Star helps Kurri get over the line

KURRI Kurri hired gun Mark Khierallah would consider it mission accomplished if the Bulldogs win their next two games and book a berth in the Newcastle Rugby League semi-finals.
Nanjing Night Net

The man known as ‘‘Killer’’ will play his second-last match for Kurri today in the competition’s fiercest derby against the Goannas at Cessnock Sportsground.

He will return to France after the final-round game against Maitland next Saturday to begin pre-season training with Toulouse Olympique.

Kurri Kurri officials had hoped to extend his loan deal to cover the play-offs, but Toulouse want Khierallah fit and rested for their season opener on September 22.

The Bulldogs are fifth on the ladder, ahead of Maitland on for-and-against by a point.

Wins over Cessnock and Maitland will guarantee a spot in the five, but one will leave them relying on other results to go their way.

‘‘If I can get the boys over the line in the next two games, I’d consider that I’ve done as much as I could possibly do, then it’s just up to the boys from there on,’’ Khierallah said.

‘‘I think they’re preparing for it. It was always a big call if I was to stay for the finals.’’

Since arriving from Toulouse on loan in round nine, Khierallah has been a revelation at five-eighth.

Along with fullback Nathan Ross, he has injected class in the Bulldogs backline.

‘‘There’s plenty of talent there to cover me,’’ he said.

‘‘George [Ndaira] is there and BJ [Ben Jeffries] as well.

‘‘We’re starting to get a roll on, and everyone knows their job, so it’s made my weekends a whole lot easier.

‘‘Whoever slots in there, I’m sure the boys will help him out and do whatever we do every other week.’’

Today’s Coalfields derby will be the home farewell for Goannas local team of the century winger Chris Pyne, and it could also be the last game local coach of the century Todd Edwards holds the clipboard at Cessnock Sportsground.

During Edwards’s tenure at Cessnock the Goannas have had the wood over their neighbours. But he said he has never seen a stronger Kurri Kurri side on paper.

A priority for the Goannas will be containing Ross, who cut Macquarie to pieces last week.

‘‘You’ve just got to be honest up the middle with Rossy,’’ Edwards said.

‘‘You know he’s coming and we know what he’s about. He’s a class player, and that’s why I tried hard to get him here.

‘‘We know what we’re in for, so we’ve got to be squeaky clean and not cut corners.’’

He said there would be a strong focus on his side’s kicking game to limit Ross’s impact.

‘‘That’s an area of our game that isn’t strong, so it’s got to be good tomorrow,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve got some things in place and we know what we’ve got to do to negate him.’’

Kurri’s Mark Khierallah will return to France before the finals. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

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