World Cup: FIJI 32 IRELAND 14 at Spotland Stadium, Rochdale

By STEVE MASCORD

FIJI’s rugby league side which plays Australia this weekend is prone to emotional outbursts because it contains two sets of brothers, according to North Queensland’s Tariq Sims.

Sims was joined by siblings Ashton and Korbin plus Wes and Kevin Naiqama in the Bati outfit that outclassed Ireland 32-14 at Rochdale’s Spotland Stadium on Monday night, with Aquila Uate celebrating his return to the side with a hat-trick.

But a period in the first half, when Bati players rushed out of the line in an attempt to smash their opponents following a dust-up, concerned coach Rick Stone and senior players.

Decorated former Australia prop Petero Civoniceva described Saturday’s Langtree Park clash with the green and golds as “just another game” but Tariq Sims admitted playing with your own flesh and blood presented unique problems

“It’s unreal but sometimes it’s a bad thing,” he told Fairfax Media.

“You see one of them get tackled and you just want to race in there and help your brother out.

“Well, everyone in the team’s a brother but you want to help your blood out. We’ll make sure we can curb our passion next week.”

The Bati’s little burst of attempted vengeance resulted in a try conceded to Irishman Tyrone McCarthy and, later, interchange man Eloni Vunakece being sent to the sin bin. Stone said “we defended, at times, with too much emotion. That’s something I’ve got to control in the future.”

“Stoney’s right. We need to tone that down a bit; a few of the boys haven’t played for Fiji before,” said Newcastle’s Uate, who has played for Australia since representing Fiji in the 2008 World Cup.

Cheered on by the strong local Fijiann community, the Bati raced to a 10-0 lead after 12 minutes on the back of tries to Uate and man of the match Kevin Naiqama.

But McCarthy sneaking over in the corner after a period when the sides used each other as target practice interrupted their momentum. It was only regained when Tariq Sims reached over his head to score in the 51st minute.

There was a humorous moment when video referee Henry Perenara said “Oh Jesus, I can’t see much there, I can’t tell” when asked to adjudicate on a Korbin Sims touchdown. “I’ll go benefit of the doubt”.

At 77 minutes, it was 32-4. Catalans winger Damien Blanch and Manly forward James Hassan crossed for late Wolfhounds touchdowns to make the scoreline more palatable.

“It’s another game,” 37-year-old Civoniceva said of the clash with his former Test team-mates. “I haven’t really thought about too much.”

Ireland play England on Saturday. Captain Liam Finn said some of the players may have been trying to impress their new team-mates rather than displaying patience.

Coach Mark Aston added: “Brett White was the best player on the field, he was immense.

“I’m sure we can challenge England. Hey, England haven’t been great of late, have they?”

FIJI 32 (Akuila Uate 3, Kevin Naiqama, Tariq Sims, Korbin Sims tries; Wes Naiqama 4 goals) beat IRELAND 14 (Tyrone McCarthy, Damien Blanch, James Hassan tries; Pat Richards goal) at Spotland Stadium, Rochdale. Referee: Phil Bentham (England). Crowd: 8872.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

World Cup: FIJI 32 IRELAND 14 at Spotland Stadium, Rochdale


By STEVE MASCORD

FIJI’s rugby league side which plays Australia this weekend is prone to emotional outbursts because it contains two sets of brothers, according to North Queensland’s Tariq Sims.

Sims was joined by siblings Ashton and Korbin plus Wes and Kevin Naiqama in the Bati outfit that outclassed Ireland 32-14 at Rochdale’s Spotland Stadium on Monday night, with Aquila Uate celebrating his return to the side with a hat-trick.

But a period in the first half, when Bati players rushed out of the line in an attempt to smash their opponents following a dust-up, concerned coach Rick Stone and senior players.

Decorated former Australia prop Petero Civoniceva described Saturday’s Langtree Park clash with the green and golds as “just another game” but Tariq Sims admitted playing with your own flesh and blood presented unique problems

“It’s unreal but sometimes it’s a bad thing,” he told Fairfax Media.

“You see one of them get tackled and you just want to race in there and help your brother out.

“Well, everyone in the team’s a brother but you want to help your blood out. We’ll make sure we can curb our passion next week.”

The Bati’s little burst of attempted vengeance resulted in a try conceded to Irishman Tyrone McCarthy and, later, interchange man Eloni Vunakece being sent to the sin bin. Stone said “we defended, at times, with too much emotion. That’s something I’ve got to control in the future.”

“Stoney’s right. We need to tone that down a bit; a few of the boys haven’t played for Fiji before,” said Newcastle’s Uate, who has played for Australia since representing Fiji in the 2008 World Cup.

Cheered on by the strong local Fijiann community, the Bati raced to a 10-0 lead after 12 minutes on the back of tries to Uate and man of the match Kevin Naiqama.

But McCarthy sneaking over in the corner after a period when the sides used each other as target practice interrupted their momentum. It was only regained when Tariq Sims reached over his head to score in the 51st minute.

There was a humorous moment when video referee Henry Perenara said “Oh Jesus, I can’t see much there, I can’t tell” when asked to adjudicate on a Korbin Sims touchdown. “I’ll go benefit of the doubt”.

At 77 minutes, it was 32-4. Catalans winger Damien Blanch and Manly forward James Hassan crossed for late Wolfhounds touchdowns to make the scoreline more palatable.

“It’s another game,” 37-year-old Civoniceva said of the clash with his former Test team-mates. “I haven’t really thought about too much.”

Ireland play England on Saturday. Captain Liam Finn said some of the players may have been trying to impress their new team-mates rather than displaying patience.

Coach Mark Aston added: “Brett White was the best player on the field, he was immense.

“I’m sure we can challenge England. Hey, England haven’t been great of late, have they?”

FIJI 32 (Akuila Uate 3, Kevin Naiqama, Tariq Sims, Korbin Sims tries; Wes Naiqama 4 goals) beat IRELAND 14 (Tyrone McCarthy, Damien Blanch, James Hassan tries; Pat Richards goal) at Spotland Stadium, Rochdale. Referee: Phil Bentham (England). Crowd: 8872.


Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

BONDI BEAT: July 2013

RLW July 2013By STEVE MASCORD
NEXT year’s World Club Challenge in Perth? Someone should hurry up and tell Perth about it.
Normally reliable Bondi Beat sources have informed us the most isolated city in the world outside of Siberia is just about nailed on for the first WCC in Australia since 1994.
But John Sackson, the CEO of the WARL, tells us: “If an event of that magnitude was going to take place in Perth next year, I would say negotiations would be well under way.
“And aside from Gary Hetherington throwing up Perth at some stage, I haven’t heard a whisper.
“They’d need to be talking the West Australian Events Corporation, they’d need to be talking to nib Stadium and maybe other venues and I hope they’d be talking to us.
“I haven’t heard a whisper. WCC in Perth? Very doubtful if you ask me.”
All of which suggests two possibilities. One, we’re going to have a one off in the north of England for the fifteenth consecutive year or two, we’re doing things by the seat of our pants as usual.
.
“I’M Welsh. Does that make me a pom?”
With that, former Harlequins and Saracens chief executive Mark Evans introduced himself to the Melbourne media as the new boss of the world champion Storm – and the World Cup lost a consultant.
Evans has been appointed by Bart Campbell, a London-based New Zealander who will be the new majority shareholder of our greatest club side.
But amid all the business related questions at the media conference on May 21, there were others like “do you feel the Purple Pride?” – a good sign I guess from reporters who usually cover religion (ie: AFL).
Are you just bringing outsiders, they wanted to know – conveniently overlooking the fact that only one Victorian has ever played for the Storm.
Hence Evans’ question back to a reporter. “Well, it makes you British,” she responded.
“Right, I’m British. I’m the only Brit. Everybody else is Australasian including Melbournians. Is that how you say it?”
Having watched a live feed of the press conference on my Ustream channel (sorry about the plug!), one fan commented that Evans needed to learn how to say Melbourne.
It’s not “Mell born”, it’s “Melbin”
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IT was gratifying to see the Rugby Football League’s Blake Solly reveal that what we suggested in last week’s column – a marquee player system for Super League – is under consideration.
The question now is: who would these marquee players be and which clubs would sign them?
I am sure Salford, whose owner has already vowed to cheat the cap, would be one. Although perhaps he means a “marquee player” in the Melbourne Storm sense, where funds for the hire of a tent are funnelled into players’ bank accounts.
Wigan could afford one, Leeds could afford one, Warrington, maybe Saints … who else?
Personally, I hope the system is introduced in time for North Queensland’s mercurial Matt Bowen to be a beneficiary. Why Warrington went cold on him, I’m not too sure.
But I reckon he’d be a hit in a town famous for outstanding Australian imports.
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OK, I have a little bit of info about some warm up games that are due to be held the week before the World Cup kicks off in October.
Expect France to host the United States, England to take on Italy, Wales to tussle with Tonga and Fiji to clash with one of rugby league’s top countries, Rochdale.
Australia don’t believe they need a warm up. The Kiwis do, but there’s still no news on an opponent.
The World Cup remains a niche event among rugby league fans but I know plenty who are going or are trying to arrange the journey.
Aaron Wallace, the stats man who so superbly briefs the Fox Spots commentators, has never been the UK and is hiring a campervan to ferry himself and his girlfriend from match to match.
He might have a passenger at times….
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BENJI Marshall is such a big name in Sydney that his wife has a Sunday newspaper column.
So you can imagine the uproar back in round 10 when he was dropped to the bench for the match against South Sydney.
Add that to the fact he has a column in the Sydney broadsheet the Herald and doesn’t say much to the tabloid Telegraph and you have an idea of the level of interest in his dramatic fall from grace
But the whole thing could be played out again come October and November.
Marshall was relieved of the Kiwis captaincy during the pre-season and it’s not impossible to imagine Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson keeping him out of the New Zealand side at some stage of the tournament.
Such a scenario would put Bondi Beat in mind of the 199five World Cup, when Gary Freeman was dropped and sulked on a bus at training.
One of Sydney’s favourite soap operas, coming to a field near you.
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THIS is not a joke, people have suggested it as a serious promotion.
There are those who want the Burgess brothers – Sam, Tom, Luke and George, to engage in what is known colloquially as a game of “backyard footy” with the Sims boys – Ashton, Tariq and Corbin.
In fact, it was North Queensland back rower Tariq who came up with the idea.
“Dead-set, if we can get that to happen, I would love it. We could do it for charity – it would be awesome,” Tariq said in the lead-up to the City-Country game.
Of course, the Englishmen would have a numerical advantage – something that could be remedied by adding Ruan Sims, who plays for the Australian womens’ team.
She recalled on a recent television appearance that one night a week, the four of them were allowed to wrestle in the loungeroom.
It was no holds barred but once someone cried, the bell rang.
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MORE and more NRL types are seeing the error of their ways when it comes to golden point time.
Another chip in the foundations of the controversial rule came in round 10, when Manly played a 10-10 draw with Melbourne in Melbourne. That was the score in regulation time and it was also the score after overtime but only following seven unsuccessful drop goal attempts.
According Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey, it’s all gone too far.
After 80 minutes, if it’s a draw, it’s only my personal opinion but it should be a draw,” he said. “When we’re having field goal shootouts, it’s just crazy.
“There’re 26 rounds in the competition. There’s enough football played. You want to see the guys busted and bleeding. It’s a gladiatorial sport, I know, but we’ve got to look after our players as well.”
Commentator Phill Gould agreed, writing the next day: “I was always a fan of the golden point and believed it added to the excitement of the close finish.
“However, when you witness a gladiatorial classic from two teams such as Melbourne and Manly this week, a draw and a competition point each is a fair result.”
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A FUNNY moment from the same game.
Storm winger Sisa Waqa (you’ll see him in action for Fiji in a few short months” was called inside the 10 chasing a kick and started walking off the pitch, asking a touch judge why he had been sent to the sin bin!

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

Best New Face – A Blessing Or A Curse?

players pollBy STEVE MASCORD
IT’S the ultimate “Where Are They Now?”.
Since 1986, Rugby League Week has been asking 100 players a year who they rated the best new face in the game. That’s right, ‘Best New Face’ – not rookie, a word which carries plenty of rules and regulations on its back.
If you were perceived by your peers to be a “new face”, you were eligible.
The honour roll contains some of the biggest names in our game – Laurie Daley (1988), Steve Menzies (1994) and Greg Inglis (2006).
There’s also a preponderance of men who chose to take the road less travelled later in their careers and railed against the establishment – perhaps an indication that these sort of rebellious characters inspire instinctive admiration in their fellow players.
Craig Gower (1997) Mark McLinden (1998), Karmichael Hunt (2004), Sonny Bill Williams (2005) and Israel Folau (2007) were all spotted by the players at an early age as being destined for greatness. They were eventually spotted – and poached – by rival codes, as well.
Others in our list became steady, reliable first graders without becoming regular internationals – men like Darrell Trindall (1991), Matt Seers (1995), Colin Best (1999), Brett Firman (2003) and, so far, Chris Sandow (2008).
Our first two winners were Ian Roberts and Peter Jackson. Roberts became the first openly gay Australian rugby league player while Jackson played nine Tests for Australia before – tragically – dying of a drug overdose in 1997.
Jason Martin (1990) released a pop single under the tutelage of Molly Meldrum. After decrying the cold of Canberra for most of his career, Fijian Noa Nadruku (1993) ended up retiring in the national capital.
Braith Anasta (2001) probably loved the Players Poll that year but grew to loathe it when colleagues voted him “most over-rated” in subsequent seasons.
And then there are those who, to use the vernacular, didn’t kicked on so much. This group is led by 1992 winner David Seidenkamp.
The message from the list on this page is clear: just because you were voted by your peers as most likely to succeed, doesn’t mean you will. Scanning the honour board should give this year’s winner cause for excitement and caution in equal measure.
“There’s a reason they call it Second Year Syndrome,” says Daley, who will coach NSW in this year’s Origin series.
“When you pop up out of the ground, you can catch opponents by surprise. But then they analyse you and learn what you’re about.
“It’s easy when you’re a nobody. It’s much harder when you’ve started to become a somebody.”
Perhaps the five most recent winners should be the ones who inspire the most caution.
CHRIS SANDOW (2008) looked like he had the world at his feet. At the end of 2011, he moved from South Sydney to Parramatta on a contract Rabbitohs owner Russell Crowe claimed on Twitter to be valued at $550,000 per season. The Eels finished last in his debut season there and he hasn’t been sighted in rep football.
JAMAL IDRIS (2009) was spotted well before his representative debut. He played for Australia in 2010 and looked unstoppable. At the end of the season, he was struck in the neck by a sword wielded by a cousin at Christmas. Four months later, he announced he would be joining Gold Coast in 2012. As was the case with Sandow, his debut season with a new club was a poor one for the whole team. He has not added to his solitary Australian and NSW appearances.
JOSH DUGAN (2010) was another ‘New Face’ that seemed to be pointed towards the heavens. He represented Country that year and the following season, the NRL All Stars and NSW. At the time of writing, his fall from grace has been the most spectacular of anyone to have won this category. He does not even have a club after he posted a picture of himself on Instagram drinking a pineapple cruiser when he should have been at training. His career remains in limbo.
TARIQ SIMS (2011) has suffered setbacks of another kind, breaking a leg twice since he burst onto the scene with North Queensland and gained selection in preliminary NSW squads. Sims’ has made another comeback this year, with the help of the plated ‘Terminator leg’, but his field time has been restricted so far this season.
So far in 2013, last year’s BNF
ADAM REYNOLDS (2012) hasn’t put a foot wrong and is pressing Daley for Origin inclusion. Reynolds seems mature beyond his years, isn’t contemplating any ill-advised changes of clubs and has not been seen with any pineapple cruisers. But injury is always hovering nearby, waiting to interrupt an otherwise promising career.
“If you ask me what I look for in a young player,” says Gower, now with London Broncos after a stint in French rugby union, “I would say consistency.
“Adam Reynolds, he’s doing his role for the team well. The way he is running the ship for Souths, he is organising attack, his defence is good, he seems to have a good kicking game.
“You keep doing that and eventually you start making breaks and suddenly you’ve had a GREAT game and then the media and the fans and everyone starts noticing you.”
Gower, now 34, doesn’t remember being voted the best new player across both competitions, the ARL and Super League, in 2013.
“But I know it was a good year,” he says. “I started the year at hooker, changed positions, played for New South Wales, went away on tour at the end of the year and played halfback in a great Australian side.
“There was Bradley Clyde and Laurie Daley and Ryan Girdler. I played halfback and kicked on from there.
“If you look at that list, most of them went on to play a reasonable about of footIball. Some of those guys like Idris and Sandow changed club and maybe that slowed them down and Sims got injured.
“But they’re pretty good footballers. I reckon they’ve got some good footy ahead of them, all of them.”
Daley is one of the few men on our list whose trajectory continued – with only injury enforced interruptions – for his entire career after being earmarked at an early age as a future great. His form did not suffer significant lulls, he did not go to another sport or fall victim to a major off-field controversy.
Steve Menzies, Ben Kennedy and Greg Inglis would be the others in this category.
“I was lucky,” he reflects. “I had Mal Meninga and these fellas in the team and Tim Sheens coaching and if you got too big for your boots, they’d knock you down a peg or two.
“I was surrounded by good players but also players who would pull you into line.”
Twenty-five years – is it really that long – since Daley was voted by his peers at the best new player in rugby league, he has advice for this years’ hot-right-now superstar.
“It’s great to get accolades but all it shows is that you’re doing something good right now, that people are starting to notice you,” he says.
“It doesn’t mean you should stop preparing exactly the way you did last year.
“It does mean you are starting to win people’s respect. It takes a long time to win respect.
“But it doesn’t take long to lose it.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Tariq Sims Rated A 50-50 Chance Of Returning This Year

By STEVE MASCORD

ENFORCER Tariq Sims could make a stunning comeback for North Queensland in time for the finals.

Sims, 22, broke his leg for the second time in as many years on May 18 – the eve of Origin selection – and was immediately ruled out for the year.

But coach Neil Henry tells RLW: “He’s a chance of playing in the finals – we’ll know more after next week.

“He needs to run better at training. I would say he was 50-50 for this year.”

Sims is regarded as the only missing piece of the Cowboy puzzle after they followed up a high-quality, narrow loss to Manly with a 52-12 pizzling of the Warriors on Saturday night.

Prop James Tamou (ankle) and utility Ray Thompson (shoulder) were rested after picking up knocks in the first half.

“We’ve been struggling with our attack lately – we’ve not scored a lot of points,” Henry said in the wake of the nine-try pasting of the Aucklanders.

“It’s good for our confidence to know if we’re on as a team, we’ve got points in us.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Henry Hits Out At NSW Over Sims Call-Up

By STEVE MASCORD

NORTH Queensland coach Neil Henry has hit out at NSW Origin management for selecting Tariq Sims as a standby just hours before his ill-fated match against Penrith.

The 22-year-old broke his leg in Saturday night’s 30-28 win at Dairy Farmers Stadium, ending his hopes of an Origin call-up this year.

RLW understands Sims awoke from an afternoon nap on Saturday to learn of his selection via media outlets – a scenario that angered Henry.

Referring to Blues coach Ricky Stuart, Henry said: “I wonder if he would have the same view if he was coaching a club team that is playing that night and the player finds out an hour before kick-off.

“I don’t think that’s ideal preparation for my player – regardless of what’s happened to him. There’s no connection there whatsoever.

“But it could be tidied up.

“We’ve got a game here on Saturday night at 7.30 – our football manager Peter Parr found out about Tariq at 3.22pm.

“We’ve got a situation of ‘do we inform a player or don’t we inform a player that he’s 18th man for Origin, that he needs to be on a 6am flight to get down and go to camp to Melbourne? It’s a fair distance, Melbourne.

“But it would out on Fox, out in the media. It had been announced regardless. Peter thought it was a confidential conversation … Terry Matterson comes in and tells me ‘oh yeah, Tariq’s 18th’ because he was reading it on Fox.

“Surely we know a couple of days before who we are going to drag in as 18th man and if he knows Thursday, Friday … we’ve already made a plan.”

Sims’ brother Ashton confirmed the Country forward was aware of his NSW call-up before the game. “That wouldn’t have played on his mind at all,” said Ashton. “It’s just an unfortunate injury.”

The Cowboys successfully negotiated a 9.25am departure for Tariq instead of 6am – in the mistaken understanding he would only learn of his selection after the match.

It was a flight he never made.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

RLW MEDIA RELEASE: Issue 15

WATMOUGH’S AGONY, CIRALDO’S ‘SORRY’ TO SIMS, COWBOYS’ BLUES, CUBICLE CAPERS, CROCKER’S CALL, US PEACE TALKS

NSW Origin II hopeful Anthony Watmough has revealed he has to avoid being tackled from a certain direction to get through matches.

Watmough was man of the match for Manly against Sydney Roosters on Sunday after turning down the opportunity to be a standby reserve for the Blues in last night’s Origin opener.

But he has revealed the seriousness of his injury worries, which involve his right arm and leg going completely numb, to Rugby League Week.

“When the neck goes back, the arm and leg goes numb because it’s not meant to go back that far,” Watmough says.

“The shoulder and neck hurts more when you get hit from behind and you get that whiplash. I just made sure I got in front of everyone and they couldn’t get me from behind.”

The man who North Queenslandforward Tariq Sims last Saturday night tripped over, breaking his leg, has apologised to the former NSW squad member.

Penrith’s Cameron Ciraldo suffered a similar injury in 2009 and tells RLW: “I felt terrible for the bloke – I could barely concentrate on the game after he went off.

“It brought back some dreadful memories for me and I felt so bad for him.”

The Cowboys were also hopping mad over Sims learning just before kick-off that he was in the NSW side – although they weren’t blaming that for the injury.

“I wonder if (Ricky Stuart) would have the same view if he was coaching a club team that is playing that night and the player finds out an hour before kick-off,” said NQ coach Neil Henry.

“I don’t think that’s the ideal preparation for my player.”

And South Sydney’s Michael Crocker has called on players to band together to stop the video referee intervening in high tackles at all – which he says would arrest the increasing incidence of players staying on the ground to milk penalties.

“If we really voice our opinion, say we want to get rid of players playing for penalties … hopefully the NRL and the commission will help us change it,” Crocker says.

“The video referee shouldn’t be involved at all. They should be there purely for tries.”

And while match officials might be in the news for the wrong reasons today, The Mole reports how whistler Steve Lyons saved a young girl locked in the toilet at Subway Townsville before Saturday’s game.

“I got a screwdriver and a wire and managed to hack the lock,” Lyons says, “but it took me 15 minutes.”

The the occasional Far & Wide column reports how peace talks have kicked off between the warring AMNRL and USARL in the United States.

David Niu from the AMNRL and Peter Illfield from the USARL are holding talks under the oversight of Tas Baitieri,” Tomahawks team manager Steve Johnson says.

And New Zealand coaching great Graham Lowe says State of Origin games should never be played across the ditch. “It will be a massive, massive disservice to what Origin means,” Lowe tells League Week.

Plus: Mark Geyer, Danny Buderus, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Justin Hunt, Josh McGuire, Tim Moltzen, Jared Wearea-Hargreaves A-List, The Big Issue, Cameron Smith, Kevin Gordon, Dayne Weston, Tyrone Roberts, Beau Henry, Konrad Hurrell, Ben Ross, Manchester Magic, Russell Bawden Legend Q&A, Russell Fairfax and Ian Schubert Golden Moment, Young Tonumaipea, previews, reviews, pics and posters.

Only in RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK, OUT NOW ACROSS AUSTRALASIA!

NRL round 11: NORTH QUEENSLAND 30 PENRITH 28 at Dairy Farmers Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

LYING in the back of an ambulance, NSW Origin standby Tariq Sims apologised for letting his team-mates down after breaking a leg during a North Queensland victory secured by the heroics of brother Ashton.

The 22-year-old was due to fly to Melbourne at 9.25am today as a possible replacement for Blues skipper Paul Gallen in Origin I but will instead wake up in Townsville Hospital after snapping his left leg in exactly the same place it broke last season.

As he was loaded into an ambulance following the 53rd minute incident, the Country Origin forward told Cowboys official Paul Munnings: “Make sure every knows I’m sorry I let them down”.

Earlier, his cries of “f***, I’ve broken it again” were heard around the country on live television.

Penrith hit the lead not long after Sims departure but brother Ashton – who rose from the reserves bench to comfort Tariq as his medicab crossed the sideline – waged a one-man war on the Panthers when sent back into the contest.

He scored the match-winning try with six minutes left and – poetically – had the ball as the fulltime siren sounded.

“It’s never good when you see the medicab come onto the field,” Ashton said late last night. “I don’t know the extent of his injuries so I’ll head up there now.

“It’s heartbreaking. He got called up to the Origin as 18th man too so that sort of sucks.

“I know it’s easy for me to say but he’s one of the most stand-up blokes I’ve ever known.

“He’s only 22. He was playing some really good footy before he hurt himself tonight. I just feel really bad for him. He’s got such a bright future and he’ll bounce back from this.”

The injury, which is likely to sideline Sims for three months, gives Wests Tigers’ Aaron Woods an elevated chance of getting a run if there is a late withdrawal. NSW could, however, opt to call up someone else with back row experience as Gallen battles a knee injury.

Tariq Sims’ NSW camp involvement was already in doubt by the time he was injured anyway. Two minutes beforehand, he had been placed on report for using a forearm to the head of Penrith’s Blake Austin.

“You had two gos,” referee Steve Lyons told Sims. “You could be lucky to be staying here. Clean up your game.”

Coach Neil Henry described the incident as “a freak accident.”

“He was on the ground and a support runner’s come through and just happened to collect him on that spot,” Henry said.

The coach said the club opted not to tell Tariq Sims of his NSW inclusion but it was in the media before kick-off anyway. “I don’t know about the timing of that,” he said.

With halfback Luke Walsh a late inclusion, the Panthers scored first through Clint Newton and never let the Cowboys out of their sights, even when the home side threatened to take control of the game.

Penrith led 12-10 at halftime, before touchdowns to Antonio Winterstein and Gavin Cooper appeared to give NQ a strong advantage. Tries to Brad Tighe and Josh Mansour  left Ivan Cleary’s side in contention for an upset.

Ashton Sims, however, wasn’t going to let that happen.

He was a one-man wrecking ball when he returned the fray, coming up with the ball after a bomb for the video referee-approved clincher.

Despite his side hitting the front late in the contest, Penrith coach Ivan Cleary was none-too-pleased with proceedings.

“We just beat ourselves,” said Cleary. “Penalties … I think four times after we scored, we gave away a penalty.

“The start of the second half – a couple of cheat errors. Tackle six – conceded tries on the last tackle. We only needed a fair share possession in that second half and we would have been OK.”

NORTH QUEENSLAND 30 (M Bowen G Cooper A Graham A Sims A Winterstein tries M Bowen 5 goals) bt PENRITH 28 (T Burns L Coote J Mansour C Newton B Tighe tries B Austin 3 L Walsh goals) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Referee: S Lyons/C James. Crowd: 7,648.

Filed for: SUN-HERALD

Final team lists:

NQ: Matt Bowen (c); Ashley Graham, Antonio Winterstein, Kane Linnett, Kalifa FaiFaiLoa; Michael Morgan, Ray Thompson; Dallas Johnson, Tariq Sims, Gavin Cooper, Glenn Hall, Aaron Payne, Ashton Sims. Res: James Segeyaro, Ricky Thorby, Scott Bolton, Jason Taumalolo.

PENRITH: Lachlan Coote; Etu Uaisele, Geoff Daniela, Brad Tighe, Josh Mansour; Blake Austin, Luke Walsh; Ryan Simpkins, Cameron Ciraldo, Clint Newton, Tim Grant, Kevin Kingston (c), Sam McKendry. Res: Travis Burns, Danny Galea, Chris Armit, Dayne Weston.

Toyota Cup fulltime: Penrith 26-20