Nathan Brown Slams Wigan Props

Brown, NathanBy STEVE MASCORD

OUTSPOKEN Nathan Brown has issued a World Club Challenge warning to Sydney Roosters: Wigan’s props are cheap shot merchants.
The St Helens boss and former St George Illawarra coach made the comment yesterday after his new signing, former Penrith half Luke Walsh, finished his first night as a Super League player in hospital undergong x-rays for a possible facial fracture after a late challenge from Wigan’s Welsh giant Ben Flower.
The 28-16 Wigan win at Langtree Park also marked the English debuts of North Queensland icon Matt Bowen and former South Sydney and Wests Tigers forward Eddy Pettybourne.
“He got hit in the head – without the ball. You know that’s going to happen when you play Wigan” said a fuming Brown.
“That’s standard with their front rowers. It happened to Gaz O’Brien last year.”
Brown was otherwise complimentary to the side who will meet the Roosters at Allianz Stadium on February 22, calling them “effective”, “fluid” and “terrific”. The starting props in Sydney are likely to be Flower and Scott Taylor with Pettybourne off the bench.
New signing Jordan James, a former Royal Marine, will push Gil Dudson for the final bench spot.
That’s if Flower, 26, escapes the wrath of the judiciary. Walsh played on after the 70th-minute hit and was taken straight to a local hospital for scans. Results were still unavailable at the time of writing.
Pettybourne, who played for the United States in the World Cup, had fans chanting his name after a couple of big hits off the interchange bench. “He’s got good footwork and a hit on him,” said coach Shaun Wane.
“There’s a few technical things EP can work on. He’ll get better.”
Bowen had few oppotunities, St Helens scoring one try after the Cowboys star lost the ball in a tackle. He was replaced at halftime.
“That was always the plan,” said Wane, joking: “He’s the same age as me.”
In Friday’s other pre-season game, Leeds flogged London 68-10 at Headingley.

Filed for: SUN HERALD

Luke Walsh’s St Helens Getout Clause

Penrith - Luke WalshBy STEVE MASCORD

DEPARTING Penrith star Luke Walsh has revealed he has a getout clause allowing him to return to the NRL at any time in his two-year contract at St Helens.

While coach Ivan Cleary insists it’s still a rebuilding year at the foot of the mountains, the Panthers were briefly in the top eight at the weekend and it was the Langtree Park-bound pair of halfback Walsh and interchange forward Mose Masoe which played a big role in the 25-10 win over St George Illawarra.

“Yeah, I’ve got an opportunity to get out … at any time,” Walsh said when asked about his contract provisions at the Super League club.

“I was just getting sick of the pressure here. It’s pressure week-in and week-out. I can go over there, enjoy myself, improve my game, I mightn’t come back…”

Walsh and Masoe are part of the big cleanout at Centrebet Stadium, with Jamie Soward likely to replace the former in the no.7 jumper.

Walsh continues: “Now I’m starting to enjoy it here. It feels like a relief that I’ve signed with St Helens. Since I’ve signed there, I’ve knuckled down and just tried to work on my game.

“I’ve spoken to Daisy (former St Helens star David Fairleigh) about it, I’ve spoken to my little mate Burnsy (Travis Burns) over there a few times.

“They’ve enjoyed it over there. It will be a good experience. It’s something to look forward to at the end of the year.

“An opportunity arose and I took it.

“I’m trying to improve on my game each week, I want to leave on good terms.’

The Panthers were in the eight until Newcastle beat Gold Coast on Sunday and remain the surprise packet of the mid-season after being tipped in some quarters to finish last.

Walsh explains: “We started improving in our defence and as soon as we did that, we knew we were a top eight team. It’s all about attitude in defence.

“There’s still a lot improvement to come right across the park but we’re basing our game on out defence, that’s just main thing. We’re just playing tough and hard for each other.

“Our attack’s there, especially with young (Matt) Moylan. He’s helped us a lot at the back there, which has improved our attack.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Pain Ends For Panthers

By STEVE MASCORD

“NO-ONE’S  looking over their shoulder now,” Penrith halfback Luke Walsh has declared as the club emerges from a dark period, before vowing to send departing stalwart Luke Lewis out a winner.

The Panthers snapped a five-match losing streak on Sunday, a matter of days after Lewis signed a long-term deal with Cronulla. It marked the end of a trying period for the Panthers under new coach Ivan Cleary, with major changes including widespread reports that star centre Michael Jennings had also been shopped around.

“It’s been frustrating – all we can do now is put the past behind us and move on,” Walsh tells RLW in the wake of a 28-16 success against Sydney Roosters.

“It’s definitely different (now). At training you can see it. Our preparation’s been spot on … no-one’s looking over their shoulder now. We’ve got to keep training and playing hard, that’s what Ivan wants.”

Prop Tim Grant says making close friend Lewis’ final days at the club memorable for all the right reasons is now his priority.

“Sending Luke Lewis off the field for the final time in a Panthers jersey as a winner is important to me,” he said. “I’ll be thinking about that for sure.

“(We want to) restore some faith from the fans and give us some foundation for 2013. We don’t want to be going into 2013 as a losing team. That means a lot to me.”

Walsh agreed, adding: “We all feel the same. Lewy’s a champion bloke. Hopefully he’s back next week and we can finish off the season strong for him. He’s been a big part of this club – hopefully we send him off a winner.”

Cleary said he did not necessarily agree with Lewis fronting a media conference at Cronulla to announce his decision. Grant, a close friend of the Test utility, preferred to keep his opinion on that issue to himself.

Panthers players were ecstatic with the performance of Lachlan Coote at five-eighth on Sunday, Grant suggesting he would fill the role permanently next year. “When he gets the experience in the front line defending, I think he’s going to be a really good five-eighth,” the prop said. “I think five-eighth’s where he’s headed.”

Despite the ructions, centre Brad Tighe says he has never had any regrets about extending his stay at the foot of the mountains for three years before a ball was kicked in the 2012 premiership. Tighe says the Panthers have set themselves the goal of winning at least four of their remaining six games.

“I think it’s on the up – I think we’re heading in the right direction,” he said.”I was happy with the way we were going. We had a big off-season … I was enjoying it.

“Whatever happens, we want to win the majority of our games,” says Tighe.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK