Noble embraces North top-four plan


“We’ve got to set a path around long-term, sustainable success. We’re not going to chase wins just for this year, we’re going to chase wins every single time we are out on the paddock, make no bones about it,” Noble told reporters on Monday.

“But we need to do it in a matter that’s going to be sustainable and hold up under finals pressure.

“We’ve got some young talent. We’re going to the draft this year, we’ll probably go to the draft again next year.

“We’ll teach, we’ll educate, we’ll let them fall over and fail and we’ll pick them up and keep moving forward.”

That education is set to be delivered by not just Noble and his assistants but also by the experienced Roos, who helped reset the Melbourne Football Club before handing over to Simon Goodwin.

Chief executive Ben Amarfio confirmed that Roos is likely to have an official role in the football department next season, although the club is still working through the finer details.

“I’m really keen for him to have a role,” Noble said of Roos.

“I think we can absolutely utilise his knowledge and experience. He’s coached two clubs, for me he’ll be a great sounding board, I’m sure he’ll be a good counsel for me a number of times. He’ll be great for our assistant coaches, he worked with John Blakey [at Sydney], he’ll be a great mentor for some of our players.

“I’m really looking forward to working with Roosy … I think he’s got some great experiences that can only make us, as an organisation, better.”

Noble was also asked about the comments from his chairman Ben Buckley, who said earlier on Monday morning in a radio interview that the club expected to be a consistent top-four team and contending for a premiership in two to three years.

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The new coach said he agreed with the timeline.

“That’s in line with what we spoke about at the board meeting,” Noble said.

“We’ve got to have ambition, there’s no problem with that. We’ve got to get ourselves organised.”

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Raiders in NRL top-four contention after beating Warriors in Canberra, Knights defeat Dragons


The Canberra Raiders have survived a testing battle against the Warriors to claim a 26-14 victory and remain in sight of a crucial top-four NRL finish.

Another finals-bound side, the Knights, also triumphed in the penultimate round, posting a convincing 42-18 defeat of St George Illawarra in Newcastle later on Sunday.

The Raiders lost halfback George Williams to concussion early at Canberra Stadium, and were down by eight points when star five-eighth Jack Wighton was sent to the sin-bin during the first half.

Strike second rower John Bateman also sustained an elbow injury in the second half.

But the Raiders — led by two-try hero Semi Valemei and veteran Elliott Whitehead — recovered to cement fifth spot on the ladder, two points behind fourth-placed Parramatta with one match left in the regular season.

With a superior points differential, the Raiders can steal a qualifying final berth should they defeat Cronulla and the Eels get upset by the Wests Tigers next weekend.

The Warriors, who lost captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to a suspected season-ending hamstring injury in the second half, again showed admirable spirit by taking it to the Raiders early but they could not muster a late push.

They look forward to finally flying home to New Zealand after facing Manly next week.

Warriors centre Peta Hiku and counterpart Jarrod Croker traded tries inside a combative opening 15 minutes.

The visitors threatened to run away with the match when Hiku nabbed his second try in the 28th minute, however a 90-metre Valemei try for the Raiders four minutes later proved a critical turning point.

Hudson Young’s try in the shadows of half-time completed a stunning turnaround and a two-point lead to the Raiders at the break, 16-14.

Whitehead was instrumental in the Raiders posting the first points of the second half when he intercepted a Warriors pass to set up Valemei’s second try.

Nick Cotric, who is headed to Canterbury next season, scored the Raiders’ fifth try to ice the win for the hosts.

Knights smash Dragons

The finals-bound Knights heaped more misery on the Dragons in their last home match of the season.

They led 30-6 at half-time, with Kalyn Ponga, Gehamat Shibasaki, Aidan Guerra, Daniel Saifiti and Enari Tuala all scoring tries, while Mason Lino added five conversions.

The sole points for the Dragons in the first half came from a Zac Lomax converted try.

A try to Jacob Saifiti and a second to Tuala after half-time made sure the Knights’ win was never in the doubt, although Corey Norman and Lomax did cross the stripe for converted tries to add respectability to the Dragons’ total.

It was a miserable performance from the Dragons, but Lomax and Cody Ramsey were shining lights.

Aidan Guerra added a try to the Knights’ total in the big win in Newcastle.(AAP: Darren Pateman)

The Knights, who jumped ahead of South Sydney into sixth place on the ladder following the win, are set to play their first finals series since 2013.

They could also host their first home finals game in Newcastle since 2006.

That destiny is now in their own hands, as they sit one point above the Rabbitohs heading into the final round of the minor premiership.

The Knights will face Gold Coast on Friday, needing a win to lock down sixth place.

Should they beat the Titans, the Knights will face Wayne Bennett’s Rabbitohs in the first week of the finals in Newcastle.

Ironically, Bennett was the last man to get the Knights to the finals in 2013.

AAP/ABC



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Geelong clinches AFL top-four spot with win over Sydney Swans ahead of finals


Geelong has survived a massive scare to lock in an AFL top-four spot, as Gary Ablett showed flashes of brilliance on his return to action in a six-point win over lowly Sydney.

The injury-ravaged Swans stunned the Cats early with four of the first five goals and led until the four-minute mark of the final term.

But class eventually told as Patrick Dangerfield, Sam Menegola, Brandon Parfitt and Tom Stewart played key roles in the Cats’ crucial 10.9 (69) to 9.9 (63) victory in Carrara.

It took a desperate late smother from Mark Blicavs on James Rowbottom to secure the result on the final play of the match.

The win gave Geelong fourth place on the ladder and a double chance for the finals, starting with a qualifying showdown with either Brisbane or Port Adelaide.

Dangerfield was moved permanently forward after half-time and kicked three crucial late goals to help drag the Cats over the line.

Menegola, Parfitt and Stewart were busy throughout but Geelong’s midfield struggled to gain ascendancy against a Swans on-ball division led by experienced campaigners Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker.

Sydney got the early jump, registering their highest first-quarter score of the season (5.4), but lost James Bell to concussion after a head clash with Jordan Dawson.

Their nine-point lead at quarter-time would have been greater if not for Tom Papley’s miss from the top of the square running into an open goal.

Ablett’s first two touches were goal assists and he kicked one himself before quarter-time to help stem the tide, but he was one of few the Cats to have much of an impact to that point.

The free-flowing contest became a grind during a goalless second term.

Dangerfield’s move forward helped change the match and he put the Cats in front with the first goal of the final quarter.

He added another moments later and could have had a fourth from a free kick, but advantage was paid when Parfitt kicked a goal off the deck.

The Cats endured nervous moments in the dying stages.

Papley cut the margin back to 11 points and Justin McInerney trimmed it to six with 19 seconds remaining before Blicavs’s late heroics.

Chief goal sneak Papley was an ever-present threat in attack but was wasteful in kicking 2.5.

Parfitt and Coleman Medal leader Tom Hawkins finished with two goals each for Geelong.

Hawks finish on winning note

Retiring Hawthorn stalwart Paul Puopolo has made a stylish three-goal farewell in a 51-point demolition of Gold Coast at Adelaide Oval.

Puopolo booted two of Hawthorn’s seven first-term goals in the 17.6 (108) to 8.9 (57) victory, which meant the Hawks finished with a 5-12 win-loss record for the season.

The Hawks are likely to finish 15th on the ladder, with the Suns expected to be in 14th place. If the Sydney Swans upset Geelong on Sunday afternoon they will leapfrog both the Suns and Hawks.

In what was a dead rubber between two non-finalists, the Hawks exploded from the blocks in the opening quarter to lead 7.1 (43) to 1.1 (7) at the first change.

Hawks retiree Paul Puopolo made sure he went out on a winning note against the Suns.(AAP: David Mariuz)

Aside from Puopolo, fellow veteran Jack Gunston kicked two goals in the opening term before finishing with four for the match.

Another departing Hawk, three-time premiership player Ben Stratton, collected 13 disposals and kicked a last-quarter goal, which was just the second in his 202-match career.

Tom Mitchell (33 disposals), James Cousins (24), Liam Shiels (25) and ex-Sun Jaeger O’Meara (25) were influential for the Hawks throughout the contest.

Gold Coast’s co-captain David Swallow (27 disposals) and Noah Anderson (25) were the team’s leading ball winners.

Suns forward Alex Sexton booted three majors, while debutant Jy Farrar scored a goal with his first kick in the AFL ranks.

AAP



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Parramatta on track for top-four NRL spot


There were moments of brilliance but top-four bound Parramatta were not convincing in their 26-12 win over Brisbane on Friday night.

Continuing question marks over their attack, the Eels all but shored up a top-four spot but failed to put the bottom-placed Broncos to the sword as expected at Bankwest Stadium.

A win against the Wests Tigers in the last game of the season should assure them a second chance in the NRL finals with Canberra chasing hard four points behind.

The most dramatic moment of the game came two minutes into the second half when prop Junior Paulo was put on report for a dangerous tackle on David Fifita.

It could mark Fifita’s last game in a Broncos jersey with their final game of the season just six days away.

The Gold Coast-bound forward was taken from the field with what is believed to be a low-grade ankle sprain after Paulo’s 123kg frame fell on his lower leg.

“There’s nothing in that is there? It shouldn’t even have been a penalty,” said Eels coach Brad Arthur, baffled as to why Paulo was put on report.

“What’s he supposed to do?”

Last month Jesse Bromwich and Tyrell Fuimaono became the first two players suspended for the move which falls under dangerous contact.

However, should Paulo cop a grade-one charge and take the early guilty plea he will not miss a game.

After weeks of stuttering performances, the Eels looked nervy early but scored four tries in 19 minutes to lead 20-6 at halftime.

And while it was hardly a fair fight, it served as a reminder of what the Eels are capable of when they’re on.

“It was a step in the right direction, it was better,” Arthur said.

“I thought we tried to play a lot more football.

“We played a nice power game there for a while, just the second half would have been nice to nail a couple of those opportunities but got to give credit to the Broncos, I thought they were brave.”

Fifita’s try was the best of two for the Broncos when he shrugged off a poor tackle from Mitch Moses to power over and score.

However, two tries to Eels fullback Clint Gutherson in four minutes gave the Eels the healthy halftime lead.

But they did not go on with it in the final 40 minutes.

Everything was set up for them to run up a score at home to build confidence leading into the finals, but somehow it didn’t reach any great heights.

The loss was the 10th straight for the Broncos and puts them on a collision course with their first-ever wooden spoon.

To avoid it they will need to beat North Queensland at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night and hope Canterbury don’t upset minor premiers Penrith.

“There’s a lot of pride in what they’re doing at the moment,” said innterim coach Peter Gentle.

“We didn’t get the result and there’s areas of our game that can be a lot better, don’t get me wrong but there’s a lot we can be proud of too.”





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West Coast stays in AFL top-four contention after beating North Melbourne by 15 points



West Coast’s wretched run with injury has continued during an uninspiring 15-point win over lowly North Melbourne.

Though the win kept the Eagles’ top four hopes alive it may have come at a cost when star forward Josh Kennedy landed awkwardly in a marking contest before half-time and limped off the field with a left-ankle concern.

He did not return for the Eagles, although Oscar Allen, Liam Ryan and Liam Duggan did enough to help ensure the Eagles move up to third spot on the ladder with a 7.7 (49) to 4.10 (34) victory at Carrara ahead of the completion of the AFL’s final round.

They now wait to discover their top-four fate with Richmond (fourth) and Geelong (fifth) still a chance to move ahead of the Eagles, who finished the home-and-away season on 48 points.

The Tigers, who play bottom-placed Adelaide on Saturday, are two points behind the Eagles, while the Cats will move ahead of West Coast should they beat Sydney on Sunday.

But the loss of spearhead Kennedy could be a bitter blow to the Eagles’ premiership prospects, as they continue to sweat on the fitness of Luke Shuey (hamstring), Jeremy McGovern (hamstring), Elliot Yeo (groin), Jack Redden (thumb) and Lewis Jetta (calf).

The Eagles made a disastrous start against the 17th-placed Kangaroos, who kept their opponents scoreless in the opening quarter.

The Kangaroos ran harder and smarter, dominated the contests and stoppages, and were more dangerous going forward.

The 16-point margin at quarter-time could have been greater but for some wasted chances in front of goal.

It was the Eagles’ third scoreless first quarter in club history and first since 1998.

Ryan was one of four Eagles players who did not have a touch in the first term, but he injected himself into the contest during the second term as he sparked the Eagles, kicking one goal and setting up another for Brayden Ainsworth.

Kangaroos forward Nick Larkey was crunched by Shannon Hurn and assessed for a shoulder injury but returned after the main break.

The Kangaroos would not go away in the third term but consistently let themselves down with poor goal kicking, none worse than Todd Goldstein’s hooked shot from 25 metres out right in front.

It ultimately proved costly, as two final-quarter goals from Allen put the Eagles out to a two-goal lead they would not surrender.

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Allen finished with three majors and Ryan kicked two to be the only multiple goal kickers in a scrappy contest played in slippery conditions.

Jy Simpkin, Jed Anderson and Shaun Higgins were the Kangaroos’ best in a vastly improved performance to finish their season.

But the loss means the Kangaroos will collect their first wooden spoon since 1972 if the Crows upset the Tigers at Adelaide Oval on Saturday.

AAP/ABC



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Top-four more important than ever in NRL


Canberra centre Curtis Scott will miss Saturday’s NRL match against the Sydney Roosters with the reward of a top-four spot more important than ever.

Scott failed a fitness test on his leg on Friday, with rookie Matthew Timoko likely to start for the first time in the crucial clash.

Billed as a headline act due to Sonny Bill Williams’ return, the GIO Stadium grand final rematch could have far bigger implications on this year’s competition.

The winning team will have one foot in the top four for the end of the season, with the loser needing results to fall in their favour.

No side has won the competition from outside the top four in the NRL era – a feat even tougher in 2020 with teams to play for 18 weeks straights in the lead-up to finals.

“We want to finish in the top four and the Roosters want to finish in the top four,” Canberra captain Jarrod Croker said.

“You can give yourself two bites at the cherry.

“More importantly if you can finish in the top four and win that first week, that week off would be like gold.

“No one has had one for a while. If you can get in there and jag that it’d be nice.”

Saturday’s match is likely the biggest in the run to the finals for top-four hopefuls.

The Roosters then have games against Newcastle, Cronulla and South Sydney – with the Rabbitohs an unlikely shot at a top-four finish.

Canberra have games against the Warriors and Sharks to finish, after an away clash with St George Illawarra next week.

There is the potential that both the Roosters and the Raiders could join Penrith and Melbourne in the top four if Parramatta’s form continues to fade now five-eighth Dylan Brown is out.

The Roosters have missed out on the top four just once since Trent Robinson arrived as coach in 2013 and insist they’ll be confident coming from anywhere.

“The drive to perform and be as high on the table as possible is important,” Robinson said.

“You know the path you are going to take you will make it work.

“But I don’t think you’re going to restrict yourself to any negative thoughts when it comes to paths to winning something.”

STATS THAT MATTER:

* Canberra are aiming to be beat the Roosters twice in a season for the first time since 1990.

* A defending premier has not lost both grand final rematches in a year since 2014.

* The Roosters score the most tries in the NRL on the wings, with 44 this year.





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Wayne Bennett insists South Sydney have to beat a top-four contender ‘at some stage’ before thr finals as title credentials go on the line against Parramatta Eels


“It will be a big test [against the Eels] – we’re looking forward to it,” Bennett said.

“We’ve got five weeks and three top-four teams to play, so it doesn’t have to be [on Thursday] night. But at some stage in the next five weeks we need to show everyone we can be a real chance in the play-offs.

At some stage in the next five weeks we need to show everyone we can be a real chance in the play-offs.

Wayne Bennett

“That’s our objective at the moment and [Thursday night] is one of those games that are going to show us where we’re at.

“I’m really looking forward to the game and seeing what we can bring. The last three or four weeks have been good, so it’s a good time to play a team like Parramatta.”

Bennett won’t risk Dane Gagai (hamstring) despite naming him in his starting side earlier this week, paving the way for last week’s try-scoring debutant Steven Marsters to come into the centres. Alex Johnston (concussion) is another absentee from the 56-16 thumping of the wounded Sea Eagles.

Souths are gunning for five wins on the trot.

Souths are gunning for five wins on the trot.Credit:Getty Images

The Eels have struggled for fluency in attack in recent times despite holding a depleted Storm scoreless last week to further their claims for hosting rights in the opening week of the finals. They are in a share of second with Melbourne.

“The Rabbitohs played with a lot of momentum last week, fast and in-your-face footy,” Arthur said. “We need to be better at minimising our errors and gifting field position to them.

“We will continue to try and improve on our attack and get better at it and spend more time on it. But we can’t go away from what’s worked for us at the moment and what our priorities are.”

Bennett heaped praise on the Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker combination, which is flourishing on the eve of the finals. And he was much more interested in talking about his club side than the prospect of making a stunning return to the Origin arena.

“No one from South Sydney has talked to me about it, no one from anywhere else has talked to me about it,” Bennett said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s media driven and I know nothing at all. I have got no idea what’s going on.

“I’ll talk to Kevin first [if something changes]. We’re pretty good friends and we haven’t had a discussion about that. I don’t know what’s going on there and I don’t know what Kevin’s position is.”

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Top-four team “done and dusted” as Brown narrows flag hopes to four


Campbell Brown says only four teams can win the AFL premiership this year, and Port Adelaide is not one of them.

The 2008 premiership Hawk told Dwayne Russell that the Power have “peaked” and that they need to look at support for key forward Charlie Dixon.

“I think (Port Adelaide) are done and dusted,” he said on SEN’s Dwayne’s World.

“I think they might struggle a little bit, they really got found out last weekend against a top notch Cats side.

“They lose a couple of players due to the COVID restrictions – (Peter) Ladhams has been pretty serviceable and (Dan) Houston has been a star on the half-back line.

“They need to get a few more options up forward because if Charlie Dixon doesn’t play well, they really struggle forward of centre.”

The 2007 All-Australian also thinks Collingwood is out of the running.

“Injuries are starting to take their toll on the Pies,” he said.

“I’m not sure where it all fell away for them.”

Brown says Geelong are his favourites to take out the 2020 flag at this stage.

“Right now where we sit I think only four sides can win it,” he said.

“I’ve still got the Cats as the favourite no matter where the game is played.

“I’m very confident the Grand Final will be at the Gabba and it certainly gives the Brisbane Lions an advantage as well.

“Richmond obviously are starting to build pretty nicely and the West Coast Eagles (are the other team that can win it).”



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Eagles firm up top-four spot with solid win over Hawks


Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara and James Worpel were all good for Hawthorn, but Andrew Gaff, Luke Shuey and Luke Shuey were better – and had more help.

The Hawks have dropped to 16th on the AFL ladder after their sixth loss in seven rounds; two places lower than their worst finish under Alastair Clarkson (14th in 2005, his first season as coach).

Tap out: Eagle Nic Naitanui goes up against Hawthorn's Ben McEvoy in a ruck contest.

Tap out: Eagle Nic Naitanui goes up against Hawthorn’s Ben McEvoy in a ruck contest.Credit:Getty Images

They leave their Western Australian hub to enter one in South Australian for a three-game schedule, starting with a clash against ladder leaders Port Adelaide next week.

James Sicily is unlikely to be unavailable for some of those games, at best, after being helped from the ground in the dying couple of minutes with a knee injury.

Home sweet home

The Eagles have clearly enjoyed playing host to a hub in Perth, having won five consecutive games at home.

The margin on Sunday could yet prove important as the season unfolds.

Singing in the rain: Nic Read celebrates a goal on debut for the Eagles amid a brief downpour at Optus Stadium in Perth.

Singing in the rain: Nic Read celebrates a goal on debut for the Eagles amid a brief downpour at Optus Stadium in Perth.Credit:Getty Images

West Coast returned to Perth from Queensland after Round 6 with a 3-3 win-loss record, but a percentage of only 92.65 per cent.

Now after the 12.9 (81) to 7.7 (49) win over Hawthorn, that percentage sits at 121.1.

They may return to a Queensland hub after next week’s game against Greater Western Sydney, not only in the top four but with a percentage better than the second places Brisbane Lions and St Kilda (fifth).

They won’t be far off top side Port Adelaide, with Geelong (138.5%) the standout.

Welcome back Gov

Hawthorn provided Jeremy McGovern the softest return to AFL action after missing three games with a thumb injury.

The Hawks gave themselves plenty of chances to score, on the back of Mitchell and O’Meara’s solid work in the midfield. But they failed to make the most of their chances.

Happy returns: Jeremy McGovern added to the on-field firepower for the Eagles.

Happy returns: Jeremy McGovern added to the on-field firepower for the Eagles.Credit:Getty Images

Hawthorn went scoreless in the opening term, for the first time since Round 11, 2017 when they lost to Port Adelaide by 51-points.

They got themselves into dangerous scoring positions in the first term, more often than West Coast did. But every time they did, they kicked it high into their attacking zone, allowing McGovern and Tom Barrass to do what they do well – take intercept marks.

Hawthorn dominated inside 50 entries early in the game (14-8) and won the opening term (15-12) but lost the first quarter 3.4 (22) to 0.0 (0).

Barrass took five marks and McGovern four in the first quarter; the entire Hawthorn team took 14.

The Hawks finished the game with four more entries into their attacking area than West Coast had.

Worth the price of admission

While Josh Kennedy continued his goalkicking streak and run towards the Coleman Medal, it was Liam Ryan who got the crowd to its feet – three times.

The exciting small forward kicked three goals, all resulting from big pack marks that will make all highlight reels.

Flyin' Ryan: West Coast's Liam Ryan soars through the pack to take a spectacular grab.

Flyin’ Ryan: West Coast’s Liam Ryan soars through the pack to take a spectacular grab.Credit:Getty Images

The return ended a bit of a drought for Ryan who has not kicked multiple goals in a game since Round 3 against Brisbane, after having only three possessions against Carlton a week earlier.

Kennedy was against reliable in attack, also kicking three goals.

His first, the game’s first, was kicked from almost the exact same spot where Jack Newnes kicked the winning goal for Carlton against Fremantle the night before.

There is a bigman shootout looming for the Coleman Medal honour. Kennedy’s season’s tally is now 27, just three behind Geelong’s Tom Hawkins. St Kilda’s Dan Butler has 22.

WEST COAST 3.4 6.5 11.7 12.9 (81)
HAWTHORN 0.0 2.3 5.6 7.7 (49)

GOALS – West Coast: Kennedy 3, Ryan 3, Darling 2, Sheppard, Allen, Cripps, Reid
Hawthorn: Gunston 2, Glass, O’Brien, Burgoyne, Worpel, Shiels

BEST – West Coast: L Shuey, N Naitanui, T Barrass, A Gaff, D Sheed, J Darling.
Hawthorn: J O’Meara, T Mitchell, L Shiels, J Scrimshaw, W Day, C Wingard.

UMPIRES: Margetts, Johanson, Williamson
VENUE: Optus Stadium
CROWD: 22870

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