Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ain’t life grand? What an astounding time in history to be able to partake in as animated life as is possible. All sorts prevail in this modern age, that’s for sure.

That’s what makes it so weird and wonderful. Likable as it is though, the more one sees of it, the more one comes to realise that things seldom change.

After hundreds of thousands of years along the evolutionary track, remarkably, there is still an element of society that refuses to take responsibility for their actions.

Always someone else at fault, there is.

A stirring example of the “anyone but my fault” mentality can be seen in the reaction of some to the sideline brawl between Glenn Stewart and Adam Blair. Apparently these two combatants were not at fault for what was certainly not a good look for Rugby League.

Astounding isn’t it? The thought processes of some are truly breathtaking.

While no one would condone violence on the football field(or anywhere else), the reality is that League is a contact sport, and tempers are going to get a little frayed around the edges on occasions. So, fair enough, can’t hold it against them forever. Ten minutes in the sin bin. Get on with the game.

Having said that, once they were sent to the sin bin for their part in the initial melee, it is truly mind-boggling that they then decided the only appropriate course of action would be to start brawling on the sideline.

Now these two, by all accounts, are considered to be a couple of pretty decent chaps on and off the field. Usually, they would be the ones breaking up a fight. Setting a good example for those around them. Not creating a situation that has seen ten players charged with contrary conduct charges by the NRL.

So one can only assume that in some unique quirk of fate that they both had a severe case of brain fade at the same time and decided to participate in some of the most mindless and idiotic behavior that could be found in the vicinity of a football match.

It goes without saying that the two of them are suitable candidates to co-author a book on the many and varied ways to act like complete gooses.

But to lay the blame, as some have, on referee Shayne Hayne is a little rich.

It seems that in the eyes of many, Hayne should have given the first player sin binned more time to leave the field before the other was sent.

More than likely, he is also responsible for world poverty, the hole in the ozone layer, the twin towers collapsing, not to mention that hotbed of killing and violence in the Middle East.

In reality, it is hardly Hayne’s fault that Stewart dawdled off the park at the pace of a snail. And there are those of us that would dearly love to be enlightened on just how it was that Hayne forced Blair and Stewart to decide to trade further blows.

We now know that the art of mind control has been mastered.

At the very least this would prove extremely illuminating as to the inner workings of the brains of such folk and how they manage to take their minds to such extraordinary places that they can somehow conjure up this sort of bizarre logic.

Meeting up with them may well be those poor deluded souls that have taken flight back into the dark ages and contend that as no one got hurt, the punishment need not be as severe.

Will the penny ever drop with these types?

Perhaps they could be invited to contribute a chapter to the aforementioned book.

How is that they cannot comprehend the fact that no one was hurt is not the issue.

Fighting, while it is going to happen at times, is still not to be tolerated.Rugby League is in a battle with AFL, Soccer and Rugby Union for the hearts and minds of all the youngsters out there. And if those youths parents see all in brawls as the order of the day, then they will stop their children from participating in Rugby League.

Really, it is not all that difficult to work out, is it?

Even the two clubs involved, Manly and Melbourne, have very quickly deduced the trouble that is headed their way. Remember, these are two clubs that do not hold the NRL in particularly high regard. There is history between both of them and the governing body. Yet both clubs have been quick to make conciliatory noises in the ensuing furore. This despite the fact that most clubs tend to go into bat for their players in times of trouble, regardless of whether they are in the right or not.

In this particular case, they worked out exceedingly quickly that they haven’t got a leg to stand on.

Surely if two biased clubs can see the situation this clearly, those that do not have a connection to the clubs or players could find a modicum of common sense from within, and see the light.

After all, the dinosaur has supposedly been extinct for many millions of years.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The fight for eighth position is heating up. Most have written off the Bulldogs who are on twenty-four points and have a negative points differential.

But they can still make it.

With the Knights losing to the Broncos tonight, if the Bulldogs win their final two matches, this will take them to twenty-eight points. If both the Knights and South Sydney lose next weekend, then these two teams play each other in the final round of the regular season. They would be on twenty-six points going into the game. Whichever team wins would then move to twenty-eight points, and having a superior for and against than the Bulldogs, this would mean the winner going through to the finals series.

Of course, if the match went to extra time and at the end of this still ended up a draw, then the Bulldogs would secure the coveted eighth spot.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Warriors have finally succumbed to the delights of the top four as they ventured into the upper reaches of the NRL ladder last night, with their 26-12 victory over Penrith.

Now positioned in fourth, they have everything to play for over their remaining two matches of the regular season. Win both games and they are almost assured of a home semi-final. It won’t be easy though, with the spectre of premiers St George looming large next week, and then a home encounter with the Jonathon Thurston led Cowboys a week later.

Tough matches both of them, but certainly neither opposition provide an insurmountable problem for the Warriors.

While their form over the previous two weeks has at times been scratchy, the stars still appear to be aligning nicely for the Auckland based team, as their form has been more than enough to put pressure on the rugby league summit at the appropriate time of the season.

And it’s not surprising really. Especially, when they have fully loaded strike weapons all across the park just waiting with unabated glee at the prospect of wreaking havoc amongst their rivals. This is none more so than in the case of Shaun Johnson and Kevin Locke.

The former seems to enjoy nothing more than gallivanting his way throughout the Rugby League arenas of the world with menacing long distance forays that regularly involve eighty metre trips at high speed. He doesn’t just take the easy route, either. Often he can be seen zigzagging his way to the opposition in-goal area, or taking a more scenic trip that involves running on the diagonal or an arc when necessary. But then, when one possesses blistering speed, one can achieve those special feats that mere mortals cannot.

He did it against the Cowboys. Then he let loose on the Broncos with another long range effort. Now he has done it against the Panthers and outrun them on a length of the field effort. Anyone would think this stuff was nothing more than run of the mill for him.

It’s not just Johnson’s speed and ability to find the try line, though. Late in the second half, with the Warriors hot on attack in the Panthers red zone, he put a delicate little grubber kick through Penrith’s defence for Manu Vatuvei to latch onto and put the result beyond doubt. He appears to have it all. With heavy doses of hard work, Johnson could be anything.

Let us not forget Locke. Here is a guy that goes from strength to strength with each passing week. Amazing isn’t it, what competition for places can do. With Glen Fishiahi breathing down his neck, Locke has been spurred on to greater heights. He is constantly a threat from the back.

On the stroke of halftime he scooped up a wayward chip kick from Penrith and dashed sixty metres for a sparkling solo try. On another occasion he was responsible for chasing down and stopping an errant Panther who had lofty ideas above his station of racing from well within his own half for a try.

And it was Locke who offloaded to send Johnson on his way earlier in the half.

Yep, the future is bright at Warriors central.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Some people you can count on to lift themselves to a new level when the unforgiving forces of pressure come knocking on their door.

Billy Tupou is one such person. With his future at the New Zealand Warriors surely in doubt, he has risen over the last few weeks to a higher domain. A new plateau where there are gaps in an opposition’s defence just inviting his blistering speed off the mark to penetrate cavities with regular monotony.

That he has gleefully accepted said opportunities speaks volumes for the improvement that he has generated in his game in recent times. Last night against Newcastle was perhaps the twenty-one year olds finest game yet for the Warriors.

While some of his teammates were busy trying to (unsuccessfully as it turns out) impersonate superstars during the first half, Tupou was proving to be the real deal. Time and again he would find good metres to be gained up the middle of the park. And unlike some of his mates, there was no error to be seen from him on the end of the movement.

In his element he was; there was nothing hinky about his performance, that’s to be sure. And with the likes of Kristian Inu and Glen Fishiahi waiting in the wings for their chance to reacquaint themselves with first grade football, it’s no wonder that Tupou has been pushing himself onwards towards better things.

Whether he succeeds in securing a future in Auckland remains to be seen. 2012 sees a new coach in Brian McClennan operating out of Mt Smart. It is known that he favors Inu on the wing instead of in the centres, so Tupou may struggle to cement the right wing spot in the long term.

If this does indeed turn out to be the case, at the very least he has shown enough in his six appearances this season to suggest that a contract awaits him somewhere in the rugby league world.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sometimes it just doesn’t seem fair that one team has to lose. Its life, of course, and it inevitably happens to everyone at some stage. But, fair, not really.

One such team is the New Zealand Warriors. Their performance last night against the Brisbane Broncos was exemplary. That they lost should not be held against them. For, they gave their all. Not only that, but they executed their work with a quality of precision that has not always been notable this season. Yes, they have had their moments in 2011, but here they turned on a display that they have every right to be proud of.

It may not have been a match for the ages, but both sides contributed mightily to a sparkling contest between two heavyweight contenders. It will still be remembered for some time to come. That the Warriors lost by a solitary point speaks volumes for the reverence that the Brisbane side hold Captain Darren Lockyer in. With Lockyer equaling the all time record for NRL appearances, Brisbane were always going to lift. And yet they could only win 21-20.

On occasions, there are teams that more than deserve their fate.

Maybe they didn’t truly put in. Perhaps their defence wasn’t up to scratch. Or it could be that they couldn’t convert their opportunities when they came knocking.
The Warriors displayed none of these rather disappointing traits.

Everything they had, they gave. If there was an ounce of effort left to be squeezed from within, they more than succeeded in ridding their minds of any trespassers.

Their defence was fortified, their attack electrified, a steely resolve emanated from their pores that solidified.

That resolve was there for all to see over the opening five minutes. One four pointer was conceded, but with all the possession hanging on like a parasite to the home side, it could be best described as miraculous that the Warriors did not concede any further points.

Brisbane’s domination carried on for another few minutes. But this was a match where momentum shifts were going to seize the moment with a vengeance. Just when one side thought that they were on the way to a comfortable night at the office, a tidal wave of dominance drove its way over the former, drowning out all their good work.

It would be nothing if not sudden and swift, as Shaun Johnson showed everyone. A solo sixty metre effort that took in the bright lights of the Warriors left side attack. This was the stuff of a superstar. Johnson showed off speed that glistened, agility that superseded the opposition’s best efforts in defence and a foresight that defies his six game career.

Surely the doubters have now been silenced somewhat. Admittedly Johnson is still a novice in the embryonic stages of a burgeoning career, but in that short time he has missed all of two tackles. And that was the major argument against his inclusion in the side; he couldn’t tackle. Consider that put to bed.

Then there was his ability, or thereof lack of it, to direct a football unit around the park. While he has a long way to go on this front, he certainly has not been a failure. And let’s remember that James Maloney, being the senior halves partner, is more than capable of steering the team in this capacity.

Tries that others could not contemplate succeeding with, he scores. His kicking game has been top rate.

He has made the number seven jersey his own. As has Kevin Locke with the fullback position. How he was not there twelve months earlier is hard to fathom. But it’s certainly better late than never. He continues to astound. He adds another dimension to the attacking game of the Warriors with his speed from the back and ability to back-up. Particularly dangerous he is when he follows the likes of Feleti Mateo up the middle of the ruck.

This time, though, he was on hand to latch onto a pass from Maloney and make a thirty metre arcing run to dot down in the left corner. A 12-4 lead and Lockyer’s party was being gate crashed. There didn’t appear much he could do about it either. The Warriors were in total control, and they were making ground at their foe’s expense with ease. The only surprise was that they were not ahead by considerably more.

As with most things in life though, it is not always possible to get your own way all the time. The Warriors soon discovered this as Brisbane powered their way back into the encounter. First Gerard Beale was put into space down the Broncos left wing, racing thirty-five metres to score.

Then seven minutes into the second-half, Jack Reed didn’t so much hit the road as he did soar high into another sphere of life, out leaping the Warriors defenders to snatch a try and retake the lead. Another four-pointer to Matt Gillette in the 56th minute and the Broncos looked headed for victory.

There had been so many swings and turnabouts thus far that one more wasn’t going to do any harm. That’s what makes Rugby League great; the ability of a team to sustain long term pressure that at times appears to be unsustainable, only for that side to somehow search within to find the internal fortitude to fight their way back into a contest.

And that’s exactly what the Warriors did. Fight their way back. Show that they do want to be championship contenders. A converted try and a penalty later and they had achieved parity on the scoreboard.

All that was left now was for the two combatants to step back ten paces and indulge in a drop-goal shootout. That Brisbane came out on top will more than likely be of no consolation to the Warriors.

Quite right of them, too. After all, no one likes losing. Nevertheless, they have shown they can match it with the best sides.

And what both sides have displayed is that, even if they do not make the grand final this year, they are two teams for the future that could dominate in the years to come.