Lions fire up for Rosella reunion

Livestream: Watch the game on Sunday from 3pm here
Nanjing Night Net

SOUTH Newcastle have made no secret of the fact they are striving to match the professionalism of local rivals Western Suburbs.

VERSATILE: Todd Hurrell fires out a pass against Kurri Kurri. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Lions coach Adam Bettridge lured Greg Hurrell from the Rosellas this season as his assistant and signed his son Todd Hurrell, Ryan Pywell and Ryan Lippiatt.

The Merewether club, who have been perennial under-achievers since their last premiership in 1989, have adopted post-match ice baths and Monday recovery sessions.

Todd Hurrell’s arrival is a coup. Over the previous four years the lock, back-rower or five-eighth had become one of Wests’ most reliable and versatile players.

Bettridge wanted Hurrell, who is only 24 but has played in two grand finals and won a premiership, for his experience and leadership.

He, Pywell and Lippiatt will return to Harker Oval tomorrow with their new club to face the Rosellas in round seven of Newcastle Rugby League.

“There’s obviously lots of good mates there and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Hurrell said of playing Wests.

“It’s pretty true what Barney [Wests coach Craig Miller] said last year: you have mates for life once you win a grand final.”

While Hurrell’s father’s move to Townson Oval convinced him to follow, a chance to play his preferred position of lock to improve his representative credentials was also a major consideration.

“Obviously the rep side has already been picked for this year, but it’s something I definitely want to do at some stage,” he said. “It’s something I haven’t ticked off yet.”

For Pywell and Lippiatt the move was about first-grade opportunities. Both have taken it wholeheartedly.

Pywell is arguably the form winger of the competition with seven tries.

“They’re both going great guns,” Todd Hurrell said.

“It’s always like that at Wests, with players held back in reserve grade who are first-graders at any other club.

“They made the bold move to come across and they’re doing well from it.

“They’re excited to play against their old club, but they’re pretty calm at the same time.”

Meanwhile, the other blockbuster clash of the weekend is today, when Macquarie host Kurri Kurri at Peacock Field.

The Scorpions are the only undefeated club in the competition, while the Bulldogs are barking loudly after consecutive victories over Souths and Wests.

Ex-Knights back-rower Daniel Abraham has been ruled out for a month with a dislocated shoulder for Kurri, and captain-coach George Ndaira has put his faith in teenager Hayden Smith as the replacement.

The under-20s recruit from Queensland was drafted to the Bulldogs through the Knights’ player placement program.

“He hasn’t gotten a game in the 20s yet and he rang me during the trials and I met up with him and he’s been training with us,” Ndaira said.

“He’s a good young kid and he’s still got another year in the 20s at the Knights, and I dare say he’ll be playing a fair bit of footy.

“Every week he’s definitely improving and listening, and having guys like Daniel Abraham and Reegan Tanner is definitely helping him out.”

Long wait for Blues success has made fans more passionate: Carr

NSW rugby league boss Geoff Carr has described Queensland’s seven-year dominance over the Blues as the best thing to have happened to State of Origin.
Nanjing Night Net

While he’s hell-bent on ending the Maroons’ long-standing stranglehold on the Origin series this year, Carr believes NSW’s long wait for success has galvanised the state and evoked a passion among supporters that was once only synonymous with Queenslanders.

”There was always an expectation from NSW supporters that they were going to win,” Carr said. ”The level of engagement in Queensland was always far far higher because there was always that thought that the team really needed them to get behind them to help win. I think with every series that goes by and we get beat, there’s more and more desire from the NSW people to turn it around. That passion has really grown into a groundswell of support for the team. The passion has always been there to an extent but not to the level it is now.”

The last time NSW won a series was back in 2005, and the television audience for the final game of that series was 1.86 million.

For last year’s Origin decider, that figure more than doubled with 4.06 million viewers tuning in to watch Cooper Cronk kick the Maroons to their seventh straight series win. In 2005, when NSW had won their third consecutive series, the total number of viewers for the series was 5.35 million. Last year the series figures broke an Origin record with a combined audience of 11.9 million.

”After winning three series in a row, we won game one of the 2006 series and everyone said Origin was dead and people began to ask where does Origin go from here because NSW will just dominate,” Carr said.

”Then they win game two and we go to game three in Melbourne where Darren Lockyer picks up a loose pass and they win by two points on the bell. That started their dominance but it was at a time where all the so-called experts were predicting the death of Origin because of the NSW dominance.”

The record crowd for game one in Sydney when there are two NSW home games in a series, is 68,000.

That is set to be eclipsed this year with a capacity crowd expected for the opening game of the series at ANZ Stadium on June 5.

More than 71,000 tickets have already been sold for Laurie Daley’s first game in charge of the Blues, while as of Tuesday 52,000 tickets had been snapped up for what could potentially be the deciding game of the series on July 17.

”An Origin game at Suncorp Stadium has for some time been talked about as the premier sporting event to attend because of the passion of the Queensland supporters and the atmosphere they create,” Carr said. ”You probably find the last two games in Sydney with the big number of supporters, the atmosphere in Sydney is right up there. Ten years ago it was good but the Sydney Origin was never talked about in the same language as Queensland, but now it is.

”Look at the Blatchy’s Blues, who started off as a few blokes with wigs. Now we’re in the vicinity of 15,000 people prepared to turn up with blue wigs and blue t-shirts, so you see there’s a real commitment to the team now.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

The softer side of hard marker Cleary

”If you do a good job for him, he’ll respect you forever”: Penrith’s taciturn coach Ivan Cleary lets his guard down at a club fan day. Photo: Janie BarrettHis team had just won 62-6. Most coaches – even Wayne Bennett – could afford a smile at such a moment. But not Ivan Cleary.
Nanjing Night Net

He still walked into the post-game press conference like he had just spent the previous couple of hours waiting for a bus. There’s no shortage of complex and intriguing characters among the NRL coaching ranks, and Cleary is at the top of that list.

Des Hasler juggles a part-time stand-up comedy routine in between managing his football team, while Michael Maguire is on standby for Australia’s Ashes campaign given his prowess playing a straight bat to anything with a hint of swing. Speaking of the Australian cricket team, Cleary also gets his players to do homework.

After every game his players fill out a feedback form assessing their performance, which he returns the next day with his own thoughts on how they played. Lewis Brown, nicknamed ”Sharky” because his nose resembles a Shark fin, left the Warriors to reunite with Cleary at Penrith this season.

Brown described his coach as ”low maintenance”, but insists the guarded person you see on camera isn’t the man behind closed doors. ”When I first came into first grade I scored a try against the Panthers out at Penrith and we were winning 32-6 with about 15 minutes to go,” Brown said. ”I celebrated by doing a shark fin with my hands. They ended up getting it back to golden point and I had to come off with cramp, and it stayed a draw. Ivan wasn’t very happy so when I handed in my feedback sheet on Monday, he gave it back the next day and at the bottom it said, ‘Instead of choreographing post-try celebrations, how about you learn to push through fatigue?’.

”I showed the boys and they were all cracking up. It’s something I still talk to him about now. It just shows how much he doesn’t like people with a big ego. I was only a young kid then and I haven’t done a post-try celebration since.”

So how can a coach lead a team of relative unknowns to an upset win against the reigning premiers, then six days later put 62 points on a side that less than two years ago played in a grand final?

He copped abuse from his own fans for allowing the club’s three best players – Luke Lewis, Michael Jennings and Michael Gordon – to leave, yet he still has a group of players willing to bleed for him. Even Penrith captain Kevin Kingston, who has been shown the door by the club for next season, commended his coach for the actions he’s taken to move the club in the right direction.

”That’s what he’s paid to do: make the hard decisions,” Kingston said. ”He’s copped that criticism but he’s got thick skin and he has his narrow focus on what he thinks is going to work here and it’s working.

”The thing with Ivan is that if you do a good job for him, he’ll respect you forever. Which is why Lewis Brown is here and Elijah Taylor is coming next year. He’s very approachable and everyone wants to play for him. I can’t speak highly enough of him. The culture he’s created here has given everyone confidence and taught everyone to be independent at the same time.”

While Craig Bellamy and Maguire are famous for their half-time pep talks, Cleary chooses to take the opposite approach when dealing with his players.

”He’s not one to blow you up, but he’ll give you the silent treatment, and I believe that’s the worst kind of treatment of all of them,” Brown said. ”But he’s very approachable.

”A lot of players in the NRL think they can’t approach their coach, but for me he’s a mate and someone I get along well with.

”Most of all he’s honest. We probably didn’t realise how much we’d lost at the Warriors until last year. ”He’s the best coach I’ve ever had. It just shows the type of bloke he is. He signed for another club and could’ve packed up shop but he took us to a grand final in 2011.”

Twitter – @MichaelChammas

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

5.5bn litres of water wasted by leaky pipes 

MISMANAGED: Labor water spokesman Walt Secord.
Nanjing Night Net

ABOUT 5.5 billion litres of the region’s water – the equivalent of more than 30,000 rainwater tanks – will be lost this year through leaky pipes and water mains, Hunter Water has forecast, with urgent leaks taking four hours to fix.

The worst offender is expected to be the Chichester pipeline, which a crew is assigned to inspect daily for leaks that typically take 9.7 hours to fix after being reported.

It takes an average 4.3 hours to fix urgent leaks or water main breaks across its nearly 5000-kilometre network, Hunter Water says.

That has sparked calls from Labor for more staff to respond to leaks. Thirteen staff work overnight, compared to 109 in the daily response crew.

Parliament was told that Hunter Water expected to lose 5510 mega-litres of water or 5.5 billion litres this year.

Under Office of Water guidelines, that would equate to about 30,000 standard rainwater tanks.

The 2013 forecast is down from 5820 megalitres of water lost in 2012 and 6058 megalitres in 2011.

Labor water spokesman Walt Secord said the figures were “extraordinary”.

It follows documents uncovered by Labor that revealed Hunter Water had written to pensioners about overdue water bills.

“At a time when Hunter Water is pursuing pensioners who have fallen behind on their bills, it is shocking to receive data showing that billions of litres of water are being wasted,” Mr Secord said.

“In opposition, [Premier] Barry O’Farrell promised to help with cost of living but, in government, we see waste and mismanagement mounting.”

A Hunter Water spokesman said leaks were assigned on a priority basis depending on their severity and impact.

Hunter Water was in the middle of an eight-year, $1 billion construction program which was “greatly decreasing the amount of water lost annually to leaks”, he said.

“Hunter Water has a long-term strategy to replace the 80-kilometre Chichester Trunk Gravity Main and has already replaced several key sections.”

The pipeline was especially susceptible because it was above ground, he said.

Storm take tentative first steps towards keeping Smith south

Melbourne Storm have kicked off negotiations with Australian captain Cameron Smith and hope to have him tied to the club for the rest of his career by the start of next season.
Nanjing Night Net

The NRL champions’ new owners were asked about the retention of Smith at their introductory media conference on Tuesday, with CEO Mark Evans saying he would leave the issue to the football department.

Football manager Frank Ponissi said the process had begun.

But Smith has admitted a return to Queensland at the end of next season is a tempting proposition.

”We have had some preliminary talks with Cameron so yes, it’s a process that has started,” Ponissi said.

”So far, it’s been very, very informal but without a shadow of a doubt, we want to retain him.

”Hopefully we will have it done before we start next season so it’s not hanging over our heads.”

Ponissi agreed a decision before the 2014 premiership kicks off was only desirable if Smith agreed to stay. Otherwise, they’d keep talking.

Speaking before the World Club Challenge in February, Smith said: ”When I first started playing, I thought if I ever had the chance to play first grade, I want to be a one-club player. But things change.

”I’ve got a family now with three kids where we’re living away from the rest of our family, which is up in Queensland, and sometimes it’s hard. Footy’s been great, the club’s been great, we love Melbourne. But sometimes it’s difficult when you have to travel. It’s hard for the wife to look after three kids. These are issues you face in life.”

The Storm arrived in Sydney for Saturday’s clash with the Roosters, who are on a five-match winning steak, on a slightly delayed mid-afternoon flight.

After his clash with North Queensland prop James Tamou last Saturday, Rooster Luke O’Donnell is expected to again try to match the aggression of suspended Rooster Jared Waerea Hargreaves.

”Everybody gets excited about playing against their former club but Luke’s an aggressive player and we won’t expect anything less from him on Saturday night,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy said. ”He’s a highly decorated player, he’s played for his country and State of Origin.”

Rooster Anthony Minichiello said on Friday: ”Over the last couple of weeks we’ve got confidence out of those tough slog games where neither team has played their best.”

The media conference was interrupted by a spontaneous rendition of Happy Birthday. Minichiello turned 32 on Friday.

Sydney Roosters have conceded just 16 points in their past five games at Allianz Stadium and last week conceded a try by means other than a kick for the first time in more than a month.

Meanwhile, South Sydney winger Nathan Merritt’s push for a belated NSW jumper has received support from Bulldogs champion Hazem El Masri, AAP reports. El Masri became the Blues’ oldest debutant in 2007 when, at 31, he scored a try and kicked three goals in an 18-4 victory.

Merritt has been overlooked often for centres being played out of position, but El Masri said. ”It’s good to get a specialist winger to play there. I think he’d do a wonderful job. He can sniff a try out of nowhere.”

Twitter [email protected]

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.