Archive for February, 2011


Lui could be the difference

They were minutes away from an NRL grand final berth in 2010, and Wests Tigers superstar Benji Marshall believes emerging halfback Robert Lui could be the player to tip them over the edge in 2011. Lui showed he was primed for a big campaign with a barnstorming performance in the Tigers’ final trial against Sydney Roosters on Saturday night – the 21-year-old scoring one try, setting up two others and adding a field goal in the 19-8 win at the Sydney Football Stadium. The Tigers have been tipped by many as the team to challenge premiers St George Illawarra in this year’s race for the title, after going within a whisker of toppling the Dragons in the 2009 preliminary final. With no major off-season signings, the Tigers were always going to have to improve from within to go better in 2011, with Marshall pointing to Lui’s development as a key to the club’s potential rise. Continue reading

Parramatta pin-up Daniel Mortimer has spoken of the timely meeting with coach Stephen Kearney that restored his confidence and allowed him to rediscover his best form. Mortimer and Jeff Robson hardly put a foot wrong in the halves in guiding the Eels to a 30-0 thumping of Penrith on Saturday night. And Mortimer said his promising trial form at five-eighth had a lot to do with his chat with Kearney in November. Kearney, who said Mortimer reminded him of a young Cooper Cronk when he first arrived at Melbourne Storm, guaranteed the 21-year-old and Robson first crack in the halves – despite the club’s ongoing talks with Matt Orford at the time. Mortimer struggled with expectation in 2010, but now looms as a strike weapon for the Eels. Continue reading

Lockyer regains pace

Darren Lockyer’s three year search for his missing pace is over. Lockyer will confirm he is faster than he’s been since blowing out his anterior cruciate in 2007 when Brisbane hold their speed trials at Red Hill on Tuesday morning. The knee injury, coming off Lockyer’s best ever season in 2006, knocked his confidence around. But his class and determination helped him play on at the highest level without the full strength and power in his right leg. He now believes the hard work he’s put in to restoring strength and flexibility in his injured leg over the past few years is about to pay off. “Yeah, for the first time since my reco (knee reconstruction) in ’07 it’s the best the leg has felt,” said Lockyer after an impressive trial comeback against Melbourne at Redcliffe on Saturday night. Continue reading

Picker racing the clock

Canberra Raiders forward Joe Picker will race the clock to be fit for round one, after he sustained a rib injury in the Raiders 30-18 trial loss to the Bulldogs in Tamworth on Saturday night. The Raiders back rower will be assessed by club medical staff this week to determine the extent of his injury, but he could be available as soon as the Raiders round one clash if he responds well to treatment. The Raiders started the match slowly on Saturday night letting the Bulldogs get out to an early 18-0 lead, before a second half comeback saw the team salvage the score line by scoring three smart tries to finish at 30-18. For the Raiders Glen Buttriss was one of the side’s best at hooker and added some spark around the ruck when he entered the game at halftime, as did Sam Williams at halfback, who scored his first try at NRL level and set up new recruit Nathan Massey as well. The Raiders will have a tough week of training this week before being given the weekend off, as they return to training Monday to prepare for the Round one clash against the Sharks at Canberra Stadium.

Manly co-captain Jason King has escaped a charge for a high shot on Warriors forward Micheal Luck which sparked a brawl and incensed the crowd during Saturday night’s NRL trial match in Auckland.

Luck was assisted from the field after the brutal tackle, which local media said created a “powder keg atmosphere” at North Harbour Stadium, where a crowd of around 15,000 turned out to see the 14-12 win to the Sea Eagles.

The NRL match review committee laid no charges on Monday, conceding the poor quality of video footage available from trial matches can be a factor in their decisions during the pre-season.

“As is the case with trial matches, the lack and quality of footage available to the match review committee can make determining the extent of any incident somewhat difficult, particularly when analysing the point of contact,” a statement from the league said. Continue reading

The match review committee examined three other  incidents from the weekend’s trials.

Sydney Roosters forward Nate Myles was cleared of a lifting tackle on Wests Tigers back Wade McKinnon, while Cronulla recruit Jeremy Smith was deemed not to have tripped Newcastle’s Mark Taufua.

Penrith half Luke Walsh’s sickening hit on Parramatta’s Daniel Mortimer, which also sparked a melee, was deemed legitimate.

Gold Coast youngster Ryan James will need to wait another day to know whether he faces a second pre-season suspension after he was placed on report in the trial against North Queensland.

Footage of the Titans-Cowboys match will not be available until Tuesday.

Rookie hooker Cameron King had the joy of scoring the match-winning try in St George Illawarra’s World Club Challenge victory soured by confirmation of a pectoral injury.

The back-up rake took advantage of some lax Wigan marker defence to barge over from close range in the 55th minute of the 21-15 win at DW Stadium.

The try handed the Dragons a lead they would not surrender.

“It was a great atmosphere, the score was a good feeling, to be able to get the team back ahead,” said King, who only made the UK trip due to an injury to Nick Emmett.

But minutes after being mobbed by his teammates, the teenager hurt himself stretching out in an attempt to tackle elusive Wigan fullback Sam Tomkins. Continue reading

The match review committee is poised to wreak havoc with the opening week plans of several NRL sides after a potentially costly final round of trial matches over the weekend. Penrith, Cronulla and the Sydney Roosters all face nervous waits ahead of the match review committee releasing their charges on Monday, with key players Luke Walsh (Panthers), Jeremy Smith (Sharks) and Test forward Nate Myles (Roosters) involved in questionable tackles. Myles’ incident appears the most serious of the three, despite no action being taken by the referees after a lifting tackle on Wests Tigers fullback Wade McKinnon. McKinnon lost the ball after appearing to be dumped on his head ten minutes into the second half at the Sydney Football Stadium – the oversight compounded when the Roosters cleaned up possession and scored in the corner. Continue reading

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy joked about the prospect of ”kidnapping” former star Greg Inglis after losing both centres to injury in Saturday night’s 26-6 NRL trial defeat to Brisbane. In a somewhat bizarre sight, Inglis – who left the Storm to play for Brisbane only to renege on his contract with the Broncos to sign with South Sydney – was a star spectator in the 8000-strong Redcliffe crowd. After a visit to Melbourne’s dressing room, Bellamy quipped he might try and pry away the Test representative, with off-season recruit Beau Champion and fellow centre Chase Stanley both receiving injuries. ”I see Greg’s up the hallway, I might try to hijack or kidnap him actually and take him back to Melbourne,” Bellamy joked. ”Souths wouldn’t be very happy with that though.” Champion (calf) went down in the warm-up on Saturday night while Stanley (knee ligaments) was taken off in the opening minutes of the loss to the Broncos. Continue reading

Henry given 6 weeks!

Neil Henry has been given six weeks to save his coaching career. The Sun-Herald has been told the North Queensland coach will be punted if he is unable to immediately turn around the fortunes of the underperforming club. 

The ruthless nature of life as a coach in the NRL was highlighted when Brisbane’s Ivan Henjak was sacked this week before a ball had been kicked in the 2011 premiership. Ironically, his replacement, assistant coach Anthony Griffin, had been earmarked as a target for the Cowboys if Henry suffers the same fate. Like Henjak, Henry has a strained relationship with senior players. Despite denials from both parties, it is an open secret that there has been friction with star playmaker Johnathan Thurston. The Cowboys are yet to confirm whether Thurston will retain the captaincy. There is no shortage of potential replacements with Wayne Bennett, Ricky Stuart, Michael Maguire, Mal Meninga, Daniel Anderson, Nathan Brown and Jason Taylor among those available. Continue reading