Set of six: Time to cut Kearney

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It's time for the Eels to say goodbye to Stephen Kearney. Photo / Getty Images
It's time for the Eels to say goodbye to Stephen Kearney. Photo / Getty Images

Justis Kamu looks at six issues in the NRL this week, including why the Eels should axe Stephen Kearney, and which team is the biggest disappointment of 2012 so far.

1. Kearney and the Eels don't fit
The wheels are falling off at Parramatta, who have won just once in ten games; the worse start to a season in the club's proud fifty two year history. They have won just seven games in 33 outings under Stephen Kearney since round one of 2011 - a winning record of .212. Gone is the high tempo, off the cuff running football that had opposition bewildered.

Currently the Eels are a poor man's Melbourne Storm, trying to play to a structured pattern that isn't tailored for their personnel. The team is sinking fast, and they must cut their losses starting with Kearney.

If the Kiwis coach is to hang on to his job he needs at least 11 wins from their remaining 14 games. On current form, don't expect the out of sorts outfit to produce a fairy-tale Hollywood finish.

2. Knights are biggest flop so far this season
Having moved heaven and earth to acquire Wayne Bennett with the help of Nathan Tinkler's chequebook, his acquisition was followed by a handful of signings including Darius Boyd, Kade Snowden and returning club legend Danny Buderus. Things looked on the up for the blue collar town that have been desperate to add to their last title in 2001 during the Andrew Johns era.

Yet the Knights have seemed an uninspired by their master-coach, with their latest effort a 32-12 defeat to the Cowboys, their sixth loss of the season. Sitting in 12th position, the one-time entertainers have failed to light up the competition, largely due to a forward pack lacking firepower to dominate.

With the team playing so badly, Bennett has called a 'moratorium' on player signings so he can have more time to assess the players he wants to keep or let go. With Buderus, Joel Edwards, Zeb Taia, Evarn Tuimavave and Willie Mason all off contract and the June transfer window approaching it's an added distraction that the players could do without.

3. Matai our best Kiwi centre
Steve Matai is a hugely underrated footballer. Renowned for his bone crunching tackles, his offensive prowess goes largely unnoticed. On Friday against the Broncos, Matai showed that he is the best New Zealand centre in the competition. He ran for 148m, ripped open the Broncos defence with two line breaks and broke six tackles in a classy performance. His duel with Queensland bench player Matt Gillett was a no contest as Matai slid past his opposite to score and fended him off before running 55 metres to setup the winning try.

Despite being a two time premiership title winner with the Manly Sea Eagles, Kiwis selectors still ponder his selection with plenty of caution. Whilst his extensive disciplinary record hurts his reputation, thus affecting his Kiwis selection - the Kiwis coaching staff need to follow Des Hasler and Geoff Toovey's convictions by utilising his strengths. He has paid them back two-fold and he would do the same in the black jersey.

4. The Cronulla Sharks are the real deal
Every season begins with renewed enthusiasm and hope that this will be the year that Cronulla can end their 45 year hoodoo without winning a premiership title. Yet year after year, Sharks fans and players have been left nursing their despair. However this season has started differently.

The Sharks sit third on the ladder after ten rounds, have managed seven wins from ten starts including the defeat of the previously unbeaten Melbourne Storm. Even more remarkable is they managed to do it without inspirational captain Paul Gallen on the field.

The Sharks are the giant-killers of the 2012 season with the Dragons, Cowboys and the champion Sea Eagles all falling to the one time easy beats. With the Bulldogs, Eels and Titans on the schedule over the next few weeks, confident Sharks fans will demand a trio of victories as they setup for a playoffs push.

5. Is Michael Jennings worth the risk?
Having performed with distinction last season in game one of the series, Ricky Stuart has selected the young upstart on that previous outing and his undoubted talent. But is he worth the risk?

He's being paid top dollar ($600,000 a season) to strut his stuff on the CIA Stadium turf, and his blinding acceleration can carve up any side in the competition. Jennings plays big against lesser sides but goes missing when he plays the likes of Storm, Broncos, or Dragons - it's in those games the Panthers need him most.

Ivan Cleary's patience was tested and after waiting his star to shine gave him the chop so he could find some form and a transformed attitude in the NSW Cup. The Panthers even managed to beat the Dragons on Monday night in a 13-12 nail biter to show they could win without their most talented back on the park.

The State of Origin series shapes as critical period of the young man's career, who not only will go out to stop Queensland from marching to a seven year reign. But he has the added pressure of trying to convince his club supporters, teammates and coach that he is worth all the fuss in the western Sydney community.

6. Konrad Hurrell must play every game
It's great to finally see an out and out centre playing for the Warriors. The Warriors have a tendency to shove backrowers into the position, and whilst they are defensively sound, they lack the attacking verve that a natural centre has.The new go-to-man on the Warriors' right edge scored two outstanding tries in the win over the Roosters on Saturday night.

He showed plenty of pace for his first try to round Minichello in a 60 metre run and for his second he used his stocky frame to carry three defenders over the tryline. Hurrell is not your biggest centre in the game, but in the mould of Willie Talau his low centre of gravity and powerful leg drive make him a nightmare to cope with.

The Tongan cannonball needs to be on Bluey McClennan's team sheet every week as he will test any side defensively with his no-nonsense approach.

Team of the week
1. Fullback - Lachlan Coote (Panthers)
2. Wing - Isaac Gordan (Sharks)
3. Centre - Konrad Hurrell (Warriors)
4. Centre - Jamie Lyon (Manly Sea Eagles)
5. Wing - Josh Mansour (Panthers)
6. Five-eighth- Jonathan Thurston (Cowboys)
7. Halfback - Shaun Johnson (Warriors)
8. Prop - James Tamou (Cowboys)
9. Hooker - Kevin Kingston (Panthers)
10. Prop - Luke Douglas (Titans)
11. Secondrower - Greg Bird (Titans)
12.Secondrower - Joel Thompson (Raiders)
13. Lock - Ashley Harrison (Titans)
Coach - Ivan Cleary (Panthers)

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