From The Couch: Finals Week 3

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on September 30, 2013


The Grand Final of Our Nightmares: This week is not a good week to be a scalper. Nor is it much of a week to be a Rabbitohs fan. The NRL has jacked up the price of tickets but their true value may not be worth the paper they are printed on. In economic terms, the market is flooded with supply and there isn’t a lot of demand. It is doubtful the Chooks and Sea Eagles could sell out the SFS between them and neutrals are sick to their stomachs knowing they have to choose one or the other.

While it should be a great matchup – they have played three belters this year, including the likely match of the year in the opening week of the finals – it is a lot easier to enjoy a game when you aren’t certain that one of the two will win the title.

Souths butchered their chances by choking like few others in the prelim. They seized up like Paul Carige under a high ball and let a 14-0 lead slip. They were conservative, compulsive and scared. They took with them the fairytale of a Bunnies-Chooks decider. The Knights were totally outclassed but were shot from the moment Danny Buderus was carried off.

We are left with two very good teams. Both deserve to be there. But both are highly unpopular outside of the Northern Beaches and Eastern Suburbs. It takes a certain kind of fan to support one of these two. There will be no sentimental selection.

Personally, I think I will have to cheer on Manly. I can’t bring myself to support a team with Sonny Bill Williams and Mitchell Pearce. The Chooks have some players worth cheering – Mini, RTS, Jimmy Maloney, Aidan Guerra, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Daniel Mortimer, FPN – but all the club stands for and all that they are doesn’t sit well with me. They were the best team though so begrudging them a spot would just be churlish. The Sea Eagles have a veteran side with some very likable types mixed in with Geoff Toovey, Steve Matai and Anthony Watmough.

Yikes. Luckily, the Grand Final is a celebration of rugby league because celebrating either of these two is going to be a tough ask for the vast majority of footy fans.

For mine, Manly are over the odds. The Roosters have a better pack and better team across the paddock but the Sea Eagles’ strengths go right at the heart of Easts’ weaknesses. Daly Cherry-Evans is an infinitely better player than Mitchell Pearce while Manly’s right edge is the most dangerous edge in rugby league and Michael Jennings and Daniel Tupou are not renowned for their defensive stoutness. In what shapes as a dour affair, the Sea Eagles will win for mine.

Dally M Predictions: Your predictions for the 2013 Dally M Medal:
Fullback: Greg Inglis (2008 Five-Eighth, 2008-09 Rep)
Wing: David Simmons (nil)
Centre: Jamie Lyon (2010-11 Centre, 2012 Captain)
Five-Eighth: Johnathan Thurston (2005,07 Player, 2005,07,09 Halfback, 2012 Five-Eighth)
Halfback: Daly Cherry-Evans (2011 Rookie)
Lock: Corey Parker (nil)
Second-Rower: Greg Bird (nil)
Prop: Andrew Fifita (nil)
Hooker: Issac Luke (nil)
Coach: Trent Robinson (nil)
Rookie: George Burgess (nil)
Player: Daly Cherry-Evans (2011 Rookie)

It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career: Well, it was a brilliant career. It was just a tragedy that it ended so awfully. Danny Buderus is one champion player and it was devastating to see him carted off the paddock on a stretcher, unconscious, was too much to bear for true lovers of the game. There would be no Royce Simmons goodbye. This was to have a more Dickensian ending. It was felt around the stadium. When he didn’t get up, the life was sucked out of the SFS. Even the Roosters fans stood and applauded. The Knights new what it meant too. They were never in it when Buderus was gone. We can thank Wayne Bennett for bringing him back after Brian Smith discarded him. He was excellent down the stretch for the Knights, a true leader. He won’t be remembered as a game-changer like Steve Walters or Cameron Smith but he was as good at the craft of hooking as nearly any other player, a staple in the Blues and Australian teams for a long time, a title winner and Dally M Medal owner. Oh Danny boy … tis you, tis you must go and I must bide. 

Award Season: Keeping track of the club player of the year awards dished out:

Canberra (Mal Meninga Medal): Anthony Milford
Gold Coast (Paul Broughton Medal): Greg Bird
New Zealand: Simon Mannering
Penrith (Merv Cartwright Medal): David Simmons

Sharks Relocation Rubbish: There is little question that the NRL needs to look at its geographical footprint. Adding Graeme Samuel to the Commission should certainly ensure that. There is a desperate need to put another team into Brisbane and Perth is crying out for a league team. But relocation should be the last option and it certainly should not be the Sharks, who have finally started to get their act together financially and have a decent side. Cronulla are locked into a geographical area, they have an identity, their own ground. The one team in Sydney that doesn’t is the Wests Tigers. They are everywhere and nowhere. While they claim Campbelltown, they are essentially Balmain with a few games played out west. They lack an identity and are bound by the same geographical issues the Sharks are. If one Sydney team is relocated, it should be the Tigers. The Sharks are fighters and they deserve their own patch.

Warning: For those on the Roosters, Mitchell Pearce this week thanked Jason Taylor for his form revival. Taylor managed to play in one Grand Final and turned in an absolute stinker.

Grand Finals – Around The Grounds: The Super League Grand Final will take place next weekend with Warrington marginal favourites over Wigan. Wigan are the most successful team in English league history with 19 titles while The Wire are chasing their first premiership since 1955.

The Toyota Cup final takes place next Sunday. New Zealand are in after their come-from-behind win over Canterbury. They take on Penrith with the Panthers big favourites.

In the NSW Cup, Cronulla tackle Windsor after the Sharks thumped Norths and the Wolves bested Newcastle. The Sharks will start very short.

The Queensland Cup decider was played on Sunday. The Mackay Cutters rolled the Easts Tigers 27-20. The Tigers were coached by Norway’s greatest son, Craig Ingebrigtsen.

Ranking the NRL Themes: Everyone remembers Tina Turner. She was the best. We all loved rugby league when she was singing the theme to the greatest game of all. There have been some unmitigated disasters though. See the period from 1997-2001 that included Chumbawumba, Thomas Kenneally, 'racing car sounds over action shots’ and Tom Jones singing Salt ‘n’ Pepa. Most periods have been rotten. Why Tina Turner wasn’t brought back for the centenary is beyond me and when we got the $1 billion TV deal, half of that should have gone to Tina to come back. For the first time ever, I rank the NRL campaigns from the last 25 years from top to bottom.

1.       What You See Is What You Get – Tina Turner (1989)
The greatest league anthem of all … watching the video still gets me excited.

2.       Simply The Best – Tina Turner (1990-95)
No song has ever summed up rugby league like Simply The Best.

3.       That’s My Team – Hoodoo Gurus (2003-07)
The Hoodoos’ classic has been the only decent selection since Super League.

4.       The Boys Are Back in Town – Thin Lizzy (1985-88)
A sensational anthem that never receives its proper due.

5.       Something’s Got a Hold On Me – Jessica Mauboy (2013)
It is great to see a Cowboys girl as the face and the song is fine.

6.       Two Tribes – Frankie Goes To Hollywood (1997 – SL)
John Ribot’s vision for the future didn’t include a taste in music and an understanding of masculinity.

7.       This Is Our House – Bon Jovi (2011-12)
Bon Jovi has plenty of songs and This Is Our House is about as bland as they come. Not once did Bon Jovi make it out to a league game.

8.       Children Collide – Social Currency (2010)
Was supposedly the song four seasons back but I can’t remember one thing about it. Its forgetability sums up the modern-day NRL administration.

9.       Feels Like Woah – Wes Carr (2009)
Feels like middle-of-the-road crap.

10.   What A Game – Tom Jones (2000)
It is unclear how Tom Jones singing Salt ‘N’ Pepa with bad lyrics and a highly sexualised video would come to be … but it was, for one sad season.

11.   Racing Car Noises (2001)
Vroom, vroom, crash … whoever thought of this idea must have just be exasperated after the previous four years of mediocrity.

12.   Tubthumping – Chumbawumba (1998)
Only rugby league would take the most obvious one-hit wonder of all-time and say ‘yes, we will make this our campaign for an entire year’.

13.   Blow That Whistle – Thomas Kenneally (1999)
Apparently poetry doesn’t wash with rugby league fans. In the days following the Super League war, the wounds were so great that somehow a garden gnome reading a poem could get through the NRL marketing department unchecked.

Signing News: The Warriors, Storm and Cowboys have all made some big signing news. Sam Tomkins was finally officially announced as a New Zealand signing last week. He will set the NRL alight. The Storm signed big George Rose. Rose will be a revelation at the Storm. Craig Bellamy has a great record with older prop forwards and Rose will be as fit as at any time in his career. North Queensland signed Cameron King. The Dragons hooker is a player on the up. He fills a massive need for the Cowboys.

Fun Fact #1: Roosters coach Trent Robinson played one more first grade game (four) than Geoff Toovey played Grand Finals (three).

Fun Fact #2: Manly have 11 players remaining from their 2011 Grand Final win. The Roosters have eight players left from their 2010 Grand Final loss.

Fun Fact #3: A Roosters loss on Sunday will mean Anthony Minichiello has lost more Grand Finals than any other player in premiership history.

Rumour Mill: Daniel Anderson will be named Parramatta coach once the season finishes. Canterbury are on the verge of signing Kevin Locke, though are not totally out of the hunt for Jarryd Hayne. Hayne will make a decision once the Eels hire a new coach. Neil Henry will sign with the Titans as an assistant coach but is being groomed for the top job. Russell Packer seems set to move to Newcastle. Blake Ferguson has been linked to a move to the Roosters but he is more likely to end up at the Dragons.

What I Love About … Kalifa Faifai Loa: I love that all the powerful winger said when walking out on North Queensland was: “I’m just not a Cowboy”. Simple words. Hopefully Faifai Loa remains in the NRL. He is a talented winger and one who should be playing first grade.

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: Without question, the delegation of ‘senior’ Eels players to the board to demand the club hire a first-year coach. Among this delegation was Willie Tonga, who managed four games this year. If the Eels accede to these demands, they will sink further into an already deep mire.

Betting Market of the Week: To create more anger among Cronulla fans, the NRL will this week:

$4.00: Prohibit the Sharks from ever playing in a Grand Final
$2.50: Force the club to take back Ricky Stuart as coach and CEO Tony Zappia
$2.10: Build a state of John Morris tackling a player from behind in the centre of Shark Park
$1.40: Get Sutherland council to red light the fabled club-saving redevelopment

Power Rankings:
1. Sydney Roosters 20-6 (1)
2. Manly 17-9-1 (3)

Combo XIII of the Week: This week, we celebrate the most popular name in the NRL, Matt, and the 2013 Team of Matts.

1.Matt Moylan (Penrith)
2. Matt Duffie (Melbourne)
3. Matt Cooper (St George Illawarra)
4. Matt Prior (St George Illawarra)
5. Matt King (South Sydney)
6. Matt Bowen (North Queensland)
7. Matt Srama (Gold Coast)
13. Matt Hilder (Newcastle)
12. Matt Gillett (Brisbane)
11. Matt Ryan (Parramatta)
10. Matt Bell (Wests Tigers)
9. Matt Ballin (Manly)
8. Matt Scott (North Queensland)

Correspondence Corner:  Anonymous, that is an outstanding yarn … and I am all for the cheeky halfback doing his best.

The Coaching Crosshairs: North Queensland seem certain to hire either Wayne Bennett or Rick Stone to be their full-time mentor from 2014. Bennett is the most intriguing proposition. He has seven premierships and is considered the finest coach in Australian sport and he has direct links to the Cowboys through son-in-law Ben Ikin, a director at the club. The Cowboys have waited a long time to make an announcement, suggesting their hire is someone still involved as of preliminary final weekend. While Stone is the most likely, don’t be surprised at all if Bennett finds his way to Townsville.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy was reportedly the star of Cronulla’s Mad Monday celebrations, dressing up as a first grade footballer much to the amusement of all and sundry.

Game of the Year Nomination, Finals Week 3: South Sydney-Manly, 20-30. The Rabbitohs had one foot in the Grand Final when they led 14-0 after not many minutes. The Eagles were tired. A comeback seemed long odds if the Bunnies kept playing football. They didn’t. They tossed it in. They shut up shop and hardly threw a pass. They could get no roll on. Issac Luke and Adam Reynolds both turned in shockers. It gave Manly the sniff they needed. The experienced Sea Eagles didn’t need to be offered twice. Their famed right edge ripped Souths apart and the meek Bunnies fired back little in return. Experience will take you a long way in finals footy.

Beard Watch: Brett Stewart may be as likable as a prison shower but there is no questioning his taste when it comes to facial hair with Snake growing a Ned Flanders-like moustache leading into last week’s prelim. It was full and thick and stood just on the upper lift. Incredible.

Watch It: After two dud preliminary finals, we go back to 1994 to watch a real classic, the duel between Canberra and North Sydney. Two players were sent off, a mighty field goal was kicked and the Bears went oh-so-close again in a fine game of football. Watch it here.


Comments (5)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The Friday Night Footy lead in by Billy Thorpe doesn’t get the kudos it deserves either.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Somewhat counter-intuitively, the song is actually "what you get is what you see".

  3. Anonymous says:

    Someone at the NRL must have a copy of the Thin Lizzy ad… I have been trying to track down a digital copy for ages.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The Wests Tigers have already merged thank you very much.  We have done our shifting, that will do.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If Manly wins will you bump them up to number 1 in the power rankings?