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Featured and Late Breaking NRL Articles

Billy Slater confirms representative retirement at completion of 2018 Origin series

Queensland Maroons fullback Billy Slater

A stalwart of the Queensland Maroons side for numerous years now, Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater confirms he will retire at the end of the series.

In an Origin career spanning 15 years, Slater made his debut in 2004 and always knew that opportunities for Queensland would come.

“I was always going to be involved in Origin (in one way or another). It was always part of my life growing up,” said Slater.

“But to actually play on the field for that amount of time and contribute to Queensland like I’ve always wanted to is something I’m really proud of and really grateful for.”

Slater opted to make his decision prior to the series starting to avoid rumour and innuendo that could affect his team-mates.

“I want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to the fans for fuelling us with the passion,” Slater said.

“You look at the traits that the Queensland team have – never give up, be humble when things are going well, look after your mate – they’re not just traits of the Queensland team.

“They’re traits of Queenslanders in general.

“When hardships hit…cyclones, flood, drought, Queenslanders stick together and that’s what we’ve built our team around.”

Former Penrith Panther and Englishman Zak Hardaker cops 14-month ban for cocaine use

Former Castleford utility back Zak Hardaker

After failing a drugs test in the lead-up to the 2017 Super League grand final, Zak Hardaker has been given a 14-month ban.

Suspended by Castleford after failing the test in September, he was then sacked by the club in February.

The indiscretion also ruled Hardaker out for selection for England at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

“UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) today confirmed Zak Hardaker has been suspended from all sport for 14 months following an Anti-Doping Rule Violation,” England’s governing body in rugby league said in a statement.

Hardaker tested positive for a metabolite of cocaine and is suspended from all sports until November 8.

His legal team praised the professionalism of the tribunal in reaching a decision they felt suits the indiscretion.

“We believe the correct verdict has been returned and we would like to thank the tribunal for their professionalism,” Hardaker’s legal team said.

“This was a truly exceptional case, where the drug use was never linked to performance enhancement.

“In this regard, Zak would never take any substance to achieve an unfair advantage and we are pleased that the decision of the tribunal has recognised this fact.”

His legal team also asked for privacy as Hardaker recovers from some personal traumas in addition to the ban.

“The last two years have been an extremely difficult period for Zak who, away from the public eye, has bravely battled a number of personal traumas,” continued his legal representative.

“Zak has asked for privacy at this time but thanked his family and close friends for helping him through this difficult period.”

Phythian released by Knights for contravening NRL drugs policy

Former Newcastle Knights utility Dylan Phythian

The NRL and its clubs have always been stringent when it comes to drugs in any form and Newcastle Knights utility Dylan Phythian is the latest casualty.

After recording a second contravention under the NRL’s Illicit Drug Policy, the Knights made a decision to release Phythian from the remainder of his contract.

An up-and-coming utility, Phythian was facing a 12-match ban as a result of the findings.’

As the Knights look to build the right culture moving forward, such behaviour does not tie in with their beliefs.

Despite his release, the Knights will continue to offer Phythian support and counselling.

Although they are sad to make the decision, the Knights were left with no choice.

“It’s a sad day for Dylan and the club but it’s clear this culture doesn’t fit with us,” Knights CEO Phil Gardner said.

“We were left with no option. We have to have a club that we’re proud of and that the community is proud of.

“We are a developing club so the behaviour sets a benchmark. As a person, you’ve either got integrity or you don’t. We keep our word and we have to expect the same.”

Hunt produces Dragons masterclass to haunt his former side

Ben Hunt

Ben Hunt has come back to haunt his former side, the Brisbane Broncos, guiding his new club the St George Illawarra Dragons to a comfortable victory in the 2017 NRL Telstra Premiership season opener. 

Hunt, who laid on a deft kick for a Tyson Frizell try and then scored a try of his own when he took an intercept off an errant Matthew Lodge pass.

All eyes were also on the return of Lodge, who many believe should not be back playing NRL.

Nevertheless, Lodge was solid in his first game back in a number of years with Broncos coach Wayne Bennett confident that the prop will be better for the long-run after his opening hit-out.

“You have to start somewhere,” Bennett said at the post-match press conference.

“We got him on the footy field tonight and got him playing football.

“He just needs to play football, he played football tonight. First game back in the NRL for three years. It’s the best thing that’s happened to him.”

The opening twenty minutes of the game proved to be a scrappy affair as three penalty goals put the Dragons up 4-2.

The opening try came soon after, though, when Ben Hunt weighed up the situation from dummy half and deftly kicked ahead as Tyson Frizell outpaced and outmuscled Anthony Milford to score.

With a 10-2 lead at the break, the Broncos were in all sorts after a lacklustre display.

Despite their best efforts to lift intensity and enthusiasm in the second half – which they did to some extent on the back of a James Roberts double – it was not enough for a poor Broncos side.

Inopportune errors continued to cost them as further tries to Euan Aitken and Jack de Belin sealed a comfortable opening win for the Dragons.

Bennett did not mince his words, laying the blame solely at the feet of the forwards.

“That first half was poor. We had no momentum, couldn’t get anything. Our ball control was 45 percent at half time,” Bennett said.

“The halves can’t play if the other guys aren’t doing their job.”

Dragons coach Paul McGregor praised his new halves duo for their performances.

“Gareth … I’ll embarrass him but he’s got bottomless talent. He likes to play instinctive footy,” McGregor said.

“When you wear the seven you’ve got to execute a game plan. They complement each other really well. That was just the start of something we can build over the year.

“You’ve got two competitive players on the football field, we’ve got some strike on both edges.”

Player of the Game:

3. Ben Hunt

2. James Roberts

  1. Jack de Belin

St George Illawarra Dragons 32 (Frizell, Hunt, Aitken, De Belin, Nightingale; Widdop 7/8) def. Broncos 14 (Roberts 2; Kahu 2/3)

English utility back given the flick after testing positive to banned substance

Any rugby league player who gets involved with drugs has no-one but themselves to blame and the latest culprit is Zak Hardaker. 

Hardaker, who up until recently was a Castleford Tigers player, was sacked by the club for failing a drug test and testing positive to a banned substance.

That substance is believed to be cocaine, as the club released a statement confirming his sacking stemming from an incident after the 2017 Super League grand final.

“Castleford Tigers can confirm that Zak Hardaker has been dismissed from his contract with the club.

Hardaker was suspended by the club after a failing a drugs test in the weeks leading up to the 2017 Super League Grand Final, and currently awaits the outcome of his case from UK Anti-Doping Organisation.

Castleford Tigers will comment on this matter further when UKAD conclude their case.”


Cartwright released by Penrith effective immediately

Bryce Cartwright

In a move that has perhaps caused a few shocks, the Penrith Panthers have released back-rower Bryce Cartwright effective immediately.

The Gold Coast Titans are set to sign the reportedly disgruntled Penrith back-rower.

The reported deal is one for four years at the Titans, as the Panthers wished Cartwright their best wishes in his new endeavours.

“It’s obviously disappointing to be releasing a player like Bryce Cartwright, however, we appreciate his desire to seek such a change,” Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould AM said.

“We hope this move proves successful for Bryce, both on and off the field.

“Hopefully sometime in the future, he finds his way back to the Panthers.

“We wish Bryce and his young family the very best.”

The Gold Coast Titans have confirmed the signing of Cartwright and someone who knows him well is new coach Garth Brennan.

Having worked alongside Cartwright for many years, he is excited to bring him to the club.

“I’ve known Bryce since he was 17 and I’m so pleased that we can work together again,” Brennan said.

“I’ve seen him develop over the past seven years and I believe he is one of the most skilful players I’ve seen on a football field.

“He is a massive signing for the club and I look forward to seeing him in Titans colours.”


Wests Tigers release talented centre Moses Suli

Moses Suli

In an interesting move by the Wests Tigers but one they see as the right one, the club has opted to release Moses Suli from the remainder of his contract. 

With the discussions surrounding the release of Suli to the Canterbury Bulldogs, the club appreciates the understanding of Suli’s agent Mario Tartak.

“Moses is an exceptionally talented player,” said Wests Tigers CEO, Justin Pascoe.

That’s why over the last 12 months our coaching and personal development staff have dedicated so much time and energy to supporting Moses with his challenges, both on and off the field.”

Tartak praised the Wests Tigers for the way they handled the situation with professionalism.

“While it’s always disappointing to see player part ways with a club, the Wests Tigers have been completely transparent, professional and empathetic throughout this process,” said Tartak.

Although the club are disappointed to have to release Suli, in the end, the club values and culture are more important than any one player.

“We are working really hard both on and off the field to build something special here at Wests Tigers,” continued Pascoe.

“That includes building a culture and set of standards that cannot be compromised.

Despite the reasons behind their decision to release him, Pascoe and the Tigers wish Suli the best in his rugby league career.

“I am sure If he’s willing to take responsibility, be a team player and commit to the demands of being a professional athlete he has the potential to have a successful career in rugby league,” the CEO said.

With reports suggesting that his work ethic was not up to scratch, Suli hit back at those claims saying it was the best decision for him moving forward.

“It was a big call for me, but I thought it was the best for myself and the club,” Suli said.

“It was really tough for me and I didn’t think it would come to this, but I guess it’s what’s best for my footy career.

“The ankle is going really well. I had surgery, but I have recovered well. I have been given the all-clear and I’m ready to get back on the field.”

A key reason behind his decision to join the Bulldogs was his close association with their recruitment manager Warren McDonnell, who recruited him to the Tigers.

“I have known Warren since I was 15 and he has helped me a lot,” Suli continued.

“I’m willing to go to the Bulldogs and get back to playing the football I know I can.

“I’m excited for the move to Canterbury and I’m prepared to face every challenge that comes my way.”

New Widnes recruit Kato Ottio tragically passes away

Kato Ottio

It is the news that no rugby league fan wants to hear, that a passionate player who we all saw only just very recently has passed away but tragically, the rugby league world and communities have lost Papua New Guinean international Kato Ottio who passed away this morning. 

Reports initially filtered through via Instagram posts from two of his former Canberra Raiders team-mates (Elliott Whitehead and Jordan Turner) before his PNG Kumul team-mate David Mead followed suit.

Soon after, it was the news that many had feared that was confirmed by Ottio’s new club, the Widnes Vikings. The news was confirmed and it was official, Ottio had tragically passed away.

A young, budding player with a bright future, the recent PNG Kumul looked set to take his career to new levels, as Widnes CEO James Rule was left shocked by the news.

“We are devastated to learn that Kato Ottio has passed away this afternoon,” said Rule.

“Kato was an incredibly talented player, with a bright future ahead of him in Rugby League.

This news is all the more tragic, because Kato was due to travel to the UK this week to fulfil his dream of playing first-grade Rugby League.

We had been in regular contact with Kato and were excited to welcome a bright, excited and passionate young man, who had genuine potential for the future.”

Although the cause of his passing is unconfirmed, Rule makes mention of a possible health issue that arose in training as a potential cause.

“Having only learned this morning that Kato had developed a sudden health issue whilst training yesterday, we are in absolute shock to now receive this tragic news,” continued the Widnes CEO.

“We will be liaising closely with his loved ones to offer them our condolences and support at this difficult time. Widnes Vikings will, of course, be looking to celebrate Kato’s life and pay our sincere respects to someone who we believe would have become a hero at our Club.

Whilst we are coming to terms with this news, and still learning the full facts of this situation, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Widnes coach Denis Betts also offered his deepest condolences and is disappointed that Ottio will not be able to play out of his dream of continuing as a rugby league player.

“To receive this tragic news is heart-breaking,” said Betts.

“All of us saw at the World Cup the incredible gifts that Kato had, and his potential to forge a great career in Rugby League.

Moreover, in all of our interactions with him, we found Kato to be a person of great character, who was excited to be following his dreams.

On behalf of the coaching team, staff and players at Widnes Vikings, I would like to offer our sincere condolences to Kato’s loved ones.”

The Chase is over as Rangi cops 2-year drug ban

Rangi Chase

In a bitter blow for any ambitions he may have had to continue playing rugby league at the highest level, Rangi Chase has tested positive for cocaine and will serve a 2-year suspension.

The former England half-back was suspended by his club Widnes at the time, after failing a drugs test following a loss to Wakefield in July.

The UK Anti-Doping organisation (UKAD) said that Chase tested positive for a metabolite of cocaine – benzoylecgonine.

UKAD Chief Executive Nicole Sapstead made it clear that failing drug tests in sport is serious and that players will face the appropriate repercussions.

“As an experienced rugby league player who has represented both New Zealand Maori and England, as well as Super League clubs, Castleford Tigers and Salford Red Devils, Rangi Chase has tarnished his well-established career with this sanction,” Sapstead said.

“His two-year ban serves as a stark warning to athletes about the very real consequences of taking recreational drugs whilst competing in sport.”

Remarkably, Chase was one of three players to test positive for cocaine in 2017; Zak Hardaker and Adam Walker being the other two.


Barrett’s the man as Sea Eagles extend his tenure as coach

Trent Barrett

Deemed as the right man for the job by those that matter most, the Manly Sea Eagles fans, the club has today confirmed that Trent Barrett will remain in the role until the end of 2020.

The news of Barrett’s retention follows the further good news for Manly, who today announced Lyall Gorman as their new CEO.

The Manly board were pleased with the way the club has been run from a playing perspective in the last two years and that influenced their decision to retain him.

“Trent has developed a very positive performance-focused culture amongst the team and football operations staff,” said chairman Scott Penn.

“His contract extension reflects the high regard we have for his coaching ability, and the stability the extension provides the club.

“The club and Trent can now look forward to a positive future with a focus on ensuring a great 2018 season.”

As Manly continue to build their side, Barrett himself is pleased with the side the club has at their disposal and looks forward to guiding his crop of players to potential success.

“We have a very talented and liked minded playing group who I really enjoy coaching,” said Barrett.

“They enjoy playing with, and for each other, and we have all the ingredients for continued success at the Sea Eagles.”

“I really appreciate the support I’ve received from the players, coaches and support staff and also the Board, management, and our Members, fans, partners and the community. I’m now focused on preparing the team for the 2018 season.”