John Bateman – Michmutters

Isaiah Papali’i Wests Tigers backflip; Tim Sheens, Benji Marshall, team news, 2023 roster, Luke Brooks future

The Wests Tigers have been told to “win the war” over star recruit Isaiah Papali’i as the club faces a “massive moment” in its history.

The Eels enforcer was seen as a major coup when he inked a three-year $1.9 million deal in November.

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But the 23-year-old is reportedly weighing up his future after the Tigers parted ways with premiership winning coach Michael Maguire.

It is the first major challenge for the Tigers new coaching group of Tim Sheens, Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah, one that could shape the immediate future of the embattled club.

Speaking on NRL360, the Daily Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield said it was vital that the club made sure Papali’i honored his lucrative contract.

“It’s no good the Wests Tigers having the new Sheens-Benji combination at the head of the club if they’re going to back down on something like this,” Rothfield said on Wednesday.

“It’s a crunch signing for them, as important as Api (Koroisau). They’ve got to stay strong.”

Papali’i was widely seen as one of the best new buys in the competition in 2021, as he was included in the Dally M Team of the Year after a stellar first season in blue and gold.

The talented forward played 25-games for the Eels last season, having scored seven tries, averaged 150 running meters per game, and made more than 800 tackles.

What’s more, his signature saw the Tigers part ways with the likes of Luke Garner and Luciano Leilua.

Isaiah Papali'i could backflip on his Tigers deal.
Isaiah Papali’i could backflip on his Tigers deal.Source: Getty Images

NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent said the saga surrounding Papali’i had seen the club reach a crossroads.

“It’s a massive moment in the club and the new future of the club, given the new appointment of the coaches,” he said.

Kent then questioned the re-signing of Brent Naden after the club announced this week he had inked an extension until the end of the 2025 season.

“If you’re going to go out and sell your club, Brent Naden is not the guy you’re going to go ‘look who we’ve just signed, come and play with us’,” Kent said.

“They’ve got to win the war of Papali’i first.”

Co-host Braith Anasta was also surprised by the Naden announcement and the club needed to identify what a Wests Tigers player represents.

“They’ve got the opportunity here, the Wests Tigers, and you see it with the Bulldogs at the moment, to start from the bottom up again,” Anasta said.

“They’ve got Sheens, they’ve got Marshall, great look, you want to attract players. You want to attract the right players from the start, set the tone.

“What sort of personality are you looking for? What sort of player do you want to be a Wests Tigers player? That’s what I’m talking about.”

Brent Naden signed an extension with the Tigers this week.Source: Getty Images

The Australian’s Brent Read said the Naden announcement, at a time where there is uncertainty surrounding a host of big-name Tigers stars, was not what fans wanted to see.

“He’s a tell me a dozen,” he said on NRL360.

“You know what the Wests Tigers fans want to hear about? They want to hear about (Adam) Doueihi, they want to hear about (Daine) Laurie, they want to hear about (Jackson) Hastings, they want to hear about (Luke) Brooks,” Read said.

“That’s what they care about. Brent Naden they can give or take, due respect to Brent Naden, but they want to hear what’s going on with those four blokes.”

Rothfield, however, said the club was right to lock Naden down.

“I think you’re being really unfair on that young fella, I really do,” he said.

“I think he’s a handy player,” Rothfield said. “You don’t let players go alright and handy players, you don’t not sign them.”

The drama surrounding the Tigers roster is unlikely to begin and end with Papali’i.

Luke Brooks has repeatedly been linked with a move to Newcastle despite denying he wants out.

Rumors about Luke Brooks’ future at the Tigers won’t go away.Source: Supplied

Fellow half Jackson Hastings’ future is also up in the air. The Sydney Morning Herald reported last month that Hastings, who has been playing lock, could be axed as part of a roster overhaul.

This report claimed there are people within the club who believe Hastings has had a negative influence on the playing group.

This week Rothfield then revealed another rumor surrounding Brooks which will do little to quell the feeling of uncertainty at Concord.

“There’s been all sorts of rumours,” he said.

“There was a strong one (Tuesday) that Luke Brooks was going to N and Frizell was coming to Wests Tigers as a swap. As an edge forward.

“Tim Sheens said it’s not happening but a lot of people saw it as insurance if Papali’i doesn’t come.”

Wests have also reportedly inquired about former Raiders second rower John Bateman, who is currently plying his trade back in England with Wigan.

The inquiry, as reported by Fox Sports’ James Hooper, is believed to be “unrelated to Isaiah Papali’i” and his contract drama.

“Tim’s got something going on cause I spoke to him this week, I asked him about Papali’i and he said ‘he’s coming and don’t worry there’s other stuff happening,” Read added.

“Edge backrower is an area that they need to address. He’d be a really handy one for them.”



Penrith Panthers v Melbourne Storm, rivalry, round 22, hubris, Ivan Cleary, Matt Tripp, Greg Alexander, Cameron Smith

The most explosive clash of the NRL season is set to unfold when Penrith host Melbourne on Thursday night in the wake of a bitter war of words between the clubs.

They’re the two most successful teams, alongside the Roosters, of the past five years and will meet in a highly-anticipated top-four showdown.

The Storm and Panthers have ended each other’s campaigns in arguably the two best games of the past two seasons.

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Melbourne won the premiership after Penrith finished on top of the ladder in 2020 and then those roles were reversed last year.

The rivalry between the past two premiers is the fiercest in the game right now.

Panthers players were outraged by Instagram videos after the 2020 grand finale and they got their revenge by knocking the Storm out in an epic preliminary final last year.

“They don’t like each other,” The Australian’s Brent Read said on NRL360 on Wednesday about the rivalry

“It’s been evident for a while that these teams dislike each other but it’s gone up a notch this week.”

Both teams will be missing key cavalry for the blockbuster at BlueBet Stadium but tensions will still be sky high with plenty on the line for both teams in the run to the finals.

The Panthers were superb last week against the Canberra Raiders without the State of Origin halves pairing of Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai, but things get even tougher with James Fisher-Harris now suspended.

The latest chapter in the clubs’ fierce rivalry is now set to be written after Panthers great Greg Alexander and Storm legend Cameron Smith traded barbs throughout the week.

The Panthers and Storm have built quite the rivalry. Greg Alexander (left) and Cameron Smith (right). GettySource: FOX SPORTS

That stoush over who is responsible for an influx of dangerous tackles in the game quickly escalated.

“I thought it was just a general consensus that over the last 20 years that all the tackles, the wrestling techniques had come out of Melbourne,” Alexanders said after Smith blew up at his initial accusation.

The exchange between Alexander and Smith prompted a stunning outburst from Melbourne’s chairman and owner Matt Tripp.

Tripp blasted Penrith deputy chairman Alexander’s comments as “stupid” and accused the reigning premiers of arrogance.

“Absolutely unfair,” Clearly said of Tripp’s comments.

“I’m not here to judge anyone else. But I know that Brandy (Alexander) is an outstanding commentator and a decorated figure in the game. If anyone’s able to have an opinion it’s Brandy.

“Most of his opinions are spot on. But that was his opinion of him in a completely different role. So, I don’t think it’s fair for everyone else at our club to be labeled what we were, but these things happen sometimes.”

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Following Tripp’s blow-up, the Storm were then accused of having a “chip on their shoulder” by the NRL 360 panel who also believe the Panthers will use Tripp’s comments as motivation.

“There’s going to be plenty of spice, it’s going to be a great game,” Paul Crawley said.

“The Storm are in a bit of strife on the field and they really have to show some signs of fighting back and I just can’t see how they’re going to do that against the Panthers.”

“What I’m fascinated with is the chairman versus the deputy chairman, Tripp versus Alexander,” Paul Kent said.

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“Some of the things that Tripp said about Penrith, he said the club was arrogant, he turned from criticism of Greg Alexander into criticism of the club.

“And I’ll tell you one thing about Penrith, when you criticize them, they respond to it and they’re very good at coming out and saying ‘is this what you think about us, well we’ll show you what we think about you’ and they deliver.”

Brent Read believes Alexander may have tactically brought up the tackling argument ahead of the clash.

“At this time of year, this invariably raises its head, you point the finger at Melbourne and say they invented the wrestle and it’s just an easy argument,” Read said.

“I’m it doesn’t hurt Penrith (this week).”

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Read also defended any perceived arrogance from Penrith players during matches.

“On the field they play with swagger. They play with a bit of arrogance. You have got to have that to be successful.”

Braith Anasta agreed that arrogance can be a powerful tool for a sporting team when used correctly.

“In any sport you have got to have confidence,” Anasta said.

Some people think they cross the line a little bit but you need confidence. You need a little bit of arrogance. You need to go out there thinking, I’ve got you covered.”

Storm star Jahrome Hughes apologized earlier this season after being named as the main culprit in 2020 grand final celebration footage mocking Panthers players’ Mt Druit roots.

Panthers center Stephen Crichton revealed the footage was used as motivation, sparking their stunning 2021 preliminary final win over Melbourne.

To motivate his players prior to the 2021 preliminary final, assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo saved the clip.

Ciraldo told his players in the lead-up to the Panthers’ huge 10-6 win they needed to “protect where you come from”.

– with Martin Gabor



Isaac Moses back in NRL, ban lifted, reaction, player managers, Gavin Orr, why was Isaac Moses banned?, clients

Controversial rugby league player manager Isaac Moses looks set to return to the NRL after a leaked email revealed he has been given the green light to return to the industry again.

Moses had been deregistered for 18 months after he was found to have breached his obligations as an agent in 2017 while working with then client Tim Mannah.

There was no guarantee Moses would be cleared to return to the game again but now he and another banned agent, Gavin Orr, have been given a reprieve.

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“He has been reinstated according to a leaked document,” rugby league reporter Michelle Bishop said on SEN 1170.

“A panel, we haven’t been told who was actually sitting on the panel to make the call on Tuesday night, listened to the managers pleading their case. They’ve decided that they’ve done their time and offered to lift their ban.

“Moses, who has a stable of about 100 players and looks after some coaches as well, he was deregistered in February 2021 for breaching his obligations as an agent. He was looking after Tim Mannah at the time. That ended in tears, I won’t go into finer details, but he’s back after 18 months.

“Gavin Orr had some issues in and around the salary cap with Cheyse Blair when he was at Parramatta. At one stage we were talking about both these player agents facing life bans. It’s been a massive turnaround.”


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At the time of Moses’ ban in February 2021, the NRL Appeals Committee described his breach as “one of great seriousness”.

Fox League’s James Hooper had reported back in April that Moses was getting closer to being allowed back into the game, not that the ban was stopping him from finding another way to support his clients.

“Technically, Moses has been banned from directly dealing with all 16 NRL clubs since the beginning of last year,” Hooper wrote in April.

“But in reality the deregistered agent’s company Cove Agency is still one of the most influential in the game and has been as busy as ever with a list of more than 100 NRL players on the books.

“Moses simply handed over the reins of the operation to his cousin – Stephen Moses – the brother of Eels halfback Mitchell Moses.”



John Bateman to Wests Tigers, Wigan, Canberra Raiders, Super League, Jimmy Brings, James Hooper

The Wests Tigers have made an inquiry with Wigan about the prospect of bringing 2019 Dally M Backrower of the Year John Bateman back to the NRL in 2023.

In a move unrelated to Isaiah Papali’i having second thoughts about switching from Parramatta to Concord next year, Tigers director of football Tim Sheens has confirmed the club has made the approach.

The catch is going to be Bateman is under contract with Wigan until at least the end of 2024 and for now the Warriors have blocked the Tigers move.

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Bateman was one of the standout backrowers in the NRL the year the Canberra Raiders made the grand finale in 2019 before his tenure in the national capital sourced over a contract stalemate with the Green Machine.

Bateman then returned home to the UK at the end of the 2020 NRL season after inking a four-year deal with Wigan through until the end of 2024.

The Raiders were forced to pay a $250,000 transfer fee to Bradford to bring Bateman to the NRL the first time around but the one bonus with transfer fees to English clubs is they aren’t included in the NRL clubs salary cap.


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The Tigers have made a play for former Raiders star John Bateman.Source: Getty Images

The Bateman approach is creative thinking from Sheens trying to look outside the square and devise recruitment ploys aimed at overhauling the Wests Tigers roster.

The Tigers have made some recruitment moves this week by re-signing Brent Naden, Asu Kepoa and Starford To’a but the real recruitment space where they need to get busy is the re-signing of Adam Doueihi.

Doueihi is easily the Tigers best player, a local junior and the type of leader the Wests Tigers need to build the club around.

With Sheens and Benji Marshall now having control of the steering wheel at least it won’t be left to dithering management types to make another misguided mistake.

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‘He gets angry at some weird things’ | 01:13

The issue with Doueihi is he’s going to be a free agent as of November 1 and you can guarantee rival clubs are going to be getting the queue to try and convince the five-eighth to switch allegiances.

The Tigers need to sharpen their pencil and try and get a long-term deal done now prior to the stronger clubs being able to table a deal.

The Melbourne Storm have already had one crack at getting Doueihi on loan for the remainder of this year and with uncertainty surrounding the future of Cameron Munster the Tigers five-eighth would make an ideal replacement.