Roosters grant Copley immediate release to join Titans

Dale Copley

Finding himself down the pecking order in 2017, a chance has come up for Dale Copley to play regular first-grade once more at the Gold Coast Titans.

With the Titans facing an injury crisis in their back-line at present, they came to an agreement to have Dale Copley released from his current Roosters contract to sign one with them for the remainder of 2017 and the 2018 season.

“Dale is a terrific person, and we appreciate the contribution he has made to our Club over his time with us, however, we have provided this release with the view that it is in his best interests to secure his long-term future,” said Roosters CEO, John Lee.

“On behalf of everyone associated with the Roosters, we wish Dale all the very best in his career moving forward,” he added.

Since making his debut, Copley has appeared in 86 NRL games – most of which came for the Brisbane Broncos – as coach Neil Henry admits Copley is a player the club had their eye on.

“We’ve been in discussions with Dale for a while and it’s great that we’ve been able to come to an agreement that will see him available for the club this week,” Henry said.

“It’s no secret that we have a large contingent of players on the injured list and the fact we’ve been able to get the deal done with Dale is a good result for us.

With the chance to sign him, the Titans acted swiftly and believe he can add a lot to the team moving forward.

“Dale is certainly not just a short-term fix,” Henry continued.

“He is an established NRL player and someone that we believe will add a lot to our playing group both on and off the field.”

The injury-hit Titans needed someone to come in as cover and to potentially play and CEO Graham Annesley was pleased the two clubs could to an agreement.

“Whilst the negotiations have taken some time to complete, it could not have come at a better time given our current injury list,” Annesley said.

“Dale is another Queenslander who is returning to live and play in his home state, and hopefully he will reach the milestone of his 100th NRL game during his time with the Titans. We are thrilled to welcome him to our club,” Annesley added.

Broncos fan favourite signs new long-term deal

Andrew McCullough

It was just a matter of time before the Brisbane Broncos sought to re-sign fan favourite Andrew McCullough and they have done so, with club and player agreeing to a new 4-year deal.

Already a part of the club’s leadership group and touted as a potential future captain, McCullough has become a mainstay of the Broncos side over the last 4-5 seasons and has never looked back.

In the end, it was an easy decision for both he and his fiancee to make.

“It is exciting,” said McCullough.

“To be here another four years and to have that security for myself and my fiancée is really good, and something that doesn’t happen often in rugby league.

“But I am very grateful for it.”

The Broncos place important emphasis on retaining their crucial players and Broncos CEO Paul White places McCullough in that category.

“Andrew has been with us since his early teens so to have him re-sign for another four years is wonderful news for the club,” said White.

“His new deal comes on the back of the recent signings of Josh McGuire and Corey Oates, who are all young guys who have been with us since their start and are now re-committing to the club.

“We see these guys as the next crop of leaders of the Broncos, so to have those players committing to new deals underlines the great stability of the club as a whole.”

NRL Teams Rd 3

After 2 rds, not many would have foreseen that the Eels would be on top of the ladder and the Raiders at the bottom but it is only 2 rds, so anything can happen. With some teams eager to get a first win and others keen to cement their current form, just what does the week have in store. 

As usual, here are the teams for Rd 3 of the NRL Telstra Premiership:

Melbourne Storm v Brisbane Broncos (#NRLmelbri); AAMI Park, Melbourne; Thursday March 16. Kick-off: 8:05pm.

Storm: 1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Cheyse Blair 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cam Munster 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Tim Glasby 9. Cameron Smith (C) 10. Jordan McLean 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenny Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane.

Interchange: 14. Christian Welch 15. Joe Stimson 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 17. Vincent Leuluai 18. Mark Nicholls 19. Young Tonumaipea 20. Ryley Jacks 21. Jesse Bromwich.

Coach: Craig Bellamy.

Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd (C) 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Tautau Moga 5. Jordan Kahu 6. Anthony Milford 7. Ben Hunt 8. Korbin Sims 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Adam Blair 11. Sam Thaiday 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh McGuire.

Interchange: 14. Alex Glenn 15. Tevita Pangai Jr. 16. Herman Ese’ese 17. Jai Arrow 18. Benji Marshall 19. George Fai 20. David Mead 21. Jonas Pearson.

Coach: Wayne Bennett.

Canterbury Bulldogs v New Zealand Warriors (#NRLcbywar); Forsyth Barr Stadium, Wellington; Friday March 17. Kick-off: 6pm (AEDT).

Bulldogs: 1. Brad Abbey 2. Brett Morris 3. Josh Morris 4. Brenko Lee 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Moses Mbye 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. James Graham (C) 11. Josh Jackson 12. Greg Eastwood 13. David Klemmer.

Interchange: 14. Sam Kasiano 15. Danny Fualalo 16. Adam Elliott 17. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 19. Craig Garvey 20. Matt Frawley 21. Francis Tualau 23. Reimis Smith.

Coach: Des Hasler.

Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. Ken Maumalo 3. Solomone Kata 4. David Fusitu’a 5. Manu Vatuvei 6. Ata Hingano 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Albert Vete 9. Issac Luke 10. Jacob Lillyman 11. Bodene Thompson 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Simon Mannering.

Interchange: 14. Erin Clark 15. Sam Lisone 16. Charlie Gubb 17. Bunty Afoa 18. Blake Ayshford 20. James Gavet 21. Tuimoala Lolohea 22. Mason Lino.

Coach: Stephen Kearney.

Gold Coast Titans v Parramatta Eels (#NRLgldpar); Cbus Super Stadium, Robina; Friday March 17. Kick-off: 8:05pm (AEDT).

Titans: 1. Tyler Cornish 2. Tyronne Roberts-Davis 3. Dan Sarginson 4. Konrad Hurrell 5. Will Zillman 6. Kane Elgey 7. Ash Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Tyrone Roberts 10. Ryan James (C) 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Chris McQueen 13. Agnatius Paasi.

Interchange: 14. Ryan Simpkins 15. Nathaniel Peteru 16. Leivaha Pulu 17. Joe Greenwood 18. Paterkia Vaivai 19. Max King 20. Eddy Pettybourne 21. Karl Lawton.

Coach: Neil Henry.

Eels: 1. Bevan French 2. Semi Radradra 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Josh Hoffman 6. Clint Gutherson 7. Jeff Robson 8. Suaia Matagi 9. Kaysa Pritchard 10. Tim Mannah (C) 11. Manu Ma’u 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Beau Scott (C).

Interchange: 14. Nathan Brown 15. Daniel Alvaro 16. Rory O’Brien 17. Frank Pritchard 18. David Gower 19. Marata Niukore 20. Kirisome Auva’a 21. Siosaia Vave.

Coach: Brad Arthur.

Newcastle Knights v South Sydney Rabbitohs (#NRLnewsou); McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle; Saturday March 18. Kick-off: 4:30 pm. 

Knights: 1. Brendan Elliott 2. Ken Sio 3. Dane Gagai 4. Peter Mata’utia 5. Nathan Ross 6. Brock Lamb 7. Trent Hodkinson (C) 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Danny Levi 10. Josh Starling 11. Sione Mata’utia 12. Jamie Buhrer 13. Mitch Barnett.

Interchange: 14. Luke Yates 15. Jack Stockwell 16. Sam Stone 17. Jacob Saifiti 18. Jacob Gagan 19. Joe Wardle 20. Josh King 21. Anthony Tupou.

Coach: Nathan Brown.

Souths: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Braidon Burns 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Robert Jenninsg 5. Bryson Goodwin 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Zane Musgrove 9. Robbie Farah 10. Jason Clark 11. John Sutton 12. Kyle Turner 13. Sam Burgess (C).

Interchange: 14. Damien Cook 15. Angus Crichton 16. Robbie Rochow 17. George Burgess 18. Siosifa Talakai 19. Anthony Cherrington 20. Cameron Murray 21. Thomas Burgess.

Coach: Michael Maguire.

Penrith Panthers v Sydney Roosters (#NRLpensyd); Pepper Stadium, Penrith; Saturday March 18. Kick-off: 7pm. 

Panthers: 1. Matt Moylan (C) 2. Dean Whare 3. Waqa Blake 4. Tyrone Peachey 5. Dylan Edwards 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Peter Wallace 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 11. Bryce Cartwright 12. Isaah Yeo 13. Trent Merrin.

Interchange: 14. James Fisher-Harris 15. Leilani Latu 16. Viliame Kikau 17. Sitaleki Akauola 18. Moses Leota 19. Tim Browne 19. Peta Hiku 20. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

Coach: Anthony Griffin.

Roosters: 1. Michael Gordon 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Luke Keary 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Dylan Napa 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Mitch Aubusson 13. Aidan Guerra.

Interchange: 14. Isaac Liu 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Ryan Matterson 17. Connor Watson 18. Chris Smith 19. Paul Carter 20. Lindsay Collins 22. Mitch Cornish.

Coach: Trent Robinson.

North Queensland Cowboys v Manly Sea Eagles (#NRLnqlman); 1300 Smiles Stadium, Townsville; Saturday March 18. Kick-off: 9pm (AEDT).

Cowboys: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Kane Linnett 5. Javid Bowen 6. Michael Morgan 7. Johnathan Thurston (C) 8. Patrick Kaufusi 9. Jake Granville 10. Scott Bolton 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Jason Taumalolo.

Interchange: 14. Ben Hampton 15. John Asiata 16. Coen Hess 17. Sam Hoare 18. Shaun Fensom 19. Gideon Gela-Mosby 20. Corey Jensen 21. Ben Spina.

Coach: Paul Green.

Manly: 1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Dylan Walker 4. Brian Kelly 5. Akuila Uate 6. Blake Green 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (C) 8. Brenton Lawrence 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Nate Myles 11. Frank Winterstein 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic.

Interchange: 14. Cameron Cullen 15. Lewis Brown 16. Jarrad Kennedy 17. Shaun Lane 18. Jonathan Wright 19. Jackson Hastings 20. Matthew Wright 21. Billy Bainbridge.

Coach: Trent Barrett.

Canberra Raiders v Wests Tigers (#NRLcanwst); GIO Stadium, Canberra; Sunday March 19. Kick-off: 4pm.

Raiders1. Jack Wighton 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker (C) 4. Joey Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Blake Austin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Junior Paulo 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Josh Papalii 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Luke Bateman.

Interchange: 14. Adam Clydsdale 15. Iosia Soliola 16. Clay Priest 17. David Taylor 18. Jordan Turner 19. Dunamis Lui 20. Jeff Lima 21. Scott Sorenson.

Tigers: 1. James Tedesco 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Kevin Naiqama 4. Michael Chee-Kam 5. Moses Suli 6. Mitch Moses 7. Luke Brooks 8. Aaron Woods (C) 9. Matt McIlwrick 10. Ava Seumanufagai 11. Sauaso Sue 12. Chris Lawrence 13. Elijah Taylor.

Interchange: 14. Tim Grant 15. Josh Aloiai 16. Joel Edwards 17. Jack Littlejohn 18. Junior Tatola 19. Justin Hunt 20. Kyle Lovett 21. Matt Ballin.

Coach: Jason Taylor.

Cronulla Sharks v St George Illawarra Dragons (#NRLcrosgi); Southern Cross Group Stadium, Cronulla; Sunday March 19. Kick-off : 6:30pm.

Sharks: 1. Jack Bird 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Kurt Capewell 4. RIcky Leutele 5. Edrick Lee 6. James Maloney 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Luke Lewis 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen (C).

Interchange: 14. Jayson Bukuya 15. Chris Heighington 16. Jeremy Latimore 17. Joseph Paulo 18. Tony Williams 19. Valentine Holmes 20.  Fa’amanu Brown 21. Gerard Beale.

Coach: Shane Flanagan.

Dragons: 1. Josh Dugan 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Euan Aitken 4. Tim Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop (C) 7. Josh McCrone 8. Russell Packer 9. Cam McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Joel Thompson 13. Jack de Belin.

Interchange: 14. Tariq Sims 15. Leeson Ah Mau 16. Jacob Host 18. Kurt Mann 19. Jai Field 20. Taane Milne 21. Luciano Leilua 22. Hame Sele.

Coach: Paul McGregor.


Dragons fan favourite and enforcer signs new deal

Jack de Belin

Taking up the mantle of the lock position in light of some departures, Jack de Belin has enjoyed a sound start to his 2017 season and in a move that will have the fans cheering, he has re-signed for a further three seasons.

A Cootamundra Bulldogs junior, De Belin made his debut in 2011 and has so far played in 108 NRL games, a tally that will continue to rise over the next few years.

2016 saw him make his representative debut with the Country Origin side as well as taking out the Dragons Immortals Trophy.

In the end, it was an easy decision for de Belin.

“I’m stoked to be staying at the club. I’ve always seen myself staying here,” de Belin said.

“It’s the only club I’ve ever been at and I love it here. I love the direction we’re going in so it was an easy decision for me.

“I feel I have a lot of potential that I haven’t tapped into yet.”

Knowing how crucial and valuable he is to the side, the club are equally pleased to have retained the lock forward.

“With Jack, he’s come through our junior setup and been at the club for a long period of time, and he’s really blossomed as a player,” said Dragons Director of Rugby League Pathways, Ian Millward.

“He’s one of the fittest at the club and it’s not very often you get players like him to play 80 minutes and be as lethal in defence as he is.

“His better years are ahead of him.”

Ricky’s Team of the Week Rd 2

Cody Walker

Back again for another week with our team of the week put together by key contributor Ricky. It was a round of upsets, strong performances and interesting games but just who cut the mustard to make it this week in our top team.

Once again, as we will do every week with this, we stress that our selections are based on the respective points that we give out to the respective players after each individual game.

  1. Tom Trbojevic – Ater a quiet Rd 1 game, Trbojevic came to the fore with a strong performance for his Manly side despite their Rd 2 loss. The tall, lanky fullback has the potential to become an elite player and Manly fans will be hoping that is just the case.

2. Nathan Ross – A fan favourite at the Knights, Ross is a key figure in their solid start to 2017. He loves scoring tries and the club’s Rd 2 win over the Titans was no different. He works hard, plays hard and is loved and revered by fans, the club and his team-mates.

3. Tyrone Peachey – Not traditionally a centre, Peachey has made the position his own and he produced a stellar performance in the position in a comfortable win over the Tigers. Whether it was making metres, breaking tackles or making line-breaks, he was doing it all.

4. Cameron Munster – Thrust into the vacant fullback role in the absence of Billy Slater, Munster has taken the role in his stride and performed brilliantly. Rd 2 was no exception as his crafty play and link-up from the back echoed the very same effect of Slater in back-line movements.

5. Semi Radradra – Although the weight of his pending court case might be on his mind, Semi did not show it at all. He scored a remarkable four tries in the club’s romp of the Dragons and seemed to be enjoying his footy again.

6. Cody Walker – Needing someone to step up in the absence of Inglis who is out for the season, it was a masterclass by Walker playing at 5/8 who was the catalyst behind Souths impressive win. One of the craftiest players you will see, his running game is perhaps the most impressive aspect to his game.

7. Corey Norman – With big expectations to meet – both set by himself and the outside rugby league landscape – Norman has started the season impressively with two tremendous displays. The focal point of the Eels attack, he is leading from the front and taking it upon himself to guide the side.

8. Viliame Kikau – Better late than never to make a debut but Kikau was just as impressive as everyone knew he would be. A hard-runner, a spirited player and a committed worker, Kikau’s efforts will not have gone unnoticed.

9. Jayden Brailey – With much hype surrounding his entry into first-grade, Brailey has not disappointed to date. Size is no issue as he puts his body on the line in defence, trying to emulate the success of Michael Ennis in the role. Scoring a debut try was a handy sweetener for him.

10. Jack Stockwell – A surprise packet of the Knights side and the NRL in general, Stockwell is producing the form that many believed he was capable of during his Dragons days. The fact he comes off the bench to achieve such good form is even more impressive.

11. Boyd Cordner – One of the game’s elite back-rowers, Cordner’s play on the edge has always been remarkable and as the Roosters find their mojo, there will only be more opportunities for him to excel. One of the best line-runners you will see on the edge, Cordner thrusts himself into his work and comes out on top.

12. Wade Graham – A rare hat-trick for Graham this week and a much deserved one. Biding his time patiently for Origin duties, he is a quality player in his own right on the flanks and is the man touted for future captaincy honours once Paul Gallen retires.

13. Jason Taumalolo – Without question, he is the man of the moment right now. Amassing more than 500m in just two games, there is seemingly no-one that can stop Taumalolo in his tracks. A hulking figure in the Cowboys pack, he leads from the front and sets the tone.

14. Coen Hess – The young buck of the Cowboys go-forward has so much promise and looks the goods to reach the promised land. With more opportunity likely to come now after some injuries, he is the sort of player that you would expect to make the most of it.

15. Brock Lamb – One of the under-rated figures in some ways at the Knights club, the young half has performed well in the opening two rounds since being thrust into the 5/8 role after Mullen’s departure due to drug issues. Linking well with Hodkinson, the two are forming a nice combination.

16. Brenko Lee – Yet another surprise packet to start the season. Not many thought he would start in the centres for the Bulldogs this year but he has grabbed the opportunity with both hands with nice touches and nice plays.

17. Suaia Matagi – An early contender in the eyes of some for buy of the year, Matagi runs as hard as a mack truck on every carry, a trait that Eels fans have been crying out for. Complementing the other Eels forwards well, Matagi runs hard and hits just as hard as well.

Player of the Round: Cody Walker

Storm back-row duo re-sign at the club

Kenny Bromwich

The man tasked with cementing a back-row spot in Kenny Bromwich and the budding back-rower looking to crack first-grade regularly in Joe Stimson have both have re-signed with the Storm.

Bromwich re-signs for three seasons and Stimson for two, with both playing a crucial role at the club moving forward in different ways.

Both players are products of the club’s U20’s graduate system having come through the ranks.

For Bromwich in particular, 2017 is a breakout season on the back of continued form, a Kiwi berth and now a long-term spot in the club’s back-row stocks.

As a club, they are pleased to re-sign the duo, well aware of the importance of both within their team structure.

“Kenny and Joe are important players for the Melbourne Storm moving forward,” said the Storm’s Director of Football, Frank Ponissi.

“Kenny is an emerging leader with our Club and the past 12 months have proven how integral he is to this team.

“It was exciting for everyone at the Club to see Joe make his debut on Friday night, he is a terrific young man and it’s been pleasing to see his development through our system from the Thunderbolts to first-grade.”

Re-signing their key players is something the Storm actively hope to achieve and with the loss of Tohu Harris next year, it makes these two re-signings crucial.

“To have both players commit to staying with us should give everyone associated with our Club great confidence about where we are placed for the future,” added Ponissi.

“We look forward to seeing them continue to develop their game and pushing themselves to take the next step in their careers.”

Joe Stimson

Eels move to the top of the ladder with impressive victory over Dragons

Corey Norman

Parramatta Eels fans are pleased to see their side performing so well but they were perhaps not expecting them to look so clinical so early in the season. 

Flying high at the moment, the Eels 34-16 win over the St George Illawarra Dragons in Wollongong has the club sitting at the top of a ladder, a tremendous feat given the apocalyptic season that was 2016.

It all went wrong at the very start for the Dragons when Russell Packer knocked on off the first carry and the Eels scored through Clint Gutherson after just 38 seconds.

After an impressive Rd 1 performance that saw them dismantle the Penrith Panthers, it was a stark opposite for the Dragons, who were outplayed and outdone.

Their poor errors, poor decision making and overall lack of gameplay proved their downfall as the Eels ran rampant with Semi Radradra scoring four tries.

In a rarity for the Eels – and a surprise to many – the combination of Jennings is linking with Semi with the centre passing the ball to set up opportunities on numerous occasions.

In the end, the Dragons were left bamboozled and hoodwinked by the clinical nature of the Eels attack and simply had no answer. Dragons fans will be hopeful it does not lead to a downslide for them.

It was another impressive performance from Eels half Corey Norman who took out man-of-the-match honours and drawing praise from coach Brad Arthur.

“He is growing,” Arthur said.

“He still hasn’t hit his straps.

“But I think on the back of what our forwards are providing for him at the moment he is getting the ball in good situations but he is just showing a real level of patience and maturity with his options.

“He sticks to the plan really well.”

Player of the Game:

3. Corey Norman

2. Semi Radradra

  1. Michael Jennings

Parramatta Eels 34 (Radradra 4, Gutherson, Takairangi, French tries; Gutherson 3 goals) defeated St George Illawarra Dragons 16 (Widdop, Dugan, Vaughan tries; Widdop 2 goals) at WIN Stadium. Half time: Eels 18-6. Crowd 16,023.

Penrith reverse Rd 1 fortunes to record solid win v Tigers

Tyrone Peachey

An impressive all-round display has seen the Penrith Panthers record their first win of the season – a comprehensive one at that – beating the Wests Tigers 36-2 at Campbelltown Stadium.

The win was set-up over a fifty-minute period across both halves and they never looked back from there as they continued to assert their dominance.

Both sides started out poorly in some respects, failing to capitalise on their opportunities early on. It was the Panthers who took the first step, though, scoring two tries late in the first half.

The score could have been very different and thus the context of the game would have changed, had the Tigers taken their early chances but dropped balls and forward passes prevented that.

Three quick tries to Dean Whare, Viliame Kikau and Dylan Edwards at the back end of the first-half had the Tigers on the back foot and struggling.

Things did not get better in the second half either further pressure on the Tigers saw them falter, leading to more points for Penrith.

Under pressure after a poor Rd 1 performance, the Panthers bounced back to give their fans renewed optimism.

Last week was one to forget but Panthers coach Anthony Griffin praised the way his side bounced back in defence.

“Obviously last week we were very disappointed the way we played and had to lead this week with our defensive efforts if we were going to turn it around,” Griffin said post-game.

“Defence is attitude and for some reason last week we weren’t ready for St George and that’s everyone’s fault.

“Something went wrong last week but today we got it right. The fact we just kept scrambling and throwing a jersey there every time they came at us, I couldn’t be prouder of them today as a team as opposed to last week.”

The one downside to the Penrith victory was an injury to Bryce Cartwright who faces a lengthy stint on the sidelines.

“He’s got a plate in his leg from a previous broken ankle so he’s got a lot of pain over the top of that,” Griffin said.

“He’s sore and he couldn’t play with it obviously. The doctor just wants to get it scanned and see on the joint if there’s no damage.

“He went into the game 100 percent fit, I was just talking to him and he doesn’t know either, he’s just got a whack on there in a collision somehow.”

For the Tigers, coach Jason Taylor admits that his side just failed to take their chances and it cost them.

“It’s a day that we’re struggling to put our finger on a little, to be honest,” Taylor said.

“The first 25 to 30 minutes were good and we were fighting hard and in the game but then we gave Penrith a few opportunities and chances, and they made us pay.

“We simply didn’t take what was available to us.”

Player of the Game:

3. Tyrone Peachey

2. Viliame Kikau

  1. Dean Whare

Panthers 36 (Dean Whare 2, Viliame Kikau, Dylan Edwards, Leilani Latu, Nathan Cleary tries; Nathan Cleary 6 goals) def. Wests Tigers 2 (Mitchell Moses 1 goal) at Campbelltown Stadium. Half-time: Panthers 18-2. Crowd: 12,232.

Wade Graham hat-trick propels Sharks to easy win over Raiders

Wade Graham

Many have them billed as genuine premiership contenders but their start to the 2017 could not have gone worse, with the Canberra Raiders suffering two straight losses. 

A narrow loss is tolerable but the heavy 42-16 loss against the Cronulla Sharks raises some worrying concerns.

Usually tough to beat at home, the Raiders were comprehensively outplayed by a hungrier, more committed Sharks side led by Wade Graham who scored a rare hat-trick.

They could be forgiven in some respect for a rather energy-sapping Rd 1 loss to the Cowboys as a reason behind their fatigue but there could be even more bad news to come.

Joey Leilua departed the field and Josh Hodgson was hobbling on one leg in the second half, with both being two of their most crucial players.

Early on, the game went back and forth as the two sides went tit-for-tat when it came to scoring tries. The Raiders would have fancied themselves in the second half to potentially win but it was not to be.

The Sharks burst out of the blocks with young hooker Jayden Brailey scoring his first NRL try before a 40/20 by James Maloney and further tries to the Sharks blew the lead out.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart had no excuses for his side’s performance and did not beat around the bush.

“The first half was as bad as the second half,” he said.

“Individually we were poor… it’s the same old story from every losing coach: five penalties, not playing the ball correctly on early tackles.

“You can’t give good teams an inch. We gave them a mile and they took it. ”

Raiders captain Josh Hodgson echoed those sentiments  as he lambasted his side for poor execution and ill-discipline.

“When you make error on error and give away too many penalties, it all adds up and saps the energy out of you,” the Englishman said.

“Once we lost that, they got a couple of tries on us and I thought they got a bit of a roll on and we struggled to get it back.

“Ultimately we just weren’t good enough. There’s no beating around the bush.”

Jayden Brailey drew plenty of praise from coach Shane Flanagan who knows that he will only get better.

“I’ve known the kid for basically his whole life. He’s a really level-headed kid, he loves his football and he prepares well and he’s a good trainer and he’s got all the qualities,” Flanagan said after the game.

“Jayden is going to be around for a long period of time. He’s 20 years old and he could’ve played 80 minutes today.

3. Wade Graham

2. James Maloney

  1. Jack Wighton

Bunnies enjoy first taste of success with win over Manly

Cody Walker

Despite starting the game poorly by conceding three tries in thirteen minutes, the South Sydney Rabbitohs responded with a flurry of tries in a masterclass that has their fans with smiles on their faces.

The key factor in the end was simply down to fatigue and tiredness for Manly, who were missing their mobile props and it proved telling as their second half defence crumbled.

As Souths kicked into gear, the star of the show was Souths 5/8 Cody Walker. Involved in everything from scoring tries to setting them up or to just making breaks, he was seemingly unstoppable.

Poor goal-kicking from Manly’s perspective meant that they went into half-time 18-12 down, as a mini Souths revival gave them the edge at the break.

The turning point of the first half proved to be the sin-binning of Manly 5/8 Blake Green for a professional foul which led to two of the three Souths tries before the break.

Despite a mini-resurgence of sorts in the second half by Manly that saw them score one further try courtesy of a miracle ball by lock Jake Trbojevic, that was as good as it got.

Fatigue caught up with the forward pack as Souths continued their rampant rampage to chalk up several more tries and eventually win 38-18 at Lottoland.

Without question, Cody Walker had a career-best game and he drew strong praise from fellow half, Adam Reynolds.

“I thought Cody was our best player today,” Reynolds said after the game.

“He’s been one of our best players last year, he’s come onto the scene and hasn’t taken a backward step and continued to learn and grow. It’s a credit to him, he’s got a young family and he lives his lifestyle better than everyone else that I know, he’s a real family man and when he comes to football he’s a real footballer.

“He takes pride about whatever he does. It’s taken him a while to get into first grade but he’s not missing a beat now, he’s taken his opportunity with both hands.”

Coach Michael Maguire was also pleased with the performance of Alex Johnston at fullback in the absence of Greg Inglis.

“He’s definitely got that in him and now it’s just building on that,” Maguire said.

“He’s always wanted to have a crack at fullback. He’s a South Sydney kid that’s come through all the grades and it’s great to see him excelling like he did [on Saturday] and he’s just got to keep going.”

Despite the loss of several key forwards, that was no excuse in the eyes of Manly coach Trent Barrett.

“We did [miss them] but that was no secret that was going to be a challenge but I thought Nate Myles and ‘BJ’ (Lawrence) and our middles that we had did a good job,” Barrett said after the game.

“That probably wasn’t our problem to be honest. We started really well and to get back to 18-all after we had a few things go against us was good but some of our decisions when we were under fatigue and under the pump weren’t good enough.

“It hurts when you miss those blokes but we knew they were missing, it didn’t sneak up on us.”

Player of the Game:

3. Cody Walker

2. Tom Trbojevic

  1. Alex Johnston

South Sydney Rabbitohs 38 (Johnston 2, Jennings, Walker, Sutton, Farah tries; Reynolds 7 goals) defeated Manly Sea Eagles 18 (Uate, Kelly, T Trbojevic, Cherry-Evans tries; Walker goal) at Lottoland. Half time: Rabbitohs 18-12. Crowd 10,183.

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