Under Ricky’s watch, how low can Sandow?
By Greg Prichard, 30 Jan 2013
Chris Sandow in action during the NRL round 17. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Robb Cox
Fortunately, Ricky Stuart stopped short of describing Chris Sandow as the “new Alfie”. That would have been taking it too far.
I can understand what the new Parramatta coach is doing, both privately and publicly, with the erratic Eels halfback.
Sending positive messages to him at training, and then displaying a willingness to back his man in the media.
After last season, when his football was all over the place, Sandow needed to feel the firm backing of someone with influence at the club.
And, let’s face it, Stuart and Sandow are in this together.
Stuart can’t succeed at Parramatta unless he finds the key to Sandow performing consistently well, and Sandow can’t succeed unless he believes Stuart has faith in him.
Likening him to the great Allan Langer, by describing him as the “Aboriginal Alfie” in a newspaper story, is one way of doing it, I suppose.
There are similarities in their playing styles, in the area of off-the-cuff brilliance, but there was still a lot more method to what Langer did than anything we’ve seen so far from Sandow.
That is why Langer was able to break into State of Origin football when he was still 20 years old, and play Test football not much more than a year later.
Sandow recently turned 24. He is on major representative-player money, but is yet to play major representative football.
It’s past the time when he should have already been playing quality football on a regular basis, but still not too late to start.
The question is whether Sandow is the right halfback for Parramatta, under Stuart.
Like a lot of people, I’ve got my doubts about whether a halfback who hasn’t shown a penchant for playing a highly-structured game will fit in very well with the Stuart approach.
Stuart, who established strong defences in previous club teams he coached, faces a sizeable challenge with Sandow in that area as well.
I don’t know if Stuart has genuine faith in Sandow or not.
Obviously, at this time of year, with the playing roster locked in and the season not far away, any coach is going to be seen to back his man, and will be doing his best to make question-mark situations work.
We will have to wait until the season unfolds to judge the strength and evaluate the success or otherwise of the Stuart-Sandow partnership, based on Parramatta’s results and Sandow’s form within that guideline.
A bit of body language here and there, and words that are said – or not said – by the parties involved may also help provide clues for the amateur psychologist in all of us.
Stuart and Sandow might prove to be a rip-roaring coach-and-halfback combination, but it’s worth pointing out South Sydney, in their first season without Sandow, improved their results with a rookie halfback in his place, while Parramatta’s results got even worse in his first season there.
Yes, I know, there are many other factors which help determine a team’s finishing position in any given season, but it’s critical Stuart and Sandow start on the same wavelength and stay there – or the Eels can’t hope to be a factor this season.