FULLTIME score:Round 3St George Illawarra Dragons 44 def. South Sydney Rabbitohs 14Match summary:The St George Illawarra Dragons have today flexed their potential premiership muscles with a majestic 44-14 victory over a hapless South Sydney outfit at the Rabbitohs? new home of Telstra Stadium.South Sydney started the stronger of the two sides, and had an 8-6 lead after half an hour of play and it looked as though we were to be treated to a close one after Nathan Merritt?s 28th minute try.But the Dragons came up with three blows, the third being the knockout one, in the 10 minute period leading into halftime. Daryl Millard, playing in just his second career game was the first of those try-scorers after a beautiful pass from captain Trent Barrett. Subsequent four-pointers to Aaron Gorrell and Colin Best ensured the Dragons weren?t going to let this one slip through their fingers and went in with a match-securing 26-8 lead at the break.The Dragons kept the foot on the accelerator after halftime. Mark Gasnier crossed for the first of his three tries just three minutes into the second half, and at that stage it was quite obvious that the Dragons were about to claim their first win in season 2006.The match hit a lull somewhat midway through the second half, with both sides producing a comedy of errors. Gasnier came back to the party late in the match with two late tries to change the status of the victory from comprehensive to blowout.Nathan Merritt scored a consolation try for Souths right on the fulltime hooter, the Dragons running out winners 44 points to 14.South Sydney will be disappointed with the way things went pear-shaped from the 30th minute onwards. Their position is not improved with the news that Stuart Webb, Yileen Gordon, and Manase Manuokafoa have all been placed on report. And looking at all three of those incidents, things don?t look good for those players on the judiciary front. They meet the Sharks at Toyota Park next Saturday afternoon.St George Illawarra put in a more impressive performance in attack today, coming away with their first victory in 2006. Good news and bad to come out of this one for the Dragons, Ben Creagh and Matt Cooper are poised for a return next week in their clash with the Broncos at WIN Stadium next Sunday. But unfortunately for the Dragons, Jason Ryles has a suspected broken hand and more news will come out of that prospect during the week.Scorers:South Sydney Rabbitohs: 14Tries: Yileen Gordon, Shane Rigon, Nathan MerrittGoals: Nathan Merritt 1/3St George Illawarra Dragons: 44Tries: Colin Best, Mark Gasnier(3), Aaron Gorrell, Ben Hornby, Daryl MillardGoals: Aaron Gorrell 8/8 Venue: Telstra StadiumCrowd: 16,049Referee: Jason RobinsonHalf time: Dragons 26-8Live commentary:Sunshine beaming down onto the field here at Homebush in what looks certain to be a cracking contest between the Rabbitohs and the Dragons.Team changes (Dragons): Andrew Price comes onto the bench for Aaron Wheatley.South Sydney are as per the program.And we're underway in the first half! The Bunnies kick-off.4 min: TRY South Sydney RabbitohsBuddy Gordon opens the scoring for Souths after a simple run-around and dummy from Rigon creates some space for the young centre. Attempted conversion from Merritt fails. Rabbitohs 4-011 min: NEWS Both teams sorting themselves out here. Plenty of open play at the moment promising an entertaining affair.14 min: NEWS Greenshields makes a mess of a bomb in goal, presenting a good attacking opportunity for the Bunnies.19 min: NEWS A bit scrappy here at the moment. Both sides are making a few mistakes and the Dragons completion rate is poor.22 min: NEWS Stuart Webb on report for a high shot on Clint Greenshields.23 min: TRY St George Illawarra DragonsGreat try here with Justin Poore taking the ball to the line and flicking it out the back to Hornby who finds Best lurking midfield. Gorrell converts and the Dragons lead. Dragons 6-424 min: NEWS Buddy Gordon struggling out wide, seems he's taken a bit of a knock to the head.28 min: TRY South Sydney RabbitohsA cheeky try here to Rigon after Merritt appeared to go to ground with the ball before slipping a miracle pass from under the defence, finding Sutton who offloads to Rigon out wide. Merritt misses a relatively easy one.Rabbitohs 8-631 min: TRY St George Illawarra DragonsA mistake from Jaiman Lowe turns possession over to the Dragons in good field position. Barrett fires a pass to Millard who strolls over out wide. Gorrell converts and the Dragons hit back almost straight away. Dragons 12-835 min: TRY St George Illawarra DragonsAnother turn-over in Souths territory sees the Dragons with the ball in good position. Gorrell scoots out of acting half and manages to bustle his way over the line next to the sticks. Pretty soft stuff from the Bunnies who have crumbled in the last 10 minutes. Gorrell converts his own try. Dragons 18-837 min: NEWS Buddy Gordon and David Fa'alogo on report for a high tackle on Micheal Henderson. This one doesn't look real good and the Dragons are lining up a penalty goal.38 min: PENALTY GOAL St George Illawarra DragonsGorrell adds another two courtesy of the penalty from the high shot. Dragons 20-840 min: TRY St George Illawarra DragonsThe Dragons pile on another try despite a question mark over an obstruction to John Sutton. Gorrell adds the extras. Dragons 26-8A disappointing back-end of the half from Souths, who looked very competitive for 25-30 minutes. Some soft tries have almost played them out of the game here at halftime, with some extraordinary work needed to dig them out of the fire. The Dragons look competent, but not great and have made many mistakes throughout. This first half should give them the confidence necessary to roll the Bunnies however.Second half underway at Telstra Stadium43 min: TRY St George Illawarra DragonsFloodgates opening now very early on in the second half, with Dragons centre Mark Gasnier running onto a classy cross-field ball from a seemingly rejuvenated Trent Barrett to cross for another try. Dragons 32-850 min: NEWS Still no change to the score at Telstra, the Dragons still holding a 32-8 lead. Souths have allowed mistakes to creep into their game which have cost them dearly, both sides really only playing out time now with the result a foregone conclusion.53 min: NEWS Clint Greenshields down injured after a collision with Shannon Hegarty. We will update you as more information comes to hand on the injury. Still 32-8 to the Dragons with no sign of a comeback happening here.57 min: NEWS Greenshields appears to have recovered from the collision with Hegarty. 32-8 the score remains.60 min: NEWS Crowd 16,049.61 min: TRY St George Illawarra DragonsGasnier pounces on a loose ball and out-sprints Hegarty from 90 metres out to score under the posts. A disappointing finish to this match for Souths after a positive start. Dragons 38-868 min: NEWS The score remains the Dragons 38 South Sydney 8. Bothy sides seem to have their eyes on the clock right now. The Dragons will get their first win of 2006 here.71 min: TRY St George IllawarraShocking defence from John Sutton and Shannon Hegarty close to their own line, and Mark Gasnier scores a simple try from dummy-half to cap off a hat-trick. Dragons 44-880 min: TRY South Sydney RabbitohsNathan Merritt scores a consolation try right on the siren for Souths, the Dragons running out winners by 44 points to 14 in a commanding performance. Dragons 44-14-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Mark Gasnier2 - Dean Young1 - Trent Barrett-----------------------------------------
FIRST up, apologies for my absence last week, had a corked thigh which ruled me out. I?m back and hitting it up hard this week though with normal service having resumed here at LU.
FULLTIME score:Round 2Sydney Roosters 18 v Melbourne Storm 22Match summary:The Sydney Roosters have staged a remarkable comeback this afternoon, but it wasn?t quite enough to defeat the Melbourne Storm in a cliff-hanger today at Aussie Stadium, the Storm winning the match 22-18 on a warm Sydney afternoon.Melbourne came firing off the blocks in the first half, and took a 16-0 lead into halftime, a lead which was almost extended right on the break with Storm winger Jake Webster failing to keep his feet in play, crashing over the sideline and the margin remained at 16 at the interval. The Roosters then staged a remarkable second half fight-back. After trailing 22-0 midway through the half, the Roosters crossed for three converted tries in quick time, and were an Anthony Minichiello mistake away from claiming victory. The Australian fullback put a regulation pass to ground and granted the Storm a massive reprieve. Ball control was a problem for the Bondi club all afternoon, and in retrospect, the Roosters should have won this match according to the number of chances they squandered, in comparison to the end margin of just four points. Melbourne went into their shells during the second half and were remarkably lucky to hang on after a scanty performance towards the end of the match. But otherwise the Storm were consummate in victory, with an excellent platform laid down by their forwards which enabled their skilled backline of Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Jake Webster to wreak havoc on a shaky Roosters defensive line.The Storm had to battle with 16 men for the majority of the match, former Rooster Michael Crocker was forced to leave the field in the 24th minute with a suspected nasal injury. This may have contributed to their lacklustre finish to the match.The Roosters? performance was far inferior to that of last week?s effort against Souths, new buys Braith Anasta and Ashley Harrison appeared to be non-existent out on the field today. Last year?s demons appear to have followed the Roosters into 2006, and they need to look at bringing Craig Wing into the starting side for Brett Finch, Finch seeming to hinder the Roosters attacking structure and is again trying to get too involved when players of far more quality, Anasta and Harrison, are virtual ghosts.The one shining light for the Roosters today was Jamie Soward, and he appears to have a mortgage on the number seven jumper.Matt King was earlier ruled out for Melbourne, causing concern for management who simply can?t afford to have him ruled out of action for a long period.Sam Perrett was sent to the sin bin in just the 4th minute for the Roosters, but there were no reports to speak of from this game.Melbourne have had a pleasing start to 2006 with two victories from two starts, both away from home. The Roosters have been very patchy and it looks as though the men from Bondi have some cobwebs to sweep out of the closet, similarly to last season after the loss of Brad Fittler. Scorers:Sydney Roosters: 18Tries: Ryan Cross, Amos Roberts, Jamie SowardGoals: Craig Fitzgibbon 3/3Melbourne Storm: 22Tries: Cooper Cronk, Ryan Hoffman, Greg Inglis, Steve TurnerGoals: Cameron Smith 3/4Venue: Aussie StadiumCrowd: 10,841Referee: Tony ArcherHalf time: Storm 16-0Live commentary:0 min: NEWS Today sees a rejuvenated Sydney Roosters side minus the suspended Adrian Morley up against a much-improved Melbourne Storm outfit, minus Matt King, at Aussie Stadium on a hot March afternoon in Sydney.Changes: Roosters: as-per-programStorm: Steve Turner comes off the bench into the centres for the injured Matt King, Jamie Feeney comes into the side onto the interchange bench.KICKOFF!, match underway at Aussie Stadium in Sydney4 min: NEWS Sam Perret sent to the sin bin for a professional foul close to the Roosters line.9 min: TRY Melbourne StormGreg Inglis capitalises on a brilliant cross-field kick from Storm halfback Cooper Cronk, taking advantage of his superior height to Iosia Soliola. Storm 4-014 min: NEWS Billy Slater denied a try by on-field officials, ruling to have attempted a double movement and is penalised accordingly. Meanwhile, Sam Perrett has returned from the sin bin.20 min: TRY Melbourne StormMelbourne have capitalised on a Roosters mistake from the play-the-ball, with Jake Webster moving the ball quickly to Steve Turner for a try in the corner. Storm 10-028 min: NEWS The Roosters have an abysmal completion rate at the moment with no cohesion in their attack. Brett Finch is assuming a halfback-type role at the moment with Jamie Soward rarely getting his hands on the ball, and this appears to be affecting their overall structure.34 min: NEWS NO TRY: Finch loses control of the ball over the line off a crafty Soward grubber kick.36 min: TRY Melbourne StormSoward makes a defensive error, sprinting out of the defensive line in an attempt to effect an intercept, the Cooper Cronk pass found the arms to a dashing Ryan Hoffman who subseqeuntly scores in the corner. Storm 16-040 min: NEWS HALFTIME: A possible Jake Webster try is denied right on halftime, with the video referee referring the decision back to referee Tony Archer who in-turn ruled Webster's foot to be over the sideline when he had grounded the ball. Despite the disallowed try, the Storm still hold a commanding 16-point lead and the Roosters will need to improve thier completion rate remarkably in order to have any chance in the second half. 40 min: NEWS Michael Crocker has sustained a depressed nasal fracture and will be out for the rest of this match. The Storm will have to manage with 16 players.Second half underway at Aussie Stadium in Sydney.47 min: NEWS NO TRY: Cameron Smith ruled to have knocked the ball forward in the in-goal area off his own grubber kick by the video referee. Still the Storm leading 16-0 and in reasonable control of this match.50 min: TRY Melbourne StormCooper Cronk races from a Storm scrum win to score a regulation try under the posts from just 10 metres out. The Storm now hold a commanding 22-0 lead and there's no way back for the Roosters now even with 30 minutes still remaining. Storm 22-058 min: TRY Sydney RoostersCraig Fitzgibbon takes an intercept 30 metres out from his own line and links up with Jamie Soward, culminating in a length of the field try for the new and improved Roosters halfback. Storm 22-662 min: TRY Sydney RoostersLooks as though I spoke too soon as Amos Roberts pounces on a cross-field kick from Jamie Soward, one which four Storm players made no attempt to catch, and grounds the ball for a try. Roosters making a comeback with ample time remaining for them to pull this one out of the fire. Storm 22-1270 min: NEWS Melbourne hanging on by the skin of their teeth at the moment, the Roosters are looking very dangerous with the likes of Anasta and Minichiello wreaking havoc.74 min: NEWS The Roosters look to have blown their last opportunity to mount an unbelievable fightback with a Soward grubber going straight into the arms of Billy Slater. The Storm should hang on with the score still at 22-12.77 min: TRY Sydney RoostersRyan Cross scores under the posts after another break by Soward from the Roosters half, and we have a grandstand finish here. An incredible comeback from the Roosters and one last opportunity to complete what would be a remarkable comeback. Storm 22-1878 min: NEWS The Storm have kicked the ball out on the full from the restart. The Roosters will receive a penalty at the halfway line and now have a real opportunity to steal this one!79 min: NEWS Minichiello's hands let him down yet again, putting the ball to ground and with just 40 seconds left that looks to be the ball game. The Storm look as though they will hang on, just.F/T: NEWS After a nail-biting second half, the Melbourne Storm have hung on by a thread to defeat the Sydney Roosters by 22 points to 18 this afternoon at Aussie Stadium in Sydney. The Storm held the ascendancy for the whole of the first half and early in the second, but the Roosters were so close to pulling off one of the best comebacks in the modern era until Anthony Minichiello put the ball to ground with just seconds remaining, giving the Storm a much-needed reprieve and a satisfying win away from home.-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Cameron Smith (Storm)2 - Cooper Cronk (Storm)1 - Jamie Soward (Roosters)-----------------------------------------
FULLTIME score: Round 1South Sydney Rabbitohs 22 v Sydney Roosters 40Match summary:The Sydney Roosters have produced a commanding second half performance to defeat the South Sydney Rabbitohs by 40 points to 22 at Telstra Stadium this afternoon, but not without controversy.The major talking point to come out of this match was Adrian Morley?s seemingly illegal hit on Rabbitohs halfback Ben Walker, midway through the second half. Under the new rules, any hit above the shoulder, regardless of whether it be the shoulder or from a swinging arm, is now deemed to be illegal. Morley appeared to strike Walker with the shoulder, leaving Walker with serious head injuries which forced him to leave the field. The hit led to a Roosters try. Referee Jason Robinson awarded the try without referring the decision to the video referee, which culminated with Morley being called to speak with Robinson on the halfway line. Morley was subsequently placed on report for an offence which, had he been caught out in the act, may have resulted in the first ejection from the playing arena in the 2006 season. Supporters were bemused with the fact that Robinson allowed the try to remain, despite the fact that Morley had committed an illegal offence in the process of the try being scored.Aside from the incident, the Roosters were clinical in their domination of the Rabbitohs, winning the second half by 34 points to 4 and winning the match 40-22.It was the Rabbitohs who came out firing early, taking an 18-6 lead into the halftime break and it seemed they would continue from where they left off last season with some promising performances.It was however the men from Bondi who prevailed, proving too strong for their southern Sydney rivals.Jamie Soward and Amos Roberts were outstanding for the visitors, while five-eighth John Sutton was clearly the best for the Bunnies. Braith Anasta was quiet early on, but appeared to erase a few cob-webs in the second half and created some opportunities for the Roosters, while Brett Finch had a solid start at hooker in his new-found role.The turning point though, was the Morley/Walker incident which occurred at the 55th minute, a time at which the Rabbitohs held an 18-16 advantage. The incident will no doubt be a bitter pill to swallow for the South Sydney faithful, and will come under the microscope with the video review committee tomorrow.With a past history of serious judiciary offences, one would expect that with closer video scrutiny, Morley?s moment of madness may result in a lengthy stint on the sidelines for the Great Britain international. Scorers:South Sydney Rabbitohs: 22Tries: Nathan Merritt, Yileen Gordon, John Sutton, Ben Walker Goals: Ben Walker 3/3, Nathan Merritt 0/1Sydney Roosters: 40Tries: Amos Roberts (2), Ryan Cross, Brett Finch, Anthony Minichello, Iosia Soliola, Jamie SowardGoals: Craig Fitzgibbon 4/4, Amos Roberts 2/3Venue: Telstra Stadium Crowd: 16,741Referee: Jason RobinsonHalf time: South Sydney 18-6Live commentary:Buddy Gordon takes the field for the injured Adam MacDougall. Shillington replaces Tupou in the starting line-up for the Roosters.0 min: NEWS And we're underway in the first half! Beautiful sundrenched day here in Sydney.7 min: TRY Sydney RoostersBraith Anasta throws a cut-out pass to Ryan Cross who beats the outside Rabbitohs men and finds Anasta back on the inside who gives it to Minichello to score his first for the year. Roosters 6-013 min: TRY South Sydney RabbitohsWalker makes up for some sloppy handling earlier with a great individual try. He grubbers through and puts pressure on Shillington who he strips the ball from, then barges over next to the posts, carrying Mini. He converts his own try easily. 6 all.21 min: TRY South Sydney RabbitohsAs Walker looks trapped with the ball on the last, he finds Polglase who bursts through the middle and chips to the wing for Gordon who scores a sensational try out wide. Walker converts from the sideline in grand fashion. Rabbitohs 12-627 min: TRY South Sydney RabbitohsThe Rabbits move the ball wide and find Rigon who presses the line before dropping it back behind him for Sutton to pick up and score and easy try, stunning the Roosters. Walker knocks it over and the Rabbitohs are playing a very enthusiastic and exciting brand of footy. Rabbitohs 18-628 min: NEWS Roberts kicks out on the full from the restart, giving Souths a penalty at halfway.35 min: NEWS Both teams a little scratchy early in the year with a few unforced errors creeping into play. The ground conditions are also leaving a little to be desired. The surface seems to be breaking up a fair bit and looks very soft underfoot.40 min: NEWS A great first half effort here from the Bunnies, leading a stunned Roosters outfit by 18-6 with some very enterprising play.40 min: NEWS Second half underway at Telstra Stadium43 min: TRY Sydney RoostersCross strolls in under the posts, running off a brilliant ball from new recruit Braith Anasta. Rabbitohs 18-1248 min: TRY Sydney RoostersSoliola scores an end to end try, a somewhat controversial one after Adrian Morley committed an illegal tackle on Ben Walker in the lead-up to the try. Rabbitohs 18-1650 min: NEWS Morley on report for the tackle on Ben Walker.52 min: TRY Sydney RoostersSoward crosses for another Roosters try. A bitter pill to swallow for fuming Souths fans after the Morley tackle escaped with just a report. Roosters 22-1858 min: TRY Sydney RoostersRoberts comes up with some excellent support play, running off Jamie Soward, who again is again causing havoc for the Souths defensive line and Roberts scores again. The Roosters are now running riot over the Rabbitohs. Roosters 28-1863 min: TRY Sydney RoostersFinch scores a well-deserved try in his debut game at hooker. This game is albeit over now. Roosters 34-1870 min: TRY Sydney RoostersRoberts is over again and the floodgates are now officially open. Roosters 40-1880 min: TRY South Sydney RabbitohsNathan Merritt grabs a consolation intercept try for the Rabbitohs on the siren. The Roosters have ended up the victors by 40 points to 22, a victory somewhat soured by Adrian Morley's cheap-shot on Ben Walker 15 minutes into the second half. Roosters 40-22-----------------------------------------Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:3 - Jamie Soward (Roosters)2 - Amos Roberts (Roosters)1 - John Sutton (Rabbitohs)-----------------------------------------
PUT away the cricket bat, beach balls and whatever else you want to associate with summer, because the long wait for NRL in 2006 is almost over.While we?ve had to put up with a low quality tour by the West Indies and a slightly better South African Test series to relieve us from the now traditional summer boredom, Australia then started playing Twenty/20 games and a meaningless 15-game One Day series against nonsense opponents with ridiculous ?super-sub? and ?powerplay? novelties as rules. It was about that time that I think most footy fans were joining me in crossing the days off the calendar, until now.In spite of the fact that cricket has a tendency to dominate the back pages over summer, rugby league still found ways to show the fans that the game had not disappeared off planet earth, but no doubt the publicity the game received was some that it could have done without.It even went as far as commanding the front pages, but unfortunately for rugby league, the game doesn?t usually feature there for the recognition of players? charity work. And Craig Gower made sure of that?Then there was the ongoing saga with regards to the South Sydney Rabbitohs becoming privatised, which has interested me about as much as a badminton tournament in Uzbekistan. The issue has dragged on and on, and the sooner a decision is made the better things will be for all parties, and we won?t have to bear another whining comment from George Piggins ever again (hopefully!). The club needs to make a decision which will lead them to become a superior football team to what they have been since their return in 2002. Memo to Souths: Whatever you decide, just hurry up! You?re putting us all to sleep at a time of year when we should be jumping out of our skin.It did, however, keep rugby league in the news over summer. And I guess, for that reason alone, it can be given some credence.The Scott Prince saga was another the game could have done without, in particular diehard Tigers fans. Not the best look is it? The Wests Tigers captain having dinner with the Gold Coast Titans Chief Executive Michael Searle in Martin Place, the heart of Sydney?s city, for one and all to see. If I was a Tigers supporter, I think I would have been excused if I had have choked on my dinner when the pictures were aired on the news that evening. At least now Prince has signed, and we can all concentrate on the footy. The game also had to cope with the tragic news of losing one of its favourite sons, Cronulla legend and CEO Steve Rogers, who sadly took his own life in January of this year. And let?s not forget the ongoing and bizarre coaching saga. It started with Michael Hagan signing with Parramatta for season 2007, and we thought things were uncertain enough at that stage. We are then informed that Penrith have told John Lang that his services are not required, and Matthew Elliot will be his replacement at the end of 2006. I guess a playing equivalent would maybe be Newcastle telling Andrew Johns that his services are not required beyond this season, and that their reasoning behind the decision was because Cooper Cronk was too good a player to refuse. There?s plenty more to come with the coaching saga, all I?ll say at this stage is that I?m not only crossing off the days to March 10, but also June 30.We also had the dreaded news for all Bulldogs supporters that Sonny Bill Williams will again be injury-affected in 2006. The teenage sensation has played just 20 of a possible 52 games in two seasons for the Dogs, and he looks set to miss at least the first 6 weeks of the 2006 season. If he doesn?t get on the field for a reasonable number of games this season, the Bulldogs may look to offload him at the end of 2007. They must be scratching their heads after offloading Braith Anasta to keep Williams and Willie Mason, who appear to have more injury problems than the Roosters-bound NSW five-eighth.Last but definitely not least, the Warriors were caught breaching the salary cap by $1 Million over 3 seasons, but for some reason they only lost 4 points. Correct if I?m wrong, but didn?t the Bulldogs lose 37 points for a $1mil breach just 4 years ago? It?s obvious to me that the NRL gauged the Bulldogs? punishment on their success, and not the crime. It?s also clear that the only reason they didn?t dock more points from the Warriors 2006 tally, was because they would have done well to get three men and a dog to the games if more points were lost.Some good news to finish though, with Andrew Johns returning successfully in a trial game against Cronulla a couple of weeks ago, and the game?s best player looks set to start the season free of injury. Let?s hope that in 2006, the superstars of the game such as Johns, Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall can stay injury-free, for the sake of the kids who love watching the game?s best, in particular that trio, perform free of any injury.So buckle up for a magnificent season ahead, with all news, live scores, and match reports right here on www.leagueunlimited.comWith just 2 days left to cross off the calendar, personally I just can?t wait. Season 2006 - Bring it on!
HERE it is Tigers fans! LeagueUnlimited.com's intrepid writer Daniel Ramus sits down and has a good old chin-wag with Balmain?s favourite son Wayne Pearce. They chat about detached retinas, hepatitis, beer can throwing, the Wok, meningitis, Ellery?s chin in ?88, knee reconstructions, extra time in ?89, falling off horses, the Tigers 2005 premiership and what Junior?s doing these days for a crust.You better buckle up, this one goes for a while!Rammo: You started out playing for the Balmain Police Boys junior club, could you tell us a bit about those early days?Junior: I guess my inspiration for playing rugby league was the Tigers? premiership victory in 1969. I was a nine year-old. Myself, and my two young brothers were pumped up so we signed up and started playing the next season for the Balmain Police Boys. Rammo: After being graded with the Balmain juniors in 1978, a severe bout of hepatitis threatened your career in its early stages. This would have been a tough way to start things off.Junior: Yeah, it was pretty tough. I was studying at university at the time and playing junior football as well. I got a bad cut in a game playing for the NSW Under 18s against Queensland. In those days they had the old bucket and sponge, they didn?t have the spray like they do these days, they sponged down the wound over my eye. Inadvertently the virus got into my bloodstream and 6 weeks later I became really crook. I was knocked around for the next 6 months, lost a lot of weight and was lucky to play rugby league again. On the upside, the good thing is, as a result of what happened to me, the governing sports medicine associations put a ban on the bucket and sponge and nowadays the bottles are used which are much more hygienic. Rammo: You were named as the best and fairest player for the Tigers in 1980. This was obviously a great way to begin your first grade career.Junior: Yeah it was a big plus because my only grade experience before I came into First Grade as a 19-year old in 1980, was when I came off the bench late in 1979 and played two Under 23 games, as they were then. That was my only grade experience. In the off-season, the first grade incumbent lock at the time, Neil Pringle, suffered a really bad virus in that off-season and they were looking for a lock. They threw me into the first grade training squad and I started first grade the next season. I had a pretty good year, made the City representative team, and at the end of the year I was given the best and fairest award for the club which was a real honour.Rammo: In 1981 you suffered a detached retina, delaying the start to your season. Was that one of the worst injuries you ever had?Junior: That was without doubt the most frightening injury I ever had. I got poked in the eye during a game and basically I was blinded straight away as a result of that. I went to hospital and I had to lie still for a couple of days while the blood cleared up so they could actually look inside the eye, or until the blood cleared so they could see what damage was done. A couple of days later they examined the eye and saw that it was detached so I had to have an operation, not knowing at that stage whether I?d play rugby league again. As it turned out though, the operation was a success and I ended up playing a lot more years of footy.Rammo: You had a stellar end to 1981 and an excellent follow-up year in ?82 resulting in selection on the Kangaroo tour at the conclusion of that season. Can you describe the feeling of pulling on the Green and Gold for the first time?Junior: I can remember standing there at the start of the Test match, listening to the national anthem and I had tears streaming down my face because to me it was a very emotional time. It was the culmination of a childhood dream to play for Australia, and I was fortunate to have a good game and I was named player of the match.Rammo: What was it like playing in the U.K.? What were the conditions and the quality of opposition like?Junior: The touring side of 1982 was the first side to go away and come back undefeated. We had a really successful tour. People talked about the quality of the opposition being pretty ordinary, and yes, by the standards of Australian rugby league they were a lot inferior. They were skilful players but they just didn?t match the speed at which we played the game. We went on and won all the test matches and club matches and went over to France to also win the games over there. It was a fantastic experience, the grounds were quite heavy, very different to play on but they actually suit my game because I had pretty good leg strength, and it helped my speed over the ground. It was one of the best experiences of my life.Rammo: What are your lasting memories of England?Junior: Just the great hospitality and the friendly people over there. I really liked the atmosphere, the people over there really embraced us as foreigners. We stayed at a pub in Leeds called The Hilton. It was an experience that taught me to come out of my shell as a person and as a footballer. The Kangaroo tours do a lot for people, not just because of their growth as a football player but as a person as well.Rammo: You won the Harry Sunderland medal at the end of 1984 for best player in the Ashes series. This must have been quite an honour for you.Junior: It was a great honour. You don?t go out there to win awards, but I did have a pretty good series that year, winning Man of the Match in two of the three tests. I was then awarded the Harry Sunderland Medal which was a real honour, the magnitude of it didn?t really sink in at the time and it probably wasn?t until a few years later that I looked back and realised what it meant.Rammo: Injury was a familiar foe throughout your career, and you suffered another detached retina during the minor semi-final in 1985 against Parramatta. You were awarded the Rothmans Medal for best and fairest player in the same season, this must have been a nice consolation after missing the majority of the semi-final through injury.Junior: This was another tremendous honour. In my opinion, the Rothmans Medal is the highest accolade any player can receive. That and the Players? Player award, which are both voted by your peers, are the two greatest individual honours the game has to offer. Being voted the player of the season, during what was then the ARL competition, was a real big honour, it was some consolation for not playing in the finals series, but I really wanted to play the big games because I was the club captain for the Tigers. Rammo: In 1986 you led the NSW side to the first ever clean-sweep in origin history in an incredibly tight series. What memories can you recall from that series?Junior: Just the fact that the matches in the series were all very close. It was a fantastic achievement the previous year to win our first Origin series ever against Queensland, something which I was also proud to be a part of. To go on and win 3-0 the next year went to the next level yet again. The contests were anything but easy, all the matches went down to the wire. We managed to come up on the right side of the ledger each time, the speed of the matches was phenomenal, the series could have gone either way, Queensland could have just as easily won 3-0 because there were only a couple of points in each game. Rammo: You were omitted from the 1986 Kangaroo Tour following a knee injury and there was a bit of controversy surrounding your non-selection. Please tell us a bit about that.Junior: I actually ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament, which is the main ligament of the knee in the 3rd Test against the Kiwis which was in July. The initial diagnosis didn?t look too good, but I had a subsequent diagnosis and an operation from a surgeon by the name of Merv Cross who was considered the number one knee surgeon in Australia at the time. He had a chat to me and said that the way I ruptured it, was the best possible way I could rupture it if I wanted to get back playing as quickly as possible. He said that provided I was prepared to put the physiotherapy and effort in, that I could be right to play on the Kangaroo tour. I was doing 3 to 4 hours a day of physiotherapy and rehab work, and he was astounded at how quickly my knee recovered. For some strange reason it never happened before. Prior to their selection of the team I was asked to go and participate in a fitness test. I went along there and the League Doctor had not even spoken to Merv Cross who?s the expert, to find out what shape my knee was in. They put me through a ridiculous test that went on and on. They were just trying to look for a way to rule me out. Les Davidson and Martin Bella were tackling me in the fitness test, both of them said that my knee was fine. Anyway, the League Doctor at the time found reason to rule me out, it shattered my belief in the system at the time. Rammo: In 1988 you suffered viral meningitis. How long did the recovery process take?Junior: That was a pretty ordinary experience as well. It knocked me around and made me very weak. It probably took me a good four or five weeks to recover fully from that. I got back on the playing paddock after two or three weeks but the first couple of games back I felt very weak, and it?s not a very nice illness to get. It was once again another opportunity for me to come back after a setback or hurdle. Rammo: You were involved in the infamous incident at Lang Park in 1988 where Maroons captain Wally Lewis was sent to the sin bin. The crowd started throwing cans of beer onto the field. Fellow New South Welshman Mark McGaw even asked you if the Blues should have left the field. What can you remember from that night?Junior: It was a pretty tough game. The game was delicately poised when Wally was sent from the field. The crowd just erupted because they were so parochial up there in those days, they?re still fanatical now but they were even worse back then, and they started showering the field with cans and bottles. I remember Mark McGaw coming over to me and saying ?Junior, the cricketers went off, so are we going to go off?? I said ?No mate, just go back out there, take a deep breath and we?ll get through it.? The crowd settled down, security came on and cleared the bottles, then we got on with the game. It was a bit intimidating but any experience of playing at Lang Park (now Suncorp Stadium) is different to playing anywhere else because the crowd is just so passionate and a lot more emotional than at other grounds. Rammo: You captained Balmain in the 1988 grand final against Canterbury. Unfortunately you went down that day by 24 points to 12. Obviously the Ellery Hanley incident was the main talking point from this match. How did you see the incident and the game in general?Junior: At the time I didn?t have a real good view of when the incident occurred, so I didn?t realise how bad it was until I looked back at video replay of it. It was very ordinary and there should have been a lot more action taken. It did cost us dearly in that game because I remember personally making a break not long after that on the right hand side of the field where Ellery plays in the centres. I came to the fullback looking for support and it would have been a try but there was no one there, and Ellery would have been there for sure. It was certainly a big blow to our chances of winning. Although, in 1988, we came from a difficult position to go through a playoff to get into the final, and through to the Grand Final. So I suppose making the Grand Final in itself was a big achievement. The bigger blow was the next year in 1989 when we lost in extra-time. Rammo: As you say there, you were also captain of the 1989 grand final side. This game will go down as one of, if not the greatest grand final in the history of the game. Balmain led 12-2 at halftime but were run down by Canberra, losing 19-14 in extra time. I would imagine that this would be quite tough to talk about but what can you remember from grand final day in 1989?Junior: It?s a bit of a blur to be perfectly honest. In fact, both grand finals were a bit of a blur because the games were so emotional and so fast, that the specifics of it, sort of elude you to a certain degree. I suppose we tried to wipe 1989 from our memories to a large extent as well, because it was back to back losing grand finals. When you put it in the context that we were 10 points up at halftime, leading 12-2, it was hard to fathom the loss. My memories of the game that particularly stand out were the fact that we had so many things that went against us. We had three or four scoring chances that were snuffed out by some good Raiders defence and some questionable options from us. Also a field goal attempt from Benny Elias that hit the crossbar, it couldn?t have come any closer. I guess it just wasn?t meant to be. Rammo: At the end of the match, you were quoted as saying ?It was disappointing, unbelievably depressing, I ached.? Do you think the fact that you lost the ball close to the line with a try-scoring opportunity beckoning had anything to do with these feelings? Or was it just a reflection of the overall pain in losing a grand final that the side had ample opportunities to win?Junior: Yeah well for years and years I was disappointed with the fact that I dropped the ball. I?m not sure whether I would have scored the try but I would have been a chance of a try. For the first time ever, about 12 months ago, I had a look at the replay with a few other players and I saw that it was a fairly poor pass which I had received. It was way above my head, and it made me feel a lot better to be perfectly honest (laughs). I guess the fact that I knew I was coming towards the end of my career, and the fact that I?d played in two consecutive grand finals without a win, I was doubtful whether I?d get that chance again. That was probably why I felt so devastated. Rammo: What was your take on Warren Ryan substituting strike forwards Steve Roach and Paul Sironen, and replacing them with defensive players Kevin Hardwick and Michael Pobjie late in the 89? grand final? Junior: It?s easy to be wise after the event, and say it was a silly thing to do. At the time Warren believed that we had a strong enough lead, I think we were 10 points in front, so he decided to close up shop and put a couple of defensive players on there. I suppose on the other side of the coin, Canberra saw two of our internationals leave the field, and in those days once a player went off he couldn?t come back on. They knew that Roachy (Steve Roach) and Siro (Paul Sironen) had a bit of size and experience so they probably lifted another gear. Rammo: What did you think of Warren Ryan as a coach? Who would you rate as the best coach in your career?Junior: There?s no doubt that Warren Ryan was a good coach, an astute tactician. He?s had a great deal of success. In terms of the influence on my career, and my development, the best coach I played under would be Frank Stanton. He coached me at the Tigers for a few years and on the Kangaroo tour when we went through undefeated in 1982. He was a very good tactician and a very good communicator, also a great motivator. Rammo: You were forced to retire prematurely at the end of 1990 due to injury, playing just 7 games that season, and 192 in your career for Balmain. Do you look back on your career with frustration given that you could have played for a few more years if it weren?t for some of those injuries?Junior: Yes and no. We could all be greedy and say that we?d like to have played for a few more years, but I was really happy I played 11 seasons at the Tigers. I also had the opportunity to represent New South Wales and represent Australia. At the end of the day I was just glad to have been given enough physical prowess and determination to do what I did. Sure my knee packed in, but I had a pretty good run. I would have been a lot more disappointed if my knee had have packed in after two or three years. Rammo: Succeeding Alan Jones as Balmain coach in 1994, the side unfortunately won the wooden spoon, but you commanded a great deal of respect from your players. How did your find your first season at the helm with the Tigers?Junior: It was pretty tough. It was a year where there were lots of players at the club who I don?t think should have been there. There was an attitude there that didn?t sit very comfortably with me. It was a year where we had to try and turn things around. It was a real struggle, we had very little money, and it takes money to build a winning team. So I guess it was difficult from that point of view, I suppose if I had have been an experienced coach I would have been a lot more disappointed. I was a bit na?ve as a coach as I thought we could turn it around overnight. We started to get some results the next year and we started to rebuild the club, but it took a few years before we got the club competitive because of the fact that there was very little money to work with. The Super League war hit the next year and that was a further drain, because the Tigers weren?t a part of the calculations of getting any big money from that so it was a really tough time. Rammo: You held the reins at Balmain until the end of 1999 when they merged with Western Suburbs. What are your thoughts on the joint venture?Junior: It was always going to be tough. It was hard in the early days because you?re bringing two clubs together with different cultures, and you?re trying to accommodate for the needs of two sets of supporters and officials. It was difficult for that first year, and it was difficult for a few years. The two sets of officials, from both Wests and Balmain, both stuck to their guns, and believed in a vision which was generated back in 2000. Courtesy of Tim Sheens, the club has come up with a premiership and I think it was a magnificent effort by Tim and the whole club to achieve that last season. Rammo: You coached the Wests Tigers in their first year, taking on a number of players that you hadn?t had much to do with previously. Was this challenging and how did you find the joint venture in general?Junior: We had a lot more resources to work with. We had a very good season in 2000. It started off fantastically well, I think we were leading the comp after 6 or 7 rounds. Halfway through the comp I think we were in about fourth position, the problem was that we had a devastating injury toll. We had a pretty good roster with about 15 decent players, but beyond that we struggled for depth. Once we got injuries to about 6 or 7 of our key men, who were out for the season, it really knocked our chances of going on from there. We missed the eight by a couple of points, I think we only won a couple of games in the last 7 or 8 rounds. Rammo: Would you consider taking the Blues to a clean sweep in 2000 over the Maroons the pinnacle of your coaching career? Tell us a bit about that.Junior: It stands out as a real highlight. For me it was probably the most satisfying or rewarding part of my coaching career because I was working with elite players. I was in an environment which was the cauldron of representative football. Coaching State of Origin is probably one of the highest profile coaching jobs in the country. It was very rewarding. The first series I coached was in 1999 and we had a drawn series that year, that was a bit of a nothing result for New South Wales or Queensland. To come and win 3-0 the next year, and break a lot of records along the way like the biggest winning margin in Origin football, meant that it was something which I was quite proud of. Rammo: Do you have any regrets about the nature of the Blues? bonding session which saw both Robbie Kearns and Brad Clyde sustain serious injuries? Would you have done things differently if you had your time over again?Junior: Naturally I wouldn?t have taken them horse-riding because we got a couple of injuries. The reasons I did it and the rationale behind it was to keep the players out of pubs, and get them in an environment where they could understand each other a little bit better and I think subsequent Origin coaches have found that it may not have been such a bad philosophy. The problem was that the activity I took them to do was out of the realms of the ability of some of the players. That meant that unfortunately there were a couple of injuries. You don?t need to get drunk to have fun, you don?t really get to know anybody because you?re slobbering too much. The guys still had a few drinks but they were in an environment where they got to know each other a little bit better than previously. Rammo: Since then you have become a prominent media figure, commentating on Fox Sports, how have you found that side of footy?Junior: I enjoy it. It?s certainly a completely different mindset to playing or coaching. You have to try to communicate with the viewers your opinions on the game. It?s quite different, challenging, it?s fun, and it keeps me involved in the game. I enjoy it.Rammo: Are you doing anything else in football, apart from your media work? Which other career activities have you undertaken?Junior: Commentating is my only involvement in football. In addition to that I run a High Performance Training business. I work with companies to help business teams and business leaders get the most productive results possible from their workers. That?s quite enjoyable, I take a lot of the skills that I?ve picked up over the years as a footballer and a football coach, and I apply those in the corporate sector. Rammo: I also hear that you?re in a band. What?s happening with that?Junior: Yeah I?ve got a bit of a band happening which is fun. We do about 20 gigs a year which is the limit that I have set on it because it takes a bit of time. It?s great, we get people up dancing and partying, for me it?s a good way to get away from it all, and real good fun.Rammo: You must have been impressed with the Tigers? 2005 premiership triumph, being one of the Balmain side of the joint venture?s all-time greats. What did you feel as you saw Scott Prince lift the 2005 Premiership trophy aloft?Junior: I was actually out at Telstra Stadium watching the grand final, and from my point of view the result was never in doubt. The Tigers really did dominate, it was level for the first 15 or 20 minutes or so but after that the Tigers took the ascendancy. When the final whistle blew, I felt a sense of relief really. Probably because the Tigers hadn?t won a premiership for so long, I was really happy, very proud of the guys. I went back to the club afterwards to rejoice with the boys and it was a fantastic feeling.Rammo: Rugby League continues to evolve. What have been the biggest changes since your coaching days? Where do you think the game is heading?Junior: Since I coached, the game has become even more professional. The resources for back-up staff are increasing in numbers. The game is becoming one now where you need 17 athletes in your squad. You cannot afford to carry players that aren?t athletes nowadays. As far as preparation goes, there is a lot more emphasis placed on getting the mental side of the game right, for years and years the players have worked on the skills necessary for the physical side of the game but I think the mental preparation is now the one that?s getting more and more famous. That?s probably the last facet of the game which coaches can work on and get a significant amount of improvement. Rammo: Your son Mitchell has signed with the Sydney Roosters. Can you tell us a bit about his game and will it be hard to watch him run around in anything other than a Black and Gold jersey?Junior: No. He?s his own person and he chose which club he wanted to go to. I had no influence on that and didn?t want to play a part in that, because I didn?t want him to regret where he went. He chose the Roosters, a little bit of my heart probably wishes he went to the Tigers but I?m just happy for him to go wherever he enjoys his footy most. He plays halfback or five eighth, a very skilful player, good kicking game and he has a fair bit of size about him. He?s only 16 years of age but he?s about 6"5'. He?s a promising young player but we?ll just have to wait and see how he goes.Rammo: Who had the biggest influence over your career?Junior: I?d probably have to say Frank Stanton. He was terrific in terms of the way he developed my footballing ability in the early days of my first grade career. Rammo: Best player you played with or against?Junior: Peter Sterling. He was an outstanding player in all conditions. Whether the ball was dry, or whether it was a fast track or slow track, a tight game or an open game, Peter always produced the goods. The best player I have seen would definitely have to be Andrew Johns. He?s got all the skills that Sterlo had, but he?s also got that physical strength and power as well.Rammo: Toughest player you played with or against?Junior: I would say Garry Jack, the former fullback with the Tigers. He was a fullback but he put his body on the line game after game. He was fearless, for mine toughness is one?s ability to absorb punishment and get up and go again and he was that sort of player.
GIVEN the current climate with the Australian coaching position, I thought I?d take a look at where it has all gone wrong for Australia following their defeat at the hands of New Zealand in the 2005 Tri-Nations campaign.It would be unfair to dump the whole bucket on the 2005 side, as there have been a few ongoing problems for the past 10 years. After going down in game one of the series 38-28, the Kangaroos hit back the next week in Auckland, winning 28-26. They began to look good on the British leg of the tour, with successive wins against Great Britain. However, they never got the better of a more passionate Kiwi outfit, minus superstars Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall I might add. Admittedly Australia was minus their halves combination, the world?s two best players, Andrew Johns and Darren Lockyer. But given the depth that the Australian Rugby League has at its disposal this is no excuse. All Australian supporters, ex-players, players and coaching staff were stunned after being thrashed 24-0 by the Kiwis in the 2005 Tri-Nations Final, and we have a detailed look at the roots of the problem here.It has always been an argument of form versus loyalty, incumbency, or reputation. Former NSW State of Origin coach Phil Gould has consistently promoted the case for form in the Test arena, realising that Australia?s form side will always beat any opposition side that?s thrown onto the park. Coaches of Australian sides over the last 10 years have abused their powers at times, selecting players they favour personally, rather than the players who deserve the position on their merits. The Australian team?s failure in the 2005 Tri-Nations series has finally exposed these agendas which have been in place since the mid 1990s under the guidance of former Manly coach Bob Fulton. In the past, Australia has had enough depth to get away with it, not to mention the poor standard of the opposition. But Bennett?s side has been caught out, and it?s time to give the system a complete overhaul.During Fulton?s reign, he selected Manly players like Daniel Gartner, Nik Kosef, Danny Moore and John Hopoate in the Green and Gold. I would argue that these players didn?t really warrant selection, with the only deserved players from Manly was Geoff Toovey. Even Terry Hill had the odd lucky roll of the dice. Fulton even went to the extremes of selecting David Gillespie in the Kangaroo side in 1996, years after last playing for Australia and even without taking part in the State of Origin series earlier in the season. This can be taken within the context of the Super League War, but these sorts of decisions send a poor message to younger players aspiring to play for their country, but again, Fulton isn?t the only one.Let?s have a look at the two stalwarts of coaching over the past decade. Arch rivals Bennett and Anderson. Bennett coached Australia in 16 tests, winning 12, losing 3 and having the 1 draw. He took Australia to the 2004 Tri-Nations title, as well as winning a series in 1998. Unfortunately for Bennett, punters will remember him for losing the 2005 Tri-Nations Final, and so they should. Anderson on the other hand coached Australia in 18 tests between 1999 and 2003, winning 15 and losing 3. He managed to come away victorious in every series at the helm. The pair both held agendas by favouring certain players, making certain selections which can be described as contentious at best. In 2003, Cronulla finished well outside the top 8. Anderson selected club halfback Brett Kimmorley as the Australian no.7 ahead of Premiership winning halfback Craig Gower. Most would agree that Gower?s form was superior to Kimmorley?s at the time and it was widely rumoured that Gower was the winner of the Dally M Player of the Year, although the awards were cancelled. Anderson argued that Kimmorley had done the job before and therefore warranted selection. He then went on to play a starring role in the series and Anderson had got away with it, but that doesn?t make it right. He also selected utility Phil Bailey on the same tour. Most scribes would rate Bailey no better than an average NRL player. But it?s amazing how things can go your way if you know the right people. Luke Lewis was also picked in the squad, another Premiership winner with the Panthers. Australia led 2-0 in the series, and with a mounting injury toll, they struggled to field a team for the final game of the series, a dead rubber. It was thought that Anderson would give Lewis a game, but he strangely turned to the ageing Darren Smith, a mate of Anderson?s from his days of coaching Canterbury. Remembering that this game was a dead rubber makes it even more bewildering to bring in an outsider from the squad playing in the UK, particularly over a man who hadn?t even played a match previously on tour. Lewis hasn?t played a Test since, and if he never does, he can quite rightly feel very hard done by.Bennett showed loyalty to a group of players who were loyal to him, not necessarily from his side at Brisbane. Willie Mason is a classic example of this. He spoke out about how much he idolised Bennett as a coach, and Bennett repaid him with Australian selection. Willie himself would probably admit that his selection wasn?t warranted for this tour. He stated a case for Tigers prop John Skandalis to be selected ahead of himself, a decision which may have resulted in a better outcome for the Australian side. Brisbane prop Petero Civoniceva showed real signs of slowing down in the 2005 series, but was retained right throughout the tour without fuss from Bennett. This became evident in the final, with a younger, tougher more enthusiastic Kiwi pack proving too difficult for the Aussies to handle. Tonie Carroll is another player that Bennett has been loyal to in his time as Australian coach, allowing him to play for Australia despite the fact that he played previously for New Zealand.Now for the new man in the hot seat, Sydney Roosters coach Ricky Stuart. The Canberra great and former Bulldog has enjoyed a stellar start to his coaching career, which began at the Bulldogs with a Jersey Flegg Premiership in 2001. He then went on to coach the Roosters to a first grade premiership in 2002, and Grand Final appearances in both the 2003 and 2004 seasons. He has enjoyed representative success also, coaching Country Origin to victory in 2004, and a NSW Origin series win this year. Stuart is a much younger coach with new ideas, and wants the Australian side to have more passion. He does have a tendency to lose the plot on the sidelines though. When things aren?t going well for his side, he carries on like a baby without a lollie. Some say that it?s great that he wears his heart on his sleeve, but how are his players supposed to respond when seeing him behave in that way? A classic example in the 2004 Grand Final was when Justin Hodges and Chris Walker were making mistake after mistake, and Stuart was seen screaming and kicking chairs on the sidelines. This could work against Australia in the coming seasons if he doesn?t learn to keep his cool and stick to his strategic plans.With the job now Stuart?s, it remains to be seen whether these problems continue. A possible solution would have been to pick a coach who has no current affiliation with any NRL club, similar to what the Queensland Rugby League is doing with their State coach ? Mal Meninga. This would ensure that the Australian Team is chosen on merit, avoiding the continuous favouritism which has plagued representative rugby league for too long.
AS promised, here?s Part II of Daniel Ramus?s interview with former Bulldogs champion Terry Lamb, exclusively for League Unlimited.Rammo: Canterbury won the minor premiership in 1993 but were bundled out of the semis without winning a game. Tell us a bit about that.Baa: I didn?t know that actually. I think we got beaten by St George and Brisbane in the semis. We had a pretty good run going into those semis. We did have a young team at that stage with guys like Dean Pay, Craig Polla-Mounter and Jason Smith coming through at that stage. Put it this way, we just weren?t good enough to make the Grand Final. I even forgot that we won the minor premiership that year, so that?s a bit of a bonus for us but I think South Sydney did the same thing in 1989.Rammo: You made the Grand Final in 1994, losing to Canberra 36-12. Nothing seemed to go right for the team that day. Martin Bella dropped the ball from the kickoff in the in-goal area and things went downhill from there. What can you recall from Grand Final day in 1994?Baa: I remember the early part of the game. I don?t think you can blame Marty Bella for dropping the ball off the kickoff, I was right in front of him, I should have taken the ball, and taken the responsibility. Martin hasn?t got very good eyes, he wears glasses so it should have been me taking the ball. Yeah nothing went right for us that day, we didn?t have the ball for the first 15 minutes and then Mal Meninga knocked me out, I had a bad neck the next day but that?s life and that?s footy. You?ve still got to be good enough to make a Grand Final but we just weren?t good enough to win.Rammo: Just on that Meninga hit, that happened about 20 minutes into the game and it seemed to affect your performance. Do you remember much about it?Baa: No I don?t remember much about that game at all. I probably should have gone off, I don?t think there was a blood bin in those days, I?m not even sure if there was interchange for injured players. I probably should have gone off the field for a rest, and I probably wasn?t good enough to play the whole game out but I think it?s just a part of me that wanted to keep playing.Rammo: Given the incident with Hanley in 1988, do you think it was somewhat ironic?Baa: Yeah probably (laughs). Whatever happens to me or anyone else on the field should be left on the field. These days I probably would have got 10 weeks hitting Hanley and Mal probably would have got the same hitting me. I spoke to Mal after the game and I know he didn?t mean it, he was just going for me because I was going to get the ball and it was just part of the game. Rammo: Canterbury won the premiership in 1995 under your captaincy and the coaching of Chris Anderson. You were sin binned after just 5 minutes of the game for committing a professional foul when Manly were on the attack. Things turned around for the team and you recorded a memorable upset victory. Tell us a bit about that day.Baa: I?m not sure about the upset victory. I?m sure it upset the Manly supporters though (laughs). I had to make the decision to tackle the bloke from behind otherwise they were going to score a try, and get abit of momentum. I think it was Matthew Ridge that I tackled from behind. I don?t think they scored any points in the 10 minutes that I was off the field. Our defensive effort was great and full credit to the young blokes that were on the field like (Jim) Dymock, (Dean) Pay, Jason Smith, Darren Britt and (Jason) Hetherington. I think those guys bandied together, they didn?t even look like making a break or scoring while I was off the field so full credit to the guys that were on the field. We just came together well as a team, that year was when the whole Super League saga unfolded, we were losing Dymock, Pay, Smith and Jarrod McCracken. We knew we weren?t going to be together after 95? so we made a pact that we?d do our best to win the comp.Rammo: You originally retired at the end of 1995 and at the time it seemed as though you had gone out on the perfect note. But you decided to come out of retirement and help the Bulldogs in 1996. Do you have any regrets about that seeing as the side failed to make the finals?Baa: No I don?t have any regrets about that. We lost some senior players and we needed to rebuild the team. We didn?t buy too many players from memory, so we just had to use players that we?d had in previous years. I was just there to help the players out. I don?t regret anything I did on the field or whatever happened off the field at all.Rammo: Toughest player you played with or against.Baa: I?ll just name a few players that I played with and against. Guys like David Gillespie, Joe Thomas, Geoff Robinson, Steve Knight, Terry Randall and Les Boyd. If anybody could pick a name between all of those players then good luck to them. I?ve played against many great players and it?s too difficult to narrow it down to one.Rammo: Best player you played with or against.Baa: I?d have to say Steve Mortimer here. I played with him between 84? and 88? and he?d have to be the best player I played with or against.Rammo: Who had the biggest influence over your career?Baa: I couldn?t pick one person. Definitely all of the coaches over my 17 years of playing for Australia, New South Wales, Wests and Canterbury. They?ve all had an input into my career. No one stands out. Rammo: Personally, what do you consider to be the best achievement in your career?Baa: Longevity. Rammo: You amassed a record 349 First Grade games for both Wests and Canterbury. Looking back can you believe you made it this far? Are you disappointed that you couldn?t round out 350 games?Baa: (Laughs), it was probably just one suspension too many wasn?t it. I can?t believe it, I look back and I can remember the early days, and remember a few in between and I remember the end of the career. I don?t think I would even be able to remember 50 of the games that I played. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I love the game itself it?s just great for a person?s character.Rammo: Moving into the coaching ranks, you started with the Canterbury Premier League side from 1998 to 2000 taking them to premierships in ?98 and ?00. Did you enjoy coaching the lower grades at Canterbury? What memories can you recall from that period?Baa: I absolutely adored it actually. It?s a completely different part of rugby league in general, you?re actually teaching the players, not helping them. You?re passing on your knowledge about rugby league and strengthening their own ablities in kicking, tackling and attacking. Yeah I thoroughly enjoyed it, winning a couple of Grand Finals didn?t hurt it either and we had a couple of beers after them as well.Rammo: You then moved on to the first grade appointment at the Wests Tigers from 2001-2002. The Tigers were a bit unstable at the time, did you feel ready for the challenge?Baa: I think I was probably ready for challenge but we had a fair few problems there. In the first year we had the drug scandal with Craig Field and Kevin McGuiness. We then had the (John) Hopoate situation followed by the Terry Hill situation. I enjoyed what I did there at the Wests Tigers, a fair few of them won the Grand Final this year, I think there was about 8 players which I had. I really enjoyed coaching them but we had some problems at the club.Rammo: Are you pleased to see the success of guys you coached like Mark O?Neill and John Skandalis in the 2005 Grand Final?Baa: The type of people that those 2 are, they were always going to win a Grand Final in their careers because they?re so loyal to the club. Those players helped the younger guys like Anthony Larranchi develop into good footballers. They were very stable in their life in general, and it was fitting that they won a Grand Final after being so loyal to the two merged clubs, Balmain for Mark O?Neill and Western Suburbs for John Skandalis.Rammo: Did you enjoy coaching? If you had your time over again would you have approached your coaching career differently?Baa: If I had some better advice then maybe I wouldn?t have coached a joint venture that already had players at the club. I think I only brought 2 or 3 players to the club, because the club had already signed the majority of its players from elsewhere. I would never say that I didn?t enjoy coaching the Wests Tigers, I enjoyed it thoroughly, but unfortunately we just had some problems there.Rammo: You were appointed as a Bulldogs Board member in 2002 after the salary cap scandal. Are you still doing that now? What else are you doing?Baa: At the moment I am coaching Cabramatta in the Jim Beam Cup, and I?m also still on the Bulldogs board. That?s another different role, being a board member. You have to take different responsibilities financially and you need to take players? welfare into account as well. It?s another side of rugby league which I have never experienced before and I?m enjoying that as well.Rammo: You were named as Captain and five eighth of the Canterbury Bulldogs? 70 year anniversary team last year. This must have been quite an honour for you.Baa: I actually didn?t know about the captaincy, I knew I had a good chance of being part of the team. On the night I didn?t know I was captain until they announced it. You could have made anyone captain of that side though, there was George Peponis, Steve Mortimer, Chris Anderson and Steve Folkes as well. I think maybe because I played through so many eras and for so many years at Canterbury was the reason they gave it to me but they could have named anyone as captain.Rammo: Were you happy with the success of Canterbury in 2004?Baa: Well they probably should have won the comp when they were thrown out because of the salary cap scandal. They did have the best team in the competition at that stage and they were playing good footy. They had some great young players that coming through. You look at the 2002 team now compared to the team played this year I think there?s about 5 players missing, the club in my opinion has been robbed of some good players because of the salary cap, but the salary cap is there for a reason. Hopefully every club abides by the rules.Rammo: Your moustache and long hair gave away a battler image in your playing days. Is that an accurate perception?Baa: (Laughs) I think that was just to do with the eras I went through and you?d either follow the trend or create one yourself. When I first started playing for Western Suburbs everybody had beards so I grew a beard, and then I?d shave the beard off and everybody would have moustaches, then the mullet came in. People don?t even care what they look like these days with haircuts or anything like that. So yeah it?s just a tradition that I enjoyed having. I had the goatie, then the full beard and then the moustache and the mullet, but they?re all gone now, all of the above (laughs).Rammo: Are you saddened to see the Bulldogs moving away from Belmore Sports Ground permanently at the end of 2006?Baa: I suppose being a person that spent so long there it is abit disappointing, but I think you?ve got to move with the times. One thing people don?t know too much about is that it would cost the club too much money to stay at Belmore, the council won?t let us play football there any more. We?d have to do the ground up which would cost around $15 Million. We don?t own the ground, the council own it, so it?s disappointing that the club is going to leave there next year but if you don?t move with the times you get caught behind. It happened with South Sydney and Redfern Oval, they probably should have done the Oval up 15 or 20 years ago because now it?s probably a bit too late. But yeah, go with the times. Rammo: What is your fondest memory of the ground? Baa: Probably when we played against Parramatta there in 1984. Both sides were undefeated and there was a crowd of about 20,000 people there. Also when we played Penrith at the multicultural day, when some people started rioting. It?s not really a good memory but it?s something that sticks in your mind. I just had so many great times there at Belmore, too many to talk about.Rammo: Your sons Matt, Dean and Troy all play rugby league. Matt was playing Jersey Flegg for the Bulldogs just recently. Would you like to see your sons follow in your footsteps?Baa: Yeah I would if they are good enough. All 3 of them play at Cabramatta now where I?m coaching. I coach Matt in the Jim Beam Cup and the other boys play C Grade down there. It?s up to them they?re all individuals and they can make those decisions when they get older.Daniel Ramus would like to thank Matt Starkey and www.leagueunlimited.com for assistance with the interview.
CONTINUING on in our series of interviews, one of our young League Unlimited writers Daniel Ramus has a chin-wag with Canterbury legend Terry Lamb. They got along so well that we?ve had to break the interview into two sections! Stay tuned for Part II on Thursday.********************************Rammo: You started as a Chester Hill/Canterbury Junior, tell us about those early days.Baa: Well it was a long time ago, I think I was about 4 years old when my brother Peter and I went down to Chester Hill to play our first game of rugby league and tackle a few blokes down there. It was more of a weight limit, if you were 4 stone, you played against the 4 stoners, the age didn?t matter, that?s how it was in those days. We had to get weighed before each game, those days are well and truly gone and it?s all done by age groups now. I stayed at Chester Hill for 12 years.Rammo: Despite your desire to play for Canterbury, you began your career at Wests in 1980. Was it tough to play against the Bulldogs?Baa: Like you said I played all my junior football with Canterbury. I played in the Jersey Flegg Grand Final in 1979 and my coach then Ken Gentle went over to Western Suburbs to coach the Under 23s. I had a chat with Roy Masters who was coach of Western Suburbs at the time. I went down for a trial and played 3 games, and was given a contract with Western Suburbs. It wasn?t hard to play against the Bulldogs because I had signed for Wests, stayed there for 4 years, played 87 games for them and I had to look after my family. Rammo: You were selected on the 1982 Kangaroo tour, but decided to withdraw to marry girlfriend Kim. Tell us about that decision.Baa: Well I didn?t actually know whether I was going to be in the team or not. A selector came to me and said that if I played well in a couple more games then I?d have a chance of touring over in England. I told him that I was unable to play because I had already booked the wedding. He just looked at me and said ?okay not a problem? and that was it. But yeah I didn?t actually know whether I was going to be in the team or not at that stage.Rammo: You won the Dally M Medal in 1983 despite Wests finishing last. It was your final season for the club. Was this a bittersweet memory for you?Baa: It was a great memory. I was captain of the team at that stage, and I had a pretty good year. We didn?t have a real good team at that stage and won the wooden spoon. Every player went out there and did their best and that?s all I did.Rammo: You finally fulfilled your dream of playing for Canterbury when you joined them in 1984 and won the premiership under Warren Ryan, defeating Parramatta 6-4. It must have been a great way to start your career at the Bulldogs. What do you recall about that season and Grand Final day?Baa: I went over there as a new player. The club in general had quite a few good players like the Mortimer brothers (Steve, Peter and Chris), Gary Hughes and Robbo (Geoff Robinson). We had a pretty good team at that stage. Warren Ryan brought some new players over like myself, Peter Kelly, Mark Bugden and Peter Tunks. It was a pretty big job I suppose, starting a new team with new players. We knew we had a strong team and Warren Ryan changed our style of football which became more defence orientated. That was my very first Grand Final apart from 1979 when I won the Jersey Flegg. It was a great year, it went pretty quickly actually being successful for so long, and playing Parramatta in that Grand Final and winning 6-4.Rammo: Canterbury went back to back in 1985, defeating St George 7-6 again under Warren Ryan. However you missed this game through injury. Tell us about your feelings whilst you were watching from the sidelines.Baa: The injury came against St George in the first Semi-Final. Myself and Peter Tunks went in for a tackle and Tunks corked my thigh which turned into a burst blood vessel. I knew I wasn?t going to play in the semis leading up to the Grand Final but I tried very hard to get into the Grand Final. I suppose it?s very disappointing not playing in the game itself. Peter Moore put his arm around me at the end of the game and said ?Mate you got us there anyway?, that was fulfilling in itself. 2 years in a row and 2 premierships was a great memory for us, having the same team and the same coach.Rammo: You played in the 1986 Grand Final, but unfortunately the result was different. Parramatta won 4-2 in the only try-less Grand Final ever. How did you feel that day?Baa: Well I felt quite terrible because I was the one who missed the goal that could have taken the game into extra time. I think the game has changed dramatically. Defence was our priority so I think everybody else tried that style as well. It was an old-style Grand Final where we didn?t throw the ball around too much, the forwards just took it up and you tried to go wide with every opportunity. There weren?t too many tries scored in those days because you could only score tries when the opposition made mistakes. That game will go down in history and I guess me missing the goal will go down in history but that?s all part of football I suppose.Rammo: At the end of ?86, you became the first player ever to participate in all matches on a tour of Great Britain and France. Can you tell us a bit about that Kangaroo Tour?Baa: Things were abit different in those days because if you played in the Grand Final you had a very good chance of going on the Kangaroo tour at the end of the year. I?d say about 65% of the players who went on tour played in the Grand Final that year. They were great times, met some great players who are mates of mine like Greg Alexander, (Peter) Sterling and (Wally) Lewis. We had a great team over there and I was lucky enough to play in every single game over there.Rammo: In 1987, you withdrew from the NSW State of Origin team because your wife Kim was pregnant. This decision led to a falling-out with NSWRL Chairman John Quayle. What were your thoughts at the time?Baa: I had already spent 3 months away from my kids. Kim was pregnant so I decided to stay home and look after her. It didn?t worry me, I think everybody thought that players would love to play for NSW at every opportunity but I decided not to. They made me sit out a few games.Rammo: Canterbury won the premiership in 1988 under Phil Gould, defeating Balmain 24-12. The most controversial aspect of that game was the Ellery Hanley incident early on, forcing him to leave the field. Was this just a ?heat of the moment? thing?Baa: It wasn?t set up. We spoke about Ellery Hanley being a dangerous player, but it wasn?t intentional to take him out of the game. I remember there was a scrum, the ball went out to the backline, Andrew Farrar went low in the tackle and I came over the top, no doubt I did get Ellery high, but it was never intentional. That?s all part of football I suppose.Rammo: What other memories do you have of the ?88 Grand Final?Baa: The players were so close. We had myself, David Gillespie, Joe Thomas, Paul Langmack, Glen Nissen and Robbie Thorne who came down from the Gold Coast. It was very similar to 84? when we won, we brought quite a few new players into the team, we just clicked as individuals. We were probably the best team all year, and with the type of coach Phil Gould was, he managed to bring the team together quite well.Rammo: Canterbury missed the semis 4 years in a row between 1989 and 1992. This must have been a difficult time for the club. You were also injured for a fair portion of that period. What were your thoughts as you watched on without being able to play?Baa: I think what you have to look at is that quite a few players left the club at the end of 1990. Chris Anderson came in as coach, Langmack, Gillespie, Joe Thomas, Andrew Farrar and Jason Alchin all went to Western Suburbs with Warren Ryan. So in those years we lost a lot of senior players and we had to recruit again. We had to go through the disappointment of not making the Semis or not making Grand Finals more than anything. We had young players coming through like Dean Pay, Jason Smith, (Craig) Polla-Mounter, and they all went on to play in the 94? and 95? Grand Finals.Rammo: Do you feel that some of these injuries lengthened your career?Baa: The injury was a hernia which I had for a couple of years. It didn?t get any better so I had to have that operated on at the end of the 92? season. After that I was pretty good, the major injury was my broken arm in 94? when my daughter was born, that kept me out for about 10 weeks. A couple of suspensions in between didn?t help.Rammo: You kicked 44 field goals over the course of your career, probably none more famous than in Round 14, 1992 against Newcastle. Trailing 12-10 with 2 minutes left, you booted one from about 40 metres out thinking the scores were level. Do you look back and have a bit of a laugh at this?Baa: At that stage when Newcastle scored in the corner, I actually spoke to the players and I didn?t even see the bloke kick the ball, I didn?t even see it go over and I didn?t know he kicked it. I just told them that when we got the ball back we?d have a shot at field goal. It was a pretty big kick too, 45 metres out and it went straight over. I looked at Mitch Newton and he looked at me and said ?What are you doing??. I said ?What do you mean?? He said ?we need 2 points? and I said ?oh okay not a problem?. I wasn?t real good at maths in those days either (laughs). That was just a mistake I made, it wasn?t on purpose, just part of footy I suppose.That?s all for Part I of our interview with Terry Lamb. Stay tuned to www.leagueunlimited.com for Part II which will be published later on in the week
Premier League Grand Final
Parramatta Eels 31 def. Sydney Roosters 12