Mateo: Don’t Blame SSS

Feleti_MateoBy STEVE MASCORD
WARRIORS star Feleti Mateo says the club’s Slow Start Syndrome is not to blame for a dismal opening fortnight to 2014.
“To me it feels completely different,” Mateo tells RLW.
“We’re working a lot harder. Our systems in place shouldn’t be allowing this sort of play and we’re letting ourselves down.
“I’m sure it won’t take long and we’ll click into gear.”
Like coach Matthew Elliott, Mateo believes the Aucklanders aren’t sufficiently imposing themselves on opponents.
“I think we’re thereabouts – we’re just not going hard enough. We’re not challenging who we’re playing, physically, enough.
“With the team we’ve got, it shouldn’t be an issue but the last two weeks, we’ve let ourselves down.”
Mateo says the loss to St George Illawarra was an improvement on the previous week’s defeat to his former club Parramatta.
“It felt better out there, even in the second half. The defence was a lot better but there’s always room for improvement.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

THE JOY OF SIX: Round 25

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD
BARBA QUESTIONS
QUESTIONS prompted by the emergence of a photo of a woman who claimed to have been punched by Ben Barba: How was this not a cover-up, given that the highest profile NRL player at the time was suspended by his club and we weren’t told why? If this allegation was related to domestic violence, was the alleged victim protecting her own income by not reporting it to police? If Barba’s own mental state was the reason for keeping it quiet, and if he did not complete his counselling, why was he allowed to return to the field? How can the NRL employ in a senior position an official who presided over such a cover-up? How can a club which suspended its star player over an alleged assault on a woman promote the Women In League Round? Next time a player is stood down for “personal issues”, should we just assume that they are lying when they say there was no underlying incident?

CARETAKER OR UNDERTAKER?
IS there a worse gig in rugby league than that of caretaker coach? You can be rated as the next big thing but if your boss happens to get sacked and you have to fill in for him for a few weeks, chances are your career will be set back half a decade. Think Steve Georgallis, Brad Arthur, Ian Millward … and Andrew Dunemann. Dunemann’s added headache is that his a contender for the North Queensland job. The Raiders being beaten on his watch won’t help – but he could hardly say no, could he? “We’re happy with Duners,” said hat-trick centre Jarrod Croker. “We want to play for Duners. I know it didn’t look like it but we are busting our backsides for him and we wanted to come out and prove a point.” The Raiders learned of team-mate Sandor Earl’s drugs infraction notice when they touched down in Auckland on Thursday.

GREEN WITH EMPATHY
MATTHEW Elliott says it took him a long while to get over his departure from the Canberra Raiders and has sympathy for their current plight. On the same weekend when Wayne Bennett saw fit to discuss Brisbane’s proud finals record after they missed out on the play-offs for the second time in 21 years, Elliott said: “I’ve really got massive fondness for the Raiders. They gave me my first opportunity and I love the club. I’m very confident that they’ll get back on track. I didn’t always see eye-to-eye with the administrators but I know how much they care and I know how keen they are to help that team do well. Man, they’ve got some real talent. I know we’re talking about players who are leaving but I watched their under 20s game and they’ve got some good players coming through.”

X-FACTOR MEETS FLASH GORDON
‘X-FACTOR’ has become one of rugby league’s abiding clichés and while it annoys many, Gold Coast winger-cum-fullback Kevin Gordon has embraced it. Using Instagram’s new video feature, he recently mocked up a “segment” in which he was a contestant on the TV show of that name. “I’m into X-Factor this year, I’ve been watching it,’ said the Filipino international. “So I put myself in it, singing my song “get it to Gordon”. I filmed the judges (from the TV) and filmed myself, then filmed the judges and edited it together so it looked like I’m talking to the judges and the judges are talking to me.” Gordon did a variation on Michael Jackson’s one-glove routine when he played in yesterday’s win over Sydney Roosters with one shoe, because James Maloney threw one of his boots into the bay at the southern end of the ground. “Lucky I had it back. I don’t know how I would have gone off my right foot,” he said.

COUPE DE SBW?
NEW Zealand coach Stephen Kearney, speaking on Triple M on Friday night, said he still didn’t know whether Sonny Bill Williams was available for the World Cup but may have given a hint of the Sydney Rooster’s intentions by saying SBW “has a title to defend”. That’s a reference to the New Zealand heavyweight boxing title. Those who expect Williams to box instead of going to RLWC2013 expect him to aim higher than that. At the very least, it indicates the NZ title has been raised as an issue with Kearney. The Kiwis have an extended 38-man squad with which they communicate over training camps and travel arrangements. SBW and Benji Marshall remain part of that group.  Kearney admits he is willing to give Williams as long as it takes to make a call.

USING YOUR HEAD
A SHOULDER charge is not a shoulder charge if you wrap your arms around your opponent – and the same seems to go for aggressive use of the head. Queensland and Gold Coast forward Nate Myles said nothing when he was criticised by NSW players for leading with his head in Origin but had plenty to say when he was struck Sunday in the melon by Sydney Rooster Sam Moa. He suffered a suspected syndesmosis of the ankle as he fell, likely ending his season. Before Moa was placed on report for a shoulder charge (the head seemed to be the initial of contact), Myles used so many expletives as he stumbled around that referee Dave Munro advised colleague Matt Cecchin to caution him. Taking pity on the badly-injured international, Cecchin let it slide.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

NRL round 17: SOUTH SYDNEY 30 WARRIORS 13 at nib Stadium, Perth

By STEVE MASCORD
FORMER Western Reds ballboy Bryson Goodwin overcame being steamrolled by rampaging Warrior Konrad Hurrell to complete a fairytale homecoming with a brace of tries in South Sydney’s fifth consecutive win.
Centre Hurrell, 102 kg, swatted Goodwin like a fly and prompted a head clash between Greg Inglis and Chris McQueen as they tried to stop him scoring a powerhouse try in the 37th minute of the Rabbitohs’ 30-13 win in front of a near-sellout 20,221 fans at nib Stadium.
But Goodwin, a West Australian junior, enjoyed redemption by kicking ahead for himself in the 68th minute to put the bunnies back in front and then followed up by scooping up a loose ball to streak away for his second eight minutes later.
“I grew up in WA, it’s good to come home here and yeah, I was a ballboy for the Reds for two years,” said Goodwin.
“I remember (Hurrell) putting me on my backside. He’s one of the hardest players to tackle, I got myself in the wrong position.
“It’s not a setback, that’s going to happen on the footy field, you’re going to miss tackles. It’s just one of those things that happens.”
The Rabbitohs were under the pump at halftime with Hurrell’s try, converted by Shaun Johnson, followed by a Johnson field goal which gave the Aucklanders a 13-6 halftime lead.
“He’s scored a couple like that for us this year, to be fair,” said Warriors coach Matthew Elliott. “You don’t like to take that sort of stuff for granted but if you give him one-on-one opportunities, he’s pretty scary.”
John Sutton claimed a kick to narrow the margin to one eight minutes into the second half and then it was a dogfight until Goodwin’s double.
Second rower McQueen, his head bandaged from his collision with Inglis while trying to stop Hurrell, posted another try near fulltime.
Rabbitohs lock Sam Burgess had an unfortunate night, knocking on twice after laying the platform for Andrew Everingham’s eighth minute try and being penalised on one occasion for throwing the ball away.
He was also booked for a high tackle on Warriors fullback Kevin Locke.
Inglis said: “Sammy’s got to go back and concentrate on .. I think he was trying to be Sonny Bill. What Sammy does best is take the ball forward. He does have that skill in him but we need him to take the ball forward.”
Inglis was ill in the lead-up with a virus, received a head knock early and then was opened up by Hurrell.
Asked if he had a broken nose, Inglis said: “I don’t know. Probably. He (Hurrell) is a strong human.”
In the first half, a lucky ricochet helped Everingham score in the corner. Warriors hooker Nathan Friend was held up at the 26-minutes mark, before skipper Simon Mannering crossed a couple of minutes later off Shaun Johnson’s pass
“’Too good’ is probably a poor description,”said Elliott. “They are a little bit further down the track than us and it was a really good lesson that we’ve got some ground to cover.
“We had some problems with our travel. We got delayed. We really have to examine how we do that next time.”
SOUTH SYDNEY 30 (B Goodwin 2 A Everingham J Sutton C McQueen tries A Reynolds 5 goals) bt WARRIORS 13 (S Mannering K Hurrell tries S Johnson 2 goals field goal) at nib Stadium. Referees: A Klein/D Munro. Crowd: 20,221.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Elliott Unhappy With Crucial Calls

Matthew ElliottBy STEVE MASCORD

Matthew Elliott became the latest coach to blast referees before admitting the Warriors would have to win 11 of their remaining 17 games to make the finals.

Speaking after his side’s thrilling 28-18 loss to Melbourne at AAMI Park, Elliott said the NRL referees department had admitted to three crucial errors in the round six loss to Canberra and predicted they would be forced to admit to two further gaffes on Anzac night.

Elliott said the Aucklanders, who have just one win so far this season, were wrongly denied a 40-20 kick late in the contest and there was a forward pass in the lead-up to Will Chambers’ epic 72nd minute clincher.

“The similarity between that game and Canberra will be that refs will have to put their hands up for making errors,” said Elliott after a sprawling contest in front of 25,480 fans.

“They did it at the back end of the Canberra game, in their report, where there were three calls that went against us that were incorrect.

“In their second last try (tonight), from where I was sitting, it looked like it was not a little bit forward but a long way forward

“I’ve seen the 40-20 call made on whether the kicker was behind or in front of the line – I haven’t seen the 40-20 call made about where the ball went out. They moved where the touch judge signalled it.

”How often have you heard me whinging about refs?

“We’ll be over the ditch, it won’t matter.”
Asked if the refereeing difficulties were peculiar to the Warriors, Elliott answered: “Ask the referees boss (Daniel Anderson) . He’s an ex-Warriors coach. Ask him how he felt about it.

“The formula for us is that there’s 17 games to go and I think we’ve got to win 11 of them. It’s a big ask in the NRL but I know this group of people are capable of it.”

Storm coach Craig Bellamy – who said there “could have been” a forward pass before Chambers’ second try – was unhappy with his charges at halftime.

“There’s been better sprays,” he said of his halftime address, “but I just thought we needed to get back to what we do best.

“There were a couple of things we just had to get better at. They were strong words but they needed saying.”

Captain Cameron Smith agreed, saying: “That first half, it was unlike us”

While Elliott backed the decision for Shaun Johnson to boot a 68th minute penalty goal for an 18-16 lead, Smith said his men often decided not to do so in similar situations.

“Thankfully, in the end, they took the two because if it had been six it would have been a totally different ball game,” said Smith.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Vatuvei Almost Pulled Out Of Warriors’ Last Game

Warriors - Manu vatuveiBy STEVE MASCORD

MANU Vatuvei has spoken of how close he came to pulling out of Saturday night’s clash with Canberra, saying he ignored a knee injury to take the field because of the Warriors terrible injury toll.

And it’s just as well ‘The Beast’ did play as he scored two tries to give the Aucklanders a 16-4 lead before the Raiders fought back to score a late victory.

“I had a few knee injuries – my knees started playing up,” says Vatuvei.

“I was close to pulling out but with those injuries that were there I just had to run with it. After I warmed up, it was sweet.”

The warm-up was less kind to utility Pita Godinet, who withdrew at 7.27pm – eight minutes before kick-off – after aggravating a back injury.

Vatuvei played down his effort in scoring a double despite injury. “I was pretty lucky, I didn’t have to do much in scoring those tries,” he said.

“They just got the overlap for me and I just ran and put it down.”

Warriors coach Matthew Elliott was scathing in his assessment of how his men threw away Saturday night’s game. He describe two passing movements late in the game as “rubbish”.

“Individual errors and decision making at the back end of the game cost us the two points,” he said.

“The word spewing comes to mind. We have five individual errors in the second half that were completely down to the individual and two shift plays that were just rubbish, really.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Elliott: Some Warriors Aren’t Putting In

Matthew ElliottBy STEVE MASCORD

COACH Matthew Elliott has accused some senior players of not pulling their weight as the Warriors head into round four still searching for their first win of the season.

Elliott defiantly told journalists “you won’t quell my optimism” after Sunday’s 28-4 defeat to Cronulla but he later said some of the efforts from his charges just weren’t good enough.

“We’ve got some key players in our team who need to do more,” said Elliott.

“We’ve got a guy like Todd Lowrie and others like Simon Mannering who are getting ridiculously high numbers.

“And we’ve got other people who need to do more for us.

“What you’ve got to do is relish the opportunity under tough times to stand up and hopefully those young guys who are being exposed and those other players are learning that they’ve got to contribute more in these times.

“Take the lesson.”

Elliott said the Warriors’ plight was not helped by the fact that 13 players were currently in the rehab group. Glen Fisiahi withdrew because of the death of his sister, Jerome Ropati flew back to New Zealand on Sunday morning because his wife was about to give birth and prop Sam Rapira (hand ligament) withdrew.

And the Aucklanders lost prop Steve Rapira to a badly lacerated ear in the first half. “He basically got his ear ripped totally off,” said Elliott.

“It looks like we’ll be without him next week. It’s a surgical procedure needed, not a stitching procedure.”

Captain Mannering said the team was playing as individuals. “We’re not working collectively, as a group, very well and it’s showing on the field,” he said.

“We’re trying to do individual plays and not sticking to what we’re working on at training during the week.

“We’re going to have to get it right soon or else it’s going to be a long year.”

Elliott said his side was “not as far into the process as I’d like us to be.” “Our unity over the 80 minutes is highly questionable,” he added.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Warriors Had Bad Attitude And Training Was Too Easy, Says Elijah Taylor

 

By STEVE MASCORD
UNSUCCESSFUL Warriors coaching applicant Tony Iro has responded to a brutal assessment of the culture in the club from back-rower Elijah Taylor by admitting coaches “changed too much” this season after a 2011 grand final appearance.
Speaking to a group of print journalists in Townsville yesterday, 22-year-old Taylor said some players had a bad attitude and “cruised” this season and that pre-season training was not hard enough, meaning the Warriors faded badly at the back end of games.
Taylor was also openly critical of his club for taking too long to appoint a coach and spoke out in favour of Iro as reports emerged that Matthew Elliott had been handed the post on a two year deal.
“Some players’ attitudes weren’t up to standard,” said Taylor. “I can’t name names but there were a lot of players just coasting and not on their toes and not working hard on defence. It showed in the way we played, just the attitude thing from a lot of the players.
“Our pre-season wasn’t as hard as the one prior. I think the training wasn’t too hard and we paid the price at the back end of games. Teams blew us off the park.
“That is not going to happen this pre-season. We’re going to get touched up every session.”
After losing to Manly in the 2011 grand final, the Warriors finished 14th with eight wins and 16 losses. Taylor’s comments are the most damning from any player at an unsuccessful club this season.
Told of the criticism late yesterday, Iro told the Herald: “I don’t think it’s one or two things.
“There’s probably something to what he said. We had injuries to senior blokes as well. We probably changed a bit too much from the previous year.”.
Iro said he had not been advised of Elliott’s appointment. Underlining the disquiet at Mt Smart, Taylor joint clubmatre Feleti Mateo in making it clear the players wanted Iro in the top job and were unhappy with the delays in making an appointment.
Taylor said: “Personally, (I think) it’s taken too long. I feel sorry for Tony Iro. He’s in limbo just like the players and he’s got family and stuff like that.
“The Wests Tigers are in the same boat. I was talking to Benji  (Marshall) and they don’t know what’s going on either. That’s the NRL. We’re in a business.
“As a player, you just want to get the coach and say ‘let’s go’. Our pre-season is two weeks away, three weeks away. It’s better knowing now.
“I don’t know what’s going on but I’m a footy player. That’s my job, I just have to do my job.
“Players all want Tony to be coach. He’s been there for seven years now. The majority of our team are Toyota Cup players now and Tony’s brought us all through. I don’t understand why he doesn’t get a shot. He’s been assistant coach for the Kiwis, assistant coach of the NRL side for the last four years, including last year which was a grand final year.
“The year before, he was the attack coach and Ivan (Cleary) was the defensive coach.
“He’s a tough coach and he would do it really well
“(This year) he was chucked in the deep end, that was his job interview I suppose and it’s not very fair. He needs a proper shot.
“I’m always hitting up Simon (Mannering) every day. I’m, like, ‘have you heard anything, have you heard anything?’ He’s like ‘I haven’t talked to them since awards, since presso night’. We’re getting nothing at all.”
Iro said he was appreciative of the players’ backing. “(The players) have been publically supportive of me – that doesn’t get you the job,” he said.