COWBOYS RIDING HIGH
Now to round up the Roosters
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