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.

 

 

Former NRL head coach appointed new coach of Warrington

Steve Price

The coaching landscape is an ever-changing environment given the cutthroat nature of the business and Steve Price, after a stint as St George Illawarra Dragons head coach and numerous assistant roles, is back at the helm in the top job.

Super League side Warrington confirmed that Price would assume the role as head coach on a new 2-year deal.

With Tony Smith departing, the Wolves sought out Price who in recent years, has been an assistant with the Cronulla Sharks who made the grand final and won the premiership in 2016.

After his retirement as a player, Price moved into coaching and worked under Wayne Bennett in 2010 at the St George Illawarra Dragons before remaining there until he soon became head coach.

Warrington Chief Executive Karl Fitzpatrick believes that Price is the right man for the job and believes he has the tools to succeed at Warrington and in the Super League.

“Following completion of a thorough and extensive search, we firmly believe that in Steve Price we have found the right man to bring success to Warrington Wolves,” said Fitzpatrick.

“As a result of his involvement in two NRL Grand Final winning clubs, Steve fully understands what is required to deliver that success; he is regarded as having a major influence on the Sharks’ 2016 Grand Final win and he is highly respected by all of their players.

“As a result of his involvement in two NRL Grand Final winning clubs, Steve fully understands what is required to deliver that success; he is regarded as having a major influence on the Sharks’ 2016 Grand Final win and he is highly respected by all of their players.

With expectations always high for a club as prestigious as Warrington, the bar is set at a certain standard but the club has faith in their appointment of Price to meet them and challenge them.

“During our detailed discussions, Steve clearly demonstrated an exceptional understanding of the game in both attack and defence, and he has a great awareness of Super League,” continued Fitzpatrick.  Steve has a reputation for attention to detail when it comes to his team’s preparation and performance, and he is acutely aware of the high expectations we have here at Warrington.

“Steve has a reputation for attention to detail when it comes to his team’s preparation and performance, and he is acutely aware of the high expectations we have here at Warrington.

In the end, it was strong praise from both Wayne Bennett and Sharks coach Shane Flanagan – coupled with what they thought of Price, to begin with – that gave him the nod for the role.

“Steve was one of the youngest to secure a head coach role in the NRL, and we are certain that this experience will put him in good stead,” said Fitzpatrick. We received resoundingly positive feedback at all stages of the recruitment process, with Steve being highly recommended by some of the sport’s most successful coaches and influential players.”

“We received resoundingly positive feedback at all stages of the recruitment process, with Steve being highly recommended by some of the sport’s most successful coaches and influential players.”

Some of that praise from Flanagan highlighted the influential nature of Price at the Sharks.

“His knowledge and support has been invaluable for me as head coach and I know the playing group here at the Sharks will be disappointed to see him leave for season 2018,” said Flanagan.

Just as pleased as Warrington is the man himself who wants to start things on the right track as he looks forward to the pre-season and season ahead.

“I’m excited to be heading to the UK and being part of the Warrington Wolves for 2018,” said Price.

“I’m grateful to be leading this great club with such a passionate fan base and prestigious history. I endeavour to build a tough and resilient football team, that will be attractive to watch and will enhance the Wire brand.

“I’m looking forward to working with the Warrington Wolves Board, CEO, office and playing group. As well as getting to know the supportive Wire community.”

Veteran prop adds experience to young Knights pack

It was back in 2003 when he made his debut for the North Queensland Cowboys that Jacob Lillyman played against the Newcastle Knights in his very first game. 

Little did he know that at the back end of his career, he would be joining the very team he first played against.

The Knights confirmed the signing of the veteran forward who played in 62 NRL games for the Cowboys and a further 189 games for the New Zealand Warriors.

Also with 14 games for QLD to his name, Lillyman brings a wealth of experience to a young Knights forward pack and the veteran wants to provide some of his guidance and wisdom to the younger generation.

“Newcastle is a good young team on the up and I’m really looking forward to getting over there and getting stuck in,” said Lillyman.

“I think the Knights have got some great young players, especially in the forwards, and I am keen to help them in their development.

“Newcastle is a very proud rugby league region and town and I can’t wait to experience that first hand.”

That experience is exactly what prompted the Knights to sign him as they know he will help to bring the best out of their young players.

“Jacob has plenty of experience and he will not only be a great contributor but will provide wonderful leadership for our young squad,” said the Knights General Manager of Football Darren Mooney.

Lillyman will commence pre-season training with the Club in November.

Hulking Manly winger re-signs for two more years

Jorge Taufua

2017 started well for Jorge Taufua in a season that saw him score 8 tries in 12 games before he suffered an ACL injury that ended his season. That form and his Manly form in past years earned him a new contract, however, with the winger signing on for two more seasons.

With the new deal to keep Taufua on the Northern Beaches until the end of 2019, the winger is pleased and took comfort in the fact that he had the support of coach Trent Barrett throughout his rehabilitation process.

“(Coach) Trent Barrett told me when the injury happened not to worry about my future as he would be looking to keep me and to just focus on the rehab. It put my mind at ease a little bit,’’ Taufua said.

“I’m very grateful for the faith and the support Trent and the Sea Eagles have shown in me. It was a massive relief when the deal was finalised. I love playing for Manly.”

Since making his debut in 2012, Taufua has played in 112 NRL games and the club themselves are pleased to retain him.

“Jorge’s extension is well deserved,” said Manly’s Head of Football Bob Fulton.

“He has been a trojan of this club since 2012 and is certainly part of Trent Barrett’s plans moving forward.”

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.”

Slater stays on for one more year

Billy Slater

It was the question that every Melbourne Storm fan was asking; would Billy Slater be playing on in 2018?

Having already lost Cooper Cronk who is likely to retire from the game, Storm fans were hopeful that favourite son Billy would be staying on and he did not disappoint.

At the club’s presentation night last night, Slater confirmed that he would continue to play on for one more season, a huge boost for Storm’s back-to-back premiership ambitions.

Just two days out from helping the Storm win the premiership and winning the Clive Churchill Medal, the fullback that many regard as the greatest of all-time and of his generation, will crack the 300-game milestone next year.

Sidelined for much of the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to shoulder surgery and shoulder issues, Slater burst out of the block on his return in 2017 at 34 years of age proving that he still has what it takes to perform consistently.

In a surprise to no-one, the club is ecstatic to see their veteran fullback opt for another year.

“We are delighted that Billy has made the decision to pull on the purple jersey again in 2018,” Storm CEO Dave Donaghy said.

“He has been a champion of this Club and NRL for over a decade so it is fantastic for the game as a whole that Billy will be back on the field next year.”

The adversity that Slater overcame was nothing short of remarkable and Donaghy praised that resilience.

“Billy has overcome a great deal of adversity in recent years. The fact he has not only return but is back to his best this season is a true testament to his professionalism, dedication and incredible resilience,” the CEO continued.

“Our young players will now have another season to play alongside and learn from one of our Club’s all-time greats, which will be invaluable for the future of Melbourne Storm.”

Storm utility to make the shift to the Knights in 2018

Slade Griffin

Fresh off a premiership success with the Melbourne Storm, Slade Griffin will have a new club in 2018 with a deal made to sign with the Newcastle Knights.

Confirming his departure today, the Storm utility is still only 26 but has endured three knee reconstructions in four years.

He battled his way back to become a regular on the Storm bench as their utility and his comeback to the sport was rewarded with the ultimate prize; a premiership medal.

Pleased to have worked under the tutelage of the elite like coach Craig Bellamy, hooker and captain Cam Smith and others, Griffin decided that the time for change was right.

The desire to play more minutes regularly factored into his decision and he feels like Newcastle is very similar to his own hometown back in New Zealand.

“The Knights is a great Club and I am looking forward to playing a big part in the team,” said Griffin.

“I have done my apprenticeship at the Storm under Cameron (Smith) and Cooper (Cronk) and I am ready to play a bigger role with more minutes.

“I am also looking forward to the lifestyle in Newcastle; I’m from a small mining town in New Zealand, so it will be great to come up there and help continue to rebuild the Club.”

Set to officially start with the club in late November, the signing of Griffin is one the club believe will bring them both versatility and leadership.

“Slade will provide versatility and leadership,” said the Knights General Manager of Football Darren Mooney.

“He will have a great opportunity to really cement a position and further his development as a player.”

Former Raider moves from NYC coaching job to assistant coach role

Brett White

Canberra Raiders fans will be well aware of his exploits as the coach of their Holden Cup side and in 2018, they will see plenty more of Brett White but at an NRL level instead.

With the departure of Dean Pay, the Raiders were in need of an assistant and the club opted to promote from within, appointing White as their new assistant coach for the next two seasons.

White has served the Raiders well as both a player and a coach in recent years, joining the club in 2011 and retiring in 2014 before moving into coaching where he was Holden Cup coach for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Following the Raiders growing up, the opportunity to move up the club’s coaching ranks was a tremendous opportunity for White and he cannot wait to work alongside head coach Ricky Stuart and the other coaching staff.

“I’m extremely excited; this is the club I grew up following and I was lucky to play for the Raiders,” said White.

“To now be a part of the coaching staff is a great honour.”

“To be able to work alongside Mick Crawley and Ricky Stuart is fantastic, they are two of the smartest individuals I have worked with.

“Pre-season can’t come quick enough, I wish the season kicked off next week. We’re all keen to get back into the swing of things and make sure we all fulfil our potential.”

White drew praise from Stuart for being a Raider; someone who understands the club culture and understands what the club wants to build.

“The one thing that I like is that he’s a Raider,” said Stuart.He’s played at the club and he’s got that understanding of our fabric and what we’re trying to build.”

“He’s played at the club and he’s got that understanding of our fabric and what we’re trying to build.”

“He had a culture that as a player I want in my current players, he’s got a great work ethic, he’s very professional and I think he’s got a very bright future as a Coach.”

With the chance to join Melbourne dangling in front of him last year, White opted against the move to stay with Canberra.

“Brett showed a sense of trust in what we’re looking to achieve at this club and for him to stick loyal and knock back a big job like that shows he cares about our organisation,” Stuart said.

“He gets the job because he’s a very diligent and thorough worker, a smart coach and has a great rapport with the players he’s coached at the club which is a good thing.”

 

Souths veteran makes the move to England

Bryson Goodwin

As the South Sydney Rabbitohs look to rebuild their roster with an injection of younger talent, players have to move on and one that has done so is veteran utility back Bryson Goodwin.

Goodwin, a staple of the Souths side over the last few years – including their premiership success in 2014 – will join English side Warrington on a 2-year deal.

Having initially agreed to a deal with the Leigh Centurions, Warrington and Leigh came to an agreement that would see Goodwin join the Wolves instead.

The Kiwi international has a litany of experience to his name and after losing Peta Hiku, the club knew they had to find someone like Goodwin as his replacement.

“We spoke to Bryson earlier in the year and have been aware of his abilities for some time, when we lost Peta we approached Leigh with an offer and fortunately they accepted,” said club Chief Executive Karl Fitzpatrick.

“Bryson has got outstanding leadership qualities both off and on the pitch and will be a real asset to the team and culture we want to create.

His reputation in the NRL is first class and with his international experience he’ll add real value to the club.”

With a new adventure in tow, Goodwin admits that he spoke to several players including Souths team-mate Sam Burgess about Warrington and the Super League.

“I’ve only heard really good things about Warrington from past players who have played at the club,” said Goodwin.I also spoke to Sam Burgess and he only had good words to say too. Everyone knows it’s a big club and I’m looking forward to joining.

“I also spoke to Sam Burgess and he only had good words to say too. Everyone knows it’s a big club and I’m looking forward to joining.”

Goodwin is looking forward to his opportunity to play in the Super League having watched some of the action from the competition in recent times.

“I really like the Super League; I’ve been watching a lot of it recently since I signed over there and from what I’ve seen it’s a really good competition and is getting better and better every year,” he continued.

“The quality is high and am looking forward to playing in it.

“I’ve played a fair bit now so I will look to bring that experience and hopefully add something in both defence and attack, and play some good football.”

With several changes going on at the Wolves this off-season, Goodwin is excited to join the club and meet his team-mates and the staff.

“I’m looking forward to meeting the players and staff at Warrington and getting to know the members and fans of the club too and then ripping into training,” said Goodwin.

With a new coach to come on board as well, it’s a fresh start for Warrington which is good.”

Bulldogs appoint Pay as new Head Coach

Dean Pay

Following the sacking of Des Hasler, the Canterbury Bulldogs have brought back a former player with coaching experience to take over the head coaching mantle.

That man is Dean Pay, a former Bulldogs player himself, with the club and Pay coming to an agreement for the next two seasons.

In total, Pay played 108 games for the Bulldogs side and was a part of their 1995 premiership success as well as playing for both Australia and NSW.

Pay has been across numerous clubs in his coaching career; serving under Kevin Walters as an assistant at Catalans before similar roles at the Melbourne Storm, the Parramatta Eels and the Canberra Raiders.

Pay admits that he is excited about the new role particularly at a club that he knows well.

“It’s a tremendous honour to be offered the Head Coach’s role at a club that I loved playing for,” said Pay.

Having learnt under some great coaches, I now believe that the time is right for me to step up into the Head Coach’s role.”

Pay looks forward to getting the best out of the players and improving the club’s overall play as they look to get back into the finals in 2018.

The Bulldogs have a great history and tradition and I’m looking forward to the chance to work with a talented group of players, where respect and discipline will be the cornerstones of how we go about our business,” continued Pay.

“The club has great foundations, facilities, staff and an incredible fan base. It is important that we work hard to make our supporters proud.”

In the end, from a club perspective, getting in a person like Pay was important as they already know the club, its values and its history.

“We are extremely happy to have been able to secure the services of Dean Pay for the next two seasons,” said Bulldogs Chairman Ray Dib.

“Dean is a Bulldogs man through and through and someone who totally understands the history and tradition of the club.

Culture is a word thrown around a lot in rugby league these days and Dib believes that Pay is the man to bring that back to the Bulldogs.

“He was an outstanding player with the club and has carried that over into his coaching career, where he has worked under some excellent coaches, as well as showing that he can lead from the front with his superb record with the NSW Under 20’s side,” continued Dib.

“We want to bring back the Bulldogs culture of old and feel strongly that Dean is the man to do this.”

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