Monday Smelling Salts: Round 2
Potter’s roar talent will explode
If Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter can do just enough with his side this season - which, by his own reckoning, is making the finals - seriously good times lay ahead. You wouldn't be sacked for quids from this Tigers outfit, who showed in Sunday's demolition of the Titans that they have some of the best young players in the game. Teenage Andrew Johns lookalike Luke Brooks ran riot at halfback alongside speedy No.1 James Tedesco yesterday, while David Nofoaluma, Tim Simona, Marika Koroibete, Curtis Sironen, Mitchell Moses, James Gavet and of course, NSW prop Aaron Woods, are all wonderful prospects. If Potter can keep their defence resembling that of a seasoned NRL side, the Tigers are a good smoky for the finals this season and beyond that could do anything. No wonder skipper Robbie Farah felt no need to look elsewhere when he re-signed on the last major contract of his career during a difficult last season.
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Milford form makes Raiders fans green
It's a crying shame that Anthony Milford will after this season become the latest budding superstar to depart Canberra. Though his signing by Brisbane is a tremendous coup for the Broncos, you can't help but feel for Raiders fans at losing another elite talent. Milford was sensational against Newcastle yesterday - in fact, he was the difference between Canberra winning and losing, hence his man of the match award. At least the Raiders can now rest assured Milford, heading north primarily due to family reasons, has his head switched on for this season. With Ben Barba locked into the Broncos fullback spot, expect Milford to play five-eighth next season. His combination with Barba should prove lethal and it would be no shock to see Milford become the successor to Johnathan Thurston’s Queensland No.6 jersey. Footnote: Apologies for doing this Raiders fans, but honestly, what could have been ... It's too hard to even choose the team.
Current Canberra side minus big-name departures: Dugan/Milford, Robinson/Vidot, Ferguson, Croker/Wighton, Lee, Campese/Wighton/Milford, Carney/Campese, Tilse, Buttriss, White, Papalii, Edwards, Fensom. Res: McCrone, Shillington, Learoyd-Lahrs, Vaughan.
Red hot go, footy fans
Big props to the 12,000 Titans fans who turned out for a complimentary sauna with their game of footy at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast. Gold Coast CEO Graham Annesley gave supporters a collective pat on the back in an open letter after the Round 2 clash was played, and watched in sweltering heat beyond the 40-degree mark. What are the craziest conditions you've endured to watch your team play? Tell us in our live blog at noon.
Give him the Darcy
“OOOOHH! Lussick has deadset produced what looks to be a crowbar, or an iron bar of some description, and he's deadset smashed it right across Waerea-Hargreaves head!” Yep, Eels prop Darcy Lussick put his own twist on that classic piece of 12th Man commentary on Saturday when he produced a coat-hanger tackle straight out of the 1970s and unloaded on the throat of Roosters giant Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Yet rather than towelling off and reaching for the talcum powder afterwards, Lussick played on, escaping with a penalty and being placed on report. You can understand referees being a touch hesitant to send players from the field in today’s cutthroat game, especially for such an early incident (the Lussick hit came in the 17th minute) - but that looked a clear-cut send-off to most footy fans. JWH laughed off the incident, saying he held no grudges against his “good mate”. Today, it was over to the match review committee.
Tomkins racing a stacked field
The Warriors’ $1 million man Sam Tomkins is off the mark in the NRL with his first try. However, the four-pointer came in another loss for New Zealand and he effectively cancelled it out by spilling a bomb to allow the Dragons to score. Tomkins’ weight disadvantage has been shown up in his opening two NRL clashes – and that’s against two sides not expected to fare particularly well this season in the world’s most physical competition. Here’s hoping the brilliant Englishman can emulate Preston Campbell, Ben Barba and his replacement at Wigan, Matt Bowen, in thriving despite his small stature. And spare a thought for him. Once he gets the hang of punching above his weight, he just has to outshine touted Immortal Greg Inglis, Dally M winners Barba, Billy Slater and Jarryd Hayne, Golden Boot winner Anthony Minichiello, Origin players Brett Stewart, Josh Dugan, Darius Boyd and Michael Gordon, budding superstars Anthony Milford and James Tedesco, plus guns William Zillman, Matt Moylan, Michael Morgan and Sam Perrett to achieve his stated aim of becoming the world’s finest fullback. What an era of No.1s...
DCE will be a CHAMPION
Daly Cherry-Evans is just 25 and already on the cusp of champion status. What a player the Manly halfback is. His honour roll already includes a Sea Eagles premiership in which he pulled the reins from No.7, a Clive Churchill Medal in a lost grand final, a State of Origin series win with Queensland, a World Cup win with the Kangaroos. Just a couple of lofty goals remain – a Dally M Medal, a Golden Boot and ownership of the starting halfback spot in winning Queensland and Australian sides – to mark his cards as a truly iconic player. Playing alongside another budding great in Kieran Foran for Manly won’t exactly hurt his prospects of success in the coming years either. DCE was man of the match in his side’s gritty come-from-behind win over South Sydney on Friday and it’s likely he’ll have plenty more of those gongs by the end of this season. At the other end of the halfback scale, a round of applause for Brisbane’s underrated playmaker Ben Hunt, given little kudos in the pre-season as his club’s lone specialist No.7 but so far a perfect 2-0 this season.
Dragons coach Steve Price and Broncos boss Anthony Griffin are laughing - two from two and counting after being touted for the imminent axe. A winless start has put the heat squarely on Matt Elliott at the Warriors, more so because both losses have been disappointing, comprehensive losses against teams not tipped for any great heights this season. Wests Tigers boss Mick Potter did fellow battling mentor John Cartwright no favours by masterminding a rout of Round 1 winners the Titans.
NSW fans would have been sweating bullets over the weekend watching Cherry-Evans, Milford and Ben Barba do their thing. Throw in Roosters hooker Jake Friend and you have a long-term Queensland spine that oozes class. All four have started the season on fire, yet in this current champion Maroons side are probably competing for the lone utility spot on the bench for Origin 2014, with DCE a lock on the spot and breathing down the neck of Cooper Cronk. Did we mention Bowraville product Greg Inglis is still only 27? Yikes. And we haven't even talked about Andrew McCullough yet... A weekend downer for Queensland was an ankle injury to Canberra hitman Josh Papalii, though he would be fit in time for Queensland duty. Back-row partner Matt Gillett looked sharp in Brisbane’s Queensland derby win, as did powerful winger Daniel Vidot.
Those of Blue extraction got a shock yesterday when reliable hard-nut back-rower Greg Bird went down with a shoulder injury, joining Bash Brother Paul Gallen in the casualty ward, though you just know both will make it back for Origin I - they won't want to miss out on being booed mercilessly in Brisbane. An early candidate for a debut is powerful Penrith winger Josh Mansour, while Will Hopoate must feel some way off after enduring a record thumping with the Eels - partly inflicted by gun Roosters back-rower Boyd Cordner, surely a future NSW captain. Also mark down the debut of Tricolours prop Kane Evans - he's a special prospect and will play for NSW in the future. Incumbent Blues halves Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney predictably ran riot against Parra, but how's this for a final thought: Luke Brooks 2015.