Captains don’t come better than these blokes
IT’S A RUGBY LEAGUE entrepreneur’s bonanza: the four best teams boasting the four best captains. This week’s finals scenario is made in heaven. I know a thing or two about what makes a good skipper, having played under four of the greatest. Wayne Pearce at the Tigers was my best but I had the utmost respect for Steve Mortimer (NSW Origin), Wally Lewis and Mal Meninga (Australia).
It was a pleasure to play with each of them. They each had their own way of instilling confidence in you, especially Pearce.
Wally and Mal were such legends you just didn’t want to let them down, and “Turvey” Mortimer had a knack of getting the best out of you.
The four captains of 2016 each have their own inspiring qualities. I rate them in the following order: 1. Cameron Smith. 2. Johnathan Thurston (listed as co-captain with Matt Scott – really!). 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Paul Gallen.
Smith controls the game better than anybody. I love the way he questions every decision that goes against the Storm. By doing that, he’s giving his team a breather. I can’t recall a captain who gets away with it like he does.
Thurston is a game manager, always calm and cool. He has a knowledge of the game we’ve never seen the likes of.
Croker’s unflappable. Highly respected by his players and the referees. I get the impression the Raiders are playing with such control that Croker has his stamp firmly engrossed on their back.
Gallen leads by example. He may be inclined to overplay his hand but you can’t be critical of his enthusiasm and his willingness to shed blood and bone. But he’s not endearing to referees and I hope that isn’t the reason the Sharks fail to break their premiership duck.
JT the greatest I’ve seen
I want to go on record before another scrum is packed in declaring Johnathan Thurston as the best player I’ve ever seen. He has a golden arm and a golden brain. In fairness to players of other eras, they never had the technology Thurston has to help him dissect an opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. He sums them up with such intensity it’s a wonder they don’t spill the ball the moment they see him coming.
Penrith are very close
Well played, but the Panthers are tomorrow’s team. They lacked mental toughness, an attribute that comes with experience via age. If you love a bet, back them for higher honours next season. By then they’ll have the aptitude to grass an opposing player and not allow him the liberty of standing in the tackle and offloading.
Raiders are packing the best of British
I tipped the Panthers over Canberra, thinking Blake Austin and Josh Hodgson would be missing. But when they were passed fit to play, I switched to the Raiders. I keep singing the praises of Pommy Hodgson, and I’ll risk losing my voice to keep doing just that. This bloke’s a champion and the Four Nations clash between the Ausies and England is shaping as a rightroyal classic.
Wrestlemania in Melbourne
There’s no prize for nominating the team that’s a real pain in the neck. The Storm have a copyright on the title. The Raiders can expect to be neck-wrestled at every opportunity but Ricky Stuart just may have his own unorthodox tackling method ready to be released.
CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN: Croker, Gallen, Thurston and Smith are superb leaders of men.