NRL sounds out clubs for potential Nines return

The NRL has approached the clubs to gauge an appetite for the potential return of the Nines next pre-season after what would be a three-year hiatus.

The World Cup Nines is already locked in to be played at Bankwest Stadium in Western Sydney this October, with the NRL now exploring the possibility of building off the back of that with the return of the Club Nines next February.

While Bankwest Stadium has been floated as a potential venue, NRL.com understands there is a demand for more high-level rugby league in Perth which could allow the game the chance to continue to expand its footprint into Western Australia given recent talks about potential expansion in the future.

The NRL opened the season with a double header at Perth's newly built Optus Stadium last year, while Origin II at the same venue on June 22 this year and is fast approaching a sell-out.

While the NRL is still to lock in its pre-season calendar for next year, club chief executives were recently asked if they would be interested in reopening discussions about the Nines for 2020.

The event proved highly popular with sponsors, fans and players in the first couple of years of its four-year tenure in Auckland, however it began to lose its gloss in the final two seasons at Eden Park.

Some clubs are willing to support the return of the concept, but the financial implications for both the governing body, its 16 teams and the players will be a major consideration.

While the new Bankwest Stadium would make the most logistical sense and also minimise costs given there are nine Sydney clubs, Perth, Melbourne’s AAMI Park, Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium and even the new Townsville Stadium could be suitable options.

The Cowboys, Rabbitohs, Eels and Roosters are the four teams who have taken out the Nines tournament which was launched at Eden Park in 2014, however the Eels were later stripped of their 2016 trophy after the club’s salary cap breaches.

In Gus we trust, says chairman

There has been a bit of talk out of Penrith in recent weeks about Phil Gould and his involvement with the NRL team under the Ivan Cleary regime.

There’s also been a lot said of how hurt he was by the lewd video social media saga that engulfed his club in the pre-season.

But Panthers chairman Dave O’Neill, who made a heartfelt speech thanking Gould at the club’s season launch, insists the general manager is as valued as he ever was.

O’Neill is adamant there wouldn’t be a Panthers without Gould and says he wasn’t aware of any intention of him reconsidering his tenure at the club despite the magnitude in which he was affected by the leaking of the videos.

"Gus never mentioned anything about walking away, but there’s no doubting how much this club means to him," O’Neill said.

"I saw that in how emotionally drained he was a few weeks ago. In 2011 when Gus came here our club was on its knees. If you were going to relocate a club, Penrith would have been the first that should have been. But through Gus’s efforts we are now one of the NRL benchmark clubs. 

"Now you’d think we would be one of the last clubs you’d relocate. Phil and I have a close relationship and discuss matters daily. Our club will forever indebted to him saving us from the brink of extinction. Without Gus, our club would not be here today."

Knights, Warriors keen on TPJ

Tevita Pangai jnr could become the next player breaking the $1 million contract barrier per season. Not because he is worth that much, but if he can replicate last round’s performance against the Cowboys on a weekly basis then he will go close to earning seven figures.

The Broncos have the inside running, but expect the Newcastle Knights to come in hard for him.

Pangai played his junior football at the Knights and is close to a number of people at the club.

The Knights are going to likely to have to pay overs to lure him to the club given that a third-party deal is more likely in a city like Brisbane. The Warriors are also reportedly keen on luring him across the ditch.

Dogs, Souths eye off Bankwest

Canterbury and South Sydney will meet ANZ Stadium officials in the coming weeks to renegotiate the terms of their respective deals.

Both clubs have long-term deals with the Olympic stadium, however the Coalition government's re-election at the NSW polls last week means plans to refurbish the stadium will begin after this year’s grand final.

It will leave the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs homeless for two seasons. 

The Bulldogs have already locked in one game at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta this year, and are expected to secure up to 10 games a season for the next two years.

South Sydney are also exploring the possibility of playing out of Bankwest, which is owned by ANZ Stadium operators, Venues Live.

The Eels will play the majority of their games at the venue, while the Wests Tigers have also committed to playing four games at the new facility this year.

The ground will also be the home of the Western Sydney Wanderers, and there are also rugby union matches scheduled.

Nothing too serious for Benji 

Benji Marshall may not be the electrifying player he once was, but there’s no doubting his resurgence as a player since returning to the Wests Tigers last year. 

Marshall spent some time under Wayne Bennett at the Broncos, with the master coach passing on some advice that has helped him with his game preparation in the hope of having a flow-on effect in the match.

"He said to me one day, you’re too serious in the sheds before the game," Marshall said.

"He said you need to have a laugh, so go sit beside some funny people. Because he could tell I was getting real serious. He said that’s not you, don’t do that. It helped."

Crowded house in Newcastle

With all the talk around the quality of surfaces in Sydney in recent weeks, McDonald Jones Stadium has moved to ensure the Knights aren’t affected.

The state of Lottoland and the Sydney Cricket Ground have been the topic of great conjecture in recent weeks, especially after Roosters winger Brett Morris suffered a knee injury last week.

The common denominator at both grounds is the fact rugby union gets played there.

McDonald Jones Stadium, who already plays home to the Jets' A-League franchise and the Knights, will host a Waratahs game against the Sunwolves on Friday night.

The groundskeepers returfed the middle of the field at the start of the week to minimise the potential damage going forward.

Still on the Knights, prop Daniel Saifiti is ahead of schedule to return from a knee injury next week. His brother Jacob, who is recovering from a broken leg, is expected to return via the Canterbury Cup next week.

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