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Storm surprised no ban for Nelson but deny using grubby tactics

Melbourne have conceded they too were surprised Nelson Asofa-Solomona wasn’t charged for a potential crusher tackle, but have come out in defence of their tackling technique amid criticism.

The Storm are bemused as to why it has taken 22 weeks for anyone to express their concerns with the club’s wrestling, adamant the Asofa-Solomona tackle was an isolated incident.

Melbourne are fed up with the wrestling hysteria aimed at their team that pops up in the lead-up to the finals each year and insist their tactics and defensive style haven’t changed since they took the field in the opening round of the season.

Craig Bellamy’s right-hand man, Storm football manager Frank Ponissi, has questioned the timing of the allegations labelled at his team.

"One of the features of our season has been our consistency in how we’ve played since round one," Ponissi told NRL.com.

"We are now in round 22, and there’s no coincidence all these stories are coming up in round 22 in the middle of August again - a couple of weeks out from the finals.

"It seems to be a yearly occurrence at this time. The way we have defended has been consistent since round one. I don’t know why it’s taken 22 weeks for people to make an issue of it."

The Storm have been in the firing line this week after Asofa-Solomona escaped a charge for what looked like a crusher tackle on South Sydney’s Dean Britt in last Sunday’s win at Central Coast Stadium.

Storm v Raiders - Round 22

Ponissi has revealed they were surprised by the match review committee’s decision not to sanction the giant Kiwi prop, but insist the tackle should be looked at in isolation and not a reflection of their tactics.

"I can understand the discussion about the Nelson tackle on Dean Britt," Ponissi said.

"I can understand, and we agree, why people would think that could have been charged. I’ll say now that we wouldn’t have been surprised as a club if he was charged for that tackle. But it was just one tackle."

No time off training for Tigers

Regardless of the result on Thursday night against Manly, or how the rest of the season pans out for the Wests Tigers, they’ll be treated like grand finalists.

In a bid to add some mental toughness and starch to his team, coach Michael Maguire has told his players that they will train until grand final day - whether they make the finals or not.

Maguire is hellbent on changing the culture of a club that has long been regarded as underachievers, and the decision to schedule sessions right up until the first Sunday in October will test the resolve of his players.

Sea Eagles v Wests Tigers - Round 22

The Tigers haven’t played finals football since 2011, and have only done so on three occasions since the joint venture’s inception in 2000.

Of the 13 clubs that have been in the NRL since the turn of the millennium, the Tigers have the worst finals attendance record by a long way.

The Knights, Warriors, Eels and Panthers have the next lowest number of finals appearances since 2000 with eight respectively.

Maguire is a big believer in creating a winning culture by developing winning habits, and there’s no greater reflection of a winning team than those who are still training when the others have knocked off.

He came through the system at the Melbourne Storm, a club that always books its end-of-season presentation night after the grand final.

While most clubs have their awards night at the end of August or early September, the Storm place an expectation that they will still be alive when the final two teams are standing.

Maguire has questioned the desire of his team at stages in 2019 and he will get a strong indication of who fits the bill for the roster he wants to build to take the Tigers into a brighter future.

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Ponga pay predictions not on the money

Some of the figures being thrown around in regards to Kalyn Ponga’s future aren’t fair on him, nor do they reflect his desires.

There’s plenty at play behind the scenes at the moment, which is behind the talk of a $6 million four-year extension.

Those figures have never been mentioned to anyone at Newcastle. Nor has Kalyn or his family spoken about it.

Ponga’s manager Wayde Rushton recently met the Knights before one of their home games, but as far as the Knights are aware, discussions about an extension won’t be held until the end of next year.

His contract with his agent expires at the end of 2020.

NRL.com has been told Ponga was embarrassed by the numbers being reported, and doesn’t want to be seen as money hungry.

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The Knights know they have something special, and will offer to make him the highest paid player in the club’s history when the time comes to discuss his future.

But they also believe money isn’t the number one factor that will determine whether he stays or goes.

They believe success will be the biggest factor, knowing they will struggle to keep him unless they are a force to be reckoned with.

That’s added pressure on coach Nathan Brown to get results and get them fast.

Knights v Cowboys - Round 22

Ponga and his family are happy in Newcastle. They have built a life there. And there’s no doubt Kalyn will be looked after financially. He already is.

Representative triggers in his contract will mean he earns around $800,000 in each of the next two years before the option in his favour in 2022.

What happens after that will be a matter that won’t be truly entertained until the end of next season.

Ramien casts gaze north

Jesse Ramien flew to Townsville to meet with the Cowboys this week, with another meeting scheduled on the Central Coast in the next 48 hours.

The Cowboys travel to Newcastle for their clash against the Knights on Friday night, with the club expected to make a stopover to continue talks with Ramien.

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As it stands, the Cowboys and the Bulldogs are the frontrunners for his signature.

The Sharks probably don’t have the salary cap space in 2020 to have a red-hot crack at luring him back to the club he left last year.

Panthers up to nine with Klein 

It’s taken just three weeks for the NRL to schedule Ashley Klein to a Panthers game following the controversy inside the tunnel at Panthers Stadium a few weeks ago.

What added to the Panthers’ frustrations in the loss to the Raiders on July 28 was the fact that leading into that match they had lost the past eight games Klein had refereed.

That streak now stands at nine, but you can almost guarantee coach Ivan Cleary won’t be saying much if he walks past the whistleblower at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, given the drama of the events that unfolded just three weeks ago.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.