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.

Parramatta Eels went back to the top of the NRL ladder on Thursday with a 26-16 victory over Wests Tigers in Sydney.

A bruising contest at Bankwest Stadium saw the visitors get off to a flyer when Luciano Leilua powered over the line in the opening minute.

The Eels went behind after just two minutes in last Saturday's 22-18 defeat to Manly Sea Eagles and it seemed another early setback had left them shaken, despite Maika Sivo's 10th try of the season drawing them level.

David Nofoaluma also reached 10 tries for the campaign before a Moses Mbye penalty goal made it 12-4, giving the Tigers a measure of control.

Matters soon unravelled for Michael Maguire's men, however, Reagan Campbell-Gillard's 40-metre charge for the line reducing the deficit before a Mitchell Moses penalty goal levelled the scores again.

The Tigers lost Michael Chee-Kam to a serious-looking concussion and were soon trailing by six at the break, Moses scoring after a superb chip and chase.

Shaun Lane touched down from a Clint Gutherson grubber to stretch the Eels' advantage and Sivo's second effectively sealed the points.

Some quick passing sent Tommy Talau clear down the left to score a consolation, but the Tigers stay seventh in the standings, with the Eels a point above Penrith Panthers after playing a game more.

Trent Barrett has been confirmed as the Canterbury Bulldogs' head coach on a three-year deal beginning in 2021.

The former NRL star will finish the season with the Penrith Panthers, where he is an assistant coach, before taking over at the struggling Bulldogs.

Canterbury and Dean Pay parted ways earlier this month and the Bulldogs have won just one of 10 games this season.

"I'd like to thank the Canterbury-Bankstown Club for appointing me to the position of head coach and for giving me the opportunity to become part of the Bulldogs family," Barrett said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The club has a long and proud history of success in rugby league and is a club founded on strong work ethics and family values. I look forward to, and am excited by, the challenges ahead in terms of making this club a serious competition force again.  

"I would also like to thank the Panthers for their support and understanding, As my job there is not yet done, and out of respect to the Panthers, I will not be making any further comment until the conclusion of the season."

Barrett, a former St George Illawarra Dragons, Australia and New South Wales star as a player, previously coached the Manly Sea Eagles from 2016 to 2018, winning 29 of 73 NRL matches at the helm.

Bulldogs chief executive Andrew Hill was excited by the appointment of Barrett.

"We have acted swiftly to secure the services of Trent because we believe he is the right man to take our club forward. Having spoken to Trent on a number of occasions we have been impressed with his vision for the future of our football team and how he will look to develop our players on and off the field," he said.

"Trent has been around the game a long time and has a great knowledge of football and how to bring the best out of players. We all look forward to him joining the Bulldogs family at the end of this season."

The Canterbury Bulldogs have signed Canberra Raiders star Nick Cotric on a three-year deal beginning in 2021.

Cotric, an Australia and New South Wales representative, has scored 37 tries in 80 games for the Raiders since making his NRL debut three years ago.

The 21-year-old helped the Raiders reach the Grand Final last year before they fell to the Sydney Roosters.

He will join the struggling Bulldogs from next year after signing a three-year deal.

"Signing a player of Nick's ability and class is a massive boost for our club moving forward and another step in strengthening our squad to lead us into the future," Bulldogs chief executive Andrew Hill said.

"With Luke Thompson having joined us and Nick now bringing some great strike power to our backline I am confident that we are constructing the quality of squad that can produce the results we are looking for in the coming seasons."

While the Raiders are sixth in the NRL, the Bulldogs are bottom after losing nine of their 10 games this season.

New Zealand Warriors chief executive Cameron George says the NRL club would be "mad" not to try to sign Sonny Bill Williams.

Williams could be available on a short-term deal after Toronto Wolfpack withdrew from the rest of the Super League season on Monday due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Former New Zealand centre Williams signed a two-year deal with Toronto last November and the Wolfpack are planning to return to action next year.

George revealed the Warriors will ask about the cross-code star's availability for the remainder of the NRL campaign.

"We're in a position where obviously we're going to require players and if Sonny Bill Williams becomes available, of course, we're going to look at how it could happen," he told NRL.com.

"We'll reach out for sure to try and understand the situation, we're already looking for loan players so imagine if it came off.

"The stars would have to be aligned, and I don't know if and when Sonny could even get to Australia. But we'd be mad not to ask the question."

Sydney Roosters have also been linked with a move for the 34-year-old Williams.

Anthony Seibold's performance as head coach of the Brisbane Broncos will be assessed at the end of the season, with board member and club legend Darren Lockyer admitting they had to "find a way to fix" their current slump.

The Broncos have lost seven of eight games since the NRL resumed in May, while the manner of their 48-0 thrashing by Wests Tigers last Friday saw shareholders express their concerns at Tuesday's AGM.

Chairman Paul Morris insisted there would be no knee-jerk reaction, but said Seibold would be subjected to an end-of-season performance review.

Morris said: "Anthony Seibold is our coach and will be until the end of the season.

"Everyone at the club has a performance review and Anthony is an employee of the Broncos and will have a review like everyone else.

"He has got a long-term contract at the Broncos so we will wait until the end of the season."

Former Broncos and Australia captain Lockyear struck a more downbeat note, admitting the club's struggles were taking a toll.

"You lose sleep at night," he said.

"It hurts but it is the reality and we've got to find a way to fix it.

"The AGM is about the financial performance of the company but there is always a lot of questions around the team's performance and the club's performance.

"This year with the results there was a lot of focus on the club and the team's performance."

Former South Sydney Rabbitohs boss Seibold signed a five-year deal when he replaced Wayne Bennett in 2019.

 

 

Canterbury Bulldogs star Kieran Foran is expected to be fit to face Newcastle Knights after being cleared of a toe injury.

Foran missed the second half of the Bulldogs' 28-22 loss to St George Illawarra Dragons in the NRL on Saturday.

The playmaker underwent scans on his toe and was cleared of major damage, the Bulldogs said.

"He will train with the team this week and is expected to take his place in the side for the clash with the Newcastle Knights on Sunday," the team said.

The Bulldogs are enduring a miserable season, with just one win from their first 10 games of the NRL campaign.

Paul Green has stepped down as North Queensland Cowboys head coach after more than six years at the helm.

Green had been under growing pressure after overseeing seven losses in 10 NRL games this season.

But the 47-year-old, who took charge in 2014 and won the NRL premiership the following year, is leaving the post, it was announced on Monday.

"After seven years as head coach it is with a heavy heart that I make this announcement," Green said.

"The board felt that the club was at a juncture where they needed to move in a different direction, and I can only respect their views.

"Whilst this is obviously disappointing news, I am grateful to the board for allowing me to lead this club whilst creating some lifelong memories. I will use this next period to freshen up, spend some time with my family and assess options before moving on to my next coaching role."

Cowboys assistant coach Josh Hannay will be in charge for the rest of the 2020 season.

Lewis Ramsay, the Cowboys chairman, paid tribute to Green – who also helped the team reach the 2017 Grand Final before they were beaten by Melbourne Storm.

"Paul has spearheaded some remarkable achievements during his time with us and we will be forever thankful for the club-defining moments he has generated," he said.

"Two Nines trophies, two grand final appearances, a premiership, a World Club Challenge, coached three Dally M winners, all form an excellent resume for Paul to take with him as he embarks upon the next stage of his career.

"The club appreciates Paul's sincerity in choosing the best time for him to pass the baton and we wish him and his family the very best as they embark on their next journey.

"The timing of this separation now allows the club to work diligently and thoroughly through the important process of recruiting its next head coach."

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