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Friday Night Lights
If last week's round of Rugby League proved anything, it's that a team's attitude has more of an effect on the outcome of their performance than their talent. The four teams lining up to play on Friday night are excellent examples of the weird and wonderful relationship between footy teams and attitude.
Over the last decade, NRL clubs have employed elements of sports psychology in their training. Players are taught about positive body language and never to show any signs of physical weakness.
You can tell when a team doesn't want to be on the field anymore. The body language of the Cronulla and Penrith sides of round one were pretty evident of this. But compared to how both teams performed a week later, it's clear that their attitude had vastly improved.
The Parramatta Eels were buoyant in round one and shabby in round two. Like the Sharks and the Panthers, they're also on the attitude yo-yo, but their story is reversed. Parramatta are coming up against the South Sydney Rabbitohs, a team that have exhibited the polar opposites of their attitude many times over the course of the first two rounds of the season.
It seems that the issue with the Rabbitohs is that they don't know how to hold onto a lead. They've been able to get ahead in the last fifteen minutes against both the Sydney Roosters and the Canterbury Bulldogs, but then submissively surrender that lead.
Is it something that can be put down to Souths taking time to click, or is it an underlying problem that runs much deeper?
The fact is that, as a club, the Rabbitohs have not had a winning culture for decades. Before they were bundled out of the first week of the finals in 2007, Souths last played a post-season game in 1989.
Incredibly, the last time that they won a finals game was back in 1987.
The Eels have a similar issue of their own. Since the NRL began in 1998, they have made it to the preliminary finals seven times out of a possible thirteen. Out of those seven, they've only made it through to the Grand Final twice, losing both.
There is a compelling argument there to suggest that both the Bunnies and the Eels of 2011 are exhibiting an inconsistent attitude that reflects their club's fortunes over the past twenty years. Under the ownership of Russell Crowe and with a stellar playing roster, Souths have the opportunity to revive the winning culture of their club; under the eyes of rookie coach Stephen Kearney, Parramatta have the opportunity to create a team with stronger resolve and an unwavering attitude.
Brisbane Broncos have had an incredible culture of success since their inception in 1988. While they may have lost some of that aura over the past few years, the Broncos will take a lot out of their grinding victory over the Raiders last week. The Broncos won with their defence by frustrating their opponents out of the contest.
A lot of the team's current players weren't there when they last tasted Premiership success in 2006, but with the reintroduction of Ben Hannant and Justin Hodges, a little bit of that powerful aura that Brisbane is synonymous for will return this week against the Gold Coast Titans.
The Titans are 0-2 and looked devoid of attitude in their thrashing at the hands of Melbourne. Some say that their squad is too old, but that's not the case at all - if this was true, explain how the veteran Queensland front-row combination of Steve Price and Petero Civoniceva dominated New South Wales for five years?
The Titans will lift for the grudge match against their big brother, but will it be enough? The Broncos will come into the match with confidence in their defence, but will they be able to back up one strong performance with another? Both Parramatta and South Sydney have squads that are full of talent, but can either team fire like their fans hope they will?
Talent is secondary on Friday night. It all comes down to which team's attitude is stronger than the other.
Premierships may not be won in March, but the attitude that is required to achieve one certainly starts there.