Des Hasler is the signing of the season
Following on from a disappointing 2011 season, the Bulldogs new coach Des Hasler has his team firing on all cylinders, and with just 8 rounds to go Canterbury are just two competition points behind the Storm, who are looking wobbly at the top.
After a few words from Hasler at half-time after a sub-par first 40 against the Wests Tigers on Friday night, the Bulldogs came out firing to score two quick second half tries, eventually winning 32-20.
Hasler’s ability to improve his team individually and as a group can’t be emphasised enough. Ben Barba, Sam Kasiano and Josh Reynolds have all taken their games to a new level and were unlucky not have played Origin football this season. The Bulldogs are now one of the sides to beat in 2012.
The Storm have come back to the field
After winning their first nine games of the season the Melbourne Storm were expected to cruise to the NRL Minor Premiership, but nine weeks later they appear to have run out of gas. Missing the injured Billy Slater and fatigued Cameron Smith, the Storm were spanked 40-12 against Canberra at AAMI Stadium on Saturday night. Yep, Canberra. While any NRL team is going to miss two of the most influential players of all time, what was most noticeable was how average the other Storm players looked (excluding Cooper Cronk) without the two future Immortals.
The Storm have lost three out of their past four games, and while Slater is still reportedly a couple of weeks off a return, Smith is expected to play against the Cowboys this Saturday – not a moment too soon for the spluttering Storm.
Parramatta’s spine for Sunday’s game against Manly at Brookvale Oval read 1. Jake Mullaney, 6. Luke Kelly, 7. Chris Sandow, 9. Nathan Smith. Mullaney and Smith were on debut; Kelly has played eight games; and then there’s the horribly out of form Chris Sandow.
None of these names were ever going to strike fear into the heart of the defending premiers. The Sea Eagles led 40-0 after just 48 minutes after exiting the blocks as fast as that other Jamaican bloke who knocked off Usain Bolt last week. Despite scoring the last four tries, the Eels were still comfortably defeated 40-24. You can’t compete in the NRL with that spine.
The Roosters know how to drag the opposition down to their level
Cold, wet and slippery conditions greeted the Sharks and Roosters on Monday night at Toyota Park – hardly ideal for a Cronulla team containing a host of in form ball players, including Todd Carney. Despite having little possession, conditions were still more suited to a bigger and slower moving Roosters pack that were intent on making the game an arm-wrestle.
The Roosters are particularly good at bringing other teams down to their level. This was never more evident than in the 63rd minute when the Sharks took a penalty goal to increase their lead to four, rather than put a tired Roosters team to bed by scoring a try. It came back to bite them as scores finished 14 all at the end of the second half. The less discussed about the eight field goal attempts that took place in extra-time the better, but it was indicative of the scrappy and bruising 80 minutes that preceded it.
NRL plays second fiddle to State of Origin
The build up to State of Origin 3, and consequently all the talking points that came from the epic encounter last Wednesday night, certainly took the gloss off a round of just six NRL matches that took place over the weekend. It also didn’t help that many of the games stars were rested or were injured for this week’s fixtures following a tough two month Origin period – including Smith, Gallen, Harrison, Bird, Myles, Slater and Glenn Stewart. With the representative period now complete, it’s time for NRL players and fans to once again focus entirely on the week in and week out grind of the NRL. Bring it on!
- Hasler’s Dogs no longer flying under radar (news.smh.com.au)