Like the way of the five metre gap in defence, reviewing the points from the NRL you may have missed from round 24.
It’s the issue that can’t be ignored and as a result for the second week running at Five Metre Gap we are looking at a key rugby league story, but this time it’s not about players who don’t know the on-field rules. As the fallout from the release of show cause notices to 2011 Cronulla Sharks players continues to hog the headlines it’s worth noting the much-maligned government agencies involved also (indirectly) serve a wider purpose. The whole scenario and recent reaction has been seen through the prism of two professional sports (and particularly two teams – Cronulla in the NRL and the AFL’s Essendon) and this is missing the point.
The report from the Australian Crime Commission which was released in conjunction with the February 2013 press conference highlighted many key aspects. This included how amateur sport and junior development pathway sport was at risk of increased use of performance enhancing drugs. A study earlier this year by University of Canberra and Griffith University confirmed ‘elite’ junior athletes from the ages of 12 were using PEDs with the sample of 900 survey participants noting 4% used the drugs. (Remember this is how many said they used the drugs – the real figure is probably higher.) This sort of behaviour is often in the hope of securing scholarships to elite private schools. But it doesn’t stop there. Two months before the above report was released, which you can read more about here http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/more-drug-education-needed-to-curb-junior-sports-doping-20140709-zt1f5.html#ixzz3BRtVXMtF, students from St Joseph’s Nudgee College were charged by Queensland police in relation to supply and/or possession of steroids. http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/st-josephs-nudgee-college-rocked-by-steroids-arrests/story-e6freoof-1226634149907.
So how, and why, are the two connected and why was the ACC report about the supply and use of PEDs relevant to all levels of Australian sport? One of the co-authors of the UC/GU study, associate professor in psychology Stephen Moston, noted young athletes believed around a third of adult elite athletes took performance-enhancing drugs. Perception often isn’t reality but elite level sport, whether it likes it or not, sets an example for all levels in their respective activity and when the top flight doesn’t employ sufficient checks and balances those at lower levels may see doping not just as a ‘back door’ way to their sporting dream but the method needed just to get noticed.
Back to the our weekend notes in true FMG style, As the New Zealand Warriors attempt to scramble back into the top eight after losing their last two games coach Andrew McFadden has not been shy to ring the changes. Former Eel Feleti Mateo will turn out in the NSW Cup this weekend having missed seven tackles in his last three matches and generally looking disinterested at times. It would appear the axing has been on the cards given the fact Mateo featured for only 22 minutes on the weekend as the Warriors were routed 46-12 by the Sydney Roosters in Auckland. This was the least amount of time for any of the Warriors bench players.
Another side just out of the top eight, but on the right side of a two-match streak, St George Illawarra may miss out on the finals in 2014 but are well placed for 2015 having upgraded Paul McGregor from interim to confirmed head coach and seeing Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop continue to improves as a halves combination. Given Marshall’s May arrival at the joint-venture club August represents his fourth month at the club. Marry this up with an NRL side’s pre-season, normally a November start, and fans are now starting to get to see now how the duo will go given adequate preparation time for 2015. Marshall has created tries in each of his last two matches, despite the fact those wins have come over limp Canberra and Gold Coast sides, it’s a hugely positive sign for the former Kiwi international. Tough away trips to Brisbane and Newcastle don’t make the finals an easy task coupled with the need for results to go there way but the Dragons are far better placed compared to many other sides currently outside the eight.
Although Johnathan Thurston pulled the strings to lead North Cowboys to a 22-10 victory over South Sydney at ANZ Stadium on Saturday evening the mood should not all be doom and gloom for Rabbitohs fans as Michael Maguire’s side completed 82% of their sets (31/38.) A host of errors by their outside backs cruelled the side but a one-game blimp to a side in the Cowboys who could easily be on a six-game winning streak might not be as concerning as some are making it out to be. Compared to some other sides who have multiple issues across the park Souths only need to tweak a few minor aspects on attack to be a force in the finals.
Finally, in another blow to the ‘day games are better games’ brigade Monday Night Football produced the least errors of round 24 as only 13 were logged in the encounter which saw Melbourne run out winners 24-10 over fourth-placed Penrith. The Storm were comfortable after two tries in four minutes from the 57 minute mark to Ben Roberts followed by Bill Slater, but it was a vastly better contest then some of the other weekend fixtures for the first hour.