Tony Butterfield: Knights must learn from loss to Storm

27/04/2020 Posted by admin

Tony Butterfield: Knights must learn from loss to Storm TweetFacebookTHEscoreline suggested a towelling last week, and at times it was. But, gee, there were moments to savour in the Knights’ clash with Melbourne. Insufficient to get close to the premiers, mind you, but enough to prove, at least, our left edge in attack is top-shelf when it’s on.

The Storm were on fire early, courtesy of sevenstraight penalties, racing away to an 18-point lead and looking like Winx in the Rosehill straight.

It was at this stage I think the touchietipped to the referees they wouldn’t be welcome in the Hunter if they didn’t make an effort to square up a little. Sure enough, the Knights were back in it by half-time.

The second half started with the cunning Billy Slater daring the ref not to sin-bin Lachlan Fitzgibbon. Cleverly cut-throat and ruthless, the Storm pressed their advantage to score and kick clear for a game-winning lead. Effective, despite the sour aftertaste.

But the Knights held firm, except, as my old coach David Waite used to say, for “a couple of minutes of disaster”. To be fair, the early overload in defensive effort took its toll, manifesting in the odd poor read, poor catch and/or suspect tackling technique. And that’s all it takes.

Other than that, all good. Lost competition points maybe, but the performance insights a team can glean from competing with the best can be equal in value in the long run if the right lessons are absorbed.

That said, there can be no better time to get back in the saddle than Saturday afternoon in Tamworth againstearly boltersthe Tigers, who are showing signs of 2005.

A compelling performance in the country music capital will go close to cementing the Tigers’claims to respectability. How will our Knights respond? Should be an excellent game. Knights by four.

* WATCHINGthe rugby sevens teams scrummage at the Comm Games last week, it struck me like a thunderbolt. Scrums, when managed properly, can be a completely safe means of contesting possession.

What was once a test of strength and technique has in rugby league’s modern era become the equivalent ofleaning into a lettuce leaf.

These rugby sevens scrums only use threeforwards –a front row. But they “crouch, bind and set” in such a controlled manner, dictated strictly by the referee, that it could be the glimmer of hope old-timers have been looking for.

So, rather than cast the traditional scrum aside as an anachronistic mess – a charade wetolerate with bemusement –may this be a solution?

A well-constructed culture around scrummaging, using the controlled-engagement protocols of rugby as the blueprint, is the way to go. It might also force forwards back into the scrum where they belong. Break out the scrum machine.

* THEWarriors’ bubble has burst. There’ll be no war cry of “sux from sux” for the cuzzy bros thus season. One can’t fault the Dragons and Tigers as they track nicely toward the halfway mark, while the Panthers appear to have gotten the best of the James Maloney-Matt Moylan off-season swap.

Somehow, the Sharkies are going like busteds with the Panthers enjoying theirbest season start since ’99.

For mine, Maloney isa cross between greats Terry Lamb and Brett Kenny, who mixed speed, rat-cunning, all the skills and all kinds of tough. A team man, Maloney is the modern master up against apprentices. A joy to watch, he would have looked sharp in a Knights jumper.

* GREATto see NRL CEO Todd Greenberg doing the rounds of clubland, talking the game up. As is his job. But this time the ministry of truth is promoting a gospel that is calculated and strategic.

This time, the NRL’s representative is schooling players, administrators and coaching staff about how to get on-board with promoting this great game.

Rather than calling your players “soft”, or criticisingthe administration, he reportedly enthused, why not talk about how well the other chaps played or, how the NRL are doing a fine job in a tough, competitive environment. A “cup half full” kinda vibe.

His objective, as the boss, is to enhance the lustre of the brand while delivering elite sports content now and in the future.

On the one hand, it’s a good plan. A sound initiative that makes sense. Let’s all get our hands in and commit to delivering the best sporting product in the world.

On the other hand, the wider-game has real structural problems, not least the vast non-NRLrugby league world. Or, as an old mate likes to call them, the 99 per centers.

No amount of grandstanding, spouting claims last week of improved grassroots funding, can substitute the reality. When in league heartlands, local club treasurers and committees are on their knees, with dwindling male participation but one foreboding indicator. Astonishing.

These loyal bedrock servants of the amateur game don’t need doublespeak from a ministry of plenty. They need the direct support referred to that hitherto hasn’t made it to where it’s actually required. Funding that, after all, in part originated from those very household budgets.

Perhaps Greenberg believes broadcasters aren’t savvy enough to notice the feeder infrastructure is compromised when next we go to market? Surely not? That would be like buying a new car without any long-term warranty. In rugby league, these 99 per centersare that warranty.

Now I wouldn’t have taken Todd for a game-change denialist given his long association. But his efforts to impress upon NRL stakeholders the need to “good think” the game’s reality is insulting and largely misplaced. He’d get better bang for buck tuning up some of his over-the-top and often-sanctimonious media partners. #Keep it real, Todd.

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