On Saturday night at Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta beat Cronulla 28-4. It’s a cliché often used in sport, but in this case the scoreline really wasn’t an accurate reflection of the match.
At halftime the score was 10-4 but the Sharks were in trouble, having lost Wade Graham, Briton Nikora and Will Kennedy to concussion, while Sione Katoa suffered medial ligament damage.
That unfortunate string of injuries meant the away side had no bench for the second half, placing huge demands on the players on the field.
Given all that adversity, it was remarkable how well the Sharks hung in there. When you consider that the Eels scored 16 of their 28 points in the last 11 minutes, it certainly reflects the effort of the Cronulla team.
We’ll also never know whether some players were playing injured and reluctant to come off the field given the lack of interchange.
Given this effort – and the team’s effort in the opening rounds of the competition – it baffles me to see headlines suggesting that coach John Morris is under pressure to retain his position.
There continues to be speculation as to whether former mentor Shane Flanagan will return and or if Craig Bellamy will up sticks from Melbourne to move to the Shire.
Despite all of Flanagan’s past sins, there seems to be a willingness from some to bring him back – understandable given he was the first coach to deliver the Sharks a premiership.
But this speculation is dismissive of the good job Morris has done as coach after being thrown in the deep end initially, as well as the effort his players are putting in for him each week.
This is a team missing Shaun Johnson and the bearing with the difficult decision Morris has made not to include Andrew Fifita for the first four rounds.
What I find even more baffling about this pressure on Morris is that there are several other coaches whose heads should be on the chopping block.
Trent Barrett, Todd Payten and Kevin Walters appear to be relatively safe given they only took over at their respective clubs at the start of the season. However, little that I have seen so far at the Bulldogs and the Cowboys inspires much hope for the future.
While Canterbury are in a rebuild phase (or have been for the last five years), the problems at this club will not be fixed by signing more outside backs. Their forward pack is not up to standard and with the new rules favouring teams that can push through the middle and dominate the contest early, the Dogs are not set up for success.
North Queensland are a completely different case. Payten is a breath of fresh air and offers real honesty and some tough love in his press conferences. He has already spoken about his vision for Jason Taumalolo and expressed disappointment in the effort of his team.
Whispers suggest he already has some members of the squad offside, which is baffling given how poor they have been for the last couple of years.
But the most baffling silence of all is in relation to Des Hasler. I am still in shock that the Sea Eagles made the decision to re-sign Hasler until the end of 2023 in mid-March.
There’s no other way to put this: Manly are diabolical. Even the eventual return of Tom Trbojevic will not save the Sea Eagles from featuring in the battle for the wooden spoon.
Unfortunately, this pain will not be short-lived either. With so much of their salary cap locked up in the Trbojevic brothers and Daly Cherry-Evans, the club has little space to make additional signings.
How Hasler was re-signed in such an environment is staggering, particularly given his side’s form on the field. Dylan Walker is not a fullback and the club continues to field teams that do not look to come close to matching up with most other teams in the competition.
John Morris may be under pressure, but I can’t imagine why, particularly when you consider some of the other coaching ‘talent’ on display right now.