From what I have been told, Walker is always cranky because he demands excellence from himself – which he is not producing – and from teammates – which he’s not getting.
As far as I know, there is nothing happening off the field that would lead to Walker’s below-par efforts on it. There was a minor incident after his 150th game outside a Terrigal hotel.
He is a free agent in November; he has a deal for next year, but Souths will judge him on his form over the past six years, rather than the past six weeks when it comes to a potential new deal.
Tiger fears grow amid Ciraldo pursuit
The paranoia of some Wests Tigers officials is running at record levels as they ramp up their pursuit of Panthers assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo in the rather large shadows cast by Ivan Cleary and Phil Gould.
Ciraldo will meet his agent, George Mimis, this week to discuss his next move, if any.
Ciraldo values the opinions of Cleary and Gould highly: Cleary is his boss and Gould is his old boss.
It’s been well documented that Cleary did not leave the Tigers on good terms. The club was blindsided when Cleary departed in 2018 to go back to Penrith.
In particular, Cleary had a major falling out with Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe. The pair had been friends from their time together at Penrith.
Cleary is one of Ciraldo’s best mates and someone he will talk to about his decision. He doesn’t need to ask Cleary about the state of the Tigers: Ciraldo spent about six hours talking to club bosses on Monday. Everything – from salary caps to staff – was covered. But they didn’t talk about money.
Cleary is not the kind of person to criticise the Tigers if Ciraldo was to seek his opinion. Cleary is prepared to be a sounding board for Ciraldo, should he ask, speaking in broad terms about coaching and making the jump to head coach – but he won’t tell him what to do. Cleary knows Ciraldo is his own man.
Cleary and Ciraldo also share the same agent, Mimis, adding to the belief that Cleary will not interfere if Ciraldo decides to leave.
Tigers officials are also concerned about Gould – because he is in the market for a coach at the Bulldogs and they know his relationship with Ciraldo, given their time together at Penrith where Gould was GM of football.
The Tigers are angry about Gould’s comments on 100% Footy on Channel Nine where he said six players could leave the Tigers if Michael Maguire was sacked. So far, one has – Luciano Leilua. But it will be interesting to track the dealings and feelings of Jackson Hastings and Adam Doueihi.
Gould has been very public in his view that Ciraldo should stay at the Panthers. He may be talking himself out of a coach, but he is also saying – without saying it – that the Tigers are not the club for Ciraldo.
A king and the Queen … V’landys deserving of Ascot trip
The sight of ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys riding in a horse-drawn carriage at Royal Ascot after having lunch with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle is destined to become part of the game’s folklore.
It will go down with some of the obscure off-field scenes of the past, such as Andrew Johns riding a skateboard while shirtless and wearing a top hat after the 1997 grand final, or Nathan Cleary’s TikTok dancing performance during the pandemic.
Of course, the reason V’landys is in England is due to his role as chief executive of Racing NSW.
V’landys is well known as a battler from Wollongong who had to top the tackle count in his junior footy days so he could collect a cash bonus to make ends meet. He rose from a background of bullying to the top in his field.
Struggle Street is a long way from the image of the boss of the game in top hat and tails after lunching with the Queen. NRL club bosses were stunned.
No one would begrudge V’landys a holiday, or the opportunity to meet with the royals. And we are certainly not suggesting he has done anything wrong. He deserves a break after juggling the top jobs in rugby league and racing through the pandemic.
But his brush with the House of Windsor raised eyebrows. It was a hot topic among NRL club bosses on Thursday. The NRL has appointed a new media heavy, Grant Williams, but he will be doing well if he can get better coverage for the game than V’landys.
The top-secret trip to visit the Queen had to be kept that way because of royal protocols.
The moment he became visible, a seemingly prepared story dropped on News Corp websites.
It was brilliant by V’landys. Even more so when you remember former ARLC chairman John Grant was mercilessly harangued as being too “toffy” because he drove a Maserati and went to the races. And previous NRL bosses were criticised if they dared to sit in the front of the plane to Queensland for a State of Origin match. And don’t forget the club CEOs who have been taken to task for mid-season holidays.
Times have changed. Now the boss of the working man’s game is dining with the Queen.
If we are being serious for a moment, it is a positive step that senior executives can have mid-season breaks to refresh and give their colleagues a chance to prove themselves in senior roles.
The concern is that V’landys missed last weekend’s round of football in his role as chairman of selectors for the Australian team.
Hopefully, Mal Meninga, Brad Fittler and Billy Slater can give him a form update. Or perhaps he got some tips from her majesty on who should captain the Kangaroos.
Eddie and Ivan to trade their secrets to success
The Panthers do things better than most clubs and now Ivan Cleary is going to join forces with England rugby coach Eddie Jones to advance his skills. The pair are going to spend time together when England tour Australia in a few weeks.
Jones has been an international coach for four nations (Australia, England, Japan and South Africa, as a technical advisor), while Cleary is coaching one of the hottest teams in the country.
It’s an association that will benefit both mentors.
“I’ve always loved rugby league and it’s impossible not to be impressed by the way Penrith are playing, and it’s not just a one-off, Jones said.
“They have been consistently excellent over a number of years and it will be interesting to delve into that and to understand what they do and how they do it. I know Gus [Phil Gould] set up a great academy there and they keep producing good players. I’ll obviously be happy to talk to Ivan about everything we do as well.”
Let the kids make their own noise
The NRL made promises that Thursday’s under-19 clash between NSW and Queensland would feature two players in each side who were outside the age group and genuine stars in the NRL.
Names such as Joseph Suaalii and Sam Walker were floated. That has not happened.
In reality, the game shouldn’t have needed any “gimmicks”. Of the Blues squad that played in Origin I in Sydney, Cameron Murray, Payne Haas, Kotoni Staggs, Brian To’o and Stephen Crichton all played under-19s for NSW.
And of the NSW squad named for the women’s Origin game in Canberra on Friday, Teagan Berry, Filomina Hanisi, Olivia Kernick and Caitlan Johnston did likewise.
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