Bondi Beat: January 2016

RLW January 2016By STEVE MASCORD

IT’S a rather strange dichotomy: players in Australia have never been better paid yet nor have they ever been more militant.

Since the last Bondi Beat, the National Rugby League has secured a satellite TV deal with Rupert Murdoch’s FOX Sports which has taken the total television rights contract to A$1.8 billion – with overseas to be added.
Securing this contract – which involved terrestrial broadcaster Nine selling back one Saturday night game to Fox – allowed the League to put out a draw for the new season.
Only problem is, after making all the right noises regarding player welfare (and giving the Australian team an autumn of) they didn’t actually ask the players first. It’s not the first time the game’s stars have been brushed.
Much work was done on a season of only 22 games, only for the former NRL chief executive David Smith to settle on 25 without telling anyone when a $925 million terrestrial deal was done.
Suddenly, industrial action was being discussed. The RLPA recruited the former boss of the AFL Players Association Ian Pendergast, as it’s new boss. The Aussie Rules players are a bigger political force in their game but, interestingly, they also agree to a draft – which is rugby league players traditionally oppose.
A rebellion from clubs was averted but one by players is still a possibility.
The big bugbear of the players is the five-day turnarounds between matches. Before the formulation of the 2015 draw, we were told they were to be eliminated. Now, they’re back – and while Monday Night Football is about to enter its final season, the advent of Thursday night games means completely eliminating them is going to be tricky.
Calls to change the draw have fallen of deaf ears and the NRL has even stopped well short of apologising for not consulting players before putting it out.
Michael Shenton’s column in last month’s Rugby League World brought the matter into sharp relief; players have short careers and have trouble focusing Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 09.24.13on the long-term lot of their brethren. It’s often every man for himself.
But with the clubs also knocking down the door of NRL chairman John Grant for cash, asking for 130 per cent of the total salary cap in funding, could we one day see the day where the middlemen are removed from the equation?
The NRL owns the team names and colours. Why can’t it simply employ the players directly, appoint 16 coaches and 16 identical offices and operate like McDonalds?
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IT’S common for Australians and New Zealanders in Super League to have clauses in their contracts which allow them a quick getaway if opportunities arise at home – all of which must make British fans feel a bit unappreciated.
But the Aussies seem to be getting a taste of their own medicine with Tom Burgess travelling to New York to trial with a couple of NFL franchises.
This has been characterised in the South Sydney came as Big Tom trying to ‘better himself’. Please. Tom Burgess is an elite athlete of international standard who is risking injury by training during the off-season in a completely different sport while under contract!
The fact that such a proud club as South Sydney can take such a subservient role in regard to the NFL proves that my dire warnings in this column over the years may have finally come true.
European soccer and American sports rule the world and we’re all sitting around fighting over their scraps.
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AS an old Illawarra Steelers fan, I was thrilled to read that Wollongong-loving media tycoon Bruce “Commissioner” Gordon was about to buy the Dragons.
Previously, Gordon – the man who owns WIN TV – owned half the mighty Steelers which meant he owned a quarter of the Dragons.
We Illawarra types have lamented the shrinking influence of the scarlet half of the joint venture in recent years, even though the training base is smack bang in the middle of the steel town.
The joint venture seems to have 50 jerseys, of which not one is the old Steelers design!

Maybe Bruce can change their name to the St George Illawarra Steelers?

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FURTHER to my earlier item about Gary Carter, as I write this I have just come back from visiting him in the Royal London Infirmary.

While it was a harrowing experience to see a mate hooked up to all number of contraptions, today was also the first on which has been able to speak.
Gary can move all his limbs, he smiles at jokes, squeezes your hand and answers any question put to him with a nod or a shake of the head.
The capacity of the human body to heal is indeed a wonder. I know that Gaz is grateful for everyone’s best wishes and encouragement, as well as to those who donated to his appeal. His wife Gemma is an incredible woman.
I am sure that by next month I’ll be able to report even more profound improvements.
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MAL Meninga’s appointment as Australian coach since the last Bondi Beat deserved to attract publicity – just not for the reasons it actually did.
The likes of former NSW coach Phil Gould reckoned paying Meninga to be a full-time national coach was a waste of money. Clearly, even in its most prosperous nation, rugby league just isn’t important enough for the Test coach to be paid much money.
What should have actually caused a storm was claims from the Papua New Guinea Rugby League that Meninga was still contracted to them when he signed up with the green and golds.
According to Kumuls CEO Bob Cutmore, Big Mal was supposed to be their coach until after the 2017 World Cup. While he informed Queensland of his decision to leave the Maroons’ loving embrace, he did not pay the same courtesy to PNG.
Customer said he only received a call days after Meninga was paraded before a media conference in Sydney.
If it’s true, it’s pretty shabby. Now the man who missed out on the Australian job because he didn’t want to be full-time, Wayne Bennett, might get’s Mal’s sloppy seconds in Port Moresby.
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IT’S a little curious that Steve McNamara was’t immediately reappointed following the Test series win against New Zealand.
Instead, there was the beginning of a long debrief from the series, Steve returned to Australia and an RFL spokesman said there was unlikely to be a decision until the new year.
You would imagine Steve’s position would have been strongest immediately after the series win and that every passing day allows Red Hall to further hedge its bets.
No doubt Wayne Bennett – who helped win New Zealand its first World Cup in 2008 – would be top of Nigel Wood’s shopping list.
McNamara rightly has support amongst the players to keep his job until after the next World Cup, Under his guidance, they beat the number one country in the world.
But few coaches have reason to grumble when they are replaced by Wayne Bennett Just ask Anthony Griffin.
Twitter @BondiBeat

THE JOY OF SIX: International Season Week One 2014

The Joy Of SixSANDOW SIN BIN

WHEN we went to Parramatta with claims Chris Sandow had played in an aboriginal knockout and been sent off for a shoulder charge followed by an elbow, Eels CEO Scott Seward told us: “He had permission to play. He passed a medical and the coach gave him his blessing. Chrissy has told us he was sent to the sin bin for a shoulder charge on a childhood friend. It was a bit of a joke between them.” But bootleg video on YouTube above appears to show a dismissal – with the elbow chiefly to blame. When Seward put this to Sandow, he insisted he wasn’t aware he had been sent off, only sin binned. We can’t find any record of a judiciary hearing. The title for the Murri Carnival at Redcliffe two weeks ago changed hands when it was discovered the winners, Murri Dingoes Blue, fielded a player who mistakenly believed his drugs suspension had expired. Parra’ refused permission for Joseph Paulo and Bereta Faraimo to play for the US in the Mitchelton Nines on Saturday.

PUNCHING ON 1

WE have often heard this year that “little guys wouldn’t be pushing big guys if they could still be punched”. It was just a theory until the Super League grand final, when little Lance Hohaia pushed big Ben Flower, then lunged at him with a raised forearm. As we know, Hohaia punched Flower twice, the second time when he was on his back, possibly unconscious. They both missed the rest of the game, leaving St Helens to limp to victory as they have all year. Had Flower – who left Old Trafford before fulltime – not opted out of Wales duty, he could at least have counted the upcoming European internationals against what will no doubt be a mammoth suspension. Condemnation of Flower has been widespread and almost unanimous. Soccer star Joe Barton Tweeted he had “little sympathy” for Hohaia because of the provocation, but later stressed he did not intend to defend the Welshman.

PUNCHING ON 2

LIKE Wigan’s Super League campaign, the proud 15-year-plus history of the United States Tomahawks may have come to an end with a punch at the weekend. The USARL is taking over running the game in the US and is likely to dispense with the old AMNRL trademark, meaning it was all on the line when the Americans trailed invitational side Iron Brothers 8-4 with three minutes left in a Nines quarter-final in Brisbane. The Tomahawks got the ball back but sometime-cage fighter Tui Samoa took umbrage to something a rival said and punched him. Water carrier Paulo – banned, as we said, by Parramatta from playing – helped separate them, Samoa was sent to the bin and Brothers scored again to eliminate the US 14-4.

GRACIOUSNESS AND GAFFES

AND what a mixed bag we had for rugby league public speaking at the weekend. On the plus side, congrats to departing Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin, the club’s player of the year Ben Hunt and CEO Paul White for their oratory at the club presentation. “Ben Hunt was entitled to test his value on the open market but he didn’t,” White told around 500 guests. “Although at a backyard barbecue I was at, he did get his message across to me by changing the words of the Status Quo song to ‘down, down, prices are down”. Griffin said: “Whatever I do now, I’ll be a competitor. But I’ll never be a critic of this club or the people in it.” On the negative, St Helens’ Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, at fulltime on live TV: “I’m absolutely buzzing. I could fucking swear”. Yes, he said those words – in that order.

WORLDWIDE LIVE

SOUTHS chief executive Shane Richardson has savaged the running of the international game in Britain’s The Observer. “I look at the state of international rugby league and it just makes me angry,” Richardson – citing the departure of Sam Burgess as a symptom of the problem – said. “I know from the years I’ve spent in the game, and the contacts I’ve made in business, and the places I’ve been around the world, that there’s a potential to do so much more.” Nevertheless, Greece played their first home international at the weekend, beating the Czechs 68-16 in Athens, the Philippines defeated Vanuatu 32-16 on remote Santo and Norway were preparing to meet Thailand in Bangkok. Next weekend, Latin America faces Portugal and Fiji takes on Lebanon, both in Sydney while Tonga take on PNG in Lae and the European Championships commence.

RETIRING ON A HIGH

REPORTS of veteran rugby league photographer Col Whelan’s retirement were greatly exaggerated last year. The NRL weren’t quite ready to take over Col’s operation and he went around in 2014 for one last season – wearing a South Sydney cap to every game. NRL rules prohibit media from wearing club merchandise but the media areas are full of uniformed club staff posting on social media, an inconsistency the irascible snapper sought to highlight. At fulltime on grand final day in the bunnies rooms, players became concerned Col had stopped shooting. He was crying with happiness. At the Red and Green ball, Whelan presented every player with a disc containing 120 photos of their life-defining triumph. What a way to go out – enjoy your retirement, Col.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Hoffman Interview Cut Short

Brisbane - Josh HoffmanBy STEVE MASCORD

MAN of the match Josh Hoffman was stopped by a club official from answering a question about the club’s links with rival fullback Ben Barba in a dramatic aftermath to Brisbane’s win over Parramatta.

On a day which started with Fairfax reporting Barba’s request for a release had become formalised, Hoffman the one shining light in a mediocre clash at Suncorp Stadium that saw the Broncos keep their campaign alive with a 22-12 victory.

But television reporters said Hoffman was dragged away by a club official after being asked about the Barba situation, although the timing of the intervention could have been co-incidental.

“Massive issues post match in @brisbanebroncos dressing room,” Channel Seven reporter Ben Davis Tweeted.

“Club officials pull Man-o-match Josh Hoffman mid intv”

Nine and Seven are expected to on Saturday show footage of media manager James Hinchey grabbing Hoffman by the shoulder and leading him away in the middle of the media opportunity.

Hoffman has spent most of the season on the wing and the club has reportedly courted fullbacks Josh Dugan, Barba and Milford in recent times. Coach Anthony Griffin said he could understand fans wondering why the club needed another fullback.

“I understand that – it would be the same as … I’m the same as everyone else, we ain’t signed anyone,” Griffin told radio Triple M.

“He’s done a great job for us. He’s scored 14 tries on the left wing. He had a great game tonight at fullback, he did a great job for us tonight.”

When asked what the answer was to that question which fans were asking, Griffin answered: “I don’t know. I’m not in the media. People have got to write something. You’re asking the wrong bloke.”

Earlier at the media conference, Griffin said none of the players were under pressure – despite halves Scott Prince and Peter Wallace being told they would likely be in reserve grade if they stayed at the club.

“I don’t know if any of them are under pressure,” he said. “Within our four walls, we’re all content. It’s you guys that aren’t.

“You’re seeing the way they’re playing. Everyone’s playing for each other.”

Asked if he could provide a comment about Barba, Griffin said: “No, I can’t. He’s under contract from Canterbury. You’ll have to ask Des (Hasler).”

One of Hoffman’s heroics was to stop Parramatta superstar in his tracks when he was headed to the line during the second half.

The Eels did not believe Hayne had been seriously injured, despite jarring a knee. Broncos Ben Hunt (cork) and Josh McGuire (knee) were other casualties, albeit minor.

Broncos captain Sam Thaiday said “a better team would have rolled over the top of us” at stages of the match while Griffin was disappointed at the flow of penalties.

“it turns into a game of basketball for the fans, too,” said Griffin. “Everyone is in with a shot.

“Two weeks ago in Newcastle, the penalty count was 2-all. We played about 44 sets against each other.”

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Maguire: We Can Cope Without GI

South Sydney - Michael MaguireBy STEVE MASCORD

COACH Michael Maguire insists South Sydney will overcome a hurdle bigger than that currently provided by any opponent – the Origin-enforced absence of Greg Inglis.

Inglis was the talk of Suncorp Stadium on Friday night after his intervention turned a tense contest into a comfortable seventh win of the year for the Rabbitohs.

Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin admitted after the 26-12 loss that Maguire’s men were “too good” but reckoned Melbourne remain the best side he has come up against this year.

But with Origin in the horizon, Souths must learn how to maintain their momentum without the man NRL players rate the best in the competition.

“There’s a lot of football to go and we’ve got an Origin series to get through,” said Maguire, who laconically reckoned Inglis was “going alright out the back there”.

“I’m sure Greggy’s going to be in the Origin so we’ll make sure we sort that position out

“I’m really pleased with the players we’ve got underneath. Justin Hunt, he’s playing really well in reserve grade and we’ve got a number of other players.

“Dylan Farrell is coming back from injury. We’ve got a lot of good players we can put in those positions. We’ll assess that..”

Five-eighth John Sutton said of his custodian “he’s just a freak, he does it every week for us. I’m glad I’m playing next to him every week.”

“His returns really get us on the front foot and the boys really feed off his energy,” Sutton said.

Griffin expanded on the former Golden Boot winner’s influence. “With him at the back, they can roll forward and be patient and he’s receiving the ball….

“No matter where’s receiving it, whether it’s one of our kicks off their tryline or coming onto the back of some of their play, he’s just very hard to handle.”

Griffin, who went into the game without the injured Justin Hodges and Josh McGuire, had to concede his men had no answer when the Inglis-inspired Souths put their foot on the gas after halftime.

“I thought we were on top of the game at (halftime) but that first 15 minutes of the second half just blew us away,” said Griffin.

“It was enough. It was brief. It was some poor defence in the middle but it was the night.

“They were just too good. We just let them go. It’s a good lesson for us. They were obviously very good.”

Captain Sam Thaiday added: “They were tougher than us. We weren’t tough enough at all. We probably weren’t tough enough last week but … snuck through with a win.

“We probably got found out tonight.”

Maguire said centre Bryson Goodwin hanging onto the ball after Greg Inglis’ break, with Nathan Merritt scoring off the next tackle, summed up the difference between the halves.

“We pushed the ball in the first half and held onto it in the second,” said Maguire. “Our game? Our game is the second half, not the first.”

Maguire again said he was convinced winger Merritt was ready for Origin.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

NRL round six: BRISBANE 12 NORTH QUEENSLAND 10 at Suncorp Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

THERE were allegations of a bungled tackle count as both sides questioned match officials after an epic Queensland derby.

Reluctant winger Josh Hoffman scored the clincher for Brisbane with seven minutes remaining at Suncorp Stadium but an episode in which the Cowboys were almost awarded a rare penalty try attracted criticism from rival coaches Anthony Griffin and Neil Henry.

“By our reckoning they were on the fifth tackle when they reviewed the possible penalty try and when it was disallowed, they got the ball back on the third tackle,” said Griffin.

“So the Cowboys can say what they like about it but we had to defend for two more plays.”

Earlier, Henry said the first refereeing bungle had been Ashley Graham being penalised for pushing Corey Norman in the air when they had both been contesting the ball.

“You go, ‘what are the blokes looking at?’,” said Henry. “How can they get that wrong? Go figure.

“Possible penalty try … you don’t get a penalty …. it’s play three for you after you’ve made a line-break. They have a two minute break on a review situation.

“We’ve worked our way down there on a repeat set to score points and on two occasions, we don’t get a reward.

“They’re momentum shifts. Daniel Anderson, please.”

Henry and his captain, Johnathan Thurston, agreed that refereeing had improved this year and that the Cowboys blew the opportunity to win Friday night’s match.

Hoffman has scored seven tries in six games this season – but this was the one that counted.

The Broncos youngster may have been reluctant to give up the fullback’s jersey to Corey Norman this year, but it’s a decision that has triumphed spectacularly for coach Anthony Griffin, who was full of praise for his utility back.

“Obviously at the start of the year it wouldn’t have been his preferred position,” he said.

“He’s been fullback for a long time.

“But it’s all about what’s right for the team and he’s the best winger we’ve got at the moment.  No one else could have scored that try.”

In the 73rd minute of a spine-tingling Queensland derby on Friday night, with North Queensland clinging to a 10-8 lead, Cowboys prop Matt Scott fumbled just over 20 metres from his own line.

A spread to the right gave Hoffman the narrowest of margins to negotiate. He dived, grounded the ball in-goal and – replays showed – his left elbow crossed the whitewash just a split second later. The video referees hit the green button.

Scott Prince’s conversion was short but the Broncos – who opened the season with one win from their first four games – had snatched back the lead. They won arguably the game of the season, 12-10.

Earlier, Brisbane scored right on the bell to grab an 8-4 lead at the end of an enthralling first half.

Referees Ashley Klein and Phil Haines had a difficult early decisions when Norman and North Queensland’s Ashley Graham collided in the air on the Broncos’ line.

Graham was ruled to have pushed Norman and the penalty went to the Broncos, who worked their way up the field and lay the foundations for their first try.

A deft midfield offload from Corey Parker kept the ball alive and Prince’s pass to put Lachlan Maranta over in the corner was almost poetic in its precision.

Rival No. 6 Johnathan Thurston then had his turn in the limelight with a delightful overhead pass to Brent Tate, who put winger Graham over for the 19th-minute leveller.

After Norman failed to find touch with a penalty kick, Cowboys halfback Michael Morgan sped into the clear but passed outside when perhaps he should have passed inside.

The scores looked destined to stay at 4-4 at half-time when Jack Reed deftly centre-kicked from the outside of his boot and winger Hoffman flashed through to score a few seconds short of the siren.

North Queensland won the right to take the lead in the second half, not in the act of scoring a try but in repelling waves of Brisbane attacks early in the second half.

When the opportunity came, it was Thurston who prised open a gap in the Broncos’ defence – by doing nothing. Rival captain Sam Thaiday rushed out of the line in pursuit of Thurston and hooker Rory Kostjasyn slipped through the resulting gap. Kostjasyn found late inclusion Clint Greenshields in support and the fullback crossed for a try that Thurston converted.

BRISBANE 12 (J Hoffman 2, L Maranta tries, S Prince goal) bt NORTH QUEENSLAND 10 (A Graham, C Greenshields tries, J Thurston goal). Referees: P Haines/A Klein. Crowd: 42,556.

Manly ‘Not Worried’ By Deepening Investigation

Manly - Geoff TooveyBy STEVE MASCORD

MANLY coach Geoff Toovey and captain Jamie Lyon last night each said they were “not worried” about the sudden escalation in the impact of ASADA’s investigation into NRL drug use.
The Sea Eagles, one of six clubs mentioned the landmark report compiled by the Australian Crime Commission, beat Brisbane 22-14 in the hours immediately after Cronulla suspended or sacked five staff members in a draconian reaction to the controversy.
“There seems to be a fair bit of talk but we’re not too worried about it,” said centre Lyon after the only Friday night game of round one, which saw Steve Matai post two tries.
“We’ve got a job to do and we’re just going to worry about what we’ve got to do. Big game next week and we’ll just concentrate on that.”
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Speaking on radio Triple M late last night, Toovey also said he was “not worried” about “speculation of allegations”. “The sooner it is all sorted out, the better,” he said.
Earlier, the coach told the post-match media conference: “Obviously we don’t stick our heads in the sand. We knew about it.
“I think all football players are happy the season has kicked off so we can get on to concentrating on the good things.
“The players want to get on with it and they want whatever dramas there are off the field to be resolved as quickly as possible. That’s all we can hope.”
It was a disappointing commemoration of Brisbane’s first premiership match, also against Manly, 25 years ago.
Visibly upset Broncos coach Anthony Griffin accused his men of “rolling over early in that second half” as the Eagles won their fifth game against Brisbane at Suncorp from the last five.
“We were very slow and they jumped us,” he said. “Three tries, we gifted them that last one, and that was it.”
Griffin said his men paid a “psychological price” when they “(gave) up that 14-6 lead so easily in the second half. That was the ball game.”
Captain Sam Thaiday reckoned “we were pretty bad” and “we were too soft on ourselves”. Griffin said “it’s hard to be happy about anything”.
Manly’s Anthony Watmough again aggravated a rib injury and had an injection topped up in the second half. “The painkiller wore off … there was no more damage and he was right to go back on,” his coach said.
“It’s going to take a while to repair but he had an outstanding game.”
Toovey said the battle between centres Matai and Justin Hodges “ended up about even.
“But I thought our whole left edge was good. I think they were stacking our right side to come at the bloke next to me (Lyon).
“That did open up a bit of space for Steve Matai and Keiran Foran.”

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

THE WRAP: NRL Round 26 2012

By STEVE MASCORD

WE keep reading that no team in the AFL has won the competition from outside the top four since the formula we are about to adopt in rugby league was first introduced.

Based on what the coaches of winning sides at the weekend had to say, they’ve been reading this too – and they believe it.

We are used to sides going into an NRL finals series being ‘bolshie’ – happy to talk up their chances, get their fans excited, motivate their players. I won’t call it body language – was language that was very different at the weekend between the clipboard men who have qualified for the top four and those who finished in lower positions.

Manly coach Geoff Toovey and his charges were completely dismissive about any fears of second-half fade-outs after they finished four with a 24-16 win over Gold Coast on Saturday. The Sea Eagles have scored just 10 points in their last three second halves.

“We’re a quality side, we’re a smart side, and I’m sure we’ll step up when it’s required,” Toovey said.

“It’s not a concern at all. Our boys are experienced, they lift when necessary and that’s what we’ve done, I think, over the last month.”

Halfback Daly Cherry-Evans’ attitude bordered on disdainful to the suggestion the Sea Eagles have a problem with their second halves. “I don’t think it’s a concern,” Cherry-Evans said.  “We’ve been ahead by good margins in the last three weeks so it’s hard to stay motivated when you’re ahead by such good leads.”

Compare this with Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin, who was asked the night before by Courier-Mail reporter Steve Ricketts – covering his last game at Suncorp Stadium after more than three decades –if the Broncos would be doing any more than making up the numbers in the finals.

They had just scored a scratchy 19-12 win over Penrith.

“We’ll worry about that next week,” was all Griffin would say. Asked a similar question, he said: “We’ll be a chance next week”.

A chance? Even after scoring six unanswered second half tries against the Warriors on Sunday at Mt Smart Stadium, Canberra coach David Furner seemed to be doing his level best to appear underwhelmed. His side has won five on the trot.

“Semi-finals are different altogether – I said that to the players,” Furner said. “That 26-round comp is gone. We’re in a situation which we’ve probably been in the last five or six weeks or seven weeks, where it’s sudden death.

read on

Cooper Wanted To Kick Field Goal From Halfway

By STEVE MASCORD

WHEN Brisbane lock Ben Teo scored his second try to tie up last night’s game against Melbourne with nine minutes to play, Storm halfback Cooper Cronk walked over to his captain Cameron Smith in their in-goal.

“He’s good at reading the game, Coops,” hooker Smith said after the 19-18 win.

“He actually came over and spoke to me when Benny Teo scored that try, when they drew level, and said ‘if you get a chance, mate, get me to halfway and I’m going to have a shot.”

Cronk offered to repeat his Origin III heroics at the same ground; in the end, his Melbourne team-mates got him closer than his Maroons compatriots were able to: 21 metres out, in front.

“He can pull ’em off, he’s coming off two from two long- range at this ground but thankfully we got deep inside their half with with a couple of good runs and we got close for him,” Smith continued.

“He can kick a field goal here, that’s for sure, the little fella.

“It was almost like a training shot for him, only 20 out.”

Coach Craig Bellamy recalled: “The Broncos made a rare error and gave us the chance to set it up for it. We actually went for the try first, we couldn’t get over and we set it up for the field goal. He doesn’t miss too many from that range.”

Cronk may have a habit of booting winning field goals at Suncorp Stadium but the real story of last night’s game was the intensity under which it was played, with exhausted combatants strewn across the turf at fulltime.

“It sort of reminded me of some of the Storm teams of the past where we really hung in through tough periods,” Bellamy raved.

“We weren’t that far away with our attack. I was happy with how consistent we were for the 80 minutes tonight whereas the last couple of weeks, it was 40 minutes.”

While Broncos coach Anthony Griffin and captain Sam Thaiday were deflated late last night, Smith and Bellamy heaped praise on the vanquished and predicted they would be force in the finals. Smith said: “A team probably hasn’t thrown that much at us in a first 40 mintues for a while or even all year, I think.

“We were using all our energy to defend them.

“You never write a Broncos side off. They’re a great football side. I reminds me a lot of the (bad) patch we went through. They didn’t do a lot wrong tonight, the Broncos. They played great football and they did last week. You come off the ground scratching your head, wondering ‘where did we go wrong there?’

Bellamy added: “It was a semi-final type game tonight. The Broncos, they are fighting for their life. They played really well in the first half. I don’t think they made an error in that first half and their completions were good in the second half.

“They showed some legs, which they probably haven’t been in recent games. There were some really good signs for them. I was really proud of our performance … to go down 12-0 and we were’t really doing too much wrong to be quite honest….”

Griffin said his side were learning “some hard football lessons”. “It is what it is – there’s no easy way out of it,” he said. “I haven’t looked at the competition table for three weeks. I’ve been concentrating on trying to get us back where we want to be – and we’re almost there.”

Predictably, Bellamy thought Sisa Waqa’s try just before halftime was fair. “How many tries have we seen this year just scored by a fingernail?” he said.

Griffin said he saw the decision by video referee Paul Simpkins “the same as everyone else” but “I’m not going to sit here and blame calls for what happened.”

Thaiday was on the receiving end when Stormer Bryan Norrie was placed on report for lifting his forearm as he carried the ball. “I don’t think there was anything in it,” said Thaiday. “That’s footy. I don’t think he meant to do it.”

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

This Eel Isn’t Counting His Chickens

Nathan Hindmarsh/wikipedia

By STEVE MASCORD

EVEN after an astonishing victory over Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium, Nathan Hindmarsh wasn’t willing to contemplate his career having a positive ending with Parramatta offloading the wooden spoon.

Brisbane players and their coach, Anthony Griffin, were left devastated as the bottom team in the NRL flogged them 42-22 in Monday Night Football, the Eels registering their second win since the departure of Stephen Kearney, who will be replaced next year by NSW mentor Ricky Stuart.

For Hindmarsh, the win represented a ray of light in a dismal season, his last before giving the game away.

“We’ve only won two back-to-back,” Hindmarsh said when asked if he now hoped for a positive conclusion to his career. “If we can play like this every week. Hopefully we’ll shake (the wooden spoon).

“We haven’t been thinking about it. It hasn’t come up in conversation unless it’s brought up by one of you guys. I think we’ve come to the conclusion that if we get it, we get it and who cares, really?

“As long as we got there doing our best and working hard for each other, we’ll cop whatever at the end of the year.”

Hindmarsh was at a loss to explain why the Eels have reversed their fortunes so dramatically since Kearney departed just under two weeks ago. The star last night was halfback Chris Sandow, who scored two tries last night after a season beset by criticism.

“I don’t know,” Hindmarsh said. “It’s unfortunate thing that happens, kind of – for the departing coach – but what can you say? It’s been happening for years and years. You see it happen over the years. As soon as Steve announced he was leaving, everyone got on us to beat the Melbourne Storm – and it happened.

“That’s the way it is.”

Hindmarsh said of Sandow: “There was a fair bit of pressure on him during the season. He was a big signing, he’s our halfback, he’s our general but he’s handled it pretty well and he’s come through the other side of it hopefully.”

Sandow said: “Critics are always going to have things to say and that’s fine. It’s been hard but we’ve started playing some good football. We want to end the year on a positive note.”
Hindmarsh feared the worst when Brisbane scored two tries early in the second half.

“It was a shocking start to the second half,” he said. “The way we spoke about it in the sheds, how important it was to come out firing, and own that first 10 minutes of the second half – we did the total opposite. A few of the boys got a bit nervous there … but we steadied the ship and stuck to what we were doing well in the second half.”

Griffin said: “We’re just doing too much talking and not enough action at the moment.

“I’m disappointed with everyone – including myself.

“We’ve had some losses … I don’t think our character could have been questioned. But tonight, we were certainly very embarrassing … apart from a couple of patches in the second half.

“We got what we deserved tonight. When we got back in the game, we still couldn’t hold together for a set.”

Thaiday added: “We were out-enthused, outplayed out-everythinged. We were terrible. We’ve got a lot of things to fix up. We’ve got to go back to work, hit the reset button and start again.

“It’s a very tough feeling and we’re embarrassed at the moment. I wish I had the answer. If I had the answer I’d bottle it and sell it to everyone.”

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD