Chris O’Dea – @Vossy7
The Glazer family, based out of Palm Beach, Florida are worth a whopping $4.4 Billion as of July 2014, according to Forbes Magazine.
In 2006, the Glazer’s orchestrated the leverage acquisition of Manchester United for a cool $1.4 Billion, using the English Premier League powerhouse to finance the deal. This put the club into huge debt just so they could buy the club.
The interest alone has only just started to be paid off and there’s still a long way to go before getting to the original debt.
What were the Glazer’s intentions for buying Manchester United? Simply because “they could”? Maybe plan to turn them into the world’s biggest sporting brand? Or just go for a world record number of sponsors for a single entity.
Since 2006-2007 season, United have spent approximately 648,700,000 pounds on players compared to earning 186,800,000 pounds in player sales.
When you run through the list of the incoming players, you have to wonder about whom is really controlling the quality of players coming in and at what price.
It is now a well known fact that United have to pay well over the odds for players because it is there for all to see where the weaknesses are at the club and other clubs are running with it.
Fans have been screaming from the rafters in the Stretford End that there are obvious holes in the team that need to be addressed if United are to be any hope of keeping up with the big spending Chelsea and Manchester City.
The reinvestment into the squad just has not been there to the level required and the standard that Manchester United should be at. Manchester held onto Sir Alex Ferguson’s brilliance for too long.
Since selling Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid for 80 Million Pounds (an absolute bargain), he was replaced by who? Antonio Valencia, Michael Owen and Gabriel Obertan.
The next big buy didn’t come until Arsenal decided to sell Robin Van Persie for 22 Million Pounds in 2012. Who replaced Paul Scholes when he retired? Paul Scholes did. Shinji Kagawa came in after a standout season in the Bundesliga and to this day, you wouldn’t know he still exists.
Marouane Fellaini could go down as the biggest panic buy turned flop in the history of football. United had the chance to buy him at his buyout clause price but instead bought him for an extra few million pounds and now he’s on a one way ticket to Napoli if you believe the rumours.
Along came a little bit of relief as Chelsea sold Juan Mata during the 2013/2014 summer window and he is accompanied by another two signings in Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw.
Now look at the ins and outs of the last few years and try and tell the fans that Wayne Rooney’s brutal assessment that United lack ambition is wrong.
For the last year the only thing Manchester’s management seem to be doing is signing sponsors for everything you could think off. On the United website, it has a list of 32 sponsors surely with more that remain unlisted.
A new kit deal from Adidas worth a massive 700 million pounds over 10 years, throw in major sponsorship from Chevrolet and training ground sponsorship from DHL and you’re looking at close to 200 million pounds a year from just THREE sponsors.
The list goes on for sponsorships all over the world. CEO Ed Woodward left the MUFC Tour of Asia when they hit Australia for “urgent transfer business”, well Ed, everyone is still waiting for that and since then every “Breaking: New Signing” headline is followed by a sponsor not a player.
What is a manager to do when he goes to the CEO and asks him to go enquire and bid for a player? Sorry Mr Moyes, Sorry Mr Van Gaal, we just can’t do that. Too much emphasis has been placed on making money off getting commercial partners instead of you know, making sure the football team remains competitive. A winning football team equals an increase in income or is the club purely now just making sure the back pocket of the Glazers is lined no matter what happens on the field.
Seeing teams like Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City buy players for fun just makes the whole situation more infuriating. Seeing Toni Kroos go from Bayern Munich to Real Madrid for a bargain among other cheap deals, you have to wonder what is going on behind the scenes at United.
This past off season for example, United lost Patrice Evra to Juventus, Nemanja Vidic to Inter Milan and Rio Ferdinand to QPR. Who replaced that multitude of experience in defence? Just Luke Shaw, and subject to a medical, Marcos Rojo.
You’d think after losing to Swansea at home in the opening fixture would send alarm bells ringing even louder for the club to reinvest in quality players? It clearly hasn’t! Is it that hard for the Glazer family to part with the cash to keep United at the top of world football?
Where are Manchester United heading? The Theatre of Dreams is fast becoming the Theatre of Concern.
Other Stories Of Interest
In what has been a newsworthy season in many different ways, one of the major positives in the 2013-14 season has been the emergence of amazing young talent.
The Tigers have perhaps the most promising bunch of youngsters in the competition, however the Panthers and lately, the Sharks, have thrown their next generation of talent into the NRL deep end.
For the purposes of this list, only players 20 years or younger, and those who have played less than 20 NRL games were considered.
Of course Anthony Milford, Luke Keary and co. are some of the most exciting talent running around, but it would literally take us a week to name every talented youngster in the competition, such is the depth of the talent pool.
Below are the players we consider to be the brightest prospects in the NRL, fitting within the pre mentioned guidelines. It’s not based on who is the best player at this moment, but who we believe will be the biggest star in say five years time. Let us know on the facebook page if you agree:
Hon Mention: Isaah Yeo (19) – Penrith Panthers
19 year old Isaah Yeo is one of the standouts amongst a very talented crop of youngsters at the foot of the mountains. Weighing in at around a hundred kilos at only 19 years of age, Yeo will likely add to his frame in the off season.
Having played extremely well in his ten games for the high flying Panthers in 2014, Yeo has set himself up for a long and successful career.
Panthers fans will hope he remains at the club after staring for their 2013 NYC championship side, and providing plenty of excitement in his short NRL career thus far.
Equally at home in the second row, or at centre, Yeo has already posted two tries, and will likely add plenty more before too long. A big future lies ahead for the Dubbo born rookie.
10. Cameron Munster (19) – Melbourne Storm
Although Cameron Munster has only made the one NRL appearance, against the Cowboys earlier this season, the man once referred to as a clone of Billy Slater, his talent is clear for anyone to see.
The 19 year old Rockhampton born speedster has represented Qld at Under 20s level and won the 2013 QLD Cup rookie of the year award.
We will see plenty more of this young talent in years to come, as many see him as the natural successor for the man he is reported to be a clone of, Billy Slater.
Quick, strong, and versatile, we have absolutely no doubt Munster will add plenty of NRL appearances to his single game at top level, and will provide plenty of highlights whilst doing so.
Photo: Chris O’Dea – @Vossy7
9. Fa’amanu Brown (19) – Cronulla Sharks
The 19 year old Christchurch born pivot known as ‘Nu’ has provided Sharks fans with some much needed optimism after replacing the released Todd Carney.
Brown’s performances in the NYC had Sharks fans yelling and screaming for his inclusion whilst regular halves Carney and Robson were out. Almost criminally the Sharks insisted on playing back-rowers out of position, or promoting Daniel Holdsworth.
Since finally debuting in his side’s demolition loss to the Dragons, Brown has shown enough to get Sharks fans excited, and has ensured club officials do not need to rush out and spend big money for a replacement for Carney.
Brown has re-signed with the club for a further three years, meaning he is likely to feature heavily in the Shire for many years to come. His combination with superstar fullback Valentine Holmes, and winger/center Jacob Gagan will be key for the black, white and blue in 2015 and beyond.
8. Bryce Cartwright (19) – Penrith Panthers
An unfortunate season ending injury means the 19 year old second rower won’t add to his seven NRL appearances in 2013, however the 2013 NYC player of the season showed more than enough to suggest he has plenty of first grade ahead of him.
Most will recognise Cartwright from his destructive NYC grand final performance last season, as he led his Panthers side to the title.
Contracted until the end of next season, Cartwright will be looking to establish himself as a first choice second rower despite stiff competition, and should see his contract ended before too long.
Cartwright has shown incredible speed and agility for a man his size, and possessed the ball playing skill to move into five-eighth if needed. An incredible gifted player, the Panther junior has a monster career ahead of him.
7. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (18) – Penrith Panthers
18 year old, Hamilton born DWZ has certainly made an impact in his short NRL career to date, having scored three tries in his four games in the top grade.
DWZ is one of the reasons Panthers fans were able to support Gus Gould’s five-year plan, as his efforts for the all conquering Panthers NYC side of 2013 were downright brilliant.
The Panthers, who re-signed the 18 year old until the end of 2015, will be looking to upgrade and extend the talented former Junior Kiwi before opposition sides come knocking for the speedster.
Along with Matt Moylan and Josh Mansour, DWZ will combine to form a fearsome, young and talented back three at the foot of the mountains for many years to come.
6. Tautau Moga (19) – Cowboys
To the surprise of many, the Roosters allowed the man once dubbed as the ‘next Israel Folau’ walk to the Cowboys midseason. Moga chose to head North in search of more NRL opportunities after being stuck behind rep centres Michael Jennings and SKD.
Moga has already scored three tries in his five games in North Queensland, and has shown great speed despite his horror run of injuries while in Bondi.
The 20 year old Brisbane born Moga already has 10 tries in his 19 games, and looks as though he will add plenty more this season and well beyond.
There has been fears that his long list of injuries at such a young age may hinder him in the future, however I for one hope he remains injury free, as this is one talent I want to see reach his full potential.
5. Mitchell Moses (19) – Wests Tigers
Current NSW under 20’s five-eight, Mitch Moses has been forced to play at fullback during his NRL career due to the long term injury to regular number one James Tedesco, meaning we are yet to see the true ball playing skill of the 19 year old.
Moses, a former Australian schoolboy rep, was one of the stars of the brilliant Tigers NYC seasons of years past, and will likely link up with halves partner Luke Brooks in 2015 to form the best young halves partnership in the game.
The nephew of Tigers legend Benny Elias, 19 year old Moses will be look to add muscle to his 80 kilo frame in the off season, before moving into the defensive to defend in the halves.
Moses doesn’t have the hype of Tedesco and Brooks, however he will be just as important as his two higher profile teammates in leading the exciting Tiger cubs into the future.
4. David Klemmer (20) – Bulldogs
20 year old Klemmer has been the stand out prop in the youth competitions for many years, and although he is yet to register 20 NRL games, he has already represented City Origin.
Klemmer is big, strong, fast, and can ball play like a man half his size, which means he is one dangerous young prop. His talents saw him named the NYC player of the year in 2012 before his NRL debut in 2013.
The former Australian schoolboy is an important part of a super talent Dogs pack, and will continue to be so for many years after signing a three year extension mid last season.
At 6 foot 6, and 120 kilos at the age of 20, Klemmer still has some growing to do, which is downright frightening for opposition defences.
At the Dogs, Klemmer has the perfect environment to thrive. He is playing under Des Hasler, and has one of the best props in the world in James Graham to learn from. Klemmer has a huge future at both club and representative levels.
3. Alex Johntson (19) – South Sydney
The South Sydney flyer has announced himself with an incredible 15 tries in just 11 games since making his debut against Brisbane earlier this season.
Souths fans were worried when the wing spots became a revolving door between Merritt, Tuqiri and Reddy, however Johnson’s emergence has turned worry into excitement, and a plethora of tries.
More than just a finisher, Johnston has shown he is more than willing to hit the ball up, and put his body on the line in defence.
Johnston has won NSW rep caps at under 16s and under 18s level, and they may be added to in the future if he can continue his rapid rise. One of the best young wingers in the game today.
Photo: Chris O’Dea – @Vossy7
2. Valentine Holmes (19) – Cronulla Sharks
North Queensland born Holmes has long been spoken of as perhaps the brightest young talent within the Holden Cup. Sharks fans have called for his NRL debut since the opening game of the season, and in the last two weeks we have seen glimpses of the reasons why.
Holmes has carved up throughout the younger grades, and starred for the Sharks NSW Cup side earlier in the season, before finally receiving his long awaited NRL call up.
Holmes is such a talent he forced Anthony Milford from his preferred position at fullback to five-eighth for the QLD under 20s game earlier in the season.
Although his future lies at fullback, he has played his two NRL games thus far on the wing. His debut, in a losing side, will be long remembered, as he has a hand in both Sharks tries, including laying off the final ball for Robson’s four pointer.
If not for two horrible bounces of the ball, Holmes could have two tries to his name in as many games. There will be plenty of tries in the career of this speedster, who has recently been re-signed to a three year deal. Holmes will be a mainstay in the Sharks backline for years to come, and may be the star in the Shire before too long.
1. Luke Brooks (19) – Wests Tigers
Although just 19 games into his NRL career, Brooks has shown he has the talent to lead his young Tigers well into the future.
Brooks was talked up as a potential future NSW origin halfback, before he had even debuted in the top grade. His debut match will go down as one of the best in recent memory as he led the way for his Tigers to record a dominant victory over the Dragons at the SCG.
Make no mistake, Brooks has a long way to go yet. The fact he ‘leads’ the competition in miss tackles will be a worry, however at only 19 years of age, Brooks will mature both physically and mentally over the next few seasons. A big off season will see him pack on more muscle and allow him to muscle up better in defence.
At times Brooks is too quick to try the impossible kick, or lay on the impossible pass, but with each game he will gain the experience to better make decisions.
Brooks is a future star, perhaps the brightest prospect within the current NRL ranks. Both Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston are the wrong side of 30, however with the likes of Brooks and DCE on the rise, the future of the Aussie halves is in good hands.
The above rankings are based purely on our opinion from what we have seen from the NRL’s brightest stars so far in their careers. Is there anyone we left out? Have we ranked Luke Brooks too high? Please like us on facebook and let us know.
Other Stories Of Interest
Earlier in the season, we looked at the eight best recruits (up until that point) of the NRL season. Gareth Widdop, Martin Taupau and co. helped prove that fortunes can be turned around quite dramatically due to clever work in the player market.
Of course the opposite is also true. Poor acquisitions, allowing star players to up and move teams, and poor monetary decisions can negatively affect a team’s fortunes.
Below are the 10 decisions we believe NRL clubs would like to have over again. We’re not saying they were definitely wrong, but with hindsight, they’d like to go over and perhaps reconsider their decision. Let us know what you think on the facebook page:
10. Sharks sign Blake Ayshford
The Sharks achilles heel for many years has been their outside backs. It’s ironic that a club that boasted star centres such as Steve Rogers and Andrew Ettingshausen has struggled for so long for a classy number three or four.
In Tigers reserve grader Blake Ayshford, the Sharks thought they had the answer to their problems. Ashford’s performances were well below par, especially in defence, as opposition teams targeted him from the get go.
Punters were the only ones who were sorry to see Ayshford back in NSW cup, as it made picking a first try scorer much more difficult. The Sharks have reportedly told their ‘star’ signing that he is free to look around next season. Other outside back signing Eric Grothe is yet to play a single game of first grade.
9. Canberra’s entire recruitment strategy
Last season the Raiders signed Baptiste, Bateman, O’Donnell, Page, Pangai, Setu, and Tupou … hardly household names, and none of which have made an impact this season.
Unfortunately their 2015 recruits list is headed by much maligned Storm outside back Sisa Waqa, and former Rooster Iosia Soliola.
The side’s inability to entice genuine first grade talent to the capital has been highlighted by the public backflip of James Tedesco who chose to re-sign for the Tigers on far less money. They also missed out on Josh Mansour, Michael Ennis and Kevin Proctor, all of whom toured the Canberra facilities and knocked back far increased offers than those they signed for.
8. Souths signing fringe reserve grade outside backs
Souths have arguably the best forward back in the game, a brilliant halves pairing and one of the top two fullbacks in the world today. Unfortunately for fans of the red and green, their outside backs just haven’t delivered.
Auva’a has been the exception, having produced some quality tries for the Bunnies this season, however Lote Tuqiri and Joel Reddy have failed to fire.
Bryson Goodwin’s inconsistent form has meant the Bunnies wing spots have been a source of great rotation all season. Bunnies top try scorer Nathan Merritt has hardly been seen in first grade this season. Luckily for Souths, youngster Alex Johnston has been an absolute revelation, meaning only one wing spot has been troublesome since his debut.
7. Sharks failing to retain either Tyrone Peachey or Jayson Bukuya
Injuries and rep duty has meant that the Sharks have been without Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis for the majority of the season. Lewis will miss the remainder of the premiership due to yet another injury, while Gallen this week returns.
Although Tinirau Arona has been a brilliant purchase for the struggling Sharks, they really could have used either Tyrone Peachey or Jayson Bukuya there to provide some go forward, and spark to assist the brilliant and hard working Wade Graham.
Sharks fans blew up when Peachey was allowed to join the Panthers, and their fears have proven to be correct as Peach has produced some amazing efforts for the Penrith side this season. Bukuya had always been solid for the Sharks and had a knack of scoring tries in close games. Both have been sorely missed.
6. Ben Barba to Brissie on a big contract
For whatever reason, former Dally M medalist, Ben Barba simply has not delivered during his time in Brisbane in 2014. He has looked shaky under the high ball, has failed to spark the attack, and has at times been made to look like a turnstile in defence.
With Wayne Bennett heading back to the QLD capital next season, the pressure on Barba to perform has intensified. Bennett has been tasked with rebuilding the former glamour club, and Barba’s big pay packet and inconsistent form may make him a target.
Brisbane are not short of a fullback, with former Kiwi international Josh Hoffman on the books, and the impending arrival of future star Anthony Milford. Barba’s stay at Red Hill may be a short one unless he can re-find the form that made him a marquee signing for the club.
5. Sharks re-sign Todd Carney to big money deal
This is a tough one, as at the time, the Sharks simply had no other option than to tie their superstar pivot down to a long term contract. They had to up their offer to starve off interest from the Panthers, who were intent on bringing him across.
Fast forward a year and now the Sharks are in a terrible position after terminating the contract of Carney. Right or wrong in their decision, the Sharks now have a huge hole to fit, and the timing could not have been worse. The current market simply doesn’t present a huge variety of quality play makers.
Youngster Nu Brown looks to be a long term solution, however with only a handful of NRL games under his belt, he simply cannot be expected to produce the match winning performances that were expected of Carney. This may be a case of short term pain, long term gain, but for the struggling Sharks, in hindsight, the decision cost them dearly.
4. Newcastle signing aging players
After falling just one game short of the most unlikely of NRL deciders in 2013, the form and fortunes of the Knights could not be any more contrast this season. Wayne Bennett’s recruitment strategy has rightfully come under a lot of fire during his time in the Hunter.
Although Beau Scott and Jeremy Smith have been brilliant, and Willie Mason has been very solid, names such as Newton, Gower, and co. have been absolute failures.
With Bennett moving on next season, there’s the very real possibility that he has left the club in worse shape than when he arrived. Of course the multitude of off field factors he had to contend with are more than reason enough to throw your arms in the air and ask why you should continue.
3. Melbourne allowing Widdop to leave for the Dragons
Melbourne could not match the offer on the table from the Dragons, and Widdop had no real choice but to head North and become the chief playmaker for the Red V, but oh how the Storm have missed him.
Since his departure the Storm have turned to youngster Ben Hampton, and NSW cup players Ben Roberts and Joel Romelo to fill the void. Unfortunately apart from the odd flash of brilliance from Roberts, they haven’t been able to provide adequate back up for Cronk.
When Cronk was injured, the Storm suffered massively, and the thinking is, that unless all three of their superstars are fit and firing, they’re no chance of playing in October. Widdop has proven himself at the Red V and is still the recruit of the season.
2. Manly not offering Glenn Stewart a contract
Manly are run away leaders of the competition and look like dead certs to feature yet again come Grand Final day, and have done so while the player in question sits on the sideline recovering from injury, so this seems like a strange one.
The ramifications of this decision may not be seen until next season as reports of player discontent simply refuse to go away. Brett Stewart, Anthony Watmough, Kieran Foran and Steve Matai are all reportedly unhappy with the decision not to offer club legend Stewart a deal for next season and beyond, and this may lead to one of, or more, of the mentioned leaving the club.
With Foran and DCE off contract in coming years, there’s the very real chance Manly won’t be able to offer both what they would likely get elsewhere, meaning Foran especially may have to stay based on loyalty. It was always unlikely the club would keep Stewart, but to not offer him a contract at all, they may have opened up a can of worms that may disrupt their seemingly unflappable senior playing group.
1. Canberra sign Ricky Stuart to huge, multi-year deal
Looking at Canberra’s current roster, it’s hard to see any coach in the world achieving great success. They simply don’t have the stars, and an aging squad means there is too much pressure on young players to assume leadership roles before they are ready.
That being said, the fact that Canberra signed Stuart to a four year, $850,000 annually contract means they have absolutely nowhere to move should they decide Stuart is not the man for the job.
The payout alone would cripple their chances of attracting another coach, meaning that even if Stuart delivers them the next two years worth of wooden spoons, it’s highly unlikely the Raiders can afford to look elsewhere.
The current battle of the spoon is headlined by a third choice coach with only a few NRL games to his name, on minimal pay, vs. a coach the Raiders headhunted from Parra and are laying out almost $3.5 million over four years. It may prove to be the most expensive wooden kitchen utensil in history.
Although some of the above decisions may prove to be geniss moves in the future, as it stands, we bet a few of the NRL clubs involved would like a chance to go back over their original decision. Let us know if we’ve nailed it, or missed the mark.
Other Stories Of Interest
The Daily telegraph is reporting that Allianz Stadium will be receiving a $10 million upgrade in the coming years to improve technology and the overall experience whilst attending games at the venue.
Although this is great, I’m of the opinion that the millions could be better spent upgrading the venue’s parking facilities, and improving transport to and from the venue.
There is no doubt in the world that Allianz is a world class stadium, with far superior facilities to the suburban grounds, but simply put, it’s a hassle to get to and from, and parking is horrible.
I’m sure all fans have horror stories of having to wait an hour to get a bus from the Stadium after a big game, or being turned away at the venue due to parking being full.
Whereas ANZ Stadium has a dedicated train station for the venue, Allianz relies on people walking, or cramming into buses from Central Station.
For those less mobile, or unable to head out early, the 30 minute, mostly uphill walk is not an option. Although it’s only a ten or so minute drive or bus ride, it takes a further fifteen minutes to get to the stadium from the bus drop off site.
Getting back to Central Station can take upwards of an hour as people cram on to buses, and battle traffic to return to the station.
For those looking to exit the congested car park quickly, best of luck.
Allianz Stadium needs a dedicated multi story parking station for its events. The use of Fox Studios is fine, although the car park is used by people heading to Fox, the Hordern and the Moore Park district.
Hopefully a large chunk of the $10 mil on offer is used to build a car park, and fund a dedicated shuttle to and from central, as the problem at the stadium is not currently the lack of free wifi, it is the fact travelling to and from the stadium, is extremely off putting.
Fans Wrong To Criticise?
Anyone else sick of being told they’re a bad fan for daring to criticise their team?
Fans of the Raiders, Knights and Sharks especially have every right to be disappointed in their teams’ efforts this season, and have rightfully vented over the past few weeks,.
Personally, I don’t see constructive criticism as turning your back on your team. In fact I tend to lean towards thinking that by sitting back and accepting that failure is ok, you’re not showing enough support for your team.
Every fan of every team, in any sport, anywhere, wants their team to do well. This is professional rugby league and not under 8s.
Sometimes there are circumstances, such as injury, that mean a team simply cannot perform to its peak. However each and every side should be striving to improve. Whether that be through personal changes, recruitment, or something else, they have an obligation to do so.
I for one am growing a little tired of hearing people who speak the truth about their club, being labelled ‘bad fans’.
That’s correct, I am whining about people whining about fans whining.
Fans sometimes pay a lot of money to support their sides, and they have every right to expect success. Sometimes that simply isn’t possible, but I totally understand the frustration.
That being said, some of the personal attacks I saw yesterday on social media were wrong, and downright cruel.
I do not wish injury upon anyone, and I certainly don’t celebrate when a player does go down hurt. Some people yesterday were openly hoping one of their underperforming players would be injured and therefore lead to a change in personnel.
Walking away from your team when they’re not performing makes you a bad fan. Speaking ill of them when it is deserved, does not. Personal attacks, including tagging individual players on Twitter to criticise makes you not only a bad fan, but a bad person.
Mini Calls Time
One of Rugby League’s nice guys today announced his retirement in Roosters legend Anthony Minichello.
Injury or catastrophe aside, he will post his 300th game this season for his beloved Roosters. The former Golden Boot winner will finish his career as a one club player.
As if the Roosters did not have enough motivation to go back to back this season, they are now playing for to one of the most respected men in the league out a winner.
Other Stories Of Interest
In what has been, to put it nicely, a pretty ordinary season for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, the one positive to emerge from the carnage has been the emergence of youngsters Nu Brown and Jacob Gagan.
Although the general feeling is that if superstar number nine-in-making Michael Lichaa had been given some game time last season, that he may not have signed a long-term deal with the Bulldogs, the simply fact is, what’s done is done.
In five-eighth Nu Brown, and winger Jacob Gagan, the Sharks may finally has discovered what long suffering fans in the Shire have been craving for years, young, long-term talent.
Tomorrow, it seems, Sharks fans will finally get a glimpse of perhaps their most promising young talent in fullback Valentine Holmes.
The wraps on the 19 year old Townsville speedster have come from fans, commentators and most recently Sharks stand-in captain Wade Graham.
Photo: Chris O’Dea – @Vossy7
Although the club has so far resisted throwing the QLD Under 20’s fullback into the deep-end of NRL action, it seems as though the calls to blood the super talented number one have finally been headed.
There were rumours that Holmes would not be chosen to make his top grade debut until he signed a contract extension. Although clubs such as the Tigers and Cowboys are keeping an eye on the youngster’s progress, it looks as though the Sharks are finally willing to take a punt.
There has initially been fears that the kid with the headline writer’s dream last name may be too small to step out of the Holden Cup Competition, which he has dominated despite the Sharks poor results, but his efforts in the club’s NSW Cup side have proved otherwise.
His performance against the Manly NSW Cup side was nothing short of superb, scoring two tries in his side’s 48-14 victory.
There have been games in the Holden Cup where Holmes has played almost a lone hand. His performance in his side’s 34-24 loss to the Tigers had Sharks fans talking well into the following NSW Cup fixture.
Although fans should not expect too much, too soon, they should be very excited about the 19 year old’s future at the club.
Hopefully for Sharks fans, he is able to step up to the class of NRL level sooner rather than later.
If Holmes is able to show signs of his talents early in his NRL career, expect the Sharks to move quickly to heavily upgrade and extend his contract.
Simply put, the Sharks have not had three youngsters with such exciting futures as they now do in Brown, Holmes and Gagan, in … longer than this league tragic can remember.
Other Stories Of Interest
Despite all of it’s foibles, I have always been and will always be a huge fan of the greatest game of all, rugby league.
Sure there are some changes I’d made, and although it doesn’t have the international appeal of the round ball game, or the money of other games, there is nothing I’d rather tune in to after a tough week at work that a game of NRL action.
Below are a collection of 50 random NRL thoughts, opinions, questions and suggestions, mainly to get the thoughts off my chest. Please let me know if you agree with some, all, or nothing of the below.
1. I find it funny that people are calling the currently top four rated Penrith Panthers pretenders instead of praising the efforts of the club after a few lean years.
2. Although the gap is closing, I do not believe Robbie Farah to be as good as Cameron Smith.
3. Footy fans are quick to bag those in the media for criticising their club, even if it is completely warranted. I didn’t see many Tigers fans bagging journos for being negative when the spotlight was on the Sharks.
4. Channel 9 needs to stop defending their delayed telecasts on Sunday afternoon and either play the games live, or organise a 4 pm kick off timeslot with the NRL. In this day and age, where anyone can stream games online, and those in New Zealand get every game live, there is no excuse for delayed telecasts.
5. I can’t see a non-Sydney side contesting the Grand Final. Although there is a fair way to go, Manly, despite their off-field turmoil, look like absolute certainties for October.
6. Although it’s extremely fun to bag referees, I’m yet to see social media agree on a single 50/50 call. When, after repeated looks via the video, those watching at home are unable to agree, perhaps it’s time to cut the men in the middle a little slack? Just maybe …
7. If I were to pick a World 17 to play for the safety of Earth I would go with 1. Slater 2. Morris 3. Inglis 4. Morris 5. Hayne 6. Thurston 7. Cronk 8. Scott 9. Smith 10. Burgess 11. SBW 12. Thaiday 13. Gallen … 14. Fifita 15. Bird 16. Myles 17. Foran
8. An NRL World 7’s, or even 9’s would be awesome for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, to be held on the Gold Coast. Unfortunately the home side would have to be made up of NSW and QLD cup players as no NRL side would release stars.
9. Can Ricky Stuart really still be referred to as a ‘super coach’? Since guiding a massively over achieving Sharks side to within 80 minutes of a Grand Final, has a side he has coached made the finals?
10. Despite calls from all sections of the public, General Admission tickets still remain too high. The Integrity Committee should be asked to investigate how the Sharks continue to justify charging $30 for an impeded view on a patch of grass at Remondis Stadium.
11. At $2 per week, the NRL’s digital pass is fantastic value. Live games on your device all season long is brilliant, especially for those of us unable to connect to Foxtel.
12. The NRL needs to stop broadcasting live scores on games being shown on delay on the aforementioned Digital Pass. At least put the “match now” option on a different page.
13. I love Suburban grounds. Brookvale, Remondis, Leichhardt etc may not have the facilities of the larger stadiums, but how many childhood memories start with “I was sitting in row six, seat 17, isle 30” … I grew up watching on the hill.
14. The Tigers have the most exciting bunch of youngsters I’ve seen. Promising players pop up all the time, however not in these numbers. Brooks, Moses, Sironen and Tedesco may all be playing together for NSW one day.
15. Player contracts need to mean more. It’s too easy for players to shift clubs mid-season, and too easy for players to be shifted off by clubs midseason. What ever happened to knuckling down to earn a first grade spot?
16. I, like everyone else, am sick to death of the Asada saga. Surely it would have been better to have gathered evidence before staging a hyperbolic press conference?
17. I wish more talented played from the English Super League would test their skills in the NRL. The only way England will ever truly challenge the Kangaroos and Kiwis is if their players ply their trade in the most elite competition in the world.
18. An Australian landslide victory over the USA is a bad look in a World Cup finals fixture, but if we were to remove all the less advanced nations from the competition, you might as well just run the tri-nations each season.
19. I thoroughly enjoyed the Auckland 9’s tournament and am looking forward to next year’s event. We will see more stars this time around as it is not a World Cup year.
20. There needs be a 3pm Saturday afternoon game every round.
21. Scrap Monday Night Football during Origin. Crowds are low enough for the created for television timeslot, let alone when clubs are missing their biggest names.
22. Play Origin over three consecutive weeks. The three week gap between fixtures causes way too much disruption to the NRL competition. Each team would have two byes during the four affected rounds, minimising disruptions.
23. What ever happened to the “Two hours of Rugby League content each evening on digital Channel 94 plus two hours of content on Saturday and Sunday morning” clause in the NRL rights deal?
24. Pre-game and halftime entertainment is almost a forgotten art. Who decided it was a good idea to book a boy band to play in front a crowd dominated by 20-something year old males? Bulldogs, washing cars is not entertainment.
25. Jarrod Croker is currently the top point scorer with 150 points for the season. Almost 30 tries have been scored down the Raiders left edge. Raiders fans, it’s the second stat that means he will not play Origin any time soon.
26. You couldn’t pay me enough to be an NRL winger. Semi Radradra, Manu Vatuvei … no thanks.
27. How does a team under a salary cap investigation sign a marquee player without shedding players first?
28. Is the NRL talent pool deep enough to justify talk of expansion? The last thing the league needs is an A League North Queensland Fury type situation.
29. If the game were to expand, surely Perth would be favourites for a spot based purely on the television friendly timeslot games in WA would present.
30. I could name at least five NRL players who would walk straight into the Wallabies backline. I can name only one Wallaby who would make the Kangaroo’s squad. Israel Folau.
31. If I could pick any side to avoid when they’re “on their day” it is the Warriors. If I could play any side when they are not on their day, it would also be the Warriors.
32. Jamie Lyon’s refusal to play State Of Origin sums up why it took NSW nearly a decade to dethrone QLD. Players born and raised in NSW fight to be ruled eligible for QLD. Meanwhile, our best centre fights to not represent his state.
33. Although I am sick of Channel 9’s obsession with Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Burgess, if I were running the station, I’d probably be doing the same thing. They’re internationally marketable stars. Doesn’t stop it from being annoying tho.
34. The Raiders are currently $1001 to win the competition. Those odds are still too short.
35. The Cowboys should treat every game as though it was being played in the second half of the season. They sure know how to time their run. Too bad they’ll be eliminated via another refereeing shocker come September.
36. I hope the Titans pull through their current troubles and return to the form they showed earlier in the season. They’re an exciting team to watch when at full flight, and there’s no better away trip for fans than visiting the Gold Coast.
37. Greg Inglis could very well be the best fullback in the game, however there’s the very real chance he may never play fullback for QLD. Anthony Milford’s rapid rise could see him take over when Slater retires given Inglis’s amazing records set while playing centre.
38. I fully understand that NRL players have no obligation to talk to the media, but if they did there’d be a lot less false reports printed. Players are the best promoters of the game. For the money they get paid, surely a two minute interview here and there is no big deal.
39. I believe the NRL Grand Final should always be played at ANZ Stadium, and in an afternoon time slot. Can you imagine the AFL shifting the time or venue of their grand final so suit broadcasters? NO CHANCE!!!
40. Next year’s MCG based Origin will be a massive event, but NSW, having lost so many series in a row, deserve a chance to defend the shield with two genuine home games. Melbourne is always a QLD dominated support base due. This is due to the Melbourne big three, and probably a fair bit of jealousy.
41. The NRL should look at moving an entire week’s fixtures to the bush each season. Each team would have to move one home game every two years into the bush. This would promote league and bring in new fans. Props to Penrith for moving a game to Bathurst.
42. The World Club Challenge is a great one off event, but in the fair dinkum stakes, any NRL side in the top eight would handsomely beat the top side in England if the game was played on even terms. Right now, Manly would put 40 on St Helens.
43. If you ever need proof that the broadcasters run the game, why don’t the Warriors have to host their fair share of Monday Night fixtures? Without consulting Google, I challenge any non Warrior fan to tell me the last Monday Night game they hosted. (Hint: it’s never)
44. I have no idea how the second tier salary cap works. For mine, if a player stands out in the Holden Cup and earns a first grade position, they should be able to play first grade.
45. The current NRL finals system makes about five times more sense than the old McIntyre system and rewards the top four sides. I don’t think we’ll see an NRL winner from outside the top four for a fair while
46. Kurt Gidley could be the best utility player of the current era, but cannot hold down a regular position in a struggling Newcastle side. Jack of all trades, master of none?
47. The fact Darren Lockyer never won a Dally M medal slightly devalues the award for mine.
48. I support the introduction of a marquee player system, similar to that of the A-League. This allows one player’s earnings to be salary cap exempt. It would surely stop the top line players considering French Rugby. This may disadvantage the poorer clubs, but the NRL should not penalise success.
49. Should points records achieved by the Storm players stand considering the side they partly secured them with were way above the salary cap? One could argue that Cam Smith would not have secured as many points as he has had his backline not been stacked with above the cap stars.
50. The best player I’ve ever seen was Andrew Johns. Of the current era, Darren Lockyer would have to be at the top of a very talented group.
Other Stories Of Interest
Major news sources are suggesting that current Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter may be removed from his position, possibly as soon as the completion of his side’s match with the Dragons.
Although nothing has been confirmed from the club, the rumours are swirling, and although there had been reports of player unrest in recent weeks, Potter’s possible sacking comes as a major shock.
The Tigers, currently caught in the log jam that is the middle of the NRL Competition table, looked as though they had found some much needed stability under Potter’s guidance.
The joint venture club sits just one win behind those tied for fourth place, and look on track to play finals football for the first time since 2011.
Lead by influential skipper, and NSW standout Robbie Farah, the Tigers have played some amazing football at times in 2014. Luke Brooks and Mitch Moses look as though they will form a halves pairing that could lead the club for the next decade.
Harbouring arguably the hottest crop of young talent in the competition, the Tigers would surely be doing their players and fans a disservice by sacking Potter so close to the finals.
With only seven games remaining, the timing would be almost unbelievable if the rumours are proved to be correct.
Assistant coaches David Kidwell and Todd Payten reportedly have the support of the playing staff and one, or perhaps both, would likely be given the job for the rest of the season if Potter is removed.
I could fully understand the club’s removal of their coach at the end of the season, if they were to miss out on the finals, however surely this is a disruption the young squad does not need at this key stage of the season.
Today’s game with the Dragons is a crunch game for both clubs. Surely players would be well aware of any pending movement within the coaching ranks, and surely it would be playing on their minds.
Unless something is seriously wrong within the ranks of the 2005 Premiers, surely Potter has earned the right to lead the side on their charge to the finals.
All will play out in the next 24 hours or so, however the timing of the reports could not have come at a worse time for either Potter or his players.
If Potter is removed before the end of the season, surely there is more to the situation than meets the eye.
I just hope any decision that is made is made for the right reasons and does not affect the exciting young side’s run to the finals.
Cowboys Become City Slayers
After a horrible run of results in the Harbour Sydney, it looks as though the Cowboys may have finally worked out the secret to winning away from home.
After putting the Sharks to the sword last Friday Night they managed to post back to back away wins after defeating the Bulldogs.
Bulldogs fans took to social media to express their worry about recent results, with some questioning Des Hasler’s team selections.
Although far from finished in terms of their season, the Dogs have lacked energy and creative spark in the previous weeks.
The Cowboys on the other hand, look as though they may have AGAIN timed their run to peak at the business end of the season.
Sharks Continue Panthers Dominance
The Sharks 18-16 victory over the Panthers in Bathurst was their fifth win in six games against the second placed side.
Andrew Fifita turned in the type of performance that made him the most sought after free agent earlier in the season before he ultimately ended up re-signing with the Sharks.
Jacob Gagan’s double continues his brilliant strike rate at NRL level.
Worryingly for the Panthers, who have now lost twice to the bottom placed Sharks this season, they now hold less victories over the top eight sides than the wooden spoon favourites.
Is the result just a blip on the radar, or have the Panthers been exposed?
Other Stories Of Interest
- Daniel Nichols (@suthodan)
Australia is about to get a visit from former WWE, New Japan and ROH superstar Shelton Benjamin. The former Intercontinental, United States, and two-time WWE Tag Team Champion travels down under in mid September to headline an AWE supershow against fellow former United States Champion, Orlando Jordan.
The two will do battle atop the seventh anniversary show emanating from Concord RSL on the 19th of September in a match that is set to be amongst the best ever seen on our shores.
Shelton, best known for his incredible athletic ability, has travelled the world, and won titles across the globe. Shelton’s tag team combination with Charlie Haas was one of the most exciting of the 2000′s
As well as showing off his skills in front of live crowds, Shelton will also run wrestling seminars, passing on his wealth of experience to the young wrestlers of Australia. Before travelling down under, we spoke to the ‘Gold Standard’ about his upcoming tour, his time in the WWE and the world first match up with Orlando Jordan:
Follow Shelton On Twitter – @Sheltyb803
Monstasport: We’ve heard you’re headed to Sydney Australia in the near future to wrestle for the AWE promotion. What brings you ‘Down Under’?
Shelton Benjamin: What brings me back to Australia is my deep appreciation and love for the Wrestling fans of Australia. I will be performing and holding seminars as well as reconnecting with friend and taking in as much culture as possible.
MS: The Main Event for the AWE show will feature the first ever meeting between yourself and former WWE United States Champion, Orlando Jordan. What can fans expect from this massive clash?
SB: Its funny to think how long Orlando and myself had worked alongside each other yet never had a match. I don’t even remember being in the ring at the same time during the Royal Rumble. None the less, fans can expect to entertained by a highly competitive athletic extravaganza by two world class athletes.
MS: You’ve visited Australia on WWE run tours previously, what have been the highlights? Any plans to sightsee this time round?
SB: The biggest highlight for any pro-wrestler has got to be the fans. Every time I’ve performed in Australia the fans have been so into the shows and very interactive which made my performance so much fun. You don’t want it to end, and in Sydney in particular, the after show interaction with fans packed on the parking tower was a highlight for all the WWE guys & Divas. I will definitely be touring around while there. I’m even planning to stay a few days after may last engagement so there could be “Shelton” sightings all over Sydney.
Shelton’s Opponent On August 19th via Ian Spruce Photography
MS: You had some memorable moments in your time with WWE, none more so than your amazing feats in the Money In The Bank ladder matches. Were you the one to suggest the big spots or were they put to you? Ever have any second thoughts when standing all the way up there?
SB: I give Edge and Jericho most of the creative For the MITB 1 and 2 . MITB 4 & 5 were all me. MITB 6? hmmm let just say a metaphorical nail was hammered into my foot so there were no big spots
MS: We’ve heard you were extremely successful in a wide range of athletic sports. When did you decide that you wanted to be a professional wrestler?
SB: I was a standout athlete in American Football, Track and amatuer wrestling, with accolades in all three, too extensive to list here. I fell in love with Pro-Wrestling when I was maybe eight or nine and like any kid who falls in love with a sport early in life I wanted to do it right then. I was just lucky enough to get the opportunity when I grew.
MS: Your time with Team Angle was one we certainly remember fondly, how was it working with amazing talents that are Kurt Angle and Charlie Haas? Did you learn much from Kurt?
SB: Working with Kurt and getting the early opportunities was one of the funnest times of my career. Getting to showcase my talent under Kurt’s banner was a huge boost for my career and I thank Kurt for helping draw attention to my career. But to be quite honest, it was Arn Anderson that was the brains behind Team Angle. We became a great team because we had a great coach that would put us through the paces and molded us into the cohesive unit we became.
MS: During your time in ROH and other independent promotions across the world, you’ve had some brilliant matches. Any that stand out in your mind?
SB: My first ROH show WGTT Vs the Kings of wrestling (Chris Hero & Claudio AKA WWE’s Cesaro) was great fun and working with Mark and Jay, The Briscoe Bros is a huge highlight.
MS: Did you catch the latest Wrestlemania? If so what did you make of it? Do you have any memories of those Manias you took part in?
SB: Didn’t watch Wrestlemania, still haven’t. I have many fond memories, being my first ‘Mania when everything was fresh and new to me. Winning our match helps.
Check Out The AWE Facebook Page: Here
MS: The upcoming AWE card aside, where can fans see Shelton Benjamin in the near future?
SB: I am currently very active in New Japan Pro-wrestling (NJPW) so that is where I’m easiest to find. I will be at this years London Comicon for my Uk fans. Aside from that, I can pop up anywhere on the globe. But i would love to make Australia a frequent stop.
As well as being headlined by this world first Main Event, the AWE seventh anniversary show will also feature a AWE Championship Triple Threat match which will see the despited champion Bruza put his title on the line against crowd-favourite Psykotic and Lance Storm trained superstar Mikey Broadrick. The Aussie Express, widely regarded as the nation’s best tag team will also be defending their belts.
For tickets to the show, be sure to call Concord RSL on 9743 1308 and pre book over the phone. Family passes are available, and all tickets include a meet and greet with both Shelton and Orlando. Doors open at 7pm, with a 7:30 bell time. Check out the AWE Facebook page for more info, including promos from both former WWE superstars.
Other Stories Of Interest
Dan Nichols – @suthodan
2014 has been a season full of twists, turns and surprises. Wayne Bennett has signed for the Broncos, the Sharks have had two coaches, and look like appointing a third, and a certain former Tigers favourite son returned to the game that made him a star.
With the competition being so close at both the top and bottom of the competition, the need for NRL clubs to take an educated gamble to gain that advantage, has increased.
Although there have been multiple ‘punts’ undertaken across the competition, and no we’re not talking about the NRL betting scandal, we’ve tried our best to pick the top ten.
I’ve decided not to take State of Origin gambles, such as the new look halves pairing of Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson into account, and instead focus on those undertaken by NRL clubs.
Let us know on the facebook page if you agree, or disagree. Did we miss anything? Will the gambles pay off?
10. Tigers Don’t Lock In Mick Potter
The Tigers possess the competition’s most exciting crop of youngsters. Headlined by Luke Brooks, Mitch Moses and James Tedesco, the young group need a consistent environment to fully realise their potential.
Questions have recently been asked as to whether current first team boss Mick Potter is the right man, with club captain Robbie Farah refusing to publicly back his current coach.
Originally reports indicated that more than a few players had re-signed or extended their deals based on their relationship with Potter, however it has come out in the last few days that Potter had very little to do with player discussions.
With very few NRL experienced coaches available on the market, are the Tigers taking a punt in waiting to decide whether to tie Mick Potter down to the club? Is he the right man? If not, should be removed right away in favour of the candidate the board and players deem is the right man?
9. Roosters Aiming To Sign Blake Ferguson/ Let Moga Go
The Roosters are so confident that they can land NRL bad boy Blake Ferguson despite the troubled star’s disciplinary record, that they allowed potential superstar Tautau Moga to leave the club.
If the club were to sign Ferguson, playing wise, there is no surer thing. Ferguson is a star and would likely have six origin jerseys to his name but for his NRL imposed suspension due to off field indiscretions.
Canberra were ultimately left burnt by Ferguson’s off field activities, having to sack their superstar centre after repeated offences. Cronulla also suffered despite supporting Ferguson through his teenage years.
Can the Roosters provide the environment Ferguson needs to thrive? Will the NRL register him? Will releasing the extremely talented Moga come back to haunt them?
8. Bulldogs Backflip Of Huge Fifita Deal
Andrew Fifita agreed to sign a monster contract with the Bulldogs, and even went as far as to break the news to teammates, only for the deal to fall over.
Heading into the season Fifita was a World Cup winning prop who top scored for his club side, making him the biggest name on the open market. The Dogs, Sharks and other clubs battled for the superstar’s signature, with the Dogs ultimately winning out.
Reports differ, but the end result saw the Dogs withdraw a contract that Fifita’s reps say did not match that agreed on in negotiations.
Fifita has battled injuries and distractions and has failed to live up to his match winning form of 2013, although at times has shown the signs that made him an instant multi millionaire. Will the Dogs regret withdrawing the contract and letting Fifita get away? Will the Sharks regret re-signing him on far increased terms?
7. Andrew McFadden Promoted At The Warriors
The Warriors, on their day, are almost unbeatable. Unfortunately not since Ivan Cleary, has a coach been able to consistently get the best from the extremely talented squad.
Earlier in the season when Matt Elliott was removed from his post, a host of heavily experienced NRL coaches were linked to the New Zealand club. After a series of far improved performances under his watch, assistant coach Andrew McFadden was announced as a full time coach.
Since his taking up the top post, the Warriors have looked a different side, and are now firmly in the eight, something that earlier in the season looked a long shot.
It’s been smooth sailing since McFadden’s appointment, however we are yet to see how the rookie coach reacts under pressure. Should injuries hit, or belief drop, how will he react? Did the Warriors make the right choice?
6. Broncos $4 Million Deal For Bennett
On the surface, the decision to bring back multiple time premiership winning coach Wayne Bennett to the club he enjoyed so much success, seems like a no brainer.
At over $1.3 million a season, there is a degree of gamble in this decision, no matter what the stature of the super coach.
The decision has already caused dissension in the ranks of the players, with co captain Corey Parker publically declaring his support for the removed Anthony Griffin.
Bennett’s recent stint at the Knights yielded less than spectacular results with recruitment coming under heavy fire. Circumstances will be different in Brisbane, but the $1.3 million price tag is a big gamble for a coach whose appointment may have already divided the playing ranks.
5. Nu Brown Selected For The Sharks
When Todd Carney was released from his contract, Sharks fans were certain they’d be forced to endure another back rower in the five-eighth position after seeing Wade Graham, Luke Lewis and the like played out of position during Carney’s absence earlier in the season.
Worse still for suffering fans of the Shire club was the possibility of Daniel Holdsworth once again donning the black, white and blue in first grade.
Instead the Sharks turned to boom youngster Nu Brown, who has since re-signed with the club for a further three years.
Brown has offered spark and was instrumental in his side’s comeback victory over The Roosters. To throw a youngster in over the far more experienced options available was definitely a big punt, one the Sharks have not been known for over recent years.
4. Josh Dugan Moved From Fullback Position
A simple positional change usually wouldn’t make a list of this sort, however the fact Dugan was established as the second choice NSW fullback behind only Jarryd Hayne shows just how highly he was regarded in the number one.
Signed by the Dragons as their long term solution at the back, few would have guessed he would be lining up for NSW, at centre.
The move at first looked to be a temporary solution to the centre problem for the red V’s, however the move looks like it may became more permanent.
Although the move looks like it may pay big dividends, the punt to move an Origin fullback to the centres was a big one. Will he remain out wide, or return to the back as the Dragons make their last charge for the eight?
3. Manly Not Offering Glenn Stewart A Contract
There are conflicting reports on whether or not Manly even tabled an offer for their superstar second rower, or whether it was just not comparable to the offer accepted at Souths.
What is certain is that senior players at the club are not happy with management. Stewart, an extremely popular player with senior players, has been sacrificed and disrespected in the eyes of said senior players.
The reality of the salary cap meant this situation was always going to arise, however Manly’s decision to allow Stewart to leave the club may have far reaching consequences.
Although we are yet to see the full fallout of the decision, if reports are to be believed, senior players may ask to join Stewart in leaving the club before the end of the season.
2. Bulldogs Signing Michael Lichaa On Big Money Deal
The Bulldogs have taken one of the biggest recruitment gambles in recent times in investing big money in Sharks rookie Michael Lichaa.
Lichaa, who has signed a long term deal with the Belmore club at the expense of former Origin hooker Michael Ennis, comes with big wraps. player to Sharks fans were filthy when the decision was made, which is always a good indicator of a player’s worth.
Ennis, an established member of the squad, and current captain, will head in the opposite direction after being told he would play second fiddle to a player who had at that point played less than 40 minutes of NRL action.
Lichaa’s performances have been below expectation for the Sharks, however it’s hard for a young player to thrive under the circumstances at the Cronulla club. A huge punt that could see the Dogs inherit a ten year hooker, or one that could see them lose out greatly if Lichaa fails to fire.
1. Benji Marshall Signing By The Dragons
No one this season took a bigger gamble with their roster than the Dragons upon signing former Tiger and union dropout, Benji Marshall.
Facing big competition from the Sharks and Storm, the Dragons were forced to outlay big money for a player who by all accounts was years past his best.
The Dragons season was either going to live or die on Marshall’s signing, and although the jury is still out on the money offered to sign the former World Player Of The Year, Marshall has helped kick start the Red V’s season.
Have the Dragons made the right decision in signing Marshall long-term? Will he re-find his form, or will he divided the dressing room as he did in the final year of his Tigers tenure? Signing Marshall was a huge punt, and we may not know for a while yet whether the decision was a success or not.
Other Stories Of Interest
Dan Nichols – @suthodan
As we move towards the finals series, unfortunately some teams are already focusing their efforts towards 2015 and beyond.
The Sharks, Knights, and Raiders are now in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon rather than make the top eight and are looking for reinforcements to help their cause next season.
Although the majority of big name stars are now either re-signed or moving on next season, if you look hard enough there is some serious unsigned talent out there.
There has been a lot of speculation about the contract status of many players, so the below is pure speculation, but if I were working on recruitment, these are the players I’d be targeting:
Fullback: Reece Robinson (Canberra)
At one point last season Robinson had fans wondering if he, not Milford, was the long term fullback option in the capital. A fall from grace of sorts sees Robinson off contract and may be looking for a new club in 2014. With plenty of teams looking for quality outside backs, I’m surprised Robinson’s name has not been linked with a number of clubs.
Likely Destination: Re-signed. Possibly Souths or Cronulla
Wing: Dale Copley (Broncos)
Copley’s form had been such that his name was mentioned as a possible replacement for Brent Tate in Origin. Unfortunately for Broncos fans he seems to have tailed off over the last few weeks and has been a little shaky under the high ball. In saying that Copley, at 22, has shown more than enough to attract plenty of attention.
Likely Destination: Will field big offers from Souths and the Sharks. Likely to re-sign.
Centre: Jonathan Wright (Sharks)
A few years ago Jono Wright was playing in a grand final, now he struggles to hold down a permanent spot in a struggling Sharks outfit. Has matured as a centre and has been solid one in from the wing at Cronulla, however completely wasted on the wing. The Sharks have looked a different team since he has replaced Ayshford in the centres.
Likely Destination: Bulldogs
Centre: John Folau (Eels)
The younger brother of Israel, John has the size, speed and strength to worry plenty of opponents in the not too distant future. His try in the under 20’s Origin showed just what he is capable of. Will likely come in to the first grade side next season when Willie Tonga moves on.
Likely Destination: Re-Signed
Wing: Jacob Gagan (Sharks)
Having scored three tries in the Sharks brilliant comeback wins over the Broncos and Roosters, I can’t believe the Sharks have not moved to re-sign their exciting outside back. After promising so much at Manly, Gagan moved to the Sharks in search of first grade footy, and has impressed in both attack and defence in his four games so far.
Likely Destination: Re-Signed
Five-Eighth: Isaac John (Panthers)
The New Zealand international has played his last game for the Panthers and should have plenty of interested clubs, should he be able to overcome a horrible injury. If fully fit, would surely be in the Panthers side right now with the injury to Wallace. Plenty of clubs could use his versatility.
Likely Destination: England
Halfback: Penani Manumalealii (Sharks)
We’ve heard conflicting reports as to the contract status of Ben Hunt, but being unable to find confirmation, we will go with the hattrick hero for Samoa earlier in the season in Penani Manumalealii. The fact he has not added to his one NRL appearance has Sharks fans baffled. The Sharks seemed to have turned to Nu Brown, although have a potential star in Penani, if they choose to allow him an opportunity.
Likely Destination: Re-Signed
Prop: Ben Hannant (Broncos)
Once amongst the first players picked for Origin, Hannant looks certain to move come the end of the season. If Hannant does move at the end of the year, he will bring with him plenty of rep experience, size and strength. May yet be re-signed by the Broncos, however a move looks like the best option for club and player.
Likely Destination: A Sydney based team
Hooker: Matt Srama (Titans)
Slim pickings in terms of available number nines after Michael Ennis signed for the Sharks. Srama looked like being the next big thing in the hooking role but seems to have completely fallen off the radar on the Gold Coast. A change of scenery may be what he needs to rediscover the form that had plenty talking.
Likely Destination: Cowboys
Prop: Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Raiders)
The former NSW representative giant incredibly may be headed out of the club come the end of the year. At six foot four, TLL should be fending away offers. Canberra look like they may re-sign him, at far reduced terms than his current contract, however we would not be surprised to see him picked up and return to somewhere near his best.
Likely Destination: England
Second Row: Tim Browne (Bulldogs)
May not be the biggest name off contract but Browne has all the abilities to become a serious fixture. Des Hasler won’t let him go easily and to be honest, we don’t see him going anywhere. Browne has played 34 times for the Dogs, and will add plenty more games. At 26 the best is yet to come for the Penrith product.
Likely Destination: Re-Signed
Second Row: Tinirau Arona (Sharks)
One of the quiet achievers in a star studded Cronulla Sharks pack. Put in a mountain of work in his attempt to cover the losses of Gallen and Lewis early on in the season. More than just a stats man, Arona scored the club’s first try of the season, and has threatened regularly. The Sharks surely won’t let this cut price work horse go without a fight.
Likely Destination: Re-Signed
Lock: Tom Symonds (Eagles)
Flies under the radar in a pack containing rep stars a plenty, but Symonds is quality. Was one of his club’s best in their 2013 campaign. Will likely add his two City Origin rep jerseys in the future. At only 25, the Eagles would be mad to let him go after allowing Glenn Stewart leave to the Bunnies.
Likely Destination: Re-Signed
Although we expect many of the above to be re-signed, most won’t happen without a fight. The Sharks and Raiders have big money to spend and are looking to improve their underperforming squads, and could become BIG players in the coming weeks.
Other Stories Of Interest