Soward “yardstick” declares Carney

Ready to go: Todd Carney will play in his first local derby clash between Cronulla and St George Illawarra on Saturday night. Picture: John VeageTODD CARNEY already has one large and influential personality pushing his barrow for State of Origin selection: his captain and NSW Blues skipper Paul Gallen.
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Arguably the best player in the NRL so far this season, Gallen’s opinion counts.

It was Gallen who convinced coach Shane Flanagan and the Sharks board to sign up Carney when he was ditched by the Roosters last year.

It is Gallen — the star of the Blues Origin II victory last year and for Australia — who has told Ricky Stuart, the Blues and former Sharks coach, that Carney is ‘‘the man’’ to make a difference in the No. 6 shirt.

For his part, however, Carney is having none of it. He just wants to concentrate on Saturday night.

But during our conversation, Carney acknowledges the incredible influence Gallen has already had on him both on and off the rugby league field.

‘‘He was the main reason I came to Cronulla,’’ he said.

‘‘Gal made me feel important wanting me here … and he’s done so much for me already off the field.’’

Gallen, it seems, has also entrusted Carney with important communication roles within the team.

Carney explains: ‘‘He’s given me a role and lets me speak [for Gallen] within the team.

‘‘I really enjoy that from a captain, especially Gal.

‘‘He is just so influential for any side. There’s no better player going around.

‘‘You only have to look at Gal’s incredible stats.’’

Carney prefers to ‘‘keep to myself’’ his representative ambitions, but deep down you just know he’d love to play Origin.

That means a big game against Soward, a player he generously praises.

‘‘Soward is the incumbent No. 6 and the yardstick for all five-eighths in the comp, as far as I’m concerned,’’ says the man whose own long-range field goal eventually ‘‘won’’ the Sharks their game against Penrith on Saturday.

‘‘Soward’s kicking game is still the best in the competition.

‘‘And he stands back so far that it is hard for an opposing defence to get to him.’’

Right now, Todd Carney is in a happy place, in a happy team aiming for their fourth straight win.

He admits he and half Jeff Robson are still ‘‘working’’ on their new 7-6 combination.

‘‘We’ve won those games without playing our best football, so that is something to look forward to.’’

Even in Carney’s best season, in 2010 when he won the Dally M medal playing for grand-finalists, the Roosters, he says he didn’t hit his straps until round 15.

Carney, Gallen and Sharks supporters are hoping he can ‘‘fast-track’’ his very best this season. Given the circumstances, starting against the Dragons and Jamie Soward on Saturday night couldn’t be more timely.

Posted by at 31/05/2018
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