The last few weeks have been tough going for league lovers, with the Alex McKinnon injury, lifting tackles and the inconsistency of the judiciary dominating discussion.
I’d like to provide you with a refreshing change of scenery today and talk about the footy!
Let me start by giving a huge wrap to Mick Potter and his Wests Tigers for their promising start to 2014 and, in particular, that tremendous victory over the highly-fancied Manly at Leichhardt. I’m not buying into any talk of an ‘ambush’.
On a grey and rainy afternoon, the Tigers simply went out with the perfect attitude and embarrassed the Sea Eagles with their highly-physical work upfront and some eye-catching and speedy stuff out in the backs.
Robbie Farah isn’t everyone’s favourite hooker but he is playing some great, heady football and directing his young team superbly from dummy half. Aaron Woods and Keith Galloway were sensational against the Eagles and they had plenty of willing mates in the forward pack from start to finish.
Rookie halfback Luke Brooks took a verbal pot-shot at Steve Matai, a move that sparked some suggestions he is a bit uppity for a six-game top grader, but that doesn’t worry me in the slightest. League’s seasoned players have always tried to put newcomers off their game but they are quickly learning that the kids of today give it back in spades!
The Wizard thought the Tigers were super impressive and I hope they can sustain this type of footy. Fingers crossed for young fullback James Tedesco and his ankle surgery. This kid is a gem and I just hope he can steer clear of injury when he returns.
Down in Melbourne, giant front-rower George Rose has asked for a release from his contract with the Storm. That’s a move that raised my eyebrows. Very few players want to get out of the Melbourne system and away from coach Craig Bellamy. Manly can’t afford to have Rose back, but I reckon he’d be a more than handy pickup for a club like St George Illawarra. Surely he’s good for 20 minutes a half and the Dragons could certainly use an impact player such as Gorgeous George.
Brad Arthur has made a great start with the Parramatta Eels, who didn’t collect enough praise for their brilliant win over the Broncos at Brisbane last week (maybe no one saw it in NSW as it was the late, late show on Channel Nine). Chris Sandow was again the star with an exciting running game, but the guy I’m most impressed with is fullback Jarryd Hayne. I can’t recall him starting a season better than this.
Parra got flogged by the premiers a few weeks ago and strangely face up to them again in this round. I’m tipping the Eels will be right in this contest. Don’t expect any fancy scoreline in favour of the Roosters this time around. All coach Arthur has to do is write 56-4 on the chalkboard before the players run out. They are a far better team than the one that suffered that embarrassment at Allianz Stadium in Round 2 and they’ll be keen to turn the tables in front of their own fans.
Lastly, it can be a dangerous statement, but I feel the North Queensland Cowboys are back in business. Their big win over Newcastle last Monday night was first class and should serve as a launching pad for some strong performances in the weeks ahead.
Halfback-turned-fullback Michael Morgan has been a revelation for the Cowboys – I honestly didn’t think he could be this good. The Wiz is also a big fan of emerging back-rower Joel Riethmuller, who provides a steadying influence in the North Queensland pack.