In the news - Isaac Luke in tune

22 July 2014

Sydney Morning Herald

"We're going to change you."

They were some of the first words South Sydney coach Michael Maguire exchanged with Issac Luke in a heated phone call.

Little did Maguire know at the time that the exercise of changing Luke would be more of a journey of self discovery as the Rabbitohs rake went about revealing his true colours.

Luke was so ashamed of the way he spoke, he found it easier to isolate himself rather than run the risk of saying something that would humiliate him.

That is why only a few people know anything about his interests and hidden talents, like his ability to play a song on the piano just by listening to it.

Sitting in front of a Steinway & Sons piano inside Sydney's City Recital Hall on Wednesday, Luke showed off his rare skill playing anything from the Eagles to Mariah Carey.

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In the news - Protecting young talent

21 July 2014

Sarah Harvey, Sunday News

The New Zealand Rugby League is setting up academies to stop a trans-Tasman drain of young players, who head to the lucky country with high hopes and can end up adrift.

It's the loneliness that hits first. Then the homesickness, and the culture shock.

Young men with bodies of fully grown adults struggling to survive in the often cut-throat world of professional rugby league.

Teenagers as young as 15 from big families and supportive communities adjusting to life, alone, in a new city and new country, often with the expectations of a club and a community behind them.

Up to 700 teenage league players leave New Zealand for Australia each year.

Some go because their entire family wants to settle in the "lucky country". Others are lured by player agents or picked up as development players by NRL clubs.

About one per cent will make it into the NRL, the rest will return home with their tail between their legs, or be lost to rugby league forever.

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TAB backs Rise for Alex cause

21 July 2014

For every bet placed on the Warriors home game against the Manly Sea Eagles on Sunday, July 27, the TAB will donate $1 (to a maximum of $16,000) to the #RiseForAlex fund, in support of injured Newcastle Knights player Alex McKinnon.

The TAB give New Zealand Rugby League hundreds of thousands of dollars every year from bets placed.

All profit from sports betting is returned to New Zealand sporting codes - $4.2million was paid out to New Zealand sporting bodies at the end of last season - or the New Zealand Racing industry.

Betting on Warriors v Sea Eagles will open on Tuesday.

Gamble responsibly.

Kiwis hit form as Four Nations loom

17 July 2014

The NZ Kiwis inside pairing of Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson seem to be hitting their straps at the right time of the NRL season, earning praise from their international coach, Stephen Kearney.

Both were instrumental in guiding their respective teams to big wins in Round 18. Foran scored two tries in Manly's 40-8 win over Wests Tigers, while Johnson had a try and kicked 8/8 goals in the NZ Warriors' 48-0 romp over Parramatta Eels.

"Kieran was on top of my list," says Kearney. "His performance was the standout.

"But Shaun and his team also put on a dominant display, and it was probably the culmination of a few weeks now. It has been a real step up for him."

But Kiwis and Warriors skipper Simon Mannering simply continued his run of outstanding form, with a game-high 168 metres and 19 tackles against the Eels.

"We all know he is now one of the premier forwards of the competition," says Kearney. "The reason the Warriors are in the position they are now is because they have him as captain, leading the way.

"The people who know Simon all know what he offers to a team."

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Youngsters impress at youth trials

16 July 2014

Akarana second rowers Dylan Clark and Mose Esera were named Most Valuable Players at the NZRL 16s & 18s national trials at Rotorua International Stadium.

Tryscoring doubles from Clark and replacement Isiah Papalii put them in contention for higher honours in the opening game, as they led Team Vatuvei to a 34-16 victory over Team Wiki.

After three days in camp, the teenagers were eager to impress national selectors and NRL scouts, and Wiki were quickly ahead, when prop Steele Kake powered his way through three tackles for a try under the bar, converted by Bostyn Hakaroa.

But Vatuvei showed their class with three tries in response and Papalii seizing his opportunities to shine.

Papalii began the game on the bench, but made an early entrance when one of his team-mates was helped off the field with an injury.

He made a long run down the right flank and then charged over from dummy half to open his team's account, then provided the final pass for fullback Morgan Harper to cross moments later.

Papalii grabbed his second from a quick tap penalty near the line, all three tries were converted by Dylan Tavita and Vatuvei were up 18-6 after the first quarter.

Wiki could find little answer to their opponents, even as injuries further diminished the Vatuvei ranks. Clark grabbed two tries, scampering 25 metres for the first, after fielding a missed touchfinder.

Finally, with his side down 6-34, Kake showed his strength again to provide some consolation to Team Wiki, securing his double.

Team Vatuvei 34 (Isiah Papalii 2, Dylan Clark 2, Morgan Harper, Kenese Kenese tries; Dylan Tavita five goals) Team Wiki 16 (Steele Kake 2, Tuteauru Maipi tries; Bostyn Hakaroa, Kahil Johnson goals)
HT: 28-6

In the 18s contest, four tries to flying wing Ignatius Fiso was enough to get Team Jones home 42-34

Team Jones jumped out to an early lead with four tries in the opening quarter and extended their advantage to 28-6 just before halftime, with Esera notching up two tries.

But Team Mannering came storming back with four consecutive tries that got them back into contention.

Wing Tiaan Wilkins had earlier conceded a try when he misjudged a high-bouncing kick, but made up for it with a touchdown of his own and a final pass to put wing Logan Yates across.

When five-eighth Zion Ioka snuck across in the right corner, Mannering were suddenly down by just two points with a little over a quarter remaining.

Fabien Paletua-Kiri crossed for his second try to finally put Team Mannering ahead, but Jones were not done, with Fiso running in two before the final hooter to give his team the victory.

Team Jones 42 (Ignatius Fiso 4, Mose Esera 2, Amoni Tufui, Dre Melvin, David Saumolia gtries; Daniel Fulop 2, Esera goals) Team Mannering 34 (Zion Ioka 2, Fabien Paletua-Kiri 2, Tiaan Wilkins 2, Logan Yates tries; Richard Timoti three goals)
HT: 28-12

NZRL National Performance Camp Awards

Leadership - Erin Clark (Akarana)

Respect - Luke Tipene (Akarana)

Passion Fruen Samoa (Wellington)

Integrity - Enoch Tautolo (Wellington)

Courage - Rory Ferguson (Southern)

18s MVP - Mose Esera (Akarana)

16s MVP - Dylan Clark (Akarana)