Category Archives: NRL Club News

Individual NRL Team and Club News

Idea of Polynesian All-Stars gaining momentum

Eels fullback Jarryd Hayne has urged the NRL to consider the possibility of introducing a Polynesian team into the annual All-Stars clash, a concept started by Preston Campbell.

A plethora of players have backed the idea with both current and former players all behind the idea.

Hayne believes that should a Pacific All-Stars side be given the chance to join the All-Stars, then it would place all of the game’s biggest stars on one stage for all NRL fans to see.

The inaugural All-Stars clash, a concept which started this year proved to be a huge success where the NRL’s best players were on show for all NRL fans to see.

For Hayne however, and his Fijian heritage, he says that the addition of a Pacific Islander team would elevate the All-Stars clash even further and make it an even bigger spectacle.

“Last year gave great awareness for the indigenous people’s perspective and now we could look at trying to get a Pacific team as well,” Hayne said.

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“I think it would be a great concept.

“If we could get something like that going, it would be fantastic for the game. You’ve got guys like Michael Jennings, Frankie Pritchard, Kris Inu, Benji Marshall and Issac Luke … Wes Naiqama.

“The Indigenous All Stars, the NRL All Stars and the Pacific All Stars, I think they all work hand in hand and we could have a three-way series.

“If it was to eventuate, I’m sure the Pacific boys would throw their hand up and participate.”

Like Jarryd, outgoing Eels winger Krisnan Inu has also witnessed first-hand just how many Polynesian players  are playing junior footy.

According to the NSWRL Academy, it is said that 40 per cent of SG Ball (under-18s) and Harold Matthews (under-16s) players are of Samoan, Tongan, Maori, Fijian or Cook Islands background.

“These days if you go watch any junior club there’s that many Island boys in every team,” Inu said.

“The numbers are just growing.

“Its just a matter of time when the numbers get too many to ignore.

“If there was an Island team in the All Stars, it would be a real plus not only for the game, but the players and the fans. It’s something they could look at.

“And maybe one day it could be similar to Origin or bigger.”

Former test lock and Tonga coach Jim Dymock who coached Tonga in the 2008 World Cup is a staunch advocate for promoting the Pacific Islands and giving them increased awareness in the NRL.

Dymock agrees that the concept of the Polynesian All-Stars has the potential to rival Origin.

“It really could,” Dymock said.

“It was good they had the Indigenous team in the All Stars, but I’m sure the Polynesian people and players that miss out on playing for New Zealand and Origin would like the chance to test themselves against the best.

“I’ve been pushing for a Pacific Cup to be played on the same night or week as Origin, but this could be just as good, if not better.”

At this stage however, NRL boss David Gallop has stated that the All-Stars concept will remain a clash between the Indigenous All-Stars against the All-Stars.

“The NRL All Stars is already a celebration of the many cultures within the game and featured players from a number of backgrounds and from every NRL club,” Gallop said.

“The match has always been intended as a celebration of both the diversity of the NRL and of the playing talent at each club.

“It is a single match concept linked strongly to the nation’s apology to the stolen generations and it is not likely at this stage to grow into further teams.”

Preston Campbell faced with agonising decision

Gold Coast Titans fullback Preston Campbell will give himself a fortnight to decide as to whether or not he will stay in the NRL and play on with the Titans in 2011.

Campbell, who is perhaps one of the best players in the NRL to have not played in an Origin game, was left shattered last night after the Titans heart-wrenching capitulation to the Roosters.

The departure of fellow friend and veteran Mat Rogers, is expected to influence Campbell’s final decision heavily.

“Yes, that’s something I have to think about,” Campbell conceded.

The 2003 premiership winner revealed earlier in the week that had the Titans won the grand final, he then would have retired, but now the decision as to whether or not he will play on for a 14th season remains to be seen.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s one of those things, I don’t really feel that satisfied but my body’s telling me it’s probably time to pull up.

“It’s something I’d like to involve the whole family in. We’ll sit down and talk about it in the next week or two and come up with a decision.

“I think it’s only fair to let Carty (coach John Cartwright) know as soon as possible.

“(The senior players) assured me they would love to have me around as well, and that’s a good feeling.

“But I have to think about my body. I’d like to be able to run around with my young bloke when he gets a bit older.”

Feleti Mateo denies racial rift with former coach Daniel Anderson

Feleti Mateo, who is departing the Parramatta Eels, has strongly denied claims made on Sydney radio today that there was a severe racial rift involving himself and former coach Daniel Anderson.

Mateo, who is leaving the Eels and headed to the New Zealand Warriors has categorically denied that any such rift between he and Anderson took place after the racial allegation against Anderson was made by 2GB.

“I have been told about a report on radio saying that I had complained about a racial issue regarding Daniel, and that it had been brought up in discussion about the coaching situation at the club,” Mateo said in a statement issued by the club.

“That is absolutely not true. I spoke with Ando today to clarify this and there is no issue. There has been no racial comments that have upset me, let alone been anything I have complained to the club about. Nothing of the sort has anything to do with me leaving to play with the Warriors.

“What the club does on the coaching front, or anything to do with the board and management, has nothing to do with me and I am disappointed my name has been brought into this.”

Paul Osborne, the Eels Chief Executive had his say on the issue and said: “No issue between Feleti and Daniel has ever been raised with the club and suggestions to the contrary are completely false.”

“I’ve spoken to Daniel today and it’s the first either of us had heard of this supposed complaint. It didn’t happen.’

Amongst an array of speculation about the coaching position at the Eels, Osborne has confirmed that the season review at the Eels is now complete, and that it would be presented to the board for presentation.

Mat Rogers looking forward to family life

It wasn’t the way that Mat Rogers wanted his NRL career to end. He had dreams of holding the NRL premiership high up in the sky, and celebrating the win, the Titans first, with his team-mates.

For Mat Rogers, family means the world to him. His dream also contained images of him kissing his wife, Chloe Maxwell, as was kissing his children and reflecting on his stellar career in both the NRL and Rugby Union.

After going into the game prepared, and pumped to play game 200 in the grand final, the game turned out to be a nightmare, culminating in a 26 point loss against a rampant Roosters side.

Many would say that this wasn’t meant to be the way that Mat Rogers career was supposed to end. Stranded on 199 games, Rogers would be classified as one of those great players who was unlucky to not win a premiership.

The Titans firmly believed that they could make a strong run for the premiership, but it just wasn’t to be.

“I’m shocked. It never entered my mind that this was it. I truly believed that we were going to win tonight,” Rogers said after the game.

“You always believe that but it never once went through my mind that this was my last week of football. I just was really confident with what we put in place. Everyone felt good coming into the game.”

What shocked Rogers, as well as his team-mates, was not the fact that they lost, but the nature in which it happened. By a landslide!

In a Titans side that oozed experience with veterans like Rogers, Prince, Bailey, Friend etc. it was meant to be the Titans who would be cool and collected heading into the game, with a home crowd of 45,000 behind them.

Instead, guided by form players in Braith Anasta, Todd Carney, and Mitchell Pearce, the Roosters grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, and ran away with the game.

Rogers admitted that that style of football was the very style that the Titans had aimed to play. By the time he realised that the Titans had been man-handled by a rampant Roosters side, he knew the game was up, thus drawing time on his career.

“We probably did some things wrong. Credit where credit’s due. Once they got that 12-point lead, they turned the screws. They put the heat on us. I can’t remember them dropping the ball in the second half.

“It makes it tough. That’s the sort of footy that wins big games. That was our goal, to play like that. They squeezed the life out of us in the second half.”

It’s difficult for footballers when a decade of work and dedication to the craft is snuffed out in a single moment.

Retiring at the age of 34, Mat Rogers has unfortunately, lost both of his parents, and his son Max is currently being treated for autism.

Mat Rogers will be a huge loss for the NRL, but he is ready to take on a more family-man role, and give his family all the support they need.

“Look, I’m really comfortable in the decision I’ve made. I’m excited about the next part of life,” Rogers said.

“My wife Chloe has been unbelievable over the past four years. She’s basically put her life on hold to support me and look after our boy, who’s got special needs. It’s probably time for me to help out a bit, become Mr Mum.

“I’m not disappointed in my career. The world won’t stop spinning. Life goes on.

“I’m devastated. I won’t say I’m not. But I’ve got an amazing wife, an amazing family and a lot to look forward to.”

Before the start of the game, Rogers endeavored to ensure that the game’s focus was not solely on him, but rather on the team itself.

Despite that, Titans skipper Scott Prince, who fought back tears at the post-match press conference, admitted that sending out stalwart Mat Rogers with a premiership was an added impetus for the players.

“We’ve got a guy in there (Mat Rogers) who is retiring, and I made it my personal goal to send him off the way we deserved. I guess that’s life,” Prince said.

Fellow veteran Luke Bailey, strongly believed that this could be the Titans year. It was certain limitations however that restricted the Titans after the Roosters took upped the ante in the second half.

“They stepped it up that last quarter and we couldn’t catch up. On top of losing the game, it was just disappointing the way we did it,” Bailey said.

“All the signs were there. I thought all the stars had aligned for a win. It’s pretty shattering. I thought this team was the team to do it.”

Finals exit in 2009 still hurting Titans

Titans halfback Scott Prince has admitted that the Titans poor showing in the 2009 NRL finals is still in the back of the Titans minds, and it still hurts.

Prince revealed on Thursday that the Titans were simply the victims of their sudden rise to the top, when they finished third before crashing out of the NRL finals in successive weeks.

With the current hype aimed at the Roosters astonishing turnaround in 2010, the Titans captain admits that his experienced side have learned from their previous mistakes leading into their preliminary final against the Roosters.

It’s expected that a monster crowd of 40,000 plus are expected to pack Suncorp Stadium with most of the supporters expected to support the Titans charge to the Grand Final.

Prince has also admitted that should they succumb to defeat, the loss will hurt just as much as last year’s successive finals losses against Brisbane and Parramatta, but the Titans captain has stressed that this year’s Titans side were a smarter and more level-headed group this year.

“It just hurts. It feels like yesterday we were playing Parramatta.

“It’s an ill-feeling. The deeper you go, the deeper the wound.”

Since their establishment in 2006, and their debut in 2007, the Titans simply couldn’t cope with their strong success in the regular season heading into their maiden finals campaign.

“It was all new for us as a club and all new ground,” Prince said.

“It was off-the-field stuff that we got a little bit caught up in with the emotional side of it instead of worrying about what we need to do to get the win and that’s something we’ve certainly learnt.

“We’ve been given an opportunity off the back of our hard work through the year and we just don’t want to throw it away.

“We don’t want to get caught up by the hype of the game.”

Last year’s wooden-spooners, the Roosters who won an enthralling extra-time contest against the Wests Tigers in the first week of the finals has given them most of the media’s attention, and it is they who are being talked up.

Prince, who was a premiership winner in 2005 with the Wests Tigers says that the game-play of opposing halves Todd Carney and Mitchell Pearce reminds him of the partnership he and Benji formed in 2005.

“In `05, that was a bunch of young guys having fun. I guess if you had to make a comparison, you’d have to say the Roosters (resemble that side),” the halfback said.

“They seem to have all the momentum at the moment, no fear about anything – at the end of the day that’s their frame of mind.

“We have our standards and goals and if we come close to those, it will get us the win that we need.”

John Skandalis the frontrunner to replace Todd Payten

Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens is seriously contemplating handing experienced prop John Skandalis the starting front row spot in light of Payten’s potentially season-ending injury.

Unless Payten’s scans clear him of any serious damage, Skandalis looks likely to replace Payten who rolled his ankle after stepping on a tennis ball in a training mishap at Tigers training.

Despite retiring from professional football 2 years ago, the 34-year-old prop despite not being a part of the Tigers top 25 over the last two seasons, he has played in 19 first-grade games and is evidently, still quite fit.

Skandalis who injured his buttocks in the Rd 25 win over the Melbourne Storm was expected to miss the remainder of the season, but the veteran prop will receive a surprise call-up, and perhaps a second chance at winning the NRL premiership.

Whilst Sheens is somewhat concerned that Skandalis hasn’t played in a while, he is believed to be favouring Skandalis over a younger player like Ben Murdoch-Masila.

“Whether we activate Johnny Skandalis we’ll wait and see,” Sheens said on Thursday.

“John hasn’t played for three weeks so that’s a bit of an issue. I’m just looking at him, he trained strongly yesterday so that may be another option for us.

“I was relying more on the experienced forwards to carry us and do more time on the park rather than the younger ones.

“But if we have to push their time out a little bit more this week we will.

“He’s a pretty fit boy John, having worked as the (under) 20s fitness coordinator this year so he’s very fit, and his experience would have a major part in my decision.”

Todd Payten injured in training bungle

The Wests Tigers have suffered a massive blow ahead of their preliminary against the Dragons with experienced prop Todd Payten rolling his ankle at training.

The injury occurred while the Tigers were warming up for the training session which was closed at Concord Oval, and it has put the veteran forward in severe doubt for the match.

Payten needed help to leave the field and was rushed straight to hospital for preliminary scans to determine the extent of the injury.

The results should be known by later tonight.

Boom rookie Andrew Fifita is on standby for the injured veteran should he be ruled out, with John Skandalis on standby to make the bench.

It is said that Todd Payten was completing a regulation drill he stepped on and lost his footing on a tennis ball.

The Tigers already have injury concerns with Robbie Lui, Gareth Ellis and Robbie Farah all carrying niggling injuries, and all limited to minor training.

It should be noted however that in the 2005 finals campaign, Todd Payten played with a broken arm after receiving injections to ease the pain.

Choppy encourages all Queenslanders to support Titans

Former Queensland great Chris Close has sent out a heartfelt appeal to all Queensland and Maroon supporters to get behind the Titans in their game against the Roosters this weekend.

Close to 30,000 tickets have officially been sold after just two days of ticket sales, and Close has asked all Queenslanders – Broncos supporters or other QLD supporters – to fill Suncorp Stadium to its capacity to get behind the Titans in a game that sees a QLD and NSW team going head to head thus re-kindling the old rivalry between the two states once more.

“I’m challenging all Queenslanders to stand up and be counted and get behind the Titans – the last remaining Queensland side,” said Close, who now works as the Jetstar Titans Business Development Manager.

“It doesn’t matter which team you follow, let’s sell out Suncorp Stadium and put NSW to the sword one more time.

“It’s the last NRL game in Queensland for 2010 so get a ticket, get to the ground and barrack for the Titans to show them what Queensland’s all about.”

Close who was a member of the now defunct Gold Coast Giants and Seagulls from 1988-1991, said he strongly believes that the Titans have a fantastic opportunity to make the grand final, but only if they had the entire state of QLD behind them on the night.

“I honestly believe that if we play to 100 per cent of our ability and they play to 100 per cent of their ability we will win the game but to do that we need to have every Queenslander standing behind us showing their support,” he said.

“They can’t do that from their lounge rooms, they can only do that from coming to Suncorp Stadium, filling it up and cheering for the Titans.

“This is a real chance of a Queensland team joining the Broncos and winning the NRL grand final.

Making the grand final would be a fantastic achievement for a Titans side who are not only brimming with confidence, but they have progressively been getting better each year.

Craig Gower set to make shock return to the NRL

Penrith cult figure Craig Gower is prepared to make a shock return to the NRL with the Canberra Raiders and the Parramatta Eels being rumoured as possible clubs.

Gower, who is now a dual international having played Rugby League for Australia, and Rugby Union for Italy, is the latest in a long line of experienced halves that has been linked with both the Eels and Raiders.

Both the Raiders and the Eels have said that they are seriously considering an experienced half to nurture and guide their younger halves in Josh McCrone and Daniel Mortimer respectively.

“Craig is having a great time in France but he and his wife have been away for three years now and are thinking about coming home,” 32-year-old Gower’s manager Greg Willett has told Rugby League Week.”

“The guy is still playing good footy over there and is in good shape physically.

“There is a lack of experienced playmakers in the NRL at the moment and he’d be great for a club for 12 months.

“He would also be good in a mentoring role for a club like Canberra or Parra who have young halves in their ranks.”

The only negative for Craig Gower should he return to the NRL would mean that he would miss out on representing Italy in the Rugby World Cup.

Panthers are the Darkhorse

It’s always easier for NRL teams when they don’t have the weight of expectations. Be that fan expectations or short odds with the bookmakers, no NRL team wants to be labeled ‘the good things’.

Thats why Penrith could be this seasons darkhorse.

Just look at their juicy odds at present with the bookmakers, odds that probably won’t be so good for too long.

Rugby League analyst Greg Alexander might be a little bit biased to his club, but the astute Fox Sports caller has predicted the Panthers can finish as high as 4th in this years NRL.

But apart from the likes of Alexander and their diehard fans perhaps, no one is really expecting Penrith could go all the way.

The Panthers have however, recruited extremely well.  They look to have a dynamic halves combination now after pairing Luke Walsh with the livewire Travis Burns. Former Sea Eagle and Cowboy – Burns, has been possibly the clubs best player in pre-season and looks set to have a massive year at the foot of the mountains.

The Panthers also have the luxury of good depth at the club. Just looking at the team for Round 1 of the Premiership, the likes of Jarrod Sammut and Daine Laurie aren’t even in the side, yet it looks a good balanced squad for Game 1 against Canberra.

A first up Game against the Raiders will have the mountain men very confident at home. And jumping off to a positive start will only help their cause as they fight to make the Top 8 for the first time in many years.

Staying injury free is key to any side, but for the Penrith forward pack who have been so unlucky with injuries – the likes of Petero Civoniceva, Luke Lewis and Trent Waterhouse all need to be kept on the park this year for the side to have any chance.

The continued growth of Lachlan Coote and Wade Graham has been a massive positive for the club, again bolstering the depth levels out West.

Here is the Penrith Panthers side for Round 1 at CUA Stadium against the Canberra Raiders:

1. Lachlan Coote

2. Michael Gordon

3. Michael Jennings

4. Adrian Purtell

5. Shane Elford

6. Travis Burns

7. Luke Walsh

8. Tim Grant

9.Kevin Kingston

10. Petero Civoniceva

11.Frank Pritchard

12.Trent Waterhouse

13.Luke Lewis

Interchange Bench

14.Sam McKendry

15.Joseph Paulo

16. Matthew Bell

17.Nathan Smith

18.Frank Puletua

19.Nigel Plum

20.Brad Tighe