Monday Smelling Salts Round 19

When push comes to shove, is it worth it?

Is taking your opposition pack by surprise and pushing them off the mark really worth it? Raiders fans – and indeed the players in lime green jerseys – will be asking themselves that question after the ploy backfired miserably in their crucial clash with the Storm in the Melbourne patch. Just last week we saw the Warriors punish the Eels when a huge push saw the home team trample the Parramatta pack, win the ball against the feed and add points to their tally when fullback Sam Tomkins crossed for a try. And the junior Warriors were at it again on Saturday night against the Broncos, pushing in a scrum against the feed, winning the ball and notching a four-pointer two tackles later. But against the Storm in Melbourne on Saturday the Raiders bungled it big time. Trailing 20-10 with still almost 20 minutes of the clash remaining, the Green Machine pack put on the shove inside the Storm side of halfway. But Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk, possibly wary and no doubt on his toes, ensured a quick scrum service and shifted the ball down the short side. With all the Raiders defenders in the pack still marching forward the Storm moved it wide, with Sisa Waqa capitalising on the lack of opposition personnel to score in the right corner and hammer the final nail into the Raiders' coffin for the game and their 2014 season. It was a stark reminder for the teams who will be playing at the pointy end of the season: push at your possible peril.
Nigel Wall

Fast-start lottery under scrutiny

"Just because you kick a 40/20 doesn't mean you should score a try. I don't think that's the footy that we want." With that statement hopefully Roosters coach Trent Robinson can play a role in reversing the change that was made to the 40/20 rule at the start of the season. Robinson is a member of the NRL rules committee and the decision to award the attacking team a quick tap from a 40/20 rather than a scrum is leading to farcical situations, none more so than early in the Roosters' win over Penrith on Saturday. Prior to Round 19 there had been 19 successful 40/20s kicked over the course of the season but the two at Allianz Stadium highlighted why the change needs to be reviewed as a matter of urgency. In the opening five minutes referee Ashley Klein correctly sent Panthers forward Elijah Taylor to the sin bin for a professional foul following Jake Friend's successful 40/20 kick, but the whistle-blowers should not be put in that position. Later in the match Panthers halfback Jamie Soward was denied the opportunity to take a quick tap after his 40/20, with Panthers coach Ivan Cleary later joking that his son's ball boy position was under review for not getting the ball in faster. Unpredictability in a modern world of structure and set plays is one thing but turning try-scoring opportunities into lotteries is something the game needs to guard against.
Tony Webeck

Hotel strategy proves Carty still has aces up his sleeve

With a "Sack Carty" campaign building steam in certain sections of the Titans' supporters base and a widespread review hanging over him and the club, Gold Coast coach John Cartwright should be feeling the pinch – but if his approach to two of the Titans' recent games is anything to go by then perhaps this might not be the case. Using a strategy that Phil Gould employed with the Panthers after the 1989 Newcastle Earthquakes when he as a player took on the Knights, Cartwright kept his Titans troops at their team hotel and away from the hype and emotion surrounding the RiseForAlex Round at Hunter Stadium on Sunday, instead arriving only an hour before kick-off. The intuitive move from Cartwright certainly worked for the Titans considering they outplayed their more fancied opponents with an unscripted 22-8 win to send a close-to-capacity Newcastle crowd packing. With two wins from their past three games the Titans now only sit two points out of the top eight and despite Cartwright taking the club to only two finals series in seven years, such strategies utilised in recent weeks proves that he hasn't lost touch with the rollercoaster ride that comes with coaching in the NRL.
Jack Brady 

Panthers' two steps forward, one step back

Stand-in skipper Jamie Soward rightly jumped to the defence of Penrith’s lofty position near the top of the ladder last week, but just because you’re there doesn’t mean you’re a premiership contender. While it’s true that you can only play what’s in front of you, the rising Panthers are still yet to prove themselves against perennial heavyweights Manly, Melbourne or the Roosters. There’s a reason why they call the next six weeks the business end of the season, and the Roosters side showed Penrith how it’s done, with or without a couple of stars. Soward’s Panthers need to flex their muscles against Cronulla this Saturday, before another big test against the Bulldogs the following week. It's been a marvelous season of rejuvenation to date. However, Panthers fans will be hoping it's not a false dawn rising over the Blue Mountains and that their support can help keep the team if not in the top two, then certainly top four. There's a lot to be achieved before that comes to fruition.
Matt Encarnacion