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


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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


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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


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Watch: NRL star Josh Dugan breaks down during emotional press conference - 'I'm an easy target'

An emotional Josh Dugan has broken his silence over his controversial podcast appearance, claiming he's been an easy target for the media since his sacking from Canberra in 2013.

The Cronulla star admits being drained by the negative reporting on his string of off-field incidents, and hit out at the lack of coverage about his good deeds away from the game.

His comments come three weeks after he and teammate Andrew Fifita were handed a warning letter from the Sharks over their expletive-laden appearance on a podcast.

Dugan declined to comment on the fallout, but struggled to hold back tears as he opened up on his frustrations with the media that had been growing since his axing from the Raiders five years ago.

"Everyone's going to have their opinion of me ever since then and it's never going to change. It doesn't matter how much stuff I do outside of footy," Dugan said on Tuesday.

He spoke about how there was little coverage of him raising money for Central Coast teenager Gabe Smith, who lost his battle with brain cancer in July.

"I raised over $15,000 for a young boy not that long ago, I visited him in hospital, he passed away. You don't hear about that. It's only the bad stuff, but I'm used to it," Dugan said.

"It's just draining."

Dugan's comments also come just days after rival NRL star Darius Boyd spoke about his decreasing love for the game due to a perceived increase in criticism.

Ahead of the Sharks' NRL semi-final against Penrith on Friday, the former NSW and Kangaroos representative reckons there aren't enough positive stories being written.

"There's a few, probably one every couple of months," Dugan said.

"But other than that, I feel like negativity sells papers. I understand players are responsible for their actions and I'm responsible for my actions as well, which I have been.

"I've copped a lot of grunt for the things that I've done. I've accepted that and moved on from that. But it also doesn't help when negativity sells papers more than a (feel-good) story would."

The podcast saga was the latest in a turbulent 18 months for the 28-year-old, who was chastised for going on a drinking session during a State of Origin day off last year.

He was also axed for one game by St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor for missing a team bus, and has suffered numerous injuries in his maiden season at the Sharks this year.

Asked if he wanted to change people's perception of him, Dugan said: "I've been trying for the last five years. I've got my own diploma in community social work.

"I've been doing stuff in the community for the last nine months, things you don't hear about."


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Former Broncos great says Wayne Bennett's time at club up after rough finals exit

D-day is looming for Wayne Bennett and Brisbane great Willie Carne believes the writing is on the wall for the master coach after the Broncos' shock NRL finals exit.

Two-time premiership winner Carne believed an embarrassing NRL elimination final loss and 68-year-old Bennett's age would work against the coach when the Broncos board finally unveiled their succession plan.

Instead of another title, Bennett is contemplating his future after title contenders the Broncos were humbled 48-18 by an injury-hit St George Illawarra in Sunday's NRL elimination final.

A Broncos board meeting later this month will decide once and for all whether Bennett is granted his wish to coach on in 2020.

The seven-time premiership winner has a contract for 2019 but there is speculation Bennett may walk away next year, depending on the board's verdict.

Former Test winger Carne said Bennett would not be able to sell his 2020 plan to the board after being towelled up by the Dragons.

The loss also extended Brisbane's premiership drought to 12 years - the longest in club history.

"It's a pretty cut throat job with all the directors wanting answers - the writing may be on the wall," Carne told AAP.

Carne admitted it was a bad look for Bennett after Brisbane were thrashed by a Dragons side that had won just three of their last nine gamesand lost stars James Graham, Gareth Widdop and Jack de Belin during the match.

"I thought Brisbane would give St George a footy lesson. I am scratching my head," Carne said.

Bennett has made no secret of his desire to coach into his 70s and hasn't ruled out moving to a rival club to extend his remarkable 32-season career including 27 finals campaigns.

But Carne felt Bennett's age may be held against him by the board.

"His record speaks for itself but at 69 next year is it time for him?" Carne said.

"I am not sure whether at that age he would want to be chasing 18 year olds around at training, it would be hard work.

"Wayne could retire. He can't be at the Broncos forever."

South Sydney coach Anthony Seibold has been linked to Brisbane after the club missed out on Melbourne's Craig Bellamy and North Queensland mentor Paul Green.

Carne reckoned Queensland coach and ex-Broncos captain Kevin Walters was a standout contender.

"But this is the Broncos, there are a thousand people who would take the job tomorrow," he said.

Bennett would not comment on his next move but dug his heels in after the Dragons' boilover, saying few clubs would have made the finals with their horror injury toll.

Staring prop Joe Ofahengaue (concussion) on Sunday joined Matt Gillett, Alex Glenn, Jaydn Su'A, Jack Bird and Payne Haas on the sidelines.

Broncos coach Wayne Bennett. Vodafone Warriors v Brisbane Broncos, Round 12 of the 2017 NRL Rugby League Premiership season at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand. 27 May 2017. Copyright photo: Renee McKay / www.photosport.nz
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett. Source: Photosport


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