Russell Packer named in Kiwis squad after six year hiatus: 'He was pretty delighted to get a call'

Russell Packer has overcome a six-year hiatus to return to New Zealand Kiwis Rugby League squad after he was named in David Kidwell's 20-man side to face the Kangaroo's in next Friday's ANZAC Test in Canberra.

Packer, who hasn't worn the black jersey since 2011, has found his blockbusting form this season after struggling to return to the game from a one-year prison sentence.

Kidwell says the selection was obvious.

"Russell's form speaks for itself," Kidwell said.

"He was pretty delighted to get a call from me, like anyone in life they have their ups and downs, and Russell’s been putting the hard yards in, and we just want him to do the same for the Kiwis."

Packer joins a strong Kiwis side headlined by the return of centerpieces Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Simon Mannering and Kieran Foran, after all three were unavailable for the international season last year with injuries and personal issues.

"First of all, all three of them bring a lot of Mana to our group and that’s hugely important," Kidwell said of the trio.

"Simon's experience in any squad is invaluable, he's been a leader in our side for a long time, so it's fantastic to have him fit and ready.

"Kieran's been playing some good footy this year and his combination with Shaun Johnson and Roger at the back is certainly benefiting from the more time they all spend together too."

Two debutants will join the side also with Melbourne Storms Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Brandon Smith both getting call ups from Kidwell for the game.

Parramatta Eels star Manu Ma'u was unavailable for selection due an injury.

The Kiwis face the Kangaroos on Friday night at GIO Stadium in Canberra at 10pm NZT.

NZ Kiwis Squad 2017 (* denotes international debut)

Nelson Asofa-Solomona* (Storm), Adam Blair (Broncos), Jesse Bromwich (Storm / Captain), Kenny Browmich (Storm), Kieran Foran (Warriors), David Fusitua (Warriors), Shaun Johnson (Warriors), Jordan Kahu (Broncos), Issac Luke (Warriors), Simon Mannering (Warriors), Kodi Nikorima (Broncos), Russell Packer (Dragons), Kevin Proctor (Titans), Jordan Rapana (Raiders), Brandon Smith* (Storm), Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys), Martin Taupau (Sea Eagles), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Warriors), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Panthers), Dean Whare (Panthers)

Russel Packer. Vodafone Warriors v St George Dragons, NRL Rugby League. Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday 1 May 2016. Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz
Russel Packer goes into contact while playing against the Warriors. Source: Photosport


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Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to undergo surgery on knee after injury-forced exit from Warriors' NRL playoffs loss

The Warriors have confirmed captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will undergo surgery on his knee after his disappointing early departure from the NRL playoffs.

Tuivasa-Sheck will have surgery on Friday on his left knee after scans revealed a medial ligament and meniscal injury he picked up during the Warriors' 27-12 loss to the Panthers on Saturday.

"His expected recovery time is yet to be determined," the club said.

Tuivasa-Sheck had to be assisted from the field midway through the first half of their elimination final defeat to Penrith after his knee collided with Panthers rake Sione Katoa.

It was a disappointing end to the NRL campaign for Tuivasa-Sheck, who is considered one of the front-runners for the prestigious Dally M medal as player of the year.

The Kiwis will keep a close eye on the fullback with a Test against Australia in Auckland occurring in just over a month's time in Auckland on October 13.

New Zealand then play four Tests in a tour of Europe.

The 25-year-old missed the Kiwis' controversial mid-season Test against England, with Panthers fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak wearing the No.1 jumper.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck leaves the field injured against the Panthers
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck leaves the field injured against the Panthers Source: Photosport


'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


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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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