SRAMA v FRIEND… Veteran prop Luke Bailey has given team-mate Matt Srama a huge rap ahead of tomorrow night’s clash with the Warriors, labelling the impressive young hooker a future Titans captain.
Srama was thrown into the deep end late last year when called on to replace injured No.9 Nathan Friend and has taken on the role full-time since Friend headed across the Tasman to the Warriors this season.
But with the 21-year-old having averaged 39 tackles per game and provided plenty of spark in attack in 2012, Bailey said he couldn’t be more pleased with Srama’s progress.
“It was disappointing to see [Friend] go and I think we suffered a little bit at the start of the year and the end of last year without him, but I think Srama has come along great,” he said. “He makes hundreds of tackles and doesn’t miss too many. He is showing the smaller blokes how to tackle, how to belt blokes, and I probably see him as a future captain of this club.”
Srama will have no better opportunity to show just how far he has come in the past 12 months than this weekend when he lines up against his former mentor in a must-win game for the Gold Coast side.
Likewise, Bailey is predicting a dynamic display from Friend, who was among the Warriors’ best in his first game back from a broken jaw against North Queensland last week.
“You could sort of tell when we played them over there (in Round 4) that [Friend] upped the ante in his game… coming back here where he’s got a lot of fans and family and friends, I’m sure he’ll try and upset us.
“It should be interesting. I suppose Srama has built his game around what Friendy does. It probably took him a while to get there but now I think he has got it down pat – especially with his energy in attack and defence. He is only a young fella but that will probably be one of the key match-ups.”
Bailey himself remains a 50-50 proposition for this week’s clash after battling a rib injury suffered against the Cowboys in Round 13. A final decision will be made tomorrow, however the veteran prop said he expected former team-mate Friend to test out his fitness should he take his place in the Titans side at Skilled Park tomorrow.
“I had a broken nose last time we played them and he gave me three or four cheap shots, so I’m not expecting any different,” he said. “I know he’s been waiting to come back and play. He scored a try last week so I’m sure he’ll be full of confidence. But I love the bloke, I love playing against him – I just hope he is on the losing side.”
GARDNER NOT FLASH ON GORDON... Injured Cronulla fullback Nathan Gardner has opened up about the recent signing of Penrith star Michael Gordon, admitting he was hurt by the club’s decision to bring in another serious contender for the No.1 jersey next season.
Having missed two thirds of the NRL draw to date after suffering a serious knee injury in Round 6, Gardner has staged a remarkable recovery and is now aiming to be back on the field as early as Round 24.
Gordon made no secret his desire to play fullback at the Panthers before shocking everyone when he signed with Cronulla, but Gardner said he was now more determined than ever to play in this year’s finals series and prove his worth to coach Shane Flanagan.
“I’m not going to lie, it was a bit upsetting at the time because it’s another person trying to take your spot,” the 22-year-old said of Gordon’s impending arrival.
“When I first hurt my knee I thought my season was over but ever since the physio told me that I could be back this year I’ve been trying my best to get back out there because I feel that I’ve got a massive point to prove. I really want to get out there and show that I deserve to be the No.1 and hopefully I’ll be able to hold my position for next year.
“Obviously Michael is a very good player and he is going to be a really good signing for the club. I guess it will push me just that little bit extra in the pre-season. I’ve just got to work harder.”
Gardner, who opted for the traditional hamstring graft over radical LARS surgery that could have seen him back within weeks, said it had been tough to watch the Sharks’ impressive run from the sidelines this season.
“At the start I thought it would be really good because they’re winning – but I think it actually hurts a bit more that they’re going well and I can’t be a part of it,” he said. “Ever since I made my debut I haven’t been part of a top-eight team and they’re doing that now. At the same time it’s great for the boys and they deserve everything they’re getting at the moment.”
ANASTA WON’T HALT SIRONEN… Proud father Paul Sironen didn’t hold back when asked recently who should don the Wests Tigers No.6 jersey in 2013, insisting son Curtis should be picked ahead of new recruit Braith Anasta.
But his comments haven’t fazed Anasta himself who told NRL.com this week that he was happy to make way for the impressive youngster should coach Tim Sheens deem him the best option to partner Benji Marshall in the halves.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Anasta said. “If Curtis continues to play the way that he does and fits in well with the side then there is no need to move him. I’m not going there to take anyone’s spot or move anyone out of position – I’m going there to do whatever Sheensy needs me to do and I’ll do that wherever.
“I’ve heard a lot of people talking about it and a lot of media but it doesn’t really bother me. The coach is the Australian coach, he is a very successful coach and he hasn’t done what he has done by fluke. He has an expectation and a role for me to play when I get there and that’s what I’ll do.”
Sironen returns from a knee injury suffered three weeks ago in tonight’s big clash with Canterbury, while Anasta will play his 250th NRL game against the Sharks on Monday night.
SON ALSO RISES… Reece Davidson, son of former Souths and Cronulla hit man Les, has agreed to a new one-year deal with the Sharks. The lanky 19-year-old back-rower made his return from injury in the club’s Toyota Cup side last week, scoring a try against the Broncos. A bright future is expected.
CASHMERE’S FINGERS CROSSED… Having returned mid-season to help his former team-mates through an injury crisis, Wests Tigers forward Ray Cashmere is now hopeful of remaining at the club for one more year. Cashmere is still waiting to see how his body holds up before making a final decision but it is believed the club is keen to retain him through 2013. Elsewhere, young St George Illawarra back-rower Jake Marketo has entered talks to sign a new deal with the Dragons.
RICKETSON TIES KNOT… Congratulations to former Sydney Roosters lock Luke Ricketson, who tied the knot to well-known fashion writer Kate Waterhouse in a lavish ceremony in Sicily last week. The ceremony was attended by former team-mates Bryan Fletcher and Ryan Cross as well as the Waterhouses – one of Australia’s most famous racing families. Anthony Minichiello and Adrian Morley were among those also on the invitation list but neither could make it due to playing commitments.