Former Manly coach Trent Barrett is expected to be welcomed back into the NSW Blues fold this year as one of Brad Fittler’s confidants.
Fittler opened the door to a host of Blues former greats last year - including the likes of Danny Buderus, Greg Alexander and Andrew Johns – with Fittler to extend that invitation to Barrett in 2019.
The only issue could be the fact Barrett is still contracted to Manly until July, and it may be deemed a breach of his contract with the club if he takes on another role.
A NSWRL spokesperson told NRL.com that Barrett hadn’t been approached about an official role with the Blues, however given his status in the game and his affiliation with the Blues he is expected to take an unofficial support role to assist Fittler with selections and preparations.
It’s something Phil Gould did behind the scenes last year, in regular contact with Fittler leading into the series and throughout.
When Manly announced Barrett’s departure in November, they agreed to keep paying him until July under the terms of his 12-month resignation notice clause.
"On the understanding that Trent abides by his obligations under his employment contract, he is entitled to and will be paid each month in accordance with his contract," the Manly statement said at the time.
Manly said they had no knowledge of any potential Barrett involvement with the Blues when approached by NRL.com on Wednesday.
It’s unclear whether Barrett would be able to take on an official role with the Blues should a job become available given he is still contracted with the Sea Eagles until after the completion of this year’s Origin series.
NRL investing in expansion probe
There’s been a lot of talk about the potential for expansion in recent months but the reality is that up until now, the governing body has never spent a great deal of time or money looking into the future footprint of the sport.
It’s why the ARL Commission has asked NRL boss Todd Greenberg to assemble a team to work on a project to present to the commission at the end of the year.
It will be as detailed as we’ve seen from the game in regards to expansion. Greenberg will consult with the host broadcasters about ways they want to maximise the return on their investment.
It’s why Perth is such an appealing option given the time difference. But there’s also other facts to consider. Which markets will help grow participation in the sport? Where can the game achieve corporate growth?
Toovey and Kimmorley back expansion
What will be the impact on the quality of the competition should it be expanded to 18 teams? Can the NRL afford to fund that many teams and how much money will be on the table in four years time when the new broadcast agreement kicks in?
They are all questions the commission want answered. The NRL will consider all options. Another team in Brisbane, a second New Zealand team, NSW Central Coast. They’ve also repeatedly said they will not jump in to save cash-stricken clubs in the future like they have in the past.
That’s where potential relocation comes into play. Work has already begun on this project with more clarity around the subject to be given after Greenberg presents to the commission at the end of the year.
Long memories at Knights
Newcastle’s animated spray at Paul Gallen has been a few years in the making. But NRL.com has learnt there’s more to the story than just Gallen’s comments about the team’s toughness 18 months ago.
If you cast your memory back to July 2016, Gallen engaged in some push and shove with then rookie forward Mitchell Barnett during the match. After the game, when pressed on his run-in with Barnett, Gallen admitted he shouldn’t have reacted because “he’s a winger”.
When informed of Barnett’s position, Gallen responded: “There you go. I don’t even know his name, that’s how much I care.” Those comments hadn’t been forgotten.
Match Highlights: Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles
Pascoe soaks it in at Leichhardt
Wests Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe hasn’t allowed his six-month suspension to impact on his passion for the club.
He braved the wet conditions on Saturday afternoon to enjoy the victory against Manly on the soggy Leichhardt Oval hill.
He wasn’t there in an official capacity but witnesses say he looked well tanned, relaxed and sporting a salt and pepper beard hidden under a baseball cap. Pascoe returns to his role at the helm of the Tigers in June.
The match on Saturday was also Marina Go’s last as chair of the Wests Tigers, replaced by former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell. However Go won’t be lost to the club, she will remain on as an ambassador for the Tigers and continue her work increasing the female engagement with the club.
Panthers reject Parra poaching Tamou
It’s no secret the Eels have been trying to bolster their pack, hence their desire to lure George Burgess across to the club in the preseason.
Turns out they also went after Penrith prop James Tamou. Both Tamou and Trent Merrin were reportedly shopped around after last season and the Eels hoped Tamou would still be up for grabs.
They were met with a strong "nothing to see here’". Tamou remains in Penrith’s plans and repaid them with arguably one of his better games in a Panthers jersey in the first round loss to the Eels on Sunday.
As for the Eels, Kane Evans has been offered around to rival clubs but it seems at this stage he will see out his deal. He was unable to get going in his first season at the club in 2018, hampered by injury.
Crichton's Roosters link a family affair
Sydney Roosters recruit Angus Crichton hasn’t been afraid to highlight his prior connection to his new club, highlighting the fact he played for the club as a junior and supported them as a kid.
Turns out he also has a family link to the club as well. His sister, Belle, is dating Billy Smith – an outside back in the club’s top 30 squad.
Belle Crichton and Smith have been dating for a few years, with Crichton and Smith former high school teammates at Scots College.
Home away from home for Warriors
The Warriors have taken measures to improve their home record this season after bizarrely struggling to win games in Auckland last year.
They will go into a camp the night before home games in a bid to get the best out of their players, who performed better on the road in 2018.
Jennings seals the win with a double
Jennings blue, gold & silver
Michael Jennings turned heads when he fronted for the Eels round one with plenty of salt and pepper on top.
The 30-year-old blamed the addition of his first bub over the summer for his new silver fox look.
“I’m a dad now, I don’t get any sleep,” Jennings quipped.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.