‘Are Rugby League Fans Taking A Stand?’ Published on theroar.com.au 19/3/13
While the entertainment on-field has been scintillating after the first two rounds of the new National Rugby League season, the on-going drugs scandal has kept many fans away.
But realistically ASADA’s investigation is only half the problem. Soaring ticket prices and poor scheduling has many families staying away.
It might be a television ratings monster, but does rugby league do enough to get the supporters through the turnstiles?
Thursday football means another night of NRL and there is nothing wrong with that. But do supporters, with another workday ahead of them, really want to be getting home so late?
Rivalry matches like Parramatta Eels versus Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs should be given a Sunday afternoon timeslot and allow all fans a chance to get to the match.
Sydneysiders do not need much of a reason to stay home and battling that dreaded Sydney traffic is nobody’s idea of a good time. Why would the fans show up?
There was a sense of inevitability in the air at WIN Stadium on Friday night as the St George-Illawarra Dragons fumbled their way to a loss against the Brisbane Broncos.
Dragons fans are quickly becoming restless with their team and a crowd of only 13,156 showed up. No doubt this was a disappointing result for the club considering it was their first home match of the season.
It seems their crowds are going to get worse before they get better.
The Gold Coast Titans have been in trouble for some time. Since their inception in 2007, crowds at Robina have dropped dramatically and time and time again supporters have complained about ridiculous pricing inside the arena.
12,267 was given as the official crowd number on Sunday but you can bet your bottom dollar there wasn’t that many there. The place was empty.
Out at Campbelltown, a surprisingly small crowd watched the Wests Tigers in their first home match of the year. Only 9,175 fans saw the Tigers down fellow Western Sydney side the Penrith Panthers.
You can hardly call the Tigers a Western Sydney side though, with the side based at Concord and playing a meagre four games a year at Campbelltown.
Are the local fans making a stand?
The price of a general admission ticket at A-League side the Western Sydney Wanderers is an acceptable $20. But the price spikes by $10 at a Tigers NRL game and a family ticket (two adults and two children) can cost as much as $130.
A junior ticket to a GWS Giants AFL match is as low as $6.
$30 is hardly value for money.
And then there is the ratings winner they call Monday Night Football. It might do well for Fox Sports, but only the hardy and most avid fans ever dare head to the match live.
The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles have seven Monday night matches in 2013 and have every right to be dirty on the NRL.
There is no doubt Manly are going to lose out financially with this scheduling. Perhaps the Eagles can ask the NRL to cover the difference at the end of the year.
A rocking crowd of 14,128 “packed” ANZ Stadium to watch South Sydney and the Cronulla Sharks for MNF. It was a terrible look at the ground and looked even worse on TV.
If Monday Night Football really is about TV ratings, why not take MNF to the bush on a weekly basis?
Give back to the fans? Perish the thought.
‘Are The Sharks The Hunters or Hunted?’ Published on theroar.com.au 20/3/13
After two short rounds of the 2013 National Rugby League season, the New Zealand Warriors have been nothing short of disappointing.
But if ever there was a time to get the Cronulla Sharks, Sunday is it.
Despite a late surge against the Sydney Roosters at Eden Park on Saturday night, the Warriors are yet to snare a victory.
It is not quite panic stations, but Matt Elliott’s young team must start finding that winning feeling before it’s too late.
After a disastrous trip to Parramatta in round one and a first up loss in Auckland, the Warriors will take any advantage they can get. This team has every chance of a boil over on Sunday at Sharks Stadium.
While the ASADA scandal rolls on, you can’t blame the Sharks if they fall short in round three. Without their coach and a number of the staff, Cronulla have been involved in two gruelling contests.
An emotional victory against the Gold Coast in round one was followed by a narrow loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium. The very nature of Cronulla’s style can also be their biggest enemy.
For a team to play such a simplistic rugged style can only harm them when say, the Warriors come to town, and the favourites tag is placed squarely on the Sharkies.
The intensity drops slightly and wham, Warriors secure the upset.
It was also evident on Monday night that speed around the ruck hurts Cronulla more than most. If the Warriors pack can match the Sharks, their little men can cause all sorts of problems for the Sharks.
We are yet to see Shaun Johnson or Kevin Locke unleash.
For the Warriors to be a threat moving forward these talented youngsters need to stand up and be counted.
Johnson has already been labelled the next Benji Marshall. But for whatever reason, the dynamic playmaker is yet to take that next step. This is his team and he needs to take charge and lead the way.
Paul Gallen’s Sharks have an uncanny knack of turning a game of football into an old fashioned scrap. They like to get down and dirty and outlast their opposition. They did it to the Titans in round one and almost did the same to the Rabbitohs.
If the Warriors can keep the tempo high on a fast track, they are every chance of beating Cronulla, who can be excused for not being at their best yet again. And don’t ever doubt the Monday night curse.
“We will make sure it’s not easy for them [Sharks], either,” Elliott told The New Zealand Herald.
“There are no easy games in the NRL. With that baseline effort and the attitude the boys displayed, I am not optimistic, I am confident we will turn this around.”
The Auckland-based club needed to show some fight last weekend and now they need to show the rest of the NRL that they can still play.
Unbelievably the Warriors have lost ten consecutive matches and must break the drought on Sunday afternoon.
The Sharks have won their last two encounters but New Zealand won the two prior to that.
A Warriors victory can kick start their season with upcoming home matches against North Queensland Cowboys and South Sydney Rabbitohs before a trip to Newcastle to face Wayne Bennett’s Knights.
Whether this team has the desperation to win away from home is still to be seen.
‘The Last Thing Reynolds Boys Need Is State of Origin’ Published on theroar.com.au 22/3/13
Last year I was fortunate enough to have Canterbury Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds on my radio program at a park football match in Sydney’s southwest.
It was not scheduled and nobody knew the fiery playmaker would even be at the match. But like good siblings do, Reynolds was there supporting his younger brother.
Reynolds was good enough to come on and have a chat about his meteoric rise under new coach Des Hasler. Even when the power went out for a few minutes, the Bulldog hung around and answered all our questions.
When you think Josh Reynolds, you think of a player who will never back down and always support his teammates. The kind of guy you want on the paddock with you when the chips are down.
Since his debut, Reynolds has gained somewhat of a reputation as a niggler. Is it any wonder that the day he was out in Liverpool watching his brother play, that brother was sent off for fighting?
We have only had two weeks of the new National Rugby League season, yet the media has already started the State of Origin hype and the seemingly endless journey to find New South Wales’ halves combination that finally ends Queensland’s dominance.
Does Mitchell Pearce get another chance or is it time for Adam Reynolds?
Can Todd Carney hold onto the number six jersey or will Josh Reynolds be the next bloke thrown into the deep end against the might of the Maroons?
But this isn’t a pro-Reynolds story. To play both Reynolds boys is a sin Blues selectors simply can’t commit. For the sake of both their futures, please don’t pick them this year.
Now that isn’t to say the Blues can’t win with Pearce and Carney at the helm. NSW coach Laurie Daley was right in supporting the incumbents. How close were the Blues in 2012?
Whether you like them or not, Pearce and Carney have to be New South Wales’ six and seven for Game One on the fifth of June at ANZ Stadium.
Adam Reynolds might be the reigning NRL Rookie of the Year, but is that enough justification to hand him the toughest job in the rugby league world?
The diminutive playmaker is still evolving.
Prior to season 2012, Canterbury pivot Josh Reynolds was playing reserve grade. This is only his second full season.
These young men aren’t ready to carry the burden of leading the Blues. Although Bulldogs legend Steve Mortimer seems to disagree.
“I am a big fan of Josh Reynolds and from what I’ve seen from him, there is a definite opportunity for him to go further in the game through representative football,” Mortimer told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“He is a catalyst in attack. Just like Thurston is for the Cowboys and Cronk is for the Storm, Reynolds is that catalyst for the Bulldogs. I do honestly believe with the players around him at Origin level, he’ll mature into one of the key players for us in a Blues jersey.”
For the time being, Carney/Pearce still sounds a whole lot better than Reynolds/Reynolds. The former Roosters teammates have played Origin together and they know what kind of speed you need to play Origin at.
Have they got the Blues over the line yet? Obviously not. But what happens if the two Reynolds are picked and struggle with the occasion? What then?
How long are they scarred for? Would the risk of a repeat in Game Two see Carney and Pearce back anyway?
The Blues need to win Game One or the series is over. It is that simple.
Do we need to throw two rookies to the lions for the sake of it?
Have Peter Wallace or Terry Campese ever been the same after their brief stays in the Origin arena?
Everyone needs to chill and let the future unfold as it always seems to do.
‘Robinson A Bolter For New South Wales’ Published on theroar.com.au 25/3/13
The Canberra Raiders have put aside three weeks of hell to slay the St George Illawarra Dragons 30-17 in Sunday night football.
With Reece Robinson returning to 2012 form, the Raiders are now asking ‘Josh who?’.
It was not a perfect performance or anything coach David Furner can get too excited about just yet. But the Raiders will take any kind of victory and they now leave the hapless Saints winless after three rounds.
Canberra made a stand prior to round two and sacked troubled fullback Josh Dugan. Many thought the Raiders would fire up against the Gold Coast last weekend. But it never happened.
The resurrection might have been a week late, but the Raiders are finally smiling again and it is all because of their new star fullback in Robinson.
The stylish custodian was involved in everything for the home side at Canberra Stadium and finished the match with a brace of tries.
The icing on the cake was a slashing break late in the piece to set up his centre Jarrod Croker.
He may have come via Brisbane and the North Sydney Bears, but Robinson has now finally found a home in Canberra.
The utility back has been a mainstay of the Raiders backline since debuting for the club three years ago. It may have took him some time to settle in, but now the fans and his colleagues are seeing what the classy kid can do.
Dugan missed plenty of season 2012 through injury, but was barely missed as Robinson helped guide Canberra to the second week of the playoffs. In 24 appearances last season, the talented fullback crossed for 17 tries.
The majority of them came when Dugan was missing.
A hat trick of tries against the NRL All Stars in February can’t be ignored. He has proved he can excel against the very best in the game. Robinson has all the tools to step up to the representative arena.
Which begs the question, is the silky number one a bolter for the New South Wales Blues?
Akuila Uate’s early season form suggests the Fijian flyer may secure one wing spot.
If the side was picked today, of course.
But with Brett Morris’ Dragons on skid row and Jarryd Hayne struggling at the Parramatta Eels, the other spot is certainly up for grabs.
Michael Gordon and Nathan Merritt have both started well for their respective clubs, but it is nothing to what Robinson has been producing on a weekly basis for the past twelve months.
Fullback for the Blues isn’t a certainty either.
If Robinson can continue the form that has made him a cult hero in the nation’s capital, who’s to say the he won’t pull on the famous sky blue jersey?
He’s safe under the high ball, has speed to burn and has that finishing quality that all great players possess.
If Blues coach Laurie Daley is looking for that fresh spark, Robinson is his man.
‘Trigger-Happy Eels Splurge on Norman’ Published on theroar.com.au 26/3/13
After recently losing out on the signature of exciting backrower Josh Papalii, the Parramatta Eels have hit the panic button and forked out on young Brisbane Broncos utility Corey Norman.
The three-year deal reportedly worth up to $1.5 million is a ludicrous amount for a kid who has been scratchy at best for the Broncos.
When will Parramatta ever learn?
Norman has been moved to fullback by current coach Anthony Griffin in an attempt to spark Brisbane’s misfiring backline. But a move to the Eels will ensure the youngster returns to his preferred position at five-eighth.
Even prior to new coach Ricky Stuart’s arrival, Parramatta have been mediocre at best when it comes to their recruitment and retention. When will the people involved in these decisions be held accountable?
Buying players for the sake of buying players is a gross misuse of funds and Norman’s signing is yet another example of how desperate this club has become.
Is Norman’s acquisition a good move? Sure.
Is he worth over $1.2 million? No way.
Chris Sandow is already on a deal worth around $550,000 a season and fans are yet to see the little halfback live up to his price tag. Now Norman will join the side from 2014.
You can’t knock a club for wanting to attract big name players and if it means spending some money, then by all means, go for it.
But when those players are Sandow and Norman, questions need to be asked.
How many other players will they lose over the next 12 months because so much of the salary cap is taken up by these men?
In 2011 the Eels headed to retirement homes across the land and picked up Chris Hicks, Paul Whatuira, Chris Walker and Carl Webb. They played a combined total of 21 games that season.
All the while losing Feleti Mateo, Krisnan Inu, Kris Keating and Jonathon Wright.
They followed that up last season by grabbing Ben Roberts, Taulima Tautai, Sandow and the Tonga brothers, Willie and Esi.
Who has been making these decisions?
“Corey has all the attributes to have a successful career in the NRL,” coach Stuart said at a press conference on Monday afternoon.
“He is big and confident, has all the skills and has served a good apprenticeship under some pretty decent playmakers up in Brisbane.
“We can’t wait to get him down here and make him a part of our team and culture.”
The Eels were right to chase Papalii. The destructive forward is the kind of player that can help create the right kind of culture at a club.
It is yet to be seen whether Norman is even capable of performing on a weekly basis.
Now that Norman has turned his back on the Broncos, you have to wonder how many more games he will get under Griffin at Brisbane.
With the side struggling and in the mix for free agent Josh Dugan, the Broncos are well within their rights to send Norman back to the Queensland Cup for the rest of the season.
If the losses continue to pile up and Dugan is lured north, Norman may find himself playing lower grades for the remainder of 2013.
Even if Dugan doesn’t sign with the Broncos, coach Griffin still may decide to banish the utility.
Veteran Scott Prince is no certainty to see out 2013, after a slow start to the season at number six. But whether Griffin wants to play the Parramatta-bound Norman is up to Griffin and Griffin alone.
‘Tigers To Find Out Just How Manly They Are’ Published on theroar.com.au 27/3/13
After a disastrous first up performance against the Newcastle Knights to begin their 2013 campaign, the Wests Tigers have rebounded with wins over the Penrith Panthers and the Parramatta Eels.
But how much can you really take out of these first three games?
The Knights had a glut of possession in round one and rightfully put the Tigers to the sword.
In rounds two and three, their opposition simply did not show up. But you can only play what is in front of you and to Wests’ credit, they took the competition points on both occasions.
Thursday night the Tigers head up the F3 Freeway for a clash with rivals, the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. If the Tigers want to know where they really sit so far in 2013, a clash with Manly is the perfect yardstick.
Manly have always been the Tigers’ yardstick. Through good times and bad, Wests usually know how well they are travelling after facing the Eagles.
Tigers’ fans have enjoyed a pretty entertaining couple of weeks but the aggression and brutality that Manly plays with could very easily bring Benji Marshall and company crashing back to earth.
A golden-point victory in round one last season against the Cronulla Sharks had the Tigers roaring. The following week the Eagles beat them 22-18 in a gruelling encounter. This was the beginning of a five match losing streak that would eventually see the Tigers miss the playoffs.
In 2011, Manly were sitting pretty in second place heading into their round 21 clash with the seventh placed Tigers who were fighting to stay afloat heading towards the finals.
Wests were looking for their third straight win but knew a stern test lay ahead of them against the eventual premiers.
The Tigers won that night by a mere two points. But it was almost like they had to prove themselves against the Sea Eagles who thrive on the contest.
This was the third victory of a nine match win streak that took the Tigers all the way to the second week of the playoffs.
A win is a win and the Tigers will be content with victories against Parramatta and Penrith over the passed two weeks.
But if Wests want to beat Manly on Thursday night, they need 17 stars, not just Marshall and Robbie Farah.
Farah and Marshall are improving each week. Farah leads the NRL in tackles, try assists and line break assists while Marshall leads the competition in points.
The players themselves know that Thursday is a true litmus test. Whether Marshall and Farah shine is elementary.
The game will be won and lost in the middle. If Aaron Woods, destined for State of Origin this year, can have another big performance, Wests are a hope. When the young prop leads the rest follow.
It’s only early, but the signs have been good over the passed two weeks. But a clash with Manly puts everything in perspective.
Win or lose Thursday night, we will know exactly where the Tigers sit after going to battle with the Sea Eagles.