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A pat on the back is cold consolation for a dropped ball

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Editor
16th March, 2019
19

One of the first lessons taught in junior sport is that when a teammate makes a mistake, you don’t give them a hard time.

The poor kid who spilled the pill is more than aware that they’ve made an error and will feel terrible for letting their mates down.

So the general response is to give them an encouraging word – it happens to the best of us.

Tell you what, Matt Moylan would have had some pretty bruised shoulders on Saturday morning, so many consolatory pats on the back from teammates did he receive the previous evening.

The Cronulla custodian had a night to forget against the Knights – at one point he coughed the ball up in his in-goal, then on the ensuing dropout, used his shin to make contact with the Steeden as a result of giving himself a shocking bounce.

Matt Moylan: can’t catch, can’t drop.

But his teammates rallied around him, patted him on the bum, and presumably gave him the ol’ “You’ll get ’em next time”.

His skipper, Paul Gallen, probably got some consoling words from his troops after he dropped the ball cold with a minute left on the clock, in what was the Sharks’ last hope of tying up the scores and forcing golden point.

Of course, Gal wouldn’t have heard the encouragement, such was the reception he got from his opponents.

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The oldest bloke in the game has been pretty vocal about his general disdain for the Knights over the last few years – and with reasonable cause, Cronulla having won eight on the trot against the red and blue until this weekend.

Most famously, Gallen said he couldn’t see Newcastle winning a competition “for a long, long time” after Mitchell Pearce chose to sign with the Knights over the Sharks in 2017.

So when he made the mistake that snuffed out his team’s faint hopes of a comeback victory – in what was his last game in the Hunter – the opposing pack gave him heaps.

Usually I’d say that’s poor form, particularly against a respected warhorse like the former Blues captain, but he’s always had a ‘live by the sword’ mentality. I daresay it was water off the proverbial duck’s back.

Paul Gallen Cronulla Sharks NRL Rugby League Finals 2017

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

What was poor form, however, was Brisbane youngster Joe Ofahengaue’s response to a dropped ball in his side’s loss to the Storm on Thursday night.

It was similar circumstances to Gallen’s error, in that the clock was winding down and the Broncos desperately needed to score if they were any hope of breaking Craig Bellamy’s undefeated Round 1 record.

Ofahengaue knocked on just short of the line – it what was the right call, but you’d have to say it was a 60-40 decision, in that sometimes those ones do end up being a penalty to the attacking side.

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But ten points behind and with a little over five minutes to go, Joe O’s frustration boiled over, giving the refs a spray for the call.

A penalty was blown for backchat, the Storm went from their tryline to the 30-metre mark with the touch finder, and just like that, Brisbane’s flickering light was extinguished.

Oh Joe, of all the things to do after a dropped ball!

Let your mates pat you on the back. Let the opposition give you a condescending rub of the head. But don’t yell at the bloke holding the whistle!

It’s indicative of why I question the Broncos’ title chances for 2019, because which forward pulled Ofahengaue aside and had a quiet word? Last season it presumably would have been Josh McGuire, but the Aussie rep was allowed to move to North Queensland to help free up cap space to retain all this emerging talent.

Just to be clear, a chat wasn’t required because Ofahengaue dropped the ball – everyone makes mistakes – but because discipline is entirely within the player’s control, and Ofahengaue’s lack of it was what crushed his team’s (admittedly slim) hopes of a win.

However, at just 23 and with barely 70 games under his belt, Ofahengaue is one of the elder statesmen of the Brisbane pack.

The Broncs may have the best young pigs in the game, but at this stage, the emphasis needs to be on ‘young’ rather than ‘best’. Talented and terrifying though they may be, this is a team learning on a week-by-week basis.

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