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It was a case of same old, same old for Cronulla fans this weekend. Lulled into a false sense of optimism by sweeping off-season changes to the team?s structure, the Sharks imploded against a gritty Tigers team in a game that could be summarised as simply being scrappy. If Cronulla don?t learn a thing or two about attacking in the next week, they could very easily cop a walloping by the slick looking Bulldogs in round two.
In what will become a regular feature on the Sharks Den, we?ll be scrutinizing the form of all the players from the weekend, having a look at the weekend?s football in general and summarising our weekly Sharks Den Survivor and Player of the Year points.
David Peachey? Showed some signs of attacking spark but still needs to inject himself into the offence more. An unfortunate in-goal mistake led to the Tigers? first try. Far from the worst on the park, but not a good enough effort from one of the team?s most senior players. Rank: C Hassan Saleh? The safest player in the backline. Showed little spark in attack but was perfect under the high ball and in defence. Yet to show he deserves a permanent place in the team but did his chances no harm with a solid debut performance. Rank: B Phil Bailey? For an Australian representative centre, Bailey had a decidedly poor game. Offered no penetration in attack, although he was safe in defence. Needs to return to the forwards sooner rather than later. Rank: C- Ryan McGoldrick? Trampled in defence by Shane Elford and generally an unhappy start to his year. Should maintain his first grade spot, but only because Paul Franze had a shocker in Premier League. Rank: D Matthew Rieck? Didn?t help McGoldrick a great deal but was relatively safe on kick returns and showed some speed when he was given the opportunity. Most importantly, he didn?t drop the ball at a crucial stage. Rank: B-
Greg Bird? A much improved defensive effort but still too quiet in attack. Will need to improve to hold out the other five eighth prospects but a solid if unexciting effort. Rank: C+ Brett Kimmorley? Far too quiet for a player who should be dominating this kind of game. Perhaps it is unfair to expect him to lift in every game, but Cronulla don?t stand a chance unless Noddy shows a marked improvement. Rank: C-
Chris Beattie ? An average game with no highlights, either negative or positive. Solid if unspectacular. Rank: B- Dean Bosnich? An uninspired game from hooker. Lacked any attacking spark so important in the modern hooking game. Solid in defence, but needs to learn when to run the ball. Rank: C- Danny Nutley? Much improved discipline from last season until he came from the field injured. A typically tireless effort from the little front rower, although he still lacks impact. Rank: B Andrew Lomu? An unhappy game for the new recruit. Dropped the ball on far too many hitups, one of which led to the match winning Tigers try. If he can hold onto the ball he?ll be devastating. Rank: D+ Paul Gallen? A game highlighted by a flurry of punches which resulted in a dislocated elbow. Needs to be far more disciplined upon return. Rank: D Matt Hilder? A quiet game by Hilder?s standards. Could it be second year syndrome for last season?s star rookie? Rank: C
Jason Stevens? Made a number of hard runs and showed a lot of impact coming from the bench. He may have unwittingly played himself into a permanent impact bench position. Rank: B+ Keith Galloway? Easily outplayed a number of the team?s far more experienced forwards. If he continues this form he should be starting before season?s end. Also scored the team?s only try. Rank: B+ Sam Isemonger? Had little impact coming off the bench. Rank: C Michael Sullivan? Easily Cronulla?s best player. When he came on at hooker the team suddenly found direction from dummy half with his excellent running game. Still needs to work on his passing and kicking game, but his darts from the ruck will serve the team well in future. Rank: B+
Winners and Losers
Who shot for the stars and who was firing blanks in round one of the Telstra Premiership? Read on to find out.
Winners Wests Tigers I wrote the Tigers off in my match preview last week, but they certainly proved me wrong and all credit to them for doing so. It wasn?t an attractive win, but they managed to get the two points. Despite my claims that their recruitment was akin to scooping up the dregs of the player market, I feel they have the personnel and coaching staff to make an inaugural finals appearance.
Canberra Raiders The Bulldogs may have put the Eels to the sword, but I think the Raiders can lay claim to the best win of the weekend. A near perfect first half of football was followed up by a gritty second half, where they managed to hold the Dragons at bay despite almost losing the plot. If they can tighten up that second half ball control, they?ll be close to impossible to beat this season. They?re my early tip for minor premiers.
Losers Shayne Hayne We Cronulla fans learnt he doesn?t have the refereeing skills to officiate an under twelves match during the debacle of last season. This week, he showed off those skills ? or lack thereof ? during the Bunnies Roosters game. The entire match was ready to erupt by fulltime and it was purely good fortune which prevented it doing so. Hayne had little control over the game and the frustrations of both teams were exemplified by a punctuating string of high and late shots. Heaven help the NRL if this man finds himself in first grade next weekend,
Trent Barrett It was a blown try of Russell Richardson proportions. With the game in the balance, Barrett hit a gap close to the line and looked certain to score? until his majestic swan dive over the line ended in tragedy as the ball popped free and rocketed over the dead-ball line. The Raiders subsequently defeated St George Illawarra and the look on Barrett?s face was simply priceless.
Sharks Den Survivor Despite some bugs this week, the first round of Sharks Den Survivor has been a success. The unfortunate bootee was Andrew Lomu, who beat off a late fightback from Greg Bird to be the first Sharks player voted out of the game. Lomu?s dropped ball late in the second half was almost certainly the clincher, which saw him attain 31% of the fans votes. Lomu has now been removed from the competition and cannot be named the sole Survivor for season 2004.
Check back at the Sharks Den tomorrow, when we have the team for round two and on Wednesday, when we have a full preview of the round two game against the Bulldogs.