As I write this the NRL is about to have its first ever Magic Weekend – although true to form with the NRL, they’ve fudged it a little and its sort of a weekend…..!
The first game is on the Thursday, with two on Friday, three Saturday and two Sunday. So rather than eight games in two days, we have the normal round schedule, the only difference is that all games are at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. So, not really adhering to the concept that works well in the Super League.
In fact, this week when the NRL launched the round in a blaze of a publicity press conference, one team failed to send anyone and were therefore unrepresented at the launch. Which team would you think? Maybe Melbourne, as geographically they are furthest away and would find it most difficult to send someone? Or maybe one of the Sydney clubs, or even the Cowboys, as that’s a LONG flight down from Townsville…. Nope, the team that failed to send anyone to the launch at Suncorp Stadium was the Brisbane Broncos. That’s right, they sent nobody to their own stadium.
The Broncos are a real club in crisis right now, and Anthony Siebold is looking more and more lost with each passing week. He’s a firm subscriber to the Tim Sheens “We lost but we didn’t get beat” school of public utterances too. For instance, Melbourne Storm were involved in a really close game with Cronulla and lost by two points away from home. Storm coach Craig Bellamy came out and blasted his player, threatening changes to the squad if they weren’t hungry enough, laying into senior players saying he wasn’t frightened to play kids next round as they would at least have the right attitude and generally lost his temper. Compare this with Siebold who had just presided over his team getting smashed by his old team the Bunnies 38-6.
Siebold (who after all is an ex Rovers player) stated that he was very pleased with the defensive performance, as the Broncos had a 91.6% effective tackle statistic, and had missed less tackles than Souths did. Now, either I’ve grown up watching the wrong game all my life but you get absolutely sod all for set completions, tackle effectiveness and the like without outscoring your opposition. Therefore the Broncos fans predictably have lost their collective marbles over his attitude to the loss and all is not well in Brisbane.
Its not just the Broncos who think that the stats say they are better than they are either. Look at Penrith and the Tigers (who meet in the Magic Round) – two teams who have really high completion rates, and invariably get to their kicks at the end of sets, yet score less points than nearly every other team in the competition. Any pub team can cart the ball up for five tackles and kick on the last, but it doesn’t score you points. In my opinion the lack of creativity at Penrith has lost them game after game this year – James Maloney and Nathan Cleary are just not hitting any kind of form, and given that they are the NSW Blues incumbent halfback pairing, this is extremely alarming for New South Welshmen in particular.
Time after time the Panthers forwards march them up the field with great drives, breaks and tackle busts, only for it all to come to nothing when they are ten metres out, there’s a compressed defensive line and the 6 an 7 look absolutely clueless. Yet when you look at the stats, more metres, more post contact metres, more tackle breaks, more offloads, more effective tackles, less missed tackles and better discipline (Canberra had a man in the sin bin) you’d think they would have won, and won easily. They didn’t and the pressure is really on for them to perform against the Tigers.
The other part of the “Magic” concept the NRL have failed to grasp is to pair teams that are traditional rivals for the round. So, Bunnies v Roosters would be a great match up, or Parra v Penrith or Bulldogs v Manly. Nope its all over the bloody place, with those traditional rivals (?!) the Bunnies and Cowboys paired up and the Bulldogs taking on the Knights…..totally missed the point, and its meant that the general punter and most journalists have totally failed to embrace the concept.
In fact, one journalist said the thing he was most looking forward to with having every NRL team in one place this weekend, was trawling through the CCTV of nightclubs in Brisbane on Monday morning to catch players that had misbehaved. Sure that’s a flippant, (not to mention accurate and quite funny) thing to say, but with a few tweaks such as the buy in of the broadcast partners, which could allow for the games to be played over two days, reduced ticket prices, and more thought over the team matchups, Magic could and should be a success.
I read with interest the comments in the HDM that we were in for George Burgess, but had stopped our interest as he was likely to stay in the NRL. Well, here’s my two cents. If George isn’t offered a new contract with Souths, there is no way he wants to go to another NRL club and line up against his brothers. He was almost a Parramatta player earlier this season, but pulled out for exactly that reason. If he plays on – which is no guarantee as he’s got a blossoming acting career over here – it’ll be in Super League in my opinion. My mail is Leeds, Wigan, Toronto (if they come up) and Hull are the teams that he’s interested in, I think this story is far from over.
Also – keep an eye out for Shane Flanagan to pop up at Leeds next year, he needs to serve out his NRL suspension so it won’t be a long stay if he does come – and as I mentioned a few weeks back, Leeds aren’t very popular over here at the moment, and sacking Furner has only deepened those feelings. Agar is going to be there for a while yet.
Finally let’s end with a joke. Richard Agar is coaching Leeds. Boom Tish!
Until next time, Up the Cream, Gerremonsard and Come on you ‘Ull.
Rich – Twitter @pommyrich