Dogs rebuild stalls as sad Manly truth exposed: Good, bad and ugly of NRL round 11

Adam Lucius highlights some of the big talking points from another round of drama in the NRL.

·5-min read
From left to right, Manly NRL star Tom Trbojevic and Canterbury's Reed Mahoney.
The Manly Sea Eagles and Canterbury Bulldogs both struggled in round 11 of the NRL. Pic: Getty

😃 The good: Shaun Johnson's remarkable turnaround

😔 The bad: Canterbury Bulldogs continue to struggle

😡 The ugly: Manly's stuttering form poses glaring issue

Shaun Johnson back near his dazzling best

Almost a year to the day, I had the following to say about Shaun Johnson. "The No.7 looks unmotivated, disinterested and totally lacking confidence and belief," I wrote on Yahoo Sport Australia

"Johnson used to make the difficult look easy – he now makes the easy look difficult. It's sad to watch."

Seen here, Shaun Johnson poses with fans after the Warriors' victory over Canterbury in the NRL.
Shaun Johnson poses with fans after the Warriors' victory over Canterbury in the NRL. Pic: Getty

Many predicted him to retire last year – an inglorious end to what had been a wonderful career. How things have turned around in 12 months. Please excuse me while I wipe egg from my face.

Johnson's revival under rookie coach Andrew Webster is one of this season's feel-good stories. The veteran No.7 laid on two tries in the Kiwi side's win over Canterbury on Friday night, continuing the sort of form that has him sitting in the top dozen players on the Dally M leaderboard.

He looks happy again, playing with the sort of self-confidence he's always possessed but with a more team-first mentality. It’s been great to watch.

Now, here's the thing. The Wests Tigers are reportedly preparing to offer the 32-year-old a lucrative two-year deal to see out his career.

No offence to the Tigers, but let's hope Johnson says 'thanks but no thanks'. It’s no coincidence the halfback's return to form is in large part to his strong relationship with Webster, not to mention the creature comforts of home.

To give all that up to return to Sydney with a struggling club would be a huge gamble. Johnson knows it, the Warriors know it. Look for something to be nutted out very soon.

Canterbury's Facebook post following the defeat to the Warriors was captioned: Work In Progress. What impatient Bulldogs fans want to know is how much longer they need to wait until the job is complete and the project signed-off on.

Despite all the hype and expectation heading into the new season under rookie coach Cameron Ciraldo, it looks pretty much the same old Dogs. They have lost five of their last six to sit third last on the table with easily the worst defensive record in the competition.

Talk of a top eight finish has evaporated. Injuries haven’t helped the cause but it wasn't as if the Dogs were completely decimated before running out against the Warriors.

Josh Addo-Carr is a big out – he is expected to return next week – and the loss of Viliame Kikau until late in the season stings, but their unavailable list is really no better or worse than most clubs. Bulldogs boss Phil Gould insists there is no cause for alarm, tweeting he was "pleased" with the effort against the Warriors.

That's not how the Bulldog Army saw it - or coach Cameron Ciraldo, for that matter. He was angry with the performance and strongly hinted at personnel changes.

It pays to remember Canterbury finished 12th last year. For all the talk of a revival, this season is charting in the same direction.

PVL (Peter V'landys), are you sure you want Manly to be in the NRL's shopfront for next year's planned Las Vegas extravaganza? Geez, you’d almost need to pay me to sit through a Sea Eagles game at the moment.

You're in for 80 minutes of torture. It's like doing your tax return while sitting in the dentist's chair. If the American promotion is to go ahead, the Yanks deserve to see the best of what the game can offer.

No amount of spruiking from Hugh Jackman will convince locals rugby league is worth watching unless Manly somehow rediscover the attacking flair the club has long been renowned for. Only the Roosters, Wests Tigers and Bulldogs have scored fewer than Manly's 191 points after 11 rounds.

Pictured here, Manly NRL star Tom Trbojevic.
Tom Trbojevic again looked well short of his best in Manly's latest NRL defeat at home to the Sharks. Pic: Getty

Anthony Seibold's team only finished six points behind the Sharks on Sunday but the scoreline flattered them. It would have been one of rugby league's great heists if they'd somehow pulled off a miracle win after chasing the game all afternoon.

Full marks for effort but outside of Daly Cherry-Evans and the hard-to-handle Taniela Paseka, no-one looked capable of creating anything in attack. The once untouchable Tom Trbojevic trucks the ball up like a front-rower in a fullback's body.

Forwards are now outdoing him for pace. At this rate, Seibold will have no choice but to throw Josh Schuster back in the fray. As erratic and lazy as he can be, the ball-playing five-eighth will at least add some X-factor to a Z-rated attack.

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