BOMBS AWAY FOR BOYD: Battling Newcastle fullback Darius Boyd can expect to have his confidence tested this week with the Broncos preparing an aerial assault on their former team-mate. Keen to steer clear of Boyd’s lethal running game, Newcastle can look forward to plenty of high balls coming their way with Brisbane halfback Peter Wallace admitting this week that it was a common ploy of the Broncos in combatting the NRL’s best custodians.
“For different teams we always have a plan of how we want to kick to them,” he told NRL.com. “Obviously for teams with dangerous fullbacks, you want to get to them with not too much broken-field play. That’s one of the reasons we put the bomb up.
“We’ve got some pretty good jumpers out there too – Reedy (Jack Reed) is very handy in the air and Gerard Beale is pretty good too. It’s worth attacking.”
The Broncos have proven to be the most prolific side in the Telstra Premiership through 12 rounds this season when it comes to putting up the bomb, having done so on 44 occasions in 2012, while they also lead the league for cross-field kicks with 38.
“It’s one of our options and when the opportunity comes to put it up there and get one of the boys to have a crack at it, we’ll take it,” Wallace explained. “It’s not a plan that we have to put a bomb or a cross-field kick up, but it’s an option we can go to.
“We worked pretty hard on it during the off-season with the outside backs contesting the ball.”
McCLENNAN v BELLAMY: They may have been humbled 32-14 when they met in Round 8 this year but Warriors coach Brian McClennan says he learnt a lot that day about why his side holds such an impressive record against the most dominant side of the past decade.
“I was always interested to see what it was about the Warriors having a strong record against Melbourne compared with other sides,” McClennan told NRL.com ahead of Sunday’s clash with Melbourne at Mt Smart Stadium. “Melbourne is the most consistent side in the competition and have been for quite a few seasons now but all the boys just get really excited about the opportunity to play Melbourne and they feel confident that our style of game can work against them.
“Obviously last time we played them they were too clinical for us and pretty much embarrassed us in the end, so we’ve got to make sure we’re a lot more consistent, but we’ll be working hard to achieve that against them on Sunday.”
The Warriors, of course, ended the Storm’s campaign last season with a stunning 20-12 upset win at AAMI Park in the grand final qualifier, having already beaten them in Melbourne earlier in the year. They also became the first eighth-placed side to beat the minor premiers when they prevailed 18-15 in Week One of the finals to keep their season alive back in 2008.
Despite the Warriors’ success over the years, McClennan said he held enormous respect for what his rival coach Craig Bellamy had achieved at the Storm.
“He has been the innovator of a lot of things in the game to date and his record speaks for itself,” he said. “His structures are really good and he works his team to maximise their advantages. He does that extremely well. I think if you look right across the board at all the different coaches, Craig stands out in the top two or three.”
The Warriors’ big weapon this week will be halfback Shaun Johnson, who missed the Round 8 clash between these two sides with injury but will be pumped up for a big performance following his match-winning feats in the finals last year.
Johnson has shown no signs of the dreaded ‘second-year syndrome’ in 2012 – but that comes as no surprise to McClennan.
“He hasn’t got second-year syndrome and he was never going to get it as far as we were concerned,” he said.
“He made a real hard call last year to turn down a tour with the Kiwis to make sure he rehabbed and got a proper pre-season. He made that call on his own and when he did that, I knew then that there would be no second-year syndrome because he wasn’t getting caught up in it all and was managing his own health.
“But he is young and the older he gets the better he will be able to manage things in the future just from being in those situations and having that awareness. He is a good young fella and I think he is heading in the right direction.”
JENNINGS FURPHY: We have it on good authority that any suggestion up to eight clubs are interested in the services of disgruntled Penrith star Michael Jennings are way off the mark. In fact, the only other club that has shown genuine interest in relieving the Panthers of the NSW State of Origin centre is Canterbury – although the arrival of Krisnan Inu at the Bulldogs last week might change of all of that.
We’ve also heard that South Sydney coach Michael Maguire met with Jennings recently but the club hasn’t and won’t be offering him a deal.
HAYNE GIVEN RUN-AROUND: Parramatta coach Stephen Kearney has spent the past week encouraging fullback Jarryd Hayne to focus more on his running game than a playmaking role following Hayne’s brilliant performance on the wing for NSW in State of Origin I.
Such has been the Eels’ struggles in the halves in recent seasons that Hayne has found himself lost in limbo between the two, but with Ben Roberts and Chris Sandow at the club this season and Sandow finally showing some glimpses of form, Kearney is keen for Hayne to focus solely on running the football.
“That was his role within that [NSW] group and it’s obvious that that’s his real strength,” Kearney said this week. “That’s what we want from him, too. That’s when Jarryd is at his most dangerous – when he is running the footy. The beauty with him is that when he is playing at fullback he does get the chance to pass the football as well, but I think his strength certainly is his run.
“We’ve got two halves there. I guess in some ways he can assist them because he plays a significant role in attack… but [his running game] – that’s what we want from him every week.”
LUCK ABOUT TO RUN OUT: Warriors lock Micheal Luck has spent the past few weeks training in opposed sessions with his team-mates as he looks to make his long-awaited return from a broken hand.
Sidelined since the start of the season, Luck will go for scans in two weeks’ time hoping to get the all-clear after earlier scans showed the bone wasn’t healing as quickly as had been anticipated.
While his huge work rate has been sorely missed by the Warriors in 2012, Luck has been providing guidance on the training paddock, with team-mates observing a distinct improvement in the side’s defensive shape since he has returned to the fold.
Luck, who recently announced that this season will be his last, is aiming to make his return against Cronulla in Round 15.