Category Archives: NRL Club News

Individual NRL Team and Club News

Eric Grothe retires from the NRL

Both he and his dad have made the Grothe name synonymous with the Parramatta Eels, but it seems the current Grothe legacy has come to an end with Eric Grothe Junior announcing his retirement from the NRL.

Having initially signed a new 1 year contract with the Eels a few months ago, Grothe felt that his chronic knee injury wasn’t healing properly, and that it was best for him to step aside.

Whilst it is a sad day for the winger, Grothe insists that he is looking forward to the new opportunities in his life including his band Shinobi, as well as his cafe in Cronulla.

“I’m going to miss the Club and especially the boys, but I feel it is the right time to move on,” he says.

“I‘ve had many injuries throughout my career and it’s getting harder to recover from them. I loved my many years at Parra but I have other things I want to concentrate on now.”

Grothe, who made his debut with the Eels 1999 against the North Queensland Cowboys, also had a 2 year stint with the Roosters before returning to the Eels in 2004.

Grothe also played for the City team, as well as Origin in 2006, and for Australia.

The talented winger played 142 NRL games and scored 268 points from 67 tries.

Players look forward to Hindmarsh’s captaincy at the Eels

Following the retirement of prop and club stalwart Nathan Cayless at the end of the 2010 season, the decision has been made to make current Eels legend Nathan Hindmarsh as captain for the 2011 season.

Hindmarsh, who was one of several co-captains under Cayless last year, will be making the transition to the captaincy, as he takes over from an Eels side that is very similar to last year in that the playing group is relatively unchanged.

”A lot of the boys know the look already,” Hindmarsh chuckled.

”A few of the young blokes don’t know it, but they’ll soon find out [from me].

”It’s not that Nath didn’t like talking; he just felt he didn’t need to talk too often. When he did, we all listened. That was the good thing about it – he didn’t overtalk and when he did, we all shut up and listened. I like that.

”That’s one of the things I’ll take from Nath, definitely.”

Hindmarsh is regarded as one of the best second-rowers to represent the club, and he approaches his role with the club with great aplomb.

”[Cayless] had a hard work ethic,” Hindmarsh said. ”He was no fuss, just a bloke who worked very hard on the field and off it. There was never any complaint and that’s what I’m trying to do this year.

”In the past, I’ve whinged about something here or there under my breath. This year I’m focused on trying not to do that because it can really rub off on the rest of the boys and that’s not a good thing.

”[Captaincy] is still a learning process for me.

”I’ve taken on more responsibility this year already when it comes to discipline, team events, what we’re looking to do on the field, all that sort of stuff.

”Instead of leaving it all up to Nath, which I did last year, it’s more on my shoulders. I’m taking more of an active role.”

It won’t only be Hindmarsh taking up a leadership role with new coach Stephen Kearney has appointed a leadership group consisting of captain Hindmarsh, Ben Smith, Luke Burt and Tim Mannah.

”When you see the captains who have done it before, it’s such an honour a great club like Parramatta,” Hindmarsh continued.

”I haven’t had much time to think about it but the more I talk to you, the more I think about it and the more excited I get.

”I don’t feel different; I’m not going to change the style of football I play. Of course, I’m going to say I want to carry the ball more and do less tackles but I’ve been saying that for 10 years.

”I’ll be the same old me. I’ll probably have a bit more to say on game day and at training as well, but other than that I’ll be the same.”

The attitude of the club has also changed drastically under Kearney, as he looks to make the Eels a side that other teams are scared to play.

”The way we’re training this year, the team is doing that,” he said. ”If someone is not having a dig, it’s the team that is pulling guys up.

”It could be a young person like Jacob Loko, who sees someone is not putting in. He’s got the authority at the moment to give them a hurry-up. That’s the team mentality we’re taking on this year – don’t let anyone down.”

In the words of Nathan Hindmarsh, he talks about new coach Stephen Kearney, pre-season training, representative football, and 2011 expectations.

On Stephen Kearney
”Very good. Quiet. Very thorough. Easy to get on with. We’re still sussing him out, what we can get away with, a bit of cheek here and there. The first thing he did when he came in here was set the rules. The main message was ‘If you want to be here, you’ve got to work hard – if you don’t want to, you can go right now.’ We all sat up in our seats and realised this was serious. A good bloke.”

On pre-season training
”It’s the toughest for quite some time now. It’s not enjoyable when you’re doing it but when you finish you get a nice sense of satisfaction after completing such a hard task. We’ve gone back to more traditional stuff for Parramatta, more hills, more longer-distance running than what we’ve been doing in the last five or six years. The boys don’t get too much sleep on Sunday night thinking about that Monday morning [hills] session.”

On representative football
”I’ve retired. I didn’t make this year’s Four Nations side so that’s pretty much it. I’ll never say never. If they’re looking for a 31-year-old back-rower to fill a spot, I’m always available.”

On 2011 expectations
”We’re hoping to improve on last year but that’s as much as I can say. The start of the season is still a long way away. At this stage we’re just trying to get as fit as we can before Christmas. We haven’t set any team goals yet. It’s just heads down, bums up and we’re trying to run as fast as we can for as long as we can.”

Mullen determined to prove that he is a future leader

Jarrod Mullen, Newcastle five-eighth has promised that he will use his new three year contract to learn, lead, inspire and blossom.

Whilst it feels like he has been in the NRL for years, Mullen, who is only 23, he has already played 100 first grade games and represented NSW, and he was defiant in his negotiations with the club as he felt they had to lift their game.

Knights coach Rick Stone has placed great trust in Mullen, as he’s been given a greater leadership role within the club, as well as being told to garner as much information from Knights captain Kurt Gidley as possible.

”I’ll learn a lot from Kurt,” Mullen said. ”The players look up to him and I see him as one of those never-say-die type players who always puts in a 100 per cent effort for himself and the team. There’s a lot to ask and to learn. 

”People say to look at Joey, and I really did when I played with him. One of the great things I gained from watching Andrew Johns was see the importance of composure; he never allowed for anything to fluster him. And that’s vital at halfback or five-eighth because players in that position are always being looked at to pull something out of the fire.”

Mullen’s primary decison behind re-signing with the Knights was that he believes that the club are very close to having a break-out year, and creating an era for the Knights club that players, officials and fans alike will cherish forever.

”I love where the club is heading. I think we showed in the last eight or 10 weeks of last season where the club is headed – we could be a force in the competition. We’ve signed a lot of good young players on the way up and also a couple of old heads like Neville Costigan and Steve Southern. It’s looking great.”

Mullen, who is primarily a five-eighth will most likely be shifted to halfback as the plan is to get his hands on the ball more often, as his hunger for a second NSW berth only grows stronger, after his shock 2007 NSW cap.

”I wasn’t really ready for it then, but I’ll be wanting to put my hand up for it,” says Mullen.

Stone, is keen and intrigued to see just how Mullen will deal with the added pressure of being a leader and taking more responsibility within the club.

”Jarrod realises he has to take some of the pressure off Kurt and he’ll need to do that to be a senior player,” says Stone

Dallas Johnson not at the Cowboys to lose

They had a very poor season by their standards, and by their fans standards, but new recruit Dallas Johnson hasn’t signed with Townsville to lose a ton of games.

Johnson is determined to help the Townsville based club turn around their fortunes as they try to put a poor 2010 season behind them, and rally behind each other as they look forward to the 2011 season.

In what has been quite a ride for the man called DJ over the past 12 months, he’s relieved that the ride is over, and that he’s back in the NRL.

“I might have lost more over there than I have in my whole career,” he joked.

Having been forced to put up with excessive losses at his French-based UK Super League club Catalans, the notion of losing for DJ, is one that he would rather forget, as he tries to put them behind him.

“I realised I’ve got a lot more to give back in the NRL,” Johnson said.

“I enjoyed France but I felt the best thing for my career was to come back to the NRL.”

Johnson, who was a North Queensland junior was thus granted a release from Catalans, and the Cowboys pounced to sign him in a bid to bolster their pack.

“I’m not a big fan of losing, and I came up here to be successful,” Johnson said.

“I feel fresh and I’m excited and ready to go. I think the year over in France freshened me up mentally.”

Origin is also firmly on the agenda for the 28-year-old Johnson, as he looks to reach those greener pastures with QLD again.

Is Jordan Rankin the man to play five-eighth for the Titans?

According to Mat Rogers, he may very well be, with the retired half throwing his support behind the rookie, as the five-eighth spot at the Titans remains wide open.

With Rogers retiring at the end of the 2010 season, Titans coach John Cartwright is assessing his options as to who will partner Scott Prince in the halves, yet no-one at this stage is a sure thing.

“I’d love to see Jordan get a shot at it,” Rogers said. “He’s obviously got some defensive things he needs to work on and he knows that.

“He’s young, so he’s only going to get stronger and better. He really wants it and that’s half the battle.”

Rankin, who made his debut for the Titans in 2008, was the third youngest player to do so in a rich 102 year history for the NRL.

Rankin is not the only one vying for the spot, with new recruit and former Bunny Luke Capewell also an option, as well as former NRL half Richie Williams who impressed the Titans after his stint with the Burleigh Bears.

If push comes to shove, and neither of the three stake their claims, then both Greg Bird and Preston Campbell are more than capable of playing five-eighth.

“I know Birdy would like to play five-eighth and Presto is so courageous that the hardest thing for him, if he was to play a full season there, is he would smash himself,” Rogers said.

“He could play there and hide [in defence], but he wouldn’t do that.

“It will be interesting to see how Carty uses Presto next year because he is an integral part of the side.”

Piggy could get stuck in reserve grade

Initially, it was thought that he may act as a second-rower off the bench, but now, it seems like new Tigers recruit Mark Riddell could find himself playing extended periods in the NSW Cup.

Whilst Riddell is an accomplished hooker, and seen as an adequate replacement for the hooker position, Tigers coach Tim Sheens was forced to come clean, and tell Mark that he could face periods in the NSW Cup.

Riddell will probably only feature in the first-grade team at hooker if Robbie Farah is injured, suspended or chosen for Origin, not to mention the fact that Farah is an 80 minute player, thus nullifying the need for a reserve hooker off the bench.

“If Rob was a half a game hooker like some, Mark would be happy to play second fiddle. My issue is, and I’ve spoken to him about it, is he may play premier league,” Sheens told AAP.

“He’s a big time performer, he played last year’s Super League grand final, so his position being a specialist cover for Robbie is great … it could go good for him or it could go not so good in that he won’t get much first grade.

“Just as long as Mark understands that could be an issue.”

What may work in Piggy’s favour though is his size, which some Tigers officials think can be utilised to play minutes in the second-row/lock positions, to give tiring forwards a breather.

Another option, and one that hasn’t been ruled out by the maestro coach is seeing Riddell make a permanent shift to hooker, moving Farah into halfback, but that seems the most far-fetched of the lot.

“If we did have an issue in the No.7 jumper that could happen,” Sheens said.

“I’ve never liked moving Robbie before because I don’t like strengthening one (position) and weakening another, but I think Mark at his best could certainly play 9 and Robbie could play 7.”

In other Tigers news which is sure to make the fans happy for the future, the club has re-signed veteran forwards Todd Payten until the end of 2012, and Chris Heighington until the end of 2013.

“It’s a big goal of mine. A lot of things have to go my way before that can happen. I think it’s a fair achievement for a frontrower to do that,” Payten said.

Tigers change jersey as billionaire comes on board

A new playing strip for 2011 is to today be unveiled by the Wests Tigers just as billionaire tycoon Harry Triguboff returns to the Tigers as a major sponsor.

Triguboff sensationally cut ties with the Wests Tigers club a decade ago, after their ill-fated first season in the NRL,  though courtesy of some smart negotiation from CEO Stephen Humphreys resulted in the billionaire making a return to the Tigers sponsors.

The Tigers, who have slightly altered their stripes for the 2011 season did so at their Concord headquarters, though not all fans are pleased with the new jersey.

Simon of Balmain said “Hideous jersies, just an absolute train wreck in terms of design and appeal. If this is the result of player’s input, could I suggest they stick to the footy? Black, white and gold are fantastic colours to work with, cannot understand how the club can get it so completely wrong. Perhaps the Blades designer was having a bad week?”

Beau Ryan however couldn’t be happier with the jerseys, as he looks forward to wearing them for the 2011 season.

“The jerseys are awesome. Believe it or not the players actually had a fair bit of input into the design of them and we couldn’t be happier with how they’ve come out,” Ryan said.

“There’s a Lycra strip down either side to allow the material plenty of breathing space and the collars are designed so you can’t try and take blokes’ heads off.

“They’re a good fit and a good feel. As a matter of fact Chris and I wanted to take them home but the club wouldn’t let us.”

The new jerseys have shades of the club’s ties to both former NRL teams the Balmain Tigers, and the Western Suburbs Magpies, but also a mix between the merged club as they attempt to appeal to all fans from Balmain, the Western Suburbs, and their current fans.

“One of the issues has been that the black jumper was seen as a throwback to Western Suburbs and the orange one was seen as a throwback to Balmain,” Humphreys said.

“We kind of want to get a bit beyond that now and create something that is a Wests Tigers identity rather than a throwback.”

Hodges finally resumes to training after lengthy injury lay-off

When on song, and injury free, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better centre in the game, and that’s exactly what Justin Hodges is aiming to reproduce as he had his first training hit-out in a year.

In what is a major boost for the Broncos, particularly their younger players, Hodges successfully completed a 1 hour hit-out at Wests Mitchelton this morning.

A training mishap in January last year which resulted in a snapped achilles tendon prevented Hodges from taking any part in the 2010 season, and it was a major blow for the Broncos side leading into the season.

Broncos fans and players will be more than pleased to see Hodges back in the line-up given the recent cross-code transfer of Israel Folau to the AFL team,  the Greater Western Sydney Giants.

Hodges, who continues to ice the foot after the completion of training as a mere precaution is over the moon that he is back and running again.

“That was the first big hit out I’ve had. I loved being back,” he said.

“It (his achilles) has pulled up good so I’ll go home and rest it and hopefully when I come back tomorrow it will be fine.

“I need to keep working on my fitness but I can’t wait for the season to start.”

Watmough itching to return to training

Regarded as one of the best bench forwards you will see in the game right now, Manly second-rower Anthony Watmough is pumped that pre-season training is underway, yet he isn’t able to partake in it just yet.

Neck and ankle injuries are restricting the mobile forward to his own light form of training, as he is unable to perform heavy duty training until the New Year.

Watmough, who was a member of the Australian side that lost to NZ in the Four Nations final is set to resume pre-season training with his team-mates after the Christmas break on January 10.

“I don’t know if I can really take that long off and come back in good form,” he said.

“I’ve been doing my own training three or four days a week, just so the boys aren’t getting too much of a jump on me when I come back.

“I’m bored already (and) I’ve been looking forward to getting back with the boys for a couple of weeks now.

“I don’t think Dessie was going to let me, but I think he’ll let me in a week or two.”

Watmough struggled with a bulging disc in his neck as well as an ankle injury, which was supposed to have required surgery before being allowed to heal naturally.

“Luckily they settled down a bit and we got through the Four Nations with it and didn’t have to do any (surgery),” he said.

“A bit of downtime and a bit of surfing has really helped it.”

Mark ‘Piggy’ Riddell to return to the NRL with the Wests Tigers

Dragons fans and Eels fans will know the action well. It’s been described as a balancing act as Riddell lifts one arm up above his head before he goes to kick the ball. For fans who loved the move? You’ll get to see it again.

Yep, that’s right! Mark Riddell is set to make a return to the NRL with the Wests Tigers, in what is sure to see a return of the infamous goal-kicking stance.

The deal is expected to only be for a year, as the Tigers are after some experienced cover for incumbent hooker Robbie Farah in case of injury, suspension, or Origin.

Whilst he initially signed a 3 year deal with ESL club, the Wigan Warriors, Riddell has had to cut his stay in England short, as he returns home to be by his mother’s side, who is battling cancer.

The deal is expected to be made official tomorrow, in what will be Riddell’s 29th birthday. A rather fitting way to announce a return to the NRL.

“It’s likely to happen. We are maybe a day or two away from finalising it,” Wests Tigers chief executive Stephen Humphreys said yesterday.

“We have had discussions with Mark and they went very well. It is certainly something we are thinking about.

“We’re considering him a back-up to Robbie Farah”.

Given the Tigers at this stage, don’t have a lot of cap-space to work with, Humphreys was asked just how Riddell will fit into the Tigers cap. He replied:

“If he were to come here, it would be on a second-tier contract. He wouldn’t be in our top 25. That is the context with which we are considering him.”

Riddell’s career in the ESL finished on a high-note with his Wigan team getting the victory over a St Helens side in the Super League grand final.

“This is No. 1 for me. I have been chasing one of these titles for 11 or 12 years in professional rugby league.

“To finally get one at the end is something special.”

Michael Maguire, who some of you may recognise as a former Storm staffer, now current Wigan coach has expressed his disappointment in Riddell’s departure.

“We knew about Mark’s situation in June and we will be sad to lose him but fully understand the reasons behind his decision,” Maguire said.