Manly Manage It – This time

15/03/2014

Source: The Australian
Source: The Australian

Last night I watched the footy from my lounge room rather than ANZ Stadium and it was certainly  different. Souths featured again as they did when I ventured out to the big stadium for the NRL season opener but the opposition was different in intensity. So was the atmosphere for me!

The big stadium thing is getting some airplay again this early season as the NRL pursue the growth of the game and its NRL clubs’ finances. I guess I went with this in mind last Thursday night and I have to say I really enjoyed it. I sat in the stand with friends not a private box and loved the banter. I really loved The Burrow (from a distance) and even more, I loved the feel of the game at the ground again. I only went to one live match last season.

I backed up on Sunday again at ANZ.

One of my mates said he reckoned it would be an exciting game (Drags @ “home” to Tigers) and got bagged immediately. I helped him out with my own thoughts that not every game has to be super high quality to be exciting, or at least very enjoyable.

That’s how it turned out to be – to me at least. I always enjoy watching the old red and whites winning, except when I was coaching against them of course.

But the enjoyment was more about the ball movement, the end to end stuff (admittedly from 2 less than rock-like levels of defensive performance). And the crowd really responded.

The black and gold (“we never fold”) and a little white had plenty to cheer about early doors but then the red/scarlet and white merger opponents had much more to smile and clap and generally be encouraged about. Drags fans are more expectant and want more than a victory on opening day to be convinced on the likelihood of a good season.

In any case the atmosphere at both games in front of “disappointing” crowds was way better than my lounge room of ADS/commentary/ADS/commentary/ADS/ADS/ADS/ADS/commentary/ADS.

So between ADS what I saw last night was another strong physical Manly performance – this time not as electric or efficient in the first half. The Stewart Bros were both missing this week and those possessions in the opposition’s half were not nearly as threatening without those Bros – particularly to the right side.

However that substitute fullback Hiku was a tremendous stand-in, not for the first time.

For the record while Manly has at least 2 NRL quality fullbacks (one an absolute champion player and the other a red hot rookie) at least four other clubs have NONE. And a few others are praying that the only one they have stands up all season. Criteria for fullbacks of NRL quality does not come with possession of a jersey with #1 on the back. Click here for more on NRL quality fullbacks.

 

The Eagles just keep producing them – unsung, almost footy nobodies who step in and stay in – and the team just keeps on competing and WINNING. The talk used to be of Dessie and Crusher but its gone way beyond that now. It’s time for “Toovs” and his crew to get some real credit for the production line and the results. And last night they did that while missing the Stewarts and Taufua and Symonds.

And Buhrer did a great job of right second row in place of Glen Stewart. Wow what about that footwork for the break and DCE try.

What about Souths? Perhaps a bit of a letdown after last week’s epic? That would be a disappointing way to assess this performance if it were offered up.

I thought Manly were better in intensity than the Roosters in round 1. I also thought some of Souths weaknesses were then exposed a little more.

That’s not to say they played poorly but just not well enough to overcome a higher performing team. I suggested many times last season and in preview of this season that Souths can look forward to play offs no worries again this time round – almost for certain. But they surely have a bigger goal!

Without exposing current weaknesses the opportunity and urgency for improvement and expansion of the team’s capabilities may not occur. Rather than be upset about this loss a smarter perspective would be for the people in charge of thinking in red and green territory to see this loss as a golden opportunity to figure out the what and why and how victory eluded them.

Manly did excellently.

Souths still don’t have the outside backs (Inglis is fullback and front row so doesn’t count) to steal evenly balanced matches with length of the field Jennings type stuff. If their forwards (and Inglis) don’t bash their way to complete dominance, scoreboard and all, they risk losing these types of matches repeatedly as the phobia of such big matches will grow.

I have offered some thoughts on how South Sydney could go about adding to the team’s capabilities. click here if you would like to read more.

Coach Maguire made public recently how hard last season’s post season matches were to accept and how much he learned from them. Sometimes that takes a while to come out in team playing performances.