Hits and Misses: What on earth has gone wrong with the Sharks?

This week we wonder what is going on in the Shire, admire a magnificent effort from the Novocastrians, rub our eyes at another bunker call, and discuss the frustrations associated with being an Eels or Bulldogs fan over the weekend.

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


What on earth has gone wrong with the Sharks?

After a cruisy month of playing wooden spoon contenders and enjoying the bye, the Sharks hosted the Sea Eagles, who have been having a mixed season themselves. In front of their fervent fans this was surely the opportunity for Craig Fitzgibbon's men to prove the doubters wrong, to show they are serious premiership contenders and all but end the 2023 hopes of Manly.

After the early try to Manly's Josh Aloiai, we had to wait until the 19th minute before another point was scored. In the ensuing 20-minute period the gates opened and the Sea Eagles poured through. They crossed for four more tries before the break, silencing the crowd and stunning most observers.

When Tolutau Koula crossed for the Sea Eagles' sixth try four minutes into the second half, even Aaron Woods was giving it to the crowd, no doubt replaying the torrent of abuse he would have been receiving from the other side of the fence. Reuben Garrick converted to send the Sea Eagles out to what would prove an insurmountable 30-0 lead.

From that point on, the Sharks mounted a monumental fightback, but the result remained further proof that Cronulla struggle to beat the better teams. They remain in sixth position, but face the Panthers and Rabbitohs in the next two weeks. If they can't somehow turn things around, the bottom is going to fall out of their season in a real hurry.


Rugby league was the winner in the Hunter

What a great game of rugby league we witnessed between the Knights and the Storm in Newcastle on Saturday evening.

With Melbourne racing to a 12-0 lead after nine minutes, the 20,392-strong crowd in Newcastle were shifting uneasily in their seats, wondering if they were witnessing the kind of ruthless hammering the Storm are more than capable of inflicting.

This Knights team might just contain a bit more steel than it has shown previously. They scored the next five tries, with Bradman Best showing Origin form and Kalyn Ponga weaving his magic. The Storm, of course, are never beaten, and a late try to Justin Olam brought them within six points at 24-18.

With under six minutes remaining, the Storm charged off their goal line to pressure a Knights' field goal attempt. They left way too early, and as has been the trend lately, were penalised right in front. It allowed the Knights to stretch the margin to eight points and close out a memorable victory. It was the first time they had beaten the Storm in eight years, ending an 11-game losing streak.

Coach Adam O'Brien, with the pressure released a bit on his own career, was bullish about the Knights' chances of sneaking into the finals.

"We've come a long way in terms of our resilience, definitely. We're a tougher footy team than what we were last year. We're maturing as well," he said.


Our eyes lie as bunker astounds again

With 12 minutes remaining in the first half and the Broncos leading the Rabbitohs 12-8, Kotoni Staggs made a one-on-one tackle on Alex Johnston as Souths launched an attacking raid. As Staggs' weight fell across the front of the Rabbitohs' winger he hooked his hand across the bottom of the ball, tearing it from Johnston's grasp. Referee Ashley Klein called it a loose carry knock on, and the Rabbitohs challenged the call.

After just the one slow motion replay the bunker claimed that Staggs was effecting a tackle and had not played at the ball. Once again our eyes and those of the commentators had completely failed. The duck that quacked like a duck was once again an antelope.


Simonson errors compound Eels frustrations

With Dylan Brown still sitting on the sidelines, and joined by Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Maika Sivo, the Eels struggled against the increasingly impressive Cowboys.

Bailey Simonson summed up the night for Parramatta with 27 minutes to go. Trailing 24-4, the Eels were throwing the ball around inside the Cowboys' 20 metre line. No one seemed particularly interested in running hard at the line and the Cowboys were moving up together in an impregnable wall.

The ball found Simonson standing flat-footed and he decided his best option was the old tunnel ball pass to his winger. Unfortunately for the Eels, the ball sailed over everyone and into touch, ending a forgettable passage of play.

No matter what the Eels tried, the Cowboys' defence responded, and yet Parramatta were able to claw their way back into the game, with Mitchell Moses scoring two late tries to take the score to 24-16. With the clock winding down and the Eels on the attack again, the ball was passed to Simonson once more, ten metres out. This time he was running hard and straight, but spilt the Steeden on contact.


Sometimes the fans don't know more than coaches

With the Bulldogs struggling right across the park, fans have flooded comments sections with pleas for Jeral Skelton to get a run in the backs, based on some impressive efforts in the lower grades.

He started on the wing for the Bulldogs against the Panthers, a baptism of fire without doubt, and his performance highlighted the massive step up required to play in the NRL. In the first half alone he dropped the ball, threw an awful flick pass in his own half, was pulled up for a double movement, and generally looked a little lost.

Skelton did redeem himself with a second half try, flying high for a kick, and retaining possession as he juggled the ball on the way to the ground. He also had some good metre-eating runs and perhaps showed more promise than some of the options at coach Cameron Ciraldo's disposal.

Ciraldo certainly has some headaches at the Bulldogs. His raft of positional changes in the lead up to kick-off suggested that he is grasping for answers. Maybe he could read the comments section, there are plenty of ideas in there.