From The Couch: Round 22
A Match Made in Heaven: Ricky Stuart, "the best Parramatta signing since Jack Gibson", is now officially an Eel. It is a match made in heaven if you are happy to see the Eels stay mired down the bottom of the ladder. If you are fond of the Eels, it is going to be a tough ride.
The sounds out of Parramatta are already bad. The comparison of Stuart's signing to that of Jack Gibson is so typically Parramatta. The Eels are mired on the foot of the premiership ladder, the pressure to guide the club to its first title in over a quarter-century always great and the club chairman makes a totally ludicrous and stupid statement about a coach who have a 41 per cent win rate in his last six seasons.
There is no doubt Stuart was signed primarily to fix the recruitment crisis at the club. The Eels cannot attract anyone. Stuart should be able to assist in this regard. He may overpay but he will be able to lure a big name or two across. The Eels should not have to put up with the parade of overpaid misfits, washed-up jokers and totally inept posers that have been Parramatta's recruits that they have had to for the last half-decade.
He will need to be kept in check, however, and it is unlikely the Eels' front office is able to do that. I'm not even sure they are capable of turning off the lights and locking the door on the way out. There are plenty at the Sharks who will tell some tales about Stuart being allowed to have total control of the salary cap. This could be a major issue.
A re-emergence of passion for the jersey will also be another positive for Parramatta. It has not been seen for a long-time. No longer will talented players be allowed to get away with not turning up. Players will try or face the consequences. Jarryd Hayne may actually find some consistency in his game.
But tactically, Stuart lacks. The Eels are a horrid attacking team. Stuart has no idea how to fix this. He must do so with a team nearly full with its cap and with little talent actually in the side.
Stuart's temperament is also an issue. The Eels are a remarkably prickly club, one renowned for leaks and in-fighting and politicking, It will be bulls locking horns every which way. Stability will not be the outcome.
Stuart will change things at the Eels. There is some upside to his signing. But he will not turn the club into a premiership force. I doubt he will even guide them back to the finals. He just isn't a very good premiership coach.
Stand By Your Policy: The NSWRL must disregard the advice of Tammy Wynette and listen more to the advice of Brian Canavan. Stand by your policy, not your man. Only two years after the famous Canvan report was issued in response to Queensland's recent Origin dominance with the key element being that the Blues must appoint a full-time coach. Stuart was the first to benefit from that policy. He has also reiterated the importance of having one man who could commit fully to the job. Now he appears to be positioning himself for the gig in 2013 and remarkably, the NSWRL are considering ditching a necessary policy to appease a coach who has lost two straight series. If a part-time coach is going to be appointed, the NSWRL should at least get the best available and hire Des Hasler. Of course, the position should go to someone who can commit fully to it. The Blues aren't going to end the Maroons' streak by having a part-time coach at the helm.
The Best Recruits of 2012: The top 10 signings of 2012…next week, the worst.
1. James Graham (Canterbury): The British international has been a revelation at Canterbury, fundamentally changing the way the Bulldogs play. One of just five players to average 120-metres and 30-plus tackles a game.
2. Todd Carney (Cronulla): Has been the match-winning playmaker the Sharks have desperately craved. Laid on 11 tries and scored two more but most importantly has been a dangerous runner and outstanding kicker.
3. Nate Myles (Gold Coast): Shunned by the Roosters, Myles has been the Titans' best player with 113 metres and 35 tackles a game. Provides aggression in the middle and support in workrate to Bailey, Douglas and Harrison.
4. Krisnan Inu (Canterbury): This column could not have been more wrong. Inu, who at times has been an incredibly lazy player, has scored eight tries and 93 points in just eight games for the Bulldogs. Astonishing turnaround.
5. Bryce Gibbs (Cronulla): Embittered after being forced out by the Tigers, Gibbs has had his finest season at the Sharks, going at 134 metres and 23 tackles a game. More importantly, he has been the gel that has bonded the Sharks.
6. Darius Boyd (Newcastle): Much-maligned this year but has still laid on 10 tries in and sits 17th in tackle breaks on 67 after the first 20 rounds. Is starting to find his spot in the Newcastle structure. Quietly going about his business.
7. Ryan Hoffman (Melbourne): Returning to Melbourne after a year with Wigan, Hoffman has been typically professional, adding a level of dynamism to his game that was missing in his last years with the Storm. Direct hand in seven tries.
8. Will Chambers (Melbourne): Has been surprisingly strong since returning from rugby union, scoring 10 tries in 10 games. A rare blood disorder threw his season asunder but is back now.
9. Jeff Robson (Cronulla): Robson is what he is but he is exactly what Todd Carney and Cronulla need. A pure organiser, Robson has managed to be involved in nine tries in 16 games while allowing Carney to play his natural game.
10. Daniel Vidot (St George Illawarra): His career went dreadfully south in his last year at the Raiders but has been excellent for the Dragons, making 148 metres a game with 51 tackle breaks in 16 showings.
Honourable mentions: Dane Gagai, Luke Douglas, Isaac De Gois.
Stats courtesy or NRL.com and NRLstats.com
Short Straw on the Short Kick: The Cronulla Sharks have every right to feel hard done by with the short kick debacle against Penrith. They threw the game away by not making their tackles but Penrith should never have had the ball. The ball does not have to bounce beyond the 10-metre line – just break the plane – but the suggestion on Saturday night was that the wind must have blown the ball back at least a metre. A pretty handy call from a touch judge who was out of position. It was a big failure in a critical situation that may cost the Sharks a finals berth.
A Sunday at Bear Park: There are few pleasures as true or as enjoyable as spending a sunny July Sunday afternoon at North Sydney Oval watching Newtown take on Balmain and North Sydney tackle Western Suburbs. Sitting in the rickety old Duncan Thompson Stand (the seats drive into your spine, but there is a chiropractor at the back of the O'Reilly Stand), looking across the green pitch bordered by a white picket fence, the fig tree overhanging the northern end, old timers yelling out, the barbeque sizzling. It was great to see the old Newtown ladies kissing the Jets players, the great Ian Heads taking an eye on things, Greg Florimo presenting trophies. Any rugby league tragic whoever needs a day to centre themselves should get themselves along to some NSW Cup – it is a simply wonderful, enriching experience.
Ten Out of Ten for Nines Idea: There are moves afoot to stage a nines tournament in Auckland next pre-season. It is a super idea, one that should receive the full backing of the NRL. The NRL needs some pre-season fun and a nines tournament would give the game a real kick-along in New Zealand.
Boots 'N' All: Channel Nine nearly always make garbage decisions but it was outstanding to see them bring back the rugby league trainspotter's show, Boots 'N' All. Vossy and Gus took us through scrums and stupid errors and great blues and all that wonderful stuff. This should be on seven days a week, not once every five years. Hopefully this show is back permanently soon.
The Making The Nut Poll: Last week, Rugby League Week published its answers to its annual players' poll. Here are the Making The Nut answers to the most pertinent questions.
Best Player: Cameron Smith (second, behind Billy Slater)
Next Immortal: Andrew Johns
Has the IC Been Good: Not Yet (fourth)
Head contact automatic penalty: No
Scrap Golden Point: Yes, Draw (second behind Golden Try)
Best Rookie: Adam Reynolds
Biggest Grub: Timana Tahu
Most Overrated: Mitchell Pearce (unranked)
Worst Ground: ANZ Stadium
Suburban or Mega-Stadium: Suburban
Best Referee: Tony Archer
Faith in Video Ref: No
Expansion: Yes, Perth and Brisbane
Kiwis in Origin: No
Best Coach: Des Hasler
Worst Coach: David Furner (second)
Dirtiest Team: Manly (second)
No Titles in 10 Years: Canberra (second)
Worst Fans: Canberra (unranked)
Best Fullback: Billy Slater
Best Winger: Michael Gordon (unranked)
Best Centre: Josh Morris (second)
Best Five-Eighth: Johnathan Thurston
Best Halfback: Cooper Cronk
Best Backrow: Paul Gallen
Best Hooker: Cameron Smith
Best Prop: James Graham (unranked)
Peter Peters Could Financially Cripple Manly: The Penns are obviously smart businessmen and they have shown themselves to be willing politicians but they seem to have made an absurd play by bringing Peter Peters onto the Manly board. Peters has been a timebomb waiting to go off and he exploded last week when referring to a fellow director as a "garden gnome". Kaspersky, the club's major sponsor, is now threatening to go if Peters isn't fired. Peters, naturally, won't walk away because belligerence is his most overt characteristic. The Penns need to smarten up and sideline Peters … again.
Recruitment in the NRL Era – Wests Tigers: The Tigers have only rarely been big players in the off-season, at least in terms of quality, with the results both hit and miss.
Best Year: It is impossible to look past 2004, where the Tigers attracted key components of their premiership winning team Brett Hodgson, Scott Prince, Todd Payten, Pat Richards and Shane Elford. Rarely has a recruitment drive worked so quickly or so impressively. The only serious loss for the Tigers was the loss of Luke O'Donnell, who became an international at North Queensland.
Worst Year: The Tigers lost star halfback Scott Prince and future international Anthony Laffranchi, along with future England star Rangi Chase, quality hooker Isaac De Gois and a number of veterans to England. Laffranchi was a superstar for a few years but the Tigers could cover him. The loss of Prince hurt the Tigers plenty. Their strongest acquisition was John Morris.
Best Buy: It is hard to look past Gareth Ellis. The English international arrived in 2009 and won the Tigers' best and fairest over his first three seasons. During that time the Tigers, the Tigers made the finals for just the second and third time in their history. A warrior, Ellis brought some much needed toughness and professionalism to a Tigers pack that lacked both qualities.
Worst Buy: Adam Blair is certainly shaping as the man who will fill this category in a few years time but at the moment, it is has to be John Hopoate. Hopoate personified what a totally amateur joint the Tigers was in its infancy, eventually getting kicked out of the club for the infamous finger poke incident. Set the club back years.
Worst Loss: Scott Prince had just three seasons with the Tigers but they were three of his finest seasons. In 2005 he won the Clive Churchill Medal after guiding the Tigers to an unlikely premiership but was gone just one season later. He was the perfect off-set for Benji Marshall, the ying to Benji's yang. The Tigers have struggled to find a No.7 ever since.
Origin/International Players Recruited:
Already: (17) Terry Hill, John Hopoate, Jarrod McCracken, Matt Seers, John Simon, Michael Buettner, Brett Hodgson, Jason Moodie, Scott Sattler, Paul Whatuira, Jamaal Lolesi, Ryan O'Hara, Gareth Ellis, Jason Cayless, Lote Tuqiri, Matt Utai, Adam Blair
Became: (2) Scott Prince, Keith Galloway
Origin/International Players Lost:
Already: (6) John Hopoate, Tyran Smith, Scott Prince, Paul Whatuira, Bronson Harrison, Dene Halatau
Became: (6) Richard Villasanti, Luke O'Donnell, Luke Covell, Jeff Lima, Anthony Laffranchi, Ben Teo
*Super League Tri Series and International matches are recognised.
** Only players who went to or came from another NRL club are noted with the exception of English internationals.
*** Inaugural players recruited from Balmain and Western Suburbs are considered to not be recruited from outside
Injury Update:There were a few big names go down on the weekend with the injury to Konrad Hurrell the most notable.
Greg Bird (Gold Coast): Tweaked his hamstring but should be okay.
Konrad Hurrell (New Zealand): Stomped on by Tony Williams (who should be looking at a lengthy ban) and hobbled off with an ankle injury. Would be a surprise if he was back in the next fortnight.
Jason King (Manly): The Manly prop went off in severe pain against the Warriors with fears he may have punctured a lung or busted a rib. The good news is it is only severe bruising. He should only miss a couple more weeks.
Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Canberra): The Raiders prop hurt his hamstring and will miss a month, and maybe the last five weeks of the year. Dane Tilse is back. Sam Mataora is close.
Ben Lowe (Souths): Sprained his ankle. Scott Geddes could get back into the best 17.
Corey Parker (Brisbane): Still recovering from an MCL but could be back for round 22.
Jamie Soward (St George Illawarra): Missed Friday's win with a back injury. It may be a career-defining miss after Nathan Fien starred for the Dragons.
Beau Scott (St George Illawarra): Hurt his groin early against the Storm. Could miss a couple of weeks. The Dragons are short on centre options right now.
Fun Fact #1: The final premiership games at some now long-gone grounds:
Sydney Sports Ground: Hosted 826 games between 1911 and 1986, including 33 finals and the match where Dave Brown scored a record 45 points against Canterbury in 1935. The final match played at the famous ground was between Eastern Suburbs and North Sydney on June 29, 1986 in front of 8175 fans. Easts fullback Gary Wurth scored three tries and Kevin Hastings kicked a field goal. It was demolished in late 1986 with the Sydney Football Stadium built on its site.
Birchgrove Oval: Hosted 176 premiership matches between 1908 and 1942, including the very first games. Balmain downed Norths in the last game played at the ground, 17-5 in front of 4000 people on August 8, 1942. Tigers speedster Arthur Patton scored a double while future St George administrator Frank Facer scored Norths' only three-pointer. Aub Oxford was the referee. The ground still stands and hosts junior rugby league matches.
Royal Agricultural Showground:The host of many of the premiership's early deciders, the ground hosted 183 matches between 1908 and 1987 (though just five post-1930). The final game ever played at the ground was on April 11, 1987 when North Sydney downed St George 18-16. Mark Cannon and Gregg Lennon scored doubles for the Bears, in front of 24,000 fans. The ground is now the site of Fox Studios.
Wentworth Park:The home ground of Glebe, hosted 217 matches between 1908 and 1931, including matches on the first weekend of the first premiership season. The last match was played in May 1931, between Balmain and University, won 29-14 by the Reg "Whip" Latta coached Watersiders. George Beamann scored four tries in the match, the only four tries of his four-game career. The venue is now the home to greyhound racing in Sydney, as well as local sports.
Pratten Park:The Ashfield ground, home of the Western Suburbs Magpies for many years, hosted big-time rugby league games on 334 occasions between 1912 and 1985. Penrith defeated Wests 42-16 on August 18, 1985, in front of 4320 diehards. Greg Alexander finished the match with 18 points while Gary Howell scored a double. The small grandstand at the ground fell into disrepair but has since been re-opened.
Henson Park: The famous home of Newtown hosted 334 premiership matches between 1936 and 1990, including the only 0-0 draw, between Canterbury and the Bluebags. The last Newtown game at the ground came in 1983 when 5185 punters saw Balmain thrash the Jets 34-6 with Larry Corowa scoring a double. The final ever premiership match at the ground attracted just 2000 with Eastern Suburbs downing Cronulla 16-11 in the final round of the 1990 season, Michael Speechley kicking a field goal for the losing Sharks, having played for the Jets in their final game at the ground seven seasons earlier. The ground remains the home for the Jets in the NSW Cup.
Cumberland Oval: Hosted 329 matches between 1920 and 1981, primarily as Parramatta's home ground. The final game at the venue was a classic 20-20 draw between heavyweights and arch-rivals Parramatta and Manly, in front of 18,449 fans. It is widely regarded as one of the finest ever premiership matches. The grandstand was burnt to the ground after the Eels won their first title a month later. Parramatta Stadium now stands on the turf.
Earl Park: Hosted 120 games, primarily St George matches, between 1920 and 1939, including the infamous Earl Park Riot and the highest ever premiership score, the Dragons winning 91-6 over Canterbury in 1935. The Saints defeated North Sydney 24-17 in round 11, 1939, scoring six tries to three with captain-coach Neville Smith scoring a try and kicking two goals. The ground was demolished in the late 1940s after the death of patron Lancelot Earl and the NSWRL and St George could not afford to purchase it. A confectionary factory arose from the ashes.
Lidcombe Oval: 201 premiership matches were played at Lidcombe between 1951 and 1986, all bar one Western Suburbs matches. The final match at the ground was played on August 31, 1986 with Easts beating Wests 8-6 in front of 7375 fans. No tries were scored with Ian Schubert (Wests) and Wayne Portlock (Easts) both kicking three from four and Portlock and Hastings adding field goals for the Roosters. The ground remains in use as a local soccer, cricket and rugby league ground.
Fun Fact #2: The dream of former NSWRL president Bill Buckley was to build a 120,000 seat rectangular stadium at St Peters. The idea came into public consciousness in 1964 but never got off the ground when St Peters would release only 18 acres. Now living in Erskineville, I would very much have enjoyed a St Peters trek rather than one out to Homebush.
The 2012 Willie M Medal: Don't rule out Warriors five-eighth James Maloney as a winning chance for the 2012 Willie M Medal. Maloney has been in horrible form of late and has shot into a tie for sixth after picking up a point against Manly, a game where he missed an incredible 11 tackles, along with two penalties. The Orange boy has picked up votes in his last three matches and is getting home with the wind in his sails.
Melbourne v St George Illawarra
3-Billy Slater (Mel)
2-Kevin Proctor (Mel)
1-Dane Nielsen (Mel)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi and Adrian Flanagan
Sydney Roosters v Gold Coast
3-BJ Leilua (Roo)
2-Tautau Moga (Roo)
1-Frank-Paul Nuuausala (Roo)
Judge: Cliff Bingham
Canterbury v North Queensland
3-Michael Morgan (Cow)
2-Glenn Hall (Cow)
1-Jonathan Wright (Bul)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi
Manly v New Zealand
3-Bill Tupou (War)
2-George Rose (Man)
1-James Maloney (War)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi
Cronulla v Penrith
3-Jason Bukuya (Cro)
2-Brad Tighe (Pen)
1-Clint Newton (Pen)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi
Canberra v Newcastle
3-Sandor Earl (Can)
2-Blake Ferguson (Can)
1-Josh McCrone (Can)
Judge: Rohan Kendall
South Sydney v Wests Tigers
3-Marika Koroibete (Tig)
2-Masada Iosefa (Tig)
1-Gareth Ellis (Tig)
Judge: Rohan Kendall
Brisbane v Parramatta
3-Peter Wallace (Bri)
2-Sam Thaiday (Bri)
1-Luke Capewell (Bri)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi
17: Mitchell Pearce (Roo)
15: Ben Hornby (Dra), Chris Sandow (Par)
14: Tim Moltzen (Tig), Ben Roberts (Par)
13: James Maloney (War), Ben Pomeroy (Cro), Peter Wallace (Bri)
12: Cheyse Blair (Par), BJ Leilua (Roo), Timana Tahu (New)
11: Blake Ferguson (Can), Brad Tighe (Pen)
Rumour Mill:The move of Ricky Stuart to Parramatta has brought about plenty of rumours as to who he will be taking with him. Michael Jennings is expected to make a move soon with the Panthers unlikely to stop a Jennings move to the Eels. Jennings is on record, however, as saying how much he loathes the Eels. ""I don't hate the Parramatta players, just the team they represent," said Jennings in early 2011. "If you come through the Penrith juniors, you're brought up to hate Parra. That's how I was brought up and I'm sure it's still going on." Greg Bird, Mitchell Pearce and Robbie Farah have also been mentioned but Bird is the only legitimate chance of moving in the next few years. There has been speculation that Will Hopoate could make an early return to the NRL. Two Cronulla Sharks are rumoured to have failed a drugs test but there seems little basis for the allegations. Johnathan Thurston has been linked to a number of clubs, primarily Penrith and Canterbury though it would take a lot to get him out of Townsville. There has been a very nasty rumour doing the rounds that Bob Fulton could return as Origin coach in 2013. That would be an unmitigated disaster.
1. Canterbury 14-5 (1)
2. South Sydney 13-6 (2)
3. North Queensland 11-8 (5)
4. Manly 11-8 (6)
5. Melbourne 12-7 (3)
6. Brisbane 11-8 (4)
7. Gold Coast 9-10 (10)
8. Newcastle 9-10 (11)
9. Cronulla 10-8-1 (8)
10. New Zealand 9-10 (9)
11. Wests Tigers 9-10 (7)
12. St George Illawarra 9-10 (13)
13. Canberra 8-11 (12)
14. Penrith 6-13 (15)
15. Sydney Roosters 6-12-1 (14)
16. Parramatta 5-14 (16)
Betting Market of the Week:If Ricky Stuart is given the Origin gig next year, the betting movements of the following players playing for NSW are:
Tim Mannah: $4.00 into $1.50
Reni Maitua: $51 into $6.00
Ken Sio: $61 into $8.00
Justin Poore: $501 into $2.25
What I Like About … Colin Best:The Colin Best Express last week announced that 2012 would be his final in the NRL. Best personifies all that is great about rugby league, a guy who gives his all every week, who never gets the accolades he deserves, who can fly in space and hit when he needs to. Best has played 255 games – one of only 61 players in premiership history to play 250 matches – and has scored 108 tries. Sadly, and unfairly, his rep career tallied just one game for City. Rugby league will miss the Colin Best Express more than we all really know.
Moniker XIII of the Week: With Ricky Stuart back in premiership coaching, thankfully taking over Parramatta, we come up with the greatest Stuarts, both first and last name.
1.Brian Stuart Johnston (165 games for St George)
2. Stuart Davis (97 games for Manly/Eastern Suburbs)
3. Grant Stuart (9 games for Balmain/Newcastle)
4. Bob Stuart (45 games for Eastern Suburbs)
5. Stu Kelly (182 games for Gold Coast/Parramatta/Brisbane)
6. Stuart Topper (31 games for Cronulla/Gold Coast/Adelaide)
7. Ricky Stuart (243 games for Canberra/Canterbury)
13. Stuart Webb (88 games for Roosters/South Sydney/St George Illawarra)
12. Stuart Raper (8 games for Cronulla/Western Suburbs)
11. Luke Stuart (242 games for Cronulla/South Sydney)
10. Josh Stuart (133 games for North Sydney/Northern Eagles)
9. Stuart Flanagan (40 games for Wests Tigers/Canberra/Cronulla)
8. Brent Stuart (38 games for Western Suburbs)
Analysis: Had to go wide here with Brian Johnston making the fullback on his middle name. Ricky Stuart was an international. Luke Stuart was honest. Most players you've never heard of though fun fact: Cronulla's last three coaches are Stuarts
The Coaching Crosshairs:There hasn't been too much criticism of Brian McClennan this season but the Warriors' mentor must be under some pressure to retain his spot. While there is no doubt he will be about in 2013, McClennan may struggle to get an extension beyond. McClennan's Warriors lost little talent from last year but have lost an ability to play straight and more importantly, hang tough. They blew a surefire lead against Manly in Perth, the second time in a week they had done so. John Ackland is waiting in the wings, while there are plenty of big names who would love to have the young talent at their disposal that the Warriors possess. Rick Stone would be one man. Of McClennan's six predecessors at the Warriors, only Daniel Anderson and Ivan Cleary made it to the end of a third season with Frank Endacott, Mark Graham and Tony Kemp not going further than two seasons.
The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: It is official – the NRL is scared of the flippers. And those flippers must pack a mighty wallop with Ben Pomeroy topping Rugby League Week's poll on the player you wouldn't pick a fight with.
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 21: Manly-New Zealand, 24-22. The three Saturday night games were all outstanding in terms of quality and drama but it was probably the replay of last year's Grand Final that just took the cake. The Warriors just smashed the Eagles in the first half in front of 20,000 Perth fans – m6ost cheering on the Warriors – leading 18-0 with a minute to halftime and 22- only a few after the break. But the Warriors again capitulated with Daly Cherry-Evans scoring twice in the last eight minutes to play the hero. A super game of footy.
Correspondence Corner: Mr C, I'll certainly have a look at an ordinary team of the NRL era in the next few weeks.
John, rugby union is a soft sport relative to rugby league - we all know it so no need to hide it.
Solly, Ricky is so intense with his break-through or break style that it is unsustainable over an entire season and he needs a front office to properly check him. Parramatta does not have that front office.
Mick, I don't think the Bulldogs will be winning a wooden spoon with Des Hasler at the club.
Brett, nobody is holding a gun to your head – feel free not to read. And most people enjoy talk of the Special Needs Penguin and take it with the humour it was intended. Pomeroy freely admits he has trouble with his hands.
Mike from Tari, I thought I must have been transported back to the days of Jim Comans when word filtered through that Burns was facing 16 weeks. What a ridiculous overreaction.
Arthur, I don't think the Inglis shoulder charge went that wrong. He hit him high but Young contributed by turning his back and falling. A week or two would have sufficed.
Dan, NRL fixturing is an unmitigated disaster. It is run by television stations with no heed paid to actual fans who fork out for tickets. The IC has done nothing but posture either. I was talking to a prominent rugby league writer at North Sydney Oval on Sunday who suggested John Grant does nothing but peacock. The NRL needs a set draw, it needs to provide free-to-air exposure to all teams and it needs to pay attention to weekly breaks. It is like banging your head against a brick wall sometimes.
Rabby, Stormer I don't give all the votes out for the Willie M Medal. You will find the list of judges on Making The Nut. I did give the votes to Jason Ryles in that match though. He gave away two stupid penalties to go with a handling error and made just 89 metres. I take the Willie M Medal very seriously – you will see in the history of this column that the likes of current leaders Mitchell Pearce and particularly Ben Hornby have rarely received anything but praise prior to this season. There is naturally some bias – the players I criticise are naturally the ones I consider to be generally poor, their weaknesses more apparent and more grating to me. Some judges award on errors or stats or poor defence or a lack of workrate. I certainly don't think the Willie M Medal has been unfairly coloured by my views on certain players. And Stormer, just because you try hard, doesn't mean you become ineligible for votes. Waqa has had some absolute howlers. Ben Hornby tries every week as well.
David Grant, yes, the Roosters and Sharks years are best forgotten for those of us who like to defend Chris Anderson. But his failings at the Sharks were hardly his doing. Jarrad Anderson was better than most Sharks backs at that time as well.
Bennis, I have long advocated an NFL-style challenge system in the NRL. The sin bin should also be used more. I must say though that in comparison to rugby league, union has zero bottle.
All, I have no problem with an pacific nations combined side playing other nations but the Indigenous All-Stars match should not be diluted from what it is now.
Beard Watch: It was wonderful to see From The Couch favourite Tony Grimaldi sporting a monster beard. Grimaldi is the on-field trainer for the Bulldogs and was caught with a face full of follicles. He has come a long way since being scared before the 2006 final against Canberra when he was asked for a photo from a bearded Tedeschi. Good work Big T.
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Chasing Greatness: Anyone looking for inspiration, rugby league style, should check out my new book Chasing Greatness, available in all good book stores. I've pulled the best quotes from Jack Gibson and Arthur Beetson to Bob Bax and Royce Simmons.
A Short History of Rugby League in Australia: Another great book to get your hands on is A Short History of Rugby League in Australia by Will Evans. It is an ll encompassing history with plenty of great tales, lists and tidbits of gold, edited by myself for Slattery Media. Get your hands on a copy. Normally retailing for $39.95, I have a free copy for anyone who gets on the Making The Nut Facebook page and tells me the strangest place they have read Making The Nut. The best answer will get a free copy of the book. Hint: a photo will give you an edge.
Watch It: Rugby league needs more theme songs and after enjoying last Sunday at North Sydney Oval watching Newtown down Balmain and Norths thrash Wests, I got to enjoy the wonderful rendition of "Stand Aside, Here Come The Mighty Bears". Listen to that wonderful ditty and 12 other rugby league theme songs here.
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