Final report on Storm cap scandal due soon

In a few short weeks, the NRL will release their final report in regards to the Storm cap scandal – a report that will detail extensively who was involved and what went on at the club at the time.

With the report set to be made public, NRL Chief Executive David Gallop said that report was nearing its conclusion and is almost complete, with the NRL considering what punishments will have to be handed out as a result.

”Our final report into what happened in Melbourne is with our lawyers at the moment, but should be completed shortly,” Gallop said

”In the next few weeks I hope it will be completed and released. It won’t all be released publicly – I’m not exactly sure just yet how much, that’s in the hands of the lawyers. But we will certainly look at releasing important information publicly.

”The ramifications for a number of people, including player managers, are still an issue. And getting to the bottom of what happened down there has been a complicated process. But it’s a credit to [salary cap auditor] Ian Schubert and his guys that they dug and dug and dug and ended up uncovering some pretty poor practices which were designed to avoid detection by the NRL.”

The document, which consists of more than 100 pages will be even more revealing, and have more content than the report carried out by Deloitte on behalf of News Ltd.

”Contrary to what was said at the time, we never accepted the Deloitte report as our position on the Melbourne Storm,” he said.

”We always wanted to complete our own investigation as to how this all happened, and it’s taken some time to do that …

”We’ve dealt with the part of it that relates to the conduct of player agents, so the rest of it deals with the details of how Melbourne Storm breached the salary cap to the extent that they did – to the massive extent that they did.

”That details the people involved in it.”

”Our view of that was that as we closed in on what was going on in Melbourne, some of that became known to punters and they took a punt on it. But that’s happened regularly when we’ve been involved in a serious salary cap investigation.”

Despite many people still disagreeing, Gallop remains adamant that now allowing the Storm to accrue points in the 2010 season was the right decision, and he stands by it.

”The attacks on the process that we used to arrive on the decision were one of the most disappointing aspects of what happened,” he said.

”The process was very much dictated to by the admissions of their people in charge at the club and their desire to see the issue dealt with quickly. They backflipped on that and chose to blame others rather than themselves for the predicament the club found itself in.”

He did however say that he is pleased to see how well the Storm have bounced back, following their strong showings in their games so far.

”It’s good to see the Storm back playing good football in the new ground that we helped to get built for them,” Gallop said.

”The way they played last year was a credit to them and their commitment to the club. The fact remains that it would have been grossly unfair to the rest of the competition if they had played for points last year. There was no way that they could be fairly put under the cap at that point in the season.”

You have 8 weeks says Panthers chairman

They were flogged in Week 1, bounced back in Week 2, only to be flogged again last night, and now, Panthers Chairman Don Felitis has told coach Matthew Elliot that he has two months to reverse the clubs fortunes, or he is out as coach.

After meeting with Chairman Don Felitis, he told Elliott that the club would not act upon extending his contract with the club, until they see what happens after the next 2 months.

With a perceived financial instability in place coupled with the speculation in place about the Panthers coach, has the whole club divided on certain issues.

“What happens with the coach will depend on the performance of the team. We’re certainly not talking to anyone else,” Feltis said.

“We had Matty come to an executive meeting [last] week and he told us he’s quite happy with things, so we’ll see what happens over the next eight to 10 weeks.”

As they seek to work on the coaching dilemma, and get through it, Felitis says that a meeting has been set up between senior players and power-brokers, to discuss what the next moves should be.

“We’re being open and transparent with them,” Feltis said.

“Petero understands. I said to him, ‘This is Matty’s last year, he’s been here five years’. It’s like re-signing a player, you’re going to want to see how he plays.”

Despite rumours that a stand-off was imminent, Panthers Chief Executive Michael Leary denied such claims, but did admit that things were a bit frosty for the club at this time.

“There’s no problem at all there. We can’t understand where that keeps coming from,” Leary said.

After continual pressing about the coaching situation, Leary said:

“I’m not going to make any comment at all about our coaching situation.”

In Elliott’s favour however, he does possess a rather strong bond with the more senior players of the group, and they too have great respect for him.

“I don’t worry about my future. I’ve tried worrying about it in the past and it doesn’t help it,” Elliott said.

“My whole focus is remaining with the playing group. I’ll have a beer with Mick no problems, easy.

“Like any form of management we don’t agree on everything but that doesn’t mean there’s a rift. We just sometimes don’t agree on stuff.”

As they appear to be in financial trouble, though it won’t affect them immensely for the time being, some think that the lack of business in the ranks at Penrith may hurt them in the future.

“We’ll be welcoming questions from members at the AGM and I’ll be giving them open and transparent answers,” Feltis said.

“It’s still not satisfactory and I’ll be saying this to the members. We’re not happy with it, it’s unacceptable to us.

“Over the last 12 months we’ve had a major reconstruction of our executive management team.

“We’ve changed our CEO, chairman, chief financial officer, gaming manager, marketing manager and property manager.

“Any organisation that makes all those changes is always going to go through a period of uncertainty, confusion and a bit of a challenge.”

Bellamy slowly but surely re-building Storm

After the salary cap saga last year that threatened to de-rail rugby league in Melbourne, Storm coach Craig Bellamy had fears of his own that the club would be killed off as a result of the cap scandal.

Even when it was confirmed that the Storm would stay in the league, many thought that they would go through a true re-building phase, and take some time to find their feet, though they are proving everyone wrong with their strong form.

“I know a lot of people in Melbourne, in AFL circles, who thought the club would go under,” Bellamy said.

“I didn’t think of it until later on. I’d heard people talking about it at the time, it was in a few editorials in the papers down there, and a few of the AFL scribes and people on TV were saying that.

“I think [the club] could have quite easily [folded]. But we had a resolve, especially among the players who have been there as long as I have – or a bit longer – that we’d built something a little bit special and it was worth trying to hang on to.”

For the Storm, there is a clear balance in place with the experienced campaigners in Smith, Slater and Cronk at the helm, mixed with plenty of youngsters that give the Storm one of the NRL’s most balanced sides.

“It doesn’t really matter who’s there running the lines because they are that clinical,” Titans five-eighth Greg Bird said.

“They’re not like St George, who just go through the motions. If you don’t turn up against Melbourne, they can really put points on you. As long as they keep that spine of Cronk, Slater and Smith and are coached by Craig, they’ll be a great side.”

Whilst their depth may not be as strong as other teams now, the Storm’s philosophy has not changed: “The little things are the big things that matter to the Storm”

“Some of the guys new to our team, and the young guys that have come up from our under-20s side a couple of years ago, they’re just starting to really understand the little things that are important to us,” Bellamy said.

“It’s taken them a couple of weeks to understand that, but they’re starting to take it on board.”

The Storm sent a message to the rest of the NRL after they decimated the Titans, and they are looking to continue their strong form.

With young players like Kevin Proctor, Matthew Duffie, Justin O’Neill and Jessie Bromwich, as well as new recruits Adam Woolnough, Beau Champion, Jaiman Lowe and Troy Thompson, it’s all about plying their trade and becoming better players in the NRL with the Storm.

“Defensively, if you’re going to be strong, the opposition team is always going to find it hard to beat you,” Smith said.

“No matter what the situation, no matter what the score is, we need them to have a good attitude to defence.”

For Titans coach John Cartwright, he knows exactly what the Storm are capable of, following their big loss at the hands of the Storm, and he sees Cronk and Smith as their two major weapons.

“They’ve a very smart side,” Cartwright said.

“If physically they get a sniff, they know where to go, they know where to turn up.”

Robson and Mortimer need more help to deliver

In a bid to get the squad fired up and playing well, Eels coach Stephen Kearney has called on the rest of the Eels team to support halves Jeff Robson and Daniel Mortimer, and help them deliver.

With new recruit Casey McGuire set to miss at least 1 week due to a calf strain, the pressure on the under-fire halves will only increase, after some fans have become frustrated with no real play-making sense, some even calling for the head of Robson, Mortimer and Kearney.

“Everyone’s quick to point the finger at them but we can all take some responsibility there,” Kearney said.

“Our performance as a team, particularly in the second half against Souths, hasn’t been real good. You’ve got to put it into context, we played with a man down for 10 minutes against the Rabbitohs and they had the ball rolling.

“So we were on the back foot. I’m not saying there isn’t room for improvement, but I am saying I think it’s a bit premature to be pointing the finger solely at the halves.”

Edge defence seemed to be a problem for the Eels against the Bunnies, and Kearney does have some options up his sleeve, with both Joel Reddy and Ben Smith options to move into the centres.

Kearney will however, assess his options, and take it from there.

“I’ve looked at the tape and we’ll have a look at how a couple of the lads who are playing for Wentworthville [last night] pull through,” Kearney said.

“Our completion rate was poor. We need to improve there.

“Then it’s just a matter of working out what works best for the group.”

Injuries dampen Tigers win over the Raiders

The Tigers will head into the next month of football at the very least severely underdone in their back-line, after both Chris Lawrence and Lote Tuqiri suffered what are believed to be severe injuries.

For Lawrence, he was sent to hospital straight away with a dislocated hip, whereas for Tuqiri, he is believed to have suffered a broken forearm, both of which are injuries that may see them out for a month at the very least, if not longer.

In scenes that are sure to send shivers down the spine of even the toughest fans, Lawrence, who was heavily sedated was led away with family and friends in am ambulance, and he is now suspected to be in some doubt for the rest of the season.

Despite their win, inside the dressing room, it was like a war zone, with players quiet, and seeking information about what happened to two of their good mates.

“It’s still dislocated and they’re taking him to the hospital, they’ll need to get him under general anaesthetic to be able to manipulate it back,” Sheens said of Lawrence.

“It’s very disappointing for the kid and the team to lose our left edge … but the players have got to come to grips with understanding we’ve got another game next week.”

When asked about a time-frame for Lawrence to return to the side, Sheens said:

“I’ve seen two or three in my time and they’ve all come back, he’ll be back this season.

“When is hard to say, it will depend on the amount of damage done.”

Whilst Sheens was disappointed, he allowed his players some leeway when the Raiders scored 14 unanswered points in the second half.

“I noticed when Chris went off it really had an impact on the players,” skipper Robbie Farah said.

“He was in a fair bit of pain and the boys were pretty worried.

“I think instead of closing out the game we had our minds elsewhere.”

Despite confirming that he did suffer a break of the radius in his forearm, at first, Tuqiri thought that his arm was fine.

“I thought I’d be okay, I thought it was a bit of a knock that would go away quite quickly,” Tuqiri said.

“The first tackle in that second half I got a knock on it again and it was just killer pain again.”

For Raiders coach David Furner, it was the fact that his team could not hold onto the ball that irritated him the most, and that the final score-line was not a true indication of the game at hand.

“It did flatter us a bit the scoreboard,” Furner said.

“We’ve got to build on pressure and our last plays, they’re a side that you have to play at their end of the field.”

Dally M Points

3 Benji Marshall

2 Chris Heighington

1 Blake Ferguson

WESTS TIGERS 34 (B Ayshford, A Fifita, C Heighington, C Lawrence, R Lui, M Utai tries; B Marshall 5 goals) CANBERRA 24 (B Ferguson 3, J Dugan, D Vidot tries; J Croker 2 goals) at Campbelltown Sports Stadium. Referee: Jason Robinson, Chris James. Crowd: 14,091.

Sharks get back-to-back win

When you thought of the Cronulla Sharks at the start of the season, you would have expected them to once again be cellar dwellars, but their form suggest they will be anything but.

Having lost in Rd 1, the Sharks have now won 2 games in a row, following the shellacking they handed out to the Penrith Panthers at Centrebet Stadium tonight, winning 44-12.

After their shock win over 2010 premiers St George, many were wondering if the Sharks could continue their solid form, and they did just that, romping home to an easy victory.

The nature in which they won the game pleased Sharks coach Shane Flanagan, and had him smiling upon the conclusion of the match.

In a win that was inspired by half Albert Kelly, Flanagan thinks that his side has reasons to be cocky, following comments made by some during the pre-season.

“I think a few people were asking how we could beat teams when we only score 12 to 18 points,” Flanagan said.

“We’ve got some good players in our team, not just good defenders. I was really happy that we showed what we can do tonight.

“I was really pleased with the attention to detail and the effort that they put in after a tough game on Monday night.”

For Flanagan, the plan was to unleash hell on centre pairing Michael Jennings and Timana Tahu, and it worked wonderfully well, with both centres having games that they would rather forget.

“They had a new side with Tahu being out there, they didn’t have much cohesion, a lot of balls were going behind players,” he said.

“We worked really hard on Jennings this week, we know that he’s their go-to man, and he made a few breaks but I thought we held him pretty well.”

In what will only make matters worse for the Panthers, they have captain Petero Civoniceva facing an anxious wait on the side-line, after he was put on report for a high tackle.

That is then compounded with the fact that both halfback Luke Walsh and utility Luke Lewis are possibly facing lengthy periods of time out, with Walsh’s injury being the worse, after a suspected AC injury in his shoulder.

Dally M Points

3 Albert Kelly

2 Paul Gallen

1 Wade Graham

NRL: CRONULLA SHARKS 44 (PGallen, A Kelly x2 N Gardner, CBest, J Mannah, J Smith tries; J Williams x8 goals) defeated PENRITH PANTHERS 12 (D Simmons, L Coote tries; M Gordon x2 goals) at Centrebet Stadium. Referee: Jared Maxwell & Phil Haines

Hodges stars in Brisbane win after 585 days in exile

He was out of action for 585 days due to lengthy injury delays, but it was almost as if he had not missed a game of footy at all, with Justin Hodges the star as the Broncos beat the Titans 14-8 courtesy of a 71st minute Hodges try.

Hodges, who was playing in his first game since the 2009 finals series, following a ruptured achilles injury and hamstring injury in 2010, looked as good as ever.

With the Titans heading into the break leading 6-0, courtesy of a great solo effort from centre, and former Bronco Steve Michaels, the game was not without controversy though.

The Titans had two big calls go against them, with the first one being Anthony Laffranchi crashing over the line in the 31st minute, only to be ruled held up, before video ref Russell Smith came to a decision of refs call.

The second incident involved play-maker Scott Prince, when he put up a bomb, only for the refs to rule a knock-on in the air off the Titans.

Both calls were those that could have gone either way, but it went the way of the Broncos in this case.

There were injury concerns for both teams however, with Broncos fullback Josh Hoffman and Titans second-rower Ashley Harrison suffering lower leg and hamstring injuries respectively.

For new Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin, he said that the hard-fought win would do wonders for the Broncos confidence.

For Griffin, he said that the best part of the game was: “the full-time hooter”.

Skipper Darren Lockyer, who said that Hodges called for the ball before the match-winner said that:

“It was vintage Hodges, wasn’t it?

“He wanted the ball from the scrum even though there were three defenders on his side.”

For Titans coach John Cartwright, he thought his side were much improved from their drubbing at the hands of Melbourne in Rd 2.

“We controlled the play the ball better and we hustled a lot harder,” he said.

“We had three tries disallowed, just one could have made the difference.

“They came up with one great play (Hodges’s try) that put them in front. That’s why those guys get the big dollars.”

BRISBANE 14 (A Glenn, J Hodges tries; C Parker 3 goals, P Wallace field goal) bt GOLD COAST 8 (S Michaels try; S Prince 2 goals) at Skilled Park. Referee: Gavin Badger, Brett Suttor. Crowd: 20,226.

Dally M Points

3 Justin Hodges

2 Darren Lockyer

1 Alex Glenn

Inglis the man as Bunnies get their first win

He started the first two rounds poorly, was criticised for it, but said that he would come back and play well – he did just that.

Greg Inglis was perhaps the stand-out for the Bunnies in their win over the Eels, scoring 1 try, and having a handy involvement in two others, as the Rabbitohs defeated the Parramatta Eels 32-18 at ANZ Stadium.

In what was a clash that both sides would have loved to win, the game seemed evenly poised with the scores locked at 12-all, before three straight tries gave the Bunnies the lead, which proved to be an unassailable one.

For Souths captain Roy Asotasi, he believed that a big game was due for Inglis, and he delivered.

“I know for sure throughout the week GI was disappointed and I know Rhyssy (Wesser) was,” Asotasi said.

“We lost two games and it was only round two and it felt like it was the end of the season.”

“We were confident in our ability to come back, we knew it was only two losses and we had 22 games to go and it started tonight.”

The game was not without controversy however, as the Eels were disallowed two tries, both of which, seemed to be legitimate, yet were ruled no tries.

The Eels just couldn’t get a hold of the game, and the Bunnies marched on with the game. Things got worse for the Eels when prop Fui Fui Moi Moi was sent to the sin-bin for dissent.

Despite still not being fully fit from shoulder and hip reconstructions, Inglis said that after being manhandled by Jamal Idris last week, he felt that he had a point to prove.

“I definitely was,” he said.

“I don’t know what they’ve been saying.

“But it goes to show I don’t listen to anyone, I just listen to Langby (coach John Lang) and the boys around me.

“There’s no doubt about my fitness, it’s a bit underdone but I’m still working hard and still getting on the way.”

Video ref system undergoes overhaul

In light of a controversial try scored by Sharks centre Ben Pomeroy last week, the video ref system has been overhauled, in time for this weeks clashes.

Both Stuart Raper and Bill Harrigan, wanted to analyse certain issues with the system, following the controversial try awarded to Pomeroy, with many in doubt as to whether or not Pomeroy had actually grounded the ball.

For Harrigan, he believes that sometimes, the slower frames used in replays are actually more of a hindrance in making decisions, then being a helpful way to make decisions.

TV Stations however can continue to use all forms of replays that are available, with permission from the league to do so.

The issue has been discussed  by Harrigan with NRL Director of Football Operations Nathan McGuirk, and they decided that video refs have the option to ignore the freeze-frame replays, when making their decisions.

”I sat down with Stuart Raper and our assistant coach, Russell Smith, to discuss the try from Monday night and the policy we’ve got in place, and whether we need to refine the system and what the ramifications would be if we did,” Harrigan said

”After that, I spoke to Nathan McGuirk, and we have decided that video refs, if they think it’s best, can judge whether a try has been scored purely on normal speed and slow-motion replays and not take the stop-frames into account, even if they are shown.

”In some circumstances, such as when a foot is going close to a line or the ball is going close to a line as a player gets a hand to it, the stop-frames will be a big help, but in circumstances like the try on Monday night it can cloud the issue of whether a try has been scored.”

McGuirk says that the freeze-frame can be, at times, “misleading”, adding: ”The video refs will be able to make decisions based on all of the replays, or just the ones that they consider applicable to that particular case. That should make the decision-making process better.”

Tupou is seeking out an Origin berth

After a poor last few seasons, Sharks second-rower Anthony Tupou is a man on the mission, as he aims to play Origin once more, after picking up his form and shedding some kilos, as he looks to impress selectors.

It was the Sharks shock win against the Dragons last Monday night in which Tupou really made his presence felt, and it is that sort of form that he will be looking to continue as the seasons wears on.

It was during his time at the Roosters that Tupou really excelled, and thus, he was rewarded with an Origin berth. Since then however, not all has been rosy, and Tupou’s career has gone on a slide, as he now looks to pick up the pieces, and play the way that he knows he can.

”That doesn’t really faze me, copping stick,” Tupou said.

”What hurts is not having those [representative] jerseys, not making the team. That hurts a lot more than what people say. That motivates me a lot. That is one of my goals … to play good … maybe I can get back into rep footy.”

When speaking of fellow second-rowers Jeremy Smith and Paul Gallen, Tupou is over the moon to have them playing alongside him, and looks to continue their strong forward dominance in the future.

”It’s so good to have them in your team,” Tupou said of Gallen and Smith.

”They’re so reliable and they’re always there. When it’s hard you see them put their hand up and go for a run or smash someone in defence. It lifts you a bit. We have been talked up a bit – our back row – we’ve got to live up to it and can’t let anyone down.

”I worked hard with the trainers and I’ve put on a lot of weight, probably seven kilograms. That was my goal from the start of the year to do that, put on weight and play a bit heavier.”

For Tupou, he has been through some moments at Shark Park that he would rather forget, but the euphoria that was created in their win over the Dragons removed any bad moments.

”It’s bad, mate. When you’re losing week to week, it affects a lot of things,” he said.

”You try and not let it but it affects different parts of your life. To get a winning culture would be good this year. I think we’ll get a lot of belief out of that.”