I’m a big fan of Wade Graham, Andrew Fifita and Aiden Tolman – they have been fine players for a long time.
But carrying the three veterans in the one pack hurt Cronulla badly against the youthful Souths forwards on Saturday night.
The trio could only manage between 50 and 60 meters each carting the ball forward – Souths’ Tevita Tatola ran more than the three of them combined with 175 power-packed meters.
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The Sharks had a fine season before the disappointing fadeout at Allianz Stadium, where Souths totally dominated them up front.
Dale Finucane was the only Cronulla forward to run for more than 100 meters – all six Souths starters ran for triple figures.
With Fifita and Tolman set to hang up the boots, the Sharks will have a younger, leaner pack next season and that should give them a harder, faster look up the middle which is so essential in the modern game.
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LEGENDARY SKIPPER IN THE MAKING
South Sydney have had some legendary captains down the years – from old timers like Jack Rayner, Clive Churchill and John Sattler to modern day greats Craig Coleman and Mario Fenech.
And after just 12 months in the job, Cameron Murray is setting himself up to be talked about in such glowing terms as those illustrious leaders in the future.
Filling the big shoes of Adam Reynolds, Murray has been outstanding at the helm for the Bunnies this season.
He has taken his own game to a new level and his teammates have followed his lead.
Against Cronulla on Saturday night, Murray was impeccable.
He scored a crucial solo try that proved pivotal in Souths’ 38-12 win, came up with a try assist and topped his team’s tackle count.
The local junior is likely to lead the Rabbitohs for much of the next decade – and as long as he does, the Bunnies will be in good hands.
ACE UP EELS’ SLEEVE
The two benches will be crucial in next weekend’s Eels-Cowboys grand final qualifier, and the Eels have an ace up their sleeve in tough Kiwi Marata Niukore.
Niukore was superb in the Eels’ 40-4 thrashing of Canberra on Friday night, scoring two tries in the final 10 minutes and coming up with 168 run meters.
Niukore gives the Eels real thrust from the bench and the Raiders had no answer to his power running game.
The Warriors would have loved watching him rip into the Raiders – the big forward is off to Auckland next season.
The Eels ran the Raiders off their feet in a remarkable bounce-back from the previous week’s loss to Penrith to get into their first preliminary final since 2009.
Some 13 Eels ran for more than 100 meters, with four of those getting over the 200 meter mark.
Those are remarkable statistics – but the Eels will find the going a lot tougher against the well-drilled Cowboys defense in the heat and humidity of Townsville.
YOUNG GUN’S SHORTCOMINGS LAID BARE
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has a dilemma with enigmatic fullback Xavier Savage to work out before next season.
Savage is a kid with great talent in attack but in the last line of defence, he can be very shaky.
The youngster produced very much a mixed bag in the big loss to the Eels on Friday night, highlighting the problem.
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A dreadful attempted tackle on his tryline and a Parramatta grubber kick embarrassingly rolling between his legs gifted the Eels two early tries.
But then Savage showed his talent with one of the best solo tries of the finals series, breaking through the Eels line with nothing on 30 meters from his own line and powering past rival fullback Clint Gutherson to score his team’s only points.
Savage finished the night with 205 run meters, the try, and three missed tackles and two errors.
But at 20, he’s still a baby in terms of NRL experience in the vital fullback spot and has the talent to be a special player with some serious work over the off-season.
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