Right on Ricky: decks needed clearing

1. Stuart doing the right thing at the Eels

There are two ways to run a professional football club. The ”easy” way and the ”right” way. I am not going to join the debate on whether the message could’ve been delivered in a more compassionate manner. I’m not going to comment on whether the Eels are sacking or keeping the right personnel. These are matters for those closer to the action to decide. However, the basic premise of coach Ricky Stuart clearing the decks at Parramatta after years of mediocre results I believe is the right course of action. Apart from a grand final appearance in 2009 when Mr Hayne carried them on his back to a top-two finish, the Eels have struggled. Teams can sometimes have a great season that comes from nowhere. That doesn’t mean the club is necessarily finals-healthy on a longer-term basis. Clearly the Eels were not because results since that time have been extremely disappointing. Stuart was employed to change their culture and their results. Quite clearly he has given the incumbents a chance to prove themselves through the first 12 rounds of the competition. Hence the coach is quite within his rights to bring in the changes. I think it’s the shake-up Parramatta have needed.

2. Origin in Brisbane is a different beast

It would be extremely unwise of people to assume Origin II will be a continuation of what we saw in Origin I. Trust me when I say, it won’t. Each game has its own start, middle and ending. If you try to pick up the next match where you left off in the previous, you will be off the pace and beaten before you know it. Origin matches in Brisbane are a different animal to matches played anywhere else in the country. The build-up, the tension, the atmosphere, the intensity, the sounds; it’s all very different up there at the spiritual home of Origin. After the loss in Origin I, the Queenslanders are right back where they love to be. They have been written off, they are underdogs and they are playing at home. This is exactly where it all began. And it is exactly where Queensland are at their most dangerous. The Blues players need to understand that the only thing they have achieved so far is to make the Queenslanders angry. The Maroons will lift; of this you can be certain. The Blues will have to improve on what they showed in Origin I despite their comprehensive victory. If they don’t, they will surely hand momentum in this series back to Queensland as we head to a decider.

3. Manly are missing Brett Stewart

Since Brett Stewart was replaced at half-time of Manly’s clash with the Dragons early last month due to his back injury, the Sea Eagles have scored just 10 tries in 370 minutes of football, at an average of one try every 37 minutes. In the 600 minutes that Stewart played for Manly this season before his injury, the Sea Eagles scored 31 tries at a rate of one try every 19 minutes. So while they remain a legitimate premiership threat through their outstanding defence and highly experienced roster, they are extremely vulnerable at present without Stewart and his invaluable contribution to the Manly attack. They must be counting the days until he returns.

4. Canberra are coming

With their ninth successive home victory on Monday night against Brisbane, the Raiders have returned to the top eight and will take some shifting from there. During those nine home victories the Raiders have averaged a tick under 30 points a game and now go into the second half of the season full of running and just missing, through injury, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs from their best 17. With seven of their remaining 12 games at home and three of their five away games against teams in the bottom five of the premiership table, the Raiders will have several teams in the top four anxiously looking over their shoulders.

Phil Gould is general manager of Penrith Panthers

5. Storm trio send a warning

I have often said that the mark of a great Origin player is the ability to back up and play well for his club the weekend after the arduous State of Origin encounter on the Wednesday night. Did you see the way the Storm boys put the cleaners through the Cronulla side on Sunday night in Melbourne? Wow! How impressive was that performance? Queensland champions Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater were white hot. I must say, too, that NSW representative and Storm teammate Ryan Hoffman was not far behind these blokes either. However, it was the big three who led the way; and in doing so, sounded a serious warning to the NSW team that the Maroons are far from finished in this three-game series. Write off Queensland at your peril.

6. Brisbane are struggling big time

For so long the marquee team of the NRL, the Broncos find themselves in a real fight for a place in this year’s finals series. This club has long been the measuring stick when it comes to professionalism and consistency. It is the club by which all others are measured. There are some worrying signs there though. We can always cut the Broncos some slack when their performance is affected by injuries and the obvious drain that representative football can have on their playing ranks. However, it was alarming to see just how easily Canberra disposed of them in that first half on Monday night, even though the Brisbane team was almost at full strength. It was very unlike what we’ve come to expect from a ”Broncos performance”.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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