Newtown Jets v Wests Tigers: Newtown Searching For More Than Victory
Henson Park, Saturday 2 April
Listen LIVE via Steele Sports Radio at www.steelesports.com.au
Hipsters unite as this week’s showdown between the Newtown jets and Wests Tigers marks Hipsters Day at Henson Park on Saturday afternoon.
Speaking on the Jets’ unique fan base, coach Greg Matterson knows the power rugby league has in connecting people, no matter from what walks of life they may come from.
“We don’t sexually discriminate, we don’t ethnically discriminate, we’ve got a bit of everything there (at Newtown),” Matterson told NSWRL.com.au. “Everyone’s welcome – as long as they’re wearing a blue t-shirt or Newtown jersey, our doors are open to everybody.
“We at Newtown cater for the people of the area. We’re trying to invite all those people to get involved and there’s a lot of people of that demographic in the area so we’re trying to get them all down there and get behind us.”
The Jets can do with all the support they can get against a fast-starting Wests Tigers side holding a strong 3-1 record after a powerful 32-14 victory in Round 3.
“Wests Tigers are odds on favourites – they’re flying,” Matterson said. “We’ve only just fallen over the line. They had a big win last week (against the Canterbury Bulldogs).”
The Jets have recorded two wins, a draw and a loss in a solid start to the season but Matterson is concerned about their inconsistency. Newtown comfortably led 22-4 at halftime against the Manly Sea Eagles last round before they had to battle to hold on for a narrow 26-20 win.
“We’re only playing half a game of footy – it’s happened three weeks in a row,” Matterson said. “We need to get better and stick with it.
“It’s an issue of concentration – sticking with what’s working. We had a few brain snaps, a few individuals who wanted to do their own thing and all of a sudden find out momentum can turn very quickly.
“If you give the opposition a sniff and they get a little bit of momentum, it’s hard to stop. We’ve been guilty of that.
“They (Newtown) know there’s competition for positions. I’ve told them all they’re all going to get to their opportunity to show up. At the end of the day, whoever’s playing consistently well there, it’s going to be their position. If I give everyone a chance in these early rounds to show what they’ve got, no one can whinge if they don’t take their opportunity.”
There’s no doubt Matterson will have a couple of tricks up his sleeve for Wests Tigers this week after his late lineup changes proved great success as Mitch Brown shifted to fullback and Arana Taumata moved to the halves, with both players superb in their side’s victory.
Taumata made 121 metres through two line-breaks, scoring a try and setting up another while Brown had a hand in Newtown’s first two tries and ran for 148 metres.
“Mitch Brown is our best option at fullback and he’s mature, he’s a leader and has played a lot of NRL. With the balance of the team with (Jaline) Graham, (Matt) Mcilwrick, (Fa’amanu) Brown, (Kurt) Kara, (Arana) Taumata, it’ll be a week-to-week thing. They’ll all play different roles in different weeks. We’ll keep tinkering with our combinations so everyone gets footy and the cream will rise to the top and later on we’ll settle on a team.
“(I’m) always looking for the X-Factor.”
Illawarra Cutters v Mounties: Powerhouses Collide
WIN Stadium, Saturday 2 April
Listen LIVE via Steele Sports Radio at www.steelesports.com.au
Crunch time awaits in a pivotal contest between the Illawarra Cutters and Mounties – whom both carry a valuable 3-1 record to start their season campaigns.
There’s plenty of excitement about the Cutters and their dynamic halves duo Shaun Nona and Drew Hutchison, with Cutters coach Jason Demetriou giving his damaging forward pack plenty of credit for their early success.
“Obviously they’re playing some good footy,” Demetriou told NSWRL.com.au. “They’ve connected really well and started to form a good (halves) partnership but I put a lot of it down to our middle as well. Sebastine Ikahihifo and Shannon Wakeman particularly, in all four games, have been really good. Jacob Host and Chris Lewis are playing some good footy as well. A few boys contributed to that and give the halves some freedom.
Fan favourite Wakeman has been instrumental once again this season for the Cutters, relishing his role as impact player off the bench.
“It’s a big luxury,” Demetriou said. “I’ve got a lot of time for Shannon and Chris Lewis. They’re two players with a lot of potential as well to go on and play at a high level. It’s about those guys preparing well and making sure they can play consistent footy.”
Following their 42-18 dismantling of the Penrith Panthers – in which Lewis bagged two tries, set up another and broke the line twice – Illawarra take on a Mounties side coming off a hard-earned 18-16 win in a high-quality affair with the North Sydney Bears.
For Mounties, Luke Bateman was sensational with a Man-of-the-Match performance last week, running the ball 16 times for 183 metres, along with 27 tackles, two line-breaks and a four-pointer while Mitchell Barnett was at his usual best this season with 19 carries for 215 metres, six tackle-breaks and his own try.
Demetriou knows his side will need to improve and lift to match the powerful Mounties forward pack featuring Bateman and Barnett.
“It’s about replicating what we have been doing and taking it to another level,” Demetrious said. “Each week it’s about being a little bit better than we were last week, trying to build your season. Our first two rounds we did that but took a step back in Round 3 and went forward again in Round 4, so it’s about going forward again this week.”
Manly Sea Eagles v Penrith Panthers: Time To Stand
Brookvale Oval, Saturday 2 April
Listen LIVE via Hawkesbury Radio on 89.9 FM or at www.hawkesburyradio.com.au
Listen LIVE via Steele Sports Radio at www.steelesports.com.au
It’s not the ideal start either side was looking for but with the Manly Sea Eagles and Penrith Panthers recording just one win from the first four rounds, it’s a vital opportunity for both sides to jumpstart their season.
“Win, lose or draw it’s really important we turnaround our attitude and prepare well for the game,” Panthers coach Steve Georgallis told NSWRL.com.au. “Obviously it’s important that you don’t fall too far behind on the ladder but I’m just hoping that they (Penrith) respond to last week’s game and the attitude is much better, prepare themselves better and they need to do what they need to do. If they do that then they’ll go close to winning the game but if they don’t, it’s going to be another hard day.”
The Panthers suffered a heavy 42-18 loss at the hands of the Illawarra Cutters last week and are determined to find answers without Will Smith and Te Maire Martin who are fulfilling NRL duties.
“It’s honestly hard because you do a bit of work with them and you get your team going,” Georgallis said. “Your job is to prepare them for first grade so I’m really happy they’re going well up top. It’s hard for the fact this competition is one of the strongest comps I’ve coached in. All the teams seem to have a sprinkling of first-grade players and a lot of up-and-coming players so you’ve got to be on your game every week. Preparation did affect us a little last week but still no excuse for the score they put on us.”
Penrith need to move on and improve against a Manly side who is equally desperate for their second win of the season. The Sea Eagles were slow off the mark against the Newtown Jets, surrendering a 22-4 halftime lead but showed character to respond for a narrow 26-20 loss.
This week’s match against Manly will be a telling side for a young Panthers side on the rise.
“It was a great learning experience on the weekend (against Illawarra) that when you get your opportunity, you need to make the most of it and play for the team, not for the individual.
“We got caught last week with a few players not doing what they needed to do. The best way you can say is that they need to learn from that game. Hopefully this week, they have learnt from that game and the performance is much better.”
Wyong Roos v Canterbury Bulldogs: Dogs Gnawing At The Leash
Central Coast Stadium, Sunday 3 April
Live Broadcast on FOX Sports Channel 501
Don’t tell the Canterbury Bulldogs it’s been a disappointing start to the season with zero wins and just one draw to sit at the bottom of the ladder after Round 4.
“We haven’t had the results go our way but we’ve shown good signs in patches of games,” Bulldogs coach Andy Patmore told NSWRL.com.au. “Unfortunately, we haven’t got the results but that comes down to consistency.”
Possessing the talents of Tyrone Phillips, Kerrod Holland and Brad Abbey, the Bulldogs deserve better than just one draw to their name so far this season and need to tighten their performance for fruitful results.
“(It’s) just sticking to some good things for the whole game,” Patmore said. “That ball control is a big issue at the moment so we need to make sure that’s much higher than what it is.”
Taking on a formidable Wyong Roos lineup, the Bulldogs cannot afford any lapses this week against a side possessing the likes of Omar Slaimankhel, Mitch Williams, Brock Molan and Jai Ingram who have been in superb form.
Wyong is full of confidence after a scintillating first half where they piled on the points for an insurmountable 36-0 lead against the Warriors in Auckland last week. Slaimankhel played a huge role in the key victory in his move to five-eighth, increasing his involvement in running the ball 12 times and scored a try.
“It’s great to get the exposure on TV – that’s always a good thing but we’re focused on Wyong can do and they’ve got a big pack,” Patmore said. “We’ve certainly got to be big good down the middle against their big forwards – that’s the focus for us this week.”
There’s one thing everyone knows – the Bulldogs are at their best when their backs are against the wall.
Wentworthville Magpies v Warriors: Wenty Redemption Awaits
Ringrose Park, Sunday 3 April
Surrendering a 14-0 lead midway through the second half against the winless Newcastle Knights in front of their home crowd, the Wentworthville Magpies were disappointed not to continue their exciting hot-steak to open the season and keep their unbeaten record intact.
“I was disappointed that we didn’t have the ability to close the game down – and I don’t mean by closing down and putting the cue in the rack or defending the 14 points,” Magpies coach Joe Grima told NSWRL.com.au. “We still need to continue to play the footy that got us to the 14 points. We went into our shell and rather than trying to score or continuing to play, we tried to defend it.”
“To have four tries scored in the last 20 minutes, we just couldn’t swing the momentum back in our favour. (We’re) certainly disappointed we lost the game (22-14) from 14-0 up – there’s no doubts about that. It’s certainly one game that could hurt us.”
The Magpies get the chance to redeem themselves in front of their home fans at Ringrose Park against an inconsistent Warriors side.
Epitomising their extremely inconsistent play this season, the Warriors effectively lost last week’s match against the Wyong Roos by halftime, trailing 36-0 but rallied to score 20 unanswered points in the second half.
For Wentworthville, they are looking to move past last weekend’s lackluster finish.
“We haven’t really spoken about bouncing back for a win,” Grima said. “We’ve just spoken about things we need to do fundamentally better – that’s been our approach. If we can get those things right the results will look after itself.
“Offensively we turned the ball over seven times on tackle one or two – you’re just inviting teams into the contest.”
In a bright sign for Parramatta Eels fans and one of the major reasons the Magpies can carry much confidence into this week’s match against the Warriors, has been Daniel Alvaro’s inspirational stellar form.
Alvaro was close to the competition’s best player of the round with a massive 21 carries, 216 metres and 50 tackles – and it is only a matter of time when Alvaro will add to his eight NRL appearances in 2016.
Grima sincerely appreciates his dedication and also acknowledges the form of his front-row partner, Rory O’Brien
“If you look at his stats, that would suggest the opinion we have of him (Alvaro) here and what he brings to the club,” Grima said. “He’s incredibly more mature than what his age suggests and loves to play rugby league whether it’s with Parramatta or Wentworthville. He’s a professional.
“Rory O’Brien is of the same brush. No matter what level he’s playing, his best and worst game – similar to Daniel – is so close because they’re so consistent. He’s been amazing with the numbers he’s churned out. That’s what we what them to do in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW – to play to their potential and given an opportunity in first grade, they get that opportunity to play. That’s my job as a Intrust Super Premiership NSW coach.”
North Sydney Bears v Newcastle Knights: Bears Claw For More
TG Milner, Sunday 3 April
Reigning premiers, the Newcastle Knights, finally kick started their season defence last round with a stirring 22-14 comeback victory over the high-flying Wentworthville Magpies after trailing 14-0 midway through the second half.
But they’ll need to kick it up another gear as they tackle a North Bears team motivated to return to the winners’ circle after a gutsy performance, falling 18-16 in a narrow loss to Mounties.
“It was a fairly high-quality match,” Bears coach Ben Gardiner told NSWRL.com.au. “From our point of view, we put ourselves in a position at the end of the game where the game was there to be won by either team.”
The Knights broke through for their first win of the season and are determined to build on their victory against the 2-2 Bears who are still maturing as a side each week – a fact Gardiner appreciates as part of all levels of the game.
“We take it as a learning curve as we do every game. We got better as a team but when the pressure was on at the backend of the game their (Mounties) decision making was better than ours and leading into this week (our) guys in key positions would be better at. If they’re put under pressure again, the decisions they make are the right ones.
“That happens at an NRL level too.”
North Sydney have also had to combat with a number of line-up changes due to the injury-stricken South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL side. However, it’s promising signs to come for both Rabbitohs and Bears fans.
“It’s not so challenging – we actually see that as a real positive for our club,” Gardiner said. “We’ve had a few guys that have come from the Norths-contracted side to be the 18th man for the NRL squad for the last couple of weeks. We see that as a large positive for us as a club and what we’re doing in the background.”
It shapes as a captivating clash for two sides hungry for more success.