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Around the grounds: NRL clubs rally for Tonga, Pritchard on the mend, Taupau slams death rumour

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Expert
20th January, 2022
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The rugby league community always comes together when one of their own needs help. Many are now doing their part to help those affected by the devastating Tongan volcano eruption that took place in mid-January.

The Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors have joined forces, deciding to turn their February 19th trial match at Casey Fields into a fundraiser to help the victims.

Both teams have players with Tongan backgrounds, including Felise Kaufusi, Addin Fonua-Blake, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

“Tongans have a proud history in rugby league and with Storm,” Storm CEO Justin Rodski said.

“We are honoured to be able to join with our friends at the Warriors for this special ‘Unite for Tonga’ match to do what we can to help in this time of need.

“We hope the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors fans can dig deep to support the initiatives we have in place and that life in Tonga can return to normal as quickly as possible.”

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When fans purchase their tickets for the game, they will also be able to donate online. Additionally, there will be opportunities to donate on the day.

Brisbane Broncos players Kotoni Staggs, Tesi Niu and Delouise Hoeter – all who have family and friends back in Tonga – will be auctioning off the boots and jerseys they wear in the Broncos Round 1 match.

All money raised will be going towards the worthy cause.

Felise Kaufusi is tackled.

Felise Kaufusi is tackled during the round 14 2021 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Melbourne Storm. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

The South Sydney Rabbitohs have also announced they will be organising a fundraiser at their first home game in Round 3.

All Stars matches in jeopardy as COVID cases rise
There is a big chance that the NRL and the NRLW’s Indigenous v Maori All Stars matches will be cancelled due to growing concerns around the spread of COVID-19.

With both games booked in for February 12, too many questions and a lack of communication around COVID protocols are stressing out club bosses.

There has already been so much disruption to the pre-season, NRL clubs are worried about having their players join the week-long camp for the match and are asking for clarification.

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“We appreciate the game and what it represents, but it’s not ideal under the circumstances because of everything that is going on everywhere,” one club boss, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Sydney Morning Herald this week.

“There has been so much disruption already, and I’m talking about every club, not just ours.”

Another boss added: “We’re just after some detail. There’s been none.

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“Ordinarily we wouldn’t be worried about getting details early because we know what the game is about, but given the circumstances we find ourselves in, that detail suddenly becomes more important.”

Club bosses have reportedly discussed their concerns during a phone hook-up with the NRL on Thursday.

On a much happier note, Frank Pritchard has been released from hospital this week, after being admitted late last year with complications from the virus.

The former Bulldogs hard man was placed in a coma and spent four weeks in the ICU.

Frank Pritchard

Frank Pritchard of the Bulldogs. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Pritchard took to Instagram this week to update his fans.

“Thank you everyone for your love and support over the last month. I’m on the mend and doing good, I’m able to do my rehab and recovery at home,” he wrote.

“God bless you all, much love, Frankie.”

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All the best Frank; we wish you a speedy recovery.

Knight turns Tiger on two-year deal
The Wests Tigers have secured the services of Knights winger Starford To’a for the next two seasons, effective immediately.

“Starford is a talented player with NRL experience, and I’m really pleased to welcome him to our team,” coach Michael Maguire told Tigers Media following the signing.

“Starford will be a great addition to the talented young squad that we’re building.”

To’a arrived at the club this week, and has begun training with his new teammates.

Also in Tiger Town, Adam Doueihi has started light training this week, after injuring his knee late last year in a loss to the Sharks.

Douehi posted a photo of himself this week on Instagram, looking very pleased to be back.

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The five-eighth underwent an ACL reconstruction back in September and will hopefully return to the field during the middle of the season.

Taupau slams ‘garbage’ anti-vax tweet claiming he’d died
Finally, from the crazy world of social media, Manly prop Marty Taupau was named by one very ill-informed Twitter user as a sports star who had passed away.

The tweet read: “All of these young sportsmen have recently died of sudden heart failure, all vaxxed,” with photos of sports stars who had allegedly died since being vaccinated against COVID, Taupau included.

The NRL world went into a frenzy, trying to confirm the terrible news.

Martin Taupau of the Sea Eagles looks on

Martin Taupau (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Thankfully, it didn’t take long to discover the report was false.

Once he recovered from his alleged death, Taupau replied on Twitter, as nicely as he possibly could.

The owner of the original tweet has since had it removed (and has hopefully also resigned from their job at the local morgue).

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