NRL round 23: NORTH QUEENSLAND 22 GOLD COAST 10 at 1300smiles Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

NORTH Queensland prop James Tamou has agreed that the sacking of coach Neil Henry will be deemed premature if the Cowboys qualify for the finals.

NQ last night disposed of eighth-placed Gold Coast to continue an unbeaten run that began three weeks ago when Henry’s contract extension was rescinded.

The coach said after the 22-10 win – which ended the career of Titan Luke O’Dwyer when he was forced off with a snapped anterior cruciate knee ligament – that any discussion about why the Cowboys started winning after he was sacked was “going over old ground”.

But when Australia prop Tamou was asked whether a finals appearance would prove the club had acted hastily in disposing of Henry, he answered: “I think so, yeah.

“I heard about it in the media and all of that but when it actually happened and they sat us down and told us, I was very surprised.

“If we do make the finals, it will be really good for him and good for us. We do have the guns … teams will definitely do a longer video session on us

“It means more now because of the situation we’ve been through with Neil Henry and a few of the boys retiring.

“I didn’t think that would ever happen. Neil Henry’s been unreal. For someone who’s lost his job, he’s happy. Training sessions are better. All the boys are on a bit of a high. It doesn’t faze him.

“I feel for him because it’s a shame we couldn’t do this five weeks ago.

phonto (1)“The boys, it means more to them. You can see it in the little things. There’re always blokes there in support. That’s the difference, everyone’s keen.

“We definitely let him down. If that was me, I wouldn’t be as happy as he is if I lost my job.”

Henry said the Cowboys were “just poking along”. “We’re enjoying training and looking forward to a game on the weekend. We’ve got three at home, out of four.”

Asked about the link between his sacking and the purple patch, he said: “We keep looking for reasons we’re playing good footy. Let’s just celebrate…”

The Cowboys led 12-4 at halftime, saw their lead whittled down to 12-10, and then won going away. Rookie winger Kyle Feldt posted a try brace.

Titans coach John Cartwright said the turnaround from the upset Monday Night Football win over Canterbury had made last night a tough assignment.

They remain in eighth but face the Warriors, Sydney Roosters and Melbourne on the run home. “it probably went the way I hoped it wouldn’t, but thought it would,” said Cartwright.

“It’s still in our hands and I knew that coming up here. We got (William Zillman) and Matrty Srama back tonight and they’re going to be better for the run. Albert Kelly is going to be really close next week, and Luke Bailey as well.

“We’re getting fresh troops back at a really important time.”

O’Dwyer had planned to retire at the end of the season. “It’s a tragedy if it’s what they think it is,” said Cartwright. “He’s definitely going to be missed for the rest of the year.

“There’s a faint hope, I supposed, that it’s not an ACL but they’re not usually wrong when they diagnose those things.”

Gold Coast’s Greg Bird (back spasms) and North Queensland’s Matt Scott (ankle) were other casualties, although each is expected to play next weekend.

Cowboy Ashton Sims was booked for a high shot on Titan Ryan James. Tamou said fullback matt Bowen, who will either join Wigan or retire, “has woken up, I guess, with the realisation he’s maybe not going to be here.”

NORTH QUEENSLAND 22 (K Feldt 2 G Cooper G Hall tries J Thurston 3 goals) bt GOLD COAST 10 (K Gordon D Mead tries A Sezer goal) at 1300smiles Stadium. Referees: M Cecchin/A Shortall. Crowd:12,003.

Filed for: SUN-HERALD

Sheens Awaits Front Row Face-Off

Australia - Tim SheensBy STEVE MASCORD

AUSTRALIA coach Tim Sheens admits he’ll be taking a special interest on Friday night when his props James Tamou and Matt Scott face up to a combination that could form England’s World Cup front row.

Late team changes before South Sydney’s 32-4 win over Gold Coast on Saturday resulted in Sam and George Burgess packing down together upfront.

The crushing performance of the pair and brother Tom was labelled by veteran photographer Col Whelan “carnage a trois”.

“Obviously it’s going to be worthwhile watching,” Sheens tells RLW of the 1300smiles clash between the Rabbitohs and North Queensland.

“On one had you’ve got the fellas who are seen as the Australian pair and on the other you’ve got two young bulls who might be playing for England.

“The Burgess boys will be trying to show the England coach, Steve McNamara, even from Australia that they are capable of matching it with the Australian props.

“And the Cowboys season will be on the line. I’d imagine James and Scotty will primarily want to be playing well for the Cowboys.’

Sheens stressed he didn’t want to pre-empt the selection of George, Tom or Luke Burgess for England, although he expected Sam to be there.

phonto (1)“If they have more players who are performing at at this level over here, obviously they are going to be more dangerous,” he said.

“But I watched England beat the Exiles recently with domestic players and there were some good combinations there as well. We shouldn’t just assume certain players will be picked because they are over here.”

Meanwhile, the Test coach said Jarryd Hayne would be considered for selection if there was any chance of him passing a fitness test at the end of next month.

Parramatta are considering resting Hayne for the remainder of the season.

NB: Since this story appeared, Scott and Tamou scored a decisive win over their opposites, with North Queensland winning 30-12.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

James Tamou: “I Thought I’d Be Sacked”

 

James Tamou
James Tamou

By STEVE MASCORD

JAMES Tamou says he thought he would be sacked by North Queensland and banished from rugby league in the wake of his high range drink driving charge.

Tamou, fined $20,000 and banned from Origin II selection after recording a blood alcohol reading of .197 on June 10, made his return in for the Cowboys in Sunday night’s 24-4 win over Cronulla. He  hopes to win back his Blues jersey with a strong showing against Canberra this weekend.

“It has been a very stressful time,” the 24-year-old tells League Week.

“Obviously when the incident happened with Blake Ferguson around the same time, there was talk about him not having his job at Canberra anymore.

“And I really thought that would happen to me, that I wouldn’t have a job anymore. It was scary thinking I would be out of a job, that I wouldn’t be allowed to come here and train with the boys and play anymore.”

Ferguson is currently facing charges of indecent assault after a night out on the eve of going into camp for NSW’s 26-6 Origin II defeat on June 26. While there was speculation that Canberra may opt to cancel his contract, the club has so far indicated it will stick by him.

Tamou’s financial penalty has been described by Australia captain Cameron Smith as being too harsh and his management is making representations behind the scenes for leniency.

“I have been trying to keep a low profile, just quietly coming to training and then slipping away,” he says.

“I’ve had a lot of support from people, a lot of text messages. The way I see it, it’s a learning curve. You live and you learn from your mistakes because I know for a fact I will never do anything like this ever again.

“I can’t wait to see myself in a couple of months and be able to look back on it from some distance.”

Despite suggestions, Tamou says he has been given no indication by NSW coach Laurie Daley that he will be in the Blues’ side for the deciding encounter with Queensland at ANZ Stadium on July 17.

“After a couple of weeks off, I just wanted to rip in for the Cowboys side and get a win,” he said.

Asked if he could bring something to the Blues side that was missing in game two, he responded:  “Mate hopefully.

“It was really tough sitting on the couch watching the second Origin game. It’s going to be much harder in the next game.

“You’d like to think you could do a job for them but you’ve got to get picked first.”
Tamou clocked up 200 metres with his 19 runs in 48 minutes on Sunday night. Coach Neil Henry said the former New Zealand Maori representative was short of condition after his enforced break but impressed with his attitude at training while suspended.

“He was huffing and puffing there over the speed of the game but he ran for good metres and I like what he did out there,” said Henry.

“He certainly added a bit to the team.

“He’s been great at training. He’s enthusiastic and he hasn’t missed a beat. No doubt he’s disappointed at missing a game for his club and also that Origin game.”

NB: Since this story appeared, Tamou was selected for Origin III

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

NRL round 16: NORTH QUEENSLAND 24 CRONULLA 4 at 1300smiles Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

JAMES Tamou says he has been given no assurances about a return to the NSW side for Origin III and describes his task of winning back his jersey as “straightforward yet difficult”.

Tamou returned from a two week suspension for high range drink driving in North Queensland’s 24-4 win over Cronulla at 1300smiles Stadium amid reports he had already been informed of his inclusion in the Blues’ side for the deciding Origin at ANZ Stadium on July 17.

He ran with the football 18 times – more than anyone else on the field – and was bettered for metres only by the man who would be his rival in Sydney, Matthew Scott.

“Definitely not – I’ve heard other people say I’ll be in the team but no-one has told me,” said Tamou, who was fined $20,000 and excluded from Origin II selection as a result of a high-range blood alcohol reading while unlicenced, said when asked if he had been tipped off about his selection.

“It was so hard watching game two from the couch. On one hand, it’s straightforward to make the side because I know what I have to do but on the other, it’s difficult because there are other good players there who want to keep you out.

“After what happened, I just wanted to get out there and rip in.”

Coach Neil Henry said Tamou found the pace testing after his enforced layoff. One of the men Tamou will be contesting a spot with, Cronulla’s Andrew Fifita, started from the bench last night and clocked up 14 runs and 111 metres.

It was 4-4 at halftime before the Cowboys edged ahead early in the second session and ran away with the contest in the closing minutes to move within two points of the top eight despite a topsy-turvy season.

According to centre Brent Tate the axe supposedly hanging over coach Neil Henry is a big motivator for the players, who registered the club’s 100th-ever home win and have more games 1300smiles Stadium.

“We wouldn’t be turning up like we are and defending like we are if we weren’t doing it for him,” said Tate.

The Sharks were without captain Paul Gallen (foot) and NSW Origin hopeful Michael Gordon (calf) while the withdrawal of winger Beau Ryan (knee) led to Matthew Wright making a 10 hour trek from New Zealand to play.

“We weren’t playing well at any stage of that game,” said coach Shane Flanagan, who said Gallen (foot) was “touch and go” for Origin III and would definitely no play before that.

“We were just hanging in there, playing against I said that I don’t think was that much on themselves.

“Thirteen times we turned the ball over. Their field position and the possession they had just took it out of us.

“If we play like that, we don’t deserve to be there (in the top eight).

Tries to NQ centre Kane Linnett (six minutes) and Cronulla back rower Luke Lewis (27) in the first half cancelled each other out, before the 46th minute touchdown by Cowboy Gavin Cooper set up the six point deficit that remained for much of the second session.

Johnathan Thurston’s penalty goal then made the gap match-winning, before Antonio Winterstein and Linnett again made it a handsome scoreline for the home side.

Cowboy Ashton Sims was booked during the first half for kneeing in the head Cronulla late inclusion Nathan Stapleton.

Thurston ‘s haul moved him into the all time top 10 for points scored at a single venue, with 667 at the former trotting track

NORTH QUEENSLAND 24 (K Linnett 2 G Cooper A Winterstein tries J Thurston 4 goals) bt CRONULLA 4 (L Lewis try) at 1300smiles Stadium. Referees: A Devcich/A Shortall. Crowd: 

Players In NSW And Queensland Don’t Understand Damage To Game’s Image

Queensland - Cameron Smith 2By STEVE MASCORD
MELBOURNE and Australia captain Cameron Smith has lashed out at misbehaving players who live in cocoon in rugby league’s heartlands and don’t understand how much they are hurting the game in its frontiers.
In an eight-day period which has seen NSW prop James Tamou, would-be team-mate Blake Ferguson and South Sydney prop George Burgess all charged by police, Smith said many players in NSW and Queensland don’t understand the harm they are doing.
“It’s huge – we’re trying to grow the game in new places like Melbourne and they think they can do what they want,” Smith told Fairfax Media in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens, shortly after the Queensland’s team announcement.
“Living down in Melbourne you’re constantly hearing about how far our game is behind and this sort of stuff only adds to that.
“The players who live in NSW and Queensland aren’t confronted with that, they don’t see it.
“I don’t want to make too much comment on it because it’s been dealt with by the NRL and the respective clubs but it’s disappointing because it’s a few blokes letting the whole game down really.
“Nearly the whole competition, except for a few, they uphold their responsibility to the game and to the public.
“They can go out and a have a few beers and do the right thing. But it’s these blokes who think they can do whatever they want who let the game down.
“For someone to say what they did is OK – they’ve got to have a serious look at themselves.”
Smith also defied the conventional rugby league wisdom when it came to the punching ban introduced since Paul Gallen’s attack on Nate Myles two weeks ago. Maroons coach Mal Meninga said during the team announcement media conference he could not guarantee there would be no punches at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday.
Referees coach Daniel Anderson said at the weekend that Smith’s contention on television last week that the Gallen-Myles incident was “not a good look” was taken into consideration in handing down the edict.
“He changed the rule because of me? I think it’s a good move,” said Smith. “Probably a lot of people would disagree but I think the sport is moving with society.
“It’s unacceptable to go around punching blokes whenever you want now.”
Motioning to a junior player in uniform who had been part of the announcement, he continued: “If we want these little fellas playing the sport when they’re 20 years old….
“And kids being born this year, if we want them playing rugby league then we’ve got to be showing their parents that it’s a good game to play and a lot of people would have seen that incident in game one and though ‘oh, maybe I want my kid to play soccer or something else.”
“It’s a good move for the NRL to come down hard on starting fights because there’s no place in the game for it now.”
Ferguson has been kicked out of the NSW team for indecent assault, Burgess has been stood down by South Sydney for wilfully damaging a car and Tamou was disqualified from Origin selection and suspended by his club for driving unlicensed at four times the legal alcohol limit.
Maroons and South Sydney star Greg Inglis told reporters yesterday he knew nothing about the Burgess incident.
The Maroons dropped Gold Coast lock Ashley Harrison and Canberra prop David Shillington for a game they must win to keep alive their seven-year winning streak against New South Wales.
South Sydney’s Chris McQueen comes into the starting side and Canberra’s Josh Papalii is on the bench with Sydney Roosters’ Martin Kennedy 18th man.
“We’ve got a culture of loyalty … we had to make a touch choice,” said Meninga. “There are young kids poking their heads through who have been in our system for a while.
“There was a long 10 metres … we needed to pick a side with more mobility in the ruck.”
On the punching ban, he said: “I understand where they’re coming from with it.
“But it’s an aggressive and combatative game. It’s difficult to control your emotions. Origin is all about emotion. “
Asked if he could guarantee there would be no punches, he answered: “I don’t think you can guarantee that in any sport … any combatative sport be it rugby or soccer.
“It’s a tough one. It’s black and white. We’ll see what happens.”
Meninga is a confidante of Ferguson and said: “It’s sad to see what happened to Blake.
“He doesn’t have a tendancy to mix with the right people. He’s easily led.”

Filed for: THE AGE

NRL round 10: SYDNEY ROOSTERS 12 NORTH QUEENSLAND 8 at 1300SMILES Stadium


By STEVE MASCORD

JAMES Tamou said he was mystified by his running battle with former team-mate Luke O’Donnell as Mitchell Pearce did for NSW’s pre-Origin confidence what Greg Inglis did for Queensland the previous evening.

Pearce, the Blues’ halfback-elect, threw the final pass for both Roosters’ tries as they battled out a 12-8 win over North Queensland in persistent rain at 1300SMILES Stadium, Cowboys winger Ashley Graham having a try disallowed on the bell.

“He handles pressure very well, Pearcy. The bigger the game, the better he plays,” said Roosters captain Anthony Minichiello.

“He’s getting better week by week.”

Inglis’ four tries for South Sydney on Friday night shortened the odds of an eighth consecutive Queensland Origin win but Pearce’s performance last night balanced the ledger.

Coach Trent Robinson added: “He’s a beautiful ball player in the line. He picks the right man – it’s a present, often.

“Our growth has been on the back of Mitchell and James (Maloney’s) growth together. He’s clear about what his game is, he knows what his strengths are and he’s working hard with the coaches.

“He’s understand what I hope is a good style of footy that keeps you in most games. He’s the one pushing us around the park.”

Centre Michael Jennings reckoned Pearce was “doing every little bit off the field to improve what he does on the field. He’s got a big few weeks – (Cooper) Cronk next week.”
An intriguing sub-text to the round 10 contest was Roosters junior O’Donnell and O’Donnell – in his first Townsville game since leaving the club three years ago – locking horns early. O’Donnell was included in the Roosters’ starting side for the suspended Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

When Tamou was penalised for a grapple tackle on O’Donnell, he told referee Ashley Klein: “That’s what he did to me.

Tamou said: “It just started from nothing, I guess. I don’t know what the go was there. I thought we were tight!

“Obviously I like playing against the Roosters because I’m from down south. I guess I was just the one in the firing line

“Footy’s footy. It stays on the field. I’ll probably have a beer with him tonight.”

Pearce put fullback Minichiello over after 23 minutes, with James Maloney converting. The Cowboys’ response, via late inclusion Robert Lui just after halftime, was the first try Trent Robinson’s side has conceded that did not come from a kick since round five.

After the break. Johnathan Thurston edged the home side in front with a couple of penalty tries.

Had a knock-on not been given when Graham crossed at the death, it would have been redemption for the flanker; his dropped kick allowed second rower Mitch Aubusson to score the clincher off Pearce with 15 minutes left.

Last night’s game represented a lost opportunity for the Cowboys to keep touch with the top eight.

“It’s not good enough to match it with the top sides – we have to starting winning,” said North Queensland coach Neil Henry.

Captain Matt Scott added: “We can’t keep saying the same thing after these games. We have to find a way to win them. We’ve showed in recent weeks we can go with the top sides.”

Sydney Roosters Origin hopeful Maloney finished the night with a terribly gashed bottom lip but still managed to smile through it at fulltime.

“I’m told it’s a bad one – I haven’t seen it yet,” said Maloney, who added “I’ve got everything crossed” regarding origin selection.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS 12 (A Minichiello M Aubusson R Tuivasa-Skeck tries J Maloney 3 goals) bt NORTH QUEENSLAND 8 (R Lui try J Thurston 3 goals goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Referees: A Klein/G Reynolds. Crowd: 13,660

Filed for: SUN-HERALD

NRL round five: NORTH QUEENSLAND 30 PENRITH 0 at 1300SMILES Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

AUSTRALIA prop James Tamou does not believe he has done enough to keep his jersey for the April 19 Test against New Zealand and reckons only a five-star showing for North Queensland on Friday will save him.

Tamou offered the stinging self-assessment despite running 199 metres in last night’s 30-0 Cowboys win against Penrith at 1300SMILES Stadium.

Asked if he felt he had earned the right in the first five rounds of the NRL to keep his place in the national side for the trans-Tasman international at Canberra Stadium, Tamou said: “To be honest, not really.

“I wouldn’t be filthy or anything if I didn’t get picked. I’d put that on myself. I know I haven’t been performing (to) my standards.

“Hopefully, the game against the Broncos will really set it up for me. I don’t know about Thumper (fellow prop Matt Scott) but the form we were in, we had to definitely lift.

“We were still in first gear. You get front rowers who play one good game and then, the next game, they can shy away. Hopefully I can do the same thing against the Broncos.

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world, rugby league. With the rep side of it, you’ve got to watch out for other front rowers. They are definitely out there to take your spot.

“I wouldn’t say I’m up there at the top but there’s always guys trying to pull you down and trying to better than you

“It’s up to me to step up.”

After the Cowboys’ win – they led 24-0 at halftime – the diagnosis for halfback Robert Lui was altered from ankle ligaments to a kneecap problem. He is likely to be missing for a fortnight.

“We all know what he’s been through to get here and we all feel sorry for him,” said centre Brent Tate, involved in the lead-up to Lui’s 16th-minute try.

“But he’ll get his chance.”

Lui’s departure marked a slowing of the scoring deluge; Neil Henry’s side was averaging better than a point a minute at the time he crossed for his try.

The 22-0 lead at 18 minutes became 24-0 right on halftime and 30-0 when centre Kane Linnett posted his second try a minute into the second half.

But the match then got bogged down somewhat, with Penrith second rower Clint Newton booked for a high tackle on NQ hooker Anthony Mitchell in the 61st minute in front of 12,431 fans.

In the final game whose kick-off time is affected by daylight saving this season, fans could have been forgiven for heading to the home for a few extra hours’ sleep when it was only one-quarter over.

North Queensland winger Kalifa Fai-Fai Loa scored after only three minutes, off a Matt Bowen bomb, and Linnett got his first three minutes later.

That touchdown would have been disallowed under the previous interpretation of the obstruction rule as NQ forward Tariq Sims appeared to make contact with a defender while running a decoy. Under the new interpretation, the green light came up.

Further tries to winger Antonio Winterstain and Lui left little doubt that the Cowboys would end a three-match losing streak after losses to Melbourne, Newcastle and the Warriors.

Henry could also not guarantee winger Ashley Graham would come back into the team for Friday’s clash with Brisbane, given the performances of Faifai Loa and Antonio Winterstein.

Whoever plays on Friday, Henry and co-captain Scott agreed, a significant improvement would be needed on last night’s effort.

“On the back of a good win against the Titans, no doubt there’ll be a massive crowd down and Suncorp and we’re going to have to be a lot better than we were tonight, that’s for sure,” said Scott.

“Opening the season (against Brisbane) is great but any time we come up against them is a game we look forward to.

“They’re tough games and they showed last night what a quality side they are.”

Henry agreed, saying: “I think anyone watching that game (tonight) would see that compared to last night’s Broncos game, we are going to need to improve considering we’re going down there.

“And we’re realists about that.”

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said his men tried hard but were “just bad”.

“I can’t fault the preparation, the effort’s there, but execution in so many areas was poor – the worst we’ve had all year,” he said.

“There’s a reality to us that we aren’t fancied and there’s a reason for that. There’s guys down on their confidence and that happens when you lose a few games as well.”

NORTH QUEENSLAND 30 (K Linnett 2 K Faifai Loa  A Winterstein R Lui tries J Thurston 5 goals) bt PENRITH 0 at 1300SMILES Stadium. Referees: A Devich/C James. Crowd:  12,431.

Filed for: SUN-HERALD