Category Archives: NRL Editorials

Editorials on the big issues in NRL Rugby League

Gold Coast – The Enigma of Rugby League

Since 1988 the Gold Coast has been perennial underachievers of Rugby League. The Seagulls, the Chargers, the Crushers, the Gladiators the Giants and now, the Titans.

For every attempt no matter what the constant name iterations just haven’t worked.

The Gold Coast is the sporting enigma of Australian sports. NRL, AFL, A League, NBL have all tried and failed over the years.

What is the reason? Why has no Gold Coast team in any sport been successful? Is it because it’s a transient city with locals coming and going not really supporting the team?

Or are all the attractions and activities more appealing to locals . The sun, surf and sex it is renowned for.

For well paid young fit men, it is a paradise with many attractions, temptations and vices. Particularly in the 80’s and 90’s.

An era where mobile phones and social media didn’t exist. Were those temptations became too much for some?

What started with excitement and hope in 1988 has turned to frustration and disappointment over the years. To understand the story of the Gold Coast, let’s go back to 1988.

The original Gold Coast team, the Giants, played out of Tweed Heads.

For such a colourful location, the jersey chosen was charcoal black, grey and white. So from the start, it didn’t exactly win the Gold Coast locals over.

At the same time, the Broncos also entered the NSWRL Winfield Cup for the first time loaded their team with Origin and Test players.

The biggest signing for the Giants was Ronnie ‘Rambo’ Gibbs, Manly’s second rower from the 1987 Premiership team.

From that first season, the team went through many changes. The Giants gave way to be the Seagulls owned and run by the large Seagulls Leagues Club. A one time mega club.

This was a time when poker machines were banned in clubs and pubs in Queensland. Bus loads would cross the border South to the Tweed and play the pokies at the Seagulls club.

Still located at Tweed Heads and now cashed up, the club was able to bulk up their playing roster. Enter the King Wally Lewis.

By then, his best playing days were over and he had just been dismissed by Wayne Bennett at the Broncos. However, he gave the struggling team credibility.

The club recruited well obtaining Canberra premiership-winning players including Brent Todd and Paul Martin.

They were starting to produce their own players like Wayne Bartrim who would later go on to have a great career with St George.

Why these teams failed is unclear. Their roster at times looked very promising and able to compete with most teams.

Yet they usually ended at the bottom of the ladder. As said, a different time without social media. Yet to become a fully professional game.

Eventually, with Pokies being legalised in Queensland and with declining crowd support, the Seagullls club could no longer financially support the club.

The licence was then bought by local entrepreneurs Jeff Muller in 1996.

Muller moved the club to Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast and renamed the team the Gladiators.

Despite off field issues including the hiring and firing of 5 coaches in the pre season alone, the Gladiators won the pre season 7’s tournament.

Prior to the 1996 season, the licence was revoked and placed into administration.

With the Super League War at its height, the ARL needed a team on the Gold Coast and quickly assembled the Gold Coast Chargers.

A time when players were being paid well above market value. Still before social media.

Now playing out of Carrara Stadium, the team over achieved in the split competition making the semi finals for the first time in 1997.

When the Super League war was over, the Super League aligned Hunter Mariners put an offer to merge with the Gold Coast Chargers. This offer was declined.

The nucleus of the players on offer in the merger went on to form the Melbourne Storm which won the Premiership in 1999.

The Gold Coast was one of the first teams sacrificed when the competing ARL and Super League combined to form the NRL.

What could had been with that merger. The NRL would be a very different game today had that merger happened.

Melbourne went on to unparalleled success while the Gold Coast has to wait until 2007 to redeem themselves.

Years went by with hope a team might relocate or the NRL might expand.

Thanks to South Sydney winning their way back into the NRL, it meant that NRL needed to even the number of teams competing to 16.

In 2007, the Gold Coast Titans were introduced into the NRL.

Could this iteration break the curse of the previous versions of the Gold Coast?

The buzz surrounding the new team was nothing like any of the other teams experienced.

The team was very competitive from the start and importantly, it was located on the Gold Coast at the brand new purpose built stadium in Robina.

However, for all of the good signings and home grown talent, great administration and coaches, success has still eluded the Gold Coast since 2007.

Over 30 years has passed since the Giants entered the NSWRL in 1988.

In that time, the Gold Coast has seen NBL and A League teams come and go. The AFL struggle on and off the field.

As a city, the Gold Coast itself has changed and matured. Yet sporting teams, no matter the code, struggle to be successful.

The same temptations are available to the young men that play but with the advent of mobile phones and social media it prevents most temptations being acted upon.

The Titans have recently been bought by a local consortium giving the team stability off the field, for now. Let us hope it continues.

With some astute signings and the development of some very exciting youngsters, perhaps the Gold Coast enigma will be cracked and the curse lifted in 2019.

Why has the Gold Coast failed to succeed? Let me know your thoughts. Please be respectful to all.

Pete Williams

From the Cheap Seats – Coaching Merry-Go-Round

The coaching Merry Go Round took another twist late last week with Wests Tigers head coach Ivan Cleary committing to the Penrith Panthers for 2021.

Phil Gould, Penrith’s Executive GM of Football must have a crystal ball or a flux capacitor (Back to the Future, kids)!

He obviously knows the club won’t win a Premiership in the next 2 seasons.

Cameron Ciraldo and the Penrith coaching staff must be filled with confidence knowing no matter what results he produces in the next 2 years, he will be punted in 2021 for Cleary.

At Manly, Trent Barrett looks like he will have to serve out his severance time of one year back dated to May 2018.

So Barrett will be head coach of a team and club he has no confidence in until May 2019.

In Brisbane, Wayne Bennett is committed to the 2019 season.

His last at Brisbane a club he has driven to countless success. However, his name has been mentioned as a potential Tigers coach should Cleary move on early.

Former South Sydney coach Michael Maguire has been mentioned as a potential Manly, Tigers and Broncos coach, depending on where the musical chairs stop.

South Sydney’s Anthony Seibold has been linked as Brisbane’s new long term Bennett replacement.

He is yet to commit to a new contract at the Rabbitohs so he may be on his way out.

In my time following Rugby League, I have never seen a time when coaches were the main commodity for off season signings.

Although, I am not shocked by anything in rugby league in the modern era.

Contracts do not amount to much. Clubs sack coaches, coaches have sought early releases in the past as with players.

My mind drifts to stories of Parramatta great Mick Cronin agreeing to a contract with a handshake only.

The potential switch by Cleary back to the Panthers is intriguing. Penrith sacked Cleary in 2015 and replaced him with Anthony Griffin.

After guiding the Panthers to the final series in 2017, Griffin signed a new 2 year contract despite rumours of a falling out with Phil Gould.

Safe with his new contract, Griffin endured a year of speculation about his future at the club.

Astonishingly, Griffin was sacked just prior to this years semi final series.

At the Tigers, Ivan Cleary was working wonders with a team who most expected to be a wooden spoon contender.

With a comment that Ivan would like to coach his very talented son Nathan at some point in their careers.

All hell seemed to break out about Ivan and Nathan.

With Ivan secured to the Tigers for 2019, most thought Cleary’s would commit to the Tigers long term.

Then the ridiculous started to happen. Rumours of an immediate release for Nathan to join the Tigers, rumours both father and son would sign for the Broncos.

The most unlikely was Ivan would go back to Penrith. Be serious; why would he go back to a club that showed little faith and sacked him. No chance.

At Manly, will he or won’t he was being played out. The vague press releases and Trent Barrett calling a press conference where he was unable to discuss his future due to legal reasons.

In my opinion, Manly management let Barrett down.

He was put out front to face the media on club matters generally left to the CEO to answer.

He asked for additional staff but was either denied or the process was very slow. What could go wrong did go wrong for the season.

It is obvious to everyone that Barrett wants out.

Management are not exactly showing they really want Barrett for next season but seem to be holding on to him to “honour” his contract.

Is this because they hold the high moral ground or are they doing it out of spite?

Either way, it frustrates the fans. It can’t be good for the playing group.

It’s not a great recruiting tool to entice a new coach. Seeing how Barrett is allegedly being treated.

The Tigers who were fighting for a semi final place late in the season seemed to fall away once rumours started to circulate that Cleary was on his way out of the club.

Most fans feel let down and shocked that Cleary would leave and go back to Penrith.

As a club, the Tigers may be disappointed with Cleary but they have their own history of sacking or moving coaches on to new roles.

Tim Sheens, Michael Potter and Jason Taylor have all fallen into that category.

Cleary’s son Nathan has just signed with the Panthers on a long term high paying contract.

This likely ensures that the Cleary’s will unite in 2021.

Here are a few of my predictions from the Cheap Seats:

  1. All is well that ends well. Cleary will unite with son Nathan for the 2019 season at Penrith where he was sacked in 2015.
  2. Not sure how the dynamics will work with Ivan, Gould and the Penrith players who would know he was recruited at the behest of Nathan.
  3. Bennett after playing all his cards leaves his beloved Broncos to join the Tigers.
  4. Robbie might try to return to Souths as that relationship will be very interesting to watch. Not sure Robbie or Benji will play much under Bennett.
  5. At Manly, John Cartwright will take over in 2019.

What are your thoughts on the coaching Merry go round and where will the coaches end up?

Thanks and be respectful to all who reply.

Why Michael Maguire is, and should be, the coach Wests Tigers want

New Zealand Kiwis coach Michael Maguire

The Wests Tigers head coaching drama (the current epic anyway) has been ongoing for several weeks ever since current coach Ivan Cleary was asked to return to the Penrith Panthers.

Cleary did deny he was leaving, albeit a few days after it dominated headlines, news stories and social media chat.

He said he was concentrating on getting the Wests Tigers into the 2018 semi finals.

Now, the playoff dream failed. The NRL season is finished.

Week by week, more and more Wests Tigers fans have been coming to terms with the fact that the man who famously stated the line “you’re either on the bus, or off it” when talking about former player Mitchell Moses wanting to sign with Parramatta, would he himself ‘get off the bus’ before his contract permitted him to.

Fans are fearing that without the bus driver, the wheels won’t turn. More and more fans and now board members are coming to the reality that Ivan wants to join his son Nathan.

Just last week, news outlets were running with that it was fact that Wayne Bennett was to hop on the coaching merry-go-round and arriving in Concord allowing Ivan would be released back to Gus’s kingdom up the M4.

But now, NRL News has learned the Wests Tigers board aren’t keen on bringing Mr Bennett from the Broncos. As much as the Broncos would love to wrap him in a bow and send him south of the border with a “thank you” card taped to it, Wests Tigers want former South Sydney Rabbitohs and premiership winning coach, Michael Maguire.

As a long (suffering) time Wests Tigers member myself, I have faith in chair Marina Go and the rest of the board to make the right call.

If they can recruit Maguire, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Madge could well be what the board and us fans expected from Ivan. And then-some. Here’s why:

  • Maguire is available. The Wests Tigers wouldn’t try and “poach” a coach under contract from another club like some other franchises do/can. Even if they possessed the audacity, financial status and media power to be able to.
  • He has runs on the board.
  • Maguire took the helm at South Sydney and literally took them from the bottom to the top. Despite being let go from Redfern in 2017, you can’t dispute that what he did with that club in taking them to their first premiership broadcast on colour television.
  • He was known amongst the players as a strict, but likeable coach and his discipline when it came to fitness and attitude was Craig Bellamy like.
  • Who he just happened to assist at the Storm during their “golden” era the record books no longer show. Bookkeeping aside, four years as an apprentice to Bellyache can’t hurt. Oh and for the record, there are no premiership rings on Ivan Cleary’s fingers.
  • The Kiwi connection. This was one of the reasons Ivan gave much hope to Wests Tigers faithful, he was the Kiwi whisperer and led to marquee signings Ben Matulino and Russell Packer as well as the return of club legend Benji Marshall.
  • Maguire’s coaching job at the moment just happens to be the head coach of the New Zealand international team.
  • Player relationships are incredibly important, especially for a club in Wests Tigers who normally has to pay overs to recruit elite talent.
  • Beyond those with New Zealand passports, Maguire’s years of experience at other clubs is also an advantage when it comes to signing free agents.
  • For example, Origin hooker Damien Cook happens to be a free agent in 2020. Which happens to be Robbie Farah’s first year of enjoying retirement as well. Wests Tigers fans can only dream (most of the time that is literally true).
  • Youth. 44 is still young for a coach. Heck, he’s 24 years younger than Bennett. While the experience of Wayne is priceless and yes he may have a few kilometres left to rack up on the odometer yet.
  • Maguire can be the Wests Tigers’ next Tim Sheens. They don’t need someone to come in to live out of a suitcase for a couple of years and then fly off into the sunset. They need someone to take the keys to the franchise and have complete control of everything football and to look forward years ahead.
  • Ivan Cleary was given this privilege. Luckily, Maguire won’t have to turn the place and the roster completely upside down like Ivan had to. The hard yards have been done.
  • He’ll want the job. Maguire this week turned down the head coaching job at Manly. Can you blame him? The Sea Eagles are almost like looking at the the Tigers four or five years ago when they had little money, disgruntled players, poor management and flirted with the wooden spoon.
  • In 2018, Wests surprised everyone by winning 50% of their games and knocked off the Storm twice and other top 8 sides along the way.
  • Sprinkle a bit of discipline and a star player here or there, Wests Tigers can break their seven season finals drought with one good off season.
  • With players such as Esan Marsters, Moses Mbye, Luke Brooks and Ryan Matterson about to enter the peak of their careers over the coming seasons, a good smart rugby league coach can see them reach their peak.
  • While at the time of writing pen hadn’t been put to paper, Michael Maguire and the Wests Tigers is a match made in heaven and very likely to happen.
  • We’re ready to let Ivan take his bus out west. Mr Maguire, please take your seat of the Concorde of Concord. It’s cleared for take off.

From the Cheap Seats – The Sydney Roosters and the reasons for their success

Sydney Roosters fullback James Tedesco

Congratulations to the 2018 NRL Premiership winners, the Sydney Roosters!
Jeez, as a Tigers fanatic, that was hard to write!

From the cheap seats, I hear all sorts of rumour, innuendo and theories about the Roosters their salary sombrero and Uncle Nick.

For all the hate, innuendo and accusations, the Roosters won because they were the best team. Coached brilliantly by Trent Robinson and his staff.

It is easy to accuse them of cheating the salary cap. I understand the frustration.

However, what ever the Roosters are doing with the management of their squad, they are doing a great job compliant to the rules and are obviously better at list management than all other clubs.

The NRL are extremely thorough in their auditing of all clubs including the Roosters.

After Melbourne were stripped of their premierships and Canterbury were stripped of all points for seasons past for breaking salary cap rules, all clubs know the punishment for any wrongdoing.

I admit, I look at the strength of the Roosters roster and wonder how they fit all players under the cap.

Their team reminds me of the amazing teams of the Brisbane Broncos and Canberra Raiders of the early 90’s full of Test and Origin players.

“The Roosters cheat the Salary Cap because Ian Schubert, an ex Rooster, is the head auditor of the Salary Cap for the NRL. ”

That is something I hear often. Ian Schubert is not an NRL salary cap auditor. He hasn’t been for many years.

The punishment is far too harsh to intentionally break salary cap rules.

Not only are the players penalised or stripped of their achievements, but the fans feel the pain more.

Clubs also lose as it tarnishes their brand and potentially reduces revenue.

If any team has the capability of going back to back, it is this Roosters Team. They have bought well for next season to improve on their perfection.

Angus Crichton, Brett Morris, Ryan Hall will all join the club in 2019.

“Hang on! How do they fit them in under the cap?” I hear many fans shout in frustration! “What a joke! They must be cheating the salary cap.”

Many fans are unaware that a player can earn money outside of the salary cap through third party agreements.

Teams like the Roosters, Brisbane and Melbourne easily attract third party sponsors due to the clubs brand and corporate connections.

Third party agreements are met with skepticism from opposing fans.

Most get a vision of a brown paper bag full of cash. Truth is, they have to be approved by the NRL before a contract can be ratified.

Players should be able to earn as much as they can. They only have a short playing life which could end at anytime.

Third party agreements enable players to earn their market value and for clubs to obtain good players over the preference of other clubs.

“So, how do we assure fans, players, clubs and officials that clubs are adhering to the Salary Cap? ”

Transparency! The NRL should release all club players salary and third party deals. This is something they can adopt from most American sports.

In American sports, players contract money is made public.

I understand this is invading the players privacy but I feel it is necessary for many reasons.

The first and most importantly to alleviate any suspicions from fans.

If the contracts of the Roosters roster were to be made public, the fans and officials would be able to see the team financials to understand and appreciate rather than accuse and be disrespectful of the teams achievements.

On the other hand, fans and officials would be able to see contract money for a player they feel is suspiciously under valued.

Particularly officials of other teams who offered far more than what the player has settled for at another club. This would act as a deterrent for any club attempting to break the rules.

“If the Roosters can obtain better third party deals than other clubs, is the salary cap equal for all? ”

All clubs have the ability to obtain sponsors. It is up to the clubs to build its brand so external sponsors want to invest in them.

Players themselves need to be accountable if they want to earn top dollar. They also need to understand their contract.

Too often, I hear players state they are not aware of the details of their contract.

“My manager deals with that” can not be an excuse.

A player should be aware of what their entitlements are and what aren’t.

If players and player managers were to be individually harshly penalised for receiving goods or cash outside of their contract this would also act as a deterrent.

It would also be a tax declaration issue and potential crime.

Recent Mad Monday exploits and bad publicity will not help clubs to maintain existing sponsorship and attract potential sponsors.

Every bad action off and on the field has a bearing on all clubs. Australia has so many sports for Sponsors to choose from.

From the view from the cheap seats, my opinion is that the Roosters should be congratulated on a great season and are deserved premiership winners for 2018.

Let me know your thoughts. Be respectful to all. Go the Tigers!!!

Pete Williams

Parramatta thank ANZ

Tonight, the Parramatta Eels faithful get to say farewell to the 2018 season – one which has been painful majority of the time – but they at least get to say farewell to their temporary home at ANZ Stadium.

This year, the stands at Olympic Park haven’t been a very happy place for the blue and gold army as there haven’t been too many reasons to cheer.

When you look at the big picture, though, over the two years without a Parramatta Stadium due to the construction of Western Sydney Stadium, there have been many positive moments.

It’s easy to focus just solely on this season as a Parramatta fan however; across the two years, ANZ has proved to be a lovely home.

As difficult as it may be to look at the future excitedly, this venture at Olympic Park may prove to be very helpful to the blue and gold.

Obviously the two years have been very different years on paper for the team, however, when you look at the records, ANZ still acted as a prime home base.

In 2017, the Eels played a total of 15 games at ANZ stadium – including 1 final and 3 classified away games.

Of those 15, Parramatta won 8 home games, the 3 away games and only lost a total of 4 games, home or away.

This year, in 2018, things haven’t looked quite as positive but for ANZ the record still isn’t half bad. They played a total of 13 home and away games at ANZ for a record of 5 home wins, 5 home losses and 3 total away losses.

Combine the two seasons together and despite the dreaded wooden spoon on its way to Parramatta this year, the win percentage at ANZ is still positive even if it is only just.

This season, the Eels have not won an away game. It’s a statistic that is very concerning and worrying for the fans and club as a whole.

Away games are inevitable and if you can’t win away from home, you aren’t a real dominate force in the competition.

2019 is going to be a whole new ballpark for Parramatta, however. they do have a little bit of help in fixing their away slump.

Many fans have been scratching their heads or throwing their arms up in frustration at the recruitment at Parramatta, or lack thereof I should say.

They seem to be forgetting, though, that the team hasn’t just recruited Blake Ferguson, Junior Paulo and Shaun Lane – they’ve also recruited a brand new stadium.

After two years away, Parramatta are finally returning home to Parramatta. They have a brand new stadium and as exciting as all of the new features are, the greatest benefit is the home ground advantage again.

This is their home. They won’t be sharing it with any other rugby league team like the 3 (occasionally 4) teams who have had to share ANZ.

Fans will have to travel to Parramatta and enter Parramatta’s territory to verse the team which proves to be a real benefit for teams. What Parramatta also has on their side now is a backup home.

Fans have become accustomed to traveling to ANZ. They’ve figured out the best time trains and favourite food or drink vendors.

They’re used to the parking lots or the walk around the stadium to the station.

It’s become a part of their overall football experience as a fan so flocking to ANZ for the 3 or so away games against the Dogs, Rabbits and potentially Tigers won’t be an issue at all.

In a way, they’re like bonus home games.

Who knows what will happen with this game in 2019.

If this season has proven anything, it’s that anything can happen so there’s no real point super-analysing sides before the season has even started.

However, one inevitable is that Parramatta have a new home. They may physically farewell ANZ tonight against the Roosters but mentally, they’ve still got ANZ on their side next year.

Ricky’s View: Respecting the referees

NRL referee Matt Cecchin

If you have been reading the news lately, you will have seen that leading NRL referee Matt Cecchin is stepping aside at season’s end. 

Now, I’m not usually one to say a whole lot about referees but the recent constant negative press coupled with Cecchin’s decision has prompted me to say something.

Referees, no matter the sport they officiate in, have one of the hardest jobs imaginable in sport.

Each decision they make, good or bad, has to be made in basically a split second.

They have to recall, assess, analyse and then make their decision in an instant; very few of us ever have to face that sort of pressure.

With that pressure, comes scrutiny, much of which is tame and normal but there is a much darker side to all of this.

A side whereby referees are openly criticised by those who wield notoriety, to the point where their name and their profession becomes publicly ridiculed.

Matt Cecchin is a leading NRL referee, a fan of the game and a lovely man and person in general.

He is also an openly gay man and that should never be held against him when he steps out onto an NRL field.

He refereed his 300th game this past week and that is a tremendous achievement. One that Cecchin should really be reveling in.

Unfortunately, he cannot. That milestone has been overshadowed by the fact he has opted to retire and by the media’s treatment of referees.

His retirement has come on the back of several hundred death threats following the Rugby League World Cup.

Cecchin was threatened, family members were attacked and he had to be escorted by Federal police back to his home, such were the disturbing nature of the threats.

There is no harsher critic of a referee than the men themselves who are refereeing games every week at the highest level.

Just last year, Cecchin spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald in a candid interview about his mental illness battles and his anxiety.

“I feel bad when I f..k up,” Cecchin said in that interview.

“I take it to heart if I don’t referee well.”

On top of that, it all become so bad and so much for Cecchin, he is talking to his sports therapist twice a day.

But this isn’t just about Cecchin or that he’s forced to retire because he feels unsafe. This goes much, much deeper than just the NRL.

Any referee, no matter the sport or the level they referee at, are human just like every single one of us.

And yet they receive constant damnation and scorn, incessant insults and vitriol by fans who go too far.

Yet, it even goes beyond that. When some media types openly criticise referees and seek to individually highlight every error they make.

Again, referees are human. They make mistakes as we all do. Yet our mistakes are not published on a national scale like the referees ones are.

What does this sort of public embarrassment tell the next generation of referees?

How does that inspire them to keep going, knowing that certain media types will only belittle you and your refereeing ability?

How does that instill confidence into them, a trait that is so important in the constant pressure environments NRL refereeing brings about?

Referees will never feel safe in their jobs nor will they ever be free to just referee until the scorn and vitriol from fans ceases.

And until the media stop with their tiresome campaign of publicly highlighting error upon error, referees will never feel safe.

If the game itself does not do more to help and protect the referees, then Cecchin will not be the last to walk away from the game.

More importantly, if the referees of our game are not respected by fans for the work they do, then why should they have to turn up to referee at all?

NRL Teams Rd 19

Another week of footy as it is time for NRL Teams for rd 19. Some teams have only pride left, others want to jostle for position.

With a lot riding on the outcome of games for some, are there any key returns to help propel a team over the line?

Here are the teams for rd 19 of the NRL Telstra Premiership:

Parramatta Eels v Canterbury Bulldogs (#NRLparcby); ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park; Thursday, July 19. Kick-off: 7:50 pm. 

Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson (C) 2. Bevan French 3. Michael Jennings 4. Jarryd Hayne 5. George Jennings 6. Corey Norman 7. Mitch Moses 8. Daniel Alvaro 9. Kaysa Pritchard 10. Siosaia Vave 11. Marata Niukore 12. Brad Takairangi 13. Nathan Brown.

Interchange: 14. Tepai Moeroa 15. Tim Mannah (C) 16. David Gower 17. Peni Terepo.

Reserves: 18. Kane Eveans 19. Jaeman Salmon 20. Suaia Matagi 21. Reed Mahoney.

Coach: Brad Arthur.

Bulldogs: 1. Will Hopoate 2. Brett Morris 3. Josh Morris 4. Kerrod Holland 5. Reimis Smith 6. Lachlan Lewis 7. Jeremy Marshall-King 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. David Klemmer 11. Josh Jackson 12. Rhyse Martin 13. Adam Elliott.

Interchange: 14. Fa’amanu Brown 15. Clay Priest 16. Ofahiki Ogden 17. Danny Fualalo.

Reserves: 18. Greg Eastwood 19. Craig Frawley 20. Francis Tualau 21. John Olive.

Coach: Dean Pay.

Cronulla Sharks v Canberra Raiders (#NRLcrocan); Southern Cross Group Stadium, Cronulla; Friday, July 20. Kick-off: 6 pm. 

Sharks: 1. Valentine Holmes 2. Sione Katoa 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Edrick Lee 6. Matt Moylan 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Scott Sorenson 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen (C).

Interchange: 14. Joseph Paulo 15. James Segeyaro 16. Aaron Woods 17. Jayson Bukuya.

Reserves: 18. Ava Seumanufagai 19. Sosaia Feki 20. Kurt Dillon 21. Kyle Flanagan.

Coach: Shane Flanagan.

Raiders: 1. Brad Abbey 2. Nick Cotric 3. Michael Oldfield 4. Joey Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Sam Williams 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Dunamis Lui 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Junior Paulo 11. Iosia Soliola 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Josh Papalii.

Interchange: 14. Blake Austin 15. Luke Bateman 16. Siliva Havili 17. Liam Knight.

Reserves: 18. Craig Garvey 19. Jack Murchie 20. Royce Hunt 21. Emre Guler.

Coach: Ricky Stuart.

Brisbane Broncos v Penrith Panthers (#NRLbripen); Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane; Friday, July 20. Kick-off: 7:55 pm. 

Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd (C) 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Jordan Kahu 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Anthony Milford 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Sam Thaiday 11. Alex Glenn 12. Tevita Pangai Jr. 13. Josh McGuire. 

Interchange: 14. Kotoni Staggs 15. Joe Ofahengaue 16. Korbin Sims 17. Patrick Mago.

Reserves: 18. Gehamat Shibasaki 19. David Fifita 20. Sam Tagataese 21. Troy Dargan.

Coach: Wayne Bennett.

Panthers: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Josh Mansour 3. Waqa Blake 4. Dean Whare 5. Christian Crichton 6. James Maloney (C) 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Trent Merrin 9. Sione Katoa 10. James Tamou 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Isaah Yeo 13. James Fisher-Harris.

Interchange: 14. Tyrone Peachey 15. Corey Harawira-Naera 16. Jack Hetherington 17. Moses Leota.

Reserves: 18. Jarome Luai 19. Tyrone May 20. Kaide Ellis 21. Wayde Egan.

Coach: Anthony Griffin.

Newcastle Knights v Gold Coast Titans (#NRLnewgld); McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle; Saturday, July 21. Kick-off: 3 pm. 

Knights: 1. Nick Meaney 2. Ken Sio 3. Cory Denniss 4. Nathan Ross 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Connor Watson 7. Mitch Pearce (C) 8. Josh King 9. Danny Levi 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Aidan Guerra 12. Mitch Barnett 13. Herman Ese’ese.

Interchange: 14. Jamie Buhrer (C) 15. Chris Heighington 16. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 17. Jacob Lillyman.

Reserves: 18. Brent Naden 19. Sam Stone 20. Jack Cogger 21. JJ Felise.

Coach: Nathan Brown.

Titans: 1. Michael Gordon 2. Anthony Don 3. Konrad Hurrell 4. Brenko Lee 5. Philip Sami 6. AJ Brimson 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Nathan Peats 10. Ryan James (C) 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Keegan Hipgrave 13. Jai Arrow.

Interchange: 14. Mitch Rein 15. Moeaki Fotuaika 16. Jack Stockwell 17. Will Matthews.

Reserves: 18. Leilani Latu 19. Brendan Elliott 20. Jai Whitbread 21. Morgan Boyle.

Coach: Garth Brennan.

Wests Tigers v South Sydney Rabbitohs (#NRLwstsou); ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park; Saturday, July 21. Kick-off: 5:30 pm. 

Tigers: 1. Moses Mbye 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Esan Marsters 4. Kevin Naiqama 5. Corey Thompson 6. Benji Marshall (C) 7. Luke Brooks 8. Russell Packer 9. Robbie Farah 10. Ben Matulino 11. Michael Chee-Kam 12. Josh Aloiai 13. Elijah Taylor.

Interchange: 14. Alex Twal 15. Sauaso Sue 16. Luke Garner 17. Matt Eisenhuth.

Reserves: 18. Jacob Liddle 19. Robbie Rochow 20. Tim Grant 21. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak.

Coach: Ivan Cleary.

Souths: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Campbell Graham 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Dane Gagai 5. Robert Jennings 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. George Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Angus Crichton 13. Sam Burgess.

Interchange: 14. Adam Doueihi 15. Cameron Murray 16. Jason Clark 17. Tevita Tatola.

Reserves: 18. Mark Nicholls 19. Billy Brittain 20. Dean Britt 21. Braidon Burns.

Coach: Anthony Seibold.

North Queensland Cowboys v St George Illawarra Dragons (#NRLnqlsgi); 1300 Smiles Stadium, Townsville; Saturday, July 21. Kick-off: 7:30 pm. 

Cowboys: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Enari Tuala 4. Kane Linnett 5. Justin O’Neill 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Johnathan Thurston (C) 8. John Asiata 9. Jake Granville 10. Scott Bolton 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo.

Interchange: 14. Ben Hampton 15. Shaun Fensom 16. Francis Molo 17. Corey Jensen.

Reserves: 18. Jake Clifford 19. Ethan Lowe 20. Mitchell Dunn 21. Antonio Winterstein.

Coach: Paul Green

Dragons: 1. Matt Dufty 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Euan Aitken 4. Tim Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop (C) 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. Jack de Belin.

Interchange: 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Kurt Mann 16. Leeson Ah Mau 17. Luciano Leilua.

Reserves: 18. Patrick Herbert 19. Blake Lawrie 20. Jai Field 21. Jordan Pereira.

Coach: Paul McGregor.

New Zealand Warriors v Melbourne Storm (#NRLwarmel); Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland; Sunday, July 22. Kick-off: 2 pm (AEST) & 4 pm (local time).

Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (C) 2. David Fusitu’a 3. Gerard Beale 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Blake Green 7. Shaun Johnson 8. James Gavet 9. Issac Luke 10. Agnatius Paasi 11. Isaiah Papali’i 12. Simon Mannering 13. Adam Blair.

Interchange: 14. Jazz Tevaga 15. Tevita Satae 16. Joseph Vuna 17. Peta Hiku.

Reserves: 18. Mason Lino 20. Karl Lawton 21. Bunty Afoa 22. Anthony Gelling.

Coach: Stephen Kearney.

Storm: 1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Curtis Scott 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Brodie Croft 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith (C) 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Kenny Bromwich

Interchange: 14. Tui Kamikamica 15. Tim Glasby 16. Christian Welch 17. Brandon Smith.

Reserves: 18. Jahrome Hughes 19. Joe Stimson 20. Dale Finucane 21. Cheyse Blair.

Coach: Craig Bellamy.

Manly Sea Eagles v Sydney Roosters (#NRLmansyd); Lottoland, Brookvale; Sunday, July 22. Kick-off: 4 pm.

Manly: 1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Matt Wright 3. Moses Suli 4. Brian Kenny 5. Brad Parker 6. Tom Wright 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (C) 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Manase Fainu 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Shaun Lane 13. Jake Trbojevic.

Interchange: 14. Trent Hodkinson 15. Kelepi Tanginoa 16. Frank Winterstein 17. Taniela Paseka.

Reserves: 18. Jorge Taufua 19. Tevita Funa 20. Toafofoa Sipley 21. Lloyd Perrett.

Coach: Trent Barrett.

Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend (C) 10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Victory Radley 13. Isaac Liu.

Interchange: 14. Ryan Matterson 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Mitch Aubusson 17. Kurt Baptiste.

Reserves: 18. Nat Butcher 19. Lindsay Collins 20. Matt Ikuvalu 21. Sean O’Sullivan.

Coach: Trent Robinson.


Ricky’s NRL Interviews Pt 13: Steve Mavin

Former South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury Bulldogs player Steve Mavin

Back again as our NRL interviews series continues; this time, we had Steve Mavin chat to us. 

The former South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury Bulldogs player played alongside some greats and enjoyed a relatively successful career.

Here is our chat with him:

1. What are your earliest memories of rugby league?
Playing for Botany United at Booralee Park & watching the Rabbitohs from the hill at Redfern Oval.

2. You made your debut with the Rabbitohs at just 19 years old; were you expecting the opportunity to come so early?
I was lucky that the opportunities that led to my debut all fell into place. I was called up to grade from Souths Jersey Flegg as a forward when I was 18yo in 1986 and made my way into a fabulous u23s pack that won the comp that year.

That team included Ian Roberts, Joe Thomas & Ross Harrington to name a few so I had some great blokes to learn from. I also played a few reserve grade games and packing down against some older heads was a real eye opener but also gave me the confidence that I could compete at that level.

In 1987, I was elevated to trial with the 1st grade team & made my way into the centres because our formidable forward pack contained the likes of Les ‘Bundy’ Davidson, David Boyle & Mario Fenech.

Playing alongside my centre partner Paul Roberts, we put on a few tries in the pre season, I ended up playing every game for the Bunnies that year and was leading try scorer for the club.

3. You then played for the Canterbury Bulldogs; tell us a bit about your time there?
I played one season at the Dogs in 1991 & it’s a tremendous club & my teammates were a great bunch of blokes.

It was a side full of talent with the freakish ability of Ewan ‘Panda’ McGrady alongside the likes of Darren Smith, Jarrod McCracken, Dean Pay & the ‘Welsh Wiz’ Jonathan Davies.

Best of all was playing with the great Terry ‘Baa’ Lamb, it was something special. His knees were gone so he couldn’t really train during the week but on game day the champion player would always take the field & do his thing, carving teams up and always putting himself in the right position at the right time.

His timing was impeccable, what a player! My fondest memory was actually backing him up to score the winning try against the Broncos at Lang Park, I’ll never forget that one!

4. You were well known for your swan dives when scoring tries; was that just something you had always done or was there a reason for it?
As a kid, I always liked sliding to the line to score with the ball tucked away like Steve Rogers used to do and I suppose the swan dives evolved from that, I just added a bit of air to the routine.

5. You returned to the Bunnies in 1992 for a final swansong; how much did the club mean to you?
I’ve always loved the Rabbitohs being born and bred in Botany which is the heart of Souths territory so it was a dream come true to be player number #757 for the club.

We had some lean years for a long time and I’ve been part of that heartache both as a fan & a player. I was at the GF in 2014 with my wife when we finally ended the drought and we were in the corner where GI scored & did the Goanna.

We went back to Souths Juniors & we were able to celebrate with the team. That was one of the best days ever to finally chalk up another win for this famous club, what a day!

My 1992 season was a disaster; I ran from dummy half in the 1st game of the season at Parramatta Stadium, Brett Kenny tackled me, my leg broke & my season was over.

6. How have you kept busy post-footy? Are you still involved in the game in some capacity?
After footy, I ran a tree lopping business for about 10 years and I’ve been a wharfie at Port Botany for the last 12 years.

I’ve got about 500 work mates here & there’s also a full squad of ex players that includes Darren Brown, Corey Hughes & David ‘Cement’ Gillespie.

I have 2 daughters that never played league so I didn’t get involved in coaching or anything but I still follow the game closely. The 2018 Rabbitohs are playing some great footy, they are just enjoyable to watch.

The backs are moving the ball beautifully & the forwards are laying a solid platform through the middle. Sutto has wound back the clock & the Burgess boys are playing awesome footy.

Damien Cook has added another dimension with his speed at dummy half & young Cameron Murray is a star on the rise.

Anthony Seibold is doing all the right things & I hear he’s a terrific bloke as well, what a coach!

7. If you could give any advice to budding rugby league players, what would it be?
Practice hard on all your skills. Develop a decent fend to swat away defenders & perfect your tackling technique, there’s nothing better than grassing your opponent in a cover tackle.

Enjoy your footy, look after yourself & eat healthy. Work extra hard, train your heart out & don’t take any shortcuts, give it everything you’ve got while you can because commitment reaps rewards.

Don’t just rely on your ability because your time in the game will come & go fast so make the most of it.

Ricky’s NRL Interviews Pt 12: Marvin Karawana

Former Newcastle Knights utility Marvin Karawana

Here we are again, another interview; this time, we talk to former Newcastle Knights utility Marvin Karawana.

Marvin talks to us about his playing days at the Knights, his move to union, an unusual link to SBW and much more.

1. What are your earliest memories of rugby league?
I started playing footy at the age of 4 or 5 and from what I can remember, I used to love scoring tries so that my parents and grandparents would give me treats or money after the game. 

2. Your NRL debut with the Newcastle Knights came in 2007 when you were 21; were you expecting it and how did it feel to crack first-grade?
I was over the moon when I got to debut in first grade. It had always been a dream of mine since I was young!

I was lucky enough to be thrown a lifeline by Smithy and the Knights staff toward the end of their pre-season that year, so when I got that chance I worked pretty hard to catch up to everyone who had done a full pre-season.

I was actually supposed to debut a few games before that with a good mate Mark Taufua against the Sharks, but had to pull out the day before from a back injury so was pretty gutted when that happened.

3. You were able to cover lock, back-row and five-eighth in rugby league; did you have a favourite position during your time at the Knights?
I enjoyed playing everywhere a bit, to be honest. If I had the chance, then either five-eighth or lock probably would have been my preferred position.

My body didn’t agree with playing 80 minutes so I was probably more suited as a utility type player. 

4. In 2012, you moved into the rugby sevens world with Wellington; was rugby union always a sport you also wanted to play or was the move about the opportunity?
I played both rugby and league growing up as a kid, so always had ambition to try and do well in both.

So when I came off contract with the Knights and decided to move home to Wellington, I thought that I would give rugby a crack and see how that would go. 

5. Tell us a bit about your Wellington team-mates nick-naming you “Wainui SBW”.
Don’t know where that one came from, haha.

Threw a few offloads here and there but there is no comparison there; he’s 100 times the player and athlete. 

6. Away from both league and union, how do you keep yourself busy?
Besides running around after my 2 boys in my spare time, I help run an audio visual company back home doing conferencing and events so that keeps me on the go most of the time. 

7. Finally, if you could give any advice to aspiring young players, what would it be?
I don’t have any fancy quotes or inspiring stories, but it would just be to work hard on your game, always keep improving, and never give up!

And secondly, to always have a back up plan for after footy as you never know when it will come to an end and it can be pretty tough adjusting to life and work in the “real world” if you aren’t prepared. 

NRL News Rd 16 Stats Breakdown: Dragons v Eels

St George Illawarra Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward

Round 17 is here and so is the first of the stats breakdowns; the St George Illawarra Dragons v Parramatta Eels! 

The Dragons are on top and the Eels are at the bottom but don’t let that deceive you.

The Eels have said they are ready for the clash and come looking to cause an upset.

St George Illawarra Dragons v Parramatta Eels Stats Breakdown

The St George Illawarra Dragons and Parramatta Eels have played each other on 35 occasions; the Dragons have won 14, the Eels have won 17 and there have been four draws.

Four draws is the most for the St George Illawarra Dragons against any one side.

St George Illawarra lost failed to win in their first seven games against the Eels (6 losses & 1 draw). Their first win was in 2003.

The Eels have won the last six games against the Dragons and haven’t lost against them since 2013.

The first clash between the two side was a 20-10 win for the Eels in round 1, 1999.

Biggest Wins

The St George Illawarra Dragons biggest win over the Parramatta Eels was a 37-0 win in round 26, 2009.

The Parramatta Eels biggest win over the St George Illawarra Dragons was a 36-0 win in round 10, 2014.

Players to have been sin-binned/sent-off in this clash

  1. Wayne Bartrim (SGI) (sent-off) in round 9, 2001.
  2. Danny Wicks (SGI) (sin-bin) in round 25, 2006.

Players to have scored three or more tries in one game in this clash

  1. Semi Radradra (PAR) scored four tries in round 2, 2017.
  2. Jason Moodie (PAR) scored three tries in round 15, 2000.
  3. David Vaealiki (PAR) scored three tries in round 26, 2000.
  4. Ben Smith (PAR) scored three tries in round 18, 2005.
  5. Wendell Sailor (SGI) scored three tries in round 25, 2008.
  6. Brett Morris (SGI) scored three tries in round 26, 2009.
  7. Semi Radradra (PAR) scored three tries in round 16, 2015.
  8. Bevan French (PAR) scored three tries in round 25, 2016.

Players to have played for both sides in this clash

  1. Corey Pearson (SGI: 1999-2000 & PAR: 2004)
  2. Daniel Heckenberg (SGI: 2000 & PAR: 2002-2003)
  3. Mark Riddell (SGI: 2001-2004 & PAR: 2005-2008)
  4. Craig Stapleton (SGI: 2001-2003 & PAR: 2004)
  5. Henry Perenara (SGI: 2003-2004 & PAR: 2005-2006)
  6. Adam Peek (PAR: 2003-2006 & SGI: 2007)
  7. Michael Witt (PAR: 2003-2004 & SGI: 2014)
  8. Junior Langi (SGI: 2000 & PAR: 2004)
  9. Justin Poore (SGI: 2004-2009 & PAR: 2010-2012)
  10. Danny Wicks (SGI: 2006-2007 & PAR: 2015-2016)
  11. Beau Scott (SGI: 2007-2012 & PAR: 2016-2018)
  12. Cameron King (SGI: 2010, 2012-2013 & PAR: 2017-2018)
  13. David Gower (SGI: 2011-2012 & PAR: 2014-2018)

Head coaching records

Jason Taylor (PAR) – 2/2 at 100%.
Brad Arthur (PAR) – 5/6 at 83.3%.
Wayne Bennett (SGI) – 5/7 at 71.4% (1 draw).
Brian Smith (PAR) – 7/11 at 63.6% (1 draw)
Steve Price (SGI) – 3/5 at 60%.
Nathan Brown (SGI) – 6/11 at 54.5%.
Michael Hagan (PAR) – 2/4 at 50%.
Ricky Stuart (PAR) – 1/2 at 50%.
Daniel Anderson (PAR) – 1/5 at 20%.
David Waite (SGI) – 0/2 at 0.
Stephen Kearney (PAR) – 0/3 at 0%. (1 draw)
Andrew Farrar (SGI) – 0/4 at 0% (1 draw).
Paul McGregor (SGI) – 0/4 at 0%.

Most prolific point-scorers in this clash

  1. Jamie Soward (SGI) – 3 tries, 46 goals & 2 field goals (106 pts)
  2. Luke Burt (PAR) – 9 tries, 32 goals & 1 field goal (99 pts)
  3. Mark Riddell (SGI/PAR) – 2 tries & 14 goals (36 pts)
  4. Semi Radradra (PAR) – 9 tries (36 pts)
  5. Ben Hornby (SGI) – 7 tries & 3 goals (34 pts)
  6. Nathan Blacklock (SGI) – 6 tries & 4 goals (32 pts)
  7. Brett Hodgson (PAR) – 1 try & 12 goals (28 pts)
  8. Jason Moodie (PAR) – 7 tries (28 pts)
  9. Eric Grothe (PAR) – 7 tries (28 pts)
  10. Matt Cooper (SGI) – 7 tries (28 pts)
  11. Brett Morris (SGI) – 7 tries (28 pts)
  12. Clinton Schifcofske (PAR) – 1 try & 9 goals (22 pts)
  13. Nathan Hindmarsh (PAR) – 5 tries & 1 goal (22 pts)
  14. Jarryd Hayne (PAR) – 5 tries (20 pts)
  15. Bevan French (PAR) – 5 tries (20 pts)
  16. Chris Sandow (PAR) – 10 goals (20 pts)