THE only way players and coaches are going to get satisfaction over Origin scheduling is to go over the NRL’s heads and approach broadcasters directly. When you are given $1.025 billion, taking a month’s worth of club football off Fox Sports and a huge chunk of the Origin audience from Nine by moving it away from Wednesdays isn’t going to fly – unless you give some of the money back. And the NRL has already decided how it’s going to spend that money. “If it’s not important enough to them, leave it as it is,” said one of the most vocal agitators, Melbourne’s Craig Bellamy. But if a delegation of coaches and players meets broadcasters, at the very least they’ll have a better understanding of the issues involved. At best, they’ll be able to affect real change.
2. SURFACE TENSION
HE wasn’t saying a lot about it, but Canterbury coach Des Hasler said late Sunday that the heavy surface at ANZ Stadium would decisively help NSW in Origin III. “On that surface, NSW,” he told Triple M when asked for a tip. Joy of Six asked Des if he meant the heavy surface would slow the Maroons down and help the Blues’ big boys. Hasler didn’t do much more than nod. It certainly looked chopped up and players seemed to be ploughing rather than running at times in the Dogs’ 39-0 win over Melbourne. But according to Canterbury halfback Trent Hodkinson, conditions were better than he expected. “It wasn’t too bad,” he told us. “I thought it would be a lot worse after the union but it was good, a good surface.”
3. PARISH PREACH
NSW assistant coach Matt Parish was in a feisty and honest mood when interviewed on the ABC yesterday. On refereeing in game two: “I thought the first half was very one-sided, as everyone knows. No team can afford to be on the wrong end of a 4-0 penalty count. Some of the decisions to get them to 4-0 in the penalties were very dubious. To miss strips and to let people blatantly stand offside, it didn’t help our cause. You need an even bite of the cherry, things need to go both ways.” Parish said halfback Mitchell Pearce had been “unfairly targeted” by critics, that James McManus “brings more size and stability and talk … thrust coming out of trouble” and of Boyd Cordner “from the moment he came into camp on Monday, he had ‘pick me’ written all over him. I’ve got no doubt that this is the start of six or seven years in Origin for this kid. Game two, to be honest, I don’t think anyone played well in our team. You’ll see us do a couple of things different with the ball. I can’t say too much … we need to stand up to be counted in that first 20 minutes … we need to control the ruck, which we didn’t in game two.”
4. KEVIN BLOODY KINGSTON
PENRITH coach Ivan Cleary said on Saturday night that “something good” would happen to his captain Kevin Kingston, who was told to look elsewhere for next season. Could that be a new contract at Centrebet Stadium? Assistant coach David Fairleigh suggested so yesterday. “I don’t know what the latest news is,” said Fairleigh on the ABC, “but somehow releasing someone like Kevin Kingston doesn’t sit right.” St Helens have done their best to water down Penrith halfback Luke Walsh’s revelation that he has a get-out clause in his two-year contract, to return to the NRL any time. But most Australian coaches and players have such clauses when they head to Super League. The Langtree Park club is no doubt hoping he doesn’t exercise it before he even gets there.
5 .BRONCOS BUCKED
BRISBANE’s recent form would have put a dampener on the occasion but the naming of the club’s greatest ever “grand final” team deserves to be widely reported. The side is: Darren Lockyer; Michael Hancock, Chris Johns, Steve Renouf, Wendell Sailor; Kevin Walters, Allan Langer; Tonie Carroll, Brad Thorn, Gorden Tallis, Glenn Lazarus, Kerrod Walters, Shane Webcke. The line-up was named before an audience of 1200 people at Brisbane Convention Centre on Saturday night. Unfortunately, the Broncos were bucked 19-18 the previous evening by Cronulla. Brisbane remains the jewel in the NRL’s crown, however. That title will only be under threat when the region gets a second team.
6. GREEN MACHINE OVERHEATING
THE apparent internal wrangling in Canberra is fascinating and would have provided back page after back page if it had happened at most Sydney clubs. The rise of the “senior players group” in the NRL has been rapid over recent years but what happens when they seek to take a stand against one of their own – admirably – and are over-ruled by the club? I’m not sure anyone foresaw this set of circumstances when the system was dreamed up. No-one would have predicted Willie Mason making public comment on team discipline would have exposed it when it did happen, either. Unless senior playing groups and multiple captains have some real influence, the concepts are nothing but feelgood window dressing.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD