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The Sydney Morning Herald

HOW YOUR TEAM WENT IN SEASON '91

Author: JOHN MACDONALD, ROY MASTERS and DANIEL WILLIAMS
Date: 15/09/1991
Words: 4424
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 2
BALMAIN

1991: 12th, 8 wins, 13 losses, 1 draw

1990: 5th, 14 wins, 8 losses. Won play-off

Semis: 1 loss

The Tigers started the season catastrophically, going winless until round nine, but attracted more attention than the competition leaders. A revamped team gradually turned the season around, presumably as former Australian Rugby Union mentor Alan Jones settled into League and the players became accustomed to a new, more open playing style.

THE FUTURE

Jones blooded many young players who were individually gifted and complemented the superb tactical kicking of Brian Smith. Paul Sironen and Ben Elias, and heavyweight prop Steve Edmed, missed huge slabs of the year and will add class and clout to the pack in '92.

COACHING

Jones is committed for another year.

CHANGES

The club is talking to many players, including Glenn Lazarus (Canberra). Gary Freeman and Darren Clark are the only certain departures. Freeman sought and received a release. Clark has returned to sprint training. It is believed club stalwart Mick Neil wants to leave.

STRENGTHS

Steve Roach, Elias, Edmed and Sironen have the makings of an awesome pack. Garry Jack is not showing any sign of slowing. Robinson and David Bayssari have provided genuine pace. Brian Smith is up there with Matthew Ridge and Daryl Halligan as a sharpshooter.

WEAKNESSES

With a full complement of players there are few, if any. Jones is a newcomer to League, but in itself that is meaningless. Perhaps the pack lacks a "hitman" and the backline a "barnstorming" centre. Robinson may suffer second-year blues, his gifts now well-known.

COACH SAYS

"We have made a tremendous investment in youth in Wayne Sing, Shane O'Grady, Michael Brown, Jacin Sinclair, David Bayssari, Will Robinson and Martin Masella. We had a horrendous run of injuries, as well as other obstacles. A side must have something going for it if it can recover from an 8-0 (win-loss) record to win seven of its last 11 games. But you're only as good as your last game."

BRISBANE

1991: 7th, 13 wins, 9 losses

1990: 3rd, 16 wins, 5 losses, 1 draw

Semis: 1 win, 2 losses

Like Canberra and Penrith, the Broncos were robbed of players during the representative season and needed only one more win to make the semi-finals.

In view of their late-season form, where they won six of their final seven games, it is difficult to challenge coach Wayne Bennett's observation: "If we had made the play-offs, we could have won."

THE FUTURE

The Broncos fear a second Brisbane team entering in '93. It would cut their monopoly of Queensland players. Chief executive John Ribot says: "We must service our debt and get our operation in solid mode before we get pressure from a neighbouring club."

COACHING

Bennett will start his fifth season.

CHANGES

Veterans Dale Shearer and Greg Dowling will leave and be joined by some of the permanent reserve graders. Ribot says: "We would like to adopt the Liverpool policy of bringing in one senior player every year. We are negotiating with one high-profile forward."

STRENGTHS

Their backline. The Broncos lost international three-quarter Tony Currie for the year but still found some talented backs. They also have a highly respected coaching and training staff. It is becoming a young man's game and the Broncos under-21s finished fourth.

WEAKNESSES

The Broncos need a reliable goal-kicker. Terry Matterson will probably kick in '92 but they lost six games on goal kicks.

They also lack experienced forwards. When Gene Miles and Dowling were injured, Andrew Gee, at 21, was the most experienced.

COACH SAYS

Comments Bennett: "1991 showed me we are capable of beating the top teams in the competition. We lost a lot of games we should have won, yet only finished 1 1/2 wins out of second place. In '92 we have to be a complete team for 22 weeks.

"We had two bad performances, against St George in round one, and against Easts, when there was no commitment."

CANTERBURY

1991: 6th, 13 wins, 8 losses, 1 draw

Lost play-off

1990: 7th, 12 wins, 9 losses, 1 draw

Canterbury improved to tie for fifth place with Western Suburbs before losing a memorable play-off 19-14.

They were aided by playing in the weaker half of the draw, but still had a highly meritorious season and an attractive style after losing experienced and effective contributors such as Andrew Farrar, Paul Langmack, David Gillespie, Paul Dunn and Joe Thomas.

THE FUTURE

Looking good, as illustrated by a high finish in the club championship. Chief executive Peter Moore has scoured - will scour - the countryside, and his renowned eye for talent could produce another Ewan McGrady. Experienced, skilful forwards are a priority.

COACHING

Chris Anderson in charge again.

CHANGES

Some culling possible but no bloodbaths. Jonathan Davies will retire from international football, and Canterbury are favoured to retain him. Inevitably there are some country additions and, inevitably, a big-name surprise or two.

STRENGTHS

Bruce McGuire is a winner and accepting the responsibility is commensurate with his representative status. Terry Lamb is still tops and McGrady is a great attacker. Further improvement from the likes of Steve Reardon and Darren Smith is certain.

WEAKNESSES

When a club loses Langmack and company, it's weakened. A couple of pacey three-quarters and, more importantly, a 1974 vintage Arthur Beetson or Brad Clyde would help. Neither are options, but a couple of forwards approaching that standard would be handy.

COACH SAYS

Barry Nelson, the president of the Canterbury club, says: "It's been a great year, a rebuilding year, and we've done better than anyone expected. Suspensions cost us dearly but we played attractive football and the support in the last few weeks was unbelievable.

"The success of the President's and Flegg Cup teams shows the future's healthy."

CRONULLA

1991: 10th, 8 wins, 11 losses, 3 draws

1990: 10th, 11 wins, 11 losses

Cronulla lost their last five matches in 1990 to forfeit a certain semi-final place, but were confidently expected to do better in 1991. Some even predicted they could win the premiership, such was the on-paper strength of their top 13.

A lack of player depth, absences through representative commitments and injuries were reasons for the disappointment, but they don't fully explain it

THE FUTURE

Uncertain because of the internal strife illustrated by chief executive Ron Massey's departure and player unrest. Arthur Beetson is an unknown commodity after a three-season absence and will need autonomy in the conduct of football for the club to revive.

COACHING

Beetson's first year of two-year term.

CHANGES

Prominent players Jonathan Docking, Alan Wilson, Matthew Corkery, Arthur Pappas, Mal Wheeler and Craig Teevan have been culled. Dan Stains is an expected departee and more might follow after the retention committee completes its work.

STRENGTHS

Gavin Miller remains, and so do Michael Speechley, Andrew Ettingshausen and Mark McGaw. It's not a bad base from which to rebuild.

On their good days, Cronulla still have the strikepower to match it with most

WEAKNESSES

Cronulla must get its house in order to attract the confidence of fans and sponsors. A top-class, rugged, uncompromising hooker would be nice.

So would a scheming halfback and a penetrative fullback.

COACH SAYS

Massey says: We started badly but towards the end were as competitive as any team. We came from 12 behind to draw with Manly, from 10 behind against St George, beat Penrith and were beaten in the last seven seconds by Wests. It's given Arthur something to work on. The nucleus is there to be competitive and there are plenty of good young players coming through."

EASTS

1991: 11th, 9 wins, 12 losses, 1 draw

1990: 14th, 6 wins, 15 loses, 1 draw

The re-re-return of Jack Gibson has ressurected loyalty and players from other clubs no longer look on Bondi Junction as a place where they can be highly paid for nothing. Similarly, with the elevation of local boy Craig Salvatori to the international ranks, Easts' players know they don't have to go elsewhere for recognition. But there is a "holding pattern" feeling about Easts: they are in the competition but seem unlikely to take off.

THE FUTURE

"Que sera, sera," says Gibson. But he then checks himself: "We found out a lot of good things this year. We're lacking in a couple of areas but we don't need much more to up our tally of wins. But you can't just go down to the 7-Eleven and buy four players."

COACHING

Mark Murray will enter his second year.

CHANGES

Experienced players Hugh McGahan and Paul Vautin have retired while David Trewhella and David Smith have left. Terry Hill is also expected to leave for Wests.

"We're hopeful of scoring a couple of high-profile players," Murray says.

STRENGTHS

Gibson says: "Of the players coach Murray had, none slipped in '91, yet Hill was our only addition. We produced (Mark) Protheroe (winger), Dennis Beecraft, who had been sitting on the bench for reserve grade with an arse bigger than Beetson's, and Jason Tassell."

WEAKNESSES

"We have to do something about our defence which is not standing up,"Gibson says. But the Roosters lack depth. After 17 weeks they were in contention for the final five, but in the last few weeks, drained of their top playing talent, became feather dusters.

COACH SAYS

"Overall, for 17 of 22 weeks we were competitive.

"I was disappointed with the scorelines in the last five weeks. But we lacked experience in leadership to hold our game together at the end.

"We will continue to recruit young talent and a couple of high-profile players to blend in.

"Next year can only be a step forward."

GOLD COAST

1991: 16th, 2 wins, 19 losses, 1 draw

1990: 15th, 4 wins, 18 losses

The statistics tell all, or almost all. Despite the arrival of Wally Lewis, the chances of not so much a revival as a happy adolescence departed. They started promisingly enough but withered as the season progressed. There were rumblings about the relationship between Wally Lewis and coach Malcolm Clift. The reserve-grade team became the first Seagulls to make the semi-finals.

THE FUTURE

They need only look at Canberra and Penrith.

Canberra struggled through, suffering bigger hidings than the Gold Coast, until they got Mal Meninga and built from there. Penrith suffered years of not being able to attract dedicated, high-profile players.

COACHING

Lewis as captain-coach. Playing uncertain.

CHANGES

Phil Daley returns to Manly, and other culling is likely. The attitude to the Gold Coast was well expressed by Steve Roach, Paul Sironen, Brad Clyde, Laurie Daley etc. Gary Belcher, Brent Todd, Dale Shearer and Gary Freeman are among the names linked with the club.

STRENGTHS

Wally Lewis, Wally Lewis, Wally Lewis, Wally Lewis, Wally Lewis, Wally Lewis, Wally Lewis.

The Seagulls showed they had the skill to score tries and the likes of Brett Horsnell aren't lacking in the ability to translate potential into considerable performance.

WEAKNESSES

Wally Lewis, Wally Lewis, Wally Lewis, Wally Lewis, Wally Lewis, Wally Lewis, Wally Lewis.

A lack of good players in depth to complement the potential. The lack of a tradition and spirit to call on. These sort of things have to be earned.

COACH SAYS

Clift says: "It was a frustrating year but we were more competitive. We lost eight games by six points or less and the top sides had to struggle to beat us up here.

"More high-profile players are obviously needed to be more competitive but it's hard for a young club.

"There is plenty of young talent in the district and given time, they'll kick on."

ILLAWARRA

1991: 8th, 12 wins, 9 losses, 1 draw

1990: 9th, 11 wins, 10 losses, 1 draw

Illawarra enjoyed its best season since entering the competition in '82.

With a strong home following, energetic and dedicated officials and a nucleus of young players, Illawarra is no longer the team everyone beats up. Illawarra's traditional weakness - money - is also subsiding as a problem. As all clubs move toward the same salary cap, Illawarra will retain their talent, rather than see it in reserve grade at Manly.

THE FUTURE

A university town, set on the sea, is a big attraction for young, intelligent, country talent.

The Wollongong district will rise to its former eminence but, ironically, it will be with the talent of other country regions.

COACHING

Graham Murray will begin his second year.

CHANGES

Some of the aged reserve grade players, such as Michael Carberry and Dean Hanson, will probably retire. "We are looking to buy blokes who have played a little bit of first grade and know they are not going to a dud club," Murray says.

STRENGTHS

The Steelers were fourth best in attack and second best in defence.

They have enormous strike power on the flanks with Alan McIndoe and Rod Wishart.

McIndoe was the season's leading try scorer (19) and broke the club record

WEAKNESSES

Illawarra's dismal away record is their biggest problem. They didn't win a Saturday game away from home.

When the Steelers lost prop Chris Walsh after seven games it showed that they lacked experienced leadership up front.

COACH SAYS

"Our goal in '91 was to improve from 9th and, as minor as it was, we did that. We will improve again.

"We will continue to play a brand of football where, if the opportunity is there, the player must throw it. When a movement breaks down, I often don't blame a player for throwing a desperate pass. I blame someone else for not being there."

MANLY

1991: 4th, 14 wins, 7 losses, 1 draw

Semis: 2 losses

1990: 4th, 15 wins, 7 losses. Semis: 1 win, 1 loss

The Sea Eagles were premiership contenders until irreplaceable players-Ian Roberts, Des Hasler and Michael O'Connor-suffered injuries at the season's business end.

Finished second but did the dreaded one-two-out in the semis. Even with a decimated combination they almost upset Canberra in the exhilarating minor semi-final, won 36-24 by the Raiders.

THE FUTURE

A premiership is within the capabilities of the present assembly. Depth has to be improved, and a better overall club performance will be an objective for next year. "But the success of first grade has to be the paramount thing,"coach Graham Lowe says.

COACHING

Lowe to fulfil last year of three-year contract.

CHANGES

Lowe says the club is constantly on the prowl for new talent. No names, but eyes are fixed on young players inside and outside the premiership, including Rugby Union ranks. "And we're not just looking at '92. We're looking a year or two beyond," Lowe says.

STRENGTHS

Matthew Ridge is a talented goalkicker. Kevin Iro and brother Tony will return. There will be more Cliff Lyons wizardry, while Geoff Toovey and Frank Stokes are exciting, pre-peak match-winners. Martin Bella, Des Hasler and Ian Roberts are great forwards.

WEAKNESSES

Depth. Max Krilich's reserve grade side did not win a game.

When Hasler and Roberts succumbed to knee injuries in the penultimate round, Lowe had to delve into seconds talent. He came up with men willing but inadequate.

COACH SAYS

"We had injuries at the wrong end of the season and weren't able to build on the good position we'd put ourselves in.

"With respect to the guys who were promoted, and who tried their hearts out, the injuries didn't help.

"The loss of Tony Iro earlier in the year was a big blow. But it was probably a better year than last year."

NEWCASTLE

1991: 13th, 6 wins, 13 loses, 3 draws

1990: 6th, 13 wins, 7 losses, 2 draws

The Knights' downfall was both the cause and the result of coach Allan McMahon's resignation mid-season. McMahon resigned after public mutterings about the team's preoccupation with forward play and rumours of player discontent with repetitive, boring training sessions. New coach David Waite came in with eight games left, and although he lifted the team's attack by a try a game, his tally was two wins and six losses.

THE FUTURE

Waite says: "1992 will be a year of opportunity for Newcastle youth.

"Bradley Godden, Adrian Brunker, Jason Edwards and Peter Graham all came through to play first grade towards the end of '91 and we hope more will follow."

COACHING

Waite to begin his first full season.

CHANGES

Several as yet unnamed players will leave because money will not be available after the re-signing of Mark Sargent, Marc Glanville and Paul Harragon. "The players we recruit will be young, have the ability to create, be good on their feet and have pace," Waite says.

STRENGTHS

Inherited forward strength, the depth of which is equal to the top clubs, is Newcastle's foundation stone. Both halves are good organisers but lack pace. The strike power on the flanks would make most coaches jealous. Goal kicking is sound.

WEAKNESSES

Newcastle didn't move with the other clubs in terms of increasing the rate of offloads.

Waite cannot wait for his team to score 20 points a game.

The general kicking game - both short and long - also needs to improve.

COACH SAYS

"We will look at every string of our bows to see what we have. Glanville and Harragon will be used out wide more often," says Waite. Newcastle's season-starting centre combination of Jeff Doyle and Rob McCormack were injured in the last eight weeks and Waite, by improvising, found his back-rowers helped fill the void. "We will be looking for more strike from our three-quarters," he says.

PARRAMATTA

1991: 15th, 6 wins, 16 losses

1990: 8th, 12 wins, 9 losses, 1 draw

After a competitive 1990, in which coach Mick Cronin got the absolute best from limited resources, the Eels slid down, way down.

Beyond the obvious fact that Parramatta simply weren't good enough, the most worrying aspect of the year was the lack of marked improvement.

Payers were still penalising themselves and the team through the same errors committed at the season's start.

THE FUTURE

Parramatta still have the same prerequisites for success they've always had: a sound financial base, strong and loyal support and their renowned junior catchment area. The administration has much to atone for after seasons of injudicious buying.

COACHING

Cronin has been retained.

CHANGES

They have started by throwing out the babies, the bathwater, the kitchen sink and the senior citizens, including Matt Goodwin, Ian Gately, Andrew Leeds and Brian Jackson. In the market for Glenn Lazarus and any forward with pretensions and a future.

STRENGTHS

Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny, Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny, Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny and Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny. The likes of Michael Erickson, Jason Bell, Peter Johnston and company will show further maturity with the right guidance.

WEAKNESSES

They have lots of good players but basically a shortage of smart players. At least two top-class forwards are a necessity and an attacking three-quarter and fullback would be handy. They need more experience and more concentration in defence.

COACH SAYS

"A disappointing year and a very bad start which we had to turn around. There was definitely improvement at the end of the year and some good performa nces against the top sides like Norths, Wests and Manly.

"At least we're losing with young players so you can hope they'll benefit from the season's experience. The performance of Kenny week-in week-out was the highlight."

ST GEORGE

1991: 9th, 11 wins, 8 losses, 3 draws

1990: 12th, 8 wins, 14 losses

The Dragons played an exciting brand of football this year and were semi-final aspirants until they drew two and lost two of their last four games.

They missed the human football scrabble blank, Brad Mackay, the man who can play anywhere, with three broken thumbs. Their biggest off-season buy, Jason Alchin, from Canterbury, was sidelined for most of the season with a knee injury.

THE FUTURE

The club needs to recruit wisely because the district is ageing, with many people who were born in countries with no interest in Rugby League. "We have our eyes on six talented 14-year-olds but Parramatta have 26 in their back yard," coach Brian Smith says.

COACHING

Brian Smith will enter his second year.

CHANGES

St George have retained all the players they want, bar one waverer. The major culling was done at the end of '90. "We will be recruiting in the young and large category, where large equals big. It would have made a difference if Laurie Daley had said yes," Smith says.

STRENGTHS

St George improved with their ability to hold field position. With clever tactical kicking and a reduced number of penalties, they played at the right end of the field.

The two black Porsches on the wings also carried the ball for the length of the field.

WEAKNESSES

Goal kicking. The Dragons lost seven games on goal kicking. Against Cronulla and Manly they scored more tries but lost. They scored 64 tries but kicked only 64 goals.

The young Dragons rely heavily on centre Mick Beattie and fullback Mick Potter.

COACH SAYS

"We had a year of education and the players now understand the way the game is required to be played," says Smith. "While we came up with good replacements in Troy Hodges and Peter Coyne, the absence of big match players Alchin and Mackay was vital to us. We also missed Guy Picken who did not play in a losing game. Mackay will probably replace Ricky Walford as our goal-kicker."

SOUTHS

1991: 14th, 7 wins, 15 losses

1990: 16th, 2 wins, 20 losses

The Rabbitohs regained credibility with a respectable season under their new coach, Frank Curry.

The humble placing needs to be put in context. Before a Steeden was punted, Souths were firm favourites to retain the wooden spoon on the basis of their abysmal record in '90 and the loss of senior players Mario Fenech, Les Davidson and Phil Blake, and young gun Terry Hill.

THE FUTURE

The season was the first step in a three-year reconstruction. Most better players have been retained and several country youngsters have been approached. Theory: If the club can attract outstanding unknowns it will eventually attract outstanding established players.

COACHING

Curry is signed for another year.

CHANGES

Approaches made to Glenn Lazarus (Canberra), Gavin Jones (North Sydney) and Danny Lee (Cronulla). David Boyle has retired. Manoa Thompson told goodbye. Negotiating with Darren Maroon, Charlie Saab, Jason Williams and Wayne Chisholm.

STRENGTHS

The flair and potential of halves Darrell Trindall and Rod Maybon; the emergence of Jason Williams; the maturation and consistency of Jim Serdaris; the controlled aggression of Mark Carroll; the nous of Craig Coleman. Watch for potential teenage stars.

WEAKNESSES

The lack of an experienced class player and old-head in the backline.

Many close defeats can be attributed to inexperience. Also, a lack of depth, which explains the poor finish-seven losses from the last eight matches.

COACH SAYS

"We had so many discards from other clubs we could have been dubbed the'over-the-hill gang'. We pushed all the semi-finalists, except Penrith, and we beat Canberra," says Smith.

"Overall, I think it was a successful year and it would have been better if we hadn't lost Charlie Saab, Manoa Thompson and Graham Lyons through injury at different times. We didn't have the depth to cover for them."

WESTS

1991: 5th, 13 wins, 8 losses, 1 draw

Semis: 1 loss

1990: 13th, 6 wins, 15 losses, 1 draw

The Magpies, with Norths, were the season's most improved team, qualifying for their first finals series since 1982. New coach Warren Ryan achieved instant results, implementing a forward-dominated, no-frills style. Ryan brought several high-profile forwards with him, but injuries and representative commitments meant results were achieved mostly with the old guard.

THE FUTURE

Coach Ryan is very optimistic. "A platform of discipline and commitment to training has been set down, ready to build on. We can't possibly have the same number of injuries to key players as we did this year." There are large reservoirs of local junior talent.

COACHING

Ryan to fulfil second of three-year term.

CHANGES

Terry Hill will make Wests home with a court case brewing. Centres, wingers, "strike" players are priorities. Specific players have been targeted and approached. Jamie Ainscough is leaving, Cameron Blair will probably go and Steve Jackson is a possible.

STRENGTHS

An excellent pack drilled expertly by Ryan. Only the cruellest fortune would prevent Paul Langmack and Bob Lindner contributing more in '92. Half Jason Taylor will get even better. Winger Wayne Simonds was the best-performed Magpie in the pressure games.

WEAKNESSES

Wests achieved field position as effortlessly as any team, but they couldn't use it. They had the bullocking runners and the schemers, but a dearth of quick men to turn the breaks into tries. No-one at the club is blind to the problem and it is being addressed.

COACH SAYS

"It's always disappointing when you don't go all the way to the finish,"says Ryan.

"But in view of where we came from-the first and seconds weren't sighted last year-it wasn't a bad season.

"We made a noise.

"Other clubs know we're around. And we'll be better next year.

"Put some money on us."

 
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