Storm Are Lucky They’re At AAMI

Melbourne - Jesse BromwichBy STEVE MASCORD

MELBOURNE players are confused and mystified at their poor starts to matches and are relying on home ground advantage to banish the trend that threatens their premiership defence.

Captain Cameron Smith said after Friday night’s 20-10 defeat to South Sydney the players had to decide what they wanted to do with the rest of the season and needed to fix their opening engagements if they hoped to progress past this Saturday’s preliminary semi-final against Newcastle.

Coach Craig Bellamy’s exhortations on the issue appear to have fallen upon deaf ears.

“Craig’s been onto us about our bad starts for a while now,” says prop Jesse Bromwich.

“There’s one week where we have a good one, then another week where we have a bad start. We’re not too sure what the problem is but hopefully we fix it this week and have a good start.

“(Against Souths), poor completions at the start really cost us at the end.

One consolation for the world champs is that the performance was an improvement on the previous away game, a 28-8 belting by Manly.

Bromwich said: “It probably was a bit better. We probably played good for 60 minutes. The first 20 really cost us. At the start, we didn’t feel too bad but we just let it go for some reason.”

But while there is concern at AAMI Park, there’s no panic.

“I think we should be pretty good,” the New Zealand Test prop said.

“We’ve played a bit of finals now so we know what to do this week: go to training, fix it, train hard, work hard and come back next week and hopefully put in a good performance.

“I think it looks good on the records, having a home game, so it must be pretty good for the team. It will be good to get one at home.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

The A-List: JESSE BROMWICH (Melbourne & New Zealand)

Melbourne - Jesse BromwichBy STEVE MASCORD

THE Orange Hawks and a fellow called James Moala. That’s who we have to thank for Jesse Bromwich.
Jesse is the 193cm 110kg behemoth we see wreaking havoc every weekend for the Melbourne Storm, a man who will have played a big role if New Zealand is lifting the World Cup again at Old Trafford on November 30.
But how much do you know about him? Um, he’s a Kiwi. He was probably discovered at some schools carnival, right? He has a brother called Kenny who plays off the bench sometimes. He scores the odd long-range try.
For an elite forward at a front running club, Bromwich is weirdly anonymous off the field. Maybe you’ve never even heard him talk. As one of those pests who runs on the field at fulltime to interview players, I know that the bloke in my earphones is normally saying words like “Cronk”, “Slater” and “Smith” when the siren sounds.
Leaning up against a rally car painted with Storm livery at South Bank during a club promotion one sunny day, 24-year-old Jesse makes it apparent pretty quickly that he’s got a story to tell. It tumbles out, all at once.
After chatting politely to a Scotsman who is wearing a Storm polo but who says he’s “not a rugby man, I’m a football fan”, 24-year-old Jesse tells A-List “I went to Orange with one of my mates and then went home for a holiday and my mate told me he wasn’t going back. I didn’t want to go back on my own so I stayed in New Zealand.
“At that time, mum and dad lived in Melbourne. They told me to move over. My brother was in the SG Ball and the 20s then, in Melbourne, and he just told his coach about me, that I was playing footy. The coach told me to come down to training and it started off from there.”
HANG ON! Your interviewer’s head is spinning. No doubt yours’ is too. So, you moved from Manurewa in Auckland, where you were a junior player of some note, to ORANGE in outback NSW? Why?
“I went because we had work and they were going to pay us to play footy,” he explains (‘We’ was Bromwich and mate Moala, a handy lock in his day).
“It was better than what I was doing back in New Zealand (working in an aluminium factory).”
OK, got that. And why, exactly, were your parents in Melbourne, of all places? ““They just moved to be closer to me … we’ve got family here “
OK, so we’re talking five years ago. Through contacts, Jesse/James rode into the wild west of NSW in search of footy and a job. Jesse’s dad, Mike, and mother, Alix wanted to go with him but they chose Melbourne – out near Dandenong, actually – because they had family there.
Now, slowly, what happened next?
“We went home for a holiday on one of the bye weeks and he (Moala) just said ‘oh, I’m not going back’. So I wasn’t going back on my own. I was about 17, 18.”
Only problem was, Jesse’s entire family had upped and changed countries for him, hadn’t they? And now he was back in enzed, on his own. So they told him to join them.
Sure, he had nothing waiting for him in Melbourne but little brother Kenneath (unusual spelling, sounds like an Irish town) was making headway with the local NRL team the Melbourne Storm.
“Ken just said he had a brother at home who used to go alright at footy, I guess,” Jesse says with a smile. “The coach just said ‘oh yeah, bring him along to training and we’ll have a look’.
“That was in 2008.”
phonto (1)Big Jesse worked his way up through the ranks, was 18th man for an away game against the Warriors in 2009, made his debut against Harlequins before the 2010 World Club Challenge, backed up in the WCC the following week and was in the NRL side from round one.
He’s a man who has had a lot of choices to make at a young age, but in the end let the choices make him. For instance, he didn’t really pick league over union. It chose him.
“Where I’m from, it’s all rugby league,” he says. “I used to play union at school but it didn’t really interest me., eh? It was always rugby league. My old man loved it. Kenny loved it and all my mates loved it too so it’s all we used to do.”
As for choosing a position to play … have you seen the size of him? “Where I’m from, everyone’s big so …hahah. I was always a forward.”
His team-mates say being picked for New Zealand last season was the making of him. “At the time of my first Test, I didn’t really think about it. My name got read out and Craig (Bellamy) and all them told me and I couldn’t believe it.”
But playing Test football is one area where Jesse Bromwich is not content to go with the flow. Having played junior football in Orange, he could have gone the way of James Tamou.
He has crossed the Tasman more times than Qantas but when I ask him if he can understand the decisions of some of his compatriots to represent Australia, he says: “No, I can’t understand that. It’s always been easy for me.
“I haven’t even thought about it. I know where I’m from. I guess all those other boys, they must love living here or something like that. I love living here too but I’m always from New Zealand.”
Before we continue, we should reflect on how remarkable it is that in these days of scouting toddlers, of scholarships and pathways, it is still possible to walk in off the street and become and NRL star, on the recommendation of your brother.
Gareth Widdop did something similar in Melbourne; showed up from another country and got a start in the world’s toughest competition.
“It’s tough but I loved it because I’d never been with an NRL team or anything like that,” he says of his first weeks at the Storm.
“I was just keen to train, I was keen to play. Seeing guys like Greg Inglis and Billy Slater and Cameron Smith and them .. I remember seeing them for the first time and just buzzing out. I couldn’t believe it at the time.
“The main thing I’ve had to work on down here is my defence. Where I’m from, it’s all about ‘attack, attack’ so you learn how to do attack as a kid. The defensive part of the game has been very tough. Fitness, too, is definitely something you need playing in the NRL and playing in the middle of the field. “
That attacking instinct from Manurewa Marlins still comes in handy sometimes. He broke open the World Club Challenge with a long-range try just after halftime and has scored a couple of others in the NRL.
“The first thing I do when I get in the clear is I look for Bill or someone like that,” he laughs. “It doesn’t happen to me often. Sometimes I get over the line and I’m not really sure what happened. But if it happened, it’s lucky.”
If you reference Jesse’s tale by the movie Sliding Doors, there’s been a lot of them. More than the intro to Get Smart, to get him to this point where he and partner Les have a two-year-old son called Ely and are living happily in the Victorian capital.
If he hadn’t gone to Orange, his parents wouldn’t have come to Melbourne. If James Moala hadn’t got cold feet? “It was probably a good thing because then I had to move in with mum and dad in Melbourne,” he muses.
“I used to work with my dad. He’s a supervisor of an aluminium company so I’d probably be working in there still.
“I don’t know, I guess things all happen for a reason. “

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Jesse Bromwich Set To Become Dominant Prop

Melbourne - Jesse BromwichBy STEVE MASCORD

TEAM-mates have warned that giant Kiwi Jesse Bromwich’s powerhouse try in the World Club Challenge is but a glimpse of the havoc he’ll wreak on the NRL this year.

The 193cm, 110kg Bromwich ripped the clash with Leeds wide open on Friday night by beating four defenders on a 20-metre run to the line just after halftime, putting the Storm on course for their 18-14 win at Headingley.

“Jesse has come on in leaps and bounds since last year and I think playing the Test match has given him a heap of confidence,” said back rower Ryan Hoffman.

“I think he’s building on the way he finished last year. He’s just got to build on his game. He works very, very hard on it and if he keeps going the way he is, he’s going to be great player for us.”

Bromwich rated the try alongside one he scored in last year’s preliminary final against Manly.

“I don’t know what happened there, I just got lucky,” he said. “But it’s up there as one of the best tries I’ve got, along with the one last year in the prelim. It was a good feeling.

“I just remember hearing Cooper (Cronk) outside me and the next minute I was sliding over the tryline. I was stoked.”

Bromwich and another tryscorer on Friday, 21-year-old debutant Tohu Harris, were each discovered by the late Storm recruitment manager, Darren Bell.

“I get on good with (Harris),” said Bromwich. “He’s been training with us for two years now. I’ve known him for a while and he played well – I think he’s going to be a good player for this club, hopefully for a very long time.

“(Bell) was very good at his job and it is a nice little reward for him if he’s looking down on us. It’s always nice to have another Kiwi in there too.”

Bromwich’s brother Kenny made the trip to England but went home early to take part in a lower grade trial.

“He got injured in training a couple of weeks ago and hasn’t played a game yet,” Jesse explained. “It would be pretty special playing alongside my little bro.

“Mum and Dad would be stoked and so will I.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Darren Bell’s Legacy Lives On

By STEVE MASCORD

Tohu Harris
Tohu Harris

FOURTEEN months after his sudden death from a heart attack, another of Melbourne Storm recruitment manager Darren Bell’s discoveries rolls off the production line here tomorrow night.
In a World Club Challenge campaign that started with a bus driver who failed to show up to Heathrow, continued with ASADA blood testing at least two players and has been overshadowed by debate over scheduling back home, the Storm’s selection of 21-year-old Tohu Harris is the feel-good story of the clash with Leeds.
Just days before his death, Bell was quoted as saying of former rugby union star: “I think he’ll be the first from this programme to play NRL for us … we’ve got high expectations of Tohu.”
The recruitment trip to Wellington which snared the “quiet, determined” forward was also aimed to sign Super Rugby’s TJ Perenara. Bell, whose death hit the club hard, was responsible for recruiting winger Matt Duffie and prop Jesse Bromwich – who’ve both since become internationals.
“He’s big and he’s quiet but he’s a wonderful kid,” said football manager Frank Ponissi of the 185 cm, 112 kg Harris “His father (Paul) has made the trek over from New Zealand for his debut.
“He’s the youngest of a big family and they’ll be very proud – and so will we. He was probably close to our best, if not our best (against Canberra a fortnight ago) in a very disappointing team performance.
“He played well against Brisbane Easts. He been probably our most consistent player in the two warm-up trials we’ve had. Off the field, you just wouldn’t know he’s there sometimes.
“He just goes about his business and goes home.”
Having beaten Lagi Setu and Junior Moors to a starting berth and Kevin Proctor (knee) out for three or four more weeks, Harris now has the chance to secure a starting berth against St George Illawarra on March 10.
The 13th – and perhaps final – consecutive WCC game to be played in the UK is a 20,400 sellout. “We’ve played each other in three of these now,” said Storm halfback Cooper Cronk.
“It’s an Origin series. We’ve won one, they’ve won one and whoever wins this, wins the series I suppose.”
Leeds are likely to switch centre Kallum Watkins to fullback after the loss of Zac Hardaker with a broken thumb.
Watkins told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “Fullback is the position I played as an amateur and it’s how I got picked up by Leeds.”
Joe Vickery, a triallist from the Gold Coast, makes an unlikely appearance after ankle ligament damage suffered on February 1 ruled him out for six weeks.
Having returned from Wigan, Melbourne’s Brett Finch is likely to fill in at hooker at some stage. He;s party of a six-man bench which will be shaved an hour before kick-off.
“Ability, versatility, experience,” Cronk said when asked about Finch’s attributes. “Things we lacked as a club last year through certain parts (of the season).”
Leeds coach Brian McDermott said Melbourne would present a tougher challenge than Manly, who the Rhinos beat 26-12 a year ago.
“How often they are going to throw things at you is a lot more than Manly,” McDermott said. “Manly played a bit more off the cuff … Melbourne will be a bit more structured and they’re going to test us for longer periods.
“In a roundabout way, I’m saying the test is bigger than it was last year against Manly.”
Teams for the match, which kicks off at Headingley at 7am (NSW time) Saturday, are:
LEEDS (squad): Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai, Paul McShane, Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Kevin Sinfield (c), Steve Ward, Brett Delaney, Ian Kirke, Chris Clarkson, Mitch Achurch, Richard Moore, Jimmy Keinhorst, Joe Vickery (two to be omitted)
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater, Sisi Waqa, Justin O’Neill, Will Chambers, Mahe Fonua; Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Tohu Harris, Ryan Hoffman, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith (c), Bryan Norrie. Res: Brett Finch, Jason Ryles, Siosaia Vave, Lagi Setu, Kenny Bromwich, Junior Moors (two to be omitted)..Referee: Ben Thaler.
Filed for: AAP

Aussies To Make Kiwis Sweat In Test

By STEVE MASCORD
AUSTRALIA is set to take significant psychological advantage in sweltering Townsville on Saturday by rejecting New Zealand’s request for drinks breaks during the trans-Tasman Test.
At this stage temperatures are forecast in the high 20s at Dairy Farmers Stadium on Saturday but the Kiwis – including 122kg debutant Sam Kasiano – have already flagged their intention to push during a meeting a few hours before kick-off for breaks.
“One hundred per cent (but) it will be decided on the day,” coach Stephen Kearney told the Herald at Townsville Airport yesterday.
Drinks breaks have been turned into psychological ploys during recent years in the NRL, with requests for them being portrayed to players by their clubs as a sign of opposition weakness or lack of confidence.
Whatever the case, Australia doctor Dave Givney indicated only extreme weather conditions would prompt the green and golds to acceed to the World Cup holders’ request.
“We’d be keen for the extra drinks trainer but not the 20 minute break,” Givney said, “depending on the conditions of course.
“I’d like to add that player welfare is definitely our number one priority.”
Giant fans, slushie machines and ice packs will be available on the sideline to players in both the Test and the Under 20s curtain-raiser.
The Kiwis jetted into Townsville from their base in Cairns yesterday, with the giant Kasiano the subject of scrutiny after he was implicated in comments to a female reporter at the Bulldogs’ Mad Monday celebrations.
New Zealand made only assistant coach Tony Iro and prop Jesse Bromwich available to media representatives. Wearing oversized headphones, Kasiano quietly collected his bag and made his way to a waiting bus with team-mates.
Asked how the prop was handling the no-doubt unwanted scrutiny, Iro made no reference to the incident at hand when he answered: “”Sam’s prepared really well. I think he’s obviously nervous, looking forwards to his debut. He won’t be intimidated. He’s a big lump of a lad. He seems to have enjoyed the week in camp so far.
“He’s fortunate to have four of his Bulldogs team-mates with him so he’s fit in really comfortably.”
Iro said centre Krisnan Inu and captain Benji Marshall would have a shootout for goal-kicking duties. Australia trained without incident at Brothers ground in the morning, with an opposed session involving the Junior Kangaroos the main component.
Fullback Billy Slater remained keen to distance himself from the grand final biting incident involving James Graham, which resulted in the England forward being banned for 12 matches.
He said he shook hands with Graham at fulltime
“Like I said in my statement, it was behind me after the game,” Melbourne’s Slater said.
“A lot of things happen on the rugby league field, there’s a lot of emotion in it and mate, I’m a player that’s done stuff and regretted stuff in the past so I’ve got no grudges. It’s passed, it’s in the past and we move on I think.
“You shake hands and you move on.”
Warriors coaching hopeful Iro said he knew nothing about developments at the club, which hopes to name a new coach within a week. Utility Feleti Mateo recently revealed players had told officials they wanted Iro – the caretaker following Brian McClennan’s axing – to get the job.
“You all have more news that me – I haven’t looked at the phone, I’ve got more worries this weekend,” Iro said.
“I’ll get back to it on Monday.
“I’ve gone through the independent process like lots of other coaches. The story changes every 48 hours. I’m not sweating on it.
“(Craig Bellamy) is obviously a coach in demand so he’ll have his reasons to do what he’s going to do.” Bellamy has again said he will not join the Warriors.
Slater joined Melbourne team-mates in saying Bellamy had earned the right to move on in 2014 if that was his choice.
“For starters, he’s there next year,” he said. “We never look too far down the track as a club. Other than that, everyone goes through contract negotiations – whether you’re a player or a coach.
“Craig’s done so much, not just for us a club but me as an individual as well. We fully respect his decision no matter what he comes up with.
“Cooper (Cronk) went through it this year. It’s a touch decision but in the end he’ll do what’s best for Craig Bellamy and we respect that because he’s done so much for us.”
Kiwis and Melbourne prop Jesse Bromich said Bellamy saying would be “good news for the club – he’s an awesome coach. He’s done a lot for myself and my career in a short time and I couldn’t praise him enough.”
When Bromwich was asked if Kiwi-born Australia prop James Tamou coach expect any sledging, he said: “Nothing’s really been said about that yet.
“He wanted to play for Australia. I’ve never doubted myself. I was always a proud Kiwi.”
The Australians have today off, while the Kiwis have a school visit in the morning followed by afternoon training. The Test is a 26,500 sellout.