NRL month in review: February
The NRL news cycle went from busy to full-blown overdrive in February, with more executive changes at the NRL, CEO swaps in club land, a significant announcement in the world rugby league landscape, more player injuries and the triumphant return of regular football.
A week is a long time in rugby league. If the month of February is a precursor for what we can expect in 2016, the NRL Telstra Premiership is going to be one of the most dramatic and unpredictable beasts in recent memory.
By the time a returning Braith Anasta kicked off the NRL Auckland Nines tournament on February 6 - briefly coming out of retirement with a cameo appearance for the Roosters - mastercoach Wayne Bennett had already been announced the new England coach to take them through the Four Nations and World Cup, NRL Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Young had resigned her post, test forward Boyd Cordner had re-signed with the Roosters and then subsequently injured a pectoral muscle ruling him out for up to 10 weeks of the Telstra Premiership, Dragons recruit Mose Masoe had been effectively ruled out for the season with a devastating ACL injury, several high profile emerging Queensland Origin players had been excluded for selection for 12 months after breaking curfew and the UK Super League season had officially launched with Chris Sandow scoring the first try of the season and Kurt Gidley earning Man of the Match honours.
The NRL Auckland Nines officially ushered in the new season, giving league-starved fans the first glimpse of their clubs and new players and while Manly were left to rue a horrific injury toll including Jamie Buhrer's broken jaw and Jayden Hodges' season-ending ACL, it also provided some wonderful highlights, showcased generation next and gave Eels fans a trophy to celebrate for the first time since 1986. It had been a long time between drinks; forgive them for getting a little excited.
The NRL All Stars provided a week-long celebration of the game and made significant inroads into cultural change. While the annual debate about the fixture's merit raged in the background, the players were out in the community making a real impact on all those they came across. Their impact cannot be overstated.
In a very congested pre-season calendar, Sam Burgess made his triumphant return to South Sydney, Robbie Farah headlined a growing list of injuries on the eve of the season when he was ruled out for up to six weeks with a knee injury while the Roosters poached their arch rival's CEO.
Four more clubs announced new captains for the 2016 season, taking the official number of teams with new skippers to seven.
The North Queensland Cowboys officially became the best club in the world when they ran riot over Leeds Rhinos in the second half of the World Club Challenge. Johnathan Thurston has now officially done it all. Meanwhile the Roosters and Broncos asserted the NRL's dominance over their English counterparts to complete a 3-0 whitewash in the World Club Series in the UK.
The NRL launched the 2016 NRL Telstra Premiership campaign with a #HistoryHappens tagline, focussing more on the players and the fans than ever before - a move away from big rock ballads and celebrity which has been a central theme for the game dating back to the early 1990s led by Tina Turner.
So here we are on the eve of one of the most unpredictable NRL Telstra Premierships in recent memory. There are 215 days until the NRL Grand Final and it is anyone's guess what will happen between now and then.
Feb 1: Emerging Queensland Origin players Anthony Milford and Valentine Holmes break curfew and are excluded from Queensland selection for 12 months
Feb 2: Holmes is stood down from the NRL Auckland Nines
Feb 3: Wayne Bennett is announced as England coach for the Four Nations and World Cup
- RLIF announce World Cup to expand from 14 to 16 teams in 2021. Women's game also increased to six teams
Feb 4: - Dragons new recruit Mose Masoe tears ACL and will miss most of 2016 season
- Boyd Cordner extends deal with Roosters until 2018
- Jesse Bromwich named NZ player of the year
Feb 5: - NRL COO Suzanne Young resigns
- Super League season kicks-off, Chris Sandow scores the first try, while Kurt Gidley is named Man of the Match
- Queensland exclude a further six players for breaking curfew
- Boyd Cordner injures prectorial and is out for up to three months.
Feb 6: - NRL Auckland Nines Day 1
- Jamie Buhrer breaks jaw
Feb 7: - Parramatta win the Nines, defeating Warriors in the final 22-4
- Jayden Hodges does his ACL and is out for the season
- Nines team of tournament: Tom Trbojevic, Corey Norman, Beven French, Shaun Johnson, Tui Lolohea, Agnatius Paasi, Tohu Harris, Chris McQueen, Semi Radradra
Feb 9: Work begins on the Broncos new headquarters, a $25 million training facility
Feb 10: Brad Fittler is reappointed the City Origin coach
Feb 11: Issah Yeo signs a three-year extension with Penrith keeping him at the club until 2019
Feb 12: Cowboys hooker Ray Thompson fractures ankle at Indigenous All Stars training, is out for up to 14 weeks
Feb 13: - NRL All Stars defeat the Indigenous All Stars 12-8
- Rabbitohs defeat Dragons 18-14 in Charity Shield
- First look at NRL shot clock
- NRL trials starts
Feb 16: - John Lee quits his post at Rabbitohs CEO to join the Roosters
Feb 17: - Kieran Foran announced as Eels captain, Mannah remains club captain
- Ryan Hoffman named captain of Warriors with Simon Mannering stepping down
- Will Zillman and Nathan Friend named captains of the Titans
Feb 20: - Jayden Nikorima stars as Roosters smash St Helens 38-12 in World Club Series
- James Graham and Tony Williams injured in Bulldogs win over Storm
- Sam Burgess returns in style for South Sydney against Titans
- Brett Stewart and Tom Trbojevic injured in Manly's big 58-0 win over Ipswich
- Robbie Farah injures knee in trial against Sharks - facing four to six weeks out
Feb 21: Brisbane easily account for Wigan 42-12 in World Club Series
Feb 22: - Johnathan Thurston leads the Cowboys to a 38-4 World Club Challenge victory over Leeds Rhinos
Feb 23:- Joseph Tapine released from Knights contract
- NRL officially unveils NRL Bunker
Feb 24: - Tom Burgess ruled out for six weeks with ankle injury picked up in trial match
- New Panthers captain Matt Moylan has back injury that could stop him playing Round 1
Feb 25: - NRL season officially launched with the #HistoryHappens campaign
- Joseph Tapine officially joins the Raiders from the Knights on a four year deal
- Mark O'Neill leaves the NRL to join Wests Tigers as head of football
Feb 26: Raiders sign PNG star Katio Ottio on a two year deal
Feb 28: NRL donates $50,000 to Unicef after Fiji hit by biggest storm
Feb 29: NSWRL announces Intrust Super Premiership for the next three years