Stranger Things Characters: The characters of Stranger Things and their Rugby League equivalents:
Dr Martin Brenner – Todd Greenberg: Silent, manipulating all, in charge of an evil empire.
Chief Hopper – Cameron Smith: Walks the line between good and evil but has the respect of all.
Eleven – Jonathan Thurston: A sweetheart who can make miracles happen.
Nancy – Jarryd Hayne: Self-absorbed to the core.
Mike – Wayne Bennett: A cleanskin smitten by new love.
Jonathan – Josh Dugan: Moody, temperamental, a little bit strange.
Dustin – Aaron Woods: A big doofus who speaks plenty of sense.
Joyce – Josh Reynolds: A hard-working toiler prone to completely losing the plot.
Lucas – Cameron Smith: Rarely rattled, usually poised.
Will – Mitchell Moses: Goes missing without notice for extended periods of time.
Steve – Michael Ennis: An absolute grub with plenty of charisma and charm. Has gotten into the pants of Rugby League.
Barb – Shaun Fensom: A do-gooder who just got forgotten about.
Vale, Ron Massey: Rugby League lost a true icon on Monday with the passing of Ron Massey. Massey possessed arguably the finest brain in the game’s history, helping revolutionise the game as an assistant to Jack Gibson. Such was the esteem he was held in, Massey had the ear of great coaches and administrators for half a century, from Gibson to the likes of Wayne Bennett and Ricky Stuart. His name will not surface in any record book but make no mistake that Massey has done more to shape the way the game is played than nearly any other post-war figure. His loss is Rugby League’s loss.
The Return of Extra-Time: It was fantastic to see the return of extra-time was fantastic and produced 10 compelling minutes of Rugby League rather than the rubbish we normally see in golden point. It is time to put a bullet in golden point, save extra-time for finals and keep draws during the regular season.
Post-Mortem for The Gone: With Brisbane and Penrith exiting last weekend, we look at how they are shaped going forward.
BRISBANE BRONCOS: We should open up that Brisbane will always be fine. They are the richest and most powerful club in the NRL, one who has the largest talent pool in the country to draw from, the best facilities to impress with and the ability to draw like no other. Brisbane will never be in trouble. Having said that there are some relatively big concerns heading into 2017 that suggest the premiership window may well have shut this time around for the Broncos. There is the coach, whose latest personal scandal could take away much of the gloss and respect he has among the playing group. There is the retirement of Corey Parker. There is the incredible shortage of talent among the outside backs. There is the confidence or lack thereof from halfback Ben Hunt. The Broncos have the talent – and they will buy what they don’t – but it is hard to see them improving notably in 2017.
PENRITH PANTHERS: Anthony Griffin has done an astonishing job in his first year at the foot of the mountains and has Penrith poised to challenge for the title over the next couple of seasons with a fair shake of luck. He made some incredibly difficult decisions – punting Jamie Soward and James Segeyaro, letting Elijah Taylor walk, reforming Peter Wallace into a hooker – and they paid off with a super run into the finals. The most exciting aspect at Penrith though is the young talent – arguably the best in the NRL – with Nathan Cleary and Te Maire Martin future stars playing alongside Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Bryce Cartwright, Tyrone Peachey and James Fisher-Harris. Anything short of a Top 4 finish would disappoint next year.
2016 Field Goal Update – 35: The removal of golden point ensured no field goals were kicked during the second week of the finals.
Fun Fact #1: Canberra are the only team in the NRL era not to play in a preliminary final. Their last prelim was in 1997.
Fun Fact #2: Four players from that 1997 team went on to a coaching career: Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley, David Furner and Andrew McFadden.
Fun Fact #3: Cronulla’s only prelim final win since 1978 was also in 1997 – losing six others between 1988 and 2008.
Fun Fact #4: The Sharks had more players from that season play for the Wallabies (Mat Rogers, Tiaan Strauss) than go on to a first grade coaching career (Paul Green).
Rumour Mill: Speculation is rife that Damien Cook will sign with Cronulla for 2017, a huge coup for a legitimate premiership contender. Brisbane is hotly pursuing Dylan Napa but is more likely to end up with teammate Kane Evans. The Sydney Roosters have made an audacious bid for James Tedesco but will not get their man. Souths look set to sign Jamal Idris. Mark O’Neill’s likely departure from the Wests Tigers further solidifies Jason Taylor’s position at the club.
Betting Market of the Week: Will Eddie Hayson ever-again hold a press conference?
The Barrett and Bozo Show: Manly have missed out on another target with Matt Gillett re-signing with Brisbane. The Bozo regime is not off to a good start.
What I Like About … Andrew Webster: There is no more perceptive columnist in the game than Andrew Webster of the Sydney Morning Herald. Particularly over the last year, he has been in rarefied air, nailing nearly every issue. There is also no more courageous columnist. His piece outing Eddie Hayson as homophobic showed tremendous bravery. He is a class act and the game is lucky to have him fighting the good fight.
Game of the Year Nomination, Finals Week 2: North Queensland – Brisbane, 26-20. The last four between these two teams have been absolute classics. Friday was no different, 90 minutes of brilliant Rugby League, again decided by the best player on the field and arguably the finest player in the premiership. His match-winning try really was something else. This game had it all – may the rivalry long continue to produce such brilliant Rugby League.
Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week: Wayne Bennett would almost never hit this part of the column but his decision to announce his personal situation to his team just 24 hours before the Cowboys match could not have helped their mindset.
The Coaching Crosshairs: The drums were beating last week that Des Hasler would be sacked at Canterbury and replaced by Ivan Cleary. The board is evenly poised as to whether Hasler will be re-signed or moved on with Cleary to come in. If Hasler does survive or not, his assistants are gone and stylistic changes are expected. A roster cleanout is also required as will be a big name recruit. If Kieran Foran doesn’t sign with Canterbury, it would not surprise at all if Hasler was moved on.
Beard Watch: The courage of Blake Austin to come back last week was immense. Austin has a broken hand and shouldn’t have been playing. His outstanding beard is only matched by his astonishing courage.
Correspondence Corner: Litoralis, you are spot on about hypocrisy – if we want players to be genuine, don’t be worried when they piss people off.
The Truth Teller, I’d happily take over the running of the refs. Get me in there. I can’t take it anymore!
Robbo, the issue isn’t with Hopoate, it is with the club that allowed him to not play on Sundays.
Chris, Canterbury should not have taken the lower-priced contract.
Watch It: The last time Canberra played in a preliminary final was 1997, 20 seasons back. It was in the Super League season. Here is that Raiders team in action against St Helens in the infamous World Club Challenge competition. Watch it here.