Knights, Dragons confirm Frizell move

Tyson Frizell has accepted a deal to join Newcastle as their marquee man.

The St George Illawarra back-rower is expected to join the Knights on a three-year deal worth about $2.1 million from next season.

Frizell has for weeks been mulling over offers from the Dragons and Newcastle but the incumbent Kangaroos and NSW star is all but certain to join the Knights from next year despite the ongoing uncertainty in the game.

After The Daily Telegraph on Thursday night revealed Frizell was on the verge of joining the Knights, both Newcastle and St George Illawarra released statements confirming the news.

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Frizell’s future has been subject of much speculation. Photo: AAP Image/Dean LewinsSource:AAP

“Tyson Frizell received one of the most substantial offers in St George Illawarra history to remain at the club beyond the 2020 season,” Dragons director of rugby league pathways and list management Ian Millward said.

“It was a deal that reflected his contribution over the past eight years, and of course, the seasons that would have followed. We made responsible decisions when determining Tyson’s value and contract extension.

“Tyson’s decision to depart the Dragons at season’s end will now allow the club to pursue other quality players in the marketplace.”

The Knights said they offered Frizell a three-year deal back in January, which he has accepted.

The decision comes as the NRL suspended any contract negotiations, telling player agents and clubs not to bother trying to have contracts registered.

“Due to the current uncertain circumstances for rugby league, the NRL are not registering any new or updated contracts,” the Knights said in a statement.

“The Club has and always will act in good faith in relation to contracts.”

Talks between the Knights and Frizell were well advanced before the NRL was shut down because of the coronavirus. It is understood the terms put forward by the Knights six weeks ago have not changed.

St George Illawarra say they will turn to the player market for a replacement for Newcastle-bound back-rower Tyson Frizell. Picture: Brett CostelloSource:News Corp Australia

Frizell had hoped to have a decision before the start of round one.

Rumours over Frizell’s discontent at the Dragons have been swirling since the end of last season, forcing the 28-year-old to deny he wanted an early release.

Frizell said his next contract would be about winning a premiership and the Dragons’ winless start to the season has not helped their case to re-sign their fill-in skipper.

“People know that I’m looking to win a premiership hopefully and play finals footy. That’s what we do it for,” Frizell said last month.

The Dragons upped their offer, which included an option in Frizell’s favour in the third year, but it is expected he will join Blues teammates David Klemmer and Mitchell Pearce as a Knight from next year.

Mitch Barnett has done enough to earn a new deal. Photo: Ashley Feder/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Newcastle have already re-signed back-rower Mitch Barnett to a three-year deal.

The NRL’s salary cap auditor Richard Gardham wrote to player agents and clubs on Thursday morning on behalf of the NRL and RLPA to tell them there would be a hiatus in new contracts.

“Until otherwise notified, contracts and contract variations for both the current and future seasons should not be executed and will not be registered by the NRL,” Gardham wrote.

That means the futures of high-profile off-contract players, including Nick Cotric, David Fifita and Jake Friend, are on hold.

The Dragons have a host of players coming off contract, including Euan Aitken, Jackson Ford, James Graham, Jacob Host, Tim Lafai, Issac Luke, Tristan Sailor and Mikaele Ravalawa. The contract of stood-down back-rower Jack de Belin also expires at season’s end.

Wayne Bennett’s coaching team will join the rest next week. Photo: Jono Searle/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

CUTS RUN DEEP

It is well known clubs have asked football and office staff to use all their leave entitlements before taking unpaid leave. There will no doubt be huge cost cutting in weeks and months to come.

But one of the biggest issues clubs face is the fact that even if they wanted to offer redundancies, they aren’t in a financial position to do so.

Souths coach Wayne Bennett and the rest of his coaching staff will be joining a host of rivals being stood down without pay next week.

How much work will players need to put in to get match fit? Photo: Matt King/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

STICKING POINT

The next debate involving players and clubs will focus on how much of a “mini-pre-season” is needed before the competition can resume.

Players won’t be given the green light to return to training and play that same weekend, which makes the June return to the field extremely unlikely.

They would need to hit the training paddock by May. Some clubs are saying they need anywhere between four to six weeks to have their players ready for contact and in proper match fitness.

Expect some to push for two weeks of training to try to get the competition back as soon as possible.

SOUND BITE

With all the other madness happening in the world, which player was lucky to avoid sanction for a racial slur that was picked up in the referee’s microphone?

Sarraf Strata will keep supporting NRL mascots.Source:Supplied

A RIGHT LOYAL SPONSOR

Sticking solid during the NRL’s time of need is Sarraf Strata, which sponsors seven Sydney-based clubs.

It sponsors the mascots of Parramatta, Penrith, Souths, Manly, Wests Tigers, Cronulla and the Roosters, and has vowed to stand by them even if there is no more play this year.

“I sent an email to all seven of them saying we will stick with them through the entirety of the contract, regardless if you get on the field or you don’t,” managing director Norman Sarraf said.

“That’s the least we could do in return. It’s been a lot of fun and the mascots and players are great.”

The Bulldogs v Cowboys didn’t get the numbers in. Photo: Phil HillyardSource:News Corp Australia

NINE’S RATINGS TAKE A HIT

The intrigue of playing in front of empty stadiums and having fans locked out of ­venues wasn’t enough to draw more eyeballs onto Nine’s coverage last week.

Numbers on free-to-air dropped 19 per cent compared to this time last year. Nine also suffered a dramatic slump in TV numbers from rounds one to two while Fox League enjoyed an eight per cent increase.

Fox also recorded a record share of audience with 297,000 viewers against Nine’s 382,000 for the Broncos v Rabbitohs match. It was Fox League’s fifth highest rating Friday night regular season game all-time while for Nine the blockbuster clash was 12 per cent down on round one.

Sandor Earl and Will Chambers keep up the work. Photo: AAP Image/Michael DodgeSource:AAP

NRL WORKING FROM HOME

You got a door? Then you have a gym.

It has been something like that for the NRL stars who have adapted to their new whirlwind life. After taking equipment from their various club gyms, players have continued with their training after being warned not to treat the next few weeks like a holiday.

A pair of old Melbourne teammates in Sandor Earl and Will Chambers were running through Gosch’s Paddock in Melbourne on Thursday.

Chambers had signed to play Japanese rugby but their season was cancelled to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It leaves Chambers and ex-Canberra winger Jordan Rapana as potential targets to return to the game should the NRL resume this year.

The NRL players gym of choice these days. SuppliedSource:Supplied

The Turbos hit the garage. SuppliedSource:Supplied

Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend has wasted little time into settling into his new routine.

From looking after his children to shooting hoops in his driveway. Townsend has continued with his podcast and a home gym workout.

Tom Trbojevic won’t struggle for any training partners with three brothers in his household.

Titans hooker Nathan Peats is home-schooling his children while other players including Sydney Roosters halfback Kyle Flanagan and Cronulla back-rower Billy Magoulias put up part of their workouts on Instagram.

Phil Graham in action for Canberra in 2003. Photo: Michael JonesSource:News Corp Australia

BLAST FROM THE PAST

PHIL GRAHAM

147 top-grade games (111 Canberra, 34 Sydney Roosters, two Gold Coast).

Phil Graham couldn’t quite believe it when then Canberra coach Matt Elliott called to ask him if he wanted to be a Raider. The then 20-year-old was in the middle of his Mad Monday celebrations with his Redcliffe teammates when Elliott called.

“Initially I thought it was one of the boys having a laugh,” Graham said.

“I can’t remember too much from that conversation. I was a little bit under the weather at that point. I think he left it with telling me he would speak to my manager. All the boys were carrying on.”

Graham eventually followed up the conversation and made his way to the nation’s capital. He scored 13 tries from 16 matches in his debut season in 2002.

Graham would go on to play 111 matches for the Raiders before leaving the club to join the Roosters in 2010.

His first season at the Roosters would sum up Graham’s career. He starred before injury robbed him of his chance to play in the premiership decider against St George Illawarra.

Injuries were a constant for Graham, who averaged 13 appearances per season across his 11-year career.

These days, Graham works as a firefighter at Helensvale Station. Photo: Glenn HampsonSource:News Corp Australia

MORE NEWS

“I just needed a change at that point in my career,” Graham said of his decision to leave Canberra.

“I did my pectoral two weeks before the grand final but I tried really hard to play in the grand final. I did some training that week but I wasn’t feeling the best and it just wasn’t good enough to go.”

Injuries eventually caught up with Graham and forced his premature retirement just two games into his stint with the Titans in 2012. He had two knee operations and injuries to an ankle, thumb and pectoral muscle. He also had a “couple of broken bones”.

“The body had had enough,” said Graham, who is now a firefighter on the Gold Coast.

“I didn’t think I had bad luck until the end of my career. I thought the injuries were little setbacks.”

Originally published asKnights, Dragons confirm Frizell move

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