Barnett’s work ethic pays off with Knights extension

Newcastle Knights back-rower Mitch Barnett

An unheralded player in the Newcastle Knights side, Mitch Barnett has signed a new three year deal with the club. 

Already contracted for 2020, Barnett’s deal runs until the 2023 season.

New Knights coach Adam O’Brien says Barnett is exactly the sort of player the club needs in their ranks.

“Mitch represents the Club in every aspect of the way we want to play. He’s tough, reliable and represents the region with pride,” O’Brien said.

“He’s a good example to our younger players for how to live like a Knight. He trains the way he plays.

“He adds aggression to our middle but is exceptional in his role on an edge as well.”

2019 was a breakout year for Barnett, who established himself as an edge threat for the Knights.

With 77 NRL games to his name so far, Barnett did not hide his passion for the Knights.

“It’s no secret that I’m passionate about this Club,” Barnett said.

“I love the town, my teammates and the passionate supporters.

“To have my future sorted for at least another three years is something I’m proud of.

“I have plenty of things I want to achieve in the game and I believe that with hard work, I’ll get to where I want to be and where the Club deserves to be.”

Taupau inks new extension with Manly

Manly Sea Eagles prop Martin Taupau

An enforcer of the Manly Sea Eagles forward pack, the re-signing of Martin Taupau is a boost for the club ahead of 2020. 

Forming a strong 1-2 punch with Addin Fonua-Blake, the two have propelled Manly’s go-forward to elite levels.

Off-contract at season’s end, Taupau’s new deal with the Sea Eagles runs until the end of 2022.

The move to stay was one that Taupau knew was right for he and his family.

“It’s a very exciting day for myself, my family and my club,” Taupau said.

“This club means a lot to me, and it’s given me a lot of opportunities the last couple of years.

“There’s also an opportunity to build a great team and a great club.”

The Sea Eagles are no pushovers on the field and Taupau believes the club has something special.

“There’s a special feeling; we all felt it as a team, driving us to the finals in 2019,” Taupau continued.

“The way that all the boys have come back into pre-season and that we’ve kept the majority of our players, is something special.”

Lamb excited to join Eels on two-year deal

Newly signed Parramatta Eels half Brock Lamb

A chance to start afresh, Brock Lamb says he is excited following his move to the Parramatta Eels. 

Lamb will join the Eels on two-year deal, having previously played for both the Newcastle Knights and Sydney Roosters.

A natural half, Lamb will join the Eels development six for 2020 before becoming a top 30 player in 2021.

Eels General Manager of Football Mark O’Neill knows the signing of Lamb will add further depth and competition to the halves.

“Brock provides depth to an already talented roster and will ensure competition for spots in our halves remain high,” O’Neill said.

Following his return from Super League, we’ve provided Brock with an opportunity to re-ignite his NRL career.

“We are grateful he has agreed to be part of the Eels for the coming two seasons.”

Most recently, Lamb played for the London Broncos in the Super League and looks forward to donning Eels colours.

“Yeah, it’s very good, very excited to be here,” said Lamb.

“Hopefully we do some good things here.”

For Lamb, it was the opportunity to play, challenge the current halves and make a name for himself.

“Just the opportunity,” said Lamb when asked why he chose the Eels.

“BA [Brad Arthur] spoke to me and said you can come down for two years and I jumped at it.

“Just got in the car and drove down straight away.”

Veteran Eels centre Jennings signs on for two more years

Veteran Parramatta Eels centre Michael Jennings

Bursting back to form in 2019, the Parramatta Eels fans faithful will be pleased with the re-signing of Michael Jennings.

Heavily maligned and criticised after a poor 2018 campaign, Jennings’ form was a key part of the Eels push towards week 2 of the finals in 2019.

With Maika Sivo also signed on, he and Jennings will be able to renew their partnership that had Eels fans excited.

“Securing Michael is an important component to our roster management going forward,” Parramatta Eels Club General Manager of Football Mark O’Neill said.

“His skill and experience really contributed to our much improved performance in 2019.

“He will add enormous value in the future as we strive for premiership success considering he knows what it takes to perform on the highest stage.”

St George Illawarra Dragons rejoice as Zac Lomax is given new long-term deal

St George Illawarra Dragons utility back Zac Lomax

Worried at one point that he may leave, Zac Lomax will now be a St George Illawarra Dragons player long-term.

Lomax’s new contract will see the talented utility back remain in the Red V until the end of the 2025 season.

The new contract is a five-year one, with Lomax having already been contracted for the 2020 season.

A Temora Dragons junior, Lomax has been a part of the Red V since he was 13 and has come through the club pathways.

With the decision made, Dragons fans and Lomax himself can rest easy, with the talent pleased to have made a call.

“Being able to go back to Temora at Christmas knowing that my future is settled and that I’m definitely going to be a Dragon for a while yet is very exciting,” Lomax said.

“My family and I are very happy with the decision that’s been made.

With a move to fullback on the cards in 2020, Lomax is excited at the challenge that lies ahead.

“With 2020, I’ve attacked every session possible and soaked up as much information as I can when it comes to playing fullback,” Lomax continued.

“I realise I still have a lot to learn but it’s a challenge I’m really looking forward to.”

Although numerous clubs came knocking, the Dragons know how crucial it was they retain Lomax.

“There was a lot of speculation over Zac with numerous clubs in for him and we respected the process he and his management went through,” Director of Rugby League Pathways and List Management Ian Millward said.

“One thing that hit home over the past couple of weeks was that he wanted to be a Dragon and wanted to stay at the Dragons.

“To have him recommit long term is a no-brainer.

“Our aim now, and Zac’s, is to have him wear the Red V for the rest of his career – he wants to be a one-club player.”

Sailor keeps the name associated with Dragons after new deal

St George Illawarra Dragons utility back Tristan Sailor

The son of Wendell Sailor but forming his own identity, Tristan Sailor is an exciting player and has re-signed with the St George Illawarra Dragons for 2020.

Coming through the Dragons pathway system, his first-grade debut was a matter of time and it came in round 23 of last season.

Playing at both fullback and wing, the two-time Queensland U20’s representative impressed fans with his speed and vision.

“It means a whole lot to remain a Dragon after coming through the Dragons’ junior system here,” Sailor said.

“Being able to debut last year and continue my journey is great especially since I live local and attend the University of Wollongong.

“I’ve been able to show I’m capable of playing a number of positions now, having also experienced different positions in the NRL.

“So I’m looking forward to continuing that through to 2020.”

The Dragons hope the new deal is just the beginning of a long term tenure for Sailor at the Dragons.

“We’re extremely excited about Tristan re-signing for a further 12 months following his advancement last year,” Director of Rugby League Pathways and List Management Ian Millward said.

“It was exciting to see his physical and mental development on and off the field.

“The coaching staff have a very high opinion of Tristan as does everyone else in the organisation.

“He’s heading in the right direction, and with the experiences of last year we’re expecting him to be a vital member of our squad in 2020.”

Eels young bopper Kaufusi signs extended and upgraded deal with club

Parramatta Eels prop Oregon Kaufusi

On the cusp of first-grade, Oregon Kaufusi is a player the Parramatta Eels back to play first-grade. 

So much so, Kaufusi has had his contract upgraded and extended until the end of the 2022 season.

Coming through the club ranks from the very beginning, Kaufusi is a player the club backs to perform.

“Oregon is another important signing for us, he’s a very talented player and an exceptional young man with great character,” Parramatta Eels General Manager of Football, Mark O’Neill said.

“He’s come through our elite pathways system and it’s wonderful to see so many of our juniors finding their feet in the NRL.”

With the young bopper set to learn alongside the likes of Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard, his future is now sorted and set.

“He is having a strong off-season, and will continue to develop alongside the likes of experienced teammates Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell Gillard,” O’Neill continued.

The club means a lot to Kaufusi and he is excited to have the chance to stick around and prove himself.

“Very excited to be at the club that I grew up with a bit longer,” Kaufusi said.

“I grew up as a junior, I love the club, they’ve developed me, so I think it was right to stay with them.”

Parramatta Eels keep their man as Dylan Brown re-signs

Parramatta Eels halfback Dylan Brown

One of the best young halves they have ever produced, Dylan Brown will remain with the Parramatta Eels after re-signing at the club.

Brown’s three-year deal is a blessing for Eels fans, who waited hand on foot for an announcement amidst countless rumours.

Joining the club as a 16-year old and coming through the club’s elite pathways program, Brown has proven he belongs in the NRL.

Making his debut in round 1 last season, he slowly began to find his feet and was a driving force behind the club’s finals appearance.

It was crucial for the club to retain and knowing full well he is their future, they are pleased to have him tied down.

“The signing of Dylan Brown aligns with our development club philosophy and we’re extremely proud of the person and player he has become today,” Mark O’Neill, Parramatta Eels Club General Manager of Football.

“We’re excited about the future ahead for our Members and fans.”

 

Union beckons for Storm winger Vunivalu from 2021

Departing Melbourne Storm winger Suliasi Vunivalu

Following in the footsteps of Marika Koroibete, fellow Fijian Suliasi Vunivalu will depart the Melbourne Storm to take up a rugby union deal.

Vunivalu will see out 2020, the final year of his Melbourne Storm contract, before moving onto a two-year deal with the Queensland Reds.

In a bid to end speculation surrounding his future, the club felt it best to release a statement and confirm the news.

“Suli has received an offer from rugby union which we couldn’t compete with financially,” Melbourne Storm CEO Dave Donaghy said.

“It’s always disappointing to lose quality players but we understand Suli’s decision.”

Although his exploits and try-scoring feats will be missed, the club know he will be committed to his role in 2020.

“Importantly, he has expressed his total commitment to Storm for the next 12 months and we expect he will again play a key role in our 2020 campaign,” Donaghy continued.

“We have had experience in the past with players signing deals for the future but remaining with Storm to see out their current contracts.”

Taking a chance on a young Fijian prodigy with a union background, the Storm converted Vunivalu into an elite winger.

Although he is sad to leave, he has a family to look after and based his decision around them.

“The Storm has been wonderful to me, and I’m continuing to make great memories here,” Vunivalu said.

“However, the offer from rugby union was too good for me to refuse, especially considering I have a young family who I want to do the best for.”

His strong Union background made the decision easier and he Vunivalu could not bring himself to play against his Storm teammates.

“I was a rugby union player before switching to league and always thought going back to rugby was an option for my career and I never wanted to play for another NRL club,” Vunivalu continued.

“I’d hate to have to go up against Storm and my mates.

“Now this decision is public, I’m concentrating 100% on my final year in Melbourne and looking forward to doing the best I can for the boys, the coaches and all our members and fans.”

Merrin leaves England to make surprise return to Dragons

Returning St George Illawarra Dragons forward Trent Merrin

It may not be the signing the St George Illawarra Dragons faithful want, but former forward Trent Merrin will return to the club.

With 133 NRL games to his name for the club and a 2010 premiership to boot, the Red V is no stranger to Merrin.

With fellow forward Luciano Leilua granted a release, it freed up a top 30 spot to sign the returning Merrin.

“Trent could’ve jumped like a kangaroo all the way back to Australia he’s that excited to come back to the Dragons,” Director of Rugby League Pathways and List Management Ian Millward said.

“Trent has indicated to the club several times over the past 12 months that he’d love to come home; an opportunity for this has since come up after the club granted Luciano his requested release.”

As they look to improve on a rather poor season, the pressure is on players and coach alike, even if Merrin will provide some extra punch.

“Trent brings plenty of experience to the Dragons’ forward pack and is someone who is really passionate and can’t wait to put the Red V back on,” Millward continued.

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