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There is a push to have one of the greatest Blues of all time, Laurie Daley, reinstated as NSW coach.
Daley won’t chase the role and has already said he is not interested in the position, but some of his strongest allies are making moves behind the scenes to get him the job.
They have been contacting influential figures to start privately and publicly supporting him to replace Brad Fittler, who walked away from the job on Thursday.
Daley coached the Blues from 2013-2017, winning only six of 15 games. He had the misfortune of running into a team stacked with stars and future Immortals during Queensland’s incredible run of 11 series wins in 12 years. He did win one series, in 2014, while the Blues were unlucky in several others. He is driven by “unfinished business”.
There is a belief that against a slightly inferior Queensland side Daley would have achieved more. He was stressed by the end of his tenure, but has had plenty of time away from Origin. He was going to be part of Fittler’s new NSW set-up before the coach stepped away.
Daley is close to NSW Rugby League chief executive Dave Trodden and has support at board level. Chairman Paul Conlon is a friend and a fan of his ability.
Laurie Daley in 2014, during his time in charge of the Blues.Credit: Christopher Pearce
“I’ve not had a discussion with Laurie, but I’d be surprised if he wants to do it,” Conlon said. “But I don’t know. I do know that we had half-a-dozen people wanting the job straight after Brad resigned – something I’m sad about as he did so much for the organisation. I do have all the respect and time for Laurie, but I don’t have more to say than that.
“What is clear is that NRL coaches won’t be excluded, as had been the case in the past, opening the way for the likes of Ricky Stuart, Craig Bellamy or Ivan Cleary if they want the job.
“I’ve always had the view that this is a job that’s open to club coaches,” Conlon said. “I just don’t know how many club coaches would want to do the job.”
The NSWRL has been crying poor about a lack of funding, but it has alienated two of the most valuable minds in the game, who were willing to work for free.
It has been well documented that Phil Gould didn’t want any money to help Fittler. Cleary was also happy to work with Fittler for nothing. Both would have been able to ask for a decent fee to help the Blues.
The insulting part-time job offered to Fittler – a five-month commitment rather than a full-time gig – compared to the three-year deal signed by Queensland coach Billy Slater has been sold as a cost-cutting measure due to a funding dispute between the NRL and the state bodies.
How Queensland can fund Slater but NSW now want a part-timer needs to be questioned. The NRL provides both state governing bodies with the same level of funding for the Origin series.
Nathan Cleary’s secret kicking session.Credit: Nine
The sound of silence at a secret goal-kicking session has Nathan Cleary primed for his fourth straight grand final.
Cleary has been working hard on breathing techniques and visualisation as he looks for any edge he can find. He was granted access to Accor Stadium on Tuesday afternoon for a mind- and boot-sharpening kicking session thanks to his kicking coach Daryl Halligan.
“I like to go to the stadium that I’m kicking at,” he said. “You sort of become familiar with the surroundings. Daryl Halligan is my kicking coach and he gets me on there. He’s pretty tight with the ground staff there, so I’m grateful for that.
“I think there’s just something peaceful about it, too. It’s not often you get to go into Accor with no one in there and you compare that to Sunday where it’s going to be sold out. It’s a bit weird. It’s different. It’s not often you get to do something you enjoy doing in complete silence with no one around and it’s just so different to what it’s like in a game.”
Cleary is renowned for his preparation, and says he’s getting smarter with how he goes about it.
“I feel like over the years I’ve become less meticulous but more refined in what I need to do to play well or get my preparation right,” he said.
“I probably used to always think it was all physical preparation, just getting the reps in and I’ve continued to do that – I think that’s extremely important – but it’s also the mental reps, trying to just stay calm in those moments, [using] different breathing techniques and mental rehearsal throughout the week.
“I’m just a big believer that if you get your preparation right, then you go into the game with no excuses and can really be free and let yourself enjoy it.”
Penrith grand final rookie Izack Tago has revealed he no longer uses modern medicine, while Jarome Luai says the secret to his remarkable return from a dislocated shoulder has been bone broth, creams and ointments from the local Penrith naturopath.
Panthers star Izack Tago.Credit: Getty
Tago, however, has taken things to another level. He is well known for being a different character – he owns an old-school flip phone and, unlike a lot of NRL players, he is a big reader – but it’s a shock to learn he won’t allow himself to be treated using modern medicine.
“I don’t even take the protein powder the club wants me to,” Tago said. “I used it a couple of times because they want me to, but it’s not for me. I have not taken medicine for a few years now … it’s not something I do. I don’t really get sick … if I do get something like a fever I just sit with it.”
Tago said he had discovered alternative ways to deal with the health challenges that come with being a professional athlete.
“There are a few old ways of dealing with illness that I use … old tricks that have sort of fizzled out, but that’s what I do. I’m just going back to my roots. It’s how I like to live.”
In a game where sports science is always evolving and operations are the norm, Tago said he did not consider going under the knife for a recent pectoral injury, which nearly robbed him of a place in the decider.
“I didn’t need one [an operation] for my pec … just rest and I got better that way,” he said. “My injuries have not needed surgery.”
As for technology?
“I don’t like being distracted by things like that … I’ve got a phone with the apps and all of that, but at times when I don’t want the distraction, I go back to the flip phone,” he said. “It suits me and I know when I need to do that.”
Luai also took a different approach when it came to treatment for his shoulder.
“Bone broths, ointments from the natural shop at Penrith, coconut water, it’s what has got me through,” he said.
“I’m not in pain. I’m at seven out of 10.”
Let’s get physical
The Broncos can take this with a grain of salt if they like, but James Fisher-Harris – the man who will set the physical tone for the Panthers – isn’t dreaming of a grand final win; he’s playing for the enjoyment of brutal impacts.
Penrith’s fearsome front-rowers Moses Leota, James Fisher-Harris and Spencer Leniu.Credit: Steven Siewert
When asked about the pressure of leading the Panthers in a grand final, he said: “I don’t care about the result, I just care about playing hard and getting into the physical battle. I like the physical stuff.”
As for the young Broncos coming to get him.
“That’s what we do; I’m keen,” he said. “Me and Moses [Leota], we just do what we are told and what the team needs. I’m keen to take them on; their whole forward pack, they have been killing it. It’s special playing Brisbane.
“People say I’m a scary dude, but I’m just chilling – it’s my resting face.”
The rising son
Old-timers will remember Trevor Cogger, who played 160 games for Wests in the 1980s and 1990s. He is now known as Jack’s dad, given the rise and rise of his son as the Panthers charged to their fourth straight grand final.
Jack has revived his career as the Panthers’ super sub, most notably filling in admirably when Luai dislocated his shoulder in the final game of the regular season.
When I asked Trevor for his thoughts on his son, he said: “He will be more than ready [if called upon in the grand final]. Penrith have obviously seen his commitment and he has played 13 NRL games this year and now got himself a shot at a premiership ring.”
Trial after error
Roosters 2013 grand final hero Michael Jennings is no longer banned after serving his suspension for a positive drug test in 2020.
Like Bronson Xerri, Jennings is free to play competitive sport after completing his three-year ban in September. At 35, you would think it highly unlikely he could make a league comeback, but Jennings has told me before he wants to play until he’s 40. And recently, he has been telling people he would like a train and trial deal in the NRL.
The whispers about James Tedesco not being at the Dally M awards night started soon after players walked the green carpet on Wednesday.
What his detractors didn’t know is that the Kangaroos and Blues skipper phoned the chairman of the game, Peter V’landys, to explain he would not be there. Tedesco has just become a father and he is staying by the side of his wife, Maria. That’s a fair enough excuse.
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