Kiwis seek green light to allow Packer, Ma'u into US

The New Zealand Rugby League will seek permission from the US Government to allow Manu Ma’u and Russell Packer into the country for the Denver Test in June.

Given both players have served time behind bars, strict US laws could prohibit them from playing in the historic one-off Test against England on American soil.

NZRL officials are well aware of the difficulties some people with a criminal record face in gaining entry into the United States and will soon send off the relevant documentation to ensure they are at full strength for the Test.

"We always seek appropriate visas and documentations when we travel," Kiwis team manager Nadene Conlon told NRL.com.

"We’ve obviously dealt with this in the past. We actually travelled through America in 2016 on our way to the UK and it wasn’t an issue then.

"We’ve certainly got that plan in the pipeline and understand what needs to be done and it will be worked through in due course. Once we know the team and who we will be dealing with we can get all those things in place."

Ma’u didn’t play with the Kiwis during last year’s World Cup and may pledge his allegiance to Tonga for the mid-season Test, however it is expected Packer will retain his position in the New Zealand side should he start the year in strong form for the Wests Tigers.

It’s understood Ma’u previously travelled through the US in 2016 when the Kiwis stopped over on the way through to the United Kingdom for the Four Nations.

Smith supports Lodge return

There has been a lot of opinion about Matthew Lodge and whether he should be allowed to play for the Brisbane Broncos in the opening round given his shocking behaviour in the US a couple of years ago.

Broncos prop Matt Lodge.
Broncos prop Matt Lodge. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

Melbourne Storm skipper Cameron Smith knows Lodge from their time together at the Victorian club, describing him as a "good kid".

Smith admitted this had to be Lodge’s final chance but wasn’t opposed to the notion of him returning to the game - as long as he was on the path to redemption.

"I think he has been given a couple of chances now to come back into our game and play. He probably is on his last chance," Smith said.

"I would say if he is not, he would be pretty close. I am hearing that he has put in a lot of hard work to get his life sorted away from football. I think that is the most important thing. I think sometimes we get a bit caught up in the player and not the person.

"I know he has had some troubles and issues in the past but I think he is a good kid. He has made some mistakes but as long as he can make up for those mistakes and show everyone he is willing to do the right thing now, and be a good person and help our game grow when he is involved in that, I hope he achieves that."

Shaun still sporting sunnies

New Zealand Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson is strutting around Perth with his sunglasses on all the time.

He even trained while wearing them on Tuesday. Johnson isn’t quite comfortable with the glaring Australian sun after undergoing surgery to remove a growth from his eye a month ago. Don’t stress Warriors fans, he’ll be right for Saturday’s double-header against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

 

What a day man! These speed demons doing a fine job at protecting me eyes while I recover!

A post shared by Shaun Johnson (@shaun_johnson90) on

Chance meeting for Carney 

It wasn’t until a chance meeting during a trial last month did the opportunity present itself for Todd Carney to potentially join the North Queensland Cowboys.

Carney bumped into Green in the tunnel at Barlow Park in Cairns three weeks ago. The Cowboys played the Wests Tigers that night, but earlier Carney turned out for his Intrust Super Cup side, Northern Pride, in the curtain-raiser.

There were a few interested onlookers as the pair spoke for a while. Turns out it was the beginning of Carney’s road back to the NRL, should he receive the green light from the governing body. 

It will be interesting to see what happens when Michael Morgan or Johnathan Thurston are unavailable. Te Maire Martin did a tremendous job in helping lead the Cowboys to the Telstra Premiership grand final last year and deserves first shot at it should a vacancy appear.

Sezer could be hooking in

There’s talk doing the rounds the Canberra Raiders may give Aidan Sezer some time, or possibly even start the game, at hooker against the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday.

Coach Ricky Stuart has named him in the halves alongside Sam Williams, with Blake Austin picked on the bench and Siliva Havili at hooker. Expect the Raiders to tinker with those four throughout the game.

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.