Archive for the ‘Rugby League’ Category

Maroons May Get Boost from Slater Departure

A breeze of optimism has blown through the Queensland Maroons side.

After losing incumbent fullback Billy Slater to a nagging shoulder injury few would have credited Queensland’s chance at victory in the third game of Origin, to be played on July 8 at Suncorp Stadium.

But many believe the Maroons will be better off without the injured Slater.

Their opinion comes through a comparison of stats between Blues’ and Maroons’ fullbacks.

Josh Dugan was consistently better than Billy Slater, in every aspect of the game. Slater’s injured shoulder needed surgery even before game one. The Blues were told to expect Slater to pass in games one and two as his shoulder would not allow him to run into the line of defence.

Slater is still the best communicator on the field, and the Maroons will miss his ability to spot a chink in the Blues armour and capitalise on it.

But what incoming fullback, Greg Inglis, lacks in strategy he more than makes up for in sheer athleticism.

Inglis is expected to outpoint Dugan in game Three every bit as much as Slater was outpointed by him in the first two. Inglis is younger, very experienced in the position, has a wealth of big-game experience, and is arguably the most valuable player in the NRL today.

But the Blues have had their own piece of good news with Josh Jackson having  his charge downgraded, allowing him to play in the Origin decider.

 

Breakdown of stats from the first two Origins

_____________________Dugan                                                Slater

Meters                                306                                                     193

Runs                                    32                                                        23

Errors                                  1                                                          2

Tackle Busts                       10                                                        6

Tackles                                17                                                        8

Line Breaks                        2                                                          1

Tries                                    1                                                          0

Daley Tells Blues to Fire-Up

Laurie Daley image: commons.wikimedia.org

New South Wales Blues coach Laurie Daley has said his side intends to be more ‘aggressive’ in Wednesday night’s must-win match against the Maroons.

The Blues side have made no secret of the fact they intend to niggle and intimidate the Queenslanders.

Blues playmaker Robbie Farah believed his side were ‘too clean’ in the first match and were unable to put the other side off their game.

Queensland Coach Mal Meninga shrugged off the talk. “Bring it on,” he said. “That’s good. We have prepared for  it all week – that’s what Origin is all aobut.,

“You need that attitude and character, that aggressive outlook and mindset to play Origin footy – that’s why it is so great. If that’s the case, we have prepared for it.”

When asked about the intended aggressive tactics of the New South Welshmen Meninga said, “I think NSW play with a fairly aggressive mindset … We want to be successful and we will do whatever is needed to win.”

Rain is expected on Wednesday night, which means the game may be dirty in more ways than one.

Laurie Daley said Origin was unpredictable at best, but the rain throws another random element into the mix. He believes his side will be able to rise to the challenge and win in front of what is expected to be a hostile Melbourne crowd

His hopes were buoyed by the injury of Maroons play-maker Cooper Cronk. Last year the Blues won both games where Cronk was absent.

The unpopular Daly Cheery-Evans is set to replace Cronk.

Watmough fails to Fire for Eels

Eels Watmough: www.sportal.com.au

Eels fans are rightly agitated after the club spent up big on Anthony Watmough.

Watmough has failed to deliver since leaving the Manly Sea Eagles. On Friday night he posted his worst game to date: Running for only 53 meters, missing five tackles, and playing only a little over half the match (44 minutes).

In fact, Watmough hasn’t made a line-break since joining the Eels.

This is a far-cry from the same time last year when ‘Choc’ was rampaging through the Maroons defensive line in the State of Origin series.

Watmough is claiming a series of injuries are hamstringing his ability to perform on the field.

Blues Watmough image: www.sbs.com.au

Blues Watmough image: www.sbs.com.au

But in a bizarre Catch-22 Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has no choice but to keep sending him out.

Because of the salary cap, and the big money spent on Watmough, Arthur has no one else to send on to replace him.

The best both of them can hope for is the round 15 bye which will give the second-rower a much needed break from competitive football.

Just how much the team physios and doctors can do in a fortnight remains to be seen. But as it stands now buying Watmough from the Sea Eagles hasn’t repaid the Parramatta club.

Blues Back from Injury as Maroons Lose Cronk

Cooper Cronk image: commons.wikimedia.org

Gallen, Morris, and Farah have been passed fit for the Blues Origin squad. This allows Llows coach Laurie Daley to field his first choice of players in every position.

The news for queensland, however, is not so good; with playmaker cooper cronk being ruled out with a low-grade tear to the meniscus in his right knee.

Cronk will undergo surgery for the tear and be sidelined for three to four weeks.

Maroons coach Mal Meninga says Cronk is desolate at missing the second Origin match, which was to be played in front of his home crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

“He is disappointed in the fact he is going to miss it,” said Coach Meninga. “He will work damn hard and he will be back for Game Three let’s hop.

“It’s a huge loss to us. In temrns of the way he manages the game and around the group. You know we are goig to miss him.”

And Mal Meninga isn’t overstating one bit. The Smith-Slater-Cronk combination has proved a success at all levels of football. These three grew up playing football together and occupy the most important positions on the field.

It’s no surprise that Queensland lost the two Origin matches without him last year, while winning when the combination was intact.

NSW Blues Injury List Lessens

Laurie Daley image: commons.wikimedia.org

Paul Gallen, Brett Morris, and Robbie Farah are expected to be cleared from injury and available for Blues selection.

For Coach Laurie Daley their convalescence couldn’t have come a t a better time.

The Blues meet the Maroons at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 17 for a must-win second Origin match. This is the first match to be held at the MCG since 1997, and ticket sales have been somewhat sluggish.

Daley has until 7:45am on Tuesday to name his squad and he is keenly awaiting the fitness reports of his most experienced players: Gallen, Morris and Farah.

Gallen was cleared to play for Cronulla yesterday against the Sydney City Roosters. Boyd Cordner is expected to be dropped to make way for the incumbent Captain. While winger Daniel Tupou is pegged to be relegated to make way for Morris.

Robbie Farah, however, is another story.

Farah braved the Origin I battle field, returning after receiving painkilling injections for a grade three AC shoulder joint injury in the first half. Since the game, Farah has spent every waking moment undergoing rehabilitation.

Despite the severity of the injury Farah remains confident of his chances to play..

But Coach Daley has said he wants all 17 of his squad ready to train on the day they are named.

Sharks hooker (and one of the biggest divers in the game) Michael Ennis is expected to replace Farah, should the vice-captain be unavailable through injury.

The Blues will go into camp the day the squad is named.

Cherry-Evans to Stay with Manly

Image: commons.wikimedia.org

The NRL community has reacted with alarm at Manly play-maker Daly Cherry-Evans’ decision to renege on his deal to join the Gold Coast Titans.

 As Manly fans rejoice in the return of their prodigal son questions are being asked about the reliability of the utility. These questions extended to his fitness as a possible Captain of the club and Maroons sides.

Anyone who can break their word with such ease is not a man likely to inspire trust in his team.

Queensland and especially Gold Coast fans are rightly put-out. Queensland great Darren Lockyer was an outspoken critic of the backflip saying, “ When I was handed the Broncos captaincy in  2005, and eventually the Origin and Test jobs, I learnt the sign of a good leader is their strength.

“When a leader says he is going to do something, his word is his bond. He backs up his words with his actions.”

Cherry-Evans has said that he was unaware of the specifics being negotiated by his managers, and therefore refuses to admit he mislead any club.

“Any dealings (my management) may have been doing was with me not knowing – and that’s how I wanted it. I didn’t want to know if tere was something going on behind the scenes.

“I just wanted to worry about what I had committed to at the time and playing good footyball.

“I’m not going to deny there would have been work going on behind the scenes to get a deal. But I kept it at arm’s length and I wasn’t given a deal until the last 48 hours.”

Not everyone agrees with Cherry-Evans plea of ignorance.

Gordon Tallis, an ambassador for the Gold Coast Titans, felt Cherry-Evans had made a commitment with his words.

“I am disappointed, that is just as a Queenslander and as a fan,” said Tallis.

“A Captain has to be a man of principle I believe. If you look back at all the great leaders, from Wally (Lewis) to Mal (Meninga), what they have done for Queensland.

“Wally (even) turned his back on a career down in NSW for Queensland Rugby League, because it would have folded without him.”

Tallis’s appears to be applying a bit of a double-standard to Cherry-Evans.

St George-Illawara fans will remember Tallis choosing to sit on the bench for the 1994 season because the club refused to release him from his contract. Tallis wanted to leave the Saints to join the Broncos, and sought an early release. But the club were loath to lose the second row Raging Bull.

So Gordon fulfilled the letter, but not the spirit, of his contract by staying at the club, but refusing to play.

And yet Tallis went on to captain the Broncos, Maroons, and Australian sides.

Daley Seeks Meeting With Referees Ahead of Origin Two

Laurie Daley image: commons.wikimedia.org

New South Wales Blues Coach Laurie Daley is requesting a meeting with referees boss Tony Archer to complain about Queensland’s bullying tactics in Origin Game One.

Daley believes his side was ambushed by the rough play dished out by the Queenslanders and believes the Maroons should have been penalised more than they were.

NSW officials believe there were five incidents of illegal hits which went penalised.

 

Daley’s whinging has drawn ire from both sides of the border. Even Blues legend Chris ‘Choppy’ Close blasted the coach: “If you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen,” was Close’s response.

“Please,” said a clearly exasperated Close, “this is State of Origin. This is bloody rugby league.

“Mal Meninga nearly killed Michael O’Connor (1991, Game Three).

“They need to get their hands off it.”

 

Laurie Daley seems to have conveniently forgotten that Billy Slater’s nagging shoulder injury is the result of a Beau Scott cheap shot during last year’s series.

He seems to have forgotten that the Blues have a well-documented history of having the best divers in the game (Ennis, Bird, Watmough etc).

Daley seems to have forgotten rugby league is a contact sport! All the more so at Origin level which is the highest standard of football on the planet.

He seems to have forgotten all about Andrew Fifita’s Chicken Wing tackle on Will Chambers.

Instead Daley is seeking to have a new interpretation of the rules implemented before he picks his side for Origin Two.

Why not make it a touch football contest while you’re at it Laurie?

Stuart Walks Out on Press Conference

Ricky Stuart image: www.news.com.au

Another dummy-spit by Canberra Raiders Coach Ricky Stuart should see the club facing a hefty fine.

Stuart (no stranger to tantrums) walked out of a post-match press conference and forbade the media from approaching any of his players after their loss to the Broncos on Friday night.

“Todd Greenberg (NRL head of football), he was at the game tonight, and I just really hope he saw what I saw,” said Stuart to the media.

“It’s a lot healthier for our club if I don’t go any further into this press conference.

“In respect to all the media, it has nothing to do with you, but it’s just a lot healthier if I don’t continue.”

Stuart then got to his feet, said ‘thanks’, and left with Captain Jarrod Croker.

Canberra’s loss to the Broncos was its third in a row and their fifth from six matches at home. The win puts Brisbane at the top of the NRL table.

The Broncos scored four tries to the Raider’s two despite having Justin Hodges and Sam Thaiday out due to Origin commitments.

Everyone is wondering why Stuart refused to front the media. His team was clearly outplayed and there were no controversial refereeing decisions. If anything, the scoreline flattered the Raiders.

Jack reed crossed for the Broncos in the 13th minute, followed by Jordan Kahu (on the other side of the field) a few minutes later.

The Raiders fought back to 12-12 via Blake Austin and Jarrad Kennedy.

But a brilliant try on the stork of halftime to Lachlan Maranta took the wind out of the home team.

Corey Oats hammered the final nail into the Raiders coffin at the 58th minute mark. Two penalty goals filled in their grave.

NSW Blues’ Finger Pointing Begins

Image: en.wikipedia.org

The blood-letting has begun in the NSW Origin camp with former and current players and staff tearing into their team after the one-point loss to Queensland..

Robbie Farah is under siege by supporters and players alike after being unable to get the ball to Trent Hodkinson (halfback) when he was in position to kick an equalising field goal.

Playing at dummy-half Farah instead flung the ball to josh Dugan, who missed his attempt.

“Yeah, I was ready to go with Duges (Dugan) on my inside,” said Hodkinson.

“But Faff (Farah), he sort of just flung it out and unfortunately it hit Duges.

“He had a good crack though, almost got it.

Former Blues Coach, Captain and legend Tommy Raudonikis didn’t hold back labeling much lauded interchange prop Andrew Fifita as ‘hopeless’.

He went on to savage the Blues saying in an article in the Courier-Mail, “we were poorly led and deserved to lose the game. It was bad captaincy.

“Robbie Farah is not a good leader.

“We had a chance to win and blew it badly. I hope Gal (confessed drug cheat Paul Gallen) comes back. The sets at the end were poor.

“There’s another two games, but it doesn’t look promising.

“We need to make some positional changes. Josh Reynolds wold be worth bringing back.

“However, it is hard to even find a halfback at the moment.

“I would drop Fifita, he was hopeless.”

Paul Gallen himself weighed in to the post-mortem, criticising Coach Laurie Daley by saying he was shocked at the lack of game time given to Trent Merrin.

“I didn’t speak to Mez (Merrin) about his role, but I thought he would have played in the first half for sure. I’m shocked.

“Certainly the inexperience shone through in that last seven minutes”

But the worst was yet to come, however. Former NSW Coach Phil Gould tore strips off both Hodkinson and Farah.

Talking on Fairfax Media Gould said, “They blew it … there is no other way to put it. They just blew it. I can’t believe they lost that game. They were so in control (at halftime).

“The biggest part about it is we don’t have a boss on the field. We don’t have a leader demanding the ball and demanding the direction. It seems like it’s all being done from dummy half and that’s not the place to have your direction.

“They have to work out the leadership issure in the team. It’s not who the captain is – it’s about who’s responsible for running the show and he’s got to get the ball when he needs it. The problem is (Hodkinson) probably doesn’t even do it in hs club side.”

Queenslanders are understandably baffled by such outrage. The NSW Blues only lost by ONE point, a field goal at that. To savage your team for losing by a field goal is like questioning the abilities of soccer players who lose by penalty shoot-out.

Gould’s ‘Gifted’ Comments Disrespectful to Maroons

Phil Gould image: en.wikipedia.org

According to Channel 9 commentator Phil Gould the New South Wales Blues lost last nights Origin opener, the Queenslanders didn’t win it.

If Gould’s commentary was to be believed the Maroons didn’t actually do anything to win the game 11-10, they were “gifted” the match by their rivals through on-field mistakes and poor performances.

Gould was his usual unashamedly parochial self, saying ‘complimentary’ things about the Queenslanders while making sure these compliments were contingent upon Blues errors.

“There’s only one team playing out there! Only one team is playing. Only one team is playing,” he said.

If that was true, and the Blues were just standing around not playing, then an under-8 girl’s side could have won against them.

Things that passed unnoticed (or at least uncommented by the vocal New South Wales supporters in the 9 commentary box):

  • The disallowed try by Slater may actually have been a bad call.
  • In the second half Slater was impeded in a chase for the ball into the in-goal area (replayed twice but commented on not at all).
  • Greg Inglis had his worst Origin game (maybe worst first grade game) ever.
  • Will Chambers tore the Cockroach defenders apart and has emerged as the heir apparent for Hodge’s centre spot.
  • Queensland played a canny game to maintain possession (55% – 45%), if anything should have won by a lot more than one point.

For Phil Gould to argue that the Queensland Maroons were ‘gifted’ the game is insulting and disrespectful to players and fans alike. Such childish whinging should never be a part of professional sports commentary.

Gould needs to remember there are two sides in an Origin match and not just call for one of them.