Philbin out to bulldoze his way up the middle


ENGLAND Knights prop Joe Philbin was the only one in coach Paul Anderson’s squad to have had an inkling of rugby league in Papua New Guinea prior to last week’s series opener against the Kumuls in Lae.
The 23-year-old had turned out for Ireland at last year’s World Cup coming off the bench and catching the eye with his straight hard-running style.
It’s something that comes naturally for the Warrington Wolves forward who counts among his idols such hard men of English rugby league as former Wigan firebrand Iafeta Paleaasina and former England, Sydney Roosters and Leeds enforcer Adrian Morley.
“When I was growing up and what got me excited was watching the big charges and I liked Iafeta Paleaasina, who played for Wigan. He was a wrecking ball,” Philbin said after a training session at the National Football Stadium yesterday.
“Morley was at Warrington and he was one of my idols because obviously he was a young prop in the club.
“I was just like ‘wow’. ‘That’s what I want to do. That’s what I want to be like’.”
Philbin, who comes from hardy stock — his father is a beef farmer — said the Knights took time to acclimatise to the conditions but observed that the home side also had their problems.
“I thought it was very humid in Lae and we struggled for breath at times but here in Port Moresby it’s hotter but less humid,” he said.
“It showed for both sides because we had a lot of dropped ball.”
Philbin’s direct style and hunger for contact has won him respect from opposition teams and fans.
An average-size prop — by English standards — Philbin, who stands 183cm and weighs 108kg, is no shrinking violet and revels in the tough atmosphere of international rugby league.
“I had told the boys that you’ve got to watch out because they (Kumuls) like flying out of the line,” he said.
“They’re coming to get you. They’re coming to hurt you. They don’t want to tickle you.
“They want to give it to you but we were ready for that.
“We’re excited for that and we like to think that we’ve got a good skill level in our squad and we’ll tell each other when we see someone shooting out hard (defenders running to hit ball carriers) and do those tip on plays but we don’t want to be playing from side to side too much.
“We’ll need to be direct and that’s where I come in.”
After their 16-12 win over the Kumuls, Philbin said the Knights were under no illusions about the challenge they would face on Saturday but welcomed it.
“We have a lot of respect for the Kumuls and we know exactly what’s coming for us,” Philbin said.
“If you go into a game expecting not to get hurt, you’re probably not born to be a rugby league player and I feel like we’re getting to the top of the professional game here.
“Even though we’re not the proper England team that’s what we strive to be.
“And I feel like if you want to be the best, you’ve got to show no fear and you’ve got to embrace it and you’ve got to fight fire with fire because they’re going to be coming for us.
“But we’re going to going just as hard as them. It’s going to be a battle.
“It’s a beautiful stadium and I’ve played here before and I can’t wait to play here again and I know how loud it gets and I hope it’s a full stadium because it’ll be a big occasion,” Philbin said of Saturday’s game.

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