I’d like to pretend a Tuesday Rubdown on a Wednesday was one of the great innovations being trialled here, but alas … technophobe strikes again.
Coaches – pressure alleviated?
A convincing (nay, watertight) argument can be made that we in the rugby league community love to make a mountain out of a molehill, but the reverse is also clearly true. For example, it wasn’t so long ago that the commentariat was diminishing the issue of ASADA and banned drugs, preferring to display an exceptional level of ignorance that bordered on a cluelessness about law enforcement at best, insanity at worst (an epithet usually reserved for radio hosts). I mean, how dare they!
But back to exaggeration and extrapolation – it also wasn’t that long ago that Matt Elliot and Steve Price were dead men walking because of 3 consecutive losses to begin their seasons. Even Neil Henry was on death row – not because he has 2 first names, which carries the death penalty in some US States, but because his newly signed long-term contractors Thurston, Tamou and Scott were performing with about as much punch as Satoshi Shingaki.
The Warriors broke their losing trend in round 4, while establishing a formidable home ground presence against the Roosters and Rabbitohs. The Dragons have won the subsequent 2 matches to be 2 & 3, while the Cowboys have the same record.
But almost as quick as Dave Taylor can say he fell out of bed, those who trained the blowtorch on these unsuspecting coaches have mysteriously put their pens on ice. So much so that the same pressure is not being applied to Ivan Cleary at the Panthers after losing 4 straight (though Gus is receiving a bit of needle), or Des Hasler for losing 3 straight.
Journalism can be just as difficult as playing in the NRL at times, I’m sure. There is always pressure for a story – any story. It would be nice, though, if some imagination and research could be applied. What if the shoe was on the other foot?
Some clarity emerging on the NRL ladder?
There can be little controversy in stating the top 3 are locked and loaded after 5 rounds. The order may shuffle, but the Storm, Rabbitohs and Manly are clearly the best teams, not just the best performing.
The Roosters and Knights appear at this early stage to be stayers (let’s reassess in a few rounds), while it’s harder to be as enthused about the Titans, Broncos and Sharks. They are going to be seriously challenged by the Cowboys, Bulldogs and Raiders.
Given their start in 2013, some have written off the Raiders. But just don’t forget they were 6th last year, having been 15th after 13 rounds. They are a better side than appreciated, and enhanced with the imminent reintroduction of Terry Campese. They’re going to need to be given the draw from round 21. If they’re not in the mix then, then it’s good night Irene.
Rugby’s best fly-half is playing in the NRL
When Australian rugby cannot seem to find a quality fly-half who is actually playing the position with regularity, you’d think they’d be putting their private school noggins together to find one. Perhaps they need to cast the net a little wider …
Speaking of which, it’s difficult not to be a fan of the Raiders’ Jarrod Croker. He is a footballer’s footballer, which seems to run in the family. He intuitively understands the game’s angles, his peripheral vision is outstanding, has a strong passing and kicking game and can either put a team mate through a gap or skip through one himself. What’s more, he’s strong and fast with fantastic balance and footwork, and is a tackling weapon. Oh, and he kicks goals with the regularity of a metronome. Like a rugby kicker, in fact!
He’s under-rated enough in the NRL even as he clocks up points with abandon, but rugby administrators have completely missed the boat on this one. He is the perfect fit for the Wallabies World Cup campaign … if he wanted to, that is. If I was the CEO of the ARU, I’d whack him in the head with my cheque book repeatedly until he switched. He is Quade Cooper without the ego, baggage or tendency to go troppo in tight moments.
Roosters and centres
Perhaps this might come across as a little harsh, or just far too early to make the call, but the Roosters have a centres problem. The right side defence has been leaking yards and points, and which is possibly one reason why SBW was plugged in on that side after beginning the season on the left. SKD’s defensive reads are a concern. The Rabbitohs had a field day in that area in round 1, he bombed 2 gift tries against the Eels, and panicked on Sunday night when the heat was on. On the other side, Michael Jennings is an awe-inspiring player who is not earning his 50 thousand gazillion dollar salary. 3 tries went begging in rounds 1-3, while his protection strategy for wingers under the high ball needs work (hint: getting behind your catcher so you can defend an opposition catch rather than tiptoe through the tulips might be a method worth considering).
Aside … you’re a Roosters fan watching your team trail by 3 points in the Grand Final when a break is made with a minute to go. Speeding toward the 20 metre line with a 3-on-1 situation, you pause to wonder … surely they’ve practiced the draw-and-pass after the experiences of rounds 1 through 5 …
Storm can do nasty
Every team is primed 110% for the Storm. Part of what makes them so great is that they rise to the challenge every week, and that is what the contenders for their silverware strive to emulate. When the tactics turn a little roughhouse like on Monday night, the Storm demonstrate they can do that, too. These guys need to be beaten. They’ll never do it to themselves.
Manly and tries
I must confess to watching this little stat over the weeks with awe. If there is one thing the Sea Eagles hate more than Adam Blair, it’s conceding tries. Just 1-a-game for the first 5 rounds has their Tries Difference in another solar system in the NRL. Teams playing Manly need to also appreciate that Manly average 250 running metres per game more than their opponents, and are far more penetrating with each carry. They also miss the least tackles as a proportion of all tackles (5.1%).
Check out your favourite team in the charts below (click for better image), but really, just look at Manly … Want to beat Manly? You have to do an awful amount of work!