Knights blunder before Lamb’s NRL shank

Newcastle have admitted to blundering the decision over who would take the crucial penalty kick which could have sent their thrilling NRL loss to Canterbury into golden point.

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The Knights were shattered after giving up a 10-point lead with five minutes remaining in their 20-18 defeat to an emotion-charged Bulldogs at Belmore Sports Ground on Sunday.

After the Bulldogs snatched the lead with a minute remaining thanks to a Moses Mbye runaway try, the Knights had a chance to save it after the bell when Josh Reynolds was penalised for pushing Chanel Mata’utia off the ball from the restart.

Trent Hodkinson had kicked three from four but decided to hand over the resulting attempt at a penalty conversion to Brock Lamb.

Hodkinson — who has been plagued with chronic knee issues throughout his career — was worried he couldn’t make the distance.

He revealed he had misunderstood how far out the kick was to be taken from, thinking the penalty had been blown 40 metres from the goals posts, a distance he didn’t think he could make.

In fact the mark was 30 metres out, a range he felt he could make comfortably.

Afer Lamb’s shocking kick sailed low and left of the uprights to cap a memorable Bulldogs win, Hodkinson said he was wrong not to pull rank and step back in to take the shot.

“I thought the penalty was on the 40 metre line and obviously Lamby has the bigger boot,” Hodkinson told Triple M.

“He slots them over at training all the time.

“When he lined it up it was on the 30 (metre line) and I didn’t want to take it off him. He was zoned in.

“I probably should have taken it. I’m filthy I didn’t.”

Lamb has kicked at 82 per cent this year and is considered a reliable boot.

However the 20-year-old seemed to suffer a case of the yips under the extreme pressure after coming up with the kick which led to Mbye’s game-winning try just minutes earlier.

“My message was if Hodko thinks he’s got the distance in him then take it, if he doesn’t then go with Lamby,” Knights coach Nathan Brown said.

“Lamby actually strikes the ball really, really well.

“What happened before probably played a part in how he struck the ball. He’s kicking goals at nearly 90 per cent.

“As hard as it is to take, it’s just part of the journey these kids are on. I can see the makings of a really good side.”

Buckley, ‘Pies will welcome AFL trip north

A mid-winter escape to the Gold Coast has extra meaning for Nathan Buckley as speculation ramps up about his AFL future.

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The Suns will host Collingwood this Saturday and the Magpies coach will appreciate the trip for a lot more than just the weather.

Whatever happens at Metricon Stadium, the away match will give Buckley and his team a couple of days respite from the intensity of the game’s Melbourne heartland.

The Magpies have lost their past four matches and are languishing in 15th place with a 5-10 record, their finals chances shot.

Buckley felt that Saturday’s loss to arch rivals Essendon was a tipping point for his underperforming team.

“The job now is to spend the next 48 hours having a look at how we can possibly refresh, energise, change up a few things, re-frame and give the players something to achieve over the next seven weeks,” he said.

Asked about his own future, Buckley said he was “pragmatic but not defeatist” and would continue to focus on improving his team.

The off-contract coach admitted the ongoing speculation about his job had taken a toll on his players.

“They’re only human, and there’s no doubt that it does impact in some shape or form, but that’s the reality and it ain’t changing,” Buckley said.

“We need to make sure that we understand that, look after the things that we can control and prepare as well as we can for next week.”

Club president Eddie McGuire is overseas and there are ongoing reviews of club operations.

McGuire brokered the controversial 2009 agreement where Mick Malthouse handed over the senior coaching role to Buckley two years later.

The Magpies finished fourth in 2012 but their win-loss record has worsened every year since.

This will be the fourth-straight season where they finish outside the top eight.

Power’s Ryder a walk-up for All-Australian

West Coast coach Adam Simpson reckons Paddy Ryder is a lock for All-Australian selection this season after the Port Adelaide ruckman played a starring role in Sunday’s 32-point win over the Eagles.

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The Power looked to be in trouble after West Coast booted seven unanswered goals to open up a 24-point lead in the second term.

But Ryder put on a rucking masterclass to inspire Port Adelaide to the 18.12 (120) to 13.10 (88) win.

Ryder finished with 17 disposals, 39 hit-outs, six tackles and two goals in a best-on-ground display.

His herculean performance helped Port Adelaide’s midfield dominate when the game was there to be won, with the Power dominating the inside-50m battle 37-14 in the second half.

Ryder missed all of last season to serve a doping ban emanating from Essendon’s 2012 supplements scandal.

It meant 197cm utility Jackson Trengove was forced to shoulder most of Port’s ruck load in 2016.

But Ryder has made up for lost time this year, playing a crucial role in Port Adelaide’s surge into fourth spot.

Simpson conceded his team’s ruck pairing of Scott Lycett and Nathan Vardy had their colours lowered in the ruck by Ryder.

“Ryder is the No.1 ruckman in the comp at the moment,” Simpson said.

“He would be an All-Australian straight up walk-in selection in my eyes.”

Power coach Ken Hinkley was equally glowing in his praise of Ryder.

“He’s a pretty special player. I love him,” Hinkley said.

“He’s the best ruckman in the competition and we’re lucky to have him back in the team this year.

“He is dominating games week in, week out.”

Port Adelaide went some way towards shaking off their ‘pretenders’ tag with their fighting win in Perth.

But Hinkley knows there’s still plenty of work to do if his side is to secure a top-four finish.

Port Adelaide host North Melbourne on Saturday, before facing off against finals aspirants Melbourne, St Kilda, and Adelaide in the following three weeks.

Young midfield gun Sam Powell-Pepper is expected to face the Kangaroos despite injuring his right shoulder against the Eagles.

Powell-Pepper was clearly distressed while he sought medical attention in the second quarter after laying a heavy tackle.

But he was able to return to the field in the second half without any issues.

Maroons’ Holmes ready for Suncorp debut

There’s no place like home for Queensland in State of Origin.

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But Maroons flyer Valentine Holmes admits he won’t be so familiar with his surroundings in Wednesday night’s State of Origin decider in what will be his first game at Suncorp Stadium as a senior footballer.

Remarkably Cronulla star Holmes has never played at the Maroons’ spiritual home since he ran out for the Queensland under 20s in a 2014 Origin curtain raiser.

In just his second Origin, Queensland winger Holmes hopes to help extend the Maroons’ stunning run at home in crunch games and seal their 11th series triumph in 12 years.

Overall the Maroons have won the past three series deciders held in Queensland and claimed the past four Origin III matches at Suncorp Stadium.

Queensland may have made themselves at home at Suncorp Stadium but Holmes admits he had never had the pleasure as a senior player.

“I honestly haven’t played there since I was 18 before the main Origin,” Holmes said.

“There were only a few thousand people but I was at that (Origin) game watching later and it was a massive crowd.

“They’re very passionate the Queensland supporters and talking to a few of the boys they’re excited by it and they said it’s the best field to play at.

“But I haven’t played a first grade game there so I don’t really know what it’s like.”

Test winger Holmes made his Origin debut in Queensland’s game two win in Sydney, scoring a try after tiptoeing down the sideline.

Holmes said he would now try not to get too overawed by the prospect of running out on to Suncorp Stadium in the famous Maroons jersey.

“The greats Queensland had with Darren Lockyer, Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri, Wally Lewis and all those guys, you want to put on that jersey that they all threw on,” he said.

“And everyone here is telling me how good that stadium is, one of the best stadiums they say in the world to play at.

“I’m excited to get out there on Wednesday.”

Overall Queensland have dominated Origin deciders, winning 12 – including the past six – compared to NSW’s four.

The Blues haven’t won a decider since 2005.

Marchionne sends ‘laggard’ Raikkonen a warning

“I think Kimi has got to show a higher level of commitment to the process,” he told reporters before the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.

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“There are days when I think he’s a bit of a laggard, but we’ll see. I am going to talk to him today, we’ll see what happens.”

Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion with Ferrari and now 37 years old, is out of contract at the end of the season and has not won a race since he was with Lotus in 2013.

While four times champion team mate Sebastian Vettel, also out of contract at the end of the year, has won three of eight races and leads the championship by 20 points from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, the Finn is fifth overall.

Raikkonen’s best result of the season so far was second in Monaco in May and he finished fifth on Sunday after starting from third place. Vettel was second behind Mercedes’ winner Valtteri Bottas in Austria.

Vettel, with 171 points, has scored more than twice as many as Raikkonen (83).

“Obviously I want to do well,” the Finn told Reuters after the race. “I can only do the best that I can. It’s not like I’m not trying. Unfortunately, it’s not been very straightforward sometimes but that’s part of F1.

“We keep pushing and I’m sure things will get better.”

VERY SATISFIED

Marchionne said he was very satisfied with the team’s performance, after a dismal 2016 season in which they failed to win a race, and also with Vettel despite the German’s recent ‘road rage’ controversy with Britain’s Hamilton.

“It’s not perfect, I think we (have) still left a lot of potential gains on the track. We can make that difference up. I still think that Mercedes has a slight edge over us,” said the Italian.

“I am happy with what Sebastian is doing, just in case anybody is wondering.”

Vettel was handed a 10 seconds stop-and-go penalty during the race in Azerbaijan last month for deliberately banging wheels with Hamilton while they were behind the safety car.

The German was then summoned to a hearing at the sport’s governing FIA (International Automobile Federation) in Paris last Monday, which decided to take no further action after Vettel apologised and accepted full responsibility.

FIA president Jean Todt said on Saturday that the Ferrari driver would face “very severe consequences” if there were any further such incidents.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)