Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Player In Focus: Michael Stevens

This week we catch up with one of our valuable halves in Michael Stevens in our 2014 player profile series.

Position: Hlafback or five-eighth

Height: 177cm

Weight: 83kg

Date of Birth: 25/10/1988

NRL team you followed as a kid: Bal.......

(NOTE: At this point, our interviewer collapsed and had to be replaced. We ask that you continue to be kind to Stevo this season!)

Your junior club? Macarthur Saints

(That's better)

What is your earliest football memory? I remember trying make my first ever tackle on a big unit and being run over instead!

What advice would you give to young players? Train hard and push beyond your limits

What sport would you play if not rugby league? Cricket

What is the best advice you have received? You're alright, have another one!

(Err, alright, we'll let that stay...)

First job? KFC service attendant

What is your greatest fear? Clowns!

What's the worst thing on your Ipod? Celine Dion

What is your most embarrassing moment? Missing a conversion from in front.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Article: Wests Tigers to reconsider Campbelltown Stadium

The future of Campbelltown Sports Stadium as a home venue will be high on the agenda when the newly structured Wests Tigers board comes together for the first time next month.

Club officials are frustrated by the lack of support from the Campbelltown contingency of Tigers fans compared with that at Leichhardt Oval, after only 6456 turned out for Saturday night’s win against the Cowboys.

The Tigers will play four games at each of their three home grounds this year (ANZ Stadium, Leichhardt and Campbelltown) but it is understood the new board is likely to discuss the possibility of moving the round-21 game at Campbelltown to another venue.

The match against Melbourne hasn't been locked into a date and time given the broadcasters have left the scheduling for the final six rounds until later in the year.

Stripping Campbelltown of one of their home games would not sit well with the Western Suburbs-aligned supporters of the Tigers, however, the cash-stricken club can ill afford a repeat of Saturday night's crowd given the two other home games at ANZ Stadium and Leichhardt Oval attracted crowds of 19,860 and 16,311 respectively this year.

After last week’s incredible victory against Manly at Leichhardt Oval, several senior players questioned management over why more games weren’t scheduled at the inner-city venue, with those same players expressing disappointment over Campbelltown’s disinterest in the joint venture club this week.

Wests Tigers chairman and Western Suburbs Magpies deputy chairman Mike Bailey said the future of Campbelltown was with the new board.

"I'd have to say that any game beyond our next game at Campbelltown will be in the hands of the new board," Bailey said. "It's not up to me to make a projection as to which way a new board may go."

Since 2012, Campbelltown and Leichhardt have hosted nine games. However, only twice has Campbelltown attracted a crowd larger than the Leichhardt average of 13,980 during the same period.
Tigers chief executive Grant Mayer said the club would undertake extensive research to discover the best way to promote the next game at Campbelltown, against Brisbane in round 11.

"We’ve got to be sympathetic to the entire situation," Mayer said. "We've spent 15 years in the area, we shouldn't be making a knee-jerk reaction to one poor crowd. We need to work harder and smarter to find a way to improve the club’s relationship with the south-west."

"The 6500 that were there, the passion and the desire they showed was amazing, and without doubt lifted our boys to get the result we did, so we take our hats off to the commitment they all made," Mayer said.

Less than half of the 2500 allocated members for Campbelltown Sports Stadium attended Saturday night's victory against North Queensland,

The corporate boxes were at capacity with 400 in attendance, while 4500 tickets were sold for the match that, despite the poor crowd, still made plenty of noise for the first game of the season in Campbelltown.
While the crowd figure was disappointing, those at the ground showed plenty of commitment, exceeding the club's expectations by buying more than $15,000 worth of merchandise.

While Bailey says the NRL needs to invest more time and money to help increase interest in the Tigers and rugby league in the south-west, he said the region was crying out for local support.

"It's got to come from the top [the NRL] but it's also got to come from the local business people as well," Bailey said.

"We've been out there for 15 years now, and we're still waiting for someone to come along and say 'you guys need to be here and we're prepared to help'. Whether it's local businesses or politicians, that needs to be examined.

"I respect the people in the area saying 'yes, you may be our club but you are not actually out here'. If we're ever going to get out there, which doesn't look like happening in the foreseeable future, it needs to be embraced by more people embracing it at the moment."

Michael Chammas April 13, 2014 

Article: Marsden warns NRL not to leave Campbelltown

Former Wests Magpies chairman Jim Marsden has warned the NRL not to leave Campbelltown to rival codes, as the game’s governing body refused to guarantee Wests Tigers would continue playing in the region.

Marsden and another ex-Magpies director, Daniel Watson-Hayes, responded to suggestions the club may abandon Campbelltown Stadium after posting a crowd of just 6456 for last Saturday night’s match against North Queensland by accusing the joint venture of neglecting the area for 15 years.

‘It is a build-up of frustration and people basically having a gutful of being neglected,’’ Watson-Hayes said. ‘‘I solemnly believe that the area has just said, ‘Stuff you, you call yourself Wests Tigers, you are based 60 kilometres away, you turn up here four times a year and you have a retail outlet at Macarthur Square. If you think that is good enough, it is not.’’’

Opinion Piece: A region neglected. How the west was lost

6,500 fans turned out to watch Wests Tigers Vs. Nth QLD at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Saturday night 12th April. 6,456 to be exact. The supposed heartland; the so-called long-term future of the Joint Venture entity. The highflying Tigers are currently sitting second on the Telstra Premiership ladder, having won 4 of their first 6 Premiership games in 2014. All of those wins, Wests have displayed a confident, free flowing attack and a no fear approach in defence which has troubled their opposition providing great entertainment for their fans.

But where are their fans? A week ago, Wests Tigers saw 16,000 plus fans cram into Leichhardt Oval to watch their team comprehensively defeat Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. Wests have been the underdogs in all of their games this year and keep coming up trumps, defeating Manly, Souths, Gold Coast and Nth QLD. Success usually brings the fans out of the woodwork, as they dust off their Black, White and Gold and attend games, especially fixtures at their traditional home grounds of Leichhardt and Campbelltown.

This opinion piece is the authors own and does not represent the official view of the Western Suburbs Magpies Football Club. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Opinion Piece: Campbelltown's Poor Crowd

The disappointing crowd at Campbelltown this Saturday stems from issues going way back.

In 1987 the area had the Western Suburbs Magpies forced upon them. It was not their own team, but an inner city team relocated to the population growth area.

Though the Magpies were somewhat successful in 1991 and 1992, it was not with local players but with a team based on imported players and an imported coach.

Wests Tigers crowd of 6456 at Campbelltown 2014

In 1995 Tommy Raudonikis rebuilt the Magpies into a successful team that by 1996 made the semi finals. This time the side was comprised primarily of local players. The team trained in the area, lived in the area, embraced the area and the fans responded. Finally this felt like “THEIR” team.  Unfortunately just when things were looking up for Wests, dark clouds rolled over Rugby League.

1997… Super League.

Money talked and the rest walked. All the good work the Magpies had done became null and void overnight. They just couldn’t compete with the cash being thrown around by the bigger clubs. This led to two wooden spoons, small crowds and their exit from the NRL. Important growth areas like the Macarthur, Central Coast, Gold Coast, Illawarra and Perth were tossed away in favour of the traditional established markets.

The Magpies only option for survival was a joint venture. St George beat Wests to partnering with Illawarra, and the geographically sensible partnership with the Bulldogs looked more like a hostile  take-over.  Wests only option was to jump into bed with fellow foundation club Balmain.

Again the Macarthur area was forced into a new arrangement that would see them with 50% less games a year being played at Campbelltown, and many of their local players being forced out of the game in favour of Wayne Pearce’s Balmain boys.

Wests negotiated that the team was to wear a Black Wests “inspired” jersey for half the games a year, and that the Magpie logo was to be permanently placed on the shoulder of ALL Wests Tigers jerseys.

Wests Tigers vs Broncos in 2000
The first game of the Joint Venture at Campbelltown was against the Brisbane Broncos. The area was willing to give the new identity a chance with 15,376 people turning up.

Unfortunately results didn’t follow and with a few on and off field dramas, the club’s support dwindled. So much so that by the end of 2004 Wests Tigers reduced the games played at Campbelltown and Leichhardt to 3 games each for the following season.

Board room support for the joint venture was now at an all-time low with the deep divisions between Wests and Balmain beginning to surface.

But these divisions were put on the sidelines with the amazing mid-year turn around the team had in 2005 that led all the way to the Wests Tigers first premiership. A record 20,527 people turned up at Campbelltown Stadium to watch Wests Tigers beat the Cowboys. The club’s on-field success puttied over the cracks. Things seemed to be heading on the right track, but even though on the exterior everything appeared ok, the foundation still remained fractured.

In 2006 Tim Sheens put in place a plan that would eventually bring the joint venture close to breaking point.
Rightly or wrongly, Tim Sheens wanted all the fringe players in a single NSW Cup side, and he chose to have them play for the Balmain Tigers. Now all Wests Tigers contracted players would play in a Balmain Jersey and would train a stone’s throw away from Leichhardt at Concord Oval in Sydney’s Inner West.

Campbelltown Stadium then played only 3 NRL games a year and mostly against out of state teams. The majority of the players lived and trained in the inner west, merchandise was predominately Black and Gold and the Wests Magpies Football Club was in turmoil.

These decisions greatly upset the Wests side of the joint venture and led to a general feeling that Wests and the Macarthur were being treated as second class citizens. This peaked in 2011 when the decision was made to remove the Magpies from the NSW Cup. At the last minute after much public outcry the decision was overturned and the Magpies and Balmain again fielded separate teams. 
No Magpie Logo on Sleeve 
Balmain with their NRL fringe players (including many Magpie Juniors) made the NSW Cup Grand Final. The Magpies with a thrown together team with no NRL experience and no Wests Tigers support, came dead last.

Wests had reached the darkest of times. The Magpies dropped down to 3rd grade Ron Massey Cup, Wests Tigers ran out on the field wearing a jersey without the Magpie logo on their sleeves and Wests Campbelltown Leagues Club pulled the pin. 

The Wests in the Wests Tigers had been all but removed. Throw in bad weather, supporters from the Inner West reluctance to travel to Campbelltown and playing an out-of-state team, it’s no surprise that Campbelltown’s crowd was so disappointing.

The question is, how will the Wests Tigers rebuild local support in Macarthur?

By Graeme Szynal
This opinion piece is the authors own and does not represent the official view of the Western Suburbs Magpies Football Club. 

Check out Wests Tigers Crowd Stats here:

Rnd 4 - Ron Massey Cup - Match Review

A hat-trick to Nu Akeripa and doubles to Junior Vaivai and Rusty Bristow underscored Wests' thumping 48-16 victory over Blacktown last weekend at Campbelltown.

Wests opened the scoring after just three minutes with Michael Stevens leading a left side raid and Junior Vaivai touching down. Dayne Craig’s Thurston-esque conversion split the uprights, the Magpies up 6-0.

Blacktown hit back just on ten minutes with a left raid of their own, Jerry Key breaking through the line and stepping Daniel Abou-Sleiman on his way to the posts. Akerupa Tia Kilifi added the extras from in front, to lock the game up.

A series of strong runs left Blacktown’s right side defence vulnerable, and Nu Akeripa showed wonderful footwork for a big man to step inside and outpace the cover defence. Dayne Craig’s conversion, after 18 minutes, put Wests up by six.

A one on one strip by Blacktown was regathered by Dayne Craig, and three tackles later Michael Stevens’ grubber in behind a compressed Workers line allowed Tala Mapesone to register his second of the year. Craig’s conversion was pushed wide, the Magpies with a 10 point break with 15 to the break.

Blacktown found space through the ruck and got a second set after their last kick was touched by Wests, but Jake Shearer’s attempt to touch down was lost in goal with 11 minutes left in the first half.

The Magpie’s left hand attack has been threatening all year, and they sprung into action with nine minutes remaining in the first, with a sweeping movement finding Jerome Mose at the end of it. Dayne Craig produced a dead set party trick to convert for a 22-6 lead.

Two minutes left to halftime and Daniel Abou-Sleiman showed deft footwork to just blow Blacktown away before finding Junior Vaivai, who went over for his second. Dayne Craig added the extras to send Wests into the sheds with a commanding 28-6 advantage.

Blacktown needed to start the secnd half well and did so, courtesy of a series of offloads, as Pat Weisner’s kick to the ingoal found Regan Haika steaming in. Akerupa Tia Kilifi shanked the conversion wide though, Wests ahead 28-10 after four minutes in the second stanza.

Wests escaped as a Blacktown bomb went to ground and almost went coast to coast on 55 minutes as a series of long passes ended up in the hands of Jerome Mose, but Blacktown’s cover defence put Mose into touch, despite the protestations of the boisertous Magpie fans right in front of the play.

Wests weren’t letting up and almost snuck through at dummy half three minutes later, but Blacktown’s markers recovered to dislodge the ball from Dayne Craig’s grasp.

Wests eemed to be paying attention to the Melbourne Storm playbook, but instead of Smith-Cronk-Slater, it was Craig-Sultana-Abou-Sleiman, with Michael Stevens in support being dragged down five metres out. From the play the ball, Nu Akeripa firced his way in, and Dayne Craig’s conversion left Wests 34-12 up after 62 minutes.

Blacktown needed something special, and a chip kick from Pat Weisner ended up in Akerupa Tia Kilifi’s arms, Tia Kilifi touching down for a converted try, to reduce the margin to 18 with 11 minutes to play.

Nu Akeripa powered his way over for a try with eight minutes to go before Rusty Bristow nothced one with sheer strength. Michael Stevens missed with both conversion attempts, the Magpies 42-16 ahead with two to go.

But Wests weren’t done, Rusty Bristow turning it on for his second in the final minute. Stevens converted for a final score of 48-16.

For Wests, Nu Akeripa, Michael Stevens and Fred Tevago were the leaders, while for Blacktown, Jerry Key, Pat Weisner and Jake Attard were their top performers.

WESTERN SUBURBS 48 (Nu Akeripa 3,Junior Vaivai 2, Rusty Bristow 2, Tala Mapesone, Jerome Mose tries; Dayne Craig 5 from 6, Mchael Stevens 0 from 1) def BLACKTOWN 16 (Jerry Key, Regan Haika, Akerupa Tia Kilifi tries; Akerupa Tia Kilifi 2 from 3)

Halftime: Wests 28 Blacktown 6

Penalties: Wests 6 Blacktown 6

1. Daniel Abou Slieman 
2. Tala Mapasone 
6. Junior Vai Vai 
4. Sam Aiga 
5. Jerome Mose 
15. Micheal Stevens 
7. Andrew Sultana
8. Tunui Maurangi 
9. Dayne Craig 
10. Soni Paasi 
3. Rusty Bristow 
11. Nu Akeripa 
22. Andy Fiagatusa

12. Francis Laulu 
13. Ronnie Palumbo 
17. Dwayne Lemafa 
18. Fred Tevago

1. Charlie Latulipe 
19. Dan Smith
3. Regan Haika 
4. Akerupa Tia Kalifi
5. John Taaga 
6. Pat Weisner 
7. Joel Jasmin 
8. Jordon Strickland 
9. Gus Jasmin 
10. Lupati Eni
11. Jake Shearer © 
12. Jerry Key 
13. Nafoa Leopai 

15. Yahia Masri 
17. Stuart Mcdonald 
18. Taviuni Mariota 
25. Jake Attard

Friday, April 11, 2014

Player In Focus: Jarrad Szczudlo

This week we catch up with hulking prop Jarrad Szczudlo in our 2014 player profile series.

Firstly, how do we pronounce your name?! (Laughs) It's Zoo-d-low.

(At this point, Jarrad showed our interviewer's lack of knowledge of his own ancestry up, so we'll just move on)

Height: 200cm

Weight: 117kg

Date of Birth: 9 January 1993

Which NRl team did you follow as a kid? Newcastle

Who did you play junior footy with? All Saints Liverpool

What is your earliest football memory? Watching the Knights Grand Final win in 2001

What advice would you give young players? Repetition is the mother of skill

Which sport would you play if you weren't playing league? Cricket or basketball

What's the best advice you've received? EXTRAS EXTRAS EXTRAS!!! (We think that means you should always do extra training...)

What was your first job? Store assistant at League Zone Liverpool (Living the dream!)

Which three people would you invite to dinner? The Rock, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jennifer Lawrence

What is you greatest fear? Heights

What was your most embarrassing moment? When I was two years old I went to the toilet in a public swimming pool... (EDIT: We'll just leave that there, because it gets worse...)

Wests Tigers re-sign young star Nofoaluma

Wests Tigers are pleased to announce the re-signing of exciting winger and Magpie junior David Nofoaluma on a three-year-deal.

A Campbelltown Collegians junior, Nofoaluma has played 19 NRL games since making his debut in Round 10 of the 2013 season against South Sydney.

During his time in the top grade, the 20-year-old has crossed for 11 tries including the 2013 Dally M Try of the Year against Manly at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.

Nofoaluma was part of the premiership-winning Wests Tigers Holden Cup side in 2012 and last year represented the Junior Kangaroos.

The new deal secures yet another talented local junior for Wests Tigers and is a significant boost leading into Saturday night’s clash with North Queensland at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.

“The Club has been great to me over the years and I’m really enjoying my football,” Nofoaluma said. “Being a local junior, I’ve made some great friends coming through the grades at Wests Tigers and playing alongside those guys is something I cherish.

“I’ve always supported the Wests Tigers, it’s a great feeling to be now playing NRL for the Club and I’m thankful for the opportunity I have been given,”he said.

Head Coach Mick Potter was pleased with new deal for Nofoaluma, which will see him remain at the Club until the end of the 2017 season.

“David is yet another local product that the Club has secured on a long-team deal,” Potter said. “He is a pleasant young man who is great to work with and is always great to coach.

“We have already seen how talented David is and he keeps on getting better, he no doubt has a long, bright future ahead of him,” he said.

Wests Tigers CEO Grant Mayer said the Club is now focused on securing the remaining off-contract local juniors.

“This is a significant step forward for the Club in completing the retention of our local juniors,” Mayer said. “David has been dynamic since his debut against the Rabbitohs last year and has quickly become a crowd favourite.

“To retain him with so much interest from other clubs is a real coup and a testament to the culture that we are building at Wests Tigers.”

There are a number of other players that the Club are working on securing and remain hopeful that further announcements can be made in the coming weeks.

“Negotiations are never as straight forward as they seem but I have been consistent in my messaging that the retention of our local juniors is a priority,” Mayer said. “After discussions with player managers, the players themselves and our coaching staff, I’m convinced that we are on the same page.

“For avoidance of doubt, I’ll be making no comment about specific players until we have a good news story,” he said. “In the meantime I implore our fans to come out to Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Saturday night and cheer on the Wests Tigers - #2560.”

David Nofoaluma – Player Profile Date of Birth: 28/11/1993 (Newcastle, NSW) Junior Club: Campbelltown Collegians Position: Wing Height: 180cm Weight: 98kg Rep Honours: Australian Schoolboys (2010), Junior Kangaroos

Thursday, April 10, 2014

We Wear Our Heart on Our Sleeve

Whenever the Wests Tigers take the field, they wear their heart on their sleeve.
The "Proud Magpie" of the Western Suburbs Rugby League Football Club.

The opposition not only face the fury of the Tigers, but also the might of the Magpies.
Two 1908 foundation clubs combined with a common goal for success.

So remind those both young and old, why the watchful bird sits there.
For this club has two hearts, and it wear one of them on its sleeve.

Nofoaluma returns to Campbelltown Stadium

CAMPBELLTOWN local and Wests Magpie junior David Nofoaluma will walk onto his favourite NRL stadium with a spring in his step after bagging two tries during the Wests Tigers’ 34-18 upset victory against Manly Sea Eagles at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.

The 20-year-old Campbelltown Collegians product will face the North Queensland Cowboys this Saturday night at Campbelltown Sports Stadium, where he scored the 2013 Dally M Try of the Year last July.
He also scored the first try during the Tigers’ gutsy 17-12 victory against Canberra Raiders at Campbelltown in round 15 last season.
The Junior Kangaroos representative winger grabbed a double in front 16,311 fans during Sunday’s win at Leichhardt, the Tigers’ third in five rounds.
Nofoaluma has fond memories of facing the Tigers’ 2005 grand final opponents, having scored the dramatic match winner for his first ever NRL try during their 22-20 victory at Leichhardt last year, which was his second game in the top grade.
The former Ruse resident said the double was an “amazing” confidence boost and hoped for a massive crowd at Campbelltown.
“It was a great day on the field, especially at Leichhardt, (our) home turf, to get those two tries was amazing,” he said.
“I’m hoping for a massive crowd at Campbelltown; after today’s efforts and the win, hopefully next week we will get a packed house.
“There are a lot of Tigers fans out at Campbelltown, so I’m hoping they come to the field next week.”