Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
ANZ Stadium's slippery night-time playing surface is again in the spotlight with NRL clubs Penrith and the Bulldogs airing concerns following Saturday night's error-riddled 30-4 win to the Panthers.
Dogs and Panthers players came up with 39 errors between them as they slipped and slid on the dewy ground, which underwent remedial work in 2006 amid anxiety over player safety.
"I watched the (under-)20s game and the ball must have gone down about 50 times," Penrith coach Matt Elliott said.
"I was cursing our guys' ball possession but it was slippery as, (that was) the feedback from the boys there."
Bulldogs coach Steve Folkes also suggested the ground had contributed to his side's woeful handling.
"The footing and the ground - and Penrith made plenty of errors as well - it was just not a pretty game," he said.
Folkes' captain Andrew Ryan agreed.
"I think there were about 46 scrums so there were obviously a few errors from both teams and it was pretty slippery underfoot," Ryan said.
The Olympic Stadium has been criticised before for being slippery with officials saying the problem is caused by western Sydney's winter dew.
It got the tick of approval from experts after sections of turf were replaced in 2006 because of a soil disease.
Meanwhile, Folkes is hoping four of the nine first-graders missing through injury on Saturday night might return next week as his side seeks to reverse a slide of four losses in their last five games.
"We're going to get some relief in the not too far distant future but not everybody will be back on deck soon."
Folkes was forced to blood 20-year-old local junior Lorenzo Maafu on Saturday night.
"(He) didn't find out until 10 or 11 o'clock this morning and, in fairness to him, probably before he's ready to play first grade ... it's a big jump from that NSW Cup to the NRL," Folkes said.
And Elliott said he was tempted to stick with regular back-rower Luke Lewis at halfback after he played his first game in the position against the Panthers.
Lewis was shifted to No.7 during the week when Jarrod Sammut was axed, while off-season recruits Joe Williams and Josh McCrone have barely had a look-in.
"I certainly feel that he did the job there tonight," Elliott said of Lewis, who scored an individual try and set up another.
"He certainly offers us a dimension there."