Storm’s Croft ready to replace Cronk

Melbourne Storm new recruit Brodie Croft says he is ready to make his mark at the NRL club.After being handed the keys to the Melbourne Storm – literally – by departing halfback Cooper Cronk, Brodie Croft says he’s ready to make the place his own.

With Cronk shifting to the Sydney Roosters after 14 seasons with Melbourne, Croft has not only taken over his No.7 playing jersey but also his locker.

“It was pretty special the first day of pre-season when I came in and I got given his locker and that took a bit to get used to because I felt like I was sitting in his locker,” the 20-year-old said.

“The boys have been good about telling me that I have to make that locker my own and go from there.”

Croft, who was mentored by Cronk over the past two seasons, says the Test halfback has given him the tools for success, starting with their round one clash against the Bulldogs in Perth on Saturday night.

“I learnt a lot off him in those two years and I’m walking in his footsteps pretty much every day at training here,” said Croft, who has played six NRL games.

“It’s different not having him around here but I believe from what I’ve learnt from him I can now go out there and do it myself.”

Croft says his game differs to Cronk in that he likes to run the ball to open up his passing game to feed the Storm’s dangerous right edge which has Test stars Will Chambers, Suliasi Vunivalu and Felise Kaufusi.

Croft says the challenge will be for him to put his stamp on the game and not be intimidated by his own teammates like NRL legends Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.

“The coaches have told me that being the No.7 I have to have the confidence to call the shots,” the Queenslander said.

“I’ve been working to make sure I’m not over-awed and don’t worry about what they’ve done and just worry about doing my job and that’s to run the team around the best I can.”

Fullback Slater has been ruled out of round one with a sore shoulder but Croft felt they could cover for him.

“He’s a big loss but I don’t think it’s an extra load on me,” he said.

“We’ve got some options to come into the side and we’ve got such a high calibre of players in our team already that we will do everything we can to cover him.”

Penrith wanted others over me: Peachey

Tyrone Peachey says hePenrith utility Tyrone Peachey admits the club’s decision to prioritise their other off-contract players made the decision easy for him to move to Gold Coast next NRL season.

The Titans last week confirmed signing Peachey on a three-year deal beginning in 2019 after he gained a release from the final year of his current deal with the Panthers.

His exit gives Penrith more funds to re-sign representative winger Josh Mansour, who is on the verge of a massive payday following his return to the Kangaroos squad last year.

However the bigger carrot is likely to be gun halfback Nathan Cleary, who has two more years remaining on his current deal but has signalled a desire to team up with father Ivan.

“If I could stay, I’d stay. But just the situation at the club – (there are) a few players off contract they want to keep,” Peachey said on Monday.

“The opportunity came at Gold Coast and (Penrith boss Phil Gould) gave me the all clear and made the decision a lot easier for me.”

The 26-year-old said the security of a three-year deal at the Titans, where he will re-unite with fellow ex-Panthers Bryce Cartwright and Leilani Latu, was too good to refuse.

The Titans will also be coached this year by former Panthers assistant Garth Brennan.

“I’ve been here for five years now and I’ve got a lot of family. My little girl just turned one so I’ve got a little family to look after. They just give me the security that I needed,” Peachey said.

“I spoke to Brenno and he thinks the club’s growing up there. The decision was tough. I’d love to stay but there’s a few players off contract that the club wants to keep over me.

“The decision had to be made.”

Peachey, who began his career at Cronulla and is the nephew of Sharks great David, said he was hopeful of leaving the Panthers on a positive note at the end of the season.

Penrith are widely considered a strong chance to play in the finals.

“The coaching staff, everyone in Penrith has been awesome for me. I can hopefully just leave on a good note and do better than what we did last year,” he said.

An ice addict’s warning: ‘It will take your house, your car, your kids, your job, your life.’

HE was a promising Huntersurfer with the world at his feet, but after an injury –and years of self-medicating for depression with recreational drugs – Mickfound ice.

“I had a hit of it, I smoked it, and I thought – where has that been all of my life?’” he said.

Everything seemed clearer. He felt “10 foot tall and bulletproof.”

For the next 10 years,there was no looking back.

“A mate of mine warned me about ice. He said, ‘Be careful, it will take your house, your car, your kids, your job, your life.’ And it did. And it does. To everyone, eventually,” he said.

Mick, not his real name, was using crystal methamphetamine – also known as ice – while working on the coal loaders at Kooragang Island, and as a fly-in fly-out worker on a large gas power station interstate.

“When you know someone, they pull you in on the big jobs, and youjust go from job to job to big job,” he said.

“We’d take home three grand some weeks. I had a bit of a habit, and then I’dhavetwo spare grand in my pocket. We had money to burn.

READ MORE:Ice ‘rife’ in construction industry

“We were all dodging the drug tests, and having the time of our lives.”

Mick remembers arriving at workso high that he tried to “swipe in” with his bank card.

At the time, he wasbuilding scaffolding and working decks at the coal loaders.

He would “power through” the work because he couldn’t sit still.

He wouldnot sleep for up to a week at a time.

“We walk around with tinted safety glasses on all the time.

“No one is looking at your eyes.”

When the effects eventually wore off, he would sleep “for days.”

“At the coal loader, I used to swipe in and people were standing in lines for the drug tests at the Winnebagos,” he said.

“There were cars and people going everywhere.

“I thought someone was going to come and tap me on the shoulder because I hadswiped in, but no one did. It was like an honour system.

“People were like sheep.

“So for three years I never lined up, and I never got tested.”

READ MORE: Hamilton south program aims to reduce the use of ice

A spokesman for Port Waratah Coal Services at Kooragang Island said drug testing was“random” and“mandatory.”

“If you are on site, you are tested, and that has been our policy for a very long time,” he said.

Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group chief executiveAaron Johansen said testing wasmandatory for all people on site –employees, contractors and visitors.

Anaudit wasconducted each testing day to ensure all people entering the site’ssecurity gatecompleted a test before being allowed to work.

“While the nature of the investigation by the Newcastle Herald suggests that the employee could have been a former contractor on site, we believe our practices are rigorous enough to identify anyone who attempts to come to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” he said.

While working on the gas power station, Mick said he would smoke ice right up until about four days before a medical.

“I’d stop smoking ice, sleep for four days, self-test myself with a kit I’d buy at the chemist –know I was clean, then go and do my medical,” he said.

“After that I’d get high until my plane left.I wouldn’t sleep for a week.”

He had done things he wasn’t proud of, such as introducing other fly-in fly-out workers based at the Queensland camp to the drug.

“Some guys lost their home loans because I brought ice in to the camp,” he said.

“They had $20-$30 grand saved up for a deposit, but they loved it, and all of a sudden Imade it available.”

One of his best friendshad died within a year of starting to usethe drug.

Ice was widespreadin the building and construction industry, he said.

“It’s a double-edged sword. They don’t want guys to be on drugs while they are constructing –but they need them to be working efficiently, and fast, on night shift, and 12 hours a day,” Mick said.

For a while, he coped.

But eventually, the wheels started to fall off as his addiction took hold.

It began to affect his relationships with his friends and family.

Whenever the ice ran out,he would lose his job because he stopped showing up for work.

“When the ice is good, you cannot get any higher or clearer-headed,” he said.

“You think your life is on track for a little while, then things start happening. But you don’t blame the ice. It’s everybody else.

“I used it for 10 years, and for the last three years I was injecting because smoking it didn’t do anything after a while.”

He tried to quit, cold turkey.

He isolated himself at a friend’s house “up the coast,” smoking marijuana as a substitute.

“I had beenself-medicating, mainly for depression,for years. But I loved a good time as well,” he said.

Then a friend came to visit, armed with an “eight ball”of cocaine.

“I’m not going to blame my mate, I’m a big boy. Idid it because I wanted to do it,” he said.

“We came back down to Newcastle and I went back to where I had been staying, and before I knew it, I was back in the same place.

“Addictedand on the hunt for ice.”

Mick has been cleanfor aboutseven months, largely thanks to the Smart Recovery program offered at the Samaritans’ Recovery Point in Broadmeadow.

“I hit rock bottom. There was nowhere left to go,” he said.

“Ice addiction is a carousel. You can’t get off unless you jump. And most people have nothing to fall to.

“I was lucky I had thesupport of my family and friends –that some of them still had faith and trust in me.

“And the Samaritans helped me more than I could ever imagine.

“I’m doing clean urine tests every time I go down to the Samaritans.

“But I stillthink about ice every day. It’s hard, but it’s not hopeless.”


Six teens charged over Sydney robberies

Police have charged six teenagers over a spate of robberies across Sydney.Six teenagers have been charged following a spree of aggravated robberies across Sydney, with one of the “vicious” attacks leaving a man in his 60s fighting for life.

The first attack took place just after midnight on February 24 when a 29-year-old man was grabbed from behind before being assaulted and robbed in Ashfield.

Three more men were attacked and robbed in nearby parts of the city that same day, the worst of which happened about 1pm when a 64-year-old man was attacked at Enmore.

He fell to the ground, injuring his head, with the attackers stealing his wallet before taking off in a dark hatchback, police allege.

The victim was transferred to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in a critical condition with bleeding on the brain.

“Although he’s now on the road to recovery, he has to undertake ongoing treatment,” Detective Acting Super Intendant Gary Hutchen told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

Detectives linked the group to a series of frauds with stolen credit cards at fast food outlets and a stolen Honda Civic seen near the sites of the robberies.

Police last week arrested three teenage boys – aged 15, 16 and 18 – over what Det Supt Hutchen described as “street level attacks on defenceless people”.

They have been charged with a litany of offences including grievous bodily harm, multiple counts of robbery and obtaining financial advantage by deception.

In another attack on February 28 two robbers walked into a service station in Padstow and threatened the cashier with a knife, police allege.

They fled with cash in a red Nissan which was stopped by highway patrol at Milperra a short time later.

Three teenagers – two boys and a girl – have been charged over the armed robbery. At least one of them is believed to be linked to the first group of teenagers, AAP understands.

Det Supt Hutchen praised the professionalism of officers and said law enforcement.

“All crime can have a devastating and lasting impact, particularly offences involving armed robbery,” he said.

“The psychological and physical harm can be ongoing for a long period of time.

“If greed drives you to commit this style of offence please think again – police will thoroughly investigate and you will be caught and brought before the courts.”

All six teens remain before the courts.

JT to Cowboys: play for team, not for me

Johnathan Thurston wants the Cowboys to focus on beating Cronulla, not his 300th NRL match.It’s the beginning for the end for one of rugby league’s greatest players and a milestone he has waited nine long months to reach.

But Johnathan Thurston wants his North Queensland teammates to forget about his 300th NRL match on Friday night and focus on the task at hand – beating Cronulla.

Thurston admits he was “looked after” by the NRL after the Cowboys’ season-opener was scheduled at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville instead of an away fixture.

That’s where he wants the special treatment to end.

“If I or the boys are thinking, ‘Let’s do it for JT’, we’ll be sadly mistaken and copping a hiding on Friday night,” Thurston told reporters on Monday.

“For us it’s about preparing the best that we can and making sure every individual turns up.”

Thurston was left stranded on 299 games when he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in June last year.

The 34-year-old managed to patch it together to play in Queensland’s miraculous State of Origin II win but was unable to return for the Cowboys and underwent a full shoulder reconstruction.

He has already retired from representative rugby league and will hang up the boots for good at the end of the 2018 season.

“Even though it’s a big week for myself, we can’t lose focus of what’s important and making sure everyone’s preparing as best as we can,” Thurston said.

“Hopefully we can kick-start our season with a win but I’m sure the Sharkies have other plans.”

Thurston said he has full confidence in his shoulder after putting it to the test in two pre-season hit-outs against Wests Tigers and Melbourne.

He expects it to be targeted by a Cronulla side that will be hell-bent on revenge after North Queensland knocked them out of last year’s NRL finals series in the first round.

“While I’ve still got a lot to work on, I thought I took a giant leap in the Melbourne game,” Thurston said.

“I got knocked over with the ball and trampled a few times.

“Certainly that’s given me confidence and no doubt I’m sure they’ll be throwing plenty of tackles at me.”

The Cowboys will reportedly be without fullback Lachlan Coote, who injured his hamstring against the Storm.

Teams disagree over David Warner’s rampage

Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja restrain David Warner as and South Africa break for tea.A war of words has broken out in the wake of David Warner’s stunning tea-time rampage in Durban, with South Africa claiming were also guilty of personal sledging in the spiteful Test.

Dramatic footage emerged on Monday of Warner being restrained by teammates in an off-field confrontation with South Africa keeper Quinton de Kock.

The CCTV video shows a fired-up Warner remonstrating with de Kock as the teams walked upstairs to the change rooms during Sunday’s tea break.

Match referee Jeff Crowe and the International Cricket Council continue to probe the ugly episode, but it’s understood it was sparked when de Kock made disparaging comments about Warner’s wife.

South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis, whose contribution to the tea commotion was to emerge from the rooms and tell Warner to move on, argued on Monday “there was a lot of personal stuff being said” by “both parties”.

Proteas team manager Mohammed Moosajee suggested Warner got personal in his sledging and “whatever happens out on the field, you giving something you’ve got to take it”.

Du Plesiss and Moosajee wouldn’t get into nitty-gritty, but the Proteas are privately alleging that Warner referenced de Kock’s sister and mother in some verbals.

captain Steve Smith wouldn’t confirm what triggered the rampage, but repeatedly rejected accusations made personal comments about de Kock.

“We were certainly very chirpy out on the field as well. As far as I’m aware we didn’t get personal towards Quinton,” Smith said after his side’s 118-run win.

“I don’t think it was personal at all, but Faf can say what he likes I guess.

“What he (de Kock) said got a little bit personal towards Davey and as we saw it certainly provoked an emotional response.

“Those things aren’t on and you can’t be getting into somebody’s personal life … that’s crossing the line.”

Warner is physically held back by Usman Khawaja in the footage then shepherded into ‘s rooms by Smith.

“What was said and done during that interval was regrettable on both sides,” Smith said.

“At times we need to pull things back and ensure we are playing within the spirit of the game.”

Du Plesiss, who admitted he’d never seen anything like the incident in his career, called on umpires to take better control during games.

“If you chirp each other it’s always on the field. There needs to be boundaries,” he said.

“Umpires play a big role in that, to make sure that you don’t let it get to that stage.”

Du Plessis had no issues with the tourists’ sledging in the Test.

“If I don’t hear that then I’m disappointed,” he said.

“I’m certainly not sitting here complaining about it. It’s the way we play our cricket against them.

“I don’t decide where that line is.

“Quinny’s fine … when you look at him now, it’s like nothing happened.”

Smith made it clear that ‘s aggressive approach on the field would remain intact.

“We play our best cricket when we’re aggressive, we’re in the fight together, we’re hunting as a pack,” Smith said.

Tas Lib vote not pointing to fed election

Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman was returned on Saturday, offering hope to Malcolm Turnbull.A booming Liberal primary vote in Tasmania might offer hope to Malcolm Turnbull, but experts say the result was almost entirely down to state issues.

Will Hodgman’s Liberal government was returned on Saturday with a primary vote of just over 50 per cent, but coalition sources don’t believe the result is a pointer to the next federal election.

Instead they expect the strong Liberal performance will help recruit candidates and volunteers for the next poll.

“This is a vote very, very much about state issues and probably less contaminated by federal factors than just about any other state election I’ve seen,” Tasmanian election expert Kevin Bonham told AAP.

Dr Bonham said the Turnbull government’s poor position in the polls would ordinarily be a drag on an incumbent state government.

“Yet there hasn’t been a swing against the state government to speak of at all,” he said.

University of Tasmania politics lecturer Richard Herr said the result could help the Liberals recruit well to win federal seats.

“Success breeds success,” he told AAP.

It might also help the coalition decide to push Labor’s Justine Keay over her citizenship, as the Liberal vote was especially strong in her electorate of Braddon.

The Liberals won Braddon, Bass and Lyons in 2013 but lost them all in 2016, meaning they hold no federal lower house seats in Tasmania.

The Greens could drop from three members to just one, and Dr Bonham says they have problems with candidate choice and no galvanising issues.

“The Greens are suffering from a lack of political oxygen and a lack of novelty factor, a lack of anything that inspires voters to vote for them,” he said.

But party founder Bob Brown said Labor had pinched the Greens’ policy on poker machines, and the Liberals flooded the state with advertising.

“I’ve never seen an election like it,” he told Sky News.

He said there are environmental issues resonating with Tasmanians, including fish farming concerns and the privatisation of national parks.

Dr Herr said the Greens had to refresh their party and agenda if they were to find a second generation of voters.

The Jacqui Lambie Network polled poorly and Dr Bonham said the former senator, who didn’t run herself, will find it difficult to get a quota at the next half-senate election.

Ms Lambie said she could not have properly committed to a state seat, given her federal ambitions.

“I more than likely would have won a seat … but then I would have brought instability to Tasmania because my dream is to get back into the Senate,” Ms Lambie told Sky News.

In Her Time tipped for big return from injury

In Her Time winning the Sydney Stakes last October. Picture: AAPNewcastle trainer Ben Smith said punters can expect to see a bigger and stronger In Her Time when the mare steps out foran exhibition gallop on her home track on Friday.

The three-time group 2 winner has not raced since a luckless second in the group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on October 27 last year. She was then scratched on raceday from the Darley Classic two weeks later because of a hoof injury sustained in the Manikato.

Smith has nursed the five-year-old, a winner of seven races from 17 starts and $1.41 million, back to full fitness with the first-up target of the group 1 The Galaxy (1100m) on March 24 at Rosehill. In Her Time, which had eight weeks in the paddock, will gallop between races at the Newmarket meeting then trial at Randwick on Tuesday.

“We just had to do a bit of corrective shoeing and get the heel to grow down a bit,” Smith said.“We gave her a bit of time, just doing the right thing by her, and she’s come back a lot stronger.

Ben Smith. Picture: AAP

“She’s about 35 kilos heavier than when she raced in the Manikato. She’s a much bigger and stronger girl, and she’s going really well.”

He said the $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes (1200) at Randwick on April 7 wasIn Her Time’s main target before a Brisbane campaign and shot at securing a spot in the $13 million The Everest.

On Monday, Newcastle trainer Kris Lees announced that Prized Icon would not race in the n Cup on Saturday and would go to the Ajax Stakes on March 17.

Smith, meanwhile, saidFloki, a winner at Canterbury last Friday night, would next contest the Gosford heat of the Provincial Championships on March 17.

He also has Anecdote resuming in a 900m race at Newcastle on Friday.