SET OF SIX
The Gus and Webby show
The Storm's controversial match winning try and can the Roosters hold on to the title? All the big news in the world of Rugby League.PT6M6S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-36rlp 620 349 April 16, 2014
1. Play to the whistle, boys!
Two weeks in a row now we have witnessed controversial moments in two separate matches with issues relating to half-time and full-time sirens.
At Leichhardt Oval a fortnight ago, the WestsTigers players were screaming to the referee that time was up on the clock approaching half time. There was a fault with the automatic siren and as the referee heard no indication that time had expired, he quite rightly allowed play to continue. Sure enough, the Tigers’ opponents, Manly, scored a try.
Young Tonumaipea of the Storm is congratulated by team mates after his match-winner against the Dragons Photo: Getty Images
Isn’t it always the way?
We saw a similar incident in Monday night’s cliff-hanger between the Melbourne Storm and St George Illawarra Dragons. The NRL has announced that upon review, the final siren sounded a split-second before the Melbourne player ‘heeled’ the ball in the last tackle of the game; so, in that sense, the referee’s call was wrong and the final play should not have proceeded.
Gee, I think the NRL officials are being harsh on themselves there. The play-the-ball action and the siren were pretty much simultaneous and I cannot be critical of the referees allowing one more play to proceed.
Experienced: Bulldog Michael Ennis. Photo: Getty Images
And what a play it was. I know it’s a bitter pill for the Dragons fans to swallow – but WOW, what a moment!
2. One-point masters
The Canterbury Bulldogs are now in second spot on the NRL ladder courtesy of successive away wins. Both these wins were by the one-point margin. On both occasions, their opponents had opportunities to secure one-point victories for themselves, but poor set-up and execution of their field-goal attempts handed the Bulldogs a chance to win these games.
Milestone: Nathan Merritt breaks Benny Wearing 81-year-old try-scoring record. Photo: Getty Images
The Bulldogs are very professional in this regard. They rarely need a second invitation to make good with their field-goal attempts. In the sets leading up to the successful field goals, the Bulldogs players all seem to be on the one page, working their kickers into position and giving them every chance to secure victory.
The exquisite manner in which they executed the field-goal options showed once again that attention to detail and spending that extra time training for such plays will often be the difference between winning and losing.
3. It’s Ennis the Menace for me
Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah has been in scintillating form so far this season and it will be a real blow for the NSW Blues if he is unavailable for the opening State of Origin match next month.
For what it’s worth, (and I hate giving opinions on Origin selections), I don’t think the NSW selectors should be looking past the Bulldogs’ Michael Ennis as his replacement. I know there are several other options being considered in the likes of Kurt Gidley, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Nathan Peats and Mitch Rein. They are all in good form and would probably do a good job if selected.
However, I would go with the experience of Ennis to play at the Origin cauldron at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. He is a super competitor, an 80-minute player, a team-conscious dummy half and I believe he excels in tight finishes. Michael Ennis would be in my team under these circumstances.
4. Time for Kiwis to take the plunge
The New Zealand Kiwis have now lost the last seven Test matches they’ve played against Australia. They have scored just 11 tries in those seven defeats.
I see this as a real problem for them and it needs to be addressed immediately. As the Kiwi selectors sit down shortly to finalise their team for the May 2 Test against Australia, I would expect this recent string of defeats to be foremost in their minds as they determine the final make up of their side.
Kevin Locke is returning to the playing field in NSW Cup this weekend after a long-term injury. I doubt he will have enough football under his belt to warrant Test selection so his absence opens up the full back position.
The Kiwis have three former Test full backs in Josh Hoffman, Gerard Beale and Sam Perrett who are fit and available. However, their best long term prospect is obviously Rooster Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, the reigning Dally M and International Winger of the Year, who was also the Kiwis’ best player during the most recent World Cup series.
If the Kiwis seriously wish to threaten Australia’s recent dominance at Test level, then they need to make some changes. Fast tracking the move of Tuivasa-Sheck from the right wing to full back, is certainly one that can only enhance their attacking options.
5. Lost opportunity
On Friday’s Good Friday public holiday, the NRL have matches scheduled for Sydney, Gosford and Newcastle. This is the one and only public holiday in the regular season that the AFL does not schedule matches in Melbourne or anywhere else in the country. It would therefore seem an ideal occasion to showcase the Melbourne Storm at home without any competition from the AFL.
The NRL has had this chance for a number of years but have yet to take advantage of this obvious opportunity to lock in a game in Melbourne on Good Friday. It should be a permanent fixture.
As a result, rugby union has now stepped in and is now playing a Super 15 match at the home ground of the Melbourne Storm this Friday. The Melbourne market is undoubtedly the toughest for our game and it seems a great shame that we let opportunities such as these slip through our fingers. Surely this would be a great way to showcase the game down south?
6. Nathan’s effort full of merit
My sincere congratulations to Rabbitohs winger Nathan Merritt on becoming the greatest ever tryscorer in South Sydney history. In the 55th minute of Friday night’s match against the Panthers, Merritt crossed for his 145th try for the club, breaking Benny Wearing’s record that had stood since 1933.
With all the great players who have worn these famous colours, it is astounding to think this record had stood for 81 years. Through hard work and persistence, not to mention his elite rugby league instincts, Nathan has forged himself a wonderful career and thoroughly deserves this recognition. It has to be remembered that he played for many years with struggling South Sydney teams.
However, his tryscoring feats were always among the best in the league. Given the way the Rabbitohs have bounced back to form in recent weeks, I don’t think Merritt’s tryscoring has finished just yet. Well done to you, Nathan.