‘Incredibly challenging’: Grieving Dockers band together as they remember former teammate McCarthy

Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir has revealed some Dockers players were in doubt to feature in Friday night’s 48-point loss to Sydney following the sudden death of former Docker Cam McCarthy.

McCarthy died at the age of 29 on Thursday night, with Fremantle players left rocked when the news broke on Friday.

A tribute to McCarthy was held before Friday night’s match, with veterans such as Nat Fyfe, Luke Ryan and Alex Pearce fighting back tears as they remembered their former teammate.

Both Sydney and Fremantle players wore black armbands in memory of McCarthy, who played 49 matches for the Dockers between 2017-2020 after starting his career at GWS.

After the match, Fyfe and Pearce laid down flowers in the goal square in memory of McCarthy.

In the hours leading up to the match, Fremantle made a change to its emergencies list by adding key defender Hugh Davies as defensive cover.

Davies was not required in the end, but Longmuir revealed the move to add him to the emergency list was made due to the prospect of players pulling out of the match in the wake of McCarthy’s death.

“We had players that were very close not playing, so I’m proud of the way they went out and competed in difficult circumstances,” Longmuir said after the 13.9 (87) to 4.15 (39) loss.

“Some of our players have known Cam for a long period of time and continued those relationships post him playing for us.

“(Football boss) Joe Brierty did a great job getting around those who we knew were close to Cam, visiting those guys and making sure that they felt safe to make a call whether they wanted to play or not.

“I’m really proud of the way the club came together, put our arms around those who are hurting and I was really proud of those players for going out there and competing the way they did.”

Longmuir said it was important for the player group to remain united and connected while they mourn McCarthy’s passing.

“We need to make sure we do things together,” Longmuir said.

“Make sure we keep checking in on each other, make sure that the players that are affected have got the multiple avenues that they feel comfortable with and can go to.

“This is why you play team sports … so you can go through the tough times together and you’ve got people to lean on, and that’s what trademark and connection is all about.

“So we need to stand true in these difficult moments.”

Former Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich said McCarthy’s death would’ve been “incredibly challenging” for his former teammates to deal with.

“I think it would’ve been incredibly challenging, particularly for those close to Cam. For those players it would’ve been particularly hard,” he said on Fox Footy’s coverage.

“When your leaders of the club have that toll on them, that can permeate through the group.

“But in terms of effort, their effort was strong all night.”

Seemingly buoyed by the stirring pre-match scenes, Fremantle came out of the gates hard, but were made to pay for some woeful kicking in front of goal throughout the contest. 

Fremantle’s goalkicking issues were made worse by Sydney being ruthless at the other end of the ground.

The Swans booted 10 straight goals to start the match before registering their first behind in the third quarter. At one stage in the second half, Sydney’s score of 10.1 was mirrored by Fremantle’s 1.10.

Brownlow Medal favourite Isaac Heeney continued his strong start to the season with 28 disposals and eight clearances, while Will Hayward kicked four goals for the Swans.

Sydney’s win over Fremantle allowed it to move four points clear at the top of the ladder after Geelong was upset at Kardinia Park by Port Adelaide earlier on Friday night.

The Cats fell behind by as many as 49 points before mounting a furious second-half comeback, but Port was able to hold on for a six-point win.

It was Port Adelaide’s first win in Geelong since Round 21, 2007, the year the two teams faced off in the grand final.

In the absence of injured skipper Connor Rozee, Port’s midfield trio of Ollie Wines (33 disposals, nine clearances), Zak Butters (34 disposals, seven clearances), and Jason Horne-Francis (26 disposals, seven clearances) stood tall.

Playing in a record-equalling 355th career match for the Cats, Tom Hawkins was held to a goal in another quiet outing for the veteran forward.

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Look back on how all the action from Friday’s AFL double-header unfolded in our live blog.

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That’s going to be it from us for tonight folks!

Hope you enjoyed the coverage of the double-header once again. Make sure you join us tomorrow afternoon as we bring you all the action from the AFL’s Super Saturday.

Sydney 13.9 (87) def Fremantle 4.15 (39)

A wayward Fremantle have produced a Friday night flop, ending an emotion-filled day with a 48-point AFL loss to Sydney at Optus Stadium.

Will Hayward kicked four goals and Isaac Heeney tallied 28 disposals and eight clearances as Sydney soared a game clear on top of the ladder with the 13.9 (87) to 4.15 (39) win.

Fremantle players were left devastated when news of Cam McCarthy’s death at the age of 29 broke on Friday morning.

A total of 11 Dockers players who took to the field on Friday night were former teammates of McCarthy, who played 49 games for the Dockers between 2017-2020.

Fremantle veterans Nat Fyfe and Alex Pearce had tears in their eyes as both teams paid tribute to McCarthy in an emotional moment before the match in front of 46,198 fans.

When play got underway, Fremantle were their own worst enemies with fluffed shots on goal and horror turnovers.

The halftime scoreboard told the story of the contest – Sydney kicking 9.0 (54) to Fremantle’s 1.8 (14).

Seven of Sydney’s nine first-half goals came from Fremantle turnovers, including five in a horror second term for the Dockers.

Fremantle’s goalkicking was simply horrible.

Patrick Voss missed the opening two shots of the game, while Jye Amiss sprayed a set shot and kicked another snap out of bounds.

Fyfe’s shot on the run faded, while Luke Jackson and Andrew Brayshaw were also off target.

In contrast, Sydney made the most of their opportunities, with Chad Warner, Will Hayward and Joel Amartey kicking two goals each in the first half to give the visitors a 40-point lead at the major break.

Sydney’s tackling was a feature, with Fyfe caught holding the ball three times in the first quarter alone.

The Swans’ first miss of the match didn’t arrive until the four-minute mark of the third quarter, when Hayward’s 50m set shot faded.

But the damage had already been well and truly done by that stage, with Fremantle’s 1.5 in the third quarter further hampering their cause.

Amiss had been in the headlines all week after Dockers coach Justin Longmuir expressed his disgust at the illegal treatment the spearhead had been receiving this season.

The 20-year-old barely got a sniff all night against the Swans, finishing with 0.1 from six disposals.

Sydney also unlocked a tactic that other teams will no doubt follow – tagging defender Jordan Clark.

James Jordon did an excellent shutdown role on the rebounding defender, limiting Clark to 16 disposals.

Clark’s turnover in the second quarter also led to a Sydney goal.

Sydney’s Nick Blakey could be in doubt for next week’s blockbuster clash with Carlton after an accidental clash of heads with a teammate in the final term.

Dockers midfielder Caleb Serong racked up 25 disposals in the first half before finishing with 34 possessions and three clearances.

Sydney midfielder Chad Warner kicked two goals from 23 disposals.

More from Pavlich on a heavy night for Fremantle

Fremantle great Matthew Pavlich with some more commentary on the loss of Cam McCarthy.

“I think it would’ve been incredibly challenging, particularly for those close to Cam. For those players it would’ve been particularly hard,” he says.

“When your leaders of the club have that toll on them, that can permeate through the group.

“But in terms of effort, their effort was strong all night.”

Lovely post-game gesture from heartbroken Dockers

Alex Pearce and Nat Fyfe were overcome with emotion before the game, and they look absolutely devastated at the final siren.

The pair lays some flowers in the goal square in memory of Cam McCarthy, as Pearce touches his black armband and looks to the heavens.

Emotional stuff here in Perth.

FT: Swans wrap up massive win over wasteful Dockers

Sydney continued on its merry way in 2024 with a commanding win over the Dockers!

It was an emotional night for Fremantle, whose players tried their absolute guts out, but in the end they couldn’t overcome a night of woeful kicking.

Both teams looked absolutely spent in that final quarter.

The Swans now sit a game clear at the top of the ladder after Geelong’s loss earlier tonight.

Blakey headed for concussion test

Nick Blakey remained on the field for a few minutes after that head-clash but now he’s off.

Swans erring on the side of caution. Highly doubt we see Blakey back on the ground, even if he passes that concussion test, given there’s just over six minutes remaining.

Impact of McCarthy tragedy on Freo players

Former Fremantle skipper Matthew Pavlich has discussed whether Cam McCarthy’s passing impacted this result.

“They actually handled the emotion of it well, they just haven’t been able to execute,” he says.

“Maybe they were too amped up. Sometimes you can’t execute because you’re trying too hard.”

Two in two minutes for Sharp as friendly fire rocks Blakey

Jeremy Sharp with another one!

This one is from a similar distance, but a tighter angle and he’s up and about.

Surely there’s not enough time for a Freo comeback, right?

Meanwhile, Nick Blakey had a bit of a head clash with his own teammate Matt Roberts and was briefly shaken up, but he remains on the ground.

Sharp with a consolation goal for Freo

Where has this kicking been all night?

Jeremy Sharp unleashes a bomb from just inside the 50m arc off one step and drills it!

That goal came after Will Hayward had kicked his fourth to put the Swans 57 points ahead.

Margin getting ‘ugly’ as Swans add another one

A 50m penalty against Hayden Young in the middle of the ground draws Ollie Florent within scoring distance, and he makes no mistake on the set shot.

Swans out to a 51-point lead and the body language doesn’t look great out there from Freo.

“It could get ugly because you can feel the gas has just gone out of Freo,” says Pavlich on commentary for Fox Footy.

Rampe off as Swans activate sub

Sydney has taken Dane Rampe off, with Robbie Fox activated as the tactical sub.

No injury for Rampe, just some load management.

The yips impacting Swans as well now

After being so accurate, the Swans have missed a few of their own opportunities.

Will Hayward missing a very gettable set shot, while James Jordon missed one from close in a little while earlier.

Meanwhile, Tom Papley kicks an attempted snap from close in out on the full.

This match is just petering out now, to be totally honest.

13 minutes left.

3QT: Swans in firm control as Dockers continue to spray shots

Sydney holding a 43-point lead at the final change.

The Dockers have misfired in front of goal all night, and it’s cost them dearly.

Sydney’s pressure has been brilliant around the ground and they’ve been clinical in front of goal, and that’s been the game.

Fremantle has had its chances, but hasn’t capitalised.

Michael Frederick has been subbed off by the Dockers, with Michael Walters coming on.

Port Adelaide 15.11. (101) def Geelong 14.11 (95)

Port Adelaide has withstood a crazy second-half fightback to hang on for a thrilling six-point away win over Geelong, spoiling Tom Hawkins’ record-equalling 355th appearance for the Cats.

The Power shocked their hosts with eight first-quarter goals in a stunning early blitz to lay the platform for their 15.11 (101) to 14.11 (95) triumph on Friday night at Kardinia Park.

They led by as much as 49 points during the second quarter before Geelong mounted a serious response, cutting the margin back to one straight kick late in the final term.

There was last-gasp drama as Jeremy Cameron was denied a goal on the line when play was called back for a free kick to Ollie Henry, who snapped a behind from the pocket.

It was the final score of the game as undermanned Port – missing skipper Connor Rozee among four injury-enforced changes – held on for their first win at Kardinia Park since 2007.

The result gave the Power a 6-3 record ahead of a home clash with Hawthorn next week, while Geelong (7-2) have lost successive games after opening the campaign with seven straight wins.

Willie Rioli equalled his career-best haul with four goals for Port as Ollie Wines (33 disposals, nine clearances) and acting captain Zak Butters (34, seven) stood up in Rozee’s absence.

Jason Horne-Francis (26 touches, seven clearances) was best afield in the first half before Geelong substitute Oisin Mullin quelled his influence after the main break.

Former Geelong defender Esava Ratugolea held ex-teammate Hawkins to just seven touches as the veteran forward matched Joel Selwood’s games record for the Cats.

Hawkins ended his unprecedented four-match goal drought with a second-quarter major but put another set shot out on the full.

Defender Zach Guthrie (24 disposals), Tyson Stengle (four goals) and roaming forward Cameron (18 touches, one goal) were among the Cats’ best.

Geelong gave up a 25-point head-start in the opening nine minutes and conceded the highest first-quarter score to a visiting team at Kardinia Park since 1983, trailing 8.2 to 3.3 at the first break.

The Power added the first three goals of the second term before desperate Cats coach Chris Scott replaced ruckman Rhys Stanley with Mullin.

Hawkins and Gryan Miers booted successive goals to temporarily stem the tide but Butters’ superb snap helped Port to a 41-point lead at the main break.

The Cats kicked six goals to two in the third term, with defender Guthrie taking advantage of twin 50m penalties against Rioli to kick a rare major.

Gary Rohan pulled down a spectacular grab with a ride on Ratugolea’s back in the final term and Stengle’s fourth major cut the deficit to seven points before Henry missed with the last shot of the game.

Dockers baffled by goalpost again

That right hand goal post at one end of the ground is causing havoc for Fremantle.

Like Josh Treacy earlier in the quarter, Patrick Voss thinks he’s drilled a set shot, and even rips out a big celebration, only for the goal umpire to call a behind.

Interestingly, because it’s a behind, it’s not automatically reviewed like the goals are.

Meanwhile, Michael Frederick hits the post from directly in front and the Dockers are now 2.13 in front of goal. That’s not going to win you many matches.

A thrilling last two minutes in Geelong

If you missed the action live, here’s how the final two minutes wound up at Kardinia Park.

Cohuna breaks Fremantle’s drought

Fremantle finally has its second goal of the night!

Josh Treacy, aka the Big Cohuna, thought he’d goaled a few minutes earlier, but this time he slots it through the middle.

Can the Dockers get a run on now? Sydney are excellent frontrunners, so it won’t be easy by any means.

Hayward blots Sydney’s copybook

Bronx cheers go up around Perth Stadium as Will Hayward kicks Sydney’s first behind of the evening.

The miss comes after an early Tom Papley goal in the third quarter made it 10 straight majors for the Swans.

Meanwhile, at the other end, Fremantle has kicked 1.10.

Sydney’s lead 45 points now.

FT: Port holds off Geelong in thrilling finish

 Port Adelaide has done it! Wow, what a contest that was!

Ken Hinkley holds his arms aloft like he’s won the premiership at his old home.

Port Adelaide winds up six-point winners after almost blowing a 49-point lead.

The Power have their first win at Kardinia Park since Round 21, 2007. These two sides met in the grand final that year, will history repeat itself?

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Ricky’s Raiders flogged 40-0 in coach’s 500th NRL match as Cronulla move to top of ladder

Ricky Stuart’s 500th NRL match as coach has ended on a sour note, with his Canberra Raiders thumped 40-0 by Cronulla.

Earlier, Newcastle held off a fast-finishing Dolphins to win 18-14 at Lang Park.

Without vital halfback Jamal Fogarty, the Raiders looked blunt in attack and were no match for the surging Sharks, who scored seven unanswered tries to make it four wins on the bounce.

Defence was just as much of a problem for the hosts, with lapses allowing their rivals to skip clear early without playing their best football.

When the Sharks hit their straps late, they carved them up. Winger Sione Katoa took full advantage of the soft edges to score an easy double.

Makeshift halfback and Raiders debutant Kaeo Weekes struggled to leave a mark on the contest, his kicking game lacking the expertise Fogarty’s had been delivering.

Cronulla had no such problems without Braydon Trindall after his midweek drink-driving charges. Dan Atkinson confidently took the five-eighth role and paired with the in-form Nicho Hynes.

Halfback Hynes scored one try, assisted another, kicked a 40-20 and ran the Sharks’ potent attack to continue building into his 2024 campaign.

The Raiders were down 12-0 after two poor breakdowns, although could have found a way back in on 26 minutes when speedster Xavier Savage put Danny Levi clean through.

But the hooker dropped the ball cold with minimal pressure on him, and instead of trailing 12-6 they were down 18-0 just a minute later when Katoa crossed out wide.

The Sharks made the Raiders pay for not taking their chances again shortly after half-time, second-rower Briton Nikora skipping through the line just two minutes after Canberra five-eighth Ethan Strange was held up in-goal.

NSW State of Origin candidate Cam McInnes had gotten the ball rolling for the Sharks with a scrambled team effort on 14 minutes, but the alarm bells really began ringing for the Raiders when prop Thomas Hazelton galloped through to score untouched soon after.

The Raiders, whose spine features Weekes (22 years old, one club game), Strange (19, nine games) and fullback Chevy Stewart (18, three games), won’t have Fogarty for about three months as he recovers from a ruptured bicep.

Catch up on Sunday’s NRL action with our blog.

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Update

That is all for the weekend of rugby league

A terrific round of NRL has come to an end.

Big crowds and big scores were the theme of Anzac Round this year.

The NRL ladder is starting to take shape as we approach winter.

ABC Sport will be back next week for more live coverage of the NRL.

Goodnight.

Newcastle focus on themselves

Joe Tapine after a very disappointing performance from the Raiders

Joe Tapine has spoken to ABC Sport following a 40-0 defeat.

Tapine’s missed tackle allowed Tom Hazelton to score in the first half.

“That’s gonna haunt me for a couple of weeks, that’s not up to my standards.”

Tom Hazelton making try-scoring a habit

Historic loss for thr Raiders

It’s bad reading for Canberra fans.

This is the first time they have been kept scoreless since 2013, when they didn’t score against the Titans at Robina.

It’s the first time they have been held scoreless at home since 2012 against the Tigers.

FT: Cronulla flog Canberra 40-0

A great outing for the Sharks.

They have easily accounted for the Raiders in Canberra.

Canberra were not good today — or in the words of Luke Lewis, boring.

75′ TRY: Sharks make it 40 with a seventh try

Too easy for the Sharks.

They have their seventh try of the afternoon.

This time Jesse Ramien receives the pass from Nicho Hynes who carries two Raiders over the line for the try.

62′ TRY: Sione Katoa gets a double after a Nicho Hynes intercept

Another chance for the Raiders has been wasted.

Attacking the Sharks’ line, Nicho Hynes intercepts a pass and returns it to halfway.

The Raiders are back-peddling.

A couple of plays later and the Sharks are in again, Sione Katoa finishes off the passage by strolling into the corner.

Cronulla leads 36-0.

55′: Nicho Hynes completes a passage of individual brilliance

Nicho Hynes is a superstar.

The Sharks are coming out of their own end.

Final tackle after not many metres gained, and Hynes nails a 40/20.

Great kick. I don’t think the Canberra winger knew Hynes had kicked it from inside the 40-metre line.

Two plays later, Hynes takes the ball and carves through the Raiders’ defence to score.

And he kicks the goal.

What a couple of minutes from Hynes.

52′: Ronaldo Mulitalo on report

The Raiders get a full set of six starting just 10 metres away from the Sharks’ try line.

It comes after they received a penalty after Ronaldo Mulitalo hit someone late.

Ronaldo is on report.

46′ TRY: Sharks score through Briton Nikora

The Sharks are in for their fourth try.

Briton Nikora scores his first try. 

The Sharks were awarded their first penalty of the afternoon and it allowed them to get into attacking range.

Last play, 10 metres out. Nicho Hynes goes short-side and delivers a great pass to Briton Nikora.

John Gibbs says Canberra’s goal line defence was not up to scratch during that passage.

44′: Sharks fullback William Kennedy produces a fantastic try-saving tackle

Well done Will Kennedy.

Canberra’s Ethan
Strange  looked certain to score.

But Kennedy wraps around his ball and keeps the ball in the air, as Stange tries to ground it.

Stage knocks-on.

That is a fantastic effort.

Second half begins in Canberra

Cronulla will want to return to the error-free football that guided them to an 18-0 lead.

The Raiders will think if they can convert one opportunity, more will come.

A State of Origin hypothetical

Hi Michael, love your work,
Question, If Harry grant gets injured (god forbid), who is the next best rake for QLD? Maxi Plath? SOO smokie?

– Mike Evans

Hey Mike.

Thanks for reading.

Firstly, let’s not wish injury to anyone.

But, in your scenario I think Ben Hunt would be the starting hooker for the Maroons.

Max Plath is an interesting suggestion.

I think Reed Mahoney would probably be next in line.

Interesting debate.

Match report: Newcastle Knights 18 def. Dolphins 14

Reporting by AAP

Newcastle fullback David Armstrong had a stunning debut in the absence of the injured Kalyn Ponga to help orchestrate an 18-14 upset win over the wasteful Dolphins.

And the Dolphins’ afternoon at Lang Park grew worse when captain Jesse Bromwich left the field in the second half with a calf injury.

The Knights also lost forward Daniel Saifiti to a lower leg injury.

Armstrong and Dolphins pocket dynamo Trai Fuller, in just his third NRL game, had a classic fullback battle and were two of the best players on the field.

The 23-year-old Armstrong scored the opening try and made a try-saving tackle on Fuller in the second half. He was magnificent under the high ball and in general play with his elusive running.

Ponga is set to miss 12 weeks with a Lisfranc injury to his foot but Armstrong showed coach Adam O’Brien he was more than ready to play at the top level.

Fuller was electric and brave but his teammates struggled to get out of second gear until it was too late.

Knights props Leo Thompson and Jacob Saifiti, in his 150th NRL game for the club, ripped in early to set up a 10-0 lead as a sluggish Dolphins outfit bumbled their way through the opening quarter of the match.

The visitors were rewarded for their discipline and patience when half Jackson Hastings threw a sublime inside ball to Armstrong who sliced over untouched.

Five-eighth Tyson Gamble found veteran Dane Gagai with a slick pass and the centre showed his experience to hit a hole and score.

The Dolphins didn’t get out of first gear until centre Jake Averillo blitzed opposite number Bradman Best and found second-rower Oryn Keeley, who scored his first NRL try against his former club.

Dolphins forward Kenny Bromwich failed a category two HIA and Knights forward Jed Cartwright was ruled out with an ankle injury, both in the first half.

Gagai waltzed over after the break after pathetic defence by the Dolphins allowed bench hooker Phoenix Crossland to burst into the clear.

The Dolphins bombed two tries, one when Averillo failed to collect a grubber kick through by Kodi Nikorima.

Nikorima set up Jamayne Isaako for a try and Averillo finished an electric movement, both in the last five minutes, but it was too little and too late.

HT: Cronulla takes an 18-0 lead over the Raiders at half-time

The Sharks were on top for the first 25 minutes and they got three tries out of it.

But Cronulla made several errors, giving the Raiders a chance at the end of the half.

Canberra were wasteful, however, and could not make an imprint on the scoreboard.

35′: Canberra get a full set at the Sharks line

A few more errors from the Sharks have put them on the back foot.

Nicho Hynes has kicked a goal line drop out, out on the full.

But Canberra dropped the ball on the third tackle.

Ricky Stuart is not having a happy 500th game as coach.

31′: Canberra starting to gain some momentum

The Raiders have been given a few opportunities.

The Sharks were penalised for being downtown after a kick, and the Sharks a few minutes later spilled the ball on halfway.

This is a good chance for the Raiders to get their first points.

25′ TRY: Sharks make the Raiders pay with another try

Directly after Danny Levi dropped the ball with the line begging, the Sharks marched downfield and scored.

Sione Katoa on the right wing strolls in as the Sharks finish off the nice play to his side of the field. 

Alarm bells are sounding for the Raiders.

Cronulla lead 18-0.

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Reece Walsh scores try of the year contender as Broncos beat the Tigers, Panthers hold on over impressive Cowboys

Brisbane’s superstar fullback Reece Walsh had an eventful Saturday evening, scoring two tries, vomiting on the field and limping off with cramp in the Broncos’ win over Wests Tigers.

Last year’s grand finalists were too good for the Tigers, running in six tries to two in the 34-10 win at Campbelltown Stadium.

Walsh was in the thick of the action from the kick-off, playing a pivotal role in Brisbane’s opening try in the sixth minute, before scoring two of his own.

The fullback finished off one of the best tries of the season for the Broncos, who crossed the line on the stroke of half-time following a cross-field kick 60 metres out which was collected by winger Deine Mariner.

There was concern for Walsh late in the game when he was grabbing at his left calf following a 60-metre line break.

But the fullback was suffering from bad cramp, also throwing up on the field with 10 minutes left in the game.

Walsh told ABC Sport he may need to make a few adjustments to his preparation.

“I was cramping and spewing up a little bit there but I’ll probably have a chat to the dietician and see what we can work on so I can get that s*** stuff out,” he said.

Brisbane captain Adam Reynolds also suffered from cramping towards the end of his return.

The Broncos finished the game with 12 men, with Reynolds limping off the field despite the team not having any interchanges left.

Penrith survives late scare against Cowboys

The Penrith Panthers have held off a fast-finishing North Queensland Cowboys to record a 26-20 win in Townsville.

The premiers led 24-4 after 45 minutes on Saturday evening before the Cowboys made a resurgence.

The home side scored the final three tries of the match, and came close to sending the game to golden point in the final minutes.

But Penrith held firm in Nathan Clearly’s return.

The Panthers were their own worst enemy at times especially in the second half, turning the ball over and giving away penalties which put them under pressure.

Captain Isaah Yeo told ABC Sport his side had “things to fix” moving forward.

“I thought we did alright to hold on, but we’re just making it hard on ourselves at the minute,” he said.

“Got out of jail on that one, I think.”

Despite conceding three second half tries, Penrith will be pleased by their defensive effort, particularly in the first 40 minutes.

They kept North Queensland to just four points in the opening half, despite the Cowboys enjoying the better of possession and territory. 

Meanwhile, North Queensland will rue their mistakes.

An interception by Paul Almaoti off a Scott Drink Water pass in the final seconds of the first half extended the Panthers’ lead to 18-4.

Penrith secured the 24-4 lead early in the second half when Liam Martin collected a Semi Valemei drop ball to score.

For all tonight’s NRL action, follow the live blog below, keep up to date with all the latest stats in our ScoreCentre, and tune in to our live radio coverage.

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That is all for the Saturday rugby league blog

We were treated to a pair of really good games.

Brisbane and Penrith were the winners, but Wests and North Queensland were in the fight.

Thank-you for reading the ABC live blog through out the evening.

We will be back again tomorrow for the final two games of round eight.

Goodnight.

Chad Townsend reflects on 250 NRL games

18 tackle breaks from Brian To’o tonight

I had to take a second look at that statistic.

Brian To’o broke 18 tackles.

He scored a try and was solid in defence. A great 100th NRL match.

Isaah Yeo says Panthers ‘got out of jail’ against Cowboys

Penrith captain has spoken to ABC Sport following his side’s 26-20 win over the North Queensland Cowboys.

Yeo said errors were making life hard for the Panthers.

“I thought we did alright to hold on, but we’re just making it hard on ourselves at the minute,” he said.

“Two points is nice, but things to fix.

“Got out of jail on that one, I think.”

FT: Pentrith hold on to defeat North Queensland 26-20

What a fight back from the Cowboys.

They will rue the intercept try on half time, and the drop ball which led to the try in the 44th minute.

But full credit to the Panthers.

Three starters were late withdrawals. But it didn’t matter.

It is next man up for the premiers.

Great game.

79′: Holmes knocks on and the Panthers will win

North Queensland were so close.

Kulikefu Finefeuiaki carried five Panthers over the try line, but was held up.

Valentine Holmes takes a crash ball, but he bobbles it.

Penrith will win.

78′: Chad Townsend is clutching his leg, Cowboys get a penalty 40 metres out

It looked like a turnover of possession, but the Cowboys said a player was held back following a chip and chase.

The Bunker agrees.

They have a penalty 40 metres out, with two minutes to play.

Townsend was down, but he is back up.

77′: Cowboys hold on with great goal line defence

The Cowboys survive.

They have three minutes to get one more try.

Dylan Edwards looked like he was going to score, but the home side held him out.

Can they march down the field?

73′: Semi Valemei spills another high ball. Penrith on the attack

Poor Semi Valemei.

He has dropped another high ball from Nathan Cleary.

Second one of the half.

Not the best catching technique.

But his teammates bail him out. Cowboys concede a goal line dropout and they regather it.

71′: Panthers get a penalty in front as Cowboys suffer head clash

Penrith marched downfield with the help of a penalty for a crusher tackle.

The Panthers are looking to end the game right here.

High tackle. Penalty Penrith.

Oh, there is a head clash between two Cowboy players involved in the offending tackle.

Reuber Cotter and Reece Robson hit each other.

Robson is bleeding under his cheekbone.

Nathan Cleary kicks the goal and Penrith lead 26-20.

68′: Cowboys full of running but Penrith hold firm

North Queensland are really asking questions of the premiers.

Jeremiah Nanai nearly crossed the line again, but 
Jarome Luai made a brilliant leg tackle.

Panthers hold on.

61′ TRY: Cowboys are back with another try after helping penalties

It’s three tries in a row for Jeremiah Nanai.

The Cowboys are marching here.

North Queensland received back-to-back penalties. Both were high tackles from Taylan May.

The Cowboys convert their great field position. They have found a method to success — and it is running hard.

They tried going around the Panthers’ defence in the first half.

In the second half, they have run right though the middle.

This time Jeremiah Nanai gets the short ball near the line and crashes over.

54′ TRY: Cowboys score again

Kulikefu Finefeuiaki scores for the Cowboys.

North Queensland get rewarded for weight of possession.

Penrith worked so hard in defence, but eventually, the Cowboys figured out the puzzle.

The key was patience. They kept the pressure on.

Then Scott Drinkwater went from dummy half to the short-side, passed to Holmes, who then gave it to Kulikefu Finefeuiaki who crashed over.

Holmes is one from three with the boot.

Panthers lead 24-14.

52′: Cowboys go close to scoring. They have another set at the Panthers’ line

The Cowboys marched up the field off the kick-off.

Kyle Feldt made a big run.

North Queensland get a few set restarts for infringements and forces a goal line drop out.

Can the Cowboys score again?

49′ TRY: Holmes goes over for the Cowboys

And it takes them one play to score.

Valentine Holmes gets the ball off the scrum (second scrum after an offside penalty was awarded) and he steps off his left foot and crashes over.

Liam Martin was unable to bring him down.

Penrith lead 24-10.

48′: Cowboys get a chance after Dylan Edwards knock-on

The Cowboys get a full set from 10 metres out.

Dylan Edwards drops the ball.

It was probably knocked out by a Cowboy, but the Panthers have wasted their challenge.

44′ TRY: Panthers score a soft try. Cleary kicks his 600th goal for Penrith

Liam Martin has been given a gift.

Cowboys’ winger Semi Valemei dropped a fairly innocuous high-kick, and Martin collected the ball in stride and crashed over.

Nathan Cleary kicks the conversion. That is his 600th goal for the Panthers.

Reaction from Brisbane’s win over Wests: Adam Reynolds

Adam Reynolds joined ABC Sport after Brisbane’s win over the Tigers.

After being told Payne Haas called him a fossil following cramps, Adam Reynolds said that is one of the nicer things he gets called at Red Hill.

“Cramps … not the best. I cop all sorts of nicknames at the club, that’s (fossil) probably one of the nicer ones.”

Reaction from Brisbane’s win over Wests: Reece Walsh

Reece Walsh has spoken to ABC Sport after his eventful evening in Campbelltown.

“I was cramping and spewing up a little bit there but I’ll probably have a chat to the dietician and see what we can work on so I can get that s*** stuff out,”

Sports content to make you think… or allow you not to. A newsletter delivered each Saturday.

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Robinson says he won’t blame bunker for Roosters loss despite crucial call

Trent Robinson has refused to blame a pivotal obstruction call from the bunker for his team’s 22-16 loss to Penrith.

But the coach questioned whether the bunker had been consistent in applying its rules after a similar play went unpunished in the lead-up to a Penrith try on Thursday night.

Joey Manu appeared to have scored the Roosters’ first four-pointer after he charged through opposite centre Taylan May to plant the ball on the Sydney Football Stadium turf.

But the bunker spotted Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves collecting Penrith’s Dylan Edwards as he followed through on a decoy run and rescinded the try.

The Roosters dropped back to 12-0, their momentum stifled.

The call eventually proved significant in the outcome of the game as the Panthers held their fast-finishing hosts off for a six-point win.

It was also brought into sharper focus when Penrith’s Liam Martin collided with two Roosters in the lead-up to a Sunia Turuva four-pointer in the second half, only for that try to stand.

Martin bounced between Sitili Tupouniua and Luke Keary, with the first Rooster falling to the turf and the second having his run impacted in attempting to reach the play.

“(The Manu no try) is a bit like how Sitili got knocked over in our one,” Robinson said.

“Was he going to save the try? No, he wasn’t.

“I don’t think (Edwards) would’ve got there either on Joey Manu. But anyway.”

The issue as Robinson saw it was that the first call had applied the obstruction rule to the letter, while the second had used discretion to determine the Roosters’ defenders were unlikely to have made it to Turuva and save a try.

“What was the judgement on, I guess is what we’re asking,” Robnson said.

“Is it, was Luke or Sitili going to get there, or was Edwards going to get there? Or is it the rule on the obstruction?

“I feel like there was two different rulings in that case. One was given, ‘Yeah, it’s an obstruction but we think it would’ve got one’ and the other one didn’t get the benefit of the doubt.”

Roosters captain James Tedesco was frustrated by the call, claiming a player who appealed for a penalty would be likelier to secure one.

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Matildas qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics with 10-nil thrashing of Uzbekistan

The ruthless Matildas have thrashed Uzbekistan 10-0 to qualify for the Paris Olympic Games in style, with Michelle Heyman scoring four goals to put her hand up for a ticket to Paris.

Australia led the tie 3-0 after Saturday’s first leg in Tashkent but blew Uzbekistan out of the water to win 13-0 on aggregate, with Caitlin Foord, Kaitlyn Torpey, Mary Fowler, Hayley Raso and Amy Sayer also scoring.

Temperatures hit 36C in Melbourne earlier on Wednesday, but it didn’t deter a crowd of 54,120, which included Olympic greats Cathy Freeman and Anna Meares.

The Matildas took the lead inside 34 seconds at Marvel Stadium and never looked back, with Fowler at her spellbinding best in an eight-goal first-half rout.

Heyman, 35, who also scored in Tashkent, replaced Emily van Egmond for her first international start since March 2018.

The striker’s movement and guile proved far too hot for Uzbekistan to handle as she snared a hat-trick inside the first 16 minutes.

Second-gamer Torpey, 23, had a hand in three goals and scored her first international goal in her own compelling audition for the 18-player Olympics squad.

Australia took the lead when Torpey’s squaring ball deflected off Uzbek defender Dilrabo Asadova for an own goal.

Three minutes later, Fowler launched a diagonal ball from the left and Torpey brilliantly stuck out her right leg to cut the ball across goal.

Clare Hunt fluffed her shot but Heyman was on hand to tuck it away.

For the third, in the eighth minute, Steph Catley lofted a ball in from the left that dipped for Heyman to nod home.

Heyman sealed her hat-trick when Fowler threaded a great ball behind the Uzbek defence for the striker to put away.

Torpey scored the fifth in the 22nd minute when Uzbekistan failed to clear a corner and she rifled a close-range strike into the roof of the net.

Rarely troubled, Mackenzie Arnold made a strong save to deny Uzbekistan captain Lyudmila Karachik in the 28th minute.

Six minutes later, Katrina Gorry picked out Fowler with a wonderful inside pass and the playmaker rifled home.

In the 38th minute, Uzbekistan failed to deal with a Kyra Cooney-Cross free kick and Foord pounced for Australia’s seventh.

On the stroke of half-time, Uzbekistan cleared a corner off the line but Torpey squared it for Heyman to stoop and head home her fourth.

Heyman, Foord, Gorry and Ellie Carpenter came off at half-time, for Sayer, Tameka Yallop, van Egmond and Raso, while Charli Grant replaced Catley in the 65th minute.

Raso rifled home in the 68th while Sayer’s first international goal in the fourth minute of injury time put an exclamation mark on the victory.

Check out how the game unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

Final thoughts

Well, what a way to qualify for your third Olympic Games in a row!

An absolute masterclass from the Matildas saw them sweep aside the underdog Uzbeks, taking out the two-legged tie 13-0 on aggregate.

The first half was particularly brutal, with the tone set within the first 45 seconds by Kaitlyn Torpey’s torpedo cross that was spun into the net by an Uzbekistan defender.

The goals came thick and fast after that, with Michelle Heyman scoring four in the first 45 minutes alone.

Torpey, Mary Fowler, Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso, and Amy Sayer all added to the scoreboard, and while a host of rotations made the second half a little less thrilling, there is very little to complain about from this completely dominant display by Australia’s fave sports team.

The players are about to be congratulated with a special presentation on the field: a giant “QUALIFIED” sign has been set up on half-way, with a giant novelty plane ticket being presented to them by Olympic legend Anna Meares.

It’s been a long road through qualifying, but finally the Matildas can prepare properly for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

And you bet your butts I’ll be back here on the blog when they do, as well as for a friendly they’ve got set up against Mexico on April 10.

Until then, take it easy!

Your reactions!

What a game! I’d hoped we’d win, but I never expected this!

– Mickey from Canberra

Love it

– Julian

Thanks for another great live blog, Sam! ⚽️💚💛

– Leo

Uzbekistan have been much better this half both defensively and in terms of capitalising on chances they get but ultimately you do have to feel for them having lost their keeper to injury and losing by a large margin for the first time since their Asian Games semi and third-place matches against North Korea and China.

– Adam

All this time we’ve been looking for another striker and she has been hiding in plain sight at Canberra…

– Mike

Ms Sayer! Relief written large on a young face. I suspect this second half, like the first half a few days ago, has made Tony’s squad selection decision making a little easier. All solid, a well oiled machine he’s built, complete with sub parts, and a couple of high profile busted elements. Finally he has the depth and breadth they’ve all worked for. It’s a joy to experience. Thanks Sam!

– Big Ben

THE MATILDAS ARE GOING TO THE PARIS OLYMPICS!!!!

To: the blog. From: the Matildas.

Will I ever get my ten goals 😂

– Julian

C’mon ladies, let’s make it a nice round 10!

– C

Full-time: Australia 10 – 0 Uzbekistan

93′ GOAL AUSTRALIA

Aaaaaand that’s 10!

It’s Amy Sayer’s turn to get on the scoreboard after a nice series of one-two passes between Tameka Yallop and Mary Fowler slice right through Uzbekistan’s midfield, before the ball is fed down the left wing for the onrushing Charlie Grant.

The left-back then clips a dangerous ball back across the six-yard area, spinning chaotically through a bunch of legs, before falling to Sayer at the back post, who swings her left foot through it and finally finds the back of the net.

10-0.

90′ Five minutes of added time

Uzbekistan, to their full credit, haven’t stopped trying.

They’ve had a handful of moves that have ended in the Matildas’ penalty box, including one just now as a handful of players try to build some triangles through the middle before Karachik Lyudmila chips the ball over the top to nobody except Mackenzie Arnold.

They’ve kept Australia to just one goal in this whole half, which is something.

Get ’em out, I say

What’s with the rolled up sleeves? Kennedy, Raso and now Grant.

– Ronan

What, you’re saying you wouldn’t roll up your sleeves if you had the incredible athletic arms of these players?

I don’t think I’d ever wear sleeves again, personally.

Anyone else keen for a Matildas sleeveless guernsey?

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Maybe “Mystical Mary” is a more apt alliteration

It’s interesting you mention Fowler appearing to operate in a different dimension – I think she might be a shape-shifter. There are times she takes the ball into congested traffic and somehow effortlessly appears on the other side still with the ball, or approach in-possession opposition players from behind, pass through them and continue on with the ball…

– Mike

Meanwhile…

Loving the meme posted about Japan v N. Korea. I literally only eat popcorn in for dinner in Matilda’s nights!

– Lulu

Japan lead North Korea 1-0 just after the hour-mark.

It’s been a pretty even affair once again, though: Japan have had 8 shots to 9 (including 2 on target v 4), 58% possession to 42%, and zero corners to 1.

The DPRK could very well claw a goal back and push this second Olympic qualifier all the way to the edge.

You love to see it

I’m in the crowd and there is definitely a growing minority cheering on Uzbekistan… only to be drowned by the manic roar when the Tillies scored that ninth goal!

– Tess

There’s definitely a small Uzbek community here in Australia, and what a joy it must be for them to see their women’s national team playing here in a stadium like this. Love that they’re still cheering for their team, even though they’re 9-0 down.

Wow!

54,120 !!! Wow, a stark contrast to the 2,000 locals at Milliy stadium 5 days ago. It was still amazing to there. 29 other Aussies and myself.

– I Was in Tashkent

I was there in Tashkent 5 days ago. There was 30 Australians in attendance and about 2,000 locals. It was free entry to the match. It was amazing to see them inperson and up close.

– Travelling with Russell

Shout-out to the small group of die-hard Matildas fans who travelled all the way to Tashkent for the first leg, then flew back here to Melbourne for the second.

What an awesome experience!

79′ Uzbekistan substitution

The substitute goalkeeper seems to have had her foot trodden on by her own player during a challenge that involved Amy Sayer, but has stayed in the grass, so the Matildas take the opportunity to grab a quick drink on the sidelines.

There doesn’t seem to be much tactical chat happening. They’re just chilling out until the game ends, really. Mackenzie Arnold, Alanna Kennedy, and Clare Hunt are still on the field, talking amongst themselves. Raso and Torpey are on the far side doing the same.

76′ Shot after shot after shot

It’s honestly been hard to blog this match because the number of chances the Matildas have had is… stratospheric.

Just as I finish describing the build-up to one shot, they’ve found a way to create and let off another. So you just have to imagine the way things have gone based on the below:

Australia have registered 37 shots in total so far, including 17 on target.

70% possession, 85% pass accuracy, and 1 corners.

They’ve been completely, utterly, dominant. That’s the story of the game.

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