Down Under Blog: #80 Getting to the pointy end

In both hemispheres in the world of Rugby League it’s getting to the business end of the season, everyone is looking forward to the closing stages of the year – obviously with different emotions…..

At the bottom end of things (at the time of writing) the Super League relegation race is well and truly alive, with our near neighbours still in a world of trouble, although L##ds have wormed their way out of trouble, the fact that Agar is in charge, and looks like he will be for a while is still comedy material for the ages.

Rovers’ recruitment for next year looks decidedly average and shows a real lack of ambition, although it might be argued that the names they’ve recently confirmed are more to fill the compulsory reserve team next season, and will also be decent first graders if the worst happens (for them, it’ll be bloody great for me) and they get relegated.

Over here the Gold Coast Titans are confirmed as wooden spooners, and Justin Holbrook has a real job next year to pull them around, he’s really going to have to earn his wage, especially as their current roster look at best outclassed and at worst disinterested. Talking of disinterested, the carnage that’s recently happened at the Newcastle Knights has dominated headlines over here this week. By all accounts our old friend “player power” has done for coach Nathan Brown, and the performance the players put up against the Wests Tigers (who were admittedly very good value for the win) was terrible. It certainly looked as if the Knights players had decided that seeing as it had already been announced that Brown was going, that they wouldn’t bother trying. That’s arrogance and disrespect on a number of levels, not least against the fans who had travelled to watch them, and the members who keep the club afloat.

Of course that meant that the slim chances the Knights still had of reaching the top eight all but ended, and it kept the Tigers (still minus Mahe Fonua with his foot injury) alive for at least another week, and improbably also kept the Bulldogs mathematical chances of reaching the finals going too.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the “Commentators curse”, where a player is doing really well, gets praised by the match caller and then immediately drops the ball. You know, like when a couple of blogs ago I said that Nathan Brown was one of the safest coaches in the game? Well in the Bulldogs’ last underdog win against the Eels, I’m afraid I was guilty of cursing our new signing Manu Ma’u. A mercurial offload led to the Eels first (and it turned out only) try, I posted on twitter that he was looking like the best signing we’ve ever made, and then he dropped the next four passes thrown to him.

As I’ve mentioned before, with the modern world of podcasts, social media and Fox Sports’ policy of EGLER (Every Game Live, Every Round), I’m keenly aware that most games, and a lot of the stuff that’s out in the press, people that read this blog will have already seen, so I really try not to repeat news, or copy opinion from journalists. With Ma’u though its important, in this case that I do. He’s literally and truthfully playing the absolute best football of his career  according to every commentator and ex player over here. On radio this last weekend, Ryan Girdler asked why he was going to England, why the Eels couldn’t keep him, why no other NRL club would sign him, why the game was losing such a great player – as a Hull supporter it made for great listening.

On the Sunday Footy Show, Brad Fittler asked Peter Sterling the same questions, and Sterlo told him that the Eels couldn’t match the offer Hull had given him, that he’d be a revelation in the Super League, and that as he knew the city of Hull intimately himself, he knew we’d love him, and he’d be a fan hero in no time. All I can say is GET EXCITED. He’s going to be a real game changer, a player on top of his game coming to a club that’s a perfect fit for him.

At the top end of things our recent form has been worrying to say the least, and it looks like a Grand Final might be out of our reach, although it would just like this team to pull out three or four games on the bounce of unbelievable quality wouldn’t it? Saints will have something to prove now after the bottle job they delivered at Wembley, and Wigan and Salford are looming too. Hopefully winning at Wembley will be the end of Warrington’s success this year too.

Melbourne and the Sydney Roosters look like the ones to beat over here still, although unbelievably Manly are ominously lurking, they were most peoples tip for the wooden spoon at the start of the season, but former Hull player Des Hasler has taken the same group of players that imploded last year and has pumped them full of enthusiasm and got them firing nicely. Beating Canberra last time out has made the top four race interesting,          although I still think that the Raiders are a decent outside bet at a Grand Final berth. Brisbane Broncos are hanging on to eighth spot, basically thanks to the game they drew against the Warriors earlier in the season, if they carry on like they have been though, we could well see an NRL finals series without a single Queensland team in it—and the powers that be won’t like that.

Until next time, Up the Cream, Gerremonsard and Come on you ‘Ull.

Rich – Twitter @pommyrich

This article first appeared in Issue 80 of the fanzine. Get your copy here

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