Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
28 hours ago
Cronulla is a club out of control. Once a pillar of discipline, the team has now sunk to depths never before seen in the Sutherland Shire. Last night, the Sharks were well and truly outplayed by their opponents and when they started to fall behind on the scoreboard, they didn?t attempt to lift. Instead, they resorted to stupid tactics and cheap shots and only succeeded to dig themselves further into a hole begun by South Sydney?s impeccable form.
There are disproportionate amounts of raging egomaniacs present for a team teetering so close to the bottom of the ladder. Phil Bailey, the beneficiary of a succession of injuries which gifted him a place in the Australian team, is playing like a man who thinks he?s far better than he really is. So far this season, Bailey has had no impact whatsoever ? hence his non-selection when they named a preliminary squad for the ANZAC Test. Meanwhile, he prances around the football field showing complete disregard for the referees and touch judges, continually giving away penalties and acting as if he is the god of rugby league.
Danny Nutley is worse. It?s hard to tell, however, if he has an ego or is simply the stupidest player ever to lace on a boot. For two seasons straight he has been the most penalised player in the National Rugby League and he looks set to make it a third. Last night against the Rabbitohs, he was pinged consistently for acts of sheer idiocy ? and every single time he got up and complained about the decision to the referee. He might make a lot of tackles and complete a pile of hitups, but every time he is penalized he undoes all that good work.
Last night, the same could be said of Sam Isemonger. If it wasn?t Nutley acting like a fool, it was Sammy. In the end, it cost the team massively.
How could we forget Jason Stevens? Guilty of a sickening trip late in last night?s game, Stevo is certain to come under heavy judicial scrutiny. Prior to that incident he had played a fair game, but then he went and ruined everything. He even had the gall to complain about the penalty too. For an apparent senior player, it was a very poor effort.
Finally, we move onto one of the most sickeningly malicious acts ever seen on the football field. With Shane Marteene lying prone on the field, Greg Bird moved in and whacked him straight in the face with his knee. It was entirely intentional and entirely disgraceful. Bird was rightfully sent from the field and should expect a long stint on the sidelines. Who knows what he was thinking? Whatever it was, it was the lowest point of a totally inept performance by Cronulla.
So how do you turn things around? I?m not normally one for swinging the axe at the selection table, but I fear that this week coach Raper needs to do just that. Bird?s demotion will be forced by the judiciary, but does Raper have the fortitude to drop the big name players who have been carrying this team to defeat? Danny Nutley, Phil Bailey and Sam Isemonger all need to have a few weeks in the reserves. Chris Beattie should be put on heavy notice too, as should the rest of the team. Let them know that no position is safe.
If it were up to me, the team line up for the Cowboys game next week would read:
1. David Peachey 2. Matthew Rieck 3. 4. Nigel Vagana 5. Nathan Merritt 6. Russell Aitken 7. Brett Kimmorley 8. Jason Stevens 9. Dean Bosnich 10. Jon Green 11. Matt Bickerstaff 12. Keith Galloway 13. Matt Hilder
14. Chris Beattie 15. Reece Williams 16. Daniel Dumas 17. Michael Sullivan
Whatever Stuart Raper does, let?s just hope he can instil some discipline into the most out of control club in the NRL.