Sharks win a thriller in Penrith

It was a game that went down to the wire, with Todd Carney kicking the winning field goal for the Sharks. Although he was the hero – he gave equal plaudits to his journeyman halves partner in Jeff Robson, for his efforts for the entire game.

With just 6 minutes to go, Carney calmly slotted a field goal, and gave his side their third straight win – with the club now on a little roll.

We’ve done really well in the last three weeks winning but we have fallen asleep letting other teams come back into it but we’ve had the strength to hold them out,” Carney said.

“Robbo’s been great, he’s worked really hard in the off-season. We’ve got three from three with me and him together.

“Our attack is nowhere near where it’s going to get to and it’s just a good positive sign that we’re still getting wins.”

He may have won the game for the Sharks, but on his winning field-goal, Carney remained a tad modest.

“It was a bit of a fluke but I was happy to get it,” he said.

The loss for the Panthers left coach Ivan Cleary gutted that his side could not get the win, after they fought valiantly to get themselves back into the game, leading 14-12 with 8 minutes to go.

“It was the one that got away that one,” Clearly said.

“I thought we were dominate in the second half to come back from 12-0 down and hit the front.

“We’ve got some work to do closing out games. It’s a disappointing result.”

Chris Sandow Explosive as Manly face their third defeat

The fireworks finally exploded in Parramatta as the Eels held on to claim their first 2012 season victory over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 29-20 at Parramatta Stadium. Signs not promising in this early part of the season as the reigning premiers fall to their third straight loss.

The home crowd were in voice for majority of the game which gave them an edge over the visitors.

Ben Roberts on his game as he fired a pin-point kick into the in-goal area to set up Jarryd Hayne for the first points of the evening. The Manly’s defence cracked to leak a try after five minutes, Sandow nailed the kick, Eels 6-0.

However a turn in possession stopped the celebrations with Manly on the board after 14 minutes as Brett Stewart found himself on the end of a Steve Matai kick. Daly Cherry-Evans didn’t have a wonderful night with his boot but the first attempt successful, 6-all.

It didn’t take long for the Eels to hit back with more points as Matt Keating close to the line wasn’t going to be stopped. Parramatta made the Manly side pay for the gifted field position after a penalty. Sandow’s conversion made it 12-6 after 21 minutes.

The uncharacteristic Eels saw them go back-to-back in their next play to put another four-pointer on their opposition. Young gun Ken Sio strolled his way over the whitewash as the Eels rolled on, 18-6.

A questionable decision against the home side saw the Manly Sea Eagles well on the attack. Anthony Watmough gave the Manly side the set at the line and he played cleaner after Jarryd Hayne coughed up the ball on the line. Eels led 18-10 with five until half time.

Ball possession in our great day is so important in the modern day and Manly used what they had to their strengths. After two consecutive scrum feeds on the Eels 10 metre line, Jorge Taufua helped close the gap to two points. Manly spread it to the winger with quick hands. They capitalised on the Eels mistakes, however still trailed 18-16 after 8 minutes of the second half.

Manly gathered pace as they went in search of the lead and found it. Jamie Buhrer flew through the line at speed to roll over Chris Sandow to score. Cherry-Evans’ conversion attempt met the posts on the full, no goal – Manly claimed the lead 20-18 after 55 minutes.

Robert again crafted his skill to display his wonderful footwork to break into open space. His magic set up Jarryd Hayne with an inside ball through the Manly defence. The Eels back in front with 20 minutes on the clock, 24-20.

Something we haven’t seen in 2012 is the Eels defending a lead at the back end of a game. It was different tonight has it was certainly something special. The Parramatta boys took whatever opportunities they had and made Manly suffer. Chris Sandow nailed a penalty goal in the final minutes to make the gap between them a converted try, 26-20.

Manly remained hopeful with five minutes left in the contest, but Sandow put it beyond doubt with an amazing snap field goal. Eels 27-20 as their confidence rocketed with the lead out to seven points.

The fireworks started to fire with two minutes left as the Eels were awarded a penalty in front of the sticks. One of the Eels stars of the evening, Chris Sandow added the further nail in the coffin for the downed Eagles with a penalty goal. The siren sounded at Parramatta Stadium which saw the home crowd heroes victors 29-20.

Parramatta with greater confidence with their first points of the season will travel north to Hunter Stadium when they are hosted by the Newcastle Knights. While the current premiers after their third straight defeat will finally head home to open Brookvale Oval for the Penrith Panthers.

Melbourne win caps off great week

It started with the Cooper Cronk’s announcement that he was staying in Melbourne, and it finished with a Storm win at their home stadium against the Newcastle Knights.

It was another top performance from Cooper Cronk, that catapulted the Storm to the win – with the Storm still the only undefeated team left in the NRL.

From the get-go, the Knights had the odds against them, with the club facing a hoodoo – having last won a game in Melbourne back in 2004.

The Storm were in control for a good portion of the game, before a late flurry from the Newcastle Knights, resulted in the score gaining some respectability for the Knights.

“We’re disappointed with that ending but that first 60 minutes was really good,” he said. “That was probably near as good as we’ve played this year.”

Storm captain Cam Smith was disappointed with some of his side’s silly errors, and gave his team-mates as gobful, as a result.

“They were short-cuts, and this team’s not about that,” Smith said.

“You can’t be happy with putting a good 60 minutes of football together and then putting the feet in the slippers. You’ve got to play the full 80 minutes so I thought I better let the boys know that.”

Although Bennett was most disappointed with the try his side conceded before half-time, he was pleased with parts of his team’s overall effort.

“I thought we played some really good football for long periods of time,” Bennett said.

“They’re a quality football team and they have been for a long period of time.

“We’re a long way off where we want to be but there was a lot of things I was pleased about. It wasn’t all doom and gloom for me.

“I’m pretty optimistic about where we can go.”

The only downside for the Storm, was an ankle sprain to second-rower Sika Manu.

Tigers announce Anasta signing

He was confirmed, then he denied it, but it has been confirmed again – with Roosters five-eighth and captain Braith Anasta agreeing to a 2-year deal with the Wests Tigers.

Stephen Humphreys, the CEO of the Wests Tigers, is pleased that the side has secured someone with Braith’s experience, and is excited as to what he can offer the club on the field.

“Braith is a very experienced campaigner who continues to perform at the highest level,’’ Mr Humphreys said.

“His leadership, professionalism and knowledge of the game will be invaluable to our Club.

“Everyone at Wests Tigers from players, coaches, sponsors and members are very much looking forward to welcoming Braith to the Club in 2013.”

Anasta himself, is excited at the opportunity to further his NRL career with the Wests Tigers.

“I look forward to making a big contribution to an already strong and talented playing group under Tim Sheens over the next two years ,’’ Anasta said.

“While I look forward to the challenges ahead, my immediate priority remains focused on this season. There’s a great young squad here at the Roosters and I have a massive ambition to make 2012 a memorable year for the club.

“I am incredibly proud to have captained such a special club.

“From the ball boys to the Chairman, the players, coaches, staff, sponsors and members – I’ve made so many friends here and learnt so much from everyone associated with the Club.”

From the Roosters point of view, although the experience and leadership that Braith Anasta brought to the club will be sorely missed, the club will maintain its ongoing commitment towards playing a young crop of players.

“It’s sad to be losing a great club man and friend to the players, coaches, staff, sponsors and members like Braith. Braith is an inspiration to all at the club for the way he conducts himself both on and off the field,’’ Mr Noyce said.

“On behalf of everyone associated with the Sydney Roosters, we wish Braith all the very best and thank him for his outstanding contribution to our club.

“In the meantime, we look forward to Braith being a big part of the Roosters squad for the remainder of 2012.”

Raiders announce new major sponsor

It took a while to have everything sorted, but the Raiders now have a major sponsor – with one of the world’s leading IT and Telecommunications providers in Huawei, with club and company agreeing to a 2-year sponsorship deal.

The 2-year deal will see the Huawei logo on the front of the Raiders home and away jerseys, for the remainder of the 2012 NRL season, as well as next year.

John Lord AM, who is the Chairman at Huawei, said that the decision to form a partnership with the Canberra Raiders, will assist the company in further developing its local brand.

“This is Huawei’s first major sports-team sponsorship anywhere in the world, and we’re delighted it’s with the Raiders,” said Mr Lord.

“As Huawei ventures into new business areas like mobile handsets and Enterprise IT, this partnership with the Raiders will help build our brand. With Huawei’s 140,000 staff, it’s safe to say that the Raiders have just gained 140,000 new fans around the world.”

Don Furner, the CEO of the Canberra Raiders, said that the club is thrilled to have finally gotten a new sponsor on board, and that the players are keen to run out on Monday with their new sponsored jerseys.

“The Canberra Raiders are extremely proud to enter into this partnership with such a large and successful company like Huawei. Mr Furner said. “Huawei is a world leader of information and communications technology and to have them associated with the Raiders is a massive boost for the club and our members.

“Huawei partnership with the Raiders is also a massive vote of confidence in the city of Canberra and its people. It is well known that Canberrans are very IT savvy and I think Huawei recognised this in choosing the Raiders. By their own admission they are a company that most people in Australia have used, but have never heard of.”

“Accordingly, the Raiders look forward to increasing Huawei’s brand awareness and assist in promoting the company’s products”.

Storm keen to lock in Bellamy

It is something that the Storm have been mulling over for ages, and with the announcement of Cooper Cronk’s new Storm contract yesterday – their attentions have now shifted to the retention of coach Craig Bellamy.

With Bellamy off contract at the end of season 2013, rumours are rife that he is set for a move to the Sydney Roosters, who are believed to have a big offer for Bellamy, regarded as one of the game’s best coaches.

Working in the Storm’s favour however, is the continued growth and development of talented juniors, as well as the continued ability to work alongside perhaps the best core players in the NRL, in Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith.

Ron Gauci, the Melbourne Storm Chief Executive, confirmed that he had already begun informal talks with Bellamy about his future, and that the two would talk again when Bellamy felt it was the right time to do so.

“I have said that I am happy to have discussions with Craig about coaching beyond 2013 when he is ready,” Gauci said.

“I believe we have an honest enough relationship for him to tell me when he is ready. I have always told him the club wants him, I want him and therefore there is no pressure until he feels it is the right time.”

The rumours of his supposed departure to the Roosters are ones that Gauci knows about, and he said:

Craig and I have a good relationship. He certainly lets me know what’s going on.”

Despite coming off-contract at the end of 2013, Bellamy is not in a hurry to delve into any new contract negotiations, though it is a known fact that he enjoys working alongside the current crop of players that he has.

“I haven’t thought about it too much,” Bellamy said.

“I have had a bit of a chat to the people here. But I feel more comfortable concentrating on the footy at the moment. When the time feels right I’ll talk to them again about my contract.”

Wales announce France friendly

With the international presence in rugby league forever expanding, fans of international rugby league will receive a boost – with the Welsh national side announcing that they will play a friendly in June, against the French.

The match between the two semi-powerhouse nations, will take place at the Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium in Wrexham, on Saturday June 16 – which is the same day as England’s first game against the Exiles.

In an additional boost for the game itself, with no club matches scheduled for that particular weekend – it will allow both teams to field their strongest possible sides.

This particular international will be Wales first mid-season game in 11 years, and the first time they have played against France in an international, since October 2010.

“To be able to put on a mid-season Test shows a bit of progression to where we’ve come as we’ve not been in the position to do that in years gone by,” said Harris.

“Hopefully this will increase to two or three in years to follow.

“It’s going to be more difficult for us as there are a good number of our squad playing rugby league in Australia and we won’t be able to call on them for this match.

“But this means that a number of other players will get the opportunity to play and prove that they are good enough to be in the squad for the end of the year.

“It’s a progression game for us. Can we compete against a very strong French side with a couple of numbers down?

“It’s an important game for us to see where we’ve come as a squad. It will be an interesting game.”

Hindmarsh announces his retirement

We all knew it was coming, it was simply a matter of when he was going to make that final decision – a decision that the entire NRL world was hinging on.

They will have to wait no longer, with arguably, the greatest player to have ever pulled on a blue and gold jersey in Nathan Hindmarsh, announcing that the 2012 NRL season will be his last season of NRL.

Hindmarsh released a video available on parraeels.com.au, and spoke with his laid-back and self-depreciating character, one that the entire NRL world is accustomed to seeing from him.

Although Eels coach Stephen Kearney knew of Hindmarsh’s plans to retire since last year, the coach let Hindmarsh mull over the decision, and giving the Eels legend the time and space he needed, to make it.

“15 years at this legendary club. It’s hard to believe,” Hindmarsh said in his video.

“I made the decision late last year and informed the coach and people close to me that 2012 was going to be my last season.

“I know there has been a lot of speculation about my career of late and I thank the coach and club for giving me the time I needed to make this decision public.

“I was always going to announce it early on in the season, and ideally I would have liked to have done it coming off four wins. But that’s footy isn’t it.

“That’s why I’m announcing my retirement now. I love this club it’s been my life since I was 16. I’ve made lifelong friends, met my wife and watched my kids’ faces light up when I tell them they can come to work with dad.

“I’m hoping that by announcing this, it will take some pressure off my coach, my team mates and the club, so we can get back to focusing on what really matters… winning games.

“I will retire as a one club player which I am very proud of. I’m going to finish my career the same way I started – utterly and deeply exhausted – knowing I have tried my best and left it all on the field.”

Although he wasn’t involved in all of Hindmarsh’s years, Kearney has gotten to know the man well – having played against him, to now coaching him.

“He’s a guy who pretty much redefined how much work one human being can get through out there on the paddock.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve seen replays of him chasing down wingers and fullbacks, making that last ditch effort that’s the difference between winning and losing matches.

“He’s all about heart and that’s why he’s so respected by everyone who plays the game, as well as loved and admired by those who watch it.

“He’s always put the team and this Club first and they are huge shoes to fill.

“It’s been a tough start to the season for us but the lads are focused on improving from here, and making sure Nathan finishes his playing career on a high note.”

Bob Bentley, the Eels Chief Executive Officer, also had his say:

“Words probably can’t describe what Nathan means to this Club and our supporters.

“When people think of the Eels, they think Nathan Hindmarsh.

“He’s given his heart and soul to this Club on and off the field for his entire career and built his success on sheer hard work and dedication.

“Obviously it would have been terrific for Nathan to have had the chance to announce his retirement after a better start to the season for us, but we’re confident the team can turn this around and make it a season to remember.

“We’re already preparing for one hell of a send-off at the end of the year.

“Nathan is quite simply a living treasure of this rugby league club and we will be doing everything we can to give him the send-off he deserves.”

Cronk re-signs with the Storm

It is safe to say that the speculation surrounding his future was nothing short of exhausting – but now ,the Storm and their fans can breathe easy,  with Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk announcing that he will re-sign with the club for a further 4 years.

The deal will see Cronk remain at the club until the end of the 2016 NRL season, in a contract that is likely to see him through to the end of his career, unless he chooses to play on.

“It is with humility, and therefore, that I wish to advise that I have signed a 4-year contract with the Melbourne Storm”, Cronk said.

“I want to thank my manager Chris Orr, and those other largely invisible people who have supported me through this process. I also want to pay tribute to the other NRL teams, who offered me the chance to join their ranks”.

Times at the Storm have never been easy for Cronk, with rumours flying around in the past about his unhappiness with the club, for not being in the same bracket for the Storm, as players like Billy Slater and Cameron Smith are.

Aside from that, the salary cap struggles of the past, and subsequent punishments are also a blight on the past, but despite those times of hardships, Cronk has a lot of good moments to take out of his career, and reflect on so far.

“Like all families, I have had my moments with the Melbourne Storm. Moments I wished had never happened”.

“But I have been lucky enough to balance those sad moments, with others that I will remember for the rest of my life”.

For Cronk himself, having been a part of a strong culture and organisation for so long, it only made sense for him re-sign with the club, and repay the club for the faith that they have shown in him, over the years.

“I came to this club as a kid, really. Very green, and with little appreciation of how life worked. Sure-footed in the worse sense of the world.”

“Slowly in the last few years, I have grown up, and I hope that starts to become apparent to those who have dealings with me into the future.

“I expect  with my growing personal maturity, my game will also go to another level – so that I may  continue to earn my place within the Melbourne Storm team, and honour the fans that have continued to back us in each week”.

Brown leaves Warriors and signs 3-year Panthers deal

It is a blow to the Warriors for the future, with Warriors Recruitment and Development Manager Dean Bell confirming that utility Lewis Brown will leave the Auckland based club at the end of the 2012 NRL season.

The confirmation comes, after both Brown and the Warriors failed to agree to terms for a new contract beyond this season, with the club accepting Brown’s departure, as well as his 3-year deal with Penrith from the 2013 NRL season.

In spite of Brown’s departure, Bell said that the team did all they could to convince Brown to stay.

“We made a very competitive offer to extend Lewis’ career with the Vodafone Warriors but, in the end, the two of us couldn’t agree terms. We hope the future works out well for him and wish him all the best,” he said.

Although he has agreed terms with Penrith for 2013 and beyond, Brown says that the decision to leave the club was not an easy one for him.

“It will be tough leaving. The Vodafone Warriors gave me my break to play in the NRL and also the chance to represent the Kiwis,” he said.

“I love the club but I had to look after my career and I thought the best option for my future was to accept the contract at Penrith.“My heart’s still at the Vodafone Warriors. We’re only just into the 2012 season and they’ll have my full commitment for the rest of the year.“I want to thank the club for the opportunity they’ve given me over the last four years.”

Wayne Scurrah, who is the Warriors Chief Executive – is disappointed to see Brown leave the club, but can see the positive mark that he has left on the club.

“I’ll always remember our first meeting with him in Sydney and the impression he left,” he said.

“He had so much enthusiasm and he brought that to the Vodafone Warriors. He has made a great contribution to the club, becoming a first-grade regular in his first season in 2009 and going on to play for the Kiwis as well.”