COW­BOYS RID­ING HIGH

Now to round up the Roost­ers

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - BRENT READ RUGBY LEAGUE

North Queens­land coach Paul Green is the first to ad­mit he owes his Syd­ney Roost­ers coun­ter­part Trent Robin­son a debt of grat­i­tude.

When Green was in the coach­ing sys­tem at the Roost­ers and at­tempt­ing to se­cure the Cow­boys job, Robin­son helped him through the process.

When the Cow­boys of­fered Green the head coach­ing po­si­tion, Robin­son was among those at the Roost­ers who gave him the green light to leave his con­tract one year early.

On Saturday night at Al­lianz Sta­dium, their friend­ship will take a back seat to a place in the grand fi­nal.

The Roost­ers will be favourites as they carry the hopes of Syd­ney on their shoul­ders in the pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal, the city’s last rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Septem­ber af­ter Par­ra­matta and Pen­rith were un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously dumped from the premier­ship race at the week­end by in­ter­state ri­vals.

Only the Roost­ers can pre­vent the grand fi­nal be­ing played with­out a team from Syd­ney for only the third time in the game’s his­tory, as Queens­land’s State of Ori­gin dom­i­nance per­me­ates the fi­nals se­ries.

The Ma­roons used 26 play­ers in this year’s Ori­gin se­ries — 21 of them will be rep­re­sented in the pre­lim­i­nary fi­nals. NSW will only have three play­ers on show.

A year that has pro­vided lit­tle but pain for NSW sup­port­ers is rest­ing in the hands of the Roost- ers and Robin­son. The man stand­ing in their way does so in large part be­cause of Robin­son’s own largesse.

“I owe the club a lot; I owe Robbo a lot,” Green said. “He helped me take a step up to my head coach role. They are a great club, great his­tory and a lot of good peo­ple at the club as well.

“I re­ally en­joyed the year at the Roost­ers for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. I am good mates with (Roost­ers as­sis­tant coach) Craig Fitzgib­bon — he is one of my best mates in footy.

“I have a lot of re­spect for the club. There is a cer­tain way about them, which I think is good for the game. In 2013 when I was there we went through and won the grand fi­nal.

“When you go through an ex­pe­ri­ence like that, there is plenty you learn. You learn from every place you are at, no mat­ter whether it is good or bad.

“You take what you need with you. Some­times you learn what to do, some­times you learn what not to do. I will al­ways be ap­pre­cia­tive (of the Roost­ers).

“I still had a year on my con­tract and they let me out to go up and take the con­tract (at North Queens­land). Robbo helped me in the process be­cause he had been through it the year be­fore.

“I chat­ted to him about what he went through to get his job. He was sup­port­ive. He is a guy that gen­uinely cares about the game too.”

The friend­ship be­tween Robin­son and Green is in con­trast to the com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship be­tween Mel­bourne coach Craig Bel­lamy and his Brisbane coun­ter­part Wayne Ben­nett.

The pair once worked in tan­dem at the Bron­cos, but they will head into Fri­day night’s pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal on am­i­ca­ble terms but lit­tle more.

There is still re­spect be­tween the pair but their re­la­tion­ship car­ries scar tis­sue formed over years of bru­tal bat­tles be­tween their sides.

The Storm have been the dom­i­nant force in re­cent years, win­ning far more than they have lost. Ben­nett has fired the oc­ca­sional shot across the Storm’s bow and Mel­bourne of­fi­cials are brac­ing for some grenades to be sent their way this week.

Mel­bourne will head into the game as short-priced favourites and jus­ti­fi­ably so given the way they have played this sea­son and the Bron­cos’ un­con­vinc­ing form in the fi­nals.

They squeaked past Pen­rith on Fri­day night but should have full­back and cap­tain Dar­ius Boyd back for the trip to AAMI Park. His pres­ence alone makes them a more dif­fi­cult propo­si­tion, al­though even that may not be enough for Brisbane to pull off an up­set.

A Cow­boys win is eas­ier to see, in part be­cause of the bril­liant form of Michael Mor­gan and Ja­son Tau­malolo. There’s also the bloke in the North Queens­land coach­ing box.

“I had a bit to do with him,” Roost­ers cap­tain Boyd Cord­ner said. “He is a great coach and I am not sur­prised with the suc­cess he had put there. It was just his de­meanour — he de­mands re­spect and he knows what he is talk­ing about.

“He is re­ally smart and he is a tough coach. He is some­one play­ers want to play for. Even though he was our (un­der) 20s coach, he was al­ways at our train­ing ses­sions. He has had suc­cess ev­ery­where he has gone.

“You could just tell he was go­ing to be an NRL coach.”

The Dally M Awards could come un­der re­newed scru­tiny to­mor­row as the NRL pre­pares to put a fi­nal pay of­fer to the play­ers’ union.

It is un­der­stood the NRL and Rugby League Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion have talks sched­uled for this week but the ne­go­ti­a­tions are likely to reach their lat­est flash­point when the game’s gov­ern­ing body de­liv­ers its take-it-or-leave-if of­fer.

The RLPA has been pur­su­ing a fixed share of rev­enue but the most con­tentious is­sue ap­pears to be how the money above and be­yond rev­enue pro­jec­tions will be divided with the play­ers over the next five years.

The NRL has of­fered a 25 per cent share of prof­its — the re­main­der would be shared among par­ties in­clud­ing the clubs and grass­roots — but it ap­pears un­likely that will be enough to ap­pease the RLPA, cre­at­ing the prospect that the groups will once again be locked in a stale­mate.

That is likely to put re­newed pres­sure on the Dally M Awards given the RLPA has sug­gested it could boy­cott the event if a deal is un­able to be reached.

The RLPA has no­ti­fied NRL chief ex­ec­u­tive Todd Green­berg of a se­ries of mea­sures it could take if talks don’t go as planned — it has also in­di­cated it could take court ac­tion to test the le­gal va­lid­ity of the salary cap.

The Dally M cer­e­mony is the more press­ing con­cern, al­though it is ex­pected to go ahead with or with­out the play­ers, the NRL hav­ing for­mu­lated a con­tin­gency plan that would re­sult in the medal still be­ing pre­sented to a ju­nior player or a club rep­re­sen­ta­tive, thereby avoid­ing the fate that be­fell Pen­rith half Craig Gower when he missed out on the medal in 2003 af­ter the play­ers boy­cotted the event.

Mel­bourne cap­tain Cameron Smith, who also hap­pens to be the gen­eral pres­i­dent of the RLPA, is the odds-on favourite to win the best-player medal for the sec­ond time.

The Storm skip­per was the hot tip to also be the RLPA play­ers’ cham­pion, but was con­tro­ver­sially pipped for the award by Wests Tigers full­back James Tedesco.

How­ever, that was an anom­aly due to the vot­ing process and it would be a ma­jor shock if Smith didn’t win the Dally M Medal. The big­ger is­sue is whether he will be there to ac­cept the hon­our.

It is un­der­stood the RLPA in­di­cated as late as last week that the play­ers would at­tend the awards cer­e­mony but that stance could change if they are un­happy with the deal that is pre­sented to them this week by the NRL.

A num­ber of other is­sues could be jeop­ar­dised if the par­ties are un­able to reach an agree­ment on rev­enue share. The NRL has been seek­ing greater ac­cess to play­ers’ fi­nan­cial and phone records as it looks to in­crease the in­ves­tiga­tive pow­ers of the in­tegrity unit.

Play­ers ini­tially re­sisted the push but it is be­lieved they would be will­ing to give ground if the NRL did like­wise on the rev­enue shar­ing. The sense of ur­gency sur­round­ing the talks has in­creased in re­cent weeks given the cur­rent agree­ment comes to an end on Oc­to­ber 31.

That means the NRL and RLPA have only a mat­ter of weeks to re­solve their dif­fer­ences or the CBA will lapse, al­beit with the vast ma­jor­ity of play­ers hav­ing al­ready struck con­tract agree­ments for next sea­son and be­yond.

Those play­ers have signed deals and been signed by clubs with the salary cap yet to be de­ter­mined. The NRL has pro­posed a fig­ure of $9.4 mil­lion, which in­cludes a dis­cre­tionary vet­eran and de­vel­op­ment-player al­lowance but the cap forms part of the CBA.

While the CBA re­mains un­re­solved, the cap can­not be fi­nalised with any cer­tainty un­til the NRL and RLPA have reached a fi­nal agree­ment.

The sense of ur­gency sur­round­ing the talks has in­creased in re­cent weeks

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