From The Couch 2011: Round 3

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on March 29, 2011

A Champion, A Legend, An All-Time Great: Darren Lockyer should and will be remembered as one of the modern day greats who, in the last thirty years, only Andrew Johns and Wally Lewis can call themselves his peer. When you leave the likes of Mal Meninga, Alan Langer, Steve Price, Brad Clyde, Shane Webcke, Terry Lamb and Brad Fittler in your wake, you are an undisputed champion. Such has been Lockyer’s talent and ability, he must almost certainly rank in the top 10 to 15 players to ever play rugby league in Australia.

There are certainly few who are as decorated. By season’s end, fingers crossed, Lockyer will be the most capped Test, Origin and club player in Australia. His holds Test and Origin captaincy records as well. He has played an integral role in four Brisbane premierships, captaining them to the 2006 title, and has led Queensland through their most dominant period. Two Golden Boots and a Clive Churchill Medal also adorn his pool room.

I could go on and on about Darren Lockyer. And over the course of the year, I most likely will. Like the Brisbane scribe who was left saddened and stunned by Lockyer’s announcement and needed to be consoled by the great man, I am shocked and in the throes of a heavy period of mourning. The likes of Lockyer come along once in a generation. The deft skill, the pride, the competitiveness, the sharp mind, the perfect skills, the leadership. Lockyer had everything. And soon he will sail off into the sunset.

A modern day rugby league hero is off. This column can only wish him all the luck and every success in his final year. No player would be more deserving of a glorious farewell.

The Subtext: Those with a penchant for reading between the lines have no doubt reached the conclusion that Darren Lockyer’s retirement is a clear indication that Wayne Bennett will not be at the Broncos in 2012. With South Sydney conceding defeat and St George-Illawarra reportedly aware that Bennett is leaving, that points to Wayne coaching in Newcastle in 2012 for a bucket-load of cash and the prospect of winning a title for a rugby league heartland.

Darren Lockyer is no doubt at an age when questions of retirement are common. There is still some thought, however, that Lockyer would have played on for one farewell season under Bennett if Bennett was to return to Red Hill. Lockyer would then take some time off, work as an assistant under Bennett and be groomed as his successor. That scenario is now highly unlikely.

Take it as gospel that Bennett is heading to Newcastle now in what must be a day of great darkness for the Broncos faithful.

As for Darren Lockyer, he has suggested on many occasions that a career in coaching awaits and that he would one day like to coach the Broncos. He will almost certainly follow Anthony Griffin as Broncos boss, be that in 2013 or later after a longer apprenticeship.

Record #1: Nathan Hindmarsh broke through the 10,000 tackle mark on Friday night against South Sydney with another fantastic display of tackling, racking up 49 in another inspirational display for his insipid team. Nathan Hindmarsh is a wonderful player who will be remembered fondly. Imagine how good he could have been had he had a decent coach and a competent team around him during his formative years. He will retire as one of the greatest players never to win a premiership.

Record #2: Michael Ennis, I assume, also broke some kind of record on Sunday afternoon when he managed to concede six penalties in only 80 minutes of football. It was a typical Ennis performance, full of niggle and spite. I don’t know if any player has ever conceded as many penalties and remained on the field to tell the tale, let alone raise his arms in victory.

The Most Recent Realisation of Laurie Daley’s Stupidity: Calling the Monday Night Football game between the Cowboys and Storm, Laurie Daley professed that “Ashley Graham is impossible to stop.” Graham, at the time, was 10 metres out and marked by his opposite number, Anthony Quinn, who simply missed a tackle to allow Ashley Graham to score his 66th forgettable first grade try. This is the man who helps select the New South Wales team, whose job it is to identify talent. Laurie Daley: wonderful player, complete moron.

The Traditional Jason Ryles Game: My old pal Jason Ryles, the most overrated prop in the game, managed to pull out a traditional Jason Ryles game just when you thought age may bring maturity and some common sense to his game. Against the Bulldogs, in a critical situation, he yanked Jamal Idris’ hair and was rightfully penalised. He was then marched 10 for yapping off. Throw in an error and a failure to even bend the line and Jason Ryles was back to his typical best.

Jason Taylor Knows Nothing of Grace: Two seasons on from being fired as the coach of South Sydney not only for a grave act of stupidity but for general incompetence as a first grade coach, Jason Taylor is still trying to justify his tenure.

In a piece for the Sydney Morning Herald last Friday, Jason Taylor was extremely critical of John Lang’s use of Issac Luke. Lang, of course, plays Luke for 80 minutes, keeping his prime weapon on the field for the length of the game. Taylor, much to Luke’s annoyance and the amusement of every opposition coach, refused to play Luke even 50 minutes sometimes, preferring instead to waste a bench spot, two interchanges and the talents of Luke by playing someone of the quality of Beau Falloon. Walk away with grace Jason Taylor. I wouldn’t expect you too. It has never been your calling card. But you had your shot and blew it and your attack on Lang over the use of Issac Luke only serves to highlight what a terrible coach you actually were.

Injury Update: It was another brutal week for injuries as the Wests Tigers and Newcastle may both have had their seasons ruined by a brutal hit to their top playing personnel. Sadly, no injury was as entertaining as the one sustained in 1911 by John Campbell of Eastern Suburbs in 1911, who was felled by a flying boot in their 8-8 draw with Western Suburbs.

Cameron Ciraldo (Newcastle): Turned in an heroic effort to play 16 minutes with a torn pectoral muscle in what should be remembered as one of the most courageous efforts ever seen on a football field. His season is likely finished though as the injury-laden backrower cops another dose of bad luck. Cory Paterson and Joel Edwards will likely split his minutes.

Lachlan Coote (Penrith): Injured his foot and took a bump to the chin but usually gets banged up and should be right to go this week.

Ben Creagh (St George-Illawarra): Suffered a compressed vertebrae midway through the affair against New Zealand. Named this week and no reports on any major concern.

Richie Fa’aoso (Newcastle): Suffered a nasty concussion but stayed on and stumbled around. Then went back on due to the injury crisis at the club. He has to be questionable for this week.

Ashley Harrison (Gold Coast): Did a hamstring against Brisbane and was forced from the field late in the Brisbane match. Could be a nasty injury and one that could not come at a worse time for the Titans. Will be out at least a couple of weeks.

Beau Henry (Newcastle): After a promising start to his Knights career, Henry sustained what looked like a broken leg against Manly. Scans have shown it not to be a severe break. He will miss at least six weeks.

Justin Hodges (Brisbane): Strained his bad hamstring. Should be right for round four but this looks like it will be an ongoing concern for him and the Broncos.

Josh Hoffman (Brisbane): Bruised his shin and will miss at least a week and likely two. Gerard Beale will take his spot.

Chris Lawrence (Wests Tigers): Suffered a horribly nasty and very rare dislocated hip. It has been mentioned that he could have his career ended by it but the likelihood is it will be season ending. Best case scenario is mid-July. Ross Conlon, who suffered a similar injury in 1983, returned and played out a good career so the hope is Lawrence will be fine. Tim Moltzen will now win a permanent spot in the centres.

Luke Lewis (Penrith): Played the entire game but it appears as if he has done some significant damage to his thumb, which will be the death knell for Penrith’s fading hopes and Matt Elliott’s coaching career. Lewis is Penrith’s best and most important player and they can ill afford to have him missing. He was named this week but he is highly doubtful. The last time I checked, the thumb is prett important.

Issac Luke (South Sydney): Concussion. Will be right to go in round four. Is tough as nails. If he is out, Souths are in a lot of trouble.

Sika Manu (Melbourne): Was in major doubt with an ankle injury and then hobbled off. Is injury prone and Melbourne will likely play it cautious as it is thought to be quite serious. Almost certain ligament damage and it would surprise to see him back within a month.

Shannon McDonnell (Newcastle): The Knights fullback went off with a concussion and did not return. Not named this week. That was his second concussion in three weeks.

Casey McGuire (Parramatta): Lasted only 31 minutes before succumbing to a calf injury but he has come up okay and will be right in a couple of weeks.

Dane Nielsen (Melbourne): Hobbled off after a head knock but should be sweet this week.

Frank Paul Nuuausala (Roosters): Suffered a minor knee injury and may miss this week.

Sam Perrett (Roosters): In what was a nasty weekend for outside backs, broke his ankle in a painful incident late in the game against Canterbury. He will not require surgery though but should be sidelined for at least two months. Phil Graham, returning from an ankle injury himself, and Justin Carney will be in consideration to replace Perrett.

Kevin Proctor (Melbourne): Initial thoughts were a fractured eye socket but Proctor was named this week and the damage isn’t as bad as first suspected.

Ben Rogers (Newcastle): Dislocated a shoulder but as one of the worst players in the NRL, he will be of no loss to the Knights.

Jerome Ropati (New Zealand): Tore his ACL and is out for the season, meaning Lew Brown will find himself a permanent spot in the centres or Krisnan Inu will shift in (or, late press, Ivan Cleary will move skipper Simon Mannering out). With Manu Vatuvei also out for an extended period, the Warriors are short out wide.

David Stagg (Canterbury): Concussed by teammate Mickey Paea (an absolute dolphin if ever there was one) and didn’t pass the tests to come back on. No risk for next Monday.

Troy Thompson (Melbourne): Suffered his second facial gash in three weeks but will be right for round four.

Lote Tuqiri (Wests Tigers): Fractured his arm and will undergo surgery this week. He will be sidelined for at least two months. All that milk drinking in rugby didn’t help his bone strength, apparently. Mitch Brown should fill in for the next two months.

Luke Walsh (Penrith): Landed heavily on his shoulder and has reportedly done his AC joint. There is talk that he could be back in a couple of weeks but it is the same injury that Alan Tongue has and he is showing no sign of returning.

The Willie M Medal:Honouring the belligerent and the befuddled, the bad and the ball-achingly bofoonish. A medal that could be renamed the Jason Ryles Medal any day now.

Round Three Votes

Parramatta v South Sydney

3-Etuate Uaisele (Par)

2-Chris Walker (Par)

1-Ben Smith (Par)

Gold Coast v Brisbane

3-Greg Bird (GC)

2-Jharal Yow Yeh (Bri)

1-Alex Glenn (Bri)

Penrith v Cronulla

3-Lachlan Coote (Pen)

2-Timana Tahu (Pen)

1-Michael Jennings (Pen)

Wests Tigers v Canberra

3-Jarrod Croker (Can)

2-Matt Orford (Can)

1-Daniel Vidot (Can)

New Zealand v St George-Illawarra

3-James Maloney (NZ)

2-Lance Hohaia (NZ)

1-Brett Seymour (NZ)

Canterbury v Sydney Roosters

3-Jason Ryles (Roo)

2-Mitchell Pearce (Roo)

1-Sam Kasiano (Cant)

Manly v Newcastle

3-Antonio Kaufusi (New)

2-Jarrod Mullen (New)

1-Brent Kite (Man)

North Queensland v Melbourne

3-Anthony Quinn (Mel)

2-Sika Manu (Mel)

1-Justin O’Neill (Mel)


5: Lachlan Coote (Penrith), Feleti Mateo (New Zealand), Matt Orford (Canberra)

4: Michael Jennings (Penrith), Jason Ryles (Roosters)

Special Thanks to Brett Oaten and Stephen Ferris (of Fire Up fame, FBI radio, every Friday, 9am), Cliff Bingham and Rohan Kendall for assisting with voting this week

Fun Fact #1: South Sydney won the 1909 premiership via forfeit after Balmain refused to play the match as a curtain raiser to an ill-fated Kangaroos-Wallabies promotion.

Fun Fact #2: Newtownwon the 1910 premiership on countback after captain Charles “Boxer” Russell kicked a goal 45 metres out, from the sideline, after full-time off an Alby Hawkes mark. It was the only premiership ever won on countback.

Fun Fact #3: The trophies used for the NSWRL/ARL/NRL premiership:

1908-13: The Royal Agricultural Society Shield (awarded to Eastern Suburbs)

1914-18: The Hugh D. McIntosh Shield (awarded to Balmain)

1918-27: The Truth and Sportsmanship Cup (awarded to South Sydney)

1928-33: The Second Truth and Sportsmanship Cup

1934-50: Labor Daily Cup

1951-59: JJ Giltinan Shield

1960-81: HO Wills Cup and JJ Giltinan Shield

1982-95: Winfield Cup and JJ Giltinan Shield

1996-97: Optus Cup

1997: Telstra Cup

1998-2011: NRL Trophy

Fun Fact #4: Eastern Suburbs won the 1923 Grand Final after five-eighth Henry Caples scored the winning try in the final minute of play.

Fun Fact #5: The 1924 Grand Final was the first rugby league match ever broadcast on radio. Balmain won 3-0 after legendary South Sydney wingers Benny Wearing and Cec Blinkhorn both bombed tries.

Fun Fact #6: University made the final in 1926, the only time the club did same.

Fun Fact #7: South Sydney won the 1931 title in controversial circumstances when referee Lal Deane awarded a try to Rabbitohs halfback Harry Eyers after Eyers picked up the ball as players from both sides awaited a ruling from the official who was expected to call an infringement one way or the other.

Fun Fact #8: The 1933 Newtown team are the only side to lose their first four matches and win the premiership.

Fun Fact #9: The 1942 premiership decider between Canterbury and St George was delayed as 5,000 punters on the hill stormed the Members Stand to take shelter from torrential rain. Canterbury won the game 11-9 after Lin Johnson booted “the worst goal ever to win a premiership,” according to Alan Whiticker in Grand Finals of the New South Wales Rugby League.

A Blast from the Past: I went to sleep on Saturday night and swore the year was 2011 but when I tuned into Manly-Newcastle on Sunday afternoon, the year was 1975 all of a sudden as referees Shayne Hayne and Gerard Sutton blew four scrum penalties, the old differential back in force, while Newcastle spent most of the second half sans substitutes. The referees have clearly gone mad though, to be honest, it is an entertaining kind of mad, like a bearded lunatic on a train offering to sing "The Old Grey Mare" for pennies. Not feeding the ball into the front row? Was that Jarrod Mullen at halfback or Kevin Hastings? And no substitutions took us back to a time when you toughed it out or you didn’t play, the way rugby league was played for sixty odd years.

I’m surprised the tries weren’t worth three points, the four-tackle and five-metre rules weren’t re-introduced and those in the No.12 jerseys were hookers and not second rowers.

DallasJohnson Does Not Want New Concussion Guidelines: Dallas Johnson plays his best football concussed. It gives him superpowers. It is like Sampson’s hair. He goes out and makes another 20 tackles. Watch this video and tell me he isn’t concussed every play. If concussion rules are changed, there needs to be a Dallas Johnson Exception. For him. For rugby league. 

Election Night: The molestation that was NSW Election Night was a wonderful evening for rugby league as a tragic was elected premier and a former whistleblower was elected to parliament.

Barry O’Farrell, a former North Sydney Bears diehard who was forced into the Wests Tigers once the Bears were criminally booted out of the competition thanks to the political manoeuvrings of a number of prominent Manly officials of the day, is today premier. He takes over from an American who, despite squeaks of South Sydney love, had clearly not taken the game to heart. O’Farrell has pledged government support to the Central Coast Bears if they are successful in gaining entry into the NRL in 2013 but will not return to the club he supported for so long, declaring himself a Tiger for life now.

Former referee and top NRL official Graham Annesley won the Shire seat of Miranda. Anneseley officiated 244 games between 1982 and 1997, refereeing finals games in 1988 and 1997, six Test matches, a State of Origin encounter and the final of the Super League World Club Challenge. His victory was expected and he may well be pushed straight into the ministry.

The news wasn’t so good for legendary Western Suburbs, Manly, Illawarra and North Sydney fullback John Dorahy. Dorahy won a 17% swing in the Illawarra seat of Keira but it wasn’t enough to unseat the Labor incumbent.

Betting Market of the Week:

Matt Elliott to lightly dismiss threats to his career:                                                                    $2.50

Matt Elliott laying the blame on a winger for Penrith’s woes:                                                  $2.50

Matt Elliott to “have the support of players,” players who won’t play for him:                        $2.50

Matt Elliott to continue to select Adrian Purtell, his personal hero:                                         $2.50

Matt Elliott to make the necessary changes to save his career and Penrith’s year:            $21.00

Power Rankings:

1. Canterbury (3-0) LW: 2 R: 1-2

2. St George-Illawarra (2-1) LW: 3 R: 1-3

3. Wests Tigers (2-1) LW: 4 R: 3-6

4. Melbourne (2-1) LW: 1 R: 1-4

5. Brisbane (2-1) LW: 8 R: 5-14

6. Manly (2-1) LW: 9 R: 6-13

7. Newcastle (2-1) LW: 5 R: 5-7

8. Sydney Roosters (1-2) LW: 5 R: 5-8

9. Canberra (1-2) LW: 6 R: 4-9

10. Cronulla (2-1) LW: 11 R: 10-16

11. South Sydney (1-2) LW: 15 R: 10-15

12. North Queensland (2-1) LW: 16 R: 11-16

13. Gold Coast (0-3) LW: 12 R: 9-13

14. New Zealand (0-3) LW: 14 R: 12-14

15. Penrith (1-2) LW: 10 R: 10-15

16. Parramatta (1-2) LW: 13 R: 8-16

LW: Last Week R: Range

Rumour Mill: Former Storm assistant and Wigan premiership winning coach Michael Maguire will be at South Sydney next year. It is believed a deal has already been done. He could bring along a number of players with him including former Storm player Jeff Lima, who could boost the Bunnies front row stocks. English Test prop James Graham is in heavy negotiations with Canterbury, who have been reshaping their front row stocks. Tolman, Kasiano and Graham look a real chance of forming a menacing front row trio in 2012. Matt Elliott is in real trouble at Penrith. The latest rumour has Mal Meninga as the favourite for the post, a move that would be an unmitigated disaster for the Panthers. Plenty of clubs are in the hunt for Bulldogs centre Jamal Idris but he will stay at Canterbury. He certainly won’t be at Cronulla, who this week chimed in to the hunt. There are suggestions Liam Fulton’s injury is worse than is being reported and he could be gone for even longer than the original forecast of six weeks. Phil Gould has been mentioned in dispatches as Wayne Bennett’s replacement at the Dragons but it would seem unlikely he will pull on the coaching boots again after such a long stint out of the coaching game.

Tearing Up Cash: Penrith may be hopeless at outside back but they certainly don’t need to tear up cash on Timana Tahu. What a tremendous waste of money and the good oil is that he won’t be at the club in 2012. He will likely be joined by Matt Elliott in looking for a job.

What I Like About…Jamie Soward: Aside from being an out-and-out star of my fantasy league, a former Clayton Friend Medal winner and second on the list of all-time leading scorers list for the Geurie Greens, Soward is a player who just loves a field goal. He took three shots on Sunday. He will probably try a few pokes this weekend. Soward has 15 career drop goals and the smart money is on him breaking 20 this year.

Round Three Selection Notes:

Brisbane: Dale Copley comes in for the injured Josh Hoffman with Gerard Beale moving to fullback.

Penrith: Kevin Kingston was the surprise selection to replace Luke Walsh at halfback with Masada Iosefa a questionable selection at hooker. Timana Tahu was dropped to the bench for Brad Tighe. Luke Lewis was named but is questionable. Elliott is doing nothing about his side’s failings and seems like he almost wants to be fired.

South Sydney: Sam Burgess is back for the Bunnies, a straight up swap for Eddie Pettybourne.

Manly: Jamie Lyon is set to return for Manly, replacing Michael Oldfield in a major upgrade.

Canberra: David Furner has made three changes to his pack, bringing in Trevor Thurling for the injured Joe Picker, who has an ankle injury. Looking for more punch, Travis Waddell comes in for Glen Buttriss at hooker while Dane Tilse, flying at present, gets the starting prop job ahead of Tom Learoyd-Lars, who has been disappointing in 2011, even factoring in how overrated he is.

Gold Coast: This Titans team looks awful. Bodene Thompson is still in the centres and Greg Bird is still at six. Esi Tonga and Steve Michaels switch positions. Ben Ridge comes in for the injured Ashley Harrison. Nathan Friend is still out. This is not the team Titans fans will want to see as they try to save their season.

Parramatta: Joel Reddy is a significant upgrade at centre from Chris Walker but the inclusion of Carl Webb is ridiculous. Kearney was forced into playing Anthony Mitchell but I think he will give the Eels some spark out of dummy half.

North Queensland: Named an unchanged team in what is probably their strongest available lineup.

Cronulla: No changes and nor should there be after Cronulla have won two straight.

New Zealand: Ivan Cleary has gone nuts, chopping Brett Seymour, Lance Hohaia and Joel Moon while shuffling four others around. Glen Fisiiahi gets a start at fullback with Bill Tupou on a wing. Simon Mannering and Shaun Berrigan move to the centres while Feleti Mateo moves to six. Ukuma Ta’ai comes into the backrow. This is do or die for the Warriors and Cleary has pushed all-in. He needed to though.

Newcastle: Injuries have forced plenty of changes. Kurt Gidley moves to six while Wes Naqaima goes to the back and Adam MacDougall is named for his first start of 2011. Isaac De Gois is still out. Joel Edwards starts at lock. The fact Marvin Karawana is playing shows the depth of the Knights injury crisis.

St George-Illawarra: Kyle Stanley is again named on the bench and will hopefully again get a run. Beau Scott is back from suspension.

Wests Tigers: A slew of injuries have forced mass changes with the three-quarter line unrecognisable from their strongest lineup. Mitch Brown and Tim Moltzen come in as a winger and centre respectively. Jacob Miller will make his NRL debut at seven in place of the injured Robert Lui. Liam Fulton, Bryce Gibbs and Gareth Ellis are all still out. Sheens has cobbled together the best team he could.

Sydney Roosters: Justin Carney beat out Phil Graham to the vacant wing spot left by an injured Sam Perrett. Jake Friend looks like he will get the start at hooker this week over Mark Riddell.

Melbourne: Sika Manu is the only change and that was forced. Adam Woolnough replaces him.

Canterbury: The Dogs go in unchanged with Chris Armit coming onto an extended bench. Ben Roberts is still in the NSW Cup. Thank the Lord Almighty.

Pub Conversation of the Week:

Whippet: “Does Stuart Raper still do NRL Tactics?”

Boof, a Sharks diehard: “Well that’s an oxymoron isn’t it, Stuart Raper and NRL tactics.”

From Deep in the Bowels of Twitter:

Sam Burgess drinks too much coffee and watches too much horrible television, “struggling to get the eyes closed” on Monday after a 6pm coffee while brother George anticipated a big Thursday night in with Sam watching Idol and The Biggest Loser.

Royce Simmons is enjoying life at Knowsley Road: “Mmmm pork sandwich. Ham and cheese between two pork steaks”

Coaching Stocks:

5: Wayne Bennett: The Dragons are back on track but Benny is out the door.

4.5: Craig Bellamy: A brutal loss to the Cowboys and he may have road blues in 2011.

4: Tim Sheens: A big win over Canberra but injuries have hit hard.

4: Kevin Moore: The Dogs are flying and it is clear he has got it right over the off-season.

3.5: Des Hasler: Manly were less than impressive but got the job done against Newcastle.

3: Brian Smith: Made a huge blunder with the interchange bench and discipline an issue.

3: John Cartwright: The Titans are off to a 0-3 start and in real trouble it seems.

3: Rick Stone: The most underrated coach in the NRL who I hope is a lifer.

2.5: Anthony Griffin: Brisbane would be 0-3 without him so he has to be given credit.

2.5: Stephen Kearney: Can’t blame him for the recruitment but the effort is a worry.

2: David Furner: The Raiders are not playing well at all and decision time is nearing.

2: Shane Flanagan: Is quickly becoming a folk hero after two straight wins.

2: Ivan Cleary: The Warriors are off to a shocker but at least he has wielded the axe.

1: John Lang: Struggled against the Eels but at least got the win and satisfaction.

-1: Matt Elliott: Looks like a dead man walking at present.

-2: Neil Henry: A huge win over the Storm at home but he faces a steep climb.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 3: Canterbury-Roosters, 24-20. These two rarely let excited fans down and it was no different on Sunday when these two fought out an entertaining and memorable affair. The Bulldogs jumped the gun and led 12-0 early with a sensational try from Michael Ennis after Frank Pritchard put Andrew Ryan through a hole with a delightful ball, Ryan then hitting Ben Barba before Barba laid it on for Ennis. The Roosters looked sure to take a half-time lead in though when after piling on 14 points in 16 minutes. A brilliant ball from Corey Payne to Ben Barba on the stroke of the break gave the Dogs an 18-14 lead. The two combined 12 minutes after the oranges to give the Dogs a big lead and in a match that quickly became an arm wrestle, the Dogs held on, the last 10 minutes against a 12-man Roosters team thanks to Brian Smith making a mess of the interchange. A cracking game and a contender for game of the year honours.

Obscure Score of the Week:USA-Ireland, 8-26. In the first ever Donnybrook Cup, the Wolfhounds of Ireland ran out 26-8  victors over the Tomahawks in a classic showdown in Philadelphia. Sean Carmody led the Irish to victory though a personal highlight was the Tomahawks choosing to take the two when down 10-0. Quite old school.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: In what shaped, at least until mid-Sunday afternoon, Ben Pomeroy, the Special Needs Penguin, he with no hands, no heart and no talent, almost single-handedly rolled my fantasy team this week in a numbers line that I still refuse to believe. A try assist, 102 metres, a line break, eight tackle breaks, 14 tackles and three offloads. I will give it all away, and I mean it all (buy a bullet, rent a gun, as they say), if the Special Needs Penguin finished me. Ye Gods. What a horrible thought.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. Ben Barba (Bul)

2. Jason Nightingale (Dra)

3. Greg Inglis (Sou)

4. Will Hopoate (Man)

5. Ashley Graham (NQ)

6. Benji Marshall (Tig)

7. Jonathan Thurston (NQ)

13. Paul Gallen (Cro)

12. Zeb Taia (New)

11. Corey Parker (Bri)

10. Dan Hunt (Dra)

9. Matt Hilder (New)

8. Luke Bailey (GC)


14. Albert Kelly (Cro)

15. Jamie Soward (Dra)

16. Chris Heighington (Tig)

17. Dave Taylor (Sou)

Waiver Wire Advice: The Newcastle Knights and Wests Tigers are both going through a world of hurt right now and that provides opportunity for Supercoach owners. The Knights have taken the biggest hits in the halves and the backrow. Injuries to Henry and Rodgers mean Kurt Gidley will play five-eighth: he has to be avoided, at least until the Knights are back to a full complement of halves. The best buys at the Knights are Zeb Taia ($286,400) and Chris Houston ($127,800). At the Wests Tigers, Tim Moltzen is now a proposition. He will play 80 minutes a game at centre long-term now and at under $130,000, he is worth a shot. Chris Heighington is also worth a play. Backrow stocks have been murdered and he is doing plenty of work. He is a good upgrade if you are playing around those big numbers.

Beard Watch: Rugby league historians are unsure of the number with even modern day records sketchy at best but young Wests Tigers prop forward Aaron Woods is surely one of very few players, at least in what is collectively known as the Modern Era (ie: from when I started watching rugby league) to make his first grade debut with a beard. Sure, “Crusher” Cleal probably did and it is hard to imagine “Wildman” Geoff Robinson sans facial hair but in this era of staid homogeneity, it was delightful to see Woods enter the top grade with a beard. He now has three games under his belt and he looks a likely type with a fierce intensity and a heavy attitude. In 33 minutes on 14 hits this week, Woods ran for 121 metres, racking up 12 tackles as well. The beard is flying at present and Woods is leading the way.

Watch It: Manly waited 25 years for a title but when it came in 1972, they won with one of the great teams. While the highlight of the match came from the Roosters’ Arthur Beetson, who flicked a ball through his legs some 20 metres to Bill Mullins, who showed what a wonderful outside back he really was by cutting inside to score under the sticks, Manly dominated the affair. Manly then backed it up a year later in one of the most violent and brutal deciders ever seen, a match more rolling brawl than rugby league. Watch Manly’s 1972 and 1973 Grand Final victories here and here.

Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac

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