Wallace keen to mix it with Maroons titans

A whirlwind 12 months will come full-circle for Jarrod Wallace if he earns Maroons selection for next month’s State of Origin opener.

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Last February Wallace was one of eight players deemed ineligible to play for Queensland after breaking curfew during an Emerging Origin camp.

Now playing for the Titans, Wallace realises that kick in the guts might have been the spark he needed to get into another gear.

“I’ve always wanted to play for Queensland. It definitely hurt last year when I wasn’t allowed to,” Wallace said.

“If I get the opportunity to play for Queensland this year I’ll definitely take it.

Wallace returned home to the Gold Coast after spending six years with Brisbane and his homecoming has been impressive.

His return to the holiday strip was due to lack of playing time at the Broncos and the desire to lock down a starting spot. So far he has delivered, playing in all eight games and averaging 63 minutes a match for the Titans.

Wallace quickly realised he was in for a tough slug becoming a starting prop.

“After round one I actually had to roll out of bed, I couldn’t even sit up out of bed I was pretty sore,” Wallace said.

His form hasn’t dropped since then and he has managed 30 tackles or more in every game bar one (he registered 29) and ran for a career-best 264m against his former club in round seven.

Wallace’s transition and form this year earned praise from his schoolboy hero Petero Civoniceva, who backed him for Origin duty.

“He certainly wouldn’t look out of place in an Origin jumper, that’s for sure,” Civoniceva told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

“He’s proven himself over the last couple of weeks that he’s definitely got the qualities to go to that next level and he’s playing great footy which is fantastic to see.”

Pendlebury welcomes short AFL turnaround

Far from worrying about Collingwood’s short AFL break, captain Scott Pendlebury says it is just what the Magpies need.

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The Magpies have only five days between Tuesday’s Anzac Day loss to Essendon and their next match against unbeaten Geelong at the MCG.

Losing to the Bombers has left Collingwood in a 1-4 hole and intensified speculation about the future of coach Nathan Buckley but Pendlebury, fuming about his own poor game against Essendon, said the short break can work to the Magpies’ advantage.

“Playing on a five-day break after a loss is the best thing that can happen,” he said in a club podcast.

“You get a chance to go back out there so quickly, you don’t have to wait.

“Last week, just waiting nine days to play Anzac Day after the St Kilda game, you want to get back out there as quick as you can, to address the issues.”

Pendlebury only had 20 disposals against Essendon and said it was his worst game in a decade.

The 29-year-old said he was ill before the previous week’s loss to St Kilda. He offered no excuses for his poor Anzac Day performance amid speculation he is carrying an injury, saying he had done the most running against Essendon out of his five matches so far this season, but simply played poorly.

“Yesterday was my worst game that I’ve played in 10 years,” he said.

“I just wasn’t impactful.

“It certainly wasn’t through a lack of effort or running or work rate.”

Pendlebury is usually among the Pies’ best on Anzac Day but said this year’s effort was one to forget.

“I was very disappointed … I was very filthy I didn’t play my part,” he said.

“It doesn’t sit well, knowing you let the side down.

While Collingwood are struggling, Pendlebury said they had identified their problems and are working hard to fix them.

“It’s going to take more than one week to fix, but hopefully it doesn’t take six or seven,” he said.

Former PMs weigh in ahead of Trump meeting

Australia should be disposed to committing more troops to the fight against Islamic State, former prime minister Tony Abbott says, as Malcolm Turnbull looks to his first face-to-face meeting with US President Donald Trump.

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The leaders’ agenda in New York next week is expected to include the battle against extremists in Iraq and Syria, as well as how to respond to North Korea’s development of missiles.

Asked how Mr Turnbull should respond to a possible request from the US for more Australian forces in the Middle East, Mr Abbott told 2GB Radio: “If the Americans want additional Australian assistance, I think we should certainly be prepared to consider it. We should be disposed to do it.”

Australia is already one of the largest contributors to the fight against IS, with about 1000 personnel in Iraq and RAAF aircraft carrying out at least 2000 missions against the jihadist group’s strongholds.

Meanwhile, other former PMs have also offered their advice.

Paul Keating said it was important Mr Turnbull underline the need for a stronger relationship between China and the US.

“It doesn’t suit the United States or Australia for (China) to be de-legitimised because of US strategic interests,” Mr Keating told a Lowy Institute event on Wednesday.

“The most important thing for Australia is that there is peace in the Pacific between the two major powers.”

One thing Australia must not do with the Americans is keep bowing down.

“This is just bad behaviour. Bad, bad, bad behaviour,” Mr Keating said.

Kevin Rudd said Mr Turnbull should seek support for global diplomatic talks over North Korea, suggesting Kazakhstan could host a meeting.

“The possibility of massive destruction in Seoul itself should focus the mind when it comes to any contemplation in the United States about the wisdom of unilateral military action,” he told ABC radio.

“I’d begin to talk about what the South Koreans should and could do, and also bilaterally with the North.”

Mr Turnbull said in a statement in response to the invitation to meet with Mr Trump that it would be an opportunity to reaffirm the US-Australia alliance and America’s engagement with the Asia-Pacific.

Bulldogs star Johannisen eyes new AFL deal

Western Bulldogs speedster Jason Johannisen has renewed contract talks with the reigning premiers after a scintillating start to the AFL season.

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The Norm Smith medallist opted to put negotiations on hold earlier in the year as the AFL and the players’ union continue to thrash out a new agreement which could substantially increase player salaries.

But Johannisen has confirmed his management is back in discussions with the Bulldogs in the hope a new deal can be sealed soon.

A product of East Fremantle, Johannisen had been expected to draw plenty of interest from across the competition – especially the West Australian clubs – but the 24-year-old says he’s relishing the opportunity to be part of the Bulldogs’ premiership defence.

“I’ve never been a part of a football team that’s so close – it’s pretty special,” he told AAP.

“What we achieved last year has sort of gone behind us. The new challenges that have brought us here today and the new journey that we’re going to go across this year has kept the group pretty excited, and we just can’t wait.”

After an exemplary finals campaign, Johannisen has continued to deliver for the Bulldogs, averaging 26 disposals per game and providing important run-and carry off half-back.

With coach Luke Beveridge preaching the need for versatility, Johannisen has looked to spend more time on the wing and up forward after spending most of last year in the back line.

“You’re always looking at ways to improve, so you can’t be too happy with yourself, but I’m in a great place at the minute,” Johannisen said.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in my ability and I’m just looking to use my strengths.”

The Bulldogs have shown glimpses of brilliance and an unrivalled ability to close out games on their way to a 4-1 record but are yet to replicate the ferocity of last year’s inspired finals campaign.

They will face a major test on Friday night when they travel to Canberra to face Greater Western Sydney – a side they narrowly edged in a fierce and gripping preliminary final last year.

“All the hype of a prelim – obviously it’s going to be extra pressure because you know what’s going to be at stake,” Johannisen said.

“It was a very high-pressure game and it was probably exciting to watch. They’ve got great talent and it’s going to take our best to win.”

Kiwi flair gives Meninga chills down spine

Now this is what a real ‘big four’ looks like.

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The Kangaroos will barely have time to fit in a visit to Questacon, but coach Mal Meninga insists his men will be learning all about New Zealand’s much-vaunted spine next week.

The likely return of former Kiwis captain Kieran Foran and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has the undefeated Australia coach on high alert ahead of Friday week’s Test in Canberra.

Together with Warriors clubmates Issac Luke and Shaun Johnson, the quartet will finally reunite in black for the first time since the corresponding fixture two years ago.

And in an ominous sign for the world’s No.1-ranked nation, Foran has lost just one of his past 11 Tests for the Kiwis dating back to the mid-year Test four years ago.

He has won three of his past four clashes against the Kangaroos, and will again be a key figure in what is expected to be a much-improved side that lost the Four Nations final last October.

Meninga predicted the Warriors’ foursome would be the first four names picked by counterpart David Kidwell when the Kiwis team is announced on Sunday.

“From a cohesion combination, short preparation point of view, that makes them extremely dangerous,” Meninga said of what is widely-regarded as the best spine in the NRL.

“We all know what a great player Kieran is, taking pressure off Issac Luke and Shaun Johnson … Roger’s back too obviously.

“That combination’s something we have to prepare really well for given the short preparation.”

Meninga on Wednesday made minimal changes to the side that gave him his sixth win from as many games as Kangaroos coach at Anfield.

Will Chambers and Aaron Woods came in for injured duo Greg Inglis and Matt Scott, while the only unforced change is the return of Josh Papalii for Canberra clubmate Shannon Boyd.

Meninga is adamant Papalii deserved his recall after missing the final due to injury himself.

“He played in Newcastle last year and played in the Four Nations as well but unfortunately got injured,” he said.

“But his form, you can’t deny him a spot in this team.”