Minor premiership is just that - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Minor premiership is just that

By Todd Balym, Melissa Woods and Liam FitzGibbon 05/09/2008 04:54:43 PM Comments (0)

For some things teams would risk all; the NRL minor premiership is not one of them.

Three teams are fighting down to the wire for league's regular season prize, the JJ Giltinan Shield, but in reality all have their sights set on the ultimate trophy awaiting the grand final winners.

Ladder leaders Manly, reigning premiers Melbourne and perennial underachievers Cronulla sit tied on 36 competition points ahead of the last round games this weekend.

The Sea Eagles are just eight points ahead of the Storm on for and against, with the Sharks well behind and having to rely on the others losing to move up from third place.

The minor premiership carries a $100,000 bonus but, for the Sea Eagles and Storm, the reward does not justify risking a top two finish.

That guarantees a week off if they manage to win their first home final the following weekend.

The Sea Eagles play the Panthers in the 5.30pm clash at Penrith on Saturday but forward Glenn Hall insists Manly will not be looking for a big win, just two competition points to secure a top two result.

"Who cares about points? As long as we win," said Hall.

"You still get a home semi and if we win the first week we still get a week off.

"I don't think it really matters."

The truth is Manly players gave up on the minor premiership three weeks ago when they suffered a shock 40-32 loss to South Sydney at ANZ Stadium to fall two points behind the Storm.

But Melbourne opened the door last week with a stunning loss at Newcastle, and the Sea Eagles are suddenly back in the hunt.

"No-one ever expected Melbourne to lose so (the minor premiership) kind of dropped out of our heads altogether," said Hall.

"If we go out playing for it we will probably lose. When you go and try too hard to get something it usually doesn't go your way."

The tightness between last year's grand finalists means the minor premiership won't be decided until Sunday evening's game between the Storm and South Sydney at Melbourne's Olympic Park.

By that stage the Storm will know exactly what margin they need to win by to secure their third straight minor title, but star five-eighth Greg Inglis insists they cannot afford to think about the numbers.

"If you think about the points you need to score in the match you won't get it," said Inglis.

"We need to get on a roll and build some momentum up going into the finals but, in saying all that, the minor premiership is something that we want to defend."

The Sharks, who host North Queensland on Saturday night, aren't even thinking about the minor premiership as they need both Manly and Melbourne to lose their matches to have any chance.

But if by some miracle they do win the shield it would be Cronulla's third minor premiership (1988, 1999).

"We're not too focused on the minor premiership, we've just got to worry about winning the game and whatever happens from that happens," said Sharks winger Luke Covell.

"We've prepared for anything so it doesn't worry us who we have to play in the semis. We will play whoever is thrown at us."

Meanwhile, the NRL have cracked down on serious dissent and warned that anyone spitting at a match official would be banned for "months rather than weeks".

The NRL judiciary sparked controversy this week by suspending NZ Warriors fullback Wade McKinnon for just three matches after he was found guilty of spitting at touch judge Brett Suttor.

The NRL issued a new policy directive on serious cases of dissent towards officials following Friday's board meeting and also acted to ensure McKinnon's suspension could not be used as a precedent for future cases.

In other news, troubled halfback Todd Carney said he was looking forward to a "fresh start" after signing on to play with Huddersfield in the UK next season.

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