THE WRAP: NRL Round 25

NRL logoBy STEVE MASCORD

BRISBANE prop Ben Hannant played on with two potentially serious injuries on Friday night in a vain bid to lift the Broncos into the finals.

There are 10 teams still in the running for the play-offs following the penultimate round of the 2013 season, with Brisbane crashing out of contention in a 26-18 defeat to Newcastle at Suncorp Stadium on Friday.

Hannant should be relishing an encounter with former club Canterbury to finish the campaign on Thursday but is in dire doubt after playing 48 minutes against the Knights despite shoulder and hand injuries.

“I hurt my shoulder and then my hand in the first set of six – that’s the way it is,” Hannant tells smithyspeaks.com.au. “I did my AC (joint).

“It’s just frustrating. The effort was there and it’s very disappointing really.

“We worked hard. We put ourselves in a good situation there at halftime, we got someone sent off (Sam Thaiday to the sin bin) and we scrambled well there near fulltime.

“Both teams wanted it and they came through the end better than us.”

The Broncos made a mid-season run towards the finals but ended up missing the play-offs for only the second time in 21 years.

“We always thought we were going to get there,” said Hannant.

“You play the game because you want to be there in the finals. We shot out of the box really well (against Newcastle), started playing some good footy, it’s just disappointing we couldn’t do it for 80 minutes.”

Asked what the Broncos had to do better in 2014, Hannant said: “It’s a tough one. That’s a question for the coach. I think all of us need to be better.”

The other sides to drip out of finals contention over the weekend were Penrith (beaten 34-14 by Canterbury) and Canberra (tonked 50-16 by the Warriors).

Penrith performed much better than many expected this season while Canberra have been hit by multiple dramas, with Blake Ferguson’s on-going problems, Josh Dugan and David Furner’s sackings, Anthony Milford’s release request and the Sandor Earl drugs infraction notice.

Asked if there was a way a club could minimise its changes of being embroiled in such controversies, caretaker coach Andrew Dunemann told this reporter: “I think you’ve got to set a culture and you’ve got to set some standards and you’ve got to maintain them.

“Obviously having a happy work environment as well. That’s the biggest area. You get their respect, you get the happy work environment and they what to do things right.

“…whereas, you know, I don’t think we’ve always been that way and we need to get that way.

“I honestly think that the staff that we’ve got there, and the playing group, when everyone’s fit we’ve got the team to do very well.

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THE JOY OF SIX: Round 25

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD
BARBA QUESTIONS
QUESTIONS prompted by the emergence of a photo of a woman who claimed to have been punched by Ben Barba: How was this not a cover-up, given that the highest profile NRL player at the time was suspended by his club and we weren’t told why? If this allegation was related to domestic violence, was the alleged victim protecting her own income by not reporting it to police? If Barba’s own mental state was the reason for keeping it quiet, and if he did not complete his counselling, why was he allowed to return to the field? How can the NRL employ in a senior position an official who presided over such a cover-up? How can a club which suspended its star player over an alleged assault on a woman promote the Women In League Round? Next time a player is stood down for “personal issues”, should we just assume that they are lying when they say there was no underlying incident?

CARETAKER OR UNDERTAKER?
IS there a worse gig in rugby league than that of caretaker coach? You can be rated as the next big thing but if your boss happens to get sacked and you have to fill in for him for a few weeks, chances are your career will be set back half a decade. Think Steve Georgallis, Brad Arthur, Ian Millward … and Andrew Dunemann. Dunemann’s added headache is that his a contender for the North Queensland job. The Raiders being beaten on his watch won’t help – but he could hardly say no, could he? “We’re happy with Duners,” said hat-trick centre Jarrod Croker. “We want to play for Duners. I know it didn’t look like it but we are busting our backsides for him and we wanted to come out and prove a point.” The Raiders learned of team-mate Sandor Earl’s drugs infraction notice when they touched down in Auckland on Thursday.

GREEN WITH EMPATHY
MATTHEW Elliott says it took him a long while to get over his departure from the Canberra Raiders and has sympathy for their current plight. On the same weekend when Wayne Bennett saw fit to discuss Brisbane’s proud finals record after they missed out on the play-offs for the second time in 21 years, Elliott said: “I’ve really got massive fondness for the Raiders. They gave me my first opportunity and I love the club. I’m very confident that they’ll get back on track. I didn’t always see eye-to-eye with the administrators but I know how much they care and I know how keen they are to help that team do well. Man, they’ve got some real talent. I know we’re talking about players who are leaving but I watched their under 20s game and they’ve got some good players coming through.”

X-FACTOR MEETS FLASH GORDON
‘X-FACTOR’ has become one of rugby league’s abiding clichés and while it annoys many, Gold Coast winger-cum-fullback Kevin Gordon has embraced it. Using Instagram’s new video feature, he recently mocked up a “segment” in which he was a contestant on the TV show of that name. “I’m into X-Factor this year, I’ve been watching it,’ said the Filipino international. “So I put myself in it, singing my song “get it to Gordon”. I filmed the judges (from the TV) and filmed myself, then filmed the judges and edited it together so it looked like I’m talking to the judges and the judges are talking to me.” Gordon did a variation on Michael Jackson’s one-glove routine when he played in yesterday’s win over Sydney Roosters with one shoe, because James Maloney threw one of his boots into the bay at the southern end of the ground. “Lucky I had it back. I don’t know how I would have gone off my right foot,” he said.

COUPE DE SBW?
NEW Zealand coach Stephen Kearney, speaking on Triple M on Friday night, said he still didn’t know whether Sonny Bill Williams was available for the World Cup but may have given a hint of the Sydney Rooster’s intentions by saying SBW “has a title to defend”. That’s a reference to the New Zealand heavyweight boxing title. Those who expect Williams to box instead of going to RLWC2013 expect him to aim higher than that. At the very least, it indicates the NZ title has been raised as an issue with Kearney. The Kiwis have an extended 38-man squad with which they communicate over training camps and travel arrangements. SBW and Benji Marshall remain part of that group.  Kearney admits he is willing to give Williams as long as it takes to make a call.

USING YOUR HEAD
A SHOULDER charge is not a shoulder charge if you wrap your arms around your opponent – and the same seems to go for aggressive use of the head. Queensland and Gold Coast forward Nate Myles said nothing when he was criticised by NSW players for leading with his head in Origin but had plenty to say when he was struck Sunday in the melon by Sydney Rooster Sam Moa. He suffered a suspected syndesmosis of the ankle as he fell, likely ending his season. Before Moa was placed on report for a shoulder charge (the head seemed to be the initial of contact), Myles used so many expletives as he stumbled around that referee Dave Munro advised colleague Matt Cecchin to caution him. Taking pity on the badly-injured international, Cecchin let it slide.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD