Knights return serve at critics over mid-season Bali break, Cowboy bolts back into Origin frame

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Newcastle players have hit out at critics of their mid-season break, claiming time off during the bye week was crucial for refreshing both their body and mind.

The Knights were heavily criticised for taking holidays in the lead up to Magic Round, as the one club not featuring in the NRL’s marquee weekend.

Canterbury football boss Phil Gould was among the critics, claiming players should find another job if they did not want to train during the football season.

The comments are known to have frustrated Newcastle, who were beaten 43-12 by Parramatta in their last game before the break to leave them 12th on the ladder.

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But players are adamant it was well deserved, given the timing of the bye was halfway through their rugby league year after returning for pre-season in November.

Tyson Frizell

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“If people want to have a crack at me for being away with my family, it’s up to them,” second-rower Tyson Frizell said.

“It’s something that has been put in place by performance staff before the season started.

“People don’t understand that we train through the next two byes. There has to be a period of time through the year where you get a few days off.

“Mentally it is refreshing. Some boys have been here since November 2, training their backside off.

“We got a few days off, and people can do whatever they want with that time.”

The Knights also rejected claims of a team trip to Bali, claiming centre Bradman Best was the only player to head to the holiday hotspot.

“They said the whole team went to Bali, it was one bloke. Bradman,” prop Daniel Saifiti said.

“He has been here since November 2 training his butt off, so he deserves it. A lot of the boys stayed back and trained. I went down to Sydney with my partner and son.

“I feel refreshed … It’s a long competition. If you don’t have that break, not just for the body but the mind. It helps with not burning out.”

Frizell also insisted that Newcastle did not need to move Kalyn Ponga back to fullback against Gold Coast on Sunday, confident Ponga could find his feet at No.6. Newcastle legend and consultant Andrew Johns has been among those to call for Ponga to return to No.1, after struggling defensively in his second game back from concussion against Parramatta.

“He had one tough game, he is his own worst critic. He knows that,” Frizell said. “It doesn’t mean he can’t perform at No.6. Everyone knows he is a quality player.”

Cotter keen on return to Maroons

North Queensland warhorse Reuben Cotter has put his hand up to join a burgeoning group of middle forwards in contention for Queensland in the State of Origin series opener.

The 24-year-old was dynamic with and without the ball in the Cowboys’ 20-6 win over Sydney Roosters on Sunday where he played the style of football that led to him being given his Maroons debut in the opening game last year by coach Billy Slater and his fellow selectors.

Cotter was outstanding in that 16-10 win but suffered a hamstring injury and missed the last two games of the series, won 2-1 by the Maroons.

“I would love to be there Game One. I love pulling on that jersey, even though I have only done it once,” Cotter said. “If Bill picks me, I will be ready.”

Reuben Cotter. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The Maroons had Pat Carrigan, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Josh Papalii and Lindsay Collins play in all three Origin games last year and that quartet are expected to be chosen as middle forwards for the May 31 clash in Adelaide.

Cotter, Jai Arrow, Tom Gilbert, Corey Horsburgh, J’maine Hopgood, Christian Welch, Tom Flegler and Moeaki Fotuaika are among other contenders striving for selection.

“Queensland is in a really good position in terms of depth there. There is competition for spots,” Slater said.

“I look at a guy like Tom Flegler. He was involved in all three camps last year and didn’t quite get a jersey. He wasn’t far off.

“Tom Gilbert did a fantastic job when he was thrown in there (in Game Three). The next (two) weeks is going to be really important for that group.”

“There are a lot of players capable. We had 22 players play for Queensland last year but we only get the opportunity to pick 17 so there are going to be players that played last year, and got the job done, that won’t find themselves in the side in the first game.”

Cotter would have almost certainly been retained for the entirety of last year’s series if he’d not been injured.

“Obviously i would have loved to have played in the next two but with the hamstring I couldn’t do that,” he said.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 11: Gorden Tallis of the Broncos waves to the crowd after his final match during the NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium, on September 11, 2004 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Jonathan Wood/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Wood/Getty Images)

“I wanted to be out there. Game Three the boys won and that was pleasing. Billy brought us into camp for that last one as well I was happy to be a part of it.”

It is no surprise who Cotter’s Maroons hero is. “Gorden Tallis was a big one, just for the way he played. His physicality. I just love it,” he said.

And his favourite Origin moment from Tallis? “Just the one where he snagged some bloke twenty metres over the sideline,” he said.

That bloke was NSW’s Brett Hodgson who Tallis rag-dolled over the sideline in the 2002 decider.

“Just the passion. I love the passion side of it. I think that is what makes our game so great,” Cotter said. “I try to play like that.”


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