NRL Around the Grounds 2009It’s been a busy few days in the NRL, with cellar dwellers the Cronulla Sharks and Parramatta Eels killing much fancied opponents in the Warriors and Knights to record valuable wins during the mid-season.

The movement on the NRL Ladder sees the Wests Tigers slide further into the hole and the Roosters parked at the bottom of the table, with no signs of the pressure easing on Freddy’s men. They toiled harder against Manly this weekend, but it wasn’t enough to get any of the monkeys off their backs.

Off the field there has been plenty happening too, with the smear campaign aimed at Cronulla boss Tony Zappia finally having success and forcing the upcoming administrator out of the club. There has most certainly been someone behind the scenes in the Rugby League world gunning for Zappia and the Sharks, this push got media legs then died off – but someone kept pushing and finally Zappia was shot down.

Other off-field news has centered around the swine flu outbreak, Queensland State of Origin prop Ben Hannant testing positive to the flu with other players under quarantine orders. Some doomsayers even suggested the NRL Monday Night Footy match between the Titans and Dragons could be called off tonight for fear of a greater outbreak.

Former Dragons and Raiders utility David Howell gave an interesting insight into players attitudes towards the NRL and UK Super League, with Howell saying the continual push from younger players coming through forces the existing squad to remain ‘risk-free’ in terms of their playing style otherwise they may lose their first grade spots. Howell, only 25, suggested playing the UK Super League allows him to hone his game and play a much more expansive style. The talented outside back also hinted at a return to the NRL ranks in the next few years with the ultimate goal of achieving rep jerseys.

Workhorse backrower Nathan Hindmarsh has been under pressure in recent seasons for being unable to bust the line in attack like he did so effortlessly in his prime, however he received praise not only from new Eels coach Daniel Anderson but also his former mentor Brian Smith who both agree that Hindmarsh remains the best defender in the league, with his ‘sweeper’ role proving valuable to the Eels when the chips are down.

Over at the Sharks the push for new respectable faces continues with the Cronulla-Shires’ former favourite son ANDREW Ettingshausen getting a gig as a coach for the outside backs. There is no questioning the ability of ET as a player, but it remains to be seen his ability to add-value from a coaching perspective. This move is more likely about improving the public relations of the club and producing a whole new image.

Former Sharks power-broker Peter Gow has also bounced back onto the scene to help try and save the embattled NRL club.

The fascination of the public with NRL players private lives has continued after Brisbane Broncos and former Penrith Panthers forward Joel Clinton was stood down for simply inviting a female friend back to his hotel room. As the situation becomes almost laughable, it seems players won’t be allowed to talk to females in the future it is getting so ridiculous. Come on, let these poor players have a personal life. The Broncos have threatened to use the situation to rip-up Clintons contract, obviously keen to take the chance to cut through the expensive $275,000 a year they pay the front rower.

By ricky

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