NRL Round 5: Brisbane vs St George Illawarra

Thank god for Andrew Voss. That’s not a statement I ever thought I would find myself typing, but after a month of ruined Friday nights courtesy of Ray Hadley’s execrable commentary, hearing the dulcet tones of Vossy, everyone’s 17th favourite sports caller, came as a welcome relief. If, as has been suggested, Hadley is viewed as the long-term successor to Ray Warren, I will be starting up a Kickstarter fund for Channel Ten’s TV rights bid. Donations welcome. I’ll be putting in double if Darren Lockyer is also seen as a part of the future of Channel Nine’s coverage. Wonderful player, great voice for print journalism.

To the game itself, and the dawn of a new era. Buried under the Cooper Cronk non-event and the Robbie Farah/ Matthew Johns beef this week was the observation that this was to be the first Broncos vs. Dragons clash not involving Wayne Bennett. A remarkable fact given the rich rivalry which has developed between the two teams in the last quarter century. From “St George can’t play” to the Gorden Tallis saga to the Broncos knocking the Dragons out of the semi-finals in two of Bennett’s three years at the helm of the latter, this was truly a fitting match-up for the NRL’s heritage round.

It seems the Dragons’ Michael Weyman also had an eye on history tonight, his dropped ball and needless penalty in the opening ten minutes suggesting he was applying for the “dumb front rower” position left vacant since Jason Ryles mercifully departed the club. He made up for it a couple of minutes later however by flattening Matt Gillett in a brutal hit up. There’s much of the old school in Weyman, and that was an old school pole-axing. Brilliant stuff.

As it turns out, that proved the highlight of the first half for St George fans. They were completely inept, and clearly not up for the challenge presented by the impressive Brisbane tonight. If Melbourne’s ominous form in the first month of the competition suggests the 2012 premiership is theirs to lose, the time will surely come before long for the young Broncos, who inarguably possess the best emerging talent in the competition. Not that they had to do much tonight- the Dragons were downright neighbourly in opening the gates for the Broncos to run in four soft first half tries, and when in possession coughed up more balls than a trainee hooker.

Come the second half, Dragons coach Steve Price made the wise decision to replace the comedy troupe he sent out in the first half with a functioning NRL team. It was a masterstroke which paid dividends ten minutes in, with Jason Nightingale acrobatically crossing the line following some brilliant Jamie Soward play. The Dragons five-eighth is always a threat when he takes on the line, and after going into his shell for much of last season Soward appears to have regained his mojo.

Five minutes later the Dragons score again, Ben Hornby’s perfectly executed pass allowing Kyle Stanley to slot through unopposed. In the lead up was a brilliant run from Trent Merrin, who is surely bound for a Blue jersey based on what we’ve seen this year.

There will be a few of these Broncos being fitted up in Maroon however. At the top of this list is Gillett, who was everywhere tonight. After a spirited fightback from the Dragons, who were superb in the second half, Gillett’s try effectively ended the match as a contest in the 70th minute. Dragons fans can take solace in the fact that it was the Kogarah-bound Gerard Beale who conjured the try from out of nothing, chipping twice for the big lock forward to score in the corner.

And so an absorbing match ended with a 28-20 victory to the home team. On this evidence they will be thereabouts come September. The second half performance from the Dragons however suggests that- as their opponents have done- they are ready to step out from the shadow of the man who, for the first time in forty two matches between these two great clubs, was not in attendance. Time marches on, and so a new chapter began tonight.

Comments

  1. Agree re. the dragons in the second half. It was always going to be a tough ask to come back from 24 points down, but they gave it a good shake

  2. Gil Crespy says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Michael. Hadley is simply the worst. I actually switched off a game a few weeks back because I could not bear his blokey, bombastic, bullying style. Cannot believe that he is seen as a successor to Rabbits. Voss, I think, is terrific.

  3. Michael Adams says:

    It’s funny Gil, I never really rated him that highly until this year, where his absence is notable. I guess it’s a “you don’t miss your water ’til your well runs dry” type situation.
    I would love nothing more than to see 9 lose the rights in the next TV deal, with Voss at the helm of a fresh new commentary team. 9 has treated him disgracefully in shunting him off to the Queensland Cup this year, so I’m sure he’d love the chance to stick it to them.

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