Most of the action this weekends has been on the domestic scene. Yes the Super League is now into its final week with their Grand Finalists decided. And in Australia the domestic season has now fully wrapped up as well. While in Europe the Maltese and Danes went head to head once again.
Denmark Lions 12 – 74 Malta Knights
On the weekend Malta took On Denmark in an International at Copenhagen’s Gentoffe Stadium. Jarrod Summut was playing for them and apparently having a field day. This was the second game in a two match series between the two teams this year. Malta winning the first one 24 – 12. In this match it was a much more one sided affair with the Malta knights running out winner 74-12.
Melbourne Storm 14 – 04 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
The NRL Grand final came to a fascinating conclusion. It was a game that pretty much had it all. Brilliant attack against some dogged (no pun intended) defence, near misses and off form. A good old biff and a biting controversy. In the end the best team of the season certainly has come out on top.
The Storm have shown that despite the salary cap breached and the premierships being stripped from them, they are the most dominant team of the last 5-6 years hands down. Billy Slater though almost made it a repeat of the 2008 World Cup passing a near howler right at the start and it almost being intercepted.
The Game was what you expected from a Modern Rugby League Match, gritty defence and some ‘”out of the dark depths” attack to break the defence to win it. Controversy still reigned on the game. A brawl erupted from an seemingly nothing push after Perret scored for the Doggies, and in that fight Billy Slater accused James Graham of biting. The evidence is clear and Graham will most probably get a suspension for it and will miss this years end of year internationals for England.
It was probably the only sour point in an otherwise fantastic game. Melbourne, great in attack, were also clinical in their defence and this is what won it for them in the end. The three tries to Hoffman, Slater and O’Neill were enough to win the game and 40 minutes of, at times, desperate defence saw them hold out the Blue and white.
Don’t take anything away from the Bulldogs. They tried their damned hardest to get over the line. They should be proud that they did compete, in the end it was only a 10 point difference. But it was not their year. They say that you have to loose a Grand Final to Win a Grand Final, that certainly seems to be the pattern in Australia, maybe next year is the year of the dog.
Here in the USA Fox-Soccer Channel televised it, though a 1:30am start it was live and great quality getting the feed direct from CH 9. Aussie commentators are really something, if I were an American watching it, I think I would be so lost not understanding 80% of the Aussie slang and colloquial vernacular that Rabs, Sterlo and Gus use when commentating. Its a start contrast from the College and NFL football commentators who seem to use a more rounded English, that if other countries pick it up can still follow what they say.
Well, well, well… its happened again. Wigan had the choice of teams and, they chose poorly! Leading up to their choice, there was much speculation who Wigan should choose, when the announcement was made for Leeds many predicted the Warriors demise. How right they were! The Leeds Rhinos and Melbourne Storm are brethren in some respects. Both have been the dominant teams in the last 5-6 years in their respective comps. Melbourne having made the 5 of the last 7 Grand finals and Leeds 5 of the last 6.
It was a Grand Stand Finish, Leeds had a 11 – 0 lead but managed to lose it in the second half with Wigan storming back to 12 – 11. All looked lost for the Yorkshire men, but then a late penalty a couple minuted from the end had them 13 – 12 in the lead and had to survive a Brett Finch drop goal scare. His kick went wide and the extra-time was avoided and Leeds go through to set up a defence of their title again this year nemesis Warrington.
The Wire were able to upset the Saints at their new home, Langtree Park with a dominant finish. Despite being down 14-12 at half time, the Wolves were able to come out on top with Australian Trent Waterhouse scoring two tries. Warrington look to take the double, Wembley and Old Trafford, and ironically the team they beat is the one that was the last to do the double, St Helens! The 36-18 score line sets up a juicy re-match from Augusts Challenge Cup final at Wembley, where the Wire beat Leeds as well.
Newtown Jets 22 – 18 Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers
Newtown is coming, Hear the Bluebags humming, Newtoooooown, Newtooooown … Yes the Bluebags have won another premiership! Its their first since 1997, and their 5th since being reformed in 1991 and 8th of all time. It was a close and thrilling affair with the Jets down by 2 points right up until the end. They were 16 –18 when hooker Nafe Seluini went over to clinch it for them in the dying minutes.
Wests Tigers 46 – 06 Canberra Raiders
The Wests Tigers, despite the turmoil off their field this year can still celebrate as their up and coming talent in the U20s Toyota Cup scored a huge victory over the Canberra Raiders. The Tigers mauled the Raiders 46 – 06 in an impressive display.
Sheffield Eagles 20 – 16 Featherstone Rovers
Sheffield this year got revenge over Featherstone for last years loss. Played at Warrington’s Halliwell-Jones Stadium its the Eagles first silverware since when they won the Challenge Cup at Wembley back in 1998.
Doncaster 16 – 13 Barrow Raiders
Doncaster and Barrow will meet once more next year in the Championship as both teams have been promoted up to the second flight competition. As part of the Championships Grand Final double header this turned out to be a good tough close affair as it should be with Grand Finals. Barrow had their chances in the second half, but had three tries dis-allowed. Still it shows that Rugby League is alive and well in Cumbria.
So I read a couple very interesting articles before and after the weekend. Both being comments on the way the modern game is played. In reality it’s the typical whinging that we have come to expect from the Australian media, but then again they may have a point. So I want to suggest two simple solutions for them.
The first article is about the positions of the teams. Roy Masters looks at both the NRL and AFL grand final teams and suggests that no matter what, if you finish 1st and 2nd then you will almost always make the Grand Final.
The finals system that the NRL has adopted this year is the same as the AFL which has been using it since 2000. There he says that 23/26 teams that have been in the grand final have been placed 1st or 2nd and have the week off. The idea is that with the weeks break that the top two teams are able to rest and recuperate much more and are not worn out… the whole point of the reward for being the best team of the season and round 1. Ideally you want your two best teams of the season in the Grand Final but then again the whole point of the Play off is to do something different and get the teams playing a different kind of footy.
So what is a solution? Well, how about adopting Super Leagues selection idea? For those of you un familiar with it the Super League have the same system as the NRL but with a twist. The highest placed team that has the week off gets to CHOOSE their opponent for the Preliminary Final. This adds a whole new dimension to the game because there may be a bunny team, or they may be a bunny team. It adds an extra spice and dimension.
Granted the SL has only been using this now for 4 years, 2009 being the first time, Leeds and St Helens were one and two and went on to have the week off and meet in the final. Leeds selected Catalans that year. In 2010 it was Wigan and St Helens finishing in the top two, but it was Leeds and Saints that went onto the week off. Saints chose Huddersfield as their opponents and won, but Leeds ended up having to face Wigan and lost. Though it was a 1 – 2 finish in the end, the path was more convoluted. In 2011 it was Warrington and Wigan finishing 1 and 2 and both went on to have the week off as well. Wire selected Leeds and lost and this also pitted Wigan against St Helens and the Warriors lost, thus it was not the top 2 finish as expected. This year has seen Wigan and Warrington finish in the top two as well but Wigan selecting Leeds in their week off they have been beaten once again while Wire beat Saints. Leeds have come from 5th spot to be in the Grand final, similar to 2011 where they came from 5th spot as well.
Its a different way of doing things and if we want to try and make it so that there is a better chance for a lower team to make it, maybe this system needs to be looked at.
The other comment I saw was from Paul Kent at the Daily Telegraph in Sydney. He says that the NRL has become very boring and that once a team gets the momentum and lead out in front, its next to impossible for a team to come back and win it. The rules in the NRL are stacked to the team with the ball possession, and he cites the “good old days” of the competitive scrum and raking in the PTB etc… this may be true, but I think its a bit harsh. The Bulldogs had many opportunities to get the momentum back, he cites that these days the NRL is all “about completions”.
The team with the most completions, that is the team that can hold onto the ball the best and do something with it, is going to win. He seems to forget that it was Canterbury unable to get completions and that they gave away penalties at silly times that hurt them. The Bulldogs were rewarded for their bravery in defence, they got the ball back, but did they do anything with it… nope. the three things he cites made the game look ugly and more often than not the competitive scrums ended up in multiple resets or a penalty that just wasted time. The raking ended up in a knock on or some other penalty more often than not. I have no issues with those rules in our game.
But, if I were to take on Pauls comments and think about, what can be done to make the game “less lopsided”, then the answer and change is a very subtle one, and it harks back to, dare I say it for fear of being lynched, the Super League War. What about we do what every other professional sport around the world does? The restart goes to the team that didn’t score? So in the Grand Final, after each of Melbourne’s tries they would have kicked off to the Bulldogs to give them a chance. I suspect the way Melbourne was playing and the Bulldogs as well, the score would have been the same, but its a simple solution of allowing the defending team that small extra reprieve of getting the ball and trying to do something with it.
You know, a small whinge now from me. I am just sick of the NRL clubs treating the game with disrespect. They are now whinging about some of their players being called on overseas duty for the European Cup and European Tru nations.
You know what, as Uncle Chop Chop says, “Harden the **** up! ” The players are getting paid hundreds of Thousands and some soon millions of dollars, for the good of the game. If you want to have them not be fatigues, cut back the NRL season.
While we are at it, if the NRL is worried about the encroachment of AFL, use the damn international game to your advantage. We have one, we can use it to get the migrant kids to play the game. if we are worried about the Polynesians in Western Sydney being poached, get Tonga, Samoa playing Australia on a regular basis, and have proper internationals not ones where Australia plunders for the sake of origin and everyone picks the scraps.
Lest get serious about our game and rather than be tunnel visioned about it, lets get it working to our advantage.
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