RUGBY LEAGUE - OFF THE BLOCK
Michael Maguire is an outstanding coach, but I reckon even he is learning the hard way rugby league is so specialised these days it's hard to manufacture players into filling certain positions.
No doubt Souths have probably been the biggest disappointment in the opening month of the season.
There might be a number of reasons for that, but I'm still struggling to get my head around coaches who don't use a horses-for-courses ploy when filling key roles. They tend to have preconceived ideas about how some things should run when it might not need fixing in the first place.
You can point to Sam Burgess announcing his defection to rugby, rumours of a rift in the playing group, injuries to Issac Luke and Luke Keary ... whatever you like to explain their failings in the first four rounds.
I tend to put it down to Maguire "experimenting" with a few key positions, in particular John Sutton. I've always been a fan of big ball-running five-eighths and arguably none have been better than Sutton over the past few years.
He was to be shifted to the forwards this year to accommodate Keary and I even saw him spending time at dummy half last week. I think Souths have blunted one of their biggest weapons to fill shortcomings in other areas.
To me, Souths have been a very successful club the last few years without winning a grand final. Maybe Maguire thought for them to take the next step he had to try something.
But they've been only one game away from the big dance the last two years. They had chances in those preliminary finals to win both.
Sometimes you don't need to reinvent the wheel for the sake of it. You often just weaken one position to fill another.
It's like when Manly shifted Jamie Lyon into five-eighth.
The guy is one of the best centres in the game.
If you lose a five-eighth, replace him with a genuine five-eighth. If you lose a back-rower, replace him with a back-rower.
I think with Sutton back in the No 6 Souths might click into gear, starting with the bumper clash against the Dragons on Saturday night.
And Maguire might heed a valuable lesson from it.
Fifita's reaction embarrassing
I've only got one question for Andrew Fifita: how did you think Cronulla fans would react after signing a massive deal with the Bulldogs only a couple of weeks into the new season?
It doesn’t matter what you think about the Bulldogs tearing up Fifita’s $3million-plus four-year deal, I just couldn’t believe some of the comments he made in the press last week.
He may have been caught off guard with the remarks, but surely he expected some type of backlash from Sharks fans after turning his back on the club? It was embarrassing that he didn’t expect it.
If anything, maybe it just reinforces my belief we need a transfer window at the end of the season to avoid ridiculous situations like this cropping up again.
Let fans know someone will be committed to their cause for the rest of the year rather than announcing they’ll be hotfooting it to a rival club next season.
Victims only in tragedy
The Alex McKinnon tragedy is one where I feel desperately sorry for all involved. There are just no winners in this horrible situation.
I couldn’t feel any more sorry for young McKinnon as he and his family come to grips with the life-changing impact of his injury, but I also can’t help feeling sorry for young Jordan McLean.
My biggest concern heading into his hearing at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday night was the tackle wouldn’t be judged on its merits – rather the injury it caused McKinnon. It turns out I was right.
Won’t this kid have to not only live the rest of his life – let alone what remains of his rugby league career – with the mental demons of McKinnon’s injury? Isn’t that punishment enough?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought McLean’s seven-week ban was purely triggered by the severity of McKinnon’s injury. I concede it would have been extremely hard for the judiciary panel to try to block out McKinnon’s plight when determining a penalty.
But I think they’ve missed the mark. There have been so many tackles far more dangerous than the one McLean was accused of instigating on McKinnon. And the punishments for them have been much less severe.