Category Archives: NRL News

Regular and General NRL News Articles and Information

Storm prove far too clinical for Warriors

Cameron Munster

The Melbourne Storm will tell you that whilst it might not have been their best performance, they will take the win as they cruised to a 26-10 win over the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland last night.

With torrential rain threatening to make conditions difficult for both sides, the Storm proved that they can adapt to any conditions, making just 7 errors.

Whilst it is not a long-term thing, the loss of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck due to concussion hurt the Warriors chances in a game that they failed to wrestle any momentum in.

Just seven minutes into the game, the Storm were on the board with Cronk and Kenny Bromwich combining and they could have had another one had the bunker not denied them a try.

The Warriors fought their way back into the contest at this point and scored two unanswered tries to take the lead before the Storm retook the lead through a Cheyse Blair try.

This marked a momentous occasion in the game for Storm captain Cameron Smith who became the first Queenslander and forward to score 2000 points.

As the second half began, the Warriors should have scored again but Solomone Kata dropped the ball over the line in a handling error that ended up costing the Warriors.

In the end, further tries to winger Suliasi Vunivalu and Cooper Cronk plus a penalty goal by Smith sealed the Storm’s second win of the season.

Smith praised his side’s defence and knew they had to play a certain way in light of the conditions.

“We tried to kick long early … a combination of controlling the footy and tackling well, I thought our defence was great tonight, had a lot of intensity and energy, ” Smith said.

“Nice to be able to get two wins away on the road.

“We chanced our arm a bit and I think the Warriors tonight too so I thought it was a high quality game for the conditions.”

Player of the Game:

3. Cameron Munster

2. Cooper Cronk

  1. Shaun Johnson

Melbourne Storm 26 (Kenny Bromwich, Cheyse Blair, Suliasi Vunivalu, Cooper Cronk tries; Cameron Smith 5 goals) defeated New Zealand Warriors 10 (Tuimoala Lolohea, Shaun Johnson tries; Johnson 1 goal) at Mt Smart Stadium. Half-time: 12-10. Crowd: 9,811.

Ricky’s NRL Previews Pt 8: North Queensland Cowboys

A team regarded by many as their second favourite, the North Queensland Cowboys captured their elusive premiership in 2015 and are on the hunt for another. With virtually the same team at their disposal yet again, you can bet your house that they will challenge for the title once again. That task is always made more comforting when you have the world’s best half in Johnathan Thurston at your disposal.

As for their team, as mentioned above, there has been little change. The one major change, however, and a big talking point among the fans is the prop rotation. With the departure of James Tamou, a spot has opened up on the bench for a talented Cowboys youngster to cement it, make an impression and convince Paul Green that they are the man for the job. Whilst it looks likely that Scott Bolton will move into the now vacant starting role, the battle for the last couple of bench spots heats up.

Last year, John Asiata and Patrick Kaufusi were both in and out of first-grade and it is expected that they will be the two that battle it out for the vacant spot. Both hard running forwards in their own right, they have a big task ahead of them to fill the shoes of the impact off the bench that was Bolton. Not beyond them, the pre-season trials will be indicative of just how well accustomed they will be to making the next step. A smokey for the spot and one that is perhaps less talked about than the aforementioned to is Sam Hoare. A talented forward in his own right, his opportunities have been somewhat limited but not due to ability, rather injury. Fully fit, he now has the chance to make a claim of his own, as the Cowboys so desperately search for an impact forward.

Without question, the biggest talking point out of the Cowboys camp and among their fans and NRL fans in general is, what will the club do with Kalyn Ponga in season 2017? The NRL world knows that he is off to the Knights in 2018 but what to do in the meantime is the thought on everyone’s mind. His talent has been on display since he made his NRL debut in the back end of the finals series last year and again during the recent NRL Auckland Nines tournament. However, with Ponga stating that he is not expecting to start Rd 1 and coach Paul Green saying that Ponga will not be starting, just how much of the talented rookie will we see in season 2017?
Is it worth the Cowboys playing him and helping him to gain the match fitness and the game time, knowing full well that in 2018, he will no longer be with the club? With their side full of experience and set in stone, fans may want Ponga in the team regardless but at present, you would have to imagine that he will only play if there are injuries or suspensions.

With a team like the Cowboys, much of their chances for premiership success hinge on the success, form and consistency of star playmaker Johnathan Thurston. However, much like the success of their 2015 premiership win, they have the right amount of balance to make a serious tilt at the title once again.
We saw that determination through the likes of Jason Taumalolo, who enjoyed a career-best season last year that saw him as the joint winner of the Dally M Award and the Lock of the Year.
His form will have to be much the same and the others will have to step up and play their role if the Cowboys are to emulate their 2015 success.

Best Buy: The Cowboys have not recruited too many new players but the one standout as best buy on their list is Ben Hampton. A genuine utility, Hampton is a nifty, crafty player that had flashes of brilliance to produce good form. With a bench utility spot for grabs, it is a chance for Hampton to gain some consistent form and cement a spot in the side for the majority of the season. That seems a mere formality if the reported sides are to be believed but the selections come Rd 1 will be the ultimate factor, once Paul Green decides on the precise make-up of his squad.

Best Emerging Talent: To date, we have only seen him at Nines games and trials but it is just a matter of time before Gideon Gela-Mosby makes an NRL debut. A quick, pacey winger, aptly referred to as GGM, many Cowboys fans see him as the club’s future on the wing. A gifted player, he make the most of the opportunities he does get, illustrating his desire and love for the game and for the Cowboys club to try and earn that spot. Whilst the winger spots at the Cowboys are set in stone at present, should an injury arise, he may well be first cab off the rank in light of Ponga’s departure next season. He has been highly rated by Cowboys fans for the last few seasons, ever since he broke the Holden Cup record for most tries in a season.

2016 gains: Ben Hampton, Shane Wright & Corey Jensen.

Our predicted Cowboys line-up at full strength:

  1. Lachlan Coote
  2. Kyle Feldt
  3. Justin O’Neill
  4. Kane Linnett
  5. Antonio Winterstein
  6. Michael Morgan
  7. Johnathan Thurston (C)
  8. Matt Scott (C)
  9. Jake Granville
  10. Scott Bolton
  11. Gavin Cooper
  12. Ethan Lowe
  13. Jason Taumalolo

14. Ben Hampton
15. Coen Hess
16. Patrick Kaufusi
17. John Asiata

Titans prop forced to retire due to back injury

David Shillington

In an ideal world, a player will be able to dictate and choose when they retire from the game but unfortunately, David Shillington has not had that opportunity. 

Today, he has been forced to retire from the NRL due to a number of chronic injuries. The 33-year old played in 215 NRL games.

The Brothers junior represented the Sydney Roosters, the Canberra Raiders and the Gold Coast Titans as well as playing in 14 games for Australia, 4 games for the Prime Minister’s XIII and 8 games for Queensland.

With a ninth bout of surgery in 12 years, Shillington knew that the time had come to close the curtain on an illustrious career.

“It’s not necessarily the way that you’d like to retire from the game but injuries are a part of it and it’s just all a bit much for me to continue putting my body through it,” Shillington said.

“I’ve had a great time in the game and it’s given me so much. The people I’ve met along the way and the fun I’ve had, has given me plenty of great memories.”

He was quick to thank the three clubs that he was involved in over his career as he looks forward to working with the NRL Ambassador Program.

“I’d like to thank the three clubs I played for over the years for allowing me to play the game that I love for a living and helping me achieve many of my goals,” said Shillington.

“I won’t be lost to the game though, I’m looking forward to my next chapter where I’ll do some work as part of the NRL Ambassador program.”

His contribution to the game and to the Titans organisation was praised by coach Neil Henry.

“David has been a quality rugby league player throughout his career but more importantly, he’s been a good role model,” Henry said.

“Even throughout a tough season in 2016, he continued to help the younger players in and around training with their development.

“He will be a great ambassador for the game moving forward.”

Those sentiments were echoed by club CEO, Graham Annesley.

“There are many quality people in our game and David Shillington is one of the best,” Annesley said.

“I’m so glad he won’t be lost to the game and I know he will make a very smooth transition into life after football and forge an equally successful non-playing career.

“I know everyone in Rugby League will join with me in wishing Dave, Sonia and their young family nothing but the best for the future,” Annesley concluded.

Barba agrees to new 1-year deal at the Sharks

Ben Barba

His recent off-field indiscretions were well-known and well-documented but after the Cronulla Sharks met with Barba and his management, they discussed a new contract proposal for consideration by the NRL.

The Cronulla Sharks released a statement of their own on the matter and it reads as follows:

“Sharks Grand Final winning fullback Ben Barba has agreed to a new one-year contract with the club for the 2017 season.

Barba, who featured in all 27 Sharks matches in 2016, scoring 15 tries and delivering a team-high 18 try assists, has worked diligently on making his return to the NRL a reality and is continuing his well-being program.

The club met with Barba and his management to discuss the new contract proposal for consideration by the NRL.

The contract will be submitted to the NRL for approval and registration.

Should his contract be ratified and accepted the club will work with the NRL Integrity Unit to determine a time frame for Barba’s integration back into the Sharks NRL program and in relation to his return to training.”

The flying French re-signs at the Eels

Bevan French

For some time now, Parramatta Eels fans have been raving about Bevan French. The talk was justified as he set the NRL alight with pace, speed and good plays.

An exciting player to watch, French has signed a new deal until the end of 2019 that will have Eels fans cheering.

Joining the Eels in 2013, the Tingha local was a strong performer in the Holden Cup before getting his chance in first grade in 2016.

The new contract is just rewards for French who has had a very solid debut season.

“Bevan’s development this year was a real positive for the club and I’m sure our members and fans are pleased that we have secured Bevan for another three seasons,” said head coach Brad Arthur.

“We have had a strategy over the last two years to retain our key players and provide strong additions for our squad going into 2017.

“We have made good progress so far and it’s our intention to continue this strategy as we head into the 2017 pre season.

Ricky’s View: Your team’s break-out star in 2016

Jason Taumalolo

Some players take time to build their form throughout a season or several for that matter, whereas others enter the first-grade frame and immediately excel. We thought we would cast our eye over one particular player from each team, that is destined for a break-out year in the NRL if selected by their coaches and in their teams.

Some will have already been more established than others in terms of games played, but have perhaps not kicked on as many fans and clubs would have wanted. Nevertheless, those players have the potential to succeed and 2016 could be that year for them with a full pre-season under their belts and more experience in their arsenal.

So, here we go. Our break-out stars of the 2016 season for each team:

Brisbane Broncos: Joe Ofahengaue.

A big bopper and a promising talent, Ofahengaue’s time in first-grade so far has been a bit stop-start. One of the Broncos elite performers in the Holden Cup a couple of years ago, the hulking forward has a chance to cement a spot and kick-on in first-grade. Rated by Brisbane fans across the board and by coach Wayne Bennett, Ofahengaue is learning the game and the ropes under some elite forwards at the Broncos in Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker and Adam Blair. Their knowledge and experience of the game will help Ofahengaue to develop his own game further and become an even better player, with the young forward eventually taking over their mantle as a leader of the pack.

Moses Mbye

Versatile and nifty, Bulldogs fans have long been aware of the talents that Moses Mbye possesses but 2016 is a big test for the young half. With the departure of Trent Hodkinson, it would seem that the weight of the world and the Bulldogs finals chances in 2016, hinge on the young half and where he can take his game and form. As talented as they come, Mbye has always been destined for first-grade and with the chance to take the reins of the side and make it his own, that may well be something he relishes and strives in. He will have support, though, with the adept Josh Reynolds by his side in the halves, as Mbye looks to become the man to lead the Bulldogs side – likely as halfback – around the paddock and towards both wins and potential premiership success.

Canberra Raiders: Paul Vaughan

Not one to shy away from the big hits or the hard runs, Paul Vaughan has some shoes to fill this year with the Raiders forward pack. Form wise, he has gotten better each year and has impressed many Raiders fans with this effort, commitment and work-ethic. But 2016 will mark a challenge of a different kind for Vaughan, as it becomes increasingly likely that he will start more often and play more minutes, in light of a relative lack of forward depth at the club. Most fans would expect Vaughan to relish that sort of responsibility given the way he has played in the past and we would not put it past him to do the same. Vaughan is a passionate player, though, and gets through the required work with much ease and grace. So a challenge of this kind, a new kind, is unlikely to phase him as he again excels for the Raiders.

Cronulla Sharks: Jesse Sene-Lefao

New to the Sharks in 2016, Sene-Lefao joins the club on the back of some good form with Manly where opportunity was rife due to injuries. And with the Sharks having some forwards of their own move on and with others nearing the end of their careers, the opportunity is rife for Sene-Lefao to make an impact. Big and powerful, his impact off the bench will be a welcome boost for the Sharks as they look to follow on from a solid overall year in 2015. Whilst the veteran forwards are the ones that will receive the plaudits, Sene-Lefao & others like him will help round out the solid Sharks pack.

Gold Coast Titans: Nene Macdonald

He joined mid-season and enjoyed some success but with some uncertainty over the centres at the Gold Coast Titans, Macdonald has a chance to cement a spot of his own for the season in its entirety. A versatile and powerful utility back, Macdonald proved that he can hold his own in the NRL and with a chance available to further showcase his abilities, he might be able to become a crucial part of the Titans back-line and potentially, if good enough, fill the void left by the departed James Roberts. Combinations will also be the key, with Macdonald able to again work alongside the likes of David Mead and Will Zillman.

Manly Sea Eagles Tim Moltzen

Once upon a time, the force was strong with Tim Moltzen. He was a solid player, performing well and could have gone onto bigger and better things but injuries galore struck. It cruelled his career and his progression but he now has a new chance and a new lease on life to potentially get it all back on track at Manly. A versatile player by nature, there is a strong chance that Moltzen could get a crack in Manly’s first-grade side and with a lot to prove and a keenness to illustrate that his previous form has not deserted him. If he gets that sort of form back, he could be the perfect foil alongside current boom half, Daly Cherry-Evans, once he is selected.

Melbourne Storm: Felise Kaufusi

A surprise packet last year in particular, Felise Kaufusi was given more opportunity than many were perhaps expecting at the Storm in 2015. He did not disappoint, though, as he ran hard, toiled and made the most of the chances that came his way. With the Storm losing some forward depth and not really replacing it, a further opportunity arises for Kaufusi’s minutes to increase as a result and for him to continue his rise to become a mainstay in the Storm’s 17.

Newcastle Knights: Jake Mamo

One of the most exciting young prospects the Knights have had come through their ranks in years, Mamo has talent galore and is keen to showcase that to the NRL world. Excelling in recent NRL Auckland Nines competitions and impressing further when given first-grade opportunities, there is no better chance for him to put his name on the NRL map than in 2016. With the fullback spot vacant and Mamo the front-runner to get it, it gives him a chance to play in his favoured position and a chance to prove his worth as a young player. Highly rated by many, his enthusiasm and x-factor could be the kick-start the Knights back-line needs in 2016.

North Queensland Cowboys: Jason Taumalolo

One of the most destructive ball-runners in the entire NRL competition, 2016 is a year where Taumalolo can take his game to even greater heights. A crucial piece of the puzzle that saw the Cowboys win their maiden NRL premiership in 2015, Taumalolo can go one step further and cement himself as an elite forward in the entire competition. To do that, he must achieve consistency in his game and make his presence known week in and week out. He can bulldoze opponents one week but then be quite lax the next week. Consistency is no easy feat for a lot of players but with Taumalolo’s destructive attacking nature and sheer size, if he can outmuscle and overpower his opponents every week, there may be no stopping him. At all.

Parramatta Eels: Tepai Moeroa

Yet another promising player to come through the Eels ranks, Moeroa burst onto the scene and made an impact that had all Eels fans licking their lips as they glimpsed what appeared to be a Hindmarsh-like clone. Strong in defence, a tremendous hole-runner and solid in attack, he made his presence known early, much like others. 2015 hit, though, and there were some struggles. A chronic shoulder injury that he bravely tried to battle on with affected his game and his performance, and as a result, he struggled throughout the year. He still made impact in his own way, but not as strong as he had been in the past. In 2016, though, playing under the likes of Anthony Watmough and Beau Scott, Moeroa can learn, develop and grow his game further, to become a top back-rower and eventually the leader of the back-row in years to come.

Penrith Panthers: James Segeyaro

Right on the cusp of the elite hookers in the NRL, Segeyaro is ever so close to reaching that threshold of players. On the back of some solid, consistent performances in 2014 and 2015, the live-wire hooker makes his mark for the Panthers on a regular basis. With the likelihood of Segeyaro playing 80 minutes in 2015 each week increasing, so too will his game-time, his stature in the game and the chance to reach that elite threshold should his form continue. In many ways, the 2016 season will perhaps be the most important season in his career to see if he can take his game and his form to the next level.

South Sydney Rabbitohs: Kirisome Auva’a

2015 was not the best year for Auva’a both on and off the field, as he was suspended for domestic violence late in the season and then when he did play, he struggled somewhat to find his form. 2016 beckons and he has a chance to recapture his 2014 form and become a focal point of the Souths attack. With the departure of Dylan Walker, a lot more traffic can be expected to come the way of Auva’a who will be expected to capitalise and make the most of the added responsibility. On talent alone, Auva’a has proven that he can play in the NRL but his off-field issues have put him offside with many fans and rightfully so. With a ban now complete and a full pre-season under his belt, Souths fans will hope Auva’a can emulate 2014 and excel once more.

St George Illawarra Dragons: Mose Masoe

Once upon a time, Masoe was in the NRL and performing at a decent level. Fast forward to 2016 and after a stint in the Super League with a couple of sides, Masoe has come back eager to make an impact and a difference at the Dragons side. Joining the club despite overtures from elsewhere, if selected, he will offer size and impact off the bench and may well be a key figure. With the recent success of other former players heading to Super League and returning as better players – Iosia Soliola as the most recent example – the Dragons and their fans will be hoping that he can emulate that sort of success and play solid, consistent footy.

Sydney Roosters: Jackson Hastings

He has a famous last name synonymous with the Roosters club but Jackson Hastings will be out to forge his own identity and the signs are there that he can perform efficiently on his own. With added responsibility in 2016 given the departure of James Maloney, Hastings will have to learn the ropes quickly and remain consistent in a halves pairing alongside Mitch Pearce. Versatile and talented, Hastings will have to adapt quickly but having a solid support base around him at the Roosters is something that will help him make the transition into a regular starter much easier. He & Pearce have the potential to continue the good foundations led by Roosters halves in the past.

Wests Tigers: Ava Seumanufagai

One of the surprise packets of the Tigers pack last year, Seumanufagai impressed many fans with his work-ethic, desire and committment, despite a lean year for the Tigers himself. With the Tigers overall forward depth still a bit lax, there is a good chance for the hulking forward to make an impression of his own and continue to impress the fans, the club and the coach. The change in interchange rules may also work in his favour, as he continues his on-field and off-field development as a player, constantly seeking ways to improve himself and to make the best possible impact to benefit the Tigers team.

New Zealand Warriors: Konrad Hurrell

There would be very few around the NRL that are not mindful of how destructive Hurrell can be when he is on song and firing, but he has come under criticism somewhat over the last couple of years. Eager to cement a spot in the Warriors back-line, keep it and then excel, the man they call the ‘Hurrellicane’ is a powerful player that is scintillating to watch in top form. Fans criticised his work-rate and defence and that has led to stints in and out of first-grade over the last 18 months but if he puts those pieces together and improves, he can be a destructive player once more. With all clubs needing raw power somewhere in their team, Hurrell could just be the man for the Warriors in that regard to help both the club and himself. After all, he can be regarded as an x-factor.

Ricky’s View: Holden Cup Team of the Year

Gideon Mosby

Boasting some of the greatest young talent that Australian rugby league has to offer, the Holden Cup never disappoints and this year, new talents emerged. Whether it was Gideon Mosby who shattered the Holden Cup try-scoring record, Tom Trbojevic who ran rampant in all the games he played, Bevan French who was a shining light in a largely poor year for the Eels or any other player that excelled, they have all put themselves on the map as potential, future talents.

As strong followers and supporters of the Holden Cup and the opportunities it provides, we enjoy watching it and so, have decided to put together our view on the team of the year, or what we believe it should look like.

Without further adieu, here it is:

1. Tom Trbojevic (Manly) – One of the best players currently running around in Holden Cup, Trbojevic has had a taste of first-grade and excelled, prompting calls to retain him at that level. There were other ideas, though, and the live-wire fullback fired on all cylinders throughout the year, carving up teams for fun and at will. Tall, lanky and rather quick, he chimes in from the back when required and does so meticulously, often causing problems for opposition defences. His form, style of play and leadership on the field are one of the major reasons as to why Manly is doing so well this season. Racking up stats galore in basically every game he has played, Trbojevic has a multitude of tries, line-breaks and try assists to his name, justifying his status as an elite, young player and a potential, future star.

2. Gideon Mosby (Cowboys) – The one thing to take out of Mosby being named in the side, is that in just his first year in the Holden Cup, he broke the record for tries scored. One year. And it was not just broken, it was shattered and done so with ease. The first-year winger excelled extensively and used a mixture of power, speed, acceleration and natural ability and deserves not only every success that comes his way but also a selection in the team of the year. His plight and quick success is remarkable when you consider that he only played his first NRL game four years ago with the Cairns Kangaroos after leaving his home in Darnley Island. Such is his speed and acceleration, that opposition players cannot keep up. His success over the last 18 months has been astonishing and he also enjoyed numerous representative honours with the QLD U20’s side and the Australian Schoolboys.

3. Addison Demetriou (Manly) – It is often rare to see a Holden Cup player excel in two positions but that is what young Addison Demetriou has done. The prop-turned centre has enjoyed a stellar season in a flourishing Manly side, using his experience through the middle as a bruiser to bustle and bust his way over the line. A powerful player, his time at Manly in particular has been filled with numerous individual successes, most recently recording the most ever tackle breaks in any professional Australian rugby league game. A powerhouse player because of the time he spent at prop, he has made a seamless transition into the centres and his time barging through the middle has helped him find his mojo on the fringes and make life difficult for all opposition teams. He and Trbojevic have formed potent partnerships and have guided Manly to one of their best seasons in recent Holden Cup history.

4. Obed Karwhin (Tigers) – Natural athletes and talents are hard to find but the Wests Tigers may well have unearthed the first African rugby league player, with Karwhin excelling in what is his debut season in the Holden Cup. Still eligible for Holden Cup next year, Karwhin, from the Ivory Coast, as slotted seamlessly into the Tigers side – both the Holden Cup and NSW Cup sides – as he forges a career in the Tigers system. Predominantly a winger, the tall, athletic utility back is set to finish the season as the Tigers highest try-scorer for the season, a testament to his determination, perseverance and belief within himself to succeed. His plight and journey is being tracked by many, all keen to see him perform and make the most of the opportunities that come his way, for should he succeed and play NRL, he would be one of just a handful of African-born players to play NRL.

5. Joseph Manu (Roosters) – His Roosters team-mate Latrell Mitchell may get all the plaudits but the work of Joseph Manu this season cannot be understated. A relative unknown at the beginning of last years Holden Cup competition, he slowly forged his way into the side and regularly and this year, 2015, is where he truly exploded. The talented and live-wire utility back has come through the club ranks and has impressed many fans with his astute awareness, solid positional play and some blistering speed from the backfield. His try-scoring exploits saw him finish up as the Roosters leading try-scorer, playing mainly on the wing and showing the competition that like Mitchell, he deserves a chance to test himself at a higher level.

6. Te Maire Martin (Tigers) – There are good halves that come into the Holden Cup system and then there are great halves. Te Maire Martin is a great half and has been one of the most consistent halves in the competition across the last two seasons. Despite some changes throughout to the Tigers side as a whole and perhaps some performances that could be labelled as inconsistent, Martin has impressed continually and led from the front to give his team chances to score. To watch him play is remarkable, as the exciting young talent possesses a level-headed nature, great vision and awareness and a natural ability to play the game. The Tigers have done well to help the Keebra Park local grow and develop but his talents will now be utilised at the Penrith Panthers, after they snapped him up. If he continues to develop and perform well, it is only a matter of time before first-grade beckons.

7. Ash Taylor (Broncos) – Like Martin, when a great half comes along and shows off his skills and talents, you notice it straight away. His chance to play first-grade finally arrived in Rd 26 of the NRL season but it was cut short when he suffered an injury. That aside, Taylor’s ability is second to none as he has also forged a reputation as one of the elite halves in the Holden Cup this year. Surprisingly quick, his experience playing touch football has helped him develop into a quality, young player, and his skills are evident from the very first moment that you watch him play. Not a very big player, he does not let size get the better of him as he performs valiantly both in attack and defence and often puts his body on the line. With a chance to cement a spot at the Titans in 2016, you can expect Taylor to take it with open arms.

8. Viliame Kikau (Cowboys) – Rarely do you see a forward dominate one season let alone two, but Kikau has done just that. His 2014 season was brilliant to watch and yet somehow, his 2015 season was even better. The Cowboys high finish came on the back of his monumental runs and performances, on an almost consistent basis. He finished with a remarkable number of tries – 20 to be exact – a number rarely seen by a prop in terms of tries scored. It is that energy and enthusiasm he brings, as well as hard-nosed aggression and raw power, that has seen him revered by Cowboys fans and by Holden Cup enthusiasts. All and and honours he receives are completely deserved and he too will have a new challenge in 2016, signing with the Panthers. With his Holden Cup days over, Kikau’s challenge is to make the most of opportunity in the lower grades and battle alongside the men, further showcasing his talents.

9. Aaron Booth (Souths) – Sometimes, teams will have relatively bad seasons and will struggle throughout but each time, there is that one shining light who puts his hand up for further honours, accolades and recognition. For Souths in 2015, it was Aaron Booth. A highly rated youngster at the Souths club, Booth has been in immense form throughout the year, and has led from the front in the only way he knows how, even if as an overall team, the results have not come as Souths would have liked. His tenacity, determination and heart are what makes him a special player, along with his vast array of skills to produce attack and make opportunities appear. With a potential spot at the club up for grabs in terms of hooker depth in 2016, the Bunnies may not have to look far to find their next star.

10. Liam Knight (Manly) – A versatile forward, Knight has been a big bopper with a point to prove for Manly in the 2015 season and has catapulted the Manly forward pack into the finals with some dominant performances. A powerful prop and back-rower, Knight’s efforts are not about to go unnoticed as many will get a chance to watch him perform during the finals series for the Manly side, who have been rampant at times throughout the 2015 season. Whilst perhaps not accruing such accolades that Demetriou or Trbojevic may command, his work-rate and work-ethic, and the desire to succeed, have helped both his own individual form and the team’s form, as they work doubly hard to take something out of the season.

11. Coen Hess (Cowboys) – For Holden Cup enthusiasts like ourselves, when you see a dominant player such as Coen Hess playing any form of competition, let alone first-grade, you get excited. His form and play over the last 18 months has been nothing short of remarkable, for he has taken his game to a new level and helped shape the Cowboys into one of the most dominant teams in the Holden Cup this season. A crafty, skilful back-rower, Hess is a young clone of some of the games best modern forwards like Nathan Hindmarsh or Craig Fitzgibbon – hard, solid players who play with passion, determination and give 100%. Add a knack to find the gaps and score tries to his arsenal, and you have an almost complete player in Hess. His form was so good, it was rewarded with a first-grade opportunity where he showed that he belongs after just one game, excelling. The sky is the limit for Hess and he will reach it and surpass it.

12. Matiu Love-Henry (Warriors) – Making a debut is one thing but taking the bull by the horns and making the most of an opportunity to the point where you then excel on a regular basis is rare and great to see. Matiu Love-Henry is in that boat, with the powerhouse back-rower an absolute dynamite player on the fringes, causing problems left, right and centre for his opposition players. He has racked up a solid number of tries for a back-rower and with the added ability of playing prop when need be, he can transition seamlessly among the forward pack and still maintain the same intensity and form regardless of where he plays. With the Warriors producing so many quality juniors, Love-Henry may well just be the next cab off the rank to truly make his mark in the team.

13. Jai Arrow (Broncos) – Another club starlet coming through the Broncos ranks, the back-rower/lock has impressed throughout the year and kept fans intrigued with his development as to whether he can progress. A hard-runner with a strong work-ethic, he has helped form the Broncos in a sturdy, resolute side, performing well on an individual basis throughout. A core player in the Broncos system, the development and growth of Arrow has been noticeable and will continue to improve, as many keep an eye on him to determine if like many other Broncos youngsters before him, he can crack first-grade at some point over the next 18 months.

14. Kalolo Saitaua (Broncos) – One of the surprise packets of the year in the eyes of many, with Kalolo Saitaua not a name that you would be hearing about very often, if at all. Emerging as a formidable, potent bench player, the young utility has made the most of every opportunity afforded to him and cemented his spot in the Broncos side as a result. His crafty, dynamic play, has helped the Broncos to relative success throughout the year despite not being one of the biggest names within the club. Whilst there is somewhat of an overload in his particular position, he has the talent to succeed and has worked hard to ensure he stays at the top of his game. Over the next couple of seasons, he is one to keep an eye on for further progression.

15. Tevita Pangai Jr. (Raiders) – This particular player you would have heard of, for he has been an absolute beast over the last couple of seasons for the Raiders in every sense. A powerful, destructive runner of the ball, Pangai hits as hard as he runs and often causes continual problems for opposition teams in both defence and attack. Able to cover a multitude of positions across the field, he has proven his worth over the past couple of years and is slated for higher honours in the years to come. Playing first-grade on a regular basis is just a matter of time for Pangai who will only get better as he plays more games and in other competitions.

16. Joe Stimson (Storm) – Coming into his own as a player last year, Stimson won the 2014 NYC Player of the Year Award at the Storm and has only gone from strength-to-strength in 2015, continuing to impress. A key player in the Storm’s forward pack, his development and growth has mirrored that of fellow, budding superstar, Nelson Asofa-Solomona. With both equally impressive as youngsters, NAS has made his debut and whilst Stimson is yet to do so, like many others, it is just a matter of time. With a potential need for more forwards to step up in light of some departing, the opportunity is there for Stimson to make the most of the opportunity and play first-grade in 2016.

17. Braden Uele (Cowboys) – Another important player in the Cowboys stellar season, Uele joined the club from the Sydney Roosters and took the chance. Since then, he has excelled and formed a solid foundation for the club over the 2015 season and performed well in the process. Along Kikau, their go-forward and attacking momentum often stifled any defensive prowess among the majority of teams, with the duo outperforming their other respective forward packs and playing consistently. With Kikau moving on, Uele has the chance to become the elite prop in the Cowboys system and within Queensland Cup affiliates.

18. Bevan French (Eels) – Every team needs an 18th man and in what has been a largely poor season for the Eels in 2015, one player that has impressed on an almost weekly basis is highly touted youngster, Bevan French. A fullback by nature but equally adept at five-eighth as well, his creative play, instinct and nous from the back, has catapulted him into major contention among the Eels faithful as a candidate to play fullback in the future. Leading from the front for the Eels in their stagnated attack, French made a smooth transition into the NSW Cup in the one game he played, prompting many to ask why he was not retained there to help further his development. Under the tutelage of Michael Gordon, French will have a great mentor as he continues to grow and develop as a player, readying himself for what is to come in his career.

Honourable mentions also go out to Brent Naden, Tony Tumusa, Alex Twal, Thomas Carr, Tomas Aoake, Brian Kelly and Moses Leota, for their stand-out seasons, all of whom just missed out on a spot in our particular Holden Cup Team of the Year.

Our Holden Cup Player of the Year: Gideon Mosby

Coach: Todd Payten.

Veteran Eels centre retires from the NRL

Beau Champion

Injury has not been kind to him over the years and it has taken its toll with Parramatta Eels centre Beau Champion retiring from the NRL at the completion of the 2015 season.

Currently injured, the 28-year old played in 107 games for the Gold Coast Titans, the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the Melbourne Storm and the Parramatta Eels but has no regrets about his career.

Champion was just pleased to live out a goal of his from when he was younger.

“As a kid, my goal was to play just one NRL game, and to play for the past ten years is something that I’ll treasure and look back on, especially the great memories I’ve made over the years,” Champion said.

“It’s unfortunate it had to end through injury, but it’s something I’ll look back on as a positive and something great that I achieved in my life.”

The centre is thankful to the Eels organisation and to coach Brad Arthur, who gave him one final chance.

“I’m very thankful to Brad Arthur and the Parramatta club for giving me the opportunity this year to play NRL, and I worked really hard in pre-season, but unfortunately injury stopped it,” Champion said.

“I’ve had a really great time here, made a lot of friends, and the fans were always great; I’m just sorry it had to end this way and I couldn’t give more to the club because the club gave me so much.”

Arthur praised Champion’s commitment and work ethic to always return, even if he was only at the club for a year.

“It’s an impressive effort for anyone to play 100 NRL games, and the way Beau came back from injuries over his career showed his good attitude,” Arthur said.

“Beau only joined the club this year, but we’ll miss having him around.”

Acting Eels CEO John Boulous wished Champion the best moving forward.

“Beau has worked very hard with our community programs both before and after he injured his knee, and has been a great ambassador for our club and rugby league this year,” Boulous said.

“We wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”

Dragons young gun granted release and will join Widnes

Charly Runciman

A move that has surprised a fair few fans, St George Illawarra Dragons young gun Charly Runciman has been granted a release by the club to head overseas and play in the English Super League.

The talented centre/winger has signed with the Widnes Vikings and can play for them as soon as he organises the appropriate visa, in a surprise move given his ability, potential and good form that pleased fans during his time at the Dragons.

Making his debut in 2013, Runciman went on to play 13 games for the club and after receiving the offer from Widnes, the club opted not to stand in his way.

“Charly has received an opportunity to play regular first-grade football with the Widens Vikings on a multi-year contract which he has opted to explore,” said Dragons Director of Recruitment & Retention Peter Mulholland

“On behalf of the Dragons we would like to thank him for both his services and contributions to the Club and wish him well for the future.”

Whilst hard to leave the club, Runciman knows that it is all about opportunity and with a chance to play regular first-grade at a quality level, it was just too good to pass up.

“I have had a couple of great seasons with the Dragons and will look back on my time here with fond memories,” said Runciman.

“I was privileged to make my first-grade debut for the Club and don the jersey that many have before me and play my role for the team in front of such passionate Red V Members and fans,” said Runciman.

The young centre is excited about what is to come for him at Widnes and was quick to praise all involved at the Dragons for giving him the opportunities.

“The opportunity however to play regular first-grade football with the Vikings was appealing to me and something that will help me progress as a player,” said Runciman.

“I am thankful for my time with the Dragons and now look forward to starting the next chapter of my career.”

The signing of Runciman will create some healthy competition in the outside backs for Widnes, and his signing is one that has pleased coach Denis Betts.

“Charly is a fantastic acquisition for us at this stage in the season,” said Betts.

“He will give us a really big boost and his arrival will make for some great competition among our outside backs.

“Charly has a proven try-scoring ability and will add some great quality to our edges. He is a strong centre with a fantastic left-foot kick. It will be great to have him over here as part of the Vikings set-up.”

Former Broncos coach returns to coaching with Redcliffe

Anthony Griffin

Some would say that his time at the Brisbane Broncos ended somewhat prematurely whilst others would agree with it but either way, a return to coaching is on the cards for Anthony Griffin.

Dumped to make way for the return of Wayne Bennett at the Broncos, Griffin will take over mantle at Intrust Super Cup side, the Redcliffe Dolphins.

Griffin replaces outgoing Redcliffe coach Troy Lindsay and is pleased to have an opportunity to return to a club as a coach.

“It is an honour and a privilege to be able to coach at Redcliffe again,” Griffin said.

“The Dolphins are a magnificent club with great fans, and I am looking forward to working hard with the players and staff.”

After some tough years as a club, rebuilding is the key for the Dolhphins. Grant Cleal, the club’s General Manager of Football, knows that whilst they have been struggling, getting Griffin on board is a step in the right direction.

“Hook has a great reputation here and his return is very exciting for the club, its players and staff,” Cleal said.

“There are no other coaches at this level with his NRL record and experience and he will no doubt be back in the NRL at some stage.”