The interviews continue, as we had a chat with Luke Dorn about life, footy, a re-energising English stint and life after the game.
Here are his answers, we hope you enjoy them:
1. What is your earliest memory of rugby league? My earliest memory was watching the 89 grand final. My grandfather was a Balmain supporter which made me one. I cried when they lost. I was only 7.
2. You played for the Northern Eagles and the Manly Sea Eagles; what do you remember of your debut game and your time at the club?
My debut was a blur. I remember being back in the sheds with guys like Geoff Toovey and Mark Carroll thinking, “wow, this is amazing.”
And to play with guys like Steve Menzies and Nik Kosef was incredible.
My first touch was a kick and Luke Ricketson absolutely hammered me after the kick but I bounced up with adrenaline.
We got a penalty and ended up winning the game. It was a great start to my career.
I loved my time at the Eagles. Some of my best friends are from that time.
We were very close and the senior players looked after us so well.
I wasn’t there for very long, however, I have a great love for the club still.
3. You made the shift to England and enjoyed success with the London Broncos; what prompted your move to the club? I was playing reserve grade at the Roosters when the call came. I had a group of friends just move to London to travel and live.
London didn’t give me long to decide, so I just went for it. It seemed an incredible opportunity to get paid to play footy in London, so I grabbed it.
I had to pack up and leave in a few weeks. Again, I had a great time in London.
Very much like Melbourne in Australia, you are all from other parts of the world and countries, and you just become such a close family.
We made the playoffs in my first year which was great. It was a wonderful time in my life.
London will always have a special part of me. My eldest daughter Roxy was born there.
I proposed to my wife there also.
4. How different did you find the Super League compared to the NRL? To be honest, I didn’t notice a great difference when I was there. If anything, it was more an open style but the difference between the top teams and bottom teams was the biggest difference overall.
St Helens, Bradford, Leeds and Wigan were all incredible teams full of internationals.
It was always a big task to match them.
5. Your final years of professional rugby league came with the Castleford Tigers where you made the Challenge Cup final; what was it like to play at the Wembley Stadium? I am going to sound like a broken record, but Castleford was a brilliant time for me. I loved playing there.
The ground is so old and atmospheric. The people are incredibly passionate and loyal and they made me feel very welcome.
I think it was also where I played my best footy.
Daryl Powell had a style that suited me and some great players were added in. I guess it comes with being older and wiser and learning the game better.
Playing at Wembley was easily the best football experience I had.
Such an iconic ground for rugby league and for sport in general. Thinking about walking out still gives me chills.
However, we didn’t play very well and lost. But that doesn’t take away from good of an experience it was.
6. Post-footy, what are you up to now and do you still have an active interest as a fan? I am the coach of the mighty Maitland Pumpkin Pickers. I always wanted to come back and contribute to my area where it all started.
And I am glad that I did. Coaching has been great fun. I played the first two years which was great fun.
I actually took my daughter to the Knights game against the Roosters recently, which was the first game I have watched live as a fan since I was probably 16.
It was nice to just watch and enjoy the game. I must admit, the atmosphere made me miss it a little bit.
I head up the corporate division for a company called Minetek. We supply mining equipment such as underground fans.
There is a bit of travel involved with is good fun. I very much enjoy the role as it is primarily about building relationships.
7. If you could give advice to any budding rugby league player, what would it be? Work as hard as you can, be patient, and take all of your opportunities.
You never know where they will take you.
If you work hard and have a great attitude to learning and development, you can end up anywhere.
The Melbourne Storm took to AAMI Park looking to break a rare losing streak and secure equal first place while Parramatta Eels were looking to continue a rare winning streak and avoid the wooden spoon.
The game went much more in the way of the home side as they rattled the bottom ladder team to secure a 20-4 win despite an injury to captain Cameron Smith.
Melbourne were out to prove their dominance early in the game with 4 repeat sets forcing Parramatta to defend strong early on.
Will Chambers finally broke the Parramatta defense after beating George Jennings for the retrieval of a floating kick to score Melbourne’s first points.
The two teams fought hard for the remainder of the half, however, Parramatta’s lack of discipline secured a handy 10-point lead for the Storm with Smith kicking two penalty goals.
With 10 minutes to go in the half, Cameron Smith left the field with a back injury after an awkward tackle from Parramatta enforcer Nathan Brown.
The injury was deemed severe enough to keep Smith out for the remainder of the game and cement concern amongst the fans.
Parramatta came out firing in the second half, however, Melbourne’s defensive pressure managed to hold them out despite multiple repeat sets.
The visitors were granted a prime opportunity when Cameron Munster was sin binned, although they were unable to capitalise on this advantage.
With a player in the bin and their captain in the sheds, the Storm dug deep and found their next points through Nelson Asofa-Solomona who steamrolled over multiple Eels defenders to get the ball down.
Parramatta’s lack of composure and defensive pressure from the Storm kept them scoreless and obviously rattled.
The Storm strengthened their lead with a try to Curtis Scott who took on a tired, disheartened Parramatta defensive line.
The home team were unable to keep the boys in blue and gold pointless however with Clinton Gutherson showing incredible acrobatic skills to put a Brad Takairangi ball down in the corner.
A late no try to Mitchell Moses kept Parramatta’s final tally at 4 and the Melbourne Storm equal first.
Eels coach Brad Arthur did not mince words. A lack of execution is what cost his side.
“We created some opportunities that we didn’t take – you can’t do that against close to the top side in the competition,” he said.
“We were our own worst enemy.
“We needed more patience at the try line.
“We don’t need to score off every play.
We needed to be more patient and build some pressure on the try line.”
The big talking point will be the Cameron Smith injury, though there was some positive news with it, for it could just be back spasms.
“Cameron [Smith] just had a spasm in joints in his back which he’s had before,” Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.
“I don’t know if there will be X-rays or anti-inflammatories.
I don’t think it’s anything too serious but how serious is, I don’t know, especially with backs.”
Trent Robinson came into action for the Sydney Roosters 5 years ago in 2013. Since then, each season seems to have gone along the same path – aside from the 2016 season which many are still scratching their heads over.
In his debut season as coach for the tri coloured boys from Bondi, Robinson found himself with the minor premiership crown.
This accomplishment however, came very unexpected for many particularly the South Sydney Rabbitohs. This was a season in which the Rabbitohs dominated for a large portion of the season. They enjoyed a glorious 12 weeks on top of the ladder before the Roosters took over at the tail end of the season. From there, the most entertaining cat and mouse chase came alive as the two fought for the minor premiership. Eventually, with an incredibly point differential of +315 the Roosters were crowned minor premiers.
Four weeks later, they were holding the trophy high and mighty in front of a sold out ANZ stadium. Not a bad start for the new boy in town.
2014 came along and fans were feeling déjà vu.
The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles were sitting nice and pretty on the top of the ladder for 10 weeks from round 15 onwards. They had one week where the Panthers took over due to point differential but the moment passed very quickly and the Sea Eagles enjoyed 8 weeks on top of the ladder looking like sure minor premiers.
They lost in round 26. The Roosters did not.
By point differential, the Roosters took home the minor premiership and finished the season in the preliminary finals after falling short to the Rabbitohs who went on to win the whole thing.
2015. Same deal.
The Brisbane Broncos led the competition for 11 weeks, until round 24 when the Roosters took over and won the minor premiership.
2016 is the dark year for Coach Robinson. A year that he definitely does not want to remember and would very happily bury it dead. Let’s call this year the exception to the rule.
2017 was dominated by the Melbourne Storm in every single way. They seemed to have won the premiership back in round 3 however, the Sydney Roosters still gave them a good run for their money. Recovering from a year from hell, Robinson kicked his team into action however the trend still followed. The run home didn’t fully take place until the tail end of the season.
Whether it’s the impact that State of Origin has on the competition or something else, I don’t know. History does not lie however.
Under the guidance of Trent Robinson, the Sydney Roosters have not been a long running, dominating team in the NRL.
They are not a poor team by any means.
They are a team however, that peaks late. They peak when it well and truly matters.
Can history repeat itself this year? With the way Cooper Cronk, James Tedesco, Luke Keary, Latrell Mitchell, Victor Radley etc etc are firing? Yes. It definitely can.
Reflecting on the past 5 years I find it incredibly fitting that the Sydney Roosters have an extremely high chance of winning the minor premiership and the NRL premiership come September.
A team regarded by many as their second favourite, the North Queensland Cowboys captured their elusive premiership in 2015 and are on the hunt for another. With virtually the same team at their disposal yet again, you can bet your house that they will challenge for the title once again. That task is always made more comforting when you have the world’s best half in Johnathan Thurston at your disposal.
As for their team, as mentioned above, there has been little change. The one major change, however, and a big talking point among the fans is the prop rotation. With the departure of James Tamou, a spot has opened up on the bench for a talented Cowboys youngster to cement it, make an impression and convince Paul Green that they are the man for the job. Whilst it looks likely that Scott Bolton will move into the now vacant starting role, the battle for the last couple of bench spots heats up.
Last year, John Asiata and Patrick Kaufusi were both in and out of first-grade and it is expected that they will be the two that battle it out for the vacant spot. Both hard running forwards in their own right, they have a big task ahead of them to fill the shoes of the impact off the bench that was Bolton. Not beyond them, the pre-season trials will be indicative of just how well accustomed they will be to making the next step. A smokey for the spot and one that is perhaps less talked about than the aforementioned to is Sam Hoare. A talented forward in his own right, his opportunities have been somewhat limited but not due to ability, rather injury. Fully fit, he now has the chance to make a claim of his own, as the Cowboys so desperately search for an impact forward.
Without question, the biggest talking point out of the Cowboys camp and among their fans and NRL fans in general is, what will the club do with Kalyn Ponga in season 2017? The NRL world knows that he is off to the Knights in 2018 but what to do in the meantime is the thought on everyone’s mind. His talent has been on display since he made his NRL debut in the back end of the finals series last year and again during the recent NRL Auckland Nines tournament. However, with Ponga stating that he is not expecting to start Rd 1 and coach Paul Green saying that Ponga will not be starting, just how much of the talented rookie will we see in season 2017?
Is it worth the Cowboys playing him and helping him to gain the match fitness and the game time, knowing full well that in 2018, he will no longer be with the club? With their side full of experience and set in stone, fans may want Ponga in the team regardless but at present, you would have to imagine that he will only play if there are injuries or suspensions.
With a team like the Cowboys, much of their chances for premiership success hinge on the success, form and consistency of star playmaker Johnathan Thurston. However, much like the success of their 2015 premiership win, they have the right amount of balance to make a serious tilt at the title once again.
We saw that determination through the likes of Jason Taumalolo, who enjoyed a career-best season last year that saw him as the joint winner of the Dally M Award and the Lock of the Year.
His form will have to be much the same and the others will have to step up and play their role if the Cowboys are to emulate their 2015 success.
Best Buy: The Cowboys have not recruited too many new players but the one standout as best buy on their list is Ben Hampton. A genuine utility, Hampton is a nifty, crafty player that had flashes of brilliance to produce good form. With a bench utility spot for grabs, it is a chance for Hampton to gain some consistent form and cement a spot in the side for the majority of the season. That seems a mere formality if the reported sides are to be believed but the selections come Rd 1 will be the ultimate factor, once Paul Green decides on the precise make-up of his squad.
Best Emerging Talent: To date, we have only seen him at Nines games and trials but it is just a matter of time before Gideon Gela-Mosby makes an NRL debut. A quick, pacey winger, aptly referred to as GGM, many Cowboys fans see him as the club’s future on the wing. A gifted player, he make the most of the opportunities he does get, illustrating his desire and love for the game and for the Cowboys club to try and earn that spot. Whilst the winger spots at the Cowboys are set in stone at present, should an injury arise, he may well be first cab off the rank in light of Ponga’s departure next season. He has been highly rated by Cowboys fans for the last few seasons, ever since he broke the Holden Cup record for most tries in a season.
2016 gains: Ben Hampton, Shane Wright & Corey Jensen.
Our predicted Cowboys line-up at full strength:
Johnathan Thurston (C)
Matt Scott (C)
14. Ben Hampton
15. Coen Hess
16. Patrick Kaufusi
17. John Asiata