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The Sydney Morning Herald

COACHES PINPOINT SAINTS' MISTAKES

Author: TONY SARNO Source: AAP for the last seven paragraphs only
Date: 27/09/1993
Words: 1123
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 46
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 out again.

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 grand final.

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 premiership)."

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 radio 2KY.

"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.

 
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