It seems like only yesterday that I was delivering spittle-filled testimonials to the speed, skill and intensity of the average game in the NRL.
Two rounds of pulsating, dramatic rugby league had me settled into the couch by Thursday morning, delivery menus surrounding my inert mass, ready to consume the thrills of round three
As with everything in life, an upward trajectory cannot continue forever. Eventually bodies feel the effects of gravity and crash to earth. The recent weekend’s round of matches were, to put it kindly, underwhelming.
The feel of round three was akin to bad heavyweight boxing bouts (pretty much any contest after 1980), where Bums of the Month are made to look invincible thanks to the ineptitude of their opponents.
In some cases, those beaten opponents were superior competitors expected to win, adding to our false impression of the victor as a contender (who can forget James ‘Buster’ Douglas beating an uninterested Mike Tyson before quickly sinking back into mediocrity).
It all started on Friday night when a professional St George outfit put to the sword a Tigers team that clearly had not come to play.
On certain occasions Tim Sheens’ men simply aren’t interested in working hard enough against a disciplined opposition to remain competitive, the reason why I was always deeply skeptical of their ‘premiership favourite’ tag. Are the Saints that good? No. They were on the rebound after a bad loss and played up to their eventual fifth or sixth ranking.
On Saturday the Storm continued to show class against inferior opposition. No meaningful questions have been asked yet of this team, although they are a clearly an elite team and will cruise to a top-four finish.
The Titans were pathetic, and maybe John Cartwright can no longer motivate this club as he once did. The main attraction of sport is the lure of the uncertain ending. Clearly the people of the Gold Coast didn’t feel much uncertainty about this one. Yawn.
North Queensland then proceeded to take apart a team without a coach. No one is listening to Steve Kearney, and the Cowboys looked like the 1982 Invincibles as a result. Some of the Parramatta players’ attempts at defence were unspeakable.
This game didn’t prove a thing, except that the Cowboys can score points against feeble or complacent opposition.
I’m glad I’m not a Warriors fan. While this game was one of the few entertaining games of the round, I’m thinking it might be time for Warriors players to be tasered at halftime for every unforced error committed.
This team cannot possibly contend at its current error rate. It is an open question as to whether or not they can find the necessary discipline to beat the top teams.
Canterbury clearly have talent, but once again they have been made to look a little better than they may be.
Roosters-Raiders? Channel Nine should have televised the Toyota Cup in prime time instead, where the standard of play and determination on show would have undoubtedly been superior. Despite now winning two of three, very few Roosters fans are interested, judging by their disgraceful, shameful crowds.
They have some talented players but again, are one of many teams who cannot consistently deliver.
Then we had the best of the Sunday games, Panthers-Rabbits, with Souths joining North Queensland in the we-looked-great-against-reserve-grade-opposition club. Penrith are not yet a complete first grade NRL team.
Despite the referees allowing play-the-balls to proceed at a glacial pace, Penrith offered little resistance, once again appearing uninterested. It appears that the team able to muster a respectable level of desire for more than one week in a row will finish in the top half of the competition – a low bar, indeed.
And now, with the coup de grace, we had the Perth – sorry, Cronulla – Sharks v Manly game. I was stunned to wake up to articles by seasoned reporters gushing over the ‘arrival’ of Cronulla in the wake of their victory on Monday night. Really? Manly could not have cared less about this one.
The players, while never explicitly stating the fact, know that they will win enough games to finish in a position to once again contend for the title. A rain-soaked affair against a mediocre opponent clearly didn’t tickle their fancies.
Cronulla have some interesting pieces (this chap Bukuya looks the goods) but I will be dumbfounded if they qualify for the eight. They win the Buster Douglas Overhyped Victory Award for this week.
May round four bring a renewed sense of interest and vigour on the part of the gladiators currently roaming the NRL.