Almanac Rugby League – NRL Grand Final Day winners

There’s always a lot of hype around Grand Finals. All too often it’s not realised. Yesterday was bit like that but it provided stories of a different kind to make it memorable. All three matches turned out to be comfortable victories instead of the tooth and nail struggles we hoped for and expected. But the domination of the Broncos girls was confirmed, the menace of the young Bulldogs was unleashed and Cooper Cronk rewrote the manual of on-field coach. Here’s how I saw it all unfold.

 

NRLW –  Broncos win in a canter

 

The Brisbane Broncos lived up to their favourites tag by scoring a convincing 34-12 victory over the Sydney Roosters in the inaugural NRLW Grand Final. After their customary slow start, the Broncos girls kicked into gear and were relentless in both attack and defence, taking a commanding and match-winning 28-6 lead into the break. As has been the case in their previous matches, the Brisbane forwards powered through the ruck and created time and space for their skilful and rampaging spine to tear the Roosters apart. Leading the way were Brittany Breayley, Ali Brigginshaw and Chelsea Baker, but the star of the show was understated five-eighth Kimiora Nati who deservedly picked up the Karyn Murphy Medal for best afield. Nati picked and chose her plays to perfection to be the perfect foil for Briggenshaw.

 

The Roosters were their own worst enemies with a series of handling errors and missed tackles that merely invited the Brisbane girls to feast. Their cause wasn’t helped by the loss of star winger Taleena Simon to injury but the damage was done closer in where the Roosters had no answer to the strength and mobility of the Broncos. Key players Zahara Temara, Karina Brown and Tamzin Gray were blanketed by the defence while star centre Isabelle Kelly played on bravely after a leg injury limited her impact. The Roosters put up a better effort in the second half but could only pull back one try before Nati completed her hat-trick of tries with another deceptive step and rush.

 

In the end, the Broncos were just too strong, too skilful and too fast. They were well-served by the entire 1-17 game-day list. There were no passengers or non-contributors, emphasising that they have had by far the strongest squad in the competition. Their bench of Gould, Hancock, Storch and Arakua would be automatic starters in any of the other teams. Arakua’s excellent angled run for her try just before half-time was a fitting reward for her efforts over four games. Throughout this inaugural competition, the Brisbane Broncos have been ‘simply the best’, and by a considerable margin.

 

The NRLW competition, albeit on this year’s small scale, has been a huge success. And therein lies the challenge for the NRL when planning ahead. Clearly there need to be more matches and possibly two extra teams. I think the former comes before the latter as a priority to maintain the quality of the game and entrench its presence on the NRL scene. Another year before the introduction of extra teams will also allow playing ranks to expand and, with that, the number of quality players needed to make up those additional squads. Perhaps next year might see at least two full rounds played on a home and away basis, maybe even three rounds, always played as curtain raisers to NRL matches, not somewhere in the back blocks.

 

Here are four trivia night questions to come out of the game:
1. Who scored the first try in the inaugural NRLW Grand Final? (Answer: Kimiora Nati)
2. Who scored the first try for the Sydney Roosters? (Answer: Tazmin Gray)
3. What was unusual about her try? (Answer: She scored after a ‘falcon’ by her team-mate Taleena Simon rebounded into her hands.)
4. What was unusual about Kimiora Nati’s second try in the Grand Final? (Answer: It was a penalty try.)

 

 

Intrust Super Championship: The Dogs unleashed

 

The annual Intrust Super Championship clash between the Redcliffe Dolphins and the Canterbury Bulldogs was a good contest for about 35 minutes. The unfancied Dolphins conceded an early try but fought back to more than match their southern counterparts for a lengthy period in the first half. It was a significant effort by a team that looked older, smaller and a bit off the pace. But there was always the feeling that the Bulldogs had something extra in reserve, and so it proved. In a two minute period just before the break, Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Cleeland got on the end of a fast play-the-ball and Zac Woolford dash to score next to the posts before scoring again on the next set to have the Sydney-siders in front 16-6 at the break. The scoreline flattered them.

 

The second half, however, was all the Bulldogs as their size, speed and skill overwhelmed a struggling Redcliffe. Poor discipline and handling didn’t help the northerner’s cause. A rare highlight for them was a length-of-the-field runaway try by Kotoni Staggs after a Bulldogs handling mistake. Jamil Hopoate was a standout for the Dolphins while Cameron Cullen,  Sam Anderson and James Taylor acquitted themselves well. It was an effort full of heart but, eventually, they were simply overwhelmed. The huge Dogs forwards made easy metres and paved the way for their slick and skilful backline. Towards the end, retiring veteran Greg Eastwood was given a conversion attempt from wide out on the left and managed to curl it just inside the right post – a fitting farewell for the big bloke. That makes it three wins on the trot in this competition for the NSW Cup champions and, for the third year in a row, revealed a clear gap between the respective State competitions.

 

NRL: Roosters whip up a storm of their own

 

It’s not often you get the feeling that a Grand Final has been won and lost after just 20 minutes of the match, yet that was my clear impression last night. It wasn’t just that the Sydney Roosters were ‘on’ from the opening whistle while the Melbourne Storm were below their best. It was a sense that the Roosters knew it was their night and, by comparison, the Storm felt that there was no way through for them. Consequently, the Chooks played with energy, enthusiasm and complete confidence while the Storm struggled to get out of their half, looked flustered and conceded the psychological battle.

 

The Sydney forwards, playing as a disciplined group, proved yet again that the battle is won up front as they created havoc and made easy yards up the middle consistently. By contrast, the Melbourne forwards were set back by the speed of the Roosters’ defensive line and struggled to get past the advantage line. Consequently, when it came to last tackle plays, the Roosters were invariably deep in attack, placing great pressure on the Storm’s back three. Melbourne all too often found themselves kicking from within their own half, forced to kick long and conceding easy return metres to Tedesco, Tupou and Ferguson. So the platform was always there for the Roosters to attack and sustain pressure.

 

When the ball went to their respective backlines, the Roosters were well placed to unleash their talented attack. Keary played the game of his career (to date), taking on the roles of both half-back and five-eighth. Given the space and time afforded by his pack, he ran the ball, he passed accurately and he kicked to effect. No wonder, then, that Manu, Mitchell, Tupou and Ferguson feasted on good ball in advantageous positions to post three tries by half-time. Mitchell yet again terrorised Will Chambers and has him beaten between the ears as well as in general play. For Melbourne, Smith was well covered and had limited impact. Cameron Munster had what can only be described as an absolute shocker! Brodie Croft tried hard behind a bedraggled set of forwards but was always under great pressure. The ball rarely went wide and made easy pickings the defence. Vunivalu and Addo-Carr were given few opportunities and little space.Tedesco made a lot of metres for the Roosters, most of them on easy kick returns, but also put himself in good positions to back up or send the ball wider. Slater had no such room and was heavily marked. (It did the strongly pro-Roosters crowd no credit that they booed Slater every time he touched the ball. That’s disrespect for one of the greats of the game.)

 

In some respects, it’s surprising that the final margin was only 15 points. On the run of play, it should have been anything up to double that. The Roosters were hot to trot while the Storm were a tired shadow of themselves. Bellamy has a lot to do to keep them competitive next year.

 

And then there was Cooper Cronk. Playing with a broken shoulder, Cronk was the on-field coach, standing behind the line in attack, rarely touching the ball, positioning his team-mates in both attack and defence, and guiding Keary. In defence, he hid out wide and was rarely exposed because the ball didn’t come that way too often. He did help in 9 tackles. But such is his football brain and, even moreso, such is his physical courage that the Roosters chose to take one of the biggest gambles in recent Grand Final history to have him on the pitch as their field marshal. It worked on the night. Now we’ll wait to see at what physical cost to the player.

 

For the winners, Keary was sensational, Cordner was colossal, Mitchell was menacing and Cronk was courageous. All 17 contributed in a true team effort. It’s difficult to choose the best players for Melbourne. They battled hard but were always behind, both on the scoreboard and in the run of play, and were well beaten. With the players they have on their roster, the Roosters can look forward to more success in the coming seasons. The Storm will be hurt badly by the nature of this loss and will require some rebuilding.

 

Later this month, the Kangaroos will play two Tests against New Zealand and Samoa.

 

 

Ian Hauser was thrilled by the debut season of the Brisbane Broncos in the NRLW. He also gets a thrill out of helping debut (and experienced) writers achieve their goals through his editing services. Check him out here.

 

 

About Ian Hauser

A happy, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I appreciate those beautiful moments in sport (and life) that capture the spirit rather than the law of the game. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. I offer a comprehensive editing service for both new and experienced writers. Check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au Queenslander!

Comments

  1. A few fizzers compared to the Saturday spectacular, I agree.

    I was in awe of the Broncos though; Nati simply superb, Arakua off the bench was a revelation – within 8 minutes of coming on she’d rocketed to the most metres gained on the field & crossed for that try too. Impressive.

    The Cronk story was tactical genius in hindsight, one that people will talk about for a long time to come I think. Sad end to Billy’s career & Munster had an absolute mare with the double binning – his kick to the head was a particularly poor look.

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