NRL round eight : CANBERRA 24 MELBOURNE 20 at AAMI Park


WHEN Canberra coach David Furner said after the stunning win over Melbourne that centre Blake Ferguson needed to “stay grounded”, he didn’t mean “off suburban rooftops”.

But the man who gave new meaning to the expression “on the tiles” by imbibing pineapple cruisers with Josh Dugan instead of training earlier this year is now down to earth enough to play State Of Origin, according to his captain.

Ferguson scored 16 points in Canberra’s shock 24-20 win over Melbourne at AAMI Park, a match that saw hooker Glen Buttriss play half an hour with compound fracture of the finger before a calf injury finally claimed him and the Raiders battle on with two reserves for most of the match.

It ended the Storm’s run of consecutive wins at 15, four short of the all-time record, and was the Green Machine’s third consecutive victory in Melbourne.

Ferguson was suspended for missing training with Dugan, fractured his cheekbone upon his return and then made his comeback as a late inclusion against North Queensland in round seven.

Melbourne simply couldn’t stop him on Saturday night..

“The way he defended, he was very strong and in attack he was palming them off as he scored a couple of tries as well,” said Campese, who answered “I think so” when asked if Ferguson was a NSW contender.

“You could tell during the week he wanted to get out there and have a big game. He prepared the best he has all year.”

Furner said of Ferguson “grounded, keeping grounded”. The man himself added: “I’ve still got to work on a few things. Everyone sees the tries and things but I see other things in my game I need to fix up.”

There were times yesterday they seemed destined to win but the short-handed Raiders just had too much heart in the end.

They lost Tom Learoyd-Lahrs to a foot injury in the opening three minutes and then Joe Picker was knocked out. Coach David Furner defended the decision to send him back on.

“Our medical staff assessed him there at halftime and did the necessary procedures to be able to use him,” said Furner.

“Losing Tommy there didn’t help, Joey getting knocked out, one thing after another.

“Young Buttriss, he’s got a compound fracture of the finger. They bandaged him up, he got through.

Ferguson’s second try, which he converted, made it 12-12 for halftime and then Jack Wighton (47 minutes) and Reece Robinson (53) gave the Raiders a 24-12 lead. Robinson followed up twin brother Travis from last Monday with a sizzling effort, right through the teeth of the defence over 80 metres from dummy-half.

Melbourne’s left-side defence of Justin O’Neill and Mahe Fonua will come under the blowtorch by Bellamy after they failed to contain Ferguson and Sandor Earl.

“There’s a bit of a feeling out there that we think we just have to turn up and because we’re playing at AAMI Park and we’re wearing a Storm jersey, it’s just going to happen for us,” said Storm captain Cameron Smith.

“Clearly it isn’t. We’ve nearly been rolled the last two games. We need a huge turnaround in our attitude.”

The tryscoring was even with hooker Smith missing two difficult sideline conversions. Smith and Bellamy were openly critical of Gareth Widdop kicking for Billy Slater in the dying minutes with a set to play out.

“I don’t know who the call was from,” Smith said “Bill was chasing and those guys had a bit of communication but it wouldn’t be a play that I would have put on.”
Bellamy added: “It was a poor play. I don’t know who called it.”

Furner fumed over Billy Slater’s first-half try, claiming an obstruction.

Campese said: “It’s definitely up there with one of the best wins I’ve been involved in.
“I can do a lot better than that, I know that much. That’s probably the worst performance I’ve ever put in
“I owe the boys a few beers after that.

“Beating Melbourne in Melbourne after 15 straight – we can beat anyone on our day

CANBERRA 24 (B Ferguson 2 J Wighton R Robinson tries B Ferguson 4 goals) bt MELBOURNE 20 (B Slater J Bromwich J O’Neill M Fonua tries C Smith 2 goals) at AAMI Park. Referees: A Klein/P Haines. Crowd: 15,464.


THE JOY OF SIX: Round Seven


AT this point, three days later, debating the merits of Friday’s Jon Mannah/ASADA story would probably only serve to reheat an emotional imbroglio which should be just started to cool down. That’s the last thing anyone needs. If Cronulla have written to ASADA, effectively dobbing themselves in over the administering of Peptides to Mannah, I’m glad I know about it and it wasn’t covered up by a well meaning journalist who was concerned about being maligned for writing it. These are the dilemmas most of us only face once in a career. There is a saying in tabloids: “a good display can turn a good story into a great story”.  “Display” is photos, headlines etc. But an over-the-top display can clearly also turn a worthy story into a community scandal.


SHOULD repeat offenders within a single game be judged cumulatively? That is, should Richie Fa’aoso have been sent to the sin bin or even sent off after his second spear tackle on Greg Inglis last Friday? Referees coach Daniel Anderson said on the ABC yesterday that it was something which would be considered. In Super League they have a “general warning” signal (it looks like the whistler is casting a spell on the offending team) which basically means the next time anyone infringes, someone goes to the sin bin. There is some confusion over how long the warning lasts. But perhaps it is worth considering. Fa’aoso could have been dispatched for repeated infringements, even if the infringements happened to be foul play.


SET of Six hereby introduces a contest: fan sign of the year. And we have our first entrant in the banner brandished by a pair of Newcastle fans at Skilled Park yesterday: “Go Hard Willie”. @Muzza2501 Tweeted “At his age it should read: Please go hard Willie!! :)”We’ve not seen such excellence in the field of double entendres since St George Illawarra fans’ “Me So Hornby!”. Let’s see how many puns we can fit into the rest of this item. The sign was soon discovered by security and wasn’t up for long. It was so big it had to be handled by two people. And, in reference to our new contest …. it will take some beating.


IT’S fair to say that if Twitter and Instagram have a natural enemy, it’s the Canberra Raiders. The social media networks played a big role in Josh Dugan’s departure from the Green Machine and at the weekend, they blew coach David Furner’s cover over the return of Blake Ferguson from a fractured cheekbone.  Prop Brett White posted a picture of Ferguson on the plane to Townsville – which was interesting because Ferguson was supposedly not playing against North Queensland. “Got family up here so I made the trip with the boys! Still out till next week!’ Ferguson tweeted. Low and behold, when the team-sheets were posted at 4.25pm Saturday, Ferguson was on the wing for Sandor Earl. He insisted he did visit family – and was cleared to play on match eve. But if the Raiders do any social media training for players in future, perhaps it should perhaps be a simple message: “stay off it”.


IS Sam Tomkins worth $1 million? Not while the salary cap is $5.85 million, no. But it will soon be $7 million – and Tomkins is the sort of man who puts bums on seats. Tomkins is bettered only by Billy Slater when it comes to broken field running – a fullback who can create opportunities like few others. But the club that can afford Tomkins may not be his best destination. Does Tomkins really need to come into a new competition and be relied upon immediately to win matches? St George Illawarra and Sydney Roosters would afford him a more gentle transition from Super League than the Warriors, based on the form of all three so far this season.


GOSFORD has now hosted more games this season that traditional venues like WIN Stadium, Leichhardt Oval and Campbelltown Stadium. The reason is simple: cash. Rugby league needs to compile a list of matches that don’t work where they are and farm them out in an organised fashion for a guaranteed return from venues and state governments next year. This can be factored into memberships – teams are already doing this. We shouldn’t accept sub-10,000 crowds anymore in this billion-dollar competition. In round 17, we have matches in Darwin, Perth and Mackay but these relocations are done in a piecemeal way. Let’s be organised. If we get the message out that you will lose your home game against Canberra or Melbourne or whoever if you don’t go, hopefully fans will respond.


Ferguson Says He’s Come A Long Way Since Leaving Sharks


CANBERRA whiz Blake Ferguson says he left Cronulla a flawed player and will face up to his former club this Sunday transformed as a footballer.

Feguson is bracing himself for a week of hype heading into the fourth qualifying final at Canberra Stadium on Sunday after he left the Sharks at the end of 2010 saying he wanted to win a premiership. He tells Rugby League Week that while he doesn’t want to get involved in that debate, he’s ready for anything the Sharks throw at him.

“That was two years ago now and I want to focus on the game, that’s all,” Ferguson says in the wake of his two-try performance in the 42-22 pasting of the Warriors on Sunday.

“I’ve had to work really to fix my game. There were a lot of things I had to work on. I did it by just doing it on my own, doing it myself. I never watch myself on video – never.

“There’s still a lot of improvement in my game. The big thing for me was decision making – I really had to work on the decvisions I made under pressure in matches.

“The move to Canberra has been great. I am getting to play in the centres now and that’s been good for me. I think it’s my best position and I’m really enjoying my football there.”

Ferguson says he hasn’t really been keeping an eye on his former club this season. “I don’t watch much footy at all, away from training,” he said. “I think that’s been important for me, just getting away from footy and clearing my head.”

Despite his determination to “move on” from the Cronulla clippings, there’s a mountain of press clippings which will follow the 22-year-old around this week.

In 2010, he announced he was activating a clause allowing him to leave if coach Ricky Stuart did, saying: ”I want to win a premiership, and also with the things going on in the club, the uncertainty, I just want to be in a stable place where I can concentrate on winning a title, that is what is in my heart.

”It is nothing personal, I do have an emotional attachment to the club. I just want to win.”

This year, captain Paul Gallen playfully hit back at Ferguson when the Sharks beat the Raiders in the capital, telling Rugby League Week: “Fergo’s made a good decision – I think we beat them last year in the competition (table) too.

“I shouldn’t say that, Fergo’s a good kid. He made a decision at the time that no-one could blame him for. We were going pretty ordinary.”


Sharks On Departed Stars: We’re Better Off Without You

Paul Gallen


CRONULLA’S coach and captain have a message for stars who have left for “an opportunity” over the past two years – no offence but we’re better off without you.

While the Sharks fly high after six consecutive wins, the clubs of departed Blake Ferguson (13th), Luke Douglas (15th) and Kade Snowden (10th as of Monday) are struggling with a third of the 2012 regular season gone.

And those are facts not lost on Shane Flanagan and Paul Gallen, who on Sunday easily accounted for a Canberra side including Ferguson – the winger who left because he couldn’t see himself ever winning a premiership in the Shire,

“Fergo’s made a good decision – I think we beat them last year in the competition (table) too,” Gallen tells RLW.

“I shouldn’t say that, Fergo’s a good kid. He made a decision at the time that no-one could blame him for. We were going pretty ordinary.

“He made that decision and guys like Dougy and Snowy made that decision. With all respect to those guys, we’ve reaped the rewards – probably not on purpose, probably a bit more out of luck than anything. That’s what rugby league is like, you’ve got to make your own luck. Picking up guys like (Andrew) Fafita, (Bryce) Gibbs, Mark Taufua, Ben Ross, Jon Green – five front rowers and two have left.

“So, we’re probably better off at the moment.”

Flanagan adds: “I’m not shying away from the fact we got a little bit lucky with the recruitment, especially with Todd (Carney). Gibbs and Fifita, I rolled the dice there and proposed to them that I didn’t want one, I wanted both of them. They had cap issues, the Tigers, so we got lucky there for different reasons.

“The Tigers only wanted to release one. I said ‘I don’t want to take one, I want to take both’. Mark Taufua and Isaac de Gois weren’t in Wayne Bennett’s plans but they’ve done a great job for us. They’ve been outstanding.”

Gallen lamented the fact the Sharks were losing too many good players when Douglas headed to Gold Coast and Snowden to Newcastle. He thinks the tide might be turning – although it’s “premature” to say youngsters will now stay at Toyota Stadium.

“When you look at the clubs those guys have gone to, you probably would say that when they left they did have a better chance of doing better than what we did,” he said “(For instance) Canberra have a good roster, they’ve just been unlucky with injuries.

“Fortunately, we picked up some real quality players that other clubs didn’t want and then Toddy came along late last year. So, I think things have turned out for the best.

“It’s like anything, a lot of it comes down to dollars and what you can spend on players. Hopefully if the club’s going good and the price is right to keep the players, then we can keep a lot of players and sign some quality players in the future

“But this roster we’ve got at the moment is doing pretty good. I’ll keep saying it and I know it sounds crap, be we really are taking it one week at a time.”

“I’ve praised Todd Carney ever since he came here. Everyone feels like I pushed his barrow a little bit but I think it’s deserved. He’s doing his job. You look at a player like that, he told me – we’ve got the same manager but he did the best he could to get him the best deal – but he told me as soon as I rang him that he wanted to come here. For a player like that to say that, it’s a good sign.”