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NRL NEWS: Olam re-signs, Naden learns fate, Kaufusi appealing, Haumole to snub NSW for Tonga, Eels keen on Lodge

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13th June, 2022
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Storm centre Justin Olam has inked a deal to remain at the club for the next four seasons in a massive coup for the Melbourne club.

The reigning Dally M Centre of the Year and Papua New Guinea Kumuls representative has locked down the Storm’s left centre position in the past three seasons.

He joins Christian Welch, Jahrome Hughes, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Harry Grant, Xavier Coates, Reimis Smith and Jack Howarth in committing to the club long-term in recent months.

However, the big fish is still yet to be lured in with Cameron Munster yet to commit beyond the end of his deal which runs out at the end of next year. He is able to officially negotiate with other clubs for 2024 on November 1.

One of the most damaging ball runners and hardest hitters in the NRL, Olam’s renewed contract runs until the end of the 2026 season, bringing his time with Storm to 10 seasons.

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With 76 NRL games on his record, including the 2020 grand final victory over Penrith, he is entering the prime of his career and is now a member of the Storm’s Emerging Leaders group.

After impressing for Storm’s feeder club Sunshine Coast Falcons, Olam made his NRL debut in 2018 but it was in the second half of the premiership season that he became a regular in Craig Bellamy’s starting line-up.

He played 14 games in 2019 and followed up with 21 in 2020 and 25 in 2021 when he was voted the best centre in the competition, alongside Penrith’s Matt Burton.

The 28-year-old has played in all 13 Storm matches this season, scoring six tries.

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A hero in his homeland, Olam has played nine Tests for PNG and is sure to be a key figure for the Kumuls at the end-of-season World Cup in the UK.

“Storm has been great for me. I love the club, and everyone here, and love living in Melbourne,” Olam said.

“A big thank-you goes to Craig and all the coaches who have put so much faith in me and time into developing my game and all the Storm members and fans both here in Australia and back home in PNG.”

Brent Naden of the Tigers is sent off by referee Peter Gough.

Brent Naden of the Tigers is sent off by referee Peter Gough. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

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Naden to miss four games

Brent Naden will miss at least four weeks after the NRL match review committee threw the book at the Wests Tigers centre for his dangerous tackle on Jake Trbojevic.

Naden became the first Tiger to be sent off in 20 years after a leg lift saw Trbojevic’s head plough into the ground late in their loss to the Sea Eagles.

The MRC settled on a grade-three charge for Naden, with a four-week ban to extend to five should he choose to unsuccessfully challenge the verdict at the judiciary on Tuesday night.

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However, the 26-year old’s suspension is less than half of what former great Michael Ennis called for on Fox League immediately after the match.

“I think he’s looking at eight weeks,” Ennis said on Sunday afternoon.

“It was as bad a spear tackle as we’ve seen in a long time… no player goes out there to do that, but the fact is he lands on his head and it could have been a really, really bad outcome for Jake Trbojevic.

“I think he’ll get a suspension around eight weeks, I really do.”

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Meanwhile, Melbourne have announced they will contest Felise Kaufusi’s dangerous contact charge from the weekend.

The second-rower could have walked away with a $1800 fine for an early guilty plea for an elbow to the head of Sydney Roosters youngster Sam Walker during their Saturday night win – which leaves Kaufusi free to play in State of Origin II next week.

Commentator and former great Andrew Johns was surprised by the lenient penalty.

“They’ve pretty much said he is guilty, so you elbow someone in the head and you get a fine,” Johns said on Nine.

“So $1800 – I think Felise should buy himself a lottery ticket. Very lucky there.”

But the Storm said on Monday they had lodged a not guilty plea with the NRL, the matter to be heard by the judiciary. If are unsuccessful in challenging, the fine will be increased to $2500.

Manly star to reject Origin overture

Tonga duo Haumole Olakau’atu is set to pledge his allegiance to the Pacific nation instead of being available for NSW in State of Origin II but Daniel Tupou will remain with the Blues for now.

Olakau’atu played himself into contention for a spot in the Blues pack with a barnstorming display for Manly in Sunday’s emphatic win over the Wests Tigers while Tupou was controversially selected ahead of Josh Addo-Carr for last week’s series opener against Queensland.

Blues coach Brad Fittler was concerned the 30-year-old Rooster was going to also make himself unavailable for Origin but told The Daily Telegraph that Tupou had assured him that he would be making his way to Perth to face Queensland if selected.

“He is making himself available for NSW but wants to play for Tonga in the World Cup,” Fittler said of Tupou.

The Blues are considering bringing Ryan Papenhuyzen and Latrell Mitchell back for game two despite both being out for lengthy stretches due to leg injuries.

Haumole Olakau’atu. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Ennis questions Johnson’s Warriors place

Shaun Johnson’s place in the Warriors’ overhaul has been questioned by Mick Ennis, who fears emerging New Zealand talents no longer aspire to play for their NRL club.

The Warriors coughed up a 12-0 lead to lose 38-16 to Cronulla in Redcliffe on Sunday night in Stacey Jones’ first match at the helm after coach Nathan Brown’s abrupt exit.

At 4-10 and now three games outside the top eight, the currently Queensland-based club is treading water until games in Auckland later this season.

They’ll move back for good next year, at which time 274-game veteran Ennis says they must “put their club back on the map”.

“The Warriors need a huge overhaul,” he told Fox Sports. “This (coaching change) is a chance for their club to reset. Finals in 2018, they’ve missed nine out of the last 10 finals. They’ve been consistent at being unsuccessful. They need someone like Craig Bellamy to completely change the fabric of their identity.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 12: Siosifa Talakai of the Sharks scores a try during the round 14 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Cronulla Sharks at Moreton Daily Stadium, on June 12, 2022, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Siosifa Talakai. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“The were once a feared side because of their power, unpredictability and their athleticism … they aren’t that any more. I’m not sure young kids in New Zealand aspire to play in this team.

“The ones that are passionate (about rugby league), ask their managers, ‘Can I go to the Storm, Parramatta, the Roosters?'”

Playmaker Johnson has returned on a two-year deal to finish his career where it began in 2011.

But, with his growing family across the Tasman, he’s battled poor form and is under increasing pressure.

“I don’t know if they’re a better footy side (with him),” Ennis said. “He hasn’t been anywhere near the Johnson we grew to love at the Warriors a long time ago, and that’s part of the reset.”

Interim coach and club great Jones admitted the halfback was battling.”Being away from his family has put a bit of pressure on him to bounce into training and perform,” he said. “He’s the first one to put his hand up but he’s not The Lone Ranger.”

The stand-in coach said he was “very nervous and a little bit scattered upstairs” when he first took the reins.

“Then I got excited,” he said. “It’s not nice what happened to Browny, but I love this club and I’ll do my best.

“I just want to win some footy games and if we do that we’ll have fun doing it.”

Shaun Johnson. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Parra to Lodge short stint

The Eels are exploring the option of taking on Matt Lodge for the rest of 2022 in a deal similar to the one Penrith did with Tevita Pangai jnr last year when he left the Broncos.

Lodge, who was controversially given a large payout by the Warriors when he was released from the year and a half of his contract last month, is on the lookout for a new club.

He is expected to link with Redcliffe Dolphins for 2023 although a deal has not been announced with the expansion side.

According to a Sydney Morning Herald report, the Eels are looking to sign him for around $200,000 and need to have a deal done before the signings deadline of August 1.

Sivo’s back, Brown’s OK: Arthur

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur will be watching closely to see how his men respond to the rare five-day break afforded to them ahead of their NRL clash with Canterbury.

Arthur said last week’s bye came at the right time for the Eels (fifth, 8-4), whose four previous games had been decided by eight points or less.

But while he used the schedule to give his players time off, he will be quick to withhold similar privileges in future if the zip they’ve shown since returning to training isn’t reflected on Monday at Accor Stadium.

“The standard of footy’s better this year; all of the games we’ve had to play for the full 80 and grind it out,” Arthur said.

“The boys have earned the right … they’ve come back nice and fresh and we need to see the results of that with our enthusiasm come Monday.

“We haven’t don’t that, five continuous days (off) before, so we’ve given it a shot but we need to see the results of it through the enthusiasm and effort.”

Bulldogs forward Ava Seumanufagai has been ruled out due to a calf strain, with Chris Patolo promoted to the starting line-up.

But Mick Potter will have the services of Tevita Pangai, who has proved his fitness and will come off the bench after being ruled out last week with an aggravated disc.

The Eels’ State of Origin trio Junior Paulo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson have all been named to back up, while winger Maika Sivo will play his first NRL game since an ACL tear last year.

“I feel ready; the knee is good, played a couple of games in (NSW) Cup and pulled up all right after the game, so I’m ready to go,” said Sivo, who scored six tries in three NSW Cup games since his return.

“I’m looking forward to my first run, my first 10 minutes, just to get through that and see how it goes.”

Arthur said Sivo would make a difference, even if he wasn’t at his bullocking best just yet. 

“He’s ready to go … he needs to get back out there and just play at that next level so we have him ready when we need him,” he said.

“He’s a big body, hard to handle and that’ll help us out of the back-field.”

Arthur said Dylan Brown, named at No.6, was expected to play despite wearing a moon boot this week to protect a rolled ankle.

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