Wayne Bennett considering coaching future after Broncos' NRL exit

Instead of another title, Wayne Bennett is contemplating his immediate future after Brisbane were sensationally upset 48-18 by St George Illawarra in last night's NRL elimination final at Suncorp Stadium.

And Bennett's next move may be determined by this month's Broncos board meeting, where he is set to learn once and for all if he will get an extension for 2020.

Bennett appeared a dead man walking at the Broncos after falling out with the board following mid-season reports the hierarchy had knocked back his proposal to not only coach in 2020 but also take on a football director role in 2021.

His cause would not be helped by the Broncos' shock finals exit on Sunday when they were thumped seven tries to three in front of a largely shellshocked home crowd.

Bennett is locked in for 2019 but there is speculation the seven-time premiership winner may not see out his Brisbane contract depending on the next board meeting's verdict.

Bennett - now 68 - has made no secret of his desire to coach into his 70s and has not ruled out moving to another club with the Dragons a mooted contender.

The Broncos mentor typically would not be drawn on his future after the Dragons claimed their first finals win since they claimed the 2010 premiership - coincidentally with Bennett as their coach.

Asked if he hoped to finally earn a contract extension at the next board meeting, Bennett said: "That is not today's conversation, I am not going to discuss it."

However, he was proud of how the Broncos rose above the off-field speculation swirling around him.

"No one knows except this team what we have been through this season. But we overcame that to make the finals," he said.

The Dragons were written off after limping into the finals in seventh spot with six losses in their last nine games plus fitness concerns for NSW lock Jack de Belin and skipper Gareth Widdop (shoulder).

But Bennett revealed alarm bells were ringing after his young Broncos side were talked up as overwhelming favourites.

Bennett said his Baby Broncos had been found wanting in matches they were expected to win all year - and it was no different yesterday.

"All week it has been about us and how good we have been going," Bennett said.

"That was my biggest fear - the expectation would raise its head again and choke us."

Bennett lamented losing starting prop Joe Ofahengaue (concussion) in the first 15 minutes, joining their lengthy injured ranks including Matt Gillett, Jaydn Su'A, Payne Haas and prized Cronulla recruit Jack Bird.

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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Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita headline strong Mate Ma'a Tonga squad for Kangaroos Test

Mate Ma’a Tonga’s head coach Kristian Woolf has named a strong 29-man squad to take on the Kangaroos in a historic Test match in Auckland next month.

NRL powerhouses Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita headline a squad full of talent and stars.

The New Zealand Warriors have four players in the squad - wing David Fusitu’a, centre Solomone Kata and forwards Agnatius Paasi and Leviaha Pulu.

"We are very pleased with the depth in the squad we have managed to name for this very important Test match," said Woolf.

"We feel it is representative of the depth of Tongan rugby league in both the NRL and English Super League and also rewards players that have made firm commitments to playing for their country of heritage.

"This will be a huge occasion for Tonga to take on the top-ranked rugby league country in the world, so we need every player we can committed to the goal."

The Test will be played at Mount Smart Stadium on October 20.

Mate Ma'a Tonga squad:

Andrew Fifita (Cronulla Sharks), Addin Fonua-Blake (Manly Sea Eagles), Mahe Fonua (Wests Tigers), Moeaki Fotuaika (Gold Coast Titans), David Fusitu’a (NZ Warriors), Siliva Havili (Canberra Raiders), Ata Hingano (Canberra Raiders), Will Hopoate (Canterbury Bulldogs), Konrad Hurrell (Gold Coast Titans), Michael Jennings (Parramatta Eels), Robert Jennings (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Solomone Kata (NZ Warriors), Sione Katoa (Penrith Panthers), Samisoni Langi (Catalans Dragons), Tuimoala Lolohea (Wests Tigers), Sika Manu (Hull FC), Sam Moa (Catalans Dragons), Ben Murdoch-Masilla (Warrington Wolves), Joe Ofahengaue (Brisbane Broncos), Tevita Pangai Junior (Brisbane Broncos), Agnatius Paasi (NZ Warriors), Leviaha Pulu (NZ Warriors), Scott Sorenson (Cronulla Sharks), Ukuma Ta’ai (Huddersfield Giants), Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys), Tevita Tatola (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Sio Siua Taukeiaho (Sydney Roosters), Peni Terepo (Parramatta Eels), Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters).

Jason Taumalolo leads the Tongan haka.
England v Tonga, Semi-Final, Rugby League World Cup 2017. RLWC2017. Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland New Zealand. Saturday 25 November 2017 © Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz
Jason Taumalolo has committed to Mate Ma'a Tonga. Source: Photosport


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'They will be pumped to get one on their coach' - Warriors women to face Broncos mentor

If Brisbane star Teuila Fotu-Moala comes off second best with the Warriors' Onjeurlina Leiataua in Friday's NRL Women's Premiership clash, she will only have herself to blame.

Feared Kiwi Ferns back-rower Fotu-Moala has revealed she used to be the coach of her Warriors rival at hometown Auckland club Otahuhu Leopards, helping her cut her teeth in the sport.

In fact the bulk of the Warriors squad played under Fotu-Moala at the Leopards.

Now they line up against their mentor in the NRL Women's Premiership last round, with a grand final spot on the line for Brisbane.

"I have actually coached her (Leiataua) at club level. The bulk of those (Warriors) girls I have coached at clubland so I know how they play," Fotu-Moala said.

"When it comes to next level footy I don't know what they are like, but I am sure they will be pumped to get one on their coach."

Fotu-Moala has plenty of close friends at the Warriors after forging strong friendships with her Leopards charges.

But she had no problem using her inside knowledge against her ex-pupils, as the Broncos eye off a spot in the inaugural grand final.

Teuila Fotu-Moala on attack. Kiwi Ferns v England, Women’s Rugby League World Cup Semi Final at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney, Australia on 26 November 2017. Copyright Image: David Neilson / www.photosport.nz
Teuila Fotu-Moala on attack for the Kiwi Ferns against England. Source: Photosport

Brisbane are the competition's only unbeaten team, and can guarantee a grand final appearance with a third straight victory in Melbourne on Friday.

"I know from what I have learnt from my coaching what gets in her head," Fotu- Moala said of Leiataua.

"Whatever I know I will use it on the field."

Fotu-Moala is on a collision course with explosive Warriors back-rower Leiataua at AAMI Park, with Kiwi Ferns jumpers also on the line ahead of October's Auckland Test against the Jillaroos.

"I am pretty excited to come up against some of my best friends," Fotu-Moala said of the Warriors (1-1 record).

Onjeurlina Leiataua on attack. Roosters v Warriors, NRL Holden Women's Premiership.  ANZ Stadium, Sydney, Australia. 8th Sept 2018. Copyright Photo: David Neilson / www.photosport.nz
Warriors women player Onjeurlina Leiataua on attack against the Sydney Roosters. Source: Photosport

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'I just want to protect my family' - Sam Burgess hopeful NRL finalises investigation into sexting scandal soon

An emotional Sam Burgess thanked his wife, family and club for their support during the NRL's investigation into a sexting scandal, suggesting the truth will come out before South Sydney's preliminary final on Saturday.

Burgess addressed reporters on Tuesday, speaking publicly for the first time about allegations lewd images were sent to a young woman from one of his social media accounts earlier this year.

The Englishman refused to discuss specifics, reiterating throughout the 12-minute press conference he is "happy for the truth to come out" but unable to comment publicly because the league's integrity unit is still probing the matter.

Burgess expects the NRL will finalise its investigation within 24-48 hours.

The 29-year-old possess some of the broadest shoulders in the league but it was clear on Tuesday the allegations, made public on the eve of the Rabbitohs' semi- final against St George Illawarra, have taken some toll.

Burgess struggled to speak at the start of Tuesday's interview then became deeply emotional when discussing his heavily-pregnant wife Phoebe.

"I just want to protect my family in this whole thing," Burgess said.

"I just want them to be safe and happy and with my current situation at home (photographers and TV cameras camped outside), there's no chance of that.

"I'm not angry. What hurts me the most is seeing my wife upset about what's out there.

"I've been in situations before, dealt with much harder things in my life ... and football has always been great for me.

"My poor family, they don't have the distraction I do. I will be fine come game time."

The league is in the final stages of its investigation.

Burgess could yet be suspended but Souths' talismanic forward, who won the Clive Churchill medal in their 2014 grand-final victory, is very much preparing to play the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium.

"There's a lot of important things going on at the moment. I've got some serious football games in front of me, this process we're going through," he said.

"It's been a tough process to go through ... as someone said earlier, a bit of a circus.

"Fortunately I've got a strong wife.

"My teammates have been fantastic. We all have challenges at times. We get through them, we grow. It's brought us together.

"I'm grateful that two of my brothers are in the team ... I've got plenty of support around me."

Asked about the timing of the story about the incident in May, Burgess replied "you can make your own assumptions".

Burgess insisted he wasn't "running away and hiding from what's out there" but had to respect the integrity unit's process.

"I'm not going to put myself into a position that's going to get me into trouble," he said.

Burgess hopes the issue will be solved in the next two days. Source: 9 NEWS Sydney


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Young NRL star Nathan Cleary to sign big contract extension to stay with Panthers - report

NRL star Nathan Cleary is reportedly poised to sign a contract extension to stay with Penrith until at least the end of the 2023 season.

Clearly, who has previously said he would wait until November 1 to engage in contract discussions, will pen a new deal with the club in next 48 hours, reported NRL.com.

The four-year extension will reportedly make him the Panthers' highest paid player, and bump up his salary for the final season of his existing contract.

Panthers supremo Phil Gould hinted on Monday night that the 20-year-old halfback intended to commit his long-term future to the club sooner rather than later.

"It'll get done shortly," he told Nine's 100% Footy.

Off contract at the end of next season, Cleary has seemingly turned his back on fielding offers from rival NRL clubs who were unable to come negotiating table before November.

The NSW State of Origin series winner has spoken openly about his career ambition to one day play under his father, Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary.

The Panthers' season, sidetracked by the sacking of coach Anthony Griffin just four weeks out from the finals, came to an end with a one-point loss to Cronulla on Friday.

Cleary could have levelled the semi-final with a late field goal but his attempt sailed wide.

Nathan Cleary
Nathan Cleary Source: Getty


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