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Joey says DCE deserves Kangaroos role ahead of Cleary, Bunker under fire again, Talakai sore but OK

Immortal halfback Andrew Johns thinks Nathan Cleary hasn’t done enough to unseat Daly Cherry-Evans as Kangaroos halfback.

Cleary made a stunning return from a five-match ban to lead Penrith past Parramatta last Friday and is widely considered the best player in the game but Johns is not convinced he should be Australia’s starting halfback at the World Cup.

Cherry-Evans is the incumbent after playing in the most recent Test, almost three years ago against Tonga but Johns said on Freddy & The Eighth that the Manly skipper should also be Australian captain ahead of James Tedesco. 

“I think Daly Cherry-Evans deserves to be the halfback, after his Origin series. Before Origin I thought Nathan would but if you’re looking at Origin in particular, I think Daly deserves to be after the Origin series halfback and captain.

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“I’m just saying it’s my point of view. Daly is the incumbent, we haven’t played for a couple of years. I think he deserves first shot at it, and captain.”

Needless to say, his co-host, Blues coach Brad Fittler disagreed, saying Cleary’s consistency should get him the nod ahead of Cherry-Evans.

PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 09: Nathan Cleary of the Panthers is tackled during the NRL Qualifying Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the Parramatta Eels at BlueBet Stadium on September 09, 2022 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Johns has also sounded off about the bunker, warning the NRL needs to get serious about limiting its involvement following the constant interference in Sunday’s Rabbitohs-Roosters playoff.

Johns is adamant the bunker is getting way too involved and he wants to see it scaled back with a second referee reintroduced.

In his Sydney Morning Herald column, Johns said he did not blame referees or bunker officials for the current predicament but the administrators who gave the video reviewers too much influence.

“If the referee doesn’t see it, if the linespeople don’t see it, if the penalty isn’t that obvious, let it flow. The solution: two referees.

“At the end of this year, the players, coaches, the RLPA, even some people from the media, need to sit down with the NRL and come up with a solution.”

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 26: Nathan Cleary of the Blues kicks next to Daly Cherry-Evans of the Maroons during game two of the State of Origin series between New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons at Optus Stadium, on June 26, 2022, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Siosifa saddle sore after Cowboys targeting 

After getting through 93 minutes of work only to lose at the death, Siosifa Talakai claims Cronulla’s last-gasp loss to North Queensland can steel them for bigger finals tests.

Talakai said he felt like he had been “run over by a truck” after getting through 21 carries in last weekend’s 32-20 golden-point loss to the Cowboys.

The Sharks now face Souths at Allianz Stadium on Saturday and must win to ensure their promising first-year under Craig Fitzgibbon doesn’t end in straight finals defeats.

“It was a good lung buster and gave me a reality check,” Talakai told reporters.

“No team has done it (gone beyond 90 minutes) in a while and I don’t think any other team has done it this year.

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

“If anything it’s prepared us more for this game, it was a pretty good experience for us as a team.

“This week is more of a mental game – it’s about attitude. I know we are all going to get up for it.”

Talakai was busy all evening and had former teammate Chad Townsend to thank for waking up sore.

Townsend sent plenty of the Cowboys’ kicks down to Talakai’s winger Ronaldo Mulitalo and it meant the centre’s impact was blunted.

When Mulitalo returned the ball, Talakai was the man forced to bear the brunt of the next hit-up early in the tackle count.

“We studied their game quite a bit and Chaddy has been their main kicker and we knew the ball would come to our edge,” he said. “It was a sight to see when their whole team is coming to smash you.”

While the Cowboys currently have their feet up in Townsville awaiting a home preliminary final, Talakai is desperately nursing his.

The Sharks centre reaggravated a foot injury in their final-round defeat to Newcastle but was cleared to play against the Cowboys. He has been regularly icing his ankle but insists he should be right to tackle Souths, a team Talakai knows well. 

He used to compete against Hame Sele at shotput and was given his NRL debut by assistant coach John Morris. But Talakai’s biggest adversary looms on Sunday when he sits down for breakfast with his six-year-old son Tevita.

“He’s a Souths fan,” Talakai grins. “If I win I get to give it to him.”

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