JAMAL ON WARPATH… High-profile Gold Coast recruit Jamal Idris has broken his silence over recent reports suggesting he has piled on the pounds this season, slamming his critics as ill-informed and insisting he is pleased with his form since recovering from the hamstring and foot injuries that have plagued his 2012.
Despite making it three wins in a row with their 28-12 defeat of North Queensland last Friday night, much of the talk over the past fortnight has focused on Idris’ supposedly expanding waistline with some reports claiming he had added as much as 10 kilograms since joining the Titans from Canterbury.
Those suggestions even prompted coach John Cartwright to leap to his star centre’s defence, but Idris told NRL.com this week that the critics had it all wrong.
“I don’t take notice of what people say anymore,” he said. “People are going to say what they’re going to say – that just shows they don’t know what they are talking about.
“But it doesn’t faze me at all. At the end of the day, who is the one on the field playing footy? Who is the one playing for the boys in the team? They can say what they want.”
Asked about his form for the Titans this season, Idris said: “Mate, I’m over the moon at the moment and I just want to make sure that I keep the consistency.
“I’m pretty happy with the way I’ve been playing. Carty is happy with me and so is everyone else, they’re happy with what I’m doing, so I’m going to keep doing it.”
It’s been a tough initiation for Idris at his new club this season. One of a number of big-name recruits given the task of turning the Titans’ fortunes around, he missed three weeks with hamstring tendonitis early in the year before a foot injury slowed his progress further.
He has also fallen out of favour with NSW selectors, having barely rated a mention in team discussions in 2012, but the 21-year-old said he wasn’t concerned by his representative snubbing.
“No not at all, that stuff is just a bonus,” he said. “For me, I’m happy to be playing and just pleased to be able to get some wins for the Titans.
“It’s been a good few weeks for us. I’m just speaking for myself here but when we were playing at the start of the year I knew we had a good team there but we were just having these momentary lapses. I guess the hard thing when you’ve got so many new players to one team is trying to get that synchronisation together. But it’s coming along pretty well and I’m really enjoying it.”
The Titans will be looking for their fourth consecutive win on Sunday afternoon against a Sharks side that will be desperate to snap a two-game losing streak when they run onto their Toyota Stadium base.
BARBA’S LOFTY GOAL… Former Warriors and Canterbury prop Steve Price has tipped in-form Bulldogs fullback Ben Barba to become the first player to score 40 tries in a single season.
Impressed by the progress Barba has made under new coach Des Hasler this season, Price told NRL.com that the 22-year-old has the ability to break Dave Brown’s record of 38 tries for Eastern Suburbs way back in 1935, provided he improves his support play.
“They’ve got some big forwards and they’re really dangerous when they’re one on one with defenders,” Price said. “The one thing that they could improve on, and that Ben Barba needs to cotton on to, is supporting his players.
“Sam Kasiano has started to get him into it and if he can do that with guys like Jamas Graham as well, he’ll score 40 tries in a season.
“They’ve got that much skill those big boys and if he actually does a Billy Slater and supports them on nearly every run he’ll break every record in the game.”
EELS IMPRESS GEYER… While on the topic of struggling clubs, one man who can see a light at the end of the tunnel for last-placed Parramatta is former Melbourne winger Matt Geyer.
A team-mate of Eels coach Stephen Kearney at the Storm for six years between 1999-2004 before playing under him when Kearney became Craig Bellamy’s assistant the following season, Geyer not only jumped to his mate’s defence but predicted a rapid rise for Parramatta over the coming 18 months.
“I really believe that what we saw against Cronulla the other night was just the start of things to come,” Geyer said.
“I know Stephen intimately and he is a very good coach. I played under him for, what… four years? He basically coached himself when he was playing too – he was so big on analysis and things like that.
“I think it’s a case of if he can’t do it, no-one can. But he has got a couple of really good kids there. Jacob Loko, he’ll be back next year and they’ve got some good back-rowers. Cheyse Blair looks good, too.”
Geyer said the performance of Jarryd Hayne in the Eels’ comeback win over Cronulla on Monday night should immediately have other sides looking over their shoulder.
“It’s a scary thing,” he said. “Chris Sandow is a very enigmatic player as well – he just needs some confidence. Some clubs don’t have a player like that in 10 years – they’ve got two of them!
“They just need to keep picking up the odd win and they’ll get a lot better from there. At the moment they’ve got these young kids coming in from the -20s and they don’t expect to win, but that’s what Stephen is trying to do: get that self-belief.”
McKENDRY v WARRIORS… It will be a case of putting friendships aside when hulking Penrith prop Sam McKendry runs out against the Warriors on Monday night.
McKendry, who has played seven Tests for New Zealand since 2010, has become good mates with fellow Kiwi props Ben Matulino, Russell Packer and injured Sam Rapira but said he couldn’t afford to let close relationships interfere with the task at hand this week.
“I know quite a few of them and it’s always good to play against them, we always have a little joke, but at the end of the day there are no friends on the field,” McKendry said.
“They are all really physical and are always tough to play against so I know they’ll come out firing.”
McKendry’s task will be made tougher given the absence of front row partner Tim Grant, who will make his State of Origin debut for NSW next Wednesday.
But the 22-year-old said he was confident the Panthers could build on their last-start win over Manly.
“All the other boys have been going well too and they’ll all turn up to play,” he said.
“The confidence is building. We’re starting to play some good footy now, our game is slightly improving and we’re becoming consistent.”
Asked about Grant’s Origin selection, McKendry said: “He’ll go hard, man. It’s one of his childhood dreams putting on that blue jersey and he has finally done it.”