Category Archives: NRL Club News

Individual NRL Team and Club News

Cowboys rising star Hola signs new long-term deal

Since joining the North Queensland Cowboys in 2017, Peter Hola has slowly become an elite rising star. 

On the back of his good form in the lower grades, Hola has been awarded both a top 30 spot and a new long-term deal at the Cowboys.

The new deal will see Hola remain at the Cowboys until the 2022 season.

Performing strongly for the Northern Pride U20’s side, Hola is held in high regard by the club.

“We think Pete is one of the better young forwards in the game,” Cowboys Director of Football Peter Parr said.

“To be able to play Queensland Cup last year and hold his own at such a young age in the middle of the field, showed us we had a special talent on our hands.

“Even though we had him on contract for another two years, we thought it was the right time to extend him, which shows how excited we are about his future at our club.”

Setting him with goals and challenges as he gets older and more mature, Cowboys coach Paul Green has been pleased with Hola’s development.

“Pete is progressing really nicely and we think his development is heading in the right direction,” Green said.

“He has met every challenge we’ve set so far and we’re really excited to have him in our top squad for at least the next four seasons.”

New contract extension for Dufty at Dragons

St George Illawarra Dragons fullback Matt Dufty

Despite some speculation of his spot being in jeopardy, Matt Dufty has signed a contract extension with the St George Illawarra Dragons.

The extension is for a further two seasons with Dufty already signed on at the Dragons for the 2019 season.

A local Penshurst junior, the live-wire fullback is ready for the challenge of competing for spots.

“I’m very happy about re-signing for another two years. It wasn’t a difficult decision,” Dufty said.

“The Dragons is somewhere where I think I could play my best footy and where I wanted to stay.”

“I feel like a weight has been lifted. I’ve had it over my head for a while now.

“I’m glad the positive discussions I’ve had with the club has ended this way.”

Despite no certainty to play given off-season moves, Dufty is excited at what lies ahead for the club and the jostling for spots.

“I’m really excited for this year to come. I’m not sure where I’ll play but it’s a good headache for Mary (coach Paul McGregor) to have,” he continued.

“We have all been playing different positions, trying to get our different combinations sorted and with the strike force we have, it’s exciting to see how we all play.”

Just as pleased with Dufty re-signing are the club, who always relish the chance to retain a local junior.

“He’s a local junior who has gone through our pathway system, and we know he’s a person we want here long-term at this club,” Dragons Director of Rugby League Pathways and List Management Ian Millward said.

“He’s a passionate Dragons player who brings a real skill set to the team.

“We have been in deep discussions and negotiating with Matt and his agent since last year.

“He was aware of our discussions with Corey Norman at all times and he knew where his future lied at our club at all times.”

 

Last-gasp try and goal gives Raiders trial win over Eels

Canberra Raiders halfback Sam Williams

In the end, trials often mean very little but the Canberra Raiders have prevailed over the Parramatta Eels 22-20. 

Playing at St Marys Stadium out in the West, the two sides were very different in terms of playing personnel.

The Eels had several top-line first-graders laced with youth and Wenty players, the Raiders had a mostly young side.

After some early tit-for-tat and lack of execution, it was the Eels who would strike first in the thirteenth minute.

Moses and Eels captain Clint Gutherson combined for young gun Ethan Parry to score his first try.

Soon after, Moses was at it again; this time, he took the line on on the last, bamboozled the Raiders and chipped ahead for Parry to score a second.

Seemingly with a point to prove this season, Moses was again in the thick of the Eels tries.

A grubber ricocheted off a Raider, Moses regathered, ran into open territory, banana kicked resulting in a Raiders error.

Parramatta Eels halfback Mitchell Moses

All of which then led to Moses once again regathering before he flicked a pass to Jaeman Salmon to score.

The Raiders would soon hit back, however, with a try of their own.

It came from Tom Starling whose darting dummy-half runs finally culminated in a try and the Raiders first points.

Coming out of the sheds with a 20-6 break, the Eels could have very nearly extended their lead further.

Unfortunately for the Eels, George Jennings was unable to hold onto the final pass.

A bit of controversy made itself known with the Raiders second try.

JJ Collins made a bee-line for the try-line and it was given, although replays suggested that he lost the ball in the attempt of scoring.

Canberra Raiders forward JJ Collins

At this point, Brad Arthur had seen enough from his first-graders and brought on a host of lower grade players to finish the match.

From there, the Raiders took control as Sam Williams dummied and scored a try.

Before Andre Niko scored a near length of the field try with a Raiders goal from Williams then sealing the win for the Green Machine.

New long-term deal for Burgess at Rabbitohs

South Sydney Rabbitohs prop Thomas Burgess

Criticised heavily alongside his twin brother George by the fans, the South Sydney Rabbitohs have opted to re-sign Thomas Burgess on a new long-term deal.

Burgess, who will have the chance to add to his 119 NRL games over the course of the new deal, stays on at the club with brothers George and Sam.

An English international, Burgess has played across numerous international competitions for the England side.

The man himself is pleased to continue his tenure with the Rabbitohs.

“I’m really looking forward to the seasons ahead and wearing that famous Red and Green jersey,” Burgess said.

“Souths are all I’ve known and I’m really pumped to be signed up long term now.

“The Club gave me a chance when I came to Australia for the first time, a 20-year-old young lad, not knowing what to expect.

“Now six or seven years down the track, I’m still enjoying my football here.”

The Englishman is proud to play in front of the vocal Souths fans and was even prouder to bring up 100 NRL games in 2018.

“I love calling Sydney home and I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else in the NRL than with the Rabbitohs,” he continued.

“To play my 100th game with Souths last year was really significant for me, but now it’s about quality rather than quantity and I want to play my best each week.

“I’m looking forward to getting out there and performing for the Members.

“They are the cornerstone of our Club and without them, the Club wouldn’t be in the position it’s in today.”

 

Flanagan resigns as Sharks coach

Former Sharks coach Shane Flanagan

In a move that should surprise no-one, Shane Flanagan has resigned as head coach of the Cronulla Sharks effective immediately.

In charge of the club for seven seasons, Flanagan led the Sharks to the promised land, guiding the side to a maiden NRL premiership.

Club Chairman Dino Mezzatesta praised Flanagan for his efforts with the club in his time as coach.

“Shane was our first premiership winning coach, he is the Coach of our Team of the Half Century and he has given exceptional service and dedication to our Club,” said the Chairman.

He worked tirelessly to build our team and our Club into a competitive force and he will forever hold a special place in the Club’s history.”

Joining as an assistant in 2007, Flanagan was handed the head coaching mantle in 2010.

Embroiled in numerous sagas during his tenure, Flanagan made the decision in the best interests of the club.

“This was obviously one of the toughest decisions of my 36-year rugby league career to resign from the head coaching role at Cronulla,” said Flanagan.

“The last month has taken an enormous mental and emotional toll on my family and myself.”

Although his decision is now made, Flanagan intends on responding to notice handed to him by the NRL.

“I intend on responding to the notice issued by the NRL, however I have made this decision in the best interests of the entire club and the players to allow the best possible preparation for the 2019 season without constant speculation and uncertainty as to who their Head Coach will be,” he continued.

Widdop’s 2020 return to England confirmed with Wolves deal signed

St George Illawarra Dragons half Gareth Widdop

He requested a release and it has been granted, with Gareth Widdop to depart the St George Illawarra Dragons to return home to play for the Warrington Wolves in 2020. 

Countless reports of his apparent desire to return to England emerged, with release now officially confirmed by the Dragons.

There is a condition on the release, however; should Widdop return to the NRL, it must be with the Dragons and no other team.

Moving to Australia at a young age to play with the Melbourne Storm, Widdop eventually moved to the Dragons with 119 club games to his name to date.

The Englishman admits that it was not an easy decision but that he always wanted to play in the Super League.

“I’ve made a big decision in my career having decided to move back to England next year,” Widdop said.

“It certainly hasn’t been the easiest decision but sometimes in life we have aspirations and playing in the Super League has been one of mine for a while now.”

With his decision made, Widdop thanked the Dragons for how they dealt with the situation in allowing him to leave.

“The Dragons have played a big part in my career,” Widdop continued.

“I’ve been here a long time now and to get to where we have with the roster we’ve got, to leave it all behind especially being the captain will be difficult.

“This situation has been handled in the most professional way possible.

“I worked really closely with the club who have been great. We worked towards getting the best outcome and I thank the Dragons for that.”

When it came to picking a club, the Wolves felt like the right fit for Widdop due to several reasons.

“With decisions like this there are a lot of things to look into. I think Warrington, in terms of the club itself, has got a lot of history, is a great team and is run very well,” the half continued.

“I have a lot of mates in the team and it’s been a top club for a number of years. It’s a club I want to be a part of and win some silverware with.”

New blockbuster deal for Graham at the Sharks

Cronulla Sharks back-rower Wade Graham

Seen as a future captain of the club, a new long-term deal will see Wade Graham remain at the Cronulla Sharks. 

The new deal will see Graham a Shark until the end of the 2022 season.

Seen as a future captain of the club, Graham has been at the Sharks since 2011.

In that time, he has proven his mettle as a consistent performer, primarily as a back-rower.

With 219 NRL games to his name so far, 177 of which have come to the Sharks, Graham looks forward to continuing his Sharks tenure.

“I have tremendous belief in the club and in our playing group and I’m looking forward to the next four years and to the next chapter of my career,” he said.

Although Graham is set to miss the start of the season due to a previous ruptured ACL, his return is slated for mid 2019.

 

Smith set to crack elusive 400-mark with new Storm deal

Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith

Set to become the first Australian player to play 400 NRL games, Cameron Smith has finally put pen to paper with the Melbourne Storm.

A polarising figure in the rugby league landscape, Smith’s new deal with the Storm will run for two seasons.

Although his signing was key for the Storm, Smith was adamant that re-signing a young core around him was an important first step.

“We had some talented young guys coming off contract with the club looking to attain or extend their contract,” he said.

“I recognised that was important and I was wary of that – there is no use going in and signing a contract and having no quality players around me.

A special player and a one club man with the Storm, the club praised him for just how much he has put in for them.

“Cameron made it clear to us through the season he wanted to play on in 2019 but he saw it was more important to secure the future for the likes of Cameron Munster before him,” Donaghy said.

“Being a one-club player is rare in footy these days and it’s a credit to Cameron for sticking with us.

“There’s no doubt having Cameron around to help with the development of our next wave of players will be of enormous value to the team and the Club more broadly.”

Coming off one of his best seasons fitness wise, Smith felt like he was ready and able to go for another two seasons.

“I was feeling really good after the 2018 season… as good as I’ve ever felt and that was the reason I asked the club for two years,” Smith said.

“There was no haggling or pushing the club into a decision, I just posed the question.

“If it was a dead-set no from the club I would have been happy to go ahead with the 12 months and reassess during this season.”

Ricky’s NRL Previews Pt 1: Brisbane Broncos

Back again for another season, it’s Ricky’s NRL previews for the 2019 season, kick-starting with the Brisbane Broncos! 

With so much uncertainty around the head coaching role, questions over the halves and juggling the number of young guns, can the Broncos get themselves back into the second or third week of the finals in 2019?

The coaching saga

All off-season, everyone has been talking about Wayne Bennett and Anthony Seibold. Will they swap or will they stay? What would be the differences with either as coach in 2019?

As we know, Bennett is very old-school. One of the greatest coaches that Australian rugby league has ever seen, Bennett is a tough and stern but fair and honest coach.
That sort of approach is one that his players often appreciate.

However, as the game has changed,  Bennett’s inability to often change with it has affected his side, the way they play and their unison and cohesiveness as a team.
If Bennett cannot adapt to the ever-changing NRL atmosphere, can he continue to get the best out of any side?

As for Seibold, many see him as one of the coaches on the rise. Surprising many in just how much he managed to extract from the South Sydney Rabbitohs side in 2018, can he do the same at the Broncos?

In the Craig Bellamy mold of coaching, Seibold has an affinity with Queensland and the Brisbane area and so coaching the Broncos seems like a perfect fit. Or is it?
With so much uncertainty surrounding the Broncos side and their overall makeup, fitting in all the young players and satisfying the egos will be difficult.

Brisbane Broncos utility Kodi Nikorima

The halves make-up

Kodi Nikorima or Sean O’Sullivan? One is a relatively established half that has his critics, the other is a young, budding half, yearning for consistent opportunity.

For as long as he has played, Nikorima has always had criticism. Whether it be in general or whether it be specifically related to attack, the naysayers have been there.

A quiet achiever in terms of the way he goes about his business, he has proven on occasion that he is up to the task of leading a team or at least contributing to it.
Alongside Anthony Milford, who is very much a natural ball-runner rather than creator, Nikorima has been forced in some ways to be that creative source.

Despite being a natural ball-runner himself and a player whose versatility has perhaps limited him from developing one particular position in the past, it raises some interesting questions.

Is the Seibold era the one where Nikorima finally has a chance to settle as a half and adapt his game to complement that of Milford’s? Or do you run with the same game plan and just hope that they are both able to penetrate the defence and use quick feet and guile to bamboozle defenders?

Of course, the man on the outside looking in at all of this, is Sean O’Sullivan. A relative newcomer to the first-grade atmosphere, Sydney Roosters fans were and have been impressed with his ability for some time.

Now a Bronco, is it feasible for O’Sullivan to nab a starting spot or even a bench spot in the eyes of the Broncos fans?
Despite his relative inexperience, O’Sullivan impressed enough that some think he deserves a chance.

Is that chance now or will he be forced to wait?

Brisbane Broncos forward Tevita Pangai Jr.

The Young Ones

Blessed are they who are young and able to perform at the NRL level. The Broncos, a team able to produce a litany of talented kids destined for bigger things.

With so many on the horizon, though, and so many already getting a taste of first-grade, who features regularly?
Whether Bennett or Seibold are in charge, tough decisions will have to be made and not everyone will be pleased with those decisions.

Tevita Pangai Jr, Jaydn Su’A, Kotoni Staggs, Gehamat Shibasaki, David Fifita, Payne Haas and Patrick Carrigan.
All have the talent and ability but not all will be playing first-grade week in and week out.

One thing is for certain, though. When the Broncos need some quality depth, they won’t be lacking on recruits to call upon.

Player to Watch

One of the best emerging props you will see in 2019, David Fifita is ready to take the rugby league world by storm.
A hulking young forward, Fifita is at the Broncos for the long-term and will be looking to make the most of his opportunities.

Although injury cut his 2018 campaign short, his 11 games were impressive and have many Broncos fans eager to see him run around again.

Whether he starts or comes off the bench remains to be seen but his sheer power and tenacity, are sure to provide a big impact either way.
If he had not of played a total of 11 games, a rookie of the year award may have been on the horizon.

2019 Gains and Losses

Gains:  Shaun Fensom (North Queensland Cowboys, 2019), Thomas Dearden (2019), Thomas Flegler (2019), Myles Taueli (2019) and Sean O’Sullivan (Sydney Roosters, 2020).

Losses: Josh McGuire and Tom Opacic (both North Queensland Cowboys), Jonus Pearson and Korbin Sims (both St George Illawarra Dragons), Marion Seve (Melbourne Storm) and Sam Thaiday (retired).

NRL News Predicted Line-up

  1. Darius Boyd (C)
  2. Corey Oates
  3. James Roberts
  4. Jack Bird
  5. Jamayne Isaako
  6. Anthony Milford
  7. Kodi Nikorima
  8. Matt Lodge
  9. Andrew McCullough
  10. Joe Ofahengaue
  11. Matt Gillett
  12. Jaydn Su’A
  13. Tevita Pangai Jr.

14. Alex Glenn
15. Payne Haas
16. David Fifita
17. George Fai

Coach: Wayne Bennett/Anthony Seibold

 

 

Fensom makes a move to the Broncos

Former North Queensland Cowboys forward Shaun Fensom

Needing some more forward depth after several departures, Shaun Fensom has joined the Brisbane Broncos on a 1-year deal. 

Fensom, who made a name for himself at the Canberra Raiders, before playing for the North Queensland Cowboys, has a chance to start fresh.

With 174 NRL games to his name to date, Fensom hopes to add to that number at the Broncos.

It is a welcome addition for the Broncos whose forward pack needed some experience with many promising youngsters making their mark.