The National Rugby League is a strange beast. No longer can class and a few superstars get you across the line on a bad day. If you don’t rock up willing to put your body on the line, you will lose.
There was a weird old game of footy played at Parramatta Stadium on Sunday between the Eels and the Wests Tigers.
By full-time, neither side was happy.
Meanwhile, Cronulla Sharks continued their rampant ways by putting 44 magical points on the Canberra Raiders.
It’s a long way from Cronulla to Campbelltown.
The laid-back lifestyle of the Shire is a world away from the working-class people of Macarthur.
But on the football field, the Sharks are miles ahead when it comes to heart and toughness. That’s why the Sharks are 6-2 and the Tigers are 3-5.
You can have Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah. You can have Tim Moltzen and Lote Tuquri. But if you don’t have men like Paul Gallen in your side, you simply won’t compete.
Nobody can be Gallen. But the point is there. He has clawed and scratched for every win his team has ever had. The Sharks have an almighty heart and Gallen’s work ethic is rubbing off on his team.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan is starting to enjoy this winning feeling too.
“I thought the score should have been 50-12” Flanagan said.
“We executed well in attack and put the Raiders under heaps of pressure in defence. We forced seven line drop-outs. I don’t think we forced that many for the whole of last year.”
240 kilometres away in the bowels of Parramatta Stadium, the club where Flanagan once toiled, two coaches sat lamenting the future.
Eels coach Stephen Kearney was yesterday asked whether the score covered up Parramatta’s problems.
“I think it does” said Kearney.
“(Regarding) the first-half performance, if you’re going to turn over half the ball you get against a side like the Tigers than you’re going to make it really, really hard for yourselves.
“That’s what we did.
“We had some opportunities there, but that 20-minute rally, for me it (camouflaged the rest of the game).”
Parramatta is on death row and have only themselves to blame.
Tigers mentor Tim Sheens was just as frustrated.
“31-0 with 14 minutes to go and you let them score and get within a point … it’s just rubbish” Sheens said.
The Sharks are a living, breathing example that if you don’t have a dig you wont win footy games in the NRL. The Eels and Tigers should be taking notes.