Bennett praises young halfback Roberts but will not make him first-choice halfback after win v Raiders

Adam Cuthbertson

Like with any coach, when there are decisions to be made, ones that can be tough, it is often hard to know what decision to make – but for Newcastle Knights coach Wayne Bennett, with young halfback Tyrone Roberts so well and filling in so well for the injured Kurt Gidley, you would think he would be in consideration to have the starting halfback role permanently.

Think again. Despite another solid performance from the talented youngster, at this stage, Bennett refuses to make Roberts the first-choice halfback for the club with a fully fit squad (when he has that), at his disposal.

What he did say, however, was that he was pleased yet again with the efforts of Roberts and that it is likely he keeps the halfback spot – for now.

“He sold one dummy there and I was waiting to see someone else running and he got to the line before I realised he still had the ball,” said Bennett.

“He does that well, Tyrone, he has that little bit of class.

“It’s a great show and go he’s got and it works for him. It confuses defenders.

“But no-one is No.1 for anything. He’s doing a good job there at the moment and Kurt has got a head knock.

“Kurt only made himself available yesterday, no-one thought he was going to play and I wasn’t going to change the team at that late notice.”

The win gives the Knights three wins out of four this year, with Bennett praising his side for their performance, one he believes they would not have been able to win last year.

“We wouldn’t have done it last year, we lost our way in the first half but regrouped at halftime,” he said.

“The most pleasing thing is we’ve backed it up two weeks in a row with a pretty decent performance. It was not as good as last week but it was good enough.”

For Raiders coach David Furner, he was left disappointed and seething at his side’s performances, directing some of the blame towards his halves, especially lamenting their lack of a kicking game.

“Our last play options and kicking game were pretty ordinary in the second half,” Furner said.

“We didn’t give ourselves a chance in the first half, we visited their line four times and didn’t even get a repeat set, it makes it hard,” Furner said.

There was some controversy in the game, though, when Danny Buderus put Blake Ferguson on his backside in what looked like a shoulder charge but was not called – a decision that left Furner rather unimpressed.

“I just saw it again on the video, and I was very surprised,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of hoo-ha about this recently, and what I saw summed it up.

“Going off what we’ve been going off it was most certainly a mandatory penalty.”

3. Adam Cuthbertson
2. Tyrone Roberts
1. Kade Snowden

Cartwright maintains Titans are still not on par with top sides despite good win v Panthers

Greg Bird

They may have won the game and done so well, but for Titans coach John Cartwright, he believes that in order for his side to be a competition heavyweight, they still need improvement to challenge the top sides in the competition.

With three wins on the trot, the team seemingly on a high and the solid performances being spread out among their players, Cartwright says that the plan is to now go for 4 wins on the trot next week.

“There’s a couple of standout sides and the rest are really trying to chase them and catch them and stick with them,” Cartwright said.

“To win three in a row, I’m really happy for the boys. Three in a row in this competition, not many sides are going to do it.

“We’ve got three, we’ll look for four now.”

It was the Titans resolute defence and never-say-die attitude that deserves plaudits, evidenced by several last-ditch efforts by co-captain Greg Bird to deny the Panthers tries on two occasions.

“Not many players can go through the thought process to do that in the heat of the moment,” Cartwright said of Bird.

“It was a deliberate play, things like that turn the game.”

Bird did not put it down to anything but luck.

“I just got lucky.

“He was over the line ready to put it down so that was about all I had.”

With the Titans realising their potential in 2013 so far and the need for urgency in their games a key factor stressed before games, Bird believes that the Titans are finally living up to the expectations.

“I guess we probably haven’t been living up to our potential the last couple of years, we’ve had good packs on paper and haven’t been able to put it together,” Bird said.

“That’s something that we’re trying to do now and it starts with the defence.”

There was yet another obstruction controversy, however, with the Panthers on the receiving end of it, when Tom Humble burst through the line to score, only for the video ref to deny it after Sika Manu took out a Titans defender.

The decision left Panthers coach Ivan Cleary rather confused.

“It’s been an issue is so many games,” Cleary said.

“We’ve got people up in the box, ex-players who have supposedly got more feel for the game, but they’re not being given the opportunity to have that feel for the game.”

3. Greg Bird
2. Kevin Gordon
1. Jamal Idris

Dragons open their 2013 account with shock win over rivals Cronulla

Jamie Soward

The pressure was on at its highest and the Dragons responded in tremendous fashion, as they defeated the more fancied Cronulla Sharks side at Sharks Stadium winning 25-12 in front of 20,130 fans.

Sharks fans will be biting their fingernails, however, as they await news on how severe an ankle injury might be, with the initial diagnosis deemed to be a sprained foot.

It was under pressure and often-criticised Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward that led the way, scoring a try of his own and having a hand in others, as he and some of the other Dragons players stepped up when it mattered to get them the victory.

Nathan Fien and Trent Merrin also had blinders, with Dragons coach Steve Price asked post-game whether it was a relief for his side to break their duck and get the first win of the season, one they so desperately needed.

“I think there is (a feeling of relief) in the dressing room.

“It’s not as if the boys haven’t been trying, they’ve worked their backsides off over those losses and we fine-tuned a couple of things and we went out there and replicated that tonight.”

With the continued ASADA and drugs scandal still in the news and circling through their minds, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan refused to make excuses for his side’s loss.

“I could toss that one up and that might be the case but I’m not going to throw it out there as an excuse,” Flanagan said.

“The Dragons were good and they played with some attitude and we didn’t have that.”

On the injury to Carney, Flanagan is hopeful that it is nothing serious for his key play-maker.

“He thought he heard something snap but it was his orthotic, that’s how much power went through his foot,” he said.

“They think it’s a mid-foot sprain so it’s nothing to do with his achilles or anything like that.”

3. Jamie Soward
2. Trent Merrin
1. Nathan Fien.

Wildcats coach expects win against Castleford to stand despite match abandonment with 7 minutes to go

Richard Agar

Very rarely do you see a match abandoned with 7 minutes to go let alone at all, but in the Castleford v Wakefield clash, that is exactly what happened – after an electrical problem with a floodlight above one of the stands, resulted in fans being evacuated and the match being abandoned as it neared full-time.

At the time, it was the Wakefield Wildcats leading 37-16, with Richard Agar, the Wildcats coach, believing his side should be awarded the two points regardless.

“I think the rule from the RFL is that the result can stand if it goes past 60 minutes but it’s at their discretion,” Agar said.

“Myself and Ian spoke on the sideline in consultation with the match officials and everybody’s safety is paramount.

“We didn’t know how long it was going to be before we could get the game going again so, with seven minutes to go, we felt the sensible thing was to let the result stand, especially with four scores in it at that point.”

Although the result itself will have to be officially ratified by the RFL, Castleford coach Ian Millward says he would have no problem with the Wildcats being awarded the two points for the clash.

“I felt they won fairly and squarely,” he said.

“Any problems with regard to stadium safety comes first.

“I was very happy to stop the game. There was no way we were going to win the game from there and we haven’t taken too much time off the spectators. We think it was handled very well.”

There was another incident to come out of the game also, with RFL Match Commissioner Tony Randerson confirming that Wakefield Wildcats fullback Richie Mathers, who had played for Castleford in the past, had hot coffee thrown at him.

“The stewards were summoned and the person involved was ejected from the ground,” Randerson said.

Gareth Hock stars as Widnes defeat Warrington in a shock upset

Gareth Hock

In any rugby league game, sometimes it only takes the efforts of one player to prove the difference and that was exactly the case in the Widnes v Warrington clash, with on-loan Widnes forward Gareth Hock playing a starring role, as they upset competition heavyweights the Warrington Wolves 38-22.

Warrington coach Tony Smith conceded that Widnes were the better side in the game and labelled the game as “The Gareth Hock Show.”

“I don’t think we played well enough to win that game,” Warrington boss Smith said.

“We had a period after half-time where we could have taken control but we weren’t able to do that.

“The enthusiasm of Widnes was terrific. Their support was great and defence was pretty solid.

“They have gone back to the drawing board and they deserve all the credit they will get from this victory.

“Widnes were better and deserved it. It was the Gareth Hock show. He was the best player on the field. He came up with some big plays and he was great for them. He was so instrumental.”

It was just last week that the Vikings were defeated 62-4, but despite their shock win over Warrington, Widnes coach Dennis Betts still wants to see improvement from his side.

“We still need to look at the second-half start but we were solid,” Betts said.

“Warrington are a tough side and difficult to break down but we did it.

“We are notching a few big scalps off. We are putting our mark down and building our confidence. I thought Warrington were really good and had a go at us but we stuck in.

“There’s plenty of players who were impressive today. Rhys Hanbury was great but our best player on the field was Jon Clarke, he was outstanding – absolutely unbelievable.

“We are getting better and better. We have some options and no one is guaranteed a spot. We are generating competition and the players want to keep the jersey.”

Delpy’s Word: Bad Boys rewarded for Bad Behaviour

Delpy from The S Word blog joins us today for this article, as he casts his eye over players that put themselves in bad situations, yet are not punished hard enough for it.

Players these days, particularly those with talent, are not feeling the repercussions for their actions. Contracts are not worth the paper they are signed on and punishments for poor off-field behaviour no longer fit the crime. That is, if you have the on-field talent.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Josh Dugan’s sacking from the Canberra Raiders came after a long line of off-field indiscretions. The final straw came when he not only broke team protocol preventing injured players from consuming alcohol, but he did so on a roof with his offsider, Blake Ferguson, and was brash enough to post it on Instagram. The caption read, “Make your own luck! Whatever will be will be!” While some see this as complete stupidity, it is quite evident that it was a direct attempt to escape his contract at the Raiders.

The Canberra-based club obliged him with this request and have released him from his contract. Due to the fact that he has broken a team rule and not broken an NRL policy or committed a crime, Dugan is free to sign with another club if he so wishes. With the salary that prospective clubs are offering, wish he will.

The Brisbane Broncos appear to be the front-runners to acquire the signature of this injury-prone, bad boy. So when he inevitable signs for the $500K+ per season that he is demanding, and gets the sea change they he has desired, what lesson has he learnt?

For one, he has learnt that if he wants out of a contract all he has to do is play up. Breaking the same, simple, team protocol in less than twelve months ought to do it. Also, he learnt that as long as he has the talent, teams will throw themselves at him. Hell, they will end up in a bidding war. It worked for Todd Carney.

Original Sin

After persisting with Todd Carney through incident after incident, the Raiders had enough. He was sacked from the club and the NRL deregistered his contract. The result? A brand new contract at the Roosters, effective once his NRL-imposed, season ban was complete.

In 2010, Carney went on to win the Dally M Medal and star in the Roosters stellar season which led them to the Grand Final. In 2011, Carney was caught on three separate occasions committing alcohol-related indiscretions and sacked by the Roosters. Surely, that was his last chance, right?

Wrong! As you would know, Todd then signed a deal with the Cronulla Sharks estimated at $700K per season. It would appear that Todd Carney laid the blueprint for Josh Dugan. You can do what you like, as long as you have the talent that another club desires.

Barba’s Back

A few weeks back, I wrote an article that touched on Ben Barba’s standing down. At the time, word was that he was looking at up to six months out of the game while he wrestled his demons. Barba was admitted to rehab and has since been released, returned to training, and has now been named in their Round 4 side to take on the Rabbitohs, months before most expected.

Don’t get me wrong, this is great news. Ben is a young athlete who needs help, much like Todd and Josh. This help recommended that he “return to his day to day life and that obviously includes his commitment to football,” announced Greenberg, although not all experts agree.

It is, in fact, rather ironic that the Easter long weekend would bring about his resurrection in the NRL. So, where is the link with Dugan and Carney?

When Todd Greenberg, Bulldogs CEO, announced that Ben Barba was being stood down, it was clear that Ben’s actions warranted termination of his contract but the club had decided that would be “taking the easy way out.”

So, what indiscretion was committed that was so serious that it almost saw the sacking of the NRL poster boy and last year’s Dally M Player of the Year, but not so serious that it would require any more than 3 weeks on the sideline? Would a player of any less talent be afforded the same forgiveness?

What are your thoughts? Should players of varying talent be treated equally? Should the NRL have a league-wide player code of conduct or is it fine to leave these policies to individual clubs?

Sandercock delighted with win over local rivals Hull FC

Craig Hall

Getting one up on your local rivals is always an added bonus, but when you play particularly well and have the coach singing the team’s praises as a result, you know you have done well – with Hull KR coach Craig Sandercock pleased with his side winning despite Michael Dobson not starting and Travis Burns going off injured.

“It was a pretty special performance today,” said Sandercock.

“To come through a lot of adversity like that is very pleasing.

“Michael trained really well all week and he was fine but, at the end of training yesterday, he pulled up with that hamstring. Things were going well and then he pulled up, but it was good to get a win without Michael Dobson.

“Obviously, Michael won’t be playing on Monday (against Wigan), and we’ll have to assess him during the week. Travis hurt his shoulder and he doesn’t look too good for Monday either. Again, we’ll have to assess the damage.”

It was Craig Hall who stepped into the halves in the absence of the above duo, and Sandercock thought he handled himself extremely well.

“Craig Hall did very well today, as did 16 of his other mates. For Craig to jump in there without having trained in the halves all week and put in a performance like that, it’s pleasing,” said Sandercock.

Without key player Andy Lynch, Hull FC coach Peter Gentle said his side just lacked direction and execution and that errors let his side down massively.

“I got the wake-up call from Lynchy saying he had been vomiting all night. He wasn’t able to play, so the day didn’t start well,” said Gentle.

“Today we just had no direction whatsoever. We lacked experience and we tried to simplify as much as we could to get through, but we’ve got no halves in the club available at the moment to steer us around.

“There were a lot of errors today that were unforced and it was extremely disappointing, we just can’t find our way around the park at the moment.

“We’ve got Wakefield on Monday and we had better come up with some answers pretty quickly.

“We’re struggling, our execution let us down today. We’ve been looking for over 12 months (for a scrum-half) and it’s proving very difficult. Our eyes and ears are always open.”

Pat Richards the stand out as Wigan record Good Friday win over St Helens

Pat Richards

Both Parramatta Eels and Wests Tigers fans will remember him well, with Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane heaping a ton of praise onto the former NRL winger now in the ESL, as Wane thought the winger was his side’s best player in a 24-16 Good Friday win over St Helens.

Richards scored a double and kicked 4 goals to finish with 16 points for the game, with the praise flying through for the Australian winger post-game.

“I thought Pat Richards was far and away our best player. He’s been consistently fantastic for us this year.

“He’s in our leadership group and leads the team well. The way he played today was really impressive.”

Another player who received praise from Wane, was young prop Dom Crosby, who scored a try and will only get better as time goes on according to Wane.

“He’s a good kid and he’s only going to get better,” said Wane. “He’s a baby and, in three or four years’ time, we will see him at his best.”

There was some disappointment for Wane, however, as he thought his side should have led by more than 18 points, believing his side should have been more clinical.

“The 18 points didn’t register in my head,” he said.

“I wasn’t happy at half-time, we should have been a lot more clinical with our finishing.
“I said at half-time ‘it’s nil apiece’, because they were never going to be dead and buried.

“We showed a lot of character but we were far from at our best. We made too many errors.

“Credit to St Helens, they had a few missing, like us. Both teams were busted.”

St Helens Australian coach Nathan Brown had mixed feelings, praising his side’s commitment and effort, but he was left disappointed by some of their defensive efforts.

“The effort and commitment was terrific but we let ourselves down with our defence, especially in the first 15 or 20 minutes.

“I thought offensively we stretched them plenty in the second half but the most disappointing aspect was our defensive performance.

“But it was an enjoyable occasion and I was pleased with the way we handled some adversity.

“We had a lot of men in key positions not playing and we lost a few players to injury during the game.”

Interim Salford coach praises his side’s fortitude in narrow win over Huddersfield

Marc Sneyd

In some games, teams and players have to dig deep in some regard to win, and for Salford’s interim coach Alan Hunte, he believes his side did just that – praising his side’s resolve and resilience in a nail-biting 21-20 win over Huddersfield.

At one stage, the Giants seemed destined for victory and headed back to first on the table as they were leading 20-10, but it was a late Salford comeback led by Marc Sneyd who also kicked the winning field goal, that gave Salford the win.

“Huddersfield threw everything at us and I was worried when they scored two quick tries to make it 20-20,” said Hunte.

“That was a turning point because in the past we would have been dejected but we showed a lot of resilience and stayed in the game.

“We got in an arm wrestle and deserved the win.

“The players needed a confidence boost because they are not as bad as some people have been telling them.

“Some of the criticism may have been justified but the guys have done a lot of soul searching in the last month and our job is to prove the critics wrong.”

The loss now means that the Giants have lost their last two games having lost last week to Warrington, but coach Paul Anderson says he has no complaints about the loss.

“In life you get what you deserve and we came up against an enthusiastic and energetic team,” he said.

“We looked like we had never been on a field together at times but credit to Salford they did not give us anything.

“I am disappointed all round defensively and offensively although Eorl Crabtree was very good.

“It’s easy for an ambitious team like us to play the Wigans and Warringtons but we need a similar attitude against the Salfords and obviously our attitude was not right.”

Determined Brisbane effort not enough as Storm hold on to win in a nail-biter

Cooper Cronk

The news before the game was not great for the Brisbane Broncos as centre Justin Hodges was ruled out just before the game, but that did not stop the Broncos from putting in a steely effort, one that pushed the competition front-runners in the Melbourne Storm all the way.

Pushing the Storm all the way did not look likely early on, as the Victorian side burst out to a 20-6 lead, before a second-half revival saw the Broncos take the lead at one stage, only for the dogged Storm to find a way back into the contest to end up winners, taking the game 32-26.

It was their young players who were stepping up when it mattered, with the likes of Corey Norman, Josh Hoffman and Jack Reed all playing crucial roles to get Brisbane back in the game and into the lead late on.

The only sour note for Brisbane, was losing forward David Stagg to a knee injury, with the forward having to be helped off by trainers.

Not even coach Sam Thaiday knows what was said at half-time, but whatever it was, it worked for a while, but Thaiday knows his side fell just short with it all.

“I don’t know what was said at halftime but we came out with a different attitude and ready to play,” Thaiday said.

“We got a jump on them but we just couldn’t go on with it.”

For the Storm, with Craig Bellamy at the helm and regarded as one of the game’s best coaches, he could see the Broncos fightback coming, but admits that he was not expecting his side to concede 26 points.

“They are a very proud club. We knew it was going to be a dog fight,” he said.

“Still, we are not used to having 26 points scored against us. It was a bit disappointing to lose our grip on the game like we did.

“I never felt comfortable at halftime. Some things we weren’t doing in defence and it snowballed in the second half.”

Storm captain Cameron Smith knows exactly what Brisbane set out to do, and that was to prove a point.

“We came up against a team out to prove a point,” said Smith.

3. Cooper Cronk
2. Cameron Smith
1. Josh Hoffman