Mate Ma'a Tonga coach says NZRL missed chance to grow game in NZ by vetoing Tonga-Kangaroos Test

Mate Ma’a Tonga coach Kristian Woolf fears an opportunity to grow rugby league in New Zealand was missed after NZRL stopped the highly-anticipated Tonga-Kangaroos Test from being played in Auckland.

The Test is perilously close to not being played at all, Woolf told Stuff.

A proposal to play it in New York was abandoned before the NZRL vetoed the Test being played in Auckland as it would affect ticket sales for the Kiwis-Kangaroos clash at Mt Smart Stadium on October 13.

Woolf, who led Mate Ma’a Tonga on their thrilling ride to the semi-final at the World Cup last year, understood the reasons that the NZRL had vetoed the Test but was still disappointed.

"While there was a big focus on Tonga (during RLWC2017), there was also a big focus on rugby league in New Zealand and it didn't matter that a New Zealand team wasn't playing," he said.

"It wasn't just the Tongan population, it was the rugby league population in general that really got excited by that event and really wanted to be a part of things going forward. That's the disappointing thing for me.”

With time running out to organise the clash with the Kangaroos, Woolf feared the match would not take place at all.

"My biggest fear is that the longer this goes on and the longer we're waiting for someone to pull the trigger that eventually we get to a point where it can't happen," Woolf told Stuff.

"I think we need to know in the next couple of days. We're less than nine weeks out at the moment, just in terms of organising games and organising things around sponsorship."

Tonga celebrate the try by David Fusitua. Kiwis v Tonga, Rugby League World Cup, FMG Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand. Saturday, 11 November, 2017. Copyright photo: John Cowpland / www.photosport.nz
David Fusitu'a celebrates his try against the Kiwis at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. Source: Photosport



Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy defends Storm from Sharks 'grubs' attack

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy says Cronulla's verbal attack on his team is laughable, adding further spice to their NRL preliminary final tomorrow night.

The AAMI Park clash is threatening to erupt after barbs were launched this week from the Sharks, prompting Bellamy to defend his team today.

Sharks prop Matt Prior claimed the Storm practised ugly, niggling tactics.

"Most other clubs in the competition would be sitting back laughing about them calling us grubs," Bellamy said.

"They're trying to make out they're holier-than-thou and they're the squeaky- clean Sharks.

"Well, we all know better than that."

No love has been lost between the two sides since Cronulla's drought-breaking 2016 grand final win, with the Sharks dominating Melbourne since.

Bellamy said the Storm needed to put the blinkers on and focus on playing their own game.

"Whatever that record is we haven't had the best of it but the games have always been close," he said.

Craig Bellamy coach of the Melbourne Storm. Source: Photosport

"We haven't changed things too much, some of our starts have been pretty poor when we've played them but we need to stick to what works for us and stick to the plan."

The Storm were preparing for Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen to play in the grand final qualifier despite a serious shoulder injury.

Gallen's inclusion will set the scene for another round with Storm centre Will Chambers, who was suspended for a grapple tackle on the Sharks forward earlier in the season.

Chambers hasn't played for the past month due to a three-match ban with his Storm coach saying he wanted controlled aggression from the Test and State of Origin centre.

"He's been training hard so hopefully he will be OK," Bellamy said.

"He's played a lot of big games, it's not like he's a 21-year-old coming in.

"Hopefully he's learnt from a couple of games this year when he's been suspended.

"We don't need that from him.

"We need him to go and get his job done and be aware when it's the right time to do certain things and when it's the wrong time."

Billy Slater. Vodafone Warriors v Melbourne Storm, NRL Rugby League round 19, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland. 22 July 2018. Copyright Image: Renee McKay / www.photosport.nz
The Storm celebrate in their 12-6 win over the Warriors. Source: Photosport


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'We went away from game plan' - Warriors women eager to bounce back in must win Broncos match

The Warriors women face a tough task ahead of them tomorrow night, as they come up against premiership leaders the Brisbane Broncos in Melbourne in a must win match to keep their finals hopes alive.

Warriors hooker Krystal Rota says her team have learned from their Dragons 22-10 loss in Sydney last week and that her side need to return to what worked for them in their round one win over the Roosters.

"I just think we went away from game plan," said Rota.

"The first game we stuck to our game plan and defensive structures, when we played the Dragons we went away from that and obviously it didn't work for us."

The Warriors have to win tomorrow night's game by a big margin, to secure themselves a spot in next week's grand final.

Onjeurlina Leiataua on attack. Roosters v Warriors, NRL Holden Women's Premiership.  ANZ Stadium, Sydney, Australia. 8th Sept 2018. Copyright Photo: David Neilson / www.photosport.nz
Warriors women player Onjeurlina Leiataua on attack against the Sydney Roosters. Source: Photosport


The Brisbane Broncos women are undefeated in the competition and are guaranteed a spot in the final.

Warriors hooker Krystal Rota believes her side will learn from their 22-10 loss to the Dragons as they prepare for Brisbane tomorrow night in Melbourne. Source: Te Karere

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Jared Waerea-Hargreaves says Roosters in fine form without enforcer Dylan Napa ahead of NRL finals

The numbers show Jared Waerea-Hargreaves won't rest without front-row starting partner Dylan Napa, but the Sydney Roosters hard man insists it's not a one-man job to uphold a perfect record without the Queenslander this year.

The Roosters will play without Napa for a third straight game in Saturday night's grand-final qualifier against South Sydney, after he was suspended last month for the knock out blow on Brisbane's Andrew McCullough.

Having battled injuries both during and after Queensland's State of Origin campaign before the latest suspension, Napa has missed six games this year - of which the Roosters have won all six.

And he largely has Waerea-Hargreaves to thank for it up front.

The Kiwi prop's top three running games this year have all come while Napa has been missing for either all or the majority of those games, including his herculean 215-metre effort against Penrith in round 15 when his Queensland front row partner had left the field early.

But he maintained it wasn't just he who had stood up this year during any absence in the pack.

"Obviously when you have players like Napa, Sio Siua (Taukeiaho), Zane (Tetevano) in the team with experience, you share the workload," he said.

"When you get these younger boys and they don't play as much time, obviously statistically you are going to do more work because you are out there longer.

"But we have guys in the team like (bench forwards) Lindsay (Collins), (Nat) Butcher and Ryan Matterson that I've really enjoyed their growth this year."

"To see them grow with the confidence they have now 26 rounds in, you build that relationship and trust."

Waerea-Hargreaves and the Roosters' pack have had their help too in terms of the territorial battle.

Cooper Cronk is ranked second in the league for average kick metres, while the 688 metres he booted against Cronulla in week one of the finals was the most by any player in any game this year according to Fox Sports Stats.

Blake Ferguson and James Tedesco are also the NRL's two leading metre-eaters in the competition this year, while Daniel Tupou is ranked sixth to make for the best running and most powerful back three in the NRL to kickstart their sets.

"For myself and Fergo we just love doing it," Tupou said.

"We know it helps the forwards out and puts them on the front foot.

"That helps out not just the forwards but the whole team, especially with Cooper and his kicking game."

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 18: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves runs the ball during a Sydney Roosters NRL training session at Kippax Lake Oval on September 18, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves runs the ball during a Sydney Roosters NRL training session at Kippax Lake Oval in Sydney. Source: Getty


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'The public's only heard one side of the story' - Bunnies coach defends Sam Burgess over ongoing sexting scandal

South Sydney coach Anthony Seibold says people will soon be able to make up their mind on the sexting scandal that has embroiled Sam Burgess, claiming they had only heard one side of the story.

Seibold was also adamant the off-field controversy had only made the Rabbitohs tougher ahead of Saturday night's NRL preliminary final against Sydney Roosters.

The NRL integrity unit's probe into allegations lewd images were sent to a young woman from one of Burgess' social media accounts are expected to conclude by Thursday despite reports of a setback.

An emotional Burgess addressed the scandal on Tuesday, repeatedly saying he would be "happy for the truth to come out" without going into specifics.

Seibold echoed Burgess' thoughts after saluting his team's resilience for overcoming the off-field distraction in their dramatic 13-12 semi-final win over St George Illawarra.

The allegations were made public on the eve of the Rabbitohs' clash with the Dragons although the alleged incident occurred back in May.

"The public has only heard one side of the story," Seibold told Sky Sports Radio.

"The investigation will hopefully conclude today or tomorrow and then people can make up their own mind on the story that has been out there.

"Obviously it wasn't ideal having the club on the front page and being the lead story on most of the news agencies across the country on Friday and Saturday last week but I thought the guys showed a lot of resolve."

The Rabbitohs may be expecting a verdict before the grand final qualifier however reports suggest the NRL's investigation hit a snag.

Fairfax reported the woman at the centre of the allegations had refused to speak with investigators from both the Rabbitohs and the NRL when contacted while on holiday in South Africa.

Either way, Seibold said the ongoing scandal compounded by back to back one point finals finishes had only steeled his side ahead of their clash with the minor premiers.

South Sydney No.7 Adam Reynolds' three field goals helped the Rabbitohs pull off a stunning one point win over the Dragons a week after falling short 29-28 to Melbourne in a qualifying final.

"I think the hard football is making us tougher," Seibold said.

"And we've shown we can handle pressure. I think we have shown a lot of resolve and resilience.

"We are not fatigued by any means. We are really confident heading into the Roosters game."

Sam Burgess of the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Source: Photosport


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