ANDREW JOHNS – NINEMSN COLUMN

Roosters need to sign best coach
Andrew Johns – Thu Sep 6 2012

Sydney Roosters and coach Brian Smith have parted company in a move that surprised nobody. The Roosters are a high-profile, big-money club who compete in a packed market for the hearts of their fans.

There are so many teams to support, so many things to do and increasingly fewer traditional league supporters in the Sydney area. The Roosters face the real risk of disappearing if they go too long without success on the field. Next year they are spending up big on players like Sonny Bill Williams and James Maloney and they can’t afford another poor season. Eight wins from 24 matches this year just wasn’t good enough.

I believe the Roosters will follow the Bulldogs’ example and go hard after a proven winner in Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy. Bellamy has one year to go on his current Storm contract, but the Bulldogs proved that if you offer enough money contracts can be severed. The Roosters could easily throw $1.5 million a season at Bellamy and still come out in front if he can transfer his Melbourne success to the Bondi club. You only have to look at the almost instant success the Bulldogs have had this year under Des Hasler to know that he has been worth every cent.

After a well-deserved night of success at the Dally M awards, the Bulldogs face a big test in the first qualifying final on Friday night against Manly. These teams have played two ferocious matches already this year and the intensity of this final will be incredible. There is a real danger that they could bash each other out of the competition, which makes winning even more important. The week off is going to be vital to recover from all the bumps and bruises this clash will produce. I’m tipping Manly will come out on top, with their attacking flare around the edges on both sides of the field proving too hot to handle for the Bulldogs. Look for Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart to really rip into the Bulldogs in defence and in attack. These two very experienced back-rowers always step it up for the big games.

South Sydney travel to Melbourne to tackle the Storm in the second qualifying final on Saturday afternoon. I really like the Rabbitohs in this one, as they come into it on a roll and they look good right across the park. Billy Slater is obviously a key player for Melbourne but he still hasn’t fully recovered from his knee injury. At less than 100 percent he is still better than a lot of players, but even champions struggle to carry injuries in the big matches. The other thing in Souths’ favour is the size of their pack. The Warriors have proven in the past that you can really worry the Storm in the finals with a big, mobile, skilful set of forwards. They don’t come much bigger than the Rabbitohs pack and I think they can get on top and come away with a win.

The best bet of the weekend is North Queensland to end Brisbane’s season in Townsville on Saturday night. Brisbane has been struggling for weeks to find any spark in their attack. They have an experienced forward pack that will put up a fight for much of the match, but they are up against Johnathan Thurston who has somehow lifted to a whole new level yet again this season. Thurston started the year at five-eighth and at first he wasn’t getting the quality ball he needed at second receiver. Neil Henry is a smart coach and he continued to tinker with Thurston’s positioning and the role he plays in the team and now they have it just about perfected it.

The most entertaining match of the weekend looks like the one in Canberra on Sunday afternoon when Cronulla take on the Raiders. The Sharks were very disappointing last weekend and have had some very mixed form of late. They are up against a Raiders side which is just so completely unpredictable. When they are on fire, as they have been lately, the “Green Machine” is very hard to stop. I’m expecting some free-flowing footy with the Raiders finishing on top and continuing into the second week of finals.

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