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Opinion

The good, the bad and the ugly for 2021: The bottom eight (Part 1)

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Roar Guru
11th September, 2021
20

The 2021 competition is gradually drawing to a close and it has been an eventful season for every club involved in this year’s premiership contest.

Here are some good, bad and ugly moments for each club in the bottom eight for you to ponder.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

The good
The continued development and emergence of some quality young players at the club, including Ronaldo Mulitalo, William Kennedy, Connor Tracey, Braydon Trindall and Luke Metcalfe. These players look to have a big future in the game and together with the cavalry recruited for next year, they should help the Sharks play finals football again in 2022.

The bad
The sacking of coach John Morris in April this year after he took the team to the finals in both 2019 and 2020. Perhaps it would have been better to let him see the year out.

The ugly
It’s a tossup between Josh Dugan’s inability to follow the COVID rules and Will Chambers’ sledging antics. Probably doesn’t matter now as neither player will be at the Sharks next season, but Dugan takes the prize for mine.

Will Chambers of the Sharks

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Canberra Raiders

The good
Not a lot to choose from here I’m afraid, so I’ll have to settle on the positives in some of their squad members. Tom Starling now seems to offer more than Josh Hodgson, Harley Smith-Shields continues to impress and Jordan Rapana really showed up the rest of the squad with his intensity and non-stop effort.

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The bad
The second-half surrender characterised the team’s performances for most of the year. Unbelievably, they were one of the favourites to challenge the Storm at the beginning of the year, but they squandered too many halftime leads to make any real impact on the competition.

The ugly
The messy departure of George Williams from the club, which had an unsettling effect on the rest of the squad in the latter part of the season. There are at least three versions of what went wrong in this relationship, and maybe we’ll never know the truth.

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St George Illawarra Dragons

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The good
Scratching to find something here, so I’ll settle with the long-awaited return to form by million dollar man Ben Hunt. Despite playing in a very disappointing team and suffering a couple of significant injuries, Hunt has shown that he can be the player to lead the Dragons back into finals contention.

The bad
Player recruitment at the Dragons is still clueless at best. How else could you describe the recruitment of Josh McGuire, Gerard Beale and Billy Burns last year while letting Cameron McInnes and Matt Dufty walk?

Matt Dufty passes

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The ugly
The destruction of the Dragon’s season following Paul Vaughan’s BBQ. Multiple suspensions, a contract torn up, bags of embarrassing negative publicity and winless from the time the first sausage hit the hot plate. Who would have thought that so many professional athletes could all be that stupid at the same time?

New Zealand Warriors

The good
Once again this season, the Warriors team sacrificed a lot by basing themselves in QLD so that the competition could continue intact, and that is a great reflection on both the club and their players. They put the competition ahead of the club and, for that, they deserve a lot of credit.

The bad
The departure of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to rugby union. So much of what the Warriors were about was based on the impact RTS could have on a game, his energy, leadership and never-say-die style of play. He’ll be hard to replace.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

(Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

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The ugly
Matt Lodge and Kane Evans. Who is the genius who thought that signing this pair of pelicans was what the club needed? The Warriors have always been known for producing tough and skilful forwards, and neither Lodge nor Evans can lay claim to either of those traits.

Wests Tigers

The good
Wests have wasted a lot of money and sacrificed a lot of success, in acquiring players of doubtful value and commitment over the last five years. Players like Moses Mbye, Russell Packer, James Roberts, Joey Leileu, Josh Reynolds and James Tamou. Now the club has some talented young guns on the rise who, with the right leadership, can once again bring some success to the club. Players like Adam Doueihi, Daine Laurie and Shawn Blore are the future for the Tigers.

The bad
The continued de-stabilising dramas surrounding coach Michael McGuire. Will he stay or will he go? Wests’ board appears to be shambolic and also in denial, but they need to either back him 100 per cent and get rid of any players who don’t like that, or move him on now so that his replacement can get things moving for next season.

The ugly
It’s hard to go past that last round flogging at the hands of wooden spooners Canterbury Bankstown. That performance pretty much typified the lack of pride and effort from most of Wests’ squad this year.

uke Garner, Daine Laurie and Luke Brooks look dejected after a try by Jahrome Hughes.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Brisbane Broncos

The good
Things are slowly turning around for the Broncos, and although they finished near the bottom in 2021 with just seven wins, they weren’t far of the pace in a few other games. The retirement of some players who were well past their best, the departure of problems waiting to happen in Tevita Pangai and Matt Lodge and some room to move under the salary cap left the Broncos in a far better position than they were in this time last year, and with a more optimistic future.

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The bad
Kevin Walters’ coaching still looks confused and unconvincing, and his constant shuffling of the backline, particularly the halves, hasn’t allowed the team to settle.

The ugly
For all of his ability, potential and on-field leadership, Payne Haas still has the capacity to come under unwanted scrutiny for some dumb stuff off the field, and this year’s trouble with the QLD police hasn’t done him any favours.

Payne Haas

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

North Queensland Cowboys

The good
Like a lot of the teams in the bottom eight, there’s not much to get enthusiastic about other than the hope that next season will be a better one, and the Cowboys can have some optimism here. Scott Drinkwater is reaching his potential, they have some good forwards emerging in Heilum Luki, Jeremiah Nanai and Ben Condon while Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Murray Taulagi have firmly established themselves in first grade.

The bad
The two players drawing the biggest paycheques at the Cowboys are Jason Taumalolo and Valentine Holmes, and 2021 has seen them perform at a level that just doesn’t reflect their tax brackets.

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Sometimes it seems that the more you pay, the less you get. These two players need to step up if the Cowboys are to taste success next year.

The ugly
Winning just one game since Round 12 pretty much sums up the Cowboys’ season.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

The good
The club’s recruitment focus, which sees not only some excellent players being added to their 2022 roster, but the departure of some dead wood that has been holding the club back in recent years. Surely the Dogs will be barking in 2022. Surely.

The bad
Taking out the wooden spoon after another disastrous season, winning just three games for the second year in succession. If only a few of his teammates had put in the effort that captain Josh Jackson produced each week.

Bulldogs

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The ugly
Player discipline, of course, the scourge of many teams this year, with Adam Elliott leading the charge and deservedly having his contract torn up. Unfortunately for the Dogs, they’ve already replaced him with ex-Dragons nitwit Paul Vaughan, so it looks like the more things change, the more they remain the same.

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