South Sydney players at a media call this week were asked for their take on the ASADA investigation into players at Cronulla and some other clubs. Five-eighth John Sutton's reaction was typical. “Not for us,” he said, when asked if it was a distraction. “We're just here to play footy and work on what we have to do. We're just concentrating on ourselves.”
It was a reminder, in a competition so tight everything counts, that if players from your club are not having to deal with the distraction of figuring in the investigation, it's another potential advantage on the field.
Sharks deal close
Cronulla’s NRL squad might be struggling to cope with the overwhelmingly stressful and dramatic ASADA investigation into alleged doping practices, but there are no reasons for supporters to be overly concerned about the club’s lack of sponsors.
Club insiders have told NRL.com the Sharks have a sleeve sponsor “all but signed up” and are progressing in negotiations for front-of-jersey and stadium naming rights deals, too.
The only reason the sleeve sponsorship has not yet been announced, according to the club, is because it wants to reveal the long-term backer once the drugs cloud has lifted. Here’s hoping the skies clear soon – and not just for Cronulla but for all players and teams in the NRL, too.
No room service for Raiders
The Raiders made headlines last season when they introduced the concept of going into camp at a motel on the outskirts of Canberra before all home games during their run into the finals, but it seems they’ve scrapped the ploy in 2013.
That obviously makes perfect sense ahead of this week’s first home game of the year with new recruit Joel Edwards telling us that with all the travel the club has done during the opening rounds, with trips to Sydney and the Gold Coast, spending more time away from home was the last thing they needed as they looked to notch a maiden win for the year.
However, we’ve been told they are unlikely to revisit the idea again in the immediate future.
In the meantime, Edwards said he was looking forward to wearing a Raiders jersey at Canberra Stadium against the Dragons this Sunday having previously made the trek south with Newcastle.
“From my experience it’s a really daunting place to come to,” he said. “It’s usually very cold and that sort of plays on your mind a bit so hopefully that’s an advantage for us.”
The Dragons haven’t won in Canberra since 2000 and are one of three sides, including the Raiders, yet to win a game this season.
Wolfman’s fingers crossed
Three consecutive seasons ruined by injury is tough for anyone to take, but Manly winger David Williams insists the torture of playing just 28 games since the start of 2010 has made him mentally stronger.
Williams missed the entire 2010 season with a shoulder injury, played 12 games in 2011 before breaking his neck then missed the back end of 2012 with a serious knee injury before making a successful return two weeks ago in the Round 1 win over Brisbane.
“It was a bit heart-breaking last year,” Williams told NRL.com. “Going through it pretty much exactly the same time last year as the year before – there was four days difference and it was the exact same round. Not being able to help out the boys was a bit gut-wrenching but it’s only made me tougher for this year and more focussed.
“I’m just pulling the positives out of it and hopefully I can get back to the football I was playing – if not better.
“I’m only a couple of games in, so there is a lot of improvement to go but that fact that I’ve come off the park in one piece is promising!”
Burgess not on Grant’s radar
We all love talking about the one-on-one battles between the magnificent halfbacks, the stylish fullbacks, the crafty hookers and the big props. A lot of the time they aren't actually one-on-one battles, strictly speaking, but we still love to compare.
Some players like to get caught up in talking about it as well, but not Tim Grant. The Penrith prop is coming up against South Sydney's Sam Burgess at Centrebet Stadium on Sunday, but he says that if he concentrated on trying to out-shine the Englishman it would be to the detriment of the team.
“Everyone has got their own personal battles, and he's one of the best players in the game,” Grant said. “So it will be a challenge. But that's footy – there are always plenty of challenges. I haven't really thought about the individual side of it this week. They've got a team full of players who could damage our cause, so to narrow the focus to one player would be counter-productive for the team.”
Nowhere to hide for Rochow
There isn't a player in the game who wouldn't like to be singled out by the supercoach, Wayne Bennett. Well, in most circumstances.
Newcastle bench forward Robbie Rochow says his play was highlighted in this week's video session by Bennett, coming out of last Sunday's 32-0 loss to Manly. “I had a few defensive mishaps that were shown on the video,” Rochow said. “It can happen to anyone, and you've got to expect it if you don't do the right thing. I'm working on fixing that.”
Considering the lopsided scoreline, it's a safe bet Rochow wasn't the only Knights player forced to suffer a little embarrassment during that horror show.
Former Panthers and Raiders outside back Adrian Purtell has returned to the field 10 months after suffering a heart attack playing in the English Super League. The Bradford Bull hadn’t played since last May and, after being given the all-clear by heart specialists during the week, finally got some game time in his team’s win against Hull KR last weekend.
Purtell, who revealed at one stage he thought he was dying during his heart scare, said it was a huge relief to return to rugby league.
“There were times at the start when it felt like I might never get back but I've always had this goal to get back playing,” Purtell told reporters. “I'm now glad we've got this game out of the way so we can focus on Bradford as a team, as we are playing really well at the moment.”