NRL Expert @JennaBrooks
NRL talking points: Justin Holbrook, English domination and Robbie Farah's retirement
Last Updated: 31/07/19 11:00am
Jenna Brooks has the latest as Justin Holbrook leaves St Helens for the Gold Coast next season. Plus details of a round dominated by Englishmen.
Holbrook move confirmed
As expected, Justin Holbrook has been confirmed as the new head coach of Gold Coast Titans.
The Titans are bottom of the ladder, winning just four of their 18 games this season, and St Helens boss Holbrook has been given the almighty task of turning the club around in 2020.
Gold Coast CEO Steve Mitchell is in no doubt that Holbrook has a lot to offer the club.
"Holbrook brings a lot. He brings a lot with what he's done and where he's come from, what he's done with St Helens," Mitchell said.
Holbrook, who is out of contract at the end of the year, has led St Helens to the top of the Super League table, 10 points clear of their closest rivals Warrington Wolves, as well as the final of this year's Challenge Cup.
He will see out the season with Saints, before heading to the Gold Coast in time for the start of pre-season in November.
Round 19 of the NRL season was dominated by Englishmen.
Let's start with the return of Gareth Widdop. The St George-Illawarra Dragons superstar spent the last four months on the sidelines nursing a shoulder injury, but made his comeback in the 20-16 loss to South Sydney Rabbitohs.
It was like he had never been away - he was sensational. With just 90 seconds left, he kicked a sideline conversion to give St George-Illawarra the lead, only for the Dragons to concede a try on the buzzer. The defeat all but ended their finals aspirations.
Widdop, who leaves the NRL to play in Super League next season, is just one of a number of England internationals who is making a name for himself down under.
"I've got no regrets (about leaving)," Widdop said. "I think it's great for the boys to come out in the NRL and test themselves - and they're all playing really good football.
"It certainly helps English rugby league in general. Obviously, the Super League is not too happy about it, but at the end of the day the boys are coming out and performing well and enjoying their time and strengthening the national team, which is huge."
Widdop's team-mate James Graham is on the brink of an amazing 400 career games in both Super League and NRL. The 33-year old was playing in his second game back from injury and he was also impressive, playing for 72 minutes and making 60 tackles.
How about John Bateman? The second row scored a brilliant try in Canberra's 30-18 win over Penrith.
The former Wigan Warriors star has been a huge factor in the Raiders success this season. They are fourth in the table, equal on points with third-placed Sydney Roosters.
Sam Burgess missed out again for South Sydney due to that infection from shoulder surgery, but he is expected to return against Cronulla Sharks on Saturday, which is live on Sky Sports.
Ryan Hall will miss the chance to take on former Leeds Rhinos team-mate Kallum Watkins on Sunday, when the Roosters host the Titans.
Winger Hall, who suffered a patella injury and will miss up to three weeks, is one of five Roosters players who look set to spend time on the sidelines.
Watkins made his NRL debut in Gold Coast's 34-12 loss to the Broncos on Saturday. He made 22 tackles and ran for 132 metres in his 80 minutes on the pitch, and he felt pretty good afterwards.
"It's another tough game for us, but I didn't come over here to have a holiday," Watkins said. "I come here to work hard and do what we need to do to get a win.
"After the first 15 or 20 minutes I was blowing pretty hard, but I thought that would happen anyway because I haven't been playing for a long time. After that I felt really good fitness-wise.
"I felt I did all right and pulled up good. I always want to get better and that's for me to do that and get this team going."
With Hall's knee injury keeping him sidelined for the foreseeable future, and given the Titans' place in the ladder, Watkins will have to wait until next season to play against his ex-Rhinos team-mate.
"I think he's playing really well," Watkins said of Hall. "He's getting involved, he's carrying it really strong and he looks fitter."
Farah set to retire
Robbie Farah has announced he will retire at the end of the season.
Wests Tigers' veteran hooker played his 300th game last Friday, and after 17 seasons, the 35-year old made the announcement.
"This is the opportunity to go out on my own terms, that hasn't always been the case," Farah said.
"I am playing good footy, I wouldn't want to go a year too long and my body break down. We've got young hookers at the club, they'd go past me and I wouldn't want that."
Farah, who made his Tigers debut in 2003, has played 16 State of Origin games for New South Wales, eight Tests for Australia and five for Lebanon.