Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson addressed his players on Wednesday night about reports of a drugs cloud over the minor premiers in Thursday's Herald but officials have no idea whether the revelations will affect them in Saturday night's preliminary final against Newcastle.
Unlike Cronulla, the Roosters have not had time to build a siege mentality. Things have gone so smoothly for the club this season that fears about the results of blood tests for some players falling into the hands of organised crime figures prompted jokes that if anyone had tried to blackmail them it could only be to keep opposition teams scoreless. The timing of the story sparked conspiracy theories within the Roosters camp about it being leaked to derail their premiership bid, with some even suggesting the Knights were behind the allegations.
Steve Folkes and Peter Sharp are the latest names linked to Parramatta's newly created position of general manager of football after Eels chairman Steve Sharp ruled out Brian Smith. While Ricky Stuart's departure for Canberra took the Eels by surprise, Parramatta officials now view it as an opportunity to ''modernise'' their football operations and are looking to AFL clubs for ideas. New chief executive Scott Seward previously worked with the Western Bulldogs and he is expected to play a key role in revamping the Eels.
The idea of a general manager of football is not new in league but almost every AFL club has someone of high calibre, for example Rodney Eade at Collingwood, who sits above the coach. Parramatta officials feel a general manager of football would be better suited to overseeing development, recruitment and long-term strategy than a coach, whose job is results-driven. Seward also previously worked with Folkes at Canterbury, while some at the Eels believe Sharp's experience at Newcastle, Manly, Melbourne, Parramatta and Cronulla make him ideal for the role. He also has a good relationship with Sharks mentor Shane Flanagan, who may become a target for the coaching job after John Cartwright rejected an offer said to be more than twice what he is on at the Titans and Neil Henry ruled himself out.
Jason Taylor, Rick Stone and Brad Arthur, who is believed to have spoken with several directors, are thought to be the leading contenders, although it is unclear how official some of the approaches to potential candidates, including Cartwright, are. Seward, who officially started in his new role on Wednesday, will be involved in appointing the coach and general manager of football, and the Eels say they won't rush either decision. But key members of the coaching staff remain in limbo and some, such as NSW assistant Matt Parish, have been approached to join Stuart in Canberra but need to let him know soon.
Newcastle officials have confirmed Wayne Bennett has a bonus clause in his contract if the Knights win the grand final but say it is nowhere near the $1 million figure widely reported. With club owner Nathan Tinkler's estimated wealth having dropped from about $1 billion when he bought the Knights two years ago to below $18 million that may be a good thing as Bennett's track record in finals suggests he could be in for a payout. NRL Stats reveal Bennett has overseen 55 finals games - more than the number of total NRL matches any of the other three remaining coaches - Manly's Geoff Toovey (53), South Sydney's Michael Maguire (52) and Sydney Roosters' Trent Robinson (25) - have been in charge for.
If a seventh-tackle try can all but spark threats of secession in Townsville, how would the Cowboys and their fans have reacted to a try scored on the eighth tackle. Such a scenario could have happened in their round-six match against the Broncos if Brisbane forward Corey Parker hadn't been penalised for obstruction. When match officials reviewed the game, it was discovered referee Ashley Klein had correctly counted the first four tackles but called ''third'' again on the fifth tackle.
Meanwhile, Matt Cecchin continues to pay a high price for the incident in the Cowboys-Sharks final, with the whistleblower regarded as one of the NRL's best set to miss the end-of-season World Cup. Henry Perenara, the other whistleblower involved in the match, has been selected by New Zealand to referee at the tournament. Australia are expected to send Shayne Hayne and whoever else is chosen to referee the grand final.
Justin Morgan will return to the video referees' box for the Roosters-Knights match after being stood down last weekend as he will be returning to coaching next season as an assistant to Craig Bellamy in Melbourne. With the Storm out of the premiership race, NRL referees boss Daniel Anderson had no hesitation reinstating Morgan.