Penrith are set for another crack at the last trophy they have never won with a trip to Wigan to contest the World Club…
Sam Walker made his long-awaited return to competitive action on Sunday afternoon, with the halfback getting a full 80 minutes under his belt in the historic confines of North Sydney Oval, turning out for the Bears in NSW Cup.
Walker has missed several months with an ACL strain, and the Roosters have erred on the side of caution in his recovery.
But with the Chooks needed to go three from three to make the Finals – and have a result or two elsewhere shift in their favour – they are likely to look at recalling their young gun to boost their attack.
Walker successfully navigated his return, but coach Trent Robinson told the Sydney Morning Herald that the club would hold-off on making a decision until they had seen how he pulled up in recovery.
“It was good to see him out there and I felt like he played pretty calmly and organised really well,” said the coach.
“I thought he had the team game plan going well, and then there were those little flourishes of him being himself too and chancing a few things.
“I haven’t got a clear plan right now, I’ll talk to Sammy post-game and we’ll make a decision for Friday night.
“He’s been exceptional. He’s had a few false starts, a few times where we thought he could get going and come back to playing, and then it’s been ‘no, no, not yet, hold up’, so it’s been stop-start.
Walker’s teammate Luke Keary said the sensible thing was to wait and see.
“It’s good signs,” said his potential halves partner. “It’s been frustrating for him. I don’t think there is an expectation (about whether he will play), just because of how frustrating the process has been for everyone.
“He’s had a few times when he’s come back and he’s kind of re-aggravated it, so I think it’s a cautious approach.
“It’s a funny one , it’s not a black-or-white one where you’re back and it’s just over. It’s more of a daily thing. ‘How’d you go yesterday, how’d you go today’.
“Obviously they’ll sit down today and go through how he’s feeling and things like that.”
Jarome Luai’s future at Penrith has been the subject of much debate in recent weeks, especially after the star five eighth left his management company, SFX.
NRL rules mean that he cannot engage another company for 90 days, which would take him to the brink of the November 1 deadline at which other clubs are allowed to speak to the player, but according to Michael Chammas in the Herald, Luai could circumvent this rule by representing himself, if his former agent consents to it.
It has been reported that SFX would object to another management company being engaged with Luai within in the standdown period, but could stand aside if Luai was, in effect, to be his own manager.
If the Samoa international was to do that, he could also save around 6% of his contract over the length of the deal, as he would not have to pay the commission that players pay to their management, a number that could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman have been lined up as he faces of the NRL’s marketing for next year’s season opener in Las Vegas – but Rusty is still to be contacted by the league, according to reports in the Daily Telegraph.
“I haven’t had any direct contact with the NRL but I have been made aware of the event,” said the Hollywood star.
“Any assistance I could give would be based on what interest in the games the NRL can generate within America. I haven’t been consulted or involved in creating the plan to this point.”
The NRL is angling to have South Sydney play Manly – pitting the team that Crowe owns against Jackman’s boyhood favourites – with the Roosters and Broncos facing off in the other match.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo backed the idea of Jackman v Crowe, and said that it would help with marketing the event.
“It could be they are interviewed on Fox Sports,” he said. “It could be social media, it could be the creation of adverts, marketing and promotion in all forms, live appearances and helping with creativity about how we can actually market in America.
“It is about using their following and popularity in the States to point people toward, effectively, Australia week during the last week of February and to get people excited about this whole week of activities and the games as well.
“There could be appearances on the late night talk shows, news and their equivalent to the Today morning show on the American networks.
“They have a keen interest in the NRL and their clubs so it’s about using that to promote the whole week’s events and not just the games.
“We will work with them on how they want to bring this to life and their creativity as well. They want a creative say as opposed to us telling them what to do.”