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

DISCORD 2013: Edition 38

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD
YOU know how some rugby league columnists seem to have a go at the game’s administration every chance they get?
You know how you read their columns and wish they’d talk about something else?
I was one of you. Really, I was. Here at Discord, we’ve staunchly defended new NRL CEO David Smith, for example, saying he should be accountable to the game, not the Sydney media. I’ve never met him – and regard that as a healthy sign.
But recent events – on both sides of the world – have got Discord wondering whether rugby league really is going to some version of Hell in some version of a hand basket.
You already know what we think of a club administrator who presided over an alleged cover-up then getting – and so far, retaining – the second most senior position a headquarters. Not much. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that ringing people and asking them questions will be rendered a pointless exercise for rugby league reporters if the NRL endorses providing incorrect answers by doing nothing about that situation.
Let’s take you to Super League now, where Huddersfield – having secured the minor premiership – fielded an entire team of reserve graders on national television in the final round and were lapped 58-6 by Bradford.
The Rugby Football League found that the Giants fielded the best available team – even though all of their stars were miraculously back on deck for the play-offs the next week. Come again?
Unlike broadcasters in Australia, Sky try to help the game by giving all clubs more or less equal exposure throughout the season. Their goodwill has been thrown back in their faces by a club which – to be fair on them – is only playing by the rules. Rules that should be changed immediately.
We now move to Saturday, when North Queensland coach Neil Henry threw up – although didn’t explicitly endorse – the prospect of a conspiracy to get a Sydney Roosters-South Sydney grand final after his side was beaten by a seventh-tackle try.
“If you were … conspiracy theory (sic), you’d say ‘we’re so Sydney-centric, we don’t care about the boys up north’. The press talks about the ideal grand final – Souths-Roosters. Bring it on. Don’t worry about Melbourne. They’ve won a couple. Don’t worry about North Queensland. That’s what you want: the heartland of the game.
“Yeah, well we’ve just been dudded of an opportunity to maybe make a dent in this competition. Where’s our pull? We’re out of mind out of sight up there. You get a bit bitter when it’s happened to you two years.”
Later, Henry added: “What do you say, that there’s – as I said – a conspiracy theory? Let’s keep it Sydney-centric, as I said before?” If you watch the video, Henry then shrugs. “Who knows? How can you go down that track?”
In 2008, Craig Bellamy said this about the judiciary suspending Cameron Smith from the grand final and the link with bookmakers: “Bookmakers and betting agencies, they don’t guess, they’ve got good information – take that as you may.
“As soon as I saw that (market) on Wednesday morning … he was thousands.”
The club was fined $50,000 and the judiciary members initiated defamation action, even though Bellamy was specifically asked at the press conference whether was he suggesting the judiciary tipped off bookmakers and said no.It’s nonsense to say Saturday night’s conspiracy theory was aimed a reporters and not referees.
Did reporters give Beau Ryan a try on the seventh tackle? That was the entire context of the media conference: referees.
I am not calling for Neil Henry to be fined, I am calling for the NRL to pull itself out of this freefall of inconsistency before it finds itself splattered all over the ground. I don’t think Neil Henry believes the referees were in cahoots with the League but as a result of his comments, hundreds – or maybe thousands – of people do.
As we said in – ahem – Joy Of Seven, the NRL has extended its powers to fine coaches beyond comments which are defamatory to criticism deemed “excessive”. As a result of being subjective, this rule is unenforceable and stupid. It’s no co-incidence that this change came when the solicitor who used to run the NRL, David Gallop, left.
Solicitors know the importance of precedence, consistency and transparency. Footy officials, historically, have struggled with those concepts.
Do Saturday’s match officials have grounds for any legal action over the “conspiracy theory”? One thing’s for certain, the events of last weekend indicate Manly were dudded by their $10,000 fine almost as severely as the Cowboys were by their seventh-tackle try.
Like I said: Hell, hand basket.
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QUICKLY through the comments.

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THE WRAP: NRL Finals Week One

NRL logoBy STEVE MASCORD

MY furry colleague at Rugby League Week, the Mole, last week wrote that Greg Inglis was unlikely to play in the World Cup due to his ongoing knee problem.

So when the finals series kicked off on Friday night, a couple of hours before kick-off between South Sydney and Melbourne at ANZ Stadium, I asked the Rabbitohs coach about the situation.

“I get asked that every week,” said Michael Maguire, who your correspondent interviewed pre-game for Triple M.

“To be honest, his knee’s where it needs to be. He got through a full week’s training this week, which is a real positive for us.”

You’ll remember the first week of the 2013 finals for your reasons. Maybe your team won, maybe your team lost, maybe your team is the North Queensland Cowboys which means they should have done the former but ended up doing the latter.

Maybe you’re Matt Cecchin or Henry Perenara, in which case you will never forget the weekend just passed.

Me? I spent the weekend doing a lot of radio; so much so that I still have the vestiges of a headache from wearing headphones for hours on end. So I’m going to do turn this week’s wrap into a kind of Things You May Have Missed – stuff I came across that slipped between the cracks of the daily news cycle.

FRIDAY:

Maguire went on to secure his first win over Melbourne, 20-10.

“We missed the start last time against Melbourne, we missed it against the Roosters,” said Souths utility Chris McQueen said.

Jason Clark suffered a knee injury at training and was in doubt right up to kick-off.

“We had the captain’s run last night and we were pretty confident,” he said, “But we left it right up until the game.”

SATURDAY

While his team-mates celebrated, Todd Carney cut a disconsolate figure as he limped towards the tunnel with a serious hamstring injury after the 20-18 win for Cronulla over North Queensland.

“The leg feels a bit sore,” he told me “It’s a bit disappointing, I can’t soak it up with the boys. I’ll have to do everything possible to get it right for the game.

“I wouldn’t have played if it wasn’t 100 per cent. I did everything I had to do yesterday but obviously it fatigued and it’s gone wrong again.

“It was a sharp pain, like happened a few weeks ago, and it just got worse as the game went on but I couldn’t leave the field.”

Shane Flanagan on Carney: “He hasn’t torn the hamstring, he’s just getting referred pain from his back.”

The Sharks had been unaware of Beau Ryan’s seventh-tackle try. Paul Gallen: “I just found out about it off Ryan Girdler. Sometimes you get things go your way, sometimes you don’t. We’ll take it.

“I suppose the NRL probably thought Melbourne were going to be here but they weren’t. Too everyone’s credit, the Roosters fans and the Manly fans, they turned out to watch us play as well.”

The Cowboys didn’t know either. Antonio Winterstein: “We didn’t have any idea, that’s the first time I’ve heard about it. We can’t do anything about it now. I thought he (Kane Linnett) had it there. The replay showed otherwise.”

Despite the rancour afterwards, Matt Bowen was nothing if not a sportsman. “It is disappointing to go out the way we did but in saying that, full credit to the Sharkies. They wanted it more than we did,” was his remarkable comment.

“It wasn’t meant to be tonight. In saying that, we did a couple of things to hurt (ourselves) in the first half. We can’t do anything about it now. They got the win and they get to play on and we don’t

On his future, Bowen said: “I’ll have to make a decision next week. We’ll see what happens.”

Coach Flanagan’s heart sank when Bowen got the ball with a few seconds left. “He was the one person in the rugby league world I didn’t want to have the ball,” Flanagan said.
A time keeper approached Flanagan while I was waiting to speak to him, to explain the confusion at fulltime over time on the clock.

“They just explained to me it was the clock the referees see on the ground.. The actual referees and time keeper did tell him there was 11 seconds to go. It was just a technical glitch with the game clock that all the fans saw and the players see as well.”

Does he care that the seventh tackle try took the gloss off the victory?

“I do care. It was done earlier. These things happen in our game, it’s human error. The referees, if they made a mistake, they didn’t mean it, I’m sure.

Neil Henry has been painted as a conspiracy theorist but he also said this to me, on the ABC: “No-one goes out to deliberately get the tackle count wrong. But with the number of officials they’ve got, they should get it right.

“I think the refereeing, overall, has improved a bit. We saved a couple of our worst decisions for the big stage.”

The next game was a 4-0 win for the Roosters over Manly – the scoreline from a certain preliminary final in 1992 which this Illawarra fan would rather forget.

“We’ll improve our attack next week but that’s the way we need to be defending at this time of year,” said Roosters five-eighth James Maloney.

All the points were scored by young winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. I asked if he’d ever done that before.

“It’s a first try for me. I’m glad I was able to get the points for the boys.” He then gave this gem of a quote: “We just looked at each other and said ‘this is who we are, this is the game we play’.”

The big worry for Manly fans must be backing up six days after and out-and-out war Geoff Toovey: “We’re fortunate we’re playing the Cronulla Sharks. They had a tough game here today as well, against the Cowboys. Very physical there as well and they played a similar type of football. Hopefully they’re as bumped and bruised as we are.”

I spoke to Roosters coach Trent Robinson after the game and again the next day on ABC’s The Hit-Up

“I grew up watching the eighties games and enjoyed that sort of footy,” he said. “The courage that used to get shown back then, we had to show tonight – along with Manly, We both showed it.

“Both sides should be proud.”

SUNDAY:

On Sunday, Robinson paid tribute to Steve Menzies, whose career ended with Hull’s 14-4 win over Catalan on Friday night.

“It’s a bit like Sonny coming here, my first head coaching gig, I recruited Beaver. He allowed me to coach him. He doesn’t need to stop, the way that he’s still playing.”

Video referees Justin Morgan and Luke Patten were booked as guests before the seventh tackle furore. Asked if video refs are supposed to keep count for the men on the field, Morgan said:  “Yes. That is right. It’s somebody’s role in the box to keep the tackle count during the match for reinforcement and correction. It would have been somebody’s job last night.?

And do you tell the referees about major blunders at halftime?

Morgan: “For me, it’s very similar to coaching. You have to know the individual. You have to know how they’ll take that information on. Some referees will want to know. They’ll want to know that information. They’ll want to know ‘did I get that right?’ ‘Did I get that wrong?’

“Others, you most probably need to be a bit more gentle … most of them, if they ask you the question, they want a straight answer.’

The final guest before I headed out to see Newcastle eliminate Canterbury 22-6 was Parramatta chairman Steve Sharp.

“We’ll have something in the pipeline in the next week, or two maximum, as to who’s going to be our coach,” he said.

Do players joining the club next year have get-out clauses? “In fact, if they don’t want to come to our club, I don’t really want them there. We want people who want to play for the club.”

What about the Bulldogs chasing Jarryd Hayne? “Jarryd’s got a contract with the club which he has just extended for two years. There is no getout clause. Jarryd’s going to be here in 14 and 15 at least.”

Filed for: SMITHYSPEAKS.COM.AU

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THE JOY OF SIX: Round 11

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD
MUNDANE NIGHT FOOTBALL?
There is a debate over whether State Of Origin teams should be picked before Monday Night Football because some players will be distracted. But the real issue is State selectors playing us all for fools. Most stars over the entire weekend knew they had been picked, with Greg Bird, Jarryd Hayne and NSW assistant Matt Parish arranging to share a car to Sydney last night hours before the Parramatta-Gold Coast game in Mudgee kicked off. Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson said on ABC that “discretion” was a quality our representative institutions lacked when it came to representative teams. Clubs have to cop the consequences of distracted players; Queensland picks a team on a Monday and they are already there in the room. If the players are going to be told days before the public, it’s time for the media to stake out airports and report players coming and going. Stop treating us like idiots. Tidy this up please.
I BET YOU WE NEED TO DO MORE
THE federal government’s decision to ban in-game betting odds was only a matter of when. It’s gratifying, in a way, that the same public which supports the gambling industry could recognise when things had gone too far. But rather than think of it as victory, perhaps those who united against a outrageous and exploitative practice should think about whether what we are left with is good enough.Y our kids, who are now spared live odds on Friday night, are still confronted with perimeter adverting at the footy, odds being spruiked in commercial breaks and partnerships with every NRL clubs. Surely this is harmful in the same way that the advertising that has just been banned was. In the view of Set Of Six, all gambling advertising should go the same way as cigarette advertising. The NRL has survived not being the Winfield Cup, after all. One product promotes cancer, the other IS a cancer.
MEET YOU BEHIND THE GRANDSTAND
HALF an hour after Manly beat Canberra 16-10 at Brookvale Oval, rival coaches Geoff Toovey and David Furner were seen in animated coversation behind the grandstand. No, there was no danger of the 80th minute fisticuffs between Anthony Watmough and Dane Tilse being repeated. Your correspondent couldn’t hear what the were talking about but judging by the hand signals, it had to do with rucks and defensive lines. Toovey later told Triple M it was “two frustrated coaches” and – after being pressed by former referee Bill Harrigan – conceded his successors were the source of the frustration. “My major concern, and I’ve had it for the last few weeks – I just think it’s become laughable,” said Toovey.
COOL THROAT LUKE
PARRAMATTA’s welfare officer and former iconic winger Luke Burt had the sort of husky voice at Glen Willow Sporting Complex yesterday that could get him work at a 1300 call centre. He guested as a Channel Nine commentator and appeared on the ABC beforehand. How did he come to sound so throaty? It depends where you listened. He told the ABC that he had “a sore throat” and that his wife and child had the same problem. “I must have got it kissing them goodbye,” he said. But on Nine, he said “I was wrestling with the young fella and he whacked me in the throat” Could both these stories be true? By sheer co-incidence, several people who reported a night on the town on Mudgee on Saturday had voices that sounded very much like Burty’s.
REFEREEING CAR CRASH
THE term ‘car crash’ gets thrown around too readily these days to described anything disastrous. Referee Gavin Reynolds planned a big weekend around the Parramatta-Gold Coast game in Mudgee with family following him over the mountains to watch him co-control a game on a ground curated by his brother, Brad. But he came unstuck by crashing his car en route on Saturday. Family members had to double back and get him and the car was towed to a nearby town. But the rest of the weekend went swimmingly, with the perfect surface a credit to Brad and Gavin plus Matt Cecchin getting it right by disallowing a try to Albert Kelly for deliberately propelling the ball forwards. Sadly for Gold Coast, the match officials only learned to get this right by getting it wrong when Shaun Johnson scored a try against the Titans on May 6. That’s right, a call has gone an opposite way on two occasions this month, and the same team has been the victim each time.
COULD THIS BE MAGIC?
THE idea of importing the Magic Weekend deserves another look after a successful promotion at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium. An entire round of Super League is played at the same venue and after a nomadic existence for the concept, it seems to have found a home, close to the game’s heartland. OK, the day one crowd of 30,793 yesterday wasn’t great but we’d do much better; the argument against a similar weekend in the NRL is that all our games draw big attendances anyway. It’s fair to say that argument has been weakened this season. We need events, cities would love to bring all 16 NRL teams to town and it’s more likely to attract travelling fans than the Auckland Nines.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

DISCORD 2013: Edition 21

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

FROM all accounts, referees Shayne Hayne and Matt Cecchin and their touch judges Steve Carrall and Nick Beashall were the subject of intense and sustained abuse as the left AAMI Park at halftime in Monday’s Melbourne Manly game.

One witness I spoke to was completely taken aback by the aggression of the crowd members around the tunnel.

But the match officials are entitled to feel better over the couple of days since because, to the greatest degree than I can ever recall, members of the public have jumped to their defence.

Manly coach Geoff Toovey has, instead, copped it on social media for speaking out against their performances and saying the 10 10 draw was not a fair result.

It’s a strange state of affairs which may just indicate the pantomime villain status Manly holds with many league fans.

But it strikes me as odd that rugby league supporters want coaches gagged and the NRL to step up punishments for “bringing the game into disrepute”. I can only assume these supporters would still be of that opinion if their own team seemed hard done by and their coach expressed the thoughts they shared themselves.

In which case, when you don’t want opinions similar to your own aired …. WTF?

During my career, I have covered periods of the game where sports editors have banned leading match reports on the criticism of referees because it had just become too repetitive.

At these times, I have thought this an unfair impediment to the freedom of speech but really, this is the only fair sanction against coaches who cry wolf too often. That is, that their comments are no longer reported because they are genuinely unnewsworthy.

We’re not quite at that point yet this season. Maybe we’re getting close.

I can understand the NRL wanting to keep the game out of the courts by policing libellous comments but aside from that, to try to gag anyone from public comment is to travel down a dangerous path. Rugby league was born out of rebellion and Australia is an anti establishment culture.

Having a bit of a whinge is consistent with all that and I have spoken to referees who appreciate it as part of the theatre of the NRL.

I was at Monday’s game, of course, and I didn’t regard Toovey’s comments as having been over the top. He even smiled and joked in between making that aside about seeing things from fifty metres away on Triple M.

It’s also fair to say both coaches had reason to complain in a tough game. Melbourne may have won the penalty count but the goal that edged Manly ahead for a ball steal against George Rose was doubtful.

There were calls on charge downs, hands on the ball and time outs which were contentious. The referees stood together in the defensive line at times. Defences seemed offside at others.

Tight game, big calls and a lot at stake. You might say that it spoiled your breakfast the next day to read about the comments after such a great contest. Sorry about that.

As I said, complaining about refs will soon become unewsworthy. Maybe it should lose its news value with some coaches before others.

But let’s not make it the crime of the century.

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WHEN I asked on Twitter what people wanted to read about in this column, there were many helpful suggestions.

One, from former NRL star John Cross, was: “how about why if you have nothing to hide wouldn’t you want to help insure the sport you play was clean and drug free ??”

To the people who wanted to read about “monorails” and “marbles” … maybe next week.

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COMMENTS time and since I seem to be doing more and more for Fairfax Media, I’ve decided to go through everything you’ve said at the bottom of any story since the last week’s Discord.

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NRL round 10: MELBOURNE 10 MANLY 10 in golden point time at AAMI Park

Manly - Geoff TooveyBy STEVE MASCORD
MANLY coach Geoff Toovey said overtime should be scrapped because draws are a fair result – but also argued the Monday Night Football deadlock with Melbourne was completely unfair.
Toovey was fuming after the epic 10-10 AAMI Park result, which came after a 79th minute Cameron Smith penalty goal levelled the ledger and the sides played out a scoreless overtime period.
Asked if the result was fair, Toovey said: “It wasn’t .
“I think everyone saw the match. Ten-five penalty count. They had to defend. I’m very proud of their effort. They gutsed it out against all odds.
“Whilst it’s character-building, geez we don’t want to be doing that every week. It’s wrong.
“It’s no use doing anything. You just back up.
“I could see things from fifty metres away that people down there apparently couldn’t.”
While playmaker Kieran Foran said on television he would have been happy to keep playing, Toovey wanted the golden point system scrapped.
“After 80 minutes, if it’s a draw, it’s only my personal opinion but it should be a draw,” he said. “When we’re having field goal shootouts, it’s just crazy.
“There’re 26 rounds in the competition. There’s enough football played. You want to see the guys busted and bleeding? It’s a gladiatorial sport, I know, but we’ve got to look after our players as well.”
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy said the debate was “six of one and half a dozen of the other. If you play the 10 minutes and get a result, everyone’s happy. If you play it and don’t get a result, you’ve done it for nothing, you may as well call it off after the 80 minutes.”
Bellamy argued the penalty which edged Manly in front 10-8 with 13 minutes left, when Eagle George Rose was ruled to have been stripped of the ball, was incorrect. “I thought we could have got a few more penalties,” he said.
“It (penalty for ball-steal) was pretty doubtful alright. He looked like he bobbled it. There was no raking motion there. It was a pretty big penalty and you’d like the referees to be really sure of that before they give that.
“Sisa (Waqa) got called off-side once from a kick and he was onside. Geoff can think that. That’s his opinion. That’s great. I try to take the referees out of it.”
Bellamy added he was “very happy with our attitude tonight. We looked like we were excited about playing again. We were a bit off with our defence in the first 10 minutes but after that, we defended really well.”
In other news, Bellamy admitted the biggest concern for Kiwi Test winger Matt Duffie after he was booked in for shoulder and knee surgery was how he would bounce back mentally.
“Whatever he wants to do, we’ll support him there,” said Bellamy. “A shoulder reconstruction and a knee reconstruction at the same time – I’ve never heard of that before.
“I’ve only got concerns for his future if it’s all too much for him. He’s already had a couple of shoulder reconstructions.
“He’s only a young guy. You’d like to think that if he has a free run from now, he’ll end up playing NRL next year hopefully.”
Fairfax Media was told several representatives of the Storm’s new ownership group were at the game. Asked if they had visited the dressing ooms, Bellamy said: “I didn’t know we had new owners.”
An announcement on the handover is expected on Tuesday morning.

MELBOURNE 10 (M Blair try C Smith 3 goals) drew with MANLY 10 (J Lyon try 3 goals) at AAMI Park. Referees: S Hayne/M Cecchin. Crowd: 12,921.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

THE WRAP: NRL Round Nine

NRL logoBy STEVE MASCORD

MANLY’s woes after last night’s bruising loss to Sydney Roosters have been compounded by the news that co-captain Jason King could miss the rest of the season.

Despite having a one-man advantage over Sydney Roosters for the final 10 minutes of Monday Night Football at Brookvale Oval, the Sea Eagles crashed to a 16-4 loss that ended nine years without a win on the northern beaches for the Bondi boys.

Geoff Toovey’s side is already without its talisman Brett Stewart until some time during the State of Origin series while and anterior cruciate ligament injury has ended back rower Joe Galuvao’s season.

Kite had been listed to return in round nine but that comeback has been abandoned.

“Kingy is going to have shoulder surgery and we’re hoping to have him back towards the end of the season,” coach Toovey told NRL.com

“You’ve got to wait for those things to settle down a little bit before you make the decision on surgery. We decided a few days ago.”

Asked if King would return for the finals or before, Toovey said: “We don’t know. We’re just hoping.”

The former NSW star missed the Sea Eagles last premiership campaign with a pectoral muscle injury and was also troubled by shoulder problems last year. King is contracted until the end of next season.

The Sea Eagles lifted their intensity at halftime last night but the tricolours staved off several waves of attack before hooker Jake Friend scored in the final two minutes to make the margin deceptively comfortable.

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson said the bar for a send-off had probably been lowered by match officials since the fiery Manly-South Sydney match at Brookvale on April 26.

Robinson made the comment during the post-match media conference but then expanded on his thoughts significantly on radio.

“Maybe they might have changed since the Souths-Manly game,” he said. “Maybe they had a chat about it and maybe they’re a bit clearer about what is a send-off.

“Hopefully they are.”

Robinson later told Triple M NRL he had no doubt this had occurred. “I think that’s clear – I don’t think that was as bad as the spear tackles,” he said

“But they sent Jared off. So if they have talked about it, and they have changed it, let us know.”

Manly travel to Melbourne for their third consecutive Monday Night Football game, next week against the Storm.

BEST OF ROUND NINE: Penrith’s stunning upset with over Melbourne, who have tumbled from equal first to third in one feel swoop.

WORST OF ROUND NINE: No-one actually looks forward to the first send-off of the year, do they? Jared Wearea-Hargreaves got George Rose “on the button” and probably deserved his early shower.

WEIRDEST OF ROUND NINE: Kick-off being delayed at Skilled Park to get commentators Ray Warren and Phil Gould to the ground.

WHAT I SAW: Shattered Robbie Farah last to leave Wests Tigers’ sheds after Friday night’s heavy loss to Cronulla.

QUOTE OF ROUND NINE: “Some of the boys can’t believe we won. I’ve never beaten Melbourne – ever!” – Panther Luke Walsh

Filed for: NRL.com

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

Performance In Manly’s “Top Three” Worst, Says Toovey

By STEVE MASCORD

MANLY’s premiership defence came to a crushing end last night but captain Jamie Lyon declared the season a success after coach Des Hasler’s dramatic exit last summer.

Lyon described the 40-12 preliminary final defeat to Melbourne at AAMI Park one of the Sea Eagles’ worst performances in years, telling a post-match media conference: “Some of the people in this room could have caught the balls we dropped”.

But after the peninsula club lost their coach shortly after the 2011 grand final, Lyon – who returned from a calf injury with two dynamic finals series performances – said the season should be regarded as a success.

“I guess it’s been pretty successful. I suppose with what we’ve been through, Geoff (Toovey) has done a great job and the boys have really enjoyed the season,” the former Australia centre said.

“It’s just so disappointing to finish the season like that.”

Toovey had grounds for complaint about one try but could only throw his hands up late last night at the decisive nature of the result.

“I don’t mind losing … we had a fantastic season but to finish on that note – I’m really gutted,” he told reporters.

“We were blown off the park.

“It’s been a good effort. To finish the competition in fourth place is a good achievement.

“It’s very disappointing for me as a coach and the players are shattered too. It’s been stressful. I’m very fortunate to be part of a team that has so many great personalities in it.

“It’s a great senior playing group that has really helped me.

“I know they’re better than that. I know what this team’s capable of.”

Toovey admitted players went into the game injured and in Matt Ballin (calf) plus Steve Matai (leg), they picked up more casualties,

“That’s not an excuse,” he said. “We did have some injuiries during the game and we were down on troops.”

Of the 9th minute Billy Slater try, which was allowed despite an apparent knock-on, he said: “Does it matter? Video said it was lost. We had a bit of luck last week. He shouldn’t have been down there.”

Asked at fulltime about the performance, Sea Eagles captain Jamie Lyon said: “It was a terrible one.

“It was our worst for years. We dropped too much ball. It was like we couldn’t catch a ball.

“We were still pretty confident at halftime. We played some terrible footy and to be just a try down, we felt we were still in the hunt. We didn’t have the best start to the second half.”

For a while, it looked like the Sea Eagles’ title defence would end with barely a wimper.

By the ninth minute, the Storm had scored three tries but lead only 12-0, thanks to some uncharacteristically inaccurate kicking from Cameron Smith.

“Switch on!” was the call heard behind the Manly line after Slater’s contentious try.

But as the animated Toovey watched from the coaches’ box, banging regularly on the glass, the Sea Eagles steadied themselves.

Jamie Lyon chased Kieran Foran’s bomb and speculatularly claimed it to touch down three minutes short of the break and give travelling fans a reason to come back after halftime.

But when play resumed, it was the Storm side of the scoreboard that ticked over again.

The Herculean Lyon interupted the flood of purple points with a long-range try off a Storm mistake but it was all Melbourne – in the end the title defence wasn’t surrendered but it petered out.

The margin failed to match the Storm’s best over the Sea Eagles by just two points.

Captain Smith said of the Sea Eagles: “We knew Manly like to get up in your face. We handled that. That’s a strength of this side – teams try to bash us.”

Some feared the Sea Eagles would fall back to the field after coach Des Hasler’s early departure and the season began with rumours of a player exodus at the end of 2012.

But star players such as fullback Brett Stewart and five-eighth Foran opted to stay and under first-year mentor Toovey, the Sea Eagles retained their steely visage of previous seasons and finished the season in fourth with 16 wins and eight losses.

Players leaving the Sea Eagles include Tony Williams – who had an unhappy first half – to Canterbury and Darcy Lussick to Parramatta.

Filed for: THE AUSTRALIAN