Storm have 2 aces up sleeve

Storm Cam Smith Ryan HoffmanThey are the 2 ace cards for the Melbourne Storm that will make such a difference to last years team – a team that suffered a humiliating loss to Manly 40-0 in the NRL Grand Final.

Cameron Smith and Ryan Hoffman.

Both were sidelined last year and it was obvious how much the Storm missed their services.

For Cam Smith, almost everyone knows who crucial the hooker is to the Melbourne side.

But favourites Melbourne also rely heavily on the non-stop workload of Ryan Hoffman.  Running hard on the fringes, making copious amounts of tackles of pulling off that critical stop mid-field – you can expect Hoffman to be there.

The Storm are much fresher in 2009 and deserve their hot favouritism as bookmakers last night penned them in as 1.60 favourites. The Eels being posted at 2.35.

The crowd factor is something the Storm have also learnt to deal with, as expected there will be 75,000 pro-Eels fans and possibly as little as 5,000 Storm faithful at ANZ Stadium on Sunday – but the 2 aces of Smith and Hoffman will ensure the Southerners will be much more competitive than last time round.

Smith hasn’t enjoyed the best of form in 2009, the consistent rake sets such high standards – that by comparison in 2009, he hasn’t quite been at the loft heights of previous years, yet.

His cool, calm personality is rare flustered and aids the Storm through tough periods of the game. Most only notice his cutting runs, or slick passing from around the ruck – but if you watch how many times Smith shuts down an opposition raid around the ruck, smothers a kick in behind the line or pushes through to backup a forward run – you’ll see how valuable he is in other areas.

For Hoffman, who used to hail from Campebelltown in Sydneys West – it’s a chance to play in yet another Grand Final after missing out last year. Hoffman confirming he would rather ‘lose’ a Grand Final than be forced to sit on the sidelines and watch again.

“Losing a grand final is one of the hardest things. It’s devastating losing a grand final, but not being able to play, not being able to help your teammates. You are just helpless and that is worse I feel.” said Hoffman.
“It’s just because you know how hard they are working and not being able to contribute to them is a hard thing.

“It is such a helpless feeling. I was feeling sorry for the boys out on the field to have what happened to them during the game.

“It was quite hard for them, I felt for them rather than for myself.

“But that’s done and now I get a chance to rectify that moment last year this year.” confirmed the Storm forward.

The Storm have a strong contingent of 9 players left in the squad from their Premiership winning 2007 NRL squad. This will be their 4th Grand Final in as many years, so far they have only won the 1 and they know the pressure that will come if they lose this match – an unwanted pressure that may remain with them for years to come.

But as Hoffman pointed out; if the Storm can win – “People determine greatness by premierships and if you get a couple of premierships in a decade then I suppose you deserve to be ranked as one of the quality teams,” he said.

Crowe woos English star to Souths

Sam Burgess Bradford Bulls South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL Super LeagueThanks to club boss Russell Crowe, Souths have managed to get the signature of upcoming English forward Sam Burgess on an impressive 4 year deal. A player well and truly on the rise in the Super League ranks, the Rabbitohs have pulled off a major coup getting the gun bookend.

Still only 20, Burgess, is able to cover the position of prop or backrower and was still under terms with the Bradford Bulls for 2010 but has been given the clubs blessing and a release so the young star could try his hand in Australia.

Burgess, who has held hopes of reaching the NRL at some stage, was being chased by a number of NRL clubs – but it was a personal meeting with Souths boss Russell Crowe, in England that sealed the deal. Burgess meeting Crowe while he was filming Robin Hood.

“It’s a fantastic deal for Sam,” confirmed player manager Chris Caisley. “He’s delighted and looking forward to testing himself.”

His resume reads very well, with Burgess getting the League’s rookie of the year award in 2007 – in the same year he represented his country for the first time. Already in the train on squad, it seems Burgess will take part in the Four Nations Rugby League series at the years end before joining the Bunnies.

The mobile forward also starred in England’s 66-12 win over France in June and it seems his English club Bradford wanted to do the right thing by him and hope he returns to them after a stint in the NRL.

He will become 1of only 3 Pommies to play in the NRL in 2010. Highly impressive Gareth Ellis remains with Wests Tigers after a solid 2009, the Tigers also securing former Wigan player Mark Flanagan.

For Souths, they are looking extremely good in terms of roster for next year. Already luring big David Taylor down South and big name prop Ben Ross comes on board for a small incentive based contract – as he looks to re-establish himself. With Rhys Wesser hopefully fit for 2010, the sky is the limit for the Bunnies if new coach John Lang can manage to keep control over the playing group.

For Burgess – its a dream to be NRL bound and the young forward wants to make the most of the new chance.

“I have been at Bradford since I was 14 and have wanted to play NRL for many years.

“I am who I am today because of the Bradford Bulls,  coach Steve McNamara, has been a massive influence on my career.

Caisley added: “He could have more or less had his pick but he has chosen to go to Souths,” said Caisley. “They did a very good PR job.

“They were one of the clubs able to take him under the salary cap and that was the starting point and, when we met Russell Crowe, Sam liked what he heard.”

Dogs fans bash Eels legend

Bulldogs Fans Violence Attack Eels Terry LeabetterTERRY Leabeater , the former Parramatta Eels bookend, along with female companions were apparently assaulted at ANZ Stadium by Bulldogs fans on Friday night.

Leabeter’s wife Jenny and a 2nd woman were also victims in the ANZ Stadium attack.

Bulldogs fans have had a long history of violence at NRL games and sadly it seems the trend may have continued after they were defeated at the weekend.

Leabeater, who was in need of medical help after at the attack – passed details of the flare up on to Parramatta and NRL heavyweights after the events occurred.

Stadium came to the assistance of Leabeater and his companions soon after, helping him exit the venue safely.

ANZ Stadium management were made aware of the incident by Sunday morning. It is understood at least 3 Bulldogs fans took part in the attack.

Police are also investigating the incident, which occurred when Leabeater was inside a stadium lift.

“What those blokes did was pretty ordinary,” Leabeater said last night.

“There was no need for it.

“It was a misunderstanding and not even related to the footy.

“There is a far bit of bark off me. But I wasn’t worried about myself.

“I was more worried about the girls. I’m not overly happy.” Onlookers said the attackers were Bulldogs supporters.

Some claim the fans were not entirely to blame for the flare-up.

Stadium management last night confirmed the incident occurred.

“We are aware of an incident that occurred in one of the stadium’s lifts involving an alleged assault,” an ANZ Stadium spokesman said.

“One person was provided with medical attention as a result of the incident and our customer service staff provided assistance to this person to make sure he was able to safely continue his way out of the stadium.

Because of the location inside the lift, our CCTV cameras didn’t capture the incident and we have not been notified of any complaint made to police about the alleged assault.”

Leabeater was the official spokesman for the 3P ticket which gained control during Parramatta Football Club elections and, later, leagues club elections late last year and earlier this year.

He formed a combination with Geoff Bugden – nicknamed The Bookends – for Parramatta in the 1986 Grand Final.

NRL Grand Final Teams

Both the Melbourne Storm and Parramatta Eels have named unchanged sides for the Grand Final this week; with injury concerns only remaining over Eel Nathan Cayless (with Broderick Wright on standby) and a minor hand complaint for Brett White of the Storm; who is expected to play.

For the Storm, Wairangi Koopu is the traveling reserve and will drop out of the squad once all players are passed fit on Grand Final day.

Melbourne Storm: Billy Slater, Steve Turner, Will Chambers, Greg Inglis, Dane Nielsen, Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk, Aiden Tolman, Cameron Smith (capt), Brett White, Adam Blair, Ryan Hoffman, Dallas Johnson. Interchange: Ryan Hinchcliffe, Jeff Lima, Ryan Tandy, Scott Anderson, Wairangi Koopu (one to be omitted).

Parramatta Eels: Jarryd Hayne, Luke Burt, Krisnan Inu, Joel Reddy, Eric Grothe, Daniel Mortimer, Jeff Robson, Nathan Cayless, Matthew Keating, Fuifui Moimoi, Nathan Hindmarsh, Ben Smith, Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Kevin Kingston, Feleti Mateo, Joe Galuvao, Tim Mannah

Moyso: An Eels HRT Double?

Parramatta Eels Grand Final NRL 2009In this months Moyso Moment; the great man dreams of an Eels / HRT double in 2009. The big man wants recruits, so read his gospel and get on board –

As I sit and write this a matter of days before the grand final and less than 2 weeks from the Bathurst 1000 – I keep asking myself, can we really do it? Can Parramatta complete the fairytale ending to what must surely be the greatest come back in Rugby League history. And can Holden go on to Bathurst and break the three year stranglehold of Ford?

Like most Eels fans I’ve lived through the roller coaster ride over the last 9 weeks of watching a team that was literally fighting off the wooden spoon after round 16 and now stands proud as Sydney’s great hope for the 2009 NRL Grand Final.

The ‘experts’ have tipped against the blue and gold’s week after week, sighting plenty of statistics and history to support their view. But they’ve all been wrong – again and again…

Parra is up against a formidable foe no doubt. Melbourne are a well drilled and methodical team that simply wears their opponents down and then strikes with lightening speed from the likes of Slater and Inglis. On paper they are a formidable and many would say unbackable favourite for Sunday’s game.

The ‘experts’ say so, but they’ve tipped against the blue and gold many times in the last 2 months and continue to get it wrong. They kept saying ‘insert defeated team here are too strong for Parramatta, they have the runs on the board and everything points to them beating the boys from the west. But they were wrong every time. Not once or twice or even three times. The great journos and ex players who get paid to write about Rugby League simply got it wrong for the last 2 months and they’re going to get it wrong again this weekend.

That’s because the Grand Final isn’t about statistics or pack weights or win loss ratios. It’s about heart and determination and that feeling deep down that makes a knocked down boxer get back up and a runner keep running even when the winner has crossed the line. It’s that voice in your head that says ‘not now, not yet, this isn’t over’. And I know Parramatta has that strength of character. They have more to win because they have more to lose.

Do yourself a favour and back the mighty Eels this weekend. I think they will win and win the same way they have to get to this point. By not believing in the experts, but by believing in themselves.

If HRT and the other Holden teams can go to the mountain next week with the same focus and determination and winning spirit as Parramatta the Brock trophy is already ours.

Go the Mighty Eels and Go the Iron Lion…..

Ricky Stuart, a troubled coach

Rick Stuart KimmorleyCronulla Sutherland coach Ricky Stuart has come out swinging in the Daily Telegraph today, taking aim at former Sharks playmaker Brett Kimmorley after the Bulldogs were banished from the NRL Finals at the hands of the Parramatta Eels.

After reading Ricky’s article on ‘Why he sacked Brett Kimmorley’ – it seems that Stuart is looking for someone else to blame for Cronulla’s continued poor form.

It’s well known that Stuart and Kimmorley didn’t get on.

But while the Sharks continue to struggle to win games, it seems the coach needs to really prioritize and focus on the massive task at hand, rather than ‘bag’ former players.

Stuart previously had been in a long drawn out war of words with former friend and mentor Phil Gould over their fallout at the Roosters. And it seemed that Stuart took a long time to get over his feud with Gus too. There will always be people you don’t get on with, or fallout with – certainly in the ‘close knit’ NRL world.

Phil Gould does have a unique, at times ‘full-on’ personality. But there is no questioning the experience, ability and nous of Gould to coach a football team. Gus reads a game better than anyone I know. While I haven’t personally met the man, listening to him predict, decipher and review a game leaves no doubt – this man has a special understanding of the game.

Topping it off, Gould has the unique ability to get the best out of players. That brisk personality that some viewers struggle to connect with still commands the respect of players and his war stories prior to kick-off or at half-time are widely spoken of by players that have nothing but praise for him.

Now before I turn this into a Gus love-fest, my point here is that the Ricky/Gus fallout was a situation where in my opinion Stuart failed to take on board the advice of another.

Stuart seems to be a highly motivated, work-a-holic coach. From everyone I talk to, the guy simply lives and breathes his job. He is to be commended for this.

But sometimes, you just need to throw your hand up and say hey, how do you think we should do this?

This is where I think the Noddy and Ricky problem started.

Both players are Premiership winning halfbacks, maybe it was a case of two confident men clashing?

For starters, the Cronulla forward pack never gave Kimmorley enough domination during games or anywhere near the room he needed to perform.

Yes, the Sharks made the NRL Finals in 2008 – but a lot of this was due to Kimmorley’s ability. The guy was playing behind an average forward pack, yet was still able to get his team home on several occasions.

For Stuart to come out today and claim that Kimmorley isn’t a big match player is really insulting and almost laughable. This should really strike fear into the hearts of Sharks fans.

Why is their coach so concerned with past players and not their problem at hand?

When Kimmorley was at Cronulla, he got them close to a Minor Premiership and into the NRL Finals – all behind a no-name, average forward pack and lesser-known players.

The halfback is tossed out by the Sharks and arrives at wooden-spoon bound Belmore and takes them close to a Grand Final.

Oh, but hang on – the no.7 also had metal plates inserted only 3 weeks earlier and was playing against the advice of some Doctors.

Not a big match player? Come on Ricky – you cannot be serious?

Kimmorley has won a Premiership and there is no doubting the ability of this guy, not only as a player but as a football brain.

Just look at the interaction between Kimmorley and new coach Kevin Moore. The son of Bullfrog has been outstanding in his rookie year, but most importantly – he put his ego aside and was happy to allow Kimmorley’s input at training and in game plans.

Why wouldn’t anyone accept the input of a talent like Kimmorley?

If you ever take the time to listen to Noddy on Foxtel’s NRL Tactics – you will be left with no doubt, that the veteran half is highly skilled in his ability to read the game and predict outcomes.

I honestly believe that Brett Kimmorley will make a top-line Rugby League coach when his playing days are over.

For Stuart – I also believe that he has the ability to rebuild the Cronulla Sharks. Again, there are few as committed, driven and passionate as Ricky Stuart.

But Sticky’s outburst should have Sharks faithful concerned, the coach needs to start focusing directly on Cronulla and not worry about past failures, former players or commentators that ‘criticize’ him in the media.

The Sharks have been in wooden spoon land all season, their squad have tried their guts out – full credit to them, but they aren’t up to NRL standard across the board.

Yes, injuries did play a part – as they do to most teams in the modern day NRL.

But Stuart may be well served to heed the advice of others. Yes Sticky has won comps as a player and recently as a coach – and for this he should be congratulated – but sometimes admitting your wrong comes as the hardest thing of all. If the Sharks coach can bury and forget plenty of hatchets – he will go all the way to NRL glory once again.

PMXIII beat PNG as crowd riot

PNG Australia Rugby League Review Result 2009There is no question that the people of PNG love Rugby League, they claim it as their national sport. So when their National side was to face the PM’s XIII today, a seating capacity of 5,000 was always going to be a problem.

The unlucky fans who didn’t have a ticket simply rioted at the gate, trying to force their way into the ground and get a glimpse of the Aussie stars and the hotly anticipated match. Local Police having to use tear gas and live warning rounds to force the crowd back.

Australia eventually won the match 42-18, but had to work hard for their points. A half time score of 18-12 to the Australians gives a better indication of things.

Panthers star Michael Jennings bagged a triple to rip the heart out of PNG as the crowd at Lloyd Robson Oval went nuts as their home town stars showed some flashes of brilliance.

Australia was misfiring at times when they tried to work their set plays and the physical nature of PNG was always keeping them honest. PNG had some heavy hitters and it saw several Australians have a peek as they hit the ball up.

In the end, PNG killed themselves – giving away simple errors that allowed the Australians to run away late with the game.

Australia were in front 18-12 at halftime. They had to work for every inch early on, but fitness probably played a part too.

PMXIII skipper Johnathan Thurston, was a big crowd favourite, was flawless with the boot. Converting 7 from 7 from the kicking tee.

PNG’s mobile forward Sigfred Gande was impressive, barging over for a try 10 minutes before half time.

Shortly after, substitute Tommy Butterfield pinned his ears back from dummy half for an opportunists try, the crafty reserve hooker really catching the Aussies out with this touchdown.

PNG have a very big future in Rugby League, they have some raw talent and a great following from the people. With continued funding, support and a path laid out by the NRL – they could be a chance to have involvement at some stage.

But after the break, the PNG’s couldn’t go with the Australians. A combination of fitness and simple errors gave the PM team possession and field position and they eventually ran away with things to blow the scoreline out.

Red Hot Storm flog Broncos

The Storm had just blown away the battered Broncos to the tune of 40-10, but mastecoach Craig Bellamy went immediately to work to shower down his sides chances and claim his boys were the underdogs.

The Melbourne Storm are playing almost perfect football and will be raging hot favourites going into the Grand Final. The Storm have made their 4th consecutive GF and will be keen to win this one to achieve a 50 percent winning record. If they lose this game, only a single win from four starts would give them the chokers tag for sure.

For Brisbane, their poor start set the tone. Dropped balls consistently had them on the back foot and their attack was always struggling without the likes of Peter Wallace to guide them around the park.

Inglis was back to his best, getting 4 touchdowns. Slater too was untouchable, however his claimed try that was rejected – was the right decision. If you look closely, Slater promotes the ball to the line after he was tackled – and referee Jarred Maxwell was 100 percent right with his call.

Hayne and Keating have been cleared for the Eels and will start, giving Bellamy more ammo as he tries hard to push the underdog status.

“We’re under the radar and I expect Parramatta will be favourites.” claimed Bellamy

A laughable statement really, Bellamy knows how much pressure his side will be under and is doing everything to keep them grounded.

For Inglis, the troubled superstar seems to have really been served well by the time off. He looks fresh, focused and fit. And will give the Eels nightmares if he continues this current run of form.

It was a triple treat for the NRL star – one with a classy dive inside the corner post to slam the ball down and score and another length of the field try off an intercept – but it was his heavy hitting defence in the first period that really set the tone for his side.

Inglis pulling off a bone shattering hit on in-form Brisbane prop Nick Kenny.

“He’s been really going great since he had that couple-of-week break or whatever,” said Bellamy.

“He was tremendous and he’s just such a talented player as well as being a team player. One thing that really turned the game was the hit on Nick Kenny. That was a great hit on a front-rower by a centre. If that doesn’t lift a team then I don’t know what was going to.”

Inglis spoke of his experience after the game, confirm he ‘feels’ like a senior player now and really wants to set the tone for the new crop of the Storm players coming through.

Brett Finch, who has a minor ankle complaint has been doing his best to avoid the talk of facing Parramatta for the first time since leaving when he wasn’t in coach Daniel Anderson’s plans. “I’m looking forward to it, I’m just happy to be there, I’m happy to play anyone,” Finch said.

The Broncos probably made a poor call in running with Tonie Carroll at no.7 with Wallace out. Coach Ivan Henjack should have followed the directions of Gus Gould and inserted a younger ‘specialist’ half in place of Wallace. Lockyer would always take the lead and the youngster could have slotted in nicely under his guidance.

Alex Glenn eventually came into the halfback roll, but only midway through the first half and with his side losing confidence fast, it was too little too late.

It showed just how critical Peter Wallace now is to this Broncos outfit. The Penrith discard is a matchwinner and the side needed his cool services badly last night.

The Storm got on the board after only 3 minutes – rookie Jharal Yow Yeh dropping a kick and the Storm replied hard – with Will Chambers making him pay, slicing through a massive hole in the defence. It was a shockwave sent early and the Brisbane side never really recovered.

By the 10th minute mark the Storm were attacking hard, Slater claimed a try but was ordered to play the ball by Jared Maxwell. Replays indicated he planted the ball on the line, but he looked to have promoted it after the tackle momentum had stopped.

“I’m a bit disappointed they didn’t go and have a look there,” said Bellamy. ”At the end of the day it doesn’t matter but if it did, I’d be blowing up.

“Billy asked for them to have a look at it and I don’t think he’d have asked if he didn’t think it was a try.”

The incident interrupted the home team’s momentum momentarily. But Slater chipped ahead and regathered to touch down at 20 minutes and lock Dallas Johnson got a benefit of the doubt call at 26 after Inglis monstered Kenny.

MELBOURNE 40 (G Inglis 3 B Slater 2 W Chambers D Johnson tries C Smith 6 goals) bt BRISBANE 10 (I Folau A Glenn tries C Parker goal) at Etihad Stadium. Referee: Shayne Hayne, Jared Maxwell. Crowd: 27,687.

Eels kill off Dogs of War

A bruised and battered young Mortimer worked wonderfully for the Eels last night, combined with man of the match Jeff Robson – have dusted the Bulldogs and slipped amazingly into the NRL Grand Final.

In a game where the balance swung around like a wild bushmans axe, there were quite a few casualties – Patten skittled and sent to Disneyland, Cayless snapped a hamstring – it was a war of attrition. The Bulldogs were brave but the Eels can lift to a level no one can reach and while their opposition bullied them for periods last night Parramatta’s class won through. The Bulldogs had no more to give. With good reason, though.

Last night was the end of a magical five days of build-up and we had five minutes of madness to open it. The Bulldogs began like Brisbane did against the Dragons, led by a former Bronco in Ben Hannant, who in one of three tackles in the first set, did something no one has done for months – put Fuifui Moimoi on his back. It was a statement that was underlined and bold and it was in 24-point; it couldn’t have been much clearer.

On the first hit-up for his team, Bulldogs fullback Luke Patten wasn’t seeing anything clearly after being collected by an accidental Nathan Cayless knee, forcing coach Kevin Moore to shift Hazem El Masri to the back and Yileen Gordon to the wing. And we’re little more than a minute in.

After four, another unthinkable – the runaway Jarryd Hayne was stopped in his tracks. El Masri grubbered for his winger Bryson Goodwin and the Eels fullback struck the Bulldog with his knees. The Bulldogs had struck first blood, and the Eels’ best player had been potentially struck out of a grand final just a few minutes into the qualifier. Ditto Cayless, the beating heart to Hayne’s heat of this team. A pulled hamstring had him hobbling off and walking the green mile from the eastern side of the stadium to the tunnel on the opposite side.

Hayne, to his credit, dusted himself off after such an early shock and brought the Eels back into the contest. First, he kicked a 40/20, even if a somewhat controversial one after it bounced over the corner post. And then he had a quick think and a jink and sent Joe Galuvao over with a wonderful ball.

Hayne has been the electricity of this side and his assist certainly sparked them into action. They began to lift and it was the left which brought them most joy. Krisnan Inu and Luke Burt were marking Jamal Idris and Gordon, a combined 209kg on the Bulldogs’ right; both players big lumps of lads who don’t move like the quick-heeled Inu and Burt. But while the Bulldogs were stretched like a rubber band, they did not rip completely. The way the Eels began to assert authority, if Dogs coach Kevin Moore had a towel available that was not wiping his brow, he could have thrown it and called it off.

But the Bulldogs’ left edge ain’t that bad either, and with just four minutes remaining in the half, Ben Roberts’s grubber found Hayne dawdling slightly and Josh Morris was quicker to the ball against the run of play.

The game needed half-time because it was like a balloon inflating and it was about to blow. In the end, it was the Bulldogs who burst in the second half. The Eels dragged themselves off the canvas with tries to Burt and Tim Mannah within a quarter-hour of the restart, and when Mortimer finished off a frenzied movement they had their grand moment.

It was so fitting that these two teams fought out this game. Both had come back from their own adversity, the Bulldogs from the wooden spoon last season and the Eels from heading towards the same fate, but this year’s utensil, just months ago.

That will be some consolation for the Bulldogs, who have come so far. But one thing our game, this game, and this week has shown us is that whatever is around the corner, we can still be sure that when we wake up every morning, the sky will be blue. Or orange.

PARRAMATTA 22 (L Burt, J Galuvao, T Mannah, D Mortimer tries; L Burt 3 goals) bt BULLDOGS 12 (B Goodwin, J Morris tries; H El Masri 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referees: Tony Archer, Ben Cummins. Crowd: 74,549.

Hayne signs $2millon extension

The manager of Parramatta’s superstar fullback Jarryd Hayne has agreed for his star player to sign a new $2 million contract with the Eels.

In massive boost for the club on the eve of tomorrow nights blockbuster against the Bulldogs, The Dally M champion’s agent agreed to terms for a four-year deal this morning.

After weeks of negotiations, Haynes manager Wayne Beavis struck the deal with Parramatta CEO Paul Osborne at a 10am meeting.

Rivals clubs, including the Sydney Roosters, were prepared to pay up to $500,000-a-season to entice him away from Parramatta.

A Parramatta source said: “Jarryd didn’t want to go anywhere he loves Parramatta.

“It was just a matter of coming up with the right deal. Were expecting hell sign next week but doesn’t want interruptions before the game.”

The Eels are expected to hold a press conference early next week to confirm the signing.