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Match Report - Round 21 2002

Sharp Eagles get it write with a whiteboard plan
By Brad Walter - www.smh.com.au, 5 Aug '02

At the conclusion of yesterday's post-match press conference, Manly coach Peter Sharp - having allowed his departing assistant Frank Ponissi to conduct the formal proceedings with reporters - suddenly had a question from the back of the room.

"Beaver," he asked Eagles captain Steve Menzies, "You carried the ball a lot down their end but what about your end, you didn't seem to carry it too much?"

It was a joke, of course, Menzies having led Manly to an upset win over Parramatta after a week of questions and answers between Sharp and his players.

For someone who loathes meetings, Sharp's game plan to topple the Eels yesterday was virtually devised by consensus.

With the Eagles having conceded 76 points in their past 120 minutes of football since leading Cronulla 18-nil at half-time a fortnight ago, Sharp asked each player last Tuesday to write down suggestions on how they could improve their defence.

Then on Thursday afternoon he organised a team meeting in the media room beneath the main grandstand at Brookvale Oval to discuss their ideas and the side's overall attitude.

"I'm not a great fan of meetings," Sharp said. "But I just thought that we had to draw a line in the sand somewhere and make a decision about what we want to do for the future, not just this year.

"We've played the same sides in the last three weeks, the Cowboys twice and Cronulla in the middle - the first game and a half was 12 points and the second game and a half was 76 points.

"So I just said to them, 'You tell me what is going on'. I got varied answers, but there were a couple of themes and then we just threw some things up on the whiteboard over there.

"We spoke about the Bulldogs, we spoke about Parramatta and we spoke about the Manly sides of 1995 and 1996, and the guys that were here then put their two-bobs' worth in."

One of those players was Menzies, and he described yesterday's performance as one of the Eagles' best of the season after managing to keep last year's minor premiers tryless until the 69th minute.

"It was our attitude in defence," Menzies said. "The technical side had been fine but I just think it was the attitude and willingness to want to stop people from crossing your tryline."

The NSW Origin back-rower set up Manly's first try in the ninth minute with a grubber kick behind the Eels' line that was pounced on by centre Ben MacDougall just millimetres before going dead.

It was to be the only scoring action of the first half as both sides struggled to mount any great attacking movements, although Parramatta players were twice called back for forward passes before the teams trooped off for the interval with the Eagles ahead 6-0.

Worse for the Eels, their most dangerous attacking weapon - ball-playing forward David Solomona - had limped from the field two minutes earlier with a knee injury that prevented him from taking any further part in the game.

A few minutes after the interval, they blew another scoring opportunity after a forward pass from Brett Hodgson to Nathan Hindmarsh, then had to look on as referee Bill Harrigan appeared to miss a Manly knock-on in the lead-up to Albert Torrens's 51st-minute try. After Eagles halfback Jason Ferris, making his 100th first grade appearance, extended the lead to 13-0 with a 68th-minute field goal, only for Parramatta to hit back two tackles later with a Ben Kusto try, Harrigan said: "You've got to ask whether they did the field goal too early."

But having talked extensively during the week about the Bulldogs' comeback from 19-0 down to beat Newcastle after the bell last Sunday, Manly were determined not to suffer the same fate as the Knights and responded almost immediately through a 95m Robert Miles try.

"It sounds like a toss when you read it in the paper but part of the reason for the meeting we had was that we need to develop a culture, and there's a lot to like about Canterbury's, isn't there?" Sharp said. "That's what we're trying to instil here."

Eagles: 19
Tries: MacDougall, Torrens, Miles.
Goals: Williamson 3,
Field Goal: Lavea

Parramatta Eels: 10
Tries: Kusto, Hindmarsh. Goals: Hodges 1

Referee: Bill Harrigan

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