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The Roar


NRL NEWS: Under-19 Origin marquee idea snubbed by clubs, Dogs, Tigers vie for Ciraldo as Gus rejects Walkers

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16th June, 2022

The NRL’s efforts to introduce star power to under-19s State of Origin have fallen embarrassingly flat, with clubs unwilling to make marquee players available.

Under rules announced by the NRL a fortnight ago, each state would be able to pick two under-20s players with first-grade contracts to feature in the match.

At the time, the NRL included the likes of Sam Walker, Joseph Suaalii, Will Penisini, Reece Walsh, Ezra Mam and Tyrell Sloan as examples of players now eligible.

But none of the young stars featured in teams named by both states on Thursday.

Instead one-game Canberra forward Trey Mooney was the sole under-20s aged player named by NSW, with 19-year-old Davvy Moale the only other player with NRL experience.


Queensland meanwhile have no players with any NRL experience, with Melbourne squad member Jack Howarth and Gold Coast counterpart JoJo Fifita the biggest names.

The lack of marquee players would be a significant let down to the Nine Network, who will broadcast the junior Origin match in prime time next Thursday.

Joseph Suaalii will likely be in NSW’s camp for Origin II in Perth, while Penisini has been named in Tonga’s team to take on New Zealand in Auckland.

However it’s believed the likes of Walker, Walsh, Sloan and Xavier Savage and other players eligible by the rule change were not made available.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 29: Joseph Suaalii and Sam Walker warm up during a Sydney Roosters NRL training session at Kippax Lake on March 29, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Clubs have indicated they were unwilling to release week-to-week NRL players to feature in an underage match, particularly with only the one bye in the season’s schedule.

States are also understanding of their position, accepting that players unlikely to feature in junior age matches once they become part of the NRL system.

Regardless, the NRL are insistent they spoke to clubs about the eligibility rules before they were announced earlier this month.


However Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson claimed last week he had never been to about the issue, as he bristled at a question of if he would release young guns to feature.

“No one selected has talked to me about it at all. It hasn’t been raised by anyone at the NRL,” Robinson said last Friday.

“They are NRL players who play week in week out footy, so we expect them to play NRL. In the history of the game players haven’t played age group footy once they become NRL players. So I don’t think that will change.”

Dogs, Tigers vie for Ciraldo as Gus rejects Walkers


Phil Gould has put a red line through Shane and Ben Walker as potential candidates to fill the vacant coaching position at Canterbury and thinks no NRL club will take the gamble on their unorthodox methods.

The Canterbury general manager has spoken with Panthers assistant Cameron Ciraldo about potentially taking over as the full-time coach next season after caretaker Mick Potter guides the team through the rest of the season.

Gould said “it’s never been discussed” with Potter about taking over the gig beyond this season and that he had never indicated he was keen on the role.

On his Six Tackles with Gus podcast, Gould said he was aware the Wests Tigers were keen to lure Ciraldo to Concord and was not surprised they had rolled out the red carpet for him.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 21: Panthers assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo looks on during the round 11 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the Penrith Panthers at Sydney Cricket Ground, on May 21, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Panthers assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

“I can understand why them wanting to give a young coach like Cameron Ciraldo every opportunity to help make his decision. It’s a big decision for Cameron, it’ll be his first job as a full-time head coach,” he said.

“Now because there are so many clubs looking for coaches and there are so many coaches who have failed in the NRL and lost their jobs, people like Cameron Ciraldo are in hot demand.”

Gould said Ciraldo was “meticulous” with his due diligence about what he described as one of the most important decisions of his life and also floated the possibility of the 37-year-old staying at Penrith to potentially succeed Ivan Cleary down the track.

Cleary warned his right-hand man not to move to the wrong club. “Of course I’d like him to stay,” Cleary said on Thursday. “But he’s my mate and I’d like to help him as well in his own career and what he wants.

“I’ve had some experience that I could help him with but he’s a smart guy and he’s just working through it. One thing’s for sure, if you don’t take the right job it’s a pretty short career.”

Cleary said Craig Fitzgibbon had provided the perfect template for Ciraldo, as the former Sydney Roosters star served as Trent Robinson’s long-term assistant before taking on the leading role with Cronulla.

“He was probably in a similar position to Cam for a very long time and it looks like he’s probably landed a pretty good (job),” Cleary added, with the Sharks destined to play finals football this season.

Gould, when quizzed about the Walker brothers, who have achieved premiership success in the Queensland Cup but have been passed over for NRL vacancies in recent years, said he doubted whether they would ever be given a chance.

“You would have to be pretty brave to do it,” he said. “I for one, as a coach, tried to be as innovative as possible. I didn’t want to follow, I didn’t want to copy what other coaches, teams were doing. I felt that if we were copying people then we would always run second, we would never be the leader.

“But at the same time, probably through tried and tested philosophies and methods which have stood the test of time, the Walkers situation would be a gamble.

“It would be a gamble to introduce them to a playing group that had been developed in the traditional way.

“And as to whether or not you could run a development system based on some of their concepts and beliefs, I think would be a major turnaround.

“It’s easy for people like Benji Marshall or Andrew Johns to say it would be exciting to watch, and it would be exciting to watch, but as to whether or not that’s how you want to portray your football club and your business in the long term, it would have to be a major gamble for a club to go down that path.”

“My head just doesn’t go there, I don’t consider it. That’s got nothing against the Walkers, I wish them all the success in the world.”

Canterbury Bulldogs players celebrate a try

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Leilua set for Cowboys debut in derby

North Queensland mid-season recruit Luciano Leilua is expected to debut for his new club in round 16 against derby rivals Brisbane.

Leilua, who was granted a release from Wests Tigers on Tuesday, still needs to pass a medical examination, sign his termination clause and await his contract with the Cowboys. 

But his new coach has already earmarked his debut.

“We’re playing him against the Broncos,” Todd Payten said on Thursday. “He’ll get up and we just got to make him feel comfortable and welcome as possible.

“When I told the captains on Tuesday they were pretty excited. Jase (Jason Taumalolo) had a grin from ear to ear and Chad (Townsend) gave me a pot shot to the guts. So yeah, we’re all excited to have him.”

Payten has made some forced changes for Friday’s clash with Manly in Sydney with Tom Gilbert out due to an eye injury and Heilum Luki sidelined for the season following an ACL tear. Origin representative Jeremiah Nanai slots back into the second row for Gilbert after overcoming an ankle sprain while fellow Maroon Reuben Cotter returns at prop.

Connelly Lemuelu, who scored off the bench in their round-14 win, starts in the back row with Coen Hess shifting to the interchange. 

The Cowboys have won five from seven away games in 2022 and cemented themselves as a genuine top-four contender this season.

That being said, Payten admitted their clash with Manly is one that’s been back of their minds after two drubbings in 2021.

“I mentioned that post game against the Dragons, spoke about our two games last year. Tough loss down there and they embarrassed us at home,” he said.

“We’re playing a team that has a big, powerful forward pack and I think they’re a well-balanced team very similar to us. 

“But the difference for us I see is that we’ve probably got a bit more endurance in the middle rather than power like them.”

Manly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans returns for Friday’s clash after overcoming a quad niggle, shifting Kieran Foran to five-eighth and Josh Schuster to the bench. 

Mitchell Moses offloads the ball.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Eels split over attitude adjustment

Parramatta’s leading names are divided over what contributed to their capitulation to Canterbury on Monday that handed the Bulldogs their biggest upset of the NRL season.

The Bulldogs played the Eels off the park on Monday to claim a 34-4 victory and lift themselves off bottom place on the table. 

Former Parramatta assistant coach Mick Potter masterminded the win, securing his first victory as interim head coach of the Bulldogs to leave Eels boss Brad Arthur scratching his head.

The Eels have beaten competition heavyweights Penrith and Melbourne away this season, but also lost to the Wests Tigers on Easter Monday and the Bulldogs when both sides were at the bottom of the ladder.

“I think it’s an attitude thing, going into the game and thinking it’s going to come easily. Hopefully we’ve learned from our lessons,” said halfback Mitchell Moses.

“It’s more of an attitude thing and not trying to do individual things by yourself.

“When we play the top teams our 1 to 17 is on fire and against the teams everyone is expecting us to beat everyone is trying to do their own thing.”

Moses insists the Dogs didn’t get under Parramatta’s skin.

His comments were in contrast to hooker Reed Mahoney, who claimed the Eels fell apart because they weren’t willing to stay patient after having a try chalked off in the opening 10 minutes.

“It’s not an attitude problem, it just wasn’t our day and we didn’t turn up,” he said.

“It happened once before when we came up against the Tigers. The good thing is we have talked about it and we can put it away now.

“It’s things early in the game where we flow pretty quickly, we didn’t have intent or patience with the ball and they capitalised on it.

“I wouldn’t say any team is lower than us, we need to treat every team with respect and turn up.”

The Eels currently sit in sixth spot and face the Roosters at CommBank Stadium on Saturday.

“We’re excited, they’re a quality side and they got away from us at Suncorp Stadium,” Mahoney added. “You’ve got to start fast with them and do our team actions and the rest will come.”