Penrith Panthers beat South Sydney Rabbitohs 14-12 to win the NRL Grand Final and exorcise the demons of their defeat in the 2020 showpiece.

Melbourne Storm just about held off a remarkable Panthers fightback last year, but this time around Ivan Cleary's side were in charge almost throughout.

The Panthers dominated much of the first half and were unfortunate to only be two points up at the break.

Matt Burton got the first try of the game as he capitalised on a poor read by Campbell Graham, but the Rabbitohs got one of their own soon after, Cody Walker dazzling with a solo run before tapping down.

The second period followed much the same pattern as the Rabbitohs found themselves under pressure for prolonged periods, and it eventually paid off 11 minutes from time.

Stephen Crichton intercepted a Walker pass near the 50-metre line and he ran clear to get the try, with Nathan Cleary adding the conversion.

The Rabbitohs had the opportunity to go level after Alex Johnston went over to get them back to within two points, but Adam Reynolds' touchline conversion attempt went wide of the posts with four minutes to go in what proved to be a cruel ending to the captain's time at the club.

The Panthers held on to win the Grand Final for the first time since 2003.

Cronulla Sharks' Andrew Fifita was placed into a medically induced coma after sustaining a serious throat injury on Sunday, with his brother David thanking the NRL for their support.

Fifita was taken off 39 minutes into Sunday's game against Newcastle Knights in Brisbane and the Sharks later confirmed he suffered a fractured larynx

Approximately 20 minutes after full time, the 32-year-old was brought out of the changing rooms and onto the field, where he was examined by paramedics and transferred to hospital in an ambulance.

A statement from the Sharks read: "In updating the condition of Andrew Fifita, after conferring with specialists today at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, the Sharks can inform that Andrew has suffered a laryngeal fracture and is currently in an induced coma.

"Andrew is in a stable condition, with a surgical correction scheduled to take place tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon.

"He is receiving the best possible care and all going well, it is expected he will recover in hospital for an extended period.

On Monday, Andrew's twin brother David – who plays for Super League side Wakefield Trinity – thanked fans for their support and concern but asked for privacy for his family.

"On behalf of the Fifita family, I would like to thank everyone for their support, concern and kind words during this difficult time that we face," he wrote on Twitter.

"As a family we ask everyone to please respect our privacy and allow Andrew and the family space to heal and recover.

"In saying this I would like to thank Cronulla Sharks and the NRL for helping support our family in Queensland through this time."

The NRL has moved the final match of the State of Origin series to the Gold Coast due to coronavirus restrictions in Newcastle.

It means New South Wales Blues – who lead the series 2-0 after rampant victories in the opening two games – have the chance to win three State of Origin matches in Queensland to complete what would be an unprecedented clean sweep.

Game one of the series was scheduled to be played in Melbourne, only for COVID-19 restrictions to force a switch to Townsville.

While game two took place as planned in Brisbane, game three – which is next week – was moved from Sydney's Stadium Australia to Newcastle's McDonald Jones Stadium.

However, with Sydney and the surrounding areas in lockdown, New South Wales' regional government advised that a major event with a crowd would not feasible. 

Gold Coast has been selected as a low-risk option, with both teams located close to the Cbus Stadium, which will be able to welcome a capacity crowd of around 27,000.

Though it means all three matches will have been held in Queensland, Blues coach Brad Fittler is unfazed.

"It's disappointing that we can't play at Newcastle and play in front of a NSW crowd," Fittler said. "But we will play anywhere, anytime."

The Blues thrashed the Maroons 50-6 in game one, before winning game two 26-0.

New South Wales Blues made a statement of intent in the first State of Origin match, thrashing Queensland Maroons 50-6 in Townsville.

The first match of the 2021 Origin series had been scheduled to be played on neutral ground in Melbourne, but lockdown measures in the state of Victoria resulted in a switch to Queensland.

Yet the Maroons' home advantage counted for little as Tom Trbojevic's hat-trick of tries inspired New South Wales to lay down a marker in the series.

Trbojevic, who scored a hat-trick in the 2019 State of Origin, was in sensational form once more, the 24-year-old Manly Sea Eagles star putting on a show as the Blues reached a half-century of points in an Origin game for just a second time.

Having lost prop Christian Welch to a failed head injury assessment after 13 minutes, the Maroons swiftly fell behind when Trbojevic ran in the game's first try, displaying all his speed and deft footwork.

Debutant winger Brian To'o helped himself to two tries in the space of five minutes, and although Kurt Capewell reduced the deficit to 20-6, there was no coming back for the hosts.

Trbojevic turned provider with a sublime grubber into Latrell Mitchell, who returned the favour for New South Wales' next try.

Xavier Coates' error enabled Mitchell grab a second, before Daniel Saifiti crossed and James Tedesco set up Trbojevic to fittingly have the final say in the Blues' biggest Origin victory to date.

Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium hosts the next match on June 27.

Jarryd Hayne has been sentenced to five years and nine months in jail for sexually assaulting a woman.

The former Australia and Fiji rugby league international was found guilty of two counts of sexual intercourse without consent at a retrial at NSW District Court in March after the original trial failed to reach a majority verdict.

Hayne faced a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail when he appeared at Newcastle District Court on Thursday.

The 33-year-old was given an aggregate term of imprisonment of five years and nine months to commence on May 6.

Hayne, who played for Parramatta Eels and Gold Coast Titans, as well as having a stint in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, will be eligible for parole in January 2025.

He had maintained in court that he was not guilty of sexually assaulting the woman at her home in 2018, while claimed he was about to sign a lucrative one-year deal to continue his NRL career before being charged by police in November 2018.

It is the end of an era in Melbourne and the NRL.

Cameron Smith – arguably rugby league's greatest ever player – ended speculation over his future by announcing his retirement on Wednesday.

The 37-year-old star and future Immortal retires a one-club player – Smith was out of contract following 18 years with Melbourne Storm.

After Smith officially put an end to his playing career midweek, we look into the numbers behind the Storm, Queensland Maroons and Australia legend thanks to Opta.

 

430 – Smith holds the record for most NRL games following a glittering career in the Australian competition, having debuted for the Storm in 2002. He is the only player to have amassed over 400 appearances.

310 – He also holds the record for most wins in premiership matches. Of those victories, 242 were as skipper – the most as a captain.

2,786 – No player has scored more points in NRL premiership history than the hooker, well ahead of Hazem El Masri (2,418) and Johnathan Thurston (2,222).

1,295 – Smith stands alone for goals kicked in the NRL – 353 more than any other player in premiership history.

16,913 – Not just an elite kicker, Smith tallied the most tackles by any player since the beginning of the NRL era in 1998.

3 – Smith ends his NRL career with Premierships in 2012, 2017 and 2020. It could have been five, but the Storm were stripped of Grand Final triumphs in 2007 and 2009 due to salary-cap breaches.

42 – A Maroons veteran, he is the most-capped player in State of Origin history. Smith first appeared for Queensland in 2003.

56 – Smith represented Australia more than fifty times. Only Darren Lockyer (59) managed more than Smith for the Kangaroos.

33 – Lockyer (38) is the only player to have captained Australia on more occasions than Smith, who led the country to Rugby League World Cup glory in 2013 and 2017.

2 – Smith was crowned the NRL's best and fairest player in 2006 and 2017. Only Thurston (four) and Andrew Johns (three) earned more honours.

Melbourne Storm and NRL great Cameron Smith officially announced his retirement from rugby league on Wednesday.

There had been ongoing speculation over Smith's future, with the NRL's most-capped player linked with both Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans after relocating from Melbourne.

But the 37-year-old star will retire a one-club player after a record 430 games with the Storm, three NRL Premierships and two Dally M Medals.

Smith also captained Australia to Rugby League World Cup success in 2013 and 2017.

"I've spent a few months now up in Queensland with the family. For me I look back on my career and just found that I'm very fortunate to be part of an organisation with great people and footballers," Smith said ahead of the 2021 season, which gets underway on Thursday.

"It felt like the right time after the finish to last year. You couldn't have asked for more than finishing with a premiership at a club I've played my whole career."

Smith was out of contract following 18 years with the Storm in Melbourne.

The 42-time Queensland Maroons legend, who earned 56 caps for Australia, led the Storm to NRL glory last year.

"I've been wrestling with the decision for quite some time. In the weeks after the season had finished guys like Billy [Slater] and guys I've grown quite close to, just trying to talk to them about my situation and how they came to the conclusion as to when it was the right time," Smith said.

"After last year winning the Premiership I still felt good physically and mentally. I still thought my form was good enough to play in the NRL but after spending time with my family in Queensland I knew it was the right time to finish.

"It's a chance to enjoy the next phase in my life and hopefully it's still in rugby league in some capacity. In my head I probably made the decision a week ago but knowing the unveiling was today and I was going to be in Melbourne I thought it was a good time to announce my decision.

"I started here with Billy at Olympic [AAMI] Park in 2002 so this is where I wanted to end it. Given the amount of time I've spent here and what I've built with Billy, Cooper [Cronk], Ryan Hoffman, Jesse Bromwich ... guys who have put in effort to build the Storm as an organisation.

"As a rookie I always thought I wanted to be a one-club player. Sometimes those choices are taken away from you but thankfully I've been able to do that for 19 years here."

Storm head coach Craig Bellamy added: "I think he's the greatest player I've ever seen. For what he's done, no one has gone over 400 NRL games and 100 rep games, and the success as captain it's quite remarkable.

"I can't see it happening again. It's hard to describe his effect on our club and the game. The biggest thing is how long he's done it for. When he told me this morning I was always genuine in that I said last year he deserved the right to make a decision when he was ready.

"For me the most important thing was that Cameron and his family be happy and I stand by that.

"It would've been strange for me to watch him in another jumper but that's obviously not going to happen. At the same time I still would've been his number one supporter even if he was playing against us.

"Hopefully we can keep Cameron around the club. If we can get him to give advice to our ruck plays and dummy half, his leadership is unparalleled."

Melbourne Storm great Cameron Smith will not play for Gold Coast Titans in the 2021 NRL season, according to Mal Meninga.

It remains to seen what the future holds for Smith, who is yet to publicly confirm his plans after guiding the Storm to premiership last year.

Out of contract following 18 years in Melbourne, Smith reportedly relocated to Queensland at the end of the season and the 37-year-old has been linked with the Titans as well as Brisbane Broncos.

With speculation mounting over Smith's status, his former State of Origin and Australia head coach Meninga – now head of performance and culture with the Titans – insisted the ex-Kangaroos skipper will not be moving to Gold Coast.

"I've not talked to Cameron. He's the hardest bloke to get hold of in the world," said Meninga.

"I've not spoken to him – not has anyone from the club.

"Everyone assumes he's coming to the Titans. I haven't talked to him, he's not on the radar.

"You should ask Kevvie [Broncos head coach Kevin Walters] about Cameron so I don't have to answer these questions anymore."

Broncos coach Walters could be an interested party were Smith to delay his retirement plans, but Meninga rubbished reports that emerged last week linking him with the Titans.

Meninga told the Courier Mail: "I don't have any idea what Cam is doing. I don't know if he's retiring.

"I'm in the dark like everyone else. But I know he won't be at the Titans."

Israel Folau is no longer wanted by St George Illawarra Dragons after the NRL club confirmed it had ceased discussions to sign the former Australia international.

Folau, whose Rugby Australia contract was terminated in 2019 for a "high-level breach" after the 31-year-old posted hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on Instagram, plies his trade with Super League outfit Catalans Dragons.

But St George Illawarra had been looking to lure him back to his home country, with the club having approached the NRL over the matter.

However, a brief statement released by the club on Wednesday revealed the chase was now at an end.

"While the Dragons did enquire about signing Folau, the club can confirm that such discussions have now ceased," it read.

Folau's move to Catalans in January last year prompted widespread criticism, with head coach Steve McNamara confessing: "We knew it would be controversial."

 

New Zealand Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will switch codes at the end of the 2021 NRL season with the aim of playing for the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup.

Talismanic full-back Tuivasa-Sheck, 27, has been granted an early release from his Warriors contract to try and force his way into the New Zealand squad for the 2023 showpiece in France.

The 2018 Dally M Player of the Year and two-time Dally M Fullback of the Year expressed gratitude to the Warriors for allowing him to move to the 15-man format.

"This will be my last year with the club and yes, I will be moving to NZ rugby next year," Tuivasa-Sheck said during a press conference on Saturday.

"The club has been supportive in the request and giving me the option to explore.

"Rugby [union] has been the game I've grown up playing. It's always been there in the background. It's always been there, it's no secret. 

"To do it now in a time like this and have the club's support, that's why I chose it now. But rugby is down the line and all that stuff will happen later in the year.

"2021 is my focus, I'm excited about this year and so should the Warriors and NRL fans be.

"There's still a lot of goals I'm chasing [in league] and that's what I'm trying to do this year with the club. We've got a great group here and coaching staff to do something special this year."

Wayne Bennett will not continue as coach of Queensland for the 2021 State of Origin series so he can focus on his job at South Sydney Rabbitohs. 

Bennett returned to lead the Maroons in October of last year, taking on the role after Kevin Walters had stepped down following his appointment at Brisbane Broncos. 

Queensland went on to win 2-1 - beating New South Wales 20-14 in the deciding game in Brisbane - but the search is now on for a new coach ahead of this year's series.

"We were really grateful that Wayne made himself available to help us out last year," Queensland Rugby League managing director Robert Moore said in a statement. 

"We understand the decision Wayne has made in his last year of his contract with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, as he's eager to concentrate his efforts on them because they've been so close [to a premiership]," Moore said. 

"With Wayne's decision, we've now moved to a process to consider the next appointment and we anticipate that process will be completed early this year." 

The Origin games are scheduled to take place in June and July, having been shifted to after the NRL season last year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

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