WILKO: Manly prove too classy for Bulldogs

One performance doesn’t a season make, yet Manly have leapfrogged the Bulldogs in season prospects, strictly on Friday night’s first-half effort.

Manly were as good as the Dogs were lame.

Maybe the Ben Barba situation has cut a little deeper  than  first thought.

 Even taking into account the  absentees in the forwards, the Dogs were a long way off Manly’s pace.

Full marks to Geoff Toovey. There were doubters when he assumed the role from Des Hasler, yet he has the side whirring away, looking authoritative, defensively sound and like match winners. 

Manly’s kicking game was another extremely positive aspect of a dominant win.

There was league statistician David Middleton on the Footy Showon Thursday, chirping away that four of the last six teams beaten by 50 points or more had won the next week.

 Put that alongside the emotion of the Johnny Mannah Cup and the behind-the-scenes drug investigation at the Sharks, and Parramatta were specials to win on Saturday night.

 Except I still couldn’t tip them, which doesn’t say a great deal about the tipping ability from this quarter. 

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan gave a great insight into the mental abyss his players find themselves in during his post-game presser.

It was telling. Despite a brave win, the Eels are in for a long season.

It remains to be seen just what damage has and will be done to the Sharks over the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority’s investigation, but in Flanagan’s estimation it’s cutting deep already.

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Perth's inglorious elimination

The A-League has received many a deserved bouquet this season and welcomed  an 18per cent increase in crowds and TV viewing figures.

 The three major marquee players have signed up again, which is a terrific endorsement of the competition and their pay packets. 

Alessandro Del Piero, despite his senior years, has been the quintessential marquee in whom performance equals reputation. The standard of play across the board this year has been high and compelling.

Now for the brickbat. In two of the crucial end-of-season matches – the Western Sydney Wanderers’ premiership-sealing last-round match and the first elimination semi-final – the quality and continuity of play have deteriorated because of over-exuberance and over-acting. 

The players are doing the referees no favours with a nipping-at-the-heels, lawnmower approach to defending and going to ground for the slightest touch when  in possession.

 Whether this is due to the pressure of the occasion or a hangover from the expressively physical days of the Australian game is arguable. It’s  just not  pretty. 

That  leads to abysmal  decisions such as that which decided the match on Friday night in favour of Melbourne Victory over the more deserving Perth Glory. The officials are on tenterhooks.

This was a match which was supposed to showcase the A-League. It was a bore-fest of ankle chopping and histrionics – the two teams shared 41 fouls between them.

 The match was choked right up to  the referee’s intervention, which sent it to a fascinating yet undeserving extra time. 

Sure, Shane Smeltz could have settled the issue for Perth in real time  with just a couple of minutes to go – a penalty snatch from one so experienced was a disaster.

 Yet the incident a moment later at the other end was unrelated. 

For the youngster Andrew Nabbout to first handle the ball and then commit to the deck after modest contact and be rewarded with a penalty were two shocking decisions. 

Yes, there was contact – and maybe some history – by Steve Pantelidis, but Nabbout milked it.

 Then Pantelidis was sent off after receiving his second yellow.

Other individuals were favoured by not being yellow-carded despite repeated infringements. 

Pantelidis was  red-carded ultimately for a tackle which occurs ten times in every match. If it was dissent, maybe the referee should have turned a deaf ear.

Given the pattern of the game and that three-pronged arrow for Perth, there was an ironic twist in extra time when the Glory were trailing 1-2. One of their players rose to his feet quickly  after being  minimally fouled, yet no penalty was given.

Forgot the hyperbolic ‘‘that’s the beauty of our game’’ and the great ‘‘uncertainty’’ which adds to the spectacle.   The wrong side won on Friday night. 

Melbourne Victory were completely out-thought and outplayed.

They advance to a final against Central Coast, not due to the rub of the green but some shoddy refereeing. 

But the player pressure on the officials makes it unrewarding all round. It might be incumbent on David Gallop and his crew to tell everyone to lift their games.

Otherwise the developing pot of gold might be devalued.

Perth Glory’s Steve Pantelidis fouls Melbourne’s Andrew Nabbout in Friday’s semi-final. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

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Slipper win a piece of great theatre

If you were lucky enough to be watching TVN’s vibrant racing coverage on Saturday afternoon, you would have caught a classically emotionally moment that live sport can deliver like few other forms of entertainment.

Overreach duly won the Golden Slipper and Gai Waterhouse was her effusive self ... as you would be in registering win number five in the classic, and one delivered to her so easily.

But it was the reaction of young jockey Tommy Berry which was priceless. After embracing his twin brother Nathan, a poignant moment it itself , Tom turned towards the cameras and basically just lost it. He could barely speak, overwhelmed  with tears of joy after delivering a great ride on a fine horse and securing his biggest ever win.

It was a wonderful piece of theatre and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

What a difference watching racing where you can go in with the personalities of the game and it’s not all about feverish coverage of one race to the next servicing punting interests alone without the passion.

It’s also a place where you can see Gai W grit her teeth after an average ride on More Joyous by Nash Rawiller (though the stewards found no fault) who then almost buried Pierro in his nervousness in the George Ryder. 

Those two rides, coupled with Tommy Berry’s reaction, underlined just how much pressure exists with a hoop when riding the big draw cards. Failure is untenable.

Congratulations to Richard Callander, Caroline Searcy, Bruce Clark and the TVN team for lifting racing above the tote dividends. More please.

Tommy Berry receives a congratulatory kiss from Gai Waterhouse. Picture: DALLAS KILPONEN

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Cricket's crisis of confidence

Confidence. Every sports person, every entertainers’ greatest ally.

 If you were looking into the psyche of one Steve Smith, New South Wales all- rounder and borderline Australian player you would say that another Cricket Australia contract might just be the confidence booster he needs after showing some good batting signs in India.

Nope, left off the 20 strong list announced last week.

Moises Henriques might have some bowling issues. Who doesn’t in India apart from the home spinners. Yet his scores of 68 and 81 not out in the First Test in India reeked of class.

A couple of tests later he’s out of the side and can’t get a contract. Yet he would seem the ideal Ashes style player.

Jackson Bird, two tests – eleven wickets. Looks the goods. No contract.

Usman Khawaja... where does he stand? No contract.

Yet managing to secure  Australian contracts are some injury prone bowlers, some all-rounders of modest ability and a couple of players near the end of their careers. Two  Ashes campaigns are on the landscape yet looking at the 20 contracted players, it’s hard to find a solid test eleven and back-up.

Cricket Australia is in more than a transitional zone... there is a crisis. 

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