Category Archives: NRL Club News

Individual NRL Team and Club News

Can the Warriors win on the road in 2008?

NZ Warriors 2008 NRLThey came home strong last year and managed to get themselves a coveted home semi final. However after surpassing all predictions last year – the New Zealand Warriors will be looking to improve on their respectable year of 2007. Continued improvement is evident under new coach Ivan Cleary and the previously erratic Warriors showcased a newfound confidence and structure,  finally regaining some respect after three disappointing years.

Confidence and consistency was instilled by the acquisition of workhorse prop  Steve Price and his steady, yet guiding influence remains the foundation to the Warriors continued success. The Warriors again possess a talented blend of size and skill, which should see them remain in contention to compete in semi-final football. However, the season ending knee injury to fullback Wade McKinnon will hamper the Warriors attacking game, as much of last season’s success can be attributed to the robust runs of the dynamic custodian. Only time will tell how the loss of McKinnon will affect the Warriors chances, with many bookmakers already slashing their prices on the Warriors ability to reach the semi-finals.

If the Warriors can rectify their traveling woes, and find a reliable replacement for McKinnon, then there is no reason why the New Zealander’s can’t again challenge for a top four position.


Aside from possessing the biggest forward pack in the competition, the Warriors real strength is their ability and instinct to switch to their exhilarating style of ad-lib, Polynesian attacking football at the drop of a hat. With their size, pace and skill, the Warriors have the ability to produce tries from anywhere on the paddock, and have proven in recent history that they are never dead and buried in tight contests.


Despite finishing the season in fourth spot, the Warriors still had trouble winning matches away from Mt Smart Stadium. Seven of their twelve season losses were recorded on the road, with the continuous traveling over the Tasman probably contributing to the New Zealander’s loss of focus midway through the season.

Expect a change in how the Warriors prepare and travel to away matches this season, as coach Cleary identified the amount of traveling as of his team’s main weaknesses last season.

Likely 2008 NRL Starting Team:

1- Patrick Ah Van
2- Michael Crockett
3- Brent Tate
4- Simon Mannering
5- Manu Vatuvei
6- Michael Witt
7- Grant Rovelli
8- Steve Price
9- Nathan Fien
10- Sam Rapira
11- Ruben Wiki
12- Logan Swann
13- Michael Luck

14- Epahalame Lauaki
15- Evarn Tuimavave
16- Wairangi Koopu
17– Ian Henderson

Pre-Season Trial Matches:

15/02/08 v Newcastle Knights @ North Harbour Stadium, Auckland
29/02/08 v Manly Sea-Eagles @ Kawana Waters

2008 Acquisitions and Departures:


Brent Tate (Brisbane), Ian Henderson (Bradford), Ryan Shortland (Melbourne)

Tony Martin (Wakefield), Todd Byrne (Hull), Louis Anderson (Warrington), George Gatis (Huddersfield)

By Peter Roy

Bennett not happy with Broncos line-up

Dave Taylor Brisbane BroncosBrisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has seemingly been unimpressed with the trial form shown by the Broncos, demoting several players including boom prop Dave Taylor from the first grade squad. Such a bold move could only mean lack of focus at training or potentially even off-field incidents that have gone unreported.

Anticipation of the big clash between Dave Taylor and former Broncos mentor Petero Civoniceva in the round 1 blockbuster against Penrith have nosedived following the 19-year-old’s shock demotion to Rockhampton-based Central Comets.

Taylor has paid the price for a lacklustre display against Canberra at Orange last weekend, with Sydney imports Joel Clinton and Ashton Sims chosen in the front row for the club’s final trial against Redcliffe at Dolphin Oval on Saturday night.

Nick Kenny is the other prop in a 19-man squad that will be captained by second-rower Corey Parker in the absence of injured stars Darren Lockyer and Justin Hodges.

Another captaincy candidate, Karmichael Hunt, will start at five-eighth for the first time with Darius Boyd at fullback.

Taylor, who recently signed a 12-month contract extension with the Broncos, has been widely tipped to play State of Origin for Queensland as early as this year.

But the Broncos are not going to rush the 115kg Blackwater product, who can expect to play regularly for the Comets until he improves his consistency.

How far Taylor has fallen in the pecking order is highlighted by the fact Ben Hannant will miss the Redcliffe game with a sternum injury.

The Broncos’ lack of depth out wide has also been exposed by the naming of a three-quarter line that includes only one player with NRL experience – centre Steve Michaels.

The other centre is 17-year-old Gerard Beale, who is expected to play wing in the round 1 clash with Penrith at Suncorp Stadium. The wingers are Cronulla signing Reece Robinson, 20, and rugby union recruit William Tupou, 17.

Three members of the club’s NRL elite squad – Denan Kemp, Nick Emmett and Craig Frawley – were overlooked and are set to play Queensland Cup this weekend.

St George Illawarra wing recruit Tom Hewitt has been named on the Broncos bench which also includes Joel Moon who has been quiet in earlier trials.

Moon, 19, has been regarded as one of the most talented youngsters in the NRL but he could not find a place in the Broncos backline despite the absence of Lockyer, Hodges and halfback Peter Wallace (hip).

Test fullback Hunt said yesterday his selection at five-eighth could be a sign of things to come.

“I guess playing five-eighth is something that could happen down the track and I see this as a perfect chance to gain more experience at taking control of a game,” he said.

Corey Parker said it was a “big challenge” captaining the side and that he was keen to retain his goal-kicking role after finishing the club’s leading points scorer last year with 106 from 45 goals and four tries. Lockyer and Michael Ennis were the other kickers.

Mark O’Meley to make Roosters debut

Prop Mark O’Meley will make his debut for the Sydney Roosters this Saturday night against the Parramatta Eels at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford. A regular site on the sidelines in recent times, the talented O’Meley and the Roosters would certainly hope that Shrek doesn’t remain a candidate for the most injured player of the year. 

O’Meley is excited at the prospect of playing his first game in the tricolours, especially in his home town.

“I’m from the Central Coast so I am really looking forward to this game,” he said after getting the nod to play from Brad Fittler.

“It’s been a big pre season and I am looking forward to having fun with the boys on the field. It’s a great coincidence that the game is in Gosford, it’s going to be good.”

After spending the majority of the pre season in the club’s injured group with head physio Tony Ayoub, O’Meley is confident that his problematic Achilles will be right to go on Saturday night.

“I’ve had the Achilles problem for a while but once it is warm it is fine. Being in the rehab group is mainly a preventative measure and I am still running several times a week with the boys.”

O’Meley’s addition will be the final piece in the puzzle for the for Roosters forward pack, with Danny Nutley also starting on the bench after missing out on last week’s Foundation Cup.

Penrith bet the farm on Jarrod Sammut

Jarrod Sammut Penrith PanthersThe Penrith Panthers have today re-signed rookie flyer Jarrod Sammut for the next 2 years, blocking any chance of the NZ Warriors snaring the fullback to replace the injured Wade McKinnon for 2008.

It’s a big compliment to the young Jarrod Sammut. Only 21 years of age and having all but a few games of NRL under his belt, while he impressed greatly during 2007 – are Penrith placing too much emphasis on a player that while talented hasn’t really been proven over a long period?

Ok, so what has Sammut shown us in 2007? Strong positional play, good speed of foot and a knack for backing up and finding the try line. All good credentials, sure. But moving from fullback to the halves is a huge jump, not only in the fact he will guiding the team around the park, but will take on a massive defensive role and have to posses a much higher tackle count each week.

Penrith were able to do something similar with Preston Campbell, the small livewire fullback turned half was able to use his creative flair to lay on tries and provide attacking impetus – but on the flip side, his size and defensive problems probably cost the same amount of tries as well. This is why the Gold Coast Titans have looked to move Campbell back to fullback to prevent any centre field defence leaks.

The Panthers may have been right to step in and stitch Sammut up before any poaching took place, but the move to the halves and the installment of Sammut as the ‘great white hope for Penrith’ will obviously place pressure on the kid and may see him carry too much on his shoulders this season. The halves have been a problem for Penrith for some time, while they were able to win the Premiership way back in 2003 – it was on the back of a polished all round squad with attacking flair. While Gower was always a solid halfback and tough competitor, he really was a hooker at heart and probably wasn’t the best halfback in the world – but was virtually the best available to Penrith and even NSW at times.

While Penrith have showed their hand and committed to Jarrod Sammut for at least the mid term, they would be wise not to change one of their only successes in 2007 and that was Sammut playing at the custodian role. Matt Elliott might be searching for a killer punch or a dynamic edge in the halves, but lets not forget they have a proven performer in Joe Williams of South Sydney fame waiting to take up the reigns in the middle.

Sometimes you don’t know what you have, even when you’re staring it in the face – lets hope the Panthers and their coaching staff don’t get too tricky and beat themselves in the NRL 2008 season.

By John Chelsea 

Greg Inglis in Brisbane Bar Brawl

Greg Inglis Melbourne Storm BrawlThe Melbourne Storm have this morning confirmed that high profile NRL five-eighth Greg Inglis was involved in an altercation outside the Normanby Hotel while in Brisbane on Sunday night. Apprently trying to play the role of a peacemaker, Inglis was struck and received minor injuries during the scuffle.

Since the incident Inglis has received medical treatment and it has been confirmed he has sustained no serious injuries. As a result he is expected back at training tomorrow.

The club has reviewed the incident with all relevant parties, including staff from the Normanby Hotel and the Queensland police.

Whilst it is clear Inglis attempted to play the role of peacemaker in the incident, the fact he was there has angered Storm CEO Brian Waldron.

The Melbourne Storm who usually run a tight ship in terms of player control, expressed their disappointment through CEO Brian Waldron that Greg has been involved in an incident like this.

“We continue to remind all of our players to act in a socially responsible manner and to refrain from placing themselves in potential high risk situations.”

“It is clear in this situation Greg has acted irresponsibly and outside the boundaries of what is expected from anyone associated with the Melbourne Storm.”

CCTV footage of the incident, which is in the hands of Queensland police, clearly shows Greg was not the instigator. However, he put himself in a situation he shouldn’t have been in and that is why we are so disappointed.”

Police have confirmed no charges will be laid against Inglis, and reports of serious injuries to anyone involved in the incident are false.

Newcastle Knights a darkhorse in 2008

After a shocking first up season at the helm of the Knights, experienced coach Brian Smith will be hoping that his new squad of Knights will bring unsatisfied Newcastle supporters back to Energy Australia Stadium to support their club this year. Season 2007 saw Brian Smith cop tonnes of criticism from many corners, including local Newcastle business owners and the likes of John Singleton and Jack Newton in one of the darkest periods in the Knights history, and Smith will know that his team must perform to earn the regain the respect from the disheartened Knights fan base.

While the Knights have bolstered their ranks with several new signings and cleaned out a whole raft of players, it will take time for the new squad members to settle in and form combinations with each other. Of more concern is the harmony between remaining 2007 Knights players and Brian Smith, with the very public Danny Buderus feud threatening to tear the club apart. We should have a clear gauge on how Newcastle will fair by Round 10, as the new look Knights will face off against five of last years semi-finalists by then.

If Newcastle can stay healthy and build early confidence, than the Knights may well be an outside chance of capturing a semi-final position.


Having been given permission to clean out ‘the dead wood’, coach Smith and his recruitment team have managed to obtain a host of talented individuals to fill their void. The addition of Naiqama and Lulia more than compensates for the departure of Carmont and Thaiday, while props Wicks and Cross are adequate replacements for Perry and Woolnough. Matt Hilder will takeover Daniel Abraham’s utility role, and Ciraldo and Fa’aoso will replace the flair that Hinton and Reynoldson provided.

Coach Smith has replaced a host of middle aged players with a group of talented youngsters, and while you may not see the best of the seasons from the Knights this year, look out for them in season ’09!


Given the massive player turnover throughout the club, it will take the Knights a few weeks before combinations start to gel. With so many new faces, and games against NRL heavyweights Manly, Parramatta, New Zealand, Brisbane and the Roosters all preceding their Round 7 bye, coach Smith and his players may well behind the eight ball in terms of confidence and table position.

2008 Likely NRL Starting Team:

1- Kurt Gidley
2- Cooper Vuna
3- Adam McDougall
4- Wes Naiqama
5- James McManus
6- Jarrod Mullen
7- Luke Walsh
8- Ben Cross
9- Danny Buderus
10- Danny Wicks
11- Mitchell Sargent
12- Steve Simpson
13- Cory Paterson

14- Terrence Seu Seu
15- Daniel Tolar
16- Matt Hilder
17– Chris Houston

2008 NRL Pre-Season Trial Match Schedule:

15/02/08 v New Zealand Warriors @ North Harbour Stadium, Auckland
01/03/08 v Cronulla Sharks @ Cessnock

2008 Acquisitions and Departures:


Wes Naiqama, Danny Wicks and Keith Lulia (St George-Illawarra), Matt Hilder (Gold Coast), Ben Cross (Melbourne), Cameron Ciraldo (Cronulla), Richard Fa’aoso (Parramatta), Sione Finefeuaki (Manly)


Adam Woolnough and Brad Tighe (Penrith), Kirk Reynoldosn (St George-Illawarra), Josh Perry (Manly), Riley Brown (Sydney Roosters), Daniel Abraham (Central Coast), Kade Snowden (Cronulla), Nathan Hinton (Newcastle Wests), Milton Thaiday (Charlestown), David Seage (QLD Cup), Reegan Tanner, Trent Salkeld and George Carmont (released)

Storm continue to look unbeatable

Melbourne StormEven as they arrive to take on Super League giants Leeds Rhinos in the World Club Challenge, the Storm remain slick and absolutely polished in their preparation and lead-up to the clash. Always well prepared, obviously well coached – they remain an enviable outfit that not only innovates, but every aspect of the club puts in massive amounts of effort.

Not only are the players the most prominent in the NRL competition, but the staff right through to the Public Relations teams seem to stand out from the pack. Here at NRL News, we get regular media releases from clubs and the Storm continue to keep us informed of their every more – more so than any other club, giving the media unrestricted access to them most of the time.

In 2008, there is no questioning they remain a force to be reckoned with. After blowing every other team away in the 2007 premiership, the Melbourne Storm will again start as overwhelming favourites for the NRL’s 2008 crown. Under the expert eye of coach Craig Bellamy, who remains the most astute coach in the premiership, many punters believe that back-to-back titles is a certainty.

But the two time premiers will not have things all their own way, with other clubs sure to lift and attempt to knock the at times untouchable Storm off their high horse. Desire might be in question after achieving their goals in 2007 and there will be even more pressure on Bellamy and his boys in the games Centenary season, with an increased Origin involvement, and a host of new, inexperienced talent set to test the professionalism and spirit of the club.

Melbourne have been the best team by far over the past two seasons, but I think their recent success may just hurt them cum finals time this season.


Coach Bellamy possesses arguably the most talented and speedy backline in the competition, with rookies Greg Inglis and Israel Folau set to kick on from last year’s stellar season. The departure of Matt King opens the door for the introduction of yet another boom Storm rookie, Will Chambers, and fullback Billy Slater will be out to make amends for an injury interrupted 2007 season. With cool halves Inglis and Cronk steering the ship, the Storm could well be in for another record season.


The Storm have lost a host of experience over the off season, and only time will tell if their gamble on youth will pay dividends. The loss of Crossman, Shortland, Newton and Aubusson leaves a big hole in the defending premiers forward depth, and coach Bellamy may find it extremely difficult finding a suitable hooking replacement should captain Cameron Smith go down injured.

The Storm’s backline still looks particularly lethal despite the departure of representative centre King, with talented rookie Will Chambers set to assume the number 3 jersey. Melbourne’s depth is sure to be tested cum representative time, and there will be no shortage of teams queuing up to break the premiers’ enviable home record.

Likely 2008 NRL Starting Side:

1- Billy Slater
2- Anthony Quinn
3- Will Chambers
4- Israel Folau
5- Steve Turner
6- Greg Inglis
7- Cooper Cronk
8- Brett White
9- Cameron Smith
10- Antonio Kaufusi
11- Ryan Hoffman
12- Jeremy Smith
13- Dallas Johnson

14- Michael Crocker
15- Matt Geyer
16- Jeremy Smith
17– Jeff Lima

2008 Pre-Season Trial Matches-

16/02/08 v Manly Sea-Eagles @ Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
29/02/08 World Club Challenge – v Leeds Rhinos @ Elland Road, Leeds
01/03/08 v Brisbane Broncos @ Dolphin Park, Redcliffe

2008 Acquisitions and Departures:


Ben McDougall (Northern Rivers), Kevin Proctor (Tweed Heads), Lucas Miller (Newcastle), Sinbad Kali (Central Coast), Joseph Tamone (Super 14, QLD), Aiden Guerra (Brisbane Norths)


Matt King (Warrington), James Aubusson (Sydney Roosters), Clint Newton and Garret Crossman (Hull), Ben Cross (Newcastle), Ryan Shortland (NZ Warriors), Anthony Perkins (NQ Cowboys)

Can Dragons avoid injury?

Ben Hornby St George Illawarra DragonsCoach Nathan Brown has named the strongest St George Illawarra Dragons side for some time for the Dragons 2008 pre-season trial match against the Bulldogs at WIN Stadium this weekend. Only Dean Young is missing from this classy looking side, on paper it starts to regain some of the allure that past Dragons outfits have had.

It’s widely known that the Dragons are the most injured team in the NRL. Can the St George-Illawarra side avoid the dreaded curse this year? Or will NRL 2008 remain another year where stars remain in the hospital ward?

I feel the Dragons may be about to get some luck, well some may not call it luck – but with several players in the squad getting on in years they virtually have to perform regardless of their health this season. The likes of Jason Ryles, Mark Gasnier, Ben Hornby and Matt Cooper are well experienced and the opportunity for them to win a premiership and sign longer contracts certainly must remain an attraction.

Surrounding this leadership group at the Saints, are some encouraging new stars that can hopefully shed the injury curse from the promising club. Jamie Soward looks to have really found a home at the Dragons and plays a much more relaxed, free flowing game than he did at the Roosters. Combining well with Rangi Chase in the halves, the Dragons again look to possess some of the strike poker they had with Head/Barrett at one stage.

Newcastle Knights discard Kirk Reynoldson will be the real wildcard for the Dragons, surely wanting to prove a point and get himself back into the regular routine of first grade – expect a solid showing from the former Knights and Storm player. A player in the real workhorse mould, he should assist the Saints who up until the acquisition of Simon Woolford lacked some real cattle dogs.

2008 might just be a year that the Dragons surprise us, certain to perform better than their horror showing last year – this side will have others certainly peering over their shoulders.

In opposition this weekend, the Bulldogs will unleash some of their big guns too – with Steve Folkes giving Sonny Bill Williams, Reni Maitua and Willie Tonga the nod for the Wollongong match. For the Dragons, it’s their last hit out before the popular Charity Shield Match for 2008 against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Dragons Squad for 2008 Pre Season Trial against Bulldogs: Ben Hornby, Jason Nightingale, Mark Gasnier (c), Matt Cooper, Josh Morris, Rangi Chase, Jamie Soward, Justin Poore, Simon Woolford, Jason Ryles, Beau Scott, Ben Creagh, Chase Stanley.

Interchange: Dan Hunt, Kirk Reynoldson, Lagi Setu, Brett Morris, Stuart Webb, Ben Ellis, Ricky Thorby, Jon Green, Dean Whare, Tony Caine, Matt Prior, Michael Lett, Frank Samia, Mark Hendy, Jardine Bobongie, Jarrod Saffy, Alex Ranieri, Joe Falemaka.

Can Manly bounce back in 2008?

By Peter Roy

Manly may struggle without the underrated Michael Mongahan on deck, Peter Roy today gives his opinion on the Northen Beaches outfit in his first article for 2008. Welcome back Peter, great to have you on board for 2008.

The recent trial game against the Melbourne Storm, probably wasn’t the ideal guage for Manly especially after many predicted them to take out months of disappointed and frustration firstly on the rival Storm side, and then continue to take out their anger on others during the rest of season 2008.

Can the Sea-Eagles, who have a long list of talented squad members make amends for their grand final shocker against the Storm in 2007? Coach Des Hasler will be sure to remind survivors from ’07 of the pain when times get tough throughout the season, and after the poor first up showing against the Storm – chances are pretty good that Des may need to pull out the motivation card every now and then.

Possessing good speed on the fringes, strong defence that doesn’t leak too many points and a good amount of depth at the club, Manly do seem to still have the nucleus of a premiership winning side. If the leadership group of Orford, Lyon, Stewart, Watmough and Kite can remain injury free, then the Sea-Eagles have the talent to again challenge for the big prize.


Despite losing creative workhorse Michael Monaghan, the Sea-Eagles still seem to have a strong squad heading into season ’08. New signings Josh Perry and Heath L’Estrange will bolster an already powerful looking pack, with Perry and Adam Cuthbertson set to battle it out with Kite and King for the two starting prop positions.The addition of former Eels outside back David Vaeliki will add more potency to the Sea-Eagles backline, with the likes of Steve Bell and Steve Matai sure to be kept honest in competition for starting spots.


With the departure of Travis Burns, Manly remain quite light-on in the halves with the club betting the house on Matt Orford and Jamie Lyon. This doesn’t leave much room for error, should one of the two go down injured. The departure of Michael Monaghan also leaves a big hole in both the halves and hooking roles, with only the inexperienced Matt Ballin and new buy Heath L’Estrange left to fill the void. While there is depth aplenty through the outside backs and forwards, the lack of experienced, quality depth in the crucial halves department could well prove to be Manly’s Achilles heal.

Likely 2008 NRL Starting Side:

1- Brett Stewart
2- Michael Robertson
3- Steve Bell
4- Steve Matai
5- Michael Bani
6- Jamie Lyon
7- Matt Orford
8- Brent Kite
9- Matt Ballin
10- Jason King
11- Anthony Watmough
12- Glenn Stewart
13- Luke Williamson

14- Steve Menzies
15- Adam Cuthbertson
16- Josh Perry
17– Mark Bryant

Pre-Season Trial Matches:

16/02/08 v Melbourne Storm @ Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
29/02/08 v New Zealand Warriors @ Quad Park, Kawana Waters, QLD

2008 Departures and Acquisitions:

Josh Perry (Newcastle), David Vaeliki (Wigan), Heath L’Estrange (Sydney Roosters), David Williams (Parramatta), Tom Browne (South Sydney), Jared Waera-Hargreaves (NSWRU)


Michael Monaghan and Chris Hicks (Warrington), Travis Burns (North QLD), Aaron Groom (Canterbury)

Tigers without several players for Cup clash

Wests Tigers Foundation CupWests Tigers second-rower Chris Heighington will miss the second annual Foundation Cup match through suspension. Heighington will serve out a one match suspension carried over from 2007.Although suspended from the NRL, Heighington is free to play in the NSW State Cup trial match against Newtown Jets at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday, February 23, from 3.20pm.
In more bad news for the Wests Tigers, they will also be without the services of Dean Collis, Shannon McDonnell, Danny Galea, Bryce Gibbs and Mathew Head who will miss the trial through on-going  injury concerns.

It’s understood that Collis, McDonnell and Galea only have hamstring injuries and are tipped to return for the Gold Coast Titans trial on Saturday, March 1.

Prop Bryce Gibbs has an ankle injury and has been earmarked for a round three return against the Bulldogs and new half-back Mathew Head has a shoulder injury and is confident of being right for round one against St George-Illawarra Dragons; many Tigers fans will watch the progress of Head closely as the former Dragons star is expected to do big things for the club that really missed the organisation skills of Scott Prince during 2007.

The Roosters won the inaugural Foundation Cup 10-4 last year in front of a crowd of 16,000.  The Foundation Cup will be the first chance for the Tigers new signings in winger Nick Youngquest and second-rower Corey Payne to be unleashed in their new club colours.


Dene Halatau makes a return to his original centre position after spending a few seasons in the forwards.


Tigers Coach Tim Sheens has elected to give rising young half back Tim Moltzen and rookie winger Peni Tagive the chance to test themselves in first grade. Moltzen represented the Junior Kangaroos in 2007 with Tagive having played alongside Chris Lawrence on the Australian Schoolboys tour of 2006.


Wests Tigers team


1 Brett Hodgson ©

2 Nick Youngquest

3 Dene Halatau

4 Chris Lawrence

5 Taniela Tuiaki

6 Benji Marshall

7 John Morris

8 Todd Payten

9 Robbie Farah

10 Keith Galloway

11 Bronson Harrison

12 Ben Te’o

13 Liam Fulton


14 Stuart Flanagan

15 Tim Moltzen

16 Ryan O’Hara

17 Corey Payne