Friday Morning Five-Eighth - Six Things I Think.
August 8, 2008
1. Justin Hodges received a two match ban for giving a resounding ‘up yours’ to referee Tony Archer last weekend after unsuccessfully challenging the charge at the Judiciary on Wednesday night. The Australian and Queensland centre has given his club side next to no value in the second half of 2008 due to suspension and this new ban could put a serious dent in the Brisbane Broncos push towards a Top 4 spot – which was achievable if the club ran the table (that is won all their remaining games) for the rest of the season.
Hodges has also struggled with his fitness in the two games he has played since returning from a six game ban for a spear tackle and he can’t afford to come back in Round 23 unfit. Because a resurgent Darren Lockyer needs a firing (and disciplined) Hodges outside him to make the Broncos a force in September.
2. The Newcastle Knights did a number on the Parramatta Eels last Monday night and thoroughly deserved the victory that catapulted themselves into the Top 8. But perhaps the most distressing aspect to come out of the game from a Newcastle perspective is the fact the Knights will miss captain and hooker Danny Buderus terribly when he moves to Leeds at the end of the season.
As much as Kurt Gidley has evolved into a star at the NRL level, Buderus is such a dominant force in the Newcastle side that replacing him in the side’s structure next season will be extremely tough. I don’t envy the job incoming signing Isaac De Gois has ahead of him in replacing Buderus because the long serving hooker is playing so well that if the Knights make the playoffs it will be purely because of the driving force of Buderus.
3. Canberra probably doesn't have the cattle to make an impression on this year’s playoffs but they are playing well enough to qualify in 2008. The Brisbane Broncos had an 18-6 lead in the second half last Sunday afternoon and the Raiders just couldn't capitalise on their attacking chances which appears to be a major weakness when the game is there to be won. Canberra have displayed in recent weeks that they can put teams away if they get out to an early lead but if the youngsters from the ACT can’t mount a significant come from behind victory in August they can forget about doing anything if they qualify for the Finals.
4. With the departure of Jason Ryles and Mark Gasnier from the Dragons for the 2009 season, one can only wonder where St.George-Illawarra’s long standing star power will come from. Granted this might be something incoming coach Wayne Bennett will welcome as he instils his system and culture into a club that has been known over the past decade for its star studded roster. Matt Cooper, Ben Creagh and Jamie Soward will be their high profile players in 2009 but only Soward has the potential to be classified in the star category at the respective stages of their careers. The club will however give an opportunity to another Mundine in either 2009 or 2010 as they have a precocious talent in Matthew Mundine currently impressing in the Toyota Cup.
5. Sadly the game has now seen two potential champions leave the game in the past fortnight with the news yesterday that Canberra has sacked Todd Carney. With Sonny Bill Williams walking out on the code in late July the last thing the NRL needed was another star player to leave the game but full credit to Canberra for standing firm in their belief that unless Carney accepted a five-point plan to rehabilitate his off-field ways – they would punt him. Carney who was facing a long term alcohol ban being worked into his contract hardly did himself a favour by A. arguing it should be dropped from the agreement and B. publicly drinking that very weekend when he claimed he didn't have a problem with alcohol.
The NRL has also indicated they will de-register Carney for the 2009 season as well as the remainder of 2008, but who knows if the message will get through to the 23 year old because so far he’s failed to show any indications he’s even read the memo.
6. Brookvale Oval should be packed tonight as the top two sides in the NRL (and last year’s Grand Finalists) go head to head with close to full strength line ups and almost a full season of form behind them. Melbourne and Manly-Warringah should provide a much closer contest than they did in Round 5 but it is hard to see the Sea Eagles making up ground on the side that has dominated them in the past two outings – especially without Anthony Watmough. Keep your money on Melbourne until Manly break through with a win… although yes I realise that means you’ll do your cash if tonight’s the night.