Seconds Out – Round 1 – First Impressions

11/03/2014

Source: Sportal
Source: Sportal

That season opening match at ANZ Stadium was footy of the brutal type. Souths players tackled so efficiently, which we have come to expect under Coach Maguire. But the round one version of this season was really ruthless of an older school kind.

I was most impressed with halves Reynolds and Walker in that hard hitting tackle department – right up there with Keiran Foran; in my eyes that about the highest honour for a half.

The other big first impression in this match was the attack minded stuff the rabbits produced at times. The way they strung passes together particularly to the left even from  within their own half suggested they are on the way to having more than just their tough-stickers on this time round.

I thought they outsmarted the Roosters as well as matching up in the physical.

Greg Inglis continues to shine and may take the fullback crown from Billy Slater this season. Likewise Isaac Luke improved again in the strategy control area throughout the match right to the end, finding Inglis in a mismatch with Maloney for the final try. He may challenge Cam Smith for that title too.

The difference in performances of the fullbacks on the first night was replicated on Friday night when Barba provided enough spark for the Broncos to score 20 points. There are not many others who look like creating points at this stage. First impressions were the Broncs will need to maintain that stout defence to win their quota of games this season again.

The Dogs were not better. It’s very early days of course but no Kasiano in that pack seemed to hurt them in dominating and creating through his ball play. Sam Perrett was busy but ineffective at full back. Inu might be the answer to #1 when he returns?

I am hoping the first impressions of both Panthers and Knights turn out to be the wrong type. Neither team seemed to show any real solid streak in a mistake riddled performance admittedly on a very hot arvo. That Penrith back row can certainly hit in good old fashioned low tackling mode can I really couldn’t find any power runners or line breakers to threaten.

The Knights were certainly unfortunate with injuries losing Boyd Gidley and later Roberts. Gee that hurts but is it something in the older roster or the preparation? They just seem to lose more players than any other club recent times.

Even so I thought monsters Mason and Snowden with Houston and Jeremy Smith as back up would have laid a better platform against a very lightweight group of Panthers in the pack. They looked like a group going through the motions. It will be great to see what happens in their next outing @ Storm.

More fullbacks were making big first impressions at Brookvale. Brett Stewart lit the whole place up for a massive half time lead and then didn’t return after the break. I was so impressed with his precision timing accurate passing and general game awareness to extend the teams capabilities on all of their shift plays.

And the Strom went to the age old well that they have relied upon for a decade. They hammered away at the middle of a weakened Manly roster in that front row department. Eagles already knew this the case having recruited Luaki ex of Warriors, Hull and Wigan.

Storm showed great spirit to recover and win but I thought they were down on general performance throughout the 80 mins.

I have not analysed the Raiders @ Cowboys as yet.

Gareth Widdop gave a tremendous boost to St George Illawarra in that massive win over the Tigers. His first impression to all at the Dragons was really needed after a lack lustre pre-season on the back of 2013 disappointments. However the Dragons D was very brittle at times and without Frizell’s powerhouse running it’s hard to find anything physically imposing about the red and whites. The first impression would have been very bad without a dominant performance against this opposition. Let’s see how they back up @ Warriors next start before getting too excited.

The Tigers had a very short lived positive first impression to this season.  Their opening sets were crisp featuring youngsters Tedesco and Brooks to set up a 12 nil and then 18-6 lead. The further the match went the more their involvement faded and so too the performance levels of the team. The most obvious of features for the Tigers remain as per last season:  1) too many players have ineffective tackle technique 2) senior players take wrong options, execute poorly and over-ride the talented youngsters.

BIGGEST and MOST IMPROVED first impressors were the MIGHTY EELS! They really did look like a team; like they knew what they were trying to achieve as a team; like they were physically and mentally prepared to do the tough stuff to beat their opponents. That’s all very good news to blue and gold folk!

Sadly the standard provided by the team they played is unlikely to be something the Eels will ever encounter again. The Warriors may have hired a new tailor or they have a number of quite overweight players. In any case over weight might be ok if the players can carry it, play hard and enthusiastically and show the necessary skills to win. Zip out of three and alarm bells ringing for this team already. This looked too much like the same belting they got at PIRTEK PARRAMATTA Stadium in the corresponding season opener in 2013. Hosting the Dragons next weekend may be very important for a lot of people at the Kiwi club. Johnson was hardly sighted, never really a threat. Tomkins got a welcome to NRL by the two times wooden spooners. I thought the commentary crew were quite generous to a player who receives a huge salary, cost the club a unheard of before transfer fee and a hero’s welcome to his new club. Not the sort of first impression anyone associated with Warriors was looking for!

Finally those poor clubs who have had to sit and watch the start of the comp just like the rest of us got to play. Having sat and waited what they served up when they finally hit Romondis Stadium was pretty ordinary.

Sharks were missing plenty and lost Gallen with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury. With all the turmoil been going on for so long, a number of injuries and now their best player, Andrew Fifita, reportedly off for the dollars at the Dogs in 2015 you have to wonder if everyone there can find it in them to keep fighting. If ASADA finally do hit the players with infraction notices what will they have left to fight with? So many people have fought for that clubs survival for decades it would be very hard for some to cop if it goes pear shaped in these circumstances.

The Titans were seemingly given every opportunity to win this match and win it well. Mark Gasnier on Fox, kept saying that the Titans “were going through the motions”. In game one of the new season?

I liked Kelly and Sezer but it was hard to work out what they were trying to do to score or were they just happy to win the field position battle. It worked this time. Good luck trying to win 12 games or more playing like that every week.

Round one finished on a flat note but with some great first impressions.

Let’s see what round 2 brings.