Game in better shape thanks to Gallop

David Gallop’s resignation from rugby league’s top administration job came as a bit of a shock to everyone. Gallop has had a tough time of it during his 10 years in charge, and while I haven’t always agreed with his every move, I think he leaves the game a lot stronger than when he found it.

If someone had told me 10 years ago that the administration could all but stamp out salary cap infringements and guarantee a more even and competitive competition I would have laughed. But here we are today with a very even competition, with any side capable of winning each weekend and the number and severity of cap breaches declining every year.

Parramatta, currently running last on the competition ladder, proved just how even the competition is on Monday night. Up against a full-strength Cronulla side and facing a hostile home crowd on the brink of tearing down the stadium, the Eels showed there is some fight left in them yet. Todd Carney had the game under control in the first half with his kicking game causing all sorts of headaches. Then he kicked one backwards and failed to find touch with a penalty kick and the game turned in Parramatta’s favour.

Jarryd Hayne took control and the Eels completely dominated the second half. They appeared to be playing a more relaxed style of football and they were really enjoying themselves. The win will give them a lot of confidence and I think we’ll see them have a run of success for the rest of the season – I definitely don’t think they’ll pick up the wooden spoon. It takes a lot of pressure off coach Stephen Kearney who, like many in his profession, feels the heat when it is usually more to do with the performance of his players.

Canberra Raiders coach David Furner is another who looks to have his head on the chopping block due to the underperformance of his players. Last week against the Tigers their defence at times was appalling. Tigers winger Beau Ryan is one of the most improved backs in the competition, but he brushed his way through three or four Raiders defenders like they were six year olds. The coach can’t be blamed for that kind of complete lack of application.

Furner has moved Josh Dugan into the five-eighth role because he needs some spark in the halves. He obviously hasn’t been happy with the performance of the others he has tried there since Terry Campese’s injury. This weekend the Raiders take on the Knights who are also struggling despite having one of the best men to have ever coached. Both sides have some serious talent out injured, so it will be interesting to see which squad turns up with the bigger commitment to win.

Melbourne Storm are facing a big test against Wests Tigers on Friday night without their Origin stars. The Tigers are in great form at the moment and although they’ll be without hooker Robbie Farah, it’s hard to argue that his absence is bigger than the losses of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk.   Last year, in a similar situation, the Storm lifted as a whole to prove they are capable of winning without their “big three”. They beat Sydney Roosters comfortably and I think they’ll be a lot tougher to overcome on Friday than a lot of people expect.

Origin can affect teams differently, but one thing that has been fairly standard across the premiership is the lift in performance that Origin players are bringing back to their clubs. When James Tamou was selected to play for Australia earlier this year I must admit I didn’t know a lot about him. I knew he was a big unit and must be pretty hard to stop, but I hadn’t seen him play much. Since playing his first game for the Kangaroos he has just about been impossible to ignore. In his first game back following his Origin debut he was incredible. It is easy to see why Ricky Stuart was so keen to have him in the Blues side after watching him run down Benji Marshall and then later make a 50-metre break of his own, side-stepping the Tigers fullback. State of Origin just seems to bring out the best in some players.

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