Category Archives: NRL Vault (Archives)

Ray Thompson

He might be departing at season’s end, but North Queensland Cowboys coach Neil Henry believes that with the form his side is currently in, they can beat any side in the top 8 – they just have to somehow get into the top 8 to do so.

With a faint chance of making the finals, the Cowboys cruised to victory and took the game out 36-4, with a mathematical chance of qualifying for the finals still alive.

Now just 4 points behind Canberra in eighth place, the Cowboys have three of their last four games at home, something that will give them a boost and a chance to push hard for that final spot.

There was just no stopping the Cowboys, as influential half Johnathan Thurston had a hand in five of his side’s tries, as hooker Ray Thompson scored a rare hat-trick over the course of 11 minutes.

With two big wins on the trot, Henry knows there is still a lot of hard work for his side to be done.

“There’s a lot of hard work to do. We’ve got to win every game,” Henry said.

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“We’ll roll up our sleeves and go for 80 minutes each week and see where it takes us.

“We’ve got some resolve to say `it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, if we play our best football we can beat any team in the competition’.”

The Panthers were boosted at the start of the game with two players returning from long-term injuries, Lachlan Coote and Sam McKendry, but that was ultimately not enough.

With a four-game losing streak, the Panthers remain rooted on 20 competition points, as coach Ivan Cleary admits his side just did not have it today and could not find their mojo.

“It just wasn’t to be … maybe the mojo, we just didn’t have it tonight,” Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said.

“There were periods in the game where we were well in it but we just couldn’t capitalise and in the end it just took its toll on our belief.”

3. Ray Thompson
2. Johnathan Thurston
1. James Tamou

In his first article for NRL News, we welcome passionate Warriors supporter Luke Roberts who believes in his side’s ability moving forward. Here is his take on how their season can finish up.

Can the New Zealand Warriors make the NRL Top 4. Yes.

Some of you may find this hard to believe but after seeing the changes and belief in the team over the past 8-10 weeks, I believe they are a genuine chance. Not saying that it will be easy, but with a favourable run home and a team running high on confidence, they become virtually unstoppable.

A turning point for this team was the round 13 loss to the Rabbitohs in Perth. After leading the Bunnies by eight points with thirty minutes to go. they lost composure, energy and spirit to eventually be steamrolled by sixteen points. The team which had endured a rollercoaster ride during the first three months of 2014, mishaps including; a new coach after the dismissal of Mathew Elliot and the public uproar brought along with it; a star player that was struggling to live up to the billing in Sam Tomkins and a spate of team changes and injuries; looking fatigued after four wins in five the bye could not have come at a better time.

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Following the round 13 match in Perth, the Warriors faced a five week season defining stretch in which they would have two byes and three home games. Now three weeks later with two home wins against Top 8 opposition and another two points in the bag this weekend, the boys are on the rise. With nine games left and five of those at the Mt Smart fortress, look for the warriors to surge towards the top 4.

The four away games take the Auckland based club to Brisbane, Canberra, Newcastle and Penrith, all teams in which the Warriors will fancy their chances away from home having beaten them all on home soil in 2014. Perhaps the biggest tests in the coming few weeks are the visits of Manly and the Roosters and will give a true indication of where this Warriors side really shapes up against the competitions heavyweights.

For now at least, gaining confidence is the biggest factor for these boys as they look to put together a run similar to 2011 where they got all the way to the grand final after downing both Wests and Melbourne on the road in the finals. So to those of you writing the Warriors chances off already, take the boys from across the ditch at your own peril.

Players to watch: Konrad Hurrell. Lethal with the ball in hand and an expert in breaking both the line and multiple tackles; he does however need to work on his defence a little as missed tackles could prove costly, especially when he charges out of the line.

Shaun Johnson. His movement, quick thinking and kicking game are going to be vital if the Warriors are to continue the march forward. He is one of very few players who can change the game in an instant and is very exciting to watch.

Sam Tomkins. English import that was paid big money to make the move from Wigan and is very slowly starting to show his worth. He brushes off plenty of tackles and is very often in the attacking line, look for him to step up his game in the backend of the season as he continues to adapt.

Ben Matulino. Getting Big Bad Ben back from injury in the next two weeks will help give a lot more go forward to the Warriors. His running metres this season as well as offloads and tackle busts have been huge; and who can forget crossing the chalk three weeks in a row for the first try!

Talented St Helens back signs new long-term contract

Tom Makinson

He might only be young, but he has made a stellar impact so far and thus been rewarded for it – with St Helens fullback Tom Makinson signing a new-long term deal with the club, one that will see him stay until the end of the 2016 Super League season.

Makinson, who is just 21, has already played in 46 games for the club, following his debut in 2011 at Salford – with the fullback a handy winger and goal-kicker, having scored 25 tries and kicking 54 goals.

St Helens coach Nathan Brown says that the club is excited to have re-signed such a great talent, and he looks forward to seeing Makinson grow as a player and become even better.

“Tommy is a promising young player who has worked hard and taken his opportunities when they have come along,” said Brown.

“He is a consistent performer in training and understands the dedication that is needed to become not only a member of the first team at Saints, but a rugby league professional.

“If he continues to work hard, then he has a very promising future in the game.”

For Makinson himself, signing a new deal has him pumped up, as he looks to continue his improvement and development as a player, over the next 4 years.

“I’m over the moon to have signed this contract and I’m looking forward to continuing my career and development at Saints.

“I know I still have a lot to learn; I believe I am at the right place to do that and I am excited about the future.”

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James Donaldson

Signing young players that can develop is something all clubs set to achieve and the Hull Kingston Rovers have acted quickly to signing a talented, young player, acquiring James Donaldson from the Bradford Bulls.

Donaldson will be the club’s fourth signing for the 2015 season, with the 22-year old looking forward to playing in Hull with the Rovers side.

“I feel like I’ve progressed a lot over the last few years but I know I’ve got a lot more to give. I feel the best place to do that is at Hull Kingston Rovers,” said Donaldson.

Having been at Bradford for seven years, the young forward knows that he needed a new challenge and signing with Hull KR provides it.

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“I’ve been at Bradford for seven years now and I needed a new challenge. I’m ready to be taken out of my comfort zone and hopefully something fresh will spark me up. I’ll be working with new players, new coaches and new ideas, it’s a totally clean start for me to come here and I can’t wait for it,” said Donaldson.

“I’ve met with Chezzy and I’ve liked what he said. The strongest part of my game is my defence and Chezzy wants me to come here and help tighten the middle up a bit.

“At the same time, he wants me to play with the ball which I haven’t always had the opportunity to do over the past couple of years at Bradford. I’ll work hard in this off season on that and hopefully I’ll make some strides for next year.”

It was back in 2009 when Donaldson made his debut and after topping the tackle count for Bradford this season, Rovers head coach Chris Chester knows how good of a player the young forward can be for his side.

“James is exactly the sort of player that we want to bring to the club in that he is young, hungry and works very hard at his game,” said Chester.

“I would liken him to Scott Murrell in that he does all the little things that sometimes go unnoticed by supporters but that are always appreciated by coaches and teammates.

“He’s got a good engine on him, he plays big minutes and he doesn’t miss many tackles, so he’ll be a great fit for us.”

Luke Douglas

The Scottish side for the this year’s Rugby League World Cup has received a boost and become even stronger, with Gold Coast Titans prop Luke Douglas to join the side.

With several Super League and NRL players already a part of the side, the form from all of them is a great sign and one that has coach Steve McCormack excited.

He was there to watch the likes of Danny Brough in action at Huddersfield and was pleased with what he was seeing, in what he hopes is a good sign for the World Cup.

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“It’s fantastic for Scotland to see these three play so well all season,” says McCormack.

“They’re all in great form and looking strong. I can’t wait to start working with them with the Scotland squad.”

On Douglas, he joins fellow NRL players Peter Wallace, James McManus and Kane Linnett in the side, in what is a big boost for Scottish rugby league in general.

McCormack, who was looking to replace recently retired prop Jack Howieson, says that Douglas was the perfect fit for the side and praised his form, his strength and his character.

“It’s fantastic to have Luke join us,” says McCormack.

“He’s currently playing regularly in the NRL despite dealing with the loss of his mother recently, and that shows his strength of character. You don’t get to play every round of the NRL for about six years, as Luke has done, unless you’re a fantastic player and a fantastic professional.”

Mickael Simon

It has been an inconsistent season for the Wakefield Wildcats so far, but planning for 2015 is crucial and the club have signed French international Mickael Simon.

The 27-year old prop was a part of France’s recent World Cup squad and has signed a 2-year deal. He joins fellow prop and new recruit Greg Hall, with both set to strengthen the Wakefield forward pack.

Playing 65 Super League games so far, the Frenchman said he was after a new challenge and the Wildcats were a great place to test himself.

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“I need a new challenge and I want to play as many games as possible for Wakefield,” said Simon.

“I hope I can settle quickly in the team and the culture of the country. James is a very good coach and I enjoyed working with him at the World Cup. The start he has had as head coach is great for the club, the players and for James. I know that I will progress with the help of James and the other coaching staff.

“Hopefully I can bring my enthusiasm to the team and just do my job as a prop.”

With a reputation as a player with a huge work-rate and commitment, Wakefield head coach James Webster is looking forward to having the Frenchman at the club.

“Mickael is a big, strong ball carrier with a good engine and he will be able to play big minutes for us in the middle of the field,” said Webster.

“I know him well from my time with France at the World Cup and he has a very good knowledge of the game and will add something to the two props we’ve already secured for next year in Scott Anderson and Nick Scruton.”

Australian Indigenous side out to impress at rugby league Nines tournament in May

Not only will it increase the profile of Australian rugby league in general, but the increased exposure for the Indigenous talent that Australian rugby league has to offer will be on show, with an Australian Indigenous side to play in the rugby league Nines tournament in Philadelphia in May.

Dan Randall, who is the team organizer, was originally set to play for the Philadelphia Fight (an American-based side who will also be playing in the tournament), before deciding to create his own team – a move that the USARL supported.

The Indigenous side, whilst not yet released in full, is expected to be a strong contender in the tournament, with the team to come up against rival players from all over the world.

With the USARL in full support of Randall’s decision, and the opportunity to show the world just how good Indigenous talent can be, Randall is looking forward to the tournament.

“Chairman Peter Illfield and Ryan McGough were all for me trying to bring a team over so we’re now looking to showcase our culture and our football ability,” Randall said.

“There aren’t too many indigenous Rugby League teams that tour overseas, so this will be a good opportunity. Plus it’s to experience the US and the way they play footy,” he continued.

The side will boast some experience with former NRL player Yileen Gordon to be in the side, as well as Australian Rugby Union Sevens player, Arthur Little.

With the side not very familiar with the USARL structure or team, the one thing the Indigenous side does not want to do, is underestimate their opponent.

“We don’t want to take anyone lightly,” Randall said.

With the tournament promising to be fiery, frenetic and explosive, the Indigenous side are hopeful that they can put on a show and make a statement.

“I’d also like to let the other sides know we are there to win and not a holiday, so I’ve put together a very talented side,” Randall said.

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Mark Minichiello

A long, lengthy and spirited NRL career has come to an end for Mark Minichiello, with the Gold Coast Titans veteran to sign with English Super League side Hull FC for the next two years.

Minichiello, who has a wealth of experience having played in 250+ games over 13 years for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Titans, felt it was time for a new challenge.

The veteran is the third player to join Hull FC in the off-season and Minichiello looks forward to the prospect of England and Hull that await him.

“It is going to be a new challenge for me and I am really looking forward to it I can’t wait to get over there and experience a different league,” said Minichiello.

“It was a big decision, I have been in the NRL for thirteen seasons now and have played over 250 games here but I think it was maybe just the right time for me to make the change and I guess accept a new challenge.

“I have always had dreams of playing in the Super League, and when this deal and opportunity came about, I just thought it was the right time to jump in and experience something new.”

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Knowing that the club has a long history in rugby league, playing in the Super League has always been an ambition for the veteran.

“Hull is a club with a long history, is one of the bigger clubs over there and from what I hear the fans are very passionate about rugby league, they have a good culture for rugby,” said Minichiello.

“So when offered the chance to come over and play that was really the only offer I needed to make my decision.”

The club are also pleased to have him on board for not only his experience, but the value he brings both on and off the field as a player and person.

“Mark brings vast experience to the club, not just in terms of his ability and game sense on the field, but a wealth of knowledge and the right way to conduct yourself off it,” said Hull FC head coach, Lee Radford.

“It’s been a long time coming, we’ve been talking to Mark and his management about coming to Hull for some time and it is difficult at the moment to bring in players of his calibre from the NRL, you only have to look at who we were in competition with to see why.

With the new challenge ahead of him, the club are confident he will be a big hit on the field and with the fans.

“But he has made all the right noises about the club, the opportunity to play Super League and seems extremely committed to making the move which has been pleasing,” said Radford.

“It’s a new chapter for him and I know he is full of enthusiasm and can’t wait to get started. He will be a big influence on some of our younger blokes and a real hit with the fans, I’m sure.”

James Segeyaro

Injuries have hit them hard in recent times and that can often result in a side falling apart but out at Penrith, the Panthers have made sure that they are not in that boat.

Instead, their performances remain steady and they continue to win the games they are required to, with their most recent victory a 16-4 win over a lacklustre St George Illawarra Dragons side.

It was an interesting occasion for former Dragon now Panther Jamie Soward, who made his return to WIN Stadium for the first time since departing the Dragons mid-season in 2013 for the team out West.

The game also saw Brett Morris score his ninth of the season and collectively, he and brother Josh have now scored 196 tries between them.

Such a feat surpassed the great Mortimer trio but despite that early try, it was all Penrith after that, as the Dragons struggled to make the most of their opportunities.

One man who stood up and made his mark on an already impressive season was James Segeyaro. Scoring a try and setting one up, Segeyaro is fast becoming not only a Panthers fan favourite but one of the most dangerous players in the league.

On top of the Dragons loss, prop Dan Hunt was put on report for a high tackle on David Simmons that saw the Penrith winger leave the field with concussion.

Despite their injuries, Penrith coach Ivan Cleary was pleased with his side’s performance and believes the players know the style well.

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“I think we understand the style of play with the attack and defence and today, you could see that,” said Cleary.

“That’s always a good sign when everyone’s on the same page.”

With their injuries, depth is always crucial and Cleary was quick to praise the efforts of his Holden Cup and NSW Cup coaches, as well as the players that have made the step into first-grade.

“Full credit to Garth Brennan and Trent Barrett. Those boys have done a great job,” said Cleary.

“We have got a bit of depth at the club and so that definitely helps. To bring in three good first-graders back into the side today, so when you have injury hurdles like we have, the bonus is that those guys get an opportunity.”

For Dragons coach Paul McGregor, the reason for the loss was simple. They were beaten by a quality top 4 side.

“They’re [Penrith] a real competent side and they kept things simple,” said McGregor.

“They worked us over and won field position and once they did that, they strangled us. We just didn’t play with enough composure.”

Although he praised his side’s defence, forcing it in attack was the downfall for McGregor.

“We defended well but when we got our opportunities, we just seemed to push the pass too much,” said McGregor.

“That’s what we need to look at this week and what we need to fix.”

Penrith Panthers 16 (Segeyaro, Docker, Idris tries; Soward 2 goals) def St George-Illawarra Dragons 4 (Morris try). Crowd: 13,107.

Denny Solomona

Joining the Castleford Tigers after a stint with fellow Super League side the London Broncos, former Melbourne Storm utility Denny Solomona is after a new challenge in his career.

The two-year deal will begin from the start of the 2015 season with Solomona so far scoring 9 tries in 17 games for the Broncos outfit.

He will not be alone, though, with former Storm team-mates Junior Moors and Ben Roberts also joining Castleford in 2015 – which played a big role in his decision.

“The move came about through Daryl Powell,” said Solomona.

“He asked me what my plans were for next year, and thought it would be a good opportunity to bring me in alongside Junior Moors.

“The way the club is run attracted me. Castleford have a good fan base and they are regarded as the loudest in the competition by some, so it is good to get fans behind you when you play.

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“I spoke to Luke Dorn and he said the club was run well, so that attracted me there too. Everyone is professional and does their job, which is what you want.”

With a potent back-line, Solomona knows that working his way into the side will not be easy but he intends to work hard to earn a spot.

“I try and bring a bit of excitement to the game, and put a fancy finish on a good run play,” he added.

“I am looking forward to working with Daryl Powell, who seems a really good guy and knows what he is doing. That is what I need in this stage of my career.

“Daryl said if I am willing to work hard then there is a position open for me, which is exactly what I want. I do not want to be given the position, I want to actually earn it and train hard in the off season to claim the shirt.

“I like how Castleford play. They like to throw the footy around, but when the going gets tough, they run hard and tackle hard, which is exactly how I like to play.”

It has been hard going for the Broncos this season but excelling in adversity and performing week-in and week-out is what impressed Castleford coach Daryl Powell.

“Denny has really impressed me this season in what has been a difficult year for the Broncos,” said Powell.

“His speed and strength alongside his ability to play in a number of back line positions will make him an invaluable member of our squad over the coming seasons.”