September 12, 2019 by admin
Six things we learnt from last weekend.
1.As expected the cut-off point for finals football was 28 points.
But the big surprise was that only one team finished on the minimum and that our eight was not ultimately decided by differential for and against.
For a number of clubs it was a case of missed opportunity, with Wests Tigers, Gold Coast and Newcastle all winning just one of their last four matches and St George Illawarra two of four to all fall short.
This allowed Brisbane to hang on and Canberra to finish with a wet sail to somehow snare sixth spot.
Only four clubs have been able to put finals qualification back-to-back: Melbourne, Manly, North Queensland and Brisbane.
The Tigers, Dragons, Warriors and Knights were all unable to emulate their loftier finish in 2011.
The biggest fall from grace goes to last season’s grand finalists, the Warriors, who after last year’s home-and-away matches finished in fifth position after 14 wins and 10 losses.
Fast-forward 12 months and the New Zealanders rounded out this campaign 14th on the ladder with just eight victories and 16 defeats. They lost their last eight in a row.
There is no doubt that a top-eight finals series keeps interest in the competition right up until round 26, but there does remain the argument that such a system rewards mediocrity.
This season Brisbane qualify having lost as many games as they won.
2.The Canterbury club have the distinction of finishing as minor premiers in all three grades, which is an outstanding reflection on their depth of talent, quality of coaching and recruitment. These days all three sides rarely train together, but the unified success is still something that players throughout first grade, Toyota Cup and NSW Cup will all draw from and give them enormous confidence going into the next month of football.
The last time a club finished in top spot in each grade was the Canberra Raiders in 1990.
They went on to take out both first grade and the under-21 President’s Cup titles that year.
We have to go all the way back to 1963 for a club to have won all three premierships, and it is no surprise that it was the mighty St George who reigned supreme.
3.South Sydney’s Michael Maguire became the third man in the past 10 years to steer a side into a top-four finish in his first season as a top-grade NRL coach.
He joins Ricky Stuart and Anthony Griffin in achieving such a feat and has made a strong impression since taking over the Rabbitohs after a successful stint in the English Super League.
There’s no doubt that Souths have had an abundance of talent in recent years but were too loose and lacked the grunt to grind out finals-type matches.
This season they have looked mentally tougher under pressure.
In fact over the past month they have almost played too conservatively, which is not the kind of statement I thought I would ever make about the Rabbits.
I’ve a feeling that Maguire will still call for high completion rates, but from this weekend there will be a licence to be a little bit more adventurous with the football to fully take advantage of their obvious strike power.
For the record, Stuart won the competition in 2002 with the Roosters. Griffin’s Broncos bowed out in last year’s grand final qualifier.
4.Cronulla’s Ben Pomeroy could not have chosen a worse time to come up with a contentious shoulder charge after the ARL Commission released an edict that any such infringements would be referred straight to the judiciary.
Radio commentator Terry Kennedy made a reasonable analogy in comparing it to a ‘‘double demerit’’ period when driving a car.
I actually don’t mind the move and its timing by the Commission, as I see it as a general warning across the board concerning a tackle that has carried much controversy.
It’s not saying don’t shoulder charge – just don’t get it wrong.
That, to me, would be enough to tell my players not to tackle in such a fashion because the percentages are way too low and are now even lower.
Yet I did think that there was some doubt as to whether Pomeroy made contact with the head of Johnathan Thurston, but the very timing of Ben’s appearance in front of tonight’s panel is going to make it difficult to get off.
5.Those who argue that a side should be able to call on an 18th man if they lose a player due to foul play early in a contest were given more weight following the St George Illawarra-Parramatta clash on Sunday.
The Dragons lost the services of prop Josh Miller in the opening minute after a high tackle by the Eels’ Reni Maitua. While the tackler was placed on report the red and whites were forced to continue on a player short for the duration of the match.
This has occurred a couple of times this season.
Ironically it was Parramatta who suffered a similar fate in round 19 when Fuifui Moimoi was taken out by the Bulldogs’ Sam Kasiano when returning the opening kick-off.
Kasiano was also placed on report. Despite being found to have no case to answer on closer inspection by the judiciary, the tackle was still deemed to have been illegal on the night.
I’m not quite sure how having a designated 18th man coming in to cover such a situation would work, but I have heard the suggestion that it could be a consideration up until the 20-minute mark.
6.You will hear that the upcoming finals is something of a ‘‘new’’ competition but I can tell you that whatever has been good enough to get teams this far will go a long way towards achieving continued success.
Sides are not about to introduce change to the way they approach their football, they’ll just want to be better at it. What they will try to do is come up with some slight variations to what they have produced during the regular rounds. We saw a perfect example from the Bulldogs against the Roosters.
In the opposition 20 Canterbury have had plenty of joy with Michael Ennis passing from dummy-half and employing a runaround with his first receiver.
After getting the ball back the hooker has kept it going the same way, with his outside attackers often benefiting from the overlap that the play has helped develop.
Against the tri-colours, instead of giving the ball to Ennis after he had doubled around, the first receiver fired a pass to the blind side, which saw Josh Jackson cross for the first of his three tries on the night.
It will be what all eight remaining sides are trying to achieve – to continue what has worked and then do it better.
WINNERS AND LOSERS: Sterlo says there are six things we should take away from the final NRL round.
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