Lewis, Sonny Bill, more ranting and raving
All Black player Sonny Bill Williams during the team training session (AAP Image/ Patrick Hamilton)
There is usually somewhat of a lull after the State of Origin series, as fans, players, coaches and the media readjust to focusing on club football.
However, this season, some sensational NRL action and some big headlines have ensured that rugby league has sustained momentum after the representative season, rather than experiencing any sense of a letdown.
After an interesting week of footy, it’s time to dust off the old ‘ranting and raving’ segment and analyse what issues have me seething and what topics have me smiling.
Rant: The Luke Lewis situation
By now everyone knows that club legend Luke Lewis has asked for a release from Penrith, and despite Lewis being the team’s best player, and its heart and soul, the Panthers have granted it to him.
The question everyone wants to know is why, but sadly with both parties determined to keep their lips sealed for the time being, the truth is in no danger of being revealed any time soon.
Luke Lewis is a club junior and revered within the local community. He should have played out his career at the only club he ever knew, but something has gone drastically wrong, with both Lewis and the Panthers evidently happy that he’s departing.
There is no doubt that there is more to this story than has been told. The issues seemed to have arisen when Lewis was stripped of the captaincy during the Origin period, with coach Ivan Cleary stating at the time that the decision was made so that Lewis could focus on his representative duties.
However, reports have surfaced that Cleary felt Lewis didn’t have the required football brain to be skipper, which seems absolutely ludicrous. Whatever the truth, the whole situation has been extremely poorly handled.
It seems unfathomable to me that a side that is second last on the table would be so accommodating in allowing their captain and best player to leave the club.
It’s a disgrace, and Penrith fans deserve some transparency on the whole matter.
Rave: Ben Barba
The Bulldogs fullback is in a purple patch of form at present, and Friday night was no exception.
Opposition coaches must surely be on the verge of instructing their halves to kick the ball to anyone but Barba, such is the maestro’s extraordinary ability to counter-attack, even from deep within his own half.
A few weeks ago we saw Barba orchestrate a 100 metre try, and against Parramatta on Friday night, he once again regathered a kick near his own try line, evaded the Parramatta kick chasers, and then pinned his ears back to race the length of the field and score a sensational solo try.
Far from being the sole highlight of his game, Barba also registered three try assists, and was brilliant in defence.
Does a Dally M Medal await him?
Rant: Sonny Bill Williams media coverage
Last week also saw the news that Sonny Bill Williams, one of the most impressive athletes in the world, was reportedly returning to the NRL.
This should have been something of a coup for the code, as Williams could have easily earned more money elsewhere, or played in a game with a greater global presence, but chose rugby league.
Yet instead of his comeback being heralded as a victory for the game, it was met with bitter opinions that he shouldn’t be welcomed back. It seems many in the rugby league fraternity have long memories and are not willing to forgive and forget.
The question needs to be asked: if Williams had simply left the Bulldogs and headed to another NRL team, would there be the same animosity towards his decision to (allegedly) play for the Roosters next season?
Sonny Bill’s return should be celebrated, plain and simple.
Rave: The Reynolds boys
Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds and Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds are not related. But they could be playing a lot of football together if they maintain their current form.
It’s silly to speculate on who will be playing State of Origin next year, such is the amount of time before next year’s series. But by the same token, Blues fans should be salivating at the thought of the Reynolds boys being selected as the Blues halves pairing.
Adam has shown a tremendous skill level that the Blues were sorely lacking in this year’s Origin series. His split second decision, on a broken play, to kick for his winger against Newcastle last week showed composure, creativity, vision and skill. The rookie looks the goods.
Meanwhile, Josh is a tough little customer. Early in the season, he showcased plenty of aggression and spirit. Though, as he has gained confidence, he has also started to demonstrate plenty of talent. He has a brilliant kicking game, and good footwork, as evidenced by his Brad Fittler-like double step try against the Eels.
If both players can maintain their performances, they won’t look out of place on the representative scene next year.
Rant: Jason Taylor’s Bulldogs complaint
The Bulldogs are the form team of the competition, having won seven games in a row. Behind the sensational and scintillating play of fullback Ben Barba, the Dogs should be the toast of the NRL with everyone celebrating their turnaround under the leadership of Des Hasler.
Instead, the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald sport section on Saturday contained a story in which Jason Taylor claimed the Bulldogs consistently use illegal obstruction plays to score tries.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Bulldogs use of decoy runners. The Bulldogs don’t run behind a teammate while they’re carrying the ball, and if an attacking player receives the ball outside the decoy runner, and a defender isn’t physically impeded – which is exactly how the Dogs score their tries – it cannot be obstruction. End of story.
However, my real issue is that Taylor called referees boss Bill Harrigan to complain about the Bulldogs tactics. Yes, you read that right, a Fairfax journalist called the referees boss to complain about a team’s tactics.
Missing the limelight or something, JT?
Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network and NBA Down Under, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.
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