As part of the NRL 2020 Annual recounting the major news stories in rugby league, David Middleton looks back at November.
November 1: The Sunday Telegraph reveals Canberra captain Jarrod Croker played through the finals series with a shoulder injury that will rule him out for up to five months. “It was unbelievably courageous that he could play on with it,” said Raiders coach Ricky Stuart. “Incredible really.”
November 2: Penrith coach Ivan Cleary tells winger Josh Mansour he has lost his place in the team and is free to leave, despite having a year to run on his contract.
November 3: The Toronto Wolfpack are denied re-entry into the English Super League competition after Super League, the Rugby Football League and 11 current clubs vote 9-4 against their readmission. The decision is expected to end the career of 35-year-old Sonny Bill Williams, who was under contract to the Wolfpack for 2021.
November 4: Wayne Bennett’s Queensland team cause a boilover in the opening clash at Adelaide Oval when they down the Blues 18-14. NSW captain Boyd Cordner is controversially allowed to return to the field after suffering a first-half head knock. The Blues lose South Sydney forward Cameron Murray for the rest of the series to a torn hamstring, while Queensland lose fullback AJ Brimson to a Lisfranc fracture to his foot that will require surgery.
Match Highlights: Blues v Maroons
November 5: The NRL seeks a please explain from the NSWRL over the decision to allow Blues captain Boyd Cordner to return to play after copping a head knock in Origin I.
November 6: The Daily Telegraph reports Cameron Smith has effectively become a free agent after allowing his contract with the Melbourne Storm to expire on October 31 and there have been no negotiations between Smith and the Storm.
Roosters fullback James Tedesco is appointed NSW captain after Boyd Cordner rules himself out for the remainder of the series following his latest head injury. Blues coach Brad Fittler makes a key selection change for Origin II, replacing five-eighth Luke Keary with South Sydney’s Cody Walker. Isaah Yeo, Nathan Brown and Dale Finucane also win places in the Blues’ line-up for the must win game at ANZ Stadium. Valentine Holmes, who missed the opening match of the series through suspension, is named at fullback for the Maroons in place of injured Gold Coast No 1 AJ Brimson.
St George Illawarra confirms that local junior Jack Bird has agreed to return to the club in a two-year deal after he is officially released from the final year of his contract with the Brisbane Broncos. The Broncos agree to pay a significant part of Bird’s salary for 2021.
November 7: Parramatta announce the signings of backline utility Michael Oldfield from Canberra and Gold Coast forward Keegan Hipgrave.
November 8: The Sunday Telegraph reports Cronulla have offered the NRL a stake in a joint venture to build a “mini-Bankwest Stadium” at Shark Park.
November 10: The ARLC informs clubs former Queensland Labor minister Kate Jones has been appointed as a commissioner, while chairman Peter V’landys and commissioner Megan Davis have been reappointed for a further three years.
November 11: NSW bounce back from their upset loss in Adelaide to square the State of Origin series with a commanding 34-10 victory at ANZ Stadium. Blues halfback Nathan Cleary is awarded man of the match honours.
Match Highlights: Blues v Maroons
Queensland lose five-eighth Cameron Munster in the opening minutes, while Maroons rookie Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and Blues prop Payne Haas are sent to the sin bin after a second-half flare-up.
November 12: NSW winger Josh Addo-Carr agrees to see out the final year of his contract with the Melbourne Storm after earlier seeking a release on compassionate grounds to return to Sydney. Wests Tigers were reportedly leading the race for his signature, however they would now be forced to target him for 2022.
Feuding forwards Payne Haas and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui escape suspension for their State of Origin brawl, instead they are fined $750 by the NRL.
November 13: The Queensland government announces the relaxation of COVID restrictions at Suncorp Stadium for State of Origin III, restoring the venue’s capacity to 50,000. However, fans from Sydney remain locked out of the state, including Channel Nine caller Ray Warren and most of the Nine commentary team.
Match Highlights: Maroons v Blues
Queensland end the Blues' four-year winning streak in women’s interstate clashes with a 24-18 victory at Sunshine Coast Stadium. It is the Maroons’ first Women’s State of Origin victory.
Storm prop Albert Vete joins English Super League club Hull KR on a two-year deal, while Canterbury winger Reimis Smith signs with the Storm for the next two seasons.
Newcastle release forward Sione Mata’utia from the final year of his contract to join St Helens on a three-year deal; Bulldogs back Marcelo Montoya joins the Warriors on a two-year deal, while Blake Green confirms he will remain with the Knights in 2021 after having agreed to join the Bulldogs.
The NRL issues the NSWRL with a formal warning for allowing Blues captain Boyd Cordner to return to the field after receiving a head knock in State of Origin I.
November 16: Former NRL CEO David Gallop responds to criticism by Cameron Smith in his newly published autobiography over the handling of the club’s salary cap scandal in 2010. In an article penned for The Daily Telegraph, Gallop says: “Unfortunately, Cameron is just plain wrong”. Gallop maintains that the evidence included “substantial nondisclosure of player payments putting the Storm over the cap for a number of years” as well as “evidence of a dual contracting system being used for champion players.”
November 17: Wests Tigers warn prop Josh Aloiai he will be “mowing grass at Leichhardt or Campbelltown” if he fails to fulfil his contractual obligations to the club as he seeks a move to Manly. Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis tells the Daily Telegraph: “The days of players or others thinking they can use the Wests Tigers as a stepping stone are over. “You don’t come here to bide your time. You fulfil your contract and then you are free to do as you wish.”
November 18: Queensland claim a stunning series victory after triumphing 20-14 over the Blues in a gripping decider before 49,155 fans at Suncorp Stadium.
Match Highlights: Maroons v Blues
Maroons five-eighth Cameron Munster is named man of the match and winner of the Wally Lewis Medal as player of the series. NSW suffer a crushing early blow when they lose captain James Tedesco after 19 minutes.
Former Penrith and Gold Coast second-rower Bryce Cartwright agrees to terms to a one-year deal with Parramatta.
November 19: Wests Tigers sign former NSW centre James Roberts to a one-year contract with an option for a second year in the club’s favour.
Former Wallaby coach Michael Cheika is announced as new national coach of the Lebanon Cedars and will lead them into the 2021 World Cup.
St George Illawarra prop Korbin Sims signs a three-year deal with Hull Kingston Rovers from 2021.
NSW coach Brad Fittler criticises Queensland forward Jai Arrow over his treatment of James Tedesco after the Blues fullback was knocked out in a collision with Maroons forward Josh Papalii in Origin III. Arrow attempted to pick Tedesco up before dropping him again. Arrow escaped suspension but is fined $500, a punishment Fittler claimed was “not appropriate”.
Fittler says Arrow showed a 'lack of respect'
November 20: South Sydney back-rower Jack Johns signs a one-year deal with the Newcastle Knights, the club where his father Matthew and uncle Andrew starred. The Knights also sign former Wests Tigers and Canterbury prop Sauaso Sue to a two-year deal.
Cronulla announce the signing of former Canterbury prop Aiden Tolman to a one-year deal, while the Gold Coast sign rookie Wests Tigers forward Sam McIntyre.
November 21: The Sydney Morning Herald reports that two former Melbourne Storm directors are preparing a formal submission to the NRL to have the club’s salary cap penalties in 2010 re-examined. The directors claim that the NRL broke their own rules by rushing ahead with penalties without issuing a breach notice. “We went up for shoplifting and we got done for murder,” former director Peter Moodie says.
Former NRL CEO David Gallop fires back at the directors the following day, insisting their claims were “100 per cent wrong”. Gallop tells The Sun-Herald: “Of course this latest attempt to criticise the process is also 100 per cent wrong and simply ignores the fact that they completely agreed to the process being truncated. In fact, Moodie requested it. He was the chairman and fully understood what [penalties] they were agreeing to.”
November 22: Titans assistant coach and former NSW State of Origin player Michael Gordon is charged with supplying cocaine and MDMA. He is immediately stood down by the Titans.
Manly pay tribute to Keith Titmuss in moving memorial
November 23: The Manly Sea Eagles are rocked by the sudden death of up-and-coming forward Keith Titmuss, who fell ill after a training session before being rushed to Northern Beaches hospital and then Royal North Shore but could not be saved.
South Sydney extend the contract of the club’s rookie of the year Keaon Koloamatangi until the end of 2023.
Kevin Walters takes charge of his first training session as Brisbane Broncos coach. Former Cronulla and Gold Coast five-eighth Albert Kelly, on a train-and-trial contract, completes his first day of training with the club.
November 24: Wests Tigers re-sign young forward Shawn Blore for a further two seasons.
November 25: Melbourne and South Sydney are drawn to open the 2021 season at AAMI Park on March 11. The match features the mouth-watering clash of coaches Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett.
The NRL announces six games will be played at country venues in 2021 as the full draw for the season is released.
Rising Penrith rookie Matt Burton signs a two-year contract with Canterbury from 2022.
Former Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold agrees to a consultancy role with the Newcastle Knights.
November 26: The Daily Telegraph reveals the Sydney Roosters have approached the NRL to request that schoolboy sensation Joseph Suaalii be allowed to make his NRL debut before he turns 18. The request comes after South Sydney agree to release Suaalii to the Roosters for a reported fee of $50,000.
November 27: Australia’s oldest living Test captain, Dick Poole, celebrates his 90th birthday.
November 28: The Daily Telegraph claims eight clubs are chasing the signature of 18-year-old Tweed Heads junior Brendan Piakura, described as “the most-wanted signature in the NRL”.
North Queensland halfback Jake Clifford signs with Newcastle on a two-year deal from 2022.
St George Illawarra reluctantly agree to release winger Jason Saab, allowing him to join Manly on a three-year deal.
St Helens teenager Jack Welsby scores a try after the full-time siren to secure a sensational 8-4 victory over Wigan in the Super League grand final in Hull. Veteran forward James Graham retires on a winning note.
November 29: The Broncos agree to release prop Joe Ofahengaue from the final year of his contract, allowing him to join Wests Tigers on a two-year deal. Meanwhile, Wests Tigers confirm that Josh Aloiai has been released by the club, allowing him to join Manly on a three-year deal. The Tigers also confirm an “undisclosed commercial settlement with Josh’s new club”.
November 30: Centre Dale Copley signs a one-year contract to return to the Brisbane Broncos, a club he last played for in 2015.