The Bubble has been pricked

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Journey Man
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 Manly’s new grit and lauding the team as ‘being back’. 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 they’d undergone and a reminder that there were still many aspects of their game that could improve. I’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 weekend’s game.

It’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 there’s the addition to the squad of players of the calibre of Kennedy – 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 ‘need’ 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 doesn’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 didn’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. I’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 we’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. I’m sure they’ll do what it takes to make that a reality.
Not much game detail there. I'm going off radio updates and commentary only.

I could be badly wrong about us being competitive judging by some articles I've read about the game since getting online.
We were mata. 3/5 tries scored were freakish. A pass from Gasnier that suckered in the whole bloody team and left the winger with 50 trucks of space. Our problem is, the defence didn't hold its own as much as it has in the first 3 weeks and our attack is... well, pedestrian at best. Their is light though. We did not place too badly although definatly not top form.
I hate to think what the score could have been if BK wasn't there. Flipper is right, the forwards failed and looked disjointed with a lot of one out running. Ryles and the Saints pack were strong and dominating and that was the difference. Kite improved. I agree with Mata, the bye came at the wrong time. The week in and out grind of fighting hard is what keeps the edge and it was missing. This put pressure on Witt and Monas. Witt's kicking game will improve. His touch finders were much better than the Saint's efforts but he didn't have much time or accuracy in his tactical kicking. Monas usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to find his rhythm but sadly he never got it all game. He looked hesitant in general play and this was summed up by his shephard play that resulted in a penalty when we still had a chance.

As Flipper said our attack looked pedestrian. Steppa, Matai and Hicks (who admittedly was having his first game) looked ordinary but the Duck looked strong but was caught in positions where he was surrounded every time he got the ball. Brett Stewart is a wonderful find and just didn't get opportunities but you can see he has fantastic talent.

Yes, very disappointing but we will win lots of games this year. The bye was poor timing and in the end we didn't get the advantages from it with Hill still not there. We will be written off as the pretenders that all the media believe we are but to me this spells juicier odds each and every time they come out to play. I seriously believe we will make the eight.
nice stuff Mata.


- BK had his worst game for us actually. He was sooo quiet. He wasnt really motivated.. im thinking his still injured and its affecting him mentally and physically.

- Tezza. We need him. The man is very important for our young guys. Hope hes fit next week.

- Monas had a shocker. Not helped by our forwards being smashed up. But his options at the line were quite ****.

- 5th tackle options need improvement. Constant bombing is getting predictable.

Good Points

- Kite was awesome.

- King Stewart Tezza should be fit again next week.

- Were still 3rd in the league.

- This is what we need imo. Its a good wakeup call. Id rather lose to a desperate fullstrength Dragons side than a Bunnies outfit in a few weeks. We needed this to get the players minds back to working hard rather than being complacent.

- Our attack has not clicked yet. We have to get Stewart Donald and Hicks into some more attacking movements rather than kicking for them. Get them to run the ball! Once we do.. we will be very hard to stop in attack.

That is all.
<span class='smallblacktext'>[ Edited Sun Apr 10 2005, 12:07PM ]</span>
Nice write up bud.

The monahan shepard was far less a shepard that one of the sharks tries - monas was further away from the defending players.

He to me gets penalised more than a lot of other play makers when doing that move.

Watmough was very good again in attack - leading our metres from kite and Hecks. I laso thought his scrambling in defence was good - never gave up.

We can keep our heads up as we were beaten by a good team playing well - then the referee helped out a bit on top of that.

Dissapointing again was randall - made a HUGE 11m in attack and took the predicatable blind side when it was less than 5m wide forcing the winger to stop and head in field.

Also did anyone see Kylie hit on Ryles - huge hit. Ryles to his credit got up and kept going but a big tackle. I also licked seeing steppa throw gasnier way over the sideline.

Lets hope this fires them up next week to keep us at the top.
ryles and baily making an unusual appearnce together show what an awesome combination they are. Hard to get the fullback and wingers into the game when we are running two average centres. Suggest hicks into centre now hes had a game under his belt, FLICK stephenson, so Hicks and Donald one side, Tezz and Creary the other.
Very dissapointed to see Steppa flapping around at Gasnier's (or was it Hornby) shoulders and getting pushed off very easily.

The papers up here are saying that Hill is out for a further two weeks.

The Raiders are boasting about their "simple game plan" of sticking up the middle with a lot of dummy half running. If our forwards turn up to play we should be looking to dominate them up the middle and slow their momentum.

And Kennedy should stick to Jason Smith like glue.
Kyle's hit was his best this season. I felt that one sitting on my couch at home. For mine, he is having a quite year in attack but defense is sensational.

We said all last year, we have no problems scoring points, its just letting them in. So we fix the defence, apart form one hick up, now we struggle to score.

Perhaps once the full side play a few rounds we will really kick and put up that big 50 - 0 score we all know is in the side.
Team P W L PD Pts
6 5 1 59 12
6 5 1 20 12
6 4 2 53 10
6 4 2 30 10
7 4 2 25 9
7 4 3 40 8
7 4 3 24 8
7 4 3 -8 8
7 4 3 -18 8
7 3 3 20 7
7 3 4 31 6
7 3 4 17 6
6 2 4 -31 6
7 3 4 -41 6
7 2 5 -29 4
6 1 5 -102 4
6 0 6 -90 2
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