Category Archives: NRL Club News

Individual NRL Team and Club News

Dragons players unsure over the future of coach Wayne Bennett

Has he signed with Souths or with the Dragons? Will the proposed second Brisbane team get Wayne as their man if they are given the green light to join the league? There is only one way to find out.

What makes the situation even more confusing, is that many Dragons players have been kept out of the loop regarding the whole situation, as Bennett ponders his options for  beyond season 2011.

For Dragons captain Ben Hornby, he believes that despite the rumours that exist regarding Bennett, the Dragons will remain the same tight-knit and cohesive unit in 2011, even if the rumours are true and Bennett leaves.

In the scheme of things however, the Bennett rumours are merely a minute distraction, as the Dragons prepare for the annual Charity Shield clash on February 13 at ANZ Stadium.

In relation to Bennett however, it seems like Souths might not be the only ones pushing hard for his signature, with the Cowboys, Broncos and the newly-owned Knights under Tinkler, all teams that will target the supercoach.

Whilst the matter is no doubt one in which the club will deal with, Ben Hornby and the rest of the Dragons hope that Bennett stays on as coach.

“I doubt the players would have any problem playing with Wayne [if he decides to leave],” Hornby said.

“At the end of the day, Wayne’s going to make a decision and we’ll have to live with whatever he decides.

“Wayne tends to keep his cards close to his chest.

“We’re just players and our job is to focus on training at the moment.

“We’d love to see him stay, but it’s out of our hands. From our point of view, it hasn’t been a distraction at all.”

Dragons centre, and one of their favourite sons said that the players have received no indication from the club or Bennett himself, about which direction the supercoach is planning to go in.

“He [Bennett] said at the end of the year he’d let us know when he’s made a decision,” Cooper said. “He’ll make up his own mind.”

Guerra is the man without luck

He is still only a young player, but he just has no luck when it comes to getting consistent playing time on the football field.

The injuries, all of which have happened at the same time, have prevented Aidan Guerra from fulfilling the potential that many know he is capable of.

As Guerra was recovering from his off-season shoulder surgery, during some running drills, Guerra felt some twinges of pain in his shins.

As the pain failed to go away, he was whisked away to the medical staff, where they determined that the new problem for Guerra was shin splints.

“It’s just really frustrating to have another setback and especially in this case because the medical staff are not sure what is causing this latest problem,” he said.

“They think it could be caused by my calves but I’m having a scan on Thursday and we should know what’s going on then.”

In order to fully recover and not re-aggravate any existing injury, Guerra is only training every second day with light contact sessions only.

His strike-rate between NRL games played and number of operations received is almost on par, with Guerra having played 9 NRL games, and undergoing 6 operations.

Despite the latest injury setback, and his ongoing string of bad luck, Guerra is confident that he can return to the scintillating form he displayed last season where he scored three tries in the first nine games.

“I think I showed my potential last year I just need to shake off this latest problem and get back to where I was,” he said.

“There are so many good back rowers in the club now so I am looking forward to the challenge of getting myself back in to the team.”

Heighington rejects chance to play for England to chase Blues jersey

Wests Tigers forward Chris Heighington has turned his back on the chance to play for England, in the hope that he can secure a NSW  Blues jumper in 2011.

The offer was made to him to represent England, and he considered it, after both he and Tigers coach Tim Sheens expressed their disappointment and frustration at the fact that Heighington was constantly overlooked by selectors despite being in strong form.

Heighington, who was snubbed by the City country team as well, which prompted England coach Steve McNamara to contact his Tigers team-mate and current English international Gareth Ellis to discuss the possibility of changing allegiance.

Despite taking the offer into account, Heighington eventually rejected the idea, despite the fact that he would have been proud to represent England, given his father hails from the country.

Perhaps the sticking point in his decision to remain in the hunt for NSW, was his selection by NSW coach Ricky Stuart in the “Blues in Waiting” squad for Origin in 2011.

”It was an option there for me,” Heighington said of representing England.

”It’s one of those things, where my dad is from England, and I’m very proud of where he’s from. He’s always been a father that [says] do what you feel is best. He just doesn’t push me in any direction. He lets me do that.”

“He’s been my inspiration thorough my career … It’s been a few years, and now I’ve got an opportunity, and there’s a new coach on board with Ricky Stuart and new coaching staff. There’s probably an opportunity in a couple of positions there but, in saying that, there’s a lot of good back-rowers in the NRL at the moment.”

“I just have to play my best and see what happens.”

Tim Sheens, who is also the Australian coach, has warned selectors of leaving a player of Heighington’s quality out on a regular basis, and says he deserves a shot to play.

”Tim has been great for me; he brought me from the [Central] Coast and gave me an opportunity, and now, nine years on, I’m still playing under him,” Heighington said.

”I owe a lot to him. He does go into bat for his players, and he’s been a great coach to me over the past nine years.”

Dane Tilse arrives in leaders circle

A redemption for the ages is on the cards for Canberra Raiders prop Dane Tilse, with the former Knight being named as part of the leadership group at the Raiders.

It was an ugly incident at a student dormitory in Bathurst that was expected to bring about a premature end to Tilse’s career back in 2005, when he was still a young player.

Despite the adversity however, Tilse has bounced back well since the incident, and was rewarded with a berth at the Raiders, and he has not looked back since.

As a result of the 2005 incident, he was sacked by the Knights and de-registered by the NRL for a season, before he came back in 2006 with the Canberra Raiders.

“I think I’ve just grown on and off the field in the last six years, it’s a long time ago now,” he told AAP.

“I’m just happy to be in the group and I’m hoping I can make a difference.

“Not too much will change, I’ll just go about my training as I have.”

Described by the Raiders club as one of those members that is the “heart and soul” of the Raiders club, he has thus been named in the leadership group along with Alan Tongue, Bronson Harrison, Terry Campese, David Shillington, Brett White and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs.

“For sure I’ve learnt from my mistake off the field and I probably let them know about a few of the pitfalls of drinking as a footballer,” Tilse said.

“I’ve got a fair bit to let the young fellas know about.”

Nightingale eager to stay at Dragons

After a career best year that saw him named in the New Zealand side, it seems that the under-rated Dragons winger, Jason Nightingale might be on the outer at the club, unless things are sewn up, and quickly.

Nightingale, who scored twice in the Dragons grand final win in the 2010 season, says that the Dragons are yet to approach him about negotiating a new deal, as he is off-contract at the end of 2011.

“I would like to stay but there are a few things in the air at the moment, but I am sure negotiations will start soon,” said Nightingale.

“I am happy where I am, the club is heading in the right direction and I want to stay part of it.”

Should negotiations be put on hold or stall, it will be the New Zealand Warriors with first dibs on Nightingale, given the NZ connection, as well as the fact that he shares a good relationship with many of the NZ players.

Despite such connections however, Nightingale says that his desire is to remain in Australia.

“You never rule anything out, I am only 24 now and not really looking at chasing contracts overseas,” he said.

“I am just happy doing what I am at the moment, but I will leave it up to my manager and the club to work things out and I am sure they will.”

Wayne Scurrah, the Warriors Chief Executive, said that if the opportunity ever arose to sign Nightingale, his side would not hesitate, but they would expect the Dragons to throw the kitchen sink at Nightingale to keep him.

“Jason is a fantastic player and if he ever became available then of course we would consider trying to sign him,” Scurrah said.

“However, that doesn’t mean it would go any further than that.

“We are the only rugby league side in New Zealand and ideally we would grow and develop our own players and retain those.

“But we’re always looking at the best players regardless of nationality, but being a Kiwi club we do like to have New Zealand players in our team.”

Brown aims to be fullback

He was the fullback during their finals campaign, and after some strong performances for his club despite their not making it all the way, Wests Tigers fullback Mitch Brown is confident that he can regain his spot.

In his first year at the Tigers, Brown has played in 20 NRL games, and excelled in the fullback position, after he was initially shifted between the fullback and wing positions at the Tigers.

It was only after first-string fullback Wade McKinnon went down with a hamstring injury, that Brown was given the chance to start in the position, in which he performed admirably.

“I achieved more in 2010 than I did in the last few years. I never played semi-finals footy before and that was an unbelievable experience,’’ Brown said.

“The most fans I had ever run out in front of before the preliminary final against St George-Illawarra were around 20,000 so to run out onto ANZ Stadium in front of 72,000 fans was just the best feeling. It is one of the reasons why you play footy.”

Brown is eager to do what he can to start in the fullback role, and he is looking forward to the challenge of jostling for the position with both Wade McKinnon and Tim Moltzen in 2011.

“It was good to play full-back during the finals and actually be working hard practising in that position at training,’’ Brown said.

“Playing in the one position enables you do the little things needed for each game and really practice them. When you are chopping and changing positions, you are practising slightly different skills at each session.

“By playing full-back, it enabled me to work hard on my catching and support play and being able to perfect it.”
Brown has been working hard on defusing the high kicks at training but says defusing bombs comes down to a matter of self belief and confidence. “If you keep saying to yourself that you are going to catch the ball no matter what, then you are more likely to do it,’’ Brown said.

“If you start thinking that the opposition is coming up and you might get hit or it is a big bomb, then you doubt yourself. You always have to be confident that you are going to take it. I guess it is hard if you drop the first ball, it plays on the back of the mind for the next one.

“At training last year, I was doing an extra 30 minutes after each session of just catching 60 bombs. I had (Assistant Coach) Peter Gentle, Benji Marshall and Robert Lui continuously putting bombs up to me.

“It made a difference during the finals in that because I did it so many times at training, it just came naturally and you put yourself into the right position.

“These days, teams have got plenty of attacking options to test a full-back out. You always have to be on your toes for the bombs, the chip kicks, the spiral kicks or the 40/20s.”

Suncorp Stadium good to go for Brisbane season opener

After there was initial doubt as to whether or not the stadium would be ready in time, any doubt can now be dispelled, with Suncorp Stadium all but confirmed as the venue for the Broncos Rd 1 clash against the North Queensland Cowboys.

Before confirming if the ground was eligible to play on however, new Broncos CEO Paul White wanted to get assurances that all of the facilities were up to scratch, and that the regular crowd of 50,000 people is not affected in any shape or form by the previous flood damage.

After being taken on an inspection of the stadium, and the grounds, White was confident enough that the stadium and facilities were in order, thus the game will take place as normal.

“A lot of work is being done in the short term, and the playing surface itself should be right in a couple of weeks,” he said.

“The players may have to put up with temporary dressingroom facilities, but it should not have an impact on their preparation.”

Injured Watts aiming to return before Origin

He suffered what is regarded as one of the most common injuries in sportsmen today, an injury which can also take sometime to heal properly, but this Roosters player is determined to get back on the field before Origin.

Anthony Watts, one of the Roosters new recruits for the 2011 season, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in November of last year, during a pre-season tackling bag drill.

With such an injury, whilst the worst case scenario was for Watts to miss the entire season as a result of the injury, he is doing everything he can to ensure that he is back on the paddock before Rd 11.

Watts, who actually started his career with the Roosters in the lower grades, moved to Cronulla and then North Queensland, before the Roosters made him a primary target for his utility value.

Capable of filling in at hooker, and in the halves, the reason for Watts determination to be back in the fold come Origin time is because the likelihood of both Todd Carney and Mitchell Pearce being selected for Origin is very high.

“We’ll probably have Pearcy and Carney both in the Origin team and a few of the other boys as well, so it’ll be good to get back and help the team out,” said Watts of his anticipated return which would be the weekend before Origin 1.

“Rehab’s really good. I saw the surgeon last Wednesday and he was really happy that the joint is nice and strong. I’m doing a lot of rehab and we’ve got great physios there who are really looking after me, so it’s coming along real well.

“It looked like it could have been my season, but it even could be earlier than round 11. I think round 11 is the six month mark so I’m going to try and go from there.”

Pleased with his tenure at the Cowboys, but disappointed about the injury he sustained, it was a major setback for Watts, and he admits that he felt grounded and jaded upon the news.

Watts is however looking forward to the challenge of going toe-to-toe with former Dragon and Eel Mark Riddell, and he is eager to jostle with Riddell for first dibs on the hooker spot.

“I did have my down points after the first three weeks, but I’ve got agood strong support base around me,” he said.

“Mark Riddell’s a great player and he’s proved over the years how good he is. It’s just another challenge really and I’m up for it and my main concern at the moment is just to get my leg right and get back on the field.”

Justin Hodges a key part of Broncos 2011 premiership charge

As Justin Hodges prepares to make his long-awaited return following a horrendous achilles injury that saw him sidelined for much of the 2010 season, Broncos coach Ivan Henjak has described the representative centre as a “crucial” part of the Broncos 2011 season.

After missing most of last season, there was suspicion that perhaps it was the beginning of the end for Hodges career, but he has been lighting it up at training, including the revamped version of his trademark side-step, a move that pleased both his team-mates and the coach.

“We certainly missed him last year, he’s a big part of our team,” Henjak told AAP on Monday.

“With the players we’ve lost over the last few years (primarily Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau) he’s even more important to the side now,” added the coach, who is yet to anoint Folau’s replacement.

“His experience will be crucial to our prospects in 2011.

“With both K (Hunt) and Izzy (Folau) gone, Justin is a senior player in our backline along with Locky (Lockyer).

“Our outside backs are still very young and Justin plays a crucial role, not only what he does physically out there, but with the confidence and talk he can share with those young blokes out wide.”

Hodges team-mates, Henjak, the board, and the fans are all overjoyed that the representative centre is fit and healthy and raring to go, after what was a very long spell on the sidelines.

“We’re all excited, everyone in this organisation and every Broncos fan, we’re all looking forward to seeing him play again,” said the coach.

“It’s really encouraging to see some of the things he’s just starting to do at training … he’s starting to take it up another notch.”

Hodges has one aim in mind however, and that is to do whatever he can to get back his representative jerseys for both Queensland and Australia, and if he can get back to the form that saw he get those jerseys in the first place, then he is almost guaranteed to get the chance once more.

“I think it’s been a real frustrating time for him especially when there were doubts over whether he’d ever play again,” Henjak said.

“The signs for Justin are very good, he’s in a very good space, he’s physically in good shape, he’s enjoying training and he’s training really well.

“He’s definitely ready to go.”

Storm captain reveals different motivation for 2011 season

2010 was a year to forget for the Melbourne Storm. They breached the salary cap, and were thus stripped of their minor premierships and premierships as a result.

They played the remainder of the season for no points, and it was demoralising for the team, particularly towards the end of the season, but 2011 will be a different ball-game according to Storm captain Cameron Smith.

The motivation for season 2011 won’t be coming from the fact that the Storm had a poor year due to their cap breach in 2010, but rather the desire to ensure that they remain competitive in season 2011.

“It’s not a motivation at all,’ says Smith.

“We haven’t spoken about it and I doubt whether it will be used throughout 2011. We’ve all moved on and we just can’t wait for round one against Manly at home.

“Our goal is to be the best team we can possibly be. We’ve never had goals about playing finals or winning premierships, but our expectation has always been to be competitive every time we step on the field.

“Last year was disappointing, but We’re always hungry for success and at this time of the year we’re always keen to get out there and start playing.

“We did some great things for charity last year which gave our season some meaning, but now we’re looking forward to playing for points once again.”

Smith will also be on NRL.com involved in a live question debate with fans, talking about a range of topics and areas on Australia Day.