The bad taste of St George's uncharacteristically flat grand final
performance against Brisbane lingered yesterday as many disappointed St George
fans tried to make sense of the loss.
Theories ranged from Saints choking to an impetuous decision early in the
game to disregard their match plans.
Former Cronulla coach Arthur Beetson and Manly and Australian coach Bob
Fulton, whose sides met an unconvincing St George similar to the one faced by
the Broncos on Sunday, both had their own theories as to why the Saints bombed
Beetson's young Sharks convincingly outplayed a lethargic and
mistake-prone Saints outfit 18-6 at Kogarah Oval in round 18. That day, St
George didn't look like they would finish in the final five, let alone reach the
Beetson yesterday believed St George's grand final effort simply showed a
lapse in their usually faultless discipline.
"In the last four or five games they've played with iron-willed
discipline, they haven't made those sorts of mistakes," Beetson said.
He believed Saints' lapse on Sunday may have resulted from grand final
nerves, an inexplicable condition he had witnessed in other footballers in his
own grand final appearances.
"I've seen players break up under the pressure of grand finals. They just
do, it's one of those things, they make mistakes they normally don't make.
"So I wouldn't question St George's preparation. In fact, the same thing
happened earlier in the day to our kids (Cronulla Under 21s, which lost the
grand final 17-4 to Eastern Suburbs after coming a close second in the minor
Fulton's view of St George's performance was more prosaic. He believed
fans should stop looking at in-depth explanations for a loss that resulted
largely from an unfortunate series of simple errors that should be blamed more
on chance than grand final pressure. St George's lack of ball control reminded
Fulton of the way the Saints played against Manly in round 14.
In that match, the Saints frequently coughed up the ball and were behind
14-20 with nine minutes to go. But they managed to regain their composure, put
on a try, and and scraped home 21-20 thanks to a Noel Goldthorpe field goal just
20 seconds from time.
"They made those same mistakes against us and it nearly cost them dearly
then," Fulton said.
But against Brisbane (which convincingly beat Manly in the semi-finals)
the Saints weren't able to make their expected comeback, although they tried
early in the second half.
"Last Sunday is one of those days St George's coach Brian Smith and chief
executive Geoff Carr are going to rue, because they've done it so well
throughout the season," Fulton said sympathetically.
The Manly coach didn't believe that the Saints' errors resulted from
pressure or grand final nerves. "It's not anything to do with pressure, if it's
a bad pass, you get them every game.
"There were some bad passes, wrong options, but these were also done on
previous times this year, but because it was a grand final, the enormity of the
event caused everyone to read more into it."
Once St George started giving up ball unnecessarily to Brisbane, it was
inevitable they would lose, said Fulton. The Australian coach believes there is
a simple formula that applies when a team plays Brisbane, a side crammed with
State of Origin and Australian representative talent.
p "If you give the Broncos 50 per cent of the ball, they win; if you give
them 55 per cent to 45 per cent against, they win convincingly; and if you give
55 per cent to St George and 45 per cent to the Broncos, St George would win,
but it would still be debatable."
St George's half dozen handling errors in the first 20 minutes gave
Brisbane more than 50 per cent of the ball, and, according to Fulton's formula,
it sealed the Saints' fate.
"It all came back to possession. You've only got to look at the first 20
minutes of the second half, where St George controlled the ball, and their
kicking game was better. They went from 10-2 down to 10-6. That was more like
the St George of old, simply because they had possession.
"People look for reasons why teams lose a simple game, like tactics
weren't followed or tactics weren't successful. But the answer is that simple
mistakes cost dearly.
"This season, Parramatta would beat a top side one week, then get flogged
by 50 points the next. It came down to whether they had ball control.
"With ball control, a team inferior on paper can beat a better quality
side. But when you don't control the ball and you have a situation where the
opposition have got great individual players, they'll flog you."
Fulton dismissed too, a popular but cheap view that the Saints didn't have
the necessary commitment. "Nobody goes out there not to try," he said.
"What St George experienced can happen very, very easily; it happens all
the time in premiership matches.
"It's part of the unpredictability of this game and the beauty of it."
* AAP reports that St George centre Graeme Bradley yesterday escaped
punishment after he was reported in the grand final.
NSW Rugby League general manager John Quayle viewed a video of Bradley's
tackle on Brisbane's Steve Renouf and decided the lanky three-quarter didn't
have a case to answer.
* The League yesterday hit back at claims that the grand final
entertainment was a farce.
NSWRL promotions chief Brian Walsh said the pre-game and half-time
entertainment was primarily geared toward a television audience of millions
rather than the record ground crowd of 42,239.
"There's been no criticism of the telecast, which was superb and rated in
the roof - the criticism seems to be from the media box at the SFS," Walsh told
"It doesn't matter what we do, each year certain journalists find it
necessary to criticise at the grand final no matter whether we have
parachutists, 500 schoolchildren, the Village People, the environmental message
or Tina Turner - it's never right."
Tina Turner didn't have time to perform more than one song because time
had to be reserved in case the reserve-grade grand final went into extra time.