Zero Tolerance or Zero Brains

Zero Tolerance or Zero Brains

Many NRL figures are calling for black and white rulings and instant charges for any player who makes contact with a Referee.

Have we gone mad!!!!!!

Watching the Brisbane V Cowboys game on Friday night and the issue raised its head again. Lachlan Maranta ran to the line for a quick tap and in doing so made contact with the Referee. For the past several weeks there have been numerous instances such as Keiran Foran placing a hand on the back of a match official and Trent Merrin touching the hip of a match official.

Before the NRL goes and makes brisk uninformed decisions, has anyone thought to ask the victims (the Referees) what they are comfortable with? Everyone is making assumptions for their safety and well being without even consulting the very people they aim to protect. Consider the case of David Klemmer, the Referee that was touched actually became a witness and aided in getting Klemmer off.

Really there is only one question we need to answer.

If Jonathon Thurston, Sam Burgess, Cameron Smith or Keiran Foran pat a referee on the back in a Semi Final would we be prepared to prevent them from playing the Grand Final? The likely scenario will see their case thrown out, with some political jargon thrown around of how that case was different to all the rest throughout the year. In my opinion these double standards are more damaging to the credibility of our game than what could be considered an act of mateship by players.

I see the point of aiming to remove Referee contact from the game and I will support that, but by no means should we have players suspended for such incidents. Any intent to harm or intimidate a Referee should be an instant suspension, it has no place in the game at any level and we should apply “zero tolerance”. However for minor incidents such as accidental contact, or a pat on the back the smart solution is a fine. Fine the players use the money to grow the game and keep the players on the field.

The Recipe for Success

The Recipe for Success

What is the true make up of a premiership winning team?

While coaches play a critical part in a team’s success, I don’t believe they win premierships. They certainly have an influence on getting a team there but the true success comes from a good halves pairing.

A good halves pairing consists of a dominant half (usually halfback) and a solid secondary half (usually 5/8). Now before you point out that most halves now play either side of the field, hear me out.

My referral to a dominant half is the half who over rules all other calls. Joey Johns, Jonathon Thurston, Adam Reynolds and many others before them are examples of dominant halves. A dominant half needs to be the organiser and take control of the game. They direct the play and the side’s attack is largely a reflection of their tactics, especially come 5th tackle.

The secondary half provides relief for the dominant half. While the dominant half controls the game, the secondary half still organises backline shifts and are an option on the 5th tackle. They are usually ball runners often taking on the line and compiling more run meters than the dominant half.

Look back through the last 4 premiership winning teams and you see these winning combinations of quality halfbacks with skilled ball runners in 5/8.

Dominant Secondary
2012 Melbourne Storm Cooper Cronk Gareth Widdop
2013 Sydney Roosters Mitch Pierce James Maloney
2014 South Sydney Rabbitohs Adam Reynolds Luke Keary
2015 North Queensland Cowboys Jonathon Thurston Michael Morgan

 

 

2016 Top 5 Halves Pairings

  1. Mitchell Mosses & Luke Brooks

Still early in their careers the Tigers possess 2 of the best halves in the game. While I don’t think they can go all the way this year, expect to see the Tigers on the podium in years to come if they keep this duo together

 

  1. Ben Hunt & Anthony Milford

Last year’s runners up have already proved their ability in their first year together. With Milford taking his game to the next level in the first 3 rounds they remain a side capable of giving the tree a real shake

 

  1. Adam Reynold & Luke Keary

This pairing has already won a premiership, although they are yet to play 80 minutes together in 2016. Watch out for the Bunnies when Reynolds returns

 

  1. Jonathon Thurston & Michael Morgan

Last year’s premiers, need I say more…………..

 

  1. Kieran Foran & Corey Norman

A newly formed combination for 2016, and what a combination it is. Brad Arthur possesses the most potent halves combination in the comp. Both Foran and Norman are playing outstanding football and Foran is still carrying a hamstring injury. When Foran gets to 100% watch out!

Packing Up The Scrum

Packing Up The Scrum

Are we just like America hanging on to their gun laws from the constitution.

Are we so patriotic and traditional that we cannot get past history and see the obvious solution? So why do we keep it and what is the alternative?

Scrums have always been a part of rugby league since its inception. The scrum provided both teams an opportunity to contest possession whilst giving an advantage to the team feeding the ball. During the 1970s, scrum penalties for feeding the ball into the legs of the second row, packs moving off the “mark” or collapsing the scrum were seen as unattractive. The ability of teams to win a game purely on goals from scrum penalties was also seen as unfair. In an effort to improve this situation, changes to rules and their enforcement were made.

Since these changes there has been less emphasis on scrums, resulting in teams incorrectly taking the loose head, halves feeding the ball through the 2nd row and neither team contesting the scrum.

So what do scrums provide in the modern game other than a rest for the players. Removing the forward pack and providing the backline with open space can make for entertaining football. Teams rarely take full advantage of attacking from the scrum, with a forward often opting to stand outside the scrum and take a hit up on the first play. With structured play more prevalent and a focus on completing sets, teams rarely try to score from scrums outside of the opposition 20.

Whilst many deep down realize the scrum is dead I believe the hesitation for replacing scrums comes from not knowing what they will be replaced with. If a player knocks on, should the ball just be handed to the opposition? This would speed up the game and turn over the advantage immediately to the attacking team, but should the defending team not have an opportunity to win back possession?

Vossy has been campaigning for numerous years to remove scrums from our game, defining them more often than not as a joke. Whilst I agree they hold no purpose in the modern game, I am a traditionalist and couldn’t imagine our game without them. If our reluctance truly comes from traditionalism we should look at why the scrum was included and what its purpose was. If it was to provide an opportunity for both teams to secure possession than perhaps we should focus on replicating that in a more modern way.

What’s Wrong Warriors

What’s Wrong Warriors

There is no doubt on paper the Warriors have a team capable of winning a premiership. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson and Isaac Luke form their spine with plenty of experience up front in Jacob Lillyman, Simon Mannering and Ryan Hoffman, yet the Warriors shown no sign of putting together 80 minutes of football. However this is nothing new, the NZ based team has long been criticized for their inconsistent performances and falling short of their potential.

To me they look too structured, something the Warriors have never done well with. The Warriors at their best play a fast, entertaining style of footy, attacking on almost every play regardless of field position and they do so with success thanks to the athleticism and skill from players like Shaun Johnson.

Their other major fallback is the revolving door when it comes to coaches. The Warriors have had 4 coaches since 2012 and the lack of consistency really shows in their on field performance.

If the Warriors are going to play finals football in 2016 they need to throw out the structure and play their natural style of football. They certainly have a forward pack that Luke and Johnson can play off the back off if they can get rolling. Perhaps Andrew McFadden should make a phone call to Tim Sheens regarding his coaching strategy for 2005 when he took the unorthodox Tigers to a Premiership.

Round 2

Round 2

Dogs VS Panthers

Panthers put up their best, but their best was not good enough. The Panthers forward pack really impressed earning good meters up the middle. Without Segeyaro that halves played too sideways through the game and failed to convert possession into points. The dogs showed they were the real deal and found a way to win.

 

Broncos VS Warriors

I had concerns for Brisbane early, failing to move off the defense line. The Warriors were making big meters in the first half and had plenty of opportunity to attack Brisbane’s line. Brisbane’s resilient defense held the visitors at bay and allowed them to dominate the 2nd half. The Warriors never came out of the dressing room after half time and failed to go on with the match.

Jeff Robson tried hard, did Shaun Johnson play?

 

Raiders VS Roosters

It was a sloppy first half with only a set or two completed by either team in the first 10 minutes. The game contained a lot of errors and penalties throughout.The Raiders finished strongly through a great 40/20 kick in the dying stages of the match to give the Raiders field possession and Williams the opportunity to kick the field goal. Guerra was impressive but their forward pack seems to be missing a spark, Waerea-Hargreaves?

 

Souths VS Knight

I thought the impact of losing Reynolds and Sutton would be more prevalent in South Sydney’s performance but it went virtually unnoticed. Burgess, Inglis, and Keary were outstanding in a big win in Sydney. Souths are going to be a real threat if they can field a full strength side in 2016. The knights were just plain poor, playing error filled football with nothing gelling in the halves. They were bunched up with no shape whatsoever to their attack. Hodkinson and Mullen have yet to establish a partnership and until that happens the Knights look to continue their losing streak. Its early days but they look like top contenders for the wooden spoon.

 

Cowboys VS Eels

Eels delivered to expectations with both their first string halves playing together for the first time in 2016. Whilst neither Foran nor Norman delivered an outstanding performance they provided direction and patience, something the Eels have been lacking for quite some time. The Cowboys performance was dismal in the first half completing only 9 of 16 sets. They returned from half time a completely different team but were beaten by the clock. The game was the first of 2016 I though was over reefed with officials blowing numerous penalties throughout the game and several players being placed on report.

 

Tigers VS Manly

I didn’t hold much hope for either of these teams this season and for one team this proved true, Manly are dismal. The club has been unable to replace the quality players that have left in the past 3 years and losing Keiran Foran has torn them apart. The performance in the halves can be summed up by Cherry-Evans handing off a ball to a forward on the fifth tackle for a hit up in the dying stages of the match. Manly had just scored and on the back of the kick off worked their way up field into attacking position. Still with enough time on the clock to snatch a win the Million Dollar half back had no idea it was the last tackle and cemented the victory for the Tigers. On the other hand the Tigers young halves played some quality football against the Sea Eagles. The Tigers look sharp in attack and Moses and Brooks frequently took on the line. It might not be this year but the Tigers look to have a premiership in them in the next 2-3 years.

Top 8ight Predictions

Top 8ight Predictions

With a round down I guess its time to make ridiculous assumptions on which teams will form part of the top 8

1. Bulldogs

Canteburys’ big mean have showed great stamina so far despite the reduced interchange. If they can keep Aidan Tolman and James Graham fit and playing big minutes I think they are a big chance at securing the minor premiership

2. Broncos

Brisbane looks in good form once again. So far they have failed to gel down the right edge with new recruits James Roberts and Greg Eden. With the Wing/Centre combinations not yet firm I don’t see them hitting full form until round 8

3. Storm

Despite the unMelbourne like performance with the ball against the Dragons, Melbourne found a way to win. If they can keep their stars on the field, I think they will got top 4

4. Rabbitohs

By half time against the Roosters I had them pegged for the minor premiership. However with injuries to Reynolds and Sutton I expect them to lose a couple of close ones in the first half of the season. Sam Burgess leadership will keep them top 4

5. Cowboys

I expect the reigning premiers to carry momentum through to Rd 9 where they then have 3 away games in 4 weeks. A loss of momentum through the mid season will see them drop a few spots finishing 5th.

6. Dragons

I liked what I saw from the Dragons against the Storm, a gutsy effort with good direction from Benji Marshall and Garreth Widdop. If the halves can build on their current form they will be there come September.

7. Parramatta

Despite playing half the game without any first string halves the Eels put in a valiant effort against a near full strength Brisbane side. The addition of Kieran Foran will only strengthen the team with Corey Norman already providing some flair in the halves.

8. Sharks

Cronulla have recruited well over the past several years signing several unsung heroes to their roster. While they don’t have representative players all across the park, they do posses a good amount of talent and depth.

 

Honorable Mention

Roosters

It is hard to leave them out of the top 8 especially with Trent Robinson at the helm. For me the loss of Maloney and benching Pierce leaves them too much inexperience in the halves. With SKD and Copley in the centers they are a chance but from the weekends performance I don’t see them getting enough quality ball through the halves.

The Three Transitions

The Three Transitions

 

What a way to get started!!! Welcoming back Sam Burgess to Rugby League, the Dragons unable to win in Melbourne since 1999 and the reigning Premiers scraping in a round 1 win against the sharks. There were some tremendous talking points from Round 1, but lets kick off with the 3 big changes for 2016.

The Bunker

For myself personally the highlight was the introduction of the Bunker. I watched 5 games on the weekend and in my opinion the Bunker was a great all round success. It provided efficient and informed decisions that allowed the game to continue to flow, keeping fans alike engaged in the match.

But honestly it is no surprise!!! It is tried and tested as many American sports such as NHL use this system to great success. I enjoyed NOT watching 10+ replays of each angle time after time, trying to figure out what the officials are trying to find.

“Supporters will also be informed. We will transform the fan experience through live explanations via the broadcast and via our digital and social platforms.”

and……………………… we were!

My Verdict = NO SURPRISES

 

Reduced Interchange

The lowlight if you will was the reduced interchange. While it is only round 1, what I did witness was how sloppy the early rounds can be. Players lack match fitness and as a result there are numerous errors in the game. I question whether the reduced interchange will bring the desired result.

“We want the best football being played by the best footballers”

Will the reduced interchange achieve this, or just provide us with a scrappy, error filled back half of the game? I understand the intention of the NRL to provide oppurtunity to the smaller, quicker players in an aim of providing great attacking football in the dying stages of games.

“We think these changes are a significant first step because they will reward endurance and fitness and open up the game”

“As a result of these changes, there will be a greater emphasis on skill to complement power and size”

As a fan i hope it goes to plan. It is truly exhilarating to look back on the likes of Allan Langer, Matt Bowen, Preston Cambell and many others that had huge success through there agility and speed over the years.

My Verdict = FINGERS CROSSED

 

The Scrum Clock

Mixed emotions on this change. It has been well documented how the players waited for the scrum clock to wind down in the All Star game. I again witnessed it Monday night in the Storm V Dragons. In the late stages of the game the Dragons were awarded the feed and packed quickly. Time was stopped and the Storm players took advantage and caught their breath for a few seconds. Ironically the scrum clock was not shown on the big screen so the Storm players had no idea of how long they had before potentially being penalised.

Several players have already commented that it will likely result in teams utilising all the time available, when previously they may have packed quicker.

“I’ll be honest with you, I think it gives us players a chance to have a rest,” said Smith.

“There were a few times there early on where we were at the scrum with about 25 seconds left on the clock. I used my brains a bit and told the boys to wait another 20 seconds”

Perhaps the best solution would be to keep the shot clock. However once one team has packed the clock should be reduced to 10 seconds for the remaining team to pack. This would still keep all scrums under 35 seconds, while limiting the ability for the defending team to exploit the rule change

My Verdict = NEEDS TWEAKING