Guerra Ready For Biggest Month Of His Life

Sydney Roosters - Aiden GuerraBy STEVE MASCORD

GIAN Antonio Guerra’s took the slow boat from Italy when he was just 13, in the first half of the last century. Now, grandson Aiden has him to thank for the biggest month of his life.

Three weeks after lining up for Sydney Roosters in the NRL grand final before 82,000 spectators, the back rower will honour his heritage by taking to the 72,500-capacity Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for Italy against Wales on the opening day of the World Cup.

“My grandfather was born in Italy and migrated over here. He was 13 years old, he came over with his mum and his sister,” Guerra tells RLW.

“Being picked in the Italian side, I’ve got more in touch with the heritage and the story behind it. It’s quite a story. He’s passed on now but I’ve got massive amounts of respect for what he did.

“It’s going to be good to go and represent his family name.

“It will be a good month. I’m just focused on the grand final now, whatever happens after that…. “

Guerra told an interviewer earlier this year “I was shitting myself” when Sonny Bill Williams joined the club but he has found a home in the Roosters’ top 17 by altering his role in the team somewhat.

He still remembers just how bruising the 4-0 win over Manly was on the opening weekend of the finals series.

“We were still sore on the Thursday,” he said. Asked if the tricolours would have won the following week, he answered: “It’s speculation but I’d like to say we would have. We pride ourselves on consistency throughout the season and getting up for the big games. Now that’s what we’ve got to do this week.

“They’re a team that has shown over the years that they’ve just got that mental grit and they put how they’re feeling physically in another mind and they’re just out there to win footy games. We’ve got to expect that they’re fresh minded and they’re going to come out and batter us.

“We’ve known all year they’re capable of that. They’re always going to be Manly. You know when you go out against a Manly side, they’re going to be tough. We’ve got a lot of respect for a lot of their players but we just have to go out there and do what we do and hope for the best.

“We’ve been training for this game for 10 months now and it’s no secret that if you put in the hard work, all the little secrets along the way aren’t going to matter.”

NB: Since this story appeared, Sydney Roosters beat Manly 26-18 in the NRL grand final, with Guerra scoring a try.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

2013 NRL grand final: SYDNEY ROOSTERS 26 MANLY 18 at ANZ Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

AFTER winning a National Rugby League premiership at his first attempt, Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson was none the wiser about the plans of his cross-code rugby superstar, Sonny Bill Williams.

The former All Black played a key role in the tricolours 13th premiership, his team twice coming from behind to secure a 26-18 win at ANZ Stadium in a decider that featured a rare penalty try to Manly centre Jamie Lyon and a number of other contentious calls.

New Zealand international Shaun Kenny-Dowall is believed to have played the second half with a broken jaw, with x-rays to confirm the extent if the injury.

Williams is yet to commit to the club for next season and there is intense speculation he will accept an AUD $1 million offer to box instead of playing in this month’s rugby league World Cup and then sign for New Zealand rugby union franchise the Waikato Chiefs.

“I haven’t asked him – I said ‘after the season’ but it’s only been 45 minutes,” said Robinson, who transferred from Super League side Catalan at the start of the season.

“Give us a little more time.

“After it gets past a point in a season, if he decides not to stay, that’s a huge hole you can’t fill anyway. You can’t find that type of player at this time of year, usually.

“That’s the risk you take with a player like that. He’s proved a lot of people wrong this year. We just decided to back him and we’ll do the same again.

“He can make a huge difference to a team.”

Lyon’s penalty try came three minutes into the second half and the decision looked like it would change the course of a contest at ANZ Stadium, during which his Manly side had endured the rough end of some first half calls.

Instead, Williams set up a try which lifted the tricolours back into the game and centre Michael Jennings touched down just millimetres short of the dead ball line, with seven minutes remaining, to secure victory.

The penalty try was one of a number of contentions calls at the end of a finals series that started with a seven-tackle try eliminating North Queensland.

Lyon chased Daly Cherry-Evans’ kick before he was pulled down by rival Mitchell Aubusson.

“I’ve got a try, I want to check the penalty try,” referee Shayne Hayne told video officials Ashley Klein

Six minutes later, centre Steve Matai added to Manly’s total with a converted try but just as Geoff Toovey’s side appeared set to take control, the Roosters responded with a try to Italy forward Aiden Guerra.

From the opening seconds, when Manly’s Glenn Stewart staggered out of an attempted tackle on rival Sam Moa and received medical attention before continuing, it was a grand final full of incident and contentious officiating.

Sea Eagles players claimed Sydney Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves had head-butted Justin Horo in the 33rd minute. There was definitely contact, but no classic butting action, and a previous penalty to the tricolours stood.

A penalty against Eagle Matt Ballin for tackling in the air was also highly contentious, as was a decision to award Sydney Roosters a scrum feed when their centre Michael Jennings appeared to play at the ball before it went into touch.

It was almost written into the plot that the trend should continue and when Sonny Bill Williams released James Maloney in the 60th minute, the pass to captain Anthony Minichiello drifted forwards – but went undetected – before Kenny-Dowall scored.

Well-known for his outbursts about refereeing this year, Toovey was measured post-match. “Pretty tough on the big calls again tonight,” he said.

“It was probably the lowest penalised game of the year.”

Losing halfback Daly Cherry-Evans was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal as man of the match.

Australia back-rower Greg Bird tweeted: “Am I the only person that finds it strange that every camera close up is on Sonny Bill. If he wins Clive I’ll retire!”

SYDNEY ROOSTERS 26 (A Guerra M Jennings S Kenny-Dowall D Tupou tries J Maloney 5 goals) bt MANLY 18 (J Lyon S Matai J Taufua tries J Lyon 3 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: S Hayne/ B Cummins. Crowd: 81,491.


Filed for: THE GUARDIAN

THE JOY OF SIX: Finals week four

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD

WELL, WE DO – BUT SHOULD WE GO AROUND SAYING SO?

COACH Trent Robinson has admitted he thought it ‘a bit strange’’ that Sydney Roosters chose to promote this season with the slogan “We Play For Premierships”. As part of an extremely bolshy campaign which attracted little media scrutiny, the tricolours even handed out at home games imitation premiership pendants for each of their 12 titles. “I actually just thought about that this morning,” Robinson told me in a pre-match MMM interview. “It was a bit strange. It was a marketing ploy (from) right back before I got here. They decided on it. I thought it was true but I didn’t know if we wanted to sprout it anywhere. “ In an age of even puerile comments, slogans and stories being plastered on opposition dressing room walls, the boasts went through the to keeper – perhaps because they were aimed at the converted, ticketed Roosters fans.

2. BTW SBW MIA? LOL

FACT: Sonny Bill Williams is a rather big time athlete. Fact: Rugby league, outside of NSW and Queensland, is a rather small time sport. Just as getting Williams back in the NRL was seen as some sort of endorsement for how important the NRL was, keeping him seems to be judged as a similar litmus test. But in coming and going as he pleases, he holds a mirror up to us – even if we don’t like what we see. Our World Cup is older than rugby union’s but commercially dwarfed by theirs. It looks like he’d rather box than play in it. Our national teams rarely play. The NRL has limited geographic reach within Australia and New Zealand and nothing more than cult following elsewhere. It looks like he’d rather play in a competition played across three countries. Instead of saying ‘let’s give SBW a fortune and we’ll all feel better’, would we not be better served addressing the shortcomings of our sport?

3. YES, THEM AGAIN

BY fining Geoff Toovey and Ricky Stuart (the second time) this year, the NRL became more draconian over criticism of match officials. By not fining Neil Henry or Johnathan Thurston, they showed new leniency, with the difference being that it’s OK if you were robbed. , but only in cases where you were robbed. That being the case, Toovey should have been allowed to say whatever he liked on Sunday night. The match officials made mistakes – that’s all. But the vast majority of them happened to favour Sydney Roosters. Coaches should be able to say what everyone else sees.

4. SEE MORE BUTTS

“WHAT about the headbutt from that grub!” “We’ll take a penalty for the head-butt thanks”. “OK boys, let’s start headbutting now”. Those were the comments from Manly players to referee Shayne Hayne after Sydney Roosters’ Jared Wearea-Hargreaves led with the head in a clash with Manly’s Justin Horo in Sunday’s grand final. It wasn’t what many of us would regard as a headbutt because it wasn’t cocked, as such. JWH didn’t tilt his head back before lunging with the forehead. But if it wasn’t a head-butt, what was it? We see similar actions every now and then. Perhaps we need the head butt to be more clearly defined. “In the first half when you had that whatever,” Hayne later told Waerea-Hargreaves, “just watch what you do with the head”.

5. WORLD SCHEDULING CHALLENGE

WE were confidently assured mid-year that the World Club Challenge would be in Australia in February and that the previous hodge-podge organisation of the game was a thing of the post. But that announcement will be sorely tested, now that Wigan and Sydney Roosters will be involved. Leeds were the club that pushed for the game to be played Down Under, while big city clubs like Brisbane and Melbourne were the NRL teams seen as being capable of turning a profit. South Sydney were going to take the game to Perth. And the exchange rate has fallen away since the decision was made. Perhaps this could be the year we get the mythical neutral venue in the Middle East or Asia. But DW Stadium, Wigan, must be firming.

6. DOG OF A NIGHT

DERIDING wingers is sometimes a sport within the sport of rugby league. In Sunday’s first game, Winsor Wolves’ Eto Nabuli – the man discovered as a hotel porter by Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler in Fiji – scored his side’s first two tries and his errors gave opponents Cronulla two of theirs’ as well. Similarly, some gaffes from Shark Nathan Stapleton helped Windsor. But some wingers are clearly important – like a Wolf of another variety, Warrington’s Joel Monaghan. When he was carried off with concussion (there’s a photo of his ear flattened like a pancake doing the rounds), his side was leading the Super League grand final at Old Trafford 16-2. Wigan scored within seconds of his slow passage to the sheds on a medicab – and promptly impersonated Manly last week by running up 30 unanswered (and uninterrupted) points.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

THE JOY OF SIX: Finals Week Three

The Joy Of SixRUFFLED FEATHERS

SYDNEY Roosters coach Trent Robinson accepts blood test results which are not under investigation will still be remembered by some fans long after Sunday’s grand final. “How do you take that back?” he said on ABC yesterday. “The way the media works now, the way all those things are kept on the internet, it’s hard to take it back. I was amazed at how those guys played under that pressure. You can see their conscience isn’t weighing them down, they played freely. They knew they were in right.” Robinson has been pretty straight-up with the media and fans for most of the season but when it comes to grand final team selections and the comeback of Boyd Cordner, “that’s something I haven’t really talked about all year, whether I’m going to play someone or not, before we get to the game. He’ll be in the selection. We’ve probably got about 21 guys who we’ll select from. Every grand final team has a motto, for the Roosters it seems to be this quote from the coach: “It’s not about being in one, it’s about winning one – we were really clear about that”

SPIRIT OF ‘78

IF THAT’S the Roosters’ call to arms, what’s Manly/’s? Knowing them, they won’t tell us. But plenty of people are comparing the current side to the storied 1978 premiers, who had to play six games in 21 days – two replays including the grand final – to lift the trophy. Not only that, they repeatedly came from behind. After losing their first finals series match, the Sea Eagles snatched a 13-13 draw with Parramatta, forcing a midweek replay. When the grand final was drawn 11-11, there was another replay ending in a 16-0 win over Cronulla.  Warwick Bulmer, a staffer at Manly who has been involved since the 60s, said there were “more needles than players” in the dressingroom back then and rated Friday’s win over South Sydney as the best since. Interviewed on radio on Sunday, he said Geoff Toovey’s side couldn’t eclipse that team but they had matched their toughness.

 DEMERITUS MINOR      

YOUR correspondent has been covering rugby league for almost three decades and the idea that grand finals and major games should somehow be worth more before the judiciary than other matches has been around almost as long. It popped up again when Glenn Stewart was booked; no-one has ever been able to come up with a workable formula. Players would stretch the envelope in a preliminary final knowing they could get away with more. Every member of a senior squad would have to get, say, two games sliced off an existing suspension if their team made the grand final, to avoid exploitation of the rule through team selections. And finally, victims of foul play would still be sidelined for the same time while the assailant gets a discount because he committed the offence at the ‘right’ time of year. Great idea; doesn’t work.

THUNDER, LIGHTNING, NRL BID IS FRIGHTENING

AUSTRALIAN players were stunned that a game which kicked off in bright sunshine was suddenly hit with thunder and lightning when the Prime Minister’s XIII beat Papua New Guinea 50-10 at Kopoko’s Kalabond Oval yesterday. Of particular concern was the young children perched on electricity pylons at the packed venue. The fact that two tweeters, listening on the radio in Port Moresby, were the only links between the 50-10 win and the outside world is evidence there won’t be a PNG side in the NRL in our lifetimes. Do  Peuto Rico or Haiti have Major League Baseball teams? The only hope would be to base the team in Darwin and fly in for ‘home’ games. PNG’s James Segeyaro (shoulder) was forced off at halftime and is in a little bit of World Cup doubt. It was the first big game in the Rabaul area since the volcano eruption of 1994.

FESTIVAL OF THE BOOT

ACCORDING to the NRL’s Paul Kind, people who seek to resell their grand final tickets at face value are not in any real danger of having them cancelled by the League or Ticketek. Some 14,000 more seats are to be released on Monday morning and with all the South Sydney fans trying to off-load theirs’, plenty of scalpers seem certain to do their dough. But why do rugby league care so much more about who is in the GF, when deciding whether to go, than their AFL counterparts? Do you really think  of this Sunday’s match as a celebration of rugby league, or just a game to decide who wins the comp? And if it’s the latter, why? Does this go to the heart of the cultural differences between Sydney and Melbourne, right back to convicts v free settlers?

ANORAKS ARE US

THIS one’s for the trainspotters, geeks and anoraks. And if you’ve read this far, that’s most of you. Manly, it has been argued on Facebook (where else?), did not score 30 unanswered points on Friday night. Yes, they were down 14-0 and the scoreline turned into 30-14 in their favour, But, their 30 point – at the very least – was ‘answered’ by a late South Sydney try. So ‘unanswered’ is often misused when ‘uninterrupted’ or ‘consecutive’ is more accurate. We deal with the game’s biggest issues here. Next week: what time each weekend does the the team with the bye actually get those two competition points? Should you count them when you go through the competition table before kick-off on Friday? Are they sent out registered post? Should they be?

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Aubusson: It’s Not All About This Year

Sydney Roosters - Mitch AubussonBy STEVE MASCORD
CLUB stalwart Mitchell Aubusson has a message for Sydney Roosters fans who can smell a premiership: it’s not all about this year.
Aubusson has been at Bondi Junction for a decade and never wants to leave. He says the 2013 campaign under rookie coach Trent Robinson is as much about ended the dramatic fluctuations in the club’s fortunes from one year to the next as it is about winning the title.
“That’s what we’re trying to build, trying to be successful for a long period of time,” Aubusson, 26, tells League Week.
“We made the grand final in 2010 and ’08 we were top four. We’ve been at one end and at the other. There’s no in between for us.
“We’ve been at that stage where we’ve gone well for a year and then tapered off.
“There is a core group of us that really want to put a good culture in place and build for the future. All the guys who were here during those lean years were pretty keen to play some good footy.”
Coming up through the ranks, Aubusson has seen players come and go and now fees responsible for the legacy the current group leaves.
Having Anthony Minichiello as skipper and Craig Fitzgibbon as defensive coach helps set the tone, ‘Aubo’ says.
“I love the joint, to be honest,” he says.l “No matter what we’re going through, I love the people and I want to work really hard for this club. For me, it was never really an option to leave. I’ll continue to love the joint and keep going.
“It’s the people, it’s the club, it’s the history, it’s the boys. I was on a scholarship when I was 16 and now I’m 26. I’ve been here for a long, long time.
“I’ve played with the core guys, through the junior games, with Pearcy (Mitchell Pearce), Skidsy (Shaun Kenny Dowall) , Franky-Paul (Nuausala). All of us came through Flegg togther. Although we bring other guys in, there’s still a core that’s been here since we were 18. That’s pretty exciting and we look forward to a couple of years of success.
“A lot of it is being more professional, on and off the field – working really hard off the field. You just can’t take shortcuts. The competition’s so close that you have to make sure you’re right week-in and week-out. I think we’ve done well at that this year but there’s always room for improvement. There’s stuff we’re always looking at.
“I’m probably one of the older boys now in the team. It’s up to us to bring through more guys like Fitzy and Wingy (Craig Wing) and Mini. They’re still here, leading the way. We’re feeding off them.
“(Fitzgibbon is) massive. He’s the defensive coach and he works pretty hard and it’s good to know that you played with a guy who would pretty much die in a game for you. When he tells you to do something in defence, you’ve pretty much gotta say yes because he’s done it all and probably more.”
And then there’s the so called ‘Dream grand final’ – Sydney Roosters v South Sydney.
Aubusson admits: “From when I first got here – I was a kid from the country – the first thing you’re told is Rabbitohs, round one.
“They’re exciting games, they’re always pretty close and we’ve got one more game to get through and if the Rabbitohs do well, we’ll talk about it later.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

George Rose: I Was Getting Ready For Mad Monday

George Rose/wikipedia
George Rose/wikipedia

By STEVE MASCORD

MANLY favourite George Rose says he was already mixing drinks for Mad Monday in his head when Manly were trailing the preliminary final 14-0.

Sitting on the bench as the bunnies got off to a flier, Rose was mentally preparing for his new life as a Melbourne Storm player.

“I was actually sitting there with Jamie Buhrer talking about what sort of drinks we were going to mix up and enjoy tonight,” says Rose.

“We were gonna do it tough. They were fresh.

“I’m stoked. Twenty minutes into the game, I thought the season was over but I’ve got another game to play with my mates so I’m going to make the most of it.”

While Manly’s ability to fight back in seemingly hopeless situations has taken on an almost mystical air, Rosed says it comes down to little more than hard work.

“I’m surprised they (Souths) got as tired as they did but it was from my team-mates who kept turning up, kept running hard, kept tackling hard and slowly wore them down,” he said.

“I know how tough they’ve had it in the last two weeks. There’re blokes playing 80 minutes against these two good sides that we’ve already played – and then they have to do it again.

“I’d love to leave here with a premiership. We’ve got nothing more to play for after next week, We’re going to empty the tank, that’s for sure.”

According to Rose’s team-mate Tom Simmonds: “We probably felt better going into this game than we did going into the Sharkies game.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK