Category Archives: NRL Club News

Individual NRL Team and Club News

Graham still hoping he is fit for Grand Final

Phil Graham, who was injured in the Roosters win over the Panthers is still hopeful of being able to play in this weeks NRL Grand Final.

Graham, who missed last weeks clash with the Gold Coast Titans due a torn pectoral muscle he suffered in the Panthers game, is currently battling to ensure that he is 100% fit to play in the grand final.

“I did a little bit this morning in the gym, just on the wrestling mats, it wasn’t too bad so hopefully it pulls up good tomorrow,” Graham told reporters on Monday.

“I’ve done some running and done some tackling … if it pulls up alright maybe I’ll just do a bit more tomorrow afternoon or Wednesday.

“During the tackling it went pretty good so it’s not sore or anything now but I’ve just got to wait and see.

“It feels pretty good, I’ve got all my range back and all my movement.” The former Canberra back will need to convince coach Brian Smith and the Roosters medical staff in simulated match conditions later this week.

Despite the hope however, Graham knows that making it to the grand final is a long shot, and he doesn’t really expect to run out, as he only had his first contact session today.

“I’m not sort of concentrating on getting my hopes up, I’m just seeing if I’m right to play,” he said.

“I’m just doing everything I can to be right to play and if I end up coming good I guess it’s up to the coach to see if he wants to play me or not.

“The boys have played awesome all year so it’s just great to be in this position so I’ll be certainly cheering the boys on if I’m not out there.”

Todd Carney and Jeremy Smith free to play in NRL Grand Final

Roosters five-eighth Todd Carney, and Dragons lock Jeremy Smith have both taken early guilty pleas and have thus been cleared to play in this weeks NRL Grand Final between the Roosters and the Dragons.

Carney was initially put on report for a careless high tackle on Gold Coast Titans halfback Scott Prince, and Jeremy Smith was put on report dangerous contact with the knees.

The knee to the ribs has left Lote Tuqiri with possible broken ribs, and he may require surgery in the off-season as a result of the injury.

Despite being charged for kneeing incident, Smith wasn’t penalised when the incident happened, at a time where the Tigers were on the attack.

NRL match review panelist Greg McCallum has since defended the call made at the time, that Smith should not have been penalised.

Dragon Dean Young, who many consider was lucky not to be sanctioned for possible derogatory remarks, is also free to play in this weeks grand final.

On field-audio failed to detect comments made from Young towards Tigers hooker Robbie Farah, thus causing an altercation between the two in last weeks preliminary final.

Due to the lack of evidence that would implicate Young, the NRL match review committee had no choice but to drop any possible charge against Dean Young.

The Tigers also declined to comment, and refused to make an official complaint to the NRL regarding the incident.

Farah had the chance to make a complaint twice on the field, but he declined both times, but he could be heard accusing Young at a scrum several minutes after of calling him a f*****g wog.

“The on-field audio provided no evidence to confirm if any comment had been made” the match review committee said in a statement.

“The on-field audio does contain an accusation from Farah and a denial from the St George Illawarra player.

“The Wests Tigers have today declined a request to provide any further information that may assist the match review committee.

“Having assessed all the available information, the match review committee does not believe there is sufficient evidence to warrant a charge.”

Tigers vow to come back stronger in 2011

In what is officially a period of hardship and dismay for the Wests Tigers following their nail-biting loss to the Dragons in the preliminary final, the Tigers have vowed to return a stronger and better side in 2011.

Winger Beau Ryan, who earlier in the week, spoke of ‘touching the Dragons up’ was clearly distraught in the aftermath of the game, so much so, that he was unable to speak.

“It is a horrible feeling, but at the same time, I feel immensely proud of every single player in our team, we left nothing out there, gave everything we had, but we just didn’t get the bounce of the ball,” Ryan said.

Ryan, who was actually a Dragons junior, almost breathed fire into the Tigers game at the death with an ambitious kick-and-chase, that ultimately didn’t come off with the ball ending in Darius Boyd’s hands.

Whilst Ryan admitted that the option he chose was in fact the wrong one, he strongly believes that the Tigers will come back in 2011 as a force to be reckoned with yet again.

“For most of us it is our first taste of finals footy and when you look around you see so many young faces,” he said.

“How much will they learn from games like tonight? Blake Ayshford, Robert Lui, Andrew Fifita, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Simon Dwyer – they are all like 22 or under and have so much talent and potential.

“The Dragons learnt from their finals experience from last year and so will we.

“But they went two and out, we have done better than that this year, and will be back and we will be better for this.”

Coach Tim Sheens was refusing to comment on an incident involving Dragons lock Jeremy Smith whereby he kneed Tigers winger Lote Tuqiri in the ribs, an incident many thought should have been a penalty.

“We just didn’t seem to get any decisions go in our favour,” centre Ayshford said.

“We were on top out there in the second half and I honestly think had we held them for another five minutes or so, when we led 12-6, we would have won as they were running out of ideas.

“It really feels like the one that got away, but we will be back, we are a young side and this is just the start for us.”

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.