Saints can’t make silk purse from Soward’s heir
Aside from his after-the-siren penalty goal miss, Jamie Soward could not have done much more for the dismal Dragons against Canterbury last Friday, racing away for their first try, laying on their belated second with a brilliant pass and kicking two sideline conversions to keep St George Illawarra in the hunt. It has to be assumed that his axing ahead of this weekend – likely ending Soward’s seven-season tenure at the joint venture – is due to severe personality clashes with teammates. Soward is easily the best playmaker at coach Steve Price’s disposal. By naming Chase Stanley in the No.6, Price and the Dragons have virtually given up on their 2013 campaign; the club now appears to be treading water until the arrival of Gareth Widdop from Melbourne. Talk about pressure – Widdop has had the luxury of playing in the halves alongside Cooper Cronk for his entire top grade career, but the identity of the Dragons’ 2014 halfback remains a mystery.
Piss poor overreaction
Russell Packer’s on-field urination at Suncorp Stadium was unacceptable, embarrassing and a bit gross. But the $15,000 fine handed down by the NRL was way over the top and the vitriolic media condemnation of Packer even more so. It is another case of the perpetrator altering the media’s reaction. It’s easy to crucify a big, bad New Zealand prop like Packer, but if Cameron Smith had done it the patch of grass would probably have been preserved in a glass case and put on display at the Rugby League Museum. The fact racial vilification incidents in recent history have incurred $5-10,000 penalties reflects the inequities of the NRL’s capricious guidelines for dishing out fines.
Critics get dose of the Manu ’flu
Anyone that has read this column more than a couple of times or has talked to me in real life would know I love Manu Vatuvei. Because of the way he plays the game combined with his distinct skill set and definite limitations, the blockbusting but error- and injury-prone Manu Vatuvei has been an easy target for critics and social media bandits for many years. The announcement of his re-signing with the Warriors provoked more negative responses than positive on the club’s official Facebook status update. But ‘The Beast’ has been magnificent since putting pen to paper, crossing in each of his last six appearances (including doubles against Canberra and Brisbane) to take his career tally to 110 in just 160 games – a muscular 0.69 tries per game, just a smidgen behind Nathan Merritt. Vatuvei’s display against the Broncos was the pièce de résistance of his Inu-esque return to the penthouse, producing an outstanding finish in the corner early, a sparkling try assist later in the first half and spectacularly burning off Corey Norman to score a 70-metre try after the break. The feeling an absolute shocker is just around the corner still lingers – this weekend’s opponents Manly are experts at exposing weakness – and no doubt the haters will be ready to jump all over him. But right now, I’m revelling in the ride aboard the Vatuvei Express. He is an absolute must for New Zealand’s World Cup side.
The NRL’s Tryscoring Freaks
The premiership’s try-poachers continue to dazzle in 2013, with the usual suspects – Nathan Merritt, Akuila Uate, Manu Vatuvei, Greg Inglis, Michael Jennings – joined by a stack of new challengers, such as James McManus, Josh Hoffman, Jorge Taufua, Albert Kelly and David Simmons. Several of the NRL’s long-serving tryscoring wizards are beginning to charge up the ranks of the most prolific the Australian game has ever seen.
CURRENT NRL PLAYERS CAREER TRIES
148 – Nathan Merritt (All-time rank: 8th) from 212 games
146 – Billy Slater (10th-equal) from 235 games
128 – Brett Stewart (19th-equal) from 167 games
125 – Matt Bowen (23rd) from 261 games
124 – Matt Cooper (24th-equal) from 242 games
120 – Anthony Minichiello (31st-equal) from 262 games
119 – Timana Tahu (34th-equal) from 194 games
110 – Manu Vatuvei (44th-equal) from 160 games
109 – Greg Inglis (47th-equal) from 168 games
102 – Ashley Graham (54th) from 198 games
WEEKLY TOP 10 – Best Mid-season Transfers
- Krisnan Inu (2012) New Zealand to Canterbury – played in NRL Grand Final, scored 148 points in 16 games
- Brett Finch (2009) Parramatta to Melbourne – won NRL Grand Final
- Rod Silva (1995) Sydney City to Canterbury – won ARL Grand Final, scored eight tries in 16 games
- Nathan Fien (2009) New Zealand to St George Illawarra – played in minor premiership
- Graham Appo (1998) Canberra to Adelaide – scored 116 points (including 12 tries) in 14 games
- Sam Perrett (2012) Sydney Roosters to Canterbury – played in NRL Grand Final
- Mark Gasnier (2010) Stade Francais (French rugby union) to St George Illawarra – scored first try in NRL Grand Final win
- Clint Newton (2007) Newcastle to Melbourne – won NRL Grand Final
- Chris Walker (2003) South Sydney to Sydney Roosters – played in NRL Grand Final, scored 10 tries in 14 games
- Shane Tronc (2010) Wakefield Trinity to Brisbane – played 18 straight games till the end of the season