The New Zealand Warriors have sacked head coach Stephen Kearney after their loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

The Warriors fell to their fourth loss in six NRL games this season, beaten 40-12 by the Rabbitohs on Friday.

Former New Zealand coach Kearney was sacked on Saturday, having taken over in 2017.

"Stephen was informed this morning that we needed to make an immediate change," Warriors chief executive Cameron George said.

"It's a tough day for all of us particularly after last night's performance.

"Stephen is extremely professional and has put in a huge amount of effort in the role but, along with the owners, we feel we need to make a change now in the best interests of the club.

"We're so grateful to Stephen for the dedication he has shown to us in what have been difficult circumstances.

"His commitment, work ethic and concern for the wellbeing of the club, players and their families through this challenging year is testament to his character and we wish him and his family all the best for the future."

Assistant Todd Payten has been named interim head coach.

NRL players and staff will have their restrictions eased from Sunday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) confirmed the move on Saturday.

It said the loosening of restrictions "will provide improved liveability for players and club staff in daily lifestyle, however certain limitations will remain in place which continue to be stricter than current public health guidelines for the general community".

"The level of sacrifice by players, officials and their families has been significant and has demonstrated the absolute commitment of all involved to protect their own health, the health of the game, and that of the wider community," ARLC chairman Peter V'landys said.

"I am exceptionally proud of the players and how their conscientiousness and professionalism went to the highest level in this crisis.

"The federal and state governments have provided support and guidance throughout this period and we have listened, and acted, according to their advice.

"Allowing us to relax liveability restrictions for players and staff is another step forward for the game, and we will continue to progress change with respect to public health guidelines."

Australia has seen more than 7,400 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 102 deaths.

Craig Bellamy has dismissed a report linking him with a move to Canterbury Bulldogs and revealed 2021 could be his last year as a head coach.

Media speculation suggested the Melbourne Storm coach had received a lucrative offer to take over at the Bulldogs, who have won just once in five outings this season, following talks.

However, speaking after the Storm's loss to Penrith Panthers on Friday, Bellamy shot down the story, insisting he had never had contact with anyone at Canterbury.

"I didn't read the story and I don't want to read the story because, at the end of the day, what's in there isn’t true," he said when asked about the rumour.

"Somebody told me that I had spoken to someone from the Bulldogs twice, when I haven't spoken to anyone from the Bulldogs. 

"I can honestly sit here and say I haven't spoken to the Bulldogs, I think they've said the same. At the end of the day, it irks me a little bit."

The Bulldogs - currently led by coach Dean Pay - had already put out a statement on Friday denying the report.

"I think it is important for our members and fans that we end any speculation around Craig Bellamy having been contacted by the Bulldogs," Canterbury chief executive Andrew Hill said.

Bellamy has a further season to run on his contract with the Storm but admits it may be nearing the time to step aside, albeit he is yet to make a final call on his future.

"I've got a contract with the Storm for next year so I'm not going to say what I'm going to do because I don’t quite know to be honest,"Bellamy told the media.

"I'm 62 [in 2021], so next year will probably be it for head coaching. Having said that, things change at times and I've said that before, but it's a young man’s game these days."

Wayne Bennett refused to reveal why Latrell Mitchell was so emotional after South Sydney Rabbitohs dismantled New Zealand Warriors on Friday, while Penrith Panthers beat Melbourne Storm. 

Mitchell was outstanding as the Bunnies thrashed the Warriors 40-12 to secure back-to-back victories in the NRL. 

The full-back set up tries from Campbell Graham and Alex Johnston, with Adam Reynolds and Braidon Burns also crossing in the first half at Bankwest Stadium. 

Cody Walker, Damien Cook and Alex Johnston dotted down in the second half of a one-sided encounter, which saw David Fusitu'a and Agnatius Paasi score for the Warriors. 

Mitchell, who looked fortunate to get away with a high shot on Fusitu'a, was emotional on the field after the final whistle and was seen in tears in the dressing room, but Bennett was in no mood to explain the reason. 

The Rabbitohs coach told reporters: "No I'm not going to tell you why. It's got nothing to do with you, to be honest with you.

"He may well have been [upset] but it's got nothing to do with you. The changing room for me has always been a sacred place and unfortunately the game gave away a lot of our rights to those places, but in my mind and in my head, it's a place where we can go and be who we want to be and not have to answer anyone."

Penrith later moved above the Storm to go third with a 21-14 victory at Campbelltown Stadium.

Stephen Crichton, Brian To'o and Viliame Kikau touched down, while Nathan Cleary scored nine points with the boot in an influential display for the Panthers.

 

 NRL teams have been given the green light to play at their home grounds from July 2.

Games have been played at just five venues behind closed doors since the season resumed late last month following a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Australian Rugby League (ARL) Commission has now given clubs permission to their home stadiums from round eight.

That decision comes after an accelerated return to crowds approval was granted by government and health authorities.

Spectators will be allowed into games in New South Wales from round eight, with the lesser of 25 per cent of capacity or 10,000 fans allowed to take in the action.

The Queensland Government will make a decision on crowd numbers permitted to enter grounds after trails of up to 2000 are trialled this weekend.

ARL chairman Peter V'landys said: "This is an outstanding outcome for our clubs, our players and importantly our fans, who have been so loyal and patient throughout this crisis.

"Our fans are everything and the opportunity to have them back in their home ground stands is the greatest reward of all for their unwavering passion.

"I cannot wait to see and hear the return of that tribalism, which makes rugby league so special."

Canterbury Bulldogs have dismissed speculation they are preparing a deal to land Melbourne Storm head coach Craig Bellamy.

News Corp reported the Bulldogs had put together a multi-million dollar offer for Bellamy, who has been at the helm of the Storm since 2003.

But the Bulldogs dismissed the reports on Friday, insisting there had been no approach to the premiership-winning coach.

"I think it is important for our members and fans that we end any speculation around Craig Bellamy having been contacted by the Bulldogs," Canterbury chief executive Andrew Hill said.

"When spoken to last night I confirmed to media that there had been no contact made."

The Bulldogs have made a poor start to the 2020 season, holding a 1-4 win-loss record, leading to pressure on coach Dean Pay.

Newcastle Knights overpowered the struggling Brisbane Broncos to secure a 27-6 victory and go second in the NRL standings on Thursday.

The Broncos' losing run was extended to four matches at Central Coast Stadium, where the Knights pack was dominant.

Kurt Mann took an inviting short pass from the Mitchell Pearce to score the opening try 11 minutes in and Hymel Hunt touched down to extend the Knights' lead.

A Xavier Coates breakaway score got Brisbane on the board, but a composed drop goal from Pearce made it 13-6 at half-time.

The Broncos allowed the brilliant Daniel Saifiti to cross the line all too all easily three minutes into the second half and the lively Pearce threw a dummy before darting under the posts in the closing stages.

Kalyn Ponga was on target with all four conversion attempts, while Pat Carrigan was sin-binned and placed on report for a late hit on Pearce on a miserable night for the Broncos.

St George Illawarra Dragons are considering James Graham's release request as the Englishman eyes a return to St Helens in the Super League.

Graham's career in the NRL could be over, with the English prop seeking an immediate move back to his homeland via former club St Helens.

The 34-year-old, who is in the last season of his three-year Dragons contract, left St Helens for Canterbury Bulldogs in 2012 before joining St George in 2018.

"St George Illawarra have been involved in discussions with Dragons forward James Graham and his management regarding an opportunity for him to return to the English Super League with immediate effect," the Dragons said in a statement on Thursday.

"The Dragons will consider this option for Graham on the merit a replacement player is secured by the club prior to his release.

"The Dragons will be making no further comment regarding Graham at this stage."

Graham has made five appearances for the struggling Dragons this season, tallying 154 tackles and boasting a 95.4 per cent efficiency.

The Dragons are third from bottom in the coronavirus-hit competition after five rounds in Australia.

Queensland will allow small crowds to return to sporting events from Saturday in good news for the NRL and potentially the A-League.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Wednesday that up to 2,000 fans can return to stadiums beginning on the weekend.

The Gold Coast Titans are hosting the St George Illawarra Dragons at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.

Brisbane Roar could also welcome fans to the ground when the A-League season resumes in mid-July, while it is also good news for the AFL.

"Up to 2,000 fans can return to Queensland's stadiums from this weekend," a tweet from Palaszczuk read.

"Queenslanders have done an incredible job smashing the curve, and codes have done their part to develop COVID Safe plans to keep fans safe.

"It's another positive step on our road back to normal and I know Queenslanders are eager to get back to games to cheer on our teams."

Australia has more than 7,300 cases of coronavirus, including 102 deaths.

Titans chief executive Steve Mitchell welcomed the move, while praising Queensland's handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

"This is obviously great news for the Titans and the NRL, but for fans of sports across Queensland," he said.

"The past few months have been tough on everyone, and the hard work done by the NRL in getting our competition restarted gave us a feeling that life was finally returning to normal.

"Thanks to the premier and her government in containing the virus in Queensland, we are now at the stage where we are able to take the next step on the journey back to normal life, with 2,000 spectators able to come to Suncorp Stadium on Saturday to enjoy a day at the footy.

"This is a great reward for Titans fans who have been unable to get along to support their team at games, and obviously a big boost for our playing group as well to be able to run onto the field and see and hear the support they have from the Titans Legion.

"This is a wonderful leap forward, but we are not yet at the ultimate goal of a return to full crowds at sporting events. We will continue to be guided by the government and the NRL as we all work towards that goal. There will still be a number of public health restrictions and protocols in place at the venue to ensure the health and safety of our fans.

"But this is certainly a positive milestone for us, the NRL and sports fans in Queensland, and the Titans are delighted to be the first Queensland team to be back playing in front of our supporters this weekend."

James Tedesco was the hat-trick hero as the rampant Sydney Roosters ran out emphatic 42-6 winners against Canterbury Bulldogs on Monday.

After starting the NRL season with back-to-back defeats, the defending Premiers have responded with three straight wins and have racked up over 100 points in their last two games.

In a match that was rescheduled from Sunday after Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman had to be tested for coronavirus following a positive result for a teacher at his child's school, full-back Tedesco was in a class of his own at Bankwest Stadium, scoring a treble and laying on two tries.

Angus Crichton had already crossed twice either side of Kyle Flanagan touching down before Tedesco scored his first in the 25th minute, Sitili Tupouniua setting him up.

Brett Morris brilliantly played in the magnificent Tedesco for his second on the hour and, after Kieran Foran put the Bulldogs on the board, his second career hat-trick was completed with a powerful close-range run 10 minutes from time.

There was still time for Morris to add a deserved try, while Flanagan made it seven conversions from seven as the Roosters continued on their upward trajectory.

The Canterbury Bulldogs' players and staff have been given the all-clear after undergoing coronavirus tests.

The Bulldogs' NRL clash with the Sydney Roosters was postponed from Sunday to Monday after a teacher at a school attended by one of prop Aiden Tolman's children tested positive for COVID-19.

Players and staff underwent tests, with Tolman among those testing negative, although the 31-year-old will not face the Roosters.

A statement released by Canterbury on Monday said: "All Bulldogs players and staff within the club 'bubble' have been given clearance after undergoing COVID-19 tests yesterday.

"The results of the tests were relayed to the club this afternoon.

"Aiden Tolman and his family were also cleared after tests and Aiden will now follow isolation protocols until being given permission by the NRL to train with the Bulldogs squad again."

The Bulldogs have lost three of their opening four games of the NRL season ahead of their clash with the Roosters.

Corey Thompson has left Wests Tigers to sign a three-year deal with Gold Coast Titans.

Thompson, 30, joins the Titans immediately after more than two seasons with the Tigers, where he arrived in 2018 after a spell with Widnes Vikings.

The full-back has signed with the Titans until at least the end of the 2022 NRL season.

"He is obviously a very good full-back with terrific speed and consistency, and the past few weeks under the new ruck rules have shown us just how important those qualities are in the modern game," Titans coach Justin Holbrook said.

"He brings good experience with over 100 top-level games in the NRL and Super League, he's played in a grand final.

"But most importantly brings great values to the club in the way he prepares and good, honest qualities in the way he interacts with his coaches and team-mates.

"He is an anticipation player, who plays what is in front of him, and a Queensland guy excited about the chance to come home. I think our Titans members and fans should be very excited about what Corey will be able to produce for our club for the next three seasons.

"He was contracted with the Tigers until the end of 2021, and they didn't want to let him go. But they were also grateful for the contribution he had made to their club and released him to take this opportunity with the Titans."

Thompson made 44 appearances for the Tigers, scoring 19 tries.

Gold Coast are bottom of the NRL table with just one win, while the Tigers hold a 2-3 win-loss record.

John Morris was "totally blind-sided" by reports that he is under pressure after Eddie Jones was linked with the Cronulla Sharks job.

Sharks coach Morris was stunned to hear that his position could be under threat following an NRL victory over North Queensland Cowboys last week.

It was then reported that England head coach Eddie Jones was being lined up for a sensational code switch to replace the 39-year-old Morris.

A 30-16 defeat to St George Illawarra Dragons on Sunday led to Morris being probed about talk of Jones taking his job, but he was defiant after the Sharks dropped to 14th in the ladder.

"I'm a young coach, that's for sure, but I think everyone across the game can appreciate the challenges I've had in the first 12 months," Morris said.

"We've had massive challenges around the club with the salary cap fine. We've had to let players go as a result of that.

"We played finals football last year in my first year as a rookie coach, so I don't want to sit here and feel sorry for myself or anything like that, but I think I've done a really good job so far and I've had a lot of injuries as well. 

"We still can't put our main side on the park at the moment. The Eddie Jones stuff obviously caught me by surprise and did a lot of people. I'm contracted until the end of 2021, so I can't read too much into that read.

"Speculation and rumour, I can't let that distract on me, I'm focused on this playing group and getting them going, we had a really good win up in North Queensland last week and we wanted to get better this week, but we obviously slipped up today."

Morris called for the club to back him after he was pressed further on his future in the post-match news conference.

He added: "You'd have to speak to the club, there has been no mention at all to me about my position, it came from left field after our win last week against the Cowboys.

"We were singing the team song in the sheds and it's reported that my job was under pressure, so that's totally blind-sided me. 

"But one thing is I've got a really good bond with the playing group and all of our staff and we're working real hard. We've got some unprecedented challenges around our club at the moment and we are all working as hard as we can to get through that.

"We had to release Matt Prior before the season even started due to the salary cap, we let Josh Morris go. We've had some challenges there and I think the more the club can support me in these challenging times, the better we'll be in the long run."

The NRL has been given the go-ahead to allow stadiums to open at quarter capacity from July 1.

New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian approved the move on Sunday in line with a nationwide easing of COVID-19 safety restrictions.

"If there is any outside organised event with ticketing and seating, up to 25 per cent capacity of that venue can be utilised for an event," Berejiklian said.

"It can be a concert, a music event, a sporting event. That is for venues with 40,000 capacity and lower.

"A 40,000 capacity can potentially have up to 10,000 people if it is done with strict guidelines in place."

None of the three stadia the NRL elected to use under its restart plans in New South Wales have a capacity of over 40,000, with Bankwest Stadium the largest at 30,000. Central Coast Stadium and Campbelltown Stadium cater for 20,059 and 20,000 supporters respectively.

A small number of fans have been allowed to attend NRL games this weekend in corporate boxes and the first match to benefit from the rolling back of limitations will be Canberra Raiders' round-eight clash with St George Illawarra Dragons at Campbelltown on July 3.

Everyone attending NRL venues this weekend has been subjected to temperature checks, and fans returning to stadiums will be required to observe social distancing rules, with one person every four square metres.

Matt Dufty starred as St George Illawarra Dragons dispelled talk of unrest to claim a first NRL win of the season with a 30-16 derby defeat of Cronulla Sharks on Sunday.

Paul McGregor was given a vote of confidence this week, with the Dragons bottom of the ladder after losing their first four matches of the season.

The players stepped up to ease the pressure on their coach at Campbelltown Stadium, getting up and running at the fifth attempt by scoring five tries in a richly deserved victory to nudge off the foot of the standings.

There had been further reports that all was not well in the camp this week, with Issac Luke bound for Brisbane Broncos, and the alarm bells might have been ringing when Mawene Hiroti's early try put the Sharks in front.

Yet Mikaele Ravalawa levelled with a finish in the corner after taking a brilliant pass from the influential Dufty, who touched down a try of his own after Sione Katoa went over at the other end.

Ben Hunt threw a dummy and reached out to put McGregor's men in front on the stroke of half-time and Cameron McInnes went under the posts to give them breathing space.

Wade Graham's try gave the Sharks hope, but another pinpoint long Dufty pass put Ravalawa in to seal a double right at the end and Zac Lomax slotted over his fifth conversion to put the icing on the cake.

The clash between Canterbury Bulldogs and Sydney Roosters was put back to Monday due to a coronavirus scare.

There were concerns over Aiden Tolman, as a staff member at a school that one of his children attends tested positive for COVID-19, but the Bulldogs forward was later given the all-clear.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.