The NRL has chosen the stars of its 2018 ad campaign, with James Tedesco headlining a long list of high-profile players to be unveiled at the season launch on Thursday.
NRL.com understands the Sydney Roosters recruit and his former Wests Tigers teammate Aaron Woods are two of a handful of players that will feature in the advertisement that has been filmed over the past week.
Tedesco was due to film his part in the “This is how we lead” advertisement in early February, however he had to postpone the shoot for a couple of weeks as he overcame a case of the mumps.
The Roosters No.1, who lives with Parramatta Eels halfback Mitchell Moses and Wests Tigers playmaker Luke Brooks, was quarantined at his family home in Menangle.
It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for the former Tiger,however his star power has only increased as he prepares for life as a Rooster in the 2018 Telstra Premiership.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs prop David Klemmer will also feature in the commercial alongside his children, while Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith flew to Sydney to be part of the action.
Smith has also been chosen to officially launch the season at the function at First Fleet Park in The Rocks.
In recent years the NRL has moved away from using players to launch the season after a series of off-field misdemeanours by those previously chosen, however there’s been a change of tack at head office.
As part of the campaign, a Greg Inglis mural has been painted on the wall of a building in Cleveland Street at Redfern. There are also a host of other big-name players featured in the ad campaign.
Tui hasn’t shed enough kilos
The Wests Tigers had every intention of starting the season with Tuimoala Lolohea at fullback, however the Tongan international struggled to meet one of the club’s key demands.
Coach Ivan Cleary wanted Lolohea to drop a certain amount of kilograms before the start of the Telstra Premiership, however he’s been unable to shed enough weight to meet those requirements and it’s expected Corey Thompson will wear the No.1 jersey against the Sydney Roosters in round one next Saturday at ANZ Stadium.
When Lolohea arrived at the club midway through last year he admitted he was carrying far too much weight and started to show glimpses of brilliance towards the end of the season when he had trimmed down somewhat.
The problem for the Tigers, and a host of other clubs for that matter, is that many players ballooned during the World Cup.
Clubs were very frustrated, particularly with Tonga and Samoa, when their players returned to pre-season training way out of shape.
It’s a problem Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart had to confront when Joey Leilua, Junior Paulo and Josh Papalii returned from World Cup duties with Samoa looking like they’d been holidaying on a beach for six weeks.
The Rugby League Players Association is well aware of the clubs’ frustrations and the impact it is having on players.
The RLPA is looking at ways to work with the second-tier nations to ensure they appease the teams now concerned about releasing players on international duty.
The rugby league workload and balance committee – which features NRL head of football Brian Canavan and RLPA general manager of player relations Clint Newtown – has been discussing ways to mitigate some of the issues that arose during the World Cup.
Lolohea isn’t out of favour at the Wests Tigers but Cleary has a set of standards and won’t let them drop, even if it weakens his team.
DWZ chance of early return
Penrith winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is on track to play in the opening round despite picking up an ankle injury in the pre-season.
The Kiwi international is still in the club’s rehab group but is expected to return to full training duties next week and is a big chance of playing in the clash against the Parramatta Eels at Panthers Stadium.
The other selection conundrum revolves around Tyrone Peachey. He was found out in defence playing at left centre against a second-string reserve grade Bulldogs side in Belmore last week.
NRL.com understands he is facing the prospect of starting the season off the bench, with Dean Whare and Waqa Blake as the potential starting centre combination.
Flight No.38 about to depart for Hayne Plane
Jarryd Hayne is feeling rather sentimental upon his return home to Parramatta. The Eels recruit was last week spotted leaving Maitland Sportsground with the No.38 on his official club back pack.
It’s the number he wore during his time at the San Francisco 49ers. But it stems back way further than that.
When choosing the No.38 for the 49ers he revealed it was actually the first number he was given at the Eels more than a decade ago. He’s now come full circle.
Exemptions granted for roster deadline
All 16 clubs have to submit a 29-man roster to the NRL on Thursday, however some teams, like Manly Warringah Sea Eagles and the Wests Tigers, have been given an exemption.
The final 30-man squad has to be filed by June 30, but as of Thursday a minimum of 29 players has to be submitted.
However, the Tigers are still contributing to part of Curtis Sironen’s contract at the Sea Eagles, while Manly are also paying for the now-retired Nate Myles, and will both only submit 28 current players as a result of having a departed player on the books in 2018.
As a result of the sudden change to the rules, leniency will be given this year to those clubs who are paying for players at other clubs.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.