COURT IN THE MIDDLE
Broncos’ focus on Bellamy affects Donaghy’s tenure
BRONCOS chairman Karl Morris has defended the club’s handling of the CEO transition as it emerged Dave Donaghy has been caught up as a pawn in Brisbane’s battle with Melbourne for Craig Bellamy.
Donaghy’s stoush with the Storm is headed for the courtroom next week unless he can strike an agreement with Melbourne over the noncompete clause that has derailed his appointment as Brisbane’s new chief executive officer.
Current Broncos CEO Paul White will officially vacate the Red Hill hot-seat on Sunday, bringing an end to his 10-year tenure.
The Broncos were hoping Donaghy could start early next month, however that will not be the case unless a truce can be reached with Melbourne bosses in the coming days.
Brisbane board member Neil Monaghan will step in as interim CEO if the Donaghy debacle continues.
The six-month clause threatens to keep Donaghy out of the Broncos job until August, a term Brisbane did not expect to be enforced.
And it has emerged Brisbane’s pursuit of Bellamy could be influencing Melbourne’s doggedness to impose the clause. .
The Broncos os have offered off-contract tract Storm superercoach Bellamy a role at Red Hill l from 2022, fuelling tensions between the powerhouse se NRL clubs.
Bellamy has as a similar clause in his current contract ct and there is a feeling the Storm’s stance on Donaghy is a warning to what could follow if the Melbourne coach signs with Brisbane.
The Broncos announced Donaghy‘s appointment, without a start date, on Feb
ru ruary 3 and Mo Morris insisted h he had not bungled the sign
“We haven’t done anything wrong,” he said.
“Paul White is the CEO and Dave will start at the appropriate time. We haven’t breached anything.
“Dave finished his contract at the Melbourne Storm at the end of January. Melbourne did not renew his contract. He is currently not being paid by anyone.
“It is an issue between Dave and Melbourne Storm. It has nothing to do with the Broncos.”
Donaghy was expected to settle the spat with the Storm privately, however the case is now on the verge of an ugly courtroom battle which could take some months to resolve.
The Broncos have a wellstaffed executive team to control the club if Donaghy isn’t cleared to start, but that would not be an ideal situation with the NRL season to kick-off in less than two weeks.
After a decade in charge, White said he hoped the Donaghy drama was sorted in a timely fashion.
With the first roster deadline looming, there will be a flurry of lastminute player contracts signed across the NRL this weekend.
Every club must have 28 contracted players by Monday, meaning some clubs will only have a matter of hours to finalise their list after this weekend’s trial matches as they build towards their final 30-man roster. We run our eye over every roster and see how many spots are left and who might fill them.
BRONCOS (26 contracted players)
The Broncos are keeping their cards close to their chest when it comes to their current 2021 roster. While four spots are available at Red Hill, the club wasn’t prepared to confirm specifics when contacted this week. It’s no secret the Broncos are keen on luring Cameron Smith to the club however, that approach is yet to reap rewards. Veterans Issac Luke and Albert Kelly are two key players pushing hard for a final spot on the roster following the departure of veteran hooker Andrew McCullough. Coach Kevin Walters’ son Billy Walters had been tipped to join Brisbane from Wests Tigers, but so far that hasn’t eventuated.
— Chris Honnery
BULLDOGS (29 contracted players)
New coach Trent Barrett is close to finalising his first roster at the club. Outside back Christian Crichton is listed as part of the top 30 but will be unavailable in season 2021 after suffering an ACL injury in the pre-season. But Barrett has shored up his outside backs by bumping up wingers Tyrone Harding and Tuipulotu Katoa into the NRL squad. New Bulldogs recruitment manager Peter Sharp didn‘t rule out the possibility of promoting a player internally into the top squad but said the club was in no hurry to fill the final spot.
— Fatima Kdouh
COWBOYS (30 players contracted) North Queensland are one of the few NRL clubs to have already established their roster ahead of the 2021 season. Javid Bowen is back at his old club, having penned a one-year contract earlier this month while Lachlan Burr (Warriors) and Kane Bradley (Tigers) were the club’s only two other off-season signings. “We identified a need to add depth to our outside backs when looking at our last roster spot,” Cowboys football boss Micheal Luck said.
(29 players contracted)
Canberra are just about fully loaded for 2021 with just one vacant place on their full-time roster. Seb Kris, Elijah Anderson and Albert Hopoate (pictured) are the internal candidates to snag the spot with the club expecting a clearer idea of who is in the lead after this weekend’s trial against the Roosters. Kris and Hopoate both have first grade experience while Anderson, a winger, is a former Queensland under-20s representative.
“Javid really impressed us in his stint before Christmas and his attitude and professionalism since having surgery proved to us he deserves another chance in the NRL.”
— Chris Honnery
The Dragons have two vacancies on their roster with rookie prop Jaiyden Hunt pushing to secure one of those spots after impressing in the pre-season. Hunt will have another chance to press his claims in the Charity Shield. The Dragons will look externally to fill the final spot and are in the market for a backrower after the seasonending injury to Cameron McInnes. “We are interested in signing another middle,” head of football Ben
Haran said. “That’s an
(28 players contracted)
area we have identified we could strengthen and we remain on the look out.”
— Michael Carayannis
EELS (27 contracted players)
Veteran centre Michael Jennings (pictured), who is banned under the NRL‘s anti-doping rules, is still on the club’s list, with the Eels able to seek dispensation over this unavailability. Coach Brad Arthur has five specialist outside backs, excluding Jennings, making the centre/wing position an area of focus in finalising his roster.
— Fatima Kdouh
(29 players contracted) Newcastle have one vacancy on their roster after young centre Brayden Musgrove recently clinched a two-year deal on the back of a super summer stint while on a train and trial contract. The Knights are not expected to fill the vacancy in the short-term with Mat Croker and Chris Randall the only non-top squad players to appear in this week’s trial against Melbourne – both are part of the club’s development squad and will be eligible to play first grade from Round 10 onwards.
— Nick Campton
PANTHERS (26 contracted players)
While they may be $5 TAB premiership favourites, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary is still looking to buy a prop following the sudden departure of Zane Tetevano to the English Super League. Elsewhere, and with only 25 spots filled, a number of contracted Penrith juniors are still vying for a place on the full-time roster, among them Hervey
Bay backrower J’maine Hopgood and playmaker Brendan Hands, who boasts strong utility value thanks to his ability to play in both the halves or at hooker. Both are on NRL development contracts.
— Nick Walshaw
RABBITOHS (30 contracted players)
South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett has already assembled a strong NRL squad of 30 players, with some notable additions including Jai Arrow, Benji Marshall and Josh Mansour. Most interest now looms around the make-up of the Bunnies outside backs, with a host of players like Braidon Burns, Tautau Moga and Jaxson Paulo pushing to earn their way into what shapes as the competition’s most dangerous backline. “The depth we’ve got, outstanding,” Queensland star Dane Gagai agreed. “It’s an exciting time at the club.”
— Nick Walshaw
ROOSTERS (27 contracted players)
Roosters coach Trent Robinson already has 27 spots filled, with the most notable addition being teen sensation Joseph Suaalii. Some of the club’s youngsters to keep an eye on include halfback Ronald Volkman, who scored a sensational double in the club’s first trial against Wests Tigers, while forwards Ben Thomas and Naufahu Whyte also performed solidly. Biggest question remains who will partner Luke Keary in the halves.
— Nick Walshaw
(28 contracted players) With 28 contracted players, the Sharks are primed to add a further two players to their roster, should they spot a weakness or are rocked by injury in the opening rounds of the season. The Sharks’ squad size of 28 would be increased to 29 if Bronson Xerri is successful in his bid to beat an anti-doping violation. One position the Sharks may look to strengthen is their backrow, with Wade Graham (pictured) and Briton Nikora seemingly certain to start the season, but with only Teig Wilton or Siosifa Talakai (injured until round three) viewed as backrow cover options.
The reigning premiers currently have three vacancies remaining on their roster ahead of Saturday’s trial with Newcastle, in which both the first grade and reserves side will be playing in Albury. Keen to impress will be Victorian product Dean Ieremia, who has been named at wing for the first-grade side, and forward Trent Loiero. Three Sunshine Coast Falcons contracted players — centre Bessie Aufaga-To’omaga, hooker Tyson Smoothy and front-rower Patrice Siolo — will have starting roles in the reserves team and could be late bolters for a Storm contract. Hooker Aaron Booth is also in the contract frame.
— Nick Smart
TITANS (30 contracted players)
Gold Coast is another club to have sorted out their top 30 squad, with David Fifita’s cousin Jojo Fifita claiming the final top spot. The club is keeping a close eye on their younger and development squad players, including Jayden Campbell, Tristan Powell and Alofiana Khan-Pereira, and waiting until they get more experience in the Queensland Cup. The Titans have worked to shore up their outside back stocks this year while they’ve also shot down rumours of trying to sign Cameron Smith.
— Chris Honnery
(29 contracted players) After initially finalising their top 30 roster, the Warriors have a spot to fill after a pec injury to Iliesa (Junior) Ratuva. Ratuva has been released from his 2021 deal but will be part of new coach Nathan Brown’s roster in season 2022. “We’re back to 29 at the moment,” Warriors recruitment guru Peter O’Sullivan said. “We’re not in a rush to fill that final spot. If the right player comes along we will do it, if the right player doesn’t come along we will go from within. With Karl Lawton going down with a ruptured achilles, hooker is probably an area we would look at.” — Fatima Kdouh
WESTS TIGERS (27 contracted players) The Tigers have more room to move than most with just 27 contracted players and plenty of cap room heading into their final trial of the season against Manly. Tyronne RobertsDavis will be the only player outside the top squad to take the field while of the club’s development players Reece Hoffman and Kelma Tuilagi are tipped push for promotion through the year. The club is also expected to add a middle forward in the next few days to round out the squad.