Category Archives: Featured

Featured and Late Breaking NRL Articles

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.”

Hardaker apologises after being provisionally suspended for failed drugs test

Zak Hardaker

With his World cup hopes now over, Zak Hardaker faces a lengthy ban on the sidelines after he was handed a provisional suspension for failing a drugs test.

Just two years ago, Hardaker was flying high in his rugby league career when he was named the Man of Steel and just this year, he was named in the Super League’s Dream Team.

Although the exact nature of the explicit substance itself has not been confirmed, the Rugby Football League issued a statement on the matter.

“The Rugby Football League can confirm that Zak Hardaker is provisionally suspended from all competition after it received notification from UK Anti-Doping that he had tested positive for a banned substance following a Super-8s game between Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos on September 8, 2017,” the statement read.

“He will therefore not be considered for the England Rugby League World Cup squad due to be announced today (Monday) at 12 pm.”

His current club, the Castleford Tigers, also issued a statement on the matter.

“The club was made aware at 10 am on Thursday morning that the player would receive official written notification from UK Anti-Doping and therefore the player was immediately suspended,” the club statement read.Official notification was delivered on Friday and following discussions with the player on Sunday the decision was taken to announce the result of the test today in order to clarify the circumstances around Zak’s omission.”

“Official notification was delivered on Friday and following discussions with the player on Sunday the decision was taken to announce the result of the test today in order to clarify the circumstances around Zak’s omission.”

Hardaker released his own statement apologising for the incident and the trouble and negativity it had brought on himself, his club and the Super League.

“I would like to apologise to my Castleford Tigers teammates, the staff and all fans for my enormous error of judgment,” said Hardaker.

“I was given an opportunity by this great club and in what has been one of the most important weeks in its history, I have let everyone at the club down. For that, I truly apologise.”

Hardaker was insistent that he would never take any substance to actively improve or enhance his performance.

“Finally, I would like to make it clear that in no way did I, nor would I, ever take a substance with the intention of enhancing my performance,” he said.



Broncos Kiwi international opts for a return to New Zealand

Adam Blair

In what is an interesting trend to see in recent times, another Kiwi international has made the decision to return to New Zealand to play for the Warriors; this time Adam Blair.

The current New Zealand captain has officially signed with the Warriors for three years and with an impressive 266-game haul in the NRL to date, he will add to that number significantly over the course of his Warriors deal.

“Securing Adam is critical to our quest for much-needed improvement from next year,” said Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George.

“He’s a proven leader on and off the field who sets the kind of example we want all our players to aspire to, the epitome of the professional athlete who demands the highest of standards highlighted by an ultra-competitive attitude.”

Someone who is no stranger to Adam Blair is current Warriors coach Stephen Kearney. Kearney and Blair worked alongside each other as coach and player previously at the Kiwis as well as at the Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos when Kearney was an assistant at both clubs.

His signing is one that brings experience and structure to the Warriors forward pack and there was nothing but praise for the Kiwi veteran.

“Adam is a wonderful example of how a player should go about his business in the NRL as well as representing his country,” Kearney said.

“He has had a tremendous career and he’s going to be a huge asset for the club as we go about lifting our standards across the board.”

Bulldogs sack Hasler as coach

Des Hasler

It is a move that will come as a surprise to no fans as the Canterbury Bulldogs have made the decision to sack coach Des Hasler from his contract. 

After a turbulent year on the field and persistent rumours regarding off-field issues with players that led to departures by some – again, leaving fans furious – the decision was made and it was expanded on by Bulldogs club Chairman Ray Dib.

“Today, I informed Des Hasler and his management of our decision to pursue a new Head Coach for our Club, effective immediately.

The heads of agreement reached with Des Hasler for an extension of his contract were non-binding and a decision has been made not to renew his contract for next year.

“These types of conversations are never easy, especially when they involve people we respect personally and professionally, however, the Club believes the decision to change our football leadership was absolutely necessary.”

Although the strong favourite in the eyes of the media appears to be assistant coach Dean Pay, the club say they will begin their search for a new coach.

“The Club will now begin its search for a new Head Coach and will provide further information once that process has been completed,” said Dib.

Souths and Maguire part ways

Michael Maguire

With their fanbase bitterly disappointed following the speculation and now the confirmation, the South Sydney Rabbitohs club will presumably enter a rebuilding phase after they opted to part ways with head coach Michael Maguire.

At a club board meeting today, the decision was made and in the eyes of the club, it was agreed that parting ways was in the best interests of all involved.

Despite taking the Rabbitohs to a premiership in 2014, Souths have seemingly fallen from the top of the perch since then despite the emergence of some good young talent.

With off-field failings coupled with poor on-field success and a lack of genuine recruitment, fans are scratching their heads at some of the decision making processes going on.

Nevertheless, Rabbitohs General Manager of Football spoke on the matter and said it was the move that had to be made.

“Michael helped deliver the Premiership title in 2014 and for this, we will always be indebted to him,” said Richardson.

“He led us to the premiership victory, the 2015 Auckland Nines win and the 2015 World Club Challenge

“However, we feel it’s time for the Club to go along a different path in terms of the leadership of the team and the direction the team is taking, and they are the responsibilities of the Head Coach.”

Richardson went on to praise Maguire and his efforts and made mention that all parties – Maguire included – were in agreement.

“Michael also feels it’s in his best interest to head in a different direction in his coaching career,” continued Richardson.

“Michael is a great Head Coach and we believe he will go on to do a good job at another Club, but as I said, it’s time for a change here at South Sydney.”


Daley sacked as NSW coach

Laurie Daley

In the eyes of many, it was a move that had to be made after yet another series loss for New South Wales with Laurie Daley given the flick as NSW coach.

The decision was made by the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) after it announced its 2017 review that will result in an organisational overhaul and restructure.

NSWRL Chairman George Peponis released a statement on the decision made.

“I have spoken with Laurie and he understands the decision. He is obviously disappointed but he has enjoyed the journey and appreciated the opportunity,” said Dr Peponis.

“Obviously, we thank Laurie for the significant contribution he has made over the past five years.”

The NSWRL praised the efforts of Daley in what have been some turbulent times for the NSW side.

“He is a legend of the game and has done a tremendous job. He is the only New South Wales coach in the past 12 years who has won a State of Origin Series,” continued Peponis.

“We felt it was time to make a change. All aspects of the business will be looked at from coaching staff to team operations and personnel.”

As for Daley himself, he understands that the NRL coaching world is now a result driven business but despite the fact that he is no longer NSW coach, he will continue supporting them.

“I’ve enjoyed my time working for New South Wales Rugby League.

“I understand that the business is results-driven and I respect the decision of the Board to go in another direction.

“I will always support New South Wales and I wish their team and their coach every success in the future.”

Titans opt to part ways with coach Henry

Neil Henry

Whether you think it is a good move or not or the circumstances behind it, the Gold Coast Titans have opted to part ways with coach Neil Henry.

After meeting to discuss Henry’s future, the decision was made with CEO Graham Annesley addressing the media about the decision.

“The Board took into consideration a number of matters in making this decision and have chosen to end Neil’s time here as Coach,” Annesley said.

“The Board met and addressed a range of issues and were driven by making a decision that was best for the club to move forward into the future.”

The club thanked Henry for his time as head coach and wished him well for future roles and endeavors.


Roosters release Kenny-Dowall

Shaun Kenny-Dowall

In a move that may surprise some but not others, the Sydney Roosters have opted to release Shaun Kenny-Dowall from the remainder of his contract. 

The Roosters offered a short, sharp statement on the immediate release that said:

The Sydney Roosters have today announced that Shaun Kenny-Dowall has been released from the remainder of his playing contract with immediate effect.

“Shaun has made a significant contribution to the Roosters’ on-field success across his 13 years at the Club, and for that, we thank him,” said Sydney Roosters CEO Joe Kelly.

“The Club wishes Shaun all the very best in the future,” he added.

The Club will be making no further comment on the matter.”

His future in the NRL and in rugby league remains unclear.