From The Couch: Finals Week 1

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on September 16, 2013


Ricky Stuart Sorts Out Ricky Stuart … Again: Anybody who takes Ricky Stuart for his word is a fool and a moron and deserves what they get. So it is with Parramatta, who a year ago hailed Stuart’s signing as the club’s “best signing since Jack Gibson”, now say goodbye to the coach who they paid $800,000 (plus subsequent NRL fines for his hissy fits) with just a wooden spoon and a club more broken than the disaster it was before Stuart arrived. It was quite an effort. Even your author – one of the biggest Ricky detractors out there – suggested Stuart could at least help out with recruitment and culture. He did not. Incredible.

Yet, of course, he received another coaching gig, this time from the only club dumber than the Parramatta Eels, the Canberra Raiders. The Parramatta faithful should be rejoicing that they have escaped this megalomaniacal fraud.

It was quite a farewell act from ex-Raiders chairman John McIntyre to find a worse coach than David Furner and burden an already fractured club with the worst dollar-for-dollar coach in the game and, perhaps, the worst coach full stop. To put it nicely, the Raiders are fucked and it is all their own doing.

The club could have had a fresh start. Instead, the most out-of-touch board in the game went for an old boy who they did no background on. Good luck with that Canberra. Don’t expect a finals finish any time soon.

Stuart leaning on his family as an excuse, well, that says plenty about him as a man and a coach.

I rarely feel sorry for the Eels. And I don’t today. They shouldn’t feel too bad either. They get a fresh dawn. The Raiders though, well, they are now in another death spiral of their own making.

Anderson the Man: It is now time for the Eels – who will surely remember September 12 as the day they finally saw a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel – to look to the future and their next coach. Neil Henry is the unbackable favourite. Jason Taylor is the popular choice. But the man who should be brought in – and I’m hearing will be the next man in charge of the Eels – is Daniel Anderson. Everything went south quicker than it takes the Eels to let in 40 points after Anderson was punted after taking them to the ’09 decider. Bringing him back would not only go some way to righting past wrongs but would allow the club to move forward with the strong disciplinarian, smart recruiter and sound tactician that is Anderson. They would be foolish to look beyond him.

The Sharks-Cowboys Debacle: There isn’t much left to be said that hasn’t already been said. At a time of year with everything on the line, the NRL has failed epically again. To allow a try on a seventh tackle was disgraceful. Five officials were charged with counting tackles. None managed to stop at six. It proved costly.

More embarrassment was to come. With 41 seconds left, a scrum was set deep in Cowboys territory. They ran the length of the field with a decision sent to the video ref. No time elapsed at all from the scrum to John Morris’ historic match-saving tackle on Kane Linnett. The Sharks rightly thought the game was over. It was not. When Paul Gallen asked how much time was remaining, Matt Cecchin could not answer. The scoreboard attendant did not know either. It is the officials’ job to maintain time yet they failed to do so.

The Cowboys should feel robbed. They were. I doubt it was an NRL conspiracy though. Some level of competence is required to pull off a conspiracy. And the NRL and their officials lack even the most back level of competency.

Diving Dogs: Michael Ennis and Steve Matai are the two latest clowns to be added to the diving hall of shame, two grubby players who embarrassed the code by feigning injury over the first weekend of the finals. It was humiliating. Ennis was the worst. He wasn’t even touched, yet tried to win a penalty by going down as if on the receiving end of a bullet from the sixth story of the book depository. Matai, as always, paid the game no respect by acting like a coward and staying down in the clash with the Roosters. The NRL needs to step in to stop these morons, these cowards, from taking away from a very hard, very tough and very dignified game. It is sad that Ennis, who I like very much as a player generally (he is my grub, after all), and Matai find it necessary to push the line so far that they are prepared to hurt the game that has given them a chance.

Canterbury Calamity Finally Over: It was a wasted season for the Bulldogs and perhaps, after making the Grand Final just a year ago, the premiership window has closed. Things will certainly need to change in 2014. The Bulldogs limped from one disaster to the next in 2013 and it culminated in a pathetic display against the Knights with the season on the line. Only Josh Reynolds, Aiden Tolman and James Graham can hold their head up high. The rest of the mob either struggled, were averaged or embarrassed the jersey. Ben Barba – pre-injury – Sam Kasiano and Tony Williams were three in the latter camp. There will be little fondness among the Bulldogs faithful when thinking of the 2013 season.

Penalty Square Up: While the officiating in the Sharks-Cowboys match was  farcical, it was arguably worse in the Roosters-Sea Eagles clash. Ben Cummins, straight out, gave Manly every 50-50 decision and more with a second half penalty count in their favour 8-2. It looks like Geoff Toovey going ballistic has been heard around the corridors of power within the NRL.

The Sharks are So Broke: Cronulla are so skint that Todd Carney is now forced to do his own strapping. He was seen in the Sharks’ clash taping his own hamstrings on more than one occasion. I am no expert on these matters but I believe it is best practice to have a trainer strap your star player.

Slamming Sam: One of the revelations of the season has been Roosters prop Sam Moa. He has punched it up with vigour all year and has laid the platform for the Chooks’ edge players. He took it up a notch on Saturday though when returning to the paddock after dislocating his knee. It was a huge display of courage and one that should not go unnoticed.

Watmough Goes to Water: Anthony Watmough is seemingly allergic to finals football. After turning in the worst game of his career against the Storm in last year’s preliminary final, Watmough could not catch chlamydia from a Deadwood prostitute in the loss to the Roosters on Saturday night. The three errors he was assessed with seems rather generous. 

Fun Fact #1: Coaches currently out of a head coaching job who have coached since 2000 who have a better record than Ricky Stuart has since 2005: Peter Sharp, Royce Simmons, Stuart Raper, Brad Fittler, David Furner, Andrew Farrar, Jason Taylor, Rick Stone, Neil Henry, David Waite, Brian Smith, Nathan Brown, Ivan Henjak, Daniel Anderson, Tim Sheens, Mal Meninga, Kevin Moore, John Lang, Warren Ryan, Steve Folkes, Chris Anderson, Jim Dymock.

Fun Fact #2: Full-timecoaches with a worse record than Ricky Stuart since 2005: Brian McClennan, Tony Kemp, Mick Potter, Shaun McRae, Stephen Kearney, Paul Langmack.

Fun Fact #3: The two teams at the centre of the ASADA investigation – Cronulla and Essendon – both have the phrase “up, up” in their song.

Rumour Mill: Terry Matterson has barely been spoken about in relation to the Cowboys coaching job but he is expected to be named this week as North Queensland’s next coach. Neil Henry is right in the mix for the Parramatta job but the dysfunctional club will likely go back to the past and pick Jason Taylor or Brian Smith. Daly Cherry-Evans is expected to be released from Manly over the offseason. He has fallen out with the Stewart brothers and will play in Brisbane next season. The Eagles are expected to pick up Will Hopoate though. Kevin Locke is likely to head to the Bulldogs next year. Cameron King will likely be at the Cowboys next year. Expect the NRL to refuse to register any contract for Blake Ferguson for at least half of next season.

What I Love About … Dave Smith:  I love that the boss of the NRL – one of the highest profile jobs in Australian sport – could not get into the SFS Members area through the officials’ gate. The officious security guard told Smith he had to line up with the rest of the members to get in. Smith has really made a name for himself in his first year in the job. Sadly, it was probably the highlight of his day after a miserable day and night of refereeing.

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: Even Ricky Stuart – without question, the worst coach in the NRL – could not stomach the Eels and walked out on the club. It could lead to the club’s best player (Jarryd Hayne) and best recruit (Will Hopoate) playing for different teams in 2014.

Betting Market of the Week: Canterbury’s ‘Mad Monday’ celebrations will include:
$2.30: Sam Kasiano eating eight kebabs
$2.10: Tony Williams wearing a skirt
$2.40: James Graham dressed as Hannibal Lecter
$101: Tears for Ben Barba’s farewell

Power Rankings:
1. Sydney Roosters 19-6 (1)
2. South Sydney 19-6 (3)
3. Manly 15-9-1 (4)
4. Melbourne 16-8-1 (2)
5. Cronulla 15-10 (5)
6. Newcastle 13-11-1 (8)

Combo XIII of the Week: With the Sharks and Sea Eagles set to square off this Friday night, we look at the best players to don the colours of both clubs.

1. Jye Mullane
2. Jim See
3. Craig Teevan
4. Phil Bailey
5. Paul Stephenson
6. Jason Ferris
7. Brett Kimmorley
13. Michael Sullivan
12. Nathan Long
11. Karl Lovell
10. Jack Afamasaga
9. Terrence Seu Seu
8. Adam Cuthbertson

Correspondence Corner: Dragons_Eyes91, the NRL should not step in for the breaching of club rules but it cannot allow players to get out of their contract by deliberately breaching it to escape.

Anonymous, I only saw highlights of the Storm-Eagles clash but it seemed as if Manly punished the Eagles on their home turf.

Anonymous, I totally agree with you on the length of Kade Snowden’s suspension. It is just another example of the NRL punishing on results rather than acts. He should have copped two weeks and been back for the finals.

Anonymous, I will admit Benji did some fine things for the game. But I am not big enough to oversee his defection and the way he has turned it up this year.

Anonymous, I would certainly prefer not to have Chase Stanley on the Bulldogs’ books in 2014.

Jason from Sydney, I think there are a host of young players who have not reached full potential including all you listed bar, probably, Alex Glenn. The likes of McCullough and Hoffman are good players but Griffin has done little to give the latter confidence while the former still has plenty of deficiencies in his game. I agree with you about Thaiday’s captaincy – it should be Parker.

The Coaching Crosshairs: It appears as if St George Illawarra’s Steve Price has had his job saved with a whitewash season review. It was typical Dragons – entirely conservative, entirely insular, entirely slow moving. Price has had his chance this year and has done very well to keep his job when everyone thought he was gone for all money.

Game of the Year Nomination, Finals Week 1: Sydney Roosters-Manly, 4-0. What a game! In one of the greatest finals ever played, the Roosters beat the Sea Eagles for the third time this season in an incredible 4-0 win with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s first half try – a spectacular one at that – the only score of the match. It was reminiscent of St George’s 4-0 prelim win over Illawarra 21 seasons back. It was a game built on the most spirited, intense defence you will ever see. You could feel every hit three levels back. Manly had most of the running but couldn’t crack the impenetrable Roosters defence, who recorded their sixth shutout of the year. Even a 12-5 penalty count – and every possible rub going Manly’s way – couldn’t push the Eagles home. Sam Moa’s courage in coming back from a dislocated knee is also well worth noting. This was an incredible game, one of the most wonderful finals matches ever played.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy played one of his finest top grade games in the finals win over the Cowboys. His numbers did not reflect his bustling defence and his stout running. He set up the Sharks’ first try and scored their second. It was a showing from the ages for the Penguin.

Beard Watch: It is hard to go past David Williams’ beard when it comes to beards in the NRL and it was in full flight on Saturday night when Williams made three of the four line breaks the game saw.

Watch It: Nearly 21 years before Saturday’s classic between the Chooks and the Sea Eagles, the Steelers and Dragons played out this classic 4-0 result. It was a scintillating affair and the closest the Steelers would ever be to a Grand Final. Watch it here.


Comments (2)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Ricky Stuart is living everyone's dream Punt…The worse he gets at his job the more loot gets thrown at him. If only life were this simple for the rest of us.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You are honestly looking at statistics rather than the actual context of the penalties in the Roosters Manly game. It is well known that the Roosters goal line D tactics are to give away a penalty for holding down/offside to reset their defence. Thats exactly why the stats read 8-2. 

    Sick of your anti-Manly agenda, Sydney.