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Sandow close to matching NRL hype: Kearney

Stephen Kearney says Parramatta halfback Chris Sandow is creeping towards fulfilling the enormous expectations placed on him at the start of the year.
Sandow close to matching NRL hype: Kearney
by NRL

By Joe Barton

SYDNEY, June 15 AAP - Stephen Kearney says Parramatta halfback Chris Sandow is creeping towards fulfilling the enormous expectations placed on him at the start of the year.

And the Eels NRL coach even predicts a leadership role is in the maligned star's future.

On a day when veteran winger Luke Burt announced his retirement at the end of the season, Kearney said the team's bright young core would have to step up and lead into the future.

Burt will join good friend and Eels captain Nathan Hindmarsh in retirement at the end of the 2012 season, closing another chapter of the Eels' proud history and taking with them nearly 600 games of experience.

On the eve of his clash against Sandow's former side South Sydney at ANZ Stadium, Kearney said the 23-year-old was part of a number of players who would need to step up to secure Parramatta's future.

"I think (Chris' leadership skills) will all come with time," Kearney said on Friday.

"... The expectation that he came with was certainly big and he didn't live up to that in those first couple of months.

"But I think the process for him has got better over the last month and he's slowly getting back to what I think he's capable of.

"He's getting there.

"... The thing with it is it's a big game for him this week ... I'm sure we'll see a big game from him tomorrow."

Kearney was hesitant to say the recent retirements highlighted the changing face of the Parramatta squad, but said it was important that Burt and Hindmarsh be retained at the club in non-playing capacities.

Burt, who will retire as the most prolific try-scorer in the Eels' history, will stay on as part of the club's welfare and education unit.

"I'm not too sure if it's a changing of the guard," Kearney added.

"Luke's been here for 14 years and obviously Hindy's been here 15 years so it all comes to a closing at some stage.

"For us, it's really important to keep guys like Luke and Hindy around at the footy club.

"I see the development of Ken Sio, Chase Blair, Ryan Morgan and certainly Luke's had a big part of that. He'll continue to play an important role with us moving forward.

"We've got a leadership team within the playing group as it is.

"Certainly Jarryd (Hayne) is a part of that. He's the most capped (current) NSW Origin player and with that comes responsibility.

"Jarryd's quite aware of that. Tim Mannah, Keats (Matt Keating) and certainly Benny Smith are part of the leadership team - Willie Tonga also."

Burt said he was proud of his time at the Eels, and would be happy to finish up as a one-club player like Hindmarsh.

"I think it will be great to retire with Hindy," Burt said.

"He's a great mate of mine and that last day playing together will be great. I think it might have made it a bit easier for me."




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