Recent NRL player polling has found that the South Sydney Rabbitohs have the weakest forward pack, an overrated coach and are almost certain to win the NRL wooden spoon in 2008. Not only did the Bunnies cop a spray in all these departments, but they were also the NRL club that players were least likely to sign with in the future.
On top of these crushing comments, adding to the woes of Souths – many players believe facing them at ANZ Stadium is also a simple task – the large yet bare stadium rarely having any atmosphere and not giving the home side any form of advantage against traveling sides.
These are just a few of the revelations from The Sun-Herald‘s poll of 100 players.
Despite the high involvement of big names Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court, the Bunnies were the club players least wanted to play for.
And, after a winless start to the season, the Rabbitohs’ forward pack – which includes Kiwi internationals Roy Asotasi, David Kidwell and David Fa’alogo – was rated the game’s softest.
Under-pressure coach Jason Taylor didn’t escape unscathed, either. Just a year after guiding the Rabbitohs to the semi-finals for the first time in almost two decades, the former halfback was rated the coach for whom most players didn’t want to play – relieving Knights mentor Brian Smith of the unwanted title by a single vote.
To make matters worse, 87 players tipped the Rabbitohs to take the wooden spoon.
The extensive poll of up-and-comers, veterans, Origin and Test stars across all 16 NRL clubs also revealed that Cronulla captain Paul Gallen has surpassed St George Illawarra’s Simon Woolford as the game’s most annoying niggler. The players took a dim view of Gallen’s controversial “facial” of Titans forward Anthony Laffranchi, although he placed equal fourth behind Carl Webb, Dallas Johnson and Petero Civoniceva as the NRL’s toughest player.
Despite the scintillating early season form of Scott Prince and Billy Slater, Australian halfback Johnathan Thurston is still considered the NRL’s pre-eminent player. However, Thurston’s on-field histrionics haven’t endeared him to his opponents, who have labelled him the biggest whinger in the game.
Predictably, Melbourne were labelled the masters of the grapple tackle and other wrestling moves, but are still the team to beat. However, the Gold Coast have emerged as the dark horse for the title.
The use of the video referee to adjudicate strips has earned the ire of players. Seventy per cent believe using the video official slows the momentum of the game – and more often than not, he still comes up with either a wrong or 50-50 decision. Tony Archer is considered the best referee, while Shayne Hayne was voted the game’s worst whistleblower.
Most believe the coaching merry-go-round has been a distraction but respect the right of coaches to sign new contracts mid-season.
And, although the “chicken wing”, “prowler”, “crippler” and other variations on the grapple tackle dominated headlines early in the season – with Melbourne considered the main culprits – the players voted against banning wrestling coaches altogether.
The risk of losing players to the English Super League remains ever-present, with 84 per cent saying they would consider the move at some stage in their career. The figure is a significant increase on last year’s result (72 per cent).
Home advantage lost – we don’t like playing at Homebush, say players
BULLDOGS superstar Sonny Bill Williams wants his club to abandon their new-found home at ANZ Stadium and return to Belmore.
And he has the backing of the majority of NRL players, who voted overwhelmingly against clubs taking their home games to Homebush.
“I don’t think it’s a good atmosphere,” Williams said. “Myself, personally, I’d love to be back at Belmore and make that our home ground.”
The comments are sure to rankle management at the Bulldogs, who relocated from Belmore Sports Ground in the club’s heartland this year.
The Doggies have played all their home games at Homebush for the past three years but Williams was adamant it has forfeited their home advantage.
“If you go to Brookvale or you go down to Melbourne, they have that. Out at Homebush, the simple fact is we don’t.
“Unless there are 40,000 people there – which doesn’t happen every week – the atmosphere is not that good.”
Other players polled by The Sun-Herald echoed Williams’s sentiments.
“My own club plays there and it’s like being on the moon,” said one of the respondents.
“It’s our own home games but it never feels like it.”
Another senior player added: “No team should ever play there. The fans don’t like it and neither do the players.
“The players enjoy going to the traditional grounds like Leichhardt or Campbelltown.”
Another player nominated Homebush as the hardest ground to win at, even though it is officially his club’s home ground.
Of the 100 players polled, only 12 backed the trend for clubs to shift home games to ANZ Stadium. However, the increasing financial pressure on NRL clubs, due mainly to the increased poker machine taxes on league clubs, is likely to force more of them to make the controversial move.