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Next Gen: Lafai makes the step up

Matt Russell NRL.com Wed, Mar 23, 2011 - 11:00 AM

Next Gen with Fox Sports' commentator Matt Russell Copyright:

Fox Sports commentator Matt Russell analyses the week that was in the 2011 Toyota Cup competition.�

Good Dog

Canterbury Toyota Cup coach Andy Patmore was glowing with pride as he looked forward to Tim Lafai’s NRL debut on Sunday.

It was Patmore who signed Lafai from Campbelltown after club scouts spotted him in the relative obscurity of the Bundaberg Cup.

Lafai was secured for a paltry $1500 and made his Toyota Cup debut for the winless Dogs in Round 8 last year. After that, Canterbury lost only one of its next 19 games and stormed into third.

Described by Patmore as a “good player and a great kid”, Lafai didn’t disappoint against Souths in his first NRL performance. He scored a try, saluted the crowd and secured his role as Josh Morris’ replacement, at least for another week.

The 12 tickets he wanted for family and friends proved well worth it.

His $1500 deal was upgraded long ago.

And then there were two

Andy Patmore has just stared his fourth season as coach of the Dogs Under 20’s.

Manly mentor David Penna is the only other survivor from the competition’s debut season in 2008.

Both have made the finals twice.

Patmore had the heart tested again on Sunday when his team led 28-0 at halftime but allowed South Sydney back to 28-22 with 10 minutes to play.

The record Toyota Cup comeback is 24 points (three times) and South Sydney were on track to break that before Canterbury “kicked” again to win 33-22.

Good call

I couldn’t believe the rumblings that Sunday’s Toyota Cup television game wouldn’t go ahead because of heavy overnight rain.

It is 2011 and we are talking about a premier venue that hosted THREE games on a wet Grand Final day last year.

The surface seemed sound and proved to be so.

NRL ground manager Peter Denny, prodding the surface with his trusty umbrella, made the right decision very quickly.

Up and running

Jason Taylor has opened his Toyota Cup account after a decorated playing and coaching career at the top level.

JT’s Roosters were too good for Manly 32-16 on Sunday, after dropping their Round 1 game to Souths in the final minutes.

Having beaten Penna on Sunday, Taylor now sets his sights on Patmore’s Dogs this weekend.

Early signs for the Club Championship?

It’s interesting the NRL and NCY each have three unbeaten teams.

Of the 32 teams in those competitions, only six have started the year with back-to-back victories.

Melbourne and Canterbury count for four of them, unbeaten in both grades.

Will they also be duelling for the Club Championship in Round 26?

Big night for Sharks fans

The Sharks enjoyed a huge Monday night, beating St George Illawarra in both grades.

Before Paul Gallen and his men defended like demons at NRL level, the Toyota Cup team raced ahead 32-0 and won 38-12.

Tyson Frizell scored two tries and continues to catch attention.

From Corrimal, in the Illawarra, Frizell played Australian Schoolboys rugby union before switching codes to join the Sharks.

He’s big, strong and skilful and is at a good club when it comes to learning from top backrowers.

Frizell can help the Sharks 20’s make it three from three by beating the Panthers at Penrith on Saturday.

Penrith bounced back from an embarrassing loss to Newcastle in Round 1 to beat Parramatta last Friday. The Panthers led 20-0 and held on 26-16.

I’m looking forward to seeing Penrith half Harry Seijka again as is co-commentator Brett Kimmorley.

Join us for Fox Sports' live and exclusive coverage on Saturday as part of Super Saturday from 2pm EDT. The other Fox Sports game has the Warriors at home to St George Illawarra from 9.45am EDT on Sunday.

Who needs Hollywood?

Don’t say the Toyota Cup lacks star quality.

Have you noticed the competition has Will Smith playing for Newcastle and Eddie Murphy running around for Canterbury?

Play it again Sam

There was no let down from Sam Williams as he dropped back to the Toyota Cup after his NRL debut in Round 1.

The Canberra halfback and captain steered the Raiders to a 38-22 win against Brisbane.

Williams scored crucial tries either side of halftime, delivered three try assists, came up with two linebreaks and kicked 11 times for 260 metres.

He’d love something similar against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown on Monday.

After being confined to six points in Round 1, the Tigers bounced back with six tries against the Warriors 36-22.

The exciting Jacob Miller converted every one of them.

Coast curse

Gold luck to the Gold Coast Toyota Cup backline against Brisbane on Friday night.

Someone has a voodoo doll!

After losing fullback Peter Norman (collarbone), winger Lausii Taliauli (leg) and centre Hymel Hunt (ankle) for 6-8 weeks in Round 1, Aaron Fairweather was assisted off early in Round 2.

He’d been named on the wing but switched to the centres.

Surely it’s time coach Rod Patison had some luck.

Get in early

The scene is set for a fantastic Toyota Cup game on Townsville on Monday.

The Cowboys boast arguably the best playing list in the competition (even though they were beaten by Brisbane first up and then had to come from behind to down Newcastle by four points).

Melbourne has started 2011 with 30-point wins against Manly and Gold Coast.

Starring for the Storm have been the sons of two New Zealand Legends of League inductees – Gary Freeman and Hugh McGahan.

Krys Freeman scored two tries last Saturday while Matt McGahan also crossed and kicked 6/8 (with two hitting the post).

With Sironen, Bromwich and Smith also having star relations, Melbourne boasts the best “bloodline team” in the competition.

New blood

It could be a big night for Toyota Cup players in Townsville.

Two of the competition’s graduates will play their first NRL games for the Cowboys.

James Segeyaro – born in Papua New Guinea – will come off the bench as hooker. He’s a busy player and great dummy half runner.

Kalifa Faifai Loa will start on a wing having made a move from the Dragons, where he made two NRL games during their premiership season.

Keep your eye on these potential money earners in Toyota NRL Dream Team.