Why Michael Maguire is, and should be, the coach Wests Tigers want

New Zealand Kiwis coach Michael Maguire

The Wests Tigers head coaching drama (the current epic anyway) has been ongoing for several weeks ever since current coach Ivan Cleary was asked to return to the Penrith Panthers.

Cleary did deny he was leaving, albeit a few days after it dominated headlines, news stories and social media chat.

He said he was concentrating on getting the Wests Tigers into the 2018 semi finals.

Now, the playoff dream failed. The NRL season is finished.

Week by week, more and more Wests Tigers fans have been coming to terms with the fact that the man who famously stated the line “you’re either on the bus, or off it” when talking about former player Mitchell Moses wanting to sign with Parramatta, would he himself ‘get off the bus’ before his contract permitted him to.

Fans are fearing that without the bus driver, the wheels won’t turn. More and more fans and now board members are coming to the reality that Ivan wants to join his son Nathan.

Just last week, news outlets were running with that it was fact that Wayne Bennett was to hop on the coaching merry-go-round and arriving in Concord allowing Ivan would be released back to Gus’s kingdom up the M4.

But now, NRL News has learned the Wests Tigers board aren’t keen on bringing Mr Bennett from the Broncos. As much as the Broncos would love to wrap him in a bow and send him south of the border with a “thank you” card taped to it, Wests Tigers want former South Sydney Rabbitohs and premiership winning coach, Michael Maguire.

As a long (suffering) time Wests Tigers member myself, I have faith in chair Marina Go and the rest of the board to make the right call.

If they can recruit Maguire, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Madge could well be what the board and us fans expected from Ivan. And then-some. Here’s why:

  • Maguire is available. The Wests Tigers wouldn’t try and “poach” a coach under contract from another club like some other franchises do/can. Even if they possessed the audacity, financial status and media power to be able to.
  • He has runs on the board.
  • Maguire took the helm at South Sydney and literally took them from the bottom to the top. Despite being let go from Redfern in 2017, you can’t dispute that what he did with that club in taking them to their first premiership broadcast on colour television.
  • He was known amongst the players as a strict, but likeable coach and his discipline when it came to fitness and attitude was Craig Bellamy like.
  • Who he just happened to assist at the Storm during their “golden” era the record books no longer show. Bookkeeping aside, four years as an apprentice to Bellyache can’t hurt. Oh and for the record, there are no premiership rings on Ivan Cleary’s fingers.
  • The Kiwi connection. This was one of the reasons Ivan gave much hope to Wests Tigers faithful, he was the Kiwi whisperer and led to marquee signings Ben Matulino and Russell Packer as well as the return of club legend Benji Marshall.
  • Maguire’s coaching job at the moment just happens to be the head coach of the New Zealand international team.
  • Player relationships are incredibly important, especially for a club in Wests Tigers who normally has to pay overs to recruit elite talent.
  • Beyond those with New Zealand passports, Maguire’s years of experience at other clubs is also an advantage when it comes to signing free agents.
  • For example, Origin hooker Damien Cook happens to be a free agent in 2020. Which happens to be Robbie Farah’s first year of enjoying retirement as well. Wests Tigers fans can only dream (most of the time that is literally true).
  • Youth. 44 is still young for a coach. Heck, he’s 24 years younger than Bennett. While the experience of Wayne is priceless and yes he may have a few kilometres left to rack up on the odometer yet.
  • Maguire can be the Wests Tigers’ next Tim Sheens. They don’t need someone to come in to live out of a suitcase for a couple of years and then fly off into the sunset. They need someone to take the keys to the franchise and have complete control of everything football and to look forward years ahead.
  • Ivan Cleary was given this privilege. Luckily, Maguire won’t have to turn the place and the roster completely upside down like Ivan had to. The hard yards have been done.
  • He’ll want the job. Maguire this week turned down the head coaching job at Manly. Can you blame him? The Sea Eagles are almost like looking at the the Tigers four or five years ago when they had little money, disgruntled players, poor management and flirted with the wooden spoon.
  • In 2018, Wests surprised everyone by winning 50% of their games and knocked off the Storm twice and other top 8 sides along the way.
  • Sprinkle a bit of discipline and a star player here or there, Wests Tigers can break their seven season finals drought with one good off season.
  • With players such as Esan Marsters, Moses Mbye, Luke Brooks and Ryan Matterson about to enter the peak of their careers over the coming seasons, a good smart rugby league coach can see them reach their peak.
  • While at the time of writing pen hadn’t been put to paper, Michael Maguire and the Wests Tigers is a match made in heaven and very likely to happen.
  • We’re ready to let Ivan take his bus out west. Mr Maguire, please take your seat of the Concorde of Concord. It’s cleared for take off.

Macdonald heads closer to home with move to the Cowboys

St George Illawarra Dragons winger Nene Macdonald

Nene Macdonald’s time at the St George Illawarra Dragons will come to an end, with the hulking winger signing with the North Queensland Cowboys.

McDonald was released by the Dragons from the final year of his contract on compassionate grounds.

Since joining at the start of the 2017 season, McDonald played in 46 games for the Red V and they wished him well.

“Nene has been an important player over the last two seasons at our club,” said Dragons Director of Rugby League Pathways Ian Millward.

“Although he has one year left on his contract, his management and himself approached the club on compassionate reasons for a release.”

“We thought it was in the best interests welfare-wise for Nene to grant him the release, so unfortunately he won’t be with us in 2019.”

Although they have lost McDonald, the Dragons have signed wingers Mikaele Ravalawa and Jonus Pearson.

The move back to the NQ region puts McDonald closer to home with his Papua New Guinean roots.

“He’s a North Queensland kid and we like North Queenslanders representing this region,” said North Queensland Cowboys coach Paul Green.

“Nene is going to offer plenty of depth to our backline and had a fantastic year for the Dragons.

“I know him on a personal level after coaching him in the under 20s at the Roosters and am confident he will be a good cultural fit for our club as well.”

Looking for a big winger to replace the retired Antonio Winterstein, Cowboys Director of Football Peter Parr believes the club has found their man.

“He’s a very talented athlete and with the retirement of Antonio Winterstein we were keen to add to our outside backs and in particular the wing position,” Parr said.

“Nene fits the criteria we were looking for and he indicated to us that he had a desire to return home to North Queensland.

“So, we made some inquiries with the Dragons and they have been very cooperative in helping us bring him back to North Queensland.”

From the Cheap Seats – The Sydney Roosters and the reasons for their success

Sydney Roosters fullback James Tedesco

Congratulations to the 2018 NRL Premiership winners, the Sydney Roosters!
Jeez, as a Tigers fanatic, that was hard to write!

From the cheap seats, I hear all sorts of rumour, innuendo and theories about the Roosters their salary sombrero and Uncle Nick.

For all the hate, innuendo and accusations, the Roosters won because they were the best team. Coached brilliantly by Trent Robinson and his staff.

It is easy to accuse them of cheating the salary cap. I understand the frustration.

However, what ever the Roosters are doing with the management of their squad, they are doing a great job compliant to the rules and are obviously better at list management than all other clubs.

The NRL are extremely thorough in their auditing of all clubs including the Roosters.

After Melbourne were stripped of their premierships and Canterbury were stripped of all points for seasons past for breaking salary cap rules, all clubs know the punishment for any wrongdoing.

I admit, I look at the strength of the Roosters roster and wonder how they fit all players under the cap.

Their team reminds me of the amazing teams of the Brisbane Broncos and Canberra Raiders of the early 90’s full of Test and Origin players.

“The Roosters cheat the Salary Cap because Ian Schubert, an ex Rooster, is the head auditor of the Salary Cap for the NRL. ”

That is something I hear often. Ian Schubert is not an NRL salary cap auditor. He hasn’t been for many years.

The punishment is far too harsh to intentionally break salary cap rules.

Not only are the players penalised or stripped of their achievements, but the fans feel the pain more.

Clubs also lose as it tarnishes their brand and potentially reduces revenue.

If any team has the capability of going back to back, it is this Roosters Team. They have bought well for next season to improve on their perfection.

Angus Crichton, Brett Morris, Ryan Hall will all join the club in 2019.

“Hang on! How do they fit them in under the cap?” I hear many fans shout in frustration! “What a joke! They must be cheating the salary cap.”

Many fans are unaware that a player can earn money outside of the salary cap through third party agreements.

Teams like the Roosters, Brisbane and Melbourne easily attract third party sponsors due to the clubs brand and corporate connections.

Third party agreements are met with skepticism from opposing fans.

Most get a vision of a brown paper bag full of cash. Truth is, they have to be approved by the NRL before a contract can be ratified.

Players should be able to earn as much as they can. They only have a short playing life which could end at anytime.

Third party agreements enable players to earn their market value and for clubs to obtain good players over the preference of other clubs.

“So, how do we assure fans, players, clubs and officials that clubs are adhering to the Salary Cap? ”

Transparency! The NRL should release all club players salary and third party deals. This is something they can adopt from most American sports.

In American sports, players contract money is made public.

I understand this is invading the players privacy but I feel it is necessary for many reasons.

The first and most importantly to alleviate any suspicions from fans.

If the contracts of the Roosters roster were to be made public, the fans and officials would be able to see the team financials to understand and appreciate rather than accuse and be disrespectful of the teams achievements.

On the other hand, fans and officials would be able to see contract money for a player they feel is suspiciously under valued.

Particularly officials of other teams who offered far more than what the player has settled for at another club. This would act as a deterrent for any club attempting to break the rules.

“If the Roosters can obtain better third party deals than other clubs, is the salary cap equal for all? ”

All clubs have the ability to obtain sponsors. It is up to the clubs to build its brand so external sponsors want to invest in them.

Players themselves need to be accountable if they want to earn top dollar. They also need to understand their contract.

Too often, I hear players state they are not aware of the details of their contract.

“My manager deals with that” can not be an excuse.

A player should be aware of what their entitlements are and what aren’t.

If players and player managers were to be individually harshly penalised for receiving goods or cash outside of their contract this would also act as a deterrent.

It would also be a tax declaration issue and potential crime.

Recent Mad Monday exploits and bad publicity will not help clubs to maintain existing sponsorship and attract potential sponsors.

Every bad action off and on the field has a bearing on all clubs. Australia has so many sports for Sponsors to choose from.

From the view from the cheap seats, my opinion is that the Roosters should be congratulated on a great season and are deserved premiership winners for 2018.

Let me know your thoughts. Be respectful to all. Go the Tigers!!!

Pete Williams

Storm look to the future with retention of five players

Melbourne Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona

Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jahrome Hughes, Kayleb Milne, Scott Drinkwater and Justin Olam have all re-signed for the Melbourne Storm, who have moved quickly to secure talent for the future.

Although Asofa-Solomona still had a further year to run on his existing deal, a new four-year extension will see him stay in purple until 2023.

Enjoying one of his best seasons to date in 2018, the man nicknamed NAS impressed many and backed it up with career best stats across numerous categories.

“We are proud of how far Nelson has come as a player and as a person over the last 18 months,” said the Storm’s General Manager of Football Frank Ponissi.

“What he can achieve over the next five years in the purple jersey is incredibly exciting.

“We have no doubt he will continue to work hard to ensure he makes the most of his exciting potential.”

Also re-signing is Jahrome Hughes, whose utility value has been handy when deputising at both fullback and in the halves in 2018.

“Jahrome took his NRL opportunity with both hands in 2018 which should give him a great deal of confidence heading into next year and we are excited to see him push for a regular spot in the 17,” continued Ponissi.

Melbourne Storm utility back Jahrome Hughes

Scott Drinkwater and Justin Olam have both signed new 2-year deals, and both were praised by Ponissi.

“The same goes for Scott and Justin who, while being limited with their NRL chance this year, showed terrific signs at feeder level which makes us excited with what they can both achieve at this Club over the next two years,” said the Storm GM of Football.

The club also retained Milne until the end of 2020, yet another player they value highly.

“Kayleb is also a player we see as part of the future of Melbourne Storm who is working hard to take the next step in his development,” said Ponissi.

Melbourne Storm centre Justin Olam

Hastings to remain with Salford for a further year

Salford Red Devils utility Jackson Hastings

After impressing the club and its fans, Jackson Hastings has opted for a further year with Super League side, the Salford Red Devils.

Arriving in July, his solid performances helped Salford finish first in the qualifiers and the club wanted to see more over a full season.

The decision was an easy one for Hastings, who lauded the fans and the club for how they have welcomed him.

“In the end, it was a pretty easy decision to be honest,” said Hastings.

“When I laid in bed at night weighing up my options, I really couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else over here.

“The amount of support the Club gave me through a tough time in my life, the love that I’ve got from the fans.”

Hastings also praised his team-mates who embraced his arrival.

“The respect I’ve got from the playing group is something that if I’d walked away from it I know I wouldn’t have been happy with,” the utility continued.

“I’m happy with my decision and hopefully we can kick on and have a good season next year.”

Just as pleased are the club, who know how valuable the former NRL player is to the club and their ambitions.

“Signing Jackson for the 2019 season is a great piece of business by the Club and a great piece of business for Super League as a whole,” said Salford head coach Ian Watson.

“His energy and enthusiasm around the Club and the boys is infectious and you can see in the games he’s played how it lifts people around him.”

Fitting in well with team dynamics, Watson continued to praise Hastings for his approach to the team and their play.

“We have always had effort and commitment from our team but Jackson has lifted the pressure and allowed others to just play and enjoy the game,” continued the Salford coach.

“Jackson wants to lead a team and be the dominant half and that fits perfectly within our team dynamics.

“I hope Jackson can continue to enjoy his football and show everyone over the next twelve months how good a signing he is.”

Luke to remain in New Zealand after new 1-year deal with Warriors

New Zealand Warriors hooker Issac Luke

Slated to leave at one point, Issac Luke will instead remain across the ditch, re-signing with the New Zealand Warriors.

The 31-year-old’s new deal is for just 1 year but Luke is just pleased to have something sorted.

“It’s good to have the contract all sorted out,” said Luke.

“We always wanted to stay in New Zealand, my wife and the kids.

“I’m really happy here at the club and I’m pleased I have another season with the boys.”

The club were always keen on retaining the crafty hooker, who has played 66 games for the club and 250 overall.

“We wanted Issac to stay,” said Warriors coach Stephen Kearney.

“It was just a matter of sorting out the details.

“Now we look forward to him making a big contribution to the side next season.”

Coote makes the move to England signing with St Helens

North Queensland Cowboys Lachlan Coote

In what has essentially been a trade, Lachlan Coote will join St Helens after Ben Barba joined the North Queensland Cowboys. 

Signing a 3-year deal with the English club, Coote says he and his family are excited with the opportunity.

“My family and I are really excited to be moving to England,” Lachlan said. “

It is a great opportunity to play for such a proud and successful club and I’m really looking forward to settling in and kicking off the 2019 season.”

With 166 NRL games to his name for the Penrith Panthers and Cowboys, Coote brings experience and versatility to the Saints side.

The club are pleased to have the Scottish international on board for three years.

“I’m really excited to have such a quality player coming to our club,” Saints Head Coach Justin Holbrook said.

“He is an exciting player with a good kicking game and vision.

“He will suit our club perfectly.”

Jazz Tevaga turns down rival clubs to re-sign with the New Zealand Warriors

New Zealand Warriors utility Jazz Tevaga

Fresh off winning the Dally M Interchange Player of the Year, Jazz Tevaga has now re-signed with the New Zealand Warriors.

The new 1-year deal with an option for a second caps off a great week for Tevaga and the Warriors, who also re-signed Bunty Afoa.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney is pleased with his development and how far Tevaga has come in 2018.

“We’ve been really pleased with the way Jazz has developed his game this year and were thrilled when he won the Dally M interchange award this week,” said Kearney.

“He was important to our success, the way he came off the bench to bring energy and toughness playing big minutes.”

In the end, the progress the club has made and his love for them, was enough for Tevaga to stay.

“There were other offers but I love it here and always wanted to stay,” said Tevaga.

“We made progress this year. We have something to build on and I want to be part of our success next year and after that.”


Afoa extends Warriors stay

New Zealand Warriors forward Bunty Afoa

With a spot now open and a chance to make it his own, Bunty Afoa has today re-signed with the New Zealand Warriors.

Afoa’s new deal will run until the end of the 2021 season, as Warriors coach Stephen Kearney praises the young forward.

“Bunty has been terrific for us, even more so when you consider he was only 21 for almost the entire season,” he said.

“What he gives us is real consistency in effort and performance which makes him one of the most impressive young forwards in the game.

“He also brings a wonderful attitude in all he does as well and will improve even more.”

Afoa, who can play both as a front or back-rower, is just pleased to be playing as often as he is.

“I love being part of this club and I’ve really enjoyed my football this year having the chance to play in the middle,” he said.

“I felt a lot more comfortable about my role whether it was coming off the bench or starting but I’ve got a lot more to learn and I want to do all I can to help the team do better next year.

“I feel blessed with the coaching staff and players I have around me to guide me.”

Starting seven games in 2018, that number could increase as the club gave Afoa nothing but praise.

“Bunty is another terrific young player who has come through our nursery,” Vodafone Warriors General Manager of Football Brian Smith said.

“What he has done in such a short time in the NRL is inspirational, a fine example for all young kids in this country who have dreams of making it.

“He’s a pleasure to have at our club in the way he conducts himself as a footballer and in the community.

2019 NRL Trials

Season 2018 may still have a grand final to go but trial news for 2019 has already filtered in. 

We have you covered here; every NRL trial announced over the coming months in the lead-up to the 2019 season will be written by date.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the wave of emotion, as you find out where your team is set to play in the 2019 trials.

And, as more trials are slowly confirmed, we will be sure to add them all in.

Friday February 15

Parramatta Eels v Canberra Raiders (#NRLparcan); St Marys League Stadium. Kick-off: 5:30 pm.

Friday February 22

Melbourne Storm v New Zealand Warriors (#NRLTrials #NRLmelwar); Kardinia Park, Geelong. Kick-off: TBA.

Saturday February 23

Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs (#NRLTrials #NRLcancby); Bega Recreation Ground, Bega. Kick-off: TBA.

Manly Sea Eagles v Cronulla Sharks (#NRLTrials #NRLmancro); Lottoland, Manly. Kick-off: 7:30 pm.

Canterbury Bulldogs v Wests Tigers (#NRLTrials #NRLcbywst); Belmore Sports Ground. Kick-off: TBA.

Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs (#NRLpensyd #NRLTrials); Panthers Stadium, Penrith. Kick-off: TBA.

Brisbane Broncos v PNG Hunters (#NRLbripng #NRLTrials); Oil Search Stadium, Port Moresby.

Melbourne Storm v New Zealand Warriors (#NRLTrials #NRLmelnew). Kick–off: TBA.

Saturday March 2

Penrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels (#NRLTrials #NRLpennpar); Panthers Stadium, Penrith. Kick-off: TBA.

Manly Sea Eagles v Sydney Roosters (#NRL Trials #NRLmansyd); Central Coast Stadium, Gosford. Kick-off: 7pm.

Newcastle Knights v Cronulla Sharks (#NRLTrials #NRLnewcro); Maitland Sports Ground.Kick-off: 7pm.

New Zealand Warriors v Wests Tigers (#NRLTrials #NRLnewwst);  Northland Events Centre, Whangarei. Kick-off: 5pm (local time) & 7pm (AEST).

Gold Coast Titans v Brisbane Broncos (#NRLTrials #NRLgldbri); Cbus Super Stadium, Robina. Kick-off: 6:30pm.

Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys (#NRLTrials #NRLmelnql); AAMI Park, Melbourne. Kick-off: TBA.

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