Former Wests Tigers captain Moses Mbye still unsure about best spot as bench utility switch looms to accommodate Daine Laurie


“We’re working a few things out at the minute and trying to see what fits best for our team,” Mbye said. “You watch those guys on the weekend, I feel like an older fella trying to match it with the younger fellas now.

“I’ve been trying to work out where I want to play and where I’m best suited for a large part of my career. I still haven’t worked it out.

‘I’ve had a really good pre-season, the best I’ve had in a long time. I feel fit and have got myself in really good shape.’

Moses Mbye

“Daine showed some really good form and we’re without Doueihi so I could possibly find myself at six [in round one] and going forward I could even find myself at 14 and making that my role. The game has changed a bit too and we don’t really know what we’re going to get with the rule changes.”

Mbye has primarily played at fullback and centre during his Tigers stint but has even been used at hooker, such is his versatility.

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But it was his breakthrough in the State of Origin arena as a bench utility which could pave the way for a new phase of his NRL career, particularly with the forecast increased speed of the game this season.

“You never know until you get there, but I see it as a really important role,” Mbye said. “It’s hard to say [if I’ll be there]. Madge keeps his cards pretty close to his chest, but time will tell and we’ll find out then.

“To be honest I’ve had a really good pre-season, the best I’ve had in a long time. I feel fit and have got myself in really good shape.”

Mbye has missed the opening round in the last two years with minor injuries and still has a year to run on his lucrative deal with the Tigers after this season.

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Warriors confirm RTS release to NZ rugby


Roger Tuivasa-Sheck wants to deliver the Warriors their maiden NRL premiership as a parting gift before leaving to chase a deal with New Zealand rugby at the end of the season.

The 27-year-old Dally M winner has been released from the final year of his contract with the Warriors in 2022, though he is yet to sign a deal with any rugby club.

Tuivasa-Sheck will be the latest high-profile NRL player to switch to the 15-man code at the peak of his career, joining the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Israel Folau and Suliasi Vunivalu.

On Saturday morning, Tuivasa-Sheck said he came to the decision a few months ago that the time was right to pursue a career in the sport he grew up playing.

“It’s always been there and it’s no secret … rugby is the sport I grew up playing,” he said.

“Rugby is where I started my junior footy and playing rugby right through. It’s always been there in the background.

“To do it now at a time like this and to have the club’s support, that’s why I chose to do it now.”

The timing would appear right with the Rugby World Cup approaching in 2023, but he said any suggestion he would walk into the All Blacks side is’ disrespectful’.

“I’ve been getting a lot of people saying ‘you’re going to the All Blacks’, but that’s a bit disrespectful to a brand like that, so my whole thing is just to go back and play rugby,” he said.

“You don’t just walk into a brand like the All Blacks, you’ve got to earn your way in.”

The Warriors skipper also refused to say which position he is hoping to play, although it’s likely he could start on the wing before developing a kicking game to move into fullback or even centre.

As for the Warriors and how the club goes about replacing their best player, the club has been working behind the scenes for a while.

CEO Cameron George said the decision didn’t come as a shock to the club and there had already been discussions on how to recruit a player to replace the star fullback.

However, the club was shocked by the news breaking in the media on Thursday, forcing Tuivasa-Sheck to hurriedly tell his teammates before the story was published.

“I wish I could have announced it properly and let them know first and in a better way, but the boys have been really good and really supportive and they’re keen to make it happen this year, and I’m all in with them,” he said.

“This club is really important to me and special to me.

“I’ve been wanting to do all I can for this club and I’m even more driven to try and make it happen this year and I know the team are too.”



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NRL could introduce transfer windows as soon as 2022


The Panthers are among the clubs advocating for a change to the current free-for-all system which results in constant player movement and speculation.

“I think if it is more defined, it would make those negotiations a bit easier in my opinion,” Cameron said. “You need to have the clearly defined windows in which to operate to stop people doing silly things during the year. It would make it very transparent, that’s what people are looking for.

The Bulldogs have unsuccessfully been attempting to prise Matt Burton from the Panthers before his contract expires.Credit:NRL Photos

“You would have to land on an equitable system before you do anything else. If they came up with an equitable system, I couldn’t see why you wouldn’t want to bring it in as soon as you could.”

The Panthers have been in the spotlight over the summer as several high-profile players come and go. The Bulldogs have signed their back-up playmaker, Matt Burton, from next season but Penrith has knocked back requests to release him early.

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The NRL has already flagged the prospect of considering stopping players from signing with rival clubs for more money if they break their current contracts. Consideration is also being given to the idea of a central contract register, which would prevent agents from fabricating phantom bids to boost their clients’ asking price.

Fans have cited constant player movement and speculation as one of their major bugbears, while the NRL wants to investigate whether they can commercialise trade windows by making them major events in the season calendar.

The NRL’s most experienced club chief executive, Canberra boss Don Furner, said he would view any proposal with an open mind.

“If it’s for commercial purposes and the NRL believe they can make it into an event the way the [AFL or NBA] draft is, then there may be some merit in that,” Furner said. “My only caution with it is that it’s hard if you put in a rule you can’t police.

“It won’t clean up all the background dealing [of clubs and agents] and the leaks to the media, it’s not going to be the silver bullet to stopping all of that. Those things will still go on and make the paper. We’re be happy to look at whatever the proposal is.”

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Wayne Bennett, Ivan Cleary and Nathan Brown are among the club coaches who have previously been the most vocal in their support of trade windows.

“[Contract] values could be more accurate, recruitment processes would be better and more accurate. It feels like it could be better,” Cleary told the Herald last month.

In a change for the current season, the transfer window has been pushed back until August 1 for teams to finalise their 30-man rosters. It could lead to even greater speculation about player movement as clubs tweak their rosters in the run to the finals.

It increases the prospect of Cameron Smith joining a team late in the season if a club retains the salary cap space required to squeeze him in.

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Penrith Panthers prop Spencer Leniu passed on Craig Bellamy and Melbourne Storm


The Auckland-born Mt Druitt-raised Leniu, however, said his heart was always set on staying with his mates at Penrith. That was made clear to Bellamy and his staff as they quickly realised their best sales pitch would still fall short.

Leniu signed a two-year extension until the end of 2023, while Penrith bumped up his current deal for this season.

Spencer Leniu carts the ball up against Parramatta on Saturday.Credit:Getty Images

The Storm had one eye on the future, especially with Nelson Asofa-Solomona the only front-rower signed beyond 2022.

“I had a few Zoom chats with Melbourne, and knowing Melbourne were chasing someone like me was very humbling,” Leniu told the Herald. “It’s every young player’s dream to be coached by Craig Bellamy.

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“He didn’t need to sell me the Storm. The Storm sells itself. He liked my aggression. When we had a seven-a-side trial here against the Storm, that’s when he [started following me]. He said there was something they had liked after that trial.

“But I love Penrith and love [Panthers coach] Ivan [Cleary] and what he has done for my career so far. I wanted to stay loyal. My heart is with Penrith, and I wanted to follow my heart.”

Leniu suffered a knee injury in last year’s trials before he went on to play 12 games off the bench for the Panthers. He did not feature during the NRL finals.

Just 20 years of age with 17 NRL games under his belt, Leniu will play a lot more minutes this year, especially with the departures of fellow front-rowers James Tamou (Wests Tigers), Zane Tetevano (Leeds) and young Jack Hetherington (Bulldogs). He destroyed a few of his rivals in a reserve-grade trial against Mounties just a couple of weeks ago.

Plenty of good judges have noted Penrith are lacking one big body – they have modest money set aside for a middle forward to come on to the market in the coming months – but Leniu backed the current pack to hold their own.

“I don’t know what has been said about our forwards, I know we’ve lost some experience, but I also trust in the boys that are here and the coaches to make the right decisions when it comes to filling those massive shoes that need filling,” he said.

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NRL 2021: Fox League showcase, season preview, programming line-up, Round 1, predictions


Tune in to the Fox League Showcase live on channel 502 from 1pm or stream live below

The countdown to the 2021 season is on and the Fox League commentary team is here to dissect all 16 clubs in a Season Showcase available to you live and free.

There’s just nine sleeps to go until Round 1 kicks off with a blockbuster clash between the two teams many believe will be there on grand final day, the Melbourne Storm and South Sydney Rabbitohs.

But who else will make up the top eight? And what teams are in for a rough year?

Round 1

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Penrith Panthers’ Kurt Capewell leaving video in the past


“It’s in the past and there’s nothing I can do about it,” Capewell told the Herald.

“It didn’t overshadow my year. I played in front of my family and won an Origin series [for Queensland]. I had a good year.

Kurt Capewell irons out Penrith teammate Nathan Cleary during last year’s Origin series.Credit:Getty Images

“I’m not expecting any [flak]. And I wouldn’t read into it anyway. It happened years and years ago. There’s no point worrying about it.”

Panthers teammates were quick to praise Capewell when he informed them about the video before Christmas, but privately know he will need to ignore any sledging.

Capewell is the only senior player still unsigned at the foot of the mountains, and his Origin efforts have driven his price north.

His future, he said, would be sorted if he and Penrith live up to the 2021 hype.

There remains a good chance Capewell could start in the back row ahead of Liam Martin, who can also play in the middle.

“I’m not worried about my next contract or where I’ll be – all I know is I want to win a premiership,” Capewell said.

“I know we’ve got a great opportunity to win one and I know if we’re playing good footy and I’m playing good footy, contracts won’t [be an issue].

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“I’ve been in Sydney five or six years now. Obviously I miss home, I more so miss family, but we’ve got FaceTime these days, which makes it easy. It’s good to get back up there when I can.”

Capewell’s big-game experience will prove especially important after the departures of James Tamou, Zane Tetevano and Josh Mansour.

Capewell, who helped celebrate coach Ivan Cleary’s 50th birthday at training on Monday, said the experience of finishing runners-up in 2020 would help the Panthers take the next step this season.

“We have that extra experience with what we did last year and we know what we’re capable of,” he said.

“We’ve lost some key pieces with the older fellas, but some of the younger guys coming through, they’re unbelievable.”

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Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs back-rower Adam Elliott not ready to speak about ‘love triangle’ yet, but his teammates know the score


“It’s a private matter and out of all due respect to everyone involved I want to keep it that way,” Elliott said. “I’m really lucky that I’ve got a really supportive club, really supportive teammates and a good supportive system around me that I was able to focus on the job I’m here to do for this club.

“I’m a Bulldogs man through and through – and I love this place – and if I can keep that at the forefront of my mind that’s going to remain my focus moving forward.”

Adam Elliott and Michael Lichaa. Credit:Getty, NRL Imagery

We might never know Elliott’s version of events from that house party gone wrong, or he might feel free to speak about it at a time further down the line. If and when he speaks, it will be completely up to him given the sensitivities involved.

Clearly in his own mind the time was not during a full squad media session before round one (although a previous club statement included a three-line apology from Elliott, which he hasn’t felt yet compelled to repeat on camera).

But what is clear is he quickly set the record straight with his teammates.

According to some, Elliott apologised to the group swiftly for the negative attention it had brought to the club – even if he was guilty of no crime. The apology was accepted and in the eyes of one, “everyone moved on”.

I’m a Bulldogs man through and through – and I love this place

Adam Elliott

The club was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

There was no clear breach of a code of conduct, and instead it insisted Elliott – a tireless charity and community advocate who has previously been nominated for the Ken Stephen Medal – undertake “professional help in regards to issues with alcohol”.

But what are his teammates supposed to think of his actions?

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Bulldogs sources insist there will be no issue between the back-rower and teammates, and judging by his first hitout of the year, in which he scored a try against the Sharks, it’s hard to disbelieve them.

Elliott said he had a sleepless night on Saturday, but it was nothing to do with the antics of the week before – and rather a throbbing shoulder which kept him out for most of last season and not used to the rigours of the NRL.

One of the first moves new coach Trent Barrett made after he arrived at Belmore was to switch captain Josh Jackson and Elliott, who will now menacingly roam an edge. Like most of Barrett’s decisions so far, it looks spot on.

“It’s going to be really hard to change this place,” Elliott said. “It’s been around for a long time and it’s a very proud club. We’re community driven and fan driven because of the great support we receive as a club.

“[But] he’s certainly added to the expertise and professionalism. The change that happened was going to bring excitement for us boys who have been here for a while.

“I think every decision he’s made so far … collectively and the senior playing group has [supported it]. He’s been open and honest with us from day one and we’re really buying into that.”

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Tracey ready for No.1 spot at Sharks


Connor Tracey is looming as a shock contender to fill Cronulla’s No.1 NRL jersey after training at fullback in the pre-season.

Tracey has not played at the back since his early teens, but the play-making utility has impressed there alongside Will Kennedy this summer.

The Sharks will have an opening for at least the first eight rounds, with Shaun Johnson injured and Matt Moylan playing in the halves.

But Tracey want to make the role his long-term, with a gap likely to open up depending on Moylan’s future at the club.

“I have wanted to do it the past few years, but you have to get a full pre-season in if you want to switch positions,” Tracey told AAP.

“I came to Bomber (coach John Morris) before pre-season and he said he was already planning on putting me there in the pre-season.

“I really do see myself there in the future.

“It suits my abilities the best, probably better than five-eighth. I am really looking to get a career out of fullback.”

Tracey played 16 games last year, but the majority of those came as a utility off the bench.

He last played fullback 10 years ago as a 14-year-old before shifting to the halves when playing under-16s Harold Matthews Cup for Cronulla in 2012.

His chances to push for the spot are limited, with players who only played more than 12 NRL games last year restricted to just one trial match in 2021.

Tracey has however been regularly tested under the high ball at training, with the Sharks running opposed sessions each Friday during the pre-season.

Kennedy started at the back in 17 games last year, scoring just three tries but setting up 12.

However Tracey believed the faster gameplay in 2021 due to the expanded six-again rule would suit him at the back.

“The faster the game for me, the better,” Tracey said.

“I want them to speed it up as much as they can. Small guys it really suits and I am quite fit, so it works in my favour.”



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New rules a game-changer as Parramatta Eels, Penrith Panthers trial played at finals intensity


During high-intensity simulation sessions at training, clubs aim to get players covering 85-95 metres per minute.

“The speed of the first half, they reckoned it was around 95 metres per minute, which is pretty high,” Eels coach Brad Arthur said. “Gutho [Clint Gutherson] was 120 metres per minute in the first 20 minutes, so it was very fast.

Clint Gutherson was put to the test in Saturday’s trial match against Penrith.Credit:NRL Photos

“I think both teams were real tired at stages and the quality of the shape was off at times, but I think that was because of the speed of the game. It’s just going to take a bit of getting used to. We had a plan to get the players off a lot earlier than we did but I thought they needed the match fitness.”

The NRL’s rule changes have focused on minimising stoppages, increasing the amount of time the ball is in play and, ultimately, raising the fatigue factor to ramp up the entertainment value of the sport.

It had the opposite impact on Saturday night, with the rule changes – coupled with a high completion rate – leaving players too tired to penetrate in attack. “F— these new rules,” one Eels player told the Herald as he left the ground. “I couldn’t breathe.”

The most significant rule changes include adding inside-the-10 infringements to the six-again rule, as well as play-the-ball restarts for the ball or players going into touch.

Nathan Cleary in action against the Eels on Saturday night.

Nathan Cleary in action against the Eels on Saturday night.Credit:NRL Photos

Eels halfback Mitchell Moses even asked Panthers counterpart Nathan Cleary during the match if he was struggling to keep up with the pace, to which Cleary recognised the high speed of the game.

Parramatta players privately admitted the first half was tougher than any match they played last year, forcing them to place a greater emphasis on fitness heading into the opening round in 10 days’ time.

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“The objective of the rules-changes is to reduce stoppages, increase the amount of time the ball is in play, and make the game as exciting as possible for fans,” NRL head of football Graham Annesley said.

“It’s always difficult to gauge the full impact of rule changes in trial matches, as it’s not until two points are on the line in the the opening rounds of the competition that the changes will be properly stress-tested.

“I’m not getting carried away at this early stage, but what I saw over the weekend was certainly encouraging.”

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Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs halfback Kyle Flanagan admits ‘heat is coming’ as he prepares for life in NRL furnace as chief playmaker


“He found me,” Flanagan said. “I was a bit stunned there. He was looking for me, but he has played State of Origin and he has played for Australia so it is always good going up against him.

“I felt that I am the dominant kicker on the team and I can feel the heat coming, but I will have to work on that in my own game and spread my kicking game and the workload across the whole team.”

Kyle Flanagan cops a big hit during the Bulldogs’ trial match against Cronulla on Saturday. Credit:Getty

Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett still has a call on who will partner Flanagan in the halves for Canterbury’s season opener against Newcastle.

Brandon Wakeham wore the No.6 at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium with Jake Averillo racing the clock to be fit for round one with a minor injury.

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The Bulldogs have tried to prise Matt Burton from Penrith for this season after the five-eighth agreed to join the Bulldogs from 2022.

The Panthers have so far rebuffed all interest in Burton and even proposed a player swap with Dylan Napa, which Canterbury didn’t consider.

“We’ve got a few that will be racing the clock for round one,” Barrett said. “Averillo, [Ray Faitala]-Mariner, [Dylan] Napa so we’ve just got to get through the next week.”

Luke Thompson will miss the opening four matches of the season for an eye gouge in the final round loss to the Panthers last year.

Barrett was buoyed by the efforts of new boys Flanagan, Nick Cotric, Jack Hetherington and Corey Waddell as his side erased a 12-point half-time deficit to beat the Sharks thanks to a winning try from school teacher Brad Deitz.

“I thought Nick Cotric was pretty good, he had some strong backfield carries and I am still working on my combinations with Corey Allan,” Flanagan said. “Hopefully Jake Averillo comes back in the next few weeks for round one but I thought it was a good start.”

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