St George Illawarra Dragons coach Wayne Bennett's winning formula works its grand final magic again
Out of sight . . . Dean Young puts the game beyond the Sydney Roosters with a second-half try. St George Illawarra went on to win 32-8 at a rain-soaked ANZ
Three weeks ago, St George-Illawarra coach Wayne Bennett made the statement that the things which won you football games back in the 1980s, still win you football games today.
Bennett places his faith in the basics: discipline, team spirit, players playing for each other, advancing the ball with good control, and great defence. He said: "These things won games in the 80s, it wins today; and it will win again next week."
The Dragons certainly proved their coach right in their 32-8 demolition of the Sydney Roosters. All season the Dragons have been brilliant in their simplicity. They have trusted the words of their wily old coach; never once wavering in the belief he had them on the right track. They have been patient, systematic, methodical and relentless. Yesterday they added ''ruthless'' to their resume. They saved their best for last in their magical grand final performance.
Dragons win 2010 Grand Final
The Dragons Mark Gasnier and Jamie Soward take down Rooster Todd Carney
The grand final victors - the St George Illawarra Dragons.
I would like to add one more traditional thought to Bennett's winning formula: forwards win big games. The Dragons forwards were outstanding. From the opening whistle they owned the advantage line in both attack and defence. The Roosters forwards never really established themselves in the contest and it seemed only a matter of time before this Dragons dominance was reflected on the scoreboard.
Dragons back-rowers Jeremy Smith, Neville Costigan, Ben Creagh and Dean Young proved far too powerful for their rivals. These four men came up with 58 ball carries between them; each loaded with purpose and intent. They won this game for the Dragons.
They took advantage of a submissive Roosters defence line that waited for the runners to come to them rather than sprint up to instigate the collisions. Time and time again the Dragons forwards punched holes into the opposition and dragged defenders backwards. By comparison, the four main Roosters back-row forwards contributed 20 ball carries between them. For me this was the difference in the contest. Fullback Darius Boyd won the Clive Churchill medal. He was excellent as usual. I have no problem with him accepting this prestigious award as much for his outstanding season as well as his tremendous contribution in the big one. But I imagine he walked into the dressing room after the game congratulating his big men up front for their efforts.
Creagh repeatedly runs the tough line on the edges of the field. He often gets belted by opposition defences but he never shirks his role; and he keeps coming. Young and Costigan are warriors. Both are built close to the ground and have the ability to surge into collisions, dishing out the punishment as they go. Young was also outstanding in defence contributing 36 tackles in heavy conditions in the middle of the field.
Smith is a unique talent. He is the kind of player every team desires and every player wants to partner. He can play tough. He has the skill to be crafty. He varies his running game between the use of raw power, or simply making defenders miss with his sharp spins and footwork.
The Dragons did come up with a few errors midway through the first half and the Roosters gave us a taste of how potent their attacking game can be. Two quick tries to the Tricolours got the attention of Bennett's side. It was a timely reminder that discipline was a crucial part of the winning philosophy. From that point though, they handled their assignment with distinction.
By midway through the second half, they had the game in their keeping and were travelling on automatic pilot. There would be no more turbulence on this flight. The premiership was theirs.
The Roosters have had a great season. The wet weather conspired against their normal methods of sideline-to-sideline football and they never really looked like varying their tactics to suit the conditions. They went with the football that got them there; and at this stage of their development it's hard to criticise such an attitude.
They came up with far too many errors. Their defence was submissive rather than aggressive; especially close to their own goal line. They didn't utilise their kicking game anywhere near well enough given the wet and slippery surface. They will learn from this experience and next season should be a far more versatile football team.
For this season though, the spoils go to the Dragons. They were the best team all year and thoroughly deserve their victory lap on the first weekend in October. Well done, lads.