From The Couch: February 14

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on February 14, 2013

The Great Gillard Government Distraction: Performance enhancing drugs are supposedly ruining sport in Australia. So pervasive are they, apparently seven NRL clubs are involved, who knows how any players, hotlines have been opened, an integrity unit set up, matches fixed, organised crime involved blah blah blah.

There may be a problem. We, of course, don’t know because since Kate Lundy and her sinking government orchestrated their grandstanding over a week ago, nothing of substance has been offered. There has been no intelligence put out, no charges laid, no evidence proffered. Rather, rugby league, like all other major sports in Australia, have been carpet bombed by a public announcement designed to do nothing more than distract the public from the ills of a hapless government who moronically announced an election eight months out during the middle of finals football.

Any other argument as to why that silly press conference and the extremely limited release of the ACC report is either naïve or stupid. It was not done for the good of Australian sport – this has done nothing but tarnish every player, every team and every sport. It was not done for reasons of justice – there have been no charges laid, no evidence offered, no person found guilty. Nothing appears likely to happen anytime soon. It was not done for reasons of intelligence – secrecy is usually a pretty standard operating mechanism for gathering and acting on intelligence. It was nothing more than obvious political grandstanding.

For other politicians to then engage in the hyperbole and ridiculously link it to “widespread match-fixing” and sports betting is obscene. I have worked in the sports betting industry for years. While there has been the odd match that is less than scrupulous, to suggest match fixing or even spot fixing is widespread is not only absurd but dangerously slanderous.

Even WADA boss and rugby league devotee John Fahey is dubious. “We’ve seen the bones, now show us the meat.” Phil Gould, Wayne Bennett and Neil Henry have all been correct in demanding ASADA either present evidence and lay charges or clear teams, players and sports.

It would not surprise at all to find out that a player, a number of players or even a club were engaging in the systematic use of PEDS in rugby league. This may come out. And when it does, we should all pay attention. The cheats should be tossed mercilessly from the game. The League should put measures in place to ensure any future cheats are found early. Clubs need to be dealt significant penalties if they were found to be behind any systematic cheating. This is not an issue that we should bury our heads in the sand over.

But now isn’t that time because nothing has changed in the landscape except the revelation as to how low the government will stoop. The only thing concrete we have is a desperate government willing to besmirch sport in this country for political gain. It is time to put up or shut up. And the smart money is on Gillard, Lundy and the rest of the cronies turning over a rainbow nine high rather than four aces.

Bellamy Makes the Smart Decision: Craig Bellamy is the best coach in rugby league. His outstanding record speaks for itself. And it would have been a tragedy if he let that all go by signing with St George Illawarra.

Rugby league in Melbourne needs Bellamy. He has the best system and he is presiding over a modern-day dynasty that is seven years and counting. He has invented and reinvented his side yet continues to find success.

The club would not have died without Bellamy. But the spirit of it may well have. Arguably the most influential figure in the game over the last decade, it is pleasing to see him continue to fortify a rugby league outpost.  

Daniel Anderson is Doing a Bang-Up Job: Tim Sheens thinks Daniel Anderson is in for a raft of criticism. Sheens is wrong. Anderson has laid the groundwork for a far better season of refereeing than fans have become accustomed to for a long time. Already Anderson has implemented the decision that the refs must make a decision on the field before going to the video. Now he has cleaned up tryscoring by requiring control. He has helped bring in former players to act as video referees. He is encouraging refs to coach less and send off more. While his new obstruction interpretation – attacking decoy runners can’t initiate contact – will cause some debate, at least he has attempted to offer a clear ruling. Anderson has a lot of work to do to rebuild confidence after the Finch and Harrigan years but he is the right man to do the job.

Rumour Mill: There is big trouble brewing for one Sydney club with a star player reportedly mixed up in some very dicey circles with some colourful racing identities. He is currently on a long-term deal with his club. There have been plenty of names doing the rounds with the ACC drugs report – one Origin player’s name is on everyone’s lips. There is big trouble at the Titans with plenty of internal dramas. Former Panthers prop Tony Puletua has been linked to a move to Parramatta – that would fit with their recent recruitment policy.

Fun Fact #1: The combined record of the teams Roosters recruits Sonny Bill Williams, James Maloney, Michael Jennings and Luke O’Donnell in their previous year with an NRL club is 26-70 (27.08%). No team finished higher than 14th.

Jessica Mauboy: Who and Why? The NRL really needs to do better than Jessica Mauboy for the voice of the game. She is, by all reports, a diehard Cowboys fan. Good for her. But she has no wide-ranging appeal and she does little to transcend the game. Bon Jovi may not have achieved that but at least the goals were high. This is a new era for the NRL – one with plenty of money. It is time to bring in a big-name act or at least one that isn’t a runner-up from some manufactured two-bit television show. Two words NRL, two words: Tina Turner. The nostalgia kick the game would get would be incredible.

Trial Updates:
Sat, Feb 2: Melbourne def Brisbane Easts 28-4
: Few Storm regulars played. Junior Sa’u debuted for the club. Matt Duffie picked up a thigh injury. A game of little relevance.

Sat, Feb 2: Parramatta def Newcastle 46-10: Newcastle played a team of rookies (one first grader v seven) but would still be shocked by the hammering. Reni Maitua was one of a number of Eels stars to play. As always, Stuart has pulled the whip early.

Fri, Feb 8: Canberra def Melbourne 40-8: A disappointing result for the Storm. Billy Slater made a show but no enthusiasm from the team. Also lost Proctor, Blair and Duffie to injuries. The Raiders lost Croker to injury. The Raiders had eight players on All Star duty – nice showing.

Fri, Feb 8: Penrith def Wests Tigers 34-32: James Roberts was the star of the Panthers’ close win while Blake Austin reportedly showed plenty of class. James Tedesco returned for the Tigers in the first half. Lachlan Coote made an appearace.

Sat, Feb 9: South Sydney def PNG 38-12: Souths were crisp against PNG with the Burgess boys both looking huge. Dave Tyrell was sound while Bryson Goodwin was surprisingly good. Beau Champion was unsighted. Ben Lowe is nearing his best.

Sat, Feb 9: North Queensland def Brisbane 28-24: The Cowboys overcame a 20-6 halftime deficit to record an impressive win. Tariq Sims and Robert Lui returned for the Cows. Lachlan Maranta scored a double. Denan Kemp and Jordan Kahu were interesting ins for the Broncs.

Sat, Feb 9: Gold Coast def New Zealand 42-24: Both teams lost props for the year to ACLs with Sione Lousi and Matt White now done for 2013. The Titans team was slightly more experienced but the result poor for the Warriors. Jordan Rankin was top Titans half.

Sun, Feb 10: Canterbury def Newtown 36-14: A low-key return to Belmore. The highlight was Tony Williams’ debut for the Bulldogs, who played in the uncustomary right edge position. Kris Keating has the edge on Trent Hodkinson for the No.7.

The Punters Guide to the 2013 NRL Season: The best rugby league magazine of the year is now available in all good newsagencies. Get yourself a copy. Written by your erudite author, The Punters Guide includes everything a rugby league fan could want: in-depth analysis of every player, every coach and every team, new and insightful statistics, betting data, fantasy breakdowns and much, much more. For only $14.95, you can have it all.

The Rugby League Almanac Launch: An invitation goes out to all From The Couch readers to the official launch of the first ever Rugby League Almanac at The Alexandria Hotel on Wednesday February 20. Warren Smith will launch the fantastic book, that can be purchased here, with every footy fan invited to join. The event will start at 6pm.

The Best and Worst of 2012 Recruits: The top five recruits for 2012 … and more interestingly, the worst five. Likely cap impact plays a major role

1.Michael Gordon (Cronulla): A superstar who just needs an injury-free year to put himself right in the Dally M picture.

2. Luke Lewis (Cronulla): Hits 30 but is still an international level player with the versatility the Sharks require.

3. Jeremy Smith (Newcastle): The Knights need toughness and there are few tougher than Smith, a player who finds success wherever he lands.

4. Scott Prince (Brisbane): The ex-Titans skipper has only a year or two left in him but puts the Broncos right in the title picture this season.

5. Tony Williams (Canterbury): Was a bit of a bludger last season but Des will get the best out of him and he is a tackle break machine.

1. Dave Taylor (Gold Coast): A team with an all-star pack and the worst spine in the game does not need a lazy backrower, no matter how skilful.

2. Esi Tonga (Manly): Tonga is too close to first grade and if he gets a run, Manly are soon going to learn what a swinging gate looks like.

3. Thomas Leuluai (New Zealand): Halves playing Super League don’t come back well. Leuluai has been gone for nearly a decade.

4. Luke O’Donnell (Sydney Roosters): The Roosters have a raft of talented backrowers but one of Boyd Cordner or Aidan Guerra will be sitting on the bench so a cheap shot merchant can play.

5. Braith Anasta (Wests Tigers): The Tigers needed to keep one of their quality backrowers, not sign an aging one who wants to play five-eighth.


Comments (9)

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  1. Avoozl says:

    Good news: The bastard has finally been correctly diagnosed as a serious threat.

    Bad news: The Malaysians are smarter than we are and are deporting him back to Australia.

    • Anonymous says:

      Nick, I have read from the couch for quite some time now (whenever you first started posting on and I've put a few friends onto it as well as I have found you to be the most entertaining and to-the-point commentator on the game. This article was, for the most part, another excellent read but I have to pull you up on the content of your first piece; I think that using this whole ASADA s#!tstorm as leverage against a prime minister towards which you've already declared a distaste for will only diffuse the seriousness of the topic.

      I agree that the timing sucks and reeks of a desperate government. I agree that the evidence and subsequent consequences for guilty offenders should be brought about ASAP. I agree that the current situation allows for a lot of innocent athletes to be unfairly tarred with the 'guilty' brush. HOWEVER, until this ridiculous witch hunt is brought out into the light of day with every cheating scumbag duly reprimanded and we all know exactly how widespread and influential the whole thing is we should all just grin and bear it. Downplaying things or discarding them due to personal/anecdotal evidence is just another form of conjecture. It still may prove to be the darkest day we've seen.

      The powers that be have left all sports, including league, in a pretty awful place right now but turning this into a political rant won't solve anything; it merely gives politically minded readers a chance to vent their agendas or feel alienated by your article.

  2. SemiiPro says:

    Australia – top 5 in the world…

    Hey Nick, what do you make of trial form? I’m big on it. The RL pre-season is the only pre-season form that counts in the whole world. Look for Canberra to cover the line for the first 6 weeks.

    I love Daniel Anderson already.

    Jessica is a great talent and about time an Indigenous talent is the face of Rugby League. Kudos to whoever come up with that decision. I probably would have gone with the Hilltop Hoods or some other hip hop group to ‘modernise’ (isn’t ‘modern’ so modern right now) the RL anthem, but having Jessica is even better.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’d love to see the Hilltop Hoods as the NRL theme song just to see the rant from Tedeschi which would promptly follow. Not a big hip hop fan is out man Nick 😉

  3. Anonymous says:

    Love the Fun Fact #1 :)

  4. Anonymous says:

    Pathetic assertion Nick, truly pathetic. You sound just like Rebecca Wilson and the rest of the idiots at News Ltd. If this was a Lib govt in power you would be hailing this as a wonderful piece of leadership. Also, you shouldn't only read the sensationalist headlines. If you read further you would have seen the word "susceptible" used throughout the press conference by Lundy, Clare, Lawler and Andruska, and in the 49 page report (which I bet you have not read)

    Enough of your delusions and your website.  I've bought the last of your average books.

    • Avoozl says:

      I sincerely doubt that Nick would have changed his article one iota if there was a Liberal government in power. Though, I also doubt that a Liberal government would be using the "smoke and mirror" tactics that the Labor government have been using the past few weeks.

      I think Nick's hit the nail on the head in his article and that he's just been unlucky to offend one blind-Labor supporter who'll probably stick by them 'till the end regardless of how low they've stooped and how corrupt they've become.

      Nick's books are fantastic – if you can't put your political bias aside when you read Nick's books on Rugby then I think that's your own loss mate.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Laurie needs to put Luke O'Donnell into his origin squad as first picked. The man is State of Origin. My favourite player to wear the sky blue since MG.