Wests Tigers veteran David Nofoaluma has endorsed Luke Brooks to remain the Tigers’ five-eighth and supported the club’s investigation into a leak that prompted reports he would be dropped for their next game.
The Tigers’ poor on-field performances led to the sacking of coach Michael Maguire this month as well as to criticism of Brooks’ performance in the halves.
Ahead of the Tigers’ next game, reports emerged that interim coach Brett Kimmorley would drop Brooks to reserve grade for the first time in his 10-year NRL career.
A source at the Tigers told AAP this week that Kimmorley had not yet finalised his 17 to face the Warriors on July 3 and on Thursday, Nofoaluma said the playing group had not been notified as to any personnel changes, either.
“From my knowledge and speaking for the players, we’ve heard nothing about it,” he told AAP.
“We don’t know where (the leak) has come from. From my knowledge, Luke is playing in the next game.
“It’s very difficult because you can’t really point fingers but I’ve seen that the club is doing an internal investigation which is good.
“You can’t have this type of stuff coming out in the media … It’s pretty disappointing.”
Brooks and winger Nofoaluma both made their NRL debuts at Wests Tigers in 2013 and have gone on to become the sixth and ninth most-capped players in club history, respectively.
Nofoaluma hoped his friend and teammate could retain his spot in the NRL side going forward.
“Me and Luke, we started our NRL careers in the same year, together,” he said.
“He’s been a long-term teammate. Of course I’d like him to be in the team.”
On Saturday, Nofoaluma will play for Samoa at Campbelltown Stadium, one of the Tigers’ three home grounds.
Nofoaluma has scored 17 tries in 24 appearances at the venue and hoped home ground advantage would get him over the line against the Cook Islands.
“It’s an area that I grew up in,” he said. “I played all my junior grand finals at club footy level at that ground so it makes it extra special for myself and everyone in the community.
“As an Australian-born Samoan, it’s always special to come into camp and get the experience and see a little bit of what my heritage and culture are about.”
The house full signs have gone up for the Warriors’s homecoming NRL clash, with more than 25,000 expected in their first New Zealand game in almost three years.
Travel restrictions forced the Warriors to relocate to Australia at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and play home games in Redcliffe this year and Gosford for the two years before that.
The Warriors’ clash with Wests Tigers on July 3, their first in Auckland for 1038 days, will mark only the fourth occasion Mount Smart Stadium has been at full capacity in a regular-season fixture.
The match has also sold out further in advance than any Warriors regular-season game since their 1995 debut season.
The Warriors were forced to cancel their homecoming game twice, citing logistical difficulties brought on by the pandemic, so CEO Cameron George said the long-awaited return would be “one of the most important and emotional occasions” in club history.
“We’re so thrilled having Mount Smart packed for our members, fans, families and sponsors who will at last see the Warriors playing at home,” said George.
“The resilience and patience they’ve shown has been extraordinary and the way they have embraced this occasion has been unbelievable.
“We put up tickets for the embankment at the northern end of the ground earlier this week and they flew out the door while all the stands and corporate hospitality were sold out days ago.
It’s a wonderful tribute to our supporters who have shown how much the club means to them.”
The game will be the third of club legend Stacey Jones’ interim coaching tenure and will be followed by three more home games in New Zealand to round the year out.
Former international Paul Vaughan will bring down the curtain on his NRL career at the end of the season after signing a two-year deal with Warrington.
The veteran prop, who joined the Bulldogs on a one-year deal this season after being sacked by St George Illawarra for breaching the biosecurity laws at his infamous party at his Shellharbour home, has played 196 matches so is likely to reach the double century before heading to the Super League.
After starting his career at Canberra, he has also represented NSW and Australia and Warrington coach Daryl Powell was thrilled to land the experienced forward.
“I’m delighted we’ve been able to recruit Paul for next season,” Powell said.
“He’s a big ball carrier, defends and moves well and works hard. I’ve had a couple of Zoom chats with him and I really like how he comes across as a bloke as well.
“We’ve talked a lot about size and being a fearsome pack and we’ve worked hard to get that in place for next season.”
The 31-year-old, who has also represented Italy on the representative stage, becomes the Wolves’ third front-row recruit for next season after the club completed deals for Catalans Dragons duo Sam Kasiano and Gil Dudson.
“I’m very excited to be making the move to Warrington next year,” Vaughan said.
“I played in a World Cup in England back in 2013 and I always said to myself if given the opportunity to play over there I’d like to take it up.
“I’m close to playing my 200th game over here (in the NRL) and I feel I’ve still got a lot more to give with my footy.”
Former Maroons centre Brenko Lee has been granted a release from the final year of his deal with the Dolphins formally announcing his signing on a two-year deal on Thursday.
The former Storm premiership-winning outside back has only played three matches for Brisbane after travelling north in the off-season but will likely play out the rest of the year in the starting side due to Herbie Farnworth’s pectoral injury.
Still only 26, the Dolphins will be the fifth stop in his journeyman career after also having stints at Canberra, Canterbury and the Gold Coast.
He will reunite with Storm premiership teammates Felise Kaufusi, Jesse Bromwich and Kenny Bromwich at the Dolphins as well as coach Wayne Bennett, who picked him in one match of Queensland’s 2020 State of Origin campaign.
“We are very pleased to sign Brenko for our NRL debut,” Dolphins CEO Terry Reader said.
“Importantly, Brenko is from Brisbane so understands the history and success the Dolphins have had in their 75-year history.”
Lee joins Jamayne Isaako, Euan Aitken, Robert Jennings and his cousin Edrick Lee as options in the outside backs but the Dolphins are still on the lookout for an established game-breaker to slot into the spine.
Kalyn Ponga, Jahrome Hughes, Harry Grant and Reed Mahoney were all linked to the club but have since signed elsewhere.
The Dolphins may now need to wait until their second season to secure a big-name signing with Cameron Munster, Dylan Brown and Cody Walker among those off contract after 2023.
After re-signing Ryan Matterson last week, the Eels have bolstered their pack for 2023 by recruiting Knights prop Jirah Momoisea.
Originally from New Zealand where he captained the esteemed St Paul’s College rugby union team, he moved to Australia in 2017 and made his NRL debut last year in round 23.
“Jirah is a talented young forward who has a great attitude both on and off the field,” Parramatta football manager Mark O’Neill said.
The Eels need reinforcements with Reed Mahoney, Ray Stone, Oregon Kaufusi, Isaiah Papali’i and Marate Niukore leaving the club at season’s end while veteran lock Nathan Brown has been told he is free to go elsewhere despite being under contract next year.
Hull FC have announced the immediate departure of their marquee Australian signing Josh Reynolds.
The 33-year-old half signed a two-year contract with the option of a third season when he joined from Wests Tigers in December 2020 and is thought to have been the highest-paid player in the club’s history.
“Both parties have mutually agreed that the Australian will not be staying with the club for the 2023 season,” a statement on Wednesday said.
“As a result of that agreement, the club has further agreed with the player that he can depart immediately to open up pathways for future talent in the squad.
“The club would like to thank Josh for his efforts, whilst wishing him luck for the future.”
Reynolds, who also played for NSW in State of Origin and in the NRL for Canterbury, made 25 appearances in his 18 months with the Black and Whites, scoring seven tries.
The 33-year-old former Canterbury and Wests Tigers veteran of 160 NRL games has played 25 matches for Hull over the past two seasons but coach Brett Hodgson said “it is just not working” when asked why Reynolds was being released with a season and a half left on his deal.
“There has been a conversation with Josh and his management from our club. We’re at the stage where we are in discussions to reach a mutually beneficial deal for both parties. We’ll know more over the next 48 hours I’d imagine in terms of clarity,” he told reporters in Hull.
“I think both parties would have wanted a little bit more. I think Josh came over with the right intent and he tried hard but unfortunately it is just not working at the minute.
“Confidence is a big factor when anyone is playing. I think Josh lost a bit of confidence after some injuries and I don’t believe he was playing his best footy. I think he’ll admit that as well.
“It is a very tough sport. You have to make sure you are playing your best footy to maintain your positions and maintain form. For various reasons there were some tough challenges that he faced; and unfortunately it looks like that time has come to an end.”
The Wests Tigers are hoping to name their new full-time head coach by the end of the month, says chairman Lee Hagipantelis.
After winning only three of their first 12 games this year, the Tigers sacked head coach Michael Maguire and appointed Brett Kimmorley to the role for the remainder of the season.
Hagipantelis revealed there were “a number” of applicants for the role, adding the club was close to selecting a successful candidate.
“The efforts for identifying and appointing a new coach continue,” he told SEN. “Hopefully within a week or two, a decision can be made and announced.
“But there’s no urgency and there’s no timetable. What’s important is that we find the right person.”
Hagipantelis confirmed the Tigers had been in talks with off-contract Penrith assistant Cameron Ciraldo, who is likely to be the next man to transition from NRL assistant to head coach.
“We presented to a particular candidate a vision, what I thought was a compelling argument,” he said. “We’re respectful of the decision that needs to be made and it is a very significant decision.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers have dismissed reports five-eighth Luke Brooks will be dropped as speculation.
Brooks’ form was subject to intense scrutiny when the Tigers began the season as the only winless team after five rounds.
While the Tigers notched back-to-back wins when halfback Jackson Hastings returned from suspension in round six, they have since dropped six of their last seven games and only won when Brooks was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Utility Adam Doueihi played limited minutes on his return from an ACL injury against Canterbury last week but could challenge Brooks for selection in the halves in the Tigers’ next game.
Playing at five-eighth, Doueihi was one of the Tigers’ strongest performers last season and will be closer to full fitness by the time the Tigers face the Warriors on July 3.
But the Tigers source said Kimmorley would not make any conclusive decisions about the make-up of his 17 until closer to game day, despite reports to the contrary this week.
It remains to be seen whether Tyrone Peachey will still be at the club by then.
Peachey was named in the leadership group on his arrival at the Tigers this season but has since fallen out of favour.
The former NSW Origin representative hasn’t played at NRL level in a month and has been given permission to negotiate with rival clubs only half a season into his two-year contract.