Sharks make huge statement in Las Vegas bid, Walsh out of Magic Round


The Panthers will play the majority of their matches at Parramatta’s CommBank Stadium while their stadium undergoes a $309 million revamp.

But the NRL was hunting for another team who would be willing to make the state-of-the-art Allegiant Stadium, which hosted this year’s Super Bowl, a home venue for one week – and the Sharks have expressed an interest.

The Sharks are making a late pitch to go to Las Vegas.

The Sharks are making a late pitch to go to Las Vegas.Credit: Getty

Craig Fitzgibbon’s table-topping side are seen as an attractive proposition for the NRL given their strong start to the season.

They also boast one of the game’s most marketable stars in former Dally M Medal winner Nicho Hynes.

Cronulla has also struck up an association with lifelong fan and American-based billionaire investment guru Mike Dorrell, who had pledged to contribute $5 million to the club.

The NRL would be keen to tap into Dorrell’s network in the United States to promote rugby league if the Sharks head to Las Vegas.

The Storm, Warriors and Eels are other teams strongly linked with playing in Las Vegas next year, but some have been hesitant to designate it as one of their home matches.

“We’re thinking about Las Vegas 2.0 and we’re very excited about it,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said. “Like Magic Round, we want the second edition to be even bigger and better. I think you can expect an announcement some time in June, which is when we’d like to have that finalised.”

Manly and the Roosters were the first two teams to take matches to Las Vegas this year, and both returned to Australia with wins over the Rabbitohs and Broncos respectively. They lobbied to return to Las Vegas in 2025, but the NRL wants to provide an opportunity for other clubs to kick off the season as they try to increase the sport’s reach in the United States.

Two fans banned indefinitely over South Sydney racial slurs

Two fans have been banned from NRL matches indefinitely for hurling racial abuse at South Sydney stars Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker.

The NRL announced on Wednesday it had issued the sanctions under the league’s code of conduct after another spectator reported crowd members were using taunts such as “black bastard” and “dirty dog”.

The NRL’s integrity unit launched an investigation in the aftermath of the Dragons’ win over the Rabbitohs at Kogarah’s Netstrata Jubilee Stadium and confirmed two fans would be banned indefinitely after the “disparaging comments”.

“Racism must be called out in all its forms because the standard you walk past is the standard you accept,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said.

“Abusive behaviour directed at players will not be tolerated. I commend the fans that acted on this and brought it to our attention. With this information, we have been able to take action.

South Sydney Rabbitohs fullback Latrell Mitchell.

South Sydney Rabbitohs fullback Latrell Mitchell.Credit: Getty

“Attending a rugby league match should be a positive, welcoming and respectful environment for everyone. We want everyone to feel welcome and enjoy the experience.

“The spectator code of conduct has been set up specifically to deal with instances like this and we will continue to take action against any patron who displays offensive or anti-social behaviour.”

The NRL, St George Illawarra and South Sydney were all involved in the investigation.

Both fans will have five business days to respond to the breach notices.

“We welcome the NRL’s stance and the banning of these two perpetrators,” South Sydney chief executive Blake Solly said.

“We applaud the members of the public that stood up and called out this disgraceful behaviour. We hope more people show the bravery that this person has shown to call out racism in an effort to eradicate it from our society.

“We thank the NRL, the St George Illawarra Dragons and NSW Police for their efforts on this case. We continue to support our players and their families who, unfortunately, still have to face this type of behaviour.

“Racism is archaic, disgusting and will not be tolerated.

“We call for supporters who attend games to respect all players and their efforts on the field.”

Mitchell and Walker’s South Sydney teammate Jack Wighton, a proud Indigenous man, expressed his dismay and frustration on Tuesday at rugby league having to deal with more racial abuse.

The last-placed Rabbitohs will take on the struggling Cowboys at Magic Round in Brisbane on Saturday night.

Ricky signs monster Raiders deal

Ricky Stuart will remain Canberra’s head coach until the end of the decade after the veteran coach re-signed with the Raiders until the end of 2029.

A club legend and the head coach since 2014, Stuart will have been at the helm in the nation’s capital for more than half of his coaching career at the expiry of the new deal.

Ricky Stuart has re-signed with the Raiders.

Ricky Stuart has re-signed with the Raiders.Credit: Getty

Raiders chairman Dennis Richardson said Canberra were eager to keep Stuart as they rebuild the club with a young crop of players.

“The Raiders are in the process of moving through a significant transition, with one of the youngest playing squads in the NRL, and we see Ricky as a central part of that transition,” Richardson said.

“His values and character have been an important ingredient in the attraction of the young talent we’ve been able to bring to the club in recent times. His re-signing until the end of the decade provides continuity and certainty for a playing group which we believe has the potential to deliver the ultimate prize in the coming years.”

“As everyone knows, Ricky is very much a part of the Canberra, Queanbeyan and regional community and his commitment and passion for the green machine is legendary.”

The club has started to develop its next generation of talent following the departure of experienced players like Wighton and Jarrod Croker.

A host of young talent including five-eighth Ethan Strange, Matthew Timoko and Chevy Stewart have recently re-committed to the club until 2027 or 2028.

Stuart, who recently coached his 500th game, spent time at the Roosters, Sharks and Eels before moving to the club that made him a cult hero back in his playing days in the 1980s and 90s. He played 203 games for Canberra from 1988 to 1999, during which time he was also a NSW and Australian representative player.

Roosters rally around Angus Crichton after Fifita signing

Roosters players have rallied around teammate Angus Crichton after the off-contract star declared he didn’t want to be “sitting behind anyone else” following the club’s signing of star Titans second-rower David Fifita.

Prop Terrell May said his preference was to play alongside Crichton at Bondi Junction next year, but that he understood if the representative second-rower went looking to secure a deal elsewhere.

“I’ve got a lot of love for Angus. He had a lot of love for me when I first came here, he was one of the day-one boys that I look up to,” May said. “I wish he stays, but obviously no one wants to be second to anyone. I hope he does what’s best for him.”

May said Crichton had gone out of his way to make him feel welcome when he joined the Tricolours in 2022.

“Just chatting to me, asking who I am and getting to know me, that stuff,” he said. “No one really knew me when I first came here, so he followed me on social media and just spoke to me heaps, and now we’ve got the same manager and we’re really close. But yeah, I love Gussy and I hope he stays, but I see why if he does leave.”

May, who is enjoying his best season with the Roosters, said he and Crichton had walked similar paths.

Angus Crichton grabbed a try-scoring double on Sunday.

Angus Crichton grabbed a try-scoring double on Sunday.Credit: Getty

“Love his journey, it kind of reminds me of mine a little bit. Obviously last year I was dropped out for a little bit and then came back and did my thing and now playing consistent,” May said.

“But yeah, for Gussy, he went through a lot, and now he’s showing how good of a player he is. He’s always been a freak, but he went through quite a bit, so [it’s] good to see him up right now. Happy for him.”

Roosters lock Victor Radley said the team would “deal with that next year” when asked about Fifita’s signing, but said Crichton was in career-best form and should be shoo-in for a spot in Michael Maguire’s Blues squad.

“I love Angus, he’s kind of the benchmark back-rower this season – especially this last month,” Radley said. “You obviously want to keep him. That’s up to the club and Angus to deal with. For the meantime, I just want to see him be his best, which he’s been doing.

“He definitely should be there [in State of Origin]. He’s been so hard to handle, he’s done it before, he’s obviously the Australian [Test] back-rower at the World Cup. He’s world-class, he should be there.”

Tigers offer Doueihi minimum wage contract for 2025 campaign

The Wests Tigers have offered Adam Doueihi a one-year extension at minimum wage as the utility moves closer to a return from injury over the next six weeks.

Tigers chief executive Shane Richardson last week tabled Doueihi an offer for about $150,000 for next season.

Doueihi, who is coming off three ACL injuries, has opted against taking up the Tigers’ offer and will instead try to prove he is worth more than the club are willing to offer through his performances in the back half of the year.

He recently flew to Melbourne and was granted clearance to begin full contact training with an eye to returning in round 16-17.

Crichton’s future up in the air

Roosters star Angus Crichton says he doesn’t want to be “sitting behind anyone else”, wherever he plays next year, after the club signed Titans star David Fifita on a four-year $3.3 million deal.

Crichton, who is off contract at the end of the season, said the Roosters hadn’t spoken to him about signing Fifita, who will join in 2025 and plays in the same left-edge position.

“Nah, no one’s talked to me, which is funny. Obviously, it’s an interesting one for me to take, all I can do is play good footy, and keep putting my hand up to be there on the left. No one’s talked to me, and I’m not sure if they will,” Crichton, 28, said.

“It does make you question where their head’s at. Last I heard, they were keen [to re-sign me], but then obviously that coming out [Fifita signing] … like I said, an interesting one, and something I’ll have to monitor. I think if I just keep playing good footy, it’s good to have options and figure out where I’ll be.”

Crichton, who scored a double in the Roosters’ victory over the Warriors on Sunday, has had interest from French rugby clubs, and said he was open to league or union.

“It’s literally the first time where I’ve just been open to whatever … I think if there’s an opportunity that makes sense, then I’ll definitely look at it,” Crichton said.

Angus Crichton scored a double for the Roosters on Sunday.

Angus Crichton scored a double for the Roosters on Sunday.Credit: NRL Images

“I’m not going to rush it, especially with the Fifita stuff that’s come out now. I think it’s a good enough reason for me to take my time and make smart decisions, and – wherever I want to be – I want to be playing, and I want to be playing well and getting the best out of myself. I don’t want to be sitting behind anyone.”

The Panthers have shown interest in Crichton, who said he was eager to play at a successful club next year.

“If I want to go to a different team, I’d be wanting to go to a good team where I test myself and get the best out of myself and, obviously, what they’ve done there [Penrith] with their team the last couple of years has been impressive to watch from afar. I guess time will tell,” he said.

Fifita trained on the right edge for the Titans in the 2023 pre-season, but was shifted to the left in round one after Beau Fermor suffered an ACL injury. Crichton said it was up to Robinson to decide whether there was room for both him and Fifita at the Roosters next season.

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Crichton, an Australia and NSW representative, has been so impressive this year that he’s re-entered the conversation for a spot in Michael Maguire’s Blues squad.

“I love playing in those big arenas, and I love testing myself at that level, and it’s always an honour to be in the conversations and to be picked in those teams,” Crichton said.

“But, like I said before, I’m so focused on just playing my best footy for the Roosters … My goal at the start of the year was to lock down that left-edge spot, and it took a bit of time, but I’m here now, and I just want to keep on playing good footy and helping my teammates and making sure we’re winning every week. That’s my goal.”

Relief for Maguire despite Roosters stars being charged

NSW coach Michael Maguire has finally received some good news after a star Roosters trio all escaped with fines from the match review committee following their thumping win over the Warriors.

Joseph Suaalii escaped with a fine.

Joseph Suaalii escaped with a fine.Credit: Getty

Despite a calamitous weekend for NSW in which Nathan Cleary and Tom Trbojevic were ruled out for the entire State of Origin series with hamstring tears, Maguire’s mood would have lifted when Joseph Suaalii, Angus Crichton and Luke Keary dodged suspensions. All three were charged on Monday morning.

Suaalii will be fined $1000 for a grade-one dangerous contact charge, with his running style – which has attracted judiciary scrutiny in the past – again in the spotlight after he collected Warriors hooker Wayde Egan.

Crichton has been fined $1000 for tripping and Keary, an outside chance of a NSW recall given the Blues’ halves crisis, will be hit with an $1800 sanction for a chicken wing tackle on Shaun Johnson.

The trio will also be available for the Magic Round blockbuster against the table-topping Sharks, but utility Sandon Smith is facing a one-match ban after a grade-two dangerous contact offence.

NRL doubles down on controversial Grant kick-pressure sanction

The NRL has doubled down on a controversial decision to send Harry Grant to the sin bin on Saturday night, with the match review committee slapping him with a $1000 fine for the incident.

Referee Grant Atkins sent the Melbourne hooker to the bin just before half-time, for clipping the leg of Cronulla five-eighth Daniel Atkinson while trying to pressure a kick.

Grant was visibly surprised by the decision, and said after the game he was a trying to avoid dangerous contact.

“I was a bit shocked. I just had no intention of going in with any intent to hurt Atko. I just went to put kick pressure on, which is a big part of the game,” Grant said.

“If you look, I was going to put kick pressure on and turned away to take myself away from him to not make any contact. He’s obviously sort of jumped, kick momentum took him forward, and brushed his leg.”

Despite the incident, Grant said that kick pressure is a “big part of the game” which he doesn’t want taken away.

“There are a lot of players out there that work really hard in the game, and kick pressure is really important in the game. You can’t lose it,” he said.

Isaiah Papali’i scored a double for the Tigers on Saturday.

Isaiah Papali’i scored a double for the Tigers on Saturday.Credit: Getty

It proved to be a costly decision, with Cronulla prop Oregon Kaufusi scoring in the next set. The Sharks went on to win 25-18, with a try and a field goal the difference, and cemented their spot at the top of the ladder.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy was frustrated with the decision.

“You obviously can’t bump their legs, so we’ll go in over the top and wrap them up, just hope we don’t hit them late,” Bellamy said.

“Harry wasn’t even looking. At the end of the day I suppose he’s got to take that responsibility, and ok, look where you’re going and try and avoid making contact there, but at the end of the day that’s out of my control.”

Bellamy said it set a new benchmark for what qualifies a sin bin.

“With any rules, all we’ve got is consistency so that’s the mark now,” he said. “You touch his leg, doesn’t matter how hard, and you go to the bin.”

Tigers lock Isaiah Papali’i was also sanctioned by the match review committee for tripping Leo Thompson in the Tigers 20-14 loss to the Knights on Saturday.

Papali’i is facing a one-game suspension for the trip, which occurred in the 21st minute of the game.

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Newcastle prop Daniel Saifiti has also been handed a one-match ban from that game, for a careless high tackle on Jake Simpkin.

Both Papali’i and Saifiti risk having their bans upgraded to two-matches if they decide to test their fate at the judiciary on Tuesday night.

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