Category Archives: NRL Club News

Individual NRL Team and Club News

Eel scare: Nathan Hindmarsh to go under knife

Veteran Eels and State of Origin forward Nathan Hindmarsh is set to urgently go under the knife before the start of the 2008 NRL season after a knee complaint concerned Eels officials during last weeks training.

Hindmarsh consulted Eels staff after hearing a click with his knee and the Parramatta training staff didn’t want to take any chances with their valuable forward and booked him in for an arthroscope immediately. “No big deal” the affable Hindmarsh said, playing his usual cheeky self. “Just a clean up, more than anything” he said.

To someone like Nathan Hindmarsh, a category 4 cyclone bearing down on Parramatta Stadium in his mind would be just a gusty wind. “She’ll be right mate, just a bit of wind” he would say.

In any case the Eels forward is set to be back for the first round of the NRL season, with coach Michael Hagan hinting he would rest Nathan Hindmarsh as long as possible to ensure a strong healing of the operation.

Hagan continues to focus his efforts on reducing the workrate of Hindmarsh for the NRL 2008 season, after continuing concerns last year the busy tackling machine is becoming too much like Craig Fitzgibbon and tiring himself out too much in defence, hence reducing his attacking power.

Brisbane Broncos no easy beats in 2008

Brisbane Broncos pre-season training for NRL 2008Forget the illusion that the retirement of Wayne Bennett may cause the Brisane Broncos to derail during NRL 2008. In what promises to still be a big year for the Queensland side, they have replaced several old heads with some astute buys that should plug the gaps nicely for their NRL campaign this year.

With experienced stars Karmichael Hunt and Darren Lockyer returning from long layoffs, fresh and ready to be unleashed and the acquisition of boom Panthers half Peter Wallace, Eels Hooker PJ Marsh and Panthers big man Joel Clinton coach Wayne Bennett has an array of options at most positions. Add into the mix the fact that Broncos players will want to send Uncle Benny out on a winner and the likelihood they will have a less demanding player involvement in the Origin series, look for the Broncos to be a real threat in NRL season 2008.

The Broncos will employ one of the premierships most lethal hooking duos in 2008, with former Eels rake PJ Marsh returning to the Sunshine State to share the dummy half role with incumbent hooker, Michael Ennis. With attacking dynamos Justin Hodges and Karmichael Hunt feeding off creative halves Darren Lockyer and Peter Wallace, the Broncos will be one of the most dangerous attacking units in the competition.

Despite losing the experience of Civoniceva, Thorn, Berrigan and Carlaw up front, the Broncos have lost nothing in power, with Joel Clinton, Ashton Sims, Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker set to provide the muscle in the engine room.

Rookie flankers Darius Boyd and Steve Michaels should get first shot at the two starting wing positions for the Broncos Round One match against the Panthers, but will be under immense pressure to perform with the likes of Denan Kemp, Tom Hewitt and new boy Rodney Davies waiting in the wings.

Gone are the days where the Broncos utilised powerful wingers like Wendall Sailor and Lote Tuquiri as extra forwards, with the diminutive Brisbane wingers of last season often targeted under the high ball. If the successful aerial assaults continue, than both Boyd and Michaels will be playing alot of Queensland Cup this season.

Looking at the possible starting squad below for the Brisbane Broncos, their halves combination immediately looks like a match winning duo. The likes of Lockyer and Wallace working their wonders behind that pack of forwards will be a sight to behold.

Broncos possible 2008 starting squad:

1- Karmichael Hunt
2- Darius Boyd
3- Justin Hodges
4- David Stagg
5- Steve Michaels
6- Darren Lockyer
7- Peter Wallace
8- Joel Clinton
9- Michael Ennis
10- Dave Taylor
11- Corey Parker
12- Sam Thaiday
13- Tonie Carroll

14- Ben Hannant
15- Ashton Sims
16- PJ Marsh
17 – Nick Kenny

Trial Matches-

16/2/08 v North QLD Cowboys @ Browne Park, Rockhampton
23/2/08 v Canberra Raiders @ Wade Park, Orange
01/03/08 v Melbourne Storm @ Dolphin Park, Redcliffe

2008 Gains and Losses-

Gains – Joel Clinton and Peter Wallace (Penrith), Ashton Sims and Tom Hewitt (St George-Illawarra), PJ Marsh (Parramatta)

Losses – Petero Civoniceva (Penrith), Shaun Berrigan (Hull), Brent Tate (New Zealand), Dane Carlaw (Les Catalans), Brad Thorn (Super 14 – Canterbury), Ian Lacey and John Te Reo (sacked), Andrew Lomu (released)

Rooster Rumble in Wollongong

Shaun Kenny DowallWell it seems Wollongong is the new hot spot for NRL players after a second brawl involving Rugby League players in the space of 7 days occured in the Southern NSW beach side city. This time is was Sydney Roosters players Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Setaimata Sa who went toe to toe with locals over an alleged theft of $100.

After a night on the town with Sa, Rooster Kenny-Dowall is reported to have left his wallet behind after leaving a fast food outlet towards the end of the night. After realising he had forgotten the wallet, Kenny-Dowall returned to the restaurant and allegedly confronted a group of males who had supposedly taken the wallet. After Kenny-Dowall, flanked by Sa was eventually able to get the wallet from the group of locals – it seems they had pocketed the cash totalling $100 from the wallet before returning it. This is when things got heated …

Heavily outnumbered the two Roosters players put in a good showing for themselves and went the knuckles with up to 10 males. Both coming away uninjured, the Roosters who were already breaking their team curfew then set about reporting the theft to team officials and local authorities.

In any case, you can understand the frustration of Kenny-Dowall and him wanting his wallet and money returned; but the promising Rooster was already breaking team curfew and by going the biff with locals, it certainly wasn’t a smart move considering recent NRL headlines and player problems.

The breach for the Roosters is a concern, after seemingly having a strong pre-season and firming as a strong force in NRL 2008 – this will be a wake up call for coach Brad Fittler and club boss Nick Politis. With the likes of Willie Mason now at the club, they would want to keep very short leads on their squad members and make sure they focus on footy and not which nitespot to attend each week.

The overall problem of player misbehaviour is a growing concern for the NRL, as the profiles continue to rise of Rugby League players – it certainly seems they are being targetted more and more by locals looking for a prize scalp. In wake of this incident with Shaun Kenny-Dowall and more particularly the Ben Roberts case, it’s only a matter a time before a player is seriously injured or possibly killed in a large scale brawl.

Warriors urge Wiki Retirement

Only weeks after claiming he was keen to play NRL Rugby League for several more years, veteran Warriors forward Ruben Wiki has suddenly announced his retirement from NRL at the end of this season.

Such a massive backflip from Wiki suggests the Warriors have obviously consulted with the former Canberra Raider and New Zealand representative and urged him to reconsider his position with the Warriors in the years ahead. As recently as late January 2008, Wiki went to air on New Zealand television stating his desire to continue on with the Warriors for several more seasons if he could arrange a contract.

After retiring from test football in 2006 after a world record 55 internationals – the only player in the game’s history to reach the 50-test mark, when questioned about his decision to retire from the NRL; Wiki said “Its time now to make the hard decision to retire from NRL level as he eyed his fourth season with the Vodafone Warriors.”

“It was emotional making the decision but I want to leave the NRL on a good note,” he said.

“I’ve loved playing in this competition and it’s been an honour being with the Vodafone Warriors and also with Canberra but this is the right time to move on from the NRL.

“I wanted to have it sorted out before the season started so I could get on with giving everything I can to the cause for the team here at the Vodafone Warriors. As well as that, the fans have always been great to me here and I’ll be dedicating the season to them – what a ride it will be!

“I’ve had the first proper off-season of my career and I’ve loved every minute of it, being able to train with the boys throughout the summer. I feel like I’m in the best condition I’ve been in.”

While Wiki said he was set to leave the NRL, he told the Vodafone Warriors he also wanted to play in the English Super League.

“That was a big part of the decision,” he said.

“I’ve toured England lots of times and plenty of my Kiwi team-mates have joined clubs there. I have always had an interest in playing there at some stage.

“In the past I’ve had offers from clubs in England but I’ve always resisted. Now it’s the right time. My manager Jim Banaghan is going to the United Kingdom next week to talk to three Super League clubs that have expressed interest.”

He added his decision was very much a family one. Wiki’s wife Santa said she was just as keen to see him make the switch to the English Super League.

“It’s important to us that Ruben makes the right decision for both himself and us as a family,” said Santa.

“It was a big move at the time leaving Canberra to come back home but it’s certainly been worth it on all levels. We’ve been back among family and Ruben has loved his time with the Vodafone Warriors.

“But he has always had a desire to play in England as well and now is the right time to do it.”

While he was moving on from the NRL, Wiki said he was keen to have a role with the Vodafone Warriors in the future.

“I’ve been studying to get my qualifications as a trainer and would like to get into that side of things when I finish playing. I want to come back to this club,” he said.

Wiki, who has consistently been rated by his peers as one of the hardest players in the game throughout his career, needs just 12 more appearances to become only the 10th player in history to achieve the milestone of 300 games in the premiership.

Vodafone Warriors coach Ivan Cleary said Wiki’s influence in the side and around the club would be impossible to replace.

“Ruben has brought so much to this club as a player and as a person. You can’t put a value on it but his contribution has been huge,” he said.

“It’s been a privilege for everyone who has been involved with him but it’s not all over yet. He has trained brilliantly throughout the off-season, he’s in great condition and he has set himself for a big year. We’re expecting a lot from him and he expects a lot from himself. He always sets high standards.”

Vodafone Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah echoed Cleary’s sentiments.

“People like Ruben Wiki are rare. We’ve been so lucky to have him because he has contributed so much to the success of the Vodafone Warriors in all ways,” he said.

“It’ll be sad when the end comes but there’s a full season to go before that and we’ll certainly be looking at opportunities to celebrate Ruben’s career along the way.

“And once Ruben stops playing, we would love to have him involved in the club in a new role.”

In his debut season with the Vodafone Warriors in 2005, Wiki was named the club’s player of the year. He received the ONZM (Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit) for services to rugby league in last year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours and he was also awarded the Ken Stephen Medal last year as the NRL player who made the most outstanding contribution to the community through rugby league. He also captained the All Golds in their commemorative match against the Northern Union last year, an event that marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of international rugby league.

RUBEN WIKI

Born: January 21, 1973
Birthplace: Auckland, NZ
Position: Prop/second row
Height: 186cm
Weight: 104kg
Junior Clubs: Otara Scorpions, Otahuhu Leopards
NRL Debuts: Canberra: v South Sydney, Bruce Stadium, June 6, 1993 (Round 11)
Vodafone Warriors: v Manly, Ericsson Stadium, March 13, 2005 (Round 1)
Club Number: 123 (Vodafone Warriors)
NRL Career: 288 appearances, 1993-2007
Canberra: 225 appearances, 1993-2004
Vodafone Warriors: 63 appearances, 2005-2007
NRL Points: 284 (71 tries)
Canberra: 240 points (60 tries)
Vodafone Warriors: 44 points (11 tries)
International Career: 55 tests for Kiwis (world record), 1994-2006
60 points (15 tries)
Kiwi captain 18 tests, 2003-2006
All Golds captain, 2007
Kiwi Number: 655
Educated: Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate (Auckland)

Souths sign their future over to Western Sydney

Souths sign with ANZ Stadium for 10 yearsHampered by constant red tape and on-going political road blocks at their inner Sydney base, the South Sydney Rabbitohs have today walked away from Redfern altogether and have agreed to forge their playing future at the former Olympic Stadium, Homebush ; now known as ANZ Stadium.

Seemingly fighting for years to have Redfern rebuilt as a traditional suburban fortress; even with the heavy backing of Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court – the Rabbitohs were unable to push their case through, to have the old ground redeveloped and established as a strong base in close proximity to their newly developed Leagues club.

Seemingly with few options, the Rabbitohs pushed on with their Homebush partnership and today they signed with ANZ Stadium to host the majority of their home games at the former Olympic site for the next 10 years. A bold commitment and one that Souths say favors them in terms of statistics. According to reports from the Rabbitohs, their home crowd support grew 48% in 2007 and they attribute a lot of that to the Homebush base relocation.

While Souths realistically had few options when the Redfern redevelopment turned sour, if management think that Homebush was the answer then they are sadly mistaken. The Crowe and Holmes a Court management have pretty much done everything right since taking over from the old guard nearly 18 months ago.

Much improved on field results have been the real reason for the crowd boost, not the shift in home ground. Sure, ANZ Stadium may have nice neat locker rooms and have swanky bars, along with promising Souths the world – but in all honesty, NRL teams playing at Homebush weekly give away as much as 6 points to opposition sides because it can’t be considered a real home ground. The home supporters sit a long way back from the playing ground, unable to truly get into the game and apart from the sound of the repetitive South Sydney drumming squad – on-field players can rarely feel the roar of the crowd in low key games.

A great stadium for big time matches such as Origin and the Grand Final, at times when it’s only partially full the Homebush Stadium becomes extremely quiet and devoid of atmosphere for regular season rounds. Teams such as the Bulldogs have been trying to camouflage this fact for years, as do the Wests Tigers. While financially viable for NRL clubs, the reality is that playing games at Telstra hurts them on the scoreboard.

While Souths had limited alternatives, signing the next decade over to ANZ Stadium wasn’t really the answer. With the smarts and financial backing of Crowe and Holmes a Court, I felt Souths may have seen the value in redeveloping a suburban ground and really cementing their rise to the top in the mid to long term.

Panthers place trust in Trent Waterhouse

Trent Waterhouse Penrith PanthersSome positive news today for the 2007 NRL wooden spooners the Penrith Panthers. Former Australian backrower Trent Waterhouse signing on the dotted line for another three years. Its a much needed boost for both the Panthers and Waterhouse, with Trent struggling in 2007 with a horror injury that saw him sit out most of the year.

They are a funny team the Penrith Panthers, they are either unbeatable and winning the comp or on a hiding to nothing and accompanying the cellar regularly. It’s all or nothing with the Penrith boys and 2008 should be an interesting one for them. With new signing Petero Civoniceva seemingly the guiding light, his consistency could be just the medicine.

With access to the likes of Trent Waterhouse, coach Matt Elliott will be hoping the Panthers can improve their competency at carrying out instructions on the field; something they rarely did in 2007 as they tried to play too much adlib Rugby League.

The Panthers were also the NRL’s bad boys last year. Constantly committing infringements, they rarely gave themselves a chance to compete in many games. Looking to atone this year, Elliott arranged several sessions for the Panthers with the NRL referees – a smart move to try and curb their hurtful trend from last season.

So we wait with interest as the mountain men try and take a different approach in 2008 NRL. Certainly this confidence shown in Trent Waterhouse marks a step in the right direction, his consistency and cool head will be called on regularly as the Panthers try to keep their dream and their coaches alive for a few more years yet.

Sonny Bill Williams roped in by Mundine

Anthony Mundine and Ben Cousins meet the pressIt was a meeting and press conference that would have had Bulldogs officials slightly nervous about the growing bond between NRL star Sonny Bill Williams and human headline Anthony ‘The Man’ Mundine.

Mundine’s PR machine was in stunning form, as his manager and posse arranged an impromptu press conference centred around AFL bad boy Ben Cousins – the aim to spread an ‘anti-drug’ message and clear the air around the troubled Cousins – oh and to promote a little fight thats around the corner. In reality Ben Cousins didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, Mundine and his crew got priceless spots on the evening news and it was all perfectly stage managed in the heart of a Redfern gym. More bums on seats for ‘The Man’ perhaps.

Was it smart for the Bulldogs to let SBW get involved with such a PR stunt? Sure, Sonny Bill isn’t breaking any rules by being involved – but the mere fact that Williams was seen in association with the likes of Ben Cousins and possibly even Mundine wasn’t a smart move.

Ben Cousins has been constantly in the news in the past 12 months, his drug addiction and his general attitude a blight on the game of AFL and even Australian sporting hero’s both locally and internationally. Hats off to Cousins if he is trying to rehabilitate, but really – Sonny Bill Williams should be miles away from this kind of thing and his club should probably tell him so.

While Mundine might be a teetotaler and portrayed as a messiah by his PR machine, his reputation amongst the majority of the Australian public isn’t too glowing. Sonny Bill’s management have probably made a poor choice in pushing this hookup. While they may think it’s increasing the SBW brand and potential, spending time with Mundine will probably do more harm than good.

While essentially the intentions might have been good, really it was a bad move. The SBW team should have supported the anti-drugs message in a better way and kept well clear of this Ben Cousins / Anthony Mundine circus act; especially at a time where the Bulldogs are in dire need of a new image. What it does show, is that Belmore management either don’t have a leach on their troops at all or their PR radar is in dire need of adjustment or replacement.

Daniel Holdsworth Re-Invented

Daniel Holdsworth BulldogsGiving some hope to the struggling Bulldogs is re-invented half Daniel Holdsworth. When Holdsworth relocated to Belmore from the Dragons, he was an instant hit. Combining well with halfback Brent Sherwin, Holdsworth really stated his claims as the clubs future five eighth.

Then along came Ben Roberts. The up and coming Kiwi put consistent pressure on Holdsworth which eventually saw him relegated to Premier League for most of 2007. While Holdsworth was a solid performer in the lower grades, only the relocation of prominent half back Brent Sherwin has given Holdsworth a sniff of the big time again.

According to reports from inside the Bulldogs, Holdsworth has been putting in extra sessions and really training the house down to force his way into the lineup and cement a spot for 2008. Even more impressive from Holdsworth was his victory at the NRL fan day; beating some hot competition to take out the NRL sharp shooter award for goal kicking.

Bulldogs captain Andrew Ryan has confirmed Daniel Holdsworth’s high quality pre-season and credentials, stating last night “Holdsworth will be given first crack at the five eight spot alongside Ben Roberts at halfback.”

It seems club veteran Corey Hughes has also won back the hearts and minds of the training stuff with his position seemingly looking strong for 2008, even with boom rake Michael Sullivan joining the club. Andrew Ryan also confirmed “Corey Hughes and Sullivan will interchange at hooker for us at this stage and from what we’ve seen, we’re expecting big things.”

Its a much needed dose of medicine for the Bulldogs, who as we have reported are bouncing from one nightmare to another. Especially in the case of Holdsworth, he has the potential to rise back to the top and stamp himself as a true game breaker. He has that noted pace and possesses the ideal build for the perfect five eighth. With confidence in his game and quality kicking, he can help the Dogs regain their vintage form which has struggled under the guidance of Sherwin and more specifically Folkes in the past 18 months.

Jarrod Mullen; the Machine

Jarrod MullenSome say he has more pressure than any other player in the NRL. Newcastle Knights halfback Jarrod Mullen not only has to fill the shoes of Andrew Johns; but he carries the hopes of the Newcastle people – people torn by infighting and unrest at the Knights in 2007.

A natural talent, Mullen has developed quickly at the Knights and the timing of the Johns departure certainly hasn’t hindered this future star. He slipped into NSW Origin honours with ease in 2007 and he seems to handle pressure much better than those ahead of him. Even with additional heat put on him by coach Brian Smith during the selection period for Origin with claims of “Mullen’s not ready for Origin yet” and the on-going battle with injury last year – Mullen’s performances and his handling of pressure was impressive.

It seems that at the core of the Jarrod Mullen machine, is a consistent and driven work ethic. While gifted with all the silky skills required for big time NRL, Mullen isn’t one to cut corners. In a much similar way to Andrew and Matthew Johns, Mullen will get to training hours before the scheduled start time and begin his own drills and training and you guessed it – he is usually the last to leave when the team clocks off.

As NRL Rugby League is now a full time profession, you could understand the fact that players would be ready to head home after hours upon hours of gym, cross-training and skills work – they are living and breathing NRL 24/7 and most of the players would be eager to get some time away from their full time job.

Not Mullen.

Extra sessions, additional video homework and the reels of information garnered from guys like Joey Johns are part and parcel of the Mullen machine. It shows why Mullen is so valuable to the Knights not only in 2008 but as the rock to build their future on. New signings to the club for 2008 have been blown away by the work ethic of Mullen, new boys Ben Cross and Wes Naiqama have both claimed to be spurred on by the drive of Mullen.

Preparation and inspiration for this years season has come from months on the sidelines in late 2007; Mullen helplessly watching injured as his Knights teammates were belted week in week out. To compound the matter, the media spotlight on Newcastle and the ensuing drama involving Brian Smith and Kirk Reynoldson – only stood to further rip at the bond the Knights players had built together.

Mullen could be just the answer to the Knights woes. There is sure to be plenty of pressure heaped on the upcoming half as Newcastle look to him to spark things this year. As they have done for so many years, the Knights will look to the number 7 when the chips are down. Fortunately for Mullen, he seems to crave the pressure situations – already in his young career he has regularly taken the right option at critical times and certainly hasn’t shyed away when the game was on the line.

So as the Knights dig deep in their current pre-season, eager to bury the demons of 2007 – there’s no need to worry about Jarrod Mullen. The young half is seemingly able to put the pressure to one side and through his hard work, continues to rise to the top of the NRL ranks. All in a days work it seems, or should we say a days fun?

Nepean Motor Group plugs Panthers hole

Penrith Panthers NRL LogoIt was an 11th hour rescue deal that couldn’t have come quick enough for the Penrith Panthers club. As negotiations broke down with previous sleeve sponsor Parkview, the Panthers were quickly back in business when existing minor sponsor Nepean Motor Group stepped up their support and took the sleeve sponsorship role for the 2008 NRL Season.

Offering a 2 year deal, the local Nepean Motor Group is hoping to capitalise on their new level of visibility in 2008 and grow their local Penrith business in-line with the success of the Panthers. Former Panthers hooker, Shannon Donato now business development manager for the Panthers helped broker the deal which has the Panthers scrambling to get their 2008 playing strips re-done before season kickoff.

Jersey manufacturer ISC is working overtime to get everything in place for the Panthers as they prepare to begin their range of trial games for 2008. The Panthers get their official NRL season underway against the Broncos in Queensland in Round 1 – in what should be a great grudge match, with Joel Clinton and Peter Wallace now in Brisbane colours and former Queenslander Petero Civoniceva now the great hope for the Panthers – so expect plenty of fireworks.