From The Couch: December 11

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on December 11, 2011

Television Screws Rugby League (Again): If I didn't know rugby league, I would be shocked. But knowing how this sport has been run for 103 seasons, I could only shake my head in knowing disappointment.

The AFL will open its season with a one-out local derby between new boys Greater Western Sydney and the Sydney Swans out at Western Sydney. This collides with round four of the NRL season. If the NRL tried this stunt in, say, Melbourne, you could be assured the AFL would schedule a blockbuster against it to take away from crowd numbers and media airtime.

What has the NRL done? Not scheduled a single match in Western Sydney against it. Sure, Parramatta play Penrith that weekend, in what would have been the perfect opposition. Instead, the NRL allowed Nine to pick the game for Friday night, again showing no bottle when it comes to the television networks. Nine, of course, showed no long-term vision for the code.

It is disgraceful that one of Canterbury, Wests Tigers, Parramatta or Penrith aren't going head-to-head against the first Sydney AFL derby. If the NRL persists down this route, the AFL stand every chance of getting a foothold. Those at the AFL must be laughing themselves silly at the ineptitude of rugby league right now.

More Delays on the Independent Commission: I can't help but think of that old tale, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," when talk turns to an independent commission being set up soon. We have been burnt, lied too, bent over and taunted so often over the last two years that I will only believe in the IC when I see it and even then it will take me a long time to believe it is truly independent and truly a body who will act with the best interests of the game and not the self-interest of a few. I am sick of this and the longer it goes on, the worse the game's television deal will be. Again we were told the IC would be up this week. Again, it has been delayed. It would be a truly merry Christmas if the game could finally get what it has needed for so long.

Bye Bye Bellew: Dirty rugby league players have lost their greatest and most effective champion in Geoff Bellew. The Sydney lawyer and Manly diehard has acted on behalf of league players at the judiciary for 22 years. The Daily Telegraph reports he has a win strike rate of 75%, a pretty handy effort indeed. Bellew has been appointed a judge on the NSW Supreme Court.

Well Deserved: Paul Gallen was certainly a worthy recipient of the Harry Sunderland Medal for the best Australian player of the Four Nations. He has had an outstanding season and he capped it off with an excellent tournament. His form over the last two seasons has him rightfully in the argument for the best backrower of the last 20-odd years, well in the discussion with Brad Clyde and Gorden Tallis. For those unaware of Sunderland, he was the game's greatest champion in its first 50 years, doing everything in the game from spreading the word to coaching and managing. He is one of the game's grandest figures.

Gordon to Fullback: Ivan Cleary is a damn good coach and his decision to move Michael Gordon to fullback was expected but pleasing to hear. One of the best players in the competition, Gordon can become one of the game's top custodians. In his few opportunities at the ground, he has been outstanding, making plenty of metres and playing a hand in plenty of tries. The smart play is to shift Lachlan Coote to five-eighth and allow the exciting Gordon to do his thing at fullback.

Stanley, Vidot Battle for Dragons Centre Spot: I read this with great amusement. Surely this is Steve Price's way of building Daniel Vidot's confidence because if he actually does play in the centres, the Dragons will be allowing a lot of tries out on the right because Vidot is a terrible defender and a horrible tackler. Chase Stanley will be the Dragons centre unless Steve Price, is, in fact a grade-A moron.

Well Done Manly: This week the Sea Eagles managed to lock down two extremely mediocre props in Jason King and George Rose. They were no doubt chased by, well, the Bathurst Panthers perhaps, maybe even the Queanbeyan Kangaroos.

Kelly Gone: I would be very surprised if Albert Kelly survives this latest round of trouble. Rugby league clubs tend to be pragmatic and with plenty of talented halves, the Sharks may take a stand despite recently signing Todd Carney. Kelly will at least be down the pecking order behind even Chad Townsend, who is ripping it up at training by all reports.

Rumour Mill: Two rugby union turncoats are looking to make rugby league comebacks with Ryan Cross and Willie Mason both seeking out Sydney NRL clubs. Cross has been linked with Canterbury, Penrith and his old club the Sydney Roosters. There is unlikely to be much interest in Mason with Cronulla his most likely destination. The club is already punting on Carney. They may as well go all-in. Ten are rumoured to be preparing to make a big money offer to claim Monday Night Football, in what would be a major coup for rugby league. Peter Peters is expected to join the Manly board very soon.     

Moniker XIII of the Week: With an independent commission only days away, apparently, and David Gallop signed on for another four seasons, this week we find the greatest Davids in the history of Australian league.

1. David Peachey (257 games for Cronulla/South Sydney)

2. David Williams (50 games for Manly)

3. Dave Watson (40 games for Cronulla/Balmain/Gold Coast/South Qld)

4. Dave Brown (94 games for Eastern Suburbs)

5. David Waite (27 games for Cronulla/Wests)

6. Dave Bolton (78 games for Balmain)

7. David Penna (134 games for Parramatta/South Sydney)

13. David Furner (200 games for Canberra)

12. David Fairleigh (219 games for North Sydney/Newcastle)

11. David Barnhill (209 games for Canberra/St George/Roosters)

10. David Gillespie (253 games for Canterbury/Wests/Manly)

9. David Trewhella (90 games for Eastern Suburbs/Cronulla)

8. Dave Brown (87 games for Eastern Suburbs/Manly)

Davids Analysis: The Davids are outstanding, led by "The Bradman of League", Dave Brown in the centres, one of the greatest point-scoring wizrds to ever play the game. The forward pack is very good, led by "Cement" Gillespie with modern-day backrowers Furner, Fairleigh and Barnhill all representaitve players. Great Britain international Bolton was an outstanding field goal kicker for Balmain. Peachey was an enigma at fullback but always exciting to watch.

Correspondence Corner: Warriorman, we can dance around in circles all day. You vote for Gallen. I plump for Luke. Grubbiness is subjective anyway. And yes, rugby league needs more Arthur Beetsons.

Cam, Arthur Mountier just missed the nod to "Snowy" Justice for the No.9 jersey.

Col Quinn, yep, Arthur seemed like that kind of guy. Just loved talking footy, loved just being a bloke. And I don't disagree with you regarding the certain Manly second rower if we are thinking of the same player.

Renegade, why can't we have a Grand Final race? So cheap, so entertaining!

Zig, you are spot on about two of the most memorable games of our lifetime. We need full extra-time in the finals. It is just common sense.

Arthur, Fisky, yes it was a sad day for the code hearing of Artie's passing.

Renegade, Warriorman, Rabby: nice to see you getting all wound up but play nice now.

Watch It: It is rare we can get footage of Australian rugby league in the 1960s but here we have highlights from the 1968 Grand Final between South Sydney and Manly. The highlight was Ron Coote's blatant punch, where he dropped Bill Bradstreet about 3 metres in front of referee Col Pearce. Mike Cleary's "55-56 yard" effort was also impressive. Watch it here.

Merry Christmas: Just a quick note here to wish every reader a  Merry Christmas, a happy holiday and a safe break. It has been a long year with this column receiving a great deal of support, even from those who vehemently and often disagree with the opinions put forth. For that, I thank you. I'll be back again next year, starting in the second week in January, with rugby league right on the horizon. I hope you will all join me then.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Michaelson says:

    Eric Simms: worth a million 1968 dollars on the basis of his goal kicking alone. It was a different game back then.

    • Anonymous says:

      Nick, must say I agree on your comments on Gallen and its not before time that the couch got behind the Mayor of Wentworthville

      Go the Jets