Bron­cos surge past lack­lus­tre Bull­dogs

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - TRAVIS MEYN

CRONULLA coach Shane Flana­gan has hinted he isn’t ex­pect­ing to have an an­swer on Cooper Cronk’s po­ten­tial fu­ture at the club un­til the end of the NRL sea­son.

Flana­gan has pre­vi­ously ex­pressed an in­ter­est in land­ing the star Mel­bourne, Queens­land and Kan­ga­roos play­maker if he de­cides to play on next sea­son in Syd­ney.

The Sharks coach has been clear that would al­low NSW State of Ori­gin five- eighth James Maloney to chase more money else­where.

But Flana­gan sug­gested yes­ter­day he is pre­pared to wait the play­mak­ing mer­rygo- round out, as he said Maloney’s fu­ture was un­likely to be clear un­til the end of this year’s fi­nals se­ries.

“Prob­a­bly noth­ing will be de­cided un­til the end of the year, and that’s how we’re treat­ing it,” Flana­gan said.

“As far as we’re con­cerned he’s here for the rest of the year, we’ve chat­ted with Jimmy and his fo­cus is to have a good last seven weeks and get us into the semi- fi­nals.”

Cronk had pre­vi­ously de­clared he would wait un­til af­ter the Ori­gin se­ries be­fore mak­ing a call on whether he would play on in 2018, and who with. How­ever if he too waits un­til af­ter the sea­son is over, it could mean he will play his last game for Mel­bourne without any con­fir­ma­tion if he will play in the NRL again.

Re­gard­less, Flana­gan reaf­firmed his de­sire for Cronulla to be Cronk’s new home.

“There’s an­other 15 clubs that would like to have him so we’re no different,” Flana­gan said. “If he does become avail­able and he’s go­ing to live in Syd­ney, I would like to think that we are go­ing to con­sider him. But in our minds Jimmy is here for this year and next year.” THE Bron­cos sounded pre­mier­ship bells af­ter rock­et­ing into second spot on the NRL lad­der and end­ing Can­ter­bury’s sea­son with a 42- 12 dis­man­tling of the Bull­dogs at Sun­corp Sta­dium last night.

The 30- point drub­bing flat­tered the Bron­cos in some ways, given Can­ter­bury’s in­ept­ness, as the pres­sure mounted on un­der- siege Bull­dogs coach Des Hasler.

Re­gard­less, it was a win Brisbane des­per­ately needed to stay in the all- im­por­tant top four as they look to snap a 10- year ti­tle drought. The Bron­cos have won four of their past five matches and will wel­come back cap­tain Dar­ius Boyd for next Fri­day’s clash against the Eels in Syd­ney.

Boyd’s in­jec­tion into Brisbane’s clunky play­mak­ing de­part­ment will be wel­come af­ter he missed four matches with a bro­ken thumb.

While Kodi Niko­rima did lit­tle wrong in his first game at full­back, the Bron­cos will be a for­mi­da­ble out­fit head­ing into Septem­ber with Boyd back in the mix and Anthony Mil­ford re­turn­ing to full fit­ness.

In his second game back from a shoul­der in­jury, Mil­ford was rested with 15 min­utes to go af­ter Brisbane bolted out to a 36- 6 lead with three quick tries in the second half.

Brisbane’s seven- minute blitz fol­lowed an unin­spir­ing first half where the Bron­cos could have con­sid­ered them­selves lucky to have a 10- point lead.

For most of the first half the Bron­cos at­tempted trick shots rather than build­ing any form of pres­sure and looked lethar­gic when Bull­dogs winger Marcelo Mon­toya crossed out wide.

Can­ter­bury had all the run­ning be­fore Bron­cos hooker An­drew McCul­lough pro­duced an op­por­tunis­tic break for New­cas­tle- bound Tau­tau Moga to score. Ben Hunt backed him­self with a 20m solo ef­fort be­fore Jor­dan Kahu scored right on the half­time siren to give Brisbane an un­likely 16- 6 lead, the last try pop­ping any bub­ble the Bull­dogs had brought into the game.

Poor scrum de­fence by the Bull­dogs al­lowed Niko­rima to score, Josh McGuire pounced on a McCul­lough grub­ber and James “The Jet” Roberts sliced through when Can­ter­bury had given up to ef­fec­tively de­cide the re­sult. Moga racked up 155m in an im­pres­sive dis­play while Roberts scored his second on the stroke of full­time.

UNBRIDLED JOY: Brisbane’s Kodi Niko­rima ( cel­e­brates scor­ing a try with team­mates last night. Pic­ture: AAP

second from left)

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