NRL great PAUL GALLEN will appear on Nine’s 100% FOOTY every Monday night of the NRL season, discussing rugby league’s hottest topics alongside Phil Gould and James Bracey. Tune in tonight at 10:20 p.m. (AEST) after an exceptional round nine!
Things have certainly gone pear-shaped in Manly over the past fortnight.
A fantastic win against Melbourne was followed by an ordinary performance against the Tigers and a home loss against the Titans.
Add drama off the pitch and it doesn’t make a good two weeks.
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Apparently there were some punches between Josh Schuster and Dean Matterson in training, with Josh Aloiai having to step in and break it up.
For me, that’s not the problem here.
The number of fights I’ve seen in training could fill three columns. The real problem is the fact that it has gone public. Whether that happened is irrelevant. You have testosterone-fueled athletes, young men in their late teens or twenties, and things like that happen a lot more than you might think.
It’s a professional sport and most of the time you move on and no one outside the club ever knows what happened.
That’s why it’s a problem for Manly. Why this was made public is the biggest problem for the club.
You look at Schuster and you can see how amazingly talented he is, but he just doesn’t look the best.
He turns 22 on Friday, so there’s still time for him to turn things around, but he needs to deal with it quickly and smartly.
It comes down to hard work, and it has to happen now. If you’re 24-25 and haven’t had that work ethic instilled in you, it’s probably too late.
He has to want it, and when you’re making the money he’s supposed to be making, and you haven’t had to do the hard work in the past, it’s really hard to change.
The reality of the NRL these days is that there are so many places available that you can last longer than you should if you’re out of shape, especially if you’re lucky enough to have natural skills. But at some point it will catch up with you.
Only he can make the effort to change. There is plenty of help available, but it comes down to Schuster wanting to get the job done.
Maybe Daly Cherry-Evans’ comments will be the kick he needs. Look at the money he makes, look at the raps he gets. It’s hard to change when you’re making a lot of money and people are talking about how good you are.
We now have Scott Fulton heading to the Wests Tigers as part of their scouting squad.
This has given rise to speculation that the Tigers will try to raid Manly for talent.
I think that’s probably overkill, to be honest. It can happen, but the reality is that it’s up to the players if they want to go for it.
I had opportunities to go elsewhere during my career, but the reality is that I never wanted to leave Cronulla.
I was happy to sign for less with the Sharks than I could have earned elsewhere.
I don’t think this will lead to an exodus of players from Manly to the Wests Tigers, but Fulton’s appointment may make some doors easier to open than others.
If he pursues some of Manly’s players, you’ll be looking past the obvious names like Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic. DCE is 34 and very late in his career Trbojevic will probably never leave Manly and there should be question marks over him anyway as you would need to pay a stack to bring him to the club and his fitness remains a concern.
For me, guys like Haumole Olakau’atu and Reuben Garrick would probably be my top picks, solid players who would really add something to the Tigers week after week.
The reality, however, is that it will come down to individual player preference, and Scott Fulton going to the Tigers will only make a marginal difference.
Thinking back two weeks, after that Melbourne game in the seventh round, I remember telling Shane Flanagan that if Manly could play like this every week, there wouldn’t be too many teams that could beat them. The way they played, their line speed, their attitude, their defense, that was all you need to win a competition.
Melbourne are a tough team and Manly beat them. I think the title race is wide open this year, but Manly would be the favorite if he played like he did against the Storm.
The problem is that since that night, they haven’t done anything. They can obviously do it, but can they do it every week? For the past two weeks, they’ve barely fired a shot. After the win over Melbourne, it looked like the only question against the Tigers would be the margin of victory, but they just crossed the line, and now they’ve lost to the Titans, who aren’t a team I would consider difficult . or a serious team that could go with Manly at his best.
Their defense is clearly a problem. They leak points. Even when they beat Parramatta earlier in the year it was 34-30. They drew 32 with Newcastle, and Penrith put them on 44 in the sixth round.
It was very disappointing and now they face Brisbane and the Sharks the next two weeks, the teams running first and second.
They should view this as an opportunity, not a problem. If they play like they did against Melbourne they will be right in these matches.
These are two weeks that could almost define their season.
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