And then there were six. The champs went down to the much improved Eels who continue to be plagued by off field board room drama. The Dogs escaped with a last gasp win. The Broncos train keeps rolling. The Raiders were saved by 007! The ageless Storm showed too much class. The rampaging Rabbitohs continue to blitz their opposition and the Sharks trample the Dragons in the local derby. Meanwhile, “the other JT”, James Tedesco’s love affair with Leichardt Oval continues to flourish.
David Klemmer charge – I thought the NRL’s decision to charge Bulldogs firebrand David Klemmer with a potential 2 week suspension for touching the referee was fair enough. I am all for protecting the referee. The last thing I want is the lunacy we observe during EPL soccer matches. Referees are out of bounds. End of story. However, how does Panthers Trent Merrin escape with no charge for a similar incident only seconds after the Klemmer indiscretion? Where is the consistency there? Notwithstanding Klemmer’s poor judiciary record, no player should be allowed to touch the referee regardless of how innocuous it may appear. I could swear I’ve seen players like Cam Smith and Michael Ennis touch referees. Unfortunately, Klemmer is a victim of his poor reputation. He may as well change his initials to JWH! It’s really frustrating watching the NRL create another rod for its own back. Typically, the NRL takes 2 steps forward (eg The Bunker and The shot clock) then one step back with their inconsistencies.
Parramatta Board room drama – I am soooo tired of reading and listening to stories about the Eels’ board room dramas. How must Eels fans be feeling? That’s all I’ve ever heard for the last 3 decades at Parramatta. When is enough, enough? Their star recruit Keiran Foran even inserted a “get out” clause in his contract to mitigate any risk flowing from the Board’s incompetency! That’s how farcical the situation has become. If the alleged Third Party salary cap rorting is proven, then the NRL must not only deduct points from the Eels (as they did in 2002 with the Bulldogs and 2010 with the Storm) but also remove the existing board and install a new and independent one. There are other peripheral issues such as – how did information about the third party allegations become known to the NRL? Do we need to revisit the salary cap / third party arrangements as they stand? They are almost impossible to police and it wouldn’t surprise me if other clubs, in collaboration with player managers, are systematically and surreptitiously manipulating the salary cap rules. More on that once the board room drama unfolds…
Celebrating their 50 years existence, the Panthers came roaring out of the blocks against the Bulldogs. Playing near perfect football off the back of an aggressive forward pack and Jamie Soward’s perfect kicking game, the Panthers raced to a 14-0 lead early in the game. Typically, the Bulldogs, despite a clucky attacking performance, managed to grind their way back into the contest courtesy of outstanding performances by Moses Mybe and a rejuvenated Will Hopoate. An 80th minute try tied the game leaving former Newcastle whiz kid Kerrod “Dutchy” Holland with a dream shot at goal to win in his debut game. Cool as a cucumber he landed the conversion from an awkward angle sending the Dogs players and fans into raptures. The Bulldogs attack still appears devoid of creativity when they get into “good ball”. It’s been their Achilles heel for the past 5 years and not much appears to have changed so far this year. Surely to goodness their attacking coach can train them to play direct, run the right lines and, at very least, gain repeat sets??
The Broncos were all class handing the Warriors their 10th successive loss under embattled coach Andrew McFadden. The great teams always seem to play in gears and that’s exactly what the Broncos did in the second half as they put their foot to the pedal. What of the Warriors? The fact that their best player in Shaun Johnson made a total of 1 run for 6 meters says it all. Whatever McFadden is doing just aint working. I don’t want to hear they’re a happy camp or they all love their coach to bits. PLEASE DON’T TAKE YOUR FANS FOR FOOLS! It’s obvious there are internal problems. I would hazard to guess that McFadden is trying to implement a structure that the players refuse to buy into. The key is to return Johnson to #7, Lolohea to #6 and let these guys express their football. That’s what they’re good at. Look at what Jason Taylor has done with the Tigers so far…
Just how valuable is Canberra Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson? Talk about a clutch play! His 40/20 kick with minutes to go got his team in position to win the game and 007 Sam…Sam Williams duly delivered. The Roosters probably didn’t deserve to lose the match and, with a game v the Cowboys beckoning, the screams for JWH and Mitchell Pearce to return are bellowing through the streets of Campbell Parade. Is their season over before it starts?
No Reynolds. No Sutton. No worries! It’s hard to be critical of Brownies Babes but Souths, lead by the return of Luke Keary and George Burgess were devastating. When the Rabbitohs give the ball some air they look unstoppable. It seems every player is contributing at the moment. The Newcastle Knights, on the other hand, are a work in progress but they won’t want to get on the wrong side of slapper Brown’s tolerance threshold.
What a difference having your chief playmakers makes to your structure and composure? A near perfect defensive plan based on attacking Jonathon Thurston worked to perfection for the Parramatta Eels. Their line-speed was as good in the 79th minute as it was in the 1st. Lead by Corey Norman, Keiran Foran and a brilliant Kenny Edwards, the Eels were methodical in the way they executed coach Brad Arthur’s game plan. The premiers North Queensland Cowboys were honourable in defeat as fullback Lachlan Coote tried valiantly to rally his troops.
The local derby between the Sharks and Dragons turned out to be a bit of a fizzer…not that Sharks supporters minded. The turning point came in the first half when Sharks winger Sosaia Feki was sent to the sin bin for holding down Jason Nightingale in a try saving tackle. The score was 0-0 at that stage and the Dragons had a perfect opportunity to pile on some points. Instead, they played some really dumb footy, conceding penalties and forcing unnecessary passes to hand the Sharks most of the possession during Feki’s absence. 3 tries to the Sharks in 8 minutes gave them an unassailable 18-2 halftime lead. Game over. The Sharks looked brilliant. The Dragons looked too slow and lack any strike power (aside from Tyson Frizell) in attack. The sooner Josh Dugan goes back to fullback and touches the ball more often, the sooner the Dragons attack starts improving. Honestly, do I have to teach every coach how to play the game?
The ageless Melbourne Storm, with or without Billy Slater, just seem to go about every game like it’s… it’s their job. Professional, methodical (there’s that word again!) and machine like. The Titans will get better as the year unfolds and players like Ash Taylor are bound to be superstars.
I’m only going to say two words in relation to the Tigers v Sea Eagles game – JAMES. TEDESCO. Laurie, are you listening!?? Hey, that was more than two words! Suffice to say the kid eats it up at Leichardt Oval in much the same way that Greg Inglis is untouchable at Suncorp Stadium.