The wrestle is back. I hate it.
The footy’s been good so far this year, but the stats suggest wrestling is creeping back. I watch the game for the skill, the ball movement, the offloads. I don’t want to watch WrestleMania III.
It’s become such a huge part of rugby league: if you win that ruck, either slowing the play-the-ball down defensively, or getting a quick play-the-ball in attack, you win the game.
There isn’t an easy solution, but we can start by going back to two referees, although just one of them should have the whistle.
One referee can stand at the ruck, adjudicating on the tackle, calling players to get off the ball-carrier. The other referee, the dominant referee, can make decisions on offside, foul play and so on. They never swap over.
The ruck referee needs to stop the third man coming in.
A big forward rolls forward. The defensive sides need two, usually three players, in contact to stop him. If there’s two defenders in the tackle, and there’s no momentum in the tackle, there is no need for a third man to come in and get his knees.
The argument will be that players like Jason Taumalolo get so many post-contact metres. You know what the answer is? Tackle him around the waist or legs. If it allows him to get an offload away, so be it.
It takes more than one defender to stop big men like Jason Taumalolo.Credit:Getty
Tackles are now well-choreographed dances with “catching” the new buzzword.
The first defender catches the ball-carrier, the second stops his momentum and then finds his arm (or “levers” as they call them), holding him up before the third defender comes in and tackles around the legs, which takes away the foundation of the ball-carrier’s strength, easing him to the ground for a slow play-the-ball.
This is why players are now backing into tackles; that way they can see that third player coming in. The problem is the defender is getting penalised and charged with a crusher tackle, which they simply can’t avoid.
From the time the initial contact has happened, it might be an eight-second play-the-ball. That gives your side plenty of time to set their defensive line.
The really good wrestling teams are impossible to beat at night in the wet and slippery conditions.
It was all very different when I was playing. We just ran at each other.
Andrew Johns predicts Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga to soar against Manly in Thursday Night Footy.Credit:Getty
There’s been a lot written and said about Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga meeting with Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett.
I have no problem with him meeting Bennett – I just thought it was poor form for him to meet with him face-to-face in the middle of the season. Just pick up the phone.
People have said it’s hypocritical of me because I wanted Tigers halfback Luke Brooks to come to the Knights.
For starters, I spoke to Brooks in the off-season before it was even on my radar that I was going to Newcastle as halves coach.
After I decided to join them, I told coach Adam O’Brien and football general manager Danny Buderus he’d be good for us.
Everyone can see Brooks needs a change. I’m not sure about the Knights’ salary cap situation, but I don’t think it’s an option for them now. But there’s a difference between an informal discussion in the off-season and a coach meeting with a player after a match during the season.
At the very least, the transfer system needs fixing. Fans go without to buy memberships and support their club. When they see a player signing for a club a year in advance, it would make their blood boil.
A possible solution could be allowing players to talk to clubs when they have a bye, and then during a transfer window at the end of the year.
This argument about giving players time to move, find new homes and schools, it’s nonsense.
Despite the talk about his future, I can see Ponga having a big game. His knee was nowhere near 100 per cent against the Sharks, but he was also playing behind a team that was not going forward.
Manly will be without Tom Trbojevic for four weeks after he had surgery for a knee injury.Credit:Getty
Manly head into this match without Tom Trbojevic, who is out for a month with a knee injury. In their last 36 matches, Manly’s only had 12 wins when Turbo isn’t there.
They are really one-paced without him. Because the Sea Eagles rarely attack out of dummy half, most of their play comes off Daly Cherry-Evans or Kieran Foran.
Last week, against Canberra, Cherry-Evans put on a kicking masterclass: a 20-40 and a 40-20 give your side a huge advantage, swinging all the momentum. Psychologically, it also provides a big lift for your forwards.
The Knights will have to put enormous pressure on Daly’s kicking game, because he does the most of it.
There are dramas for the Knights in the back row: Lachlan Fitzgibbon (knee), Mitch Barnett (suspension) and Tyson Frizell (hamstring) are all likely out. A young guy called Mat Croker was going to come in, but he broke his jaw in reserve grade.
The Knights players spoke during the off-season about making their home ground a tough place to play again. If you come to Newcastle, you’re going to go home sore.
JOEY’S TIP: Knights by 8.
FIRST TRY-SCORER: Bradman Best.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Kalyn Ponga.
Matches are being turned on their head because of overuse of the sin bin. There’s been 22 sin bins this year, but there’s been one player suspended out of that.
If it’s a professional foul, a deliberate act, that’s 10 minutes in the bin. Any of those minor high shots, where the arm bounces off the ball for instance, should be just five minutes.
It’s too much punishment to be 10 minutes and has too much impact on the outcome of a game.
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