Bulldogs or powderpuffs? That�s the question on the Bulldogs fans� lips after a display against Manly which could be described as nothing short of deplorable.
When the coach of the side needs to publicly apologise to fans and sponsors after a match, there are clearly some issues with the players and team itself.
Canterbury obviously have some attacking issues with the absence of Brent Sherwin (one which was initially forced for some reason), and with Braith Anasta leaving the club at the end of last season. The Bulldogs could regularly count on excellent direction from their half (Sherwin) and five eighth (Anasta); a combination rarely tampered with during their four years together as a halves pairing.
But all of a sudden, one had to leave the club for salary cap reasons and the other has lost confidence, and the Bulldogs look a distant shadow of the side that won the premiership in 2004.
First and foremost, the Bulldogs must pick Brent Sherwin at halfback when he returns from a broken hand in a month. They must then build a side around Sherwin and leave things that way until the end of the season.
The Bulldogs remind me of the German army in World War two � they stack their frontline but once their opponents get up that first hill, they have nothing to worry about and it�s smooth sailing from then on in.
The only chance the Bulldogs have of winning the competition is having Brent Sherwin in the number seven jumper. While Daniel Holdsworth hasn�t been the worst player to play the game, he�s not a halfback that will win them the premiership.
Sherwin, though, has already proven his worth in that respect.
But, that�s just the attacking problem for the Dogs.
Their defence on the weekend was even worse than their ill-directed attack. Although credit should be given where it�s due and while the Bulldogs made Manly look like the Harlem Globetrotters of rugby league, the Sea Eagles showed that they�ll be a tough nut to crack at the business end of the season.
Now, that�s one appalling defensive effort out of the way, on to the next one - the Newcastle Knights.
Just what is it about Newcastle? It�s fair enough that their attack should be limited minus Andrew Johns but why should the same apply to their defence? Is Joey really that superior whilst defending his line?
The more success the Newcastle Knights have this season, the more it will lull them into a false sense of security. Sure, when Joey plays they�re one of the best sides in the competition. And the Newcastle supporters get right behind their side�s title chances once he strings a few outstanding performances together.
Newcastle will definitely be thereabouts this year. If Johns stays on the park they�ll go close to winning the competition.
But this will only delay the dreaded inevitability of where Newcastle will be headed once Andrew Johns retires. The Roosters are still feeling the after-effects of Brad Fittler�s retirement; I get the feeling the Knights could be waiting much longer than two seasons to recover from post-Joey syndrome.
Youngster Jarrod Mullen could be the answer, but the psychological impact Joey�s loss will bring to the club, and city of Newcastle, will be of biblical proportions. It may take them over a decade to completely recover from the nearing Johns retirement.
When the Newcastle club make statements before matches without Andrew Johns that they will be able to cope without him, their supporters must feel like eleven year olds being told that there is a Santa Claus � they want to believe it, but the doubts are ringing in their minds.
I did say the Bulldogs and Newcastle were appalling in defence, as they were. But if the Bulldogs� defence was like irregular Swiss cheese, then the Rabbitohs� defence had about as many holes as bursted bubble wrap. It must be so frustrating for the supporters of such a proud club to have to sit through this week after week. Souths fans � I pity you.
Now to a few other lingering issues this week.
- The Mark Gasnier saga has solved my ongoing problem with insomnia. He really should just make his decision and get on with playing football. While I�d hate to see him convert to rugby, the ongoing publicity that union is generating due to its intention of signing Gasnier is doing more damage to the game of league than if he decided to leave it. I also don�t agree with the Gorden Tallis stance that Gasnier should relinquish his Test position. Just pick the best 17 available and don�t let publicity-seeking egos like Tallis change that stance.
- Has anyone else had enough of the ongoing feud between Tamsyn Stuart and Jana Bennett over the last few years? This reminds me of similar petulance to watching two school kids fighting over who reserved the handball court first at lunchtime. Enough said on this issue, reading what was said in the papers yesterday; both have decreased their faltering credibility yet again.
- Now to an issue which should have generated as much interest as the debts of Christopher Skase � but hasn�t. The Roosters and Dragons should be spewing with the fact that they had to play their traditional Anzac Day game on a Tuesday, and now have to travel interstate to play the following Saturday. The NRL really should have addressed this issue by giving both sides Sunday games the following round in Sydney. How will they handle it next year when Anzac Day falls on a Wednesday?
- Finally, a sombre note to finish RR this week � with the news that the world�s best prop over the last decade � Shane Webcke � has decided to hang up his boots at the conclusion of the 2006 NRL season. He was not only the world�s best prop during that time but has also been one of the true gentlemen of the game throughout that period. If you�re heading to the pub this weekend to watch the footy, have a beer for Shane Webcke � a true legend of the game who will be sorely missed.
That�s all for this week�s rant. My game of the round this weekend is the Melbourne v St George Illawarra clash at Olympic Park on Saturday night - it should be a cracker. I just hope the Dragons have enough energy to get off the plane, let alone play the game!
Until next week, enjoy your footy.