TATE v MORRIS… All the talk this week has been centred on the thrilling clash between rival fullbacks Ben Barba and Matt Bowen but just as intriguing is the prospect of rival State of Origin centres Brent Tate and Josh Morris going head to head again.
The two were superb for their respective sides during the Origin series and they can expect to see plenty of one another again tomorrow night at ANZ Stadium given the Bulldogs heavily favour Morris’ left edge in attack and the Cowboys love heading to Tate on their right. Notably, Canterbury have scored 32 tries on the left this year (25 on the right) while North Queensland have scored 36 on their right (with 24 on the left).
Asked about the likelihood of the Bulldogs attacking his side, Tate said: “Yeah, it’s a bit like that. I’ve been expecting that the past few weeks. He [Morris] is playing great footy, but so is Ben Barba. I guess they’re all challenges for us.
“I think [Morris] has probably been the form centre of the competition since the start of Origin, to be honest. I thought he was great right through that series and he and his brother in that last game were brilliant.
“He is scoring plenty of tries and creating plenty of havoc out there so that’s a big challenge for me. But they’ve got plenty of threat everywhere the Doggies. They like to throw the ball around a bit and they’ve got some short passing among the forwards, so I’m sure our edges will be tested come Saturday.”
Tate says he is confident this current Cowboys squad has what it takes to go all the way in 2012.
“I definitely am but I’m always real mindful of that because I’ve been part of a few teams – especially at the Broncos in earlier years – where we had teams to win the comp and were going great but couldn’t get there,” he said. “We only managed to win one at the end of the day (in 2006) when we probably should have won a lot more.
“But I think we’re building nicely. I don’t think we’re playing anywhere near as well as we can but as long as we keep everyone fit I’m confident that we have the team to have a good crack at it.”
NO DUMMIES BY HALVES… It will be interesting to see how South Sydney copes without both Greg Inglis and Issac Luke this week given their impressive performance against the Dragons minus Luke last week. The Rabbitohs are renowned for their dummy-half running with the Kiwi Test hooker at the helm, however the stats show that they didn’t lose much at all when Nathan Peats took his place.
Souths rank second in the NRL for total dummy-half runs in 2012 with 445 at 23 per game and first for try assists (10), line-break assists (10) and half-breaks (11) all from dummy-half.
Last week against the Dragons they ranked third for the round in dummy-half runs with 17 as well as adding a line-break assist and a half-break in their 36-14 win.
“We’re quite confident in ourselves and our structures,” back-rower Dave Taylor told us when asked about the absence of their two Test stars.
“Although Issac gets a lot of metres out of dummy-half and gets us rolling, Peatsy does a wonderful job of that too and has definitely taken his opportunity.
“So yeah, I think we’ve shown this year that we’ve got players that can step in and do the job when needed.”
STICKY QUESTION… We’re hearing that not everyone at Parramatta is thrilled about the appointment of Ricky Stuart as head coach. Some officials working in junior development have expressed concerns that the NSW Origin coach will tear apart the good work Stephen Kearney did in establishing junior systems through the club. They shouldn’t be worried – Stuart’s focus will be on getting the front office up to scratch and he will have his hands full getting the Eels to where he wants them to be.
Incidentally, we find it remarkable that the NSWRL is reportedly even contemplating allowing Stuart to share an NRL coaching role with the State of Origin gig just two years after an independent review recommended the Blues appoint a full-time coach in their bid to catch Queensland.
DEBT TALK HURT TITANS… Former Gold Coast five-eighth Mat Rogers believes the Titans would already find themselves entrenched in the top eight had it not been for all the negative publicity about the club’s dire financial state earlier this season. While players insisted at the time that they had no concerns, Rogers told NRL.com that there was no way the drama didn’t weight heavily on their minds.
“All that financial drama crap would have played a massive part,” he said. “The standard line that players roll out is that they’re just focused on their footy but I played professional footy for a long time and when the club is talking about money problems, you’re thinking about it I can assure you.
“You’re not human if you’re not and to think that that didn’t have an effect is ludicrous. But that’s behind them now. It’s not being talked about, it hasn’t been mentioned and they can move forward.
“The good news for them this year is that they are starting to build at the right end of the year whereas in the past we’ve started well and then faded. If they can stay healthy anything could happen.”
DOUBLE TROUBLE… Canberra coach David Furner has created somewhat of a dilemma for himself following last weeks’ big win over Cronulla, with Josh Dugan and Reece Robinson both staking solid claims for the Raiders’ No.1 jersey. Robinson’s form at the back this season not only prompted Furner to shift Dugan to five-eighth earlier in the year, it also had Gorden Tallis calling for Robinson to don the No.1 jersey permanently – a concept that would have been unfathomable at the start of the season.
Robinson was diplomatic when we asked him about it this week, giving the standard ‘I’m just happy to be in the team’ line although he did admit that he preferred starting at fullback when the opportunity arises.
“After a few games you enjoy it because you get a bit more ball and help the boys out by running a few plays. It does make you want more,” he said.
Furner experimented with switching the pair back and forth against Cronulla with impressive results and although Robinson said he had no idea if the coach planned to repeat the dose against Newcastle this week, former captain Alan Tongue believes it could prove a masterstroke as the Raiders look to force their way into the top eight.
“I still think ‘Duges’ when he is playing his best footy should be at No.1,” Tongue said, “but if they can play and share a bit of the role to get the best out of them … Josh Dugan catching the ball and running the ball back, there are not too many better than him but Reece Robinson in a good attacking position has really worked well at being able to skip across numbers and create space for his outside men.
“He has got a good passing game left to right as well as right to left. So chopping and changing could well be the way to get the best out of both of them.”