Manly are made for blockbusters
Andrew Voss talks Manly, Todd Carney, Manu Vatuvei, Dragons' top-eight hopes and the most inspirational player in the game.
1) Is Manly the best big-match side in the competition?
Yes, and that's despite the fact they lost last year's grand final.
They may not be the best team in the competition but you know in blockbuster matches like last Friday night against the Roosters they are going to 'turn up', regardless of what player personnel they have missing.
Examples of this not being the case are few and far between. I guess that's why we were all so shocked when they had their horror show against Melbourne in the 2012 finals series.
Geoff Toovey has carried on the work of his predecessor Des Hasler in instilling that edge in the team. The likes of Jamie Lyon, Keiran Foran, Steve Matai, Brett Stewart and Matt Ballin, to name just five, are all seasoned competitors who show the way for the lesser names to follow.
Last Friday night's victory at Fortress Brookvale was a wonderful performance.
2) Should Todd Carney face a lifetime ban from the NRL?
My opinion is no. However it is time to end trotting out excuses. That is no help for his future.
For his manager to refer to his client as a "kid" is a joke. Todd is a 28-year-old man.
I could rattle off a long list of similarly aged athletes in world sport, such as world tennis number one Rafael Nadal, that if I was writing sports copy and referred to them as "kids" you would think I was stupid.
Forget the fact there was no intention for Todd in the "bubbling" act to go public. It did, and once it did, what else would you have expected the Sharks to do other than terminate his contract? What could have been discussed at a hearing?
Forget the contract money, Todd's career is now bankrupt. No one can tell him how to live his life if he doesn't want to change. Only Todd can determine that, and might I add, that is the way it should be. Accountability.
But I believe he would have to face a different set of 'rules' to every other player in the future if he wants to play in the NRL again. This is the consequence of his actions.
Accept that fact, or he can't be helped.
Others may not, but I wish him well.
3) Where does Manu Vatuvei stand in the rankings of great wingers?
You can put forward a strong argument he is New Zealand's finest ever.
When the big bloke crossed for the Warriors' second try last Sunday against Penrith he achieved a milestone that shouldn't be dismissed lightly.
He became only the second player in the game's history behind the legendary Ken Irvine to post at least 10 tries in nine consecutive seasons.
His career tally is now 128 tries from 185 games.
Where Brett Stewart is the Baron of Brookvale in the tryscoring stakes, Vatuvei is the Master of Mount Smart with 59 tries from 85 appearances at the ground.
And I reckon there are plenty more to come.
Sure he has a mistake in him, but he lays the platform for so many sets of six with his ferocious charges on plays one or two.
I am a huge fan. He brings plenty to the NRL, and what's more he's a champion bloke.
Great winger? You bet your life he is.
4) Should Dragons fans dare to dream?
And why not? They are in the mix just two points out of the top eight and I believe they will claim victory this weekend against the Cowboys.
What I watched on Monday night against Melbourne was impressive. They oozed energy and confidence that belied their season standing.
Most impressive is interim coach Paul McGregor. Much like Andrew McFadden at the Warriors, 'Mary' is a breath of fresh air.
Coaches don't have to be poker faced all the time, or bland or impassive.
I listened to Paul McGregor being interviewed on Radio 2ue's Sports Today show on Tuesday night. He was very straight-shooting, but at the same time enthusiastic and realistic.
How he addressed the Dragons fans, which is the conduit that a media interview is, would have delivered great hope. And it also made it clear to me why he is getting a positive message through to his players.
It's obvious the Warriors have bought in to what McFadden believes is right for the team, and the signs are bold that it's the same story under the direction of McGregor at the Dragons.
5) Which teams, if any, will drop out of the current top eight in the race to the playoffs?
Hmm. I am thinking we may have already seen the best for 2014 of the Panthers, the Bulldogs, Broncos, Eels, Tigers and the Storm.
I expect the Sea Eagles, the Roosters and the Rabbitohs to all be contenders at the business end of the season.
Where I see the most likely improvement is from the likes of the Warriors, the Cowboys and the Dragons.
This is a great race for the 2014 Telstra Premiership. The competition really doesn't start until August these days. Until then it's just jockeying for positions from where you can launch a challenge.
6) Which player is the most inspirational in the NRL?
I doubt Alex realises just how uplifting his on-camera pieces have been received among the sporting public.
The most recent came last weekend via Knights TV and could be viewed also on the NRL website.
No doubt, he is having some very tough days, but his determination and positive outlook is greater than any of the many fabulous on field performances we have seen this year from the stars of our Game.
In Round 19 we all get the chance to Rise for Alex. For me, it will be to say thankyou.
Alex McKinnon, you are truly a remarkable young man.
Enjoy your footy this weekend folks leading into Origin III.