Pendles can reach 350 games says Buckley

Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury could add another 100 games to his tally before he hangs up his boots according to his coach Nathan Buckley.

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The champion midfielder will reach the 250 game milestone in Sunday’s huge clash with Hawthorn at the MCG.

In reaching that mark, Pendlebury will join Lou Richards and Peter Daicos as equal-11th on the Collingwood games record list.

But Buckley says with Pendlebury still at the peak of his powers, the 29-year-old could play on to 350 to equal Footscray great Doug Hawkins.

“It’s possible,” Buckley said of the mark.

“When your’e prepared to go to the lengths that he (Pendlebury) does in preparation you wouldn’t ever suggest that he’s not capable of anything that he puts up.

“We think it’s a bit of a gag at the moment but I reckon that somewhere in the back of his head at the moment, he’s thinking, ‘That’s what I’m going to do’ and he probably will.”

Buckley said he continued to be impressed by Pendlebury’s consistency and that in his fourth season as captain, his leadership continued to grow.

He felt he was a great role model for young players.

“His greatest strength is his understanding of himself, the game, the professionalism to keep finding a better way.

“He’s never satisfied with where he’s at and that’s a great example to our young players and also a fair reason why he’s been able to stay current in the game and be an elite performer for so long.

Meanwhile, Pendlebury returned the compliment with a glowing endorsement of Buckley’s coaching style.

Pendlebury said the entire Collingwood playing group wanted Buckley to coach next year.

“Absolutely I would. I’m really keen for him to stay on and he’s got the whole group behind him,” Pendlebury told radio station SEN.

“We’re doing a lot right we just haven’t got a few results and I’m a big fan of the way he coaches and I think for him to leave at the end of the year, he’d be leaving right as he’s got this group ready to make a real crack at it.”

Fensom out to show Canberra what they lost

Bad blood has simmered to the surface ahead of Shaun Fensom’s first game against former club Canberra after the North Queensland claimed the no-frills forward had a “point to prove”.

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Fensom signed for the Cowboys in February after the Raiders released the 28-year-old with a season left on his deal due to salary cap pressures.

The call to abruptly ended the local junior’s eight-year stint in the nation’s capital was described by Ricky Stuart as: “the hardest thing I have had to do as Raiders coach”.

Fensom has remained tight-lipped about his exit, but Cowboys assistant Todd Payten revealed the workaholic back-rower would be out to prove Stuart wrong on Saturday in his 150th NRL game.

“I think he was rightfully disappointed with the way it was handled,” Payten said of Fensom’s Raiders departure.

“He has a point to prove on Saturday.

“I am looking forward to him proving some people wrong down there.”

Fensom missed a chance to run out against his former club in round one, not making his Cowboys debut until the third week.

But Payten said nothing would stop him running out against the Raiders on Saturday night.

“I am pretty excited to see Fenno go up against his old team,” he said.

“He’s been excited about that all week.

“He copped a fair knock last week and came off.

“I asked him post game whether he was sweet for this week and he said ‘I’d play with one arm against my old team’.

“That’s where his head is at the moment.”

Fensom is averaging 85m and 20 tackles a game off the bench for North Queensland this year.

“He’s been invaluable for us this year,” Payten said.

“He came in the week leading into round one – he had to learn very quickly.

“We have had injuries go against us and he has had to play big minutes at certain times and he has really handled his end.”

Fensom will be desperate to help inflict more pain on Canberra with a Cowboys win.

Pre-season title favourites the Raiders need to win six of their remaining nine games to remain in the finals hunt after three straight losses.

“Look at where they were last year and where they are now – I think they would concede they are underperforming,” Payten said of Canberra.

Arthur hails Moses after Eels’ victory

Mitchell Moses may have kicked the game-winning field goal, but Parramatta coach Brad Arthur was just as delighted with his five-eighth’s defence in Thursday’s win over Canterbury.

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Moses turned in easily his best performance for the Eels since his dramatic mid-season exit from the Wests Tigers, including a clutch 25-metre field goal in golden point.

However, he also came up big in defence, with his 15 from 17 tackle count his best effort since he completed 16 of 17 in his club debut almost two months ago.

In his six games so far, Moses has missed a total 21 tackles.

But the former Tigers star came up with a trysaver to deny Bulldogs centre Josh Morris when the game was on a knife edge midway through the second half.

“He got his body in front and made his tackles. He was nice and committed. He needs to do that for us every single week,” Arthur said.

The Eels mentor was also proud of the way Moses delivered when it mattered after what had been a turbulent period in his career.

The win means Moses has now won four of his six games since switching camps.

“It’s nice for Mitchy to do that. It’s a big moment and he nailed it. He was nice and calm going into golden point, spoke really well to the players,” Arthur said.

“He’s had four wins from six games – I don’t know the last time he’s done that. And he’s had to fit into a new style of football, defensive systems, and how many coaches he’s had in the past.

“He’s just had to adapt, and he’s adapted really well.”

The win consolidates the Eels’ spot in the top eight with just two months remaining, however Arthur urged his team not to get caught in the excitement of the finals race.

“They want to play finals, but we’re still a long way off being there come September,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do. What’s really important for us is how we travel next week to Melbourne and play against a team that doesn’t give you much.”

Broncos confident of covering Oates injury

The thought of losing Corey Oates should sound alarm bells for Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett ahead of Friday night’s NRL clash with leaders Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium.

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But Bennett is confident the third placed Broncos will avoid a repeat of last year’s 48-6 loss to the Storm without Oates if the Broncos winger succumbs to a mystery illness ahead of kick-off.

In the corresponding match last year, Brisbane lost Oates early to concussion and hat-trick hero Suliasi Vunivalu ran amok in the Brisbane winger’s absence as Melbourne romped to the record win.

Oates is again in doubt for the Suncorp Stadium re-match after pulling up sore from an unknown virus and failing to train on Thursday.

Oates will be given until kick-off to prove his fitness but he is expected to be replaced by young flyer Jonus Pearson.

Bennett didn’t expect history to repeat on the scoreboard if Oates was ruled out.

“Oatesy got himself knocked out and our best repalcement was (pint sized bench utility) Kodi Nikorima and they exposed our vulnerability there,” Bennett said of last year’s blowout.

“It was just one of those nights but we are in good shape here.”

Bennett backed Pearson to step up to the Vunivalu challenge if required.

“He’s a wonderful talent,” Bennett said of Pearson, who has played five NRL games.

“He won’t let anyone down against Melbourne.

“He was pretty raw when he first came into the NRL squad last year, he’s matured a lot.”

The Broncos have not beaten Melbourne in Brisbane since 2009.

But Bennett hinted at a drought breaking win, saying Brisbane were in the best shape in years ahead of their blockbuster clash.

Brisbane are sitting pretty on third after winning eight of their last 10 games despite negotiating their way through the demanding State of Origin period.

They will also welcome back playmaker Anthony Milford (shoulder) and skipper Darius Boyd (thumb) as soon as a fortnight.

“We are in a really good position this time of year,” Bennett said.

“We are nearly through the toughest of our program.

“We are winning games and winning constantly – you can’t ask for much more at this time.

“But it doesn’t get really serious until three weeks when everyone gets back from Origin.”

Lions can halt SBW without Te’o: Gatland

The British and Irish Lions insist they haven’t gifted All Black Sonny Bill Williams a saloon passage over the gain line by dropping Ben Te’o for the second Test.

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Lions coach Warren Gatland delivered a major tactical statement for Saturday’s Test in Wellington by demoting Kiwi-born hard man Te’o to the reserves bench and starting with twin pivots.

Ireland first five-eighth Johnny Sexton pushes Owen Farrell out a spot, with both boasting kicking and tactical skills to attack the All Blacks in a multi-faceted way.

Moments after announcing his team, Gatland raised eyebrows with his assessment of Williams, who waged a tough advantage line with his former NRL sparring partner Te’o.

“We’ll have to do a job defensively on Sonny Bill Williams. He came pretty direct against us and got a couple of offloads,” he said, unprompted.

Gatland’s remark attracted criticism his backline now lacked the muscle to cope with the cross-code star.

The coach said a change in methods and attitude would make an important difference to last week’s rearguard against Williams in the 30-15 first Test loss in Auckland.

“We allowed him too much time on the ball,” Gatland said.

“We have to make sure our line speed in terms of stopping that”

Restored captain Sam Warburton said the Lions were guilty of letting the All Blacks get over the advantage line in the first two or three phases of their attacks, making it hard to then slow possession or win turnovers.

“It is a collision game. We have to make our first tackles count because if you can slow the ball for those first 2-3 phases, it makes the rest of the game so much easier.

“When New Zealand are so efficient and they play so quickly, you’re tired and it’s hard to get off the line to put those collisions in.”

On the subject of Te’o’s absence, All Blacks Centre Anton Lienert-Brown said Ngani Laumape’s power running for the Hurricanes against the midweek Lions hadn’t gone unnoticed.

Laumape rampaged down inside channels relentlessly, earning the uncapped midfield back a Test bench spot.

“You can learn a lot from that. Obviously that’s the strength of Ngani’s game and I guess that was in the Hurricanes’ game plan to run down that 10 channel,” Lienert-Brown said.

“With two 10s there, that’s something we could look to expose.”