Friday 15 December 2017 / 03:17 PM

GOLDEN POINTS: NRL ROUND 19

Sharks chasing history

There’s a chance that Cronulla’s record winning streak – now sitting at 14 – will become a millstone around the team’s neck, distracting from their ultimate goal. But given their relatively gentle run home, it’s tough to see the Sharks dropping a game between now and the end of the regular season, besides perhaps their showdown with Melbourne in Round 25.

If they remain undefeated until then, the Sharks will have equalled the all-time mark for consecutive wins in a season, set by the famed Eastern Suburbs combination of 1975 at 19 games.

MOST CONSECUTIVE WINS IN A SEASON

19 – Eastern Suburbs (1975)

17 – Bulldogs (2002)

15 – Manly (1995)

14 – South Sydney (1932)

14* – Cronulla (2016)

Of those teams, however, only Easts and Souths went on to win the premiership in those seasons. And as we saw recently in the NBA as the Golden State Warriors stumbled at the final hurdle, records mean little in the finals.

NRL drag the chain on Norman

With Parramatta virtually being run by no one at present, the NRL must step in and mete out a suspension for Corey Norman after the star playmaker pled guilty to drugs possession charges last week, along with his starring role in a leaked sex tape. Expecting a hastily-formed Eels board to come up with an appropriate punishment in their first few days on the job is unrealistic, but leaving the whole situation in limbo is a bad look for the game. Given the heavy-handed way the NRL dealt with Mitchell Pearce’s Australia Day indiscretion, it should be a no-brainer to rub Norman out until the start of 2017.

Warriors can’t close

After watching the Warriors suffer their second golden-point loss in three matches, I dug through the archives to find the last time the Warriors kicked a match-winning field goal. Incredibly, the NRL’s most enigmatic club has not landed a one-pointer to decide a game since Stacey Jones booted them to an extra-time win over the Roosters in 2009.

Shaun Johnson is the only current Warriors with a first-grade field goal to his name, kicking seven – but they’ve all been to either extend a lead or to level after the Warriors slipped behind on the scoreboard. The Warriors’ only one-point win in the last seven seasons was a 25-24 victory over the Titans in 2013, after they led 25-6.

Following Sam Lisone’s air-swing and Johnson’s charged-down attempt against the Sea Eagles on Saturday, it’s patently clear the Warriors need to shore up this area of weakness as they desperately chase a finals spot.

Tui in limbo

Plenty of Warriors fans turned on coach Andrew McFadden over his non-selection of cult hero Konrad Hurrell – which eventually saw him join the Titans mid-season – but an Auckland lynching could be on the cards if the recent demotion of Tuimoala Lolohea results in the brilliant youngster linking with another club.

‘Cappy’ has selected Lolohea on the pine twice in the last three weeks, for the team’s only two losses in their past six games. He was injected late on both occasions (and not until golden point against Manly on Saturday) despite bumbling wing displays by the players named ahead of him, Jonathan Wright and Manu Vatuvei respectively.

Although McFadden insists there’s nothing more to the situation than requiring Lolohea to work on certain aspects of his game – and the fact he is far more effective at five-eighth or fullback than in the three-quarter line – it boggles the mind to that he can’t get a first-grade start ahead of erratic trio Vatuvei, Ken Maumalo or Blake Ayshford.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

Paul ‘Mary’ McGregor’s cause hasn’t been helped this year by the regular injury absence of Josh Dugan and Benji Marshall, but he must be on borrowed time at St George Illawarra. The second-worst attacking team in the NRL in 2015 and ’16, the Dragons’ defence – which carried the club to a surprise top-eight finish last year – is increasingly becoming just as a big a joke.

Tim Lafai has gone from being one of the game’s most destructive centres to one of the most impotent; Gareth Widdop has gone right off the boil; and the Saints’ pack is feared by no team. McGregor is getting little out of his charges and is ideas are clearly not working. Instead of throwing the cheque-book at every half on the market, the joint venture should be getting the likes of Ivan Cleary on the phone.

Who wants to take a punt on Idris?

Jamal Idris has declared he is ready to return to the NRL in 2017, bigger and better than ever. But it would be a brave club which takes the wayward talent on. The former Test and Origin rep’s long-running off-field issues shouldn’t be reason to avoid him altogether, but his Tony Williams-like inconsistency and his unreliability render him a massive risk. The giant centre was a bust on big money for Gold Coast and Penrith, and surely the 26-year-old will only receive an NRL lifeline on a minimal contract with some strict stipulations in the prospective club’s favour.

Try of the week

The dab is a bit passé now, but Chad Townsend’s try after brilliant work by Gerard Beale was sensational.

Overachiever of the week

On the basis of their Round 19 efforts, it’s hard to believe the Knights and Roosters occupy the bottom two places on the ladder with a paltry combined four wins. Newcastle almost proved Melbourne’s bogey again in a gallant 20-16 loss, while the Roosters pushed ladder leaders Cronulla all the way before succumbing 32-20. Their finals chances may be obsolete, but both cellar-dwellers are destined to provide a banana skin or two for rival teams before the season is out.

Underachiever of the week

With a place in the top eight on the line, the Saints were diabolical in a 32-12 loss to the Titans. They hit the jackpot by encountering the Cowboys and Storm without their Origin players, but expect the Red V to slide right out of finals contention in coming weeks as they hit a particularly jagged section of the draw.

My new favourite player

The overwhelming positive in a difficult season for the Roosters has been the emergence of a host of super-talented youngsters, and Connor Watson has joined club-mates Latrell Mitchell and Ryan Matterson on the list of boom rookies to don the tricolours in 2016. The Dubbo-born 20-year-old is a versatile, nuggetty, hard-running playmaker in the Shaun Berrigan mould, and will battle it out with Matterson to be Mitchell Pearce’s halves partner in 2017. Watson’s solo try against the Sharks on Monday night was a ripper, while his try assist for Dale Copley was all class. An outstanding prospect.

[YouTube – VAC 2016]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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