Do you agree with this week’s ranking? Join the debate .
Last week’s rankings in brackets plus their win-loss record. 1 BRISBANE (2) 6-1
They are hard to resist when Darren Lockyer, Karmichael Hunt and Justin Hodges start working their magic together in attack. Every other team knows those players must be stopped, but it’s a lot easier said than done. 2 BULLDOGS (3) 6-1
It’s fitting that Michael Ennis has a surname that rhymes with menace, because that is what he is to the opposition once he opens his bag of tricks. The Raiders prepared to deal with him, but still couldn’t reduce his influence. 3 ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA (4) 5-2
Keeping the Roosters to zero put them back on top when it comes to least points conceded in the NRL this season. They have given up just 77 points in seven games – an average of just 11 per game. 4 GOLD COAST (1) 5-2
They went in without forward leader Luke Bailey and dynamic five-eighth Mat Rogers against the Panthers and it contributed significantly to their loss. Player ins and outs are critical in such an even competition. 5 WARRIORS (6) 3-1-3
They should have beaten the Storm in Melbourne. The Warriors finished the stronger and it was there for them to win in extra time, but Stacey Jones hooked a field goal attempt from in front and it hit the post. 6 NEWCASTLE (5) 4-3
Their loss to the Tigers, after leading by 14 points well into the second half, could come back to haunt them. There were extenuating circumstances due to injuries on the day, but you’ve got to finish games like that off. 7 WESTS TIGERS (10) 4-3
They were in big trouble against the Knights until Benji Marshall extracted a blinding last 20 minutes from himself to turn the game around. He can’t do that all the time, but it’s nice to know that he can do it. 8 PENRITH (12) 3-4
The introduction of Luke Walsh at halfback not only served them well in that key spot – it helped some other pieces fall into place, too. Their win at home over the Titans was solid – and something they can build on. 9 SOUTH SYDNEY (11) 4-3
They didn’t have a lot to spare in their six-point win over the Sharks, but at least it was an improvement on their previous form at night – three losses from three games and a total of just 28 points scored. 10 MELBOURNE (9) 3-1-3
Began well enough against the Warriors, but were going up and down in the one spot by the time normal time ended and were lucky to escape the extra 10 minutes with a share of the points. They’ve still got problems to solve. 11 NORTH QUEENSLAND (13) 3-4
They finished off their win over the Sea Eagles with two spectacular tries that were vintage Cowboys efforts. They are heading in the right direction, but still have a way to go before they find their best form. 12 MANLY (7) 2-5
They tried hard against the Cowboys and got down the opposition’s end often enough to win the game, but came up short. It was a game that cried out for Brett Stewart’s involvement – had he played, they probably would have won. 13 CANBERRA (8) 2-5
Flew out of the boxes to lead 12-0 against the Bulldogs, but were overhauled before halftime. They have only won one out of three home games this season and need to start turning that around against Penrith this weekend. 14 SYDNEY ROOSTERS (14) 2-5
Have not scored a point in their last three halves of football. Imagine if they came up with zero against the Sharks this weekend they would fair dinkum have to call it quits and become spectators like the rest of us. 15 PARRAMATTA (15) 2-5
They were willing against the Broncos, but they wasted opportunities and you’re never going to get away with that against top opposition. They are just going to have to keep working hard and hope to get a result that way. 16 CRONULLA (16) 1-5
They came up with easily their biggest total of the season against the Rabbitohs, but at the same time they allowed the Rabbitohs to come up with their biggest total since round one. They just can’t find a way to win.
CRONULLA coach Ricky Stuart played an extraordinary role before last night’s NRL judiciary hearing, re-enacting the suspect tackle made by Paul Gallen and claiming his repeat offender was “playing on eggshells and broken glass”. And the coach’s starring role worked.
Gallen was found not guilty by the panel, leaving him free to play for the Sharks in Saturday’s match against the Roosters.
Earlier, the judiciary also cleared Bulldog Michael Ennis, ruling that his alleged chicken-wing tackle on Canberra fullback Josh Dugan was tender enough to escape a one-match ban.
The dual “not guilty” findings were both achieved by counsel Geoff Bellew, who created enough doubt in the minds of the judiciary panel of Mal Cochrane, Sean Garlick and Mark Coyne to hand down the surprise findings.
Gallen claimed he didn’t hit Wing with his shoulder or arm, instead saying he hit Wing with his chest. Wing was concussed and missed a large portion of the game. “It was the pec [pectoral muscle] that hit him,” Gallen said.
The Sharks lock claimed the tackle was “a good tackle” and denied that his upper arm or shoulder hit Wing on the jaw.
Stuart then acted out the tackle with Gallen in the middle of the room and passionately defended his player.
Stuart spoke about Gallen “playing on eggshells and broken glass” because of his bad record and noted that, while the tackle looked poor, his player made no reaction to suggest he may be “stuffed”.
Afterwards, Gallen said he was satisfied with the result – but when asked about Stuart’s unprecedented demonstration, said: “I don’t know if it helped me, the character thing wasn’t the best”.
Earlier in the day, at a NSW State of Origin squad gathering, Gallen had admitted he might have to tone down his aggressive style after the Sharks threatened to fine him over his latest brush with the judiciary.
“It shocked me a little bit,” Gallen said when asked about the prospect of being fined by his club. “If I have to tone things down in order not to get fined, maybe that has to happen.”
Gallen will now have the chance to press for an Australian Test jersey, with selectors to name the team on Sunday for the Anzac Test on Friday week.
Meanwhile, Ennis will now take part in this Sunday’s clash against Wests Tigers, installing the Bulldogs as favourites – and setting up a head-to-head clash with Blues State of Origin rival Robbie Farah.
Ennis argued that he had been trying to remove the “forceful” pressure applied on his throat by the ball carrier, that he had tackled Dugan without significant force and that the arm had never been extended beyond his back.
“I am very grateful for the hearing … my representation was really good and I am very pleased with the result,” Ennis said. “This is another week, there are a few to go yet and it is important to get the preparation right and important to get back to training”.
When asked about the importance of clearing his name of being associated with the chicken-wing slur, Ennis replied: “I would rather scrub the chicken wing [talk]. I will talk about the tackle.”
Ennis said he had tackled Dugan to shift him onto his back, but also to remove Dugan’s hand, which was against his throat.
“I moved his arm to get it out of my throat,” Ennis told the judiciary. “The degree of force applied was not a great deal.”
Ennis told the judiciary he had never used wrestling techniques and nor did the Bulldogs coaching staff teach any wrestling techniques.
Bulldogs coach Kevin Moore, who was at the hearing, said after the decision was handed down that he was happy with the result. “I didn’t think there was too much in it,” he said.
Moore said the Bulldogs team had spent the past few days in recovery because the next match was on Sunday.
“Because of that, we haven’t had to move players around, so it hasn’t had any impact on our preparation for the Wests Tigers match,” Moore said.
with Glenn Jackson
WHEN he was 10 years old, James McManus’s family decided to swap the drizzle of Scotland’s highlands for the stifling heat of Katherine in the Northern Territory. "It’s a bit out in the sticks, but I loved it," McManus says.
He went from balancing a round ball on his boot to learning how to pass a Steeden. "I’d never heard of rugby league," he says. "I didn’t understand any of it. When I came to Australia, I played a couple of games and I spent most of it offside, telling people to kick me the ball."
Today McManus has firmly established himself in the Newcastle side and yesterday was sized up for his suits and uniform as a member of the 40-man Blues Origin squad. The 23-year-old is a strong chance to make the final cut and run out for NSW on the wing this June.
"First and foremost, I want to play well for my club," he says. "It really means a lot to me this year. We’re looking to do big things at Newcastle and we don’t want to be sitting there watching TV in September. I want to play well for my club and anything comes off the back of that is just a bonus."
Knights teammate and fellow Blues squad member Kurt Gidley thinks McManus is a fair chance for an Origin jersey.
"Since his debut, he hasn’t a missed a game playing first grade, which is a great achievement," Gidley says. "His rise to where he is today, it’s a credit to the hard work he’s put in. He’s one of the most dedicated trainers. He stays behind, as most blokes do, to do extras. But Jimmy has been like that from the start."
Today, only a slight tinge of his Scottish accent can be heard in McManus’s voice. His accent was so thick when he touched down in Katherine that, aside from his family, people really didn’t know what he was trying to say. "No one could understand a word I saying," McManus remembers. "A lot of the time, I couldn’t understand a word that they were saying as well. With time, two years, I lost the accent."
After spending three years in Katherine, surviving a flood that tore through the town, he went to Palmerston High School in Darwin, studied the game of rugby league on television and was chosen by the Northern Territory Institute of Sport on their rugby league program.
"It took me a lot of watching," McManus says. "A lot of following it on TV. A lot of schoolyard stuff and finally after that I put my hand up to play the game."
At an Australian schoolboys championship, he was spied by Knights recruiter Warren Smiles. "He’s studied the game hard," Smiles says. "He knew what he wanted and he knew he wanted to play NRL. He was very intense and mature. He’s always worked hard to do everything right."
Before he lived in the heat of the Top End, before league, he lived in Fochabers – a village in the district of Moray. "It was a pretty obscure little place but it was good." His childhood memories of Scotland? The "blankets of snow" in the wintertime, "drizzle and soccer".
IN A dramatic coup, the International Olympic Committee has uncovered six new cases of doping after re-testing samples given at the Beijing Olympic Games. It is understood the six competitors involved three track-and-field athletes, one of which was a gold medallist, two cyclists, one of which was Italian silver medal-winning road racer Davide Rebellin, and one weightlifter.
Australian Olympic Committee spokesman Mike Tancred said the AOC had not been notified that any Australians were involved. Usually the IOC contacts the relevant national committee to notify the particular athlete involved and implement the sanctioning process. "We have not been notified that any Australians are involved in the latest re-testing, so we can only assume that this does not involve any Australian athletes," he said. The US and New Zealand Olympic Committees made similar statements.
It is not known if any Australians would be elevated in the standings as a result of the re-testing. Any medallists found to be doping are stripped of their results and forced to hand back their medals for reallocation. The French IOC laboratory conducted the re-testing of 948 samples, which uncovered seven cases of doping involving six competitors. The new drug uncovered was the latest blood doping agent, CERA (continuous erythropoietin receptor activator), which has a longer-lasting effect than erythropoietin (EPO) but acts in a similar way by boosting the red blood cells in the body to enable more efficient uptake of oxygen.
The testers surprised the peloton in last year’s Tour de France by testing for CERA, after the drug manufacturers tipped off the World Anti Doping Agency about CERA’s legitimate manufacture and chemical composition for kidney patients. The drug testers also re-tested 101 Beijing Olympic samples for insulin, but none were positive. IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist said this latest doping development was a significant victory for clean athletes.
"The further analysis of the Beijing samples that we conducted should send a clear message that cheats can never assume that they have avoided detection," he said. "The vast majority of athletes do not seek an unfair advantage. We intend to do all we can to ensure that they have a fair environment for competition."
The further analysis comes after 4770 doping tests were conducted in Beijing, including 3801 urine and 969 blood tests. Urine tests included 817 EPO tests, and the blood tests included 471 human growth hormone tests.
A FEARSOME reputation earned winning on racetracks around the world has rivals fearing Takeover Target in Saturday’s Goodwood at Morphettville, with only 11 others paying up for the group 1 sprint.
The thoroughbred hero will race in South Australian for the first time in an illustrious 38-start career that has netted 20 wins, 10 placings and $5,828,050 in prizemoney. The rising 10-year-old has won in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Western Australia, the UK, Singapore and Japan.
In the past 20 years, the Goodwood has averaged just more than 18 runners each year, with the past three drawing capacity 20-horse fields.
Takeover Target smashed rivals when resuming in the TJ Smith at Randwick two Saturdays ago and arrived in Adelaide late last week, with trainer Joe Janiak using Tuesday’s breakfast with the stars to give the gelding a good look at the Morphettville track.
Betting agencies plunged Takeover Target deep into the red for the Goodwood, with Sportingbet offering $1.65 about the sprinter taking its group 1 haul to eight. Takeover Target will be launched from barrier eight.
"I’m pretty happy with that barrier, as the track is going to be fairly wet and that will give us some options at his first run at the track," Janiak said yesterday. "The wet won’t worry him too much and that barrier will give him every chance."
Jockey Jay Ford is set to reunite with Takeover Target in a track gallop at Morphettville this morning. Ford, who has been on board Takeover Target in 36 of its starts, was dumped by Janiak leading into the TJ Smith, with Nash Rawiller a passenger when it won.
Because of changed conditions for the Goodwood, Takeover Target will carry a maximum top weight of 58.5kg and the $190,950 first prize would catapult the Janiak owned-galloper past $6 m in prizemoney and to sixth on the all-time earning list.
Following the Goodwood Takeover Target is set for a fourth trip to Royal Ascot, where the galloper, purchased for $1375 plus GST at a tried-horse sale, won the King’s Stand Stakes in 2006.
Last year Takeover Target raced in Singapore and won the group 1 KrisFlyer, which is on the agenda again. Awaiting in Singapore on May 17 will be the Australian-bred local Rocket Man, which remained unbeaten after seven starts when scoring at weight-for-age last Friday night.
The Leon Macdonald-trained Victoria Derby winner Rebel Raider was installed as favourite for Saturday’s SA Derby after 13 acceptors were taken yesterday.
Meanwhile, the Kylie Gavenlock-trained Mary’s Grace won a controversial $100,000 Darley Crown at Hawkesbury yesterday. The mare was ridden by Grant Buckley and beat the Bob Milligan-trained Lady Game. Mary’s Grace flew the barriers, with stewards deeming the mare did not gain an unfair advantage.
"For a minute there I was worried I might lose the race," Buckley said. "The crucial evidence came from the starter, Bernie Evans. He said when he pressed the start button she got a flying start."
CAN you be number one without wearing No.1? That’s the hope of Ivan Necevski, the late-blooming Sydney FC goalkeeper, who after years of toiling away in the nether world of semi-pro football is on the brink of his breakthrough season.
No doubt, it’s going to be a battle royale between Necevski, the perennial understudy, and Clint Bolton, the perennial custodian, and how it plays out could be a huge factor in the team’s quest to return to the summit of the A-League.
The omens are good for Necevski. He finished last season as the first-choice keeper, and also stood between the posts for new coach Vitezslav Lavicka’s first game, the post-season friendly in China against Shanghai Shenhua. But experience has taught him to take nothing for granted. Which is where the number comes in.
In his two seasons with the Sky Blues, Necevski has never worn the No.1 shirt. Being No.1, and feeling like No.1, can be two different things. There may be a spring in his step as Sydney get into the grind of pre-season training, but he wants something more. Confirmation.
"I want the No.1 jersey with my name on the back of it," he said. He’s not going to get it. Only one player, Bolton, has had that privilege since the A-League began four years ago, and recently the club handed the fringe Socceroos keeper his old jersey back. But if he’s lost the battle, Necevski is well poised to win the war.
Certainly, he knows the value of patience – he’s had eight clubs in six years of state league football, short-term stints in the A-League with now-defunct New Zealand Knights and the Newcastle Jets, and two seasons as understudy at Sydney FC. Now he’s getting impatient, at least in terms of his opportunities.
"I wouldn’t say I’ve served my apprenticeship, because I’m still young  in goalkeeper’s terms, and you can never stop learning," Necevski said. "But I worked really hard last year, and again during this off-season, and I’ve come back a lot fitter than I’ve ever been. The break was good, but now I’m looking forward to getting back into it and having a good year. I’ve got the new one-year contract, I’m happy where I am, happy with the club, happy with the coaching staff. I’m a Sydney boy, and ultimately I’d really like to win a championship with Sydney FC. And as long as I work hard, I don’t see it being a problem keeping that No.1 spot. I want that spot, and I want to play the whole season. I proved last year what I can do, and hopefully I’ll increase the momentum."
Crucially, Necevski feels he’s starting to gain the respect of his teammates. "Last year, I ended up playing 11 games and we developed a good relationship. I’m starting to feel more comfortable with them, and hopefully they’re starting to feel a bit more comfortable with me."
That doesn’t mean he isn’t looking over his shoulder. While Bolton lost the confidence of previous coach John Kosmina, Necevski knows despite the boost of playing in Shanghai, Lavicka will be keeping an open mind. "Clint Bolton is one of the biggest names among goalkeepers in Australia, it’s always good to have the competition with him," he said. "It’s a good battle between us. You don’t want to be comfortable and complacent. You want a bit of a challenge."
■ Perth Glory owner Tony Sage will meet coach David Mitchell today as the club steps up its bid to sign Uruguayan superstar Alvaro Recoba to be the club’s new marquee player.
Sage said: "I’m not yet sure how everything has panned out – I won’t know until I meet with Mitch, but if you’re asking me, personally, I would love to have him [Recoba]." Recoba, 33, plays for Greek side Panionios, and scored in a 4-3 win over Asteras Tripoli in the final game of the season last weekend. He will be off contract in July.
THE Graham Henry-Robbie Deans 2011 World Cup showdown is virtually confirmed and will be decided on their home soil.
Henry, the New Zealand coach, said yesterday that, despite public criticism following his team’s embarrassing departure from the 2007 World Cup at the quarter-final stage, he wanted another chance to win the Webb Ellis trophy when the tournament is held in New Zealand in two years’ time.
Henry’s coaching contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union expires at the end of this year, and it was anticipated he would then hand the head coaching position over to his assistant, Steve Hansen.
But yesterday he told Kiwi media he wanted to continue and lead the All Blacks to the next World Cup. "It’s not my decision," Henry admitted. "I’d like to continue, but that’s other people’s decisions. Let’s wait and see, I guess. I’m sure the [NZRU] have given it some thought, but it’s early days, isn’t it?"
If Henry is granted his wish – which is highly likely, considering he has strong support at NZRU level – it will add an extra dimension to the tournament, as it will mean he has to out-manoeuvre the man many New Zealanders believe should instead be masterminding the All Blacks’ campaign.
Despite Henry’s failure in 2007, he held on to his job ahead of Deans, the highly successful Crusaders coach who was then appointed Wallabies coach. That angered many All Blacks supporters, who believed the best coach in their country was now in charge of their Trans-Tasman enemy.
Deans masterminding a Wallabies World Cup triumph over Henry on New Zealand soil would only add to their pain.
Dean is already planning to have the Wallabies based in the South Island, an area he knows intimately, during the tournament, while two of Australia’s four pool matches will be staged in his home town of Christchurch.
When asked about this year’s Super 14, Henry said it had convinced him the aerial work of many Kiwi players needed attention, and that Australia and South Africa were better in that area.
Henry said he believed the reason Australian players were adept in taking the high ball was because of their Australian Rules background. This contention would surprise the four Australian provincial coaches, as only a small handful of their Super 14 squad members have played Australian football.
Meanwhile, Wallabies winger Peter Hynes has overcome a knee injury to return to the Reds line-up to play the Brumbies in Brisbane on Saturday night, when he could find himself up against Test skipper Stirling Mortlock.
Although Mortlock is eager to play in the centres, Brumbies coach Andy Friend is expected to today name him on the wing, where he began his Wallabies career, while Gene Fairbanks and Tyrone Smith are set to be the Brumbies centres combination.
¡ Sydney referee Stu Dickinson has been appointed to officiate the third South Africa-British and Irish Lions Test in Johannesburg on July 4.
WHEN Waratahs winger Peter Playford saw his name on a list of players scheduled for one-on-one interviews with NSW head coach Chris Hickey earlier this week, he prepared for the worst.
"I thought he was going to tell me I had been dropped," the 28-year-old said.
He certainly didn’t expect to hear he had been selected for the Waratahs starting side for their Super 14 game against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Friday (Saturday morning, Sydney time). But that is exactly what Playford was told by Hickey, who named him on the wing as one of three changes to a back line made with a view to sparking some long-awaited attacking flair.
Playford’s first Super 14 cap as a Waratah has been a long time coming. In fact, it has taken nine years since he debuted for NSW as a 19-year-old against Argentina in 2000. Soon afterwards, he headed to New Zealand to play for Tasman in the National Provincial Championship, later moving to Canberra to join the Brumbies. It was there, in 2007, where he played his first match in the Super 14. He went on to gain another 16 Super caps up to the end of last season.
That Playford even has a contract with the Waratahs, let alone a spot in the starting side for such a crucial game as the one against the Cheetahs, is something of a miracle after he suffered a serious neck injury last year.
After last year’s Super 14, Playford planned to head to Japan on a lucrative two-year deal. But then he received the results of scans after feeling pins and needles in his arm.
"I thought I’d get checked out before I headed over [to Japan]," the Sydney University back said. "But when I got my scans back it showed that I had a few things wrong in the neck."
Playford shelved his rugby career, began to rue the riches lost from pulling out of his Japanese contract, and started to think his playing days might be over. He thought he might be better off using an economics degree to pursue a career in business.
"I took seven months off and [in the meantime] came back and played for Uni in the grand final, and it [the neck injury] has been 100 per cent ever since," Playford said.
"But I didn’t know what was on the horizon. Just before Christmas, they said [at the Waratahs that] they might need an outside back. So, to come from not knowing what I was doing last year, to facing a financial crisis and looking for a job, to play here is great."
Playford’s starting role on Friday comes despite minimal game time for the Waratahs this season. He played in three pre-season trials and then with the Junior Waratahs, before a recall to the 22-man squad for their round-10 game against the Force in which he did not play.
For the Cheetahs game, Hickey wanted a specialist winger with experience, ability to read the game, attacking nous, strong defence and top communication skills. Playford fitted the bill.
"We have always been confident [in Playford] that if the opportunity arose to select him …" Hickey said. "And, in this case, we felt that he was probably the ideal bloke to come in.
"We wanted someone who is experienced and isn’t going to be over awed. And not only defence, but in attack, he is a really, really good communicator."
Once over the shock of being told he would start, Playford began to absorb the mandate Hickey had handed him.
"He sees I can make good inroads around the rucks," Playford said. "I’ve played a lot with Daniel [Halangahu] at No.10 and scored quite a few tries off the back of him. Hopefully, that transfers into this."
Hickey will be hoping the Cheetahs have forgotten Playford’s performance against them for the Brumbies last year. Playford was the man of the match in the Brumbies’ 29-23 win at Canberra, in which he also got the better of Cheetahs flyer Jongi Nokwe. "I am not the fastest winger around, but I have played against a lot of these [faster] guys. You just have to be smart," he said.
Playford understands, too, that upon his shoulders may fall the responsibility to score one of the four tries NSW need for a bonus-point a win.
"We can score points. It’s a matter of the boys believing in themselves," he said.
In-form St George Illawarra winger Brett Morris has played down the prospect of a reunion with brother Josh at the Bulldogs next season.
Morris yesterday revealed he had deliberately held off contract negotiations to focus on securing a place in the Dragons line-up under Wayne Bennett.
Bulldogs recruitment boss Peter Mulholland yesterday said Morris was a "player of interest" for the club, with the future of goal-kicking winger Hazem El Masri in doubt beyond this year.
Since leaving St George Illawarra at the end of last season, Josh played a starring role for the Dogs in the opening rounds, scoring five tries before suffering a foot injury which will sideline him for several weeks.
Brett’s impressive early season form for the Dragons has resulted in him securing a starting wing position ahead of Kiwi international Jason Nightingale for Sunday’s clash with the Warriors.
Brett said yesterday he had not considered his future beyond this season.
"I’m just going out there every week and trying to do my job and trying not to give Wayne (Bennett) a reason to drop me," he said.
"I’m just going out there and trying my hardest and, at the moment, it’s paying off. The rest will take care of itself."
Mulholland admitted Brett’s name had been discussed during Bulldogs recruitment meetings.
"He is certainly a player of interest," Mulholland said.
"But we’ll just keep watching and monitoring, we’re in no hurry to move on recruitment.
"Brett is a specialist winger and we’re probably more looking for a centre-wing player, but it is certainly open for discussion."
Morris is one of several Dragons off contract at the end of this year, with prop Justin Poore and back-rower Ben Creagh among those negotiating new deals.
The Bulldogs are unlikely to chase either player after recruiting star forwards Ben Hannant, Michael Ennis, David Stagg and Greg Eastwood from the Broncos this year.
Mulholland said the Bulldogs’ immediate priority was to extend Eastwood’s contract, before looking to boost depth in the backline.
Ability in the outside backs is something the Dragons have no shortage of, with Morris acknowledging the battle for spots was ultra-competitive.
"I don’t think we’ve had this much depth in the past and all the guys who are there are playing really well at the moment," he said.
"It’s pretty tough to hold a spot and anyone can come in and do the job."
Knights hard man Ben Cross shed tears in the Campbelltown Stadium dressing rooms on Sunday, devastated by the realisation he had played his last NRL game this season.
The premiership-winning NSW Origin enforcer had ruptured the biceps tendon in his left arm midway through the second half of the Knights’ 26-24 loss to Wests Tigers.
His former Newcastle and NSW teammate Danny Buderus suffered the same injury against the Cowboys a fortnight before the end of last season and Cross, who was on the field at EnergyAustralia Stadium that night, knew in his gut what he was dealing with.
He did not need to wait for an MRI scan the following day or the explanation yesterday by Knights medical officer Neil Halpin to confirm the inevitable.
The 30-year-old front-rower would have to wait until next year to lead the Newcastle pack again, and his chances of retaining his NSW jersey were gone.
But Cross was not forlorn for long.
"I’ve got an aunty suffering cancer at the moment, so that puts it all into perspective," he told The Herald yesterday.
"It’s a torn biceps at the end of the day. Surgery can fix that."
Cross will see surgeon Des Bokor in Sydney today and hopes to go under the knife on Friday to have the tendon reattached to the bone.
Dr Halpin said it would be four to six months before Cross would be fit enough to play again.
Dr Bokor performed the same procedure on Buderus, Knights rehabilitation manager Adrian Brough mapped out his recovery program, and it took him six months before he resumed his career in England for Leeds.
He and Cross have swapped text messages and spoken on the phone several times since Sunday afternoon and Cross has been buoyed by the fact Buderus made a full recovery.
"Bedsy said Broughy helped him a lot with his rehab and that sort of stuff," Cross said. "That all went well for him and he’s back playing and he hasn’t had any dramas with it so that’s all positive same surgeon, same recovery program, so that should all help."
Cross said he suffered the injury tackling Tigers tank Taniela Tuiaki in the lead-up to Beau Ryan’s 62nd-minute try. When he emerged from the tackle and looked at the crook of his left arm, there was a hollow where the tendon had been attached only moments before.
"His knee went straight into it and I just knew it went straight away," Cross said.
"It’s not even a partial or 50 per cent tear; it’s torn all the way through, so it needs to be all reattached."
Having played just nine games for the Knights last year because of a string of niggling injuries, Cross had started all seven this season and was steadily building towards the form he displayed consistently for Melbourne in 2007.
"We were getting a good roll-on and as my form was starting to go along nicely, we were starting to come into the right time of the season with rep footy and all that sort of stuff, but most importantly it was about the Knights," he said.
"We were going along nicely and slowly getting players back instead of losing them, then one half of footy seemed to shatter a few of those things."
Cross said he would strive for a medical miracle and try to make it back on the field this season but, in the meantime, will help the cause by working with the coaching staff.
"Hopefully I can add a bit of coaching input, do a bit of work with the forwards, a bit of preview and review on the video," he said.
"That’s something I wouldn’t mind getting into after footy so I might as well do a bit now while I can, and I’ll find something away from footy to keep my mind occupied.
"There’s a very small glimmer of hope for the semi-finals, but it’s about a six-month injury with the repair. If you tear it again, you’re stuffed and you’ve got to start all over again."
"I’ve got an aunty suffering cancer at the moment, so that puts it all into perspective."
- IOC nabs six doping cheats on new drug
- Running scared – Takeover has the good wood on rivals
- Late-bloomer Necevski’s goal is to earn his keep
- World Cup clash of the Kiwis is on for 2011
- Surprise Play: Hickey wings changes to give veteran first start for Tahs