Boyd, Blair and Sandow fail to fire
I know we are only five rounds into the season and some players are still feeling their way with their new clubs, but I thought we’d take a look at some of the off-season buys - who has been good and who’s been struggling.
There werent't that many players who changed clubs for big money but the high profile signings are where we’ll start. I would think the three under the most pressure at the moment would be - Darius Boyd (Newcastle), Adam Blair (Wests Tigers) and Chris Sandow (Parramatta).
These three players cost a combined total of $1.6 million for this season. It is all about value for money spent and at the moment there is a shortfall. The money being mentioned for Adam Blair was, in my opinion, always well above what he should have earned.
I think Blair is worth about $300,000 a season - not the $550,000 figure that was being bandied around.
Don't get me wrong - Blair is a fine player. He was strong at Melbourne and has represented New Zealand with distinction. But he does look a long way short of providing $500k-plus of value and I don’t know if he will. I am sure Wests Tigers hoped for a lot more, given the club cut Andrew Fifita and Bryce Gibbs to accommodate Blair.
Although he has tried to ignite Parramatta, Sandow has also come up short of early season expectations.
He is a class player - very skilled and instinctive. But he too came with a price tag of more than $500,000.
Things just haven't clicked for Sandow and Parramatta and sometimes his decision-making is questionable. The form of the Eels' pack hasn’t helped his situation, but the win over the Sea Eagles just might spark a turnaround.
Moving on to Boyd, who went to Newcastle with Wayne Bennett after a superb few seasons with St George Illawarra.
Has he taken that form up the F3? I'd have to say no. There were a lot of expectations on Boyd and no doubt his game will develop with his new club as the season progresses.
But, at present, the combinations just aren't working with his new teammates.
Kurt Gidley has been in and out of the side through injury so that obviously hasn't helped in terms of their set plays and the service he can provide his wingers. But one area of his game that seems to have dropped away is his kick returns, a part of his game that doesn’t rely on teammates.
Boyd used to tear into opposition sides from a kick-return. He just doesn't seem as dynamic as the player we remember from the Dragons. Stats back it up - no line-breaks, no line-break assists, no try-assists and only five tackle busts in five games.
Right, now that's off my chest, let's move onto the players who have made an impact with their new clubs in 2012.
They are Danny Buderus, Jeremy Latimore, Clint Newton, Issac De Gois, Todd Carney, Jeff Robson and James Graham.
Some cost their current clubs more than others but each has made either a classy or workman-like contribution this year.
Latimore is most underrated but has been great for the Dragons so far this season. De Gois, Robson and Carney have helped inspire Cronulla to three successive wins and set up a huge game against the Dragons this Saturday night at Toyota Stadium.
Robson and Carney have come together beautifully at the Sharks scrum-base. They have been partners over three matches for three wins.
Graham arrived from England under some pressure, given the recent success of fellow Englishmen Sam Burgess and Gareth Ellis. But Graham has more than exceeded those expectations with some clever football mixed with some hard work.
Just like the old days, this Pommy is a real ball-player but isn't afraid to get dirty in defence either. He will only get better under Des Hasler as the season moves forward.
I also want to praise a couple of old-timers. Buderus has been great for the Knights while Newton has been powerful for the Panthers.
Both these players work extremely hard at their games and deserve any credit thrown their way.
Players who shift clubs always play under suffocating pressure from fans of their new team, but I cannot help feel that fans of the Eels, Knights and Tigers would be a little dejected about the input and contribution from Sandow, Boyd and Blair.
THERE is so much to like about the Cronulla Sharks. Three straight wins and The Shire is buzzing again. The club deserves a sell-out for Saturday evening's derby against old rivals Saints.
Everything has fallen into place for Cronulla and I read that coach Shane Flanagan is poised to sign a new two year deal. And deservedly so.
You get the feeling Cronulla is headed in the right direction under Flanagan. Sure, money is always tough at Toyota Stadium but they bought well for this year and everything seems to be clicking.
They are sitting on six competition points but really should be on eight after that unlucky round 1 golden-point loss to Wests Tigers.
Cronulla are the battlers of our competition and everyone loves to see a battler succeed.
Canterbury also deserve a mention. We all thought Hasler would make a huge difference at Belmore in time but many are surprised the Bulldogs have won four of their first five games.
The Dogs took a big gamble signing Hasler and his entire Manly coaching staff. But, as they say, luck favours the brave and the Bulldogs are seeing immediate results under Hasler.
A LOT has been said and written about Wests Tigers so I will throw my two-bob in. They put the effort in for 76 minutes against Souths last Sunday but meekly let it slip away in the final moments.
Good sides don't allow that to happen. Those losses are premiership killers.
And it doesn't get any easier with the Tigers now facing in-form Brisbane at Allianz Stadium this Friday night.
That Souths loss will haunt them. The Tigers will be back - but I think they need a more ruthless edge.
P.S. I copped a bit of flak for tipping heavy underdogs Parramatta to beat Manly last weekend. Thankfully, for my sake, the Eels saluted. And well done to them.