BEST INTENTIONS… Veteran Cronulla centre Colin Best says the reality of his impending retirement is yet to hit him as he prepares to play his first finals series in Cronulla colours since 2002.
“To be honest no, it hasn’t yet,” he told NRL.com ahead of Monday night’s crucial trip to Melbourne. “I guess it will next week with our last home game – and every game from then on could be a knockout – so it hasn’t hit me yet but when it does it will probably hit me with a sledgehammer and I’ll know all about it.”
Nevertheless, the 33-year-old insists he has no regrets about his decision to leave the club despite showing no signs of slowing down during his two seasons back at Cronulla.
“Looking back, I probably knew [it was time to retire] in the pre-season this year,” he explained. “I felt going into the year that this would probably be my final year but with the club going pretty well and all the off-field positives the club is having it changed my attitude a bit. Then ‘Flanno’ (coach Shane Flanagan) came to me and said they would like me to go around for one more year so it got me thinking. I was close but I definitely made the right decision to finish up this year.
“Hopefully I can finish on a high. When I started playing football here at the Sharks, that was my ultimate goal – to win a premiership and the first one here. I’ve got one last chance I guess and if I get that it would be a fairy tale.”
Best still has plenty of work to do before he can sit back and reflect on his career with the Sharks looking to cement a home final should they beat Melbourne for a second time this season.
The Storm are one of the few sides in the NRL that heavily favour attacking to their right edge, rather than the left, which means Best can expect plenty of traffic to head his way.
“Obviously Cooper Cronk is on that side so it’s going to be a challenge,” he said. They’ve got a lot of structured plays and set plays so we’ll go over video in the next few days.
“We were pretty good when we played them earlier in the year [they defeated the Storm 12-10] so hopefully this will be a similar game and we play well.
“The big thing for us is attitude. We’ve got to go down with a defensive-minded attitude, defend like we did last week and just want to play for each other. We sort of got away from that when we went through that lull.
“That was our best attribute at the start of the year so if we bring that to the table on the weekend our attack will come off the back of that.”
HUNT v FORAN… Upsetting Manly at Brookvale Oval tonight means more to Ben Hunt than just ending Brisbane’s losing streak or cementing their spot in the finals – it is also the next step in his bid to make the Broncos’ No.6 jersey his own.
That role seemed certain to be filled long term by Corey Norman earlier in the year with the youngster playing a key role in Brisbane’s strong start to 2012, but the club’s recent slide has prompted coach Anthony Griffin to reshuffle his 17 with Hunt being given his chance to step into Darren Lockyer’s shoes.
“I played there for most of my junior football pretty much so it’s a good feeling to be back there,” Hunt enthused.
“The coach said to me that if I want the spot and I play the right sort of football the position is there for me. I’ve just got to prove to him that I can play in that position, hold my own and secure the spot. Hopefully I can play some good football and stay there.”
Hunt admitted he had been frustrated by his inability to make the five-eighth position his own.
“At the end of the day, Corey played better football during the trial games,” he said.
“I mean, I’m happy just to be in the team anyway but I do really enjoy that position so it has been frustrating at times not to be playing there.
“The coach said to me that I needed to keep working on my game and keep improving and you never know – the opportunity could come if there were injuries or something. I’ve got that opportunity now so I’ve just got to take it.”
While the Broncos are still riding a five match losing streak, Hunt pointed to his clash with Manly duo Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans tonight as arguably his toughest encounter yet.
“They’re playing great footy and have done for a couple of years now. It’s going to be a big challenge for me so I’ve got to lift my game if I want to be performing around their standard.”
MANU MISTAKE… Former Warriors captain Steve Price believes that sacked coach Brian McClennan erred in naming winger Manu Vatuvei as captain in the absence of injured skipper Simon Mannering.
Vatuvei led the side out in losses to Manly, Cronulla, North Queensland and Penrith but Price believes the side would have been better served by appointing a ‘middle’ player to the position.
“It was a really tough decision to make because there was no Sam Rapira, no Jerome Ropati – there were a lot of players missing from that leadership group and Manu is a part of that so I can see what Bluey was thinking… but I just think it would have been better to put someone else in there,” Price said.
“It would have taken a lot of pressure off Manu as well. Manu is a guy that takes a lot of things personally and he would have beaten himself up even more with some of those big losses. That wouldn’t have helped his game either.
“Obviously Manu is highly respected within the team and is one of the favourite team-mates of everybody, so it was a tough call that had to be made. Everyone has a different opinion. I wouldn’t have named Manu myself. He is a leader in plenty of ways but I don’t think he needed the word ‘captain’ next to his name.”
Price said he was stunned by McClennan’s sacking so early in his tenure but believes another recently sacked coach, Stephen Kearney, could well prove a perfect fit at the Warriors despite two barren years at Parramatta.
“I don’t know what happened at Parramatta but I know from taking to Cameron Smith and the Melbourne boys in Origin camp, they couldn’t speak highly enough of him,” Price said. “Whether Parramatta was the right club with everything that was going on… he was put in there to clean everything up but the guys put in before him to do the same thing didn’t have much success with that either.
“I’m sure if he had his time over he wouldn’t have taken that particular position. I don’t know whether the Warriors would be a different fit to Parramatta or not but he is a former player at the club, which is a real bonus. He has respect from the whole country. I wouldn’t take what happened at Parramatta as needing to put a line through his name.”