'Roos take $15k pay cuts to play Mate Ma'a Tonga: 'They know how important this is'

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has praised his players for putting international rugby league ahead of their own back pocket to get next month's Test against Tonga across the line.

The New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) announced today the historic Test will be played at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium on October 20, a week after the world champion Australians face the Kiwis at the same venue.

It will be the first time Australia have played fourth-ranked Tonga, who were a force at last year's World Cup.

The prohibitive cost of stadium hire in Australia led to months of negotiation between the NRL, NZRL and the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA).

The RLPA had agreed it's players will accept reduced match payments to help the NRL fund the fixture.

Todd Greenberg told 1 NEWS that the NRL is a staunch supporter of the proposed Test. Source: 1 NEWS

According to NRL.com, the agreed figure is $5000 (NZD $5,500), down from $20,000 (NZD $22,000).

Meninga said the RLPA and the players should be lauded for the concession.

"They know how important this game is for the international game and have put the dollars on hold to play this game," he said.

"I'm proud of the decision the players made.

"Putting on the green and gold jersey is a privilege and they way they think about the jersey now is fantastic."

Meninga said the Test was an excellent initiative on the back of Tonga's storming World Cup run, when they were beaten in a semi-final thriller against England at Mt Smart Stadium.

Boasting NRL stars such as Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita and David Fusitu'a, Mate Ma'a will be a significant threat, Meninga said.

Todd Greenberg wants to see more of the Pacific nations on the world stage. Source: 1 NEWS

"We all understood how well the Tongans did last year, we want to keep the momentum going off the back of that but also the Pacific Islands has got some great strength," he said.

"We just want to broaden the reach of the international game.

"The more games we play internationally, obviously the more opportunities and pathways for kids."

It was also announced Tonga will face New Zealand next year in June, with a date and venue still to be finalised.

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf was delighted his team's stunning run to the World Cup semi-finals has been acknowledged.

"We have been very vocal about wanting to play other tier-one countries. It's a wonderful opportunity," he said.

The Kiwis-Tonga Test will replace the scheduled fixture between New Zealand and England in Denver.

The NZRL has gone cold on the Denver concept, having not yet received payments from the match promoters after this year's inaugural Test at Mile High Stadium.

Jake Trbojevic says he grew up thinking about playing for his country, not the money. Source: 1 NEWS


'He's human like everyone else' - Sharks skipper skipper rallies behind Josh Dugan after emotional break down

Cronulla captain Paul Gallen insists its imperative the playing group rally around teammate Josh Dugan following his emotional outburst at media negativity in the game.

Dugan battled tears as he opened up on his struggles on the battering his reputation has taken since being sacked by Canberra in 2013.

Gallen admits Dugan has this year been heavily burdened not only by an injury- riddled first season at the Sharks, but also by the off-field pressures.

"He's always got a bit going on. He does stress about things. He does stress about the way he's treated by certain parts of the media, how public perceive him at times," Gallen said.

"You probably saw in that interview, he's human like everyone else and sometimes emotions can get the better of you and wear you down.

"And I think that's what's happened to him throughout this year."

Dugan's comments come on the eve of the Sharks' semi-final against Penrith, where a loss would knock them out of the race for a second premiership in three years.

Paul Gallen of the Sharks. Source: Photosport

Gallen, who was at pains to point out the hours of community work the club does during the year, said the priority is to look after Dugan's wellbeing.

"I know how much Duges does for other people," Gallen said.

"He doesn't go looking for the limelight. He doesn't have a camera behind his back when he sees a kid in hospital.

"Other people don't understand that. When he gets bagged, he finds it hard to take because he knows how much he does.

"At the end of the day, we've just got to get him right mentally over the next couple of days and he's got to go out there and play his game on the field."

Sydney Roosters veteran Cooper Cronk weighed in on the saga, saying players handle criticism differently to others but need to access available support networks during tough times.

"Part of the exposure is the fact that players get paid handsomely for what we do," he said.

"If you want to complain or get upset about the exposure, then I think you probably hand back half your pay cheque because without that you don't get it.

"On the other side, everyone has a right to an opinion, but the individual determines whether they cross the line or not.

"Have people crossed the line? Rightly so. Have players done the wrong thing and deserved it, rightly so. At the end of the day we're all here to try make the NRL as best as it possibly can."

Dugan says despite the positive things he's done for the community he'll always be portrayed negatively. Source: FOX Sports Australia


Roosters star Latrell Mitchell faces one-match NRL ban after crusher tackle

Sydney Roosters' Mr Fix It Mitchell Aubusson is ready to try to fill the big boots of Latrell Mitchell after the NSW State of Origin star was suspended for one game at the NRL judiciary.

Mitchell was found guilty of dangerous contact following a marathon 100-minute hearing last night, that took just as long as the Rugby League Players' Association did to review the entire season at their awards night down the road.

The Roosters centre will now miss the tri-colours' preliminary final against either St George Illawarra or South Sydney on Saturday week, before being able to return for the grand final if his team wins through.

And Roosters veteran Aubusson - who has played as a utility for the best part of his 12-year NRL career - said he was ready to step up at left centre when it mattered most.

"It's something I pride my career on, the shortest time I have had to prepare for a game is probably two hours, with Robbo (coach Trent Robinson) saying I had a position change for that game," Aubusson said.

"I'm really confident stepping in. I'll work hard. We've got two weeks to prepare for it and I'll take on a bit if I need.

"It's something that probably kept me in this team for a long time. It's something I really look forward to - the opportunity to play in different positions and to excel and hopefully do really well in that position."

Regardless, Mitchell's absence will come as a massive blow to a Roosters side already missing Queensland State of Origin prop Dylan Napa to suspension.

Mitchell has scored 16 tries, made 18 linebreaks and busted through 101 tackles to go with a breakthrough Origin series for the Blues.

"He is going to be a massive loss for us but if that's the case we have to go on with it," Aubusson said.

"It's a preliminary final so we have to aim up."

Mitchell was found guilty of dangerous contact on Josh Dugan in Saturday's elimination final win, but it was carryover points and weighting that cruelled the centre.

A cannonball tackle from the previous week meant he would be suspended for a game unless he could beat the charge, even with an early guilty plea.

However he failed to convince the judiciary panel he'd given Dugan's head enough space as he fell in the tackle, and did not speak to the media as he left the hearing.

Latrell Mitchell. Vodafone Warriors v Sydney Roosters, NRL Rugby League round 10, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland. 12 May 2018. Copyright Image: Renee McKay / www.photosport.nz
Sydney Roosters star Latrell Mitchell in action against the Warriors. Source: Photosport



Knights star Kalyn Ponga to undergo surgery, still a chance to make Kangaroos

Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga is set to undergo surgery on his troublesome ankle tomorrow but could recover in time to be picked for the Kangaroos' trip to New Zealand.

Ponga is a chance of being part of the Australian squad to face Tonga and the Kiwis next month following an eye-catching maiden season at the Knights.

The 20-year-old's year was so impressive that he was crowned Players' Champion at the players' union awards on Tuesday night, adding to the Knights' top gong he won last week.

"The last week has been a bit like my season - a bit of a blur," Ponga told AAP.

"It's huge to get recognised by your peers because they're the ones that you train all pre-season to play against. Like Johnathan Thurston said, it's the highest accolade you can get."

The Knights fullback was hampered by an ankle injury over the final month of the regular season.

And while he will be out of action for two weeks - ruling him out of a potential spot in the Prime Minister's XIII's annual trip to Papua New Guinea - he could be back in time for the Kangaroos.

NSW fullback James Tedesco is likely to fill the No.1 jersey left vacant by Billy Slater, however Tom Trbojevic and Valentine Holmes are also likely to be taken across the Tasman.

Ponga, who made a memorable debut in State of Origin this year, isn't holding his breath.

"The ankle's alright at the moment. I'll get surgery on it in a couple of days and be sweet for next year. I won't be out for too long. I'll be back before pre-season starts," he said.

"I'm not really looking at Kangaroos. There are obviously a few players ahead of me anyway, but it definitely gives me something to strive for."

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 03:  Kalyn Ponga of the Knights in the warm up during the round 21 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Wests Tigers at McDonald Jones Stadium on August 3, 2018 in Newcastle, Australia.  (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)
Kalyn Ponga of the Knights in the warm up during the round 21 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Wests Tigers at McDonald Jones Stadium. Source: Getty


NSW players given 144-page books to remember historic State of Origin series win

It was a State of Origin series win to remember for NSW and Blues players have a coffee table book to make sure they never forget it.

They were handed a 144-page book at Monday night's Brad Fittler Medal to document their journey from a batch of rookies to series champions.

With coach Fittler telling the team not to bother buying into any media hype because they'd get a chance to read it back later, staff collected articles from newspapers about the series from the first day of camp to Game III.

Every day of camp is documented chronologically in the display book, which also includes galleries of team training and inspirational quotes from Fittler.

"I never looked into much media and read too many articles about it," Blues player of the series James Tedesco said.

"So to look back and see us at training and winning the series, it's something I will cherish for the rest of my life."

Printed with each player's NSW number and given only to them and football staff members, the book is the last of Fittler's initiatives for 2018.

Blues players were rushed back into their NRL teams after the series victory in July but the books gave them and staff the chance to reflect on the six weeks on Monday night.

"Honestly, it was such a privilege to be involved in this Origin series," adviser Greg Alexander told guests at Monday's awards night.

"Looking at the photos in the books, two things stick out to me: the last 15 minutes in Origin II where we won the series and the first half in Origin III where it was a rugby league miracle we were in front at halftime.

"I'd forgotten what it was like to commit yourself to something as emotionally and physically as our players did."

James Maloney in possession during the Ho State of Origin, Game 2. New South Wales Blues v Queensland Maroons , ANZ Stadium,  Sydney, Australia. 24th June 2018. Copyright Photo: David Neilson / www.photosport.nz
James Maloney in action for the NSW Blues during Game II of the 2018 State of Origin against the Queensland Maroons. Source: Photosport