Penrith Panthers – Michmutters

Cameron Ciraldo to coach Canterbury Bulldogs, contract, how many years, Penrith Panthers, latest, updates

Cameron Ciraldo has landed his first NRL head coaching gig as he reportedly inked a five-year deal to take over the Canterbury Bulldogs from 2023.

Ciraldo, considered one of the brightest coaching minds in the game, has spent several years as Ivan Cleary’s understudy at the Penrith Panthers.

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He has also turned down a number of approaches from other teams for a head coaching position previously, including one from the Wests Tigers in June.

Ciraldo had been heavily linked with the vacancy at Belmore after Trent Barrett left the role earlier this season.

The 38-year-old, who will also become the youngest head coach in the NRL next season, is no stranger to Bulldogs GM of football Phil Gould as the duo worked together at the Panthers.

According to The Daily Telegraphan emotional Ciraldo broke the news to the Panthers playing group at training on Sunday.

speaking on Fox League’s broadcast, Michael Ennis and Greg Alexander, two figures who have connections to the Bulldogs and Panthers respectively, spoke glowingly of Ciraldo’s credentials.

“It’s exciting times for them (Bulldogs),” Ennis said.

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“Cameron’s very much where Craig Fitzgibbon was 12 months ago where he’s done a wonderful apprenticeship in a really good system.

“He’s had some previous experience when Anthony Griffin was moved on, did a great job at the back end of the season with the Panthers.

“So many of those young superstars that are now dominating at the top level, not just in club football but at Origin level, have such a wonderful wrap on him.”

While Alexander was upset to see Ciraldo move on from the Panthers, he believes it’s a sign that the club will continue to catapult assistant coaches into first grade gigs in the future.

“I’m excited for Cameron. It’s disappointing, but assistant coaches, everyone knows they’re about to move on. There’s been three moving on in the last two years.

“Trent Barrett left Penrith and went to the Dogs, Andrew Webster’s going to the Warriors and Cameron Ciraldo is going to the Dogs.

“Penrith’s assistant coaches, in terms of getting first grade jobs, have been pretty good.”

The hire of Ciraldo is also likely to keep five-eighth star Matt Burton at the club in a major boost to the club’s playing squad.

Ciraldo will take over a resurgent Bulldogs outfit thanks to interim coach Mick Potter’s efforts.

His departure is no doubt a massive blow to the Panthers, as Cleary must now search for two new assistans for next season following the looming exits of Ciraldo and Andrew Webster, who will take over the New Zealand Warriors in 2023.



Canberra Raiders, Ricky Stuart suspension, St George, NRL finals, playoff picture, top eight, the run home, rugby league, suspension

NRL great Cameron Smith believes Raiders coach Ricky Stuart got off lightly after he received a one game ban for a post-match spray about Panthers playmaker Jaeman Salmon.

Stuart was also issued with a $25,000 fine after calling Salmon “a weak-gutted dog” after Canberra’s 26-6 to Penrith last Saturday.

The veteran coach will miss his side’s crunch match with St George on Sunday, as the Raiders look to keep their dwindling hopes of finals football alive.

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As reported by Fox Sports’ James Hooper, Stuart also can’t attend training sessions or contract anyone at the club for seven days from when the punishment was handed down.

speaking on The Captains Runformer Melbourne Storm captain Smith said that he was expecting Stuart to be issued with at least a two-game suspension for his spray.

“With the Salmon family situation, are they still seeking some legal advice on the situation? That’s always an option for them because without a doubt it’s defamation, every day of the week,” Smith said onSEN 1170 Radio.

“I was shocked Kempy (Denan Kemp), I was really shocked. I don’t know how you felt about it but I was extremely shocked when I heard the comments from Ricky.

“We’ve all seen him have his say in post-match press conferences and at times he has certainly pushed the boundaries as far as comments and remarks around officials and what happened on the game.

“That was just a clear crossing of the line. You just don’t go there in that forum.

“He said as much in the days post the comments that he made that it was the wrong thing to do. Now he’s coped a week for it.


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“I thought that it was quite light to be honest, one week. Fairly significantly fine involved, $25,000, it’s a lot of money.

“I actually thought it was going to be more around a minimum of two weeks suspension from the club.”

While Stuart has never been afraid to express how he’s feeling after a match, both Smith and co-host Denan Kemp agreed that a line had been crossed.

Kemp said that a one match suspension was still “reasonable” considering how the Raiders are placed on the ladder, but still felt that the comments had fallen into a “no go zone”.

“If I’m being honest, I used to enjoy his blow-ups. I really did. As a footy fan I thought it was great that we had this guy that sometimes crossed the line, but I think the key for me was always it was about the football with professionals,” Kemp said.

“Whether he’s having a crack at the refs or whoever it was, they’re professionals, they’re apart of the game, and he’s having his opinion on that situation. That’s where I can go ‘you know what, I kind of like the passion’.

“The line is when it’s not at football, and once you get across that line, it’s a no go zone.

Cleary backs NRL over Stuart suspension | 02:44

“The reason why I’m a bit surprised he only got one week was because he obviously has formed, he’s got I think it was $160,000 worth of fines now.

“I’m still happy with a week. His team is at a very crucial point in the season right now, they need to win every single game pretty much.

Canberra are still in with a chance of playing finals football this season as they continue the run home with four games left to be played.

They’re two competition points behind eighth-place Sydney Roosters, but have a significantly worse point’s differential which could work against them.

Smith thinks that they’ll overcome the loss of their coach to incredibly make the finals, as they have the “softest run” of any team currently in the mix.



Transfer Whispers, Dylan Brown, contract extensions, transfer news, Parramatta Eels signing, re-signing, off-contract players, Isaiah Papali’i backflip

Isaiah Papali’i’s management has reportedly confirmed the Eels backrower will honor his Tigers contract, ending speculation surrounding his future.

According to the SMH, Tim Sheens, who will take the coaching reins in 2023, spoke to agent Dan O’Loughlin regarding Papali’i’s doubts.

The merger club were reportedly assured the 23-year-old would land in Leichhardt for the club’s pre-season training alongside star recruit Apisai Koroisau.

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Papali’i previously explained he wants to have “no regrets” regarding his decision.

“Obviously people ask me about it, just even on the street or family and friends are hitting me up but that’s kind of for my manager look after and even if I don’t stay here or I do go next year, I want to make sure that this year has no regrets,” he said to 9 News.

When asked why he had doubts about making the move, Papali’i said it was Maguire’s axing that made him question his decision.

“I think it was the coaching axing that went on,” Papali’i said.

“When I did sign it was talking to Madge — he’s an awesome coach. That rattled the cage a bit and I guess you have to have those conversations and I guess that was a massive factor for me.”

Cheese cuts through on hectic solo run! | 00:45

Papali’i will be a key player for the Tigers, who are hoping to rebuild under Sheens, Marshall and Farrah’s tutelage.

“The only thing I will say is I’m looking forward to coaching him,” Sheens said.

Sheens’ Tigers rebuild is underway, with reports suggesting the club will make a play for former Raiders backrower John Bateman.

The Tigers have also reportedly spoken to Papali’i’s management regarding their vision for the club under the new coaching structure.


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Parramatta star Dylan Brown’s management has reportedly urged the table a lucrative contract extension to keep the young gun at the Eels as rivals circle.

According to The Daily Telegraph, the 22-year-old’s agent met with Parramatta powerbrokers this week as the five-eighth was reportedly labeled a retention priority.

While Brown’s management is hard at work, the New Zealand international expressed his desire to stay out of any negotiations until after this year’s World Cup.

“My manager would have communicated that (to the Eels) to leave me alone until the season is done,” Brown said.

“I just don’t like it. I’d rather not sort that stuff out (during the season).

“Any distraction is a bad distraction when you are playing footy.”

Brown’s preference to put extensions talks on hold could worry Eels bosses, with rivals being able to make a play for the in-form playmaker come November 1.

Reports suggest Brown’s preference is to stay in Sydney’s west and the Eels mass player exodus has left them in a strong position to offer Brown an upgraded deal.


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Storm sizzle poor Panthers | 02:01

Brown has enjoyed the best season of his four-year career in 2022, recording 14 tries assists with a new-found confidence.

The young gun explained coach Brad Arthur has been instilling that confidence in him, and fans have been treated to a full display of his running game this year.

“The last couple of years … I have always been, not afraid, but I would second guess myself,” Brown said.

“I feel like you have got to go with your gut feeling sometimes and just be confident in what you are doing.

“You’re not getting selected in an NRL team to second guess yourself and not be confident.

“I’m in the team for a reason. Brad is trying to drive that into me. I feel like the more ball I get the better the left edge will go.”

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Fletch lauds Green’s Roosters influence | 03:04



NRL news 2022: Penrith Panthers suffer rare defeat in heavyweight bout with Melbourne Storm

It was touted as a heavyweight bout between two sides who hate each other and it even featured some late biff in the Riff, but it was Melbourne who issued a Storm warning that should strike fear into the rest of the NRL.

It was less than a month ago that Craig Bellamy said he was unsure whether the Storm could turn things around to go on a famous premiership run after they’d just lost their fourth game on the trot.

But the legendary Storm coach might need to be a bit more arrogant after three-straight wins, including a statement victory over the defending premiers on Thursday night that has them primed for a top-four finish.

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“It was important for us because we’ve been hanging around the bottom of the top four,” Bellamy said.

“I thought that was our best performance for quite some time. That’s as well as we’ve defended for a year or two.”

The Storm were without halfback Jahrome Hughes (shoulder) but they smelled blood in the water and feasted on the makeshift Panthers spine in a performance reminiscent of years gone by when they were the NRL’s apex predators.

It was a night to remember for the small contingent of Storm fans at BlueBet Stadium, and it was Melbourne’s biggest human who stole the show with a brutal display in an unfamiliar role.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona was like a wrecking ball on the right, terrorizing Penrith’s edge defenders while at the same time blunting Viliame Kikau’s impact by simply clogging up gaps in the line.

The man mountain relished the extra room out wide with 62 meters, five tackle busts and three offloads in a barnstorming 37-minute stint as the visitors racked up an insurmountable 16-0 lead by halftime.

While he did plenty in attack, his most telling play was in defense when he somehow denied a rampaging Kikau over the line, which then led to David Nofoaluma’s first try in Storm colors from the ensuing set.

Injuries mount for mountain men

They’ve enjoyed one of the smoothest years imaginable, but things are starting to look a bit rough for the Panthers just a few weeks out from the finals.

The defending premiers were missing starting halves Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai as well as powerhouse prop James Fisher-Harris, while they were also dealt a massive blow before kick-off when courageous fullback Dylan Edwards was ruled out after he copped a battering in Canberra last week.

Things got worse on Thursday night with NSW representative Liam Martin rolling his left ankle so badly that he had to be helped from the field by two trainers and was on crutches in the dressing room.

Penrith’s depth is the envy of the league but even they can’t win the comp if they continue to rack up injuries every week, and Thursday’s performance will give their rivals hope that they are in fact fallible.

The mass changes took their toll with the Panthers producing their worst half of football at home since 2017.

They enjoyed the bulk of possession and territory after the break but couldn’t cross the stripe as they were held scoreless at home for the first time since 2015 against who else but the Storm.

“I thought there were some combination issues for us tonight,” Ivan Cleary said. “It was a good lesson for our younger guys.”

Precious Olam

Justin Olam has failed to match his dazzling form of 2021, but the center built of granite produced his best game of the season as a replenished Storm backline showed how potent it can be when the troops are back on deck.

The hitman produced two monstrous shots in defense that Jaeman Salmon and Brian To’o will be feeling for weeks, but it was his dazzling speed that caught the Panthers by surprise.

Olam scorched his way down the sideline to set up the returning Nick Meaney with a pinpoint chip kick and nearly produced an identical play for Cameron Munster to end the half.

oh so close

Waqa Blake produced the finish of the year last week but it would’ve been a short time at the top if Xavier Coates had been able to pull off the most miraculous grounding of all time.

The Storm winger’s body was in Melbourne yet he somehow managed to stretch his arm towards the line, only for the ball to come free an inch from the line after a big shot by Charlie Staines.

It wasn’t the only unique piece of play with Tui Kamikamica playing a big part in Brandon Smith’s try when he pushed ‘the Cheese’ into a hole before he sped straight past Staines.

—NCA NewsWire

Read related topics:melbourne



Cameron Munster at fullback, positional switch, Jahrome Hughes return, Melbourne Storm team, highlights

It was only a few weeks ago that Craig Bellamy made a stunning admission, telling reporters he was “not confident” Melbourne could turn a worrying form slump around.

The Storm had slumped to a fourth-straight loss for the first time in seven years and even Bellamy was unsure if this champion team had it in them to rise to the top again.

It was on the playing group to prove Bellamy wrong and while wins over the Warriors and Titans were certainly needed, Thursday night was their chance to make a statement.

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Sure, the Panthers were severely understrength but so were the Storm and yet a defensive masterclass paved the way for a 16-0 shutout victory over the defending premiers.

Now in a strong position to wrap up a spot in the top four, Melbourne is right back in the title picture and Bellamy has a secret weapon up his sleeve that keeps everyone guessing.

Even Cameron Smith was fooled on Thursday morning, questioning why playmaker Cameron Munster had been moved back to the halves after a starring game at fullback the week prior.

“I was a little bit surprised, I thought he may have kept him there,” Smith admitted on SEN 1170 Radio.

Storm sizzle poor Panthers | 02:01

Bellamy did keep Munster there, although it was not necessarily always going to be the plan as the Storm coach revealed in his post-game press conference on Thursday night.

“It worked pretty well last week as well,” Bellamy said.

“We weren’t quite sure earlier in the week on which way we were going to go. We trained both of them there. I think we will probably look at it on our opposition and what we think the best way to use Munster and the best way to use Nick and their strengths [is].

“I’m not quite sure we’ll actually stick with Munster at fullback all the time but we need to have a bit of a chat about that with the leaders, obviously our halves and see what the coaches think.”


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That in itself spells trouble for the rest of the competition.

It is already hard enough to defend Munster but not knowing where exactly he will be playing in the lead-up to a game makes that tougher, you only have to ask Ivan Cleary.

The Panthers coach was asked after Thursday’s defeat “what sort of threat” Munster posed at fullback, to which Cleary could only laugh.

“A lot,” he said.

“I don’t know whether fullback is much different. I suppose he doesn’t have all the defensive work to do. He’s just playing really well, definitely dangerous and he still seemed to come up with big plays when they needed it tonight. He’s definitely a threat.”

There was a similar response from Panthers great Greg Alexander, who was asked pre-game by Jess Yates which Melbourne player he was most worried about.

“Well, Cameron Munster, Cameron Munster and Cameron Munster,” Alexander replied.

That and “who ended up playing fullback”.

Unfortunately for Alexander and the Panthers, that also ended up being Munster and he backed up last week’s three-try effort against the Titans with another impressive display.

Munster ran for 142 meters at the back to go with five tackle busts two linebreak assists and also kicked for 537, filling the void left by halfback Jahrome Hughes.


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Cameron Munster starred at fullback. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“It’s been handy this year,” Bellamy said of having the option of playing Munster at fullback.

“The last few months or so with Paps being out and Nick missing a week. He’s certainly a different character Munster but he’s a great guy to have around the club and obviously one hell of a player.

“We’re fairly lucky to have him. The other big thing about him is he’s such a competitor. He just competes in everything at training and in games. That’s what makes him what he is.”

Bellamy admitted there may have been a point earlier in Munster’s career where he may have wanted a greater say in what position he played.

But this is a more mature Munster, one who is “just happy to play a role that’s best for the team”.

‘Ludicrous’ – Brandy hits back | 01:49

“Earlier in his career he’d probably have a say or opinion on it,” Bellamy said.

“But I think now, and I haven’t actually spoke to him too closely about it, he just usually says wherever you think I fit best in the team, I’m going to do that.

“Wherever the team needs him, he’s quite happy to do that. I think he really enjoys playing fullback because it gives him a little bit more freedom but he’s just happy to play a role that’s best for the team. It just shows how much he’s matured.”



Casualty Ward, Round 22, injuries, ins and outs, return dates, Liam Martin, Penrith Panthers

The Panthers have suffered yet another injury blow to their already-depleted stocks, with Liam Martin rolling his ankle in Thursday night’s clash with the Storm.

Martin suffered the injury in the second half and hobbled from the field in clear pain, supported by two trainers.

The 25-year-old Blues star later hobbled to the bench using crutches, and was seen with ice wrapped around his ankle.

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Liam Martin (ankle) – TBC

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Liam Martin copped a painful ankle injury in another blow to the Panthers.Source: FOX SPORTS



Jordan Pereira (illness) – TBC

Albert Kelly (foot) – Round 22

TC Robati (arm) – Round 22

Herbie Farnworth (biceps) – indefinite

Patrick Carrigan (suspension) – Round 25


Ryan Sutton (head knock) – Round 22

Xavier Savage (ankle) – Round 22

Joseph Tapine (ribs) – Round 23

Nick Cotric (suspended) – Round 23

Harry Rushton (jaw) – Round 25

Jarrod Croker (shoulder) – season

Josh Hodgson (knee) – season

Harley Smith-Shields (knee) – season

Buzz: Roosters have looming cap issues | 04:08


Paul Alamoti (cheekbone) – Round 22

Ava Seumanufagai (calf) – Round 22

Tevita Pangai Jnr (personal reasons) – Round 23

Corey Waddell (suspension) – Round 25

Corey Allan (groin) – Round 25

Reece Hoffman (hand) – Round 25

Luke Thompson (concussion) – indefinite

Jack Hetherington (shoulder) – season

Billy Tsikrikas (knee) – season


Royce Hunt (shoulder) – Round 22

Connor Tracey (head knock) – Round 23

Matt Moylan (quad) – Round 23

Sione Katoa (pectoral) – season

Jack Williams (shoulder) – season


Joe Vuna (knee) – indefinite

Shallin Fuller (leg) – season

Aaron Booth (knee) – season

Cleary backs NRL over Stuart suspension | 02:44


Josh Aloiai (knee) – Round 22

Kieran Foran (hamstring) – Round 22

Taniela Paseka (knee) – Round 23

Sean Keppie (shoulder) – TBC

Tom Trbojevic (shoulder) – season

Karl Lawton (knee) – season


Nick Meaney (shoulder) – Round 22

Justin Olam (Covid) – Round 22

Jahrome Hughes (shoulder) – Round 23-24

Felise Kaufusi (personal reasons) – TBC

Tepai Moeroa (shoulder) – Round 23

Trent Loiero (back) – indefinite

Ryan Papenhuyzen (knee) – season

Reimis Smith (pectoral) – season

Christian Welch (Achilles) – season

George Jennings (knee) – season


Jake Clifford (arm) – TBC

Mitch Barnett (thumb) – TBC

Edrick Lee (foot) – TBC

Hymel Hunt (abductor) – TBC

Lachlan Fitzgibbon (shoulder) – TBC

Kurt Mann (quad) – Round 22

Chris Vea’ila (leg) – indefinite

Kalyn Ponga (concussion) – indefinite

Bailey Hodgson (elbow) – season

Dylan Lucas (pectoral) – season


Jordan McLean (hamstring) – Round 22

Kyle Feldt (hamstring) – Round 23

Mitch Dunn (knee) – season

Heilum Luki (knee) – season


Bailey Simonsson (hamstring) – Round 22

Mitchell Moses (finger) – Round 24-25

Nathan Brown (finger) – TBC

Haze Dunster (knee) – season

Ray Stone (knee) – season


Taylan May (shoulder) – Round 23-24

James Fisher-Harris (suspended) – Round 24

Jarome Luai (knee) – finals

Nathan Cleary (suspension) – finals

Liam Martin (ankle) – TBC

Do Panthers deserve ‘arrogant’ tag? | 03:03


Peter Mamouzelos (wrist) – Round 22

Hame Sele (hamstring) – Round 22

Thomas Burgess (groin) – Round 23

Campbell Graham (cheekbone) – Round 23

Jed Cartwright (hamstring) – Round 23

Kodi Nikorima (hamstring) – Round 24

Michael Chee Kam (thumb) – Round 25

Liam Knight (knee) – season

Jacob Host (shoulder) – season


Cody Ramsey (knee) – Round 22-23

Jayden Sullivan (shoulder) – Round 23

Mikaele Ravalawa (hamstring) – finals

Moses Suli (ankle) – finals

Tariq Sims (suspended) – finals


Sam Verrills (head knock) – Round 22

Egan Butcher (suspended) – Round 22

Lindsay Collins (concussion) – Round 23

Siosiua Taukeiaho (cheekbone) – Round 23

Billy Smith (knee) – season

Sitili Tupouniua (knee) – season


Aaron Pene (leg) – Round 23

Jesse Arthars (quad) – Round 23

Chanel Harris-Tavita (knee) – Round 23

Ben Murdoch-Masila (elbow) – Round 24-25

Jazz Tevaga (shoulder) – season

Ronald Volkman (shoulder) – season


Luke Garner (neck) – Round 22-23

Tommy Talau (knee) – Round 24-25

Stefano Utoikamanu (wrist) – Round 24-25

Luke Brooks (calf) – Round 25

Jackson Hastings (ankle) – season

Alex Twal (concussion) – season

Shawn Blore (ACL) – season



South Sydney Rabbitohs, Latrell Mitchell, Matty Johns, premiership race, rugby league, New South Wales, Parramatta Eels, top four race

Matty Johns believes that South Sydney can “come from nowhere” to win the NRL premiership this season, but only if they address a potentially decisive part of their game.

South Sydney can move up to fifth on the ladder if they beat Parramatta in a crunch clash at CommBank Stadium on Friday night.

Both teams will be looking to keep their top four hopes alive with a win in the blockbuster, while the loser could risk dropping down the ladder.

Stream every game of every round of the 2022 NRL Telstra Premiership Season Live & Ad-Break Free During Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >


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The Rabbitohs began their impressive run of form against Parramatta early last month, recording the first of four consecutive wins.

After wins over the struggling Newcastle Knights and Bulldogs, Souths made a statement with a 12-point win over the Melbourne Storm.

While they lost in golden point the week after against the Sharks, they bounced back with an emphatic win over the Warriors on the Sunshine Coast.

But not everyone is sold on their recent successes, with Matty Johns comparing the team to a “nice Sunday drive.”

“South Sydney, their recent performances remind me of someone taking a nice Sunday drive, and I mean that both in praise and criticism,” Johns said on SEN’s Morning Glory.

“Watching South Sydney, and I think it’s a bad practice, it’s something they’ve got to be really careful of, they’re lifting the intensity only when they think they need to.

“That’s a concern because intensity and focus and poise under pressure is not something you just reach for out of the kit bag and say ‘alright we’re gonna do it now’.

“Last week I was expecting a real statement game against the Warriors, and they delivered in the first-half. Their intent and their blueprint (on) how they played their best football was the evidence.

Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell has been in some sensational form for the Rabbitohs since returning from injury. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“But the second-half there was just no intensity in the contest… and I’m probably knit-picking a little bit because I do like to see coaches showing a range of emotions, but in that second-half when they were really wiping the floor with the Warriors, whenever they cut up to the coaches box the whole coaching staff were really pissing themselves laughing.

“That’s almost a little bit symbolic of where Souths are. It’s got to start tonight, they’ve got to start to lift and they’ve got to start to play with finals intensity football.”

Latrell Mitchell has been in sensational form for the Rabbitohs, after returning from an almost three month absence against the Eels.

Mitchell has had nine try assists since returning just over one month ago, as well as 33 tackle breaks and four tries.

While the Rabbitohs have largely reaped the rewards since he returned, although Johns issued the team with a warning.

“Latrell plays his best football when he’s relaxed. He’s come back from the States really relaxed, and his touch from him, the way he’s playing is just superb, but it does n’t mean that the rest of the side play their best relaxed, ”he added.

“At the moment there’s a reliance on ‘Trell will get it done’. When you’ve got players like Latrell Mitchell in your football side, they are the icing on the cake. They’re the one who can actually get it done for you.

“But you can’t rely on them. Even with Andrew Johns in our side, our forwards were tearing heads off, hitting the line that hard… If suddenly we went out there and say ‘Joey will get us home’, it just doesn’t happen.”

Storm sizzle poor Panthers | 02:01

Despite a tough run home, in which they play the Eels, Panthers, Cowboys and Roosters, Johns believes they can go all the way.

“The way they’re playing, that relaxed style, and the fact they’re playing within themselves and winning, well done to you boys. But they’re in a position, in my opinion, they can win this competition.

“They can come from nowhere and win this competition but they will not win it with the way they’re playing at the moment.

“It’s nothing about talent or anything like that, they’ve just got to develop, in the next few weeks, a really hard edge, and tonight’s a perfect opportunity.”



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.”



Brandon Smith’s sledge at Cameron Munster, Melbourne Storm beat Penrith Panthers, video, highlights

Cameron Munster put on another masterclass at fullback on Thursday night in a 16-0 win over Penrith and earned plenty of praise, along with a cheeky dig, from teammate Brandon Smith.

speaking to Triple Mpost-game, Smith was at his hilarious best in what James Graham described as a “refreshing” interview from the Melbourne Storm forward.

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“He’s [Munster] as thick as pig s***,” Smith laughed.

“He’s the dumbest bloke in the world but when he gets on the field, he’s a genius. It’s outstanding. I’m glad I’m playing with him and not against him. He’s the most annoying bloke on planet earth but he’s one of my good mates so you’ve got to love him.”

As impressive as Munster was, Smith himself was key to the win, helping Melbourne dominate up front and allowing its playmakers to work their magic in the red zone.

Smith said that it was all part of the plan for the Storm, who had a relatively simple strategy for Thursday’s night game.

“Our whole game plan was to stay in the fight and let our superstars go and put the points on,” Smith said.

The Storm were able to put 16 on the board in the first half, although they could not breach the Panthers’ line in the second, restricted to just 37 per cent of the ball.

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The fact Melbourne was able to hold Penrith (55 tackles in opposition 20) scoreless would have certainly pleased coach Craig Bellamy though.

“I know he’ll be super happy with the zero on the Panthers’ board but still a lot of things we have to work on in attack,” Smith said.

“We had Nick Meaney and Cooper Johns partnering together I think for the first time with Munster at fullback.

“Munster and Justin Olam and Marion Seve, the two centers, deserve massive raps they were outstanding.”

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Smith was not just at his cheeky best post-game, also getting under Panthers front rower Spencer Leniu’s skin in the latter stages of the second half as the two sides briefly came together.

“I didn’t say anything,” Smith said of his exchange with Leniu.

“I just pushed him to let him know that… I think it was an accident but still, he hit me in the head and I wasn’t happy.”

“It still bought about 30 seconds off the clock,” he added, laughing, “that was pretty handy.”

“It was a tough game out there tonight. I don’t think I’ve come off the field with these many bumps and bruises.”

Brandon Smith scuffles with Spencer Leniu. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images



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