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The Roar


NRL News: Payten shoots down Brooks link, Hunt's cryptic response casts doubt on future, Joey snub deepens family feud

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15th June, 2023
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North Queensland coach Todd Payten says Luke Brooks will not be joining the club, and has backed co-captain Chad Townsend to see out his current contract.

Payten was emphatic ahead of Friday night’s home NRL game with Penrith when asked about reports linking Brooks to the Cowboys.

The off-contract Wests Tigers playmaker has decided to test the open market and will find a new home next year. Payten, who won the 2005 premiership with the Tigers, said that home would not be at the Cowboys.

Townsend, 32, is contracted until the end of next year and last week shot down speculation that he was seeking an early release.

“Plenty of rumours come across my desk, and I approached Chad a number of weeks ago about whether he was homesick,” Payten said.

Luke Brooks of the Tigers in action

(Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

“(Townsend) told me then that he was really settled and I gave him my backing as coach of this club that he was not going anywhere.

“I will say this about Luke Brooks. I have a high opinion of him as a player, and I think the way he has handled himself over the past years with the media scrutiny on top of him shows great mental fortitude.


“His best footy is in front of him, and wherever he ends up the club is going to be in good shape. It is just not going to be here.”

Payten said he was disappointed for his assistant coach Dean Young, who missed out on the head coaching role at St George Illawarra to Shane Flanagan.

“I am grateful he is still able to stay, and we are working out an extension for him and that will be done in the next few weeks,” he said.

Both the Cowboys and Panthers have five State of Origin players unavailable for Friday night, and Payten spoke glowingly of the strength and depth of the opposition.

“Penrith are a winning club,” he said. “They’ve won the last two NRL premierships and pretty much won every competition (in lower grades) last year, so they know how to win. Their systems are set in place and the players that come in do the job.”

The Cowboys received a boost with the inclusion of co-captain and star forward Jason Taumalolo for the Panthers clash.

Taumalolo had been unavailable since round seven because of a knee injury.


Hunt’s future still not resolved

Ben Hunt is yet to make a decision on his future but has endorsed the appointment of 2016 premiership-winner Shane Flanagan as St George Illawarra coach.

The Dragons skipper spoke for the first time since Flanagan’s appointment while in camp with the Queensland Maroons.

The 33-year-old Hunt, signed at the Dragons until the end of 2025, was coy about his future and did not rule out a return to Queensland to finish his career.

Canterbury, Canberra, the Dolphins, Tigers and Titans have been linked to Hunt’s services if the veteran international requests a release from the Dragons.

But he was emphatic about Flanagan’s appointment, saying the club needed an experienced coach rather than a rookie.

Flanagan, who coached Cronulla in 185 games, previously worked at the Dragons as assistant coach and as a list management consultant.


“I think it’s what they needed,” Hunt said of Flanagan’s appointment.

Ben Hunt scores a try

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“He’s obviously shown he can do it before. He’s won premierships and knows what it takes to build a good team and successful club.

“I think that’s why they went in that direction.

“That (Flanagan’s history with Dragons) could have had a bit bearing on why they brought him in.

“He probably has a good feel of what the club’s like, how it’s run, what he can change and make better.”

Former Broncos half Hunt has said previously he was not keen to be part of a club rebuild at this stage of his career. He has been linked to a move to Canterbury, among other clubs, before his current contract expires.


“I really haven’t made any decisions on it yet,” he said.

“I haven’t talked to Flanno or anyone since the decisions were made.

“At the moment I’m getting through Origin camp and then I’ll talk to those guys.

“There’s always a couple of clubs interested that have thrown their hat in the ring.

“I’m not going to go into too many details. I haven’t had any official offers or anything from anyone at all. At the moment I’m contracted to the Dragons.”

Hunt is from Central Queensland and a move back to play NRL for a Queensland club is not off the table.

“The career is coming to an end pretty quickly. I’ve only got a few years left,” he said.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 06: Dragons assistant coach Shane Flanagan looks on before the start of the round 17 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the St George Illawarra Dragons at QCB Stadium on September 06, 2020 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Shane Flanagan. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

“I’d never say no, that’s for sure. I love Queensland, I grew up here and will definitely come back here after footy.”

Hunt has won a World Cup and multiple State of Origin series but winning an elusive premiership will guide his decision on his next move.

‘”It’s always a factor, for sure,” he said.

“There’s a lot of things that go into making a decision. A premiership’s one of them.”

Flanagan has assured Hunt he will remain at halfback if he stays, after former coach Anthony Griffin started him at hooker for one game, to Hunt’s displeasure.

“I’ve always made it clear I’d like to play halfback at club level. Flanno understands that and said if I was there that’s where he’d want me to play.”


Joey refusing radio return with Matty

The feud between the Johns brothers has deepened with Andrew reportedly quitting Matty’s Morning Glory radio program on SEN after their recent on-air blow-up.

SEN chief Craig Hutchison has tried to mend the relationship but Andrew has told the station he won’t be returning this year, according to a Fox League report.

It’s a sad state of affairs for the brothers who famously combined in the halves for Newcastle, NSW and Australia in the 1990s, culminating in the Knights’ memorable 1997 Grand Final win over Manly in one of the most thrilling premiership deciders in history.

The drama started a few weeks ago when Andrew took exception to Matty being full of admiration for Queensland coach Billy Slater.

“You just know how he explains, how he coaches, the intricacies, the players absolutely love him. Queensland know exactly how they’re going to play and who they need to pick to make that happen.”


Andrew retaliated with:  “And NSW don’t know how they’re going to play? Mate, I’m sick of you rapping Queensland, that’s what I’m sick of. You’re blowing smoke up their backsides, I couldn’t care less about Queensland.

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

“They’re the enemy. We grew up hating them, we grew up watching The King (Wally Lewis) absolutely kill us.”

Andrew then snubbed a follow-up appearance alongside Matty on Sydney radio a fortnight ago.

They were both due to be on SEN but Andrew was a no-show.

“Houston, we have a problem,” Matty joked when the segment began a Johns brother short.

“It’s official, Andrew Johns, my brother, is completely off me. 


“There were rumours he may not have come in. I thought the last three weeks of not returning phone calls, I thought it was laziness. Obviously not. I will say this, and I’ll defend my brother here, this morning him not coming here has nothing to do with State of Origin. 

“I thought his comments after the game were very strong and up front and honest.

“The bottom line is he’s off me. It’s nothing new for me and Joey. We were forced to share a bedroom for 19 years. Every six months we have a blue like this, and it gives us a break from each other.”

Matty went on to say they had a two-year period previously where they were not on speaking terms, well after their playing days together at Newcastle.

Andrew launched into the Blues after they collapsed in the final 10 minutes of the Origin series opener, conceding two late tries to a 12-man Maroons line-up to lose 26-18 at Adelaide Oval.

“I thought NSW were really poor,” said Immortal halfback Andrew Johns in a post-match blast on Nine. “The attack was terrible, they had so much possession, so much momentum. You’ve just got to be better.”


with AAP