From The Couch: Finals Week 2

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on September 21, 2014


A Win for the Ages: Canterbury’s remarkable victory over Manly was one the Bulldogs will never forget and one that seems destined to mark the end of a fantastic era for the Sea Eagles. The Bulldogs did not win it as easily as they should have. The early momentum was stopped before halftime and it was only some blind luck from a kick into the official and the fabulous boot of Trent Hodkinson that saved the day. Canterbury are building momentum just like the teams of the 1990s. The feeling at Belmore is something special. The team that looked like a bunch of hapless reserve graders could very much win the title. The biggest story from the match outside the game itself though seems to be the death bells tolling for this brilliant Sea Eagles team. Rumours have Anthony Watmough, Glenn Stewart, Brett Stewart, Kieran Foran and Steve Matai all playing elsewhere next season. At least some of those will be gone. A great team has been brought to its knees. Whatever happens, we should not forget the remarkable job this team did t win two premierships and play in four deciders from 2007-13, ranking second only to the Storm in terms of success.

Cowboys Screwjob III: For the better part of 80 minutes on Friday night, the Sydney Roosters were the stronger side. They led 30-0 on the Cowboys before Paul Green had a chance to blink. They kicked resiliently to hit the critical field goal. They played – in patches – like the team that won the premiership in 2013. For whatever that is worth though, the Cowboys got screwed again in the finals series by a shocking officiating mess. With the game on the line, Sonny Bill Williams won a ridiculous strip penalty before Johnathan Thurston’s fair last try was disallowed for a knock-on. Perhaps there is a conspiracy at headquarters.

Are the Roosters Cooked? There is no questioning two things with the Sydney Roosters: they are courageous and they are talented. Their injury list is almost non-existent and they have internationals across the paddock.  There is a major concern about the Roosters’ inability to finish matches in recent weeks. They blew a 30-0 lead to the Cowboys. They butchered two leads late against Penrith. Souths charged home against them in the final round of the season. Not being able to finish off matches is a worry for a Roosters team who may be feeling the impact of two seasons at the top.

Crowd Rankings – 2014: Ranking fans from best to worst in 2014. This rates fans who attend matches and fans who create atmosphere and punishes those who can’t be bothered turning up. The top ranking goes to the Broncos, who have averaged over 30,000 for 10 straight seasons, followed by the Knights, who finished top four in crowds despite a bottom four team. Souths and Parramatta round out the Top 4 with Bunnies fans travelling to a horrible stadium outside of their heartland and Eels fans showing up in droves to watch their resurgent team. The bottom four slots go to the Sea Eagles and Roosters (quality sides who fans won’t show up to watch), the Raiders (lowest attendance in the NRL by an average of nearly 2,000) and the Panthers (a team who has had almost no success in a decade finally puts a good side on the paddock and still ranks second last in attendance figures … for shame!).

1.Brisbane (33,354/1st)

2. Newcastle (17,616/4th)

3. South Sydney (19,888/2nd)

4. Parramatta (18,788/ 3rd)

5. New Zealand (17,131/5th)

6. Melbourne (14,894/8th)

7. St George Illawarra (16,056/6th)

8. Canterbury (15,425/7th)

9. North Queensland (14,613/9th)

10. Cronulla (12,631/13th)

11. Wests Tigers (13,104/12th)

12. Gold Coast (13,194/11th)

13. Sydney Roosters (14,102/10th)

14. Manly (12,613/14th)

15. Canberra (9,608/16th)

16. Penrith (11,462/15th)

Let’s Put The Grand Final Up for Grabs: Word was leaked from NRL HQ that the League is prepared to put the Grand Final up for grabs. It is a move that has to be made. The Rugby League Grand Final should never be sold outside of NRL territory but Brisbane has well and truly earned the right to enjoy the game’s biggest event. Fans show up for big matches in Brisbane. The tall and the short of it is the time has come for the League to look beyond Sydney for the game’s growth.

Meaningless Field Goal Update: Meaningless field goal freaks were gifted a real treat in the first Super League playoff game when Wigan halfback Matty Smith finished the match with Huddersfield by dropping a field goal … to send the score from 56-4 to 57-4! What an amazing start to the Super League playoffs.

Fun Fact #1: South Sydney have the best penalty ratio in 2014 with +39. The Sydney Roosters are a clear last with -54. Penrith rank 10th with -10 and Canterbury 12th with -12.

Fun Fact #2: Six of the last eight Grand Finalists have had a negative penalty differential.  

Fun Fact #3: The teams most favoured by active referees:
Gavin Reynolds – North Queensland – 37 for, 25 against
Phil Haines – Cronulla – 41 for, 28 against
Jared Maxwell – Cronulla – 97 for, 68 against
Alan Shortall – Brisbane – 37 for, 27 against
Phil Haines – St George Illawarra – 31 for, 22 against
Chris James – Cronulla – 58 for, 43 against
Gerard Sutton  -South Sydney – 59 for, 45 against

Rumour Mill: The Canberra Raiders have been strongly linked to both Brett and Glenn Stewart. The Raiders have put a mammoth offer to Brett and Glenn has a get-out from his Souths contract, which the Rabbitohs would most likely happily grant considering his injury run over the last few seasons. The smart money is on Brett rejecting the deal. Blake Austin looks most likely to go though. There was speculation last week that Brett Morris and Kieran Foran would be at the Bulldogs next season. I expect Morris to be at the Bulldogs next season but would be surprised if Foran found himself at Belmore. The Sharks could be prevented from handing back the reigns to Shane Flanagan. Expect Flanagan’s suspension to be extended post-Grand Final. Cronulla are set to sign Kris Keating in coming weeks.

Betting Market of the Week: To encourage fans to actually attend NRL matches, the League will:

$51: Attempt to improve the in-game stadium experience
$51: Negotiate with local governments for better public transport to matches
$51: Improve the quality of officiating to give fans more faith
$1.03: Make E-squared E-cubed and watch the turnstiles turn

What I Like About … Trent Hodkinson: Finals heroics in blue and white place you at the upper echelons of my pantheon of Bulldogs greats and Trent Hodkinson’s clutch field goal certainly put him in that class. Hodkinson never looked like he would miss, an amazing quality to have in the clutch.

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: Another club great has walked away with Eric Grothe declaring he is out because he believes there is a witch-hunt out for Roy Spagnolo. Now I’m no legal expert but it looks like Spagnolo is up to his eyeballs in the alleged branch-stacking so it is an odd stand for Grothe to take.

Power Rankings:
1. South Sydney 16-9 (1)
2. Sydney Roosters 17-9 (2)
3. Penrith 16-9 (3)
4. Canterbury 15-11 (5)

The Coaching Crosshairs: There is increasing speculation that the Wests Tigers will offer Jason Taylor the head coaching gig for 2015. In what shapes as another short-sighted Tigers move, the Roosters assistant looks set to be appointed. Taylor burst onto the scene after replacing Brian Smith, but failed at South Sydney before floating around as an assistant ever since. Hiring Taylor would be a silly move considering the quality of candidates available.

Ricky Stuart (Likely) Stat of the Week: Ricky Stuart is likely to suffer the indignity of having the biggest contract in Rugby League history when Brett Stewart turns down the Raiders’ offer that reportedly is over $1.5 million per year.

Game of the Year Nomination, Finals Week 2: Sydney Roosters-North Queensland, 31-30. A finals classic. The Roosters jumped to a 30-0 lead before being run down by an incredible Cowboys side, to see the scores levelled with just under 20 minutes to play. It seemed destined that North Queensland would lock down the greatest comeback in premiership history. It wasn’t to be though. The Roosters kicked a miraculous field goal to win 31-30 but not before a controversial finale where the Cowboys were screwed again by the officials. Regardless, it was a smashing game with some beautiful football and a dramatic finale. It is just a shame nobody was there to see it.

Correspondence Corner: G_Dog, it would be the first credit Phil Rothfield has ever been given.

Luke, you say Robson and Campese would be bad but the latest rumour has Kris Keating joining Cronulla! Ouch …

Ic, Mitchell Pearce was excellent against Penrith but I don’t think he was too crash hot against the Cowboys.

Davey G, I though the Thurston try should have been awarded.

Beard Watch: Reni Maitua should shave his beard off after his embarrassing sin binning that nearly cost Canterbury a preliminary final berth. Maitua is not beard-worthy. There have been few more selfish and stupid players in the NRL over the last decade and Maitua once again proved he cares about nobody but himself.

Watch It: It is that time of year again, when we take my favourite trip down memory lane, to enjoy and savour all that is beautiful about Paul Carige and the finest comeback in finals history, Canterbury’s fightback in the 1998 preliminary final. Watch it here.



Comments (8)

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  1. Cam says:

    What don’t refs understand about canterbury’s Reynolds? He somersaulted to get a penalty in extra time v manly a year or so ago. He was 3 metres offside in extra time on Friday night to stifle a field goal. The ref was 2 in from Reynolds so must have been aware of the offside.

    Both actions won the respective games for the dogs.

    It’s simple refs, if he hits the deck he’s 100% milking. Most of whatever else he does is pushing or breaking the rules, and he should be penalized. We all know it, but the refs are blind to his play. The ref even probably thinks the ball was kicked into him accidently.

    I hate union, but you’d never see their refs ignore an offside penalty in front of the posts. Gutless.

  2. Mascot Maven says:

    can’t agree with your comment on Jason Taylor. Of the available coaches he seems the best choice by far.
    As interim coach of Parra he guided them to the semi fianls in 2006, losing to the Storm (cap cheating). Many other interim coaches since then have failed to reach the semis, including Paul McGregor who still scored a 3 year contract!
    Then in ’07 he led Souths to their first finals series in almost 20 years.
    I thought he was unfairly sacked by Souths after the Fa’alogo fiasco. But after that he was Roosters NYC coach for two years and they made the finals both years. Then his first year as NRL assistant they won the comp.
    I sound like his mother or something I guess, but as far as on field results go I reckon he is a great candidate. His work in the media also showed him to be a shrewd student of the game. Perhaps you don’t like him because of his articulate deconstruction of the 2012 Barba shepherd plays? :-)

  3. Gazza says:

    As a neutral observer, Rob Lui clearly propelled the ball toward his tryline constituting a knock on. The correct call was made by the touchie and it shouldn’t have even gone to a video review. The referee had already blown his whistle prior to JT scoring the try.

    The SBW call was bad, although, those differential play the ball penatlies are constantly wrong and have been for many seasons now.

    The obstruction (shepard) was ridiculous. How that was play on I will never understand. The Cowboys should have just left him and allowed him to score so the video ref would call it back. It was in kickable range too. A truly terrible display of utter incompetence from the refs. That was the call that cost the Cowboys and it was a clanga.

    • thetruthteller says:

      Spot on, and couldn’t have said it better myself. How ‘Dill’ Gould thinks that it wasn’t a knock-on and influencing all the ignorant fans out there (somehow NT is in this category) is beyond me. Then again the fool did think that knock-ons should be allowable if a team is in the process of scoring the try of the year. and for what it is worth, the Reynolds ‘loose carry’ was a try any other day of the year, except for this game. The only thing I will add is the countless times that JT was tackled mid air when kicking the ball, which I thought was a penalty.

  4. Dan says:

    Nick, you have to be kidding. The whole RL world wanted that to be a try but it was a knock-on. Enough of the BS conspiracy theories.

  5. Martin says:

    Minichiello and Ennis almost put themselves into the running for the Paul Carige Award. I’d love to see a Paul Carige moment next week.
    Also, Manly will bounce back in 2015, scribes have been saying the same thing about that mob for the last 5 or 6 years. Their youngsters (Sene-Lefao and Tom Symonds) pretty much got them back in that game. They might lose the old heads, but they have some great young players getting experience.

  6. Burkey says:

    I’m concerned by a number of Roosters players not using their foot on the ball in play the balls (Sam Moa) I thought we fixed this up but refs are now ignoring it when it counts. A rule is a rule and it’s not that bloody hard to do!

    • Craig Jeffs says:

      Totally agree with this – and not playing it square. It’s not fair to the teams who do it properly and therefore slow themselves down.