Hits and Misses: No pot of gold at the end of Manly's rainbow

This week we take a look at the incredible finals preview between the Roosters and Storm, wonder whether Selwyn Cobbo's absence really hurt the Broncos' chances and look at where it obviously all went wrong for the Sea Eagles.

Read on as we take a look back at some of the biggest hits and misses of the weekend.


No pot of gold at the end of Manly's rainbow

Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint the moment a season goes awry. Sometimes, as is the case with the Sea Eagles this year, the moment is much more obvious. Heading into Round 20, Manly sat in ninth position on the ladder, just out of the Top 8 on for-and-against. They faced the Roosters, who were in eighth position, in a game at Brookvale, which could have been a pivotal moment in their season. In the lead up, the proverbial hit the fan.

The club decided, without consulting the players, that the Women in League Round would be a good time to trot out an inclusiveness jersey. The design was simple enough, rainbow coloured stripes instead of the usual white ones on the maroon jersey. The implications for seven players were not so simple; they refused to wear a jersey which they said supported a "lifestyle" which ran contrary to their religious beliefs.

The club supported their stance, which in itself made a mockery of the whole concept of inclusiveness, and the Sea Eagles ran onto 4 Pines Park without seven of their best players. They understandably lost that game, but more tellingly have not won one since, even with the seven players back in jerseys they didn't find so offensive.

I often write of the need for every player in an NRL team to be willing to give his all for the player next to him. At the highest level, utmost trust in each other and commitment to the same cause is vital to stopping an opposition. Any doubt, any dent in the camaraderie, any questions over whether the player next to you has the same commitment and you have next to no chance.

On the surface the players who ran onto 4 Pines Park wearing the inclusiveness jersey supported their teammates' right not to. Deep down, they must have had their doubts and their season was doomed from that point.

Care for Cobbo doesn't help Broncos' cause

Today's society is much more aware of the need to look out for the mental well-being of even the hardiest of humans. First grade footballers, as tough as they might appear on the exterior, are not immune to mental fatigue and the perils of the stress and pressure they are subjected to every week.

Still, it's hard to imagine a worse time for Broncos star Selwyn Cobbo to tell coach Kevin Walters that he wasn't feeling up to playing in the crucial clash with the Eels on Thursday night. Walters, to his credit, was very supportive of Cobbo. Perhaps there was little else he could be, without being pilloried for being out of touch or negligent in his duties as a coach.

"He is a young fella who has had a big season here at the Broncos and with Origin. He is just a bit tired," Walters said.

"It just shows how honest Selwyn is with himself and the club. It is a big call, but those calls have got to be made."

It is hard to argue that Cobbo, even at his very best, would have made a difference to the result against a fired-up Parramatta. Still, it must have been a real kick in the guts to a team that has been suffering some morale issues of late. There would not have been a single player that laced up his boots for the Broncos on Thursday night who wouldn't have been feeling the stress and pressure of trying to save what had been a very promising season.

The Broncos are now all but certain to miss the Top 8, Cobbo and his teammates will have one more game before they can let their hair down and relax for the summer. While Walters is left to explain what happened.


Thriller in Melbourne delivers in spades

A lot was expected from Friday night's clash between the Storm and Roosters, and it delivered. With the Roosters not yet guaranteed a spot in the finals and the Storm battling to remain in the Top 4, there was a lot at stake in Melbourne and the game was played out with all the intensity of a grand final.

The defence of both teams was unbelievable. Most tackles looked less about stopping the ball carrier and more about tearing him into tiny little pieces. Roosters fullback James Tedesco made some incredible goal line tackles, but it was a solo effort by Storm halfback Jahrome Hughes that left jaws ajar. Hughes brought down his larger opponent, encasing him so effectively there was no chance of the ball finding the turf.

There have been a lot of exciting tries scored in recent weeks as scorelines have blown out, but rugby league at its best is a tight, defensive, battle. Tries should to be earned the hard way, as defenders give their all to guard their line. Friday's game was all about the kind of defence you need to win a premiership.

In the middle of the field, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Nelson Asofa-Solomona were at each other like a couple of old bulls left alone in a paddock on a hot day. Both teams were guilty of some dubious tactics in tackles, tempers were pushed to the limit all night.

If that was a taste of what is to come in the upcoming weeks, it is going to be a memorable run to the title.

Sons on the pine

It can't be too often in professional sport that two coaches line up against each other, each with a son on the bench for their respective teams. Parramatta's Brad Arthur had his son Jakob on the bench for the big clash, while Brisbane coach Kevin Walters had son Billy warming the pine.

Jakob wasn't needed until late in the contest, when the Eels had the result well under control. He came on to play dummy half, serving the ball up for established halfback Mitchell Moses and attempting to add some spark around the ruck.

Billy Walters on the other hand was thrown into the deep end early in the game, after Broncos halfback Adam Reynolds left the field with a head injury.

There have been some ugly reactions, especially in regards to Jakob Arthur's position with the Eels. Both players are solid first graders, without either being a standout performer. Calls of nepotism are ugly, but still, it is hard to imagine that the careers of both haven't been helped along by having fathers in such lofty positions.