Pride or Premierships
Don’t you hate it when you hear people say those horrible words at this time of year “They have nothing to play for.”
Final rounds of NRL seasons are always played for pride or premierships. Nothing to play for? Are there any other more important commodities in professional sport?
Why on earth would anyone give themselves or others a leave pass on putting in their best effort at this time of year?
Granted at the back end of a match with it all on the line but the scoreboard saying it can’t happen, there will be some crazy play choices – usually in a desperate but ridiculous attempt to pull off the impossible. This almost always ends in tears by making it all even more impossible.
I thought the Raiders got into that mode of thinking way too early in their heavy loss to the Warriors. Starting off with a simple but astute attacking plan to exploit that right edge defence of the Warriors was working nicely until some poor last play options lit up The Beast on the other side of the field.
I thought some of the skill shown by the Warriors left side attack was top draw (at least until Manly lifted the bar with its right side attack versus Melbourne). Feleti Mateo dominated the possession from his dummy half, threatened the line and lit the Warriors attack for a period that kept the team’s play-off hopes alive. The trifecta of tries to Vatuvei and later to Johnson on the right was way too good for the Raiders D.
The Raiders now play for pride in round 26 at home to the Sharks who are playing for a premiership. The Warriors, playing for a premiership move on to play away to the Drags, who will be playing for pride after losing plenty of it at Parra on Monday night. Don’t they need some right now!
Parra gained some semblance of pride with that win over the Drags. A win at Newcastle this weekend for 2 in a row would give their young players a tremendous boost after a disastrous season. Newcastle scrambled to a victory at Brisbane and is still playing for a premiership despite not looking anything like one in recent weeks. The Broncos will meet the Dogs fighting for pride for the second season in a row of no involvement in the playoffs.
One of the few form teams in the play-off race, North Queensland, fresh from another away victory over a lacklustre looking Sharks, are now playing for a premiership after being so far down the ladder that their coach was told “not required”.
It was only after they started to play for some pride that their form changed and so too has their prospects of a premiership.
Is anyone in Canberra wondering what may have happened to that club if the same course of action had been taken there as was the case in Townsville? The coach completes the season and perhaps a whole lot more as the play-offs now loom large for those Cowboys.
The Tigers and Panthers both gave it a real shot in the early part of their matches versus Rabbits and Bulldogs displaying quite a bit of pride in performance. Ultimately both clubs playing for a premiership showed why.
Despite their continued defensive problems on the outside of the defensive line the Dogs got going, hit a much higher rate of consecutively good plays with really good questions and left the Panthers in their wake.
Souths set the season record for how soon they could have a player put in the sin-bin. It gave the Tiges a chance to set their young and speedy outside back talents alight.
Not until Coach Maguire had a chance to set them on course, but eventually, the red and greens fought their way to a solid win. Their inability to solve the problems of overcoming an enthusiastic opponent with a scoreboard lead is still a worry for their future big games this season and beyond.
This is also the big issue for the Roosters. A second consecutive loss, this time to the injury riddled Titans, will have the high flying premiership favourites searching for answers. The Titans who were playing for pride may now be playing now for a premiership in Melbourne this weekend. What a turnaround!
In the biggest and best match up of round 25 we saw two teams playing for premierships meet head to head. The football Manly played in attack in particular was as good as they will need to win that comp they are certainly aiming for. The passing and catching was crisp and skilful under great pressure. Melbourne were never in it, tried to raise themselves with a real effort from everyone early second half, but ultimately Manly met it all and raised the level themselves to finish the game in some style.
This outstanding performance and the consistent recent form by the Eagles make them the absolute standout of the top four clubs at present.
As I mentioned last week the Storm are great at sorting out their issues on the run. They will get the chance to do that again this weekend versus the Titans with their tails up and a playoff spot at stake.
Let’s see what round 26 brings; more challenges and further opportunities or big disappointments to be faced this weekend; last chance for some for a personal and team performance with pride to be achieved.
There is never a good time to turn in a bad performance.
There is also still a long way to go to that GF where premierships are ultimately decided.