WHAT WE LEARNED: Some great players are getting old fast; ref mistakes rife; and it's still four months until the hottest teams meet ...
Round 24 can’t come soon enough
Whoever put together the season draw has a tantric approach to delayed gratification. We will have to wait more than four months for the two form teams – the Dragons and Storm – to meet. If the surest method of creating a successful competition is maximising clashes between the best contenders then it is crazy that these heavyweights do not meet until the round commencing August 19. On the other hand, if building up expectation is the way to boost excitement, then perhaps the NRL has this one right.
Melbourne was excellent against an uncreative, uninspired Parramatta. The ability of Craig Bellamy to weave emerging and unknown players into his senior side while maintaining overall excellence is exceptional. Recent re-signings Kevin Proctor and Ryan Hinchcliffe are examples of formerly limited players flourishing under Bellamy’s tutelage.
The Dragons were impressive against the Bulldogs. Jamie Soward has gained even more confidence in his ringmaster role, Mark Gasnier played his best game for the year, and Darius Boyd produced a classic 12-point play: instead of the Dogs scoring under the posts at one end, he gambled on an intercept and dotted down at the other.
Roll on round 24.
Getting old fast
A couple of quality players suddenly appear to be running on old legs (to borrow a famous Anthony Mundine sledge). Rhys Wesser was an unsung champion at Penrith and has given reasonable service to Souths, but he seems to have lost the speed to turn and chase without the ball, and lacks zip with ball in hand. Another excellent veteran, Bulldog skipper Andrew Ryan, will always be committed and competitive but currently lacks the physical vim effective backrowers need.
Contrarily, Matt Utai looks revitalised, and it is hard to compute that he was relegated to park footy last year. And the ancient warrior, Petero Civoniceva, is averaging 110m with the ball in each game this year – at the age of 78.
Vote of confidence
If you are John Lang, it must burn when Chris Sandow – a player in whom you have placed enormous (perhaps unwarranted) confidence, says: “It would be great to have Wayne [Bennett as coach] because he is a champion and he wants to win games, and that is something Souths have got to do.” Lang might think he wants to win games too – and that Sandow hasn’t been doing a lot to help.
We hate bagging referees. They make fewer mistakes than players, generally speaking, and cop too much abuse. However, there were some howlers this round: numerous forward passes that went unpunished; one pass called forward that wasn’t; curious work in the video ref box; and one team (the Sharks) copping a caning with and without possession that probably cost them the game. Let’s hope for better work in round six.
- Eight Cowboys ran for 100m or more against the soft-centred Titans.
- Worst pass of the round: Mitchell Pearce’s rainbow ball that sailed over Todd Carney’s head, bounced, and was scooped up by Shaun Berrigan for the Warriors’ clincher.
- Robbie Farah ran 115m, kicked for 141m, had three offloads and made 41 tackles. Wonder what he’d be like with a decent groin?
- Jonathan Mannah played four minutes for the Sharks, and Daniel Harrison played two minutes for Manly. Hardly earned a shower.
- Do you reckon Paul Gallen would like that attempted offload and Anthony Tupou would like that attempted intercept – both in the final couple of minutes – over again?
The views in this story are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.