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NRL News: Dragon banned for DUI charge, Foran's surprise call on playing future, PVL now eyeing off NZ city for expansion

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29th February, 2024
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An alleged failure to inform the NRL integrity unit of a drink-driving conviction looks set to impact Luciano Leilua’s start to life at new club St George Illawarra.

Leilua, who moved from the North Queensland Cowboys to the Dragons earlier this month, was on Thursday hit with a breach notice by the NRL.

It leaves the forward facing a potential suspension which could rub him out of the start of the 2024 campaign.

The back-rower was suspended from getting behind the wheel and handed a $300 fine earlier this year following a low-range drink-driving conviction. 

But the Samoa international’s alleged failure to tell the integrity unit and Cowboys about the conviction could come back to haunt him.  

Leilua will be given five days to respond to the breach notice, which could lead to him missing the start of the Dragons’ season.

The 27-year-old only signed with St George Illawarra last Friday and was likely to make Shane Flanagan’s best 17 ahead of their round one clash away to the Gold Coast Titans.  

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“The Dragons were fully aware prior to signing Leilua of a potential breach to be delivered,” St George Illawarra said in a statement on Thursday.

Commission now eyeing off NZ city for expansion

The chances of a second New Zealand team coming into the NRL are rising with the ARL Commission identifying Christchurch as a potential expansion venue later this decade.

While the PNG bid is still the frontrunner to become the 18th team, possibly as early as 2026, the NRL is set to expand to 20 franchises a couple of years later and another outfit in NZ is firming to be one of the options.

A Perth-based bid, potentially in partnership with the North Sydney Bears, is the other option that is gaining traction with the Commission.

ARL chair Peter V’landys said in a NewsCorp interview that “a second New Zealand team has merit”.

“Maybe not as the 18th team, because we are looking to PNG with the support of the Australian government, but it certainly has merit if we go to 20 teams.

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“When (Roosters chairman) Nick Politis says we should be considering 20 teams, you certainly do it because he is a very successful businessman. The Warriors have been wonderful for the game. There is a lot of support in New Zealand.

“We should have a strategy to get there (to 20 teams) at a certain time, whether that’s three years, five years or 10 years.”

The Warriors have stated their opposition to another team coming into the NRL but the prospect of a team in the South Island would create a “local derby” which would bring another rivalry to the competition and also help with the draw by having another side in a friendly time zone.

Foran not the retiring type

Two  NRL premiership-winning playmakers have recently re-signed until the end of 2025, and Gold Coast veteran Kieran Foran wants to be the next.

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“I won’t pull up stumps,” the off-contract Foran told AAP.

The 33-year-old, who was part of Manly’s 2011 premiership side under coach Des Hasler, is in no rush to extend his deal beyond 2024.

However, with Brisbane’s Adam Reynolds and Sydney Roosters’ Luke Keary both inking new deals, it has shone a light on the value of players with their rare football nous.

“They have had wonderful careers and are still going extremely well, and I’d like to think I can do the same,” Foran told AAP at the club’s season launch.

“I’m not feeling like I am slowing up or seeing the finish line. I feel as good as I have ever felt physically and mentally. 

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“There is just no need from my point of view to have an end point in mind.  

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“I’ll keep playing for as long as I can. I will stay on (beyond 2024) if the club feels it’s needed and if it is what’s right for the club. I won’t pull up stumps.” 

Foran has had battles with his body over the years, which is hardly a surprise. He is a No.6 who takes on the line with no thought of self-preservation. 

He is in career-best shape and is still the man the Titans will depend on in the big moments.

Like all the best playmakers, Foran makes the players around him better, while making his own pivotal mark on all the games he plays.

That is why the 281-game NRL veteran is not expecting to be made a special case under his old Manly coach Hasler, who has taken over at the helm of the Titans in 2024.

Reynolds won the 2014 title with South Sydney, and Keary won three premierships with the Roosters (2013, 2018-19). The veterans still hold the key to their teams’ performances week-in and week-out.

While Foran is also the linchpin at the Titans, that fact is not funnelling into any complacency.

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“I am a realist,” he  said.  “I know I will be judged on performance and results, no different to anyone else.”

Gus in strife with Cowboys over leaking contract info

Canterbury general manager Phil Gould has earned the ire of the Cowboys after claiming on his podcast that gun forward Heilum Luki had sealed a deal to remain with North Queensland.

The club has denied that they have agreed to terms with Luki, who has been chased by several teams including the Dragons and Dolphins, who have offered lucrative long-term contracts.

“It was kind of expected he’d take a big offer to go elsewhere to the Dragons or Dolphins,” Gould said on Six Tackles with Gus.

Heilum Luki. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

“He had an option in his favour to stay with the club and has elected to stay. I don’t think they thought that was going to happen.

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“That will put a lot of pressure on (re-signing) Kulikefu Finefeuiaki, who is an outstanding young talent and probably on a much smaller contract than he can get somewhere else.

“They’d have to upgrade him to keep him, but they didn’t have that sort of money available, particularly after Heilum Luki took up his option to stay.”

The Cowboys recently released Luciano Leilua to St George Illawarra, who are also chasing Finefeuiaki as part of Shane Flanagan’s roster rebuild.

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