Ricky Stuart says this is the day Todd Carney needs to deliver for the Cronulla Sharks
BY Ricky Stuart – September 9, 2012
TODD Carney has all the qualities you want in a five-eighth.
Whenever the scouts head to the junior trials, they’re all looking for the same thing – speed, skill, strength, size.
Carney has all that.
At some point in the NRL, though, we have to look a little deeper, a little harder, for the qualities that separate good players from the very best.
Carney needs to deliver today.
It’s an aggression, but not an obvious aggression.
It’s an arrogance, but not that blind arrogance.
It’s a combination of both those qualities.
When mixed right, it comes out in an attitude that so often sees that athlete rise to the top, no matter the company.
Tiger Woods had it. Joe Montana, Michael Jordan and Diego Maradona had it.
Closer to home Shane Warne had it, and in rugby league the likes of Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns are two recent players who had it.
There isn’t a champion without it.
It’s what they mean when they say talent isn’t enough.
For Cronulla to get through today against Canberra and have a real crack in these play-offs, Carney has to start showing that indefinable quality I’m talking about.
Everything else is there.
So much about today’s game depends on the five-eighths.
I called Canberra’s Josh McCrone three weeks before the Origin opener and told him I was looking for a Kurt Gidley – a No. 14.
Those players are extra valuable in Origin.
We knew the Blues would really suffer without Gidley in this year’s series and, while it worked out that way, I thought a player like McCrone could fill the spot.
McCrone has similar qualities to Gidley and while he was probably a season away from Origin, I’ve kept a keen eye on him. Today, he is in a position where he has to show that he is ready to take that next step in his maturation.
In many ways he is in a similar position to Carney.
The game has a tremendous history of players who come into finals series with little or no reputation -many are recognised by the very few – but they have used the finals series as their launch pad.
At Cronulla, Todd puts up tremendous numbers but I would like to see him concentrate more on quality touches than quantity.
Show us what those skills can do.
The obvious example for both Carney and McCrone is in their own teams.
Bryce Gibbs is one of the buys of the season for me.
What I like is that he gets every ounce out of his ability.
The Raiders have a similar player in Dane Tilse.
Gibbs has been the backbone of the Sharks pack this season.
We don’t hear much about him on the field because he is one of those players happy to go quietly about his business – unless it flares up a bit, when he likes to lead the way – but his influence off the field is significant.
He’s very funny, and those sorts of players create a great environment for their teammates, bringing the joy back to their football and the energy levels up.
You always look forward to training with these guys in the team.
Gibbs is exactly what the Wests Tigers were missing this year.
Tilse creates an enormous amount of worry for teams when he gets those long arms free for second-phase play.
He’s another who likes to get out on the field and do his job and you know that every game he walks off having done his best. Players have a lot of time for a teammate like that.
One of Canberra’s strengths is that throughout the past six weeks or so they appear to have really built a bond they can lean on.
Three days ago, front-rower Brett White won the club’s best team player at their presentation night.
That’s some achievement given how much time he has spent on the sideline and suggests the qualities he must bring to the club.
Sean Fensom won best and fairest, and his teammates know that as long as the game is going, he is there putting in for them.
When all the players start thinking this way they become very tough to beat.
Both teams are in a tough part of the draw, and it gets no easier next week, but in a strange way if whoever wins today can get through next week then they have to be a big chance to win the grand final.
For that to happen, they would have to be playing the type of football that their fans know they are capable of playing.
And the key to all that is both Carney and McCrone playing the style of football that they’re capable of playing.
I like the new finals format. It rewards 26 weeks of hard slog.
As much as my heart wants the Raiders to win today, I think Cronulla’s experience will get them into the second week.