The Warriors Wield the Axe: New Zealand boss Jim Doyle finally made his move on coach Andrew McFadden, this week sacking the Warriors coach after another season of underachievement and disappointment. McFadden was demoted to assistant with former Eels coach Stephen Kearney coming in as the head man.
There is no question the club had to fire McFadden. He has had ample opportunity to take a talented team to the finals and has not been able to get his players to perform. His selection tinkering was infuriating while his persistence with some terrible players was odd. His treatment of Tui Lolohea and Konrad Hurrell exposed him as being in over his head.
Kearney was poor at Parramatta but he never really had a chance to succeed at such a messed-up club. His record as the New Zealand national coach is excellent and he has served with a good reputation under both Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett. He is not the disciplinarian the club desperately needs but he is a figure who has the respect of the playing group. He needs to make an immediate impact though.
Keeping McFadden on as an assistant is a very strange move and totally unnecessary. He may be popular but he should be heading elsewhere.
Stitch-Up for the Titans: There has been no bigger stitch-up in finals football since those who ran into Manly in the late 1970s than what the Titans copped on Friday night against Brisbane. The refereeing of Gerard Sutton and Gavin Badger – along with video ref Bernard Sutton – was appalling and the fact they got dropped says plenty. The Titans were given no chance by the officials.
Post-Mortem for The Departed: With Canterbury and Gold Coast gone, here is a look at where both clubs are situation heading into 2017.
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS: It is the end of the line for the Bulldogs, at least the current iteration of the team. And it could be quite a while before Canterbury are back contending again, missing their premiership window by failing to get over the last hurdle in 2012 and 2014. Canterbury are not a team going forward – they are a team on the verge of a heavy fall. The spine is a total mess: Reynolds and Mbye don’t work together in the halves, Lichaa is not first grade standard and the fullback refuses to play Sundays. They play an rigid power-game that any quality team can negate with the props having far too great a role in attack. There is no depth. The outside back contingent is old. Half of the team is on overs. All hope is lost for the Bulldogs with a finals berth only an outside show.
GOLD COAST TITANS: No team overachieved more in 2016 than the Titans and no team did more mid-season to position themselves for the future. The Gold Coast were (somehow!) pre-season favourites for the wooden spoon yet put themselves in the Top 8 while acquiring Nathan Peats, Konrad Hurrell and then Jarryd Hayne, completely re-setting the course of a club that just a year ago was on its knees when Daly Cherry-Evans backflipped on a move to the holiday strip. Neil Henry has thrown himself into coach of the year contention while Graeme Annesley deserves executive of the year. With some quality young halves, the Titans are arguably in the best position they have ever been in.
2016 Field Goal Update – 35: No field goals on opening weekend of the finals.
Fun Fact #1: In the history of Canberra-Penrith matches, just one point separates the two teams across 69 matches with each team winning 34.
Fun Fact #2: The last three Broncos-Cowboys matches have been decided by a single point.
Fun Fact #3: Daniel Anderson is the only sacked Warriors coach to subsequently gain another NRL head coaching job.
Rumour Mill: Michael Lichaa is well on the outs with Canterbury – both his teammates and the front office – and it is expected Damien Cook will return to the Bulldogs. Cronulla are set to sign Tony Williams. Paul McGregor is expected to be moved on this week. Benji Marshall has been linked to the Melbourne Storm. Tuimoala Lolohea is expected to sign with Parramatta following news Kieran Foran would likely end up at the Warriors. Paul Carter will be at the Warriors in 2017.
Betting Market of the Week: What will happen first to Jarryd Hayne?
$15.00: Guide the Titans to a premiership
$11.00: Be arrested for consorting with bikies
$1.01: Act like an arrogant and self-deluded twat
The Barrett and Bozo Show: Sam Moa seems to be the top target for 2017 now, a long way off Matt Gillett and Robbie Rochow.
What I Like About … Michael Ennis: He is the biggest grub in Rugby League and he could not have gone further on the prick-meter than he did on Saturday night by mocking the Raiders Viking clap but there is something lovable about him that the game will miss when he retires. He is the heel, the pantomime villain, and he loves it. He knew exactly what he was doing and it got exactly the reaction he wanted, like Randy Savage belittling Miss Elizabeth or Rick Rude gyrating. The game will be poorer for his retirement.
Game of the Year Nomination, Finals Week 1: Melbourne – North Queensland, 16-10. These are the two best teams in the premiership and they showed why with such a stoic defensive battle. This was a cracking final and up there with the best matches of the season.
Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week: Des Hasler takes the cake by allowing Will Hopoate to miss an elimination final, recalling Sam Perrett, starting Sam Kasiano for just the third time this season, pulling Kasiano off after just 11 minutes and persisting with the same boring tactics that have flattened the Bulldogs over the backend of 2016.
The Coaching Crosshairs: Des Hasler probably deserves another season at Canterbury having made two deciders in five seasons but failure to turn the corner in 2017 could see him exit Belmore. Hasler has turned off more than a few with the dour style and his failure to adapt. The Will Hopoate debacle has done little to endear him. The chant of Jim Dymock is growing louder though that would be a very silly move. If Hasler is to go, the club needs to make sure they have someone better lined up and there aren’t too many better than Des.
Beard Watch: Josh Mansour has the most luscious beard in the NRL, without question. It is not a playoff beard but it could be enough to power the Panthers into a prelim.
Correspondence Corner: Albert, you nailed it, there is no reason for Newcastle to be this bad.
Davey G, no doubt the Wighton shoulder charge was a bonehead play.
@DontGivesARats, yes, they were all wrong.
TheTruthTeller, the Hopoate situation is infuriating.
John, I’d rather never bash a referee again but if we don’t hold them accountable nobody will.
James and Mark, Joey would tell you JT is the better player. There is just a struck match in it but Joey just for me, if for nothing else, his innovation.
John, the Bulldogs are in dire straits.
Watch It: The Bulldogs are done for 2016 so to overcome the sadness it was time to watch one of the five greatest videos on the internet: a replay of the Paul Carige game, the 1998 preliminary final. Watch it here. Apologies for the self-indulgence.