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Individual NRL Team and Club News

Ah Mau the latest player to return home to New Zealand

St George Illawarra Dragons prop Leeson Ah Mau

He is not the first and will not be the last as St George Illawarra Dragons prop Leeson Ah Mau opts to return to the New Zealand Warriors.

Making his debut with the Warriors back in 2009, Ah Mau eventually moved to the Dragons side in 2012.

Since then, he played in 130 games for the Red V, won Players’ Player in 2015 and has been a fan favourite.

In the end, a return home was too good to turn down and the club understand Ah Mau’s decision, praising his time at the club.

“Leeson is a player we tried to retain but we also understood that there were a lot of other implications and they’re not always about money,” Director of Rugby League Pathways Ian Millward said.

“He’s given outstanding service – not only this season, but his previous seasons – and he’s been a real benchmark for our other forwards in terms of how he’s gone about his business and the way he’s played the game.

The announced move now gives the Dragons a chance to search for an appropriate replacement on the open market.

“At the end of the day, we’re really delighted he’s been able to secure a contract,” continued Millward.

“We understand the reasons why he didn’t accept our offer and we can’t applaud him enough for what he’s done for the Dragons.

“We also appreciate that he signalled his intentions early so we have been active in the market place seeking a replacement for Leeson.”

The Dragons will always be near and dear to him but in the end, family means everything to Ah Mau.

“I love all the boys, the coaching staff and the fans so it was very tough,” Ah Mau said.

“I had to do what was right for my young family though. Having the support around my wife and daughter was the major factor.

“The Dragons will always hold a special place in my heart.

Despite his tenure ending at the end of the season, Ah Mau praised the club’s fans and wants to finish the 2018 season strongly.

“I definitely enjoyed my time here and I’m looking forward to finishing the year on a high,” the prop continued.

“I’ll miss everyone, especially the fans. They’ve been wonderful to me over the past seven years and I always love playing in front of them.”

The addition of Ah Mau is a boost for the Warriors pack and the club are pleased.

“Leeson will be a wonderful addition to our squad from next season,” said Warriors coach Stephen Kearney.

“He’s a big forward who is consistently one of the Dragons’ best week in, week out.”

Ah Mau is just the sort of player the Warriors are looking for and Kearney knows he will have a good impact.

“He fits the mould of the type of player we’re building our squad around – tough, durable and with a tremendous attitude in all he does on and off the field,” the Warriors coach continued.

“We’ve always had an interest in him as did a number of clubs, so we’re really excited he was keen to come back home and join the club he started with.”

Supersub Blake Austin rescues Canberra Raiders in dramatic comeback win over Canterbury Bulldogs

Canberra Raiders utility Blake Austin

Is his role now as a supersub? Last night’s result suggests so as Blake Austin turned on the magic in the Canberra Raiders late comeback victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs.

Despite a remarkable 24 points from Bulldogs back-rower Rhyse Martin (3 tries & 6 goals), all the plaudits will go to Austin.

After a poor showing last week, he was dropped to the bench and replaced in the halves by Sam Williams.

It was far from all roses for the Raiders, though; Brad Abbey suffered concussion, Shannon Boyd a calf injury and Joseph Tapine facing suspension.

It was a terrible start by the Raiders. Williams kicked the ball out on the full in the third minute before the Dogs scored soon after.

Jeremy Marshall-King slicing through some soft defence off a scrum play to score.

The Raiders would hit back as Jarrod Croker used all his experience to outmuscle Kerrod Holland, before finding Williams inside to score.

A penalty goal put the Dogs back in front before Croker did it again. Overpowering Holland close to the line to get himself on the scoresheet.

Martin then scored the first of his tries, running onto a lovely short ball from young Dogs half Lachlan Lewis.

Croker was then involved yet again in the Raiders try; this time offloading for Nick Cotric to score in the corner.

It all went downhill from there and Joey Leilua was the culprit.

First, he lost the ball in the Raiders search for points. To make it worse, he piped up with backchat to the officials and was then penalised.

Martin’s second try then came off a Lewis kick that was batted down by Josh Morris.

Not long after, the back-rower had his hat-trick. Josh Morris made the break, busted tackles and then found Martin to cross the line.

The Raiders looked down-and-out, with errors plaguing their chances to score.

Enter the supersub, Blake Austin. Perhaps not quite the supersub in the Dean Widders mold, Austin produced a worldly performance to miraculously get the Raiders a win.

He got one back in the 75th minute with a huge step to score.

Tapine then got his name on the scorers list when he crashed over before, somehow, the Raiders scored again; three tries in five minutes.

It was Austin again, making the break before Leilua redeemed himself; powering over the Morris twins to score and win the game for the Raiders.

There was no-one to blame but themselves for the loss, as Dogs coach Dean Pay lamented his side’s poor finish.

“For all the hard work they put in, we just did a couple of poor things at the end there, we missed some tackles, easy one-on-ones,” Pay said post-game.

“We didn’t get the ball back off the kick off, had the ball stripped from Lich (hooker Michael Lichaa).

It was an accumulation of things that went against us and we couldn’t stop it.”

Austin drew nothing but praise from Canberra coach Ricky Stuart.

“After last week’s game [26-22 loss to Broncos] I felt for Blake because he’s had a tough week,” Stuart said.

“He certainly added a bit of vibe and feel to the team, some spark that we lacked all game.”

Player of the Game:

3. Blake Austin

2. Rhyse Martin

  1. Jarrod Croker

Broncos forward Thaiday calls time on decorated rugby league career

Brisbane Broncos forward Sam Thaiday

We knew it was on the cards but Brisbane Broncos forward Sam Thaiday has today confirmed that 2018 will be his last. 

An ironman of the NRL for 16 years, Thaiday achieved everything there is to attain in the game.

He won a premiership with the Broncos, numerous Origin titles with Queensland and a World Cup with the Kangaroos.

With nearly 300 NRL games to his name, 29 Origins and 32 Tests, it was the right time to step down.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be a Bronco for 16 seasons, and played for my State and my country,” Thaiday said.

“I’ve seen the game change – from 12 to eight interchanges, from one to two referees, to the bunker, live streaming, and the effect of social media.

“I’m definitely one of the lucky ones who has turned a fun game I played as a kid into a job I love as an adult.”

He praised everyone who has been involved in his career and knows the rest of the season still beckons.

“But my time has come,” the veteran continued.

“Thank you all for the support throughout my career thus far, and of course for the rest of the season.”

Young play-makers guide Storm to win in 14-try thriller

Melbourne Storm utility back Jahrome Hughes

With their Origin players missing, the Melbourne Storm’s young guns in Jahrome Hughes and Brodie Croft stepped up in a 14-try thriller.

In a game that saw a total of 82 points scored, the Storm finished up 52-30 winners at AAMI Park.

It was a late change that prompted Hughes move to fullback and it was justified, with the utility back involved in everything.

In a somewhat cool night with windy conditions, the teams initially went tit-for-tat when it came to tries.

Curtis Scott opened the scoring for the Storm, before Kurt Mann hit back for the St George Illawarra Dragons, capitalising on a swift play.

Croft then turned on the afterburners as he sliced through some lazy Dragons defence to put the Storm up 12-6.

Scores were then level yet again as a Gareth Widdop cut-out pass found Nene Macdonald who finished acrobatically in the corner.

Cheyse Blair and Euan Aitken then scored further tries for their sides.

Though on the stroke of half-time, veteran Ryan Hoffman burst through a gap, dummied to bamboozle Matt Dufty and went over to score.

As the second half ensued, it was the Dragons who would score first and again hit back.

Young back-rower Luciano Leilua ran the perfect line to stroll over for his maiden NRL try.

The Storm were not about to rest on their laurels, though; as Hughes was on the end of a barnstorming Nelson Asofa-Solomona break to score.

The Dragons then took the lead as Mann grabbed his second with a rare shortside play off the scrum.

That would be it for the Dragons, though, as the Storm scored four tries in the last fifteen minutes to notch the 50-point mark and get the win.

With Billy Slater on Origin duty, Storm coach Craig Bellamy gave Hughes the chance at the back and praised him for his performance.

“Jahrome was tremendous, Jacksy did a really good job,” Bellamy said.

He ran the ball and was really hard to handle. I thought those guys were really outstanding.”

Storm captain Cameron Smith made some comparisons between Hughes and Dragons fullback Dufty.

“We spoke about one of their opposition players, Dufty, the fullback, and any opportunity to find or see space that he is a dangerous runner,” Smith said.

“I think Jahrome Hughes is much the same. Any opportunity to get in some space or in between defenders, he took it tonight.

“Since he’s come into the first grade side, he’s been outstanding.”

Dragons coach Paul McGregor was honest in his post-game assessment, offering no excuses.

“I thought we attacked well,” he said.

“We had some really good movement with the footy once we got into any decent field position.

Defensively, our right edge was affected a little bit by the interchange early, and it wasn’t efficient enough after that.”

Player of the Game:

3. Jahrome Hughes

2. Cameron Smith

  1. Nelson Asofa-Solomona

Grant set to rejoin former club Penrith

Wests Tigers prop Tim Grant

Playing much of his career there, Tim Grant will rejoin the Penrith Panthers from 2019 on a 1-year deal. 

With stints for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Wests Tigers since departing, Grant had previously played in 122 NRL games for the Panthers.

The man himself said that he always wanted to have the chance to finish his career where it all started.

“I always wanted to finish my career back home where it started and I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity,” Grant said.

“Even though rugby league is now a business and players move around, there is one club that will always be your club.

“For me, that club is Panthers.”

Grant believes in his ability and that he still has something to offer the Panthers and the game.

“I know I’ve still got plenty of good footy left in me,” Grant continued.

“I wouldn’t be coming back to Penrith if I didn’t firmly believe I had something meaningful to contribute.”

With 21 appearances for South Sydney and 46 to date for the Tigers, the Panthers are pleased to welcome their former prop home.

“It will be great to welcome Tim home to the Panthers,” Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould AM said.

“He will provide fantastic leadership to our younger players coming through the system and his signing adds valuable depth to our senior squad for 2019.”

Out of respect to Tim Grant and Wests Tigers, Panthers will make no further comment on this signing until the end of the season.

Eels strengthen back-line with signing of Ferguson

Sydney Roosters utility back Blake Ferguson

In need of a genuine big body in their back-line, the Parramatta Eels have signed Blake Ferguson to a 3-year deal starting in 2019. 

Following the departure of Semi Radradra, the Eels have struggled to find the same impact off the wing that the Fijian provided.

Ferguson, who has had his issues in the past, is now proving that he can let his footy do the talking.

He currently leads the NRL in total runs and total run metres and is third in post-contact metres.

With the Eels so desperately needing that Semi-like impact, they will hope Ferguson can provide that in 2019.

Ferguson has been credited for his approach to turn his life around.

He has given up alcohol this season and checked himself into a mental health clinic over the summer.

The result is a man in arguably career-best form and Brad Arthur emphasised the need to be a good person with Ferguson before signing him.

“I had a conversation with him about how important it is for us that we want the right people and good people at our club,” said.

“We’re going through a period where we want to make sure that everything we do on the field and off the field is professional and meets the standards and expectations required by our club.

“He’s fully aware of his responsibilities and accountability to his teammates and the club and he wants to be one of the players that can lead that.”

Ferguson’s versatility is a great asset for the Eels as Arthur contemplates whereabouts he will play in 2019.

“We’ll have to wait and see [where Ferguson plays in 2019], but he’s going to help us out of the backfield,” Arthur said.

“He can play centre, he can play wing. He’s a big body and he’s probably the form outside back in the comp at the moment.

“He’s a quality finisher and is good at getting sets started out of the backfield.”

NRL Teams Rd 17

A shortened round this week; it’s round 17 NRL teams. 

Some teams will be grateful for the bye; they can rest players, get two free points and regroup.

For others, there is still a game on. With four games this week and Origin stars away, it is time for the new kids on the block to shine.

So, here we go. The Round 17 teams in the NRL Telstra Premiership:

Melbourne Storm v St George Illawarra Dragons (#NRLmelsgi); AAMI Park, Melbourne; Thursday, June 5. Kick-off: 7:50 pm. 

Storm: 1. Young Tonumaipea 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Cheyse Blair 4. Curtis Scott 5. Justin Olam 6. Ryley Jacks 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Christian Welch 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Joe Stimson 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Kenny Bromwich

Interchange: 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Patrick Kaufusi 17. Brodie Croft.

Reserves: 18. Scott Drinkwater 19. Lachlan Lam 20. Albert Vete 21. Sandor Earl.

Coach: Craig Bellamy.

Dragons: 1. Matt Dufty 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Euan Aitken 4. Tim Lafai 5. Kurt Mann 6. Gareth Widdop (C) 7. Darren Nicholls 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Jacob Host 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Blake Lawrie.

Interchange: 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Jason Nightingale 16. Hame Sele 17. Reece Robson

Reserves: 18. Patrick Herbert 19. Jai Field 20. Jordan Pereira 21. Mitchel Allgood.

Coach: Paul McGregor.

Penrith Panthers v New Zealand Warriors (#NRLpenwar); Panthers Stadium; Friday, June 5. Kick-off: 7:55 pm.

Panthers: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Christian Crichton 3. Waqa Blake 4. Dean Whare 5. Tyrone Phillips 6. Tyrone May 7. Jarome Luai 8. Trent Merrin 9. Sione Katoa 10. James Tamou 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Isaah Yeo 13. James Fisher-Harris.

Interchange: 14. Wayde Egan 15. Corey Harawira-Naerea 16. Jack Hetherington 17. Moses Leota.

Reserves: 18. Caleb Aekins 19. Kaide Ellis 20. Liam Martin 21. Corey Waddell.

Coach: Anthony Griffin.

Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (C) 2. David Fusitu’a 3. Peta Hiku 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Blake Green 7. Shaun Johnson 8. James Gavet 9. Issac Luke 10. Agnatius Paasi 11. Isaiah Papali’i 12. Simon Mannering 13. Adam Blair.

Interchange: 14. Jazz Tevaga 15. Tevita Satae 16. Ligi Sao 17. Gerard Beale.

Reserves: 18. Joseph Vuna 20. Karl Lawton 21. Sam Lisone 22. Mason Lino.

Coach: Stephen Kearney.

Canterbury Bulldogs v Canberra Raiders (#NRLcbycan); Belmore Sports Ground; Saturday, June 6. Kick-off: 7:35 pm. 

Bulldogs: 1. Will Hopoate 2. Brett Morris 3. Kerrod Holland 4. Marcelo Montoya 5. Reimis Smith 6. Lachlan Lewis 7. Jeremy Marshall-King 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. Danny Fualalo 11. Josh Jackson (C) 12. Rhyse Martin 13. Adam Elliott.

Interchange: 14. Fa’amanu Brown 15. Clay Priest 16. Ofahiki Ogden 17. Greg Eastwood.

Reserves: 18. Asipeli Fine 19. Matt Frawley 20. Francis Tualau 21. Josh Morris.

Coach: Dean Pay.

Raiders: 1. Brad Abbey 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker (C) 4. Joey Leilua 5. Michael Oldfield 6. Sam Williams 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Dunamis Lui 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Joseph Tapine 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Siliva Havili

Interchange: 14. Blake Austin 15. Junior Paulo 16. Liam Knight 17. Iosia Soliola.

Reserves: 18. Jack Murchie 19. Charlie Gubb 20. Royce Hunt 21. Craig Garvey.

Coach: Ricky Stuart.

Gold Coast Titans v Brisbane Broncos (#NRLgldbri); Cbus Super Stadium, Robina; Sunday, June 7. Kick-off: 4 pm. 

Titans: 1. Michael Gordon 2. Anthony Don 3. Dale Copley 4. Brenko Lee 5. Philip Sami 6. AJ Brimson 7. Ash Taylor 8. Jack Stockwell 9. Nathan Peats 10. Ryan James (C) 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Will Matthews 13. Keegan Hipgrave.

Interchange: 14. Mitch Rein 15. Morgan Boyle 16. Konrad Hurrell 17. Moeaki Fotuaika.

Reserves: 18. Leilani Latu 19. Kane Elgey 20. Ryan Simpkins 21. Brendan Elliott.

Coach: Garth Brennan.

Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd (C) 2. Jonus Pearson 3. Tom Opacic 4. Jordan Kahu 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Anthony Milford 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Jake Turpin 10. Sam Thaiday 11. Alex Glenn 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Joe Ofahengaue.

Interchange: 14. Patrick Mago 15. Tevita Pangai Jr. 16. Korbin Sims 17. Kotoni Staggs

Reserves: 18. Patrick Carrigan 19. David Fifita 20. Sam Tagataese 21. Sam Scarlett.

Coach: Wayne Bennett.


Soliola to remain in nation’s capital after new Raiders deal

Canberra Raiders forward Sia Soliola

In a boost for the Canberra Raiders club, forward Sia Soliola has signed a new 2-year deal.

The new deal will see Soliola stay with the Raiders until the end of the 2020 season.

Since joining the Raiders in 2015, Soliola has played in 73 NRL games for the Raiders to date.

The man himself is pleased to don the Green Machine jersey for a couple more seasons.

“I’m really excited and happy to be remaining in Canberra,” Soliola said.

“I broke the news to my son Israel and he’s really excited too.

Canberra has become a home for our family and we are looking forward to staying here.”

Soliola admits the club’s results have not been great but believes that they are building nicely.

“Although our results on the field haven’t been where we wanted to be this year, I know we’ve got a very talented group of players here for the next couple of seasons and I’m very humbled to be a part of that,” the forward continued.

“I’m really settled in Canberra and I like to think I’ve still got my best years of footy ahead”

Soliola was praised for his on-field and off-field efforts by club recruitment and high performance manager Peter Mulholland.

“Sia Soliola is a huge part of our squad and the work he does for the team both on and off the field is really important for us,” Mulholland said.

“He’s been playing some really strong and consistent footy for us again this season and we know he’ll continue to do so for the next two seasons.”

Storm veteran Hoffman to hang up the boots

Melbourne Storm back-rower Ryan Hoffman

One of the best ever to don the purple colours of the Melbourne Storm, Ryan Hoffman will retire from the NRL at season’s end.

The 34-year old veteran is a member of the illustrious 300 club with a total of 319 games over 16 seasons.

259 of those appearances have so far come with Melbourne, the rest in a small stint with the New Zealand Warriors.

By the end of the season, he will be in fourth for most games played for the Storm.

It had always been a dream for Hoffman to play rugby league and he is pleased he was able to do it for 16 years.

“I’ve been lucky to have lived out my boyhood dream and make a career out of rugby league for 16 years,” Hoffman said.

“I feel have achieved everything I can in the game and while it was hard to say the words out loud for the first time, I’m very content with the decision.

I haven’t lost of the love for the game, however, I knew my time as a player was finished and I know this is the right decision.”

Hoffman was quick to praise the Storm club for giving him opportunity and its fans for their support.

“While the success I’ve enjoyed as part of the teams I’ve played in have been great moments, for me the real highlight of my career has been the people I’ve met and the lifelong friends I’ve made,” the veteran back-rower continued.

“I’m very thankful to Melbourne Storm for giving me my first chance at and NRL club and for allowing me to explore the rugby league world with my time at Wigan and the Warriors.”

Hoffman also praised both the Warriors and Super League side Wigan Warriors – he had a stint in England – for their roles in his career.

“I’m also grateful to Wigan and Warriors for the time I spent at those clubs, as they were very important parts of my career,” Hoffman said.

“I would like to especially thanks Dave Donaghy, Frank Ponissi and Craig Bellamy in allowing me to finish my career as a Melbourne Storm player.”

Hoffman will not be lost to the Storm or the game at season’s end.

He is set to take up a role in the club’s football administration department and work closely with Football Director Frank Ponissi.

“Few players are able to retire with a resume that even come close to what Ryan has been able to accomplish,” Ponissi said.

“He is one of the greatest players to ever pull on the purple jersey and every time he has done so, he has represented our Club with distinction, class and passion.

“Ryan for a large part of his career has always shown an interest and passion in football administration and management as a potential career once his playing days came to an end.

Promising Cronulla Sharks back-rower Jack Williams re-signs

Cronulla Sharks back-rower Jack Williams

Although a season-ending injury has ended his season, the Cronulla Sharks have re-signed back-rower Jack Williams on a 2-year deal.

Making his debut in round 11 of this season, injury unfortunately struck for the promising Williams.

However, his performances in those four games were enough to convince the club that he was deserving of a new deal.

“Unfortunately, Jack has a season ending injury,” said Sharks coach Shane Flanagan.

The few games he had in the top grade confirmed our belief that Jack is NRL player of the future.”

“The game time he had this year will only make him stronger and train harder in the off season ready for a big 2019.

I am excited about the future for Jack in a Sharks jumper.”

Making his debut was great for Williams but he also had a goal of re-signing with the club.

“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a bit now,” Williams said.

“Making my debut this year, I had a goal that I wanted to re-sign at the end of the season.

“I’m glad I’ve got this done and it makes it a bit sweeter after having this injury.”

His injury was a torn pectoral muscle that required surgery.