Category Archives: NRL Club News

Individual NRL Team and Club News

Former Wests Tigers prop continues his English adventure

Just a young, budding player during his time in the NRL for the Wests Tigers, Matt Groat has matured and as a result, so too has his form. That form has seen him sign a deal with English Championship side, the Dewsbury Rams.

A noted aggressor and budding leader, those are the traits that Groat hopes to bring the Rams pack in the 2016 season.

He was well-sought after, with numerous Super League sides and other Championship sides keen on his services but it was the Rams who won it and Groat is pleased that they did.

“I can’t wait to get back over there with the Rams,” said Groat.

“I get all really well with Glenn and I believe in his vision for the club and what the possibilities are.

“I’ve always been impressed when I’ve come against the Rams, because they have a good vibe and a good, positive attitude.

“I hope to bring a strong running game and a bit of aggression,” he added.

Groat hopes to also bring leadership to the table and help the club move forward by helping the pack dominate.

“I think I can be an extra ball player and also provide some leadership,” said Groat.

“I think I can do a job as a strong-running loose forward, but am equally happy with the front row.

“I’d like to say a thank you to Squadbuilder for helping to make the deal happen – I’m already really looking forward to 2016.”

Dewsbury coach Glenn Morrison made mention of the unusual road he took to play in the Championship and is just pleased that it was his club that could sign him.

“He’s 6’ 3” and 115KGs but as fit as anything,” said Morrison.

“He was over the moon about what we could offer him on the playing side of things and the set-up that we offer.

“He’s going to be on the radar of some Super League clubs, so we’re delighted to have him here.”

Groat will join fellow new signing Tony Tonks in the forward pack and together, Morrison believes the duo can have a great impact.

“We mentioned to Matt that we’d signed Tonka and Matt was delighted,” said Morrison.

“He says that they had some great battles against one another in 2015 and that neither of them took a step back”

“I know Matt is really looking forward to getting in the pack with Tonka.”

Dragons veteran opts to retire

Heath L'Estrange

He may only have been at the Dragons for a year but his impact was felt, as veteran Heath L’Estrange has made the decision to retire from the NRL.

A Hills Bulls junior, L’Estrange played in a total of 192 games across the NRL and the Super League, knowing that the time to retire was coming soon.

“I’m so lucky to have played 12 years of professional rugby league and I’ve loved every second of it, if I could play forever I would,” said L’Estrange.

“It’s not the way I wanted to go but I’m doing what’s right for my family and will now look forward to what lies ahead.”

The 30-year old was quick to thank his family for their support throughout his career.

“A special thank you to my beautiful wife for supporting me through thick and thin and travelling across the world with me as well as bringing our little miracle Grace into the world,” said L’Estrange.

“I also want to say thank you to my family for all of their support and being there from the beginning.”

It was back in 2004 when he made his debut with the Sydney Roosters, before going on to enjoy premiership success with Manly in 2008.

Following that, he then moved to Bradford to play for the Bulls, before returning to Australia and enjoying stints with both the Sydney Roosters and the St George Illawarra Dragons.

“I’m grateful to have played alongside some absolute legends of the game and made many lifelong friends,” said L’Estrange.

“To all the support staff and coaches I’ve been under, you have made my career what it is today and I’ll be forever thankful.

“I now look forward to the next journey and hope to stay in the game as it is my ultimate passion.”

Hulking Tigers prop signs new deal

Ava Seumanufagai

One of the club’s role-players and heavy hitters from the bench in Ava Seumanufagai has re-signed with the club for the next two seasons.

With 23 appearances to his name this season, he was a core element in the Tigers side throughout the year and packed a punch in defence and attack for the side.

In total, he has played in 63 games for the Tigers out of a possible 70 since making his debut in 2013.

The hulking forward is pleased to remain with the club for the next couple of seasons.

“I’ve made some good friends here at the Club and I’m really on board with what the coaches are doing,” Seumanufagai said.

“I’m really happy to continue at Wests Tigers for another two years.

“My goal this year was to play every game, and I fell just short of that by one match, but I’ve been fortunate enough not to get injured too much.”

Having been at the club for a few seasons now, it feels like home for the 24-year old, and he is excited about what lies ahead for he and the club.

“I’m really happy to be here because it feels like home,” he said.

“I love it here and I’m really glad that I get to stay.

“I’m pretty sure we’ll see some really good work come out of these guys in the next few years and I’m really happy that I’m going to be part of that.”

His form was something that impressed coach Jason Taylor throughout the year and he is pleased to retain the prop for two more seasons.

“Ava is a tireless worker and a real asset to have on our playing roster,” Taylor said.

“He’s only 24 years old, so I’m confident that his best football is still ahead of him and that’s really exciting for the Club.

“Ava’s re-signing was an important one for us and I’m glad that we’ve secured him at the Club for more two more seasons.”

Those sentiments were echoed by CEO Justin Pascoe.

“We are thrilled to have a player of Ava’s calibre commit his future to Wests Tigers,” Pascoe said.

“It re-establishes the faith that the playing group have in the direction that the Club is heading.

“Ava is yet another exciting young player to have committed to the Club long-term and we look forward to watching him continue his development.”

Veteran halfback crosses the Tasman and signs with the Warriors

Jeff Robson

He may well have stayed at the Sharks but signings on their behalf and opportunities elsewhere led to his departure, as Jeff Robson will cross the Tasman Sea and take up a one-year deal with the New Zealand Warriors.

With 159 games to his name so far across three clubs, the Manly Sea Eagles, the Parramatta Eels and the Cronulla Sharks – who only recently made the finals series – the veteran will have a new challenge ahead of him.

Though cracking the Warriors side will not be easy, with early tips suggesting that the halves pairing may well be Tuimoala Lolohea and the electrifying Shaun Johnson.

Time will soon tell, but the signing does bring some further experience to the Warriors side and coach Andrew McFadden praised the signing of Robson for that reason.

“It’s great to have Jeff joining us. He’s not only a proven performer but he’s also a durable and totally professional athlete,” he said.

“Like Roger (Tuivasa-Sheck), Issac (Luke) and Blake (Ayshford), Jeff enables us to build our depth as well as giving us another player to help to lift our standards across the squad and throughout the club.”

Robson was well revered during his time at the Sharks and coach Shane Flanagan praised the hard work and effort shown by the veteran on a weekly basis.

“Robbo has been an important part of our team over the past four years,” Flanagan said.

“He is popular amongst his teammates and a great clubman. He’s held this team together through some tough times over the last couple of seasons and while sad to see him go, we are all glad he has been given another opportunity with the Warriors.

The new challenge is one that Robson relishes and he was quick to thank all involved at and with the club for their continued support during his time there.

“Whilst I’m sad to be leaving the Sharks, I’m excited and really looking forward to be joining the Warriors next season,” Robson said.

“Over the past four years I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Sharks and I’ve made some lifelong friends.

“I’d like to thank everybody at the club and in the Sutherland Shire for the help and generosity during my time here.”

Former NRL utility signs with Wigan Warriors

Willie Isa

Once upon a time, Willie Isa used to play for the Melbourne Storm and the Penrith Panthers, with fans of those clubs possibly remembering his time with them.

Since departing the NRL, Isa has enjoyed a successful foray into the Super League after stints with the Castleford Tigers and the Widnes Vikings.

Now, he embarks on a new adventure, signing a 2-year deal with the Wigan Warriors.

Isa is also a Samoan international, making 87 appearances for the Widnes team over four years with his two year deal to commence in November.

Wigan coach Shaun Wane admits that the utility was on the club’s radar for some time and he is excited to have him on board.

“I’ve been monitoring Willie for some time and didn’t think twice about completing this deal when we had the chance,” said Wane.

“He is highly thought of here at Wigan. Our senior players, who we consulted, all commented that he is a fierce competitor who is tough to play against.

“At 26 years of age, his best years are yet to come. He is a big pacey player who can play in a number of positions. I think he will really suit our style and the Wigan fans will really warm to him.”

For the man himself, although he is currently injured and not playing, he knew that when this offer came along, he had to take it.

I am absolutely delighted to have joined Wigan,” said Isa.

“There were a few offers on the table but I simply couldn’t turn down this chance when it came along.

“I’m really grateful to Shaun Wane and Kris Radlinski for this opportunity, I’m working hard on some rehabilitation stuff at the moment but will be fit and raring to go next season.”

Experienced forward makes the move to the Tigers

Joel Edwards

Last year was not the best one for him in light of some injuries he suffered but Joel Edwards will embark on a new challenge, signing with the Wests Tigers for 2 years.

The former Newcastle Knights and Canberra Raiders forward can play back-row or lock, and was a mainstay of the Raiders side previously before injury struck.

The 27-year old Cessnock Goannas junior is excited about the new challenge and Edwards is looking forward to working under Jason Taylor.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to join Wests Tigers,” Edwards said.

“It’s a great Club and I’m looking forward to working under JT (Jason Taylor).

“Hopefully I can complement the side nicely and grow with the team.

“It’s a young squad but I’m really excited to work with the boys and hopefully help the Club get into the top eight next year.

So far, Edwards’ two clubs have been smaller, more homely locations but with the move to Concord confirmed, he is excited about life in the big city.

“I’m from Cessnock originally and I went down to Canberra after my time with the Knights, so I’m looking forward to a bit of a change and placing myself here in Concord,” said Edwards.

“It’s a great opportunity to come into a young, exciting team with a lot of potential.”

Edwards has played in 88 games to date and Taylor hopes that that experience will help the Tigers side moving forward.

“Joel is a great acquisition for us and I’m confident that he will complement our current squad well,” Taylor said.

“He has played close to 100 first grade games so he brings a good level of experience into our team.

“I’m looking forward to working with Joel once pre-season training commences in November.”

New deal for Sharks forward Prior

Matt Prior

Not one of the big names in their forward pack, Matt Prior goes about his work in his manner but it has been recognised. The versatile forward has signed a new 2-year deal with the Cronulla Sharks from the 2016 season.

Prior, who joined the Sharks at the start of the 2014 season, has been a mainstay in Shane Flanagan’s side and is pleased to be given the chance to continue his association with the club.

“I’m really pleased to have signed this new deal and to be staying at the Sharks for the next two seasons,” Prior said.

“I’ve enjoyed my time here so far and with the team we have and the potential this squad has to do some good things over the next couple of years its exciting for me that I will be a part of it.”

Prior to his move to the Sharks, the forward played in over 100 games for the St George Illawarra Dragons but an injury hit 2014 was a setback. 2015 changed it all, though.

He drew praise from Flanagan who made note of the fact that he may not be a household name, but knows his role and plays accordingly.

“Matty did an outstanding job for us this year and it’s great we will have him on deck again in 2016,” Flanagan began.

“He is one of those players who doesn’t necessarily attract the headlines, but he is important to the team and carries out his role consistently well.

“Matt is the type of player every club needs and I’m more than happy he has re-signed with us.”

Former Raiders player turns coach and takes over Holden Cup reins

Brett White

A favourite son during his time at the Canberra Raiders, there is a challenge of a different kind for Brett White, as he moves into the coaching ranks at the club.

With the departure of Mick Mantelli, who has been involved with the Holden Cup team for 8 years – four as head coach – White has been given the opportunity to coach the Raiders Holden Cup side in 2016.

In his first full season out of the game, White has picked up some helpful and invaluable coaching tips as a part of the Raiders coaching team and he is excited to assume the head coaching role.

“I can’t wait to take on the role and I know I have some fantastic support at the club with experienced coaches like Ricky Stuart, Mick Crawley and Dean Pay to seek advice from,” White said.

“This year was my first full-season as a Coach and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and have been able to learn a lot from Mick Mantelli.”

The Raiders are well known for developing young, talented players, and progressing them into first-grade, something White is privileged and excited to be involved with.

“The Raiders have produced some very talented NRL players from their junior ranks and I know it is part of my responsibility to make sure I help to best prepare the next crop of players for the next stages of their careers,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to working with the team next season and helping to get them to a position where they can progress.”

John Bonasera, the Raiders Football Manager, said the experience that White has as a player will be valuable for the young players in the Holden Cup.

“Brett’s achieved everything in the game as a player, winning a Grand Final, playing representative football and leading the team on the field. We know he’ll bring his experience and knowledge to the NYC coaching position,” Bonasera said.

“Having someone of Brett’s stature in the game to help mentor and develop young players is a huge positive for the club and we’re confident he’ll do a great job.”

Talented utility back leaves the Shire and signs with the Tigers

Josh Addo-Carr

Regarded as one of their best Holden Cup talents, there will be some Sharks fans that are disappointed to see Josh Addo-Carr leave but such is the rugby league world.

The live-wire utility back will leave the Shire and head West, signing a 1-year deal with the Wests Tigers.

Playing in 44 games for the Sharks NYC side and scoring 28 tries during that time, he has enjoyed some success and will look to build on it for his new side the Tigers in 2016.

“I’m really happy to sign on with the Wests Tigers,” Addo-Carr said.

“I’m looking forward to ripping in at pre-season training and meeting the rest of the squad.

“It’s a great opportunity for me and I’m looking forward to making the transition from Under 20s into the senior grades.”

Addo-Carr’s signing boosts the Tigers back-line stocks, with the former South Sydney Rabbitohs SG Ball and Harold Matts player chomping at the bit to start at his new club.

Panthers prop signs new 2-year deal

Leilani Latu

Somewhat of a revelation since being given an opportunity this year, the re-signing of Leilani
Latu shows that hard work does pay off.

The new 2-year deal for the prop is a result of his hard work and commitment to the Panthers and to the game, as he shone from the bench in some tough times for the Panthers towards the back end of the 2015 season.

Latu was always keen to stay, so that he could reward the club for the faith they showed in him.

“I really wanted to stay and repay the club for the faith they have shown in me,” Latu said.

“I am excited by the prospect of spending more time with the team and building on all the relationships that I have developed here in Penrith.

“Now I’ve got a taste for the NRL, I’m even more determined to earn my spot in the team next season.”

Part of the Panthers 2014 NSW Cup winning premiership side, he made his debut in Rd 21 of this year and has never looked back.

The club are also pleased to retain him and know that he can only get better.

“Leilani is the perfect example of perseverance from a young man who has had to overcome many challenges to realise his dream of playing in the NRL,” Panthers Executive General Manager Rugby League Phil Gould AM said.

“When given the opportunity this year, Leilani confirmed the enormous potential we always believed he possessed.

“I can see Leilani playing NRL with the Panthers for a long period of time.”