What are the talking points from Canberra’s first match?
Six Points of Separation:
For the opening quarter of the game against Cronulla, Canberra was the dominant team. The side led 6-0 and, as a unit, looked far sharper than the Sharks. But then the momentum changed.
Now, a game is always going to ebb and flow; one of the two sides will always have periods of more possession, better field position, and the rub of the green. But it never lasts, and things always start to turn around.
Making these passages of play last for as long as possible is a big factor in ultimately winning the match, and a team like the Canberra Raiders needs to understand this. The Green Machine in its current form thrives on self-confidence and momentum; when this group of players is on a roll it can do just about anything.
[quote]Wighton made a mistake—let’s not berate him forever—but seriously, let’s not send him down the red carpet for it either. [/quote]
When the Raiders received a penalty at the twenty-minute mark, the decision to opt for a penalty goal was quite simply the wrong one. A margin of six points is not enough lead to settle for only another two—especially in the modern game when a side with momentum can score multiple tries in a matter of minutes.
The Sharks were on the back-foot, and the decision to attack the line further would have put them under more pressure. The Raiders should have been playing for another try, or at least, repeat sets at Cronulla’s line.
The commentators hit the nail on the head. They said of a side that receives a penalty inside the opponent’s twenty: that you opt for what the other team doesn’t want you to do. Cronulla was begging for the Raiders to take two points and let them get back to the other end of the field. Only a few minutes later the Sharks had scored and the momentum had swung.
It’s unlikely too many people would argue the uselessness of Jack Wighton’s attempt to take Sosaia Feki’s head off—it lost his side possession and allowed the Sharks to take the lead for the first time in the match. It also saw both players take a breather for ten minutes.
Luckily for Wighton, it didn’t cost his side the game. From Canberra’s point-of-view that would have been a real shame, because the fullback was otherwise fantastic. He had scored two tries and, after his stint on the sideline, enacted a try-saving tackle that almost single-handedly kept the Raiders in front.
Without doubt Jack Wighton was the man-of-the-match—in terms of his footballing skill—but that flurry of punches should have cost him the actual award.
However, there he was at the end of the game thanking the sponsor in between quick, just-played-eighty-minutes-and-not-ready-for-an-interview breaths. Given the awkwardness of the interview, it seemed that he was both embarrassed and just as confused as the rest of us with how oxymoronic the accolade was.
The NRL seems genuinely serious about eradicating unnecessary violence—shown by the fact that the guy defending himself from Wighton’s onslaught also went to the sin bin. But it was made to look stupid when the punishment was dealt out and then the instigator awarded with the best-on-field. Perhaps the NRL should control these awards, instead of sponsors and broadcasters
The man-of-the-match should not just be about skill, but also playing the game in the spirit it’s intended. Wighton made a mistake—let’s not berate him forever—but seriously, let’s not send him down the red carpet for it either.
Two points, or not two points: that is the question?
When does a player forgo a chance at man-of-the-match?