Ad-lib footy is a winning formula
Andrew Johns
15:00 AEST Thu Aug 2 2012

Former Australia, New South Wales and Newcastle Knights champion halfback Andrew Johns is part of the Wide World of Sport commentary team and he will write exclusively for us in 2012.
Andrew Johns
  Have your say on the Origin hangover

The game of rugby league has evolved this season. No longer is it good enough to belt it up the middle and grind out victories, relying on kicks and mistakes from the opposition for your points. Teams that have been slow to accept this have struggled all year while several that have embraced it have excelled.

Des Hasler has the Bulldogs flying at the top of the table and it's no coincidence that they are playing some of the most creative football of any team in the competition. They don't have a single robot in the team with each and every player capable of playing the game as they see it. Michael Maguire has the Rabbitohs playing a similar brand of creative, yet remarkably almost mistake-free, football.

Wayne Bennett has taken a while to settle in at Newcastle, as he did when he first arrived at St George Ilawarra. He has the Knights playing a bit less structured of late and they are really starting to benefit. As well as the Bulldogs are going at the moment I can see Newcastle upsetting them this week in what should be a fantastic game at Hunter Stadium. The nine-game unbeaten run of the Bulldogs might come to an end, but I think it will give them a shake up and they'll go on to win the minor premiership. The Knights themselves will charge into the finals, but they don't quite have the team to go all the way this year. Still, the signs are good that Bennett has them heading in the right direction.

I also think the Rabbitohs could stumble this week against Gold Coast. Ashley Harrison returns for the Titans and they have been playing really well lately. The Rabbitohs often monster teams out of the game with their size and strength, but this won't work against the equally impressive Titans. Souths will also recover from an upset at his point in the season and with Greg Inglis and Issac Luke returning they will go a long way towards winning the premiership.

The masters of the instinctive style of football that is proving so successful this year are our indigenous players. Something about the way they have grown up with a football in their hands, playing attacking ad-lib footy in their backyards or down at the local park has these guys proving a complete handful every week. It's not something you can coach and it's just about impossible to coach against. Players like Ben Barba, Matt Bowen, Nathan Merritt, Chris Sandow and Inglis just have a special ability to be where they need to be when they are needed. Barba against the Cowboys last week was just freakish. Two of his tries came from situations where the play looked just about dead, until he came streaking through to carry the ball all the way to the line. Merritt was also incredible in filling in for Inglis, no one can find the try line like he can.

Sandow played well in Parramatta's two recent upsets. The Eels are playing like they have nothing to lose now and a huge weight has been lifted from their shoulders. They don't want to send Nathan Hindmarsh out with a wooden spoon and they will prove to be a thorn in many higher-ranked sides as the finals approach.

The way Parramatta trampled Brisbane last week indicates a bigger problem that many have overlooked. Melbourne Storm are another example of what I think is the biggest Origin hangover I have seen in many years. I think the Origin series this year was so closely contested and so deeply emotional that a lot of our star players have come out of it a bit flat. I'm not sure the Storm can turn things around now, they have been really struggling. It all makes for an interesting few weeks as the finals approach.

Which teams have you enjoyed watching the most this season?
Will the Broncos and Storm recover from their Origin hangovers?
Which team will get the wooden spoon?

User comments
To the bulldogs and the broncos will be the final this year because I think when they met the broncos shocked the bulldogs because the broncos showed the bulldogs own winning formulae and said how do feel but they showed in the second half we can do better and the broncos to me when they played the storm they showed we don't die they to me play the true colored of this sport and the bulldogs they lately have been shocked by some teams saying your not the
The bulldogs are flying in to the sky The eels are not good because of jarred Hayne he is injured
did you tell the yanks that you cant get home fast enough to have a gigantic sook yourself about the whinging blues hahahaha
at Ants you muppet. Hodges try wasn't a try full stop. Hence why last weekend we see 2 people get penalized for running behind decoy runners. whilst also seeing 2 others turn back after there decoy went thru. Whatmough being one. Why.....because these knew its a shepherd and if your a qldr who loves his footy, I would think you would know that its been a shepherd for the last 110 yrs of this games history. Yes gould is an idiot sometimes but havent you heard him for the last 5 weeks highlight each time a shepherd gets called or someone back tracks.
Watched the third State of Origin in US and had a lot of US relatives raving about the game. Said to them then that the New South Wales supporters will whinge about the Hodges try, like they did about the Inglis try in gameone! The whinging got a ref sacked but didn't change the result. Can't believe Joey had a whine about it again today. Play the whistle and that soft Hodges try might not have happened. Bad decision, suck it up and get on with the game. That's what junior coaches tell the kids. They also should tell them to respect the referees decision. No wonder no-one wants to be a ref. It was a great series played by two great teams. Put it on alone on a Saturday night and give the players a chance to recover from their superhuman efforts.
Jarrodd hayne 2009 or Ben barba 2012 who gets the chocolates......
Go the eels........on the money again Joey
maybe you could take a leaf out of beejays book and support your team no matter what as we do with the nsw blues..your just a useless supporter of the dragons and jt is always here cracking up at comments like yours..
After moving to Melbourne four years ago and missing League I have embraced the Melbourne Storm except for the Origin period where I loathe Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and especially Billy Slater. Now that Origin is over they are back in my good books. Having said that, this is the first time that Origin has really impacted on the team I support. Now I am not such a fan of the concept. . Clearly Origin takes a toll on those teams with strong representation. Origin needs a rethink, I would prefer the series to be a best of three, rather than the current format it is only TV rights that determine the current origin format and not what is best for the players or the competition.
Hey Joey good column this week. Agree completely with your origin comments. Storm & Broncos look flatter than a couple of pancakes. They will recover (I hope) and feature in the finals. Best teams to watch so far are the Bulldogs, Tigers and Souths. Was going to say Broncos but somebody let the air out! Penrith look a good fit for the spoon....what on earth has Gus been up to?
I think I'm like many others just absolutely gobsmacked watching Ben Barba. The Bulldogs for me have been great to watch. I can't understand what all the hype is about relating to "Origin Hangover" everyone seems to think that this state game is the greatest thing since sliced bread so why complain when the clubs paying ages suffer.Does it really matter whether they make the 8 or not.Club football seems to run second to the great "S OF O" so why complain now... My team could be the wooden spooners but in saying that as a supporter of the Eels I will still be there next year..
Go Joey, spot on. Been great footy to watch, with some exciting creative stuff from Souths and the Dogs. Bit of a knee jerk reaction this whole origin thing though. What about giving more credit to the way souths and the bulldogs are being coached. Not everyteam these two sides have played on their run was full of origin stars. Lots of excuses coming out of Melbourne and Brisbane!!!

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