Channel 9 commentator and newspaper columnist Phil Gould; recently commented on the poor attacking record the Sharks have and rightly so, the Cronulla side are statistically the worst in NRL history.
Gus is entitled to his opinion and as a successful coach at all levels, he knows his stuff. But Gould went further, Gus claiming that Ricky Stuart needs to ‘ask for help’ sooner, rather than later or risk the Sharks being consistently blown into oblivion.
But it seems Stuart has taken the bait, hook line and sinker. With Stuart firing back today, saying that he would happily have Gus down at Sharks training to assist – but he was confident that he wouldn’t show up.
Gus is pretty much right in what he said, the Sharks are in trouble with their attack – but saying Ricky needs help might be a little off the mark. Stuart is doing battle each week with a spare parts squad of players.
It’s been widely noted the problems the Sharks have with injury and suspension. Their skipper Paul Gallen needs to be told once and for all, pull his head in and cut out the suspensions – because no matter how good he is as a player, they cannot afford to pay him and have him watching from the sidelines each week.
The other major factor for the Sharks has been shocking recruitment and retention. Ricky Stuart never really saw Brett Kimmorley for what he was, sure they got on well enough because they had to – but Kimmorley could have been so much more for the Sharks.
Playing behind a beaten forward pack most weeks, Kimmorley could rarely weave his magic and Stuarts tight game plans didn’t let the playmaker have much freedom on the field.
So the Sharks flick Kimmorley and pickup Trent Barrett. Not a bad replacement, Barrett is a good player and is unstoppable when confidence is high.
The purchase of Anthony Toupu was a good one, but they probably paid ‘overs’ to get him there and ultimately they have needed a front line prop to line their stocks. Ben Ross was massively overpaid from Day 1 and has been either injured or suspended most of the time.
So working from a poor base of players has always been Ricky Stuarts battle. The Greg Bird saga made things even worse, yet another thing the coach and club had to deal with.
The best method of attack for Stuart was defence. If you have a team of average players, do your best to make them fitter; ie – create atheletes and then teach them to defend well as a unit.
Do the basics right, simple one out runs from dummy half in attack, don’t give away penalties, kick for the sideline on the last – you get these basic things happening and if you can defend well – you’re a chance to win most games.
This is exactly what Stuart did. And he did it well.
You see, it’s hard for Stuart to gamble on risky attacking plays without quality gamebreakers. Stuart has a winger in Covell that while safe in defence, runs slower than most forwards in attack.
You’ve got young guys in the forwards trying to lay a platform against the best in the business each week.
You’ve got injuries galore and a skipper that is either verbally hammering the referee or being suspended for illegal play.
You can’t make diamonds from stones; it will never happen.
So Ricky Stuart has done enormously well with the cattle he has, however – Sticky needs to keep his mind strictly on the job. Forget all the talk in the press, don’t take the bait from Gus – just keep grinding away.
Heck, the Stuart grind got his side all the way to equal first in the regular season last year. He is the man to lead this club out of the ashes.