Ivan Cleary snubs Brent Naden, Penrith Panthers coach, Melbourne Storm, Tyrone May, rugby league news


A heartbreaking image of shattered Penrith Panthers player Brent Naden has emerged in the wake of the NRL Grand Final.

The 24-year-old is an emotional man. He cried when he made his NRL debut last season and he needed a hug after the Melbourne Storm’s 26-20 win.

Naden had more reason to be upset than most after a questionable – and ruthless – decision to leave him out of the Panthers’ starting team by coach Ivan Cleary.

In the toughest selection call he faced in the finals series, Cleary preferred the defensive prowess of Tyrone May to Naden’s attacking ability in the preliminary final against South Sydney – and was justified as May didn’t put a foot wrong in a 20-16 win.

But despite Naden’s tackle efficiency sitting at a scary low of 68 per cent compared to May’s 89 per cent, there was still an argument for his inclusion for the big dance.

He scored 12 tries in 18 appearances for the Panthers in 2020 where May only scored once in 16 games.

Naden was also something of a good-luck charm as Penrith never lost when he was in the team.

In the build-up to Sunday night’s decider, Robbie Farah said he was “completely shocked” by Cleary’s decision to sit Naden for the entire Rabbitohs contest.

“Tyrone May didn’t put a foot wrong but it’s a different kettle of fish this week coming up against such a powerful opposition centre in Justin Olam,” Farah said. “He’s going to be a handful and Naden’s a bigger body.”

Daily Telegraph journalist Nick Campton was of a similar mind. “I’ve liked Penrith all week but I don’t like the Naden-May switch at all,” he tweeted. “If Naden was good enough all year why isn’t he now?”

There was speculation on game day Naden had been punted from the 17-man squad all together but he was on the bench when the game started.

May was on the field – and within just a few minutes had given away a penalty try to Olam after referees ruled he’d deliberately played at the ball with his boot while the Storm centre was attempting to touch the ball down in the corner.

Cleary’s plans for a sound defensive foundation didn’t exactly pan out as his team trailed 22-0 at halftime.

It only got worse at the start of the second half when Penrith fell behind 26-0 and Cleary finally decided to turn to his castaway.

There were many factors in the Panthers reeling off 20 straight points and almost stealing the game at the death, but the impact of Naden was undeniable.

He gained 76m with just seven carries and provided a spark on the right edge Penrith had been missing.

But there just wasn’t enough time in the game and the man from Wellington in country NSW was left wondering what might have been as he stood wrapped in the arms of a wellwisher post-match.

Sports journalist Ray Gatt was adamant Cleary got it wrong tweeting: “No Naden cost (Penrith). Cleary effed up.”



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Essendon Bombers poach Western Bulldogs assistant coach Daniel Giansiracusa


Essendon have poached highly rated Western Bulldogs assistant coach Daniel Giansiracusa.

The former Dogs forward will join the Dons’ coaching staff for 2021.

Daniel Giansiracusa celebrates a goal during his playing days for the Bulldogs.Credit:Sebastian Costanzo

Giansiracusa was last week named AFL Coaches Association assistant coach of the year.

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Richmond coach Damien Hardwick had to change attitude to set Tigers on path to premiership


“I couldn’t understand why we were made to separate from training and the early days of COVID I could not understand what was going on and we were hearing what I thought was propaganda about the virus coming,” Hardwick said.

“The reality was I was really struggling to get my head around it and the reality is if I am struggling the players are going to feed off that energy so I was at my very, very worst early days.”

“I was just in a challenging viewpoint, it was detrimental to both me and my coaching and certainly our club.”

Damien Hardwick embraces Dustin Martin after the grand finalCredit:Getty Images

He said the leaders of the club made sure he put those emotions behind him when he travelled away with the group.

“They will give you the sledgehammer at some stage to make sure you get your act together,” said Hardwick, who also paid tribute to Gale for sticking by him after a dismal 2016 season when “the easy thing to do was sack me”.

The three-time premiership coach also sent an emotional thank you to his family, and all in Melbourne who have endured tough restrictions while the competition moved to Queensland.

He said the team started to get the game back on their terms just before half-time after trailing by 22 points with Martin’s first goal shifting the momentum and reducing the lead to just 15 points at the long break.

“It was an important goal. We just needed a goal we couldn’t buy one,” Hardwick said.

He said losing Nick Vlastuin to concussion early in the game was a blow, forcing them to shift players around to get their structure right.

Hardwick showed courage in shifting Noah Balta up the ground, leaving David Astbury to handle Tom Hawkins and Nathan Broad to worry about Patrick Dangerfield.

He also temporarily evened up the numbers in front of the ball to curb Tom Stewart’s influence as the All-Australian defender had the ball on a string for most of the first half playing as a spare in defence.

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The win sees Hardwick join Dan Minogue (1920-21) and Tom Hafey (1973-74) as winners of back-to-back flags with the coach admitting the hub breach involving Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones, which saw the pair sent home and the competition teetering, galvanised the group.

“It probably did help put a steely resolve us against the world type mentality in a way but it’s not like we want something like that happening on a weekly or yearly basis in a way,” Hardwick said.

Premiership midfielder Shane Edwards said he was the perfect coach. He described Hardwick as “like the head of the dragon”.

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Richmond coach Damien Hardwick had to change attitude to set Tigers on path to premiership


“I couldn’t understand why we were made to separate from training and the early days of COVID I could not understand what was going on and we were hearing what I thought was propaganda about the virus coming,” Hardwick said.

“The reality was I was really struggling to get my head around it and the reality is if I am struggling the players are going to feed off that energy so I was at my very, very worst early days.”

“I was just in a challenging viewpoint, it was detrimental to both me and my coaching and certainly our club.”

Damien Hardwick embraces Dustin Martin after the grand finalCredit:Getty Images

He said the leaders of the club made sure he put those emotions behind him when he travelled away with the group.

“They will give you the sledgehammer at some stage to make sure you get your act together,” said Hardwick, who also paid tribute to Gale for sticking by him after a dismal 2016 season when “the easy thing to do was sack me”.

The three-time premiership coach also sent an emotional thank you to his family, and all in Melbourne who have endured tough restrictions while the competition moved to Queensland.

He said the team started to get the game back on their terms just before half-time after trailing by 22 points with Martin’s first goal shifting the momentum and reducing the lead to just 15 points at the long break.

“It was an important goal. We just needed a goal we couldn’t buy one,” Hardwick said.

He said losing Nick Vlastuin to concussion early in the game was a blow, forcing them to shift players around to get their structure right.

Hardwick showed courage in shifting Noah Balta up the ground, leaving David Astbury to handle Tom Hawkins and Nathan Broad to worry about Patrick Dangerfield.

He also temporarily evened up the numbers in front of the ball to curb Tom Stewart’s influence as the All-Australian defender had the ball on a string for most of the first half playing as a spare in defence.

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The win sees Hardwick join Dan Minogue (1920-21) and Tom Hafey (1973-74) as winners of back-to-back flags with the coach admitting the hub breach involving Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones, which saw the pair sent home and the competition teetering, galvanised the group.

“It probably did help put a steely resolve us against the world type mentality in a way but it’s not like we want something like that happening on a weekly or yearly basis in a way,” Hardwick said.

Premiership midfielder Shane Edwards said he was the perfect coach. He described Hardwick as “like the head of the dragon”.

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His brother’s keeper the unbreakable bond between Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary and his brother Ash Cleary


“But in four or five years I went downhill really quick, and in that last year I was really sick,” Ash told the Herald. “It moved really fast. I was tired all the time. I was going to work but I couldn’t concentrate. I’d come home and I was useless around the house. My wife was looking after the kids, because I was tired … and felt really nauseous.”

The family soon gathered to discuss Ash’s predicament. Dialysis was an option, but not a solution.

Ivan and his other brother Stuart both offered to undergo a series of compatibility tests to determine whether they could donate a kidney that would help Ash return to a normal life.

Ivan and Ash Cleary after the Penrith coach donated his kidney to save his brother’s life in 2017.

“I remember Ivan saying: ‘Don’t even ask, I’m absolutely doing this for you’,” Ash recalled. “He didn’t hesitate, mate. Both my brothers were happy to do it but Ivan was more compatible so he was the lucky loser.

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“I found it really difficult. I wished it could have been the other way around. I wished I was the one giving the kidney to my brother. I didn’t want Ivan to have to do that for me, but I needed it. He was so good. He kept saying ‘he was happy to do it’. He felt privileged to do it.”

On reflection, Nathan Cleary didn’t realise the magnitude of what his father had volunteered to do. Generally, people with one kidney live a normal life.

“I underestimated the whole process because dad was so blasé about it,” the Penrith halfback said.

“He was always ‘100 per cent I’m doing this if it matches up’. It wasn’t ever a thought in his head that he wouldn’t do it if he could. It was at the point where my uncle needed one or it wasn’t going to end well. He didn’t even look himself any more he was so sick.”

Ash Cleary (left) with his brother Ivan after a successful kidney transplant that saved his life.

Ash Cleary (left) with his brother Ivan after a successful kidney transplant that saved his life.Credit:Dean Sewell

The surgery was successful and, apart from having to take a blood test nine times a year and daily medication, Ash lives a normal life.

However, he admits there were times throughout 2019, as his brother struggled with the pressure and criticism that followed Penrith’s disastrous start to the season, when things didn’t feel quite right with his new kidney.

“When they were having such a rough trot last year and losing a lot of games, I was feeling a bit of pain around the kidney area every loss,” he said. “I certainly haven’t felt that this year. Maybe there is something in that.”

Ivan Cleary is the strong, silent type. But those close to him could see the emotional impact his acrimonious departure from the Wests Tigers had on his life last year. His family struggled to comprehend why some people couldn’t at least respect his motivation for linking with the Panthers.

Ash (left) with nephew Nathan Cleary and brother Ivan Cleary after the halfback's State of Origin debut in 2018.

Ash (left) with nephew Nathan Cleary and brother Ivan Cleary after the halfback’s State of Origin debut in 2018.

“Ivan has proven through what he did for me, how important family is for him,” Ash said. “Choosing to go and be in the same team as Nat, I couldn’t understand why people couldn’t see how important it is to him. The stuff that was said about him last year was pretty unfair.

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“I can understand the disappointment from the Tigers fans, but I thought there would be a bit more recognition that them being father and son, that this was their dream … Ivan copped it, which is part of the territory, but the criticism then moved to Nat, which I thought was really harsh and unfair on him.”

As a big brother, Ash is naturally protective. That bond has grown even stronger since Ivan gave up an organ in the name of family.

“I’m really lucky that he’s given me a second chance at life,” Ash said.

“We’ve always been best mates and this has totally strengthened our relationship. I’ll always be indebted to him. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for Ivan.”

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Force sign ex-Fiji coach John McKee


The Western Force’s recruiting spree has spread to the coaching ranks, with former Fiji head coach John McKee joining the Perth-based franchise.

McKee was coach of Fiji from 2014-2019, leading the nation in two World Cups.

He was credited for helping lift the standard of rugby in Fiji.

Before his stint with Fiji, McKee spent time with French Top 14 outfit AS Montferrand, Irish PRO14 team Connacht, and Australian domestic side Central Coast Rays, which he led to their inaugural NRC title in 2007.

McKee, who replaces Van Humphries as an assistant to Force coach Tim Sampson, said he was looking forward to getting back involved with club rugby.

“It was fantastic to see the Force in Super Rugby AU this year. The style of rugby they played throughout the competition showed how much potential there is within the group,” McKee said.

“Tim Sampson’s done a fantastic job here developing the team over the past few years and has created a strong club culture with a balanced mix of national and international experience, as well as some great young talent coming through the ranks.”

The Force have embarked on a big recruiting campaign since finishing last and winless in Super Rugby AU.

Irish legend Rob Kearney, Argentinian pair Tomas Cubelli and Julian Montoya, and Wallabies duo Tevita Kuridrani and Tom Robertson have all joined the club.

Jono Lance, Greg Holmes, Kyle Godwin, Ian Prior, Kieran Longbottom, Brynard Stander, and Marcel Brache are key players to have re-signed from last season.





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Former AFL coach open to conversation over vacant North Melbourne job


Former AFL coach Gary Ayres says he would be open to having a conversation with North Melbourne about their vacant coaching position.

Rhyce Shaw and the Roos parted ways this week due to personal reasons, with the decision to take effect immediately.

Ayres, who has coached 223 games at AFL level for Geelong and Adelaide, has most recently been coaching Port Melbourne in the VFL.

When asked whether he’d be interested in making a long-awaited comeback at the highest level of the game, Ayres said he’d “certainty go down the path” if he was contacted about the role.

“You’d consider it,” he said on SEN’s Captain’s Run.

“You’d think after 25 years that I’m coaching better than I was when I first started.

“No doubt there are things that you’ve done which are about learning what you do within yourself as a coach, certainly we make mistakes but if you can keep hanging in there and keep doing what you love … I still have that passion for coaching.

“I love seeing the Port Melbourne boys going out there and getting some success at VFL level, it’s not the highest level, but it’s the highest level some of these boys are going to play at.

“You’d never say never, if the opportunity was there to have a chat, you’d certainty go down that path.

“But I think the old flickering flame has got less and less over the years in terms of interest along the way.”







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Pumas coach Mario Ledesma fears isolation from rugby world after Springboks exit from Tri Nations


South Africa were more concerned with player welfare than the significant financial hit from their exit. It has left Australia, New Zealand and Argentina to battle it out in a truncated six-week competition.

Argentina could have felt aggrieved given they were already in Australia yet Ledesma refused to lash out at South Africa despite the fact his players have had less football under their belts.

The reason they gave, we are in no position to doubt.

Mario Ledesma on South Africa’s withdrawal

“The reason they gave, we are in no position to doubt,” Ledesma said. “From our point of view, we feel really humble and happy and privileged to be here and to be able to play with everything that’s going on in our country.

“South Africa’s been helping us a lot in the last decade. It’s a country that always gave us an opportunity.”

Speculation is rife that South Africa’s decision may have broader implications. There have been offers for them to play more Tests in the northern hemisphere, casting doubt on their presence in next year’s Rugby Championship and beyond.

While this Tri Nations tournament has been cooked up by SANZAAR at short notice, a future three-team competition does not appeal to broadcasters and could cause major headaches.

Ledesma and Mitchell chat to the media.

Ledesma and Mitchell chat to the media. Credit:Getty

Where that leaves Argentina, isolated on the other side of the world, is unclear.

“What I know is it’s a really difficult situation for us because if South Africa goes north and [Australia and New Zealand] play between each other, I don’t know where that leaves us,” Ledesma said. “We’re thinking very much about ourselves and trying to get a good competition for our boys to stay competitive. We were really happy to have a franchise [Jaguares in Super Rugby] and we’re trying to do the diligence to get a good competition for our players.

“It’s so dynamic and we’re having to adapt.”

The familiar face of Cheika in Argentina’s camp will keep Australia on their toes before the match on November 21 in Newcastle. Ledesma asked the former Wallabies boss to help out around the fringes, and assured him he would be allowed to sing the Australian national anthem in the coaching box.

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“It’s been really good for me and for the staff,” Ledesma said of Cheika’s involvement. “We have a very young group of players too and Cheik is someone that believes a lot in himself. He’s pumped, he’s excited. He hasn’t coached rugby in a while … he’s doing a bit of everything. We love working with each other.”

Mitchell, who played under Cheika at the 2015 World Cup, said his involvement would benefit the world’s 10th-ranked side.

“I think he’ll have a huge impact,” Mitchell said. “He’s just got a wealth of knowledge in many different aspects. Given Mario has got quite a young coaching staff … he’s one of the guys who will benefit having the experience of Michael Cheika who will get in his ear and give a different perspective or different approach.

“It’s more small bits of wisdom he can pass on, not anything too holistic. From my experience, he’s obviously good around a group, he likes to get involved out there and get his hands on the ball at training. I have no doubt he’s having a real positive impact on the squad.”

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Wallabies coach Dave Rennie says Australia won’t take a knee


On Thursday, former Wallabies captain Nick Farr-Jones warned the national side that it wasn’t a good idea to do so because they risked alienating supporters and was too controversial a move.

“No, we won’t [be taking a knee] ,” Rennie said on Friday. “Our focus is around our First Nations people and the Indigenous jersey. We’re not looking to make a political statement.

Nick Farr-Jones came under fire for his statements saying Australia did not have a significant issue with race.

Nick Farr-Jones came under fire for his statements saying Australia did not have a significant issue with race.Credit:Getty Images

“The key thing is that this is about honouring our Indigenous people and we want the focus to be on that. I guess everyone has got their own opinions around the other situation but we want the focus to be around reflecting on our history and our past.

“We met with the leaders and the leaders met with the team. It’s an unanimous decision.”

Rennie then said there was a push for more regular recognition in every gold jersey.

“We’ve certainly talked about the Indigenous jersey and as a group we’d like to see that represented every week in our Test jersey, not just as a one-off,” Rennie said. “I think this is the first step in regard to embracing that part of our history.

“What we’re trying to highlight is First Nations is part of our DNA. It needs to be reflected in what we do every day, not just one or two times a year. We think having that reflected on our Test jersey every week is really important.”

Rugby Australia released a statement shortly after Rennie’s teleconference, with interim chief executive Rob Clarke saying the organisation condemned racism in the wake of Farr Jones’ controversial comments.

“Rugby Australia and the Wallabies condemn any form of racism or discrimination and also acknowledge that we are still on the path to reconciliation,” Clarke said. “I’m really pleased the players and management have come together to speak about this, as they would with other important social issues. It was measured, appropriate and mature and I congratulate the team as they explore more opportunities to recognise issues facing First Nations people and all Australians.”

It is the fourth time Australia will wear a First Nations jersey, having done so against New Zealand in 2017 in Brisbane, against England at Twickenham in 2018, as well as at the World Cup against Uruguay.

“I love it,” Rennie said. “I know the players love it and I’ll wear it with pride next week.

Next Saturday will mark the fourth time the Wallabies have worn the special jersey since 2017.

Next Saturday will mark the fourth time the Wallabies have worn the special jersey since 2017. Credit:Getty

“I coached the Chiefs for six years where there is a really strong multi-flavour to that jersey and reflected the history of our region.”

As for a potential jersey clash with New Zealand, given the First Nations jersey is a little darker in colour than the traditional Wallaby gold, Rennie didn’t think there would be a issue.

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“I don’t think it will clash unless [referee] Ben O’Keeffe is colour-blind,” Rennie said. “There’s certainly enough white and I don’t think it’s an issue. It might have been an issue if we were playing South Africa.”

The Wallabies are back in camp in the Hunter Valley and will continue training there throughout the early stages of next week before Saturday’s third Bledisloe Test in Sydney.

Australia drew with New Zealand 16-16 in Wellington before falling 27-7 to the Kiwis at Eden Park.

Rennie’s men will need to win both Tests against New Zealand on home soil to regain the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002.

“I think the first Test showed there is a lot of character in this group,” Rennie said. “I reckon we’ve got a massive upside and we’re going to get better over time and that’s why we’re very excited about having a lot of Tests in quick succession.”

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AFL 2020: Rhyce Shaw, next North Melbourne coach, David King, Kangaroos, Mick Malthouse, North Melbourne, trade period


North Melbourne champion David King believes an experienced coach “as far back as Mick Malthouse” is the right option to lead the club forward as Rhyce Shaw departs.

The Kangaroos confirmed last week Shaw was taking an extended break from coaching for personal reasons, and today announced both parties had agreed to part ways “effective immediately”.

Speaking on Fox Footy’s Ultimate Preview, King said a veteran coach should be the one to take the reigns.

Catch Fox Footy’s Grand Final Week coverage on Kayo. Stream all the latest news and insight right up until first bounce plus half-time and full-time analysis from the Fox Footy commentary team. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >

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Malthouse right man for Roos?

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