Is it possible to stop a run-away Coal train, the fight for the Blues No.9 jersey and will Gallen remain up front for the Sharks in season 2012?
BUNNY TAYLOR IN CROSS-HAIRS: Much of Brisbane’s focus this week has been on reducing the impact of South Sydney giant Dave Taylor when the two sides meet in Perth tonight; however, the Broncos believe many of Taylor’s opponents have been guilty of giving him too much latitude.
“The trick is to get forward and stop his momentum early,” centre Jack Reed says. “It’s difficult to do it repeatedly but every time we knock him down and stop him getting that momentum going forward will help our team enormously.”
Meanwhile, Reed admitted to NRL.com this week that the lure of playing State of Origin still weighed heavily on his mind although he insisted that it is a dream he will never fulfil after making the decision to represent England in the Four Nations last year.
“It’s tough to [knock back] Origin. I’ve spent most of my life in Australia and have watched Origin since I was a young pup,” he said. “It would be a huge honour to get the opportunity to play Origin but I’m happy with my decision and I’m not looking back on that.
“I really enjoyed spending time with the boys during the Four Nations and I want to be part of that again and hopefully help England win a few trophies.”
ENNIS v BUDERUS SHOWDOWN: Bulldogs captain Michael Ennis says that he can’t afford to worry about the potential Origin permutations of Sunday’s clash with Danny Buderus and Newcastle, but rest assured he recognises just what a danger his long-term predecessor in the Blues’ No.9 jersey represents.
With Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah falling out of favour with selectors and coach Ricky Stuart, Buderus has emerged as the main threat to Ennis’ position in the NSW squad after returning from a three-year stint in England in the off-season.
The former NSW captain is still highly rated by Stuart and co. and would bring some welcome experience to the side if recalled for the first time since 2008.
But Ennis said letting the challenge from Buderus play on his mind could only prove detrimental to Canterbury’s hopes of maintain their unbeaten start to the season.
“Throughout my career, whilst ever I’ve played rep footy there has always been talk about someone else. I’m used to that now,” Ennis tells NRL.com. “When people have asked me about Robbie Farah I’ve always said that if my side goes out and plays well and I contribute in that side, that’s all I can do.
“If you try and dive in and personally outplay your opposition you lose sight of what’s best for the team. For me and how we’re playing at the moment, I can’t afford to do that. I’m just really looking forward to getting out there with the opportunity to play against good opposition.”
Asked about Buderus’ contribution to the Knights this season, Ennis said: “I haven’t seen a lot of [Newcastle’s] earlier games. I have certainly seen a little bit of what they did last week and it seems like he has settled back in. He is a very classy player Danny, and it is always good to come up against quality opposition.”
Sunday’s clash also sees Ennis come up against his former mentor at the Broncos and good friend Wayne Bennett for the first time since Bennett moved to Newcastle in the off-season but the Bulldogs captain said the two wouldn’t be exchanging pleasantries in the lead-up to the game.
“We stay in touch but it’s just whenever,” Ennis said. “I haven’t spoken to him this week – not for any particular reason other than I’m just really focusing on our preparation. I’m sure we’ll catch up after the game, but not beforehand.”
SOWARD ‘NOT RIGHT NO.6’: Former NSW centre Ryan Girdler has named a number of potential five-eighth options for the Blues in 2012 as they look to end Queensland’s six-year winning streak – but surprisingly he doesn’t believe incumbent Jamie Soward should be one of them. Girdler told NRL.com that the Blues need their No.6 to offer a more-rounded attacking game if they are to trouble Queensland and has pointed to Todd Carney, Terry Campese and James Maloney as the three deserving candidates.
DIFFERENT GOALS: Long-term rivals Parramatta and Canterbury are both staring at 20-year firsts this weekend, albeit for very different reasons. The Bulldogs, undefeated this season after wins over Penrith, St George Illawarra and the Warriors, can make it four in a row to start the year for the first time since 1993 with victory against the Knights on Sunday. But at the other end of the ladder it would be the first time since 1991 that the Eels had lost their opening four if they slump to another loss to the Panthers tonight.
GALLEN FRONTS UP: Paul Gallen’s move into the front row for both NSW and Australia has certainly raised eyebrows given the quality of his performances in the middle of the park – and don’t be surprised if he soon finds himself playing up front on a regular basis for the Sharks if he gets his way. Although he has typically preferred to play in the front row, he told NRL.com this week that the added responsibility of captaining both club and state meant life was much easier when he plays in the middle of the park these days.
“When you play on the edge you’ve got to hold a lot of shape and run a few more lines off the halves,” Gallen said. “I do that okay but I find that when the chips are down a little bit and we might need to chuck it around I go in for a run which ruins our shape altogether and isn’t the best for the team.
“In rep footy I’ve always played in the middle and it’s easier, to be honest. Physically it’s probably harder but mentally I find the game a lot easier playing in the middle than on the edge.”