Catalan Chairman Blasts Players

Bernard Guasch

Catalan Dragons chairman Bernard Guasch has called out some of his players on their poor attitude this season.

The French side have had a poor campaign compared to last year and although it was always going to be hard to replicate it hasn’t been good enough according to the man at the top.

In an interview with Perpignan newspaper L’Independant, Guasch said that some of the players out of contrace have had poor attitudes and that he has had six or seven problems with players this season.

He said: “We’ve had six or seven problems with players who do not accept being told that they will not be with us next season”.

Among the so called trouble causes is Franch international player Tony Gigot who has rejected a new contract at the club and Guasch is adamant that that offer is now off of the table.

He commented: “We gave him all the cards this season. I am very affected by his attitude, Tony Gigot does not listen to the right people, at some point you have to be serious and I am.”

On another note Guasch expressed his confidence in head coach Steve McNamara and says that a new deal will be on the way to him in the coming days and weeks.

He said: “We will extend his contract in the coming weeks of one or two years more, I cannot overstate what Steve McNamara brought to the club, saving us (from relegation) in the Million Pound Game in 2017, winning the Cup in 2018 and this year we were third in June.

“I’m not one of those people who say, ‘When we play a good game, the players are very good and when we lose and we’re bad, the coach is bad, we will learn from the good lessons to make 2020 a big year.”

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Agar Wants Leeds Job Full Time

Richard Agard.jpeg

Richard Agar is poised to become the next permanent head coach of Leeds Rhinos, having taken the job on as interim-head coach, Agar has now confirmed that talks are in advanced stages for him to take over on a more permanent basis.

Having worked at both Hull FC and Wakefield before as coach Agar has plenty of experience to know what it takes to get to the top.

Whilst in caretaker charge of the side he was tasked with saving the club from what seemed nailed on relegation from the Super League. However the former player now turned coach has managed to steer the club away from the dreaded drop zone.

He has now said that he would like the job on a full time basis and that talks with the Leeds Rhinos board are in advanced stages.

He told Sky Sports: “I sat down with Gary (Hetherington) on Monday night and subsequently had a couple of meetings with Kevin on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Obviously we’ve a game tomorrow (Friday) so I can’t say anything has been finalised but just that the talks have been really positive. I’ve felt a lot of support from within the club, I’ve felt quite comfortable and relaxed in the job and I think I’ve seen some progress from the guys.”

Will St Helens End Playoff Struggles?

St Helens 2

It has been five years since St Helens reached the summit of rugby league in England, last claiming the Super League crown in the 2014 campaign.

The club have fallen at the semi-final stage for the last four seasons on the bounce, including their failure last term when they were beaten by Warrington Wolves.

Justin Holbrook has endured the same issues as his predecessor Keiron Cunningham had in the playoffs, failing to galvanise his team for the pressure of elimination matches.

However, the Saints are on the charge once more and have been outstanding in the 2019 campaign forging their way back through to the semi-finals.

Holbrook has one final chance to win the Super League to end his three-year tenure with the ultimate prize. The Aussie will be leaving his post at the end of the current term to join the Gold Coast Titans in the NRL.

St Helens have been dominant over the course of the season, winning an incredible 24 out of their 27 matches at the time of writing. Surprisingly, two of their defeats have come at the hands of bottom side London Broncos on the road.

They’ve already secured the League Leaders’ Shield, but have to capitalise on their form to win the ultimate title, with the Saints backed in the latest rugby league betting odds as odds-on 8/11 favourites for the crown. Holbrook and his men are in an eerily similar situation to last season when they were a free-scoring dominant outfit in the regular season, winning 26 of their 30 games.

However, Warrington were playoff ready and two tries from Tom Lineham in the second half took the game away from the Saints on home soil. It was a familiar taste of failure for St Helens, losing in the semi-finals for the fourth year in a row – although not quite as traumatising as their stretch of being defeated five-straight times in the Grand Final between 2007 and 2011.

St Helens have been imperious at both ends of the field in their bid to end their title drought. They lead the league in points scored and fewest allowed, producing a staggering +463 point differential, which highlights their potency and stoic nature of their play this term. Four of their players, Tommy Makinson, Reagan Grace, Kevin Naiqama and Jonny Lomax, are all in the top 10 for the most tries scored this season, while Lomax, Lachlan Coote and Theo Fages are among the leaders in assists.

The statistics make pleasant reading for Holbrook and Saints’ supporters, although they mean very little in a one-off match. Defensive resilience is a vital part of any championship winning side and that could be the driving force behind a surge for the crown. Even though St Helens were off the boil in the attacking third, they still allowed Warrington to score 18 points in their defeat last year.

Wigan showed the way in their triumph, conceding only four points in their two playoff matches. The Warriors held Castleford scoreless before allowing a try against the Wolves on their way to the title. St Helens have all the tools required to win the Super League Grand Final, but they need to prove their mettle to get over the line to reap the rewards.

Feki signs for Cas as of 2020

Cas Tigers

Castleford Tigers have signed winger Sosaia Feki on a three year deal from Cronulla Sharks, he will join the Tigers from 2020 onwards.

Although the 28 year old was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and played for the New Zealand Warriros junior sides and risen through the ranks there, he has played twice for Tonga.

Feki won the 2016 NRL Grand Final, and says he is now ready for a new challenge after being at the sharks for seven seasons. He said on the move to the Super League outfit: “I’ve been at Cronulla for seven years now, I’ve been comfortable here but this is a new chapter in our lives and my partner and I are really excited to come across to Castleford and to Super League.

“It’s going to be a new challenge but Cronulla play an attacking style of rugby as well so hopefully I can bring that over there. I’ve played with Junior Moors at the Sharks and I know Jesse Sene-Lefao already as well. I’ve been messaging him and he’s been tipping me up on the club and what it’s like.

“As a player, I just try to do my job for the team and finish any opportunities that come my way. I’ve played a lot of my games with the Sharks on the left but I’m also really comfortable on the right and I played on that side at the weekend.

“I’m not bothered where the coaches want me to play; wherever they put me I’ll come across and do my best for the club.”

On his new signing Castleford head coach Daryl Powell commented: “Sosaia is a player who has been performing at the top level for a number of years in the NRL,” he said.

“He was a part of the Cronulla team that won the title in Australia which means that our last two recruits from overseas know what it takes to win a championship.

“He is big, strong and aggressive with the ball and an experienced defender. Our back line for next season has a real look of ability about it with strong competition for places in all positions and Sosaia adds hugely to our quality.”

Burrow confident on Broadbent’s ability

Leeds Rhinos academy product Jack Broadbent has moved to Betfred Championship side Batley Bulldogs on loan for a month. Rhinos academy coach Rob Burrow insists that Broadbent has what it takes to play in England’s second tier.

Broadbent who has already had a taste of Championship rugby whilst being on dual registration with Featherstone Rovers, played for Batley Boys as a youngster and also played for Dewsbury Moor. Now though the 17 year old will be coming up against some of the toughest players in the Championship.

On Broadbent, Burrow’s said:  “He has probably been our best performer this season; he has been consistently good for us. I think Jack Broadbent is someone who can handle it in the Championship, this is probably a good time for him to go and play somewhere else and I certainly think he is ready for it.

“His attitude is first-class and it will be good to see where he’s at, it will be good for him to test himself against Championship teams, hopefully regularly over the next four weeks.”

Ward on his way back

Leeds Rhinos Stevie Ward is now back in full time training and is hoping to make his Super League return in the next few weeks.

The 25 year old has been out of action since round three after sustaining a knee injury which he has since had surgery on back in February against St Helens. He is hoping to be back for the Rhinos game against Castleford Tigers on July 5th, however he could be available for the game against the Catalan Dragons five days earlier.

On returning from injury he said: “I am just putting everything into practice that I can do. I have worked really hard on my ‘rehab’ and the stuff around it and I can’t wait to get back on the field and share a bit of the journey with the boys.

“It is a weird one; through different times of the injury sometimes it felt like it was progressing and other times it didn’t. Now I am back running and doing contact so I am back in the main bits of it now and it’s not long until I am back out there.

“My knee has reacted well over the last few weeks and it’ll be nice to get out there, I still haven’t played in the full [rebuilt] stadium yet, so I am looking forward to that when I get the chance.”

Workington stadium hits snag

Workington Town have hit a bump in the road for their new stadium plans as the local council has had a change in leadership. This may effect the bid to have no 2021 World Cup games to be played in Cumbria.

With Labour losing the local elections, the proposed 8,000 seater capacity stadium which would be shared by both the rugby club and football team has now been put into doubt.

Supporters recently set up an online petition in support of the development, World Cup chief Jon Dutton has insisted that if the stadium doesn’t go ahead, then Cumbria will not host games in the tournament.

On the situation Dutton said: “We are aware of the leadership changes at the council and the potential impact this may have on the stadium project. Since the local elections we have, and will continue to have, dialogue with the council.

“We completed an open bidding process in 2018 and the impressive Allerdale bid included the new stadium. Our decision to host games in Allerdale was conditional upon the stadium being built as there are no viable alternatives available locally. As confirmed previously, we have a contingency stadium should the new facility not be developed in the agreed timeframe. This stadium is not in Allerdale or West Cumbria, we remain committed to working with the partners in Allerdale.”

Will Sydney Rule the Roost Once More in 2019?

Sydney Roosters

The Sydney Roosters warmed up for the new NRL season in style by swatting Wigan aside in the World Club Challenge at the weekend.

A hat-trick from Brett Morris provided the inspiration for a famous victory, as the men from Bondi raced into a commanding lead and flourished in the face of second-half pressure.

It left fans daring to dream of a second consecutive Grand Final triumph in 2019 and the bookmakers have made them the clear favourites to pull it off. However, competition is fierce and they will need to be at their very best if they are to better the likes of Melbourne Storm and South Sydney Rabbitohs once again.

Last season they secured a first Grand Final victory in five years with a dominant 21-6 win over Melbourne. It was the first time these heavyweights had ever battled it out for an NRL premiership, despite being the two most successful teams since this era began in 1998.

They finished neck-and-neck in the ladder, with 16 wins, eight defeats and 34 points apiece, so it always promised to be an epic showdown. The Roosters vanquished South Sydney with relative ease in the preliminary finals and Melbourne swept aside Cronulla-Sutherland to set up an epic clash.

Melbourne went into the game as defending premiers and they received a huge boost when Billy Slater was cleared to play. That saw them installed as 2.5-point favourites and Sydney went to the ANZ Stadium as plucky underdogs.

Yet they delivered a fantastic performance, with Cooper Cronk helping to destroy his old club’s hopes of becoming the first team in 25 years to secure back-to-back titles.

His threat was blunted due to injury, but his leadership on the pitch was vital and Luke Keary stepped up with a sensational showing, helping his team open up an 18-0 lead that Melbourne never recovered from.

If you take a look at the NRL betting odds, you will see that the Roosters are the shortest priced pre-season favourites in the history of this ultra-competitive league. However, no team has successfully defended the premiership in the NRL Grand Final era.

The last team to win back-to-back titles was Brisbane, all the way back in 1993. Penrith Panthers captain James Maloney, a dual premiership winner during his glittering career, claims it is impossible to successfully defend the title.

“They’ll have a really good side and they’ll be tough to beat, but history says it’s tough to do,” he said. “As much as people say you’ve still got the hunger, it’s hard when you actually achieve what you try do all year and finally get it.” He contested that every team will be extremely motivated when they face Sydney, desperate to claim the scalp of the reigning champions. “Whether you’re running second or 16th, you’ll play your best game of footy against them,” he added.

History is certainly against this team, but it is hard to argue with the depth of quality at their disposal and they could finally break that trend.

Former Kangaroo Morris is a great addition to the side and he showed his worth with a man of the match display to put Wigan to the sword in the World Club Challenge.

He showed he has lost none of his finishing power as he produced two magnificent tries in the opening eight minutes to stun the near capacity crowd at the DW Stadium, before wrapping up a first-half hat-trick in style.

Former South Sydney second-rower Angus Crichton is another star recruit and his defection from Souths marks a real coup for the club, who saw off significant competition to capture his signature.

The arrival of England star Ryan Hall gives the team a further boost and freshens things up. “A natural finisher blessed with size, speed and strength, we believe that Ryan will be a terrific fit within our squad and we look forward to welcoming him to the club,” said recruitment manager Adam Hartigan.

Hall scored 231 tries in 327 appearances and won six Grand Finals with Leeds Rhinos since making his debut in 2007, so he brings a winning mentality to the team.

Keary is expected to go from strength to strength after winning the Clive Churchill Medal and being elevated to a Kangaroos debut. He was the dominant half again as the Roosters beat Wigan at the weekend, and it will be interesting to see if the Roosters start to rebuild their attack around him. But there are so many big guns at this club. Kangaroos fullback James Tedesco enjoyed a perfect first season in red, white and blue, winning an Origin series and a premiership, scoring 62 points per game from mid-July as he stepped up his game.

Jake Friend is one of the busiest defenders in the business, while the hard-hitting Victor Radley will continue to rock opponents and the likes of Cronk, Latrell Mitchell, Boyd Cordner, Siosiua Taukeiaho and Isaac Liu will be up for the battle as they for another premiership.

Melbourne will be back with a vengeance, it would be folly to rule Souths out and teams like North Queensland and Cronulla-Sutherland look dangerous, but right now the Roosters deserve their status as heavy favourites and they will take some stopping in 2019.

 

Five Things We’ve Learned From The Opening Weeks Of The Super League

Shaun Wane

We are now a few weeks into the new Super League season and the table is already starting to take on a familiar look.

Heavyweights Warrington, Castleford and St Helens have stormed to the top of the standings after beginning the campaign in immaculate fashion.

Teams tipped to struggle are already bracing themselves for a long battle to avoid relegation, while there has been a bountiful supply of drama, intrigue and controversy. Here are the top five things we have learned so far:

Shaun Wane’s absence is already being felt

Wigan’s legendary head coach bowed out in style last year as his team put Warrington to the sword in the Grand Final. It marked the culmination of a 40-year career with the club for a local lad who started as a volunteer and then served as prop, scout, academy manager and head coach. He was always going to be a huge loss after he left for a high performance coaching role with Scottish Rugby, and Wigan’s early season form has suggested that the transition into a brave new era will not be plain sailing.

There is no shame in losing to Syndey Roosters or St Helens, but they have conceded soft tries and there is plenty of work for Adrian Lam to do. They have also been deducted two points due to a salary cap breach in 2017, but there is plenty of time for them to bounce back. Lam insists this is not a team in transition, and he is making the right noises about Wigan defending their crown, but it remains to be seen how these players will react to his demands for a more flamboyant style of rugby.

Warrington and St Helens looking strong

Warrington’s wait to be crowned champions now stretches back 64 years and fans will probably be glad to see the back of Wane, who vanquished them in the 2013 and 2016 Grand Finals too. Yet they have made a strong start to the new campaign and a look at the sports spread betting at Sporting Index shows you that they are the favourites to finally end their trophy drought this year.

Comprehensive victories over Leeds and Hull KR have seen them surge to the top of the table, and those long-suffering fans will be delighted by the impact that Man of Steel favourite Blake Austin has made. He inspired them to a thumping victory against the new look Rhinos, sparking fresh optimism that this might finally be Warrington’s year. Yet Saints are also looking extremely menacing, having swept aside the defending champions in contemptuous fashion in their opener and then getting the better of Wakefield. If Wigan cannot rediscover their best form, it could develop into a fascinating tussle between Warrington and St Helens to seize glory this season.

Expectations tempered at London Broncos

The Broncos are back in the Super League after a five-year absence and they marked their return with a thrilling 42-24 victory over Wakefield at the Trailfinders Sports Ground. Rhys Williams and Eddie Battye both scored two tries and generated a party atmosphere inside the stadium. Those proclaiming that the Broncos would finish bottom of the table were urged to reconsider, and fans dared to dream of a decent season. However, those aspirations have been somewhat dashed by the team’s subsequent form, as they lost 24-0 to Salford and 22-12 to Hull KR. They are still the clear favourites to finish bottom, but they look as though they will battle valiantly throughout the campaign.

New rules have changed the look of the games

All eyes have been on the new rules in the early weeks of the season after Super League chief executive promised they would make the competition faster, more intense and more dramatic. The shot clock is a welcome addition as it has improved the pace of games, and reducing the number of permitted interchanges from 10 to eight should result in more late drama as legs grow weary. We are yet to see the controversial golden point extra-time, but that should provide some exciting moments further down the line too, and the rule changes appear to be largely positive thus far.

Clubs might start looking at Barba

Ben Barba has started a new job driving trucks in Mackay after being sacked by North Queensland Cowboys before he even had the chance to make his debut. Footage has emerged of the former Dally M and Man of Steel winner allegedly assaulting his girlfriend and he has been handed a lifetime ban from the NRL.

Nobody condones such actions, but there is no real precedent in Super League for excluding players on those grounds. Former England international John Wilkin, who played with Barba last year, said he expects the RFL to allow him back into Super League, where he was the top try scorer last year.

Zak Hardaker, Scott Moore and Gareth Hock are still playing, despite their transgressions, and it might not be long before Barba is given another chance in England. There are many clubs that would love to have someone of his talent, provided they can stomach his alleged actions off the pitch.

 

Anderson announces retirement plans

Louis Anderson

Catalans Dragons forward Louis Anderson has announced he will retire at the end of the Super League campaign.

The experienced player has played at the highest level of rugby league for many years, and the 33 year old has played the last 11 years in Britian’s Super League, he is the third overseas player to make over 100 appearances for the Frinch club.

Anderson is a former New Zealand international; he first came to Britian’s top flight in 2008 where he joined Warrington. He has spent the last sevent years at Catalan becoming a mainstay in the team over those years.

He has won the Challenge Cup twice, in his four years at Warrington and was involved in Catalans first ever major trophy win, when they were victorious in the recently played Challenge Cup final at Wembley.

On retiring from the game, Anderson told the Dragons webstie: “After 15 years, the time has come to chase something different. I am so grateful to have worn this jersey for the last seven years. What an amazing journey. Thank you.”

Dragons head coach Steve McNamara commented: “Louis has been a fantastic servant not only for the Catalans Dragons but also the whole of rugby league. He is highly respected by everyone within the game.

“His decision to retire after a glittering career will leave a big void to fill within our team. He has contributed enormously in the development of our club and we wish Louis well in the next stage of his career.”