Dogs, Tigers to pool resources?
The Canterbury Bulldogs and Wests Tigers have begun discussions about sharing a new stadium in Liverpool, with the NRL lodging plans with the NSW government for a 17,500-seat venue in south-west Sydney.
Bulldogs chairman John Khoury has spoken to ARLC chairman Peter V’landys about selling the block of land they own at Liverpool, but there are concerns about the size of the site.
The stadium design is modelled on A-League club Western United’s new venue, which will have a capacity of about 15,000 when completed.
Liverpool City Council has no appetite to offer up nearby land, which currently houses the Whitlam Leisure Centre, recently putting an offer to the Bulldogs to acquire the land they own.
The council offered up a vacant block close to the new Badgerys Creek Airport, but the NRL and Bulldogs do not want to venture away from infrastructure currently in place in Liverpool.
In light of the state government’s decision to ditch plans to refurbish ANZ Stadium, the NRL has submitted a proposal for three or four “mini Bankwest Stadiums” around Sydney.
The NRL’s priority is to build a new venue at Liverpool, but it is still waiting for government to assess the business case.
The Tigers have indicated to the Bulldogs that they would be happy to share a new stadium in Liverpool, however have also been made aware of plans from Campbelltown Council to upgrade the suburban venue.
Ponga gets close to Wallabies
There has been a little bit of chatter around Kalyn Ponga’s future of late, with suggestions the Wallabies are circling after learning that his contract allowed him to walk out on Newcastle at the end of 2022 in time for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
The Herald spoke to a number of well-placed rugby union sources and discovered the murmurs stem from Ponga’s appearance at a Wallabies training session in Cessnock at the end of last year, followed by an appearance at the Test against Argentina in Newcastle.
We’ve since been assured Ponga was on official Knights duty when he lobbed in Cessnock, joining teammate Mitchell Pearce and coach Adam O’Brien as the two organisations traded ideas.
It wouldn’t have been the first time Rugby Australia have made a play for Ponga following revelations former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika contacted the Knights fullback in 2018. The Herald was told Rugby Australia now have “no interest” in Ponga.
Not discounting the fact Ponga’s ambition to play rugby union is fuelled by his desire to wear an All Blacks jumper, Rugby Australia would struggle financially to come close to Ponga’s $1.1 million a year deal at the Knights – which would make him the second-highest paid Wallabies player behind skipper Michael Hooper.
No hard feelings
Warriors prop Addin Fonua-Blake and referee Grant Atkins have history. No one will forget Fonua-Blake’s brain fade at Brookvale last year when he called one of the game’s leading officials “a f—ing retard”.
The pair were on the same field on Friday night when the Warriors took on Newcastle on the Central Coast, but they have since buried the hatchet. Turns out Fonua-Blake apologised last August when Atkins was booked on the Sea Eagles charter flight back from the Sunshine Coast after a game against the Melbourne Storm.
Cowboys coach Todd Payten has a huge decision to make with Valentine Holmes. There are whispers he is unhappy about being left on the wing and rival clubs are keeping an eye on the situation. Don’t be surprised to see a change this weekend.
Capewell cops Dogs abuse
It was brought to the attention to quite a few at Panthers that back-rower Kurt Capewell was the victim of some abuse from Canterbury fans in relation to his involvement in a sex tape eight years ago. No official complaints have been made.
Xerri eyes ban boost
It’s expected Bronson Xerri’s forthcoming suspension will be backdated to the date of the test, not the day his positive result was announced by ASADA. The Cronulla centre, who is likely to be hit with a four-year suspension, was tested in November 2019 but was only banned from the sport in May last year.
His lawyers have proposed his suspension be backdated six months earlier, which would make him far more appealing to a club if he can start training in the preseason leading into the 2024 season and not half way through it. NRL Anti-Doping Tribunal chairman Ian Callinan, QC, who approved the backdating of Brent Naden’s suspension, is expected to hand down a decision as early as this week.
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Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald