Grandstanding: Mid-season review
It’s midway through the 2012 NRL season so the time for the mid-season review is upon us. Most, if not all coaches will spend some time during the bye period to take stock of where they are, what they have done and what they will need to do to be participating in the playoffs.
History will suggest that you will need 28 points to make the playoffs. Simple maths will dictate how many wins you need from the games remaining. For example, the Melbourne Storm needs to win just one of their remaining 12 matches, the North Queensland Cowboys five of their remaining 11 and the Parramatta Eels 10 of their remaining 12 matches to get to 28 competition points.
The mid-season review must be honest and a little brutal if you need to win more than half of your remaining games to play September footy.
WHERE ARE THEY?
At the start of the 2012 NRL season, I would not have predicted that the Cronulla Sharks would be currently in sixth position on 16 competition points. I also did assume that St George Illawarra would make the playoffs in 2012, yet they're currently in 11th place. I’ll take a closer look at how the coaches at the these two clubs will be reviewing the first half of the season, and planning for the second.
WHAT HAVE THEY DONE?
The Sharks commenced the 2012 NRL season as an afterthought for most playoff selections. They have shown themselves to be supremely fit and resilient. Their forward pack is seasoned and powerful. Franchise player Paul Gallen has been consistently first class and the attacking brilliance of new signing Todd Carney (despite reservations) has seen them be the only team to defeat the Melbourne Storm.
St George Illawarra have an established and successful player roster but their methodology of previous seasons, strangling an opposition to score less than 14 points a game, has proved too difficult to maintain. Opposition teams now score on average over 17 points a game, but years of spending energy on defence and not much on attack has dulled the inventiveness and creativity of key players. Their attacking average of less than 15 points a game is the lowest in the NRL.
WHAT THEY NEED TO DO?
Cronulla are on the bubble. They have not been successful in recent years and even though they are sixth, they will be written off. The Sharks need to win five of their remaining 12 matches to make the playoffs. Coach Flanagan will know that seven of their remaining games are at home. Win 5/7. Easy?
Cronulla need Todd Carney to be healthy and positive in his play, Colin Best and Ben Pomeroy solid in delivery and the forwards to be consistently good and they are playoffs beckon.
St George Illawarra Dragons must be honest in their self-appraisal. Currently they are 11th and must win six of their remaining 11 matches to figure in considerations. The Dragons’ away record is abysmal and they cannot score enough points to erode the spirit and mentality of their opposition and cruise to victory in the final 20 minutes of any game.
They need to score some points. Can it be found in the current NRL team formation? Should the coach juggle and shift positions of key players or introduce young, fast point scorers not seen in the NRL? Will Steve Price, in only his 15th game as head coach roll the dice and gamble, or just sit and hope the current team improves its column marked ‘attack’?
Every fan has analysed his teams’ mid-season review. Assume the head coach has done the same.