Warrington Wolves coach Steve Price says he was "blindsided" by reports that Gareth Widdop could return to St George Illawarra Dragons.

News Corp this week reported that Widdop wanted to head back to the NRL for personal reasons just seven months after signing a three-year deal with Warrington.

It was claimed Corey Norman had been offered to the Wolves in exchange for Widdop after the Dragons five-eighth was dropped for the clash with Sydney Roosters.

Price has ruled out the possibility of half-back Widdop leaving the Super League club as they prepare to return to action against Hull KR on Saturday following a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He told reporters on Wednesday: "I was totally blindsided by that. Gareth is really happy at our club.

"He's really enjoyed his time here at Warrington Wolves. He is contracted here for a number of years now and the player that has been linked to us – that will definitely not be happening. He would not even come into my thought process."

Dragons coach Paul McGregor was also surprised by talk of Widdop and Norman swapping clubs.

He said earlier in the day: "The first time [Norman] hasn't been picked in 18 months at the club and we're talking about Gareth coming back already.

"That's too unfair at this raw stage to even talk about it. And it hasn't been mentioned to me with the recruitment either.

"I have not been told anything about that and it's just so unfair to the player, in Corey, that's here. We want Corey to play well this year."

Brad Arthur has signed a new deal to remain as Parramatta Eels coach until the end of 2022.

The Eels kept faith with Arthur despite suffering the ignominy of finishing with the NRL wooden spoon in 2018 and the 46-year-old has rewarded the powers that be.

Parramatta made the semi-finals last year and they are sitting pretty in third place after 12 rounds of the current campaign.

Arthur has masterminded five wins in the Eels' past six games and has earned a one-year contract extension.

"I'm really pleased that the club has the confidence in me to continue to lead the team towards our goal of bringing success to our members and fans," Arthur said in a statement.

"Our playing group has evolved quite considerably over the last couple of years and they are determined to drive high standards to ensure we achieve our goals.

"I am looking forward to the challenge of leading this group and continuing to develop our emerging junior talent in an exciting period for our club and I know that the blue and gold army will be behind us every step of the way."

Only Brian Smith has taken charge of more Eels games than Arthur, who was appointed six years ago.

Blake Green has joined the injury-hit Newcastle Knights for the rest of the NRL season.

The 33-year-old playmaker's move to the seventh-placed Knights was confirmed on Tuesday after he was granted a release from his New Zealand Warriors contract.

Newcastle will be the much-travelled Green's seventh NRL club and he has also spent spells with Super League clubs Hull KR and Wigan Warriors.

The addition of Green is a big boost for Knights coach Adam O'Brien, who is without Connor Watson, Andrew McCullough and Jayden Brailey due to injury.

Ryan Papenhuyzen scored a wonder try for the high-flying Melbourne Storm in their 26-16 victory over Newcastle Knights.

A blow to captain Cameron Smith, who was forced off with a shoulder injury and could be sidelined for three weeks, took some of the shine off the Storm's success.

But it was another successful day on the pitch for Craig Bellamy's team, who have now won 10 of 12 games in the NRL this season and sit second on the ladder.

Melbourne's Suliasi Vunivalu and Newcastle's Bradman Best traded early tries before Smith suffered his shoulder blow when landing on it while scoring the Storm's second in the 24th minute.

Papenhuyzen produced his masterpiece in the 31st minute, with the 22-year-old full-back collecting a stray ball and racing from his own 10-metre line to score in the right corner.

Tino Faasuamaleaui dotted down for the Storm in the second half, between tries from Newcastle's Aidan Guerra and Enari Tuala.

The Parramatta Eels are third, also with 10 wins from 12, after sneaking home 18-16 against the Canterbury Bulldogs.

Brad Arthur's Eels side looked like streaking away with the win when they raced to an 18-0 lead inside 29 minutes, on the back of two tries from Clinton Gutherson and one from Mitchell Moses, who also booted three goals.

But they almost threw it away, with Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Jake Averillo and Marcelo Montoya slashing the deficit to two points by early in the second half.

Averillo added the extras to the tries from Faitala-Mariner and Montoya but could not crown his own score with the extras as the Bulldogs' comeback fell agonisingly short.

After the Eels went so close to wasting their early good work, coach Arthur revealed the post-game tradition of bellowing out the team song threatened to become a chore.

According to the NRL website, Arthur said "It was like a morgue in the dressing sheds. I had to ask them did they really want to sing the team song?

"But that's good because we're setting high expectations and we know we can be better. I don't want to take any credit away from the Dogs, either, because they rolled their sleeves up and threw plenty at us."

Penrith Panthers extended their winning run to seven matches with a 42-12 thrashing of Manly Sea Eagles on Saturday. 

The NRL table-toppers ran riot in Sydney, scoring seven tries and moving past the 300-point mark for the 2020 season. 

Rookie Charlie Staines, who scored four tries on his debut, helped himself to two more in his second appearance while Nathan Cleary provided 18 points and pulled the strings with two try assists in a one-sided contest. 

Staines might have had more than his early double - which came either side of Isaah Yeo's four-pointer - had he not injured his hamstring diving for the corner to score his second try. 

Stephen Crichton, Cleary, Brent Naden and Apisai Koroisau also went over for Penrith, while Jake Trbojevic and Jorge Taufua were the Sea Eagles' try-scorers. 

The boot of Kyle Flanagan proved crucial as he kicked five goals in Sydney Roosters' narrow 18-12 victory over Gold Coast Titans, who had Brian Kelly and Keegan Hipgrave sent to the sin bin in either half of a contest where both sides scored two tries apiece. 

John Bateman's first appearance of the season helped Canberra Raiders - beaten in last year's NRL Grand Final - overcome North Queensland Cowboys 14-12. 

Bateman, back from a shoulder injury, had a hand in both of his team's tries, including Curtis Scott's 55th-minute score which proved decisive in a tight affair.

 

 

A miserable NRL season for Brisbane Broncos continued with a dramatic 36-26 defeat to Cronulla Sharks, while Wests Tigers saw their Finals hopes suffer a blow as New Zealand Warriors recorded a surprise victory.

Brisbane have now lost nine of their past 10 games as the pressure grows on coach Anthony Seibold, while Cronulla are up to fifth in the ladder after claiming a sixth win in seven despite being without a host of stars including Josh Dugan.

In a back-and-forth contest featuring 11 tries, Sharks snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with three scores in the final 10 minutes.

Sione Katoa, Connor Tracey and Braden Hamlin-Uele went over in the closing stages at Suncorp Stadium to follow up on first-half efforts from Ronaldo Mulitalo, Siosifa Talakai and Jackson Ferris.

Richard Kennar dotted down twice for the Broncos, who fell to defeat despite scoring five times. They scored 12 unanswered points to overturn a half-time deficit but were unable to hold on.

In Friday's other contest, the Warriors came from behind to triumph 26-20 and win for first time in four games, as interim coach Todd Payten got one over his former team.

An inspired second-half double from Peta Hiku and what proved to be a match-winning try from Tohu Harris turned the tables at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The Tigers have now lost four of their last five NRL matches but that scenario did not look likely when captain Moses Mbye and David Nofoaluma crossed inside the opening 12 minutes, with 14-8 the eventual half-time lead.

Hiku made the difference with two superb tries on the left wing, before Adam Pompey set up the pivotal score from Harris.

Tommy Talau got one back for Wests late on to put them within six points, but the Warriors were not to be denied.

Alex Johnston scored a hat-trick as South Sydney Rabbitohs overcame a 16-point deficit to defeat St George-Illawarra Dragons 32-24 in Thursday's NRL clash.

The Rabbitohs were 16-0 down when Matthew Dufty ran in his second try of the game after 16 minutes either side of Euan Aitken's score at the Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, but Wayne Bennett's side came back in style.

Four unanswered tries from Cody Walker, Johnston and Latrell Mitchell levelled the scores by half-time.

Johnston's second score continued the Rabbitohs' momentum after the restart, though Tyson Frizell latched onto a grubber to restore parity with 25 minutes remaining.

Yet the Rabbitohs had the bit between their teeth – Walker helping himself to a second before Johnston raced over to complete his hat-trick after intercepting Tristan Sailor's sloppy pass.

Mikaele Ravalawa snatched a late consolation for the Dragons, but the visitors ultimately won with ease as they moved into the top eight.

Josh Papalii and Joe Tapine have been cleared to face North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday after the Canberra Raiders pair, who refused flu vaccines, were given medical exemptions.

Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said in May that NRL players who chose to skip the vaccination drive would not be allowed to play in the state.

The NRL had called on all players in the competition to be vaccinated, in line with efforts to bolster its biosecurity measures during the coronavirus crisis.

Papalii said in May that the decision not to be vaccinated was "a personal thing for me and my family".

However, both he and Tapine have received the go-ahead to take part in this weekend's game.

The Raiders said in a statement: "Canberra Raiders Josh Papalii and Joe Tapine have been cleared by the Queensland Government to travel and play matches in Queensland.

"They have both received exemptions on medical grounds.

"The club will be making no further comment on this matter due to the privacy regarding the medical exemptions."

Brisbane Broncos head coach Anthony Seibold said he is interested in signing Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith.

Smith – the first player to reach 400 NRL games – is uncontracted beyond this season after extending his contract with the Storm last year.

The 37-year-old Australia great was born in Queensland but he has spent his entire career with the Storm since 2002, winning two NRL Grand Finals and as many Dally M Medals.

It remains to be seen whether Smith will continue playing next season but Seibold – who worked with the superstar as an assistant during his time at the Storm and Queensland Maroons – revealed the Broncos will consider pursuing the veteran.

"Of course, it is something we would consider but it is a really long bow. Would he add something to us? Could he add something to us? Of course he could," Seibold said on Wednesday.

"I worked with Smithy for five years at club level and rep level so I do have a really good working relationship with him. It is not something I have spoken to Cameron about or he has spoken to me about.

"A little bit of experience would be something to add to the group, going forward. I am not sure how long he wants to play for but Cameron would add not only experience but leadership and quality on and off the field to any organisation or any team… but I would assume that Cameron would finish his career at the Melbourne Storm."

However, Storm chairman Matt Tripp played down Brisbane's interest in Smith midweek as the Melbourne club look to retain the icon in some capacity.

"This is absolute news to me. We know nothing about that," Tripp told SEN Breakfast. "Cameron is contracted until the end of the year.

"At some point in the next month or so we will attempt to either renegotiate a contract for Cameron as a player or we will try and arrange something for him whereby he will remain committed and part of the Melbourne Storm in some capacity for hopefully many years to come."

Smith has made 11 appearances for the second-placed Storm this season, kicking 49 goals with a conversion rate of 89 per cent while recording nine try assists.

"First and foremost I would try and convince him to stay. He is so important to our club," Tripp said. "Whether that's in a playing capacity or whether that is being one of the coaches, sitting on our board, there are many options for Cameron in terms of what he may do.

"All of those options to my mind involve the Melbourne Storm and certainly not a Queensland club."

The ladder-leading Penrith Panthers extended their winning streak to six games with a resilient 22-14 victory over Gold Coast Titans on Sunday.

Three tries in the opening 30 minutes and a second-half sealer from Malakai Watene-Zelezniak secured another valuable result for the undermanned and inexperienced Panthers, who were without four players from the team that beat North Queensland Cowboys last weekend.

Ivan Cleary's side have now notched nine wins, a draw and a solitary defeat after 11 rounds, the club's best ever record at this stage of an NRL season.

Josh Mansour and teenager Stephen Crichton both went over inside the opening 15 minutes to set up the victory, which restores Penrith's one-point lead over Melbourne Storm and Parramatta Eels.

The impressive Isaah Yeo added his side's third following Jamal Fogarty's long-range try before the Titans hit back forcefully through Brian Kelly and Anthony Don.

That burst cut the difference to two points at half-time but Watene-Zelezniak's effort in the 60th minute and Nathan Cleary's three conversions helped the Panthers withstand the challenge.

Newcastle Knights endured a miserable 80 minutes in the early match, losing Andrew McCullough and Connor Watson to season-ending injuries en route to a shock 18-12 loss to Canterbury Bulldogs at a wet McDonald Jones Stadium.

McCullough and Watson were forced from the field with serious hamstring and Achilles injuries respectively within the first 30 minutes and Knights coach Adam O'Brien later declared neither would return in 2020.

The bottom-placed Bulldogs took full advantage of their wounded opponents, with Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Jake Averillo adding second-half tries to Aiden Tolman's 11th-minute opener.

Hymel Hunt and Sione Mata'utia eventually brought the Knights back into the contest, but the fightback came too late to deny the visitors their second win of the season.

Canberra Raiders rallied impressively to beat South Sydney Rabbitohs on Saturday, while there were also wins for Cronulla Sharks and Sydney Roosters.

The Rabbitohs led 12-10 midway through the contest at a rain-soaked GIO Stadium, Dane Gagai and Adam Reynolds crossing for tries that the latter also converted.

However, the depleted Raiders - who lost Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to a finger injury - shut out their opponents in the second half, allowing them to overturn the narrow deficit and claim an 18-12 victory.

After Nick Cotric and Jarrod Croker had grabbed tries in the opening half, Semi Valemei touched down in the NRL for the first time just before the hour mark. Ricky Stuart's side then stood firm in difficult conditions to prevail, meaning they move to fifth in the standings.

The Roosters are just above them after they triumphed 18-10 against the New Zealand Warriors, though the reigning champions made hard work of it at Central Coast Stadium.

Ken Maumalo and Eliesa Katoa scored tries as the Warriors led 10-6 at the break. However, Luke Keary and Joseph Manu went over to help the Roosters rally.

Cronulla sit seventh in the ladder after Shaun Johnson inspired the Sharks to a 28-24 triumph over the St George Illawarra Dragons.

The New Zealand half-back scored a try and kicked four conversions as the Sharks overcame injuries to Jesse Ramien and Chad Townsend, while Zac Lomax had 16 points for the beaten Dragons.

Following an incident in the game, the NRL announced bunker officials Steve Clark and Ben Galea had been dropped after incorrectly awarding a try to Cronulla's Jack Williams, who was ruled to have touched the ball down despite Matthew Dufty appearing to ground it first.

The Gold Coast Titans have signed Queensland and Brisbane Broncos forward David Fifita on a three-year deal.

Fifita, 20, will join the Titans from next year in a deal reportedly worth 3.5 million Australian dollars.

Titans head coach Justin Holbrook was delighted with the signing of Fifita, who has played 37 NRL games.

"I am extremely excited by David committing to our club for the next three years," he said.

"As a coach we want to bring players to our club to improve the squad and David will definitely do that.

"David already has a close connection with our club through some of our players which is an important element that I am looking for as we build this team."

Fifita has already represented Queensland three times, having played last year's State of Origin series.

Titans chief executive Steve Mitchell said: "We welcome David to the Titans and are so excited that he has chosen to play his footy on the Gold Coast.

"We are looking forward to getting to know the Fifita family.

"Family is central to David's decision and it is a core piece of what we are building at the club.

"We wish David well for the rest of the season in Brisbane and for the State of Origin series to follow and can't wait to welcome him into our squad later this year."

Josh Addo-Carr, Jahrome Hughes and Tino Faasuamaleaui each scored twice as Melbourne Storm raced to the top of the NRL standings with a stunning second-half display at Brisbane Broncos.

The Storm - third at the start of play - needed to win by at least 12 points to overtake Parramatta Eels at the summit and duly delivered a dominant 46-8 success.

Addo-Carr got the scoring started in the second minute, but the comfortable margin of victory seemed unlikely before half-time.

The Broncos even led briefly after Herbie Farnworth crossed and Kotoni Staggs converted before dispatching a penalty, but Cameron Smith's boot levelled matters before Hughes put Melbourne back in front.

It was one-way traffic following the restart as further tries steadily followed. Kenny Bromwich, Faasuamaleaui and Ryan Papenhuyzen each went over, followed by a stylish second for Hughes with just under a quarter of an hour to play.

Things then went from bad to worse for Brisbane when Tevita Pangai Jr kicked the ball away and was sent to the sin bin for a period in which Addo-Carr and Faasuamaleaui completed the scoring.

In the early game, Manly Sea Eagles climbed to seventh with a 24-14 success at North Queensland Cowboys.

Interim coach Josh Hannay took charge of the Cowboys for the first time, but they had a mountain to climb after Curtis Sironen crossed early and Danny Levi added a second Manly try.

Although a response came from Kyle Feldt before half-time, the Sea Eagles set up a comfortable triumph with scores from Daly Cherry-Evans and Cade Cust prior to Francis Molo's consolation.

Trent Robinson confirmed the Sydney Roosters were "a fair way down the track" in their bid to bring Sonny Bill Williams back to the club.

Williams is set to make an NRL return after the Toronto Wolfpack withdrew from the remainder of the Super League season.

The 34-year-old left the Roosters and rugby league in 2014, but is set to make a return.

Roosters head coach Robinson said a deal for Williams to return to the club was close.

"He knows our people and our style of play. Things haven't changed, we've evolved that, he knows that by watching us," he told a news conference on Friday.

"But he also feels our style of play still, he knows the people in the place, a lot of our senior players were his team-mates and he's a Rooster and he's going to add value in some really key areas.

"That's a fair way down the track, but they're the reasons why we'd like to have him here.

"Obviously with the sad news with Toronto and what's happened with COVID and the restrictions on their season and visas and being able to go in and out of the country and crowds, it's had a big effect on rugby league not only here but in the Northern Hemisphere so that's opened the opportunity."

The Roosters, who have won back-to-back NRL premierships, are contending again, sitting fifth in the table.

With 10 games remaining in the Roosters' season, Robinson said he would not expect Williams to be in action until late in the campaign.

"I think obviously travel won't be until next week, it's hard to get flights to fly back and then the quarantine period and then a training period," he said.

"It is going to be towards the back end, sort of five to four games to go would be the earliest I would think."

Williams played 45 games across two seasons in his previous stint with the Roosters, helping the club win the 2013 Grand Final.

New Zealand international Corey Harawira-Naera has signed with Canberra Raiders until the end of 2022.

Harawira-Naera was released by Canterbury Bulldogs and will join the Raiders for the rest of this season.

The 25-year-old and the Bulldogs' Jayden Okunbor had their NRL deregistration's overturned earlier this month and were instead handed suspensions and fines following a schoolgirl sex scandal.

The Raiders confirmed the signing of Harawira-Naera on Friday and chief executive Don Furner praised the forward's talent.

"Corey is a very talented player who's played representative football for New Zealand and we're looking forward to having him join the club for the next two and half years," he said.

"He will join the squad for training once he's been cleared by the Apollo committee and then it's up to the coaching staff to work out when he may play his first game for the club."

Sitting sixth in the NRL, the Raiders face South Sydney Rabbitohs on Saturday.

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