Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
35 hours ago
Ever seen that movie called ?Goodbye Lenin? about an East German family whose mother, a social activist, lapses into a coma a few weeks before the Berlin Wall is torn down? When she wakes up, her two children think it?s best to break the news to her slowly as they wouldn?t want to add any further stress or anxiety to her precarious state of health.
So they continue to behave as though nothing has happened since she went into the coma until the inevitable day when she is well enough to leave her apartment only to be confronted with a unified Germany and the disintegration of her socialist ideals.
I?m sure a few St George fans suffered the same fate as they watched their team implode against the Tigers in last year?s Qualifying Final. With that in mind, how would you explain to an ardent Dragons supporter just emerging from a four month slumber that Lance Thompson will be playing for the Cronulla Sharks in 2006?
Would it be too much for them to handle?
It?s going to be quite a shock watching Thommo run around in a Sharks jersey. His past two seasons have been pretty solid and I think amongst his best form ever. He?s going to a club that have rebuilt a little and he?s going to be expected to do plenty of work. Jason Stevens and Danny Nutley, two very experienced forwards, have left Cronulla and Ben Ross comes in to complement Hutch Maiva, but there has been talk of Thompson at prop also.
So, is the best yet to come from Lance Thompson?
I think Lance himself would admit he hasn?t quite lived up to expectations. Although playing over 200 first grade games is a huge achievement, he was touted for rep honours from a young age and has never really delivered on that promise. He twice captained the Junior Kangaroos and cut a swathe through rugby league as a youngster, demanding attention.
As I?ve grown up our paths briefly crossed a few times. Being a standout junior in the region, Thompson was sent to Kingsgrove High, along will all those other footballing students like Anthony Mundine and Adam Peek plus a few others that almost got there like Tere Glassie and Jason Asplet.
Playing for Sydney Tech (that fortress of sporting prowess) in the under 16?s St George knockout, we were 2 points ahead of Kingsgrove with barely seconds to play before Thompson barrelled our winger and raked the ball back to regain possession (you could do that back then, *sigh*). He proceeded to carry most of us over the try line and score to stage a remarkable victory.
Two years later I watched from the sidelines at Kogarah Oval as we were once again pitted against Kingsgrove in the divisional final of the Commonwealth Bank Cup. After all, this was a big game, the winner got to play in a TV match!
From the kick-off we worked the ball up to 40 metres out from their line and received a penalty. Our halfback took a shot at goal and missed. That was our last scoring opportunity for the afternoon. The final result of 68-nil flattered us and four of our players were taken to hospital.
That day, despite the sickening sight of the scoreboard and several pools of blood around our bench, I was a little bit excited. Thommo had already made his first grade debut for Saints (ironically against the Sharks) and after watching him meticulously trample most of my mates on the field, I felt confident he would one day do the same in the Red V.
But I don?t think he has. I?ll be the first to admit he was unlucky to get injured against Souths at the SCG in 2004 when it appeared as though he was a certainty for NSW after being included in the 30-man squad. Apart from that he has represented City three times (once as captain) but otherwise his name has been as scarce as hen?s teeth at the selection table.
And over the years he has attracted a bit of unwanted attention for himself
- Sent off two weeks in a row (Rounds 7 & 8 in 1998)
- The fight with Andrew Hart at St George Leagues club
- Turning up to training drunk
And now he has left amid a very public fallout with the club, coach and CEO. So he does come with a fair amount of baggage. But perhaps he?ll leave all that behind when he starts playing at Cronulla, where a new coach and team mates await.
One of the theories going around when players are coached by people they played with is that the player has an embedded lack of respect for the coach. Did Thompson suffer from this under Nathan Brown? It?s possible he did and perhaps that contributed to the falling out.
So where does this leave him for 2006?
I think he?s in for a big year. At Cronulla he won?t be the proud local junior that has graced the dressing sheds since he was 16. He won?t be walking around like he owns the joint and he won?t be treated as royalty by the supporters.
At 28, he will have to prove himself to players, fans and the coach that he is worthy of selection in the team each week. The coach will not be afraid to drop him if he?s not playing well enough. It remains to be seen what sort of impact being placed outside his comfort zone will have on him, but I think it will remind him how much he loves playing footy.
And as a player who wears his heart on his sleeve and is an emotional kind of guy, I think it will bring out the best in him. Round 9 at Toyota Park just got a whole lot more interesting?