Rabbitohs, Dragons Steal The March On Rivals

Sydney Roosters - Sam MoaBy STEVE MASCORD
OLD favourites South Sydney and St George Illawarra have been identified by rivals and their own players as the teams who have cunningly exploited the NRL’s new rules the best.
According to Sydney Roosters prop Sam Moa, Souths coach Michael Maguire has capitalised on the crackdown on gang-tackling, while Dragons winger Jason Nightingale says what was once a weakness for the joint venture – small forwards – has been transformed under the new rules to a strength.
The bunnies flogged premiers Sydney Roosters 28-8 at ANZ Stadium on Thursday while the Dragons topped 40 points for the first time in 111 matches, downing Wests Tigers 44-24 at the same venue on Sunday.
“When you play Souths, they’ve got a strike force across the field and they’ve got a really big pack,” Tongan star Moa explained to League Week.
“The rule changes enables quicker play and that kind of suits them but we’re playing of an even board and the same rules apply to us and we have to adapt.
“We didn’t connect very well in the middle, us forwards. We weren’t finishing off our tackles, that enabled their big forwards to get a quick play-the-ball. Issac Luke would jump out, he’d pass it to another big forward charging onto the ball.
“It seemed like we were on the back foot for a lot of the game.
“I felt that in the game, they were better than us at that part (holding up the attacker to halt momentum) but last year we came up with a pretty good formula. The boys will change, we have to adapt. We’ve got a pretty good defensive coach in Craig Fitzgibbon.
“He’s been teaching us a whole lot of techniques. It’s just down to us to apply them in the game and take them on board.
“There’s a bit of a shock but there’s a bit of positivity coming out of it because in some ways it was a bit of a kick up the arse that we needed. We won the World Club Challenge and we won the grand final…people keep writing off Souths but they trialled really well and they looked really good in the off-season.”
On page ?? of this week’s magazine, Wests Tigers coach Michael Potter says the new rule interpretations make it, literally, survival of the fittest – and Nightingale says the Dragons are pleased with the change in emphasis.
“That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for the big, powerful people,” says the New Zealand international. “I think Souths are a great example of that – they’re big monsters but obviously they’re fit as well but they’re used in the right way. They’re effective even though their fitness might not be as high as other forwards or teams.
“It’s advantagous to us; we’ve always prided ourselves on being a fit team. We’ve been bent back, we probably do have a smaller pack, a more mobile pack, so those rule interpretations will – I think – help us. We haven’t got an unfit guy in our squad. They can all run all day.
“But like I say, that doesn’t mean you can’t have powerhouses run all over you because there’s a place in the game for those people.
“It’s gotten really fast – that’s great for our game. It puts a lot more responsibility on your backs when you’re coming out of your own end because those forwards are getting extra tired.
“I really enjoyed playing – and watching the games over the weekend. There’ve been some great initiatives to clean the game up and I hope it stays like that.”
Brisbane are another team who believe they’re better off under the new regime. “The ruck has really sped up, which is pretty good for forwards like myself and Benny Hannant,” said prop Josh McGuire.


THE JOY OF SIX: NRL Round One 2014

A CONCUSSION expert from Melbourne spoke to NRL chief executives in Auckland last month and spelt out the cold, hard facts of legal action from former players over concussion. The cost to the game, he warned, would be $3 billion. This would close the doors of Rugby League Central indefinitely. Sunday’s comments from former Australia international Ian Roberts, in which he said his memory had been affected by years of collisions, represented the first hole in the wall of a damn that could wash away Australian rugby league as we know it. By changing concussion rules, the NRL has stuck its finger in that hole. But it’s only a matter of time….

THROUGHOUT the modern history of rugby league, coaches have schemed to stymie the sport in interminable tackling and kicking, which extends their influence over on-field events, and administrators have sought to encourage passing and sprawling attack, which brings spectators through the gates and pays their wages. Like the eternal battle between good and evil, kinda. It’s clear from the weekend, particularly St George Illawarra’s 44-24 win over Wests Tigers yesterday, that administrators are on top right now. How long will the coaches take to nullify the changes to the rules this year? “I don’t think you’ll see too many 2-0 scorelines this year,” said Dragons coach Steve Price. “It’ll be fast for the first few weeks and then when the refs stop giving so many so-called penalties, it will slow down a little.”

TWO weeks ago we discussed the dubious benefits of having a Magic Weekend – the entire round at one venue – in the NRL. But after disappointing attendances for three games at ANZ Stadium, a new benefit may have been uncovered. Why employ ushers and cleaners and pay three nights’ rent when you could stage all three matches on the same day and attract a bumper crowd? Obviously there are business-related hurdles but the Homebush venue received a shedload of bad publicity out of the poor turnouts; that would be instantly transformed by a festival day reminiscent of the Nines. The price of moving out of suburbia and into enormadomes may be playing more than one match on the same day, like rock bands who prefer to play together at festivals rather than separately at theatres.

SANDOR Earl says he would be “personally … devastated” if he was the only rugby league or AFL player suspended as a result of the ASADA investigation. “But in the fairness of it all, it wouldn’t bother me … if all the players got a fair warning and this never happened again, that would be a fair outcome … it would really annoy me, but….” he told Triple M. Earl believes he will soon know his fate and remains hopeful of playing again in August. “It’s been indicated I might be a week or two away from hearing a decision on what’s going on. I don’t know how the process will go down. I guess I’ll get my suspension and it’s just down to whether all parties are happy with it.The way I was told things would go down hasn’t happened. The lack of communication has made it really hard. Six months has flown

DID George Rose knock on playing the ball at the end of regulation time in Saturday night’s thriller? It would have beeen a match deciding gaffe if a) the referees had seen it and b) it happened. Manly captain Jamie Lyon complained to the referees about it and later said: “It’s a bit hard (for the ball) to get from your hands to your feed without dropping it when you’re on the ground. Rose, who clearly remains popular at Brookvale judging by the reaction he received from the crown, countered: “It didn’t happen.” Then, in reference to the changes to the regulations surrounding players approaching referee, he added: “Killer always goes up to the ref. That’s why they changed the rule!”

THIS is not another whinge about media access. It’s an open question to you, the potential spectator at ANZ Stadium on Thursday and Friday night. In the list of reasons you did not go, where does the paucity of meaty pre-match publicity rank? If Sam Burgess and Sonny Bill Williams had spoken widely about their coming clash, and their reasons for going to rugby union, would you have been more likely to go? If you had heard more from Canterbury players after Friday’s game, would you be more inclined to go next week? Traditional media will soon have no impact on attendance at sporting events. Are we there yet?





HOW quickly they forget.

By the time you read this, the campaigns of eight NRL teams is are already fading memories. It’s worth pondering how arbitrary and brutal an industry rugby league, and professional sport in general, is.

You train like a dog all summer, you get locked into a weekly grind which is painful, repetitive and unforgiving. And just like that, sometimes at the whim of a match official, injury or suspension, it ends with a shrill siren in round 26.

Bang, you’re not competing anymore. It doesn’t happen so suddenly in too many other areas of human endeavour, except perhaps life itself.

The play-offs are, objectively, even weirder. You train and play for 10 months just to get into one of these things. If it’s a sudden death game, you have effectively put four days into each minute of that contest.

And if you lose – just one game off football – the entire 10 months is gone. The who 10 months is wasted for 575 out of 600 footballers, who have to start again or will never get another chance. Brutal odds.

GOLD COAST: An admirable rear guard action, desperately short on troops. If the comp was a month longer, they may have made the grand final.

PENRITH: Over-achieved due to own hard work. Ivan Cleary has some claim to coach-of-the-year voting, so impressive were the Panthers at times. Luke Walsh, in particular, will be missed.

WARRIORS: Same number of competition points as Penrith but a completely different performance in relation to expectations. Finding the ark of the covenant or King Solomon’s mines easy compared to making themconsistent.

BRISBANE: No-one seems to think they should be subject to the same cycles as other clubs, chiefly because they’re in the capital of the rugby league world. They still have to comply with the salary cap.

CANBERRA: If you can do a “drama and atrocity” graph and overlay it with a “Raiders results” graph, the lines would track each other pretty closely. Dugan, Ferguson, Furner, Earl just does not happen to the same club in the same year.

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA: Still in the midst of a massive downswing post-2010 premiership. The system is designed to inflict such misfortune – but it shouldn’t last this long.

WESTS TIGERS: A woeful years which you could charitably put down to a new coach who had little influence over the shortcomings of the roster he inherited. Must improve.

PARRAMATTA: Not only is there no light at the end of the playing roster tunnel but the coaching and political tunnels each look pitch black as well.


Jamie’s Slim London Pickings


FROM here, Jamie Soward could throw the ball over the crossbar.

We are sitting on the rock hard surface of the Richardson Evans Memorial Ground, training headquarters of the London Broncos, just over 20 metres out and to the right of the posts.

Of course, Penrith recruit Soward would not attempt to throw it over. Instead, he’d step back at right angles to the ball, extend his fingers like a sprinter, jog on the spot, and move in to strike the pigskin before replacing his headgear.

Squinting in the sunshine, he says one such goal attempt – missed – brought about the premature end of his St George Illawarra career.

“I guess I was disappointed I was dropped the week after I missed a penalty goal against Canterbury,” says the 28-year-old,

“Tough game, they’re a great team and we were in the game for only the last 10 minutes, really. So we didn’t really deserve to win.

“(But) It’s never one thing that breaks up a relationship.”

Soward was criticised for cutting his losses and not playing out the season with the Illawarra Cutters. The joint venture’s results since suggest he would have got another chance in first grade, where his long kicking game has been missed.

“I think that was a bit of loyalty from Dousty (chief executive Peter Doust),” the man himself says. ”He didn’t want to see me playing reserve grade for the rest of the year and having to answer questions week-in and week-out and I didn’t want to do that either.

“The results back home for the Dragons have probably stayed the same.

“Obviously the circumstances of a player signing for a rival club for the rest of the year is not ideal but in saying that, I’m a business, myself, and I need to look after my family going forward.

“Some people understood that. Some people weren’t happy with it. If I ask you the same question: if I give you security for the next four years, five years, are you going to take it or are you going to roll the dice?

“The relationship between myself and Dragons had been great while we had been winning. It was just a tough start to the year. All that sort of combined with me signing.”

The man with the Dragon tattoo – a 2010 premiership tattoo on an inside biceps – played off the bench a few hours after landing in London and endured a 70-0 Challenge Cup semi-final flogging at the hands of Wigan.

The Broncos play before tiny crowds – their entire season home attendance equals roughly one game at Suncorp Stadium by their Brisbane namesakes – and there is intense speculation their owner David Hughes will withdraw support and they won’t be in Super League next year.

“This experience has taught me about patience,” says Soward, about halfway through a wide-ranging chat conducted at the end of training.

“Sometimes I guess I’ve said the wrong thing or it’s came out the wrong way. I’ve had to really sit back and take it all in whilst losing and I’m learning quickly because I’m only here for a short time.

“I feel a lot more relaxed than I was back home. I guess the fishbowl effect gets to you and slowly, I think – keeping an eye on the game back home – some of the media’s starting to understand that.

“It is 24-7, your job. You get paid well and we do understand we’re role models but we need to work together to grow our game. You need to work on your game and I need to work on my game.”

Soward is a magnet for criticism, perhaps because – as a general sports nut who wants to work in the media upon retirement – he is acutely aware of it and all too happy to engage his detractors.

When he quotes Wally Lewis on the subject of dealing with critics, those critics think he is comparing himself to the The King as a player.

Even in the Challenge Cup semi, there were reports of him jousting with fans, who chanted ‘taxi for Soward“

“It said that I spat at the crowd but I just turned around riled them up a little bit – just a little bit of fun,” he explains.

“I think most media people that sit down and talk to me one-on-one realise that I’m not the prickly guy that (I am when I) get 10 people in front of him, asking why we keep losing.

“I couldn’t understand their chants so the one I did understand, I just turned around and … taxi’s universal, isn’t it?

“Back home, there’s a lot more fans. Being at St George, you might go to a function and there’s 2000 fans who want to talk to you after you’ve played.

“Sometimes, I’ve probably not been in the mood and I haven’t wanted to talk to every single person but they keep the game going.

“I’m just human. I’m not in a good mood every day and I don’t say the right things every day. I’m seeing a lot more support for the players, especially since the new TV deal’s come in.

“The media want more access but they have to realise that we’ve got careers we’ve got to protect and if we’re getting bagged every day then it’s not going to help either of us, really.”

Soward says he speaks to some Dragons players daily and that he’s looking forward to learning the names of his new Penrith team-mates (“like the first day at school”), although in truth he probably already knows their weights, heights and nicknames.

He’s tried shutting footy culture out, he says, but it doesn’t work for him

“When I come up against the Dragons, I guess I’ll get booed. But what’s the difference? I get booed everywhere I go.

“I’m not a big head by any stretch. If I say it, I say it how it is. If I get booed, I get booed. I was happy they even knew who I was, over here. It’s all good fun, mate.

“I need to be more relaxed and the media probably need to take me less seriously.”

Filed for: SUN-HERALD

NRL round 22: BRISBANE 26 ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 24 at Suncorp Stadium


CURSED Australia centre Justin Hodges wasted no time in completely ruling out the possibility of retirement after he snapped an achilles tendon in Brisbane’s win over St George Illawarra.

“It’s not the end of me,” 31-year-old Hodges told reporters after the Broncos rallied in his absence when he collapsed without a hand on him, taking the ball one off a scrum in the 18th minute at Suncorp Stadium.

“No player ever wants to retire injured. That’s not me. That’s not how I’m built. I’ve had many injuries and it tests your character. It’s not going to be the end. I’ll fight.

“I’ll be bouncing back bigger and better next year. It’s a good challenge. Bring it on.

“I’ll get it done and finish my career the way I wanted.”

The left achilles injury follows a right achilles rupture in 2010 which required a year-long convalescence as well as a knee reconstruction, shoulder reconstruction and chronic lower back and problems.

This year’s will be the second consecutive World Cup Hodges has missed through injury and his run of outs is now comparable with those of fellow Queenslanders Mal Meninga and Brent Tate, who he will have to emulate to re-ignite a glittering carerr,

“I can’t figure it out – his whole body just keeps breaking,” said coach Anthony Griffin. “It took him, probably, a year to get over the last one.”

Brisbane’s ability to win every remaining game and sneak into the finals without Hodges is certainly under question; but so too was their ability to beat the Dragons on Sunday and they did so – only just.

St George Illawarra exploited the defence in the part of the field Hodges would have filled and led 18-14 with 23 minutes remaining.

But after going down with cramp near the posts, Brisbane captain Sam Thaiday made a miraculous recovery to score the try that put his side in front for the final time.

The lead opened out to 26-18 before a late Dragons try made it a nervous final two minutes for 31,191 fans enjoying the Broncos’ first Sunday afternoon home game in more than a year.

The joint venture was also hit with casualties. Prop Trent Merrin’s World Cup involvement is at least under a cloud due to a medial knee ligament injury, while fullback Josh Dugan suffered a suspected broken thumb.

The worst case scenario would see each out for the season. Coach Steve Price said a soft try conceded to Matt Gillett early in the second half, after lead-up from Ben Hunt and Jack Reed, was particularly costly.

“I felt like we were the better team for the majority of the game,” said Price. “A couple of decisions … a lot of wounded blokes out there but they kept finding a way to turn up.

“That’s what what we’re about at this footy club.”

The Broncos were fuming over a number of officiating decisions, not least hooker Andrew McCullough’s disallowed try at 63 minutes.

“The same as everyone else, I thought it was a try,” said Griffin. “There was a bit of separation there but he got the ball down. We are just having to battle through those things at the moment.”

Thaiday said there “were probably times the Dragons should have run away and won that game … to hang in there and win was an enormous effort.’

The happiest man at Suncorp Stadium late Sunday was teenage debutant Jordan Drew, who scored after only 19 minutes.

“I only told my closest friends and family I was playing,” said Drew. “I didn’t put it on facebook or anything.”

BRISBANE 26 (J Drew M Gillett S Thaiday A McCullough tries S Prince 5 goals) bt ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 24 (D Vidot 2 A Quinlan 2 tries J Dugan 4 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referees: J Robinson/G Reynolds. Crowd: 31,191.


Dreams Of A Green Dragon

St George Illawarra - Nathan GreenBy STEVE MASCORD

ST GEORGE Illawarra’s “Green Dragon”, rookie centre Nathan Green, says he’ll recognise a long-cherished dream if he gets to play alongside Matt Cooper before the end of the season.
As the joint venture’s season continues to encounter rough seas, 21-year-old Green says better times are ahead given the quality of players coming through.
But his more immediate concern is getting onto the field alongside his hero, 34-year-old Cooper, who is currently battling a toe injury which has delayed his decision on a possible retirement.
“I’d love to play a game with Coops – I haven’t played one with him yet,” said Green. “I’ve always filled in for him, it would be good to play one game with Coops.
“The last couple of seasons, during pre-season, during the season, during games at halftime, I’ve always asked for his advice – what he sees out there because he’s got such great knowledge and he’s done everything in the game.
“He’s played for NSW and Australia. It would be stupid not to listen to such a great player.”
Pressure is mounting at the Dragons after a heavy loss to Sydney Roosters in round 17.
“You try and block it out but it’s hard – every time you put the red V on, you know how passionate these fans are,’ he said.
“They’re used to success. There’re a lot of young blokes coming through now. Hopefully they can be patient and they know that in a couple of years’ time … we’ll be better for the experience.
“We’ve got to keep trying hard at training, competing and hopefully the results will come.
“Jack De Belin, Jack Stockwell, Trent Merrin’s only young, Cameron King, Charly Runciman … we’ve got some good young players.”
Runciman’s ascention allows Green to play on his preferred right side.


The A-List: Brett Morris (St George Illawarra, Country, NSW & Australia)

Brett Morris trainingBy STEVE MASCORD

THERE are many things we assume as kids about football; things that we just as easily dismiss out-of-hand as adults.

Swapping footy cards at play lunch, we assume all players on our favourite team are best buddies. We believe unquestioningly they all respect and support the coach. And we are completely sure they love their team’s jersey as much as the one hanging up in our wardrobe.

Maybe they even sleep in it.

As bitter grown-ups, we hold these ideas to be self-evidently nonsense. Team-mates feud, coaches are the victims of mutinies and mercenaries go to the highest bidder.

It’s symbolic, then, that we encounter St George Illawarra, NSW and Australia winger Brett Morris straight after he’s been studying for an exam. He and a group of team-mates have gone back to school at the instigation of Ben Creagh, with the aim of entering life after football armed with a degree.

“It’s been a long time since I went to school so the brain hurts from thinking too long,” says Morris, taking a seat next to the makeshift classroom in the southern stand at WIN Stadium.

Morris plays for the club and region which made his father Steve famous. ‘Slippery’ Morris was the last man to represent Australia from a NSW country club, Dapto, in 1978 and became an icon when he joined St George the following year.

While brother Josh has moved on to Canterbury, Brett still turns out for the club he supported as a kid. At the Dragons, he says, “you get to stay around all your mates and I’ve been in footy my whole life”.

Just like you imagined as a tin lid. The coach, at one time under-pressure Steve Price? “Pricey’s got a lot of respect from all the players here. He’s coached a lot of the fellas coming up through the grades and we know what sort of coach he is and we really enjoy him as a coach.”

You’re starting to reconsider your stances on Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, right? Surely there’s a big difference cheering for a team as youngster and wearing the jersey for real, with all the politics and hurdles and competitiveness of professional sport. Surely the romance wanes?

Brett Morris looks me right in the eye. “I still love this club. I’ll always love this club. This has been a big part of my family, with the old boy playing here.

“ I’ve followed them my whole life and then to actually play in the red V … I still grab the jersey every game and look at the red V and I’m very proud to put the jersey on, that’s for sure.’

There is no nervous laugh at the end of that. No irony or acting. He’s serious. Professional sports may be a business but it’s a lot more than that to B Morris.

But it’s easy to think of Brett and his brother Josh as still being kids. They even had a play-fight when their Dragons and Bulldogs team-mates got into it for real a couple of years ago. Aside from a scar near Brett’s eye, not even their NSW team-mates can tell them apart.

But Origin’s not for kids – as we’ve been reading repeatedly since the last one – and tonight the brothers go into battle with the very mature aim of helping end Queensland’s seven years of dominance.

“In previous years, we’ve probably been guilty of talking about Queensland probably too much and not worrying about us,” says Brett, by common consensus the less talkative of the twins.

“Our focus was solely on us (in Origin). You still do the video sessions and what-not that you have to do on the other team but we had a lot of focus on what we needed to do and a lot of belief. The way we started that first half was pretty evident of the self-belief we had in the team.

“The game is just getting faster and faster and that’s just something that you’ve got to deal with. Origin –  I think a lot of people say that there’s different rules and it’s just putting your body on the line and not worrying about anything else.”

So what about revenge, “not being bullied”, Nate Myles and all that?

“It wasn’t a massive thing but obviously we spoke about it. I think in the past we’ve probably been a bit timid and taken a backward step. I think we sort of made a group decisions that we weren’t going to take anything, any of their stuff that they were tried to do, and if they got up in our face, we were going to get back in their face. That’s just the way we wanted to play.

“We talked about their whole team. It wasn’t just one bloke.  It’s an Origin. You can’t just prepare for one bloke. You’ve got to prepare for the full 17 and we certainly did that.”

Tonight there will be a couple of a new Blues and, league officials are hoping, no blues. One of them is Josh Dugan, who – if he re-signs with the joint venture club as expected – will hammer the final nail into the coffin marked “Brett Morris Fullback Experiment”.

“My days at fullback are done and dusted!” Brett says with a smile. “It’s one of the toughest positions on the field. The amount of running that you have to do and then you’re expected to be a second half sometimes as well … it’s a role that’s changed over the years … I think Duges is in some great form at the moment.

“I did enjoy it. I knew it wasn’t going to be long term – that’s probably why I did. It was one those positions where you get a lot more freedom than you do on the wing.

“But … you’ve got to play there for a couple of years before you see the real benefits of being a fullback. If you watched a lot of guys early in their careers …even Billy Slater when he started … you’re just picking up different aspects of the game over three or four years before he was exceptional at all parts of the game.”

Brett’s a family man now, doesn’t stress about football as much as he used to, looks forward to having his weekends back when he retires  and is hoping to team up with Josh in green and gold with Australia in the World Cup.

Like wearing the red and white, respecting the coach and being buddies with your team-mates, Brett’s love of playing with his brother is every bit as deep as it was when they were kids down Kiama way.

“Every rep game we play is special because we don’t know how many games we’re going to get to play together, especially if we’re at different clubs our whole career,” Brett says.

Which brings us to THOSE rumours, about the brothers being reunited in red and white.

“He’s a man of his word,” “B Moz” says.

“He’s signed a contract with the Bulldogs and he’s going to honour his contract. He’s his own man now and he’s got his own decisions that he likes to make.

“Blokes on the street just make up stories and they spread. I’ve heard it from his mouth. He’s quite happy where he is.”

OK, let’s try this in reverse. Would Brett Morris, he of the red and white paraphernalia for almost as long as he has been able to walk and talk, ever play for another club?


“I’m not going to say never but there’s not much of a chance for me. Put it this way, I wouldn’t play for another club in the NRL.

“I love this club and I don’t think I’d be doing this club justice if I went and played for another club.”

With that, he picks up his schoolbag and is off. I’d like to think he’s heading for the bustop.


Dylan Farrell: Souths Saved Me From Drink And Drugs

South Sydney - Dylan FarrellBy STEVE MASCORD

SOUTH Sydney star Dylan Farrell says he leaves South Sydney convinced the club saved him from falling victim to drugs and alcohol.

NSW south coast product Farrell heads closer to home when he joins St George Illawarra on a three-year contract next season but he says joining Souths in 2008 probably saved his career.

“I was training with the Steelers when I signed with Souths,” Farrell explained. “I’ve had heaps of family members who’ve sort of been in the same position as me – they lived at home while travelling to games.

“It just didn’t do anything for them. They got into drugs, alcohol, that sort of stuff so my dad wanted to get me out of the area and – I suppose – let me grow up quicker.”

Farrell says he is a distant relative of dual international Andrew Walker, who was suspended for two years for cocaine use in 2004.

“Myy cousin Ben Wellington, he played at the Roosters in ’03 and ’04, he actually did a knee injury.

“Andrew Walker’s a distant relative. My dad played lower grades at Parra – Darryll Farrell – but he got homesick when he was young and just took off home.

“He still regrets that to this day. I wouldn’t be here without them. They’ve (Darryl and mum Kim) really encouraged me and pushed me in the right direction.

“Looking back, I still would have been living with my parents, travelling up from Wollongong to play, even the travel gets you, I don’t know how I would have lasted. “

Farrell, who made a tryscoring return to first grade on Sunday, wanted to repay Souths by re-signing.

“I really wanted to stay here but I’ve got a three-year-old daughter and a son on the way and it was really just all about looking after them,” he said.

“It’s closer to home. My parents still live down there, all my family live there, it’s going to be easier. It’s easier to get baby sitters. It’ll be easier to live. I’m going to be able to afford to get a house there, I couldn’t do that here with kids. I’d only be able to buy a unit.

Farrell had back surgery in the off-season and started the season in first grade before being dropped. In his place another Dylan – Walker – has risen to prominence.

“He’s only a young kid but full of confidence,” said Farrell. “I just know him through the juniors.

“He came up and started training with us this year, had a really good pre-season, started killing it in the Under 20s and NSW Cup.

“If Souths are going good, I’m going good. They’re like my family. I want to finish out this year on a high note.”


THE JOY OF SIX: Round 16

TIME for a history lesson. In rugby league we used to have no replacements and men would play on with horrendous injuries. Then we had two replacements, then four, and it happened less often. Then we had interchange. We used to have nothing between a sending-off and a penalty. There used to be no sin bin, no video review. Dirty and violent play decreased when they were introduced. You used to be able to play on with blood pouring out of a wound. Then we had the blood bin. Until two years ago, most players who were concussed continued on as a sign of courage. Until a year ago, there were shoulder charges. And until last Wednesday, there was bare-knuckle punching and brawls in rugby league. Save your breath, don’t fight the future. To quote Pearl Jam, it’s evolution, baby.
WHILE most observers would regard replacing both NSW’s halves for Origin III as not so much hitting the panic button as pulverising it, Queensland great Gorden Tallis says the one combination he doesn’t want to see in blue is the South Sydney pairing of John Sutton and Adam Reynolds. “Would they be out of place in a sky blue jersey?” Tallis said on Triple M. “I’m going to be biased, I don’t want to see them in a sky blue jersey.” The pair’s coach, Michael Maguire, is usually reluctant to push his charges for representative selection but said: “It’s good for Souths (they’re not there) but they’d definitely be able to handle that arena. They just get better and better. Johnny Sutton just kicks the team around the park and Reyno kicks them around the park. I’m glad we’ve got both of them.”
WHAT’S wrong with the Dragons? You can point to the absence of a long kicking game, lack of creativity, injuries and more. But according to coach Steve Price – on Saturday night in the 25-10 loss to Penrith at least – it was their bench. “As a coach, I’m really looking for a lot more from my interchange bench,” said Price. “There were too many errors and penalties to come out of our interchange bench. That first eight minutes after halftime, we were bogged down defending our goal line for the first eight sets. That should not happen after halftime.” Amid reports that St George Illawarra had gone cold on Canberra halfback Sam Williams, Price said he was “not sure” if the Country Origin rep would join them next year. And although Penrith were briefly in the top eight at the weekend, their coach Ivan Cleary still says: “We are in a rebuilding year …”
THE departure of Jamali Idris with a broken ankle turned yesterday’s Newcastle-Gold Coast game irrevocably, with Newcastle providing the most ruthless exploitation in recent memory of a missing defensive player. But it could also have altered Gold Coast’s 2013 campaign just as decisively. Brad Takairangi is out until round 19 with a rib injury and yesterday PNG winger David Mead was forced to fill in as a centre. Luke O’Dwyer will be one centre. Marmin Barba, brother of Ben, could be ready for a call-up with William Zillman switching to the threequarterline. It’s been a good season so far for coach John Cartwright; tougher times are ahead. By the way, stats whiz David Middleton can’t ever recall a penalty try and a (possible) eight-point try occurring before.
LAST year, Brett Finch gave up being a starting half for arguably the most famous rugby league club in the world, Wigan, to be back-up at Melbourne Storm and play NSW Cup. Craig Gower started this season as club captain at London Broncos and walked out to play off the bench on a modest wage in Newcastle. And now Michael Dobson has handed in the captain’s role at Newcastle to potentially be behind Gower in the pecking order at New Lambton. Super League’s stocks are sinking by the day and if the Rugby Football League are going to introduce an A-League-style marquee players system, as has been discussed, they had better fast-track it or there’ll be no marquee players left. It’s got to the point that RFL is considering another Socceroos measure – playing internationals on the other side of the world because that’s where the players are.
LATE on Wednesday night, some of my radio colleagues criticised the print media for zeroing in on the mass sin bin dismissals at the post-match media conference. According to them, “negative stories sell papers”. But that’s not the rationale at all. The word “news” comes from the same place as “comics” and “funnies”. The news is, literally, “stuff that’s new”. Queensland winning an Origin game is NOT new – it’s happened 49 times. Eleven players facing 11 in an Origin game, on the other hand, was rightly described by Ray Warren as “an historic period”. It IS new! Couple that with the fact just about everyone buying a paper in NSW and Queensland the next day would have seen the game, and getting reaction to the use of the sin bin was the biggest no brainer of the season for any trained journalist, none of whom would have had “selling papers” on their minds as they raced to meet deadlines.