Storm set to welcome back Kiwis star Nelson Asofa-Solomona for NRL semi-final

Melbourne are set to have one giant inclusion - figuratively and literally - for their NRL preliminary final with Nelson Asofa-Solomona primed to return from injury.

Nicknamed "Big Nasty", Asofa-Solomona, who stands 200cm and 115 kilograms has missed their past three games with an ankle injury.

But Storm forwards coach Jason Ryles said the Kiwi Test prop was ready for their AAMI Park match on Friday week when they will take on the winner of the Penrith- Cronulla semi-final.

"Nelson is tracking really well and if we had a game this weekend he'd be fine to play," Ryles said on Thursday.

"That's a real positive for us because we can get some more work into him this week and he can be 100 per cent confident that his ankle is going to be fine."

Ryles said the one-point win over South Sydney in the qualifying final had taken a toll on the Storm, given the brutal physicality of the match.

So to be able to inject 22-year-old Asofa-Solomona, who this week was voted in the Rugby League Players' Association Dream Team, was a massive bonus.

"It goes without saying that he's a huge in for any team," said Ryles, who played 15 Tests for Australia.

"He's big and powerful and I think he's improved game by game this year.

"There was a bit of a void left by the departure of Jordan McLean last year and I think he's certainly taken that opportunity with both hands this year."

Ryles said the Rabbitohs match was a new bench-mark for the Storm forward pack, getting the better of the Burgess brothers among others.

"After we were challenged the last time we played I think it was a good response.

"The boys are happy with where they're at although they know there's bigger challenges down the track."

That includes either the Panthers or Sharks, who both boast formidable line-ups.

"The Penrith forward pack really provide the energy for their team and the Sharks forward pack just don't get intimidated," Ryles said.

"Whoever we play, we haven't beaten this year and that's a simple fact so we've got a lot of work to do."

Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
Melbourne Storm v Vodafone Warriors during the Anzac Day round 8 match in the 2018 NRL season at AAMI Park, Melbourne, Australia. 25 April 2018. © Copyright photo:
Melbourne Storm forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona in action against the Warriors. Source: Photosport


'The whole club has rallied around him' - Sharks supporting Josh Dugan after emotional press conference

Cronulla are rallying around Josh Dugan after he bared his soul to the world just days out from Friday's do-or-die NRL semi-final against Penrith.

The Sharks say they have no concerns about their strike weapon and his headspace following his emotional outburst to a packed media scrum on Tuesday.

The former NSW and Australian centre fought back tears as he detailed how he had worked hard to repair his battered reputation but felt he'd been permanently tarred after being sacked by Canberra in 2013.

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said the club had thrown its welfare resource behind Dugan and the whole club had put an arm around him.

"The whole club has (rallied around him)," Flanagan said.

"With all our players we've got to make sure they're okay. They're big and strong but sometimes we need to look a little bit deeper.

"It's come out and we can address it now at another level. We have been addressing it but we can address it at another level."

Flanagan said Dugan's comments highlighted the importance of mental health and encouraging young men to talk about their struggles.

He said he had no concerns about whether the player was in the right frame of mind heading into Friday's clash with the Panthers at Allianz Stadium.

"We're working hard with him behind the scenes and it's a delicate situation," Flanagan said.

"Maybe it was a good thing for Josh to get it off his chest. He's been okay."

Dugan is expected to move to the wing to make way for Jesse Ramien (ankle) against the Sharks.

Flanagan said Dugan was vital to their chances and he was brought to the club because he is a proven performer on the big stage.

"He's a big game player and he's had a disrupted season this year because of a fracture in his lower leg," Flanagan said.

"It's good to get him back and there's bigger issues but we have to have respect for the player and his family. We'll just deal with in private."


'You don't want to run their way': Warriors' Alice Vailea says big hitters ready to deliver more brutal defence on Dragons

The Warriors second rower said there are certain players the Dragons opposition should probably avoid on the pitch. Source: 1 NEWS

Warriors star Alice Vailea isn't getting ahead of herself, despite her side's shock round one win, with her Warriors teammates ready for a fired up Dragons outfit in the women's NRL this Saturday.

The 22-year-old second rower had a more than solid outing in the Warriors women's 10-4 Premiership win against the Sydney Roosters.

She made an impressive four tackle busts, carried the ball for 81 metres and delivered some at times brutal defensive hits, throughout the match.

But Vailea says her side have a new challenge in preparing for a St George Illawarra side still smarting from a 30-4 hammering from the Broncos in round one.

"I think for us we enjoyed the win and I know that's one game, just trying to stay focused week by week," said Vailea.

"It's good to get the win and start the competition like that, but we have a whole new challenge ahead of us."

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 08: Alice Vailea of the Warriors celebrates victory during the round one of the women's NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the New Zealand Warriors at ANZ Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
Alice Vailea of the Warriors celebrates victory during the round one of the women's NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the New Zealand Warriors at ANZ Stadium. Source: Getty

Vailea's skipper Laura Mariu provided the game's biggest moment in delivering an absolutely bone-rattling tackle in the final minute of the match, to cause a turnover and cement the Warriors win.

"Those girls (Mariu and Nu'uausala) you just don't want to run their way, unlucky for those girls (Roosters) they kind of ran into the wrong person and defensively those girls are always going to be gunning for you," said Vailea.

She admitted she never really took rugby league seriously until realising she could play on the NRL stage.

"Never thought this would come so soon for me, I've always been one to just chill out and watch the girls do their thing.

"But this year I thought 'I wanna try and have a good go at this'.

"To be able to be amongst this team and be given the opportunity to play out there, I'm just grateful for the opportunity.

"And to be a part of it is just amazing."

Vailea said her family have been a great support throughout her rugby league career.

"Mum wanted to come over (Sydney) but couldn't come over, but to have the support of my family and know I'm making them proud makes me happy."

Warriors coach Luisa Avaiki said she was proud of her side's efforts last week, but hopes to see improvement in her club's attacking plays this weekend.

"Attacking wise we want to be able to put on more of our plays," said Avaiki.

"And move the ball around a bit more even in our forwards.

"We did do a lot of single one-ups and that but we want to be able to run up in numbers."


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