Knee injury may force Matulino to hang up boots

Wests Tigers prop Ben Matulino may have played his last game of rugby league as he faces the prospect of entering retirement.

NRL.com understands the knee injury the 30-year-old suffered in the club’s 27-26 victory against the Cowboys in round 14 is potentially career-ending. 

Matulino hasn’t been able to return to training since the injury and there are genuine fears his NRL days are numbered.

The Wests Tigers have been struggling in the forwards and want him back on the field, however the medical advice suggests he may struggle to play again.

The RLPA is working closely with Matulino, who is guaranteed the full amount of his contract, which expires at the end of 2020.

However, if it is deemed he has suffered a career-ending injury, the Tigers may have his contract - believed to be upwards of around $600,000 next year - excluded from the salary cap.

The NRL is aware of the situation and will need to be convinced the injury isn’t chronic and has been the result of a career-ending injury for Matulino’s contract to be wiped from the cap.

Matulino has played 248 NRL games since his Telstra Premiership debut for the Warriors in 2008, joining the Tigers last season under former coach Ivan Cleary.

Prior to his knee injury in round 14, Matulino had played in 36 of the possible 37 games since joining the Tigers.

He’s also proven to be quite resilient throughout his career, playing in 215 of the possible 234 games since cementing a regular spot in the NRL in 2010.

Ben Matulino passes during the round-14 clash with the Cowboys.
Ben Matulino passes during the round-14 clash with the Cowboys. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

While it’s unfortunate for Matulino and the Tigers, the potential retirement could allow them the opportunity to lure new players to the club.

It comes a week after Josh Reynolds was granted permission by the club to negotiate with rival teams after Benji Marshall indicated he was playing on.

The potential departure of Reynolds and retirement of Matulino could mean the Tigers head into next season with more than $1 million in the bank to sign some new faces.

Holbrook cold on Gold Coast

Justin Holbrook, the early frontrunner for the Gold Coast Titans job, appears to have gone cold on the idea of taking on the position.

It is understood the Titans have reached out to Kevin Walters, with Holbrook’s interest in the job apparently starting to waiver.

Those closest to Holbrook are advising him the smart move would be to wait and see if a job becomes available at the Bulldogs, where he coached previously in the lower grades.

Justin Holbrook.
Justin Holbrook. ©photosport.co.nz

Canterbury extended Dean Pay's contract earlier this year until the end of 2020 but that hasn't stopped the dogs barking about his future at the club.

While the Bulldogs are in a rebuilding period, it’s expected they will have plenty of space in the salary cap to sign some big names in 2021. The Titans’ future isn’t as clear.

Walters didn’t want to go through an interview process after being scarred by missing the Brisbane Broncos job, but his relationship with Titans head of performance and culture Mal Meninga could prove pivotal in the outcome.

It’s expected the Titans will make an announcement early next week - potentially even in the next couple of days.

Walters catches eye of the Tigers

Still on Walters, and the Wests Tigers have shown interest in luring Kevin’s son Billy to the club next season.

Walters is off contract with the Storm at the end of the year and the Tigers have discussed the option of signing him to add depth to their halves if Reynolds was to find a new home.

Dragons clear the air

The Dragons are doing all they can to save their season.

After a brutally honest video session on Monday morning, the entire playing squad and several members of the coaching staff all went for coffee together to discuss how they can dig themselves out of the hole they find themselves in after slumping to 14th on the ladder.

Airing of grievances can sometimes divide teams but the Dragons believe it was what they needed to hear heading into Friday's crucial clash with Souths.

Clean-out at Redfern

Dane Gagai was a no-show at training for South Sydney on Thursday. The Queensland and Australian winger has been struggling with a stomach bug.

He’s not the first Rabbitohs player or staff member to struggle in recent weeks, forcing a medical-grade clean of the club’s Redfern facilities.

Gagai is expected to be fit in time for South Sydney’s clash against the Dragons at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.

 

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