From The Couch: February 28

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on February 28, 2012

Ding Dong The Bitch is Dead: The back page of The Daily Telegraph said it all. It showed the dancing man in the street that came to signify the end of World War II in Australia. That is how important it is. The McIntyre System is dead. Hopefully, it is never resurrected.

This column has pushed for its death since its inception and I personally have rallied against it since the NRL ridiculously opted for it back in 2000 when the finals format went back to a top eight.

For over a decade, rugby league fans have had to deal with an opening weekend of uncertainty, the inherent unfairness of seeing a higher seed play away after losing in week one, the mundaneness of an often pointless week one-week two switch of teams between sides three-to-six and the silliness of seeing teams eliminated while sitting at home.

Finally, rugby league has seen the light and returned to the system used in 1995-96 and in place in the AFL. It is a much fairer and smarter system.

Thank God for the Independent Commission.

That bitch of a system is now dead and buried.

Lovers of rugby league could not be happier right now.

Sonny Bill Madness: Canterbury are alleged to have approached Sonny Bill Williams about returning to the club. Note to the Bulldogs management: I will burn Belmore to the ground before I allow that treacherous pig abuser back in the blue and white. If such disgrace is allowed back at the club then there is no hope.

Maguire Pulls the Whip: It is good to hear Michael Maguire has pulled the whip on Souths and in particular on milk drinking five eighth John Sutton. The Bunnies need Sutton and they need him bad. It is clear Issac Luke is a lost cause. He is lost to the world of grubbiness. All the pressure can't go on young Adam Reynolds. And if Maguire has got Sutton fit and caring, he deserves the coach of the year gong. The man who likes to run himself until he vomits has certainly got the Bunnies looking good. If they can turn their fitness into victories, Souths are going to be playing finals football.

Air Crash Investigation – North Queensland: It apparently got very wild and wooly for a number of North Queensland Cowboys last week when those dropped to trial with the Mackay Cutters, including star winger Kalifa Faifai-Loa, had their plane struck twice by lightning on their way to a trial. The plane was forced into an emergency landing. Neil Henry would have had plenty to answer for if he killed his best outside back by dropping him to the Queensland Cup.

Positional Battles to Watch: Keep an eye on the top five positional battles this season.

Brisbane Five-Eighth: Corey Norman will get the nod in the opening game of the season but Ben Hunt is down his throat while Luke Capewell is a smoky. Peter Wallace may get moved to the No.6 to ease the pressure on the youngsters but that is unlikely.

New Zealand Three-Quarters: Veterans Jerome Ropati and Manu Vatuvei have two spots locked down but as many as five other players are in the mix for the remaining two spots. Youngsters Konrad Hurrell, Ben Henry and Glen Fisiashii will fight it out with Bill Tupou and Krisnan Inu for the last two first grade positions with Lew Brown also some hope of a centre spot. It will be fascinating to see who Brian McClennan plumps for.

Penrith Fullback: This battle has been raging all summer with Ivan Cleary giving nothing away in the clash for the No.1 jersey between Michael Gordon and Lachlan Coote. Gordon threatened to walk if he didn't get the job but despite being the clear best option, his versatility is likely to see him start in the centres or on the wing. Expect Gordon to sign elsewhere next year if he doesn't get to play fullback in 2012.

Brisbane Backrow: Five legitimate first graders are playing for three spots in the Brisbane backrow with internationals Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker and Alex Glenn along with Matt Gillett and Ben Te'o. Thaiday and Parker are certainties while Gillett and Glenn will battle it out for the last spot in a high quality positional clash.

Wests Tigers Fullback: There are any number of contenders for the Tigers' No.1 jersey. Youngster James Tedesco has the inside running but Beau Ryan, Mitch Brown and Tom Humble are all breathing down his neck.

Strangest Injury of the Week: Shaun Kenny-Dowall, lacerated kidney. The Roosters are saying he could be back in a month but he is every chance of not playing all season.

Top Tryscorer Plays: Luxbet is offering markets on top tryscorer for every team. Here is the good oil on where the value lies:

Brisbane: Jharal Yow Yeh is the $2.50 favourite after topping with 14 tries in 2011 but centre Jack Reed scored 12 and is paying $8.00.

Canberra: It is tough to look past $2.00 favourite and reigning Willie M Medal winner Blake Ferguson, who scored 13 last year. Reece Robinson at $4.00 is solid.

Canterbury: After 23 tries, Ben Barba is a deserved favourite at $1.70 but the value lies with Josh Morris at $5.00 and Tim Lafai at $11.00. Morris is a legitimate tryscorer while Lafai is a rare Bulldogs back with speed.

Cronulla: With the Cronulla three-quarter line abysmal and no Shark having scored double-figure tries in three years, skipper Paul Gallen is probably the top play at $81.

Gold Coast: David Mead and Kevin Gordon are the two favourites at $2.25 and $3.25 respectively. Bet Gordon, who knocked Mead off in 2009 and 2010.

Manly: In the five seasons Brett Stewart has played 20 or more games, he has topped Manly's tryscoring list. The $1.90 is money for jam if he stays healthy.

Melbourne: Matt Duffie and Billy Slater share favouritism at $2.50 but the value is halfback Cooper Cronk at $34. He tied for the lead last year and is the best scoring halfback in the game.

Newcastle: Akuila Uate. $1.50. Just load up. He has topped 20 two straight years and will do so again.

New Zealand: There is a lot of competition for three-quarter spots at the Warriors but the one certainty is Manu Vatuvei. He has scored 90 tries in 132 games and is the bet at $2.25.

North Queensland: Kalifa Faifai-Loa is the favourite at $2.25 but his spot is supposedly not too secure. Brent Tate at $11 is probably the best.

Parramatta: The Eels don't have a lot of tryscorers so Luke Burt, second selection at $3.50, is as good a bet as any.

Penrith: Michael Jennings is supposedly stripping fitter than ever and he top scored at Penrith between 2007-09. He is third favourite at $3.50 and I'd be prepared to bet him after a shocking 2011.

St George Illawarra: Brett Morris struggled last year but is the most natural tryscorer in the team. The $2.00 is where my money will be headed.

South Sydney: Nathan Merritt has topped the Bunnies' tryscoring for the last six years and with his durability and knack for scoring, looks an outstanding bet at $1.70.

Sydney Roosters: Shaun Kenny-Dowall is favourite but he has a lacerated kidney and will miss a month and maybe longer. Justin Carney should get his spot and can be bet at $15.00.

Wests Tigers: Benji Marshall topped the tally last year and is over the odds at $10 while James Tedesco could be one out of the box at $10.

Idea of the Week: Christopher Parkinson, of no fixed address, has come up with the grand idea of having just Origin specialists play for NSW. We have decided that the coach should have no affiliations. Perhaps neither should the players, Parkinson figures. They will be able to devote the entire year to three games. Let's get it on. Perhaps Brett Kimmorley is a chance at the No.7 this year. Hell, Jonathan Docking could even be in line for the fullback. This is the kind of thinking that might see the Blues snatch Origin glory back.

Rumour Mill: Anthony Minichiello and Braith Anasta are reportedly on the outer at the Sydney Roosters. The club legends are off contract and unlikely to be given new deals as the Roosters look to free up cash for some big money plays in 2013. Darcy Lussick is the latest Manly forward to be linked to a move to Canterbury. The Sea Eagles are unlikely to be able to afford to keep him. On the eve of the season, there is speculation that Steve Price could be in trouble at the Dragons. The rumour mill has it that Nathan Brown has been approached about taking over if the Dragons start poorly. I doubt this is true.

Quote of the Week: A teary Anthony Albanese showed how important rugby league is to him by saying on Saturday: "There are three things I have tried to be loyal to my entire life … the Catholic Church … the South Sydney Rabbitohs … and the Australian Labor Party." This column has been critical of Albanese in the past – notably his opposition to John Howard joining the Independent Commission – but it was great to see him put rugby league on such a pedestal.

The Punters' Guide to the 2012 NRL Season:It has all been written and will be out next week so get ready for the best rugby league guide anywhere in the world.

The Punters' Guide to the 2012 NRL Season is the must have guide for every rugby league fan. Respected rugby league writer and pricing consultant Nick Tedeschi has put together this thorough guide that is a no-holds barred assessment, unique statistical evaluation and comprehensive betting appraisal all rolled into one. With the legendary Mr Rugby chiming in, the thoughts of leading bookmaker Jason Sylvester of Flemington Sportsbet and a comprehensive array of information sourced from within the gambling industry, there is no better tool for the rugby league punter no matter how seriously one takes their betting. It can even be used to win your tipping competition or fantasy league.

The Punters' Guide to the 2012 NRL Season includes:

* All the latest team information with complete squad listings for each club
* Detailed betting information from the 2011 season including analysis of head-to-head, line and total points betting for each club and the NRL as a whole
* Notes on betting information for the last two seasons
* The thoughts and premiership prices of Australia's top rugby league gambler and former Punting Ace guru, Mr Rugby
* Comments from leading bookmaker Jason Sylvester of Flemington Sportsbet
* An in-depth and original statistical analysis of all 16 teams
* Detailed betting data for each and every team
* Recruitment analysis, positional and coaching assessment and draw evaluation for every club
* Predictions and betting advice for the 2011 season
* A full list of blue-chip players

This product is a must for every NRL fan. It is useful for those who bet on NRL games regularly, casual footy punters, those in tipping competitions and fantasy competitions and those who just want the latest on the upcoming footy season. There is no guide quite like The Punters' Guide to the 2012 NRL Season.

The Punters' Guide to the 2012 NRL Season is on sale for only $19.95 and is extraordinary value for every rugby league fan.

Moniker XIII of the Week: With Kevin Rudd's political career ended on Monday with an ill-timed challenge to the Prime Minister, we this week look at rugby league's greatest ever Kevins.

The Kevins
1. Kevin Longbottom (105 games for South Sydney)
2. Kevin Locke (53 games for Warriors)
3. Kevin Iro (44 games for Manly/Hunter/Auckland)
4. Kevin McGuiness (166 games for Wests/Wests Tigers/Manly)
5. Kevin Yow Yeh (41 games for Balmain)
6. Kevin Walters (292 games for Canberra/Brisbane)
7. Kevin Hastings (228 games for Eastern Suburbs)
13. Kevin Smyth (132 games for Parramatta/Balmain/Western Suburbs)
12. Kevin Campion (241 games for GC/St George/Ade/Bris/Warriors/North Qld)
11. Kevin Hardwick (141 games for Balmain)
10. Kevin Ryan (158 games for St George/Canterbury)
9. Kevin Schubert (82 games for Manly)
8. Kevin Hansen (127 games for Western Suburbs/Eastern Suburbs)

Analysis: The Kevins are an outstanding team chock full of quality. Fullback Longbottom is one of the finest goalkickers ever. The three-quarter line has both power and speed. The halves are two of the finest to ever play. The pack is about as hard-headed and fierce as you are ever likely to see.

Correspondence Corner: Chris Templis, well, I guess we will see about Manly. They are a tough team to get a gauge on but I have them out of my eight now.

Pommie Greg, yes, full credit to Leeds. They were outstanding and Ryan Hall would start with any NRL team. But this column is primarily Australian focussed … hence the Manly chatter.

Cam, I don't hide behind any veil of objectivity. I freely admit I have my biases. But I am not a Manly hater. A Parramatta hater, sure, but I am relatively ambivalent towards Manly and call them how I see them.

Dragons68, Ten will do a significantly better job on a national scale than Nine, no risk. I hope you are right about Jamie Soward too … he has been the cornerstone of my fantasy football team for five years.

Col Quinn, Lachlan Murdoch is a man of vision and it will be outstanding to see league shown across Australia.

Zig, it warmed my heart so much to hear about the estimated 15,000 in attendance at Tasmania. The official number was paying customers. The locals reckon with those let in for free under the age of 15, it was hovering on 15,000.

Arthur and GC Tiger, Perth failed because they were a victim of a volatile and unsustainable era so I agree witb . Emotionally, I would love to see the Bears back but it is clear to most that Perth is better for rugby league as a whole.

Mike From Tari and Jack Muir, the international broadcast rights issue would be unbelievable if it wasn't so very rugby league and so very believable. Hopefully the IC stops chasing every last buck and sees the long-term plan of exposure over a few pennies.

Rabby, I agree that the NRL needs to actually support the World Club Challenge more. It is a disgrace.

Rob, there is no question Akuila Uate is the best winger in the world.

Barry, a new round of callers will certainly be an advantage of Ten winning the rights. Hopefully they will think outside the box and find talented analysts who played rather than just big name former players.

Tony Monero, I lived in Melbourne for four seasons and Nine were totally belligerent. They are the most loathsome, out-of-touch network in Australia.

Watch It: This needs little introduction. It is the history of rugby league in Australia, the finest documentary on the greatest game of all ever made. That's Rugby League, based on Ian Heads' wonderful book True Blue, is just wonderful. Watch part one here.



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