Momentum only thing that matters in NRL
“I don’t know .... the cue goes on the rack sometimes at this club.”
With that comment last night, Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens reflected the frustration of a coach whose momentum has been deftly pick-pocketed at a crucial stage of the season.
He’s not the only one. As the premiership prepares to emerge from the shadows of Origin, front-runners Melbourne have lost two of their last three games, the Warriors and South Sydney are finding consistency elusive, St George Illawarra are just hanging on and the Sydney Roosters and Penrith have fallen into deep, dark holes.
If there is a time to panic, it’s now – when the early season also rans like Gold Coast and Newcastle finally find their missing mojo (are Parramatta about to join them?) and ruin the dreams of those sitting way, way above them.
“It’s a critical time of year for us,” Sheens lamented after his side’s 38-20 defeat to the Knights in Monday Night Football.
“You’re going into your final run, you need momentum, you need to be staying with sides, you need to win every second game – minimum, really, when you look at the table.
“It’s a big game against Canterbury on the Friday night coming up. It’s not going to get any easier.
“I thought with 14-0, we were playing good footy, we were completing, we threw plenty of good stuff at ‘em. I don’t know whether just that ... the cue goes on the rack sometimes at this club.
“But certainly I’m not happy with ... defensively some of the guys just didn’t aim up. I can’t keep copping that.”
In this interview, aired on MMM, Sheens’ clear indication was that he would like to wield the axe.
But he added: “We’re struggling with injury in the club, with (Gareth) Ellis out and a few others. There’s not much else we can do. The state cup got beaten by Newcastle, the Under 20s won on the bell.
“We’re just going to have to do the best we can to make sure we arrest the problem against the Bulldogs.”
The Bulldogs, of course, are enjoying the opposite trajectory. They’re on a five-match winning streak and have even put the heat on Melbourne for the minor premiership.
The Belmore side’s new-found maturity is personified by fullback Ben Barba, who set up a 110-metre try in his return to his home town of Mackay on Sunday.
“Benny’s been great,” said five-eighth Josh Reynolds, whose kicks created two more tries at Virgin Australia Stadium.
“You can see how confident he is. Last year everyone was saying ‘the high ball, the high ball’. I don’t think he’s dropped one all year.
“Cooper Cronk, putting up those bombs, he took all of them with confidence.”
In a competition where talent is evenly matched, momentum isn’t everything – it’s the only thing.
Wests Tigers have the chance to arrest their slide on Friday week against Canterbury, following a bye.
This weekend, Parramatta hosts Newcastle. And yes, believe it or not, they’re both coming off a win.