St George Illawarra Dragon 32 versus Manly Sea Eagles 6 What went wrong? A little bird landed on my shoulder through the week and told me some interesting goings on in the Manly camp. The gist of the information was that the players had enjoyed a few days off over the bye weekend and had returned to training confident and, dare I say it, even somewhat cocky. No doubt some of them would have used their spare time to read the glowing reports in Big League and Rugby League Week referring to ManlyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s new grit and lauding the team as ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‹Âœbeing backÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢. Then there was the speculation in some quarters of a welter of representative jumpers for our boys including sky blue for Watmough and the Kiwi coach fitting out Monaghan in a green and gold jumper. Naturally the boys were fairly happy with all the adulation and the thought that their next game would pit them against a winless team running last in the competition. So imagine their surprise when their return was met by one of the fiercest training sessions theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢d undergone and a reminder that there were still many aspects of their game that could improve. IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢m told there was quite a bit of grumbling in the camp at this turn of events and it was around about then that I decided that we were no lay-down miseres for the weekendÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s game. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s what those in the psychology profession refer to as complacency and it is increasingly being seen as one of the major reasons for the huge swings in fortunes and form being seen in the NRL at the moment. Manly started the season with a grim determination to excel and make up for the disappointments of the last. This wave of anger and desire seems to have lasted for three short weeks before the winds of slackness started to blow through the camp. Is it possible that the bye came at the worst possible time for our team? After a determined and convincing display against the Storm it allowed our players two weeks at the top of the table and the chance to reflect on some achievement. Maybe it would have been better to be limbering up against a competition heavyweight with minds on that job rather than having a weekend to laze on the beach and bask in glory? I must say that complacency is a very strange malady to be afflicting the team so soon. One would have thought the humiliations of 2004 alone would provide sufficient motivation for the team to put as many others to the sword as possible. Then thereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s the addition to the squad of players of the calibre of Kennedy ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ renowned for their mental toughness and desire for success. However, it seems to be a trend amongst the younger generation of players (in general) to be unable to decipher or prioritise between short and long term success. There might have been a few that were satisfied with the baubles of a few short weeks of success and that this was sufficient distraction to take eyes off the bigger prize of sustained excellence over the longer term. A reflection that the attention span of our modern society is getting shorter and shorter. What do we take out of the game? One loss does not mean the end of the world or an inevitable slide into the morass of failure that was last year. There are positives to be drawn from the loss. Namely: 1. We were playing the team that, on paper at least, is the strongest in the NRL. After four consecutive losses to start their year and with some of their big guns beginning to find their feet it was always going to be a tough ask, especially playing away in Wollongong. It does seem as though home ground advantage is having quite an impact on this round. Also, St George had by far the greater ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‹ÂœneedÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ for a win. They would have been desperate to bag their first victory. 2. We seem to have been in the game for most of the encounter. Indeed, with around 15 minutes to play and the score at 20-6 we were denied a try by the video referee. Had we bagged a six pointer at that point the Dragons may well have begun to hear footsteps and we might have been able to ride a wave of momentum to victory. The final score line is not a reflection of the fight we showed. What appears on paper to be a capitulation was anything but (something that can be said about the Cowboys in their game against the Sharks too). This was not the kind of disgrace that we have endured in recent years. 3. It seems as though the difference in the game was that we were out muscled in the forwards. This is the first time our pack has not been able to emerge from a game without dominance. St George have some very useful names in their forwards including standouts such as Ryles, Bailey, Timmins and Thompson and are complemented by young guns Ennis, Young, Sims and Poore. We will face far weaker packs than that at times over the next twenty weeks. It doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t hurt to have a run against one of the competition benchmarks to find out exactly where we sit ourselves. We were out muscled but not disgraced or dominated. 4. We played the final ten minutes a man short following the sin binning of Michael Witt. With the game out of reach we could have dropped our heads and let in several tries. We didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t. We held firm to the end and only conceded one try. The pride is back in the jersey when that happens consistently. 5. Finally, a loss will hopefully serve to sharpen desire and prove that there is much work to be done if we are to compete successfully in the long term. Over the next fortnight we play two teams at Brookvale Oval who, on paper at least, are weaker than our outfit. We should be expecting to win these games at a loss at this juncture should blow out any complacency that might have crept into the side. Where to from here? I doubt there would be much gained from ranting and raving, blame and recrimination. IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢m sure Des Hasler would know this and would resist the temptation to flog the side on the training paddock this week and have them flat for the encounter with the Raiders. What he does have is a tangible example of what happens when weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢re not completely mentally attuned to each game. No doubt the players would have enjoyed the successful start to the season and the accolade and victory laps that came with it. They would not have appreciated the sour taste in their mouths as they trooped off WIN Stadium as losers. Perhaps this is a not too subtle reminder that it takes hard work and dedication to achieve success. There are no short cuts. But whilst the weeks are hard and training is gruelling, there is no better feeling than emerging victorious from the weekend fray. No doubt the players will be very keen to do what it takes in coming weeks to maintain the fortress of Brookvale Oval and lower the colours of two sides that we should be expecting to beat. IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢m sure theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ll do what it takes to make that a reality.