A terrific weekend of rugby league was threatened to again be overshadowed by another ugly incident on social media.
Latrell Mitchell was racially abused but was strong enough to call it out on Instagram, and it was great to see the support he instantly received from other players and the NRL.
This generation of players is a lot stronger than 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago in the game. And that’s what I like about this new generation of kids: they’re not scared to stand up and be a voice for who they are and what they believe in.
I love to also see people from every background jump on board and support the players because he’s an NRL player and he’s part of the game. No one should be racially taunted because as I’ve said before, there’s got to be a line. You can enjoy some banter but when it comes to slurring someone about their race or ethnicity, that’s not a good thing.
You can enjoy some banter but when it comes to slurring someone about their race or ethnicity, that’s not a good thing.
It just goes to show that some people’s brains are still in the gutter. It’s hard to work it out at times but some people are just so uneducated. Obviously not everyone; you are going to get a few rotten apples on every tree.
But the positive is that everyone’s making a change and the NRL’s doing so much to drive that change and I know that they’re stamping out racism in the game, with players and so on. Outside behaviour is hard to control and when it comes down to banter and stuff like that, fans get emotional.
That can be fine and the banter’s good when people are getting into players on the field and trying to get them off their game, but when it comes to racism and similar taunting, you’ve got to draw the line.
Moving on, it was a terrific weekend of rugby league and the top four teams battled it out on Sunday.
I wrote a lot about that mid-season plateau and the difficulty of managing it, but you can see with the ladder now, it’s night and day between the top teams and the rest.
The Roosters are just starting to hit their straps and they’re starting to get in that mentality of finals football and that preparation. The top teams have got the depth and Melbourne, the Roosters and Souths all have experience of being in the finals.
Canberra’s improved tremendously but I don’t really rate their premiership hopes or think they’re grand final contenders. They have got a good side but when you’re talking about sides like South Sydney, they’re starting to hit their straps again and Melbourne Storm are feared by a lot of teams.
The only teams I know of that can handle them are the Roosters, Sharks and Manly. Everyone else seems to be intimidated by Melbourne and I think the coaches get the game plan wrong against them.
It’s the unstructured footy that seems to work best against the Storm. You cannot go into a grinding game with them because they have a tight defensive structure and they’re a defensive team.
They enjoy it when teams just play up the middle and try and bash away with a power game, but not when you play in an unstructured way.
South Sydney did a bit of it on the weekend and it got them back in the game. It rattled the Storm the way South Sydney played and with their shift plays. Souths just made too many mistakes.
But it’s that kind of football that’s going to win you games against Melbourne and at the moment they just look too hard to beat. The clinical part then comes down to the experience of the players and you’ve got to try and limit your mistakes.
We’ve still got a few more games until the end of the regular season and at the moment it’s all about preparation for the finals for most teams.
The bottom teams are looking at where they’re going to be going for their end of season trip so you can see the enthusiasm fall apart after 10 minutes of playing football.
But your top five or six teams are all preparing for a big finals campaign and it all changes again when we get into September. The speed and intensity of the game lifts, the mistakes drop and the top teams know how to prepare for the finals.
Organisations like Melbourne and the Roosters aren’t even at their best at the moment but they’re on their way and I know that with Trent Robinson and Craig Bellamy, when it comes to finals they’ll be roaring.