SET OF SIX

Student of the game: Peter Sharp.

Student of the game: Peter Sharp. Photo: Getty Images

1. One of the game's gents

Peter Sharp is a good man. Humble, always polite, always helpful. Peter is a real footy man. He loves the game. I don’t think I have ever met anyone more knowledgeable about rugby league than Peter Sharp. If you listen to him, I guarantee you will learn something. Peter has spent his life bringing kids through the junior systems and teaching them the game. Many of these young players have gone on to enjoy very rewarding professional careers and performed at the highest level.

I guess at one time in Peter’s career he had ambitions of being an NRL head coach, but there is a lot more to this job than just knowing the game of rugby league. There are many other pressures. It’s not for everyone. However, Peter found his niche in this game, supporting the NRL head coach as an assistant – a role which continues to take on more and more significance in the modern era. In the NFL for example, it’s the assistant coaches that actually do all the coaching. The head coach simply oversees the program and deals with the million-and-one other issues that arise from day to day.

Injury conundrum: Jamie Soward.

Injury conundrum: Jamie Soward. Photo: Getty Images

The same pattern is emerging in rugby league and I know other head coaches who have employed Peter Sharp swear by his knowledge of the game. They speak of his passion, his loyalty, his humility, his lack of ego, his encouraging manner and his meticulous work ethic. He never seeks praise. Peter Sharp makes the head coaches look better. I am so glad he walked away from that situation at the Sharks. He didn’t deserve the disrespect he had been given. Typically of Peter, he stayed silent and got on with his job. I cheered when his team won on Friday night against the Broncos. I cheered even louder yesterday when he handed in his resignation. Walk tall, Peter Sharp.

2. Brent Kite joins elite 300 club

When Brent Kite turns out for the Panthers against the Tigers on Sunday afternoon, he becomes just the 20th man to play 300 first-grade games. It’s a great achievement. Born in Queanbeyan, Kite commenced his career at the Raiders but did not play first grade with that club. He has hardly missed a game through injury or suspension (playing at least 21 games every year) and is now in his 13th season of first grade.

He played three seasons at the Dragons (2002-2004, 67 games) nine seasons at Manly (2005-2013, 221 games)  and joined the Panthers this year, playing 11 games to date. Manly made the semis in every year Kite was at the club. He played in four grand finals (2007, 2008, 2011, 2013) for two premierships (2008, 2011) and was the Clive Churchill medallist for best on ground at the 2008 grand final.

He also played for Tonga at both the 2000 and 2013 World Cups (five Tests), five Tests for Australia (2006-2008), and 10 State of Origin matches for NSW (2004, 2006-07, 2009). Apart from his football talents, Brent Kite is a wonderful person and and outstanding role model for all those who are lucky enough to call him a teammate. 

3. Bad buy – says who?

Is there anything more misleading, or worthless, than a journalist’s list of the ‘‘best and worst buys of the year’’?  It’s like those media polls with questions like, “Who is the most over-rated player in the game?” I find these lists highly offensive. These lists are rarely compiled with any reference to the expectations the club have of the player signed or how much of the salary cap (if any, as some would fall outside of the top 25) the player is taking up.  

The only relevance when evaluating a new signing should be whether the player is performing the role he was employed to do – and in doing so, is the club paying  ‘‘overs’’ or ‘‘unders’’ for him in that role?  Without knowing the expectations the club have of the player and the contract value of each player, I can’t see how any worthwhile judgments on these purchases can be made.

 Last year, Luke O’Donnell’s name was on the list of the ‘‘worst buys of 2013’’, even though he was on a very modest eight-month contract to play for the Roosters in a specific role as an interchange prop, within a relatively young squad.  By the end of the year, he had played 20 first-grade games, 17 of which his club won, beat off challenges from fine young props Isaac Liu and Dylan Napa for a grand final spot, and won a premiership.  I’m sure his club didn't think he was a bad buy.

4. Brisbane blues

The Broncos’ loss to the Sharks last Friday night was the fourth time this season that they have led into the final seven minutes but not won the match.  In round three, they led 26-18 against the Roosters with four minutes to go, at home, but lost 30-26.  In round eight, they lost to the Titans 12-8 after leading 8-6 with seven to go.  Again in round eight, this time against the Rabbitohs, they were beaten 28-26 after leading 26-22 with seven to go.  All these matches were in Queensland, as was last Friday night’s collapse against Cronulla.  

Playing at home again, in their familiar Friday night timeslot, with Origin players available and players not backing up from a midweek rep fixture, the Broncos led the team running last, who hadn’t scored a point in a match for nearly six weeks, 22-0 with 26 minutes remaining.  They were still in front with six minutes to go but a fourth try in 20 minutes to the Sharks and a fourth conversion was enough to sink the Broncos.

 It must be heartbreaking for Anthony Griffin and his coaching staff at the Broncos to see all the hard work his team puts in for so much of their matches only to see four games, through less than two thirds of the season, slip away with the final siren so close.  Who’d want to be a coach? 

5. Blues need to play like champs

After eight long years of Queensland dominance in the State of Origin arena, the NSW Blues will finally get their name on the winner’s shield in season 2014. However, it will be tough for them as a group to come off the emotional high of clinching the series in game II and generate the same level of commitment and passion leading into game III. That is the reality of the situation. But that’s the gig. It’s not easy, but this is what the coaches and the players need to come to terms with in the next seven days as they prepare for this match.

Normally we talk up these  ‘‘dead rubbers’’ as being important. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they are not. More often than not, you feel like the race has been run and it’s hard to be grim when you don’t have to be. But on this occasion, I think it’s very important the Blues finish this series on a high note and a 3-0 whitewash of the Maroons.

After taking eight seasons to finally win a series and be crowned champions, it would be unfortunate if they simply hand a victory straight back to their opponents. You owe it to yourselves to finish this like champions. Beat them up again, and never get tired of winning.

6. Jamie Soward – what the doctor said!

This is what the Panthers club doctor reported after Jamie Soward’s scans were conducted on Monday evening. “The MRI scan on Jamie’s ankle is extremely interesting and explains all of his symptoms. Jamie has a lesion called an  ‘‘os trigonum’’. This is an accessory ossicle (a small bony lesion that sits behind one of the bones in the heel called the talus) that is not present in everyone and is normally asymptomatic. It is connected to the talus by way of a fibrous band. In Jamie’s case, this accessory ossicle is particularly prominent.

Apparently, this fibrous band has been torn and the ossicle is now unstable. With the movement of the ossicle the tendon of one of the muscles in that area (the FHL) has slipped and is getting caught between the ossicle and the talus. This would explain why he was getting symptoms up into the calf. It would also explain why he had ‘‘pain in the Achilles tendon’’: The pain was not actually in the Achilles tendon but was rather over the site of the fibrous band of the ossicle. As a result of this tear, there is a lot of inflammation and swelling in this area”.

What the hell does that mean?

“So Doc, in layman’s terms, do we shoot him and put him down, or is he right to play?”

“We shall see” was the definitive reply. I love doctors!

Twitter  @gusgould91