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The Roar


NRL News: Dogs name recruit as skipper, Madge may spring Origin halves surprise, CHN hopes defibrillator can save career

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22nd February, 2024

Matt Burton and Reed Mahoney have been axed as Canterbury’s captains, with star recruit Stephen Crichton announced as their replacement without having played a single game for the club.

Crichton, who joined from Penrith over the off-season on a four-year deal, was announced as the club’s sole skipper on Thursday.

Canterbury expressed their “deepest gratitude” to Burton and Mahoney for their “outstanding leadership”after the 2023 campaign, where both clearly struggled with the spotlight as the Dogs finished 15th.

Mahoney was coy over his hopes of retaining the role when he fronted the media on Wednesday, admitting the responsibility had affected his form.

The demotion of Mahoney and Burton came after former captain Raymond Faitala-Mariner was shown the door to take up a deal with St George Illawarra earlier this month.

Crichton’s ascent to the role, aged just 23 and without playing a competitive game for the Dogs, comes amid uncertainty over where he will play in 2024.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 15: Stephen Crichton looks on during the NRL Pre-season challenge match between Canterbury Bulldogs and Melbourne Storm at Belmore Sports Ground on February 15, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Bulldogs recruit Stephen Crichton. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

He was tipped to make the switch to fullback at Belmore, but will make his sole trial appearance in the centres against Cronulla on Friday.


Head coach Cameron Ciraldo hopes the decision to make Crichton captain will bring “positive energy to the group”.

“Stephen is a really good reader of energy,” Ciraldo said in a statement.

“He understands when people are a little bit flat, low on energy, and when it’s a bit quiet, and he can change the mood in an instant.

“Sometimes that’s with some annoying music or sounds, or loud noises that he comes up with, but he’s great at bringing people together.”

Maguire could spring Origin halves shock

NSW coach Michael Maguire insists the door is not shut on Stefano Utoikamanu for State of Origin, despite leaving last year’s debutant out of a pre-season camp.

Utoikamanu was a surprise omission from Maguire’s 36-man camp at the start of this month, after debuting in Game II last year and being dropped by Brad Fittler for the dead rubber.


Maguire made a point of reaching out to Utoikamanu to explain the snubbing, having previously coached him at Wests Tigers.

But despite picking eight other middle forwards ahead of Utoikamanu, Maguire was adamant it was not a sign the 23-year-old was on the outer for this year.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“I have a good relationship with Stefano,” Maguire said. “I would have liked to have had many players come in … but I couldn’t bring the whole of the competition in.

“There’s players (we didn’t pick) who still have the opportunity, that’s in front of them.”

Mitch Moses has made it clear he would be open to shifting to five-eighth to partner Nathan Cleary, giving NSW two dominant halves.

The pair have never played together in Origin, with Cleary injured for each of the three games Moses has played for NSW.


But there is every possibility that could happen this year, if Maguire opts to overlook Jarome Luai and put Moses at No.6.

Maguire said he would be open to playing two dominant playmakers together, rather than a traditional five-eighth and halfback.

“I’d have no problem with that if I need to,” Maguire said.

“I want to pick the players who are in form, playing really well, and then I’ll gel that together.”

Harawira-Naera hopes defibrillator can save career

Raiders forward Corey Harawira-Naera is hoping a defibrillator strapped to his arm could pave the way for a return to the NRL.

The 28-year-old suffered a shocking on-field seizure last season and has not played since but after being fitted with a small defibrillator on his upper arm at training he has been able to increase his workload.


It appears unlikely he will get back to NRL level this season but the former Kiwi international is hopeful that he can get his career back on track.

He is under contract until the end of next year with an option in his favour for the following season reportedly worth around $700 annually.

The devise monitors the Canberra second-rower’s heart rate and is designed to give him a shock if the beats per minute reach a certain range.

English footballer Tom Lockyer is attempting to get back to the Premier League with a similar device monitoring his heart rate after he suffered a mid-game cardiac arrest while playing for Luton Town in December.

Corey Harawira-Naera of the Raiders watches the game from the bench during the NRL Semi Final match between the Parramatta Eels and the Canberra Raiders at CommBank Stadium on September 16, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Corey Harawira-Naera. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Shortly after taking a hit-up in the second half of a clash with Souths last May, Harawira-Naera appeared to become disoriented and fell to the turf.

The match stopped for over 10 minutes as medical staff rushed onto the field and attended to the New Zealand international, who had begun convulsing.


Harawira-Naera was conscious and responsive by the time he was transported from the field in a medicab amid a standing ovation from the crowd.

PVL to ask government for tax-free deal

With doubts growing over the viability of the Papua New Guinea expansion bid, ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys is claiming he will seek tax-free exemption for any player who joins a start-up team in the country.

The QRL is set to move PNG Hunters matches in the early rounds of the Queensland Cup to Australia from Port Moresby after at least 26 men were killed in civil unrest last week which prompted Prime Minister James Marape handing arrest powers to the military.

QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher told AAP player safety would be “paramount” in the decision-making process.

Players not required for NRL duty often turn out for Cup sides.

“We are doing a fair bit of work with all of our connections on the ground in PNG, because player safety is absolutely paramount,” Hatcher told AAP. “We are also getting independent advice.


“We have to be absolutely responsible and make sure any danger is minimal. We won’t be going there if the risk is greater than normal.

“Rugby league is their national sport, but the reality is that there are risks in playing there.

“We will make a final decision later this week based on the advice we get from the security organisations we deal with up there and the Australian High Commission.”

The bloodshed casts further doubt on the viability of a PNG team becoming the NRL’s 18th team in the next couple of years despite the federal government pledging to bankroll the bid.

V’landys told NewsCorp that he would lobby Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s government to see if tax exemptions could be offered to players who sign up for a potential new PNG franchise.

“One of the areas I will be approaching the government on is in order to make it attractive to go over there, we are going to ask the government that people be given tax-free status,” V’landys claimed.


“If you’re going to go over there and work, to encourage you to go to Papua New Guinea, you should earn that money tax-free.

“Hopefully, that will encourage our retired players, our officials, our coaches if our government allows us to have a tax free, or lower tax rate to encourage them to go to PNG, that will make the initiative much more successful.”

with AAP