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Individual NRL Team and Club News

Why Michael Maguire is, and should be, the coach Wests Tigers want

New Zealand Kiwis coach Michael Maguire

The Wests Tigers head coaching drama (the current epic anyway) has been ongoing for several weeks ever since current coach Ivan Cleary was asked to return to the Penrith Panthers.

Cleary did deny he was leaving, albeit a few days after it dominated headlines, news stories and social media chat.

He said he was concentrating on getting the Wests Tigers into the 2018 semi finals.

Now, the playoff dream failed. The NRL season is finished.

Week by week, more and more Wests Tigers fans have been coming to terms with the fact that the man who famously stated the line “you’re either on the bus, or off it” when talking about former player Mitchell Moses wanting to sign with Parramatta, would he himself ‘get off the bus’ before his contract permitted him to.

Fans are fearing that without the bus driver, the wheels won’t turn. More and more fans and now board members are coming to the reality that Ivan wants to join his son Nathan.

Just last week, news outlets were running with that it was fact that Wayne Bennett was to hop on the coaching merry-go-round and arriving in Concord allowing Ivan would be released back to Gus’s kingdom up the M4.

But now, NRL News has learned the Wests Tigers board aren’t keen on bringing Mr Bennett from the Broncos. As much as the Broncos would love to wrap him in a bow and send him south of the border with a “thank you” card taped to it, Wests Tigers want former South Sydney Rabbitohs and premiership winning coach, Michael Maguire.

As a long (suffering) time Wests Tigers member myself, I have faith in chair Marina Go and the rest of the board to make the right call.

If they can recruit Maguire, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Madge could well be what the board and us fans expected from Ivan. And then-some. Here’s why:

  • Maguire is available. The Wests Tigers wouldn’t try and “poach” a coach under contract from another club like some other franchises do/can. Even if they possessed the audacity, financial status and media power to be able to.
  • He has runs on the board.
  • Maguire took the helm at South Sydney and literally took them from the bottom to the top. Despite being let go from Redfern in 2017, you can’t dispute that what he did with that club in taking them to their first premiership broadcast on colour television.
  • He was known amongst the players as a strict, but likeable coach and his discipline when it came to fitness and attitude was Craig Bellamy like.
  • Who he just happened to assist at the Storm during their “golden” era the record books no longer show. Bookkeeping aside, four years as an apprentice to Bellyache can’t hurt. Oh and for the record, there are no premiership rings on Ivan Cleary’s fingers.
  • The Kiwi connection. This was one of the reasons Ivan gave much hope to Wests Tigers faithful, he was the Kiwi whisperer and led to marquee signings Ben Matulino and Russell Packer as well as the return of club legend Benji Marshall.
  • Maguire’s coaching job at the moment just happens to be the head coach of the New Zealand international team.
  • Player relationships are incredibly important, especially for a club in Wests Tigers who normally has to pay overs to recruit elite talent.
  • Beyond those with New Zealand passports, Maguire’s years of experience at other clubs is also an advantage when it comes to signing free agents.
  • For example, Origin hooker Damien Cook happens to be a free agent in 2020. Which happens to be Robbie Farah’s first year of enjoying retirement as well. Wests Tigers fans can only dream (most of the time that is literally true).
  • Youth. 44 is still young for a coach. Heck, he’s 24 years younger than Bennett. While the experience of Wayne is priceless and yes he may have a few kilometres left to rack up on the odometer yet.
  • Maguire can be the Wests Tigers’ next Tim Sheens. They don’t need someone to come in to live out of a suitcase for a couple of years and then fly off into the sunset. They need someone to take the keys to the franchise and have complete control of everything football and to look forward years ahead.
  • Ivan Cleary was given this privilege. Luckily, Maguire won’t have to turn the place and the roster completely upside down like Ivan had to. The hard yards have been done.
  • He’ll want the job. Maguire this week turned down the head coaching job at Manly. Can you blame him? The Sea Eagles are almost like looking at the the Tigers four or five years ago when they had little money, disgruntled players, poor management and flirted with the wooden spoon.
  • In 2018, Wests surprised everyone by winning 50% of their games and knocked off the Storm twice and other top 8 sides along the way.
  • Sprinkle a bit of discipline and a star player here or there, Wests Tigers can break their seven season finals drought with one good off season.
  • With players such as Esan Marsters, Moses Mbye, Luke Brooks and Ryan Matterson about to enter the peak of their careers over the coming seasons, a good smart rugby league coach can see them reach their peak.
  • While at the time of writing pen hadn’t been put to paper, Michael Maguire and the Wests Tigers is a match made in heaven and very likely to happen.
  • We’re ready to let Ivan take his bus out west. Mr Maguire, please take your seat of the Concorde of Concord. It’s cleared for take off.

Macdonald heads closer to home with move to the Cowboys

St George Illawarra Dragons winger Nene Macdonald

Nene Macdonald’s time at the St George Illawarra Dragons will come to an end, with the hulking winger signing with the North Queensland Cowboys.

McDonald was released by the Dragons from the final year of his contract on compassionate grounds.

Since joining at the start of the 2017 season, McDonald played in 46 games for the Red V and they wished him well.

“Nene has been an important player over the last two seasons at our club,” said Dragons Director of Rugby League Pathways Ian Millward.

“Although he has one year left on his contract, his management and himself approached the club on compassionate reasons for a release.”

“We thought it was in the best interests welfare-wise for Nene to grant him the release, so unfortunately he won’t be with us in 2019.”

Although they have lost McDonald, the Dragons have signed wingers Mikaele Ravalawa and Jonus Pearson.

The move back to the NQ region puts McDonald closer to home with his Papua New Guinean roots.

“He’s a North Queensland kid and we like North Queenslanders representing this region,” said North Queensland Cowboys coach Paul Green.

“Nene is going to offer plenty of depth to our backline and had a fantastic year for the Dragons.

“I know him on a personal level after coaching him in the under 20s at the Roosters and am confident he will be a good cultural fit for our club as well.”

Looking for a big winger to replace the retired Antonio Winterstein, Cowboys Director of Football Peter Parr believes the club has found their man.

“He’s a very talented athlete and with the retirement of Antonio Winterstein we were keen to add to our outside backs and in particular the wing position,” Parr said.

“Nene fits the criteria we were looking for and he indicated to us that he had a desire to return home to North Queensland.

“So, we made some inquiries with the Dragons and they have been very cooperative in helping us bring him back to North Queensland.”

Storm look to the future with retention of five players

Melbourne Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona

Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jahrome Hughes, Kayleb Milne, Scott Drinkwater and Justin Olam have all re-signed for the Melbourne Storm, who have moved quickly to secure talent for the future.

Although Asofa-Solomona still had a further year to run on his existing deal, a new four-year extension will see him stay in purple until 2023.

Enjoying one of his best seasons to date in 2018, the man nicknamed NAS impressed many and backed it up with career best stats across numerous categories.

“We are proud of how far Nelson has come as a player and as a person over the last 18 months,” said the Storm’s General Manager of Football Frank Ponissi.

“What he can achieve over the next five years in the purple jersey is incredibly exciting.

“We have no doubt he will continue to work hard to ensure he makes the most of his exciting potential.”

Also re-signing is Jahrome Hughes, whose utility value has been handy when deputising at both fullback and in the halves in 2018.

“Jahrome took his NRL opportunity with both hands in 2018 which should give him a great deal of confidence heading into next year and we are excited to see him push for a regular spot in the 17,” continued Ponissi.

Melbourne Storm utility back Jahrome Hughes

Scott Drinkwater and Justin Olam have both signed new 2-year deals, and both were praised by Ponissi.

“The same goes for Scott and Justin who, while being limited with their NRL chance this year, showed terrific signs at feeder level which makes us excited with what they can both achieve at this Club over the next two years,” said the Storm GM of Football.

The club also retained Milne until the end of 2020, yet another player they value highly.

“Kayleb is also a player we see as part of the future of Melbourne Storm who is working hard to take the next step in his development,” said Ponissi.

Melbourne Storm centre Justin Olam

Hastings to remain with Salford for a further year

Salford Red Devils utility Jackson Hastings

After impressing the club and its fans, Jackson Hastings has opted for a further year with Super League side, the Salford Red Devils.

Arriving in July, his solid performances helped Salford finish first in the qualifiers and the club wanted to see more over a full season.

The decision was an easy one for Hastings, who lauded the fans and the club for how they have welcomed him.

“In the end, it was a pretty easy decision to be honest,” said Hastings.

“When I laid in bed at night weighing up my options, I really couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else over here.

“The amount of support the Club gave me through a tough time in my life, the love that I’ve got from the fans.”

Hastings also praised his team-mates who embraced his arrival.

“The respect I’ve got from the playing group is something that if I’d walked away from it I know I wouldn’t have been happy with,” the utility continued.

“I’m happy with my decision and hopefully we can kick on and have a good season next year.”

Just as pleased are the club, who know how valuable the former NRL player is to the club and their ambitions.

“Signing Jackson for the 2019 season is a great piece of business by the Club and a great piece of business for Super League as a whole,” said Salford head coach Ian Watson.

“His energy and enthusiasm around the Club and the boys is infectious and you can see in the games he’s played how it lifts people around him.”

Fitting in well with team dynamics, Watson continued to praise Hastings for his approach to the team and their play.

“We have always had effort and commitment from our team but Jackson has lifted the pressure and allowed others to just play and enjoy the game,” continued the Salford coach.

“Jackson wants to lead a team and be the dominant half and that fits perfectly within our team dynamics.

“I hope Jackson can continue to enjoy his football and show everyone over the next twelve months how good a signing he is.”

Luke to remain in New Zealand after new 1-year deal with Warriors

New Zealand Warriors hooker Issac Luke

Slated to leave at one point, Issac Luke will instead remain across the ditch, re-signing with the New Zealand Warriors.

The 31-year-old’s new deal is for just 1 year but Luke is just pleased to have something sorted.

“It’s good to have the contract all sorted out,” said Luke.

“We always wanted to stay in New Zealand, my wife and the kids.

“I’m really happy here at the club and I’m pleased I have another season with the boys.”

The club were always keen on retaining the crafty hooker, who has played 66 games for the club and 250 overall.

“We wanted Issac to stay,” said Warriors coach Stephen Kearney.

“It was just a matter of sorting out the details.

“Now we look forward to him making a big contribution to the side next season.”

Coote makes the move to England signing with St Helens

North Queensland Cowboys Lachlan Coote

In what has essentially been a trade, Lachlan Coote will join St Helens after Ben Barba joined the North Queensland Cowboys. 

Signing a 3-year deal with the English club, Coote says he and his family are excited with the opportunity.

“My family and I are really excited to be moving to England,” Lachlan said. “

It is a great opportunity to play for such a proud and successful club and I’m really looking forward to settling in and kicking off the 2019 season.”

With 166 NRL games to his name for the Penrith Panthers and Cowboys, Coote brings experience and versatility to the Saints side.

The club are pleased to have the Scottish international on board for three years.

“I’m really excited to have such a quality player coming to our club,” Saints Head Coach Justin Holbrook said.

“He is an exciting player with a good kicking game and vision.

“He will suit our club perfectly.”

Jazz Tevaga turns down rival clubs to re-sign with the New Zealand Warriors

New Zealand Warriors utility Jazz Tevaga

Fresh off winning the Dally M Interchange Player of the Year, Jazz Tevaga has now re-signed with the New Zealand Warriors.

The new 1-year deal with an option for a second caps off a great week for Tevaga and the Warriors, who also re-signed Bunty Afoa.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney is pleased with his development and how far Tevaga has come in 2018.

“We’ve been really pleased with the way Jazz has developed his game this year and were thrilled when he won the Dally M interchange award this week,” said Kearney.

“He was important to our success, the way he came off the bench to bring energy and toughness playing big minutes.”

In the end, the progress the club has made and his love for them, was enough for Tevaga to stay.

“There were other offers but I love it here and always wanted to stay,” said Tevaga.

“We made progress this year. We have something to build on and I want to be part of our success next year and after that.”

 

Afoa extends Warriors stay

New Zealand Warriors forward Bunty Afoa

With a spot now open and a chance to make it his own, Bunty Afoa has today re-signed with the New Zealand Warriors.

Afoa’s new deal will run until the end of the 2021 season, as Warriors coach Stephen Kearney praises the young forward.

“Bunty has been terrific for us, even more so when you consider he was only 21 for almost the entire season,” he said.

“What he gives us is real consistency in effort and performance which makes him one of the most impressive young forwards in the game.

“He also brings a wonderful attitude in all he does as well and will improve even more.”

Afoa, who can play both as a front or back-rower, is just pleased to be playing as often as he is.

“I love being part of this club and I’ve really enjoyed my football this year having the chance to play in the middle,” he said.

“I felt a lot more comfortable about my role whether it was coming off the bench or starting but I’ve got a lot more to learn and I want to do all I can to help the team do better next year.

“I feel blessed with the coaching staff and players I have around me to guide me.”

Starting seven games in 2018, that number could increase as the club gave Afoa nothing but praise.

“Bunty is another terrific young player who has come through our nursery,” Vodafone Warriors General Manager of Football Brian Smith said.

“What he has done in such a short time in the NRL is inspirational, a fine example for all young kids in this country who have dreams of making it.

“He’s a pleasure to have at our club in the way he conducts himself as a footballer and in the community.

2019 NRL Trials Thread

Season 2018 may still have a grand final to go but trial news for 2019 has already filtered in. 

We have you covered here; every NRL trial announced over the coming months in the lead-up to the 2019 season will be written by date.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the wave of emotion, as you find out where your team is set to play in the 2019 trials.

And, as more trials are slowly confirmed, we will be sure to add them all in.

Saturday February 23

Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs (#NRLTrials #NRLcancby); Bega Recreation Ground, Bega. Kick-off: TBA.

Barba returns to NRL signing one-year deal with the Cowboys

St Helens fullback Ben Barba

After a brief stint in the Super League with St Helens, Ben Barba will return to the NRL with the North Queensland Cowboys.

On the back of what has been a great individual season for Barba in England with 26 tries (1st in league) and 24 try assists (third), he’ll play for his fourth NRL club.

Needing just one more try for 100 career NRL tries, Barba has played in 168 NRL games to date.

Initially contracted to St Helens for next season, the club gave him an early release to return home.

A local Mackay product, Barba is being welcomed with open arms by the club.

“Ben’s form this year for St Helens has been of the highest standard,” Cowboys Director of Football Peter Parr said.

“He’s been the best fullback if not the best player in the English Super League.”

The club are pleased to be able to give Barba the opportunity to play for them.

“He is from Mackay and has always had a desire to play for the Cowboys, but for whatever reasons the stars never aligned until now,” Parr continued.

“Ben has been looking to return to the NRL and with an opening at the fullback position at our club it presented the opportunity for him to do that.”

Equally pleased is club coach Paul Green who knows how much value Barba will add to the side.

“Ben is an extremely gifted player and I believe he can be a huge asset for our side next season,” Green said.

“He has been in fantastic form for St Helens and he still has a great deal to offer at NRL level.

“Ben hails from North Queensland and he is excited to be able to return home and represent the region.”