Friday Frenzy: Anasta battle 'not personal'

OLD VERSUS NEW… Warriors five-eighth James Maloney admits he is keen to impress his future club when the Kiwi outfit hosts the Sydney Roosters at Mt Smart Stadium tomorrow night.

Maloney will join the Roosters in 2013 after signing a rich three-year deal last November and although he doesn’t want to be influenced by the added pressure of the upcoming move he told NRL.com that it was important he performs well this weekend.

“Not a whole lot changes for me in terms of preparation but it would be nice to have a good game,” he said.

“Obviously I don’t want to go out there and play rubbish or they might be wondering why they signed me!

“But at the same time I don’t want to go and make it a personal thing to beat them or anything like that. It’s business as usual, and making sure I play well for my side.”

Maloney will replace Roosters captain Braith Anasta in the No.6 jersey next season with the veteran playmaker set to join Wests Tigers, but Maloney still sees Anasta and halfback Mitchell Pearce as the key to their side’s success this weekend.

“Mitch has been playing some pretty good footy in recent weeks – with Origin coming up he has really upped his performances,” Maloney said.

“Anasta obviously brings a lot of experience for them, steadies the ship and calms everything down with that experience. He knows what’s going on so it’s a pretty big ask for us but I think it all starts in our forwards. They dominated us last time (when the Roosters won 24-8 in Round 5) so we need to turn it around there.”

STATS FANTASIC!... Canterbury five-eighth Josh Reynolds has credited the positive outlook of coach Des Hasler for a remarkable statistic that has seen the Bulldogs score 12 more tries from beyond the 20-metre line than within the attacking zone this season.

The Bulldogs have scored an incredible 21 tries from beyond 20 metres – including 14 between 20-50 metres and seven from past halfway – with only nine of their tries originating from close to the tryline. No other side in the Telstra Premiership comes close to such an unusual stat.

“We’ve definitely got some players that can go the distance in Ben Barba and Josh Morris – Ben has been so slippery this year that no-one can get a hold of him,” Reynolds told NRL.com. “But it’s one of those things where Des has said to us: ‘If you trust yourself and you see something, go for it’. The boys have got a lot of faith in what we’re doing at the moment and it’s definitely not a bad stat.”

Incredibly, all eight Bulldogs tries against Parramatta last Friday night came from beyond the 20-metre line with Reynolds relieved the side finally piled on some points in their 46-12 win.

“Considering we hadn’t even scored 20 points in the past two games it definitely did our confidence a world of good because our defence has been pretty solid all year,” he said.

“It was just that attacking department we needed to pick up a little.”

‘IT’S GETTING EASIER’… Broncos five-eighth Corey Norman has impressed since taking over from Darren Lockyer in the halves this season, but the 21-year-old says he isn’t looking to take on any greater responsibility this weekend in the absence of halves partner Peter Wallace, who has been ruled out of tonight’s clash with Manly with a groin injury.

“It will be a bit different with Ben Hunt there (at halfback) but we’ll try and do the same thing as Peter and I do,” Norman said. “Ben was at training when me and ‘Wal’ were doing what we do and he has picked that up. He knows our game plan.”

Norman described his usual partnership with Wallace as an even split, with neither particularly dominant over the other.

“We’re pretty good together,” he said. “When I’m not calling a set, he’ll call a set and when he doesn’t call a set, I’ll call it. Sometimes I’ll run it, sometimes he will. I don’t believe there is a dominant half there and I think it will be the same this weekend.”

Plenty of attention was piled onto Norman in the pre-season as he prepared to step into Lockyer’s shoes but with seven wins from nine games and a series of mature performances behind him, the rookie five-eighth said he was feeling far more settled in his role at the club.

“It’s definitely getting easier,” he said. “I’m feeling a bit more confident each week and I’m getting to know everyone’s game. They’re starting to learn my game too, so everything keeps getting better each week.”

BOYD’S CRYING SHAME… Newcastle second-rower Zeb Taia has backed team-mate Darius Boyd after the star fullback was caught on camera crying at half-time during last Sunday’s loss to the Sydney Roosters, insisting he was simply expressing the frustration that the whole side was feeling.

Despite the arrival of Boyd and super-coach Wayne Bennett this season – as well as the return of locals Danny Buderus, Timana Tahu and Kade Snowden – the Knights have struggled to get their season going so far and are yet to record consecutive wins.

Last week’s disappointing loss to the Roosters came just a week after the Knights’ best performance of the season in a 34-14 win over Penrith, with Taia admitting the side’s lack of consistency was taking its toll.

“Darius is a great player and there probably was a bit of frustration but I’m pretty sure he will get back to the form that has seen him play for Australia and Queensland,” Taia said. “We’re all frustrated… we all want to play well but at the moment we need to start believing in one another and the ability that we have. We need to work hard for each other and do the things we need to be doing.

“Obviously we’ve started the season off loss-win-loss-win-loss. It’s inconsistent and we need to get those back-to-back wins. It’s a bit of a struggle but hopefully things will turn around soon for us.”

One positive for the Knight this season has been the form of Taia who has averaged 110 metres and 30 tackles per game and produced 23 tackle-breaks during the opening nine rounds.

Off contract at the end of the year, Taia said he was keen to open negotiations with the club in the coming weeks.

“Hopefully I get to stay at Newcastle for the next couple of years but we’ll have to wait and see – we haven’t spoken contracts yet,” he said.

“I think we’ll start looking at that in the next few weeks.”