Category Archives: NRL Club News

Individual NRL Team and Club News

Roosters name strong side for Foundation Cup

Foundation Cup 2008Sydney Roosters coach Brad Fittler is wasting no time in unleashing his big guns in 2008, with the Sydney side announcing a near full strength lineup to take on the Wests Tigers this Saturday.

The expectations are growing rapidly around the new look Roosters outfit, primarily around the recruitment of Willie Mason and the return of match winning fullback Anthony Minichiello. While new boy Mason might be in trouble for piddling in public, he is set to don the new colours and join fellow piddler Anthony Toupu in the second row for the charity clash.

With a full off-season under new coach Brad Fittler, we feel the Roosters will play a much more confident brand of football and will have the added punch with the new signings and prominent players returning from injury. Half Mitchell Pearce should have much more room to work in with the forwards in front of him certainly packing some power, with Mini chiming into the backline it really could be the Roosters of old.

1. Anthony Minichiello

2. Amos Roberts

3. Brent Grose

4. Setaimata Sa

5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall

6. Braith Anasta

7. Mitchell Pearce

8. Lopini Paea

9. Riley Brown

10. David Shillington

11. Anthony Toupu

12. Willie Mason

13. Craig Fitzgibbon

14. Nate Myles

15. Shane Shackleton

16. Rory Kostjasy

17. Shaun Foley

Can it get any worse at the Bulldogs?

Bulldogs NRLRegardless of who won control of the Bulldogs board, the situation at the NRL club is obviously dire. While several position holders at the Dogs have come out and said we are not a club in crisis, their good intentions are probably just as believable as Pinocchio on steroids.

Malcolm Noad’s fallout was just as stellar as his rise to power at the Bulldogs, thrown into the fire during their darkest hour Noad was the cleaner – sent in to save the NRL club from itself. At the time, players were performing well on the field but were out of control off the field. Malcolm Noad seemingly reigned the trouble makers in and obviously some corners haven’t taken too lightly to his iron fist rulings. Hence the situation he finds himself in now.

While the problems at the Dogs are presently in the corridors of power, an inkling of the problems ahead could have probably be traced back to Steve Price leaving his long term club. A smart operator and genuine Rugby League good guy, for Price to walk away from the Bulldogs even for less money should have rung alarm bells all over the place. Price obviously didn’t feel confident staying on board and didn’t just get out of Belmore, he took the first plane out of the country.

Usually it was the Bulldogs who would pickup discards from other NRL teams and turn them into superstars, just take Luke Patten and Willie Tonga in recent times who have excelled at Belmore. But these days, Jonathan Thurston was let go and became the best player in the NRL and now Willie Mason, Mark O’Meley and Brent Sherwin, all Premiership winning players were let go.

While Noad may have a massive target on his head, as the club looks for someone to blame – the real concern should be with the team for 2008. While there are still a few prominent players in the squad, the this is a team devoid of creativity and struggling to keep up with the improvement in other clubs. Whether it stems from the coaching program, a lack of interest from the players or a culture of good times – this could really be a disaster year for the once proud family club.

As Steve Folkes walks the plank in the early season, the power brokers putting pressure on the long term coach before a ball has been kicked – everyone will be watching over their shoulder at Belmore. They were very fortunate to secure Luke Patten and Andrew Ryan as they did, will rumours abounding that Ryan well and truly wanted out.

While the clock might be ticking for several troops on and off the field at the Bulldogs, getting pushed off the Titanic might be the best thing that ever happened to them.

How will the Titans backup this year?

Gold Coast TitansBy most accounts they did a good job of their inaugural NRL year in 2007, showing some great signs for the future and only just falling short of a historic finals birth. This year the Gold Coast Titans will be looking to build on their strong platform from last year and with the addition of a new purpose built Stadium at Robina they will have plenty of advantages on their side. Their biggest problem in 2007 came from poor depth, an understandable one considering they haven’t had an eternity to build a complete squad. Ultimately finishing 12th, they certainly punched above their weight and took some big scalps along the way.

No doubt, only a semi-final birth will be the goal for coach John Cartwright and his team, with solid acquisitions and a stunning new stadium sure to see increased turnouts by the Titans fans in what will become solid Rugby League heartland. The Gold Coast have boosted their halves depth with new buy Ashley Harrison, and coach  Cartwright will be keen to use explosive rookies Shannon Walker and Will Matthews should injury bite the main squad this season.

If the Titans can improve their ability to travel, then this will go along way to helping them into the big time in September.

Advantages:

The Titans barring injury should have a lot more depth this year with added quality amongst their playing ranks, with some impressive new signings making the move to the growing holiday strip. The Titans inaugural season was interrupted badly by a huge injury toll to key forwards, with only captain Luke Bailey and James Stosic at one point the only available prop forwards in the club.

Thanks to smart recruiting, the Titans now have the enviable problem of competition for positions in most positions, with John Cartwright having to work out who to leave out of a blistering backline. The Gold Coast have speed to burn on the flanks, with new signings Ben Jeffery, Brenton Bowen and Esi Tonga set to challenge the likes of Chris Walker, Mat Rogers, Matthew Petersen, Preston Campbell and rookie Shannon Walker for starting spots.

Concerns:

While the Titans have the luxury of a new home ground at Robina which is set to become a solid home fortress for the club, the NRL’s newest club will have to learn to win on the road if they want to challenge for a semi-final position. The Gold Coast could only manage a disappointing two wins outside of Queensland in 2007, which ultimately saw them finish just two competition points outside of a Top 8 finish.

Gold Coast Titans likely 2008 Starting Squad:

1- Chris Walker
2- Brenton Bowen
3- Mat Rogers
4- Luke O’Dwyer
5- Matt Petersen
6- Preston Campbell
7- Scott Prince
8- Luke Bailey
9- Nathan Friend
10- Brad Meyers
11- Anthony Laffranchi
12- Mark Minichiello
13- Ashley Harrison

14- Gavin Cooper
15- Luke Swain
16- Aaron Cannings
17– Michael Hodgson

2008 Trial / Pre-Season Matches:

16/02/08 v Canberra Raiders @ Briggs Rd Sporting Complex, Ipswich
23/02/08 v North QLD Cowboys @ Barlow Park, Cairns
01/03/08 v Wests Tigers @ Skilled Stadium, Robina

2008 Player Acquisitions and Departures:

Acquisitions:

Ashley Harrison (Sydney Roosters), Billy Ngawini and Esi Tonga (Canterbury), Aaron Cannings (Parramatta), Brenton Bowen (North QLD), Ben Jeffery (Wests Tigers), Matt Cross (Penrith)

Departures:

Richie Mathers (Wigan), David Myles (retired), Matt Hilder (Newcastle), Jake Webster (Hull), Lelea Paea (released)

Crocker and Inglis to miss Club Challenge

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy has today announced the 21-man squad he will take to England to contest the World Club Challenge against Leeds Rhinos at Elland Road on March 1 (Australian time).

 

Injury has forced backrower Michael Crocker and Greg Inglis to miss the trip, while club captain and current World Player of the Year Cam Smith will stay in Melbourne as his partner is due to give birth to their first child in early March.

 

Melbourne Storm Squad: 

 

  1. Russell Aitken
  2. Adam Blair
  3. Will Chambers
  4. Cooper Cronk
  5. Israel Folau
  6. Liam Foran
  7. Matt Geyer
  8. Ryan Hoffman
  9. Dallas Johnson
  10. Antonio Kaufusi
  11. Jeff Lima
  12. Ben MacDougall
  13. Sika Manu
  14. Dane Nielsen
  15. Anthony Quinn
  16. Billy Slater
  17. Jeremy Smith
  18. Sam Tagataese
  19. Aiden Tolman
  20. Steve Turner
  21. Brett White

The Sharks quest for an extra 10%

Cronulla Sharks Paul GallenThe Cronulla Sharks could be considered the unluckiest team in last years NRL. On the back of rock solid defence the Sharks were competitive in virtually all their regular season matches and narrowly missed the finals with a statistic that read 9 losses by 4 points or less. There is certainly no need for Ricky Stuart to reinvent the wheel this year, if he can get the Sharks to produce an extra 10% across the board they will be there at the business end of the season.

The Sharks players themselves will be surely be primed to take the next step forward this season. It seams that while many of the players bare little known names, coach Ricky Stuart might have the nucleus of a premiership winning squad – a group of tough, skilful, big bopper forwards, a creative and dynamic halves combination and an pacey backline.

The injury curse that haunted the Sharks during the 2007 NRL could be the silent killer that derails their campaign. One of the weaknesses for the Sharks is depth, as they lack the quality backup talent of other NRL clubs. If the Shire boys can reverse those narrow defeats of last year into solid victories, then a Top 8 birth will be all but theirs for the taking.

Advantages:

While some punters might feel that Brett Kimmorley and Greg Bird hold the keys to the Sharks 2008 NRL chances,  I believe that the Cronulla forward pack is more influential. Luke Douglas, Ben Ross and Jacob Selmes will provide the go forward, while Paul Gallen and Lance Thompson will provide their teammates with the all important second phase play.

The Sharks also have a dynamic hooking duo in rotation, through Isaac De Gois and Brett Kearney, and expect to see the likes of either Dave Simmonds or the talented Mitch Brown to reap the rewards from any opportunities created up the middle.

Concerns:

Depth in the forwards isn’t an immediate worry for coach Ricky Stuart, however will be praying that injuries don’t bring down their backline. Blake Green, Brett Kearney and Brett Seymour can readily step into the halves, but the Sharks will be struggling for raw speed if Simmonds, Brown or Covell go down. With coach Stuart already playing ex-forwards Anderson and Pomeroy in the centres, it only leaves Misi Taulapapa and utilities David Cooper and Paul Stephenson with top grade experience to fill the void.

Cronulla Sharks likely 2008 Starting Squad:

1- Mitch Brown
2- David Simmonds
3- Fraser Anderson
4- Ben Pomeroy
5- Luke Covell
6- Greg Bird
7- Brett Kimmorley
8- Luke Douglas
9- Isaac De Gois
10- Ben Ross
11- Paul Gallen
12- Lance Thompson
13- Karl Filiga

14- Brett Kearney
15- Jacob Selmes
16- Reece Williams
17– Eddie Sua

2008 Trial / Pre-Season Matches:

23/02/08 v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
01/03/08 v Newcastle Knights @ Cessnock

2008 Player Acquisitions  and Departures:

Acquisitions  –
Kade Snowden (Newcastle), Blake Green (Parramatta), Bryan Norrie (Penrith), Karl Filiga (Canterbury), Jarryd Hogan (Sydney Roosters), Alex Butschies (Byron Bay)

Departures –
Anthony Watts and Dayne Weston (North QLD), Adam Dykes (Hull), Matt Raferty (Parramatta), Cameron Ciraldo (Newcastle), Robert Worsley (Canterbury), Sitaleki Timani (Super 14 – Western Force)

Manly to unleash Zimbabwe flyer

Gideon MzembeIn a testament to their impressive recruitment staff, the Manly Sea Eagles are set to unleash a 22 year old Zimbabwe born winger in their trial game against the Melbourne Storm. A former war refugee, Gideon Mzembe is a name that NRL fans are going to be hearing a lot more about.

Lightning fast, the Broncos did their best to keep hold of the young gun but Manly eventually got their man and will seek to replace the speed lost with Chris Hicks after his departure to the UK Super League.

You won’t mistake Gideon Mzembe when you see him, featuring one red boot and one blue boot the slender winger stands out in a crowd. I suppose one has to be fast when he is dodging bullets as a youngster and Mzembe has left behind a life of death and destruction and now gets his chance to shine in front of Manly boss Des Hasler.

Born in Zimbabwe of Malawian parents, Mzembe only had a tiny taste of NRL football with the Brisbane Broncos over the past three seasons. He was 18th man in several matches last season including the Broncos clash with Manly at Brookvale Oval during State of Origin time. Mzembe went to primary school in Brisbane at Kalangur before attending secondary school at Ipswich Grammar where he played rugby union. Younger brother Pacharo has recently graduated from Nida and is a budding actor of great promise.

Mzembe has teamed up with exciting winger Michael Bani at the Sea Eagles and can relate to Bani’s rise in the NRL last season.

“I’m grateful to Manly for the opportunity and I’m pleased to be thrown in the deep end against a side like Melbourne – I can’t wait for kick off,” Mzembe said.

Mzembe will travel with the Sea Eagles squad to Ettalong before the game where the team will rest up before the 7:30pm trial against the Storm.

Don’t underestimate the Raiders backline

The Raiders are always written off as ‘also-rans’ before each NRL season commences, but by the look of their sharp and speedy backline this year certainly some opposition teams could come away with their tails between their legs. A name that will continue to rise out of the wilderness at the Raiders is pure speedman William Zillman, the young fullback who made a name for himself last year is rumoured to be even quicker and is arguably the quickest man in the NRL.

With the Raiders squad not having the luxury of a high profile name to guide them around the field, head coach Neil Henry will again be forced to call upon on the exuberance of the youngsters to give Canberra an edge against teams seemingly better off in terms of recognizable talent.

With a backline full of attacking brilliance and blinding speed, the Raiders season will hinge on whether they can rectify their woeful goalline defensive lapses of last season. Always tough to beat on their home soil, coach Henry will also need to rectify his charges poor traveling record for them to seriously challenge for a Top 8 position.

While Henry has a determined and willing team at his disposal, his young Raiders will struggle to continuously keep their intensity at the optimum level in what will be another close season.

Advantages-

A number of the Raiders youngsters will be better for the experience gained last year, so expect Canberra to cause a few upsets against some of their more fancied opposition. Coach Henry has some of the best young talent at his disposal, with William Zillman, Bronx Goodwin, Terry Campese and Todd Carney looking to kick on from successful debut seasons.

The enthusiasm of the younger brigade is sure to inspire the older guys, and Canberra Stadium is yet another advantage – most teams dread the road trip to play in Canberra’s freezing cold conditions.

Concerns-

One of Canberra’s strengths is also their greatest weakness – inexperience. Only Alan Tongue, Colin Best, Lincoln Withers, Scott Logan and Colin Best have played 100 top grade career games, with the average age of the Raiders top 17 being only 24 years. If the Raiders are hit with injuries, than coach Henry will be forced to blood youngsters from either the Raiders under 20 Toyota squad, or from the local Canberra competition.

Canberra Raiders likely 2008 Starting Squad-

1- William Zillman
2- Colin Best
3- Joel Monaghan
4- Phil Graham
5- Adrian Purtell
6- Todd Carney
7- Michael Dobson
8- Scott Logan
9- Lincoln Withers
10- Troy Thompson
11- Dane Tilse
12- Neville Costigan
13- Alan Tongue

14- Josh Miller
15- Michael Weyman
16- Marshall Clark
17– Tom Learoyd-Lahrs

Trial Matches-

16/02/08 v Gold Coast Titans @ Briggs Rd Sporting Complex, Ipswich
23/02/08 v Brisbane Broncos @ Wade Park, Orange
01/03/08 v North QLD Cowboys @ Brothers RL Park, Mackay

2008 Gains and Losses –

Gains – Joel Monaghan (Sydney Roosters), Matt Smith (QRL)

Losses – Andrew Dunemann and Jason Williams (QRL), Brad Cross (West Belconnen), Matt Bickerstaff (released), Josh McCrone (Penrith)

Cowboys hang Murray out to dry

Graham Murray North Queensland CowboysIn the latest round of coaching bombshells, the North Queensland Cowboys have today announced that Graham Murray’s existing coaching contract will not be renewed beyond 2008.

In a surprising move, the Cowboys have closed the door on the coach that pretty much took them from cellar dwellers to NRL heavyweights during his reign as head coach. The move seems directly aimed at securing Wayne Bennett as head coach for the club for 2009 and beyond. Many insiders felt that Bennett would consider Sydney as first option to be closer to family, however the current movement by the Cowboys suggest they are going all out for the long term Broncos coach.

It also adds another element of uncertainty to Sydney based clubs, with Graham Murray sure to be desired in some corners depending on local results. St George, Newcastle and the Bulldogs being big candidates if their years start poorly. It also looks likely the former Warriors coach Daniel Anderson will be the front runner for the Broncos job, meaning Murray will get a decent shot at securing a Sydney club.

It’s a move that will leave a bad taste in the mouthes of Cowboys supporters, Graham Murray having led the club out of the wilderness only to be hung out to dry during their prime years. While most NRL heavyweights have the utmost respect for Wayne Bennett, it remains to be seen whether the award winning coach still has the desire, ability and longevity to succeed outside his well known Red Hill Walls.

One things for sure, if Wayne Bennett accepts the role he will be walking into a team bristling with talent and if he can’t succeed with a crop like that, it’s certainly time to hang up the clipboard.

Melbourne Storm name squad for Manly game

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy has named his squad for this Friday’s 1st pre-season trial game against the Manly Sea Eagles. The game will be played at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford, NSW from 7:30pm.

 

The first-grade clash will be preceded by a NSW Rugby League Cup clash between Central Coast Storm and Manly at 5:30pm, and an Under-20’s game between Melbourne Storm and Manly Sea Eagles from 4:00pm.

 

The first-grade game will be divided into three 30-minute periods, with the Storm fielding a young team for the opening period, with a full-strength team taking to the field in the second period. The make-up of the team for the third period will be decided on the night.

 

Due to Cam Smith’s unavailability for the World Club Challenge against Leeds Rhinos on February 29, he will play in the first 30-minute period, with Matt Geyer taking the number 9 jersey for the second period.

 

Antonio Kaufusi will make his long-awaited return to action in the front-row after suffering a season-ending knee injury during the 2007 State-of-Origin series.

 

Former Brisbane Bronco Clifford Manua will get his first chance to impress in the front-row alongside Kaufusi in the first period.

 

After leaving Melbourne in 2004 and spending three years playing rugby in Scotland, Ben MacDougall will don the Storm colours once again when he lines up in the centres during the first period.

 

With Greg Inglis out injured and not likely to return to action until at least Round 3 of the NRL season, Russell Aitken gets his chance to impress in the five-eighth spot when he takes to the field during the second period.

 

Squad for Friday’s game:

 

First period starting team:

1. Jade Williams

2. Russell Webber

3. Ben MacDougall

4. Dane Nielsen

5. Joseph Tomane

6. Alex Moore

7. Liam Foran

8. Antonio Kaufusi

9. Cam Smith

10. Clifford Manua

11. Lucas Miller

12. Kevin Proctor

13. Sinbad Kali

 

Interchange:

14. Regan Tanner, 15. Aiden Guerra, (remaining interchange players selected from Central Coast Storm team)

 

Second period starting team:

1. Billy Slater

2. Steve Turner

3. Will Chambers

4. Israel Folau

5. Anthony Quinn

6. Russell Aitken

7. Cooper Cronk

8. Brett White

9. Matt Geyer

10. Jeff Lima

11. Jeremy Smith

12. Ryan Hoffman

13. Dallas Johnson

 

Interchange:

14. Sam Tagataese, 15. Adam Blair, 16. Sika Manu, 17. Aiden Tolman

 

Third period starting team:

Players will be selected to play during the third period on the night

 

Coach: Craig Bellamy.

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.