John Davidson takes in all the action from the weekend of Super League, which saw thrillers at Langtree Park and the DW and one special debut.
1. Giant steps
Huddersfield are a team molded in the image of their coach Paul Anderson – tough, gritty, uncompromising. They are side devoid of real stars, apart from Danny Brough, but they continue to surprise and delight. They often grind their opponents down and up until their one-point defeat to St Helens they had lost just one game in their past 10 matches. That’s some record.
They never give up and are a real battling outfit, just like how their coach used to play in his front-row days. The Giants were unlucky to lose against St Helens, a drop goal the difference, and probably deserved a point over the 80 minutes. But with the likes of Brett Ferres and Chris Bailey to come back and with them just five points off first place, they are still looking good come finals time. Huddersfield defend with gusto and their attack is hitting its straps. Whoever they face in the Super 8s is in for a real contest.
Huddersfield hate to lose, just like Anderson does. Props go to the passionate coach who was captured on Sky slamming a Coke bottle into the stands in frustration late in the game, unintentionally showering a few nearby spectators. After Shaun Wane’s flurry of fruity words at Magic Weekend, no Super League coaches are safe, let alone fans.
2. The Kogarah Kid
Going from Wentworthville in the NSW Cup one week to Super League the next is a fair jump, but it didn’t faze Adam Quinlan. St Helens’ latest fullback arrived in the country from Australia on Monday and he had barely enough time to get over his jet lag before suiting up for Saints on Friday. But didn’t the 22-year old New South Welshman put on a show.
While the Blues and his former rival for the St George Illawarra number one jumper Josh Dugan were getting carved up by Queensland on Wednesday, Quinlan was getting to know his new teammates. He didn’t waste time at Langtree Park against Huddersfield, scoring three times in just 40 minutes. The flyer showed great support play and positional nous to follow the ball and execute off some good work of his teammates. They weren’t highlight reel tries, four-pointers that will live long in the memory, but they were the efforts of a smart player who reads the game well and has plenty between the ears. Quinlan couldn’t get a run in the NRL this season with Parramatta but he might just what Saints need.
The fullback position at St Helens has been cursed this season. Lance Hohaia is gone, Paul Wellens and Jonny Lomax have been cruelled by injury, and so have Tommy Makinson and new recruit Shannon McDonnell. Saints seem to be on to a winner with Quinlan, lets hope they wrap him in cotton wool and have some luck over the next four months.
3. Winning Wigan
Thursday’s night match at Wigan was a classic encounter, perhaps one of the most impressive this season. Leeds put in their best Harlem Globetrotters impersonation, offloading at will and playing at high pace, while the Warriors tried to bash them off the park. It was entertaining stuff and a game that had just about everything – big hits, great tries, flowing ball movement, debatable decisions and a controversial ending.
Importantly for the pie eaters it was the result they needed, after being blitzed by Warrington, and keeps them just in the hunt for the League Leader’s Shield. It hasn’t been the best season by the Warriors’ high standards but they have bounced back against a talented Rhinos outfit that threw everything but the kitchen sink at them. With Widnes and Hull FC to come in the next fortnight, Wigan could enter the finals with three wins on the trot, high on confidence and ready to do some damage. With no Challenge Cup semi-final to prepare for, unlike Leeds, Warrington and Saints, that may be an advantage for Shaun Wane’s men to exploit.
4. Catalans reshuffle
Changes are afoot in the south of France. Michael Oldfield and Scott Dureau are going, with Pat Ritchards and Richie Myler signed as their replacements. Ian Henderson is likely to be leaving while Damien Cardace has been released. A number of Dragons are off contract next year with the futures of Ben Pomeroy, Thomas Bosch, Gregory Mounis and mid-season signing Krisnan Inu all uncertain.
So far 2015 has been a disappointing one for Catalans. They remain in the top eight, in seventh place but equal on points with eighth-placed Hull FC, but they have not won away from home since playing Wakefield on April 2. They remain horribly inconsistent and have now lost their past two matches, going down to the Vikings by seven points. Their position in the top eight is not yet confirmed with Hull FC, Hull KR, Widnes and Salford all breathing down their necks. The Dragons have Huddersfield at home, no gimme, and Leeds away in their final two games, so there is no margin for error. Missing out on the top eight would be a disaster.
Todd Carney has hardly played this season, Oldfield and Willie Tonga have been out for long periods and they just haven’t lived up their potential. On paper Catalans should be challenging for the top four but the have continued to flatter to deceive. Maybe a shake-up in Perpignan is what is needed. Coach Laurent Frayssinous could be under threat if the Dragons continue to be Super League’s great yo-yo team. The pressure is on over the next 14 days.
5. Super Sandow
The rumour doing the rounds is that Chris Sandow is Super League-bound, to the Halliwell Jones Stadium more precisely. Whether it be this year, or for the start of the 2016 season, Sandow could be a handy capture for the Wolves. He remains a polarizing figure in the NRL, one much loved and much despised in equal measure. The cheeky halfback is a match-winner on his day, someone who plays the game with great emotion and passion. He is an instinctive player, confident and unafraid to try his hand. But this free spirit has often fallen foul in the more structure, defensive-orientated atmosphere of the NRL.
Brad Arthur at Parramatta doesn’t want him, after four years at the club, and Michael Maguire thought he was too much trouble at Souths and let him leave. Maguire had Adam Reynolds coming through in the number 7 jumper at the Rabbitohs and Reynolds duly led South Sydney to the promised land. Sandow has had his problems with gambling and with his weight, on the field he is prone to the odd mistake. But there is no doubting his talent or his skill-set, which saw him claim the Dally M Rookie of the Year Award in 2008. When he’s on form, the Aboriginal half is an awesome sight.
Taking the shackles off him in the more attack-focused confines of Super League might be a masterstroke. It has done wonders for Albert Kelly at Hull KR and it could do the same with the crafty little scrum-half from Cherbourg. At times Sandow has been likened, in size and ability, to another famous Warrington playmaker in Allan Langer. Like his fellow Queenslander, Sandow is a real character who plays above his smallish stature. Putting Kurt Gidley or Stefan Ratchford alongside him in the halves could be a neat fit and we might see the best of the 26-year old. He has plenty of footy left in him and a stint in Cheshire could do the trick.