Hits and Misses: Panthers show what pride in the jersey means

This week we admire the efforts of the depleted Panthers, wonder what was going through the mind of Reagan Campbell-Gillard, call the Sharks flat track bullies, and wonder why teams who can't tackle are persisting with short goal-line drop-outs.

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


You don't need to be a superstar to show some pride in your jersey

Next time you hear a bottom-dwelling club blame injuries, a lack of experience and a youthful squad for a disgraceful capitulation, send them a link to the Panthers' performance against the Dolphins. The Panthers rested all of their Origin stars, and played without Nathan Cleary, despite him being near to a return from his hamstring injury.

With the Dolphins mounting a typical second-half comeback, the Panthers bent, but didn't break, fought back and ultimately took the two competition points. They've managed a heavy burden right through the State of Origin disruptions to remain at the top of the competition ladder.

"To get five out of six (wins) in that (Origin) period and just lose in golden point in the other one, I am stoked with that. Really happy," Panther coach Ivan Cleary said.

"It is good for us to kick into the run into the finals."

The Panthers showed that it's not about the talent level, it's not about the experience, it boils down to players who know their roles within a solid defensive structure, each totally committed to the cause. These are good players who are completely unwilling to be the one responsible for conceding a try or losing a game. Some of their try saving efforts in Redcliffe should put the Dragons, Bulldogs and Tigers players to complete shame. You don't need to be an Origin veteran to have a go and take pride in your jersey.


Eels prop knees a suspension for that

Eels prop Res\agan Campbell-Gillard had a moment of madness with 15 minutes remaining in the first half against the Titans. With winger Maika Sivo already in the sin bin for a high shot, Campbell-Gillard landed knees first on tackled Titans forward Chris Randall. Both knees made contact with the middle of Randall's back in a highly dangerous move which will see the Eels prop miss four weeks, unless he successfully fights the charge.

It was so blatant that the referee didn't even need bunker assistance, penalising Campbell-Gillard and sending him to join Sivo in the bin. The Titans scored two tries while the Eels fielded a soccer side, taking a 14-12 lead as Sivo returned to the field. But the two tries weren't enough for the Titans, with a late Mitchell Moses field goal taking the Eels to the narrowest of victories.


Sharks stumble again against Top 8 team

The Sharks were fresh from a golden run when they travelled to New Zealand to face the Warriors. In the previous four weeks they had hammered three wooden spoon calibre teams and enjoyed a bye. In Auckland they were keen to shake their "flat track bullies" tag, but after their efforts, those barbs will continue.

Despite scoring the first try of the match to take an early 6-0 lead, the Sharks soon slipped into the bad old habits of poor ball control and lapses in defence. Their sweeping backline movements, which have cut the Bulldogs, Tigers and Dragons apart, don't look so good when shut down by a determined defensive line.

Warriors star Shaun Johnson was masterful with the ball, his passing and kicking games key in the big 44-12 victory.


The footy was great, despite the players' media ban

Despite dire warnings from those with vested interests, the rugby league coverage over the weekend didn't suffer too much from the players' interview blackout. Sure we missed out on a dozen "credit to the boys" half a dozen "we're just going take it one week at a time" and two or three "it wasn't pretty, but we'll take the two points" but overall we heard enough opinion from the commentators and club-specific feedback from the coaches.

There were some farcical moments, including Nine's Danika Mason walking off the field at halftime interviewing Paul Gallen instead of a player, but overall it was hardly noticeable. No one is suggesting that talking to the players doesn't add to the coverage, of course it does, but the media blackout perhaps doesn't have the bargaining chip power that the RLPA might believe.

Fans will still be tuning in to watch their teams play, they'll be finding coverage of the game from their favourite sources and arguing the point with their mates. A few missing player quotes won't change any of that.


Short drop-outs need a solid defence behind them

Back when Des Hasler first introduced the regularly-taken short goal-line drop-out at the Bulldogs, his argument was that their defence was so good, it was well worth the risk. He figured that if they failed to regain the ball, they were no worse off, because their defence was at its best on their goal line. That was back when the Bulldogs played finals football and appeared in two Grand Finals.

Now, just about every team in the competition is doing it, regardless of their defensive acumen. The Bulldogs themselves continue to take the gamble of kicking short, despite having Matt Burton who could easily kick it into opposition territory on the fly, and despite having the worst for and against record in the competition.

Against the Broncos on the weekend, the Bulldogs goal line defence showed all the resillience of a wet paper screen. Broncos players were able to pick the ball up at dummy half, and virtually walk through for tries. Until they learn to tackle again, the Bulldogs, for one, need to put as much distance between the ball and their goal line as possible.