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Phil Gould's Set of Six: Lifting tackles are not all equal

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Let’s take care – but let’s be sensible as well

Taking out a game-wide edict on any tackle that even remotely looks like a lift shows little understanding of what can actually happen in a tackle. Speed, size, strength and momentum are important factors that need to be considered when analysing the cause and effect of a tackle. There was an incident at a Panthers training session last Friday during a practice game between the NRL and NYC teams. NRL halfback Peter Wallace made a half break through the middle of the field before being confronted by NYC half back Sam Scarlett. Sam attempted a legs tackle as Peter stepped and swerved. The result was a huge collision and Peter went up and over Sam, landing on his head. Thankfully no one was hurt — but, had this been in a proper game, I fear Sam would be facing a serious dangerous-throw charge and a lengthy suspension. This shows, with the speed, size, momentum and evasive talents of ball-runners, how easily accidents can occur despite the fact this was a friendly training gallop. There are the dangerous lifts when a player is stationary and the defenders lift his leg to tip him over. These need to be policed and even outlawed. However, there are also many instances of momentum and force conspiring to give an awkward looking result without any malice, intent or even control. Some of the tackles charged last weekend are a complete over-reaction.

Nothing wrong with ANZ Stadium this week

Crowds of 43,000 for the Good Friday clash between the Bulldogs and Rabbits, and 50,000 for Easter Monday’s clash between the Tigers and Eels, were indeed a sight for sore eyes. This is how it should be. We should be working strongly towards making this the norm. The atmosphere at both games was outstanding. Congratulations to all four clubs for developing this following at ANZ Stadium over the past number of seasons. Ifully understand people complaining about ANZ Stadium not being conducive to a great rugby league experience when played in front of small crowds. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with this venue when people turn up in such huge numbers. Lower the price of admission and play the games in fan-friendly afternoon timeslots. Ifplayers from all clubs continue the standard of rugby league we have seen in recent times, then it won’t be long until such large crowds become more commonplace.

Putting together a winning team is hard enough

I do not know the full details of the Glenn Stewart salary cap drama at the Sea Eagles. However, I do know a fair bit about how heavily back-ended playing contracts can affect a club’s future salary cap position and force them into extremely difficult and even undesirable decisions further down the track. If you look at the core group of star players that has served Manly so well over this great recent period in the club’s history, you can see that most of these players came to the club either as unknown kids, or certainly as unproven players at their previous clubs. The club’s ability to develop these players into representative-class performers and win premierships with them means that the club will eventually be punished for such success. Why should the club have to lose any of these star players just because they became great and deserved higher salaries? I think it is sad that Glenn Stewart has to move on at this stage of his career. Salary cap management is extremely difficult. Unfortunately the current salary model does not help this process.


Sydney — will you be there?

A recent comment by NRL CEO Dave Smith to a Queensland audience, suggesting that Brisbane is the geographical centre of rugby league’s ‘‘heartland’’, incited a great deal of outrage from rugby league’s perpetually indignant. On Friday, May 2, Allianz Stadium in Sydney will host its first Test since the 2008 World Cup. The match between 2013 World Cup winners Australia and runners-up New Zealand will give all Sydneysiders the opportunity to show the powers that be that more Test matches should be played in this part of the world. The last three Test matches played in Queensland have attracted crowds of 26,497 (Townsville, 2012), 26,301 (Gold Coast, 2011) and 36,299 (Brisbane, 2010). To be honest, any crowd below 30,000 in rugby league’s largest Australian city will do little to encourage the game’s administrators to increase the number of Test matches played in Sydney. For those who genuinely felt that Mr Smith’s personal observation was inaccurate, you can show him and the rugby league world that Sydney’s passion to watch the best of our players, proudly representing their nations of heritage, is at least the equal of those rugby league fans north of the border. Come on Sydney. Let’s make it a sell-out. 40,000, here we come!!

Melbourne’s poor defence needs to be addressed

Only the Melbourne Storm side of 2001 has conceded as many points per game as this 2014 Storm outfit. Over the past seven seasons, the Storm have conceded less than 14points a game on average. After seven rounds this season, the Storm’s defence is averaging 25 points a game against them and currently have the second worst defence in the NRL. In their past four matches, they have averaged 30 missed tackles a game. They have been such an outstanding defensive side for so long that it almost defies belief to see them defend the way they have this year. Last season, no team qualified for the final eight after conceding more than 20 points per game. Unless the Storm improve dramatically in this area, they may well miss the finals, and the top four currently looks a forlorn hope based on what we have seen from them so far this season. Fortunately, inCraig Bellamy they have the right man to get their defence back in order.

Blues should board the Hayne Plane

Last week in this column I suggested Bulldog hooker Michael Ennis was the perfect replacement for the injured Robbie Farah in the NSW State of Origin team. His courageous performance for the Bulldogs last weekend only convinces me even more that this would be a wise decision. May I take this opportunity to offer one more small suggestion? If Parramatta fullback Jarryd Hayne promises to bring the same attitude and good form to State of Origin that he is currently displaying for his club, then there is no doubt he should be the fullback for the New South Wales Blues. I will go even further to say, if Jarryd Hayne decides it’s time for New South Wales to win an Origin series, he is more than capable of making it happen. That is how influential he can be when he puts his mind to the task. I have been critical of Jarryd’s overall contributions and consistency in the past. But I only do so because I believe he is so much better than he regularly shows. At his best, he has no peer.