Monthly Archives: May 2019
Andrew Johns has given a damning assessment of Bulldogs playmaker Trent Hodkinson’s NSW audition as Blues coach Laurie Daley prepares to name his halves for the State of Origin opener.
Daley has been freely tipped to unite Hodkinson with a recalled Mitchell Pearce, played out of position at five eighth, despite the efforts of James Maloney in the Sydney Roosters’ 24-10 win over Canterbury on Friday night.
Pearce and Maloney combined brilliantly as the Roosters overwhelmed the Bulldogs’ incumbent NSW halves Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds.
Halfback great Johns was unimpressed by Hodkinson, even suggesting a missed tackle ahead of Roosters fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s first half try showed the Dogs No.7 was still battling knee problems that disrupted his 2014 NRL season.
“If you have lower leg problems you have no drive in defence,” Johns told Channel Nine’s The Footy Show.
“Normally he is a rock solid defender and that was a really poor miss.”
Co-host Brad Fittler added: “That tackle stood out to everyone and I don’t think he had any runs at all.
“The fact that he didn’t run the ball at all hurt his chances.”
Fittler backed Maloney to partner Pearce in the NSW halves.
“He’s been really steady. That is what Laurie is looking for, someone to steer the ship around.”
However, Daley said he walked away from the match without changing his mind about his NSW halves, and that appears to throw a lifeline to Hodkinson’s Blues hopes.
Asked if he left the game with the same NSW halves in mind, Daley told Triple M radio: “Yeah, I did.
“For me, I just needed a bit of confirmation that it was the right way to go.
“But I am confident that pairing will pull on that shirt and do their job with pride.
“I know regardless of what decision I was going with there would be people who would support it and others critical of it.
“But in saying that I know the pairing that we do have will do a fantastic job.”
Pearce is in line to chime into his sixth different NSW halves pairing since 2010.
NSW has not had the same halves pairing in consecutive Origin series since 1993-94.
But Pearce was not reading too much into the headlines.
“I haven’t played five-eighth since I was a kid in schoolboy stuff but if I get picked I would be happy to play anywhere,” he said.
“Jimmy (Maloney) and I have a good combination there.
“But I don’t want to comment on selections.”
Gareth Widdop and Benji Marshall scored a try each and combined to mesmerise Canberra as they spearheaded St George Illawarra to a 32-18 NRL victory at WIN Stadium.
While the Dragons’ expected NSW State of Origin selections Josh Dugan and Trent Merrin had relatively quiet games, international halves Widdop and Marshall took control, laying on four of their team’s five tries.
St George Illawarra’s sixth win in seven games lifted them into a share of the competition lead on 14 points with the Storm, Cowboys and Broncos.
The Dragons headed into the round 10 clash with the NRL’s best defensive record but worst attacking record and they responded by posting their highest score of the season.
Widdop finished with 16 points (one try, six goals) including the opening try from a neat Marshall grubber in only the fourth minute.
The halves pair then produced the last passes for the second try to skipper Jason Nightingale for a 12-0 lead on 17 minutes.
The Raiders rallied from 20-6 down just before halftime with a try by interchange forward Shannon Boyd with the last play of the first half and then Queensland Origin hopeful Josh Papalii scored straight after the break to only trail 20-18.
But two moments of Widdop magic ensured the Dragons would end a three-game winning streak by Canberra in Wollongong.
First the Great Britain star put an enticing last tackle kick which was knocked into the arms of ex-Raider Joel Thompson who scored for 26-18.
Then, with his left foot, Widdop delivered the perfect grubber for Marshall to score under the posts and seal victory.
“My combination with Benji is building,” Widdop said.
“We’ve been working on it all season, since pre-season and we’re getting better.
“A few things went our way with kicks but you practice that to hopefully come off in the game.”
Dragons forward Tyson Frizell has been touted as a NSW Origin bolter and had a strong game, with a superb pass leading to a try by rookie centre Euan Aitken.
“It would be great to play (Origin) but I’m only thinking about the Dragons,” said Frizell, who recently played for Country against City.
“I’m loving my role playing a bit wider. Benji and Gareth are steering the team superbly and I’m doing my part hopefully.”
Canberra skipper Jarrod Croker was denied a dream start in his 150th NRL game with a try contentiously disallowed in only the second minute by the video referees who ruled a double-movement.
His fan club only seems to grow each week but Michael Morgan may still need a bit more time to win over Queensland selectors.
Hat-trick hero Morgan was the toast of North Queensland’s historic 31-20 NRL win over Brisbane on Friday night, earning praise from Maroons pivot Johnathan Thurston to Immortal Andrew Johns.
It remains to be seen if it has been enough to dislodge Manly playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans as Queensland’s bench utility.
Cowboys pivot Morgan was described as “built for Origin” after he defied an ankle complaint and added to his stellar rise by inspiring North Queensland’s club record-equalling seventh straight win.
His heroics reportedly put pressure on Queensland selectors to reassess the bench utility role usually held by Cherry-Evans ahead of their Origin I team announcement on Tuesday.
Johns admitted he was a Morgan fan.
“You watch him play and how quick and powerful he is,” he told Channel Nine’s The Footy Show.
“He is a perfect foil for Thurston.
“He is finding his feet. He is running the ball and is so hard to handle.”
Cowboys co-captain Thurston backed Morgan to don the Maroon jersey sooner rather than later.
“He is pushing all the right buttons (for Origin selectors),” he said.
“He wouldn’t look out of place there.
“He can cover a lot of positions. He is an ideal utility player.”
Cowboys coach Paul Green chimed in with: “He is built for Origin.
“He is not a small guy, he is a good defender and he competes, so when he gets his chance, he won’t let Queensland down.”
But Broncos master coach Wayne Bennett was not convinced.
“Who’s place is he going to take?” he asked.
“They’re not going to take him as a utility.
“He’ll only play one position, that’s not utility.”
Morgan’s display was reportedly enough for Maroon selectors to reconsider their legendary loyalty ahead of the Origin I team announcement.
It is believed only Meninga’s staunch support will get Cherry-Evans over the line for the series opener.
Morgan wasn’t losing any sleep over the speculation.
“To be talked about like that is very humbling,” he said.
“It’s something that I never really thought of.
“I think the Queensland team … with how it’s been the last eight years, picks itself.”
The only new face expected in the Maroons 17 is Broncos prop Josh McGuire on a beefed up bench – a move that earned Johns’ approval.
“He has a lot of speed for a front rower,” he said of McGuire.
“He would come off the bench and cause some headaches at the 30 minute mark – nice and mad.”
Meanwhile, Broncos fullback Darius Boyd backed himself to play Origin I just two games into his return from a ruptured Achilles.
“I feel I am right to go,” he told reporters.
Brownlow Medal favourite Nat Fyfe played a starring role but was also reported as unbeaten Fremantle overcame the Western Bulldogs by 13 points in an AFL thriller.
Fyfe clattered into the legs of Koby Stevens late in the third quarter of the 15.11 (101) to 14.4 (88) win at Etihad Stadium and went into the umpire’s book.
Led by a career-best seven-goal haul from Tory Dickson, the Bulldogs looked set to record a stunning upset when they drew level with the Dockers with six minutes left.
But a Michael Walters goal with 1:11 to go took his side’s lead to seven points and skipper Matthew Pavlich put the result beyond doubt with his fifth major inside the last minute.
Fyfe gathered 30 possessions, had 10 clearances and kicked three goals, but he faces a nervous wait to learn how the match review panel assesses his clumsy attempt to tackle Stevens.
Dockers coach Ross Lyon wouldn’t be drawn on the Fyfe incident, but he was delighted with the way his players answered the challenge to record the team’s seventh win of the season.
“You’re not always going to be at your very, very best,” Lyon said.
“I thought our leadership and will to win when we were under more pressure than we probably should have been was really strong.”
The Dockers looked set to cement their hold on top spot with ease after they bounced out of the blocks with six of the first seven goals to lead by 34 points early in the second quarter.
But a week after the Bulldogs gave up a 55-point lead to lose to St Kilda, they launched a determined counter-attack with skipper Bob Murphy (29 disposals) once again a key figure.
They started the last quarter 22 points in arrears, but kicked the first three goals to set up the thrilling finale.
With veteran ruckman Will Minson still cooling his heels in the VFL, Ayce Cordy was complemented by Tom Boyd and Marcus Bontempelli in the ruck against Aaron Sandilands and Zac Clarke.
The Bulldogs trio proved no match for the seasoned Fremantle pair, who finished with 50 and 14 hitouts respectively in a lopsided 69-13 team tally.
Coach Luke Beveridge revealed that he’d conceded that Fremantle would win the hitouts and was willing to allow that to unfold as he tried to test the Dockers in other areas.
The coach, while gutted for his players, said there were plenty of positives from the performance.
“I think the most important lesson we’ll learn is that (we’re) a strong group and they’re willing to persist under some duress,” Beveridge said.
“It’s just another feather in their caps to fight their way back and learn a little bit about playing a side like Fremantle who don’t let up.”
NSW coach Laurie Daley admits he’d be disappointed if Queensland captain Cameron Smith missed this month’s State of Origin opener over an incident involving South Sydney hooker Issac Luke.
Smith may have some anxious moments before the Queensland side is named on Tuesday after his feet found contact with Luke’s head during a tackle in Melbourne’s 16-12 NRL win over South Sydney on Saturday night.
Pulled onto his back by Rabbitohs forward David Tyrrell, Smith’s feet made contact with Luke’s head several times as he kicked his legs to get himself free.
No penalty was called and Luke did not complain of any injury post-match.
As much as Daley would like to see Smith miss May 27’s Origin I in Sydney, the NSW mentor admitted there was not much in the incident.
“I would be disappointed if he missed Origin that way,” Daley told Triple M radio.
“He was lashing out trying to get a quick play-the-ball but he wasn’t looking at Issac Luke.
“I don’t think there was any intent to strike him in the head.
“I think he was just kicking out to try and play the ball – I don’t think he should miss an Origin over that.”
NSW great Brad Fittler told Channel Nine’s The Footy Show on Sunday that “there’s no doubt in the world that he (Smith) deserves something (ban)”.
But it is believed Smith’s actions may only register a grade one dangerous contact charge, one that would not carry enough points to warrant a week’s ban.
Smith admitted he did not remember the incident.
“I was only told about it on the way here that I had made contact with Isaac Luke,” he said.
“He didn’t mention it during the game or after the game so I don’t know what to say there.”
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy backed his captain.
“I can’t even remember it and it’s not as if anyone goes out there to kick someone in the head,” he said.
South Sydney coach Michael Maguire said Luke had no complaints post-match.
“He’s fine,” he said.
Melbourne grabbed the lead on points difference with four teams locked up at 14 points on top of the NRL ladder.
They are sitting pretty after round 10 ahead of a Gareth Widdop-inspired Dragons who downed Canberra 32-18 at home on Sunday.
Former ladder leaders Brisbane slipped to third, one spot ahead of North Queensland.
In the other result on Sunday, Newcastle snapped a five-game winless run, when a late try to Knights debutant Chad Redman sealed a 22-12 victory over Wests Tigers at Hunter Stadium.
The round concludes when Manly host Penrith on Monday night.