Revealed: Brett Morris’s Pledge

Brett MorrisBy STEVE MASCORD

FLYER Brett Morris has revealed be made a pledge to himself after fearing he had cost St George Illlawarra Saturday’s game against the Warriors.
Morris had the ball dislodged as he ran it out of the Dragons in-goal when the Eden Park clash was finely poised with 14 minutes left, the home side dotting down.
Video referees took considerable time to determine defender Ben Henry had been offside chasing the kick, meaning the try would be chalked off.
“When it happened, I thought they were probably offside in the first place but I shouldn’t have dropped the ball,” said Morris.
“I had it in my head that the next time I got the ball, I was going to make up for it.
“It worked out – I ran 100 metres to score a try.”
Grabbing a kick in his own in-goal three minutes later, Morris bagged a touchdown that will be tough to beat all season.
“I was lucky to scoop that up and run the length,” he said.
“To get that one and ease some pressure for the boys … it’s a big help
“I was buggered by the end of it, I just wanted to lay there a bit and catch my breath back.”
Meanwhile, boom five-eighth Gareth Widdop says match officials were to blame for his off-balance field goal with three minutes remaining. The one-pointer showcased the freakish skills of the Halifax junior.
“The ref was sort of in the way and i got a bad pass,” said Widdop. “It was just a reaction. I just put it on the left foot and it went over.
“I was setting up for one, but like I said, the ref was in the way a fair bit and I couldn’t get in position.”
And in-form Dragons forward Tyson Frizzel credits his World Cup campaign with Wales for his powerful start to the season.
“I’m a young fella, I can get through,” said Frizzel. “The older fellas, they struggle a bit. But they get good time off at the start of the season.
“I don’t mind playing a bit of international footy … As long as I’m right for the start of the (next)season.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

The A-List: Brett Morris (St George Illawarra, Country, NSW & Australia)

Brett Morris trainingBy STEVE MASCORD

THERE are many things we assume as kids about football; things that we just as easily dismiss out-of-hand as adults.

Swapping footy cards at play lunch, we assume all players on our favourite team are best buddies. We believe unquestioningly they all respect and support the coach. And we are completely sure they love their team’s jersey as much as the one hanging up in our wardrobe.

Maybe they even sleep in it.

As bitter grown-ups, we hold these ideas to be self-evidently nonsense. Team-mates feud, coaches are the victims of mutinies and mercenaries go to the highest bidder.

It’s symbolic, then, that we encounter St George Illawarra, NSW and Australia winger Brett Morris straight after he’s been studying for an exam. He and a group of team-mates have gone back to school at the instigation of Ben Creagh, with the aim of entering life after football armed with a degree.

“It’s been a long time since I went to school so the brain hurts from thinking too long,” says Morris, taking a seat next to the makeshift classroom in the southern stand at WIN Stadium.

Morris plays for the club and region which made his father Steve famous. ‘Slippery’ Morris was the last man to represent Australia from a NSW country club, Dapto, in 1978 and became an icon when he joined St George the following year.

While brother Josh has moved on to Canterbury, Brett still turns out for the club he supported as a kid. At the Dragons, he says, “you get to stay around all your mates and I’ve been in footy my whole life”.

Just like you imagined as a tin lid. The coach, at one time under-pressure Steve Price? “Pricey’s got a lot of respect from all the players here. He’s coached a lot of the fellas coming up through the grades and we know what sort of coach he is and we really enjoy him as a coach.”

You’re starting to reconsider your stances on Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, right? Surely there’s a big difference cheering for a team as youngster and wearing the jersey for real, with all the politics and hurdles and competitiveness of professional sport. Surely the romance wanes?

Brett Morris looks me right in the eye. “I still love this club. I’ll always love this club. This has been a big part of my family, with the old boy playing here.

“ I’ve followed them my whole life and then to actually play in the red V … I still grab the jersey every game and look at the red V and I’m very proud to put the jersey on, that’s for sure.’

There is no nervous laugh at the end of that. No irony or acting. He’s serious. Professional sports may be a business but it’s a lot more than that to B Morris.

But it’s easy to think of Brett and his brother Josh as still being kids. They even had a play-fight when their Dragons and Bulldogs team-mates got into it for real a couple of years ago. Aside from a scar near Brett’s eye, not even their NSW team-mates can tell them apart.

But Origin’s not for kids – as we’ve been reading repeatedly since the last one – and tonight the brothers go into battle with the very mature aim of helping end Queensland’s seven years of dominance.

“In previous years, we’ve probably been guilty of talking about Queensland probably too much and not worrying about us,” says Brett, by common consensus the less talkative of the twins.

“Our focus was solely on us (in Origin). You still do the video sessions and what-not that you have to do on the other team but we had a lot of focus on what we needed to do and a lot of belief. The way we started that first half was pretty evident of the self-belief we had in the team.

“The game is just getting faster and faster and that’s just something that you’ve got to deal with. Origin –  I think a lot of people say that there’s different rules and it’s just putting your body on the line and not worrying about anything else.”

So what about revenge, “not being bullied”, Nate Myles and all that?

“It wasn’t a massive thing but obviously we spoke about it. I think in the past we’ve probably been a bit timid and taken a backward step. I think we sort of made a group decisions that we weren’t going to take anything, any of their stuff that they were tried to do, and if they got up in our face, we were going to get back in their face. That’s just the way we wanted to play.

“We talked about their whole team. It wasn’t just one bloke.  It’s an Origin. You can’t just prepare for one bloke. You’ve got to prepare for the full 17 and we certainly did that.”

Tonight there will be a couple of a new Blues and, league officials are hoping, no blues. One of them is Josh Dugan, who – if he re-signs with the joint venture club as expected – will hammer the final nail into the coffin marked “Brett Morris Fullback Experiment”.

“My days at fullback are done and dusted!” Brett says with a smile. “It’s one of the toughest positions on the field. The amount of running that you have to do and then you’re expected to be a second half sometimes as well … it’s a role that’s changed over the years … I think Duges is in some great form at the moment.

“I did enjoy it. I knew it wasn’t going to be long term – that’s probably why I did. It was one those positions where you get a lot more freedom than you do on the wing.

“But … you’ve got to play there for a couple of years before you see the real benefits of being a fullback. If you watched a lot of guys early in their careers …even Billy Slater when he started … you’re just picking up different aspects of the game over three or four years before he was exceptional at all parts of the game.”

Brett’s a family man now, doesn’t stress about football as much as he used to, looks forward to having his weekends back when he retires  and is hoping to team up with Josh in green and gold with Australia in the World Cup.

Like wearing the red and white, respecting the coach and being buddies with your team-mates, Brett’s love of playing with his brother is every bit as deep as it was when they were kids down Kiama way.

“Every rep game we play is special because we don’t know how many games we’re going to get to play together, especially if we’re at different clubs our whole career,” Brett says.

Which brings us to THOSE rumours, about the brothers being reunited in red and white.

“He’s a man of his word,” “B Moz” says.

“He’s signed a contract with the Bulldogs and he’s going to honour his contract. He’s his own man now and he’s got his own decisions that he likes to make.

“Blokes on the street just make up stories and they spread. I’ve heard it from his mouth. He’s quite happy where he is.”

OK, let’s try this in reverse. Would Brett Morris, he of the red and white paraphernalia for almost as long as he has been able to walk and talk, ever play for another club?

“No.

“I’m not going to say never but there’s not much of a chance for me. Put it this way, I wouldn’t play for another club in the NRL.

“I love this club and I don’t think I’d be doing this club justice if I went and played for another club.”

With that, he picks up his schoolbag and is off. I’d like to think he’s heading for the bustop.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

BONDI BEAT: February 2013

RLW February 2013By STEVE MASCORD
ON the surface of it, the current plight of the Newcastle Knights proves that the NRL and Super League are not that far removed from each other.
Soft rock kings Dire Straits are in Salford and Newcastle? No, it’s the other way around.
We Australians like to think we’re flying, with our $1.025 billion television deal and players coming from all places and all codes to lace a boot in our competition.
But Nathan Tinkler, the Knights’ moneybags owner, seems to be slowly going broke and only recently the members board asked him to give the club back to them. Hunter Sports Group, which has a massive tax bill and is bleeding cash and letting go of many assets, ducked for cover when it came to public comment and instead left those with no real knowledge of the clubs’ financial situation to face the media.
Sound familiar?
At Salford, the council refused a bailout proposal for the Reds who are a the subject of a winding up petition – of which several out-of-pocket players are a part.
It seems they might have nicer weather and a better national team in Oz but there’s nothing new under the sun-or-not in rugby league.
But there’s a big difference.
Nathan Tinkler was not allowed to take control of the Knights until he put up a $20 million bank guarantee – and paid off ALL of the Knights’ bills. Now, he may have amassed some more debts in his short time in control but the club will be immeasurably better off if he departs during this season than it was when it took the reins last than two years ago.
Compare that to the plight of Salford. Their tax bill is only Stg50,000 but tell them they had a bank guarantee and they’d cry with happiness and head to the pub.
This writer can’t say he feels sorry for Tinker, who once told a reporter: “You’re a f—ing deadbeat, people like me don’t bother with f—ing you. You climb out of your bed every morning for your pathetic hundred grand a year, good luck.
”There’s a tall poppy syndrome; you would have heard of that because you hang around with the deadbeats and the losers who have done nothing with their lives.”
I’d rather do something with my life for enjoyment than for cash, Nathan. When you do something for satisfaction, you are rewarded instantly. Is it only money that gets you out of bed?
Might as well sleep in a bit this year…
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IT’s a measure of how much anticipation there is about the current season that when Manly put out a lame sponsorship announcement the other day, it was not only seized upon but ripped the shreds.
Normally, a press release saying the club was now called the “Kaspersky Sea Eagles” would be summarily ignored. How many times have clubs around the world tried to sneak their sponsor into the paper with such announcements, with the releases sinking without a trace.
But instead of being treated with the usual disdain, the media release received such a big run in traditional and social media that people thought Manly were actually changing their name! They had to put out a statement climbing down from the original announcement!
Do you know that Brisbane were recently “called” the Wow! Sight And Sound Broncos?
Please calm down everyone. The season will be here soon enough.
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SOMETHING is happening in the United States – and it’s too hard to say whether it’s good or bad.
The AMNRL site, owned by the establishment competition run by David Niu, is gone. The USARL site – run by the rebels – remains. Breakaway side Boston 13s recently Tweeted that they hoped to have players in the Tomahawks squad for RLWC13.
At the moment, players from the breakaway comp are precluded from playing for the national side. Apple Pope had to quit his Jacksonville Axemen to retain the Tomahawks captaincy.
As we told you last month, there is also new activity on the West Coast. It should be an interesting lead-up to the Americans’ World Cup bow. We aren’t even sure if coach Matthew Elliott will be holding onto the job after getting a start with the New Zealand Warriors.
IN Oz there was a commericial in the early eighties for a non-alcoholic mixer called Claytons, with the slogan being “The Drink You Have When You’re Not Having A Drink”.
Every since then, “Claytons” has been local slang for something fake.
And from what I can tell, we may be about to see a Clayton’s Shoudler Charge Ban.
From what I am told by sources deep within the refereeing ranks, shoudler charges will be OK in the NRL this year as long as the arm of the defender is extended. In other words, the difference between a shoulder charge and a legitimate tackle will be defined as whether the arm is tucked into the body or not.
I’m also hearing that if there’s no penalty on the field, and no high contact, then the match review committee won’t even bother looking at it.
I’m sure Chris Sandow’s coach, Ricky Stuart, would prefer him to stick his arm out anyway.
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SO, will this month’s World Club Challenge between Leeds and Melbourne be the final one in the old two-team format …. finally?
The clubs want to stage a six-team tournament at the end of next season, perhaps in a neutral venue such as Las Vegas or Dubai.
The RLIF, on the other hand, is keen on a tour of some sort (more news as it comes to hand) in Australia and New Zealand at that time.
A compromise would see three Super League teams travelling to Australia for a pre-season WCC next year, with the clubs leveraging the games as part of their stadium deals.
In the mean time, in a couple of weeks the Melbourne Storm will be setting up shop at Eton, which may be the poshest school in the entire world.
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MY own thoughts on Rugby League World‘s World XIII last month were that St George Illawarra’s Brett Morris was very lucky indeed to get in.
He can do much, much more than he acheived last year; remember the way he started 2011 playing for the Dragons against Wigan. His twin brother Josh has moved way ahead of him and is now an outstanding centre.
While on Josh, if you think rugby league players just like to go to cheesy holiday spots and get rolling drunk in the off-season, Josh took a group of Bulldogs to the South By Southwest (SxSW) music festival in Austin Texas last year.
Would love to go myself.
Cooper Cronk’s ascention to being the world’s best halfback is richly deserved and a great advertisement for patience, given the men he has been lining up behind for the best part of a decade.
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WHEN Fiji coaching director Joe Dakuitoga told me shortly after one of Petero Civoniceva’s “final” appearances at Suncorp Stadium that the big fella was going to play a year in the Queensland Cup to stay fit for RLWC 13, I had to check it out from the man himself.
“Tell him to get off the kava,” Petero texted.
But as it turns out, Joe was right and Petero was … well, it would be a massive co-incidence if he had never considered this possibility until the Fijians presented it as fact to a reporter, wouldn’t it?
One can only surmise that Civoniceva didn’t want to take the lustre from his various farewell matches but admitting he actually had more than a year left in his career.
In fact, he may even get another run at Suncorp Stadium if his new team, Redcliffe Dolphins, may the Q Cup final.
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I THOUGHT last month’s edition was a cracker and I particularly enjoyed reading about France’s 25-18 win over Great Britain at Headingley in 1990.
I was a spot 21-year-old on my first visit to the UK back then and remember two things about the match very clearly. One, the French were sponsored by Jiffi Condoms. Two, I was taking a pee when they scored the winning try.
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