If Anthony Griffin can't recognise the blatant mistake he keeps making week in, week out at the Dragons, he doesn't deserve to keep his job beyond this season. It's painfully obvious watching the Dragons over the last few weeks how much better they are in attack when Jacob Liddle is playing hooker.
But Griffin keeps going with Moses Mbye as his starting No.9, and only brings Liddle on the field towards the end of the first half. The last time Liddle started a game was in round five against the Dolphins, when the Dragons ran out 38-12 winners in their best performance of the year.
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In the four games that have followed, Liddle started just one. To absolutely no-one's surprise, they haven't won a single game since. There was even the farcical situation against Canberra in round seven when Griffin promoted Mbye to start in a late switch before kick-off, but failed to notify NRL officials and cost his side an interchange before the game even started.
While Mbye is a solid player with a wealth of NRL experience, he is nowhere near the dynamic hooker that Liddle is. I lost count of the number of times against the Bulldogs on Sunday that a pass from Mbye went behind the intended receiver or forced them to stop in order to catch it, resulting in a complete breakdown of the attack.
Mbye is too slow to move the ball from dummy half and doesn't give his playmakers enough time before the defence moves up. Liddle on the other hand is quick and dynamic, throwing crisp passes that almost always allow the receiver to move onto the ball, creating the ruck speed that is so blatantly missing when Mbye is controlling things.
Liddle gets the forwards rolling, which in turn creates quick play-the-balls and allows the playmakers some space to move. When Mbye is on the field, everything happens at half pace and the outside backs never have a chance to shine.
In the four games that Mbye has played at least 40 minutes at hooker this season, the Dragons are 0-4. In three games that Liddle has played at least 40 minutes, they are 2-1. With Mbye on the field against the Bulldogs on Sunday, the only try the Dragons scored came against the run of play when Zac Lomax scooped up a loose ball and ran down field to set up a try for Matt Feagai.
When Liddle was brought into the action they scored a try in the middle of the field thanks to a quick play-the-ball and some slick work from Ben Hunt, before Max Feagai crossed in the corner after a sharp pass from Talatau Amone.
But in what can only be described as a shocking act of sabotage against his own team, Griffin opted to bring Mbye back onto the field with 10 minutes to go and the Dragons seemingly getting on top. Once again, there was absolutely no surprise that the Dragons failed to score again and went down 18-16.
The exact same scenario played out the week before against the Roosters. With Mbye once again starting, the Roosters surged to a 26-12 lead early in the second half. But with Liddle running the attack they launched a stunning comeback and scored three unanswered tries to level things at 26-26.
Inexplicably, Mbye came back onto the field with about 15 minutes to play and the Dragons' scoring stopped. The Red V couldn't even find a single point despite Victor Radley being in the sin-bin, with Luke Keary eventually kicking the Roosters to a 27-26 win.
To top things off, Griffin went and left Liddle out of his 17 to face the Wests Tigers in Magic Round, sticking with Mbye at hooker and including Jayden Sullivan on the bench. As many fans have pointed out, surely Liddle should be starting at 9, Sullivan at 6 and Amone on the bench as a utility.
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Griffin's decision to switch Lomax and Moses Suli between left and right centre also hasn't worked, with Suli unable to find his winger on a number of occasions on Sunday when Lomax would have produced his trademark flick. Lomax was also looking inside at one stage when he had Feagai unmarked on his outside and ended up losing the ball. Lomax was also a casualty when Griffin named his side to face the Tigers on Tuesday, with Max Feagai taking over at centre and Mikaele Ravalawa returning on the wing.
Some truly bizarre selections by Anthony Griffin for magic round. The big news is Zac Lomax who is dropped, Max Feagai to centre & Ravalawa returns on the wing. JDB to prop, Burns back row & Bird Lock. Disappointing to see Liddle & Couchman dropped. Sullivan returns via the bench pic.twitter.com/TA7VcXY1X0
— Red V Podcast (@RedVPodcast1) May 2, 2023
As Phil Rothfield said on Monday about Griffin: “I think his time is up. Anthony Griffin has run out of time. It is now a matter of who comes in to replace him. It could be Ben Hornby, Dean Young, Shane Flanagan, Jason Ryles or Des Hasler.”
To be fair, Sunday's loss to the Bulldogs marked the fourth week running in which the Dragons scored the same or more tries than their opposition but found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard. They were three tries apiece against the Titans but lost 20-18, three tries all against the Raiders in a 20-14 loss, five tries to four the better against the Roosters, and three tries all against the Dogs.
Just a couple of missed conversions from Lomax has seen the Dragons plummet to 15th on the ladder at 2-6. But for Dragons fans, anyone else but Griffin will be the perfect replacement.
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