Mini ready for Bowen heat in Darwin, Tigers' Test snub, Lewis calls for Panther patience and Sam Thaiday calls for a shoulder charge ban... but not in the NRL.
MINI v MANGO: Shutting down the threat posed by rival fullback Matt ‘Mango’ Bowen will be the key to beating the Cowboys says in-form Roosters custodian Anthony Minichiello.
Himself one of the game’s elite No.1s, ‘Mini’ believes that Bowen is in career-best form this season after overcoming two knee reconstructions in recent years and vowed he would be keeping a watchful eye on his opposite number when the two sides meet in Darwin tomorrow night.
“Just watching him the past few weeks, I think he is in the best form of his career,” Minichiello told NRL.com. “It’s important that we pay close attention to him because a good way of figuring out where the ball is going is to keep an eye on where Matt Bowen is standing.
“He’s such a dangerous player, his footwork is unbelievable and he can turn a game single-handedly. We know what to expect.”
Asked about a mouth-watering individual battle between the two tomorrow night, Minichiello said “Yeah, it’s something I always look forward to as a bit of a personal challenge.
“I think if you look across every team in the NRL at the moment, there are a lot of very good fullbacks so there is always a challenge there that you have to meet.
“For me, I’m just trying to be consistent every week. That’s my main goal at the moment and something I’m looking to do this week.”
The Roosters won’t just be battling a dangerous Cowboys outfit tomorrow night – they’ll also have to deal with the intense Darwin weather with the temperature hitting 34 degrees even early this morning.
“The Cowboys actually got here a few days before us to get used to the conditions… and they’re used to it! So it’s certainly going to be a tough one,” Minichiello said.
“They key for us will just be simple ball control and execution to make sure that we’re in the game. We’re pleased with how we’ve started the season but even more pleasing is that our best football is yet to come. Hopefully we can start to produce that this week.”
TEST FAILURE: The Wests Tigers’ fall from grace this season will be highlighted on Sunday night when not a single player is named in the Australian squad for the Anzac Test on April 20. That’s quite a shock for a side that began the year as premiership favourites. While Benji Marshall will still be the first player picked for the Kiwis, it is understood that none of the three Tigers that toured England as part of last year’s Four Nations squad – Robbie Farah, Keith Galloway and Chris Lawrence – are serious contenders this time around. Both Farah and Lawrence have been scratchy at best this season while Galloway has been hampered by a toe injury. It is notable that only winger Matt Utai has averaged over 100 metres for the Tigers in 2012 – and he has only played two games.
SAM’S SHOULDER CALL: Broncos captain Sam Thaiday has called for the shoulder charge to be rubbed out in all forms of junior rugby league following this week’s controversy over team-mate Ben Te’o’s suspension for his hit on Tigers prop Matt Groat last Friday night.
Noting that the tackle certainly could be a dangerous one when it goes wrong, Thaiday told NRL.com that: “I’m all for banning it in junior rugby league because I think it is a safety issue for young kids. If they don’t use the tackle effectively and if they don’t know somewhat of a technique on how to do it, that’s when people do get injured.”
However, Thaiday insisted that he doesn’t support any form of ban at NRL level and said he was disappointed that Te'o’s suspension had now set a precedent that the judiciary must follow.
“I think it is sad that Ben Te’o is the fall guy now,” he said. “They have set a standard now and I hope it stays consistent. It is the Ben Te’o rule now.
“I think common sense has to prevail. People have to know that if you make contact with the head you’re going to be rubbed out but at the same time this is a contact sport and people are going to get these injuries.
“I don’t think they can ever ban it from rugby league.”
FIEN FORECAST: St George Illawarra hooker Nathan Fien is aiming to spark the Dragons’ misfiring attack when he returns from an ankle injury against Newcastle tonight.
Fien missed last week’s loss to Cronulla in which the Dragons were held to nil for just the third time in their 14-year history, but says his presence in the side will add much greater dimension to the side’s attack.
“Having myself back in the team now, it gives us a bit more dimension where Deano (Dean Young) can get out in the forwards and doesn’t have to fill that role at dummy-half,” he said. “It gives us another ball-player within a side, which is good for creating attacking options.
“For myself, as a dummy-half I’ll try and create a few options around the ruck. That’s virtually what I have to do when I come on. By having me as the utility it’s not just Jamie Soward and Ben Hornby anymore – we’ve got myself, Mitch Rein and Deano as well that can lend a hand. I think it gives us a few more options.”
PATIENCE, PANTHERS: Penrith captain Luke Lewis has called for patience as his young Panthers side battles to stay in touch with the top eight this season. The departure of a number of senior players during the off-season had many questioning whether the mountain men had the depth to develop a serious premiership campaign in 2012 and with a new coach also on deck in Ivan Cleary, Lewis said it would take some time for the Panthers to find their feet.
“Like everything, it’s about all the players getting used to playing alongside one another and getting the game plan right – making sure we know what we want to do and doing it properly,” he said after their 2-4 start to the year.
“Realistically we’ve only played six games together as a group and it doesn’t just happen overnight. It comes from playing with each other as long as you can, and getting the combinations right.
“We’ve lost a few key players too which didn’t help at the start of the season. We’ve got some new guys coming through who are still just making their debuts. They’re still learning a lot as well. We’re sort of in-between. We’re trying to get combinations going and we have new guys learning, but at the same time we’re trying to perform.”
Lewis said he was expecting to face a fired-up Wests Tigers side at CUA Stadium this Sunday.
“I’m sure Tim Sheens has been into them all week. They’re sure to fire eventually – I just hope it’s not this weekend!” he said.