NRL Notebook 15-2-04

NRL Notebook: February 15, 2004 By Warrick Nicolson, Nicolson Sports Consultancy

Manly fans can breath a sigh of relief in God?s Country with a pair of major signings mid-week. Dairy Farmers joined the Sea Eagles as sleeve sponsor for the next three years, and Captain Steve Menzies is poised to re-sign for a further two seasons. This dual move ensures both entities will be with the club until the end of 2006. For Menzies this will likely be his last contract in the NRL, and while he has not ruled out a season in England down the track, he will remain a one-club man. Only a few years ago he rejected a massive offer from Parramatta to stay at Manly and give the troubles the club and playing staff endured since then it is good to see him rewarded for his loyalty. Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler re-affirmed today his intention of moving Menzies to the centres at some point during 2004.

New NRL Judiciary head honcho Greg McCallum has served up the first barely acceptable excuse of the season in exonerating Cronulla pair Andrew Lomu and Danny Nutley for a lifting tackle in last weekend?s trial on the Central Coast. Apparently video footage of the incident referee Matt Cecchin placed on report was ?obscured? leaving considerable doubt as to the level of danger the tacklers placed on the ball carrier. Granted this was a meaningless pre-season tilt, but with the demise of former judiciary chief Jim Hall last month for a lack of action during 2003, McCallum will need to justify his decisions far more thoroughly in the future. That doesn?t mean he has to make examples of players early in the season, but there must be transparent justification for any suspensions or exonerations in the coming season. The players, clubs, and fans deserve better.

Brisbane?s incumbent halfback Shaun Berrigan has no plans to embrace a possible move to the pack in 2004. Rumours have been swirling that Berrigan was destined to fill the hooking role vacated by Hull-bound Richard Swain, thus moving out of the halves to accommodate the newly arrived Motu Tony and youngster Brett Seymour. Last year, Berrigan began the tough task of replacing club legend Allan Langer who retired (from the NRL anyway) at the end of 2002, and until the Origin series was in scintillating form. However, after Queensland lost the series, Berrigan seemed to lose his confidence and his inexperience in the halfback role was exposed. Assistant coach Kevin Walters openly says Berrigan is better suited to five-eighth, but Berrigan?s versatility may see him as the Broncos Mr. Fixit for 2004.

Warrick NICOLSON ========================= Freelance Sports Journalist NICOLSON SPORTS CONSULTANCY Ph: 0402 851 485 Fax: 02 9653 1483 [email protected] =========================