Category Archives: NRL Club News

Individual NRL Team and Club News

Storm utility back heads North to Townsville

Justin O'Neill

Originally a junior with Brothers in Townsville, Justin O’Neill will return to the city where it all began after signing a 2-year deal with the North Queensland Cowboys.

Playing most of his career at the Melbourne Storm so far, the premiership-winning utility back will provide the Cowboys back-line with a much needed boost.

It was back in 2010 when O’Neill made his debut for the Storm, playing in 67 NRL games during that time and scoring 34 tries.

O’Neill will have some players he knows at the club already, having played with Matthew Wright and Cameron King in the 2010 Junior Kangaroos squad.

For the club, they are excited to bring one of their own back and look forward to his impact in 2015 and beyond.

“It’s really pleasing for us to be able to bring Justin back to North Queensland to continue his NRL career,” Cowboys general manager – football Peter Parr said.

“He’s only a young man but he’s had plenty of first grade experience and should have the best years of his career still to come.

“I’m sure our members and fans are going to enjoy having him as part of our club.”

O’Neill, who came up through the Storm U20’s ranks, will be missed by the club and they wish him farewell.

“On behalf of everyone at Storm, I’d like to thank Justin for his contribution to the Club,” said Storm CEO, Mark Evans.

“Justin was an Under-20’s graduate who went on to become a Premiership-winning winger in 2012 and he will always be welcome at Storm.

“We wish him and his partner well for the future.”

Bulldogs veteran off to England after signing with Featherstone

Reni Maitua

For the Featherstone Rovers fans, they must be stoked with their player signings to date and it has only gotten better, with NRL veteran Reni Maitua signing with the club.

Maitua, who has vast NRL and representative experience has played in 174 NRL games for the Canterbury Bulldogs, Cronulla Sharks and the Parramatta Eels, as well as international caps for New Zealand and Samoa.

Although he has had his fair share of issues in the past, his experience will be invaluable for the Rovers side, with the 2-year deal subject to a visa clearance.

The previous issues were well documented and at one point, Maitua was suspended from the game for the use of a banned substance but he has since bounced back and performed well for numerous clubs since then.

Knowing how experienced he is, the club cannot wait to get him on board and on the field.

“This is a massive signing for Featherstone Rovers and a statement of intent by the club. His playing record speaks for itself and he brings a wealth of experience to our dressing room,” said Featherstone Rovers coach, Andy Hay.

“He is a uncompromising leader both on and off the field and will be big asset. We’ve done our homework and talked to people who have been working with him recently and he was highly rated.”

Having already made contact with Maitua, Hay looks forward to seeing the veteran get stuck in at the club. Additionally, with Maitua knowing about the club after discussions with Hay, they know he will help to promote the club.

“I’ve spoken to Reni and he is really eager to join Featherstone Rovers and help us achieve our ambitions of bringing top flight rugby league to the town,” said Hay.

“He has made it clear that he does not see this as a holiday but he wants to prove himself in the UK with Featherstone Rovers. He is excited about the new structures in place in our competition and wants to play Super League with Rovers.

He will not only be an asset on the field but he will be helping to promote the club and lift the profile of Featherstone Rovers.”

Tigers utility back heads to England subject to visa

Jy Hitchcox

He got a chance to play in first-grade for the Wests Tigers late on and he will have a chance to push for first-grade on the other side of the world, with Jy Hitchcox signing with English Championship side, the Featherstone Rovers.

At 25, the versatile utility back is adept at fullback, centre and wing and with previous stints at the Gold Coast Titans and Melbourne Storm, he is well accustomed to the game of rugby league.

Playing in over 60 games in the NSW Cup and enjoying a stint in rugby union with the Manly Marlins, the former Australian U18 player will be welcomed graciously at the Rovers pending visa clearance.

“Jy is a player we have been watching who has a good pedigree and is player who can cover a number of positions,” said Rovers head coach, Andy Hay.

“He has played all over the field and he even filled in at hooker at one point last season for the Tigers at New South Wales Cup level so he’s a pretty tough player. I think he will add plenty of speed on the outside and he has good ball skills so he will be an asset to us.

“His capture creates further competition in our three-quarter line and I’m looking forward to him arriving at the club and fighting for a place in the team. It’s important that we have healthy competition throughout the squad next year and Jy certainly provides that.”

Eels extend partnership with feeder side Wentworthville

The two clubs have been in a partnership for some years now and it will continue, with the Parramatta Eels and Wentworthville Magpies to maintain their feeder club relationship.

The Wentworthville Magpies, currently playing in the NSW Cup, have been the feeder club of the Eels side since 2008, the inception of the NSW Cup.

The new deal will run for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, with the Eels themselves excited to continue the current partnership with the Magpies.

“This partnership is outstanding for us, there are many players who have come through this system and it¹s a big pathway for player development,” Eels Head of Football Operations Daniel Anderson said.

“Coaches have relied on it as a quality second tier competition to challenge juniors on the way up and to let younger players mix with the experienced players in NSW Cup.”

“The relationship between young and experienced players is great for both Wenty and the Eels, in addition to providing valuable experience for a number of staff.”

Dogs back-rower heads South to Melbourne

Dale Finucane

There are some Dogs fans that are against the move but it is now done and dusted, with utility forward Dale Finucane to join the Melbourne Storm from 2015.

The deal will see Finucane remain in the Victorian capital for three seasons and since he made his debut in mid-2012, the forward has played in 66 NRL games.

A country boy at heart from Bega, NSW, Finucane adds some punch to the Storm pack, especially after the departure of veteran Ryan Hoffman.

With several other forwards moving on as well or retiring, the club are pleased to have secured someone like Finucane within their ranks.

“After losing Bryan Norrie to retirement, we’ve been on the look-out for a player that can make an immediate impact in the middle,” said Storm coach, Craig Bellamy.

“Dale is an ideal replacement and the type of player we like at Storm. We actually spoke to him a few years ago about a potential move so I’m glad he’s finally made the decision to join us.”

For the man himself, it is a new challenge and one that he looks forward to.

“It was a difficult decision to leave the Bulldogs,” said Finucane.

“They’ve been a tremendous Club but I’m delighted I can continue my career with Melbourne Storm.

“It’s a new challenge for me and I’m looking forward to learning more from Craig and meeting my new teammates in the New Year.”

The Bulldogs would have liked to have retained him but know that Finucane was after more game time.

“Dale has been an important contributor to the Club over six years and whilst we are sad to see him leave, we are supportive of his desire to secure more game time,” Chief Executive Raelene Castle said.

“I know that the staff, fans and all of Dale’s team mates, will join me in wishing him all the best for the future.”

PNG Hunters duo earn train and trial contract with the Rabbitohs

Wartovo Puara & Thompson Teteh

After a solid first season in the Intrust Super Cup, PNG players are getting noticed and two players from the side have been offered train and trial contracts with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

After a personal tour of Kokoda, Bunnies head coach Michael Maguire felt such a connection with the PNG culture and people that he wanted the club to increase the club’s relationship with the Pacific nation.

As a result, Papua New Guinean duo Wartovo Puara and Thompson Teteh will join the Bunnies on a train-and-trial basis.

Puara, at 24, is a hooker and has played for the PNG Kumuls in the past. Teteh, 25, is a centre and was a part of the Kumuls World Cup train-on squad.

The club have seen both players before, with the duo playing for PNG in the Return to Redfern clash in 2013.

Maguire is looking forward to having the duo at the club for the 6-week period.

“Having done the Kokoda Track and having formed a connection with the people I met in PNG, I wanted to explore a further connection between the Rabbitohs and the Papua New Guineans,” Coach Maguire said.

“It really opened my eyes when I was over there about how much these people love their Rugby League and the lengths they will go to support their countrymen in their dreams of playing Rugby League at the top level.

“It’s a real community over there and we were accepted into their communities through our connection with Rugby League and that’s something I want this Club to build on.”

Maguire is also keen to see what the PNG duo are capable of, in the hope of rewarding them with an eventual NRL contract.

“Wartovo and Thompson will be joining us in January to train full time for six weeks and they will have an opportunity to learn from our players, train alongside them and push themselves forward for a place in our full time squad on an ongoing basis,” said Maguire.

“It’s exciting for them to have this opportunity and we’re excited to be able to provide them with this opportunity.

The opportunity for the Papua New Guinean duo means it is a chance for the club to build a successful relationship with PNG rugby league in the years to come.

“It’s a chance to establish a pathway for Papua New Guinean players to reach NRL level and that’s exciting for everyone.”

Penrith Panthers youngster signs with English side Doncaster

Mitch Clark

He performed brilliantly for the Penrith Panthers Holden Cup pack over the years a new challenge now awaits forward Mitch Clark, who has signed with English Championship side, Doncaster RLFC.

Whilst the move is subject to international clearance, Clark joins Doncaster after several years at the Panthers as a local junior coming through the ranks.

A;though he can play across the forward pack, the club aim to use him in the front-row. He is already making an impression with coach Paul Cooke pleased with what he has seen so far.

“He has fitted in really well, we have still got some red tape to get through but Mitch was born in England so we don’t envisage too many problems,” said Cooke.

“He is a great lad, he is well mannered and respectful, he has come over from the other side of the world so it is a big step for him.

“Mitch has a good engine, he is strong in the tackle with a lot of impact both in attack and defence.”

Cooke went on to further praise Clark, highlighting the impact he can have in the middle of the park and through the ruck.

“It is a really good addition for the club at his age and it brings the average age of the squad down,” said Cooke.

“He is solid in the middle, he has a good pedigree coming from Penrith and hopefully this will allay fans fears that we haven’t replaced Mark Castle.”

Equally pleased to see the deal go through is club Chief Executive Carl Hall.

“We are very happy that Mitch has agreed to join us subject to clearance,” said Hall.

A close relationship with Mitch’s father Trevor helped their cause and Hall looks forward to seeing the young star in action.

“There was a lot of competition for his signature, however my relationship with his father Trevor having played with him at Bradford was a key factor in bringing Mitch to the club,” said Hall.

“He has a lot of potential and we hope we are able to get the best out of him here at Doncaster RLFC next year in what we hope will be a successful Kingstone Press Championship campaign.””

Young Warriors duo sign new deals

David Fusitu'a

Retaining the cream of the crop among your youngsters is crucial for any club, something that the New Zealand Warriors have done for years now and that trend has continued.

The club has re-signed David Fusitu’a for a further three seasons and promising half Ata Hingano until 2016.

Both are talented players and with Fusitu’a having played first-grade already and performing admirably, his ability has been on show for all to see.

For Hingano, he was one of the youngest players to play in the Holden Cup when he was given a start just after his 17th birthday.

The half has performed consistently for the Warriors side over the last couple of seasons and as a result, was named as the 2014 Counties Manakau Young Sportsman of the Year.

For the club themselves, they were quick to re-sign the duo who they see has future talents among the club system.

David and Ata are highly regarded by our coaching staff and are certainly two players we see having a big future with the club,” said Vodafone Warriors general manager football Dean Bell.

“They’re local products who have come through our system, both of them making significant progress this year.

“David has already underlined his ability at NRL level while Ata showed what he is capable of despite being the youngest player in our NYC side.”

Ata Hingano

Raiders veteran released to join Hull KR

Terry Campese

The rumours started once he was dropped from the first-grade side and they have now materialised, with Terry Campese’s tenure at the Canberra Raiders officially coming to an end.

The club today announced that the veteran would be released from the final year of his contract to sign with English Super League side, Hull KR.

It was 10 years ago in 2004 when Campese made his debut and having come through the lower grades and excelling, it was just a matter of time before he played first-grade.

With in excess of 100 games to his belt and a stint as captain for the last three seasons, the Queanbeyan junior has provided some great moments for Raiders fans and has represented both NSW and Australia in the past.

The club will not forget Campese easily, though, with club CEO Don Furner praising the veteran for his time at the club and the way he played the game.

“Terry Campese always went onto the field for the Raiders with passion and pride for the jersey,” Furner said.

“He has a number of individual highlights for the club which he will be remembered for, including scoring 36 points against Penrith in 2008, a year where he went close to winning the Dally M Medal.”

“The Raiders want to take the opportunity to wish Terry and his family all the best for the future and acknowledge the wonderful contribution he’s made to the Raiders both on and off the field.

“He will always be considered a Raider and he will always be welcome here.”

With a new challenge ahead of him, Campese wanted to assure fans that he would do whatever it takes to get them in his corner.

“I’ve been at the Raiders my whole career but it’s time to move on. This is a new challenge for me and one I’m really looking forward to,” he said.

“Looking at all the squads over there, ours is one that is strong and can definitely compete with the top sides but I’ve done a fair bit of research on Hull as well and it’s a place that I think I’ll like.

“I’m excited, I can’t wait and I’m looking forward to experiencing the Super League competition. My main goal is to try to help the club to go up the table and improve on where they finished last season.

Although he may not be captain at Hull KR, Campese will still embrace the leadership role and hopes that the 1-year deal with Hull KR can be the first of a few, should his body hold up.

“Leadership is something that I pride myself on and I love working with the younger players,” said Campese.

“I’m sure that will still be the case at Hull and hopefully we can have a successful year and challenge for that top eight position.

“I’ve signed up for one year which was a big thing for me. I’d like to stay longer than that as I feel I’ve got some good footy left in me, but it’s down to me to prove that. I want to come over there, play the best football I can and hopefully be successful with Hull KR.”

The club are equally excited to have Campese on board, for the experience, steady approach and direction he brings to a side.

“Terry is a true professional who has played at the very highest level and he’ll bring a wealth of knowledge to the squad next year,” said Hull KR coach, Chris Chester.

“We’ve lost a bit of experience from last season and it was important we brought in players with leadership qualities to complement a young and exciting crop of players at the club. Alongside the likes of Mick Weyman and Ryan Bailey, Terry will be a real leader for us.

He’s a great organiser who can guide us around the park and he’s also got an exceptional long and short kicking game.”

With fellow NRL half Albert Kelly also joining the Rovers squad, it is a chance for the two to play their natural roles – Campese to direct and Kelly to play adlib.

“It’s no secret that we’ve been in the market for a hooker and while we haven’t quite been able to get a deal over the line, we’re more than happy to run with what we’ve got in that position and bringing in a playmaker of Terry’s calibre was an opportunity we couldn’t afford to pass up.

“He gives us some strength in depth and competition for places in the halves and his experience will take the pressure off Albert Kelly in particular and free him up to play his natural game.”

Raiders utility granted release

Matt McIlwrick

Amid reports that suggested he would be released by the club, the Canberra Raiders have confirmed the release of utility Matt McIlwrick.

Although the signing is not yet confirmed, it is expected that McIlwrick will sign with the Sydney Roosters as he looks to continue his NRL career.

The utility was quick to thank the Raiders for his time at the club, who gave him his first start.

“The Raiders brought me over from Christchurch and gave me a chance to chase my NRL dream and for that I will always remain thankful,” McIlwrick said.

“I’ll never forget my time at the club and I thank everyone who has helped me along the way.”

“I’ve have some wonderful friends and some great memories to take with me and I also want to thank the members and fans for their support in my time with the club.”

Playing in 19 NRL games to date, McIlwrick was after a new challenge and now, the Roosters have confirmed his signing for one year.

“We are pleased to have secured the services of Matt, who we view as the ideal back-up hooker to Jake Friend,” said Sydney Roosters Recruitment Manager, Peter O’Sullivan.

“With explosive speed around the ruck and high work-rate in defence, as well as his ability to slot into lock, Matt and will add some great depth to our interchange and we look forward to his developing as part of our squad.”