'This year is the softest comp I've ever seen'

2 weeks ago 11
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Phil Gould has sensationally called the 2021 NRL season the "softest comp" he's ever witnessed and made comparisons to Cronulla's 2016 Premiership run, sparking a debate with Paul Gallen.

On 100% Footy, Gould was questioned about why this season has seen so many rugby league records set. For instance, Nathan Cleary became the second-youngest player to score 1,000 points, Alex Johnston scored the most tries in a season since 2001, Josh Addo-Carr became the first player since 1950 to score six tries in a game and the Melbourne Storm had a record-equalling 19-straight wins, just to name a few.

Gould drew comparisons to the Sharks' Premiership triumph in 2016, which at the time he famously said had a "soft element" due to the lacklustre state of the competition that year.

Now in 2021, Gould could see similarities.

"I said unless they improve [that] year they won't be going back-to-back and they'd struggle to make the finals because [the previous] year there was a soft element to that competition - and there was - there was only two or three teams that could win it, which is the same as this year," Gould said on 100% Footy.

"This year is the softest comp I've ever seen in my life."

Gallen didn't take kindly to Gould's comments on his 2016 Premiership victory at the Sharks, and jokingly accused Gould of "massaging" the facts.

In addition to Gould's assertion about the lack of contenders for the Premiership, he explained the main reasons why this season had seen a stack of records set - something he believes won't be repeated in the same fashion again.

"Some incredible records - individual and team records. I doubt we'll see the likes of this again," he said.

"Obviously the difference in talent between a number of teams, the new interpretation of the rules and the way defence went in the middle part of the season to accommodate that. It opened it up for the more talented teams to run roughshod over the rest of them.

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"The fact that over the last few years we've had very little lower-grade football preparing youngsters for first grade and their first tilt at it - they've really struggled with that. And I've got no doubt that across the game we have a lack of NRL credentialed talent.

"We've got plenty of fellas that will be in time but they're getting very tough initiation.

"The top sides at the moment have a lot of players that have spent a lot of time playing together. When you look through a lot of other clubs, they haven't had that. Time played together is a big factor in all of this and the way the rules so much favour the attack."

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