From The Couch: Finals Week 1

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on September 14, 2015

Dumb Dogs: There has been plenty of money for Canterbury to go all the way this year in recent week and the Bulldogs have won six straight but they are going no good at all with their lack of football intelligence the biggest concern. Canterbury played as dumb as a team could against the Dragons and were lucky enough to get away with it. The halves in particular played so dumb that there is almost no other finals team they could have won against. The kicking game was abhorrent. The midfield bomb with a small lead in the final 10 minutes was astonishing, as was the awful half-short kickoff. This is to say nothing of Frank Pritchard and Sam Kasiano making idiots of themselves with potential suspensions looming. Finals games are won by smart teams. The Bulldogs need to start acting like one.The NRL Can Keep Its Day Job: The pre-game and halftime entertainment at the first week of the NRL finals was so appalling that it is just great fans had a game of Rugby League to watch. The pre-game fireworks show had all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack and then had the added bonus of leaving a foggy haze and the smell of burnt pubic hairs lingering over the ground for much of the first half. We were then delighted at halftime by some DJing. That is not really my go but it seemed solid enough. But it made all and sundry feel extremely awkward as the great Stephen Ferris of Fire Up fame was surrounded by a bevy of young girls so scantily clad that it would have left strip club owners red-faced.

Stop Talking, Start Playing: Every year between September and January you can be sure and certain that there will be talk about taking a game overseas. The World Club Challenge to Vegas or Abu Dhabi. The Raiders to China. The Broncos to Hawaii. And now Parramatta are talking about playing in San Francisco. The NRL needs to grow the game and needs to actually help clubs take the game to the world.

Bring Back the 5-Minute Bin: The scourge of deliberately conceding penalties – particularly on your own line – was a blight on the opening weekend of the finals. In nearly every game teams were happy to concede  penalties knowing referees would not use the sin bin. It is embarrassing. The NRL needs to re-introduce the five-minute sin bin and now.

Fun Fact #1: Josh Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson and Daryl Halligan have kicked match-winning finals field goals for the Bulldogs in the last 25 years.

Fun Fact #2: Sam Perrett with nine tries is the highest active finals tryscorer of players left in the finals.

2015 Field Goal Update – 38: Josh Reynolds’ drop goal wasn’t the prettiest of the year but it may have been the most important, saving Canterbury’s season. Reynolds has made a habit of slotting them when it matters.

Rumour Mill: Trouble between coach and playing group is rumoured to be a major problem at South Sydney. Consideration over signing Robbie Farah is not believed to be helping. Beau Ryan is unlikely to reappear on Nine after the station suspended him. Ryan could follow the path of Matt Johns, in believing he was stitched up by his employer. Jason Taylor is not a popular figure at the Tigers with many of the players hoping he gets punted sooner rather than later.

Betting Market of the Week: After declaring himself ready to follow Jarryd Hayne to the NFL, Dragons fullback Josh Dugan will:

$81.00: Become an NFL star
$61.00: Become an icon for clean living
$1.30: Become the next Steve Matai – always clutching something and carrying on about pain

Manly Collapse Update: The Sea Eagles have finally rid themselves of the scourge that is Geoff Toovey – a player who bled often for the club and a coach who took them to the playoffs in his first three seasons before taking the club that was being torn apart to ninth. Toovey may not have been the most tactically adept coach and he may have involved himself in some politics he didn’t understand but he didn’t deserve the fate that became him.

What I Like About … Wayne Bennett: Arguably the greatest coach in Rugby League history, Bennett’s ability to get Brisbane back to the preliminary final has been absolutely remarkable. Brisbane went from mild mess to an outstanding defensive team with a unique style. They bend but they do not break. In attack, they are pure opportunists, playing on the speed and creativity of their halves. Few coaches have tailored a style to suit his talent better than Bennett. That is why he has been rewarded everywhere he has gone with the exception of Newcastle – and that says more about the Knights than it does about him. He has done a tremendous job and will be a deserving winner of the Coach of the Year award.

The Coaching Crosshairs: Andrew McFadden will not be coach of the New Zealand Warriors in 2016 if the club can find an experienced coach with talent willing to cross the ditch. The Warriors have already made enquiries about Ivan Cleary and it would not surprise if they pressed South Sydney about Michael Maguire. Tim Sheens is another believed to be in consideration. The Warriors have all the talent in the world on their roster next year but need a coach who can harness it.

Referee Power Rankings: With just four finals referees, the power rankings shrink to four though to be fair, there are zero quality officials in the NRL. Jared Maxwell clearly goes to last as he is a referee who doesn’t understand the simplest of rules.

  1. Ben Cummins (2)
  2. Matt Cecchin (3)
  3. Gerard Sutton (5)
  4. Jared Maxwell (6)

Game of the Year Nomination, Finals Week 1: Brisbane – North Queensland, 14-10. There have been few faster games in the history of Rugby League. This was end-to-end stuff played with a ferocious pace. The Cowboys ran for an incredible 1748m and had all the field position but the defensive stoutness of the Broncos and the spark of Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford have sent Brisbane to a preliminary final for the first time since 2011.

Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week: Ricky Stuart has coached finals football just once in the last 11 seasons – since the 2004 Grand Final. Only three other coaches from that season remain – Craig Bellamy, Wayne Bennett and Des Hasler – who have won seven of the 10 premierships since.

Beard Watch: It has been wonderful to see the moustache back in the NRL this season and few have pulled it off better than Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt. His deft, subtle number sits perfectly on the upper lip. There is nothing hipster about it, nothing ironic. It is just pure old school mo’ flashing.

Watch It: With Jarryd Hayne set to make his NFL debut on Tuesday morning, we go back to Rugby League’s last big incursion into the United States and the famous State Of Origin clash in Long Beach, California in 1987. Watch it here.


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  1. From The Couch: Finals Week 1 – | September 14, 2015
  1. Dan says:

    I thought Aiden Tolman constantly giving penalties away defending the line was a lot dumber than anything the halves did. I don’t know how valuable he is to the side in honesty.

  2. mav63 says:

    Can. Not. Believe. Kasiano and Pritchard are free to play this weekend. What must you do to warrant a suspension these days? Oh I know, throw a water bottle.

    For what it’s worth my tips for the semis. Dogs over Chooks; Cows over Sharks

  3. Mike Butterfield says:

    I agree with you on the 5 min sin bin, the play the ball near the try line is terrible, why do defenders get more time to get off the tackled player in that situation, why are the Refs so slack in that area, what rule makes them stop penalising, if you keep penalising they will get the message, Robertson whinging about the Storm wrestle obviously is blind to his players on the try line, Friend is even better at leg tangles than Whatmough.