Bellamy tips Manly to be surprise packet

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Journey Man
Bellamy tips Manly to be surprise packet

28 March 2005

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy predicted NRL leader Manly to be the dark horse of a 2005 competition which is averaging a staggering 49 points scored per game after three rounds.

The Sea Eagles enjoy a bye this week following their impressive victories over the New Zealand Warriors, Cronulla and the Storm to propel them to top of the ladder.

"I must say before the season started I thought they'd be one of the big improvers," Bellamy said of Manly, which finished a disappointing 13th last year.

"They've added (Brent) Kite and (Ben) Kennedy into their pack and they've got other good forwards like Anthony Watmough and Daniel Heckenberg.

"It's no real surprise to me that they're going as well as they are.

"There's always one team that pops out and it could be Manly. They're sailing fairly smoothly at the moment."

Last year it was North Queensland which proved the surprise packet of the premiership to finish one win shy of the grand final while in 2003 it was premier Penrith which shocked the rugby league world.

Manly coach Des Hasler said the emphasis for his players was making Brookvale Oval a fortress after recording its sixth straight home win on Sunday.

"That was the most pleasing aspect (about the win)," said Hasler.

"We didn't think too much about being on top of the competition, we didn't care about winning three in a row, we didn't care it was the first time we'd won three in a row since 1997.

"The players really have a mindset about not being beaten at Brookvale and that was the catalyst yesterday."

Last year only Souths leaked more points than Manly's 754, an average of 31 per game, but in 2005 the Sea Eagles' defence has improved dramatically.

They have conceded just 58 points from three matches, an average of 19 per match.

In contrast, statistics show that other teams are struggling with defence over the opening three rounds of the competition, in particular the premiers the Bulldogs (89 points leaked), Newcastle (87) and the bottom-placed Dragons (110).

After Canberra edged out Souths 25-18 at Aussie Stadium on Monday to join the Sea Eagles as the only two unbeaten teams in 2005, a total of 49.2 points on average are being scored for each match compared to just 33.3 in 2000.

For the past three years the average points leaked has hovered around the 45 mark after three rounds.

A massive 73 points alone were scored in Sunday's cliffhanger between the `Dogs and Wests Tigers at Telstra Stadium.

Hasler believed the increased levels of professionalism in the game had led to better attack and he called for the NRL to ensure referees kept up with the frenetic pace of the game.

"Unless the NRL is careful the referees and the officials will get left behind," warned Hasler.

"They have to have full-time referees and full-time touch judges working in unison the way they do in America."

Referees coach Robert Finch will discuss interpretation of the obstruction rule with English whistleblower Russell Smith on Tuesday after speaking to St George Illawarra coach Nathan Brown.

Brown was fuming after his side was penalised on several occasions for obstruction during the Dragons' 18-8 loss to Penrith on Saturday night.

"I've agreed his interpretation of obstruction was a little bit askew, there's no doubt about that," said Finch about Smith, who blew 24 penalties.

"There were a number of issues in the ruck which need to be fixed up as well - holding down, hands on the ball. He will need to clean that up next week."

Finch said on two occasions Smith should have called "play on" instead of penalising the Dragons for obstructing the Penrith defence.

The referees' boss also admitted Penrith's opening try to fullback Rhys Wesser should have been disallowed because a Dragons defender was obstructed.

"I probably think if it went to the video referee then it wouldn't have been a try," said Finch.

Commenting on the overall performance of the referees over the weekend, Finch said: "I thought we let ourselves down across the board".

Warriors coach Tony Kemp was unhappy about the performance of referee Tony Archer during his side's 32-22 loss to the Cowboys, describing Archer as "a guy who killed a game of rugby league".

Dragons chief executive Peter Doust said it was not worth "slitting our wrists" over the team's poor form, pointing out the joint venture club lost five of its opening six games in 1999 when it reached the grand final.

"If we were in this form three weeks out from the finals, I might be a little more stressed," said Doust about the Dragons' 0-3 record.

"There is no unhappiness or disenchantment in the club. We're out of form but it doesn't mean our season's spent."
I like Haslers plan - bring back the fotress.

Ill be doing my part to make it happen - these 15K crowds are good. Hope it stays that way all season.
Team P W L PD Pts
10 9 1 124 20
10 8 2 81 18
10 7 3 70 16
10 7 3 69 16
11 7 4 59 14
10 6 4 -10 14
11 6 5 107 12
11 6 5 -9 12
10 5 5 -56 12
11 5 5 30 11
10 4 6 15 10
11 5 6 -12 10
11 4 6 -7 9
10 3 7 -103 8
10 2 8 -81 6
10 2 8 -91 6
10 1 9 -186 4
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