Demetriou blasts ‘agenda-driven’ critics, Whitehead reckons Raiders can still win title, Dogs’ double blow

Coach Jason Demetriou is confident nothing untoward will come of an NRL review into newly signed South Sydney contract of Jack Wighton, slamming “agenda-driven” criticisms of the cut-price deal.

On Wednesday, the 2020 Dally M medalist officially signed a four-year contract to join the Rabbitohs from next season, just a month after telling Canberra he would sign for the first time since signing as a teenager Will test the open market.

The allure of a premiership ring and the chance to play alongside close friends Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker are believed to have swayed Witten from more lucrative deals at the Dolphins and Raiders, both of which offered seven-figure salaries.

The Rabbitohs’ ability to afford Weighton has come under scrutiny as big-name players Mitchell, Walker, Cameron Murray and Damien Cook are all already on the books.

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The NRL prohibits back-ended contracts – those that pay less at the start of the deal to squeeze a player under an already tight salary cap – and the Raiders have already asked the NRL to investigate offers of rabbits. to ensure that it fits within league guidelines. ,

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 08: Jason Demetriou, head coach of the Rabbitohs, looks on during a South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL training session at Redfern Oval on March 08, 2022 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Matt King / Getty Images)

Jason Demetriou. (Photo by Matt King / Getty Images)

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo told The AAP on Wednesday there would be a contract review as standard practice but Demetriou was confident no problems would be found.

About Panditri, he said, “It is a circus with agenda-driven people saying things they have no clue about.”

“The reality is we’re comfortable with it, we’ll go to the NRL. Jack is comfortable, it’s all above board so we have no problem.”

In 225 first-class games, Weighton has become the face of the Raiders and his impending departure has shaken the club.

In a lengthy statement released on Wednesday, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart hit out at the NRL’s contract system, which allows players to sign deals with rival clubs before their first season.

As it stands players are free to test the open market from November before the final year of their contracts, a system that has long proved unpopular given that players may be distracted from their impending moves.

The Rabbitohs found themselves in a similar position to the Raiders in mid-2021 when veteran halfback Adam Reynolds rejected a short-term contract extension to sign with Brisbane for 2022.

Demetriou said of Stuart’s complaints, “I understand it’s tough when a player has to do that in a season.”

“It’s not ideal, we went through it with Adam as well and he decided to go on and he was excellent for the rest of the year as I’m sure Jack will be.”

Calls to introduce a post-season contract window have historically been met with resistance from the Rugby League Players’ Association, with players needing time to make decisions about their future.

But Demetriou said he was open to reforming the current system. “I’ll have to find out more and find out how it works,” he said.

“But everyone knows it is not ideal that players are signing contracts to leave at their current clubs ahead of the season.”

Wighton’s impending move to the Raiders left him on the receiving end of racist social media comments this week, with the Wiradjuri man unleashing his slur on Instagram on Wednesday night.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 27: Raiders coach, Ricky Stuart, talks with Jack Wighton of the Raiders after the NRL Preliminary Final match between the Canberra Raiders and South Sydney Rabbitohs at GIO Stadium on September 27, 2019 in Canberra, Australia.  (Photo by Brendan Thorne / Getty Images)

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart with Jack Wighton. (Photo by Brendan Thorne / Getty Images)

Raiders captain adamant team may return

Canberra captain Elliot Whitehead insists his club can still win an NRL premiership, despite star half Jack Wighton going in search of an elusive flag.

The first Raiders player to speak publicly since Wighton this week signed a four-year deal with South Sydney to begin next season, Whitehead said he respected his team-mate’s decision and agreed to stay until 2023. Fully expected the five-eighths performance to continue in the half. ,

Wighton, who has won a World Cup and State of Origin series to go along with his Dally M and Clive Churchill medals, took a significantly smaller pay packet to head to the Rabbitohs and join the side that made five consecutive preliminary finals Are.

But Whitehead disagreed that his current partner is giving himself a better chance of completing his trophy cabinet by moving clubs, insisting the Raiders have the army to deliver.

“It’s his opinion,” Whitehead said. “We have a good enough team to win the premiership this year and I think we will have the team to win it next year.

Jaco is a big loss. I respect his decision, it is his personal decision and he thought he needed a change.

Raiders second-rower Hudson Young said it was disappointing to hear the news that Weighton had passed out before he had a chance to tell his teammates.

“Zack is the type of guy, he would never shy away from something like that,” he said. “He wanted to tell Stick (coach Ricky Stuart) first, (but) once he told Ricky the media caught on to it before any of the (players) knew.

“I’m sure there are times we’ll talk about it but it was his decision for him and his family…he wanted change, so that’s the path he’s taken.

“But the show will go on. He is a very good partner of mine, I enjoy playing with him.

Wetton was subjected to racial abuse after announcing his move, and shared screenshots of the messages he received on Instagram.

Whitehead described the abuse as “well out of order”, adding that he doubted the perpetrators would have had the courage to comment on Wetton personally.

The Canberra captain said, “Hopefully the police can get to the bottom of this with the person who sent the comment and not only accept the apology but actually make a statement and impose some sort of punishment.” “There’s a lot of abuse on social media and a lot of people like to go and type on their keyboards, I’m not sure how many would say that to its face.

“You don’t want that in the world or in sports… He is very competitive and a winner at heart. He has been at this club for so long and has done so much for this club.

“It’s really a bit sad to see some fans turn against him because of his decision, but I’m sure he’s going to give it his all for the rest of the season.”

Addo-Carr, Kikau set for more time on NRL fringes

Josh Addo-Carr will not return to NRL action in time for NSW’s State of Origin series opener, while Canterbury teammate William Kikau is expected to spend at least three more months on the sidelines.

The latest update on the star pairing delivers a devastating double whammy for the Bulldogs.

Addo-Carr has not played since suffering a syndesmosis injury against South Sydney on Good Friday when his ankle rolled onto the Accor Stadium turf.

The flying winger suggested earlier this month that he was hoping to return within five weeks from injury in time for NSW’s Origin series opener against Queensland in Adelaide on May 31.

But the Bulldogs confirmed on Thursday that was not realistic.

In an official injury update on their website, Addo-Carr is now predicted to return in six to eight weeks, with the club making a comeback in round 15 against Parramatta.

The 27-year-old will have just one match left for NSW selection in Origin II on June 21.

It comes after current NSW winger Daniel Taupo suffered a hamstring tear following the Sydney Roosters’ Anzac Day win over St George Illawarra.

For NSW Brian To’o appears locked down on one wing, but options are now limited with Tom Trbojevic on the other wing, introducing Campbell Graham in the centers likely to play wide.

The news is bad for Kikau, too.

Viliame Kikau Bulldogs

(Photo by Mark Metcalf / Getty Images)

When the high-profile recruit tore his pectoral muscle earlier this month, the club expected him to spend at least 10 weeks on the sidelines.

However, the anticipated return has now become too long, with his anticipated return now taking place on 30 July in round 22 against the Dolphins.

“Scans revealed a complete rupture and he has since had repair surgery and is recovering well,” the Bulldogs said in a statement.

“He will now begin his rehabilitation process and the club will work with relevant medical professionals to manage his injury post-operatively.”

NRLW gains huge exposure amidst timing challenges

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo is confident time-outs between men’s and women’s matches will only be a short-term issue with fans being asked to choose between the games when the NRLW kicks off this season .

The NRL revealed its women’s draw for 2023 on Thursday, with the league expanding to 10 teams and a nine-round regular season. The Gold Coast will host North Queensland in the first match of the NRLW season on 22 July as one of three matches to be played on the first day of the competition.

Newcomers Cronulla and Canberra will also clash in the opening round, while Wests Tigers’ opening match will be against Parramatta.

In a significant boost for the NRLW, all 48 matches will be shown on free-to-air TV via the Nine Network, placing it above the likes of the WBBL, A-League Women and the AFLW. Most rounds will include an NRLW double-header, with each team playing at least one match at the same venue as their men’s side.

The final two rounds will also feature prime-time Thursday night games, with the men’s final remaining vacant. But there are challenges.

Newcastle Knkghts NRLW

Newcastle Knights win the 2022 NRLW Grand Final (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The FIFA Women’s World Cup has left the NRL with less flexibility in stadiums, while the desire to play most games on weekends has limited the timeslots available.

As revealed by the AAP on Wednesday, 15 women’s sports will clash with men’s matches, leaving spectators to choose between the competitions.

This is the first time the NRL has regularly chosen between broadcasts of games to fans since 2013, while concurrent Friday night games as men’s were played as recently as 2016, but with split broadcasts.

“We are also treating this year as a test run,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo told the AAP. “This is not set in stone for the next few years.

“We have some challenges in this particular season. We have the FIFA Women’s World Cup and we lose a lot of stadiums. We have more obstacles than usual. How to avoid clash.

“But of course as the competition increases, you have to find a slot for these bouts.”

Nevertheless, the conflicts do offer some positives, with Nine being able to offer free-to-air rugby league on both days of the weekend. “They are very excited about this and we wanted to make sure it was on the main channel, being promoted in all markets,” Abdo said.

“So it’s a great performance for our players and for the clubs.”

The announcement comes after Papua New Guinea international Elsie Albert became the latest big-name player to trade clubs on Thursday, moving from St George Illawarra to Parramatta.