NRL News: Tigers re-sign Naden but Tamou going, Titans nab Verrills, Warriors loom if Papali’i backflips
NRL news, as it happens.
Roosters forward Victor Radley will be asked to explain his actions to NRL CEO Andrew Abdo after being caught making a lewd gesture on camera during the State of Origin celebrations on Sunday night.
Radley, who was in the NSW squad as a reserve, was caught simulating a lewd act on club and state teammate Joseph Suaalii after the Blues’ 44-12 defeat at Perth’s Optus Stadium.
Abdo told reporters at the launch of Beanie For Brain Cancer Round at the SCG on Tuesday that Radley would be asked to front him at Rugby League Central to explain his actions.
It is not the first time Abdo has taken such measures when NRL stars have stepped out of line. He did the same with Brisbane centre Kotoni Staggs last year after a string of off-field incidents.
Radley is likely to face sanctions for his actions, probably a fine.
He has been in trouble a few times during his career, including an incident when he tackled a partygoer and another time when he was removed from a flight for being intoxicated.
Radley has been injured for more than a month due to an ankle problem but is due to return to NRL action on Friday when the Roosters travel to Penrith to play the premiers.
Manly veteran Kieran Foran is unhappy with the ARL Commission’s decision to scrap the representative round Test window from next year’s calendar, saying the lack of foresight was “disappointing”.
Foran played his 23rd Test for New Zealand on Saturday, when the NRL went on hiatus for the weekend to give Pacific Tests and State of Origin matches the full attention of the rugby league audience.
The Kiwis’ win over Tonga was both the first professional match of rugby league in New Zealand and the first Test match between two Oceania sides since 2019.
Samoa and the Cook Islands squared off in a Test match of their own as part of representative round, while Papua New Guinea upset Fiji and the New Zealand women’s side defeated Tonga. The weekend concluded with the second State of Origin match in Perth on Sunday night.
Foran said it was a privilege to have the chance to play for his country again. “To be back out there representing your country, it doesn’t get any bigger than that,” he said.
“It was great to be back in camp with the boys. It’s been a long time.”
But players won’t have the chance to line up in a similar Test window next year. From 2023, the second State of Origin game will shift back to a Wednesday night and the mid-season Test matches will be scrapped.
“We saw on the weekend just how much it meant to the players to represent their countries,” Foran said.
“To not be able to find space for it in the calendar is disappointing.”
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo insisted international football remained a high priority and said the ARLC hoped to introduce a more extensive Test program at the conclusion of the 2023 NRL season.
“The Commission are 100 per cent committed to international football,” Abdo said.
“What we’re doing is thinking strategically around the construct of the season and having an international window in October or November.
“Instead of having just a single round, we can start to think about tours, tournaments and regular content each and every year as opposed to just doing a one-off (round). That’s incredibly exciting.”
New Zealand back-rower Isaiah Papali’i said he would take any opportunity to play for his country.
“Whether that comes in the middle of the year, the start of the year or at the end, I’m open to the opportunity whenever it arises,” he said.
But Foran was unsure whether shifting the representative round to the end of the year was the answer.
“It’s just about trying to find the right time,” he said. “Obviously with Origin going back to Wednesday nights next season it makes it pretty difficult to have a standalone rep weekend.
“The World Cup at the end of the year is a great opportunity for players to represent their country but during the season, it would be great to have something like what we had on the weekend.”
Foran said he hoped to have the chance to add to his Test caps in October, when the Kiwis travel to England to compete for World Cup glory.
North Queensland recruit Luciano Leilua has delivered a parting shot at the Wests Tigers after his mid-season exit to become a Cowboy as he prepares to debut for his new club against Brisbane on Saturday.
In November, Leilua signed a three-year $2.2 million deal with the Cowboys that was set to start in 2023 but the second-rower has joined the club mid-season after being granted an early release from his Tigers contract.
“I didn’t really have any intentions to come in (early),” Leilua said.
“The club told me that I was no longer needed and the Cowboys wanted me to come up here, so it all worked out.”
But the Tigers told AAP that Leilua had asked for a release on “multiple” occasions and strongly denied he had been pushed out the door.
His acrimonious exit has followed a similar path to his older brother Joey, who was filthy with the Tigers last year after they released him instead of taking up the final season in his contract.
The Tigers eventually released Luciano earlier this month but the 26-year-old forward opted to miss the chance to play for Samoa in the representative round in order to travel to North Queensland and acclimatise.
Leilua arrives at just the right time for the Cowboys, who have lost second-rowers Mitchell Dunn and Helium Luki to season-ending knee injuries.
“Those unfortunate, season-ending injuries are all part of the game,” Cowboys forward Coen Hess said.
“But to bring someone of Luc’s character and ability into the squad is tremendous.”
Leilua had a mortgage on the right second-rower spot at the Tigers but is resigned to having more competition at the in-form Cowboys.
Jeremiah Nanai is enjoying a breakout season in the back row, while Tom Gilbert and Hess have both been key contributors in North Queensland’s charge up the ladder.
“I’m ready for anything. I don’t mind starting or starting on the bench, whatever’s best for the team,” Leilua said. “The team’s going really well so I’m just hoping to come here and play my part.”
Leilua’s club debut for the Cowboys will also be his 100th NRL appearance.
“I’m really grateful to play one. To play 100 on Saturday would be pretty good,” he said.
Hess said Leilua was already fitting in well with the playing group. “He’s been unreal, we’re just trying to get him up to speed with all the plays,” Hess said.
“He’s settled in really well. It’s up to us to make it a memorable (100th game) for him.”
Brisbane captain Adam Reynolds is set to return from injury to face North Queensland in a highly anticipated derby.
Reynolds’ first season at the Broncos has been hampered by short-term injuries. He has spent time on the sidelines with leg and groin complaints and missed the side’s loss to Melbourne in round 15 after suffering a rib injury the week before.
But the premiership-winning halfback got through training unscathed on Monday and is on track to face the in-form Cowboys.
“He trained well out there today,” Brisbane prop Corey Jensen said. “He’s feeling good. There’s still two more sessions to go this week but I think he’s going to be there.”
Reynolds looms as a crucial inclusion for the Broncos who will need to be at their best in Townsville.
With a win, Brisbane could move back into the top four. “We need (Reynolds) there,” Jensen said.
“He’s our leader and I’m sure he’ll want to be out there.”
The Broncos could be without Payne Haas, who suffered a suspected ankle injury in the second State of Origin game on Sunday in Perth and was seen in a moon boot afterwards.
But Jensen said Haas’ absence wouldn’t faze them if he was ruled out.
“We’ve shown this year that we’ve worked well as a pack in the middle,” Jensen said.
“Starters and those off the bench have done really well. If he is out, then I’m sure the next person will come in and step up.”
Firebrand prop Corey Horsburgh is willing to answer the call if Billy Slater needs him for State of Origin, insisting he’s “been ready for years” to represent Queensland.
If the Maroons want some extra impact from the bench after their flat display in a 44-12 mauling at the hands of NSW on Sunday night, they might not need to look any further than Horsburgh.
The 25-year-old has been a standout for Canberra over the past month and the timing of his rich vein of form couldn’t be better as the Origin series goes down to the wire.
Horsburgh has churned out an average of 149 metres a game with 50m post-contact in his past four NRL matches.
His output might be exactly what the Maroons need after Patrick Carrigan was the only Queensland forward to run for 100m on Sunday night.
Should Slater want him, Horsburgh said he wouldn’t let the Maroons coach down.
“I’ve been ready for years,” he told reporters. “I love watching (Origin) and if I ever got the opportunity to play, I’m sure I’d take it with both hands … when it happens, it happens.”
At club level, Horsburgh is routinely gives the Raiders plenty of spark off the bench.
Horsburgh ranks eighth among the NRL’s bench forwards in running metres per minute (2.36m), although that stat in his most recent month has soared (3.07m) and would rank second in the league, behind only South Sydney’s Hame Sele (3.11m).
He’s been in the frame for Origin selection in recent years but has been hampered by a string of injuries.
But Horsburgh said his body was fit and firing heading into the back half of the NRL season.
“It’s the first time in a few years I haven’t had any niggly injuries and I’m starting to get my confidence back,” he said.
“I’m just really enjoying playing footy, I love rugby league … that’s why I’ve been playing a bit consistently lately, I’m just enjoying it and having fun and it’s not as serious any more.
“I’m loving footy at the moment and hopefully we keep building and stay injury-free.”
Canterbury captain Josh Jackson has thrown his support behind Jake Averillo as the club’s long-term custodian of the No.1 jersey but stopped short of saying Matt Dufty will leave the club at the season’s end.
Since interim coach Mick Potter dropped Dufty in favour of Averillo earlier this month, the Bulldogs have won two of three NRL games and challenged an understrength Penrith side in a narrow loss.
A jack of all trades under previous coach Trent Barrett, Averillo scored two tries in each win and looked comfortable at fullback.
“He’s really embraced the spot. I think it really suits his game,” Jackson said.
“Everyone knows his attributes: he’s fast, he’s strong and he can break tackles. You can just tell he’s really enjoying his footy.
“He’s looked fantastic and I think it looks like there might be a really long-term opportunity for him as the number one for this club.”
But despite effusively endorsing Averillo, Jackson said the off-contract Dufty could be welcomed back into the starting side at some point in the season.
“It’s up to Duff and his performances,” Jackson said. “He’s had a fantastic attitude, has been training really well and he’s put in some really good performances the last couple of weeks in reserve grade.
“He hasn’t whinged about (being dropped), he hasn’t moped around. He could step back in whenever he needed to.”
From next year, Bulldogs hooker Jeremy Marshall-King will link up with the Dolphins, who are yet to sign an out-and-out fullback for their inaugural season.
But Marshall-King said he hadn’t tried to talk his teammate into making the move north with him.
“I haven’t really spoken about it with him that much,” he said. “I think Duff is just trying to keep playing good footy at the moment.”
Potter has yet to confirm his interest in taking the Bulldogs’ coaching job full-time from next year but would have the support of the playing group if he chose to continue.
“He’s really calm, which is great for us. I’m really happy that he’s got the results he has here,” Jackson said.
Potter hasn’t faced questions from his captain about his coaching aspirations.
“I don’t talk to him about it at all,” Jackson said. “It’s out of my hands, that’s his decision.”