Changing fortunes for NRL travellers
CLEARLY, one man’s holiday camp is another’s prison.
As we hunker down for Origin II, we are coming off a weekend on which one team credited a week away together for a form-defying victory while another thanked going home at the earliest possible convenience for a success of similar magnitude.
Knocked from pillar to post after losing 40-0 at home to Wests Tigers two Saturdays ago, the Canberra Raiders upped sticks and headed for the Hunter Valley to escape the accusing stares and screaming headlines of the national capital.
The result was one of the game’s biggest turnarounds – a 32-16 success against troubled Newcastle at Hunter Stadium, in which wunderkind Edrick Lee scored twice to erase the memory of a shocking sophomore appearance seven days before.
“It’s our preparation,” said Lee, the cousin of NBA basketballer Patrick Mills. “It’s all changed this week – we have a different culture for the club. It’s all paid off and we will back it up, hopefully.
“We worked hard to turn it around. It was great to see the boys this week so tight together.”
With family commitments keeping them apart after hours, the Raiders say they needed time to reacquaint with each other.
“The cliché says a week’s a long time in rugby league and this time last week there were a lot of dejected blokes standing around,” said Saturday night’s captain, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs.
“We had a ball (last week)... just a chance to rub shoulders with the boys. I suppose when you’re in your home environment and everyone’s got their family commitments and all the rest of it...
“Just to get away and put those things behind us for a week was great for team spirit.”
But this morning the Warriors were at Kingsford Smith airport bright and early to head back to New Zealand following their rain-swept 30-16 Monday Night Football win over Penrith at Centrebet Stadium.
That is, even though they are playing Cronulla at Toyota Stadium this coming Saturday.
The common threat in both these approaches is the Raiders.
Before the Aucklanders’ worst performance of the year, a 32-12 defeat to Canberra on April 8, they went into camp at Kiama. Clearly, blowhole notwithstanding, it didn’t go so well.
“Our boys like to sleep in their own beds,” said coach Brian McClennan.
“We like to make it a bit hit-and-run. We get in and then get out. We’ll go home early in the morning and come back on Friday ready to go.
“If we stay away, some of our boys can get a bit home sick.”
One Warrior who perhaps would have welcomed camp in Sydney this week is back rower Feleti Mateo – but not to reacquaint himself with his clubmates.
The Tongan international continues to get overlooked by NSW but said he had no negative thoughts or longing about ANZ Stadium tomorrow.
“I’m pumped mate,” Mateo said when asked about the NSW-Queensland clubs that could decide the series. “I think they picked a really good team. I’m a Blues man and I hope the boys can get home.”
And with that, Mateo “got home” himself...