Manly coach Trent Barrett insists his side is still carrying the effects of their gruelling draw to open the NRL season, but can turn a corner with a win over the high-flying Cronulla.
Barrett was on Friday responding to comments from veteran Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett, who claimed their demanding schedule during the State of Origin period had the potential to derail their season.
The Sea Eagles mentor offered a smirk and little sympathy when asked about Bennett’s tirade, due to Brisbane consistently being scheduled to play on Friday nights, which has long been a gripe amongst opposition teams.
“No one seemed to care too much at the start of the year when it was us,” Barrett said.
Barrett’s side were slugged with four five-day turnarounds in the opening nine rounds, including a back-to-back short break which saw them play three games in 11 days.
He agreed with Bennett’s criticism of the draw that short breaks were taking their toll on sides later in the year, adding his side’s schedule had fatigued his playing group and it was showing in their performances.
“It’s cumulative,” Barrett said.
“It’s still a factor for us now. Having a month there where we couldn’t train and the chopping and changing in the side.
“We’ve got some older players in there who are struggling now. It does hurt you.
“We can’t whinge about that, we won three of those five games to put us in a position where if we win this weekend going into that bye we will be in the eight.”
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has promised to reduce the number of five-day turnarounds next season with the elimination of Monday night games and drop even further in 2018 when the NRL takes control of the draw from the television broadcasters.
The Sea Eagles go into Sunday’s clash with the in-form Sharks in 12th spot but could put wind in their sails heading into the bye.
As well, Barrett refused to bite back at Brisbane great Steve Renouf who on Thursday questioned whether he had the goods to coach the Sea Eagles and said his players had shown a lack of commitment under his watch.
“He’s entitled to his opinion but the only thing I need to worry about is the players here,” Barrett said.