Rookie Wests Tigers coach Benji Marshall is currently dealing with a veteran player that’s refusing to train due to claims of poor treatment by the football department.
Panthers stars Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai have returned to pre-season training and the full extent of their grand final injuries has been revealed. Meanwhile, Dragons skipper Ben Hunt is all in on the Red V and has opened up on new coach Shane Flanagan’s push for an attitude change.
Read on for the latest Off-season Central.
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NOFOALUMA’S TIGERS TRAINING DRAMA
Benji Marshall has found himself in a tough position in his first pre-season as an NRL coach with veteran winger David Nofoaluma reportedly refusing to come to training.
That is according to a
Sydney Morning Herald report which claims Nofoaluma hasn’t been to training since last Wednesday due to unfair treatment by the football department.
The 30-year-old has also lodged a complaint with the Rugby League Players’ Association and following a meeting between the RLPA, the Tigers and Nofoaluma he will return to training on Monday to try and resolve the issues.
The Herald reports Nofoaluma, who is one of the Tigers’ highest-paid players on $500,000 a season, struggled physically at training when he returned last month and recorded a disappointing time trial result.
The Tigers’ coaching staff are driving a new standard at training and haven’t shown Nofoaluma preferential treatment. He reportedly complained about lack of communication and training methods put in place to improve his fitness.
Nofoaluma has played 192 of his 198 NRL games with the Tigers over the last 11 seasons. He is the club’s all-time leading tryscorer.
He has two years remaining on his contract but the club has been trying to offload him for the last two years. He played six games for the Storm in 2022 on a loan deal but returned to the Tigers for the 2023 season.
Nofoaluma was mainstay in the NRL side for majority of his career but has struggled to cement his spot on the wing over the last two seasons.
PANTHERS STARS RETURN
Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai returned to pre-season training this week after both were injured in the grand final. Cleary trained unimpeded by the knee injury, which happened during a tackle from Payne Haas, that ruled him out of the Pacific Championships.Cleary suffered a grade-three posterior cruciate ligament rupture while being tackled by Payne Haas, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. If the injury had occurred during the regular season, it could have seen Cleary sidelined for up to two months.
“They call it the dashboard car injury, where if you have a head-on accident it can typically damage or rupture that ligament, such is the force involved,” Panthers physio Pete Green said.
“Had it been during the season, and what time of year it was, he could have come back half-done in two or three weeks, or you come back properly in six to eight weeks.
“Considering he has travelled around a fair bit with little rehab, he was in remarkable shape.”
Panthers second-rower Mavrik Geyer added: “He is looking good, and he already looks like he’s in for another great year — he looks like he’ll go until he’s 40.”
Luai underwent shoulder surgery in October to repair a dislocation but was able to participate in the gruelling fitness session on Thursday.
Luai was hoping to make a decision on his future beyond next year before returning to pre-season but he’s still weighing up a big-money offer from the Wests Tigers. The 26-year-old will resume skills training in January but will start his contact work until just a few weeks out from Round 1.
“He actually had a big labral repair, they also had to fix up his bicep tendon, and also a bit of what Nathan had, which is the rotator-cuff tendon — it was the hamburger with the lot,” Green said.
“The surgery he had was called ‘latarjet’, which is where they transfer bone from another part of your body. You come back stronger, but it also means you have to be slower with your recovery to start.”
FLANNO’S CHANGES AT DRAGONS
Dragons halfback Ben Hunt has reaffirmed his commitment to the club and revealed new coach Shane Flanagan’s brutal assessment of the side. Hunt confirmed back in September that he’d be at he club in 2024, after asking for a release halfway through the year, and he turned up to pre-season almost a month early this week. Flanagan had previously told foxsports.com.au that he would spark an attitude change in Wollongong this summer and Hunt elaborated further this week on how the coach was planning to turn things around.
“The conversations I’ve had with him, (2024) is going to be a team built on hard work and discipline and competing right to the final whistle,” Hunt told Fox Sports News.
“He believes over the past few years there have been a lot of guys who haven’t really fought for that extra inch and he wants to be a team who can grind teams out and really fight right to the death. “We’ve got a lot of hard work to do to get to that point but it’s exciting.”