One thing that NRL players and coaches are loving at the moment is that all the media headlines are focused on player transfers, asking prices and contract lengths. Even before this, plenty of talk and attention was on the NRL State of Origin Series. There was little talk of NRL clubs and how they were tracking.

All this news, has taken the heat off struggling clubs, out of form players and NRL teams ladder positions. Sure, the ladder is fairly congested and apart from the top 2 teams – most other teams are within striking distance of the top 8.

Take the Bulldogs for example, they have been hammered by poor form, internal fighting – talk of Folkes and Noad getting boned and finally the mischievous acts of players Sonny Bill Williams, Ben Roberts and Willie Tonga. (Roberts and Sonny Bill finding foul of the law). Usually these kind of headlines would be back page news and would keep getting weeks of press.

The Bulldogs must be counting their blessings, as the amount of media talk centered on contract negotiations around the NRL has allowed them to get off very, very lightly. Sonny Bill Williams who has been caught DUI and now for indecent exposure – would have been sacked, had he been any other player from any other club.

Other clubs that would be happy that headlines have been centered elsewhere, The Roosters, Dragons, Sharks and South Sydney.

The Roosters form has been woeful all year, Chris Anderson must be finding things extremely frustrating and he must be watching his back as knives sharpen. The well backed and proud club doesn’t take lightly to poor results and surely Nick Politis has got RSI by now – you can imagine him calling everyone and anyone on his mobile to give them a serve. The Bondi boys have dodged plenty of media bullets, with Anderson and players escaping public execution.

Over in Dragon town, Nathan Brown is probably amazed that more pressure hasn’t been heaped on him. Every year there are usually loud cries for Browns head. Sure there would be some corners of the NRL calling for his scalp – but the media pages haven’t joined the chorus. With the player retention at St George Illawarra being nothing short of woeful, they have lost bucketloads of talent recently – its amazing Doubst and Brown haven’t regularly been featured on the backpage and hung out to dry.

Just next door in Cronulla, when Ricky Stuart signed with the Sharks it was headline heaven. Ricky Stuart who is always in the news, and has TV cameras panning to him regularly as he swears or throws a headset during every game – it’s media magic. Combine this with the perennial under-achievers the Cronulla Sharks who regularly cop it for never achieving grand final glory and can go from world beaters to cellar dwellers in the space of half a season.

The Sharks form has been average at best in the past few weeks, while their defence has impressed – their attack has been non existent and they were very lucky to escape with a win against the Dragons a little while back too.

The Sharks handling of Josh Hannay was extremely poor. The former Queensland Origin centre relocating from Queensland to NSW for a multi-year deal – only to be told he isn’t even good enough for reserve grade. To Hannay’s credit so far he has copped in on the chin, but a man can only take so much.

The media has again been kind to the Sharks here, with only limited coverage of the Hannay affair and mixed results of late.

Finally, the South Sydney Rabbitohs with all their Hollywood glitz have been the real winners in the media in the last month. Their form downturn has been nothing short of dumb founding. The Rabbitohs were out of the blocks very quickly, winning 4 from their first 6 games. A massive turnaround for the usually struggling club. With Russell Crowe, Peter Holmes A Court and Jason Taylor at the helm – the sky was the limit. Sprinkle in some injuries, maybe a lax attitude after early wins and some tough opponents and the Rabbitohs got into a real hole.

For a team so media hungry earlier in the year, grabbing every headline they could – they pulled off an amazing magic trick and vanished from all media radars. With the help of other breaking stories the Rabbits evaded plenty of heat and kept their heads low at the right time. Even the sacking of Joe Williams and Daniel Irvine – the early season stars, has gone quietly by. What about Peachy? He’s in the team one week, then gone the next? Big changes and all on the quiet.

That’s what makes the Rabbitohs v Sharks clash this weekend so juicy. Of all the games this weekend, this one means the most to both clubs. The Rabbits are hosting this one, and naturally both teams will be desperate. The Rabbits buoyed by the Craig Wing signing, injecting much needed confidence and the Sharks have apparently reworked their attacking strategies in the hope of more creativity – expect to see plenty of second phase play from the Sharks.

If the Rabbits lose they will be 4 points adrift of the top 8 and will be stuck down in the cellar with the likes of the Roosters and Dragons.

Regardless of the result, the loser will be praying for more diverting headlines in the media so the heats well off them. Hey Petero, you might just get some non-genuine calls from clubs hoping to keep you in the spotlight.

By ricky

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