Five Things: Cleary’s difficult gig, Raiders need a rethink

Like any decent armchair critic, we like to take apart that week that was.

Trawling through the video, analysing the stats – it’s our opportunity to hold the players accountable and pretend we run the game.

Here’s the top five takeaways take from the NRL weekend:

1. Cleary gets another win – at last

Ivan Cleary took on one of the most difficult coaching gigs in the NRL when he replaced Jason Taylor at the Tigers. And true to the fairytale scripts that often get written in the wake of a coaching change, enjoyed a couple of early wins with his new troops.

His last win with the club was six weeks ago – so it was a welcome sight when he watched his side beat a despondent Knights outfit on Sunday.

The win takes Cleary’s Tigers win percentage to 27%. Well below the man he replaced who achieved 39% and well below his record with the Warriors (50%) and the Panthers (47%).

2. Fitness failing teams

A key theme from this, and earlier rounds this season, has been the discrepancy between teams’ fitness levels, and the impact it’s had on results.

Round 17 saw the best and fittest side in the comp, Melbourne, thrash third placed Brisbane on the back of better conditioning – a surprise given Wayne Bennett’s fitness standards and considering the Broncos were third on the ladder.

Likewise in Perth, the Sea-Eagles’ conditioning got them over the line against a woefully unfit Warriors side that simply couldn’t produce any line speed despite controlling the early tempo and piling on early points.

And finally, the round had the Raiders losing out to the Cowboys, who looked fitter in every position.

3. Slap and a tickle

The final match of the round saw the new striking laws being applied to a ludicrous standard. Sam Burgess and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak spent ten minutes in the bin after a couple of open palm slaps that were about as dangerous as a Love Island cuddle.

Calling the game, Braith Anastasia called the decisions soft, a sentiment that was echoed by Twitter:

4. Determining the value of wages

Sometimes it is very hard to value the return a club gets from a player’s salary. Case and point, Many Vatuvei. The Warriors veteran re-signed in 2015 for a reported $800,000 a season.

Since then he’s played just 32 games and scored just eight tries. He was also involved in a late-night party pills drama that led to former coach Andrew McFadden losing his job.

It is often said however, that Vatuvei offers much more to the club than carries and tries – with an important role as a cult club hero and as a role model for Pacific Island players off the field.

He’s coasted his way to his paycheck this time around and the Warriors are not getting anywhere near value for money, but least he’s not getting Steph Curry money. The NBA player inked a deal worth $40 million a season during the week.

5. Raiders’ season over?

The Raiders, for all their talent and the confidence they gained from last season, are done this year.

Playing at nowhere near the heights of last season, it’s time to write them off for this season and instead look at their prospects next year. They’ve added Liam Knight, Michael Oldfield, Erin Clark and Masivesi Dakuwaqa, but really need to do something with a spine that continues to struggle.

The combination between Hodgson, Austin and Sezer and Wighton simply hasn’t worked. Ricky Stuart, who re-signed a two-year extension himself this week, must find a solution, even if it it’s a crazy one like throwing Rapana at fullback and Wighton into the forwards.

For more on this week’s NRL action, check out our report on how the English players in the competition fared. You can also find a full list of results here.

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