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Quiet achiever Bel Sprinter gets ready to chime in Singapore

Singapore: Jason Warren could not be happier with KrisFlyer International Sprint hope Bel Sprinter but the group 1 winner has attracted little fanfare in the lead-up to Sunday’s $S1 million ($816,000) fourth leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.
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The gelding has ticked all the boxes according to his trainer yet locals Mr Big and Super Easy, Hong Kong’s four-time winner at group 1 level Lucky Nine, Dubai-based Kavanagh and Japan’s sole representative Dasher Go Go have all been spruiked more than the son of Bel Esprit.

Stablemates Super Easy and Mr Big have drawn barriers seven and eight respectively with most considering Super Easy to have a slight edge on Mr Big.

Mr Big’s navigation is in the hands of Corey Brown and the gelding is out to atone for his game second to Ato in last year’s Krisflyer. The four-year-old won his first race on this day in 2011 at start two and has never missed a place in 20 starts on home soil. It’s a compelling resume.

Super Easy’s local credentials are equally impressive, however. He arrived in the Michael Freedman yard after winning once (from five starts) in New Zealand and quickly turned heads at the start of his three-year-old season. The son of Darci Brahma saluted in each of his first 12 starts at Kranji and his record at 1200 metres is outstanding. Adding to his hype is that Brazilian wizard Joao Moreira is aboard.

Last time out on April 28, he won the Lion City Cup at group 1 level at Kranji with stablemate Mr Big a battling second after leading to the 200m mark.

As parochial as the locals might be, Hong Kong raider Lucky Nine (barrier three) is proven at the elite level. He snared the Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin in December 2011 and many consider he will improve sharply on recent results on home turf.

The ”dark horse” in the field is Mike de Kock’s Kavanagh.

The South African-bred gelding has been sneaking around on outside tracks on trial mornings and will come in for support at odds. De Kock knows what it takes to get the job done.

And then there is Dasher Go Go. He’s not won for about 18 months, yet has been a consistent placegetter in good company at Nakayama, Kyoto and Sapporo in recent starts.

Italian Umberto Rispoli will partner Dasher Go Go for the first time and trainer Takayuki Yasuda has had a tremendous record in feature races. Last December, Lord Kanaloa snared the Hong Kong Sprint for Yasuda while Grape Brandy scored in the group 1 February Stakes at Tokyo.

So where does that leave Bel Sprinter? The back-room whisperers have found reason to tip away from the Aussie raider but he’s ready to run the race of his life.

Hugh Bowman is the right man, in the right place at the right time.

Despite the naysayers, it’s Bel Sprinter’s time to shine.

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Missy Longstocking books ticket for Sires

Missed by that much: Hot favourite Missy Longstocking (right) gets up to win for jockey Damian Browne from outsider Hallside Rose (Jim Byrne) at Doomben on Saturday. Photo: Tertius PickardThe Liam Birchley-trained Missy Longstocking will back up in next Saturday’s $250,000 Sires Produce Stakes after winning the Lancaster Stakes at Doomben. ”We were concerned at not having too hard a run with next week’s Sires in mind,” Birchley said. ”We’ve been playing catch-up with the filly. She’s exactly where we want her now. She’s switching off really well in her races.” Missy Longstocking got up in the shadows of the post as the $1.65 favourite. Jockey Damian Browne said although he was forced to race three wide the filly had cover. ”She relaxed really well, there is more development in her yet.” Birchley will decide after the Sires if Missy Longstocking goes on to the $500,000 J.J.Atkins.
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TRAJET TAKES OFF

Brisbane trainer Birchley made his annual trip to Scone and left a winner after Trajet broke the 2200m track record on Saturday. The seven-year-old was rated perfectly in front by James McDonald and will return home and target cup races during the winter carnival. ”I think I might even throw in a nom for the Brisbane Cup after that,” Birchley said. ”He is a promising stayer and there are a good range of races for him, and the plan is keep him going until the Queensland Cup over two miles in July.” Birchley opted to be in Scone rather than Brisbane where his smart filly Missy Longstocking won the Lancaster Stakes. ”I always try to come here because it is good for business,” Birchley said. ”I come and see some clients and the studs and will go to the sales [on Sunday].”

TWEET PERFECTION

Grahame Begg pinpointed the Woodlands Stakes for Tweet at the beginning of her preparation, and after four winless runs, she delivered on the listed stage. Peter Robl got his timing right to score from Mineko and Northern Glory. ”I rode her two runs back and she went outstanding,” Robl said. ”I think there have been a few winners come out of that race. She didn’t handle the track at Gosford. It was just a forgive run. She really enjoyed getting to the big track and it completed a plan Grahame had had all the way along.”

DIAMOND SHINES

Diamond Earth started her career as a tearaway youngster but now she is more crafty. The Choisir filly banked two Inglis bonus races as a two-year-old with sheer speed but in the Denise’s Joy Stakes, Diamond Earth got a sit before coming with a well-timed run to win. ”She always had the ability to do that, but as a young horse she would jump and run, so there was no need to settle her,” Robl said. ”She has been a great horse to me and now we can ride her a bit quieter. She is not a different horse, she’s just doing things a bit differently.”

CONNERS STAYS TUNED

Clarry Conners was doing it tough at Scone during the Doomben Roses protest. He watched on in the weighing-in room without sound. Conners was on the phone as soon as they came out of the stewards’ room in Brisbane trying to work out Dear Demi’s chances. He knew the protest result before anyone at Scone with another call giving him the good news.

JOY TURNS TO SADNESS

The owner of the first winner of the Scone carnival on Friday, Jason McKay, died shortly after his filly saluted. ”He was as fit as a fiddle. He had played polo for Australia,” Southern Girl’s trainer Darren Smith said. ”The horse won and five minutes later he had a massive heart attack.”

HAPPY HEATHCOTE

Trainer Robert Heathcote was all smiles after Solzhenitsyn won his second successive $115,000 Lord Mayor’s Cup at Doomben. Heathcote made headlines last week when he forgot to nominate Solzhenitsyn for the $500,000 Doomben Cup. In a two-horse war from the 700m, Solzhenitsyn ($2.40) prevailed over Transporter ($3.70) with Epic third. ”That’s what people come to the races for,” Heathcote said. ”At the end of the day, you’ve got a couple of group 1 jockeys on group 1 horses battling it out. I’m glad it’s over. It was a bit exciting.” Heathcote said he would have preferred to run Solzhenitsyn in the Doomben Cup, but added: ”We’ll freshen him up now for the Stradbroke.”

with TONY WHITE

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Panthers reopen old wounds for Elliot

Bad day at the office: Simon Mannering of the Warriors is tackled. Photo: Matt King Adam Docker of the Panthers puts on a fend. Photo: Matt King
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MATCH STATS

It was those who once were Warriors that haunted their former club as the Panthers racked up 62 points to send Matt Elliott from Penrith with an all-too-familiar headache.

In a lesson to the Wests Tigers in how to overcome adversity, the part Windsor Wolves, part Penrith Holden Cup and part first-grade team looked pretty in pink as they celebrated a 62-6 thumping of the Warriors. It was almost the greatest night in the club’s 46-year history history, falling four points short of breaking the record for the biggest winning margin set back in 2004 when the Panthers smashed Manly 72-12.

If it wasn’t bad enough the Warriors suffered the biggest loss in the club’s history, the defeat was compounded by the fact it was their former teammates, Isaac John and Lewis Brown, who led the Ivan Cleary-coached side to an emphatic victory.

John bagged a hat-trick while Brown nabbed a double as the Panthers racked up consecutive victories for the first time since rounds 24 and 25 last year. They may lack the marquee players to pack Centrebet Stadium on a weekly basis and are only using $2.5 million of their salary cap, but Cleary appears to finally have his recently gathered football team on the same page.

Spare a thought for Elliott, who must be wondering why he even bothered turning up to the ground that has provided him with so much heartache over the years.

He was dumped by the Panthers at the end of 2011 after failing to win one of 10 finals matches. And on his first trip back to the foot of the mountains as a head coach, Elliott left with that same underwhelming feeling as he witnessed his side produce a performance capable of challenging the Tigers for worst of the season.

They failed to find touch from a penalty, were offside from a kick-off, conceded two tries from dummy half, dropped enough ball to lose three games of football and somehow found the head of the touch judge with a cut-out pass.

Even halfback Shaun Johnson was pulled from the field early in the second half to watch the train wreck unravel from the bench.

While many put Penrith’s shock victory against premiers Melbourne last week down to a bad night at the office from the Storm, the Panthers went a long way on Saturday night to proving they won’t be easybeats. They did it without Lachlan Coote, Sam McKendry, Josh Mansour, Blake Austin, Cameron Ciraldo, Wes Naiqama, Tom Humble and Jeremy Latimore – all in the club’s crowded rehabilitation ward.

There has been criticism of halfback Luke Walsh and his inability to challenge the line, but even he was putting his body on the line. His goal-kicking was first class, kicking 11 from 11, and his general kicking game was equally impressive, putting in a pin-point accurate kick to send David Simmons into the corner.

The 9386 fans at Centrebet Stadium were even booing when Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei broke his side’s duck with two minutes remaining. Vatuvei’s try ruined what would have been Penrith’s biggest victory, but Ben Henry’s missed conversion ensured it was New Zealand’s worst loss.

Their previous biggest losing margin was recorded back in round 14 of 2000 in Wollongong when St George Illawarra ran riot 54-0.

Brown believes Saturday night’s win was a result of the confidence the side gained from the upset win against Melbourne six days earlier. “Last week was a big game for us and we took a lot of confidence out of it,” Brown said after the game. “Hopefully we can continue it.”

PENRITH 62 (I John 3 L Brown 2 K Kingston T Robinson M Robinson J Segeyaro D Simmons tries L Walsh 11 goals) bt WARRIORS 6 (M Vatuvei try B Henry goal) at Centrebet Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Henry Perenara. Crowd: 9,386.

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Members get chance to land $1000 in bonus scheme

The NSW Standardbred Owners Association has announced a series where its members can earn $1000 bonuses in races around the state.
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The cost of membership is only $50 and as long as the managing owner is a member at acceptance time, the NSWSOA bonus is $500, made in proportions by the association and the club.

If the horse is payed up for the Breeders Challenge there is another $500 bonus available from Harness Racing NSW.

The Young meeting on Friday offered the bonuses and Bankstown on May 31 will be the next meeting in the series. Membership can be purchased at www.nswsoa.org.au where a list of the meetings at which the bonuses will be available can be viewed.

Luke McCarthy has lost his appeal to be awarded costs after the HRNSW had to drop charges arising from Mach Wiper recording a level of boldenone higher than the threshold in the Australian harness racing rules after winning the 2011 Newcastle Cup.

The swab was shown to be contaminated, with the level of boldenone increasing each time Mach Wiper’s sample was tested. This was most likely caused by enzymatic activity, in turn caused by microbial contamination.

McCarthy battled to clear his name for six months after stewards originally found him guilty of a breach under the rules and disqualified him for nine months.

However, the racing appeals tribunal found there were no factors in the way in which the appeal had been run by the HRNSW respondent that required such a compensation order to be made and there were no exceptional circumstances.

Meanwhile, Neil Day leaves for France to contest the World Drivers Championships this week.

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Hernia upsets Ryan’s tilt for titles

Champion country jockey Greg Ryan will undergo a hernia operation on July 1, putting into jeopardy his quest to win the Australian, NSW and country riding titles. Ryan expects to be sidelined for up to six weeks. ”I had a mishap riding a horse a few months back and I’ve just been putting up with the injury,” Ryan said. ”It’s been uncomfortable. Not the sort of pain you’d throw yourself down on the ground with, but I’ve managed to cope. I can’t do anything at all for two weeks after the operation and it will probably take another month to get back to fitness. The time off won’t hurt me. It will be a bit of a freshen-up in the paddock.” Ryan is a prolific premiership winner but his time recuperating will give rivals the chance to overhaul his lead in the three riding categories.
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WEBSTER’S WISE WORDS

Former jockey and accomplished trainer Pat Webster is relishing his role as a Racing NSW mentor to apprentices in the field of drug and alcohol counselling. Webster turned up at Grafton races on Tuesday and, along with Malcolm Fitzgerald, spoke to a group of local apprentices on Wednesday. Webster, who was born and raised in Inverell, completed his drug and alcohol accreditation through a TAFE NSW course. ”I normally sit the kids down and talk about my personal family experiences and the dangers involved with drugs and alcohol,” Webster said. ”If I can help one or two kids out in life, that’s beneficial. It’s surprising how many young apprentices have had dealings with dads with drug and alcohol problems. I know in my own heart, this counselling is working and helping kids out. I’m mainly in the city and provincial areas but I love getting around the country. Kids in the country need this just as much as those in the city.”

BOOKIES TAKE A BATH

Bookmakers operating at last Saturday’s Cobar Cup meeting copped a pasting. Nearly 3000 people turned up and miner Wayne Prisk, the only trainer at Cobar, was the star of the show. Prisk saddled up three winners – El Ponderosa at $8, Teraset at $7 in the $7000 Cobar Cup, and Ziazan ($4). ”The locals had a field day following Wayne,” race caller Col Hodges said. ”Every one of his horses was well backed.” Parkes jockey Michael Hackett rode the three winners. Hackett partners Street Ride for Gary Colvin in Sunday’s $22,000 Parkes Cup. To make matters worse for the bagmen, Fallon Street, owned by long-serving Cobar mayor Lilliane Brady and trained by Rodney Robb at Forbes, won as a heavily backed $2 favourite. Then Narromine trainer Catherine Chapman saddled up Scar Tissue, which scored on the dirt track after being backed from $2.20 in to $1.80. Before the first race, Sydney-based Bradley Woods won a $4000 foot race named ”the Golden Mile”, for the third successive year.

TAB MEETINGS

Sunday – Parkes. Monday – Tamworth, Port Macquarie. Tuesday – Cessnock. Friday – Canberra, Casino. Saturday – Wagga.

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Cummings and Robl get cream at Scone

Anthony Cummings thought he would have a good day at Scone on Saturday but it turned into ”groundhog day”.
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The Randwick trainer has been enjoying his best season but stakes wins in consecutive races from Diamond Earth, Fontelina and Arctic Flight made it a day to remember.

”It’s groundhog day,” Cummings mused after Arctic Flight delivered on her potential, hanging on to win the Dark Jewel Classic.

”I was really happy coming here today because I had the right horses in the right races. It was the way the program worked out.

”I had three stakes wins on a day before when I had Casino Prince but this has just worked out perfectly.

”This carnival has been good to us in the past couple of years because we had three winners here last year.

”It is getting bigger all the time and if we can keep coming winning this many races I will be happy. ”

Each of the trio of victories was shared with stable rider Peter Robl, who had earlier kicked home Tweet for Grahame Begg for his best day at a metropolitan meeting.

”I have had five [winners] in the country and a few trebles in town but this is my best day,” Robl said.

”You look at the book of rides and think if everything goes right I could do this or do that. It has gone right.”

The next step for the Cummings trio will be Brisbane and potential group 1 racing.

Arctic Flight was sent to Cummings to try to get black type as she is out of Black Caviar’s granddam, Scandinavia.

”It was the plan to get that black type because of the family,” Cummings said. ”She has taken a bit of time to work out but her run at Hawkesbury [when runner-up in the Darley Crown] was very good.

”We needed to get that black type win and she has done that now and there are races for her in Brisbane.

”She is on the way up and a race like the Gai Waterhouse Classic and Tattersall’s Tiara are [not] out of the question for her.”

Arctic Flight showed great tenacity to fight off Pipette and Miss Stellabelle after looking in trouble at the 100m.

The truck to Brisbane will be full from the Cummings yard with Fontelina to head for the Stradbroke Handicap after his all-the-way win in the Luskin Star Stakes.

”He was always going to be very hard to beat once Pete [Robl] got a breather coming down the side,” Cummings said.

”He is the sort of horse that can reel off very quick sectionals and that is what he did.

”The Stradbroke has always been there for him and I think it is at the perfect trip for him. We are going to be pretty strong in it because Your Song is heading that way as well.

”I will need to find a new rider for him [Fontelina] but it shouldn’t be a problem after a win like that.”

Diamond Earth had kicked off the Cummings treble and she could go to the Tattersall’s Tiara as well.

Cummings called her ”the most durable horse” he had trained in the wake of her win in the Denise’s Joy Stakes over 1100m. ”At her last start she sat three wide and ran well so there’s a fair bit of merit there,” Cummings said. ”We will have to go home and have a look at the program and try and find a nice race for her before that [Tattersall’s Tiara].”

Diamond Earth is only the size of a pony, and holds a special place in the stable after winning two Inglis bonus races as a two-year-old. “She was winning those races on raw ability,” Cummings said.

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Latta’s Platinum Kingdom scores first Australian win at Doomben

Not even the temptation of a million dollars can sway the connections of Platinum Kingdom, the winner of Saturday’s $125,000 Fred Best Classic at Doomben.
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The Australian-bred, New Zealand-raced three-year-old gave Awapuni trainer Lisa Latta her first Australian win when the gelding won the group 3 event.

Asked if she would consider a start in the $1 million Stradbroke, Latta was emphatic.

”Even if he won the Queensland Guineas, his next start, he won’t go to the Stradbroke,” Latta said.

”He’ll have one more run in a listed event after the Guineas then head home for a rest.”

Starting at $15 and ridden by Jonathan Riddell, Platinum Kingdom scored by three-quarters of a length over the Chris Waller-trained Boban ($10) with a nose to Academus ($3.50) in third.

The favourite Sizzling was stuck well back in the ruck with little galloping room but failed to run on as expected.

Purchased as a weanling for $62,000 at a Magic Millions Sale, Platinum Kingdom took his record to nine wins from 17 starts.

”He’s such an honest and tough horse. He tries his heart out every time,” Latta said. ”He thrived when he arrived in Sydney and has done even better here [in Brisbane].”

Both Latta and Riddell said Platinum Kingdom had been targeted ”as a wet tracker”.

”He goes on all tracks, he’s just tough,” Latta added.

The $350,000 group 2 Queensland Guineas (1400m) is run on June 1 at Eagle Farm. Latta will then look to the $125,000 listed Daybreak Lover (1600m) at the same track a week later.

Riddell has a soft spot for Platinum Kingdom.

”He’s got electric gate speed which makes the job easier,” Riddell said. ”He’s a positive horse and travelled well today. He’s a horse that has just kept improving.”

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Beaten Up dishes out cup hiding

Trainer Chris Waller believes Doomben Cup winner Beaten Up has the potential to develop into a genuine Cox Plate horse in the spring.
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The English import on Saturday won his first group 1 event in Australia thanks to a patient ride by New Zealander Leith Innes in the $500,000 feature over 2000 metres.

”He probably won’t run again until the spring,” Waller said. ”Obviously he’s got to improve to be in a Cox Plate but the lead-up races will tell you that. He’s certainly got the potential.

Waller deserves much credit for harnessing Beaten Up’s potential.

The five-year-old gelding, who is raced by Rick Smith, Bruce Mathieson and William Haggas, the son of Beaten Up’s former trainer, arrived in Australia unheralded.

”He is a horse that had potential – it was just a matter of harnessing it,” Waller said. ”Overseas he was a horse with it all in front of him but he just lost his way a bit.

”The Australian environment and different training techniques have turned him around. It’s been a matter of keeping him happy.”

Waller’s decision to start Beaten Up in the Doomben Cup came late.

”We didn’t make a definite decision until Wednesday,” Waller admitted. ”After the good draw we decided to come to Brisbane.

”He arrived in Australia with no problems other than he can be a bit of a handful on the track. He’s like an unruly teenager. He wants to do everything right, but he’s got a few quirks.”

Beaten Up has had three previous Australian starts, the latest when runner-up to Mouro in the Rowley Mile at Hawkesbury on May 4.

The Doomben Cup represented a big step up in grade but Waller was always confident Beaten Up would acquit himself well. ”We haven’t panicked with the horse. We’ve kept him short of his pet distance, which is 2000 metres. We’ve been trying to teach him to settle. It’s worked.

”Full credit must go to Leith [Innes]. He showed great patience. That’s what it takes to win group 1 races; he’s a world-class rider. It doesn’t matter where you are, whether you are at Randwick, ‘Flemming’ [Flemington] or wherever, it’s a long straight and the post is where it counts.”

Waller has known Innes since he began training in New Zealand.

”Leith was an apprentice when I started and I’ve known him for a long time,” Waller said. ”When we decided to come to Brisbane and I didn’t have a jockey I was more than happy to put Leith on.

”He rode Sacred Falls [Waller’s Doncaster Mile winner] in his first six wins back home.”

Beaten Up started at $9.

Waller also prepared the quinella with $4 chance Foreteller beaten by three-quarters of a length.

Secret Admirer ($15) was a half-head away third.

Foreteller’s jockey, Jim Cassidy, who has won three Doomben Cups aboard the mighty Rough Habit (1991-93), played wisecracker after the event. As Waller was being interviewed by the reporters, Cassidy quipped ”Bloody Chris Waller, knocking me off … Onya, mate.”

Beaten Up’s victory was Waller’s seventh group 1 triumph this racing season. Waller later said he would be honoured if he topped the group 1 list of Australian trainers.

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Benji admits ego was bruised by bench role

Embarrassed: Benji Marshall made a late start. Photo: Brendan EspositoWests Tigers five-eighth Benji Marshall has opened up about his demotion, saying he was ”embarrassed” to have been benched against South Sydney while promising to do everything he can to ensure it is a one-off occurrence.
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”It’s embarrassing more than anything,” Marshall told Fairfax Media. ”Your ego takes a bit of a knock. But at the end of the day, he [coach Mick Potter] said he wanted a reaction … regardless of whether I was on the bench or not, I planned to play the way I played anyway. I don’t think it was going to change what I did. But he’s the coach, and he made the decision. You don’t have to be happy with it, but it’s his decision.

”I just hope it never has to happen again. I’ll do everything I can. I’ve been trying off the field to do everything I can, doing a bit extra. I’ve still got to do a job for our team, whether I’m on the bench or not. Hopefully, next week, I can do that from the kick-off, from the start.”

Potter, who made the dramatic decision to bench Marshall last week, has already indicated that he will return the Kiwi international to the starting side for Friday night’s clash against North Queensland at Leichhardt Oval.

Marshall, who sat on the bench for the first 17 minutes against the Rabbitohs, described the feeling as ”weird” afterwards.

”I didn’t really know what to do,” he said. ”It was unfamiliar territory. It’s heartbreaking, because you want to be out there helping your team. I know that I could have helped the team in the first 15. That was frustrating. But I went on and just tried to bring a bit of energy and spark to the team, and play the way I wanted to play. I thought I did that to a certain degree.

”I wanted to get involved a lot, try to get my hands on the ball as much as I could. I felt a little bit sorry for [halfback] Curtis Sironen, because I was taking over everywhere. But I had to prove a point. Whether I was sitting on the bench or not, or whether I started, I was still going to prove the same point.

”If you ask me if I was happy with the decision, no I wasn’t. But as a senior player in the team, you’ve just got to cop it. Considering how hard it was, I thought I handled it pretty well.”

Marshall, who last played off the interchange bench in 2006, said he had been ”shattered” when Potter told him last Tuesday that he would be replaced in the starting side. ”I argued a little bit about the reasoning behind it,” Marshall said. ”When you’re singled out a bit like that, it’s like, ‘Is it my fault that the team’s been losing?’ That’s what it sort of felt like. But he assured me that wasn’t the case. He just said he wanted a reaction. He’s the coach, he makes the decisions. He’s got to live and die by them. I just had to do a job when I came on and I tried to do that.”

Marshall handled the ball more times than any other Tiger except hooker Robbie Farah, and gave his side some spark when he was on the field. Yet he also conceded that he would be feeling the effects of his toe injury for some time yet.

Asked about the magnitude of the result, the Tigers’ worst loss to Souths – handing his club its longest losing streak in the process – Marshall said: ”Sometimes you’ve got to take into account the class of the team you’re playing against. I think some people forget we were playing the team that was on top of the table. They were on top of the table for a reason. They’re a good side, and they outplayed us in most facets of the game.”

Twitter – @Glenn__Jackson

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Leader of Tigers to bow out of fight

Falling on his sword: Steven Humphreys. Photo: Steve Christo Wests Tigers chief executive Stephen Humphreys has resigned, saying the move will help pave the way for a new spirit of cooperation between the partners of the joint-venture club.
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Humphreys made the decision on Friday night but will continue in the role for the next two months while a replacement is sought. The former Qantas and British Airways executive, who took the job in July 2009, said he had made his decision with ”a heavy heart”. Humphreys and the entire club have been under pressure following a disastrous start to the season which has left them in last place. He made the decision before the embarrassing 54-10 loss to South Sydney on Friday night.

”I’ve got long personal ties with the club; I love it and have genuinely found it a privilege,” Humphreys told Fairfax Media. ”It’s a big call and one I do with a heavy heart, but I’m doing it because it’s in the best interests of the club.

”It’s in that context that I make that difficult personal decision. Wherever I might end up, I’ll always be looking out and trying to help out however I can.”

Humphreys has been caught in the middle of boardroom politics between the Balmain and Western Suburbs factions. Significantly, those parties have come together to work through their differences and resolved to modernise their corporate structure, with the help of the NRL, in the interests of working more harmoniously. It is in this context that Humphreys chose to step aside, to allow a new chief executive to drive the partnership.

”I love this club and have always found it a privilege to work here, but given that proposed change program the board is going through we have agreed now is the ideal time for a new CEO to come through and assist the board with some of that change work,” he said. ”We’ve agreed that I’ll be moving on in a couple of months. In that period of time it will be business as usual and I will do everything I can to improve things and support the board in particular and protect our commercial interests. After that period of time, they can bring in a new CEO.”

The son of former rugby league administrator Kevin Humphreys, Stephen was touted as a candidate for the job of ARLC CEO, which eventually went to Dave Smith. Humphreys has had a long history with the club since his time as a player. He wore the jersey 40 times at first-grade level.

While the club is going through a difficult period on and off the field, Humphreys was adamant Wests Tigers had a strong future. As for his own, he was unsure what his next move would be. ”I’ve not thought about what to do next professionally because I’m totally committed here and will be for the next couple of months,” he said.

”My mind will turn to that in time. I love the game and would dearly love to be involved. I’ve got skills and experiences I can apply to a range of different things and I’ll do that one step at a time. For me it’s been about making this decision, which has been difficult. Now it’s made, I’ve got two months to finish as well as I can here and it’s a commitment I’ve made to [chairman] Mike [Bailey], [deputy chairman] Nick [Di Girolamo] and, most importantly, myself.”

Bailey paid tribute to Humphreys, describing him as one of rugby league’s ”great communicators”. ”Steve has been a great ambassador for rugby league and this club,” he said. ”One of the most disappointing aspects in losing him was that he wasn’t here for the premiership we won in 2005.”

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