'Us young blokes need to step up' - Cameron Munster key figure in Storm rebuild

Melbourne star Cameron Munster has given the strongest hint yet that he is likely to re-sign with the club with a warning shot for critics predicting the end of the Storm dynasty.

Just as Melbourne looked set to falter in last night's qualifying final against South Sydney, Munster delivered in the clutch moment to send the defending premiers to within one game of another decider.

It was yet another game-winning effort from the Kangaroos and Queensland State of Origin star that had Cameron Smith hailing Munster as a big-game player.

"It's very humbling to hear that from one of the greats of the game, especially Smithy. He'll go down as one of the best," Munster said.

"Hearing that from one of my peers and my captain, it's really comforting to hear."

Munster's heroics came in the Storm's first finals game without champion playmaker Cooper Cronk, and in retiring star Billy Slater's final finals campaign.

Smith is also likely to hang up the boots at the end of next season.

"I guess they're not going to be around forever," Munster said.

"Us young blokes need to step up and take the mantle off them. That starts this year, Bill's leaving so we need our young blokes to step up."

The 23-year-old admitted the club would face its challenges once Smith finally calls it quits, but suggested he is keen on leading a rebuild.

The Sydney Roosters and North Queensland have already been mentioned as possible suitors for Munster's signature once he enters the final year of his contract on November 1.

"It's going to be hard for us obviously losing Coops last year, Billy this year, and most likely Smithy next year at the end of the year," Munster said.

"They're slowly fading away and us young blokes coming through need to back ourselves.

"A lot of people will be writing us off when they leave, especially when Bellyache decides to hangs up the boots as well when coaching.

"There's going to be so many critics and people writing us off, but I just know there's some good depth and some good people around our club to keep going forward."


Broncos confirm 2019 will be Wayne Bennett's last NRL season as head coach

Foundation coach Wayne Bennett has vowed to see out his Brisbane contract next year after being told the 2019 NRL season will be his last at the Broncos helm.

Brisbane ended months of speculation when the board confirmed they had knocked back Bennett's request for a 2020 extension and that next year would draw the curtain on the coach's glittering Broncos career.

There was speculation Bennett may walk away if his request to coach one more year was denied but the seven-time premiership winner said he would be holding the 2019 reins.

"Having the decision made now puts an end to speculation and allows a clear focus on getting ready for next season," Bennett said in a statement.

"I firmly believe in the playing group we have here at the club."

Former Brisbane captain Justin Hodges said it was the "right decision" to cut ties with the 68-year-old, who will hold the Broncos reins for a 26th and final season next year.

"The board have made a strong stance and I think it is about time we move onto a different coach and try new things," Hodges told Fox Sports' NRL 360.

"I don't know which coach they are going to go for but whoever comes up has got to understand the Broncos are a massive club, expectations are high so we will need a strong coach to follow in the footsteps of Wayne Bennett.

"He's been a wonderful servant for the club. Hopefully the boys dig in for him next year and send him out on the right note."

Bennett had reportedly tabled a proposal to retain the reins in 2020 before moving into a Broncos football director role with current assistant Jason Demetriou as new head coach.

But Broncos chairman Karl Morris said on Tuesday he and Bennett had "agreed" that the master coach would see out his current contract to the end of 2019.

"The club will work through a thorough process, led by chief executive Paul White, to identify and select a coach for the 2020 season and beyond," Morris said.

The announcement calls a truce between Bennett and the Broncos board.

They fell out this year after Bennett criticised the club for what he believed was a lack of a succession plan.

Bennett admitted the constant speculation about his future had affected his team, which finished sixth and was thrashed 48-18 by St George Illawarra at home in their opening elimination final.

Broncos boss White said the NRL club was in "no rush" to find a replacement for the man who has masterminded all six of the club's premierships.

"We are in no rush to find the next coach of this club and we have been clear on that for the past year," White said.

South Sydney's Anthony Seibold, Michael Maguire and ex-Brisbane captain Kevin Walters have already been linked to the Broncos job.

Brisbane failed to lure Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy on a big money deal this year and reportedly made an ill-fated play for North Queensland mentor Paul Green.

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



NRL slash Bulldogs' Mad Monday fine to $136,000

Canterbury have had their NRL fine for their lewd Mad Monday celebrations halved.

The club was fined $250,000 (NZD $273,000) after Adam Elliott and Asipeli Fine were photographed nude while celebrating at a Sydney pub.

The NRL on Tuesday said they had reduced the Bulldogs's fine to $125,000 (NZD $136,000) after taking into account the club's submission.

A spokesman said the Bulldogs had acknowledged the seriousness of the breach and apologised for the damage caused.

The club has also committed to put measures in place to ensure there is no repeat of the behaviour.

"Under those circumstances, the NRL will suspend half the original fine," the spokesman said.

"However the suspended part of the fine will be reimposed if there is any material breach of the Code of Conduct during the next two years.

"This incident should act as a reminder to all clubs and club officials that it is imperative to take extra precautions when organising club-sanctioned events."

Bulldogs chief executive Andrew Hill and chairwoman Lynne Anderson both said the NRL's findings acknowledge how closely the club had worked with the governing body since the fine was imposed.

They said Bulldogs management had acted swiftly to improve procedures and ensure there is no repeat.

Anderson said the club had learned from the experience.

"We acknowledge that some of the behaviours on the day were a poor look for the club and the game and we have reviewed everything that took place," she said.

"What we also need to remember here, however, is that good people will sometimes make mistakes and that should not take away from the fact that these same people have done a great deal in the community on behalf of the club and will continue to do so."

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg came down hard after images of Bulldogs players dancing naked on a pub balcony and passed out on the street delivered the code a black eye on the eve of the finals.

The $250,000 fine was the biggest handed down to a club for player misbehaviour.

Elliott, 23, and Fine, 25, were both fined $25,000 (NZD $27,000) by the Bulldogs with $10,000 suspended after they were photographed nude on the balcony of the Harbour View Hotel in Sydney's The Rocks.

NSW Police have confirmed that two men aged 23 and 25 were issued with court attendance notices for wilful and obscene exposure and are due to face Downing Centre Local Court on October 24.

Police said a third man has been issued with an infringement notice for offensive conduct.

Front page of the Daily Telegraph of Bulldogs' Mad Monday celebrations.
Front page of the Daily Telegraph of Bulldogs' Mad Monday celebrations. Source: Daily Telegraph



Storm star Billy Slater gets controversial shoulder charge overturned, free to play NRL Grand Final

Melbourne champion Billy Slater will play in Sunday's NRL grand final after successfully defending his shoulder charge citing in a near-three hour judiciary hearing.

Considered one of the biggest judiciary cases in the NRL era, the three-man panel kept Slater waiting for 54 minutes to find him not guilty on Tuesday night.

The panel consisted of Mal Cochrane, Bob Lindner and Sean Garlick.

The retiring Storm star will get his swansong after getting his one match ban reversed. Source: NRL.com

"I'd like to thank the judiciary members for a fair hearing," Slater said.

"It was important for me tonight to get my point across and what my intentions were in this incident.

"Now it's important for me to focus on the game. I haven't started my preparations for the game yet. That starts as of now.

"I'd also like to thank Nick (Ghabar), my lawyer, the Melbourne Storm, they've really helped me over the last four days to put this case together. Now it's time to prepare for the grand final."

Slater twice stood up to demonstrate for the panel over course of the hearing, basing most of his defence on Feki's step initiating the collision.

He said during the week-long preparation for the final, he had watched vision of all the tries scored by both Sharks wingers across the season - including eight by Feki.

He believed the Sharks winger, as he had done all year, was headed straight for the corner post.

But he claimed he was thrown by Feki's left-foot step and had no time to change.

"When he plants that left foot his intention changes from going directly to the corner post to going directly at me," he said.

"My shoulders and my feet are heading directly to that corner post. He changes and this puts me in a vulnerable position."

Slater then got up again to show why, after seeing Feki proceed to raise his elbow upon impact, he turned his body to protect himself and his opponent from a dangerous collision.

"I've been clocked at 33km per hour at training, and I've got a nanosecond to make a decision," he said.

Even then, Slater's defence argued the first contact with Feki was with the fullback's right hand, and that the shoulder of the Sharks winger had then hit his left pectoral muscle.

Slater claimed the main force that resulted in Feki being bundled out came from his hip.

"I've still got a tenderness on my hip today and it was four days ago. That was the force of the hips colliding," Slater said.

Despite being the collision, Slater said he still attempted to use both his arms, including trying to grab Feki's right arm with his left hand.

Judiciary counsel responded by arguing Slater used neither of his arms to effect the tackle.

He said Slater's right hand "had to go somewhere".

"Your left forearm and hand comes up under Feki's right arm. It's very difficult to tell but it doesn't appear to me that's an action of a wrap or attempt to wrap," he said.

The retiring Storm star could face suspension for this hit on Sosaia Feki. Source: SKY


Kiwis enforcer Nelson Asofa-Solomona reveals verbal spray from Storm coach over vegan diet

A verbal spray from Storm coach Craig Bellamy forced Kiwis enforcer Nelson Asofa-Solomona to change up his vegan diet after he turned up at the beginning of the 2018 pre-season overweight.

The 22-year-old is set to sign a new three-year deal with the Melbourne Storm.

He told NRL.com that he was blasted by his coach Bellamy after returning from the 2017 Rugby League World Cup heavier than his normal playing weight.

"I came back into pre-season a bit overweight after the World Cup," Asofa-Solomona told NRL.com.

"I was trying a vegan diet but I didn't do it right. I was trying all the sauces and trying to make that vegan food taste nice and I didn't realise that the sauces are the bad stuff for you.

"After that break Craig brought me into the meeting room and there was a few people in there with us and he started going off his head."

Asofa-Solomona got up to 128kg and normally plays at about 122kg.

"Now I weigh in every morning, there's a few of us that do it but I think I'm the main culprit. I sometimes get more nervous about that than games sometimes, Craig's usually watching, he's always around doing some form of fitness," he said.

"You'd be worried if he wasn't on your case, because you know where his intentions are and that he wants the best from you. It's all about how you take the criticism, I took that as a positive.”

He is set to sign with the Storm until the end of the 2022 season according to NRL.COM.

The Storm are expected to announce the re-signing of Asofa-Solomona after the NRL grand final between Melbourne and the Sydney Roosters on Sunday.

The two metre tall front rower was offered a rugby union deal by the Hurricanes but opted to take up an opportunity with the Storm in 2010.

"The club has helped provide for my family and I do really just love the place here. It's a winning culture and the boys are great, I'm really enjoying life here. It's been the right decision to come here for sure and it's where I want to stay."

His family now lives with him in Melbourne.

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: www.photosport.nz
Melbourne Storm forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona in action against the Warriors. Source: Photosport