Cooper Cronk’s Origin Advice To Daly Cherry-Evans

Cooper Cronk/wikipedia
Cooper Cronk/wikipedia

By STEVE MASCORD
QUEENSLAND halfback Cooper Cronk has made public the advice he will give Daly Cherry-Evans about filling the fraught interchange utility role in Origin II.
Melbourne’s Cronk started his Origin career as an interchange specialist behind Darren Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston, only gaining a starting place upon Lockyer’s retirement.
Manly’s Cherry Evans comes into the Queensland squad for Wednesday’s Suncorp Stadium clash with NSW after coach Mal Meninga used four forwards on the bench in game one.
“You get the experience of Origin without the pressure cooker of starting,” Cronk tells Fairfax Media.
“The worst thing is you get to warm up, you get all the adrenalin, and then you have to sit down for a bit.
“I know Daly will want to have an impact and that’s a positive. You want to come out in the game when most players are tired and I’m sure he’ll have a contribution to this performance on Wednesday night.
“(The advice is) ‘don’t hesitate’.”
Cronk says filling the bench role helped prepare him for his current position as Australia’s first choice halfback.
“I was fortune enough to play that sort-of utility role in the early years,” Cronk says.
“I think it was really a benefit in terms of getting a feel for Origin. It’s helped me today and I know I’m more than happy to help Daly would in terms of any questions in terms of playing in the middle or playing in the halves or anything like that.”
Cronk was rested from last Sunday’s narrow win over Newcastle and says he is not longer stressed about missing club games at Origin time. Brett Finch deputised and will again do so in Monday Night Football against Gold Coast.
“We’ve got Brett Finch playing at an extraordinary level at Cronulla and hopefully we don’t lose five games at the end of Origin so there’s a plan in place,” he said,
“I was a little bit sore after the Sharks game so there was a decision made. The boys are playing this week without the Origin players so getting Brett Finch in a week early – the result made the decision a smart one.
“I’ve probably changed in my attitude in terms of watching football. I used to find it difficult but I’m comfortable with the decision.
“You try to stick to a plan and while it doesn’t guarantee you success, hopefully it’s the best thing for the club.”

Like his club, state and national captain Cameron Smith, Cronk was dismayed by the off-field controversies of recent weeks and is acutely aware of the damage done to the game’s image in virgin territories like Victoria.
“We as players have a responsibility greater than the scoreboard – to entice young people to play the game, mums and dads, I think that’s paramount whether you’re playing at the highest level or the lower levels,” he said.
But Cronk offered no philosophical musings such as his comments before the opening match of the series about villages made of hay and states of grace.
“I heard it caused a stir,” Cronk said when asked about the email interview in question, “but I’m comfortable with every single word that came out.
“I described it in a manner that’s probably not the norm but look, it is what it is.”

Filed for: SUNDAY AGE

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

THE WRAP: NRL Round 14

NRL logoBy STEVE MASCORD
“As scandals go, it certainly has the potential to be the worst in Origin’s tumultuous 33 years – and that’s saying something”
It’s the view of the doyen of State of Origin reporters in the wake of news NSW winger Blake Ferguson has been charged with indecent assault and kicked out of the team to play Queensland next Wednesday.
When reporters sat down to cover the Monday Night Football match between Brisbane and Wests Tigers, the extreme right seat in the Suncorp Stadium press box was left vacant as a mark of respect for veteran AAP reporter Wayne Heming.
After almost forty years covering rugby league, 62-year-old Heming was made redundant following Origin I in Sydney. He wrote the news agency’s preview of the very first State of Origin game in 1980 and began covering games in the iconic series the next year.
Heming, who will be employed next Wednesday by the Courier Mail for one night only at Origin II, has seen players, coaches, administrators and scandals come and go but says Ferguson’s arrest for indecent assault takes the cake.
“Ferguson going out on the drink with his former Canberra Raiders teammate Josh Dugan the night before both were to enter NSW Origin camp ranks as one of the dumbest things I’ve heard of,” Heming tells NRL.com
“Back when I first started covering rugby league in Sydney in the mid 1970s players got away with things because there were no mobile phones and they often had ‘contacts’ who fixed things up.
“But those days are well and truly gone and the intense scrutiny on players is such that they can’t step out of line or they get dobbed in.
“What on earth were they thinking?
“The last time they got out on the drink together it ended in Dugan being sacked by the Raiders and Ferguson being stood down for six weeks after they Instagramed a picture of themselves on a Canberra rooftop drinking.
“The fact the NRL has acted so swiftly against Ferguson would suggest they have seen some pretty damning evidence.
“In the current climate of change they could throw him to the lions to show they are serious about finally cracking down on unacceptable behaviour by players who tarnish rugby league’s image.”
Next Wednesday will be an emotional one for ‘Ticker’ Heming who has been probably the longest surviving fixture at Origin games since ’81.
His favourite memories include Wally Lewis announcing his retirement at halftime in the deciding game of the 1991 series. “Lewis, who’d only learned before the game his young daughter Jamie-Lee had been diagnosed a profoundly deaf, walked off Lang Park a winner for the last time,” he recalls.
His best game and gutsiest win was the Origin II 1989, when Queensland won in Sydney despite a slew of injuries.
Tries by Mark Coyne and Mark McGaw were his favourite and the Maroons’ 1995 success was the most remarkable series victory he saw.
“While I have to confess I was born in Manly – that’s in Queensland isn’t it – I have always loved the attacking never-say-die style with which Queensland play and the way they compete,” says Ticker.

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THE JOY OF SIX: Round 13

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD
1. NO VIOLINS OVER VIOLENCE
THERE are enough debates about violence and Origin to fill up this column at least twice over. But it was instructive that there was a mini-brawl in Parramatta-Sydney Roosters game just two days after Origin I and it went almost completely un-noticed – because only rugby league fans were watching. It’s important to separate the arguments about whether Origin should be played under more laissez faire rule interpretations from the one about whether rugby league itself is too tolerant of violence. It’s ridiculous to suggest State of Origin should go straight from being dirtier that club football to CLEANER just because more people are watching. First, bring club and Origin football into line, then examine what we’re left with and determine whether it’s worth sacrificing some aggression to keep attracting junior players.
2. UNCHAIN DUGAN FOR ORIGIN
JOSH Dugan’s two-try performance for St George Illawarra against Newcastle puts NSW coach Laurie Daley in a bind. Does he pick Jarryd Hayne despite his hamstring injury and nurse him through five or seven days, or does he cut his losses and select Dugan from the get-go? Hayne is a star in any company and player strongly in Origin I. Shadow players are not supposed to come into camp until after the previous weekend’s club round but the Dragons have a bye in round 15. That being the case, Dugan probably should be there from day one of camp and only allowed to go home once Hayne has run at pace and proven he can change direction at his normal level. Conventional wisdom says you don’t know if a hamstring injury has healed until it goes on you – or doesn’t – under duress.
3. DRIVELLIN’ GALLEN
IT’S taken a while but the tossing of brickbats across the NSW-Queensland border has begun in earnest. After Origin I, Queensland coach Mal Meninga thought Paul Gallen’s attack on Nate Myles would perhaps have deserved a sin binning in a club game. By the next morning at the airport, he had decided it was unjustifiable. By yesterday, Gallen’s excuses for the attack were “drivel”. That’s what Meninga wrote in his Sunday Mail column, the home of his infamous “rats and filth” attack in 2011. Meninga said of Gallen: “It would seem by his very comments a pre-meditated attack to settle old scores and, worryingly, the game’s officials seem happy to let it slide”. Meninga said the apparent pre-meditation had gone completely unpunished – and he has a point. Was attacking Myles part of a pre-match strategy, not a result of over-heated encounters on the field in one game?

4. WELCOME TO THE WORLD, ‘KIRSTEN THURSTON’
WHEN did the birth of a footballer’s baby become hard, earth-shattering news, and why wasn’t I told? The intrigue surrounding the birth of Johnathan Thurston’s first baby was completely baffling. On Saturday, the North Queensland club wouldn’t confirm whether or not the birth had taken place – which is fine, it’s a private matter – but also made it clear to reporters it was upset at reports which were clearly true. Huh? These days athletes sell their weddings and family additions to magazines. There is no indication of Johnathan and his fiancé Samantha doing this but it is certainly not the job of the day-to-day news media to help them keep secrets. Someone had a kid. He’s a footballer. Put it in the paper and be done with it. Why all the bloody fuss? PS: Apparently if you get the name of the kid, it’s the biggest yarn since Watergate.
5. OLD TRICKS
CANTERBURY didn’t make the grand final last year by playing well, they did it by winning close games. And now it’s happening again. That’s the view of prop Aiden Tolman after Saturday night’s 36-26 win over North Queensland. “We’ve won five out of our last six … we’ve got a bit of momentum,” said Tolman. “We’re not playing our best footy but we’re winning games. We probably weren’t playing our best last year either but we had that knack of winning games – and that’s all it can take. Especially towards the end of last year, we were just getting wins. That’s what we’re doing this year as well. We’re just getting over the line, last week by two points and this week against a committed Cowboys side who was up against the wall.”

6. PROOF YOU CAN GET LOWER WITH NO GOWER
LONDON Broncos last week questioned Newcastle’s decision to sign Craig Gower, on the basis that their club had won three from 17 with the the dual international as captain. For the same reason, they weren’t too worried about losing him. How worse could things get? On Saturday, the Broncos were beaten – at home – by Warrington 82-10. Gower is a fierce competitor whose contribution may only be seen in his absence. He attended Melbourne training at Harrow in February, not to catch up with old friends but to grill Craig Bellamy on how change a losing culture. This from a fellow could have just collected a fat pay cheque going around in front of 1800 people every second week. Gower will be aware of the Matt Orford comparisons – and be highly motivated to disprove them.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Five Things We Learned From … ORIGIN I

#Origin11. Origin is still a primal anachronism

RUGBY league fans completely understood how NSW coach Laurie Daley could call flurry of punches aimed at an opponent’s head as “a great Origin moment”. The army of casual viewers attracted by the game could not. As big as rugby league is in New South Wales and Queensland, Origin reminds us there are sections of society there that complete ignore it most of the time. And they are the people outraged today that you can punch someone in this sport and not be sent off. One or two hundred years from now, society standards will demand fully body contact sport be banned. In the meantime, Origin will become as clean (some would say ‘as sterile’) as club football, then club football will get less and less physical.

2. Seven Years Bad Luck Has Given NSW a Queensland-sized shoulder-chip

QUEENSLANDERS took 70 years to build up enough indignation and anger to make Origin a success. It’s taken their southern cousins seven. The concept was a product of Queenslanders moving to Sydney for money and then playing against Maroons sides chosen on residential ground. But NSW have not just mimicked the inside-ball move that gave Jarryd Hayne his try. They have replicated Queensland’s beaten-dog mentality. Instead of ‘thrashing us with our own players for seven decades’, they have ‘bullying us with their Nate Myleses for seven years’. You can tell when something has been used as a cause celebre by a rugby league team and Nate Myles was it last night.

3. The rules are still different in Origin – but less different

SHAYNE Hayne called for a penalty when the ball was thrown away after a knock on early in the contest – but fellow referee Ashley Klein over-ruled him. In Origin, clearly, you are expected to be more disappointed when you knock-on or cop a forward pass than you are in a club game, and tossing the ball away in disgust is permissible. You can also stiff-arm someone and then punch them without being sent off. But as Cameron Smith lamented, holding opponents down for an eternity seems to be out of vogue. The Queensland captain conceded his team adjusted to the NRL-style rucks in the second half. Logic dictates Origin should, and will, be refereed the same way as club rugby league before long.

4. It’s easier for a hard-working forward to play wounded than a creative back

RYAN Girdler revealed on Triple M early in the second half that NSW back rower Luke Lewis had been bed-ridden for two days with a virus. Lewis, who has also been sidelined with injury in recent weeks, was a colossus. By comparison, Johnathan Thurston seemed severely restricted by an aductor (groin) muscle strain.; he had also suffered from a virus in the build-up. Cameron Smith, who did the goal-kicking in leiu of Thurston, was reportedly battling a knee complaint but was as heavily involved as usual. Conclusion: illness effects the artisan more than the labourer.

5. It’s difficult for Greg Inglis and Billy Slater to both recognise their potential in the same team

BILLY Slater’s attempt to fool the NSW defence late it Origin I by ambling up to the 20 metre line as if he was going to take a tap before shooting off upfield illustrates what a masterful custodian he is. But these days, so is Greg Inglis. The idea that Queensland would somehow have two fullbacks on Wednesday didn’t work and Inglis hardly got his hands on the ball. When he did, he laid on a try for Darius Boyd. One of the biggest challenges for Mal Meninga and Michael Hagan between now and June 26 is figuring out how to get the best out of both of them.

Filed for: THE GUARDIAN

DISCORD 2013: Edition 23

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

THERE was an instance early in Origin I when pocket referee Shayne Hayne called a penalty for throwing the ball away – and fellow whistler Ashley Klein ignored it and played on.

It illustrated that Origin is still “different” – but the striking charge levelled at Paul Gallen shows it’s getting less “different” each year.

The stark fact that a flurry of punches from Gallen aimed at Nate Myles’ head was hailed as “a great Origin moment” by Laurie Daley sums up the bloodlust the series continues to generate.

It’s less blood, if no less lust, than at any time in the past 33 years and that will continue to be the trend as those who were part of its brutal past retire from being referees, and from being referees’ bosses.

That neither coach even bothered to contact the current match officials’ boss, Daniel Anderson, before last night’s game indicates they are not going to protest about this steady gentrification of Origin, which will eventually bring it completely into line with club football.

Cameron Smith admitted at the post-match media conference that the Maroons simply adjusted to the faster rucks in the second half.

We all have to adjust to the idea it’s not 1985 anymore and unfettered violence is no longer the way to go.

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BEING a ‘beat’ reporter or roundsman has its quirks – and one of them is that you assume your story each day with come from a set number of yarn ‘types’.

As a rugby league reporter, that usually means an injury, foul play, some great athletic feat or a colourful quote.

The positive to this is that we can pump out these sorts of stories pretty quickly, and that we have a good grasp of the back story (and spelling) associated with the 500 or so people we write about each day.

The downside is that when something occurs that is completely outside that prism, we are often taken unawares and can underplay an otherwise newsworthy event.

Thankyou, Russell Packer.

To be honest, I was far more enamored with the “Lets Gone Warriors” sign on Monday night than with Packer’s piddle. During the match, I only saw stills of the incident and even when Packer confirmed his guilt on Twitter, the whole thing seemed like an amusing sideshow to this hack.

Alas, people took real offence and it was deemed worthy of a $15,000 fine. Subsequent events indicate it belonged closer to the top of the match report.

On facebook, former Western Suburbs and Illawarra halfback Josh White admitted his brother did one better – or worse – than a ‘number one’ running onto the field once.

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COMMENTS time, going over stories from the past week and starting with last week’s Discord.

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