Five things for losing coaches to ponder in the off-season

Jack Aubrey Roar Guru

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    With their weekend plans now cancelled and the month of September free, Trent Barrett and Shane Flanagan can look at other things that may have cost them, as well as when the shoe has been on the other foot.

    1. Aku Uate’s handling
    Akuila Uate has had a resurgent year, no doubt about it. After stagnating at Newcastle, his season with the Eagles has shown he still has plenty to offer the game of rugby league.

    Aku though has always been a bit of a ‘rocks or diamonds’ player and on Saturday night that was on show once more.

    With the Sea Eagles trailing 10-4, Daly Cherry-Evans summed a broken play situation beautifully, feathering the ball into the in-goal. The bounce beat Josh Mansour and the ball hung around, waiting to be grounded by Uate. On review though, it was clear he failed to control the football and instead it was a knock on.

    It brought back memories of a Round 14 clash between the Sea Eagles and Knights. On that night, the plucky Novocastrians were giving the Sea Eagles a run for their money when Uate scored in the corner. On replay, it was obvious he failed to ground the football, but the Bunker was not used and the points were on the board. As it turned out, the try was the difference.

    You can’t predict how the game might have panned out had the refs got this call right. Maybe Manly lose, maybe they finish lower on the ladder, who knows? What would have happened if Uate could ground the ball on Saturday night?

    Maybe Barrett can consider this during this week.

    2. Dylan Walker’s mouth
    He spent the best part of two games getting under the Panthers’ skin with his verbal sprays, but Dylan Walker didn’t get the last laugh on Saturday night.

    It has always been part of rugby league. For some players it is part of what makes them so valuable. No one was better than it than Michael Ennis. The talk, the niggle, putting opponents off.

    Walker seemingly made it his mission to put the Panthers off with his chatter and scoring the first try, he had plenty of ammunition.

    Ultimately though, his performance was more about his theatrical sprays than a match-winning try or effort to help his team. He missed nine tackles trying to put big shots on and ran for just 85 metres.

    Barrett might do well to look at Latrell Mitchell’s try to win the game for the Roosters, and contemplate having a centre who, when the game was there to be won, did so with his actions.

    3. Andrew Fifita’s brain snap
    Strong and agile, Andrew Fifita is one of the hardest big men to handle when he is on song. His opening stint on Sunday afternoon was full of venom and it looked like he could turn in a match-winning performance.

    With the game all but over and the Sharks trailing by one, they needed a strong carry by Fifita for a shot to save their season. Instead, he crabbed sideways across the field, pushing an offload that went to ground and was dived on by the Cowboys. Game over.

    With the game on the line, Fifita can lose it for you just as easily as he can win it. Flanagan needs to iron out those brain explosions, or risk losing more games in the clutch.

    Andrew Fifita Cronulla Sharks NRL Rugby League 2017

    AAP Image/Joe Castro

    4. 60 per cent completion rate, 34 missed tackles, 11 penalties conceded
    That sounds more like the effort of a team floundering around the bottom of the ladder, but was what the Sharks dished up on Sunday in an elimination final.

    Completion rate is basic, it can make or break a game. If you can’t complete, you gift possession, same as if you are giving away penalties.

    There is a train of thought that a lopsided penalty count is somehow unfair, but with teams now happy to give away penalties on their own line, that argument is nullified.

    The stats tell the story of a team that didn’t turn up and it cost them their season.

    5. The ‘Hand of Foran’, the seventh tackle try
    Both the Sea Eagles and Sharks have had the better of calls at Allianz Stadium in past finals matches.

    Manly got away with a win in 2012, a video decision of try being made despite there looking to be a knock on by Keiran Foran in the lead up.

    Then, in 2013, the Cowboys lost again at Allianz, this time by just two, due to the Sharks scoring an early try off a set with an extra tackle.

    Referees make mistakes, players make mistakes. It is a fact of life, an inevitable factor in the game we can never fully eradicate. The Panthers and Cowboys played their guts out on the weekend, can it really be said they did not deserve to win?

    Sport is about being resilient, finding a way to win, putting adversity aside. Both Manly and the Sharks had opportunities to win their games and couldn’t do it.

    They have been the beneficiaries of controversy before and they will be again. Go through any close game and consider some 50-50 calls, we will never know the ramifications if the decisions are different. Looking at a game as a parochial fan, you are always going to side with your team.

    It is disappointing for both Shane Flanagan and Trent Barrett that their seasons have come to an end. But they have far more than the referees to look at it in finding a way to improve in 2018.

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