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Individual NRL Team and Club News

Knights mean business as Pearce signing is confirmed

Mitchell Pearce

In a huge boost for a side that has a very young core, the Newcastle Knights have signed experienced half Mitchell Pearce on a 4-year deal. 

After the off-field saga and drama that saw Pearce disappointed in his former club the Sydney Roosters when they signed Cooper Cronk, Pearce now has his new club to worry about, a signing that will boost the Novocastrian side.

Still only 28, Pearce has played in 238 NRL games and 17 State of Origin matches and can guide the likes of Kalyn Ponga and Connor Watson.

“This is wonderful news for the Club and for all of our Members and supporters,” General Manager Football Darren Mooney said.

“Mitchell is committed to our Club’s rebuild and wants to be here for the long-term.

“He brings experience and leadership, and without doubt, he will complement our young squad.”

With the chance to lead from the front and guide the Knights forward, coach Nathan Brown knows just how much of an impact Pearce will have on the team both on and off the field.

“Mitch will play an important role in the development of our young halves and will also be influential in the overall growth of our side,” Brown said.

“Mitch has an exceptional kicking game and is a great competitor.

“He has some big game experience and I know he comes here wanting to be a leader.”

Pearce will begin pre-season training with the Knights on Monday and is excited to get stuck in at his new club.

“I see a group of guys working hard and on the way up and I want to be part of making this team strong again for the town,” Pearce said.

“I am passionate about helping and leading the young players at the Club.

“From the moment I spoke to Nathan (Brown) and Darren (Mooney) about where the Club is heading, I knew this is where I wanted to be.

“I can’t wait to get stuck in and start with the guys on Monday.”

Likely move to the Eels beckons as Titans confirm early Hayne release

Jarryd Hayne

Deja vu? Back to the future? You might have to believe it, as the Gold Coast Titans confirm the early release of Jarryd Hayne with a likely move back to where it all began at the Parramatta Eels but a mere formality.

With club and player mutually agreeing to a contractual release, Hayne says that the last 16 months have been a whirlwind but he has enjoyed his time on the Coast.

“The last 16 months have been testing and joyful all wrapped up into one,” said Hayne.

“I thank the Titans members, fans, Board, staff and players for what they have done for me and my family over that time, with special mention Rebecca Frizelle, Graham Annesley and Anthony Laffranchi.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time on the coast, I love the community and the laid-back lifestyle. I thank every person, fan and sponsor that I‘ve met during my time here and wish the Titans all the best in 2018.”

CEO Graham Annesley praised Hayne as the club’s biggest signing coup in their history and wished him all the best with his move.

“There is no doubt his signing was the biggest coup in the Titans short history, and although it hasn’t worked out as everyone had hoped, including Jarryd, the club has benefited in many ways from his presence,” said Annesley.

“We wish Jarryd nothing but the best for his future both on and off the field.”

The Eels have now confirmed the signing of Hayne which is for the 2018 season only.

Although he put some fans offside with some of his previous exploits, he hopes to come back and make amends but did thank the club’s fans for the support he received.

“As I said yesterday, my decision to return to Sydney wasn’t taken lightly so I am grateful that Brad and the Eels have offered me the opportunity to return to the Club,” Hayne said.

“Eels Members and fans have been behind me throughout my career and I want to use this second chance to repay that faith and support.”

“I look forward to returning to training in early January 2018 and am keen to work hard and play my part for the team in building on last year’s finals run.”

Hayne, the Eels best junior and player since the club’s heydays of the 1980’s, is a huge boost for the club and club CEO knows how important his signing will be to the club’s title ambitions.

“Jarryd started playing for our Club as a 15-year-old, so we are pleased that he now has the opportunity to return and be part of a strong squad and playing culture that Brad Arthur has developed over the past few seasons,” Gurr said.

“From speaking with Jarryd, he is keen to join his teammates in early January and is committed to working with Brad and our players to build on our excellent 2017 season.

Jarryd’s abilities will strengthen our 2018 player roster and we look forward to again seeing Jarryd in the Blue & Gold”.

Penrith prop makes the shift North to the Titans

Leilani Latu

After learning of Brenton Lawrence’s sudden retirement yesterday, the Gold Coast Titans have today been boosted by the signing of Penrith Panthers prop, Leilani Latu.

Since he made his debut in 2015, Latu has played in 49 games for the Panthers but has been given an early release from his contract to take up a 3-year deal with the Titans.

With issues arising due to their cap and their desire to sign new players, Penrith had to make a decision and that resulted in Latu’s early release.

“Leilani came to Panthers several years ago looking for an opportunity,” Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould AM said.

“Since that time, he has worked extremely hard to become a representative class front row forward.

“He has been tremendous for our club and his release from Panthers is purely a salary cap management decision.

“He is a great acquisition for his new club and we wish him well in the future.”

With a new chance to impress, Latu is keen to make the most of his new adventure, particularly with spots up for grabs.

“I’m really looking forward to getting up to the Gold Coast,” Latu said.

“I’ve crossed paths with a few of the guys before so it will be good to play with them week in, week out.

Having worked alongside Titans coach Garth Brennan previously when he was in charge of the Panthers NSW cup side, Latu looks forward to working alongside him once more.

“Of course it’ll be good to hook-up with Garth again,” continued Latu.

“I enjoyed being coached by him before and he always challenges me which is something I’m looking forward to again.

“I had a good look at the roster before making my final decision and I’m excited by what I’ve seen. There are a lot of young boys with bright futures so hopefully, we can do well.”

Brennan is also excited to have Latu on board and knows that he will give the club some starch and punch in the forward pack.

“Leilani is a player with a great attitude and is a great clubman,” Brennan said.

“He’s had three strong years in the NRL and after discussing the prospect of him coming to the club, I know he’s extremely excited about the opportunity.

“He’ll fit into our squad nicely and I’m sure he’ll form a major part of our forward pack for many years to come.”

The rigours of rugby league result in Titans prop retiring

Brenton Lawrence

Just a few short months ago, he joined the Gold Coast Titans with plenty of promise and experience, raring to go for a new season with a club that he had previously played for.

Fast forward to the present day and Brenton Lawrence has made a decision to retire from the game due to his body being unable to cope with the weekly demands and rigours of rugby league.

Lawrence played in 18 games to start his career with the Titans, debuting in Round 16 of the 2011 season.

He moved to the Manly Sea Eagles and played in 82 games for them, culminating in 104 first-grade games in total.

In the end, Lawrence just felt like it was the best decision to make for himself and for the team.

“It’s with mixed emotions I make this decision,” Lawrence said.

“I would love to feel like a 20-year-old and have many more seasons ahead, the reality is I’m not and I believe this is the best decision for the team, and for myself.”

Despite an earlier than expected retirement, Lawrence looks back on his rugby league career with pride.

“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in rugby league,” continued the veteran forward.

“I have experienced some of the best years of my life both at the Gold Coast Titans and the Manly Sea Eagles.

“I’ve been so fortunate through rugby league to create incredible memories and friendships that I hold very dear and I would like to thank everyone who has ever supported my career. It is something I have never taken for granted.”

Although the club would have liked Lawrence to be on their roster for the next couple of seasons, they applaud the decision he has made for his own health and betterment.

“Of course we would have loved Brenton to play for the club but he has made a selfless decision and I commend him for that,” Titans coach Garth Brennan said.

“He knows his body better than anyone else so he has made a personal decision that will keep him in good health down the track.

“Brenton is a player who has made an impact in the short time he has been back, and I, as well as all of the playing group, wish him well for the future.”

Lawrence will not be lost to the game, however, or to the Titans, with CEO Graham Annesley looking at possible roles that the veteran can fill in and utilise his experience with.

“We are currently talking to Brenton about how we can keep him involved with the Titans,” Annesley said.

“He is a quality person with an enormous amount of experience who can be a real asset for the club in a variety of areas off the field.

“His honesty in putting the club ahead of his own personal interests is a mark of the man he is.”

Sharks junior signs new 2-year deal after impressive 2017

Jayden Brailey

In a boost for the Cronulla Sharks, the club has announced the re-signing of talented hooker Jayden Brailey on a 2-year deal. 

Brailey, already signed on for 2018, has been a promising player for the Sharks since starting the year at hooker.

The Aquinas Colts junior will now remain at the Sharks until the end of 2020 and after a stellar 2017 season, the club are pleased to retain him and watch him develop even further as a player and a person.

“Jayden is only young and he had a tough first year. He needed to play big minutes, then he had the broken jaw but he is tough and resilient,” said Sharks coach Shane Flanagan.

“He came back from the injury and had an excellent season.

“He has the respect of his senior teammates, from players like Gallen and Lewis, which is important, and if Jayden keeps going and keeps doing what he’s doing, he will have a long and successful career at the Sharks and in the NRL.”

In the end, Brailey could not see himself at any other club and so staying at the Sharks was an easy decision.

“I’ve been at the Sharks since I was about 13 and they’ve taught me so much,” said Brailey.

“They’ve been a big part of where I am today and hopefully it’s the start of being at this club for a long time.

“I’m very stoked.”


Dubbo local handed new deal at Penrith after solid 2017 season

Isaah Yeo

After impressing and cementing his spot in the back-row for the Penrith Panthers in 2017, the club has extended the contract of Dubbo local, Isaah Yeo.

The new deal has added a further two years to his contract which will see him stay at the Panthers until the end of the 2021 season.

Yeo is excited to remain with the club that he now calls home.

“I’m stoked with the situation and how it all panned out,” Yeo said.

“The club has shown tremendous faith in me and I’m looking forward to trying to repay that faith on the field with my performances.

“I think the last two years have been successful, especially given the age of our playing group, and I’m very confident with where this team is heading.

“I’m really excited to be here. It’s where I call home now.”

Yeo won back-to-back premierships, the first in 2013 with the Penrith Panthers Holden Cup side and then again in 2014 with their Intrust Super Premiership side.

The club sees him as an invaluable player and is aware that he will only get better moving forward.

“Isaah is an outstanding young man,” Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould AM said.

“He has come through the Panthers development system and now established himself as a mainstay in our NRL team.

“Isaah already displays tremendous leadership qualities and we are delighted he has committed his long-term future to our club.

“I have no doubts he will be a representative player in the years to come.”

Freddy gets the nod as the next NSWRL coach

Brad Fittler

After much speculation as to whether he would get the job, the NSWRL have today confirmed that Brad Fittler has been appointed as the new NSW Blues coach for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

The position was highly sought after by numerous coaches with experience at the highest level but in the end, the decision was made to go with Fittler.

“Given the importance of this appointment, the Board has taken the appropriate amount of time to fully consider the issue,” said NSWRL Chairman, George Peponis.

“A number of highly qualified candidates expressed an interest in the position. I have no doubt that any one of them could have done a great job if the Board had decided to appoint them.

Ultimately, the Board was unanimous in the view that Brad Fittler should be appointed to the position.”

Peponis praised Fittler’s qualifications and made mention of his solid RLWC outing as Lebanon coach as they look forward to seeing what he can produce as NSWRL coach.

“Brad’s qualifications for the role are impeccable and his standing within the game is pre-eminent,” continued Peponis.

“His recent efforts in the Rugby League World Cup with Lebanon serve as a reminder of his talents as a coach and they provide a window into the exciting future which he will bring the New South Wales State of Origin team.”

Equally pleased was NSWRL Chief Executive David Trodden, who praised Fittler for his appointment as well as for his previous work with the NSWRL.

“I couldn’t be happier for Freddy with this appointment,” Trodden said.

“In the last few years, he has made a massive impression on everyone in the NSWRL with the work he has done with our KARI City Origin team and our Pathways teams.

He has achieved outstanding success with these teams and in reality, he has spent those years preparing for the role which he has now been appointed to.

NSWRL is in for a great ride and sustained success in the next few years beckons.”

A Mata’utia brother granted a release from his contract

Chanel Mata’utia

After consideration regarding his future, Chanel Mata’utia was officially given a release from the final year of his contract by the Newcastle Knights.

Mata’utia made the decision after realising that it was the right time for him to step away from the game, one that he is comfortable in making.

“The Club has been great to me and I will miss everyone, but it is the right time for me to step away from the game at this level,” Mata’utia said.

“I plan to play in the local competition and find a job, as my family and I move on to the next stage of our lives.

“I am comfortable with my decision and want to thank everyone at the Club, and also the fans, for all of the support.”

A Knights junior, Mata’utia went on to play a total of 13 NRL games for the club as they wished him the best in his endeavours.

“We thank Chanel for his contribution to the Club and respect his decision to make this change,” General Manager Football Darren Mooney said.

“We wish Chanel and his family all the best for the future.”

Pearce gets his release but where will he end up?

Mitchell Pearce

Although his release from the Sydney Roosters has been officially confirmed, conjecture remains over where his new home will be as Mitchell Pearce considers the options available to him. 

After a Roosters career that began when he was just 17 years old, the halfback has played in 11 seasons for the club and had a love-hate relationship with the fans.

Like any decision that a player makes regarding their future, it is never easy, however, Pearce felt like moving away from the Roosters was the best one to make.

“Obviously, this hasn’t been an easy decision for me to come to, but I feel that it’s the right one,” said Pearce.

“I’ve been with the Roosters since I was 17 and have grown into a man here.

I’ve made a lot of close friends at the Club, and I’ve always been proud to wear the Roosters jersey.”

Although the club itself means a lot to Pearce having been a part of him for so long, he looks forward to the challenges that lie ahead at his new club once he makes that decision.

The Roosters Club and people there will always mean a lot to me, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity and challenge joining a new club will bring, while continuing to push myself to be the best halfback I can be,” Pearce continued.

“Now that I’ve made this decision, hopefully, I’ll have the rest of my future sorted over the next few weeks,” he added.

Despite his departure, Pearce drew strong praise and well wishes from club Chairman Nick Politis.

“Mitchell has been a big part of the Sydney Roosters Club for more than a decade,” Politis said.

“He’s played 11 seasons of NRL and is among the most-capped players in our Club’s history.”

In the end, as Pearce and the Roosters know, rugby league is a business and the club respects the decision made by their now former play-maker.

“We all love Pearcey – he has developed very strong relationships with a number of people at the Club and we have been through a lot together,” Politis continued.

“While it would have been great to see him continue to add to his legacy at the Roosters, we respect his decision.

“Mitchell will always be a Rooster, and he leaves with our sincerest thanks and very best wishes.”

Someone who has been through all the ups and downs with Pearce is Roosters coach Trent Robinson, who also praised the halfback for his contributions to the Tricolours.

“We’ve been through a lot and I have a lot of respect for Junior both as a footballer and as a man,” Robinson said.

“I’d personally like to thank Pearcey for the role he’s played at the Roosters.

He’s a good person who will always have many friends at the Club and I know I speak on behalf of everyone in wishing him all the very best.”



Penrith re-sign young playmaker after dynamic debut season

Tyrone May

Thrust into the halves role on a whim due to injuries, Tyrone May thrived and performed well enough, impressing Penrith Panthers officials as they rewarded him with a new contract. 

The new deal for May will run until the end of the 2020 season, a sign as to how much the club value him, his play and his versatility.

Although May injured himself at the back end of the 2017 season, his good form prior to that justified the new contract and he is pleased to have the opportunity to prolong his Penrith stay.

“I was always focused on staying here and I never really wanted to leave,” May said.

“When the (contract) offer came up, I just accepted and was really happy and excited.

“It’s really good that Panthers have shown faith in me even though I’ve got an injury.”

A Penrith junior, May was part of the Panthers 2015 Holden Cup premiership-winning season with five tries in his nine NRL games to date, he is a player that has impressed the coaching staff.

“Tyrone is another local junior who has been a part of the Panthers development system since he was 15 years of age,” Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould AM said.

“It was exciting to see him come through to NRL level last season and he acquitted himself brilliantly.

“We are grateful to have him as part of our club. I’m confident he has a long and successful career ahead.”