Benji Marshall earns tick of approval on debut for Auckland Blues

It’s too early to anoint Benji Marshall’s switch of codes a runaway success, but it will clearly not be an abject failure.
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Though the jury remains out on whether Marshall will transfer his league brilliance to Super Rugby this season, that scenario is now at least plausible after his first half of rugby in more than a decade.

More than anything the 28-year-old former Wests Tigers conductor exuded confidence from the time he ran on to Memorial Park to the moment he signed the last of hundreds of autographs after full-time.

He didn’t blink when told he was taking the restarts moments before kick off. He didn’t flinch when Hurricanes openside Ardie Savea flattened him early or drop his lip when Cardiff Vaega blew past his inside shoulder. Marshall took it all in, adjusted, improved, and actually looked the part by the time he took a seat at half-time. In a nutshell, the Blues pivot was having fun.

“It was a bit of a blur, to be honest,” he said after the match. “The first 20 minutes I sort of struggled to get a feel for it, but after we had that quarter-time break I sort of realised what it was going to take to direct the team around. I did everything I wanted to achieve. I didn’t set the game on fire, but in terms of getting control and feel for playing 10 I got a lot out of it.”

He stood a tad deep at times, looked a little awkward in contact, but had a crack early, made a nice half break running behind Jackson Willison and passed with growing confidence once the Blues got some possession.

“When you don’t have the ball it’s a pretty tough sport,” he said. “I just did as much as I could in that second quarter to make sure we held on to the ball and possession, and once we did that it felt great. Look, from a personal point of view I’m happy with what I got out of it. It wasn’t about winning the game, it wasn’t about being the best player on the field. It was just about getting through what we’ve practised and getting a feel for the game.”

For the record, the Hurricanes won the match 38-35, outscoring the Blues six tries to five in an entertaining pre-season hit out. But there was little doubt who the 6000-strong crowd had come to see – the ground announcer gave him top billing as the side’s ran on. Marshall lapped it all up.

“I had Ardie Savea coming from the inside a lot of times and got a good feel for what is going to be coming at me. I enjoyed every part of it and I’m looking forward to the next game,” he said before laughing at his attempt at cleaning out a ruck.

“I hit a couple, but I don’t think I was hitting anybody. It’s just different. Until you get a feel for the game you don’t understand. I still don’t really know the rules around the ruck, so I’m guessing there, to be honest. It’s a learning curve and hopefully I can get better each game.

“There was a lot of sliding defence. The systems are just different to league and it’s something I’m slowly getting used to. I’ve got a lot to learn. I suppose this is the first step in a massive line of steps to get in the right place. That’s what’s it’s about. It’s my first game in over 10 years.”

And then Marshall started actually sounding like a rugby player.

“The first 20 was a bit rusty,” he said. ”We had about six turnovers and they scored three times off those so I learned a big lesson after the first 20, which was to keep us a bit more direct and control the ball and make sure we had enough people in rucks to keep the ball.”

All of which was music to the ears of coach John Kirwan who knocked on the head any notion Marshall would switch positions and hinted he’d get another extended run against the Waratahs in Sydney this weekend.

“I thought he was great,” Kirwan said. ”The whole team played well but he blended in incredibly well and ran the team. For his first hit out he can be proud. He’s worked hard. I spoke to him quickly at half-time and he said ‘woah, that was a bit different’.

“That’s his position. He showed enough today to have another crack … I was hoping this would happen and it’s happening. He’s worked incredibly hard, but it was a good start for him. There were little bits to work on but for his first game in 16 years or whatever, it was a good start.”

With Baden Kerr getting a knock Marshall might have to share time with Chris Noakes this week, but the signs are positive.

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Thousands protest at Manly Beach over WA shark cull

Protesters gather at Manly beach to denounce Western Australia’s new policy to catch and kill sharks. Photo: Damian ShawThousands of people brandishing hand-painted posters, inflatable shark toys, shark hats and other shark-related paraphernalia braved the heat of Manly Beach  on Saturday to protest  at the  West Australian government’s shark cull.
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‘‘Crooks use hooks’’ declared one sign, ‘‘Barnett can bite me’’ declared another, while in the distance a woman in a head-to-toe shark costume wandered on Manly’s packed promenade.

The colourful crowd assembled on the sand was one of a series of gatherings held across Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to protest against Western Australia’s decision to capture and shoot large sharks caught in drum lines one kilometre from the state’s  shores. The decision follows a string of fatal shark attacks in recent years.

The first shark was caught and killed on Australia Day.

Events were held in at least 10 locations across the nation, from the NSW central coast to Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart and Cottesloe, Broome and Perth in WA. Protests were also held in New Zealand and South Africa.

The protests came hours after an under-size two-metre shark, believed to be a tiger shark, was pulled from a baited drum line off Perth’s Leighton Beach by fisheries officers.

The animal – the second to be killed under the program – was dumped further offshore.

Protest co-organiser Alice Forrest, an aquarist at Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, said the cull was not based on science. ‘‘He’s killing endangered species,’’ she said, referring to West Australian Premier Colin Barnett. ‘‘He’s making a lot of people very angry. He thinks it’s going to help with tourism. If anything, it’s giving WA a bit of a redneck reputation and making people not want to go out there.’’

Among the crowd was artist and designer Angela Van Boxtel, who said the WA government would be better off promoting greater public understanding of sharks and the low risk they actually pose to swimmers. Over the past 50 years, an average of one person per year has been killed by a shark, according to data from the Australian Shark Attack File.

‘‘I grew up in the Netherlands and was raised with this whole fear of what sharks are about. When I came here and learnt more and more I started thinking, well, this is silly,’’ she said.

‘‘If you’re not educated then you are fearful. The government should … show the real facts and educate tourists about the amazing wildlife we have.’’

Sitting on the bright blue beach towel was Edward Hunter and his family, who drove an hour and a half from western Sydney with his wife and two children to join the protest.

‘‘The oceans are a necessary thing for the human race to survive on the planet. You try and take out the apex predators in an environment and bad things happen to the rest of the environment,’’ he said.

Standing behind speakers on the promenade, Mosman High school teacher Pru Wawn said the shark cull was just one of a many examples of the government disregarding popular opinion and destroying the environment.

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Brown warns Chooks about head-hunters

Outspoken Nathan Brown has issued a World Club Challenge warning to Sydney Roosters: Wigan’s props are cheap shot merchants.
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The St Helens boss and former St George Illawarra coach made the comment after his new signing, former Penrith half Luke Walsh, finished his first night as a Super League player in hospital undergoing X-rays for a possible facial fracture after a late challenge from Wigan’s Welsh giant Ben Flower.

The 28-16 Wigan win also marked the English debuts of North Queensland icon Matt Bowen and former South Sydney and Wests Tigers forward Eddy Pettybourne.

”He got hit in the head – without the ball. You know that’s going to happen when you play Wigan,” a fuming Brown said. ”That’s standard with their front-rowers. It happened to Gaz O’Brien last year.”

Brown was otherwise complimentary to the side that will meet the Roosters at Allianz Stadium on February 22, calling it ”effective”, ”fluid” and ”terrific”. The starting props in Sydney are likely to be Flower and Scott Taylor with Pettybourne off the bench.

New signing Jordan James, a former Royal Marine, will push Gil Dudson for the final bench spot.

That’s if Flower, 26, escapes the wrath of the judiciary. Walsh played on after the 70th-minute hit and was taken straight to hospital afterwards for scans.

Pettybourne, who played for the United States in the World Cup, had fans chanting his name after a couple of big hits off the interchange bench. ”He’s got good footwork and a hit on him,” coach Shaun Wane said.

”There’s a few technical things EP can work on. He’ll get better.”

Bowen had few opportunities, St Helens scoring one try after he lost the ball in a tackle. He was replaced at half-time. ”That was always the plan,” Wane said, joking: ”He’s the same age as me.”

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Wests Tigers rookie Luke Brooks has eyes of the Tigers

Talented Tiger: Luke Brooks. Photo: Anthony JohnsonThere’s a lot of talk about passing the baton when it comes to Luke Brooks.
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But history shows that it literally hasn’t always worked out. Like the time he ran the anchor leg for Holy Cross College’s state 4×100 metre relay team in year 10.

”I got disqualified,” Brooks chuckled.

”I didn’t know the rules, you start at one point and are meant to get the baton there and I started before it. We won by a mile. A few of the boys weren’t taking it too serious and then we were disqualified.

”One of the guys who took it serious was blowing up – he threw his spikes right out of the ground. I was just laughing.”

There was almost another false start, albeit on a grander stage. It was the Tuesday before THAT debut. Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter told him he was playing. A lifelong ambition was about to be fulfilled. Or was it? In his previous game in reggies, Brooks was placed on report for a high tackle.

Unable to help himself, Under-20s coach Todd Payten came up to Brooks and said, po-faced: ”You’re suspended, you can’t play.” ”I had a feeling he was stitching me up,” Brooks said. ”So it was pretty funny.” History will show that Brooks played. And how. His first game was on the hallowed turf of the Sydney Cricket Ground. It was the grand old venue his late grandfather, Clive Johnson, had captained the NSW cricket team alongside the likes of greats Richie Benaud and Bob Simpson.

To say he was nervous was an understatement.

”I was thinking about the game all week,” he said.

”Going to the ground, about halfway there, I remember really needing to go to the toilet. I had to run to the change rooms. The time I most got nervous was during the anthems, just standing there.” It didn’t show. The teenage halfback scored a try against the Dragons, had a hand or a foot in just about everything and was crowned man of the match. Due to second-tier salary cap restrictions, it remains his only NRL appearance.

”It was a dream come true, I always wanted to play for the Tigers,” he said.

”I really have to pinch myself because it’s weird playing with people you’ve looked up to. I never thought I’d get a chance to play with Benji [Marshall], it was good.

”It would have been good to play a few more games with him but at least I got one.” That he is playing at all is reward for perseverance. The former Australian Schoolboy badly broke and dislocated his ankle three years ago.

Complications, including a golden staph infection, meant he was sidelined for 15 months. In the second game of his comeback, he broke the other leg. And a broken thumb prevented him from participating in the SG Ball final series.

”I did [think about quitting] a bit but I always knew I wanted to keep playing,” he said.

He isn’t the only member of his family training on Concord Oval. His older brother Joel plays for the Wests Harbour rugby side which trains at the same field. The 21-year-old is currently trialling for a spot with the Waratahs. Another sibling, 15-year-old Scott, is a fullback in the Tigers feeder system.

Luke and Joel crossed paths when their teams set up a training camp at Kiama during the week.

”My older brother was in the ranks of the Tigers with the 20s and stopped playing footy,” Brooks said. ”He stopped for two years and got back into union with his mates.”

One of his own good mates is fellow playmaker Mitchell Moses. The pair were the gun athletes at Holy Cross, often sharing the school’s player of the year awards. Injuries have prevented them from combining often – Moses broke his leg and has been hampered by hamstring and calf problems – but the pair are earmarked as the long-term Wests Tigers halves.

They have come through the grades together, although they have also played against each other. Moses spent part of his junior career at Parramatta and Brooks recalls a particular time they clashed.

”He actually threw me an intercept,” Brooks recalled.

”It actually looked like he threw it straight to me. He was pretty filthy.” Moses has been named for the Tigers’ first trial, while Brooks will be missing from the Nines tournament. The latter suffered stress fractures last year and the club are mindful of protecting him. His debut appearance was headline news and already there have been comparisons to Andrew Johns.

For a teen who has played just one game, they are unhelpful. It is not yet time for Benji to pass the baton.

”Sometimes you get noticed,” Brooks said of the newfound attention he has received.

”It feels a bit weird.”

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Stephen Cartwright offers aid to Wests Tigers

”My understanding of how the business world works and how it can interface with sport, I think that’s where the NRL clubs need to do more work”: Stephen Cartwright. Photo: Anita JonesStephen Cartwright, one of the state’s best connected business leaders, revealed he had already discussed with NRL boss David Smith about how he could serve Wests Tigers as the league prepares to appoint three independent directors to the club’s board.
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Cartwright is the chief executive of the NSW Business Chamber, and in his position he has access to 15,000 businesses throughout the state.

On Friday, he attended the launch of the chamber’s sports business consultancy service – which will be run in conjunction with the Horton Ella Group and Australian Business Solutions Group.

As he sat on a table flanked by the likes of 1960 Olympic Games gold medallist Herb Elliott, NSW Rugby League boss David Trodden and Western Sydney Wanderers chairman Lyall Gorman, rumours were flying that he would be one of the NRL’s three appointments.

Cartwright, whose grandfather Patrick Tyler, a Balmain wharfie who played some first grade matches for the Tigers in the 1920s, admitted he had spoken to Smith but insisted it was to simply offer his support in any capacity to Wests Tigers.

”I’ve said to Dave Smith from the NRL, and to some of the people from the Tigers, that whatever I can do to help them be successful I will do and if that included being a part of their governance structure, I would love to do it,” Cartwright said. ”But, equally, if I could do anything else for the club I would do it. I’m just a passionate fan, so, whatever they need, I am there.”

Cartwright said he could provide unique business acumen to the board and also offer suggestions as to how the club could replicate his efforts to significantly boost the chamber’s membership numbers to help the Tigers.

”My understanding of how the business world works and how it can interface with sport, I think that’s where the NRL clubs need to do more work,” he said.

”You look at the Wests Tigers, they have this fantastic catchment area in western Sydney and how do we get that increased relationship with the corporate world but, also, how do we do what I’ve done at the chamber – and that is triple the membership numbers? You look at the AFL clubs, their member numbers are way bigger than the NRL clubs. How do we do that?”

Cartwright said it was essential Wests Tigers be put ahead of anything else at a club that was formed when NSW Rugby League foundation teams Balmain and Western Suburbs merged to form the franchise in 1999 but were often seen to be at loggerheads over issues.

”I said to someone the other day that I have a 16-year-old son who had never heard of the Wests Magpies or the Balmain Tigers, he has only heard of the Wests Tigers,” Cartwright said.

”I think after a given period of time, you have to accept that is the club now. It is something that has to be done and I think the change in governance structure will do that.”

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‘The Gazelle’ Darren Hibbert considers penning supplement guide

Unemployed after being stood down by long-term employer Advance Sports Nutrition, Darren Hibbert is contemplating new career paths. The man dubbed ”the Gazelle” is considering opening up his own supplements store and becoming an author. With the bills mounting – he has received further fines for allegedly failing to co-operate with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority – Hibbert reckons there is a book in him. Or two. ”I’m going to write a book on performance-enhancing proteins to provide a supplement guide – how to use them, which ones are banned and which aren’t,” Hibbert said. ”I’ll go through the health benefits that the public may not know about.” He also believes there is plenty of fodder in the fallout from ”the darkest day in sport”. ”That will be another book,” he said. ”I’ll be talking about my dealings with ASADA in the past, how I was friendly with them and worked with them and also WADA as well to ensure all the things we used were above board. And then what’s happening now, how they’re trying to make a scapegoat out of us because of the previous government’s press conference.”
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Bulldogs to Qatar?

Canterbury could be heading to Qatar to undertake high-altitude training at the site of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Respected businessman Anter Isaac, a candidate for the coming Bulldogs board elections, organised a study trip for several key staffers to tour the facilities in Doha. Isaac, the man who drafted the Western Sydney Wanderers’ strategic plan, is attempting to get the whole squad across through his international connections.

”He gave me an opportunity to go to Qatar six months ago to see the FIFA facilities for the 2022 World Cup,” Dogs chairman Ray Dib said. ”From that visit we sent our high-performance scientist recently and hopefully some time this year this is some talk about [coach] Des [Hasler] taking the whole squad for three weeks to do some high-altitude training.” In other league news, there were concerns that a bad Achilles injury would force popular Shark Bryce Gibbs into retirement. However, the rugged Cronulla prop is back in training and certain to be a part of the squad for this season.

Claire goes for Broke

One of Hollywood’s rising stars, Australian actress Claire van der Boom, has signed up to star in a new film that deals with the issue of gambling in rugby league.

The Logie winner will star in Broke, the first feature film by Heath Davis. Steve Le Marquand and Steve Bisley have also signed on to a project that will donate all profits to the Men of League Foundation.

Van der Boom – who stars alongside Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton in the coming drama Life Itself, will reunite with Davis after starring in some of his short films.

”I’m thrilled to be coming back to Australia to work with Heath and am very much looking forward to collaborating with Steve Le Marquand, who I’ve long admired,” van der Boom said. ”I’m grateful to have such a wonderful role to sink my teeth into.”

Davis, a lifelong league fan who grew up in western Sydney, based the lead character on an amalgam of people he has seen affected by problem gambling.

”Not every player who makes a fortune lives happily ever after,” Davis said.

”There are plenty of people I know who fell into the wrong crowds and gambling was one of their vices,” he said. ”I’ve seen a lot of guys that I idolised now being chewed up and spat out.”

He aims to raise $55,000 for the film through public pledges, with larger donations earning producer of actor credits.

Those wishing to contribute should go here.

City owners eye Stars

A Big Bash League team is likely to be next on the list for the Manchester City-led consortium which has already bought into Melbourne Storm and Melbourne Heart FC. The Melbourne Stars cricket franchise could be the next acquisition for the cashed-up owners, as well as Australian cycling team GreenEDGE. We’ve been reliably informed that there was also an approach to Collingwood but AFL rules precluded the powerhouse club from partnering with clubs from rival codes. Don’t be surprised to see the World Club Challenge played at Manchester City’s home ground if the Storm win the NRL premiership.

Kelly causes concern

One of the NRL’s most talented players has been slipping back into bad habits. Gold Coast officials are concerned about the behaviour of gun halfback Albert Kelly, who has been a little too festive during the festive season. The 22-year-old has had a chequered career due to alcohol issues and it seems he has yet to fully conquer those demons. If Kelly plays to his potential he could be a future Origin player but another public incident could spell the end of a promising career.

Underwood steps up

There will be some new and familiar voices on ABC Grandstand’s coverage of the footy codes. AFL sportscaster Kelli Underwood has moved to Sydney and will be calling games involving Sydney and GWS. ”I believe she will be the first game-to-game female AFL caller in Sydney, we’ll have a fresh voice on the airwaves,” ABC Grandstand manager Craig Norenbergs said. There will also be some new blood injected into Auntie’s NRL coverage to complement old favourites Warren Ryan and David Morrow. Ben Ross, Bradley Clyde, Michael Buettner, Greg McCallum and Gary Freemanwill also join the team.

Happy ending

Daniel Holdsworth has been reunited with his memorabilia after it was stolen from his Caringbah home on Australia Day. Returning to the NRL with Cronulla after a stint in the Super League, the playmaker lost his NRL debut jersey and several others during the robbery. However, he took to Instagram to thank those who assisted in their return. ”The scumbags dumped them at a lovely old couple’s house a few houses up from me,” he said.

Palmer joins big boys

Meet the youngest grommet competing in next week’s Hurley’s Australian Open of Surfing at Manly Beach. At the tender age of 10, Keegan Palmer has been invited to contest the skating part of the event. Already the under-18 Bowl Riding champion, he gets the opportunity to mix it with the world’s best – most of whom are at least twice his age. ”The event had an awesome vibe last time and as I’ll be competing against the big guns this time I’m sure I’ll feel that even more,” he said. ”It’s going to be wild to skate against some of the best skaters in the world, and my first time competing in the open adult division. It’s a really big deal and I’m stoked to be given the opportunity.”

Bliss for Badgers

Gavin and Kasey Badger have already refereed together. So who took the lead when the whistleblowing couple officiated last year’s encounter between Thailand and the Philippines? ”That would be him!” Kasey chuckled. ”He’s much more experienced, I would be silly to take the lead.” Gavin added: ”She’s saying that but if I disagree with her I’m in trouble.” Kasey is aiming to be the first female – and part of the first couple – to referee an NRL game. She isn’t putting any timeframe on the ambition – ”I just want to solidify my spot in the 20s or NSW Cup and go from there” – but is doing everything possible to achieve the dream. To that end, the Badgers worked out under sprint guru Roger Fabri at Coogee during the week. ”If you want to be the best you’ve got to seek out the best and Rog is probably the best in the country at what he does,” Gavin said.

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NRL Indigenous leadership camp 2014: War cry to unite team and country

New ritual: Aboriginal NRL players perform with Bangarra Dance Theatre. Photo: Anthony Johnson’You are the most powerful group of Aboriginal men in the country.’
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That was the theme of the 2014 NRL Indigenous leadership camp as players developed a new Aboriginal war cry they hope will eventually have the same significance for Australians as the haka does for New Zealanders.

Fairfax Media was given exclusive access to the camp on Friday night and Saturday as players ranging from superstars such as Greg Inglis to Penrith rookie James Roberts, discussed and rehearsed the dance they believe will increase pride in indigenous communities and promote Aboriginal culture.

”For the indigenous kids, I think it will be great for their self confidence and make them proud of their culture, proud of their heritage and really proud of their aboriginality,” Inglis said.

”It is something we can own and something we can be proud of, and hopefully this dance can filter all the way down to the juniors and all the way through the game.”

The players intend to publicly unveil the war cry at next season’s All Stars match and believe that if the dance is performed regularly, it will eventually be considered a part of Australian culture.

While no one at the two-day camp in the Hunter Valley was bold enough to publicly suggest the Kangaroos adopt the war cry before Test matches, the fact that more than a third of Australia’s World Cup winning squad were Aboriginal means it is a possibility.

Every Australian team on Kangaroo tours from 1908 to 1967 performed an Aboriginal war cry, derived from Stradbroke Island, before matches but they never did so on home soil and it was decided in 1973 that the dance ”did not reflect being Australian”.

However, Newcastle centre Timana Tahu pointed out that a lot of players in the Kiwis team had Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islands and even Australian heritage, and they performed the haka with pride and passion.

”You see those blokes doing it as hard as the Maori blokes are doing it because they have got so much pride and it means so much to the players because they have grown up doing the haka,” said Tahu, who represented Aotearoa Maori in 2010.

”For us, that is what we want to do as well. We want to have the young kids knowing the dance and not be afraid to do it, to go out and give their all because they are not only representing a jersey, they are representing their family and their country.

”What we are doing is a gift to future generations that are going to be doing it over the years so we are sort of starting history here.

”Everyone is going to have input in the war cry and for us it is good because it has been talked about and now we are putting it into action.”

With more than 250 Aboriginal tribes throughout the country, the players borrowed from a variety of influences as they worked under the guidance of Bangarra Dance Theatre artistic director Stephen Page to develop the war cry they hope will unify all Australians.

NRL welfare and education manager Dean Widders told the gathering that rugby league was uniquely placed to introduce a war cry because of the game’s gladiatorial nature, the international exposure it receives and the high representation of indigenous players.

Aborigines comprise only two per cent of the Australian population but 12 per cent of NRL players are indigenous, and they make up 22 per cent of State of Origin teams and 35 per cent of the Test team.

”As far as role models for our people, you are the guys they look up to,” Widders told the players in a room featuring larger than life posters of Johnathan Thurston and Preston Campbell, the driving force behind the All Stars concept five years ago.

”You are the most powerful ambassadors and role models that we have got so we need to leave a legacy and set standards for the young kids coming through.”

However, the players were also reminded of the negative impact that off-field incidents have on the game, the Aboriginal community and their own careers, with Widders showing them statistics on the media exposure a number of incidents attracted.

While no details of the incidents were revealed, one assault received mention in 2891 articles that were read by 28 million people and seen by a further 23.5 million television viewers. It was estimated that it would cost $5 million to reach the same audience through advertising.

In comparison, media coverage of last season’s Close the Gap round were equivalent to $550,000 in advertising costs and Inglis’s appearance at the Jillaroos departure for the Womens World Cup was worth $2.5 million in advertising.

”Whether we like it or not, anything that NRL players do gets a lot of attention,” Storm forward George Rose said. ”When kids see GI do something on the weekend, they all try to mimic it in backyard footy or when they play at school.

”I’m sure it will be the same with the war cry. If they see the Indigenous All Stars doing this dance every time they play and even leading up to a game, like the New Zealand team do the haka wherever they go, I think it is something they will want to copy.”

Rose, whose grandfather George Rose I was a key figure in the Freedom Rides of the 1960s, said he was looking forward to publicly performing the dance.

”I am getting goosebumps now just thinking about it,” Rose said. ”To know I was one of the first people to develop it and perform it would be unbelievable.

”Aboriginal culture is a massive part of Australian culture – our boomerangs and our didgeridoos are the biggest things associated with Australia – and I am sure with this dance the rest of Australia will embrace Aboriginal culture more.”

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Reece Robinson and Travis Robinson urge Goannas not to give up on NRL dream

Reece and Travis Robinson during a break at the Indigenous leadership camp in the Hunter Valley. Photo: Anthony JohnsonTravis and Reece Robinson are encouraging First Nation Goannas players to use next weekend’s match against Newcastle to push for an NRL contract, after the twins struggled to secure their own careers.
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Reece, who played 13 matches for the Broncos in 2008, had to wait another two years before getting another run in the NRL with Canberra, while Travis’ journey has been even harder, and the Storm recruit admits he thought he would never make it. In fact, Travis quit the game after suffering a horrific ankle injury in 2006. He moved to Alice Springs, then returned to play two years in the local Canberra competition before getting an opportunity with Penrith in 2012.

Travis, who made his NRL debut aged 24, encouraged others who have not secured contracts not to give up, including those in the First Nation Goannas team who joined their NRL counterparts in the Hunter Valley on Saturday. ”I have overcome injuries,” he said. ”I left the game for a bit and came back so I am just grateful that I got the opportunity to do what I am doing now.

”Hopefully the Goannas boys, who are in that situation at the moment, can do the same. This is a big opportunity for them next week coming up against the Newcastle Knights, so if anyone goes good, there will be teams watching them.”

While Travis worked with schoolchildren in Alice Springs, Reece was playing on the wing for the Broncos, but he played only one season and could not start elsewhere until then Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett recommended him to Canberra.

Since 2010, he has played 67 matches for the Raiders, but it was during last season that he established himself as a star after taking over as fullback following the sacking of Josh Dugan. But he is unsure whether he will stay at No.1 under Canberra coach Ricky Stuart. ”I would love to be in the No.1 jersey again but I will just be happy to be in the team,” Reece said. ”I love playing the game, so I just want to get on the field.”

The brothers attended their second NRL indigenous players leadership camp at the weekend and said being around Greg Inglis, Timana Tahu, Nathan Merritt and Willie Tonga, among others, had given them increased confidence.

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Waratahs lose to Rebels in their first Super Rugby trial of 2014

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika may have more questions than answers after his Waratahs lost to the Rebels in their first Super Rugby trial at Albury on Saturday.
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Cheika was just happy for his squad to have had their first game. ”I just wanted them to get a hit out. We have timed our pre-season to work this way,” he said.

”We have an extra trial than we did last year so that everyone can run because of the way everyone is coming back staggered. So the main priority was to get a hit out.”

But Cheika said two areas where the Waratahs fell short on in the game were ”in the attacking ruck and turnover defence”.

”We have to take a look and see why,” Cheika said. ”We didn’t have a whole lot of ball during the game. We got pretty heavily penalised and didn’t have a lot of ball to attack from. When we did we looked good.

”But we struggled sometimes on attacking ruck and turnover defence, just in that 20-minute block in the third quarter.”

The Waratahs showed glimpses of what they can do at the Albury Sports Centre in the first 20-minute quarters when they always looked dangerous with the ball.

But while NSW still led going into half-time in the third quarter they appeared to suffer more than the Rebels on a day when it reached 41 degrees and hovered in the high 30s throughout the game.

It was in the third and punishing quarter when the Rebels pushed through to take the lead from NSW, who were constantly pressured and began to give away penalties.

But the game did not appear to settle any selection questions for Cheika.

The Waratahs led 7-0 after the first 20-minute quarter thanks to a converted try by halfback Brendan McKibbin after four minutes.

McKibbin’s opportunity came courtesy of second-rower Will Skelton, whose bustling five-metre run got the Waratahs past the Rebels’ 22-metre line.

Skelton, active in the first quarter, was tackled but offloaded to McKibbin who weaved past two defenders before finding open space to score.

The Rebels looked set to draw even just before the break, with a run by winger Alex Rokobaro produced off the back of the scrum about 20m from the NSW line.

He was brought down, but then the Waratahs were penalised for an infringement at the breakdown.

The Rebels took a quick tap but a knock-on just before the 20-minute siren rang snuffed their scoring opportunity.

The first injury of the night came just before the break when Rebels inside-centre Lachie Mitchell broke down with heat stress. After the break, Rebels inside-centre Mitch Inman was quick to make his mark after being brought on.

He scored the Rebels’ first try of the season to leave them two points behind with the score at 7-5 after the conversion was missed.

One more try each in the second quarter by both sides – from NSW winger Matt Carraro through some weak defence and Rebels halfback Ben Meehan, who chased down a grubber by his captain and No.8 Scott Higginbotham – left the score at 14-12.

But just before half-time Stephen Hoiles, playing for the Waratahs on trial in a bid to earn a contract, took a short pass from five metres out to score NSW’s third try.

Converted by McKibbin, the Waratahs went into the break 21-12 in the lead.

The Waratahs were penalised several times in the third quarter and then were left a man down after prop Tim Metcher was shown a yellow card for offside.

Tries by five-eighth Bryce Hegarty and fullback Jason Woodward gave the Rebels a 26-21 lead.

The Rebels then surged away to a 33-21 lead when outside back Tom English scored their fifth try which Woodward also converted.

The Rebels, to their credit, never let up, even though Peter Betham’s try for NSW left the score at 33-28.

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

Live: Newcastle Jets v Western Sydney Wanderers

sLive coverage as the Newcastle Jets take on the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Nanjing Night Net

It’s a warm night in Newcastle – 26 degrees – and both sets of supporters, the Jets’ Squadron and the Wanderers’ Red and Black Bloc are already in fine, and respectful, voice, which is great news considering the crowd unrest that marred the last fixture between these sides at Hunter Stadium. It’s a massive game for the Jets: new coach Clayton Zane had a fiery baptism last week – a poor 3-0 loss – and favourite son Joel Griffiths is back after almost six years gallivanting about the soccer globe. Apart from a resounding victory over the Roar weeks ago, the Jets have looked shaky in recent times, but in talisman Ruben Zadkovich, they have a man who can inspire great things from the back. The Wanderers got back on the winners’ list last week, and with Tomi Juric back from suspension and Youssouf Hersi in scintillating form, they will be hard to knock over. Tony Popovic has come under fire for his rotation policy but playing Matt Spiranovic in a defensive midfield role last week was a coaching master stroke. The Wanderers are playing in their predominantly white away kit and the Jets are resplendent in royal blue and scarlet. Late news: Emile Heskey out with a back spasm. The Wanderers are unchanged from last week – first time this season – with Juric on the bench. Hunker down for a massive game. This will be a corker.

Disturbing fact for Jets fans: Newcastle have only won two of their last home games.

3rd minute:

Jets kick-off and the Wanderers are dominating with excellent one-touch short passing between Mooy, Cole, Hersi and Ono. Mooy has really come of age in the last few weeks.

6th minute:

Adam Taggart was the Jets’ wonder boy earlier in the season, with a number of cracking goals, but like Newcastle he’s slipped in form recently.So far he hasn’t touched the ball.

NJ 0 WSW 0

8th minute:

Shinji Ono is on fire, one-two-ing with Mooy and then hitting a vicious shot just wide of the right post. Ooooh.

NJ 0 WSW 0

10th minute:

Brendan Santalab clatters into Zadkovich and the subsequent free kick from Goodwin is cleared nicely by Covic. Against the run of play, you’d have to say. Wanderers still pulling the levers.

NJ 0 WSW 0

13th minute:

Jets show some promise. Caravella sprinting down the right flank, smashed in a low cross which Ward tried to stab in but Beauchamp wouldn’t allow him to get goalside and Covic made the save. Good, gritty stuff from the Newie boys.

NJ 0 WSW 0

16th minute:

Wanderers are camping in the Jets’ box. Nicky Ward brought down Mooy from behind 30m out and Ono’s inswinging freekick was well dealt with by Jaliens who headed away for a corner. It was the first of three successive corners, the Jets ultimately smashing the ball out of danger.

NJ 0 WSW 0

20th minute:

So far the Wanderers have been making all the play – the Jets are playing a reactive game, almost like they’re the away team.

NJ 0 WSW 0

22nd minute:

Topor-Stanley is looking very impressive at the back tonight, regularly cutting out Newcastle though-balls.

NJ 0 WSW 0

24th minute:

Goal out of the blue! A 30m cannonball screamer from Adam Taggart. Wow! Covic had no chance – his outstretched hands were a metre from the ball. A great run from Nicky Ward ended with him turning the ball back to Taggart with nothing really going on. Then he unleashed his right boot and WHOOSHKA!

NJ 1 WSW 0

29th minute:

On the back of that wonder goal, the Jets have grown in confidence. Nicky Ward and Caravella are making strong runs from midfield, but the Wanderers back four are a deadset wall – except when it comes to long-range efforts, of course.

NJ 1 WSW 0

33rd minute:

A fantastic weaving run from Goodwin on the byline, nutting Spiranovic along the way, culminated in a toe poke at Covic from a tight angle. Inspiring stuff.

NJ 1 WSW 0

37th minute:

A Jaliens foul on Santalab gave the Wanderers a foul from 20m out but Ono ripped the ball over the crossbar. The Wanderers are still playing patiently when in possession – they’re the more attractive football side at this point.

NJ 1 WSW 0

42nd minute:

Ripper goal! Aaron Mooy wins another free kick for the Wanderers 30m out and curls the ball into the top right hand corner of the Newcastle goal. Fantastic strike. Beckham-esque.

NJ 1 WSW 1

Halftime and the honours are even thanks to two awesome goals – a broken play 30m piledriver from Adam Taggart, and a sweetly hit 20m free kick by Aaron Mooy. Both teams have everything to play for this half, but Tony Popovic must be feeling confident his team’s patient, possession-based football will pay off. Apart from Mooy, who is having another pearler, the Wanderers well-oiled midfield is functioning neatly and the Jets will have to find a way to grab more possession. Clayton Zane will be hoping Caravella can produce more bucaneering runs from midfield and if Nicky Ward can turn it on like he did in the first stanza, this will go down to the wire. Time for a beverage. Check you in 5.

NJ 1 WSW 1

Jets fans unleash:

#NEWvWSW Wait until the Jets unleash Griffo in the 2nd half.— LewDub (@NaoetsuCafe) February 1, 2014

Grammar point for the Red and Black Bloc…

Shouldn’t it be ‘whom’ instead of ‘Who do you sing for?’…. #NEWvWSW— Gareth Askham (@GarethAskham) February 1, 2014

48th minute:

The Jets have only had one clean sheet in their last 14 matches… but that’s not going to worry Adam Taggart whose stinging shot from the inside of the 18s is goal-bound till Covic snuffs it out with an acrobatic left fist. Taggart is on fire.

NJ 1 WSW 0

51st minute:

The Wanderers’ composed, slow build-ups almost bear fruit as Ono is denied by Zadkovich who hooks the ball away as the Japanese tries to get in a shot.

NJ 1 WSW 1

55th minute:

Jets fans are salivating: Joel Griffiths is warming up on the sideline. Meanwhile an inswinging free kick from Ono is met with a solid free header from Spiranovic. Alas for Wanderers fans it goes way over the crossbar. Should have done a lot, lot better. Ton Popovic throws his hands up in frustration…

NJ 1 WSW 1

59th minute:

The Wanderers are dictating terms at the moment, and the Jets can’t get any momentum. Plus, their supporters are being outsung by the Red and Black Bloc. Hersi and Ono are weaving their magic big time and the Hunter boys can’t get a look in.

NJ 1 WSW 162nd minute:First substitution – Joel Griffiths on for Nicky Ward, who has had a strong game.NJ 1 WSW 1

70th minute:

Wanderers’ first substitution: Santalab off for excitement machine Tomi Juric. That crazy goal has sparked the Jets into action: a Taggart shot on the run sees Covic diving to his left to haul in the leather. Newcastle is pressing forward in numbers.

NJ 1 WSW 2

73rd minute:

Just looking at the replay – it seems like Beauchamp scored off his elbow. Legitimate mind you, but hilarious on slow motion.

NJ 1 WSW 2

75th minute:

Wanderer Heffernan concedes a foul 2m outside the box and Griffiths caresses the free kick only a meter over the crossbar. Quick rap for Jets defender Taylor Regan – he has been outstanding at the back, regularly stopping the tricky Ono and Mooy in their tracks.

NJ 1 WSW 2

78th minute:

More substitutions – Pepper on for Goodwin, and Hersi off for Haliti. At this stage, Newcastle’s best hope for a goal must be in the interplay between free-running Caravella and Taggart up front. Taggart is super-sharp tonight.

NJ 1 WSW 2

82nd minute:

The Wanderers defence is holding firm – Topor-Stanley and Beauchamp have an excellent understanding. It’s frustrating the Jets as Zadkovich tries a hit and hope from 25m that crashes into a wall of legs.

NJ 1 WSW 2

86th minute:

More subbing: Ex-Leeds striker and Newcastle veteran Michael Bridges on for Caravella. Moments later, Haliti drills in a low shot Birighitti has to dig out. Close.

NJ 1 WSW 2

89th minute:

Goal. Another scrappy one, as Taggart intercepts a deflection from Ono 3m out and slots home the equaliser. The ball was ricocheting about and it needed the Jets’s strikers’ presence of mind to convert. A real poacher’s goal.

NJ 2 WSW 2

93rd minute:

Joel Griffiths has been sent off for remonstrating with the referee after Taggart was floored by Covic as he chased a bouncing through ball. Apparently the ref had already blown for full-time. A dramatic finale.

NJ 2 WSW 2

What a finish! The Jets had looked shot. The Wanderers were the better team for the majority of the match, only to concede a scrappy goal at the death. Adam Taggart was the Jets’ hero, with two fantastic striker’s goals. It was a great result for new coach Clayton Zane, who will be impressed with the fighting qualities his team showed tonight. Regan and Zadkovich, in particular, were inspirational for the red and blue. Tony Popovic can only dream of what might have been. Aaron Mooy created difficulties for Newcastle all over the park and Shinji Ono was silky smooth in midfield – as usual. But he won’t be overly disappointed by the way his side played – the Wanderers’ formation was steady all night and their passing movements smart and penetrating. All up a cracker of a game and a great night of football for the 16,000 crowd.

NJ 2 WSW 2

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