Wayne Bennett will not continue as coach of Queensland for the 2021 State of Origin series so he can focus on his job at South Sydney Rabbitohs. 

Bennett returned to lead the Maroons in October of last year, taking on the role after Kevin Walters had stepped down following his appointment at Brisbane Broncos. 

Queensland went on to win 2-1 - beating New South Wales 20-14 in the deciding game in Brisbane - but the search is now on for a new coach ahead of this year's series.

"We were really grateful that Wayne made himself available to help us out last year," Queensland Rugby League managing director Robert Moore said in a statement. 

"We understand the decision Wayne has made in his last year of his contract with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, as he's eager to concentrate his efforts on them because they've been so close [to a premiership]," Moore said. 

"With Wayne's decision, we've now moved to a process to consider the next appointment and we anticipate that process will be completed early this year." 

The Origin games are scheduled to take place in June and July, having been shifted to after the NRL season last year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia international Josh Addo-Carr will join Canterbury Bulldogs on a four-year deal from 2022, leaving Melbourne Storm.

Addo-Carr will depart Melbourne at the end of next season, having already won two NRL premierships with the Storm.

A nine-time New South Wales representative who has also played for the Kangaroos twice, Addo-Carr's move to the Bulldogs was confirmed on Wednesday after the wing was linked to numerous clubs.

"Having someone like Josh choose to join the Bulldogs after being the target of a number of clubs is another sign that we are gradually piecing together a squad that has the right mix of experience and quality," Canterbury chief executive Andrew Hill said in a statement.

"Josh has been a proven performer at whatever level he has played and he will bring those elements of speed and strike power that all clubs are looking for in their backline.

"Josh becomes another leader in our group and will bring the sort of winning attitude that the club is looking to create here at Belmore.

"We look forward to him joining us for the 2022 season and wish him all the best for next season."

Addo-Carr has scored 73 tries in 96 NRL games for Melbourne, having crossed for six in nine during his season with Wests Tigers in 2016.

The 25-year-old said he was looking forward to another season in Melbourne.

"I'm relieved to have finally sorted out my playing future and can now focus on making my last year with Storm another one to remember," Addo-Carr said.

"I owe so much to this club and have so many great friends and memories that have made me the person I am today.

"I now can't wait to get back into training with the boys and playing at AAMI Park in front of all our fans who didn't get to see us this year."

A two-point field goal will be introduced in the NRL from next year in one of several changes approved ahead of the 2021 season.

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) announced the rule changes on Friday, with some continuing on from 2020.

The most notable change is the introduction of a two-point field goal if teams convert from outside the 40-metre line.

Ten-metre infringement penalties will be replaced with a 'six again' ruling, while there has been a crackdown on scrums.

Players cannot break from a scrum until a referee's call, with a penalty awarded if they do – and a second infringement if the scrum is repacked would see a player sent to the sin bin.

Games will also resume with a play the ball rather than a scrum when the ball is kicked or carried into touch.

"These innovations will lead to less stoppages, more unpredictability and increased excitement for our fans," ARLC chairman Peter V'landys said.

"The message from the fans and our broadcasters has been clear – the game became too predictable and the balance between attack and defence had gone too far in favour of defence.

"Our changes last year were successful in addressing some of those challenges and the changes announced today will take the element of unpredictability and entertainment a step further."

V'landys believes the introduction of a two-point field goal will encourage teams to be more attacking.

"Providing the opportunity for a two-point play will give teams incentive to make attacking plays to get into field goal range at the end of a half," he said.

"It will also ensure teams who are down by one or two points in the dying moments of a match have a better opportunity to win a game or go to golden point."

Wests Tigers head coach Michael Maguire has extended his contract with the club until the end of the 2023 NRL season.

Maguire is set to become the second longest serving coach in Tigers history, behind Tim Sheens, after signing a deal for 2022 and 2023, having already been contracted for next year.

Former South Sydney Rabbitohs coach Maguire has led the Tigers in 44 games, winning 18, since taking charge last year.

Also coach of New Zealand, Maguire, 46, was happy to extend his stay with the Tigers.

"I'm really pleased to be able to re-sign with Wests Tigers," he said.

"We've put a lot of work in over the last couple of years and I’m seeing plenty of change for the club to move forward in a big way.

"We're all not happy with where we've been and everything we do now is about moving us forward towards a premiership.

"I love the people here and the passion around the organisation.

"The more I see people with a connection Wests Tigers, the more I see the hunger for success. This is a massive club with an incredibly rich history, and we're all determined to grow this year into a really strong season."

The Tigers have missed the finals in each of Maguire's two seasons at the helm so far, finishing ninth and 11th in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe believes the club are heading in the right direction under Maguire.

"As a club, we're really thrilled with the appointment of Michael," he said.

"Not only does this provide him with further security, it also provides our entire football program with a strong sense of direction. We have absolute faith in Michael and our football department in the sustainable team they are building here.

"Michael is a fierce competitor, and we love that. He shares the same set of values that our club is built on with his drive and passion for success.

"Together, we are building a football department, a team and a club that our members and fans are proud of and Michael is certainly the right man to continue that."

Manly Sea Eagles prop Keith Titmuss has died at the age of 20 after falling ill following a pre-season training session, the NRL side have confirmed.

Titmuss was considered one of Manly's rising stars after emerging through their junior ranks and was part of the 30-man squad for next season.

He was taken from training in Narrabeen to Northern Beaches Hospital on Monday before being transferred to Royal North Shore Hospital, where he passed away.

Manly announced the tragedy in a statement on their official website and coach Des Hasler added: "We are all devastated by this news.

"Keith was a very popular character amongst the playing group. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten by the Sea Eagles."

Titmuss scored the match-winning try for the Sea Eagles in the 2017 NYC Grand Final and was named the Manly Jersey Flegg Cup Players' Player in 2019.

The NRL side's CEO Stephen Humphreys said: "Our club sends its deepest condolences to Keith's family and friends and will provide them with all of the support they need during this difficult period.

"We are working with the NRL's Wellbeing team to offer support and counselling to our playing group and staff."

The 2021 NRL campaign is scheduled to begin on March 11.

Hull KR have signed Ryan Hall on a two-year deal after the England international left Sydney Roosters. 

The former Leeds Rhinos winger left the Super League club two years ago to head to the NRL. 

However, problems with injuries restricted the 32-year-old to just 11 appearances during his time with the Roosters. 

Hall, six times a Super League Grand Final winner who also twice lifted the Challenge Cup with Leeds, is now excited to return to "familiar territory" under former Rhinos coach Tony Smith. 

"I loved my time over in Australia it was a great experience for me and my family. But I'm back to more familiar territory now, back in England and Super League," he told the club's official website. 

"I started off under Tony Smith, he gave me my debut at Leeds and then again with England, and also he's going to hopefully give me my debut for Hull KR as well.

"It's pretty cool and familiarity is a comforting thing, so as long as I get settled in as soon as possible I can get back to playing my best rugby. With my relationship with Tony and Danny McGuire, that should come pretty easily." 

Smith added: "Ryan had a number of choices in front of him, and he's chosen us, so we are delighted about that. I've worked with him before, and the amount he's learnt from his NRL experience since is enormous. 

"Roosters head coach Trent Robinson speaks of him highly. He's going to bring a wealth of experience to us. He's bought into the concept of improving our programme and he's got a strong desire to pass on his knowledge to others. 

"Anyone who knows Ryan will know he takes care of himself unbelievably well, he's in really good condition, he's got a body younger than most. He'll be a real asset to us and I'm delighted that he's decided to join us to be part of our rejuvenation."

AJ Brimson will not feature again in the 2020 State of Origin series, having suffered a foot injury after scoring on his Queensland debut.

Brimson helped turn the tide in Wednesday's 18-14 Game I win over New South Wales, scoring the Maroons' first points with a second-half try after the Blues had tallied a 10-point lead at the break.

The Gold Coast Titans fullback was among eight Queensland players making their bows, yet his involvement in the series is over.

"Scans confirmed a Lisfranc ligament injury, which will rule AJ out of the rest of the series," Maroons team doctor Matt Hislop said.

"A specialist surgeon has been consulted and initial advice is for him to remain in camp."

Brimson added: "I was stoked to make my Origin debut and to get the win was an incredible feeling.

"I've got great belief in the squad and we're really well-placed to go on and win the series."

There was better news on team-mate Kurt Capewell, another debutant whose unorthodox kick created Brimson's crucial try.

Capewell had been battling groin tightness prior to Wednesday's game, but Hislop said: "Kurt aggravated his symptoms during the game. However, his scans are reassuring.

"We anticipate he will respond to further treatment and be available for Game II."

NSW have their own injury problems, meanwhile, with Cameron Murray joining Brimson in being ruled out of the series.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs lock, who was part of last year's winning side, sustained a hamstring injury just five minutes after being introduced in the first half of Origin I.

Jack Wighton has a leg problem but is set to make Game II.

Daly Cherry-Evans hailed the impact of returning Queensland coach Wayne Bennett after he was named man of the match in the Maroons' Origin I win over New South Wales.

Wednesday's 2020 State of Origin opener - delayed until after the NRL season due to the coronavirus pandemic - saw Queensland record a surprise victory, overturning a 10-point deficit to win 18-14 in Adelaide.

Manly Sea Eagles’ Cherry-Evans edged out impressive rookie Kurt Capewell for the MVP award after converting tries from Alexander Brimson, Xavier Coates and Cameron Munster.

Queensland trailed 10-0 at half-time but ultimately prevailed with Bennett – who is being supported by Mal Meninga and Neil Henry - rewarded for his bold call to play eight debutants.

The Maroons are now well placed to prevent NSW from winning a third straight series.

"I never have been coached by Wayne before and he has a presence about him," said Maroons captain Cherry-Evans. 

"We are that lucky with the coaching staff we have got that they have coached a lot of big games.

"They definitely did a lot of the settling of the nerves during the week. It allowed me to just concentrate on being the halfback, which was good.

"Mal, I have been lucky enough to be coached by him and he definitely has a presence amongst him. 

"It is not unnerving or unsettling, but it makes you comfortable and sure of yourself. We had that. I could [feel their presence]."

Asked what Bennett had said to inspire a turnaround at half-time, Cherry-Evans said: "To be more direct. Once we got those messages and clarity, I thought that we found our groove."

Munster, meanwhile, felt the Maroons had provided the perfect answer to their critics.

"There is a lot of hunger in that group and no one gave us a chance," said Munster, who recently celebrated NRL Grand Final glory with Melbourne Storm.

"We just dug deep, just completing sets and kicking to the corners - that is what we did."

After Queensland had scored 18 unanswered points, Josh Addo-Carr crossed for his second try of the match with five minutes to go as NSW moved to within one score of victory.

Munster attempted to keep the young team calm, adding: "I was pretty much swearing, 'Boys, you cannot lose it'. 

"We needed to dig deep - the Blues are a great outfit and they can score all over the field. We just needed to get up."

Queensland overturned a first-half deficit to strike first in the 2020 State of Origin with an 18-14 defeat of New South Wales in Wednesday's series opener. 

The Maroons lost last year but seized the initiative as the latest edition - delayed until after the NRL season due to the coronavirus pandemic - got under way with the first ever Origin match in Adelaide. 

An inexperienced line-up had to show plenty of spirit as a one-two punch from the Blues saw Damien Cook and Josh Addo-Carr cross in quick succession to claim a 10-0 lead at the interval. 

But Queensland stuck to their task and were good value for victory as an excellent second period saw Alexander Brimson, Xavier Coates and Cameron Munster all on the scoresheet, with Addo-Carr's late second try unable to rescue a result before attention turns towards Sydney next week.

Cook's knock-on from the kick-off epitomised an untidy start as Addo-Carr was squeezed out in the corner at one end before Daly Cherry-Evans skewed a penalty wide in the absence of a regular Queensland kicker. 

The game remained scoreless until the 16th minute when Cook gathered his own kick and bundled over for a breakthrough Blues try against the run of play. 

They took control thereafter and a more accomplished move from left to right allowed Addo-Carr to brush off Brimson's attempted tackle and stretch their advantage. 

But the Maroons stayed in touch and two debutants combined for a response 10 minutes after half-time, Kurt Capewell's awkward kick bouncing kindly into the clutches of Brimson for his first Origin score.

And the game was soon turned on its head when Dane Gagai's powerful running created space for Coates - another man making his bow at this level - to dash in on the right, with the extras from Cherry-Evans securing a first Queensland lead. 

Determined not to cede control just as their rivals had, the Maroons kept the pressure on and were rewarded as Munster toed the ball away from a scrambling Nathan Cleary and held off Cook to score. 

The Blues found a new burst of life in the final 10 minutes and belatedly moved with some urgency to again find Addo-Carr, who was able to dot down. 

Felise Kaufusi headed for the sin bin with 13 seconds remaining as NSW attempted an improbable recovery, but the reigning champions were left with too much to do.

South Sydney Rabbitohs released James Roberts from the final year of his contract on compassionate grounds, the NRL side announced on Tuesday.

The Rabbitohs said the decision was agreed by both the star center and the club as Roberts focuses on his health and family.

Roberts – a former New South Wales State of Origin representative – entered a facility to get support with his health in May.

"With the support of Souths, I am working closely with professionals to get myself healthy and into a position where I can play my best footy and support my family," Roberts said in a statement.

"Souths have been very supportive during this period, helping me to focus on the recovery from my pec injury and providing support for Anna, me and the kids."

Roberts swapped Brisbane Broncos for the Rabbitohs in 2019 and made 12 appearances in his first season back with South Sydney.

The 27-year-old, who first played for the Rabbitohs in 2011 before leaving for Penrith Panthers in 2013, was limited to just six games this season, scoring one try as South Sydney reached the Preliminary Final.

"We've held many discussions and meetings with James, his family and his representatives over recent months about a path forward for James," said Rabbitohs chief executive Blake Solly.

"James is an elite athlete and he certainly could play at the highest levels of the game in the NRL again.

"James and his family will always be Rabbitohs, and we will continue to support them as he looks to continue his career."

St Helens prop James Graham has confirmed he will finish his illustrious career at the end of the Super League season.

Graham announced last month that his international playing days were over, having featured 53 times for England and Great Britain.

The 35-year-old has now decided that his club career will come to a halt, and he will be looking to sign off by winning the Super League title.

Graham, who signed a one-year deal with Saints in June, has made 234 appearances for his boyhood club Saints either side of a successful eight-year spell in the NRL and has scored 70 tries in 474 matches in total at club and international level.

He told Saints' official website: "Playing for St Helens and over in the NRL has been an absolute honour. I am gutted this season will be my final one as a player, but I came to Saints saying I would have one last all in push for this season and nothing has changed there.

"Finishing my career at my boyhood club was an opportunity that I couldn't resist. Unfortunately, I am gutted we have not been able to play in front of our fans as I know they feel every pass, every tackle and every run.

"I have even missed the opposition fans who would give me a piece of their mind.

"I have had so many fantastic memories throughout my career here at Saints, in the NRL and on the International stage representing my country. It has all been a huge honour."

Graham won a Grand Final ring, claimed three Challenge Cup winners' medals and was named Man of Steel during his first stint with Saints and also landed the Dally M Prop of the Year award while playing for Canterbury Bulldogs.

He was the only Brit in the World team XIII and was named best prop in the world in 2008 and could sign off with another Grand Final triumph, with Saints top of the table.

NRL finalists Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers dominated the State of Origin squads as the selections were confirmed on Sunday.

Ryan Papenhuyzen capped a wonderful season with a man of the match display in Sunday's final, as the Storm saw off Penrith 26-20.

The full-back is one of seven Melbourne players who will feature in the Origin match between New South Wales and Queensland, with the final additions having been revealed.

Papenhuyzen and Josh Addo-Carr will deputise in the NSW camp, while their Storm team-mates Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Brenko Lee, Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi and Cameron Munster will link up with Queensland's squad.

Six Penrith players will also take part, with Kurt Capewell named in the Maroons squad and Stephen Crichton, Liam Martin, Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Isaah Yeo selected for New South Wales.

Papenhuyzen may not get in ahead of James Tedesco – who was the player of the series in 2019 – for the Blues, though Storm coach Craig Bellamy is sure the youngster can have a big impact on the squad.

"[Papenhuyzen] has really matured this year, I'm sure he'd be the first one to say he's had a lot of help off Billy [Slater] and he's been very grateful for that," Bellamy said. 

"He can play a few other places and he's tough as nails and he'll give you some X-factor for a couple of other positions as well so I'm sure Freddie will be looking at him pretty hard to play on the bench."

The three-match State of Origin series will take place throughout November. The Blues are the defending champions.

Melbourne Storm head coach Craig Bellamy has hailed his side's NRL Grand Final win over Penrith Panthers as the most meaningful of his career. 

Melbourne ultimately triumphed 26-20 at ANZ Stadium after earlier racing into a 26-0 lead to secure the club's fourth premiership in the NRL era.

Bellamy's squad had been forced to base themselves at a Sunshine Coast resort from late June onwards after coronavirus cases spiked in Victoria, with some families uprooting and joining them. 

The side wore a 'V' on their jerseys in tribute to their home state and an emotional Bellamy was quick to praise his players' response to such challenging circumstances. 

"It's been difficult, it's been challenging, it's been different," Bellamy said.

"Even today, well, for me, it didn't really feel like a Grand Final because usually we come down three or four days before. We have fan days at home during the week and we didn't really have that the whole week.

"For what our guys have been through, what their families have been through, I probably would put it up at the top of the Grand Final wins that we've had.

"This year, there's been some circumstances and situations where I thought some of the guys might have wanted to pack up and go home.

"Especially the ones there that haven't had their families in the bubble. But they haven't, they all stuck there through some difficult circumstances at times. And the other big thing has been the support of the families.

"Hardly have they complained about anything and living in that bubble, away from home, has been difficult. That's what it was all about for us - the group with their families and playing for the people in Victoria.

"We got some real strength out of that."

 

Cameron Smith was relieved to cling on for victory in the NRL Grand Final, admitting Melbourne Storm "did it the hard way" after surviving a late rally from the Penrith Panthers.

Melbourne appeared on course for a comfortable triumph at ANZ Stadium when they led 26-0 early in the second half, but ending up hanging on for a 26-20 win.

Penrith scored four tries to come charging back into a contest that saw their opponents finish with 11 men, Jahrome Hughes and Brandon Smith both sent to the sin-bin in a dramatic conclusion.

However, Melbourne survived a desperation final play from the Panthers to prevail, securing the club's fourth premiership in the NRL era.

Smith was full of praise for Penrith, not just for their late rally but also a 2020 season that saw them win 17 games in a row heading into Sunday's clash, while also spoke of his pride for a Storm squad forced to leave Victoria due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We did it the hard way, 11 men in the end," Melbourne's captain, who scored one of his team's four tries, said in a post-game interview during which he refused to be drawn on whether he plans to prolong his career.

"Penrith were coming home with a wet sail and playing the footy that they've played all year, which has been terrific.

"As an opposition club and organisation, we've admired what Penrith have done. To win 17 in a row in this competition is a special effort, on top of what everyone has been through this year.

"If there was another couple of minutes on the clock, who knows what would have happened there. You've got to give credit to Penrith, they fought to the end.

"But I'm just proud of this football team, not just the ones that played tonight but the entire squad. We haven't been home for about five months and with the conditions that we've been under, it's a remarkable effort to be here tonight and get a victory."

A COVID-19 outbreak denied Melbourne home comforts, but Smith revealed overcoming adversity had created a bond within the group that will forever remain strong.

Justin Olam, Suliasi Vunivalu and Ryan Papenhuyzen also touched down for Craig Bellamy's side in the final, while their talismanic skipper booted 10 points.

"We've had some close-knit teams during my time with the club, but given the situation we've been here, pretty much living in each others' pockets for five months, it's something very different, something we've never experienced," Smith added.

"We grew as a unit this year and there are connections in this team now that we will have for the rest of our lives."

Cameron Smith played a starring role before Melbourne Storm survived a second-half fightback to beat Penrith Panthers 26-20 in a pulsating NRL Grand Final. 

Hooker Smith - potentially playing his final game - scored a try and also kicked 10 points to help Melbourne overcome the team who finished above them in the table.

Penrith had triumphed when the teams met in the regular season on their way to being crowned minor premiers, yet a first title since 2003 proved out of their reach as they were made to pay for costly errors at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Sunday.

Melbourne capitalised in clinical fashion, opening up a commanding 22-0 lead at the break that, despite the Panthers trying to claw their way back in the closing stages, set up the victory.

Justin Olam was awarded a penalty try after the ball was kicked out of his grasp in the process of trying to ground it over the line, while the Panthers' poor discipline allowed Smith to kick his team into a double-digit advantage. 

After Suliasi Vunivalu intercepted a looping Nathan Cleary pass and raced clear to score a second try, Smith collected a loose ball and darted over from close range just prior to the interval. 

When man of the match Ryan Papenhuyzen broke free from inside Melbourne's own half to cross early in the second half, the game appeared to over as a contest.

However, having seen two tries chalked off in the first half, Penrith finally opened their account when Brian To'o finished in the corner, the score awarded despite suggestions of obstruction in the build-up. 

Stephen Crichton added another try and when Josh Mansour raced through on the Panthers' left less than four minutes later, a miraculous comeback suddenly seemed a serious possibility. 

Yet the deficit was too much with the clock against them and Melbourne held on, even with Jahrome Hughes and Brandon Smith finishing the game in the sin-bin.

Cleary barged through as the Storm's 11 men were breached again in the final minute, though it was a mere consolation effort as Craig Bellamy's side sealed a fourth premiership in the NRL era.

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