Solace at Seven: Tyrone Roberts

By Jack Brady

Scott Dureau and Luke Walsh have come and gone while Jarrod Mullen and Kurt Gidley have positioned themselves elsewhere.

It has been seven years since now immortal Andrew Johns bid adieu to the NRL and the Newcastle Knights. Ironically it has been almost that long since the Newcastle Knights last won a finals game before this season.

Here we are faced with an almost unrecognisable prospect – the Newcastle Knights in the final four of an NRL competition and if it weren’t for the guidance of 22-year-old, Tyrone Roberts, who knows where the Knights would’ve ended up

Off the back of an inspirational man-of-the-match performance against Melbourne last weekend, Roberts has led the Knights to a mouthwatering showdown against minor-premiers, the Sydney Roosters this weekend.

However, this may not have been so if Knights coach Wayne Bennett had his way a couple of weeks ago.

From all accounts, Roberts was not a happy camper when Bennett decided to give 35 year-old New South Wales and Australian representative veteran Craig Gower a contract mid-season and former Canberra halfback Michael Dobson a lifeline for 2014.

In fact, if it weren’t for Gower’s currently injured back, Roberts may not have been even in the side at the moment – a ridiculous proposition in retrospect with Gower showing nothing but his age since returning to the NRL.

Roberts has proven since that he is the man for the job.

He is now leading premiership-winning forwards Willie Mason, Danny Buderus, Beau Scott, Jeremy Smith and Neville Costigan in scintillating fashion.

Tyrone Roberts may just be the x-factor that the Newcastle Knights have been seeking since Johns’ retirement.

A twelve-year premiership drought may be rained upon by success if Tyrone Roberts has anything to do with it.

2013 NRL Season Preview: Melbourne Storm

By Brady Foray Writers

If there’s one thing the Melbourne Storm proved in 2012 it was that they are in fact human…and they still won the competition. Starting the year all guns blazing, winning their first nine games, their year turned sour quickly following their second bye and the end of the State of Origin series. With Billy Slater injured the club lost five games in a row, something unheard from a Melbourne side over the past couple of years. Though as soon as their bearings were established, with a rampant performance over Penrith in Round 22, Melbourne wouldn’t lose again in 2012.

While Dane Nielson, Sika Manu, Richie Fa’aoso, Rory Kostjasyn, Todd Lowrie, Jaiman Lowe and Anthony Quinn have moved on, the club has a knack of filling these gaps quickly and moving past any deficit in the squad. This can be attributed to obviously the big three in Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk. These three are the reason Melbourne will finish with the minor premiership this season. No stats are needed, their class alone and the club’s ability to adapt to Craig Bellamy’s game plans quickly is the reason while you’ll see the Melbourne Storm perched on top of the table come the final whistle of round 26.

Signings: Junior Sau (Knights), Junior Moors (Tigers), Lagi Setu (Broncos), Brett Finch (Wigan), Tim Glasby (Central Queensland Capras), Kurt Mann (Knights)

Departures: Brayden Wiliame (Eels), Dane Nielsen (Warriors), Sika Manu (Panthers), Luke Kelly (Eels, mid-season),  Richie Fa’aoso (Sea Eagles), Rory Kostjasyn (Cowboys), Todd Lowrie (Warriors), Michael Greenfield (Retired), Jaiman Lowe (Retired), Anthony Quinn (Knights), Shea Moylan (Wynnum-Manly)

Key to Success:

When you hear the words “The Big Three” (pictured right) in Rugby League circles you automatically think of three men. Whether for Australia, QLD or Melbourne: Slater, Smith and Cronk are essential. When together on the paddock last season they won 90.5% of their games for Melbourne, contributing 28 tries and 65 try-assists. Without one of them on the field the whole team struggles. For the Storm to become the first team to go back-to-back for first time since 1993, they need this trio to be fit, firing and healthy for the seasons entire.

Player to Watch:

Not much was known about young back-rower Tohu Harris. A graduate of the Melbourne under 20’s competition, Harris (pictured left) strapped on the boots last week at Headingly to take down the Leeds Rhinos in the World Club Challenge, scoring a brilliant try in the process. Named to start for the Melbourne this week against the Dragons, most NRL fans will get their first proper look at Harris. Soon enough it will be known how much of an impact Harris will make in the NRL this season. Watch this space.

Erratic Eddy says:

“Eddy can’t stand Melbourne. Too many Queenslanders, however, if the Storm is to go back-to-back then Eddy won’t help but feel happy for veteran Jason Ryles. The former NSW and Australian representative missed out on the grand final last year. Let’s hope he can finally win that elusive premiership ring he’s been busting his arse for since the ‘choking’ era of the Dragons.”

Strongest 17: 1- Billy Slater 2- Matthew Duffie 3- Gareth Widdop 4-Will Chambers 5- Sisa Waqa 6- Brett Finch 7- Cooper Cronk 8-Jesse Bromwich 9- Cameron Smith (C) 10- Bryan Norrie 11- Ryan Hoffman 12-Tohu Harris 13- Ryan Hinchcliffe Interchange: 14- Kevin Proctor 15- Jason Ryles 16- Lagi Setu 17- Junior Moors 18th Man: Justin O’Neill.

Predicted Position: 1st

…and the clock has hit zero. The off-season is done for another year. The unpredictability of the NRL will leave fans guessing all year. Over the course of writing these previews the Ben Barba scandal has come to fruition and only today have ASADA seized control of the Cronulla Sharks 2013 fortunes with rumours rife that up to 14 players could be facing two-year suspensions. Rugby league is a controversial game and don’t we love it. Come that first whistle, all will be forgotten, everything will be on the line. The footy is back baby. Get Keen!

The Fa’aoso Factor

Richie Fa'aoso

By Jack Brady 

It’s a Sunday afternoon. We’re at Newcastle’s Ausgrid Stadium. After twenty minutes of game time, the call comes down from the coach’s box for the big Tongan on the bench to start warming up. The 100kg behemoth stands up and starts pacing the sideline, readying himself to launch into the action on the field.

In seasons past, this man was Richie Fa’aoso.  However, this season, Fa’aoso only did this eight times for the Newcastle Knights.

The Knights apparent saviour coach Wayne Bennett, generally preferring another Tongan behemoth Willie Mason over the man in question in 2012.

While I am not bagging out Willie Mason, because let’s face it he was more than impressive this season for the Knights, it must be said that the club made a very questionable decision by releasing Fa’aoso.

Regardless, Fa’aoso, in a series of fortunate events for the man, is lining up to play in the NRL Grand Final this week for the Melbourne Storm.

Signed mid-season by the Storm, Fa’aoso managed just five games this season for the club. Yet with the season-ending injury to Storm stalwart Jason Ryles, Fa’aoso will find himself in the No. 17 come this Sunday.

Tongan Behemoth: Fa’aoso

In what could be called a blessing in disguise, Fa’aoso’s 99-game career for the Knights has seemingly come to an end at the right time. While many Knights fan questioned Bennett for not wanting crowd favourite Fa’aoso, I’m sure many will be cheering the charging Tongan whenever he graces the field on Sunday.

I know I will be. And who knows, the behemoth Tongan pacing the sideline after twenty minutes or so could be the game breaker that Melbourne needs to win the 2012 NRL Grand Final.