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Bellamy Says Some Aussie Clubs Still Don’t Take WCC Seriously

Melbourne - Craig BellamyAS the World Club Challenge looks to return to Australia and then expand, victorious Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy last night admitted some NRL premiers still don’t take the concept seriously.

Bellamy was speaking after the Storm held off Leeds 18-14 at Headingley, making them the first Australian club to win a WCC decider three times – although the 2010 title was subsequently stripped for salary cap abuse.

The coach said he favoured playing next year’s WCC in Melbourne if the Storm qualify but his comments about the attitudes of other NRL clubs cast doubt over plans to involve six teams in the UK at the start of 2015.

“It’s well known that some clubs don’t take this seriously, but we’re not going to come all this way to take it easy,” said Bellamy, whose side secured victory with two quick tries after halftime.

“This is an important game to us and we’ve always seen it as important. You have to win a competition to play in one of these games.

“We take great pride in representing the NRL over here tonight.”

A WCC working group has agreed to play next year’s match in Australia, although the NRL still has to rubber stamp the idea. “I don’t know what the mentality is and who makes those decisions,” Bellamy said.

“But at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure that if it was well marketed in Melbourne, we’d get a really good crowd at AAMI Park if we get a chance to play it again.”

If last night’s was the final stand-alone World Club Challenge in the UK for the time being after 13 years of that arrangement, then it gave fans a fine spectacle.

Converted tries to Melbourne fullback Billy Slater (20 minutes) and Leeds winger Ryan Hall (26) and a couple of penalty goals made it 8-8 at halftime – before the Storm made their big play.

Taking a hit-up 20 metres out, prop Jesse Bromwich beat four defenders on a bumping, stepping run to the line.

Almost from the resumption, Melbourne put on a 50 metre movement which finished in 21-year-old debutant Tohu Harris scoring.

Harris’s father, Paul, had flown 31 hours from Napier for the game. “He’s very proud of his son, he actually presented Tohu with his jumper last night,” said Bellamy.

“It was very heartfelt, we were very moved by it and I’m sure it helped Tohu play well tonight.”

Melbourne had tried to Mahe Fonua (forward pass) and Gareth Widdop (double movement) chalked off in the final 10 minutes but according to Golden Boot winner Kevin Sinfield “their goal-line defence won it for them.”

The Storm’s squad included 11 members of the side which beat Canterbury in last year’s NRL grand final.

Filed for: AAP

Darren Bell’s Legacy Lives On

By STEVE MASCORD

Tohu Harris

Tohu Harris

FOURTEEN months after his sudden death from a heart attack, another of Melbourne Storm recruitment manager Darren Bell’s discoveries rolls off the production line here tomorrow night.
In a World Club Challenge campaign that started with a bus driver who failed to show up to Heathrow, continued with ASADA blood testing at least two players and has been overshadowed by debate over scheduling back home, the Storm’s selection of 21-year-old Tohu Harris is the feel-good story of the clash with Leeds.
Just days before his death, Bell was quoted as saying of former rugby union star: “I think he’ll be the first from this programme to play NRL for us … we’ve got high expectations of Tohu.”
The recruitment trip to Wellington which snared the “quiet, determined” forward was also aimed to sign Super Rugby’s TJ Perenara. Bell, whose death hit the club hard, was responsible for recruiting winger Matt Duffie and prop Jesse Bromwich – who’ve both since become internationals.
“He’s big and he’s quiet but he’s a wonderful kid,” said football manager Frank Ponissi of the 185 cm, 112 kg Harris “His father (Paul) has made the trek over from New Zealand for his debut.
“He’s the youngest of a big family and they’ll be very proud – and so will we. He was probably close to our best, if not our best (against Canberra a fortnight ago) in a very disappointing team performance.
“He played well against Brisbane Easts. He been probably our most consistent player in the two warm-up trials we’ve had. Off the field, you just wouldn’t know he’s there sometimes.
“He just goes about his business and goes home.”
Having beaten Lagi Setu and Junior Moors to a starting berth and Kevin Proctor (knee) out for three or four more weeks, Harris now has the chance to secure a starting berth against St George Illawarra on March 10.
The 13th – and perhaps final – consecutive WCC game to be played in the UK is a 20,400 sellout. “We’ve played each other in three of these now,” said Storm halfback Cooper Cronk.
“It’s an Origin series. We’ve won one, they’ve won one and whoever wins this, wins the series I suppose.”
Leeds are likely to switch centre Kallum Watkins to fullback after the loss of Zac Hardaker with a broken thumb.
Watkins told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “Fullback is the position I played as an amateur and it’s how I got picked up by Leeds.”
Joe Vickery, a triallist from the Gold Coast, makes an unlikely appearance after ankle ligament damage suffered on February 1 ruled him out for six weeks.
Having returned from Wigan, Melbourne’s Brett Finch is likely to fill in at hooker at some stage. He;s party of a six-man bench which will be shaved an hour before kick-off.
“Ability, versatility, experience,” Cronk said when asked about Finch’s attributes. “Things we lacked as a club last year through certain parts (of the season).”
Leeds coach Brian McDermott said Melbourne would present a tougher challenge than Manly, who the Rhinos beat 26-12 a year ago.
“How often they are going to throw things at you is a lot more than Manly,” McDermott said. “Manly played a bit more off the cuff … Melbourne will be a bit more structured and they’re going to test us for longer periods.
“In a roundabout way, I’m saying the test is bigger than it was last year against Manly.”
Teams for the match, which kicks off at Headingley at 7am (NSW time) Saturday, are:
LEEDS (squad): Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai, Paul McShane, Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Kevin Sinfield (c), Steve Ward, Brett Delaney, Ian Kirke, Chris Clarkson, Mitch Achurch, Richard Moore, Jimmy Keinhorst, Joe Vickery (two to be omitted)
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater, Sisi Waqa, Justin O’Neill, Will Chambers, Mahe Fonua; Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Tohu Harris, Ryan Hoffman, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith (c), Bryan Norrie. Res: Brett Finch, Jason Ryles, Siosaia Vave, Lagi Setu, Kenny Bromwich, Junior Moors (two to be omitted)..Referee: Ben Thaler.
Filed for: AAP

2013 World Club Challenge: MELBOURNE 18 LEEDS 14 at Headingley

By STEVE MASCORD

A GRUELLING 31-hour-journey to present his son with his first NRL jersey was rewarded yesterday when Paul Harris watched 21-year-old Tohu score a magnificent try in Melbourne’s World Club Challenge win over Leeds.

Team-mates admitted after the 18-14 triumph admitted to choking up when coach Craig Bellamy called on the back rower’s father to present his shirt at a team function on Thursday night.

The fairytale was complete when the Hawke’s Bay product finished off a sizzling 50 metre movement to scored a  47th-minute try that put the NRL champions in front 18-8.

Harris wasn’t told his father would present him with his jersey. “It was a surprise to me and it was a special moment,” the quietly-spoken rookie said.

“It was a bit of a shock to the system, the first 10 minutes. It was lightning-quick but a good experience. I had some butterflies an hour before the game but it was good when we ran out for the warm-up.”

Father Paul had never been to the UK before and dropped everything on Tuesday to make the trip,. “I went from Napier to Auckland, Auckland to LA, then to London and onto Leeds.”

It was also a big night for the legacy of former Storm recruitment manager Darren Bell, who died of a heart attack 14 months ago. Bell discovered Harris and New Zealand Test prop Jesse Bromwich, who scored the previous try by beating four defenders on a bumping, stepping run off a Cooper Cronk pass.

“(Bell) was very good at his job and it’s a nice little reward for him if he’s looking down on us,” said Bromwich.

“It’s always good to have another Kiwi in there. I was imagining if my parents (presented my first jersey), that would be pretty special.”

In cold conditions in front of a parochial 20,400 crowd, the Storm took an early 8-0 lead with man-of-the-match Cronk putting Ryan Hoffman through at 20 minutes and fullback Billy Slater backing up to score.

But Leeds’ England winger Ryan Hall snuck over in the corner nine minutes later and Golden Boot holder Kevin Sinfield added a conversion and penalty goal after the halftime siren for 8-8.

Bromwich’s powerful try put Melbourne on the front foot after halftime as he left defender after defender in his wake. “I don’t know what happened there, I just got lucky,” he said.

Cooper Cronk, Will Chambers, Cameron Smith and Sisa Waqa played key roles in Harris’ touchdown but Leeds managed an impressive response at 54 minutes.

Hall fielded captain Sinfield’s kick and a magnificent overhead pass from Joel Moon resulted in back rower Jamie Jones-Buchanan scoring a converted try.

There, four points the difference, was where it stayed during a see-sawing final 26 minutes, although Stormer Mahe Fonua had a try disallowed with 10 do go because referee Ben Thaler believed the final pass from Justin O’Neill had been forward.

“We made it a bit hard on ourselves,” said Bellamy. “There were a couple of forward passes and Sisa (Waqa) threw a couple of balls away down there after we’d made breaks.

“We probably gave the Rhinos a few too many chances for my liking.

“It’s well known that some clubs don’t take this seriously, but we’re not going to come all this way to take it easy,”

Harris has almost certainly cemented a spot for the round one clash with St George Illawarra. Bellamy said he was impressed with fullback Slater in his first full match of the year after a restricted pre-season. “I was a bit worried,” said Bellamy. “He only played 20 minutes against Canberra and he was really fatigued after those 20 minutes.

“He had a really good involvement. Some of the bombs he caught tonight were outstanding.”

Had Melbourne been allowed to keep their 2010 WCC title, they would now be the first Australian club to win the title three times. As it is, they have won the match three times, but the record books show they have been world champions only twice.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Photo: Vaughan Ridley

Photo: Vaughan Ridley

MELBOURNE 18(B Slater J Bromwich T Harris tries C Smith 3 goals) bt LEEDS 14 (R Hall J Jones-Buchanan tries K Sinfield 3 goals) at Headingley. Crowd: 20,400. Referee: B Thaler.Final team lists:
LEEDS: Kallum Watkins; Joe Vickery, Carl Ablett, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall; Kevin Sinfield (c), Danny McGuire; Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Brett Delaney, Stevie Ward, Jamie Peacock, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai. Res: Chris Clarkson, Ian Kirke, Paul McShane, Mitch Achurch.
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Justin O’Neill, Mahe Fonua; Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hoffman, Tohu Harris, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith (c), Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jason Ryles, Lagi Setu, Siosaia Vave, Junior Moors.
Halftime: 8-8

Tohu Harris To Debut In World Club Challenge

Melbourne - Tohu HarrisHAWKE’S Bay product Tohu Harris is to make his debut for Melbourne as a starting back-rower in Friday night’s World Club Challenge against Leeds.
Harris, a 21-year-old who was recruited from Wellington three years ago in a swoop which almost claimed Super Rugby star TJ Perenara as well, was this afternoon handed his bow by coach Craig Bellamy when a 19-man squad was announced here for the Headingley clash.
Harris, whose father Paul is flying in for the game, replaces the unavailable Kevin Proctor who has a damaged medial ligament in his left knee.
“He’s probably one of the biggest players in our squad, outside of Jason Ryles, physically,” Storm football manager Frank Ponissi said.
“He’s very quiet but he loves reading and is very respectful and quietly determined.
“Three years ago, when we played here, three players made their NRL debut. Hep Cahill who is now at Widnes, Rory Kostjaysn, who has become a regular NRL player and Jesse Bromwich who went on to be a Test player.”
Former New Zealand Test centre Junior Sau was among the member of the touring squad to miss out on selection. Coach Craig Bellamy will shave two players from the bench an hour before kick-off.

MELBOURNE (v LEEDS, Friday): Billy Slater, Sisi Waqa, Justin O’Neill, Will Chambers, Mahe Fonua; Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Tohu Harris, Ryan Hoffman, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith (c), Bryan Norrie. Res: Brett Finch, Jason Ryles, Siosia Vave, Lagi Setu, Kenny Bromwich, Junior Moors (two to be omitted).

Filed for: AAP

Smith Joins Auckland Nines Critics

Melbourne - Cameron SmithAUSTRALIA captain Cameron Smith has joined a host of sceptics over plans to start the next NRL season with a multi-million-dollar nines tournament in Auckland.

Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett, Penrith general manager Phil Gould, Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson and South Sydney mentor Michael Maguire have all spoken out against the idea in the lead-up to a vote of club CEOs in Sydney on Wednesday.

Speaking at a media conference in Leeds to promote Friday’s World Club Challenge, Smith tried to be diplomatic but left no-one in doubt about where he stood on the issue of bringing back Nines and an expanded World Club Challenge after a 17-year break for both concepts.

“I’m not too sure – I think it’s a pretty touchy subject at the moment, particularly in Australia,” Smith said.

“Someone told me a couple of weeks ago that if I stay fit and I’m playing most games, I’ll be close to playing 40 matches this year. It’s hard I believe the World Cup final is on the 30th of November.

“if you’re involved in that game and you get your seven-weeks off-season that you’re meant to get from each club, you’re coming back at the start of February.

“We’ve got to be careful trying to add in all these new competitions and new matches because the way the game is going at the moment  in the NRL and the Super League it’s getting faster and faster, guys are getting bigger and stronger and it’s taking its toll on players.

“If you want to see the elite players in the game for a long time, then I don’t think you want to be tampering too much with workloads and adding games here and there.

“If the Nines are introduced, something else has to give. Maybe the indigenous game. But the All Star game that we play, it’s a great concept and all the players down in Australia love being part of that.

“You just can’t keep adding games onto the season. It’s too much to ask of the players and I think at the moment, we’ve got a pretty good schedule now.”

But rival captain Kevin Sinfield said expanding the WCC to six teams in 2015 would be no extra demand on individual players.

“I think it’s a great concept and it could take us to any part of the world and sell rugby league,” the golden boot holder said.

“I’m all for it.”

Leeds fullback Zac Hardaker (broken thumb) is out of Friday’s 20,400-sellout game, as is prop Ryan Bailey (knee). But centre Brett Delaney (hamstring) has been passed fit and winger Joe Vickery (ankle) could make a surprise comeback after being ruled out a fortnight ago for six weeks.

Filed for AUSTRALIAN ASSOCIATED PRESS