McIntyre further strengthens young and upcoming Titans pack

Newly signed Gold Coast Titans forward Sam McIntyre

The Gold Coast Titans already boast an exciting pack for 2021 and have added Wests Tigers forward Sam McIntyre.

McIntyre, who has the ability to play either at lock or on the edge, has so far played 12 games in the NRL.

All 12 came with the Wests Tigers and he now joins the likes of David Fifita, Moeaki Fotuaika, and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui at the Titans.

McIntyre will join the Titans for pre-season training soon, as the Titans boast one of the most exciting packs in the league heading into 2021.

Storm strengthen backline depth with signing of Smith

Newly signed Melbourne Storm utility back Reimis Smith

Granted a release by the Canterbury Bulldogs, Reimis Smith will now head South after signing a two-year deal with the Melbourne Storm.

Smith, who made his NRL debut in 2016, has played 49 NRL games to date and is likely to add to that tally in 2021.

Despite his departure, the Bulldogs wish Smith the best and say he will always be a part of their family.

“The Bulldogs would like to thank Reimis for his hard work and passion during his time at Belmore and wish him all the best in the next stage of his career,” said Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill.

“Reimis will always be part of the Bulldogs family and we genuinely wish him the best of luck for the future.”

With 25 tries in 49 games, including tries in two of his last three games against the Storm, the club is pleased to have him on board.

“With the departure of Suliasi Vunivalu, Sandor Earl, and Paul Momirovski, we were on the lookout for quality outside backs and Reimis certainly fits what we were looking for,” Storm General Manager of Football Frank Ponissi said.

“He’s a young player with the majority of his career still to come and capable of playing in the centres or on the wing.”

The Storm pounced quickly when the Bulldogs opted to release Smith, and say they are after one more player as backline depth.

“We had him in our sights for some time and when the Bulldogs made the decision to release him, we were quick to take the opportunity to bring him to Melbourne,” Ponissi continued.

“We’re still in the market for one more outside back and hope to finalise that position prior to the start of pre-season.”

Paulo heads to France to sign with Toulouse

Joseph Paulo in his playing days for St Helens

He has played elite level rugby league in the NRL and Super League and Joseph Paulo will now head to France to play for Toulouse Olympique.

Paulo, who played for the Penrith Panthers, Parramatta Eels and Cronulla Sharks in the NRL, then made the move to Super League.

There, he played for St Helens and was a part of the club’s 2019 grand final success.

With 28 games last season and eight in 2020, Paulo moves to Toulouse for a new adventure.

“To Eamonn [McManus], Mike [Rush] and the Club, thank you for the last two years at the Saints,” said Paulo.

“You have made me and my family feel like we are at home since we arrived.”

“My teammates have made turning up every day so much fun and it’s been a pleasure to play with them all.”

Joseph Paulo playing for the USA national side

Paulo also wished the club the best for the future and he thanked the fans for their support.

“I want to wish them all the best for the future,” continued Paulo.

“Also thank you to the fans.

“It would have been nice to say farewell to you in person and although my time was short, thank you to the Saints community for the wonderful memories.”

St Helens coach Kristian Woolf praised Paulo for his time at the club.

“We thank Joseph for his efforts over the last two years,” said Woolf.

“He has been a valued member of the squad, contributing on and off the field.

“We wish him well over in France.”

Joseph Paulo playing for Samoa

As he gets ready to make the move to Toulouse, Paulo was excited at the opportunity that lies ahead of him.

“I am really grateful to Sylvain Houles, President Sarrazain, and the TO XIII club for giving me this opportunity to join the club and take part in this special project.

“The XIII allows me to come full circle: I played in Toulouse in 2006 with the Australian Schoolboys then in 2013 with the USA and today, I will be able to say that Toulouse is my home.”

Paulo is also pleased to experience French culture and the French lifestyle, something he knows he and his family will enjoy.

“This story shows my age (laughs) but also that I have the chance to live this career which brings me back to the Pink City,” continued Paulo.

“My wife and daughters are thrilled to discover French culture and life, and it is something we will remember for a long time.”

Paulo will also link up with two players he knows well in Frank Winterstein and Harrison Hansen.

“I can’t wait to meet the team, I already had the chance to play with Winterstein and Harrison and I can’t wait to start working with the guys and start the new season. ”

Joseph Paulo in his playing days for the Parramatta Eels

Warriors strengthen 2021 backline with signing of Montoya

Newly signed New Zealand Warriors winger Marcelo Montoya

Adding to an already strong recruitment drive, the New Zealand Warriors have signed Marcelo Montoya for two seasons.

Still only 24, Montoya has previously played for the Canterbury Bulldogs and was in and out of their side in 2020.

The Fijian and Chilean international is a player that the Warriors are pleased to have signed.

“Marcelo is a big, fast, and powerful athlete who gives great depth to our outside backs,” said Vodafone Warriors recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan.

“He is a very good yardage player and is an accomplished try-scorer proven at NRL level.”

The Warriors also believed Montoya’s character is strong and that will play a part in his time at the club.

“Marcelo would be one of the most impressive players I’ve interviewed and brings a great training ethic,” continued O’Sullivan.

“We have a fantastic person joining our club.”

Montoya was named the Canterbury Bulldogs 2017 rookie of the year and coach Nathan Brown backs his new recruit to perform.

“Marcelo has the desire and ethic we are looking for at the Vodafone Warriors,” said Brown.

“He is keen to improve as a player and has the desire and ethic we are looking for at the Vodafone Warriors.

“Marcelo can play wing and centre equally as well and is great under the high ball.

“He will provide competition to the outside back positions in our squad and we believe we can help take his game to a new level as he gets a fresh start at our club.”

Marcelo Montoya in Fijian training gear

Eels add Roache, Oldfield and Hipgrave for 2021 and re-sign Smith.

Newly signed Parramatta Eels development player Nathaniel RoacheThe Parramatta Eels have filled in more roster spots, signing Keegan Hipgrave, Michael Oldfield, Nathaniel Roache and re-signing Will Smith.

Roache, who came from the New Zealand Warriors but has had injury troubles recently, will be on a development deal with the club.

Oldfield will provide the Eels with some much needed backline depth after the departure of George Jennings.

Newly signed Parramatta Eels utility back Michel Oldfield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most recently, Oldfield had played for the Canberra Raiders; prior to that, he had stints at Manly, South Sydney and the Sydney Roosters.

The third and final signing for the Eels is Keegan Hipgrave from the Gold Coast Titans.

A back-rower, Hipgrave has been with the Titans for several seasons and joins the Eels for two seasons.

The second season is an option in the club’s favour.

Beyond signings, the club also announced the re-signing of Will Smith for the 2021 season.

Smith has deputised in numerous positions for the Eels over the last few seasons, covering injuries.

We look forward to welcoming Michael and Keegan in the 2021 pre-season and having Will remain in the Blue and Gold, said Eels GM of Football, Mark O’Neill.

Parramatta Eels utility Will Smith

 

 

 

 

“We believe the combination of the new NRL rule changes, the Eels coaching capability and our club environment will bring the best out of these players.

“We are thankful of their decision to choose our club and are excited about working together upon their arrival.”

 

Bird returns to the Dragons where it all began

Newly signed St George Illawarra Dragons utility Jack Bird

The last eighteen months have been a tough ride for Jack Bird but he has signed a deal that will see him return to the St George Illawarra Dragons.

Most recently at the Brisbane Broncos, Bird was on track to start in the fullback role in 2020.

The pre-season knee injury robbed him of that chance and ruled him out for the season.

With all reports suggesting he is on good money and the Broncos rebuilding of sorts, the decision was made to cut Bird.

That decision prompted his move back to the Dragons, the club his career started at as a junior.

Despite his setbacks, Broncos CEO Paul White praised Bird for his resilence and professionalism.

“Jack is a really good young man who did an honourable job battling through injury when he first arrived with us, then played some fantastic footy in the first half of the 2019 season,” said White.

“He was then hit by a bad knee injury, and again worked incredibly hard to get back into great shape for the start of 2020 before going down with a season-ending injury on the eve of Round 1.”

White also wished Bird all the best moving forward.

“Through all of his misfortune, Jack has always continued to work hard with an aim of getting back to his best, and that should be commended,” continued White.

“The Broncos wish Jack all the best in the future.”

The Dragons are pleased to welcome their Berkeley Eagles junior back into the fold.

“It’s great to see Jack return to the Dragons with him being a local junior as well as his capabilities as a player,” General manager of football Ben Haran said.

“We wanted to ensure that Jack returning to the Dragons was right for us as a club, which is why we exercised due diligence around his well-documented injury troubles.”

As speculation continues over which position he would play, the Dragons are just pleased to have Bird back.

“Jack’s a real competitor with a winning attitude and is a player who attacks the game each and every time he plays,” continued Haren.

“We’re looking forward to seeing him bring that to the Dragons upon his return.”

Newly signed St George Illawarra Dragons utility Jack Bird

 

Roosters retain Friend, Josh Morris and Brett Morris for 2021

Sydney Roosters hooker and captain Jake Friend

Jake Friend, Josh Morris, and Brett Morris. Three veterans, all of whom have re-signed for 2021 at the Sydney Roosters. 

The most notable of the trio in terms of club affinity is Jake Friend.

Friend, who is co-captain of the side, has been a staple figure in the Roosters’ side for many years.

His new deal is one he pleased about, as he represents the only club he has ever known at the top level.

“I’m very proud to represent the Sydney Roosters,” Friend said.

“The Club and the people we have at the Roosters mean a lot to me and it’s exciting to know that I’ll continue to play my role here.”

Prolific try-scorer Brett Morris may have only been at the Roosters since 2019 but his electric form has seen him stay on for 2021.

Sydney Roosters winger Brett Morris

“From day one, I’ve loved every minute here at the Roosters,” said Brett Morris.

“The Club gave me a lifeline and it’s certainly been a very memorable couple of years here, so I’m really happy to re-commit for 2021.”

Not to be outdone, Josh Morris was also in fine form in 2020, despite he and his brother not getting any younger.

“Playing with my brother was a big draw for me, but since arriving at the Roosters, I’m enjoying being part of the Club,” said Josh.

“I still feel like there’s plenty I can contribute going forward, so I’m extremely pleased to be part of the squad here in 2021.”

Sydney Roosters centre Josh Morris

Jennings heads south to the Storm as Lee and Johns both re-sign

Newly signed Melbourne Storm winger George Jennings

The Melbourne Storm have moved quickly to shore up some additional spots for 2021, signing George Jennings and retaining Brenko Lee and Cooper Johns.

Jennings, who most recently played for Parramatta, found a resurgence in form in 2020 following a New Zealand Warriors stint.

His final NRL game for the Eels culminated in a two-try effort for the blue and gold in their finals loss to Souths.

With the likelihood of both Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr leaving, Jennings signing strengthens the Storm’s depleted wing stocks.

Jennings has a total of 15 tries from 35 games and has proven his worth as a first-grade winger.

Melbourne Storm centre Brenko Lee

Brenko Lee, who joined the Storm for 2020, has been a bit of a journeyman but seems to have found a home at the Storm.

His new deal for 2021 means he has another chance to hold down the centre spot and continue his good form.

Also re-signing is young halfback Cooper Johns, who got a taste of first-grade and is likely to have more in the near future.

Melbourne Storm half Cooper Johns

Undermanned Queesland side shocks New South Wales to win opening Origin game of 2020

Queensland Maroons back-rower Kurt Capewell

A shock. An upset. A boilover. Whatever you want to call it, the Queensland Maroons have upset the New South Wales Blues in game 1 of the 2020 Origin series.

Played in Adelaide, the Origin rivalry and game may not have been as fierce in the past given circumstances, but it still means so much to players.

Led by the masterful Wayne Bennett who answered an SOS call to coach the Maroons, a half-time team talk ultimately did the trick.

The Maroons went down 10-0 but even at that stage, Bennett says he was not worried.

“I wasn’t happy at 10-0 but I wasn’t worried,” Bennett said. “Ten-nil is always gettable, if they had gone to 16-0 or 20-0 that would have been worrying.

“I thought we won it in the first half actually because we hung in there and hung in there and we didn’t concede any soft tries. I thought that was important.”

Defence reigned supreme for the first quarter of the match before NSW struck first and opened the scoring.

Damien Cook grubbered ahead for himself and was able to regather and score after the ball ricocheted off a Queensland defender.

The two sides were not without injury concerns, however; Brenko Lee’s calf saw him ruled out in the warm-up.

There were also HIA concerns for NSW captain Boyd Cordner – who did return – and Cam Murray, who limped off with a hamstring injury.

The Blues would extend their lead when an overlap was created down the flank after good work from James Tedesco and Clint Gutherson.

Winger Josh Addo-Carr was there to finish off the play and the Blues went into the break up 10-0.

Kurt Capewell then caught fire for the Maroons and made the difference, as he broke the line and kicked ahead for AJ Brimson to score.

Just three minutes later, the Maroons would score yet again through debutant Xavier Coates.

Veteran Dane Gagai showed his silky skills, as he brushed off defenders, drew in Tedesco and found Coates for an easy try.

Cam Munster would get in on the scoring as he grubbered ahead and won the race to the ball ahead of Daniel Tupou.

The game would turn into a dogfight after that and the Blues refused to lie down.

Gutherson and Addo-Carr would combine a second time to narrow the deficit for the Blues.

For the last few minutes, they did have an extra man when Felise Kaufusi was sin-binned but it was not to be.

Bennett had praise for all his players who were able to follow his guidance and dig deep.

“I wasn’t worried about their self-belief, I just thought that they put a Maroon jersey on and they know the expectation that comes with it,” Bennett said.

“They trained excellently for 10 days and I didn’t think self-belief was going to be a problem.”

Blues coach Brad Fittler lamented his side’s inability to put the game away when they needed to.

“I thought we let it slip in the first half, we sucked absolutely no juice out of them,” Fittler said.

“It was three tries each and a couple of one-on-one misses that hurt us.

They’re State of Origin tries and take nothing away from Queensland. They played to the conditions perfectly.”

With much criticism levelled at the halves, Fittler believes the two were “good” and will bounce back in Sydney.

“I think the halves [Cleary and Luke Keary] are pretty disappointed with their first half. I thought [Cleary] was good, his defence was strong,” Fittler continued.

“It’s a good challenge for him, I’ll back him.

“I thought [Walker] was good, very dangerous. There were a few different options but when he came on I thought he gave us every chance to win the game.”

NRL News Player of the Game

3. Kurt Capewell (QLD)

2. Cameron Munster (QLD)

  1. Josh Addo-Carr (NSW)
Queensland Maroons five-eighth Cameron Munster

 

Warriors retain electric fullback with French to stay

Wigan Warriors fullback Bevan French

In the end, it was all manager speak, as Bevan French has opted to remain with the Wigan Warriors. 

The English powerhouse has seen the absolute best of French and the club moved quickly to lock down his services for 2021.

The deal also has an option for the 2022 season.

In 26 games since the back end of last season for Wigan, French has 22 tries, a phenomenal try-scoring rate.

The club were not about to hide their excitement when it came to retaining a live-wire attacking player like French.

“This is a very important signing for the Club. At a time when the country needs good news, this should make everyone smile, not just Wigan fans,” said club Executive Director, Kris Radlinski.

“It is really sad that Bevan is producing moments of magic in front of empty stadiums.

“Bevan is a box office and people like him need to be seen live to be appreciated.”

Radlinski also backs French to get even better.

He is everything that the English Super League should be about. Young, exciting, articulate, and the good news is that he is going to get better and better,” continued Radlinski.

“We need to thank our owner Ian Lenagan for making this bold statement in challenging times.

“This is for the fans of Wigan to thank you for your continued love and support.”

For French, it was a chance to continue to play for a team that has become his home away from home.

“I’m very happy to be here,” said French.

“Ever since I arrived, people in the Club, teammates, and all the Wigan community have been really welcoming and I wanted to be able to spend the next year or two years here.

“It’s such a relief. It feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders now and I can really focus on the back end of the year.

With the players and coaches around him and Wigan’s consistency as a team, the decision was made easier for French.

“Making my decision has been easier thinking about the pros at Wigan,” continued French.

“We’ve got great coaching staff here and a great bunch of players. It’s an honour to play with some of the players in this team.”

Over in England on his own, French knows his family are watching him closely and he wants to win some silverware for them.

“Being over here by myself you would say has been tough, but you learn a lot about yourself and tend to grow as a person and hopefully I can continue to do that,” said French.

“My family in Australia try to watch every game and the main thing they tend to enjoy watching is seeing me with a smile on my face – that’s a big message from my mum, who thinks I look happy here.

“I’ve still got a lot more to achieve and I want them to see me win some silverware this year and hopefully some more next year.”

Bevan French during his time at the Parramatta Eels

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