Category Archives: NRL Club News

Individual NRL Team and Club News

Merrin becomes Rhinos latest signing

Penrith Panthers prop Trent Merrin

Just a week ago, he was staying at the Penrith Panthers. Today, Trent Merrin will join the Leeds Rhinos. 

The representative prop will join the Super League club on a four-year deal.

A premiership winner with the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2010, Merrin is a player Leeds are excited to sign.

“We are delighted to have signed Trent and look forward to welcoming him to the Rhinos club,” said Director of Rugby Kevin Sinfield.

“He is an international class forward who was a regular last season for Penrith Panthers in the NRL. ”

Sinfield went on to praise Merrin’s leadership, experience and knows he will become a valuable piece to the side.

“He has an outstanding reputation in Australia for his leadership within a group and is someone who has played for a decade at the highest level of the game,” the former Leeds player continued.

“He will complement our current group of forwards and is another indication of the ambition of the club to move forward into a new exciting era.”

Merrin also drew praise from Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould, who gave him a glowing endorsement.

“Trent Merrin has given our club three years of outstanding service, both on and off the field,” said Gould.

“Panthers played finals football in each of the three seasons he spent at the club.”

Gould wished Merrin all the best with his new side.

“Apart from the tremendous football he has played, Trent has been instrumental in mentoring the careers of a number of our young players,” continued Gould.

We wish Trent well with his new challenge in the English Super League. Leeds has secured itself a very good man.”

As for the man himself, his goals in the NRL are complete and he felt ready to take on a new challenge.

“I have done everything I possibly could in the NRL and this is a great opportunity for me to come to a great club with a fantastic culture and hopefully achieve some goals together,” said Merrin.

“It is good to have clarity about my future, I am looking forward to coming to a new country, stepping outside of my comfort zone and being part of something special with Leeds.”

Although his NRL journey is over, there is plenty he has his sights set on and he wants to start on the right foot.

“There is a lot I still want to achieve. I want to put my best foot forward and, when I eventually come back home, I want to be able to look back on a special period in my life,” continued the prop.

“I have spent time with Dave Furner in camp before and enjoyed the experience.

“He is obviously well respected at Leeds from his time there as a player and has built an impressive coaching career in the NRL since then.”

Sio to return to England after signing with Salford

Newcastle Knights winger Ken Sio

After a previous stint in the Super League with Hull KR, Ken Sio will depart the Newcastle Knights and head back to England, signing with the Salford Red Devils.

Sio’s ability to find the line has been on show over the years at the Parramatta Eels, Hull KR and the Knights.

With that knack for scoring also comes back-line versatility, with Sio able to cover fullback, wing and centre, a trait that pleases the club.

“We are delighted to add Ken to our team and would like to welcome his wife and children to Salford,” said Salford head coach Ian Watson.

“This signing is an outstanding capture for the Club as Ken is a player who can play full-back, winger and centre and comes with great experience.”

With his future sorted, Salford look forward to having the calibre of Sio on board.

“Ken is a fantastic person with an excellent work ethic which is essential in our environment here at Salford Red Devils,” continued Watson.

“His all-round ability and track record as a proven finisher in both the Super League and NRL will only add to our back line and help us build momentum as we head into the 2019 season.”

Kelly returns home after Manly grants him an early release

Manly Sea Eagles centre Brian Kelly

Home is where the heart is for Brian Kelly who will make a return to the Gold Coast Titans after the Manly Sea Eagles granted him a release. 

Released from the final year of his Manly contract, Kelly has taken up a three year offer from the Titans.

Playing 47 games for the Silvertails, the club thanked the centre for his service to the club.

“We thank Brian for his tremendous service to our Club both on and off the field over the past two years and we wish him all the very best in his future endeavours,” said Sea Eagles CEO Lyall Gorman.

Born in Lismore and playing his footy in Ballina, Kelly returns to an area that he knows well and the Titans are pleased.

“Brian is another local coming home and it is great to see a player of his calibre return to the club where he made a name for himself,” Titans coach Garth Brennan said.

“He showed plenty of promise coming through the ranks here at the Titans and continued his rise down in Sydney, becoming an NRL regular.

“I’ve spoken about the desire of bringing in an outside back and Brian definitely fits the criteria of what this club was looking for.”

 

Murray and Graham extend their stay in the cardinal and myrtle

South Sydney Rabbitohs forward Cameron Murray

Two of the most talented prospects at the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Campbell Graham and Cameron Murray have both re-signed with the club.

The duo are a product of the club’s junior system and have new deals until the end of the 2021 season.

Establishing himself as a mainstay of the Souths pack, Murray has impressed many with his tenacity and work ethic.

“Both Cameron and Campbell have shown they have what it takes to become regular NRL players and also to perform at the highest representative levels of the game in time,” Rabbitohs General Manager of Football Shane Richardson said.

“Cameron is a workhorse and has made an impact on our team from the moment he was selected in first grade.

“His work ethic is second-to-none; he has the respect of his team mates, coaches and staff; and is a young leader among our squad.”

As for Graham, who is still eligible for U20’s, it his versatility and smooth transition to first-grade that pleases the club most.

“Campbell is still eligible for the under 20s but his efforts in the NRL have seen him earn a spot in our back line over the past 18 months,” Richardson continued.

“He can play centre and has played wing already at NRL level and we’re all excited to see what he can achieve with more full time training and more NRL experience under his belt.

The cardinal and myrtle colours run deep for Murray – his father also donned the Souths jersey – and he could not be prouder to sign a new deal.

“I’m really happy to know I’ll be here for at least the next three years, playing for the club I grew up supporting, the club my father played for and the club I was born into,” Murray said.

“This club has a very bright future and I’m really excited to be playing under the administration we have here at Souths.”

Murray is also pleased to play in front of such a vocal set of fans and is just honoured to don the Souths jersey.

“I love playing for such a large fan base and it’s great to be part of a club where our Members play such a big part in driving our success,” the young forward continued.

“It’s a special place and I fell privileged to be part of it.”

All those sentiments and more were echoed by Graham.

“I definitely see my future here at this club,” Graham said.

“I’m really happy with my progression over the past few seasons and I’m really grateful for the opportunities the Club has provided for me to start my career.

“There are definitely exciting times ahead and I can’t wait to play my part in that for my team and the Members.”

South Sydney Rabbitohs winger Campbell Graham

Gavet granted early release to take up deal with Newcastle

New Zealand Warriors prop James Gavet

Not standing in the way of a more suitable offer, the New Zealand Warriors have released James Gavet who will join the Newcastle Knights. 

With 1-year remaining left at the Warriors, the Kiwi club made a decision to allow Gavet to sign with the Knights on two-year deal.

The Warriors were quick to praise Gavet with club CEO Cameron George praising the hulking prop for his service to the club.

“James has been a good servant of this club and always gave it his all on the footy field,” George said.

“But he’s been given a great opportunity and we wish him all the best for the future.”

With the Knights eager to sign more big bodies, the addition of James Gavet comes at an important time for a club on the rise.

“James adds a lot to our squad,” Newcastle Knights Player List Manager Troy Pezet said.

“He’s a big body who plays with a lot of aggression and energy.

“Last season was a breakout year for James. We feel we’re getting him at the right time.

“He’s starting to play some his best football and still has room for growth.”

Eager to get started, Gavet is looking forward to being part of a fresh, revamped Knights side on the rise.

“This is a Club going places,” Gavet said.

“It’s a fresh start for me and I’m really excited about what the future holds.”

New Panthers deal for Blake

Penrith Panthers centre Waqa Blake

Often a much maligned player by Penrith Panthers fans, Waqa Blake is slowly impressing many and has been rewarded with a new deal. 

For Blake himself, he just could not see himself playing anywhere else.

“I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to commit my future to the club,” Blake said.

“Panthers is home for me now and I really couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else.”

Fijian born, Blake had to work his way into the Penrith side and overcome the doubts of fans.

That work saw him draw praise from the club for his perseverance and tenacity.

“Waqa Blake is an outstanding young man and a tremendous success story for our club,” Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould AM said.

“He graduated from the Panthers development system to establish himself as an important member of our NRL team.”

Gould continued to praise Blake, going on to state him as a future representative player.

“Waqa is fast developing into one of the most dangerous attacking players in the NRL,” continued Gould.

“We firmly believe he is a representative player of the future and we are excited to know he will be with us for at least the next five seasons.”

In-form Raiders back-rower Tapine signs new long-term deal

Canberra Raiders forward Joseph Tapine

In what was arguably a career best year for Joseph Tapine, his form has been rewarded by the Canberra Raiders in a new long-term deal.

Already contracted to the Raiders for 2019, Tapine’s new deal is one that cements yet another key player to their long-term roster.

Canberra has quickly become a home away from home for Tapine who has settled in well.

“Moving to the Raiders has been the best decision for my footy and I know by extending my time here in Canberra I can continue to become a better player,” Tapine said.

“I’m confident in the group of players and coaches we have that we can keep improving and be a better and more consistent team.”

“My partner and I have also made a home in Canberra and we love living here.”

For the Raiders, it was an easy decision to retain Tapine.

Although Joe was already on contract until the end of the 2019 season, we identified him as a priority re-signing and we’re delighted to be able to extend his contract with the club,” Raiders Recruitment and High-Performance Director Peter Mulholland said.

“Joe has the ability and skill set to be one of the games best young forwards and we see him as a huge part of our future.”

“We’re excited to watch him progress as a player and leader within our side over the next few seasons.”

Bennett to take the Rabbitohs mantle from 2020

Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett

Regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all-time, Wayne Bennett will make the jump to the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

The deal, which may surprise many, will start in the 2020 season as well as the 2021 season.

With seven premiership wins at two different clubs, Bennett’s record speaks for itself.

His signing as coach is one that the club’s General Manager of Football, Shane Richardson, has applauded.

“Wayne is one of the best, if the not the best, Rugby League coaches of all time and we are excited to see what he can bring to our Club,” Mr Richardson said.

“His football record is second-to-none and his reputation as a leader is also of the highest order.”

Richardson is excited to see Bennett work alongside the talent available at the club.

“Here, he will have the opportunity to work with some of the best senior and up-and-coming talent in the game, which from our discussions over the past few weeks I know he is excited about,” continued Richardson.

“He will also have the opportunity to work as a Head Coach with a strong coaching, football and administration staff around him that are all pushing in the one direction, The Rabbitoh Way.”

In the end, Richardson did not hold back when it came to why Souths opted to not renew the contract of current coach Anthony Seibold.

“Anthony (Seibold) has done a great job at our Club over the past two years however his hesitance to extend his contract with us,” he continued.

“An offer which has been on the table since June, led the Club to explore other options.”

Why Michael Maguire is, and should be, the coach Wests Tigers want

New Zealand Kiwis coach Michael Maguire

The Wests Tigers head coaching drama (the current epic anyway) has been ongoing for several weeks ever since current coach Ivan Cleary was asked to return to the Penrith Panthers.

Cleary did deny he was leaving, albeit a few days after it dominated headlines, news stories and social media chat.

He said he was concentrating on getting the Wests Tigers into the 2018 semi finals.

Now, the playoff dream failed. The NRL season is finished.

Week by week, more and more Wests Tigers fans have been coming to terms with the fact that the man who famously stated the line “you’re either on the bus, or off it” when talking about former player Mitchell Moses wanting to sign with Parramatta, would he himself ‘get off the bus’ before his contract permitted him to.

Fans are fearing that without the bus driver, the wheels won’t turn. More and more fans and now board members are coming to the reality that Ivan wants to join his son Nathan.

Just last week, news outlets were running with that it was fact that Wayne Bennett was to hop on the coaching merry-go-round and arriving in Concord allowing Ivan would be released back to Gus’s kingdom up the M4.

But now, NRL News has learned the Wests Tigers board aren’t keen on bringing Mr Bennett from the Broncos. As much as the Broncos would love to wrap him in a bow and send him south of the border with a “thank you” card taped to it, Wests Tigers want former South Sydney Rabbitohs and premiership winning coach, Michael Maguire.

As a long (suffering) time Wests Tigers member myself, I have faith in chair Marina Go and the rest of the board to make the right call.

If they can recruit Maguire, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Madge could well be what the board and us fans expected from Ivan. And then-some. Here’s why:

  • Maguire is available. The Wests Tigers wouldn’t try and “poach” a coach under contract from another club like some other franchises do/can. Even if they possessed the audacity, financial status and media power to be able to.
  • He has runs on the board.
  • Maguire took the helm at South Sydney and literally took them from the bottom to the top. Despite being let go from Redfern in 2017, you can’t dispute that what he did with that club in taking them to their first premiership broadcast on colour television.
  • He was known amongst the players as a strict, but likeable coach and his discipline when it came to fitness and attitude was Craig Bellamy like.
  • Who he just happened to assist at the Storm during their “golden” era the record books no longer show. Bookkeeping aside, four years as an apprentice to Bellyache can’t hurt. Oh and for the record, there are no premiership rings on Ivan Cleary’s fingers.
  • The Kiwi connection. This was one of the reasons Ivan gave much hope to Wests Tigers faithful, he was the Kiwi whisperer and led to marquee signings Ben Matulino and Russell Packer as well as the return of club legend Benji Marshall.
  • Maguire’s coaching job at the moment just happens to be the head coach of the New Zealand international team.
  • Player relationships are incredibly important, especially for a club in Wests Tigers who normally has to pay overs to recruit elite talent.
  • Beyond those with New Zealand passports, Maguire’s years of experience at other clubs is also an advantage when it comes to signing free agents.
  • For example, Origin hooker Damien Cook happens to be a free agent in 2020. Which happens to be Robbie Farah’s first year of enjoying retirement as well. Wests Tigers fans can only dream (most of the time that is literally true).
  • Youth. 44 is still young for a coach. Heck, he’s 24 years younger than Bennett. While the experience of Wayne is priceless and yes he may have a few kilometres left to rack up on the odometer yet.
  • Maguire can be the Wests Tigers’ next Tim Sheens. They don’t need someone to come in to live out of a suitcase for a couple of years and then fly off into the sunset. They need someone to take the keys to the franchise and have complete control of everything football and to look forward years ahead.
  • Ivan Cleary was given this privilege. Luckily, Maguire won’t have to turn the place and the roster completely upside down like Ivan had to. The hard yards have been done.
  • He’ll want the job. Maguire this week turned down the head coaching job at Manly. Can you blame him? The Sea Eagles are almost like looking at the the Tigers four or five years ago when they had little money, disgruntled players, poor management and flirted with the wooden spoon.
  • In 2018, Wests surprised everyone by winning 50% of their games and knocked off the Storm twice and other top 8 sides along the way.
  • Sprinkle a bit of discipline and a star player here or there, Wests Tigers can break their seven season finals drought with one good off season.
  • With players such as Esan Marsters, Moses Mbye, Luke Brooks and Ryan Matterson about to enter the peak of their careers over the coming seasons, a good smart rugby league coach can see them reach their peak.
  • While at the time of writing pen hadn’t been put to paper, Michael Maguire and the Wests Tigers is a match made in heaven and very likely to happen.
  • We’re ready to let Ivan take his bus out west. Mr Maguire, please take your seat of the Concorde of Concord. It’s cleared for take off.

Macdonald heads closer to home with move to the Cowboys

St George Illawarra Dragons winger Nene Macdonald

Nene Macdonald’s time at the St George Illawarra Dragons will come to an end, with the hulking winger signing with the North Queensland Cowboys.

McDonald was released by the Dragons from the final year of his contract on compassionate grounds.

Since joining at the start of the 2017 season, McDonald played in 46 games for the Red V and they wished him well.

“Nene has been an important player over the last two seasons at our club,” said Dragons Director of Rugby League Pathways Ian Millward.

“Although he has one year left on his contract, his management and himself approached the club on compassionate reasons for a release.”

“We thought it was in the best interests welfare-wise for Nene to grant him the release, so unfortunately he won’t be with us in 2019.”

Although they have lost McDonald, the Dragons have signed wingers Mikaele Ravalawa and Jonus Pearson.

The move back to the NQ region puts McDonald closer to home with his Papua New Guinean roots.

“He’s a North Queensland kid and we like North Queenslanders representing this region,” said North Queensland Cowboys coach Paul Green.

“Nene is going to offer plenty of depth to our backline and had a fantastic year for the Dragons.

“I know him on a personal level after coaching him in the under 20s at the Roosters and am confident he will be a good cultural fit for our club as well.”

Looking for a big winger to replace the retired Antonio Winterstein, Cowboys Director of Football Peter Parr believes the club has found their man.

“He’s a very talented athlete and with the retirement of Antonio Winterstein we were keen to add to our outside backs and in particular the wing position,” Parr said.

“Nene fits the criteria we were looking for and he indicated to us that he had a desire to return home to North Queensland.

“So, we made some inquiries with the Dragons and they have been very cooperative in helping us bring him back to North Queensland.”