ICYMI, on Thursday the @NRL - National Rugby League released the 2018 #NRLDraw.
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First up, apologies for my absence last week, had a corked thigh which ruled me out. I?m back and hitting it up hard this week though with normal service having resumed here at LU.
Wow! Yep, I guess that?s the main word to describe the Bulldogs? win over the Wests Tigers on Friday night. While there was plenty of action in the other games played in round 2, I don?t think many would argue, that, for a number of reasons, Friday night?s match sits above all in terms of controversy and entertainment.
So, hmm, where do I start? Mark O?Meley?s battle with Bryce Gibbs? The three players placed on report, Willie Mason, Luke Patten and Todd Payten? The crowd violence, which, as a league fan, I have just about had enough of? The ever-growing Wests Tigers injury toll? Umm, I think I?ll start with the footy first, after all, that?s what we?re all here for.
How good were the Bulldogs on Friday night? Silly me, I tipped the Wests Tigers simply because of their great record against the Dogs in recent times. But if I had a chance to change my tip when I saw the looks on the faces of the two sides as they ran out, I would have done so without hesitation. I should have known that a storm was brewing, when the Tigers so-called ?enforcers? came out and said they were going to dominate the Bulldogs physically. Could they be any more naive? The last thing you do to a team like the Bulldogs is give them extra ammunition, especially after a loss.
They were clinical in dismissing the Tigers, it was more of a royal rumble than a football game. And generally when the Dogs are involved in a royal rumble, they come out on top. They exposed a major weakness in the Tigers. Bash them up in the middle of the park and they struggle, a lesson which other teams can now follow.
Another lesson was taught on Friday night. That was Mark O?Meley?s physical education class, which he decided to take onto the field on Friday night. And Bryce Gibbs was clearly his most attentive student. Gibbs put a large piece of bait on the edge of the hook, he already had a 100% strike rate, having caught Jason Ryles last week, and sipped a celebratory glass of red and white wine. This week, O?Meley didn?t just take the bait, he bit the hook off as well and spat it back in Gibbs?s face.
Gibbs stuck an elbow in O?Meley?s face at the 30th minute. The Australian prop didn?t take too kindly to Gibbs? actions, getting up and throwing 10 to 12 punches at Gibbs. The pair were then sent to the sin bin.
But the knockout blow arrived at the 50th minute, when Gibbs went in to tackle O?Meley, who changed the direction of his run ever so slightly, and Gibbs was literally knocked out by an O?Meley shoulder. Willie Mason was the first to congratulate O?Meley, yelling some congratulatory words at his teammates in Gibbs?s face. Was Mason too harsh to Gibbs given that the young bloke was knocked out and in Disneyland? Or did Gibbs get what was coming after last week?s antics with Ryles, and his earlier elbow into the face of O?Meley while he was on the ground? I?ll let you be the judge of that. One thing that doesn?t need judging is who won that battle, I think the answer is as obvious as the possibility that Jana Pittman will open her mouth again before she competes in Melbourne this week.
The Bulldogs are looking good now, with no injuries to speak of other than Sonny Bill Williams, whose return is imminent. On the Tigers side of things, the injury curse seems to have struck. The injury list is increasing in salary cap value, with Dene Halatau, Shane Elford, Benji Marshall, Chris Heighington and Liam Fulton this week being joined by the concussed Bryce Gibbs, and one of the most promising players in the game today, hooker Robbie Farah, now sidelined for between four and six weeks with a broken hand. Tough times ahead for the premiers but there?s no doubt that they?ll be back and thereabouts towards the end of the season.
Now to an issue which I hate bringing up, but it?s one that needs addressing. I was out at the game on Friday night, and I was disgusted with the crowd behaviour which is becoming far too common at Bulldogs games. This type of thing is very frustrating, and I for one know how hard the Bulldogs club, in particular, Malcolm Noad, has worked to stamp this out. I can only imagine how frustrated he must be feeling right at this moment.
Just quickly, on a better note, the Melbourne Storm seem rejuvenated to me. New halfback Cooper Cronk seems to be very decisive in his play and his side are running off him well. They look much better up front which is something they have lacked at the business end in previous years, and their backs are plugging away as always. They look as though they may have turned a corner and I think they could make the top four, if not go all the way to the premiership. I know they finished quite poorly on Sunday but they are more than capable of fine tuning that aspect of their game in time for the finals.
Ending on another sour note, why doesn?t someone just mail the New Zealand Warriors the wooden spoon so we can get on with the rest of the comp, and save a few airfares? They have been woeful and will do well to get to zero points by the end of the year. I suppose that?s guaranteed as they?ll get four points for their byes, but getting off zero is where their main struggle lies.