THE JOY OF SIX: Round 23

The Joy Of Six1. WHAT PRICE COMPASSION?

SHOULD a player who gains compassionate leave profit financially from it? According to NRL head of football operations Todd Greenberg, capping payments made to a player released on compassionate grounds – perhaps for the term of the original contract he escaped – will be discussed as part of the salary cap review. Another suggestion was to hand the difference in any contract back to the player’s former club, as compensation. This might work if, say, Ben Barba or Anthony Milford go into the Brisbane’s cap by NRL decree at a higher price than Canterbury or Canberra would be paying them next year. In that case, the difference between that figure and the cap amount could be paid by Brisbane to the Bulldogs and Raiders. “Compassionate grounds, if that (release) is awarded by clubs, they may well make the decision that the commercial terms don’t change,” Greenberg said on the ABC

2. WHAT HAPPENS IN BRISVEGAS

BRISBANE coach Anthony Griffin and his media manager, James Hinchey, are friendly, down-to-earth, likeable fellows. But their approach to talking about the – very necessary – recruitment going on at the club right now is curious. Even after signings have taken place, such as that of Sydney Rooster Martin Kennedy, there is no announcement. Peter Wallace and Scott Prince being told they are in reserve grade, or the club’s interest in Ben Barba and Anthony Milford, are treated as if they are figments of the media’s imagination – but never denied. And on Friday, Josh Hoffman was stopped almost mid-sentence while talking to television cameras . Fans have a right to know who a club is talking to and letting go. If you can’t comment because talks are at a delicate stage, why not say “I can’t comment right now because talks are at a delicate stage”? Melbourne’s squeamishness about anything concerning their departing assistant coaches is equally mystifying.

3. BRENT TATE: ORIGIN MADE ME

BRENT Tate won’t be retiring from State of Origin and wants Australia’s World Cup selectors to know it. Tate has heard coach Tim Sheens will be picked a team with a view to the future; his future will still including playing for Queensland. “I’m very mindful of where I am with my body but at the same time, I think Origin makes me a better player,” said Tate after the 22-10 win over Gold Coast. “Being around that environment, it takes me to another level. It would be really hard for me to to say ‘no’ to it. I feel as if I’m not quite ready (to quit). On the World Cup, he said: “I’d love to go, although I know Tim has said there’s a bit of an eye on the future. I was part of the last World Cup and it would be nice to be able to go there and right a few wrongs. If I get a chance there, I’ll be the first one with my bags packed.”

4. NATIONAL INFORMATION MINISTRY

THE NRL’s ill-advised crackdown on what is arbitrarily deemed “excessive” criticism by coaches of referees will be put to the test today when Geoff Toovey’s post match media conference from Friday is examined. It used to be that you had to question the integrity of a match official to cop a fine; now you pretty much only have to upset the NRL. How can reporters rely on the NRL to enforce media regulations and free speech at clubs when the administration itself indulges in censorship? On a more positive note, the ARLC will attempted to make the link with touch football an international association by encouraging the RLIF to make contact with touch’s international governing body, FIT. We’ve rapped the NRL over the touch footy deal but here’s another brickbat: officials travelling around Sydney in chauffeured cars isn’t a great look.

5. BEING JOHNATHAN THURSTON

YOU may have wondered exactly when Johnathan Thurston turned from a footballer to a role model and ambassador; the sort of fellow who spots kids in the crowd during games and tells the ballboy to hand them a signed kicking tee. The Closing The Gap round, of which he is a frontman, seemed an opportune time to ask him. “When I had that misdemeanour of getting locked up in Brisbane (in 2010),” he said on ABC when I asked. “It didn’t only just affect myself. It affected my fiancé Samantha, my parents, my brothers, my sisters, my family. That’s when I really had a good, hard look at myself and the legacy I wanted to see when I leave football. I’ve got a four-year deal and I want to make the most of these four years because after that, you know, I’ll be in the real world.”

6. MELBOURNE BALLS TAMPERED WITH AGAIN

MELBOURNE have become the victims of ball tampering for a second consecutive week, it is alleged. Last week it was Sam Burgess fiddling with Chambers’ willie, this week it was Knights officials lubricating the pigskin with water. Storm halfback Cooper Cronk complained to referees Jared Maxwell and Brett Suttor that the Steedens had been placed in water before kick-offs and this had lead to at least one knock-on. Melbourne officials did not want to add to the allegation when contacted late Sunday. Co-incidentally, while Sam Burgess is currently serving a two-week suspension for tampering with Chambers, the last known example of interfering with a ball in the NRL was perpetrated by his England team-mate, James Graham last year. Graham rubbed his legs in vaseline, primarily to make him harder to tackle but with the perhaps unintended incidental result of making balls harder to handle too. OK, enough.

And a bonus ‘zero tackle’

7. GREEN GRASS OF WEMBLEY

NEXT weeks’ Set Of Six will come to you from Wembley Stadium, where Wigan and Hull are preparing to take part in a rematch of one of the top two matches I’ve ever seen, the 1985 Challenge Cup final that pitted Peter Sterling (black and white irregular hoops) against Brett Kenny (cherry and white). Playing half for Wigan will be former Parramatta and Cronulla man Blake Green and NRL talent scouts should be glued to Eurosport to check his form. Just about every Australian who signs with a Super League club these days has a get-out clause and experienced halves aren’t really thick on the ground. Blake’s agent Isaac Moses is flying to London for the game but no doubt in a different part of the plane to your correspondent. We’re cheering for Hull though, on account of Mark ‘Ogre’ O’Meley having an opportunity to win something special in his last season.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

McGuire Looking Forward To Packing Down With Kennedy

Brisbane - Josh McGuireBy STEVE MASCORD

BRISBANE giant Josh McGuire says he’s looking forward to linking with his Australian Prime Minister’s XIII team-mate Martin Kennedy at Red Hill next season.

News that Sydney Rooster Kennedy had been released to join the Broncos broke on the eve of the 18-16 win by Anthony Griffin’s side at 1300smiles Stadium on Saturday.

And even though McGuire says there’s already plenty of competition for front row spots at the club, he welcomes the news.

“He’s a good player, he’s a big fella and he’ll be a good addition to the club,” McGuire tells League Week.

“I’ll be excited to strap on some boots with him next year and hopefully it’s going to be a good tussle next year for front row spots which is always welcome. As long as we have some quality players coming to the club, it’s a bonus.

“I’ve met Marty through Prime Minister’s XIII and Emerging Origin camps. He’s a big man and he’s hard to handle.”

The Broncos’ front row stocks should be boosted in the more immediate future with the return from a calf injury of international Ben Hannant. Brisbane can only afford to drop one more match in the run to the finals.

“I feel really bad for Benny, I know what he’s going through,” said McGuire, whose had his own calf problems in recent times.

“You think you’re right, you start running again, and you get a niggle again. It’s one of those things you can’t risk because if you do it again, it’s just such a big period out. I hope he gets back because we really miss him.

“I’ve got no advice for Benny. He’s the old dog, he’s been doing this for a long time.”

Despite an indifferent season, confidence is high that the Broncos are poised for a rails run to the play-offs.

“It’s one down and few more to go … we refused to lose (on Saturday),” the Samoan international said.

“We’ve just got to keep on winning and get our heads around it. It’s just baby steps. We’ll take it week by week and hopefully we can get the job done.

“It’s the little things we haven’t been finishing off – the kick-chase and the fundamentals. We haven’t been winning the ruck as much as we should have, early in the year but we’re starting to play some good footy.

“We don’t want to dwell on what’s happened in the past. Each week, in my opinion, we’re just getting better and playing some better footy.”

Asked about the possibility of playing for Samoa in the World Cup, McGuire said: “I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow. I’m just playing footy for the Broncos at the moment and all my energy and all my desire is for the Broncos. “

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Marty Dreams Of Origin

Sydney Roosters - Martin KennedyBy STEVE MASCORD

MARTIN Kennedy says the idea of playing State of Origin keeps him awake at night – but doesn’t cross his mind during matches for Sydney Roosters.

Kennedy came away from his home state with a 12-8 win over North Queensland at the weekend. Ben Hannant’s calf injury has him firmly in the frame to represent the Maroons against NSW at ANZ Stadium on June five.

“Origin’s one of those things that keeps you up at night and it’s the reason you play footy when you’re a kid,” Kennedy tells RLW.

“I’ve got no idea what’s going to happen but if I get thrown the shirt, I’ll wear it with pride and I can’t wait.

“(But) during games … I have no idea who we are even playing the next week.”

Kennedy’s major selection rival is Brisbane’s former Samoan international Josh McGuire – and the Rooster seems to have an ally in the Broncos who do not believe McGuire is ready for the Queensland side.

“He needs to start playing some good footy for us first before anyone starts talking about Origin,” said Broncos captain Sam Thaiday.

“He’s a great talent and a good young kid but I still think he’s got a lot to learn about this beautiful game called rugby league.

“I’m sure some time in the future he’ll be donning the Maroon jersey but just ease up on him.”

Kennedy has seen seismic changes at the club he has represented since 2009, with stars Sonny Bill Williams and Michael Jennings joined by new coach Trent Robinson this season.

“Once we knew that Robbo was going to be the coach, it was pretty much ‘crack open a bottle of champagne’ because we knew exactly how good he was and we knew the boys would get behind him,” he said.

“The way all the new recruits have come in and applied their talent set to the team, it’s just been fantastic.

“I’ve been at the club since I was 17 years old and it’s just a fantastic time to be a Rooster. I just can’t get enough of it.

Kennedy said this Saturday’s clash with Melbourne at ANZ Stadium would be “absolutely massive for us.

“There’ll be some talk about us, like ‘they’ve had a big few weeks, they’ll be a bit sore, they’ll be a bit wounded they’ll limp into the game’ but if you look at the way the boys reacted after the win, that’s just not the case.”

Of the Roosters’ philosophy this year, he says: “I don’t know that it’s that revolutionary. If you don’t let them score any tries, you don’t have to score many.”

“Aiden (Guerra) is devastated with himself for allowing that inside shoulder and allowing that (Rober Lui) try. It’s the first try we haven’t had off a kick in about a month.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

RLW Season Review: SYDNEY ROOSTERS

By STEVE MASCORD

 “THERE is a tendency,” says Sydney Roosters chief executive Steve Noyce, “to get a false sense of security from the idea that once you have made the tough decisions regarding the coach, it’s like waving a magic wand and it will fix everything.”

It’s not easy for Noyce to rake over the coals of 2012. Just eight wins, lots of penalties (against, of course) and errors, a couple of heart breaking defeats on the bell and a shocking 50-12 flogging by North Queensland in Darwin.

Any season that ends with a coach leaving early is not a good one.

“There are some positives off the field but professional sport is about on the field, it’s about winning,” says Noyce. “If you don’t make the finals, then it hasn’t been a successful year.

“Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was a deserving winner of the Jack Gibson Medal – he has really improved this year. There’s Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Tautau Maga and Daniel Tupou at the end of the year. There’s the Toyota Cup side making the preliminary final and Newtown the grand final.

“But we can’t continue to rest on the fact that the future looks bright and our players are young. It’s time to shut up and get the job done.”

Prop Martin Kennedy’s season is another one of the year’s positives, culminating in his selection for the Australian train-on squad. But he speaks bluntly and constructively about the disappointments of the season.

“Fans see losses like the ones against the Dragons and the Rabbitohs as demoralising – and players are exactly the same,” he says. “To be up there among the top teams early in the season and then losing games by such small margins, so late, is shattering.

“But the flipside of all that is that if we were two or three per cent better in those matches, we’d have been in the final eight and from there, anything can happen.

“That’s something for us to take into the pre-season and into next year.”

Kennedy says there are important things for supporters to understand about the mountainous penalty counts. ]

“The hardest thing for someone to understand who doesn’t play football is how, when you are under the pump out on the field, you try to make up for it by doing things you wouldn’t normally do,” he explains.

“So holding on for five or 10 more seconds in the tackle seems the same as running harder. If you can do something that’s a little bit outside the rules to help your team, you want to do it to try and help your team-mates out.

“We’re not trying to give away penalties or lose the game but that’s what ends up happening.

“It’s something we are really going to have to discuss in the pre-season because doing that doesn’t work. The referees are so much in the money now that you get caught every time. We have to make sure we don’t do things outside the rules when we’re under pressure.”

Kennedy says the Roosters’ players feel terrible about Smith’s departure. “I have really struggled with it, expecially now that so many of his assistants are going too,” he says. “Even when Braith (Anasta) announced he was leaving, that was bad. He had been here for so long and I really took it hard.

“We all know it’s easier to move on the coach than it is to move 17 under-performing players. It cut us deep and will drive us next season.”

Kennedy has no trouble identifying which defeat stung the most. “Yes, up in Darwin was definitely a lowlight to the season,” he said. “But as a Roosters fan growing up, you never want to lose to Souths.

“Losing to Souths – you don’t want that, whether it’s by one point or 30. So I would say that was the worst.”

Noyce said it is down to individuals to assess how they contributed to the downfall of Smith, who he described as “a thoroughly decent human being”.

“I didn’t see Brian dropping balls, missing tackles or – at my level – making bad buisiess decisions,” he said.

“Hopefully it can be a catalyst for people to look at whether they took a short cut here, didn’t work hard enough there, didn’t engage with the group enough, whatever. If that happens, something positive will come from it.”

But thinking a change of coach will bring a change of fortune? “If you think that,” says Noyce, “you’re destined to fail.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

 

Moga To Be “One Of The Greats” – Mitchell Pearce

By STEVE MASCORD

HOTLY-tipped Tautau Moga’s first grade debut proved he will be one of rugby league’s greats, according to team-mate Mitchell Pearce.

After his inclusion on the wing had been kept secret all week, the NSW Under 20s star scored a try and had another disallowed at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday as the Roosters went down narrowly

“All the great players have great debuts and I thought Tau’ with that classy touch, was right up there,” Pearce tells RLW.

“I reckon he’s in that class, not putting pressure on him. I probably just put pressure on him then…

“Nah, he’s a pretty special player and that’s the sort of stuff he does all the time.

“He’s only going to get more confident. He’s just a natural player. Not many people can do that sort of stuff – Israel Folau and that, they’re the sort of players who would do that sort of stuff.

“You saw where their careers went. I’m sure Tau’ will have a massive career and the more we get him a BJ (Leilua) on that side…”

Meanwhile, Pearce and team-mates say they might have to reign in the fancy attack after being pipped 30-26 by the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday night.

Pearce described the match as “a pretty twisted game”.

“It was probably one of the most physical first grade games I’ve played in, aside from maybe a finals game,” he said.

“Smith’s style, he encourages everyone to play what they see and move the ball if it’s on. Probably, maybe, we could reel it in at times and play that more conservative style.”

Forward Martin Kennedy added: “It’s easy for us to start thinking we’re a bit cursed.

“The Dragons game went against us, the Souths game at the start of the year obviously went our way. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on but the tide’s going to turn soon, I hope.

“It’s all entertainment but we’d like to get the job done at the same time. As fancy as we look, we’re more concerned getting the job done. If being fancy and doing all the trick plays isn’t going to work for us, we’ll have to look at doing something else.

“We’ve got a young side. It’s a cliché that inexperience lets you down when it matters most.  We can’t keep using that as an excuse. We’ve got a young side – that’s the side we’ve got.

“We’ve got to start maturing really, really quick and make those decisions, make the right decisions.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK