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  4. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has become the first Warrior to win the Dally M medal as the Kiwi fullback heralded a new generation of talent in the NRL. Tuivasa-Sheck polled 29 votes to win the league's player-of-the-season award by two points from Newcastle's Kalyn Ponga, with Cronulla's Valentine Holmes in third. In a sign of the changing times, none of the top five -- which also included Luke Brooks and Mitchell Pearce -- have previously polled in the top five positions at the Dally Ms during their career. The Warriors fullback trailed by one vote with a round to go, but polled three points in the final round against Canberra while Ponga remained on the sideline injured. In doing so, he became the first fullback to win the award since Ben Barba in 2012, as he averaged 167 metres a match and busted through a total of 92 tackles. "He's had a wonderful year for the footy club so he has to be a chance," Warriors coach Stephen Kearney told AAP earlier on Wednesday. "Everyone knows Rog for his attacking abilities but I thought a number of times this year he has saved tries for us. I thought that was a really good part for us." Meanwhile Pearce's effort to finish fifth -- and just six points off the pace -- in his first year at Newcastle is most impressive considering he missed nine games through injury in the middle of the season. In other awards, Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith won captain of the year, South Sydney's Anthony Seibold was coach of the year and Brisbane's Jamayne Isaako was the rookie of the year after leading the point-scoring race. Symbolic of the closest competition in the NRL's history, no club had more than one starting player in the Dally M team of the year. Sunday's grand finalists Melbourne and the Sydney Roosters both had one pick, with Cameron Munster at five-eighth and Blake Ferguson as winger. Meanwhile South Sydney's Damien Cook picked up both the Dally M hooker of the year award and the Provan Summons people's choice medal. Brisbane's Brittany Breayley was the NRL women's player of the competition, while Gold Coast captain Ryan James won the Ken Stephen medal for his community work. Meanwhile Dragons flyer Steve Morris was retrospectively awarded the 1979 Dally M , after it was never officially awarded. DALLY M CLASS OF 2018 Dally M, Fullback: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Warriors) Captain: Cameron Smith (Storm) Coach: Anthony Seibold (South Sydney Rabbitohs) Winger: Blake Ferguson (Roosters) Centre: Joseph Leilua (Raiders) Five-eighth: Cameron Munster (Storm) Halfback: Luke Brooks (Wests Tigers) Lock: Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys) Second-rower: Josh Jackson (Bulldogs) Prop: Andrew Fifita (Sharks) Hooker, Provan Summons People's Choice: Damien Cook (Rabbitohs) Interchange: Jazz Tevaga (Warriors) Rookie, top pointscore: Jamayne Isaako (Broncos) Top tryscorer: David Fusitu'a (Warriors) Female player: Brittany Breayley (Broncos) Ken Stephen medal: Ryan James (Titans).
  5. OUT with the old and in with the new — Optus Stadium was transformed today from football ground to cricket field. A little more than a week after the stadium hosted the WAFL grand final and the Eagles preliminary final, five giant slabs of turf were lifted out of the centre of the ground and replaced with clay-based cricket pitches. The process was painstakingly slow as a 40-tonne wicket transporter crawled across the outfield and one by one removed and replaced 25-tonne sections of the centre wicket block. WACA turf manager Nathan Saville said it was similar to how drop-in cricket pitches were prepared and installed at other grounds around Australia. “The machine comes in over the top and there is a hydraulic lift,” he said. “It lifts up the wickets that are prepared in trays in our nursery and places them in the holes where the other turf has been removed.” The clay pitches are prepared and maintained at a nursery just outside stadium. The process is a full-time job for WACA ground staff who ensure the pitches are in optimal condition before the move. “The biggest thing for us when we move the wickets in is making sure the moisture content is right,” Mr Saville said. “We can test moisture content and we don’t want them too dry when we lift them up. “The grass here is exactly the same as the WACA, the clay is the same and we are trying to replicate how the WACA performs.” Mr Saville said the trays of regular, sand-based turf that were removed from the ground yesterday would be kept and maintained until next year. “We take them out to where the clay ones were in the nursery and then we swap them back for footy,” he said. “A fair bit of planning goes into this and we only get one crack at it. This will make our summer if we do it right.” A one-day international between Australian and South Africa on November 4 will be the first official game of cricket at Optus Stadium this summer.
  6. What an incredible defensive effort we saw from the Sydney Roosters in the grand final against the Storm. They faced one of the most lethal attacking teams of the past 10 years and no matter what was thrown at them, the Chooks held firm. It was made all the more incredible by the fact that one-armed Cooper Cronk was part of the line. Cronk's defensive contributions were mainly a case of getting his body in the way while his teammates swarmed in to complete the tackle. His wealth of experience allowed him to be in the right place at the right time, and he was never really isolated. If anything, the Storm failed to send enough work his way. One simple example of how the Storm could have tested Cronk further came with their kick-offs. Generally the halves position themselves under kick-offs before dishing the ball off to a rampaging prop. All of the Storm's first half kick-offs went to Luke Keary's side of the field. Cronk may have planned to have someone take the kick-offs for him, but we'll never know because the Storm failed to test him. It was also noticeable that the Storm never lined their big men up for consistent charges at Cronk out wide. Whenever he was called on to contribute in defence it was usually a smaller back running at him. Did the Storm have too much respect for their former teammate? Regardless, the whole Roosters team deserve accolades for their efforts in defence. The inaugural Women's Premiership was won by the Brisbane Broncos in a convincing 34-12 display against the Sydney Roosters. Broncos team members and staff danced around the field in jubilation following the well-deserved win. The Broncos went through the four-week competition undefeated and were clearly the best team. Considering what a success the first season has been, it can only be hoped that they expand the number of teams involved sooner rather than later. Otherwise we could continue to see the biggest trophy ever awarded for the amount of wins needed to win it. Third tackle: Smart move with Martin The 30 seconds Rhyse Martin spent on the field back in August to qualify for the Intrust Super Cup finals series certainly paid dividends for the Bulldogs. Martin's hard running, solid defence and accurate goal kicking played a vital part in them progressing to and ultimately winning the title against Newtown Jets. In the State Championship final on grand final day, Martin scored the Bulldogs' first try after charging onto a cut-out pass before beating three defenders. He then slotted the conversion to give his team an early 6-0 lead. He was one of the stars for the Bulldogs as they went on to crush the Redcliffe Dolphins 42-18. Fourth tackle: Big bucks for impossible task At halftime in the grand final, the ground announcers declared that match-day sponsor Chemist Warehouse was about to give away $1 million to one lucky member of the crowd. All that person had to do was kick five goals from 40 metres out, within 50 seconds. The breathless hostess spoke to the elderly gentleman on the 40 metre line and asked him if he was confident of achieving the task at hand. He said he was very confident and confirmed that he had no footballing background. The five Steedens awaited on kicking tees, lined across the 40 metre line, slightly off centre field. Now 40 metres is further out than any first grader will place a ball to attempt a conversion. First graders can kick penalty goals from that distance, but they rarely do. It is not an easy task, especially with the pressure of $1 million on your shoulders and a pair of dress shoes on your feet. Before the person with the microphone started the countdown, he yelled that the lucky gentleman would receive $10,000 for each successful kick, if he didn't kick all five and take home the big prize. The lucky contestant took a four-step run up, swung his foot and the ball dribbled off the tee all of two metres. He lined up the next and it dribbled ten metres. The next two didn't travel much further, and his final attempt actually left the ground momentarily before crossing the 20 metre line. Never mind, it was a great effort, said the female announcer, even consoling him with the suggestion that even she would probably struggle at that distance. Fifth and last: Novelty oversized cheques are back It was good to see the novelty oversized cheque making its presence felt on grand final day. The man-of-the-match award winners in the first two grand finals were presented with hilariously large pieces of cardboard. The funniest however, was the cheque presented to the eight-year-old between games for winning a junior rugby league award. The poor little guy was nearly blown away by the stiff southerly as he battled to carry his cheque off the field. Hopefully his parents brought a car with plenty of cargo room for the trip home. Handover: Ears are still ringing The PA system at ANZ Stadium is either specially designed to accommodate the hearing impaired, or cruelly intended to add to the numbers of people who suffer such an impairment. The ground announcer made it worse by screaming his every word into the microphone to the point where his voice was literally painful.
  7. SYDNEY, Australia -- The stage was set at 6:25pm when the ground announcer confirmed that Cooper Cronk would take his place in the Roosters starting line-up. The largely Roosters-biased crowd roared its approval. Shortly after, as a list of retiring players was read out, a deafening boo greeted Billy Slater's name. It would be a classic clash between hero and villain. Two great mates who have shared so much success over years, pitted against each other on the NRL's biggest stage. Opposition fans always target the players most likely to do damage to their team's chances, but this was different. Slater's mid-week reprieve from a shoulder charge suspension intensified the ill-feeling towards one the best fullbacks to ever play the game. Meanwhile, Cronk's status was elevated to superhero after he somehow managed to overcome what was later revealed to be a fractured scapula to take the field. Cronk didn't touch the ball during the Roosters' first two sets of six. He defended one in from the right wing and his left arm was stuck noticeably at a ridged angle beside his body. The Roosters led 2-0 and Cronk hadn't made a tackle either. Five-and-a-half minutes into the game and he joined a three man Roosters tackle to drive back a Storm ball-runner. Seven minutes into the game and Cronk was hit late after putting up a kick. The crowd winced, then booed, but the veteran playmaker climbed to his feet to continue. At the other end of the field the villain was receiving ear-rattling boos every time he handled the ball, the cheers were even louder every time he was slammed into the turf. After their first try, the Roosters fans even started a chant once reserved for Wally Lewis at State of Origin time. After 15 minutes Cronk put up another high kick, again he was punished in the tackle, but the Storm fumbled and shortly after the Roosters were in for their second try and a 12-0 lead. The Roosters were well on top, powering through the middle with the ball and punishing the Storm in defence. Cronk wasn't touching the ball as much as he would normally, but he was doing plenty of talking and pointing with his good arm. He was being well guarded in the defensive line by centre Joseph Manu and the man in the No.7 jersey Mitchell Aubusson. At times towards halftime Cronk was dropping out of the line in a sweeping role on that right side. With 10 minutes to go in the half, Jake Friend scooped up the ball from a Storm mistake and raced away. Cameron Munster ran back to cover in defence but held Friend down too long, earning himself 10 minutes in the bin. The crowd roared again. The Roosters went to halftime with a 14-0 lead on the back of an incredible defensive effort; the Sydney defenders were swarming and hitting the Storm runners in numbers. The Storm started the second half with much more intensity and looked dangerous at times, but still the Roosters withstood their charges. Ten minutes in, the Storm worked the ball wide on halfway and Cronk had to combine with Manu to make a solid tackle. His left arm still rigid at his side. The Storm needed to score first in the second half, but the only way through the Roosters line was for Nelson Asofa-Solomona to obstruct Cronk, allowing Cameron Munster to cross for a try that was disallowed. Their only try came through a Josh Addo-Carr intercept on his own 20-metre line.
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