In the eyes of many, he never quite kicked on as well as he could have in the NRL but Justin Horo took his game to another level when he joined the Catalan Dragons in the Super League.
Now, he is on the move again, with Wakefield Trinity snapping up the 31-year old veteran on a 2-year deal.
Making his professional rugby league debut at the Parramatta Eels before joining the Manly Sea Eagles, he enjoyed some periods of success but ultimately dropped out of both sides.
Prompting his move to Catalans, it was here that Horo shone over his 42-game career for the Perpignan-based club.
With the move to Wakefield now confirmed, Horo is excited about the new challenge and looks forward to working with coach Chris Chester.
“Firstly, I would like to start by saying that I am extremely excited to be joining the club for the next few years,” said Horo.
“I made my decision to join the club based on the interest from Chris (Chester) and the direction he sees for the club which has shown in the results on the field and the re-signing of players at the club already.”
Horo’s ambitions are high, as he wants to work hard at Wakefield and help the team to possible success.
“One of the players being Jacob Miller who I spoke to before making my decision and he couldn’t speak highly enough of everyone involved,” continued Horo.
“I cannot wait to join the squad next year and go after a trophy or two.”
Equally pleased is Chester, who relishes the opportunity to see his back-rowers tussle for spots in a hotly contested back-row.
“I am delighted that we have been able to secure the services of Justin Horo on a two-year deal,” said Chester.
“He will add real quality to the pack and provide competition in the back row alongside Kirmond, Ashurst, and Batchelor.
“Justin has a wealth of experience and it shows a signing of intent by the club, after speaking to Justin, I am aware of how much he is excited to join us and I am looking forward to working with him over the next couple of seasons.”
In a bid to boost their front-row stocks, the St George Illawarra Dragons have signed Jeremy Latimore for the 2018 season.
Latimore rejoins the club having played with the RedV during the 2012 season.
With 139 NRL games to his date at the Dragons, the Parramatta Eels, the New Zealand Warriors, the Penrith Panthers and the Cronulla Sharks, Latimore has the experience and know-how to play regular first-grade football.
In the end, the club was after a forward with that experience to cover their likely Origin forwards with additional wisdom to aid the younger players.
“When we came to the decision with Jeremy, it was more so to see what he could bring to the club off the field just as much as what he could bring on it. Jeremy is very keen to be involved in that process,” said Director of Rugby League Pathways Ian Millward.
“We were looking for a player who had played over 100 first grade games and who could come into our squad and add some experience and character.
“We also have to anticipate that we may have Paul Vaughan and definitely Tyson Frizell and Jack de Belin out over the Origin series next season so we wanted to make sure we weren’t throwing all of our young boys in over that period.”
It is a move that will come as a surprise to no fans as the Canterbury Bulldogs have made the decision to sack coach Des Hasler from his contract.
After a turbulent year on the field and persistent rumours regarding off-field issues with players that led to departures by some – again, leaving fans furious – the decision was made and it was expanded on by Bulldogs club Chairman Ray Dib.
“Today, I informed Des Hasler and his management of our decision to pursue a new Head Coach for our Club, effective immediately.
The heads of agreement reached with Des Hasler for an extension of his contract were non-binding and a decision has been made not to renew his contract for next year.
“These types of conversations are never easy, especially when they involve people we respect personally and professionally, however, the Club believes the decision to change our football leadership was absolutely necessary.”
Although the strong favourite in the eyes of the media appears to be assistant coach Dean Pay, the club say they will begin their search for a new coach.
“The Club will now begin its search for a new Head Coach and will provide further information once that process has been completed,” said Dib.
On the back of their successful Championship One campaign and with greener pastures in sight on their quest towards a Super League berth, the Toronto Wolfpack continue to go from strength to strength.
Already boasting an impressive line-up, they have added to that with the signing of hulking back-rower David Taylor for the 2018 season.
Known by many as ‘the Coal Train’, Taylor has played over 150 NRL games, had stints with Super League sides – mainly the Catalan Dragons – and has also represented both Queensland and Australia in the past.
With their name, their colours and their form all continuous talking points in the rugby league world, Taylor is excited to show the Canadian rugby league world what he can bring to the table.
“I’m excited about the challenge of joining the Wolfpack. There’s clearly some crazy good things happening with rugby league in Toronto & I can’t wait to get there,” said Taylor.
“I’m pretty sure they’ll like my style of play & hopefully it will excite Canada!”
There was nothing but praise from the Wolfpack’s Director of Rugby Brian Noble who knew that when Taylor became available and expressed an interest, there was just one outcome the club needed.
“As soon as I was made aware that Dave Taylor was interested in the challenge of representing the Wolfpack, I jumped at the chance to make this happen,” said Noble.
“The Canadian fans will just love the ‘Coal Train’, his explosive style, his power, speed and tremendous range of skills will give our group a new dimension moving forward and I genuinely can’t wait for him to hit the straps at Lamport Stadium next year.
I am relishing the prospect of Dave lining up alongside Ashton Sims and our existing big pack of forwards next year, the strength of the wolf will certainly be the pack in 2018 and the new season just can’t come around quick enough for me!”
A move to greener pastures for more opportunities is always on the cards for player and Will Matthews has sought that by signing a 2-year deal with the Widnes Vikings.
The current St George Illawarra Dragons utility forward and former Gold Coast Titan has almost 100 first-grade games to his name as Widnes coach Denis Betts admits that Matthews has been on their radar for a while.
“We have been interested in Will for some time, so I am very pleased to have secured this deal,” said Betts.Will is a quality player and will add a lot to the team with his experience of playing in the NRL. He is strong and carries the ball well, but can also offload and support attacking plays effectively too.
“Will is a quality player and will add a lot to the team with his experience of playing in the NRL. He is strong and carries the ball well, but can also offload and support attacking plays effectively too.”
His versatility and experience is just one factor as to why Betts wanted to sign Matthews.
I have also been impressed by his character and his excitement for taking on a new challenge at Widnes Vikings,” continued the Widnes coach. I’m looking forward to him linking up with the team next season.”
“I’m looking forward to him linking up with the team next season.”
As for Matthews himself, he always had a desire to play in the UK and he now gets that chance at Widnes.
I’m delighted to be joining Widnes Vikings. I’ve always been interested in playing in the UK, so it is great to have this opportunity to do so at the Vikings,” said Matthews.
I’ve spoken to a lot of people who can’t speak highly enough about the country and the competition, so I’m sure this will be an exciting new chapter for me and my family.
I’m looking forward to getting out there next season and playing in front of all the supporters.”
The Penrith Panthers made amends for their hiding at the hands of the Manly Sea Eagles last week by getting a win where it matters most; the elimination final.
In a match that was spiteful and between two sides that clearly hated the other, it was Penrith who came away with the glory to produce a 22-10 win at Allianz Stadium.
The game started rather sloppily from both sides before it became a no-holds barred slugfest that resulted in several missed opportunities and big hits.
As both teams fought for ascendancy, it was Manly who scored the first try of the game after an earlier penalty goal by Penrith.
A nifty chip kick by Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic found Dylan Walker who made the most of it to score. Penrith would hit back, however, as a well-timed grubber by Nathan Cleary ricocheted off the post to fall into the outstretched arms of Bryce Cartwright who picked the ball up and scored in one motion.
The second half is where the conjecture happened in the eyes of many when, firstly, Manly were denied a second try to Dylan Walker who was deemed offside off a kick despite replays suggesting the evidence was inconclusive.
Manly were then denied once more by the bunker, this time in an effort by Akuila Uate, deemed to have knocked on in the act of scoring.
They would hit back with a try of their own, however, to make the contest interesting with former Panther Lewis Brown barging through some butter-like defence to score and level things up.
Although momentum was with Manly at that time, it was wrestled back by Bryce Cartwright who crossed the line for his second of the match.
The icing on the cake came from yet another contentious decision as Tyrone Peachey crossed the line.
It started with an innocuous grubber from Cartwright that bounced off a Manly leg and despite replays seeming to show that it had touched Peachey’s arm that propelled the ball forward, it was given a try.
That, in turn, was the nail in the coffin for the Sea Eagles as Penrith march on to another week of the finals.
Manly coach Trent Barrett was visibly frustrated by the bunker’s decision-making process and voiced his thoughts on the incidents.
“If the ricochet is awarded no try, which they should have done, they can’t overturn it. It’s crazy, and it’s cost us our season. Deadset, what am I meant to say to the players? Unbelievable,” he said.
“The referee is better off putting his hands in the air and saying ‘I’ve got no idea so let’s have a look at it’ rather than influence the decision of the Bunker with a ‘no try’ or ‘try’. How the hell can you see? It went off a foot into a leg into a chest onto a hand. He must have good eyes.”
With their season now over, Barrett was careful not to attack the referees directly but he did speak directly to Tony Archer – the referees boss – at one point.
“I have to be careful with what I say, but what I would like is the Bunker and (referees boss) Tony Archer and the referees to go into my shed and explain to my players that their season is now finished on the back of those two calls. The season will go on for everyone else and everyone will say ‘Manly got some rough calls’, but that’s not good enough.”
The man at the centre of the big moment, Tyrone Peachey, admits he could not really recall the incident as such and that he did not feel the ball brush his arm.
“I was calling off Carty (Cartwright) and thought he was going to pass it, that was probably why I didn’t have my hands up and it ended up getting me on the chest,” Peachey said.
“I couldn’t tell, I didn’t see. It was pretty fast and can’t remember exactly what happened. I had the “T” (try) sign up looking at the ref – it was frantic.
“Once I saw them checking the grounding I was confident, it was an awesome feeling and we just had to hold them out.”
Player of the Game:
3. Bryce Cartwright
2. Tom Trbojevic
Penrith Panthers 22 (Bryce Cartwright 2, Tyrone Peachey tries; Nathan Cleary 5 goals) eliminated Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 10 (Dylan Walker, Lewis Brown tries; Matt Wright 1 goal) at Allianz Stadium. Half-time: Panthers 10-4. Crowd: 15,408.
It was a tough, hard slog throughout the entire match between the two sides but it was the Melbourne Storm who came out on top as they recorded a come-from-behind win against the Parramatta Eels.
Billed as a potential grand final in the eyes of many, both sides burst out of the blocks initially before they were worn down by a Storm side rampant with class and experience.
First points ended up with the Storm as Josh Addo-Carr plucked the ball out of thin air with one hand off the back of a Curtis Scott offload to go over untouched.
From there on in, the Storm dominated both field position and possession and looked to be on the ascendancy, before Cameron Munster was sin-binned for a professional foul; turning the game on its head.
The Eels capitalised with their extra man and scored two tries courtesy of a shift play to Kirisome Auva’a on the wing and a lovely inside pass from half Mitch Moses to set up fullback Will Smith.
At the break, the Eels had their tails up and went into half-time leading 10-4. Complacency is the one thing you can never have against the Storm and ill-discipline creeping into the Eels game gave the Storm ample opportunities.
Two well-worked tries by the Storm; the first, a razzle-dazzle, offload-laden team try, eventually resulting in back-rower Felise Kaufusi scoring and the second to Billy Slater as a result of a chip kick by Addo-Carr.
A further penalty goal sent the Storm even further ahead and it would prove to be the difference despite a late try to Semi Radradra on the back of good combinations with centre Brad Takairangi.
Pleased to see his side go toe-to-toe with the Storm for portions of the game, Eels coach Brad Arthur praised his side’s efforts but knows that it was a missed opportunity.
“That’s a missed opportunity but the boys showed plenty of want, plenty of desire, showed that we are good enough,” Arthur said.
“No one gave us a chance but we showed that we’re good enough.
“I’m extremely proud of our boys for the way they fought back, we just didn’t have any ball or field position in that second half and the first opportunity we got down there we scored.”
Eels captain Tim Mannah echoed those sentiments, stating that his side has the belief within themselves to beat anyone.
“We’re not surprised to be in the position we’re in,” Mannah said.
“We’ve got a lot of belief in our squad and our coaching staff so the goal doesn’t change for us. We’ll strive for the big goal and prepare for this next game.”
As for key Storm performer Josh Addo-Carr, nerves almost got the better of him prior to the contest but he put those behind him as he delivered a comprehensive display.
“It was very nervous but exciting,” he said.
“It was a good experience for myself. Once I just run out on the field, it goes away. I’m nervous every game I suppose. I think that’s a good thing – it shows I really care about my football.”
Player of the Game:
3. Josh Addo-Carr
2. Suaia Matagi
Melbourne Storm 18 (Josh Addo-Carr, Kenny Bromwich, Billy Slater tries; Cameron Smith 3 goals) defeated Parramatta Eels 16 (Kirisome Auva’a, Will Smith, Semi Radradra tries; Mitchell Moses 2 goals) at AAMI Park. Crowd: 22,626. Half-time: Eels 10-4.
The general pace of the game may have disappointed some until the last 20-25 minutes but it is the Sydney Roosters that are crowing until the sun comes up as they earned a week off following their narrow win.
In what was a qualifying final to remember in some respects, the narrow 24-22 victory was enough for the Roosters to win as the Broncos prepare themselves for another clash next week at Suncorp Stadium against the winner of the Penrith v Manly finals game.
The match could have taken a very different turn if the Broncos had held on after a second Corey Oates try following a horror bat-back from Blake Ferguson off a 40/20 attempt but it as luck would have it, a young Rooster showcased his skills.
The first half started poorly for the Broncos as they missed tackles left, right and centre and seemingly had no answer for a rampant Roosters attack.
The Roosters quickly rushed out to a 14-0 lead on the back of tries from Aidan Guerra and Boyd Cordner as well as a penalty goal to veteran fullback Michael Gordon.
In all sorts in the early stages of the first half, the Broncos managed to claw one try back before the break as Benji Marshall – pulling the strings for the Broncos – put in a deft grubber that saw a try for James Roberts who had too much speed for Gordon.
The two teams then went tit-for-tat to begin the second half as further errors creeped into their games.
The Roosters lead was extended to 18-6 when Luke Keary found a huge gap in the Broncos weary defence to score before Kodi Nikorima and Corey Oates combined to claw back the deficit to just eight points at 18-10.
Needing something special to make a fist of the contest, the Broncos had two tries either side of the 70-minute mark to make it happen. One was a piece of individual brilliance by Ben Hunt and the other was a catastrophic error by Blake Ferguson that led to a second Oates try.
First, Ben Hunt got the ball at first receiver, took the line on, grubbered ahead for himself and won the race to the ball.
This was followed by a try to Corey Oates who capitalised after a horror bat-back attempt by Blake Ferguson in the act of preventing a 40/20 saw the ball virtually land in Oates’ lap who scooped the ball up 10m from the try-line to score the easiest try of his career.
Those two tries put the Broncos up 22-18 but there was a late twist of fate as a tremendous solo effort from young Roosters back Latrell Mitchell – that resulted in a huge fend on James Roberts – sealed the Roosters win.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett was not about to beat around the bush, admitting that his side did not deserve to win.
“No, we didn’t [deserve to win],” Bennett began.
“You watch it, it’s pretty easy to see where we went wrong. We were just full of mistakes.”
Continuing the recent trend of Kiwi-born players returning home to New Zealand, Gerard Beale is the latest to do so after signing a 3-year deal with the New Zealand Warriors.
Joining fellow Kiwis Tohu Harris and Leivaha Pulu ahead of the 2018 season, Beale will provide some interesting headaches for the Stephen Kearney coached Warriors.
“While there has been a lot of discussion about Gerard coming to the club, we weren’t in a position to make an announcement until his contract had been officially signed by both parties,” said Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George.
“Now the formalities have been completed, we’re delighted to have him included in our 2018 squad. He was a premiership winner with Cronulla last year and brings exceptional NRL and international experience.”
Beale’s versatility is a strength to any roster and Kearney believes that the Kiwi international will bring some much-needed experience to their backline.
“Gerard is professional in all he does and has a wonderful attitude,” he said.
“The way he has overcome adversity with injuries earlier in his career shows the sort of character he has. He’s going to be a great addition to our squad with his ability to play in all the positions in the outside backs.”