Wests Wonder Show


Wests Wonder Show

Wests Wonder Show

What an outstanding performance from the embattled Tigers we all saw last night. The improvement in the team that completely lost its way after a promising start in Round One at the same ground was quite remarkable.

This time after a shaky start in defence by conceding a try in the opening minutes, it all went to plan. The relentlessness of the Tigers dressed in black but performing in front of masses of Balmain gold was the remarkable part.

Wests players quickly stabilized their defence, regularly tackled in partnerships rather than solo as they have been doing for seasons now, and then started to embarrass their more fancied rivals on play after play, set after set, until total domination was achieved. The Balmain cult hero Laurie Nichols dressed in wool-classer’s blue singlet used to call from the sidelines “ENTHUSIASM”. Last night those 17 Tigers heard him and responded all over the field.

Admittedly Souths hit some unforeseen hurdles. Pre-game withdrawals of Walker and McQueen caused the re-shuffle of Sutton back to five-eighth, no real problem there, but it did expose how skinny is their depth of NRL players. With those two quality guys added to Tom Burgess, Keary and Clark in the hospital ward, the Rabbits called on untried rookies to the bench.

As it turned out those rookies would be called on very early for jobs way too big for any rookie.

King pin Inglis was concussed early doors in what looked very much an accident to me. Why was it put on report as suspected foul play?

This was the first in what was a night of many strange decisions by the match officials, most of them not going to Souths as this one did.

The head referee, Matt Cecchin who I reckon is amongst the very best of refs had a night to forget – or maybe he should remember!  At one stage he misses, or wrongly interprets, a “play on” call which results in a try to Wests rather than a stripping penalty to Souths.

I can hear you saying “they are the most difficult of all to call Smithy” but in this case their appeared to be 4, that’s FOUR, Tigers in the tackle! It bordered on the unbelievable. Why would the assistant ref not have helped him out with an “overcall”? Perhaps he was dominated to the point of impotency by his senior partner?

Also I thought the touch judges and video refs all missed an off-side call on Brooks chasing and contesting but in front of kicker Anasta for yet another Wests try. Why can’t we add the technology other sports have been utilising for seasons now that takes out any guess work with off sides? It’s out there and we fans and viewers are missing out there!

These incidents were surrounded by countless other forward passes or not, knock ons or knock backs, off sides or not which largely went to Wests.

And didn’t they make it count! As suggested in commentary the decisions and bounces of the ball tend to go with the most aggressive team. They definitely did.

Souths on the other hand didn’t seem to have the energy or footy intellect to steady their leaking ship. The loss of Inglis is a blow, like Manly suffered losing Brett Stewart at half time before crashing to a second half rally by Melbourne. Sometimes it’s more difficult to deal with a mid-game loss of a key player than pre-game for the whole match.

Certainly Merritt at fullback looked out of sorts. That “round the shorts tackle” of rampaging Pat Richards to fall over the line and score almost unopposed was one of the reason’s he is not seen as an Origin player. He really needed, and his definitely needed him to hit Richards and the ball in an effort to dominate in a ball and all tackle.

It represented the team’s attitude and lack of awareness or willingness to do whatever it takes to reverse the momentum as the match slipped away, I thought.

And Lowe at right centre! He looks way more comfortable in the middle D role. Was there no-one else who could fill in out there? Surely Te’o!

More importantly than individuals or single decisions in these tough circumstances were the blank looks and repeated errors of a team noted for its discipline and consistency. Similar pictures were captured by the TV cameras of those in the coaches’ box.

I can tell you for sure that is a grossly uncomfortable feeling and every coach who has stood the test of even a short career in the NRL knows what Michael Maguire and his crew was dealing with.

Like the players disrupted mid-match by injury, sometimes the most important issues in that box can be best dealt with by coaches after and before matches rather than in the middle. This is good for coaches to know so you don’t go completely bonkus during the debacle like Souths suffered last night.

However there are occasions where you simply must find the solution if at all possible. That occurred many times for me. In a playoff match, Grand Final or a Cup match in England its over at the final whistle so fixing it for next week is not a great option.

Coaches who work hard at finding ways to change to flow of matches, dealing with the completely unfair (referees having a shocker – it happens!)  or unexpected injury toll (Warrington in last season’s Super League GF lost fullback and winger in first half with injury),  just imagine the reshuffle of players into unusual positions that caused! Souths couldn’t cope with the loss of one last night!

Selection and development of the team on-going should involve coaches providing players with opportunities at training and in matches wherever possible to prepare for such contingencies. Whose fault is it when this emergency situation arises if a forward (or 2) are suddenly asked to play in the backs but mess it up?

Come on coaches everywhere, incorporate WORST CASE scenarios into your preparation plans so that your guys feel confident in those tougher than usual situations when they do come up – and they will!

Coaching adage is “it’s not a matter of if the shit will hit the fan it’s a matter of when! And will my team be prepared for it.”

Also from my own experiences can I suggest to Souths fans everywhere right now this is THE BEST THING THAT CAN HAPPEN to your beloved Rabbits.

They have reached a point of comfort and competency amongst the top few clubs but if they are to really contest for the TITLE of CHAMPIONS they must find out more about how they can meet the bigger battles that those matches tend to provide.

In fact I would confidently say that without this type of embarrassing loss (and the ensuing heartaches and troubling discussions within team meetings that also follow) the Rabbits would continue on the path to high level mediocrity rather than SUPERIORITY and EXCELLENCE in PERFORMANCE.

The rumour mongering will be rife in coming days – a couple of champions in that field began that process last night on national television. That’s all part of the circus that is NRL footy.

Meanwhile across town the club that was folding, changing their name and beset by scandal is rejoicing after a tremendous team performance.

I hope they “recover” from it quickly and prepare for the next worst case melodrama around the corner.