|Match Date||13th Feb, 2000|
|Venue||Homebush (Stadium Australia)|
We have had promotional campaigns by Tina Turner, Jimmy Barnes and now Tom Jones, so perhaps it’s only fitting that the theme of rock ‘n’ roll has finally reached the field.
This season, the combination of better players at fewer clubs, demanding coaches and a 19-man replacement rule is producing a brand of football where improvisation is the key.
While "the roll", or momentum, has been the main force in the game since the introduction of the 10-metre rule, games are now being won by the player ready to rock.
The reaction player, the one who seizes the opportunity on the other side of the ball, is becoming the dominant force.
Strategy is out. Innovation is in. Suddenly games are all jungle and no blackboard.
Embracing the new philosophy, the Panthers beat the Bulldogs 26-0 yesterday at the Olympic stadium, probing for tries continuously, their last one coming with 30 seconds left when centre Ryan Girdler passed to a speeding replacement, Sid Domic.
But it was 11 minutes into the second half that the new game was showcased when Penrith second-rower Scott Sattler rocked, humped and swivelled his way past a series of tacklers in a 20m run, and then saw a glimpse of a fellow black-clad Panther on his right.
He shot a pass to half Matt Rodwell in a display of athleticism which seems light-years from the era of his father, John, once captain of South Sydney.
Significantly, the Bulldogs, traditionally one of the most structured teams in the league, failed to score a try.
The crowd of 11,214 watched a Penrith team willing to take chances against an easy-to-read Bulldogs squad who seemingly are unable to score unless their mercurial fullback Rod Silva is running wild.
Penrith coach Royce Simmons fielded his "Aeroplane Man", Peter Jorgensen, in the final period, and Jorgensen must have marvelled at the game's speed.
The replacement rule has made for an even more furious pace, and coaches can make a quick judgment on which two players look as if they have not turned up to play, and can replace them for the remainder of the game.
Parramatta fullback Clinton Schifcofske has said: "The coaches really like the two extra reserves. It has made for an even faster game and the fact the competition is more even, each match is flat out." The pressure to win has already reached blast-furnace temperature. Schifcofske added: "We've lost two in a row and we've got [undefeated) Cronulla next week."
Coaches can be expected to pressure the National Rugby League into retaining the additional two replacements, rather than reverting to a 17-man squad when the concession to the heat finishes at the end of this month.
St George Illawarra coach David Waite said after his team's 12-6 victory over the Cowboys on Saturday that the analogy of the modern game to rock 'n' roll certainly applies.
"If you chase through the games that have been played this year, the winner is the one who reacts to opposition errors," Waite said. "In our game against Cronulla, it was a case of the ball hits the deck and bang, it's a try."
Wests Tigers coach Wayne Pearce noted: "Programmed football is a thing of the past. The game-breakers are the ad-lib players — halves who can react to a situation and 90 per cent of the time make the right decision.
"A structure still operates but the enhanced speed of the game means the ad-lib players win it."
Penrith began the game yesterday with a strategy of midfield bombs which worked in the 14th minute when Bulldogs winger Daryl Halligan lost sight of a high kick and Panthers captain Steve Carter swept on the ball and passed it to fullback Rhys Wesser for a try.
Five minutes from half-time, Carter sped down the left flank and, although tackled, regained his feet after playing the ball.
When dummy half Girdler quickly surveyed his options, he elected to pass back infield to the alert Carter who dived for the line. The video referee was not called upon by referee Paul Simpkins to adjudicate, which gave the Panthers a 12-0 lead, but ruled Craig Gower dropped the ball from dummy half in another movement.
How the video referee can be certain in some circumstances merely reinforces the conviction that 2000 is the season of uncertainty. No coach can be sufficiently confident to plan for a win, even against the Cowboys at home, demonstrated by the Dragons' error-ridden performance at WIN Stadium, where they have been undefeated for two years.
Coaches may have to abandon their plans to utilise the Manchester United policy of resting key players in order to ensure they are up at season's end.
The only certainty in 2000 is that you must bring your best to the stadium to win every game day.Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
|Hazem El Masri||Wing||0||0||0||0|
|Corey Hughes||Five Eighth||0||0||0||0|
|Ricky Stuart||Half Back||0||0||0||0|
|Steve Reardon||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Darren Smith||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Troy Stone||Front Row||0||0||0||0|
|Steve Price||Front Row||0||0||0||0|