CANTERBURY chief executive Raelene Castle has cancelled a media conference in Brisbane so she can return to Sydney on Saturday and attend to urgent business in the wake of Ben Barba’s return to rugby league.
Barba, who has been the subject of a week-long media storm since photos emerged of his former partner Ainslie Currie with a bloodied lip, came off the bench in the 35th minute of the Broncos’ 16-11 win at Suncorp Stadium.
The finals-bound Dogs led 11-10 with eight minutes remaining, after Trent Hodkinson’s field goal, before youngster Corey Oates bagged his second try to snatch victory. Electronic media reported Barba had the inscription “AC’ on wrist strapping during the game.
Fairfax Media was advised late Thursday Castle’s media opportunity had been canned because she had to fly to Sydney to attend to an “unfolding situation”.
No other details were available. Canterbury coach Des Hasler said his biggest concern regarding the Dally M holder was his return from an ankle injury.
“He had some nice touches. His foot got jumped on there at the end but he’s OK,” said Hasler.
“It was more being out for five weeks. He was able to get his match fitness.”
The evening was a triumph for Brisbane veteran Scott Prince, who retired at the end of his 300th game. He started the evening with a trysaving tackle and finished it with a sideline conversion.
“With that milestone and the way we played as a team, I was more impressed with that – the way we finished the season,” said Prince, who starts a university course next week.
“Just to play professionally was always a dream; anything else was a bonus.”
Hasler and captain Michael Ennis were confident the loss would not lead to an erosion of confidence going into the finals.
“There’s certainly no lack of confidence n what we can do,” said Hasler. “We know what we can do, we can be a real force in the semi-finals.
“We just have to do a simple thing like hang onto the ball.
“It’s pretty simple – you only complete 18 sets with the ball in two halves, then you can’t expect to win many games.
“The Broncos had enough to win four games. It wasn’t a good performance.
“It’s sudden death from here on in. The players know. They tackled terrific. The only way they (Brisbane) scored tries was through kicks.”
Ennis added: “I don’t think you can afford to drop your bundle when sudden death’s around the corner. You play footy to enjoy this time of year.
“We’ve got a decent turnaround now to get it into shape. We’ve certainly got the staff and the roster there to do that.”
Broncos fullback Josh Hoffman suffered an AC joint injury but is tipped to be fit for the World Cup. Oates was unfortunately not to have a couple more tries.
“He’s scored eight tries now – he’s not a winger but he’s a talent,” said coach Anthony Griffin, who said he meant no offence in referring to critics as singing canaries.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD