news for Melbourne Storm, it’s a great announcement for our Club three weeks out from the 2015 season starting,” Ponissi said.

“He brings plenty of size and power to our line-up and works well alongside our starting front-rowers.

“Jordan is a great young man who has shown he has great leadership potential. He works hard, has a great attitude and is on his way to becoming a consistent NRL front rower.”

“I’ve got a lot of good mates around here,” said McLean.

“Really excited for the next two years.”

Veteran Manly centre re-signs with the club

Steve Matai

After much speculation regarding his future, Steve Matai now has it all sorted, as he opted to re-sign with the Manly Sea Eagles for another two seasons.

The 2-year extension will see the veteran centre stay with Manly until the end of 2017, who is regarded as one of the best centres in the game at the present time.

Whilst Matai admits that the decision was a hard one to make, it was his family that proved to be the telling factor, with his kids starting school very soon in the area.

“It was a very hard decision but it was one made that my family would be happy,” said Matai.

“We don’t have to relocate and the kids start school next year, so that was a big part. Family played a big part and we’re all happy that I’m staying here a couple more years.”

With the essence of loyalty in the NRL sometimes a dying art, the prospect of remaining a one-club player is something that resonates with Matai.

“Yeah, it doesn’t happen too often these days, a one-club player,” said Matai.

“I’m happy that I’m here for another two years and get to wear the maroon and white that I love so much.

Coming off a stellar 2014 season, Matai’s pre-season has given him a chance to recover from injury niggles as he looks forward to the season ahead and getting back on the park.

“Now that all the negotiations are done, I can focus on my rehab, getting the shoulder right,” said Matai.

“The focus is now on all the training and rehab on getting my shoulder right, so fingers crossed, we’ll be there come Rd 1.”

Retaining Matai was always a priority for Manly and whilst CEO Joe Kelly admits interest by other clubs, he knew the club would push hard to retain the veteran centre.

“We identified Steve as a really important part of our retention strategy this season,” said Kelly.

“We’re absolutely delighted that he’s made the decision to stay with us until the end of 2017, as he’s one of the most damaging and powerful players in our game.”

“For Sea Eagles Members and fans to know they won’t have to worry about seeing Steve line-up against the Club over the next few seasons is extremely pleasing. To also see Steve remain a one-club player in this era, really does put him in very elite company and is a special achievement.”

Knowing just how effective he can be on the field, Manly coach Geoff Toovey was also pleased to see the veteran re-sign.

“It’s wonderful news for Steve and wonderful news for the Club. He’s a fantastic athlete and showed everyone again last season how influential he is to our side,” Toovey said.

“It’s not just how brutal he can be in defence, as he’s a far more well-rounded footballer than that. In attack he was our second highest try-scorer, made the most tackle busts and averaged almost 120m per-game. In any language, those stats are immense and a testament to how much he puts on the line each week.”

“We’re very lucky to have now have the two best, most experienced centres in the game right now locked up for the next few years. As a coach, you can’t be much happier than that,” he added.

Chronic knee injury forces young gun to retire from elite rugby league

Haydon Hodge

Usually it is the older players forced to retire due to injury but at just 23, Canberra Raiders young gun Haydon Hodge has made the decision to retire due to a chronic knee injury.

It all started in 2011 when he ruptured his ACL, followed by an injury to his patella tendon in 2013. He took a year off from the sport in 2014 and looked to make a successful comeback this year.

He was named in the Raiders Auckland Nines squad and some of their trial games but after putting himself through the paces, he knew that the knee was not ready to deal with week-to-week contact.

Whilst he is disappointed, he knows he gave himself every chance to make a successful return.

“It’s been a really tough road through the recovery process in attempting to come back from the knee injuries and I know I’ve given it everything I could to give myself a chance of making a comeback to professional footy,” Hodge said.

“The reality is though that my knee is not up to the heavy workload you need to compete at NRL level so I’ve made the decision not to continue on with the Raiders as a player.”

He was also full of praise for the club who stuck by him during his turbulent injury period.

“The club’s been absolutely wonderful over the past two years while I’ve dealt with my injuries, they didn’t have to give me another shot but they did and I can walk away now knowing I’ve given it everything I had and I can be proud of the effort I put in,” said Hodge.

Whilst his professional playing days are over, Hodge will look to build upon his previous work as a coach and with the Raiders junior development program.

“Last year I did some coaching with the Raiders juniors and I’m really keen to stay involved with the Raiders development squads,” Hodge said.

“I’ve been able to complete a Business Diploma and a Certificate 3 in fitness while I’ve been with the club and I’m looking at doing a certificate 4 in fitness now as I look to set myself up for a career after footy.”

Whilst he may not play at the elite level anymore, Hodge says he does have a few smaller clubs that have taken an interest in getting him on board as a player.

“I’m talking to a few clubs at the moment about playing in the Canberra Raiders Cup and I’ll probably make a decision on where I play over the next couple of weeks,” said Hodge.

The club are pleased to have had Hodge come through their system and praised him for his commitment, work-ethic and application.

“There was never any doubt in Haydon’s application to his training and the work he put in just to give himself an opportunity is something he can be very proud of,” said Raiders Football Manager, John Bonasera.

“It’s great news that he wants to stay involved in the clubs junior development programs as he’s the perfect example of the type of commitment and attitude we’re looking to bring out of our younger players.

“We certainly wish him all the best for the future and he can walk away from the elite level knowing he gave it everything he had. We would like Haydon to remain involved with the club and there are opportunities for him with our junior squads which will hopefully provide him with a pathway for the future.”

NRL Trials Week 3 Teams

The final week of trials before the season proper and perhaps the most telling week of all. Big-line players returning and line-ups set in stone after this one.

A lot at stake for many teams and a lot of players with something to prove. Just who will be picked, we shall wait and see.

Without further adieu, here are the Week 3 Trial teams:

Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights (#NRLTrials #NRLcannew); Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan; Saturday February 21. Kick-off: 6:30pm

Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Sisa Waqa 3. Jarrod Croker (C) 4. Edrick Lee 5. Jeremy Hawkins 6. Blake Austin 7. Mitch Cornish 8. David Shillington 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dane Tilse 11. Josh Papalii 12. Sia Soliola 13. Paul Vaughan.

Interchange: 14. Sam Williams 15. Frank-Paul Nuuausala 16. Jarrad Kennedy 17. Shannon Boyd 18. Josh McCrone 19. Glen Buttriss 20. Joel Edwards 21. Jordan Rapana 22. Shaun Fensom.

Coach: Ricky Stuart.

Knights: 1. Kurt Gidley 2. James McManus 3. Dane Gagai 4. Sione Mata’utia 5. Akuila Uate 6. Jarrod Mullen 7. Tyrone Roberts 8. Kade Snowden 9. Adam Clydsdale 10. Korbin Sims 11. Beau Scott 12. Robbie Rochow 13. Jeremy Smith.

Interchange: 14. Tyler Randell 15. Chris Houston 16. David Fa’alogo 17. Jack Stockwell 18. Joey Leilua 19. Chanel Mata’utia 20. Jake Mamo 21. Joseph Tapine 22. Clint Newton.

Coach: Rick Stone.

Sydney Roosters v Manly Sea Eagles (#CommunityCup #NRLsydman); Central Coast Stadium, Gosford; Saturday February 21. Kick-off: 6:30pm.

Roosters: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Michael Jennings 4. Blake Ferguson 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. James Maloney 7. Mitch Pearce (C) 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Matt McIlwrick 10. Sam Moa 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Issac Liu.

Interchange: 14. Jackson Hastings 15. Mitch Aubusson 16. Dylan Napa 17. Martin Kennedy 18. Kane Evans 19. Nene Macdonald 20. Willie Manu 21. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 22. Brendan Elliott.

Coach: Trent Robinson.

Sea Eagles: 1. Brett Stewart 2. Peta Hiku 3. Jamie Lyon (C) 4. Cheyse Blair 5. Clint Gutherson 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Josh Starling 9. Matt Ballin 10. Willie Mason 11. Tom Symonds 17. Feleti Mateo 13. Dunamis Lui

Interchange: 12. Justin Horo 14. Jesse Sene-Lefao 15. James Hasson 16. Blake Leary 18. Luke Burgess 19. Jayden Hodges 20. Tony Satini 21. Michael Chee-Kam 22. Jake Trbojevic 23. David Williams 25. Brayden Wiliame 29. Jack Littlejohn.

Coach: Geoff Toovey.

North Queensland Cowboys v Gold Coast Titans (#NRLnqlgld); Barlow Park, Cairns; Saturday February 21. Kick-off: 7:30pm (local time).

Cowboys: Scott Bolton, Gavin Cooper, Lachlan Coote, Jake Granville, Ben Hannant, Sam Hoare, Rory Kostjaysn, Kane Linnett, Robert Lui, Tautau Moga, Michael Morgan, Justin O’Neill, Matt Scott, Keleip Tanginoa, Jason Taumalolo, Ray Thompson, Johnathan Thurston, Antonio Winterstein & Matt Wright.

Coach: Paul Green.

Titans: Will Zillman, Josh Hoffman, David Mead, James Roberts, Anthony Don, Aidan Sezer, Daniel Mortimer, Luke Douglas, Kierran Moseley, Nate Myles (C), Ryan James, David Taylor, Greg Bird.

Interchange: Ryan Simpkins, Matt White, Matt Robinson, Kane Elgey, Kevin Gordon, Eddy Pettybourne, Matt Srama, Brad Tighe & Lachlan Burr.

Coach: Neil Henry.

Wests Tigers v Cronulla Sharks (#NRLTrials #NRLwstcro); Campbelltown Sports Stadium; Saturday February 21. Kick-off: 7pm.

Tigers: 1. Shannon McDonnell 2. Kevin Naiqama 3. Tim Simona 4. Chris Lawrence 5. Pat Richards 6. Mitchell Moses 7. Luke Brooks 8. Aaron Woods 9. Robbie Farah (C) 10. Keith Galloway 11. Curtis Sironen 12. Sauaso Sue 13. Dene Halatau.

Interchange: 14. Ava Seumanafagai 15. Matt Lodge 16. Martin Taupau 17. Brenden Santi 18. James Tedesco 19. Delouise Hoeter.

Coach: Jason Taylor.

Sharks: 1. Michael Gordon 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Gerard Beale 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Valentine Holmes 6. Ben Barba 7. Jeff Robson 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Michael Ennis 10. Matt Prior 11. Anthony Tupou 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen (C)

Interchange: 14.Pat Politoni 15. Tinirau Arona 18. Mitch Brown 19. Kyle Stanley 22. Jack Bird 26. Chris Heighington 35. David Fifita.

Coach: Shane Flanagan.

Brisbane Broncos v Redcliffe Dolphins (#NRLTrials #NRLbrired); Redcliffe Stadium; Saturday February 21. Kick-off: 7:30pm (local time).

Broncos: 1. Greg Eden 2. Corey Oates 3. Jack Reed 4. Dale Copley 5. Nikau Terupe 6. Darren Nicholls 7. Ash Taylor 8. Mitch Garbutt 9. Travis Waddell 10. Jarrod Wallace 11. Todd Lowrie 12. Matt Gillett 13. Jai Arrow.

Interchange: 14. Jayden Nikorima 15. Francis Molo 16. Brett Greinke 17. Ajuma Adams 18. Alex Barr 19. Paul Byrnes 20. Matt Parcell 21. Joe Boyce.

Coach: Kurt Richards.

Melbourne Storm v Canterbury Bulldogs (#NRLTrials #NRLmelcby); AAMI Park, Melbourne; Saturday February 21. Kick-off: 6:30pm.

Storm: Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, Will Chambers, Tim Glasby, Blake Green, Ben Hampton, Tohu Harris, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Hymel Hunt, Felise Kaufusi, Richie Kennar, Marika Koroibete, Kurt Mann, Jordan McLean, Cameron Munster, Shaun Nona, Billy Slater, Kevin Proctor, Young Tonumaipea, Suliasi Vunivalu, Dayne Weston, Billy Brittain & Dale Finucane.

Coach: Craig Bellamy.

Bulldogs: 1. Brett Morris 2. Sam Perrett 3. Tim Lafai 4. Josh Morris 5. Curtis Rona 6. Moses Mbye 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Sam Kasiano 9. Michael Lichaa 10. James Graham 11. Tony Williams 12. Josh Jackson 13. Aiden Tolman.

Interchange: 14. Greg Eastwood 15. Frank Pritchard 16. David Klemmer 17. Tim Browne 19. Matt Frawley 20. Chase Stanley 21. Damien Cook 22. Jacob Loko 23. Corey Thompson.

Coach: Des Hasler.

Penrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels (#NRLTrials #NRLpenpar); Pepper Stadium, Penrith. Kick-off: 7pm.

Panthers: 1. Matt Moylan 2. George Jennings 3. Dean Whare 4. Jamal Idris 5. David Simmons 6. Jamie Soward 7. Peter Wallace 8. Jeremy Latimore 9. James Segeyaro 10. Sam McKendry 11. Bryce Cartwright 12. Lewis Brown 13. Elijah Taylor.

Interchange: 14. Apisai Koroisau 17. Regan Campbell-Gillard 16. Ben Murdoch-Masila 19. Brent Kite 15. Sika Manu 18. Robert Jennings.

Coach: Ivan Cleary.

Eels: 1. Will Hopoate 2. Semi Radradra 3. Ryan Morgan 4. Beau Champion 5. Reece Robinson 6. Corey Norman 7. Luke Kelly 8. Darcy Lussick 9. Issac De Gois 10. Tim Mannah (C) 11. Manu Ma’u 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Anthony Watmough.

Interchange: 14. Junior Paulo 15. David Gower 16. Joseph Paulo 18. Nathan Peats.

Coach: Brad Arthur.

Spirited 2nd half fightback sees Indigenous All-Stars get the victory

It is a clash that holds true meaning for many players and the match lived up to the billing, with the spirited Indigenous All-Stars side coming from behind in the second half to win.

Trailing 6-0 at half-time, three unanswered tries led the Indigenous All-Stars to their third win since the concept was introduced in 2010.

It was speed v size in the clash, as 23,177 fans were treated to a spectacle of a clash. Winning the game is the icing on the cake for the Indigenous side, with Johnathan Thurston praising the side for their fightback.

“I can’t give our middle third enough credit – you look at their forward pack – you [the media] were questioning us whether the game would be played with any intensity and I think what you saw out there for a game in February it was first class,” Thurston said.

“We got asked plenty of questions during the week about being skinny through the forwards. We knew that and put some centres in the back-row to push the boys through, but I can’t give our guy a big enough wrap through that middle third.

“They understand what it means to play in this game and pull on this jersey and that’s what we’ve been driving all week.”

Although their first half was good, All-Stars coach Wayne Bennett was blunt post-game regarding their overall discipline. He was critical of the side in that regard.

“I didn’t think they [the penalties] weren’t unwarranted, I thought there could’ve been a lot more,” Bennett said.

“I’m just over some of the behaviour out there to be honest with you – if that’s going to be the standard for the season – that’s not what I want to see.

“They could have given another 15 or 20 penalties out there tonight and they would’ve been deserved.”

Completing just 20 out of their 37 sets, Bennett was disappointed with the attacking side of things but was not overly fussed by it given players are still underdone from a playing perspective.

“From our point of view [the standard] wasn’t where I’d like it to be, particularly with our ball control, so it took a bit away from game,” he said.

“That’s a by-product of not playing football. For a lot of those guys it was their first game tonight.

“It’s an intense game – it’s certainly not a trial match, it was way above that – if you were out in the bush it wouldn’t be such an issue. There was a lot of intensity out there and a lot of effort by both sides and we just made too many mistakes.”

Indigenous All Stars 20 (Greg Inglis, Will Chambers, Chris Grevsmuhl tries; Johnathan Thurston 4 goals) def. NRL All Stars 6 (Dylan Walker try; Jarrod Croker goal) at Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast. Crowd: 23,177. Referee: Gerard Sutton. Assistant Referees: Gavin Reynolds & Grant Atkins.

Talented Raiders outside back signs for two more seasons

Jeremy Hawkins

In line to continue his NRL career in 2015, the Canberra Raiders young outside back Jeremy Hawkins has committed his future to the club by re-signing for a further two years.

Hawkins, who is a talented player, was a part of three games at the back end of the 2014 season, all three culminating in wins.

Hawkins has made his way through the Raiders ranks and is excited to continue his career with the Raiders.

“Yeah, it’s good. I’m pleased to stay with the club,” said Hawkins.

“I live with a couple like Jack Ahearn, Jeff Lynch and Mitch Cornishh and have been playing with them since SG Ball, so it’s good to have them around.”

Hawkins is keen to build upon the first-grade appearances from 2014 and make sure he stays injury free.

“The goal this year is to just build on this year and come out of the trials injury-free,” said Hawkins.

“Had a game last week against the Melbourne Storm and had a good hit-out there, so hopefully I get picked for the Knights trial, play hard and hopefully get a spot in the Rd 1 team.”

For the talented outside back, staying with the Raiders was always at the forefront of his mind.

“I always wanted to stay with the Raiders,” said Hawkins.

“I’ve always wanted to be a one-club guy and the Raiders gave me an opportunity, so I feel like I owe it to them.”

Having coach Ricky Stuart on board has helped Hawkins, who has learnt valuable footy lessons from the former Raider himself.

“This is my 2nd year with Ricky and he’s taught me a lot, and already told me that I’ve improved a lot,” said Hawkins.

“I can feel that I’m lot more confident under the high ball and all those little things.”