From The Couch 2011: Round 1

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on March 15, 2011

The NRL Should Apologise: The NRL should apologise to Brett Stewart and Manly. The inconsistency shown in penalties handed out to Brett Stewart in 2009 and then Todd Carney, and more tellingly, Benji Marshall, has been absurd and the justification for same ludicrous.

Brett Stewart is a player with a good record of behaviour who was allegedly drunk, out late and accused of a crime he denied.

Todd Carney is a recidivist who was out drunk, drove the next morning and admitted drink driving.

Benji Marshall has no black stain against his name but has been caught up in a number of incidents and was caught out late after a few drinks where he punched a guy who called him or was near a guy who called him a “black c*nt” or said that he “was worse than Darren Lockyer.”

Brett Stewart copped four weeks while Carney and Benji got off scot free. As well they should have, of course, particularly in the case of Marshall. By allowing Marshall to walk, however, the NRL has surely admitted grave error in the suspension of Stewart, who was subsequently acquitted of all sexual assault charges.

The justification coming from NRL headquarters is that Stewart was suspended for being drunk and not because of the charge. This is obviously complete bollocks as there would be a half-dozen players suspended every week for their drinking habits if the hammer was to come down for heavy boozing. Todd Carney would never play in the NRL again.

An admission of fault would be desirable. It would appease Manly and it would allow the NRL to use these incidents in 2011 as future precedents.

The NRL should have very limited powers over these kinds of incidents and they should use those limited rarely. Such inconsistency over penalties makes the NRL look reactive and willing to be swayed by public opinion. The new Indepedent Commission would be smart to have the code back off and stay quiet when these incidents pop up.

Injury Update: It was astonishing how many big names went down in the opening week in what was a weekend of carnage and chaos that will have some long lasting effects. From The Couch will provide a weekly update on all the latest injuries:

Scott Bolton (Cowboys): Bolton lasted only 18 minutes before hobbling off with a calf complaint. He is out for a month.

Sam Burgess (Souths): Burgess damaged his shoulder that he had operated on in the off-season and should be gone for at least a month.

Neville Costigan (Newcastle): Broke his arm 14 minutes in to his first game for Newcastle and won’t be seen before mid-June at the earliest with a July return far more likely.

Isaac De Gois (Newcastle): Broke his thumb late in the Knights’ big win over the Panthers and will be a big loss for Newcastle for what should be around four weeks.

Gareth Ellis (Tigers): Gone unreported but Ellis went off with a clear ankle complaint, missing the critical conclusion.last 10 minutes. Doubt it is too serious but not a problem you want with a big name star.

Will Hopoate (Manly): Reportedly hurt his AC joint (shoulder) but played on and will be right for this week.

Scott Geddes (Souths): The luckless Geddes ruptured his anterior-cruciate ligament and is out for the year.

Kurt Gidley (Newcastle): The marathon man played only 45 minutes after suffering back spasms and could miss a week or two though was named this week.

Michael Jennings (Penrith): The Penrith medical staff are morons. Jennings never looked right after coming back early from a hamstring problem and the result was a re-tweak that could sideline him for a couple of weeks.

Ben Lowe (Souths): Ben Lowe broke his foot and will be out of action for eight-to-twelve weeks with an injury that struggles to heal without rest. The reality is that he could be out for much longer.

Jamie Lyon (Manly): Managed only 37 minutes before hurting his hamstring. It looks better than first expected and he should only be out for three weeks when it looked like he could have been out for two months at first.

Josh Morris (Canterbury): Damaged his knee late in the game in what was reported as a posterior-cruciate ligament problem. It is serious, particularly for an outside back, with Morris likely to miss four-to-six weeks.

Shane Rodney (Manly): A personal favourite but a player who is perennially injured, Rodney damaged his shoulder in the NSW Cup and is out for at least a month.

Chase Stanley (Melbourne): Stanley took another knock to his bad knee and is going to undertake a reconstruction that will end his 2011 season.

Alan Tongue (Canberra): The courageous Tongue lasted only five minutes before taking a massive knock to his shoulder from Kade Snowden. He’ll be sidelined for six weeks at least.

Manu Vatuvei (Warriors): The big Warriors winger has done his knee again in what seems to be a recurring problem. He is looking at eight long weeks on the sideline in a major blow for the Warriors.

Sizzling Debut: The future at Canberra looks even brighter after the debut of exciting young half Sam Williams. Williams was electric against the Sharks after being a late call-up for the injured Matt Orford, setting up three tries and kicking a 40/20 in a performance that belied his age. Williams will learn his craft in the Toyota Cup this year but the Raiders see him as their next premiership winning halfback.

Sizzling Debut #2: Ben Barba didn’t make his debut but he started at fullback for the first time with the No.1 jersey his own now and he looked outstanding. Composed and dangerous, Barba had one outstanding return and was lurking off the forwards all night. He is going to thrive at fullback with the freedoms the position offers and I would not be surprising to see him play Origin as a bench utility in the next three seasons.

Moronic: It is utterly absurd that South Sydney were only fined $15,000 by the NRL for fielding 14 men for nearly an entire set of six in their loss to the Roosters (for those counting, the Chooks have won 21 of 25 against Souths). Two seasons ago, Canterbury were stripped two competition points for fielding 14 men when the 14th player took no part in the match, a penalty that cost Canterbury the minor premiership. The NRL needs to show some consistency. If the penalty is deemed so great that points need to be stripped, then the outcome of the match should have no bearing on the penalty. South Sydney should be last on negative two competition points.

Ten Makes Its Pitch: Channel Ten has shown how serious it is about making a play for at least a portion of the NRL rights by producing and airing two serious and very good weekly rugby league panel shows. The Game Plan made an exciting debut last Thursday with 2GB Continuous Call Team regulars Andrew Moore, Steve Roach and Joel Caine hosting a classy discussion/history/insight show along the lines of The Sunday Footy Show, The Sunday Roast and Boots ‘n’ All. One Week at a Time is following the AFL format of the show with the same name and is a nice review show that airs after Monday night football. It has been rumoured for a good period of time and those rumours have turned to a roar since James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch took control of the network, that Ten is going to get a slice of the rugby league pie. The smart money is on Ten bidding heavily for Monday Night Football in what would be a major coup for the code as Ten seem like the only channel who would give the NRL a national platform. The NRL would be well advised to make sure Ten get at least one game when the new deal is signed.

Stuck in the Middle with “Filthy” Phil: It was unfortunate that referee Phil Haines got caught in the middle of the Titans-Dragons action when William Zillman tripped over Haines with Scott Prince tripping over them both and the Dragons’ Darius Boyd scoring a try. Titans fans may well be filthy and swinging like a liberal-valued monkey on them and I perhaps should be as well but I’m not. Haines could go nowhere else. A try had to be awarded. It is as simple as that. Sorry Carty and co but that is the score.

Betting Market of the Week:

John Lang to have a heart attack in 2011:        $1.33

John Lang to have a stroke in 2011:                  $3.25

John Lang to murder Dave Taylor in 2011:       $6.50

John Lang to smile in 2011:                                $51.00

Chris Anderson used to work himself into a frenzy when up in the stand and that resulted in his heart giving way during a Test match in England in 2003. The colour of John Lang’s face after his half-time spray on Friday nights suggests he could be pressing a similar fate.

Mistaken Identity: Word on the street had it that Greg Inglis had signed with South Sydney but nobody mentioned that Owen Craigie had re-signed with the Bunnies. Oh wait. Sorry. That was Greg Inglis? If I was Russell Crowe right now, I’d be standing in the box and giving that big thumbs down because the last time I checked, Owen Craigie didn’t win too many games for anybody.

Welcome Back, Send Off: The Bill Harrigan Era has begun and it seems to have started with the on-field officials having a little bit more bottle. I admit that I have been worried about how it would all travel under Harrigan’s eye and I have little confidence in a positive outcome but to be fair and to give credit where credit is due, I liked what I saw.

Scrums were certainly an improvement on the last ten years. Penalising players for being offside off restarts shouldn’t have to be an issue but players have been taking metres in recent years and it was good to see all that rubbish reined in. Well, good to see it if your name isn’t Michael Jennings. The play-the-ball seemed a lot cleaner.

Most impressively, however, was the confidence the referees showed across all games. This was no better manifested than when Paul Aiton was dismissed in the Raiders-Sharks encounter for a head-butt. Send offs have been rare in recent times with referees lacking the bottle to raise the finger and point to the showers. Hopefully we get plenty of dismissals this year.

Fun Fact #1: The Melbourne Storm continued the longest round one win streak in the NRL, making it nine straight opening round victories. Including a bye in 2003, the Storm have now not lost a round one match since being beaten 14-10 by Canterbury in 2001. The Roosters, Dragons and Newcastle are the only other teams to be on a streak of two or better with all three teams winning in 2010 and 2011 to start the season off.

Fun Fact #2: Jeremy Smith has played on five consecutive minor premiership teams. This year he has signed with the wooden spoon favourites.

Fun Fact #3: The Brisbane Broncos are now onto their 3rd ever coach since firing Ivan Henjak and hiring Anthony Griffin. That is three coaches in 24 seasons since 1988. In comparison:

Souths: 11 in 22 seasons (Piggins, Curry, McCarthy, Shine, Martin, Coleman, Langmack, Kitinas, McRae, Taylor, Lang)

Roosters: 11 in 24 seasons (Beetson, Fairfax, Reilly, McGahan, M.Murray, Gould, G.Murray, Stuart, C.Anderon, Fittler, Smith)

Parramatta: 8 in 24 seasons (Monie, Cronin, Hilditch, Smith, Taylor, Hagan, D.Anderson, Kearney)

Cowboys: 7 in 17 seasons (Bell, Lowe, Sheens, Hurst, Murray, Millward, Henry)

Cronulla: 7 in 24 seasons (Fitzgibbon, Beetson, Lang, C.Anderson, Raper, Stuart, Flanagan)

Newcastle: 7 in 24 seasons (McMahon, Waite, Reilly, Ryan, Hagan, Smith, Stone)

Warriors: 6 in 17 seasons (Monie, Endacott, Graham, D.Anderson, Kemp, Cleary)

Manly: 5 in 21 seasons (Fulton, Thompson, Lowe, Sharp, Hasler)

Canberra: 5 in 24 seasons (Sheens, Meninga, Elliott, Henry, Furner)

Penrith: 5 in 24 seasons (Willey, Gould, Simmons, Lang, Elliott)

Dragons: 4 in 13 seasons (Waite, Farrar, Brown, Bennett)

Canterbury: 4 in 24 seasons (Gould, C.Anderson, Folkes, Moore)

Wests Tigers: 3 in 12 seasons (Pearce, Lamb, Sheens)

Melbourne: 3 in 14 seasons (C.Anderson, M.Murray, Smith)

Gold Coast: 1 in 5 seasons (Cartwright)

Power Rankings:

Rank  Team                                       Record                        Last Week    High    Low

1          St George-Illawarra               1-0                               *                      1          1

2          Canterbury                               1-0                               *                      2          2

3          Melbourne                                1-0                               *                      3          3

4          Canberra                                  1-0                               *                      4          4

5          Sydney Roosters                   1-0                               *                      5          5

6          Wests Tigers                          0-1                               *                      6          6

7          Newcastle                               1-0                               *                      7          7

8          Parramatta                             1-0                               *                      8          8

9          Gold Coast                               0-1                               *                      9          9

10        South Sydney                        0-1                               *                      10        10

11        North Queensland                1-0                               *                      11        11

12        New Zealand                          0-1                               *                      12        12

13        Manly                                       0-1                               *                      13        13

14        Brisbane                                 0-1                               *                      14        14

15        Penrith                                    0-1                               *                      15        15

16        Cronulla                                  0-1                               *                      16        16

The Willie M Medal: The Willie M Medal is back for 2011, rewarding stupidity and silliness, mediocrity and messiness, poor handling and pettiness. Chris Sandow won the inaugural Willie M in 2010. He entered the first round as a strong favourite to go back-to-back but contenders are emerging every which way and he is no certainty to make it two on the trot.

Round One Votes:

Roosters-Souths:                3- Dave Taylor (Souths)

                                                2- Eddy Pettybourne (Souths)

                                                1- Jared Waerea-Hargraves (Roosters)

Brisbane-North Qld:            3- Will Tupou (North Qld)

                                                2- Matt Gillett (Brisbane)

                                                1- Sam Thaiday (Brisbane)

New Zealand-Parramatta: 3- Glen Fisiiahi (New Zealand)

                                                2- Feleti Mateo (New Zealand)

                                                1- Chris Walker (Parramatta)

Melbourne-Manly:                3- Matt Ballin (Manly)

                                                2- Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly)

                                                1- Terrence Seu Seu (Manly)

Gold Coast-Dragons:         3- Kevin Gordon (Gold Coast)

                                                2- Luke Capewell (Gold Coast)

                                                1- Matt Prior (Dragons)

Canberra-Cronulla:             3- Matt Wright (Cronulla)

                                                2- Dean Collis (Cronulla)

                                                1- Paul Gallen (Cronulla)

Penrith-Newcastle:             3- Michael Jennings (Penrith)

                                                2- Lachlan Coote (Penrith)

                                                1- Masada Iosefa (Penrith)

Canterbury-Tigers:              3- Liam Fulton (Tigers)

                                                2- Simon Dwyer (Tigers)

                                                1- Wade McKinnon (Tigers)

Voters this week: Nick Tedeschi, Nathan Boss, Cliff Bingham, Grant Vickers

Rumour Mill: One star player allegedly tore a brothel room apart in the throes of a bender during the off-season with the owner of said establishment threatening serious harm to the player if he was ever seen on the premises again. One first grade coach is, by all reports, giving a star player’s mother the old one-two. Cowboys coach Neil Henry reportedly only has six weeks to show something at the Cowboys or his deal will be torn up despite the declaration from Ben Ikin that Henry is there for the year. Ricky Stuart to Newcastle in 2012 is apparently a done deal if the Tinkler bid is successful. The only thing holding up a public announcement is the Knights hope that Wayne Bennett does become available. Expect the Matt Orford injury to linger on longer than expected. It is, by all reports, much worse than being reported. Zero Tackle is reporting that Joel Clinton reportedly is trying to track down a gig in Australia somewhere. Timana Tahu will be back in the NRL within a fortnight as a Penrith Panther.

Round Two Selections Notes:

Parramatta: Stephen Kearney has made just one change, upgrading at centre with Paul Whatuira replacing Chris Walker.

Penrith: Matt Elliott has seemingly laid the blame for a 40 point loss on winger Sandor Earl, dropping him and reserve Masada Iosefa for the hopeless David Simmons and debutant Sarafu Fatiaki.

Canberra: Matt Orford was named but is highly unlikely to play. Josh Dugan is still out with a cork. Bronson Harrison assumes the captaincy. Travis Waddell will share the hooking duties now Alan Tongue is out hurt.

Brisbane: Griffin, surprisingly, named an unchanged team. Thaiday will most likely be switched to the bench due to fitness issues. 

Melbourne: The only changes come in the three-quarter line with Chase Stanley out for the year and Justin O’Neill dropped for the returning Beau Champion and Anthony Quinn.

Gold Coast: Still no Laffranchi, which would be a major concern for the Titans. Nathan Friend is also not back.

Wests Tigers: No changes from Monday night and none were expected as coaches from the Monday games usually just copy and paste teams for the following round.

New Zealand: The Vat is out, replaced by Krisnan Inu with no word still on why he wasn’t selected in week one. Isaac John comes in for the suspended James Maloney in the No.6 jersey, a move which gives the Warriors more spark.

North Queensland: Still no Kalifa Faifai-Loa. Neil Henry, you deserve to be fired. At least Gavin Cooper is starting

Newcastle: Kurt Gidley was named but is in severe doubt with back spasms. Adam MacDougall has again gone walkabout, taking his second week of mourning leave. Matt Hilder replaces the injured Isaac De Gois while Cameron Ciraldo is in for the hurt Neville Costigan, leaving the Knights with significantly less oomph.

Souths: Burgess, Lowe and Geddes are all in the sick bay with Tyrell, Crocker and McQueen in. The selection of Chris McQueen is curious as wing/centres are rarely carried on the bench.

Canterbury: Changes are sure to be made to the named team with Josh Morris out and Ben Roberts every chance of being dumped for Dene Halatau.

Sydney Roosters: Todd Carney was named as 18th man and will likely be a late inclusion with Jared Waerea-Hargraves the man who will most likely be dumped after finding himself in Brian Smith’s bad books for his ill discipline in the season opener.

Manly: The Eagles have lost both skippers with Jason King suspended and Jamie Lyon hurt. William Hopoate gets a chance in the centres with David Williams returning on the wing. George Rose will start only his 6th match in what will be his 73rd first grade appearance.

Cronulla: Shane Flanagan has belligerently named the same side that was walloped by Canberra. He certainly is from the Ricky Stuart school.

Dragons: Dean Young and Kyle Stanley have not been named but may well be late inclusions. Or against the Sharks, may just take another week off.

What I Like About…Kris Keating: He isn’t Ben Roberts. Roberts wouldn’t have played a minute if it wasn’t for Josh Morris going down hurt. Keating has locked in the six jersey and Ben Roberts can wallow somewhere else for all eternity for all I care.

Pub Conversation of the Week:

Rohan (a Tigers supporter): “I can’t stop looking at Nate Myles’ head any more. It is so goddamn huge.”

Tedeschi: “He does have a big head but it would still fit easily into Lote Tuqiri’s vagina.”

Tick, Tick, Tick…: As a Canterbury fan, it was such a thrill to see Matt Utai playing first grade in colours that weren’t blue and white. He is a time bomb waiting to explode and the Tigers faithful are set to tear their hair out as his penchant for stupidity is off the radar and always will be.

From Deep in the Bowels of Twitter:

Royce Simmons: “Longy said to me, 'rolls, i reckon my left nut, when ruptured and detached, can play better than eastmond full of tigerblood.'”

Coaching Stocks

5: Wayne Bennett: Benny has his choice of 15 clubs, such is his standing.

5: Craig Bellamy: The heir apparent to Bennett, an all-time great mentor.

4.5: John Cartwright: Is well entrenched as the Titans boss and will be for a long time.

4: Brian Smith: Achieved great deeds in ’10 but seems to be losing control of Roosters.

4: Tim Sheens: Disappointing start but still the man in Tigerland.

4: Stephen Kearney: Is a hero in Parramatta after the Eels shock first round win.

3.5: David Furner: Having your brother run the show does plenty for job security.

3: Kevin Moore: Critical season but off to a flying start.

3: Des Hasler: Revered in Manly and there was no questioning heart in loss to Storm.

2.5: Ivan Cleary: Horrible loss but he is a good coach and deserves plenty of time.

2: Rick Stone: Doesn’t get the respect he deserves in what is likely his last year.

1.5: Matt Elliott: Did the Panthers even train in the pre-season? Could be in trouble.

1: John Lang: This is his last season in charge. Let’s hope he sees it out.

1: Anthony Griffin: Highly touted but an opening loss to the ‘Boys is no way to start.

-3: Shane Flanagan: Just inked an extension but 30-plus point losses won’t save him.

-5: Neil Henry: The drums are beating and he is as good as gone.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 1: Roosters-Souths, 40-29. A classic game of attacking rugby league that was a thrill to watch. South Sydney, as seems to be the case whenever they are talked up, were slow out of the box and were down 22-6 at the break and 28-6 soon after and looked home and hosed as the Bunnies were down to 14 men after injuries to Burgess, Lowe and Geddes. Then, somehow, Souths dug deep and grinded back and led 29-28 before the Roosters snatched the game back on a short kickoff play. An exciting match.

Fire Up: Do yourself a favour and listen to the best rugby league radio show/podcast anywhere in the world and tune in to Fire Up every Friday morning at 9am on FBI. Stephen Ferris and Brett Oaten, two giants of the g-chord following on in the tradition of the great “Rampaging” Roy Slaven and H.G Nelson, are two of the wittiest and most incisive rugby league voices in the game. Just cop the tip and listen to them. You can thank me for putting you onto them later with various gifts of gold, mir and Rocky mementos. Listen in here

Obscure Score of the Week: West Bowling-Elland, 32-10. West Bowling, located in Bradford, pulled off a massive upset over Elland in what was only West Bowling’s third win of the season. Former Great Britain international Stuart Reardon was a West Bowling junior before moving on to Bradford in 2000.

Stats from the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy provided zero anxiety attacks this week thanks to the mercy of Shane Flanagan and his decision not to select him in the NRL.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta)

2. Luke Burt (Parramatta)

3. Junior Sau (Newcastle)

4. Chase Stanley (Melbourne)

5. Michael Gordon (Penrith)

6. Benji Marshall (Tigers)

7. Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys)

13. Ashley Harrison (Gold Coast)

12. Corey Parker (Brisbane)

11. Ben Creagh (Dragons)

10. Richie Fa'aoso (Newcastle)

9. Glen Buttriss (Canberra)

8. Aiden Tolman (Canterbury)


14. Jerome Ropati (Warriors)

15. James Tamou (Cowboys)

16. Simon Mannering (Warriors)

17. Zeb Taia (Newcastle)

Waiver Wire Advice: Supercoach owners could do worse than pick up Broncos winger Dane Gagai and the basement price of $87,500. Gagai was impressive on debut, scoring a try and racking up 57 Supercoach points. He will be like most wingers-inconsistent and reliant on tries- but he is a good cash cow to pick up now and flog off for more money in six weeks. Now is the time to look for cash cows. Find cheap rookies who will play, store them on your bench and sell them for a profit in the coming weeks.

Beard Watch: Beards are well and truly back and there are plenty of candidates for the best beard of the opening round including Tigers debutant Aaron Woods, Bulldog David Stagg and Cowboys winger Michael Bani but the man who takes out the weekly nod is referee Brett Suttor. Suttor has always had a bit of fluff but has gone fully fledged this season and it has come up a treat. The deciding factor in Suttor’s favour, however, is the fact he sought permission from new referees boss Bill Harrigan. Great commitment from Suttor.

Watch It: The Game Plan on One HD may be the best new show on television and is a must watch for any rugby league fan. The show has it all with a focus on league, its history and the big issues. Andrew Moore does a great job and Joel Caine is an almighty talent. The highlight, however, was the mysterious Deep Throat like character dishing out all the news from the rugby league underground. Catch up on the first episode here and tune in each Thursday at 8.30pm.Watch it here.

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