The footy field can be a lonely place sometimes.
The footy field can be a lonely place sometimes.

Legends torch Dragons brain snap

RUGBY league legends Peter Sterling, Darren Lockyer and Brad Fittler have slammed the Dragons' "brain snap" in the final minute of last night's elimination final against the Rabbitohs.

With the game on the line at 12-all and a minute to play, the Dragons inexplicably decided to run the ball on the last tackle despite being only 40m out from their own line.

The ball came to Ben Hunt who, instead of kicking, went short to Kurt Mann who was easily accounted for by the Rabbitoh's defence.

Speaking on Channel 9's The Sunday Footy Show, Sterling was stinging in his criticism

"If you go long there, I can understand the play," Sterling said of Hunt's short pass.

"But going short made no sense whatsoever with a minute to go. And to hand the football over to Souths 40 metres out, it's a poor decision.

"I love Ben Hunt as a player and I always knew he would come down and he would be successful at the Dragons. They had a great season. The led the competition for 14 rounds, they got beaten by a point, they put themselves in a winning position."

Fittler labelled the play a "brain snap", while Lockyer said it was more of a Hail Mary play.

"They decided that they were going to win the game on that play," he said. "Clearly the right decision was to kick the ball down the other end of the field."

The Rabbitoh's quickly moved into position and Adam Reynolds played the hero, slotting his third field goal of the night in the 13-12 win.

Hunt has been heavily criticised for his last play options, particularly during Origin II when, with James Robert in the sin bin, the Queensland half couldn't break the NSW line.

"I don't want to crucify the kid because I think he's enormously talented but when you get it wrong, we have to say that they got it wrong," Sterling said.

"Unfortunately, especially with no Gareth Widdop there, it's Ben's responsibility. The number on his back says it's his responsibility on the last tackle there at that time of the game, it means that he's the decision maker."

Fittler suggested a positional change next season with Widdop and Hunt swapping numbers.

"Why don't they change numbers and have Gareth Widdop [as halfback] who is the more composed, the more controlled player," he said.

"If you have a look at South Sydney, just before the last field goal Cody Walker takes off to the right hand side and nearly stuffs the play.

"He ends up straightening up off his right foot but puts Adam Reynolds in a bad position. There's always the complement of the five-eighth and the halfback. Maybe Ben Hunt is a five-eighth, let someone else do that other stuff."

Speaking in the post-match press conference, Dragons coach Paul McGregor said he wouldn't lay blame on any one player for the poor decision making.

"You can break the game down a fair bit if you like but that's not for this press conference," he said.

"I'm not going to turn on a player who didn't make the right decision.

"Going forward it's a great experience for these guys to make sure next time they get it right."

McGregor admitted it was a missed opportunity but argued it wasn't a wasted season.

It was a rough finish for the season for the Dragons, who led the competition for 15 of the first 16 rounds, before finishing with three wins from the last nine rounds to finish seventh.

Hope was renewed in week one of the finals with a massive win over the Broncos in Brisbane.

"We had it, we lost it. We had it. It came down to the field goal the difference in the end," McGregor said.

"But it's definitely bounds forwards, not steps (for our season).

"It's been our most successful year since 2011. We've got some real youth.

"Four or five guys whose main goal was to play first grade and they've played most the year and finished in the second week of the semi-final series."

Hunt was about to go foetal until James Graham came to comfort him.
Hunt was about to go foetal until James Graham came to comfort him.

The Dragons were also effected by injuries with Gareth Widdop and Paul Vaughan sidelined for the final and Tariq Sims' suffering a knee injury just after halftime.

"Everyone wants to talk about everything negative (about our year)," McGregor said.

"But if you go back and look at the year everyone is going to have a period where they're not playing well.

"Ours was obviously at the back end of the year after a pretty heavy load through the middle third with the Origin players we haven't had in there before.

"With the type of footy we played for the first 10 or 12 weeks, there has to be a drop somewhere because to sustain that week in week out hasn't happened in the competition."

- with AAP



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