Monday 12 September 2011

NRL Finals 2011 - Week 1 Winners and Losers + Team of the Week

Here on in addition to our comprehensive Finals Results Blog and Podcasts we will feature the Winners and Losers of each semi final week and the Team of the Week. Feel free to post your thoughts below.
Check out the Finals Week 1 Findings below...
21 - 1240 - 10
42 - 0818 - 08
You can read all about the Qualifying Finals in the Results Blog or watch the highlights at the bottom of the page.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. Although they moved the ball okay in the opening half, they got a sniff of blood in the water in the 2nd half and annihilated a North Queensland team that borderline gave up in the last 20 minutes. They played attractive open footy right until full time and 42 unanswered points will give them tremendous confidence in their attack... minus Glenn Stewart.
Tony Williams, Sea Eagles - Just about the Player of the Week after an the kind of performance that everyone has wanted to believe he had in him... but have been waiting three or four years to see. Played in the backrow and was switched on. Can Des Hasler flick the switch again in 2 weeks time? Playing for a contract as well, so performance timely.
Gerard Beale, Broncos. With Josh Hoffman down for the count for the rest of the Finals, the Broncos needed Beale to step into the fullback role and perform. He did just that and the bonus for Brisbane is that the Warriors didn't get anywhere near enough field position to test him out. But the Dragons might.
Tim Sheens, Tigers. The Tigers might have won eight games in a row but they could have phoned in the last three games of the regular season against the Eels, Titans and Sharks and entered the semi finals with some serious complacency. While their 1st half was average, Sheens called the Tigers 2nd half their best half of footy in some time. To run down a Dragons side that played exactly the style they wanted to in the 1st half is a sign that Sheens has his team full of belief this September.
Craig Bellamy, Storm. The Storm were poor in Round 26 minus Billy Slater and Cameron Smith but Bellamy had the side focused heading into the Newcastle semi and it showed. The Storm jumped out to a 16-0 lead and although the Knights came back late - the Storm were back into their grinding style and didn't even need a great deal of 'Big 3 Brilliance' to win the game.
The Video Referee. For awarding Benji Marshall's try and not awarding Jharal Yow Yeh's try. Like it or not, Marshall got something on the ball when he tried to kick it in the lead up to the opening try on Friday Night (however I'd have been fine with the call being a knock-on had he just dropped it as opposed to have been attempting any sort of kick - which he was) and then on Saturday despite seeing a number of poor calls occur on the field (throughout the game) - the video referee quite rightly deemed that Yow Yeh did not have control of the ball when inside the field of play. The ball clearly rolled under him meaning it was a knock on, yet had he exhibited that 'lack of control' inside the in-goal - the video referee under the laws of the game would have had to have awarded a try.
The St.George-Illawarra Dragons. They let a game they were in total control of slip but live to fight another day. But this 'win' feels more like luck than good management.
Neil Henry and the North Queensland Cowboys. While there is no doubt an appearance in the Finals after taking out the 'unofficial' Wooden Spoon last year with only five victories is a vast improvement, there can be no denying two facts that played out by the end of the season. One was their 2nd half capitulation in their Qualifying Final with Manly (conceding 42 points in the 2nd half is a record) but two was their dreadful form at the back end of the season. North Queensland won just one game from their final six matches and that was over the Sharks in Round 25 in unconvincing fashion. The wobbles had returned before this semi final and the way the team was run all over in the final 20 minutes is a huge concern for Henry and his coaching staff heading into the off-season.
Channel Nine. They would've been expecting big things in the ratings for Friday with the Tigers playing the Dragons but the two Saturday Night games - Warriors at Broncos and Cowboys at Manly - needed to be close games to keep the 'casual' viewer interested. The Warriors didn't play ball and that game was over by halftime, while Channel Nine were lucky that the Cowboys had a lead at halftime in the second game and didn't capitulate til then. Mind you all the Manly fans appeared to be at home rather than at the game, so they probably kept the ratings up for the second game. (According to TV Tonight - the Friday Night game drew approx 200k-250k more than Saturday Night's double header.)
Channel Nine again. For pushing the kick-off of the Manly-Cowboys game to 8:30pm. Cost the game big time at the gate - regardless of where it was played in Sydney. This game had to start at 8:15pm at the latest... family friendly a post-8pm kick-off is not.
Ivan Cleary, Warriors. Was at a loss to explain why his team served up the tripe it did in Brisbane. If this was a one-off you'd give Cleary the benefit of the doubt... but 12 months earlier the Warriors had entered September (as the 5th seed) with confidence and promptly imploded in the opening half of their semi with the Titans. They did the same this time against the Broncos. Cleary clearly has a big mess to work out in Auckland this week... along with Manu Vatuvei's ball control.
Rick Stone, Knights. Nobody really expected the Knights to win in Melbourne but Stone's tenure as a club coach (for the time being) ends with two losses in two trips to the Finals after emphatic Round 26 victories. In 2009 they smashed the Panthers 35-0 in a Round 26 'playoff for 8th' and got bundled out in Week 1 by the Bulldogs, and then again this year, they belted the Rabbitohs 40-24 in a Round 26 'playoff for 8th' and got done by the Storm 18-8 in their semi. He will now take up a job under Wayne Bennett at the Knights in 2012, but the resume has taken a hit of sorts with his team's inability to back up a good performance once the semi finals start. If he gets another chance at a top NRL job - winning in Week 1 of the Finals becomes a priority for Stone.
The NRL's Week 1 Scheduling. They bleated on about how it was the CEO's of each team that unanimously voted to force all Sydney Finals to be played at ANZ or the SFS - but then when they got a new record for attendance at the first week of the finals - they let numbers get in the way of common sense. Evidently the 123,391 was impressive as a grand total for the semi finals this weekend but when you take into consideration that 45,631 and 48,943 attended the first two games (at ANZ for Tigers-Dragons and at Suncorp for Broncos-Warriors) those figures certainly inflated/carried the very poor crowds at AAMI (14,845 for Storm-Knights) and at SFS (13,972 for Sea Eagles-Cowboys) for the other two finals.
The quote of the weekend goes to NRL Director of Football Operations Nathan McGuirk who told the Sydney Morning Herald that "Considering we broke the week-one record, I can't see any reason why we'd review it. Last year 92,000 people attended week-one games, including two at suburban venues. This year we broke that after the first two games."
For a start those two opening games featured a game in Brisbane where the home got 50,000 the week before for a club game (so they always draw) and the other game in Sydney - featuring two Sydney teams at a central venue that drew 71,000 for a preliminary final in 2010. In short - that's the kind of 'exceptional circumstances' that draw big crowds. Yet McGuirk tried to tell the SMH that Manly v Cowboys was itself 'exceptional circumstances' and why the crowd was so low at the SFS.
And the two suburban venues in 2010 McGuirk referred to actually attracted - wait for it - 16,668 at Penrith for their clash with Canberra and 15,574 for the Dragons and Manly at Kogarah. Last time the calculator was working - it said that 2010's 'low' Finals drew 32,242 fans - while 2011's 'low' Finals drew 28,817. The only real 'upside' of the 2011 figures was that the Dragons-Tigers game drew 45,631 v 2010's Tigers-Roosters which drew 33,315. No one is arguing that the big games can attract more fans but there is no doubt at all that there has to be some wiggle room here. And that right to wiggle should come down to the clubs NOT the NRL. Because as we've seen this year - once the NRL locks itself into a position it is too stubborn to make a change. Ironically that is exactly what their feeling was towards clubs exhibiting that same stubbornness with Week 1 home semis in the past.
He then turned around and said that another reason they would not change the first week format was because 'You can't just make it one rule for some and one rule for others."
Memo Nathan McGuirk - that's EXACTLY what now exists in the current Finals Format. All non-Sydney teams get a home game at their actual home ground and when you fast forward to Week 3 of the semis - the Knights and Raiders are actually forced to play in Sydney (the Titans are forced to play in Brisbane) should they win the right to host a preliminary final. Yet the Cowboys and Warriors have the luxury of staying at Townsville and Auckland respectively. That sure looks like one rule for some and another for others. Making McGuirk's statement a tad on the __________ (fill in the blank) side.
The NRL does a GREAT job with a lot of the administration of the game - but it can swing and miss with the best of them at times.
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Who were your winners and losers for Week 1? Comment below.
  1. Billy Slater, Storm
    Newcastle kept bombing him and he kept catching it. Sublime pass for Beau Champion's try.
  2. Matthew Duffie, Storm
    Timely pickup for the first try but the work he did in his own end was very good.
  3. Jack Reed, Broncos
    Makes some big plays for the Broncos. Scored one and set up two more tries.
  4. Mark Gasnier, Dragons
    Made Matt Utai look like a winger playing centre... oh. Didn't get enough ball though.
  5. Will Hopoate, Sea Eagles
    Finished off two tries beautifully and could've scored 3 if Jamie Lyon could pass.
  6. Kieran Foran, Sea Eagles
    When the game was there to be won he stepped up. How good was that off-load?
  7. Daly Cherry-Evans, Sea Eagles
    Adjusted his game at halftime and Manly went on to score 42 unanswered points.
  8. Josh McGuire, Broncos
    Making big minutes at prop look easy. Outplaying Ben Hannant by a mile.
  9. Cameron Smith, Storm
    In total control. He executed Craig Bellamy's game plan perfectly.
  10. Bryan Norrie, Storm
    Don't underestimate how much the Storm missed him last week. Rolled forward.
  11. Liam Fulton, Tigers
    Man of the Match Friday Night. Is making the Tigers better on both sides of the ball.
  12. Tony Williams, Sea Eagles
    Player of the Week. Woke up late in the 1st half and was unstoppable thereafter.
  13. Corey Parker, Broncos
    Had his usual monster game statically but his off-loads killed the Warriors.
  14. Alex Glenn, Broncos
    Just misses starting side but it wasn't from a lack of impact. Superb hole runner.
  15. Feleti Mateo, Warriors
    Tried to beat the Broncos by himself... which as it turned out - he had to.
  16. Tim Moltzen, Tigers
    Playing great footy at the moment. His break and pass to set up Ryan's try was terrific.
  17. Robbie Farah, Tigers
    Look no further than Farah's involvement and direction as to why the Tigers fired in the 2nd half.
    Honourable Mentions: Sika Manu, Storm; Kurt Gidley, Knights; Gareth Widdop, Storm; Jason Nightingale, Dragons; Blake Ayshford, Tigers; Gerard Beale, Broncos; Bill Tupou, Warriors; Jacob Lillyman, Warriors; Jamie Lyon, Sea Eagles; Matt Gillett, Broncos.
Who were your winners and losers for Week 1? Comment below.

NRL Finals Week 2 Schedule: Elimination Finals
EF1 Friday September 16 @ SFS 7:45pm. Match and Ticket Information.
21 - 12
EF2 Saturday September 17 @ Suncorp 7:45pm. Match and Ticket Information.
21 - 12
Storm and Sea Eagles are into Week 3. Cowboys and Knights eliminated.
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Listen to the Qualifying Finals Review Podcast with Matt and Warrick.
NOT The Footy Show Episode 83
- Qualifying Finals Review Released September 12, 2011 -

Right Click Save Target As This Link if you don't have iTunes.
NRL Finals Week 1 Review.
The Semi Finals are under-way, so join Matthew Duncan and Warrick Nicolson as they dissect the wins by the Storm, Sea Eagles, Broncos and Tigers in the Qualifying Finals. The Cowboys and Knights are finished for 2011, but the Warriors and Dragons get a second chance - do they deserve one? 
There are audio highlights of all the games plus the best quotes from the press conferences.
Our Elimination Semi Finals Preview Podcast will be out Thursday as we look to NRL Finals Week 2.
1st Qualifying Final: Friday @ ANZ
Tries: Benji Marshall 4min, Beau Ryan 47min, Chris Heighington 66min.
Goals: Benji Marshall 4/5 Attempts. Benji Marshall 1 Field Goal.
Tries: Mitch Rein 17min, Jason Nightingale 23min.
Goals: Jamie Soward 2/4 Attempts.
CROWD: 45,631
What the result means: Tigers will have a home semi in Week 2 against the Warriors, Dragons avoided elimination when the Warriors were beaten and will play the Broncos in Week 2.
2nd Qualifying Final: Saturday @ Suncorp
Tries: Alex Glenn 15min, Jack Reed 28min, Darren Lockyer 35min, Corey Parker 51min, Andrew McCullough 70min, Justin Hodges 73min, Gerard Beale 76min.
Goals: Corey Parker 6/8 Attempts.
Tries: Feleti Mateo 59min, Manu Vatuvei 67min.
Goals: James Maloney 1/2 Attempts.
CROWD: 48,943
What the result means: Broncos will have a home semi in Week 2 against the Dragons, The Warriors will play the Tigers after avoiding elimination.
3rd Qualifying Final: Saturday @ SFS
Tries: Will Hopoate 48min, Brett Stewart 57min, Anthony Watmough 63min, Brett Stewart 70min, Jamie Buhrer 74min, Will Hopoate 76min, Matt Ballin 79min.
Goals: Jamie Lyon 6/6, Michael Robertson 1/1 Attempt.
Tries: Willie Tonga 27min.
Goals: Johnathan Thurston 2/2 Attempts.
CROWD: 13,972.
What the result means: Manly will 'host' a Preliminary Final at the SFS or ANZ in Week 3. Cowboys are eliminated as one of the two lowest seeded losers in Week 1.
4th Qualifying Final: Sunday @ AAMI
Tries: Matthew Duffie 14min, Beau Champion 28min, Sika Manu 36min.
Goals: Cameron Smith 3/4 Attempts.
Tries: Kurt Gidley 64min, Akuila Uate 67min.
Goals: Kurt Gidley 0/2 Attempts.
CROWD: 14,800.
What the result means: Melbourne advance to Week 3 with a home preliminary final, the Knights are eliminated.

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Did you enter NOT The Footy Show's Fantasy League for the Finals?
If you did - you're in the running for one of these t-shirts in the team of your choice.
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NOT The Footy Show Episode 81
- Player of the Year Awards Show Released September 6, 2011 -

Right Click Save Target As This Link if you don't have iTunes.
Benji Marshall wins the 2011 NRL Tweet Player of the Year Award. Join Nic, Russ and Waz to find out who he beat for the top prize and will the Dally M's copy our results 24 hours later (they didn't with Billy Slater taking out the prize)?
Plus we hand out the Rookie of the Year, Representative Player of the Year, Team of the Year, Mr Consistency and NRL Game Breaker Awards.
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