Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 23: Brisbane v Cronulla – Time is tight

Brisbane 32 Cronulla 10

7:50 pm, Friday 11th August

Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Paul Macadam


Am I asking too much? 


You can point to injuries. You can talk about fatigue; both of the body after twenty rounds of brutal combat, and of the mind after burning so much emotional petrol in pursuit of last year’s glory. The hangover has been tougher to shake than any of us anticipated. Teams good, decent and dreadful raise themselves to knock you off your perch (it’s written in the fine print on the premiership trophy). The loss of Michael Ennis and Ben Barba has only made the incline steeper.


All of these are understandable factors. None of them help the medicine go down. Defeats are becoming more frequent. Five in nine. Heavier, too; Cronulla have now conceded 30 points in four of their past seven games. The last fortnight in particular has been nowhere near acceptable.


On Friday night the highest point scorers in the country continued their maroon-hot form. It happens. Brisbane marked out points on both sides of the Sharks’ defensive line they believed to be fragile, and broke them ruthlessly. One defender back a week too early, the other playing out of his preferred position due to another injury. What can’t be excused is a grim completion rate of 61 per cent. 53 missed tackles. Penalties, as they were in the Canberra loss, being given away for little reason other than frustration stemming from a previous penalty. Periods of stoic resistance soured by slack moments.


Having battled so hard to restrict the deficit to eight, they make the hosts’ job much smoother by kicking out on the full and missing a vital one-on-one. At 22-6, I saw a Sharks player run too far out on our right edge – again, it happens, they’re not robots. Even at full speed, he’s probably not getting back in time to stop Tautau Moga from further haunting Kurt Capewell’s sleep. In this case he doesn’t run. He dawdles. Not intending to pick on him. But that incident illustrated a football team lacking focus.


Saying that Gallen’s men ought to have lifted for their captain’s 300th game would be fair and also only one side of the story. Residents of New South Wales don’t realise just how widely disliked Gallen is right throughout Queensland. The milestone offered almost as much inspiration to the home side. Brisbane halted Cronulla’s pack more comprehensively than anyone else has managed in two years. A forward who, at 35, still frequently clocks 200 metres was restricted to less than half that figure. Our starting props were unable to make 100 between them, let alone separately.


We’ve watched this team make up for low quality with buckets of heart for large blocks of this season. A string of late wins claimed from losing positions (along with a knack of bouncing back from each loss) assured us that this side would truly hit their stride as September drew closer. That simply isn’t happening. Two L’s on the trot have the fanbase feeling anxious. They remain in 4th for the moment, but more by fortune than recent merit. A poor August doesn’t make you a poor side, but it can rule you out of contention for the only prize worth winning.


The reality is that it’s never been more difficult to win back-to-back titles. It’s now a quarter-century since anyone did it in a competition without an asterisk mark. The Sharks must rage against that reality for as long as they can.


It’s whatever; just make it count. 


Three weeks to determine what’s possible in the four to follow. All hands on deck, Cronulla.


Brisbane Broncos 32 (Tautau Moga 2, Matt Gillett, Darius Boyd, Corey Oates tries; Anthony Milford 6/8 goals) defeated Cronulla Sharks 10 (Luke Lewis, Gerard Beale tries; James Maloney 1/2 goals). Crowd: 34 552.


About Paul Macadam

Songwriter under my own name, drummer for Library Siesta. Newly ecstatic Cronulla tragic who also loves Liverpool because life wasn't meant to be easy. Too slow for the wing, too skinny for the second row.


  1. andy frame says

    There’s been glimpses Paul, but just glimpses this season. The early season result against Canberra, the dismantling of the Roosters have shown what we are capable of, but my oh my, has there not been some dross served up between tasty morsels like those.
    Backing up IS hard. Perhaps one of the hardest things to do in sport. I’ve consoled myself at times this year by watching GF 2016 replays and you tube highlights reels.
    It’s very easy to reel off the clichés at times like these.
    ‘Get back to basics’
    ‘Earn the right to go wide’
    ‘That wasn’t us out there’
    The players and Flanno have mentioned phrases like these in past weeks as have a lot of fans.
    Things have to be said for sure. Press conferences and media fulfilments dictate that, but was it Dwane Johnson that said – “Don’t sing it. Bring it.’
    As you say, it’s time.

  2. Spot on Andy (and sorry I’ve taken so long to write back). Yeah, guilty as charged over here too – from the start of Origin til about round 20 I was mostly in a state of just wishing the finals would hurry up. But the destination is in the journey or however that cliche goes.

    I like that quote – we certainly did bring “it” in the first half last Saturday. Even adjusting for the Cowboys’ depleted squad, any side would’ve struggled to cope with what we threw at them. Second half was an anti-climax, particularly as 4th spot really could come down to points differential (although Parramatta’s unexpected win over Brisbane last night makes the equation a bit less ambiguous). Just win tomorrow. Then again on Fathers’ Day. Anything less and we’re probably done for but you never know.

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