Te'o's happy exit from the centres, North Queensland's Segeyaro boost, the Tigers' poker star, Willie Mason's future and more.
TE’O v PRITCHARD… Much of the talk in Brisbane has been about who isn’t there following the disciplinary dumping of fullback Josh Hoffman and injuries to key duo Corey Parker and Alex Glenn but Broncos forward Ben Te’o believes the return of Justin Hodges provides a huge boost as the side look to rekindle their premiership hopes.
Not only does Hodges’ presence add much-needed spark to Brisbane’s battling backline, it also allows Te’o to return to his favoured back-row position after filling in at right centre in Hodges’ absence.
“In no way do I consider myself a centre – I was just trying get out there and fill the role,” he told NRL.com this week. “I’m a lot more comfortable in the back row and that’s where I’ve got a lot more experience. So I feel better being there, plus having Justin outside adds so much more to our attack.”
Te’o has proved to be quite the weapon in the back row this season, scoring six tries and making his debut for Queensland in the State of Origin decider, but he admitted the Bulldogs provided the toughest test for any forward in this year’s competition.
“The big thing for us is just trying and compete with that pack,” he said. “They’ve got that much skill with guys like Pritchard on the edges and before the line… their ball movement – it’s amazing at the moment. It will be hard to shut that down.
“They’re the best team in the comp at the moment. They’ve got great forwards, great skills and then some attacking weapons in the backs.”
Despite Brisbane’s struggles since Origin Te’o said he had returned a better player since donning the Maroon jersey for the first time.
“I think whenever you’re around experienced and great players you can learn some things and if you’re not trying to learn some things you’re wasting your opportunities,” he said. “Every day at training to see the guys and how they eat, how they train, how they recover – it was awesome for me.”
SEGEYARO BOOST… Last week we revealed that North Queensland back-rower Tariq Sims was a good chance of making it back onto the field this year after breaking his leg back in Round 11. Well, we have even more good news with hooker James Segeyaro tipped to return from a serious ankle injury for the side’s Round 25 clash with Newcastle.
Segeyaro was originally expected to miss the rest of the season with an ankle syndesmosis injury suffered in Round 13 but has worked hard to make it back before he leaves Townsville for Penrith at the end of the year.
DWYER A POKER STAR… The rugby league career of injured Wests Tigers forward Simon Dwyer remains in serious doubt after he damaged nerves in his spine during a game last June – however he may well have discovered a new career if this week’s efforts are anything to go by.
Dwyer, with his arm still in a sling, beat a field of 825 players to win the opening event of the Sydney Poker Championships at The Star earlier this week – pocketing a tidy $57,915 in the process! A number of Tigers players, including Robbie Farah and Liam Fulton, are regulars in The Star’s poker room but they have a lot of work to do now if they hope to match Dwyer’s stunning effort.
TITANS UPBEAT… Gold Coast assistant coach Trevor Gillmeister insists the Titans won’t be suffering any hangover from their disappointing loss to South Sydney last weekend.
Needing victory to maintain their tenuous grip on a finals berth, the Titans couldn’t hold off a Rabbitohs surge either side of half-time – eventually falling 22-18 to slip back outside the top eight – but Gillmeister said the players were as confident as ever of storming home over the coming weeks.
“They’re unflappable now these young players in general,” he said. “They were pretty disappointed after the game because they realised they were a big chance of winning that game. [If] we hang onto the ball a bit more and have a bit of luck – I think they realise that they let that slip. Quite a few of them said how much they want to get back in the finals again and have a crack.”
Asked about the growing confidence within the Titans camp as the 2012 season has progressed, Gillmeister said: “That’s definitely something I’ve noticed and I think that’s come from having players on the field.
“When you’ve got the same blokes on the paddock you’re always a bit more confident. Your training runs are shorter and sharper, everyone knows where to be and the blokes around them know they can hit the bloke on the chest and he isn’t hesitant about where to run.”
The Titans face another tough test this weekend against a rejuvenated Melbourne side with Gillmeister – who also works on the Queensland Origin coaching staff – admitting the presence of the Storm’s ‘big three’ posed a huge threat to the Gold Coast’s season.
“But our blokes have done a great job on the major threats of other sides in the past few months,” he said. “Obviously Billy (Slater), Cam (Smith) and Cooper (Cronk) are going to feature on our tip sheets as well this week. Billy has a couple of games under his belt now and I reckon he’d be 90 per cent.
“A 90 per cent Billy Slater is still better than 100 per cent of most blokes!”
MORE FOR MASON… Expect an announcement next week that Willie Mason has signed a new two-year deal with the Knights. Newcastle have made no secret of their desire to retain the veteran prop, who has not only impressed on the field but proved to be a real leader off the field since the club threw him a lifeline earlier this year. Negotiations have been drawn out as the two parties sort through the finer details but both are now ready to sign on the dotted line.