Posted: 25 May, 2016
Sea Eagles look to ressurrect T-Rex, Morris ain't joshing over Origin snub and more
Channel Seven's rugby league reporter Josh Massoud has teamed up with Triple M to dish the insider league news alongside Liam Cox.
It’s called The 7th Tackle and they run us through the biggest issues in the NRL this week. See below.
Tackle 1 – Sea Eagles look to resurrect extinct T-Rex
Tony Williams is set to make an unexpected return to Manly; with the Bulldogs in talks to off-load him for the remainder of 2016.
As revealed on Seven News last night, Canterbury coach Des Hasler and Sea Eagles supremo Bob Fulton have been in talks about a pre-June 30 transfer for Williams, who is on the outer at Belmore after being dropped to NSW Cup a fortnight ago.
We’re also told Williams was shopped to both the Titans and Wests Tigers in recent weeks.
However, both those clubs have preferred to make other mid-season purchases; closing the door on a player worth $600,000-a-season.
There’s much more chance that Hasler and Fulton’s long-standing relationship can make the switch a reality over the coming week.
Manly have identified a lack of strike on their edges as a concern this season; and are willing to take a gamble on Williams to remedy that short-coming.
There’s also a good chance the club will have more room to move under its salary cap in the coming weeks, with Tom Symonds also set to make a mid-season transfer in the next week. Symonds’ management has been talking with the Sharks, Knights and UK Super League clubs.
Tackle 2 – Morris ain’t Joshing over Origin snub.
The Bulldogs certainly aren’t playing along with NSW’s charades over which two players will get the chop for Origin I.
Centre Josh Morris is part of the 19-man squad, but was nonetheless named in Canterbury’s side to play against Canberra this weekend.
The Bulldogs were the only team to thumb their noses at the Blues; with Wests Tigers (Farah and Woods), St George Illawarra (Dugan and Frizell), North Queensland (Tamou), and Parramatta (Jennings) all omitting their representatives from this weekend’s split round.
Canterbury’s move is a clear protest over the fact that Morris is expected to get the cut, despite being one of the State’s most consistent performers.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler made a last-ditch plea for Morris to be retained on Sunday, but it appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
Judging by his body language in Coffs Harbour, Morris appears to be equally disillusioned.
Make no mistake, he didn’t want to make the three-day trip north as a shadow player after giving the Blues such fine service.
Morris sat on the end of the team photo with head buried in hands at one stage, and hasn’t appeared as sociable as previous years in camp.
He’ll be flown back to Belmore today. At least he’ll soon have twin brother Brett back on the field for company.
We’re told Brett Morris – who has been out all season after surgical complications with his knee – has ramped-up training in a bid to return by Round 16.
Tackle 3 - Boozey Barba has form with team mates
Ben Barba has re-commenced counselling after his latest bust-up with a team mate.
The push and shove with Sharks winger Sosaia Feki a fortnight ago is at least the third time Barba has been involved in such an incident.
Unsurprisingly, the common denominator is alcohol.
Bulldogs insiders have told us Barba came to blows with Josh Morris during a booze-up toward the end of his time at Belmore.
Just as he did in the wake of the Feki episode, the fullback made a snap return to his hometown of Mackay to get his head straight.
Alcohol was also the deciding factor when Barba came to blows with former Canterbury centre Jamal Idris in the carpark of a hotel in 2009.
While Cronulla have publicly played down the Feki fight – which came amid accusations of cheating over a game of cards – the fact counselling has been arranged indicates the 26-year-old remains in a delicate state.
We’re told he’s already completed three sessions of counselling since the Feki altercation.
Additionally, the birth of his fourth daughter is only a week away. Barba’s parents and the parents of his partner, Ainslie Currie, have both travelled to Sydney from Mackay to support the couple.
Tackle 4 – Raiders concern over Paulo
The Raiders board wasn’t encouraged when new recruit Junior Paulo posted the now-infamous photo of his Chinese meal with several men on the NSW Police watch list; not to mention a former Nomads bikie gang member.
Canberra officials have been on the phone this week doing further checks on the prop, who they poached from Parramatta on a three-year contract worth $1.8 million.
This is not the first time this column has made reference to the company surrounding Paulo – and it’s one of the main reasons why the decision was made to leave Sydney at the end of this year.
That’s why the photo didn’t come as a surprise to us; he’s previously been asked to remove other social media posts that would’ve raised the interest of authorities.
We were more surprised to see Corey Norman and James Segeyaro at the table; despite the fact the Silverwater housemates are two of the NRL’s most prolific social butterflies.
We’re told Norman was invited to the dinner as a thank you for letting at least one of the men into the Eels dressing room a few weeks earlier; and that Segeyaro decided to tag along.
The man who introduced Norman to the dinner party has no criminal past or links; but was the same person who later claimed ownership of the container of pills that were seized from The Star Casino.
Both players – also off-contract at their clubs - are now set to suffer as well.
There appears no chance that Penrith will re-sign Segeyaro. Expect him to look for options in the UK, with the hooker market well and truly flooded.
The Eels are deep in talks to retain Norman, but wearing hearing the proposed value of his three-year extension is going backwards. It’s now said to be around $580,000 a season.
Tackle 5 – D-Day looms for Tigers cubs
The clock is ticking for Wests Tigers duo Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses to exercise their options to stay with the joint venture.
We understand the pair have until Monday week – the end of Round 13 – to take up a further season worth $550,000 a piece.
If they allow the deadline to lapse, the Tigers will then be free to purchase another set of halves and have already identified Melbourne’s Blake Green as their Plan B.
We keep getting told that Brooks and Moses have waited so long because they are anxious to learn the future of coach Jason Taylor.
Both players have experienced difficulty adjusting to Taylor’s style, and despite the coach relaxing his structures this year, still haven’t produced their best football.
The Tigers have been trying to convince both to take pay cuts next year, in exchange for a further season on their contract.
We still expect them to re-sign, but Tigers fans are entitled to be feeling nervous with the deadline just 11 days away.
Tackle 6 – Friendly fire for Hastings
There’s more than on-field form behind the dumping of young Rooster Jackson Hastings to NSW Cup last week.
While the 20-year-old’s performances haven’t been consistent enough, he’s certainly not the only Rooster to deserve the axe on that count.
Supporters believe he’s been singled out as a convenient scapegoat because of his age, and more significantly, his willingness to give senior players blunt advice.
Skipper Jake Friend has copped more than one spray this season for not giving Hastings enough ball on the right edge.
Hastings might have a valid point about Friend’s passing game; but it hasn’t been appreciated by the club’s solid core of leaders.
Less popular has been the opinion of his old man, Kevin.
The Roosters legend vented about his son’s axing on social media last week.
Neither team mates nor coaching staff were impressed and those sentiments have been passed-on to Hastings.
It will be interesting to see where the Roosters go next with Hastings, who only signed a one-year extension in February.
The club originally wanted to keep him for two more seasons, but whether he lasts until the end of 2017 now remains to be seen.
Tackle 7 – UK crowing for Roosters coach
Still at Bondi and the Roosters have lost their share of assistant coaches over the past few years, most notably Paul Green and Jason Taylor.
Now we hear Pommy import Steve McNamara is also being wooed to leave the club.
Sacked as Great Britain coach in favour of Wayne Bennett earlier this year, McNamara has fielded interest to return home to the mother country, with Hull KR sounding him out to replace interim coach James Webster.
The Roosters tell us McNamara is happily settled in Sydney after joining the Tricolours more than two years ago. However, we are told his wife feels differently and is missing the UK.
McNamara was raised in the industrial Humberside town, but began his playing career with KR’s cross-town rivals, Hull FC.
His loyalties are still with FC; meaning McNamara might find it uncomfortable coaching the enemy.
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