Anthony Albanese’s Adam Reynolds intervention, Nofoaluma sanctioned by Wests Tigers

Anthony Albanese’s Adam Reynolds intervention, the Wests Tigers fan favourite who has teammates offside and more in SPORT CONFIDENTIAL

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s love for rugby league and South Sydney is no secret.

So infatuated is Albanese with his Rabbitohs, Confidential was told the most powerful man in the country came up with a plan that would have allowed Souths to keep Adam Reynolds.

It is understood Albanese suggested to ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys that the game bring in a rule that any player with more than 250 games at one club should be wholly exempt from the salary cap.

The rule would have allowed Souths to keep Reynolds.

It’s just one of the tales that exemplify Albanese’s love for Souths.

In 2014, when the Rabbitohs qualified for the grand final, Albanese insisted that he and his son caught the train from Redfern to the game so they could soak up the atmosphere.

Last year, the Rabbitohs hosted a zoom for their corporate supporters. They asked Albanese if he could jump on the call at short notice. He ended up spending 20 minutes on a question-and-answer session.

Rabbitohs owner Russell Crowe with Souths fanatic and new PM Anthony Albanese. Picture: Twitter
Rabbitohs owner Russell Crowe with Souths fanatic and new PM Anthony Albanese. Picture: Twitter

The new PM is also one of The Daily Telegraph’s celebrity footy tipsters … and is running dead last. But you’re making a mistake if you think Albanese doesn’t care.

Two weeks ago, Albo’s tips were late. It was the night of the third pre-election debate against Scott Morrison so the Telegraph sports desk was willing to cut him some slack.

We assumed he’d be tipping the Knights to start the round given they were playing the bottom-placed Bulldogs. But no, as soon as the debate was finished our conduit was surprised to receive a message direct from the Labor leader — we needed to change that tip pronto.

Sticking with the Knights turned out to be the way to go and he trails the now former PM Morrison by six points on the tipping ladder.

But he ended up winning the count that mattered most.

TIGERS STAR SANCTIONED FOR OFF-FIELD INCIDENT

An off-field incident as well as a serious concussion has kept Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma away from the field in recent weeks.

Confidential has learned that Nofoaluma has been the subject of an internal disciplinary sanction in recent weeks which has resulted in him being overlooked for a first grade starting spot.

Club sources were tight-lipped on the nature of the indiscretion, but it is understood it has been frowned upon by his fellow players, in particular the senior leadership group.

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The incident has been described as a “minor slip in standards” but was enough for his teammates to look down upon the winger’s actions, leading to the sanction.

Nofoaluma continues to be troubled by headaches, according to sources at the club, although he has been named on an extended bench for Saturday’s game against South Sydney at Accor Stadium.

Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma has been sanctioned by the club for a “minor slip in standards”. Picture: Ashley Feder/Getty Images
Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma has been sanctioned by the club for a “minor slip in standards”. Picture: Ashley Feder/Getty Images

The 28-year-old has not played since round eight and was spotted leaving the Tigers clash against Canterbury at half-time as he dealt with ongoing headaches.

He is among the richest wingers in the game with his salary nearing $500,000.

It is the second time Nofoaluma has been in the spotlight over his off-field behaviour. Last year, he was stood down from the club’s senior leadership group after turning up to training under the weather following the wedding of chair Lee Hagipantelis’ daughter.

Lodge explains surprise rugby union cameo

Matt Lodge won’t discuss what has quickly become a controversial departure from the Warriors. He is more than happy, however, to reveal how a plan to keep his legs ticking over finished with him making his return to sport with a second grade rugby union side.

Lodge, on the lookout for a new club after leaving the Warriors, had been training by himself when a friend suggested he have a run with Norths’ second grade rugby union team.

That plan morphed into Lodge making a return to rugby union — he last played in high school — against Bond University.

“Obviously my time at Warriors ended,” Lodge said.

“I’ve just been training by myself, just running at the field, doing my gym. A friend of mine said I should go down and tick my legs over with a union team.

“The last time I played was in school. I knew nothing about it. But I guess …. there’s always something to learn from other sports so I said I’d come down.

“I didn’t want to commit to anything. I (thought I would) just watch and learn and train with the boys.

Matt Lodge left the Warriors mid-season. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
Matt Lodge left the Warriors mid-season. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

“Anyway, Tuesday night I went down to training with my boots. And they said they were playing a catch-up game in replace for a game that got rained out.

“And they had heaps of injuries and people working, et cetera. It was a 8pm kick-off. I said I’m not (registered) and didn’t know the rules.

“But they said they could do it instantly. So I said okay paid my rego and had a game. It was actually really enjoyable and they were all good guys.”

Lodge said his 50-minute cameo brought back memories of his playing days in Western Sydney. Chances are it will be his one and only appearance given he is on the lookout for a new NRL cub, having parted ways with the Warriors last week.

Lodge can take his time, having received a significant payout from the Warriors on his departure. He has the financial muscle to hand-pick his next destination, his only priority to get back to winning and enjoying his football.

“It felt like I was playing A-grade again back in Blacktown,” Lodge said.

“It’s probably not something every professional player would do while sorting out their future. But I love playing footy and that was close enough for me last night.”

TV star’s terrifying showdown with Kambosos

Gold Logie winner Grant Denyer left with fractured ribs and genuinely feared for his life after stepping into the ring with boxing champion George Kambosos Jr.

The Channel 7 presenter thought it would be a good idea to spar with Kambosos as part of a profile piece Denyer was doing for 7NEWS Spotlight. The short session left Denyer gasping for breath, had him turn a shade of green and was vomiting.

“I thought I was done,” Denyer said.

“He was going gentle and letting me throw some punches. Then I said to him I wanted to experience what it was like to be hit.

Grant Denyer cops a battering while sparring with boxing world champion George Kambosos. Picture: Channel 7
Grant Denyer cops a battering while sparring with boxing world champion George Kambosos. Picture: Channel 7

“His eyes lit up. I put on this protective belt so he could have his way. I told him to start punching at the power of two and turn it up. When I can’t stand any more I’ll say the safe word which was mummy

“He gets to six or seven and I realise I can’t talk. He was knocking the wind out of me. I couldn’t call for help, I couldn’t say my safe word. I had no air in my lungs.

“My face started to turn a funny colour. I went to vomit my toasted sandwich. He came out of his psychosis and he backed off.

“They are geared to go it was all or nothing. I’d never punched a human being in my life.

“If he slipped one of his famous haymakers through it would’ve been lights out for good.”

Denyer finished with a cracked rib and some cartilage problems.

Denyer feared it would have been ‘lights out’ if Kambosos had thrown his famous haymaker. Picture: Channel 7
Denyer feared it would have been ‘lights out’ if Kambosos had thrown his famous haymaker. Picture: Channel 7

“It was later that night that I was in absolute pain,” Denyer said. “I remember his coach was yelling at me don’t hold my breath.

“I was OK. It was all right as long as nothing was touching it or if I wasn’t moving. I’m not getting in the ring any time soon.

“Thankfully he was a gentleman. I would be dead in a second. That’s the reality for real. George is in the ultimate form of his life. He is about to have the fight of the century in Australia. He is a killing machine.”

Denyer competed in the Bathurst 12-hour race just days after stepping into the ring, where he finished fifth. Kambosos fights Devin Haney in a blockbuster world title defence on Main Event in Melbourne on Sunday June 5.

You can catch Denyer’s profile on 7NEWS Spotlight this Sunday after The Voice Grand Final

Souths move to lock down young half

South Sydney are closing in on a two-year extension for young half Lachlan Ilias and remain committed to his halves partner Cody Walker despite the five-eighth’s mixed start to the year.

Confidential understands that the Rabbitohs have put a fresh deal on the table for Ilias — he is under contract until the end of next season — and are now waiting for his agent Braith Anasta to respond.

It is understood the parties are not miles apart and there is a genuine confidence on both sides that a deal can be struck soon.

The Rabbitohs are also intent on striking a new deal with Walker as they look to ensure he doesn’t hit the open market on November 1.

Walker has struggled to recapture his best form through the opening half of this season but the Rabbitohs have begun talks with his management over extending both his deal and that of teammate Latrell Mitchell.

The Rabbitohs are keen to extend halfback Lachlan Ilias’ contract. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images
The Rabbitohs are keen to extend halfback Lachlan Ilias’ contract. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

Hagan helping guide Cowboys

Newcastle premiership-winning coach Michael Hagan was a surprise onlooker in the Cowboys coach’s box on Saturday night.

Hagan has come on board as a mentor to North Queensland coach Todd Payten and the rest of his coaching staff. The ex-Newcastle and Eels coach spends time helping guide Payten after coming into the role during the off-season.

While he is still based in Newcastle, he does travel to Townsville occasionally and will join the Cowboys on some matches in NSW this year.

“I’m a bit of a sounding board,” Hagan said. “Todd and I have known each for a long-time. It’s good involvement to have and I’m enjoying it.

“I’m not an assistant coach. I’m there to support Todd and the coaches. I look at some tape on how the game is going and any thoughts I have on the opposition.”

The Cowboys were major disappointments last season but have emerged as a premiership threat as the season nears the halfway point.

Hagan coached an emerging Payten at the lower grade at the Raiders. He will again assistant Mal Meninga as part of the Kangaroos coaching staff at the end of season world cup.

Meanwhile, England coach Shaun Wane was given an all access pass to the Warriors on Saturday. He sat behind coach Nathan Brown in the box and experienced the team’s pre-game, half-time and post-game discussions.

Michael Hagan (blue shirt) in the Cowboys’ box last weekend.
Michael Hagan (blue shirt) in the Cowboys’ box last weekend.

Knights close in on English star

Newcastle is locked in talks with Super League giants Wigan as the Knights attempt to bring the ‘English SBW’ to Australia a year early.

Wigan utility Kai Pearce-Paul is expected to join the Knights in 2024 but Newcastle officials are keen to fast-track his arrival and have begun negotiations with English officials.

Pearce-Paul has been compared to dual international Sonny Bill Williams due to his size, footwork and liking for an off-load.

He has another year remaining on his contract with Wigan but the Knights are hopeful they can strike a deal as they look to replace the departing Mitch Barnett.

NRL trims team lists

Clubs will start naming just 22 players on team list Tuesdays from next week. Teams have named 24 players all season as part of Covid-19 protocols. But that will change after the NRL wrote to the 16 clubs this week.

The NRL will now reduce how many people it pays for clubs to send to interstate matches. Team travel will be reduced to 30 people from 32 including 22 players.

Covid-19 testing remains the same.

*****

Players from the Roosters, Sharks, Bulldogs, Knights and nine referees will wear boots painted by at risk Indigenous youth as part of Indigenous round. The annual boots for brighter futures program is developed by Cultural Choice Association, a youth suicide prevention charity founded by Roosters player Connor Watson. You can bid on the boots from Monday at https://ccai.org.au/

Indigenous youth have painted boots for several NRL players and referees to wear during Indigenous round.
Indigenous youth have painted boots for several NRL players and referees to wear during Indigenous round.

Big boost for Warriors enforcer

The Warriors have received some much-needed good news after fears Addin Founa-Blake would miss the rest of the season with a foot injury.

However, scans showed Founa-Blake could only be sidelined for a month. The prop suffered what was believed to have been a serious Lisfranc injury which would have ended his season. But the Warriors are hopeful he will be missing in the short-term.

Spudd tunes up for big night

Former Manly hitman Mark Carroll will be in Grafton on Saturday night, rhythm guitar in hand, as he and fellow sports stars Mike Whitney, Gavin Robertson and Richard Chee Quee play a gig at the Saraton Theatre.

The quartet are part of a band called Truesports that also features Eric Grothe Senior, former Noiseworks star Steve Balbi and musician Andrew Dawson.

It’s three hours of tall tales and live music. “There’s nothing around like it,” Carroll said. “It’s the best adrenaline I’ve had since playing footy.”

The Truesports band, featuring Richard Chee Kee (singer), Eric Grothe Snr (guitar), Gavin Robertson (drums), Mike Whitney (singer), long-time musicians Steve Balbi (bass guitar) and Andrew Dawson (keyboards), and Mark Spudd Carroll (guitar).
The Truesports band, featuring Richard Chee Kee (singer), Eric Grothe Snr (guitar), Gavin Robertson (drums), Mike Whitney (singer), long-time musicians Steve Balbi (bass guitar) and Andrew Dawson (keyboards), and Mark Spudd Carroll (guitar).

GI backs Maroons’ dream team

Greg Inglis has had a brief chat with Queensland coach Billy Slater about helping out this year. Even if he isn’t needed, Inglis believes the Maroons have nailed it with their decision to appoint Slater at the helm of a coaching staff that also includes Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Josh Hannay.

Asked whether he had spoken to Slater about joining the Maroons in camp, Inglis said: “Very briefly and not to an extent where we can go in or anything like that.

“I think Bill has it all under control. He is in good hands with JT and Cam and Joshy Hannay. It is more like the dream team.”

Greg Inglis, left, is confident Queensland’s Origin team is in safe hands with Billy Slater and Cameron Smith in the coaches box. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Greg Inglis, left, is confident Queensland’s Origin team is in safe hands with Billy Slater and Cameron Smith in the coaches box. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Whateley edges closer to world title shot

Olympian Jason Whateley could be the next Australian to fight for a world title after he and Poland’s Mateusz Masternak were ordered by the IBF to face each other for the No.1 position in the cruiserweight ratings.

The winner would become the mandatory challenger for the IBF title, which could be in the hands of compatriot Jai Opetaia in July. Opetaia is scheduled to face world champion Mairis Breidis on the Gold Coast on July 2.

“Ideally we’d love to bring that fight to Australia,” said Whateley’s promoter Michael Francis, of Tasman Fighters. “Jason is an exciting boxer who is made for TV and Masternak is never in a bad fight himself.”

Masternak 46-5 (31 KO) is ranked fifth by the IBF. Former Olympian and Commonwealth Games silver medallist Whateley 10-0 (9 KO) is ranked 10th.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to face Masternak who has had a great career,” said Whateley. “I really am looking forward to testing myself against him. I’ve travelled all over the world in the amateurs so if the fight is in Poland, so be it. That said, having it in Australia with our crowd cheering me on would be amazing.”

Originally published as Anthony Albanese’s Adam Reynolds intervention, Nofoaluma sanctioned by Wests Tigers

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