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Featured and Late Breaking NRL Articles

Tigers player charged with drug possession

Kyle Lovett

Many hope for an off-season to be quiet but that is never the case in rugby league, as yet another incident has come to hand, this time involving the Wests Tigers.

NSW Police has charged Tigers back-rower Kyle Lovett with drug possession of a prohibited substance after an incident on December 23.

The Tigers statement reads as follows:

“Wests Tigers Club officials were only made aware of the matter by Lovett today.

Upon learning of Lovett’s charge, Wests Tigers immediately alerted the NRL Integrity Unity this morning and the two parties are currently working together on the matter.

Wests Tigers are incredibly disappointed with Lovett and do not in any way condone his behaviour.

Wests Tigers ensure that all players and staff receive the highest level of education in relation to drugs. The Club takes the welfare and education of its players and very seriously with the Wests Tigers Wellbeing and Education department ranked second in the NRL in 2016.

Wests Tigers will be making no further comment until the matter is resolved, both with the NSW Police and the NRL Integrity Unit.”

He will face court on February 1.

Jarrod Mullen suspended by NRL for breaching anti-doping policy

Jarrod Mullen

Perhaps the last person that many would have believed to be involved in an incident of this nature, Newcastle Knights veteran Jarrod Mullen has been suspended by the NRL for breaching their anti-doping policy.

Mullen’s suspension comes after his A-sample tested positive for Drastanolone, a banned anabolic steroid under both the NRL’s Anti-Doping Policy and the World Anti Doping Agency’s policy.

Whilst the provisional suspension is in place, Jarrod Mullen is prohibited from participating in any WADA compliant sport, rugby league included.

In an NRL statement, they said they would not make any further comment on the matter.

The Knights released a statement of their own outlining their disappointment in the breach.

“The Newcastle Knights has been made aware the NRL has provisionally suspended Jarrod Mullen under the NRL’s Anti-Doping Policy.

The Provisional Suspension Notice asserts that Mullen returned a positive A-sample for an anabolic steroid, Drostanolone which is prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the NRL’s Anti-Doping Policy.

He was tested by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) on November 29, 2016.

Mullen is prohibited from participating in any WADA compliant sport, including Rugby League, while the provisional suspension is in place.

Under the Anti-Doping Policy, Mullen now has the opportunity to have his B-sample analysed.

“The Club is obviously extremely disappointed,” CEO Matt Gidley said.

“The Club has a strict governance program, the players are regularly educated and fully aware of the consequences of going outside our governance guidelines.

“From here, there is a formal process we need to follow under the guidelines.

“We need to respect the process and in the interim the Club will continue to monitor Jarrod’s welfare.”

Sharks release Barba after failed cocaine test

Ben Barba

Still on a high after their maiden premiership success, the Cronulla Sharks have been dealt a blow with news that star fullback Ben Barba has failed a drug test.

As a result, the Sharks have released Barba from his playing contract effective immediately, to allow the fullback to address his personal issues.

Should the failed drug test be confirmed, Barba faces a 12-match ban from the game under the NRL’s drugs policy.

Accepting that he has personal issues to address, Barba will reportedly head to Thailand to resolve these.

“I know and accept I need to take some time away from the game to deal with some personal issues,” said Barba.

“I am accountable for myself and my actions and if I don’t address them now I will certainly ruin my career and more importantly my life and that of my family.

As footballers, we often find it hard to speak up about having problems but this decision has lifted so much pressure off myself that I cannot start to explain just how much better I feel by taking this action.”

Whilst Barba harbours ambitions to return to the game, he knows that he has to make sure he is in a good headspace off the field before he contemplates any return.

“I hope to return to the game at some stage and am very grateful for the support of the Cronulla Sharks and I hope that one day I can again play beside this terrific bunch of guys,” Barba said.

“I have made some tremendous friendships both within the playing ranks and throughout the coaching and administration teams. This has made it all the more difficult to make this decision but it’s something I just had to do.”

A Cronulla Sharks statement on the matter read as follows:

“The Club wishes to advise that it has agreed to provide Ben Barba an immediate release from his playing contract in order for him to address some significant personal issues.

While this decision has not been easy for either party there is full agreement that it is one made in the best interests of Ben, his young family and our Club.

Consistent with our Club’s major focus on the welfare of its players, the Club is fully supportive of this decision and will assist in any way possible to allow Ben the time needed to address his life away from the pressure environment of professional sport.

Although Ben has had a very successful season on the field culminating in being a major part of a winning Grand Final team, it is his life away from the field which he now seeks assistance with.

Both the Club, Ben and his team mates hope that at some stage in the future he will be able to return to the game he loves but that is not the priority at the moment.”

A well-revered figure at the Cronulla club, CEO Lyall Gorman says the Sharks will work with Barba to help him and know that he has to work on himself before he thinks about returning to the game.

“This is an incredibly difficult situation for Ben, his family and our Club and all involved with it,” said Gorman.

“Ben has made a remarkable contribution to our Club and community since joining it. It is however something we believe and accept is absolutely necessary in order to assist Ben to work through the challenges at hand.

“While Ben will be a major loss to our football club, the far greater priority is for him to focus on his long term future away from football and we will continue to support Ben throughout that process in any way we can.

“As this is a very challenging time for Ben and his family, Ben would appreciate if they were allowed to work through this very private matter.”

The former Dally M winner may face scrutiny from the NRL with their hard stance on the use of illicit drugs, as a previous email released by the NRL outlines.

With issues behind him, Foran heads home to NZ

Kieran Foran

A move that has made many fans angry and disillusioned, Kieran Foran will join the New Zealand Warriors on a one-year deal.

Foran, who left former club Parramatta with much fanfare to work on some deep-seeded personal issues, joins a Warriors side boasting a formidable spine.

The move will not please Eels fans, though, who believe that Foran merely used their club for various reasons.

Warriors fans will like the move, however, as they add a quality half to their already star-studded team.

Foran, who is now rebuilding both his personal life and his rugby league career, felt that playing in New Zealand was the best option for him.

He informed Warriors Managing Director Jim Doyle of his intentions.

“I’ve been in touch with Kieran regularly this year to offer support as he has dealt with the well-documented challenges he has been facing,” said Doyle.

“We have worked through the option of coming to Auckland carefully with him. There has been much to consider in creating an environment for Kieran to not only return to football but also to put all the support around him that he needs.

“I’m delighted that following those discussions, Kieran has now decided to join the Vodafone Warriors. The next step is to work alongside the NRL to cover off all requirements to have the contract registered.”

Recovering in Sydney as he dealt with personal issues, Foran had a lot of time to think about life and what he wanted out of it.

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about my future over the last few months,” said Foran from Sydney.

“Initially footy was the furthest thing from my mind and I needed time away from the game. More recently the desire to play again has completely returned and I’m very keen to make a big contribution next year.”

Foran felt that a return home in a country that is near and dear to him was the best decision to make at the present time.

“While I had other options, coming to Auckland emerged as the best decision for me. Being in a new environment was important but I’m also incredibly excited by the potential of the club and the quality roster it has. I can’t wait to be part of the team and I want to play a major role in 2017 in taking the club to the next level,” added Foran.

“I have so many people to thank for making this happen and for supporting me through what’s been a tough period.

“Now I want to repay them. The Vodafone Warriors have so much to offer and I’m looking forward to working with so many players I know from the Kiwis as well as Mooks (Stephen Kearney).”

New Warriors coach Stephen Kearney is pleased to have the Kiwi international on board.

“He’s such a high-quality footballer and competitor who will add a lot to our squad,” he said.

“Kieran and I have been in contact throughout the year and I know he has made a lot of progress with the challenges he has had. I’m extremely pleased to have him on board.”

First steps taken as the Parramatta Eels appoint a new CEO

Bernie Gurr

With several key off-field issues to address as a club, the Parramatta Eels have completed the first part of the process, appointing Bernie Gurr as their new CEO.

The move was confirmed today by Chairman Max Donnelly, with Gurr to take over the CEO mantle for the next three seasons.

Finishing university with a degree in business, Gurr worked at Ernst & Young for a while before moving into the role of Financial Director for the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

Following that role, Gurr returned to Australia and became the CEO of the Sydney Roosters, a club he also played for.

After 9 seasons as Roosters CEO, he returned to the US where he has been an Executive with the Crown Worldwide Group.

In what has been a tumultuous year for the Eels, it is finishing on a high and Donnelly says the addition of Gurr to the CEO role is a tremendous step forward for the club.

“Following my appointment in July, I made it clear we needed a strong and experienced CEO to accelerate the rebuilding of the Football Club,” Donnelly said.

“Bernie emerged as the best choice because of his proven financial and leadership experience both in business and in sports administration.

“He also displayed throughout the process a passion and strategic vision to transform our Club and take it forward in a positive way.

“Together with his professional values, Bernie will bring enormous credibility with our stakeholders and I am sure he will develop a strong relationship with our members and supporters.”

As an outsider looking in, Gurr has been pleased with the resolve that the club has shown and of the decisions made and looks forward to stepping into the role.

“It is a privilege to be appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Parramatta National Rugby League Club.

“The Parramatta Eels are poised for an outstanding future, with a large and passionate supporter base, a great junior league, financial sustainability and, from 2019, the absolute best Club stadium in Australia located in the geographic heart of Sydney.

“Observing from the outside, the Parramatta Football Program is headed in the right direction.

“The resilience and competitiveness demonstrated throughout an extremely demanding 2016 season is a tribute to Head Coach, Brad Arthur, and his players,” Mr Gurr said.

Gurr will officially start in the role in late October.

Souths centre in strife after breach of NRL drug policy

Kirisome Auva'a

Well known for previous off-field indiscretions involving domestic violence that led to many fans calling for him to be sacked, Kirisome Auva’a could be in more strife.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs centre who has struggled somewhat this season, is facing a potential ban once due process has been undertaken.

Initially thought to have tested positive to a banned test, Auva’a has in fact simply contravened NRL rules on illicit drugs.

Not one to beat around the bush in instances such as these, the NRL conducted stringent testing and released their results to both the club and the player.

Auva’a now has the choice to either accept the potential ban or fight it.

Souths released a statement a short time ago on the incident:

“The South Sydney Rabbitohs are aware of an NRL notice of contravention that has been issued to player Kirisome Auva’a following a second breach of the NRL’s Testing Policy for illicit and hazardous substances. Auva’a did not return a positive test for an illicit or hazardous substance, but contravened the rules as set out in the NRL Policy.

The player had until 4pm today (Wednesday) to lodge an appeal. Neither Auva’a nor his representatives have chosen to do so.

The Rabbitohs will be following a process; in conjunction with the NRL, RLPA and the player; regarding possible sanctions, rehabilitation and support. This will be discussed at a Football Club Board meeting next week.

The Rabbitohs will not be making any further comment at this time.”

Todd Greenberg named as the new NRL CEO

Todd Greenberg

He was a favourite all along and the NRL have opted to promote from within, with Todd Greenberg named as the new NRL CEO.

Following the departure of David Smith some time ago, the NRL searched for the right replacement and believed that Greenberg was the man to lead the NRL forward.

Previously CEO at the Canterbury Bulldogs and most recently the Head of Football at the NRL, Greenberg is excited for the role and honoured to have it.

“It’s a great privilege and I’m really humbled to get this opportunity,” said Greenberg.

Stepping into the role will not be easy but it is all about the fundamentals for Greenberg.

“It’s really quite simple and it’s about the fundamentals,” said Greenberg.

“We want more people playing the game and more people watching the game.

“And getting more people to play is about getting our states and development pathways right, to make sure lots more kids want to play the game.

“If we can get those two metrics right, the game will continue to thrive.”

His role as Head of Football has seen Greenberg involved with the NRL for a few years now, and the opportunity of CEO is one he can build upon based on his past role.

“It’s give me a great insight into the centre of the NRL and equally my six years at a club gave me great insight into what it’s like inside the clubs,” he said.

“It’s all held me in good stead, but it’s a big challenge ahead.”

With the CEO job now his and in his grasp, Greenberg admits that the ambition to lead the game was always there for him.

“I’ve always harboured an ambition to lead the game and I’ve never been frightened to say that,” Greenberg said.

Whilst the NRL did look outside of the game for a new CEO, they saw Greenberg as the man to lead them.

“Our local and international search identified a number of highly credentialed individuals from both within and outside the game who would have offered a lot to rugby league,” ARLC Chairman John Grant said.

“But at the end of the day, Todd ticks all the boxes to be the new CEO.

“While we’ve known all along that he is an outstanding sports administrator with a deep understanding and love of the game, his experience as the former CEO of the Bulldogs and Head of Football for the NRL, together with his professional values and credibility with our stakeholders, proved to the Commission that he was the man for the job,” he added.

Manly confirm Walker signing

Dylan Walker

A new challenge, a new approach and a new adventure for him, Dylan Walker’s move from the South Sydney Rabbitohs to the Manly Sea Eagles is complete.

The young star has put pen to paper on a four-year deal with the Northern Beaches club, and made it clear that if given the opportunity, he would enjoy playing five-eighth..

“I would love to play six alongside Daly Cherry-Evans and inside both Steve Matai and Jamie Lyon,’’ Walker said.

“Five-eighth was my favourite position coming through the juniors and if the coach wants me there I will jump at the opportunity.

“I’m excited to be at such a great Club – once I was moving from Souths, the Sea Eagles was my first and only priority.

“I’m delighted I am now a Sea Eagle.”

Manly have had a strong recruitment drive for 2016 including the likes of Nate Myles and Martin Taupau, and club Chairman Scott Penn praised the efforts of coach Trent Barrett and advisor Bob Fulton to make it all happen.

“Trent Barrett and Bob Fulton have worked tirelessly to attract quality players to our Club together with head management,’’ Penn said.

“Dylan Walker will be a favourite with our Members playing alongside and with some of the best players in the game.”

Barrett is well aware that he has just picked up a tremendous talent for the Manly club.

“He is one of the brightest stars in the game – his team-mates can’t wait to play alongside him,’’ Barrett said.

Despite some earlier doubts about what the season would have been like for Manly, their recruitment drive pleases CEO Joe Kelly and.

“Dylan is a rare talent much sought after by a multitude of clubs. His decision to play in maroon and white is a salute to our history and where we are headed in the immediate future,’’ Kelly said.

Speculation over as Sam Burgess returns to Souths from next year

Sam Burgess

He was staying, he was going, he was staying and then leaving again. The speculation was rife for months that he harboured a return to the NRL and he has it, with Sam Burgess leaving Bath with immediate effect and re-joining the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

The three-year deal starts from 2016 for Burgess as rejoins brothers George and Tom at the club where he had previously played 96 games and won an NRL premiership with.

Knowing what he brings to the table as a player on and off the field, Souths coach Michael Maguire is ecstatic to have him rejoin the club.

“I could not be happier to see Sam coming home to the Rabbitohs,” Coach Maguire said.

“He had an enormously positive impact on our Club, both on and off the field, throughout the five seasons he was here, and to be bringing back one of the game’s most dominant players is fantastic for not only our Club, but the game itself.

“He will add starch to our forward pack, and he will bring his leadership qualities to the team as well.”

Maguire acknowledged that wanting to test himself in Union was a big goal for Burgess but now his focus must shift back to league.

“He wanted to test himself in Rugby Union and he achieved many of his goals, becoming a dual International for England and representing his country at a Rugby World Cup,” said Maguire.

“The next chapter is for him to return to the game he was born to play, and we’re over the moon that he is coming home to do that with his Rabbitohs family here at South Sydney.”

Burgess was quick to thank his rugby union club Bath for their swift handling of the situation to let him move back to the Bunnies.

“I want to thank everyone at England Rugby and Bath for some great memories over the last 12 months,” Burgess said.

“I must also thank Bath especially for granting my release to return home to my family who I have missed more than I could have imagined.

“I am also extremely excited to be joining back up with South Sydney. I cannot wait to get back into the Rabbitohs culture, full of great people and passionate Members and supporters.”

The forward is pleased to return to his home away from home and is excited about what lies ahead.

“I had a wonderful time in England and learnt a lot about the game of Rugby Union as both a back and a forward, and I have definitely developed as an all-round player and athlete after that,” said Burgess.

“I’m now very lucky to be given the chance to come back to Souths and serve this Club and its Members.

“I look forward to getting stuck into training with all the boys and working hard for the upcoming season.”

Bulldogs great charged with domestic violence

Hazem El-Masri

One of the most revered and respected players in the rugby league world during his time on and off the field, Hazem El Masri galvanised the Muslim community and performed admirably in endeavours across all realms of rugby league.

Now, there comes a huge shock, with the Canterbury Bulldogs legend charged with domestic violence and assault of his 25-year old wife.

Whilst these are all early reports, the alleged assault is believed to have taken place at his Bankstown home and El-Masri will face court in Bankstown Court on Thursday.

Previously and perhaps a further shock to many, was the split between El-Masri and his former wife of 13 years.

El-Masri was granted conditional bail and at this stage, it is believed the victim – his wife – did not need any medical treatment.

Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle also responded to the matter.

“As a club we are committed to our work with White Ribbon Australia to eliminate violence against women and firmly believe there is no place for it in our society,” she said.

“Counselling and support services have been offered to all those involved in this matter.

“As with any police charge, Hazem will work through the process of the Australian legal system and his engagement as a Bulldogs Ambassador is suspended until those proceedings are complete.”