All the #NRL Teamlists and officials are in for this weekend's action - Round 17 of the Telstra Prem...
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I tend to be a pretty stubborn kind of guy and usually, there?s less chance of me admitting to a blunder than of John Howard walking into question time donning Peter Garrett?s ?sorry? T-shirt. But last weekend has forced me to change tack, particularly when selecting Premiers pre-season.
While you could agree with the notion that Round 5 is too early to write-off a team of the Dragons? stature, I must say that after sitting through 80 minutes of constant torture from Newcastle, their status as premiership favourites has now come heavily under the pundits? microscope.
Admittedly, Newcastle minus Andrew Johns and the Wests Tigers without Benji Marshall gives you a similar feeling to when you watch the Beatles perform minus Paul and John. And at least for the Dragons? sake, they don?t have that sort of problem. Their predicament is more broad, more of a mental issue than anything else. Talent-wise, as always, there is never a concern.
Imagine this - the year is 1998 and the Brisbane Broncos have just defeated the Canterbury Bulldogs by 38 points to 12 in the Grand Final. You are a Dragons supporter. The day after the match you are frozen.
You are thawed out the day after the Wests Tigers have just defeated the North Queensland Cowboys by 30 points to 16 in the 2005 grand final. The first football news you are given is that the last seven NRL premiers have been different clubs. As a Dragons supporter, hearing that information should be enough of a giveaway to realise that your side has won the premiership one of those seven times. If anything, you?d be astounded as it is given that they hadn?t won on more occasions in that period of time.
Plenty of hype, no results. Those five words sum up the St George-Illawarra joint venture beautifully since its inception in 1999. Such has been their nature in recent years, they approach a match one week with the intent and passion to win, but show up the next week and look like they are there for nothing more than a frivolous walk in the park. They did shake off that tag last season however, and illustrated a more consistent approach to their game.
Unfortunately for the Dragons and their supporters, it appears that their premiership horse may have bolted. If it isn?t well and truly out of sight yet, it is almost over the horizon, and if there is no premiership trophy in Trent Barrett?s hands on October 1 2006, the horse will continue to gallop away.
Perhaps their appointment of Nathan Brown, a man who has a very close relationship with a few of the players and who lacks the authority that a coach needs, left a bit to be desired. He may not know how to distinguish from being ?one of the boys? and being the ?coach?, which works against the Dragons from the outset.
Why they have recently decided to re-sign him for a further three seasons is beyond me. John Lang would have been a more sensible alternative from their point of view.
I just want to make this clear, my decision to place the Dragons as favourites ahead of the Cowboys was the worst since Captain Cook decided to break up the voyage back to England with a couple of days in Hawaii. You may think I?m going off early but those two sides couldn?t really be further apart at this stage. The Cowboys look terrific with no apparent weaknesses, although origin time will provide their true test. But with Johnathan Thurston playing like he has funnel web spiders on his shoulders, and having received more man of the match awards than Elizabeth Taylor had husbands, the Cowboys could do anything this season.
I know this is becoming a regular feature, but South Sydney was dreadful again on the weekend. Once the privatization issue had been resolved, I thought they might knuckle down and get their game in-check. Instead, it?s been same old South Sydney. They are playing a brand of football which looks as attractive as the design of their away strip. Phil Gould said on the weekend that any other side would need to play appalling football to lose to Souths this season, I can?t put it better myself.
A bumper clash to look forward to this Sunday, with Newcastle taking on North Queensland at Energy Australia Stadium. If you?re watching from home, be sure to steer clear of the radio, because it?s only really delayed if you know the score beforehand. I can?t really split them, but if I was being dabbed with a sword standing on a plank whilst blindfolded, I?d probably go with the Cowboys by a few. Nevertheless, put a few on ice and get the mates over, it?ll be a cracker.
Until next week, cheerio!