From The Couch: Finals Week 3

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on September 27, 2011

Farewell, Darren Lockyer: Rugby league sadly said farewell to one of its greatest ever players on Friday night. Tragically, he never even made it to the field.

Seeing Darren Lockyer sit there on Friday night, watching helplessly as his Broncos lost and his career came to a sad end, a tear filled my eye. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to end. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. Darren Lockyer was supposed to go out on top. He was supposed to leave a premier. He was supposed to be a hero. He was supposed to be out there, the master of his own destiny.

But it wasn’t meant to be. Lockyer tried. He had facial surgery. He got a low-altitude helicopter ride to Sydney. He dealt with days of unfair and unwarranted criticism for the possibility he may play with a fractured cheekbone. But he couldn’t do it and that is no knock on him, just a simple fact that is incredibly hard to deal with now his career is over.

Deep down, he probably knew that the Broncos couldn’t win without him. We all probably did. We wanted a fairytale farewell for Locky but as it stands, the rugby league gods did not see fit to present him with it.

He may play again for Australia. But he will never again wear the Broncos jersey, a great club’s greatest player, finished.

What a career it was though. From The Couch is a heavy read but even your author doesn’t have the time to list all the records Lockyer now holds.

For mine, the records that stand above all else are his winning records and his games played records. The name of the game is to win and win as long as you can and no player has won more or won for longer.

His 355 club games is the most ever played and nobody has got close to winning as much as Lockyer, who’s 237 wins is a record that will almost certainly never be topped in this era of parity.

No player has played more finals matches with his 35 appearances netting four premierships.

His 59 Test matches that included 47 wins is a record that is unparalleled. For an amazing nine years, he was Australia’s captain.

A total of 36 Origins where he guided the Maroons to a record six straight series wins.

There are too many moments in his glittering career worth recalling. The awards, the titles, the records, the tries, the moments, the wins.

But three things stand out aside those mentioned that sum up Lockyer the footballer.

The first was his switch from fullback to five-eighth. He was the best custodian in the game and quickly became the best five-eighth, a monumental achievement that has rarely, if ever, been accomplished.

The second was cruel to me but showed Lockyer at his best. In the 2006 preliminary final, the Bulldogs looked home at half-time. And then came Darren, leading the Broncos back from a 20-6 deficit to a 37-20 win and eventually a premiership.

The last was his final moment in a Broncos jersey. With a shattered cheekbone, Lockyer kicked Brisbane to victory with an extra-time field goal that was as tough as anything I have seen on a football field. I doubt there is any player in the game who could have pulled that off.

He has excelled at every level of the game and has been a truly magical player. His durability has been something else with Lockyer playing over 450 first grade and representative matches. There was no tougher player in the game. His brilliance with the football was beaten by few. In his youth he was quick but it was his deception that made him so difficult to tackle. There was no smarter player in the game. He understood everything from tempo and momentum to strategy and the impact of a big moment to timing and organisation and the importance of preparation. Lockyer was the ultimate player, a certain Immortal who should be inducted tomorrow.

There is little else to say other than thank you. Darren Lockyer is a champion of the code, the toughest and smartest footballer I have ever seen, the ultimate winner, a mighty competitor who never did anything but play rugby league the way it was meant to be played. You will be sorely missed. Rugby league just won’t be the same without you.

A Fine Season: Despite falling short to the Warriors on Saturday night, the Melbourne Storm should be mighty proud of their achievements in 2011. What they have managed in trying circumstances has been astonishing and is one of the great comebacks in rugby league history.

In the offseason, the Storm lost seven representative players including a blue-chip player in Greg Inglis and plenty of their punch up front. Had they have had a middling season, few would have been disappointed. The depth of the club had taken a blow. They lost aggression, size and impact up front. They were down a playmaker. Their fire power out wide was diminished. Few gave them a shot.

What they managed to achieve was truly commendable: their fourth minor premiership in six seasons, a 19-5 record, a finals win, the top defence in the NRL, the fourth best attack, the best road record, the best differential, eight players who played rep football and average home crowd of 14,292.

And they did all this with very little support from the NRL, who seemed to actively begrudge the success of the Storm.

In the end, they were beaten by a team coached well enough to know the Storm’s great weakness and properly built so that they could exploit it. The Warriors and Raiders did found the weakness early: big and aggressive forwards can’t be stopped by the Storm’s relatively smaller, more up-and-down pack. That is what happened on Saturday. The problem with being so top-heavy is that you have a vulnerable underbelly and with the Big Three being kept quiet, New Zealand won comfortably.

Hell-bent on redemption, the Storm tried so valiantly. But the season told in the end and they fell just short. But with Bellamy, Smith, Slater and Cronk, they will again be a force in 2012. To challenge though, they need to find hard-running forwards like Sika Manu and Kevin Proctor. Ryan Hoffman will add some starch but they probably need another big body if they are to find themselves in another Grand Final

But now is not the time to look forward. It is to reflect on a wonderful comeback year for the Melbourne Storm.

Grand Finals of the 1's: Here we give a quick rundown of rugby league deciders in the '1 years.

1911: Eastern Suburbs def Glebe 11-8 at RAS Showground (20,000)
Glebe led 5-2 after a fiery first half which saw opposing props Sid Pert and Larry O'Malley sent off following a touch judge's report. The Dirty Reds' lead extended to 8-4 when Charlie Cubitt scored his second try, a length-of-the-field movement that finished with Cubitt beating Messenger. But Easts would have the last laugh with a converted Charlie Lees try following a dropped kick, putting the Tricolours ahead 9-8. Dally Messenger kicked a field goal with six minutes to play and Easts won their first title 11-8. Glebe would never win a premiership and would be kicked out of the NSWRL 18 seasons later.

1931: South Sydney def Eastern Suburbs 12-7 at Sydney Sports Ground (27,104)
Regarded as one of the most thrilling Grand Finals ever played, Eastern Suburbs went in as massive favourites after losing only twice in the regular season. The Tricolours had the best of it early, jumping to a 4-0 lead at the main break after centre Jack Lynch kicked a penalty and a drop goal. Souths got the jump early in the second half though with Benny Wearing scoring out wide and converting to give the Bunnies a 5-4 lead. The two Easts wingers combined in a 75-metre movement soon after and the Tricolours were on top. A penalty quickly squared the match and with only minutes on the clock, halfback Harry Eyres scooted from inside his own 25 to beat the injured Billy Hong and elude Dave Brown, who was interfered with by the referee, to score the matchwinner, which was duly converted by Wearing.

1941: St George def Eastern Suburbs 31-14 at Sydney Cricket Ground (39,957)
The 1941 premiership decider may not have been a thriller with the Saints running out comfortable 17-point winners on the back of 13 points from captain-coach Neville Smith, who was knocked out early in the game, and doubles to winger Owen Campbell and five-eighth Roy Hanson. But it was an historic affair with St George claiming their first ever title in their 21st season and Dave Brown, "the Bradman of League," retiring at the tender age of 29. The match also saw a massive brawl that resulted in St George's Bill Tyquin and Easts' Jack Arnold being dismissed.

1951: South Sydney def Manly 42-14 at Sydney Sports Ground (28,505)
The Rabbitohs made it back-to-back premierships in 1951 with a total rout over Manly, playing in only their fifth season and their first premiership decider. Souths, led by captain-coach Jack Rayner and with the likes of Clive Churchill, Bernie Purcell, Harry Wells, Johnny Graves and Les Cowie, were simply too strong for a Manly team without star pivot Wally O'Connell. Souths led 15-4 at the break and had eight tries by the end, a record to this day. The highlight was Johnny Graves' four-try haul with the South Sydney winger the only player to ever achieve such a feat. Purcell was named man-of-the-match.

1961: St George def Western Suburbs 22-0 at Sydney Cricket Ground (61,196)
In the first of three straight Grand Finals the two teams would play against each other, the Saints were dominant, playing with a brilliant attacking flair despite wet and wintry conditions. The match was over inside of 26 minutes when the Saints dashed to a 15-0 lead on the back of the brilliance of Brian "Poppa" Clay and Johnny Raper. Clay threw a magnificent flick pass to send winger Eddie Lumsden over for the first of his three tries before Raper put King over for the second three-pointer. Lumsden soon scored again and completed the hat-trick early in the second half. The Saints' 22-0 win made it six premierships on the trot. It was also the last match of Wests and Australian five-eighth Keith Holman and six-time Dragons premiership winning halfback Bob Bugden.

1971: South Sydney def St George 16-10 at Sydney Cricket Ground (62,838)
South Sydney made it four premierships in five years with the star-studded Rabbitohs streaking clear of the young Saints side in the second half. The Bunnies led 1-0 at the break on the back of an Eric Simms field goal but tries to Ray Branighan and Ron Coote just after the break put the Bunnies up 11-0. St George fought back to make it 11-10 before Bob McCarthy scored the match-winner. Ron Coote was given the retrospective Clive Churchill Medal but George Piggins is widely regarded as having been the best on ground that day after coming in for Elwyn Walters. It was to be the end of an era for South Sydney, who have not played in a Grand Final in the 41 seasons since.

1981: Parramatta def Newtown 20-11 at Sydney Cricket Ground (57,333)
"Ding dong the witch is dead" were the famous words uttered by coach Jack Gibson after Parramatta claimed their first premiership 35 years after entering the premiership. Newtown, playing in their first Grand Final in 26 years and what would ultimately be their last after being kicked out of the competition in 1983, were in with a show after Tommy Raudonikis scored just after half-time to give the Bluebags a 11-7 lead but the Eels, expected to triumph, surged to the front with Brett Kenny sealing the match with a memorable dummy try. Kenny finished with a double, the first of three straight Grand Final doubles.

1991: Penrith def Canberra 19-12 at Sydney Football Stadium (41,815)
Canberra were the dominant team at the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties and were looking for three straight titles. But it would be Penrith, and the man who personified the club, Royce Simmons, who would end any chance of a hat-trick. The champion hooker, in his final game, scored a marvellous solo try only seven minutes in. The Raiders took a 12-6 lead into the break though and looked well on top after Mark Geyer was sent to the sin bin following a controversial no-try decision against Penrith winger Paul Smith. Brad Izzard and Greg Alexander combined to level the scores though before Alexander kicked a 40-metre field goal to give the Panthers a 13-12 lead and a sniff at their first premiership. Then, the defining moment of the match: the Raiders attempt a short dropout, Mark Geyer steams onto it and then throws it to Simmons to score in his final match, securing his only career double. Brad Clyde won the Clive Churchill Medal on a losing side but it was Royce Simmons who was the star in Penrith's greatest ever win.

2001: Newcastle def Parramatta 30-24 at Stadium Australia (90,414)
After the greatest attacking performance in rugby league history, Parramatta went into the 2001 decider heavily favoured to win their first premiership in 15 years. But that dream quickly became a nightmare as the Andrew Johns-inspired Knights jumped to an early lead and never looked back. "Bustling" Bill Peden crashed over in the 3rd minute and four minutes later Steve Simpson did the same. Peden had a double inside of 25 and after 32 minutes the Knights led 24-0 thanks to Ben Kennedy. The rout was well and truly on as Jason Taylor played the most forgettable game of his forgettable career. The Eels scored first in the second half but when Timana Tahu danced down the sideline to make it 28-6 it was all over. The final score of 30-24 was not nearly reflective of how badly the Knights destroyed the Eels.

Des to the Dogs: There has been plenty of speculation this week that Canterbury are chasing Des Hasler. Chasing him hard with a reported $800,000 a year offer on the table.

Congratulations have to be given to the powers-that-be at the Bulldogs for pursuing one of the better coaches out there, even if he is under contract. We saw Ross Lyon shockingly leave St Kilda for Fremantle and the same could happen in the NRL.

Canterbury need a coach who is both disciplined and experienced. Hasler fits that criteria and may well be a two-time premiership winning coach by next week.

And with his clashing with the front office, there must still be some hope he finds himself at Belmore next year. It would seem unlikely but it is worth exploring.

One thing the Bulldogs cannot do is settle for Ricky Stuart or Jim Dymock. They are the safe options and they are the weak options. Hopefully Todd Greenberg can keep playing the man of courage and find a quality mentor who can guide the Dogs from their lowest funk since the 1970s.

League Coverage in Melbourne: It has long driven me insane that the NRL's logic for not forcing Nine to show rugby league live into Melbourne or other non-traditional states has been that bad ratings are bad for the game. Of course, ratings will never get any better without the game being shown at a decent hour but with all of rugby league's traditional vision, games are shown after midnight. The circular argument goes around and around and around with the NRL always taking the gutless, weak option on this issue.

Now the ultimate hole has been put in the argument. It won't change the way the NRL allows Nine to trample all over the code but it should embarrass them

Despite few Victorians having any understanding of what rugby league is thanks to the lack of coverage, viewership for the Storm-Warriors preliminary final in Melbourne, shown live, peaked at 390,000 with an average audience of 274,451.

Anecdotally, Victorians who care nothing for the game tell me they watched it and asked questions about why the Storm lost. This followed a week where Darren Lockyer's cheekbone dominated the sports pages and sports radio airwaves of even Melbourne.

Imagine if the code received any support from the governing body in Melbourne, where there are more junior league players than there are junior AFL players in Sydney.

I am sick to death of the NRL taking the gutless position. Stand up for the game Gallop, stand up to Nine and help grow the code.

To my mind, there was no doubt some of the booing directed at Gallop was over his administration's lack of support for the game in Melbourne and primarily their refusal to force Nine to show NRL matches at a reasonable hour, even on a secondary channel.

The Independent Commission should ensure this never happens again. It is a total and utter disgrace that makes rugby league seem second-rate and provincial. I am sick of believing when those in power don't. Help the game or get out. Nine won't. Piss them off. If the Gallop administration won't then perhaps he needs to find different employment as well.

The numbers on Saturday night show that people will watch. If there was an AFL game on, the numbers would likely be halved. But if there was a blowout in the AFL, there is a high likelihood that many viewers will give the NRL a go. And in doing so, learn about the sport and perhaps even care about it.

In Melbourne, you have to go out of your way to find the game. It shouldn't have to be that way.

Oh Manu: Manu Vatuvei is a beast on his day. But when he is down on confidence, he is a total liability. He was a little like that on Saturday night when he muffed bombs and looked out of place. The highlight of the night, however, came in the final minute. Looking to run the clock down, Shaun Johnson kicked the ball directly across field on the ground, aiming directly for touch. Unluckily for him, Manu Vatuvei, not rugby league’s greatest thinker, tried to stop the ball. It may have been the dumbest thing I have ever seen on a football field.

2011 Awards: Some club awards have already been issued this year. This week it was only the referees but let’s be fair, there is no more revered medal in rugby league than the Col Pearce Medal. Here is a rundown of the main gongs:

Warren Ryan Medal (ABC Radio): Cooper Cronk
RLPA Player of the Year (RLPA): Akuila Uate
Rugby League Week Player of the Year (RLW): Corey Parker
Mal Meninga Medal (Canberra): Shaun Fensom
Paul Broughton Medal (Gold Coast): Luke Bailey
Newcastle Player of the Year (Newcastle): Kurt Gidley
New Zealand Player of the Year (New Zealand): Simon Mannering
Ken Thornett Player of the Year (Parramatta): Fuifui Moimoi
Penrith Player of the Year (Penrith): Luke Walsh
Jack Gibson Medal (Roosters): Jake Friend
Col Pearce Medal (Referees): Shayne Hayne
Willie M Medal (Making The Nut): Blake Ferguson

The Happiest Man on Saturday Night: David Gallop. The prospect of a Manly-Melbourne Grand Final must have had him quivering at the knees. The reception at the post-match presentation, however, would have been something else.

The Happiest Man on Sunday Afternoon: Incoming Warriors coach Brian McLennan must be absolutely chuffed to be taking over the club next season. He takes charge of a team that has made the Grand Final in all three grades with a deep well of young talent. If McLennan is any good, and it looks like he is, then the Warriors could be a powerhouse for the next half-decade.

Conversion Cheer: One of the oddities about watching rugby league in Melbourne is the wild celebration of Storm fans for run-of-the-mill conversions, even from right in front. The crowd goes nuts, so happy to see a goal. They really do love a goal in Melbourne, that’s for sure.

The Right Decision: I was extremely pleased to hear that the NRL has decided to allow for the singing of the New Zealand national anthem before Sunday's Grand Final. It is one of the most stirring anthems in the world and one of my first rugby league memories, the 1988 World Cup final where Wally Lewis laid out a poor Kiwi, was of the Kiwi anthem being sung so beautifully. It is a great anthem and I am excited about the prospect of it being played in Sunday evening.

Bob Fulton, Fool: On 2GB on Sunday afternoon, Daryl Brohman had lost the name of Aiden Tolman and was looking for help. He said he was after the Canterbury prop from Melbourne with blonde hair who looked like a polar bear. Bob Fulton, unable to piece the clues of that tough mystery together, came up with Ryan Tandy. Well done, Agatha Christie. This is the man who selected the New South Wales team until last year and is this year the one “advisor” to Ricky Stuart. He has no idea.

Cop That: Mark Taufua has been fined $5,000 by Newcastle for his comments attacking incoming coach Wayne Bennett. That is a lot of dough that could have been spent, on say, reading lessons following his incoherent and nonsensical tweets.

Mick Malthouse Loves League: Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse was in tears in the box on Friday night after the Magpies’ preliminary final win. He was also at AAMI Park on Saturday night because he loves his rugby league. It was thought he was crying on Friday because his career at the Pies is almost over. It was really a response to hearing that the Broncos lost on Friday night, however, Malthouse being in love with Darren Lockyer and all.

The 15 Best Off Contract Players for 2012: Most of next year’s roster moves have taken place but there are still a number of off-contract players. Here are the top 15 with thanks to Zero Tackle for providing the contract data on each.

  1. Sika Manu: The powerhouse Storm forward is likely to re-sign soon.
  2. Tony Williams: Manly keen to keep him but is being pursued hard.
  3. Jason King: Will have a deal signed with Manly soon.
  4. Paul Aiton: Has been linked to the Titans but Srama’s rise may cost him.
  5. Shannon McDonnell: Underrated fullback who may struggle for new gig.
  6. David Williams: Will re-sign with Manly but has a serious neck injury.
  7. Todd Lowrie: Storm want him but struggling for room so England likely.
  8. Shaun Berrigan: Almost certain to sign with the Raiders but is getting on.
  9. Brent Kite: Doesn’t do much but does a decent job and will re-sign.
  10. Jamie Buhrer: Great work ethic but will probably get a deal with Manly.
  11. Bill Tupou: A decent amount of upsize but will likely stay in Auckland.
  12. Jason Ryles: Nearing the end and will retire if Smith says no deal.
  13. Mitch Brown: Offers utility value but won’t be at the Tigers, likely Penrith.
  14. David Milne: Forgotten about and likely done, sadly, but a decent type.
  15. John Williams: Found some decent form at the backend, likely Sharks still.

NFL Comes Down Hard on Diving: It was pleasing to see the NFL issue this memo to all 32 NFL teams: "Should the league office determine that there is reasonable cause, all those suspected in being involved in faking injuries will be summoned promptly to this office in New York to discuss the matter. Those found to be violators will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action for conduct detrimental to the game. Discipline could include fines of coaches, players and clubs, suspensions or forfeiture of draft choices."

Perhaps the NRL should do the same to eliminate this low-rent penalty-pulling tactic. It appeared to happen twice on Saturday night. David Gallop needs to be more vigilant on this.

Injury Update: There were no serious injuries to come out of the preliminary finals with no Sea Eagle or Warrior going to miss.

Beau Champion (Melbourne): Finished his career with the Storm by hobbling off with a knee injury with 10 minutes to go. I think he may have just been dragged. Was one of the biggest disappointments of 2011.

Kevin Locke (New Zealand): Went down with a jaw injury after a Beau Champion high shot but I don’t think anything connected and I suspect he may have been playing for the penalty (though I hope not). Nothing wrong with him.

Preliminary Final Records: The record of every team in preliminary finals dating back to 1995 when the then ARL went to a top-eight system and two preliminary finals (excluding Super League in 1997):

Brisbane:                    3-4 (Wins: 98, 00, 06) (Losses: 01, 02, 09, 11)
Canberra:                   0-1 (Wins: none) (Losses: 95)
Canterbury:                3-3 (Wins: 95, 98, 04) (Losses: 03, 06, 09)
Cronulla                     0-5 (Wins: none) (Losses: 96, 99, 01, 02, 08)
Gold Coast                0-1 (Wins: none) (Losses: 10)
Manly:                         6-0 (Wins: 95, 96, 97, 07, 08, 11) (Losses: none)
Melbourne:                5-1 (Wins: 99, 06, 07, 08, 09) (Losses: 11)
Newcastle:                2-2 (Wins: 97, 01) (Losses: 95, 00)
New Zealand:           2-2 (Wins: 02, 11) (Losses: 03, 08)
North Sydney:           0-2 (Wins: none) (Losses: 96, 97)
North Queensland:  1-2 (Wins: 05) (Losses: 04, 07)
Parramatta:                2-5 (Wins: 01, 09) (Losses: 98, 99, 00, 05, 07)
Penrith:                       1-1 (Wins: 03) (Losses: 04)
St George/StG-Ill:      3-2 (Wins: 96, 99, 10) (Losses: 05, 06)
South Sydney:            0-0 (Wins: none) (Losses: none)
Sydney Roosters:      5-2 (Wins: 00, 02, 03, 04, 10) (Losses: 97, 98)
Wests Tigers:             1-1 (Wins: 05) (Losses: 10)

Fun Fact #1: Ivan Cleary and Des Hasler are the first coaches to square off in a Grand Final having both previously played in Grand Finals for their respective clubs in the last 30 years.

Fun Fact #2: Wynnum Manly won the Queensland Cup this year for their first premiership since 1995. Wynnum Manly and Manly have never won premierships in the same year but in two of Wynnum Manly’s four premiership years, Manly have lost the Grand Final (1982 and 1995).

Fun Fact #3: Darren Lockyer (35) has played in more finals than any other player. He is followed by Kevin Walters (34), Brad Fittler (32), Ray Price (32) and Norm Provan (30).

Fun Fact #4: St George winger Eddie Lumsden (17) has scored more finals tries than any other player. He is followed by Reg Gasnier (14), Brett Kenny (14) and Johnny King (14).

Fun Fact #5: Mick Cronin (180) has scored the most finals points followed by Graham Eadie (165), Graeme Langlands (149), Darren Lockyer (147) and Hazem El Masri (142).

Fun Fact #6: Bob Fulton (12) has kicked the most finals field goals followed by Eric Simms (10), Jason Taylor (6) and Terry Lamb (5).

Fun Fact #7: Brisbane’s John Plath (18) has started the most finals games off the bench followed by the Roosters’ Shane Rigon (12) and Colin Ward (12) of the Dragons and Panthers.

Fun Fact #8: Bill Harrigan (45) has refereed the most finals matches followed by Darcy Lawler (32), Col Pearce (26) and Jack O’Brien (24).

Fun Fact #9: Balmain’s Norm Robinson (11-3, 78.6%) has the best win rate of any coach with more than 10 finals experience ahead of South Sydney’s Jack Rayner (14-4, 77.8%), the Roosters’ and Cronulla’s Ricky Stuart (9-3, 75.0%) and South Sydney and Canterbury’s Clive Churchill (9-4, 69.2%).

Fun Fact #10: Wayne Bennett (27) has the most finals wins of any coach ahead of Tim Sheens (19), Jack Gibson (17), Warren Ryan (15) and Brian Smith (15).

Fun Fact #11: The Sydney Cricket Ground (224) has hosted the most finals matches followed by the Sydney Football Stadium (105), Sydney Sports Ground (33) and Stadium Australia (28).

Fun Fact #12: The most capped finals players by position (note Darren Lockyer split his time between two positions and has not made it):

1. Graham Eadie (Manly-27)
2. Wendell Sailor (Brisbane/Dragons-22)
3. Mick Cronin (Parramatta-28)
4. Steve Ella (Parramatta-19)
5. Eddie Lumsden (St George-21)
6. Brad Fittler (Penrith/Roosters-26)
7. Ricky Stuart (Canberra/Canterbury-26)
13. Ray Price (Parramatta-19)
12. Norm Provan (St George-26)
11. Scott Gourley (St George/Roosters-18)
10. Glenn Lazarus (Canberra/Brisbane/Melbourne-23)
9. Steve Walters (Canberra-26)
8. Shane Webcke (Brisbane-25)

Power Rankings:
1. Manly (20-6) LW:3, R:2-13
2. New Zealand (16-11) LW:4, R:2-11

Betting Market of the Week: Steve Matai’s first call to the trainer in Sunday’s Grand Final will be:

To get his corn-rows seen too: $4.00
To adjust his fantasy NFL team: $11.00
To get the latest news on Justice Scalia: $101
To aid genuine injury: $41.00
An unashamed and conscious cry for attention: $1.20

Rumour Mill: It has been widely reported this week that Canterbury made a big-money offer to Manly coach Des Hasler and have been in contact with the Sea Eagles boss three times in the hopes of luring him to Belmore. A similar offer was also supposedly made to Craig Bellamy. Hasler’s rejection has Ricky Stuart firming by the day. Krisnan Inu is supposedly on the outs at the Warriors despite scoring the match-winner against the Tigers. His attitude has the club looking to offload him. Daniel Mortimer looks set to move to the Roosters. Anthony Quinn appears to have played his last game for Melbourne with the Storm winger allowed to leave the field on his lonesome on Saturday night. Cronulla looks his likely destination.

What I Like About…Ivan Cleary: Cleary is one of the top coaches in the game and is absolutely the most underrated. He has done an incredible job at the Warriors, one that the likes of John Monie, Frank Endacott and Daniel Anderson couldn’t complete: he changed the culture of the club and the way the side plays rugby league. The Warriors no longer throw the ball around willy-nilly, they no longer shun defence and they no longer play inconsistently. Even at the height of the Anderson years, the Warriors never played with such discipline, defensive backbone and consistency. But in six seasons, Cleary has brought that all to the club. He has taken the club to four finals campaigns in six seasons and has had only one year where the club finished below .500. He has developed a host of brilliant young kids and he has moulded Simon Mannering into his on-field general. Cleary is a top level performer and he will turn Penrith around in the coming years, never mind that.

Moniker XIII of the Week: With one of my favourite players moving to England in 2012, this week we honour the greatest ever Shanes in NRL history.

The Shanes
1. Shane Duffy (22 games for Brisbane)
2. Shane Elford (148 games for Penrith/Wests Tigers)
3. Shane McKellar (94 games for St George/Newtown/Illawarra/Easts)
4. Shane Marteene (94 games for Canterbury/Souths/St George-Illawarra)
5. Shane Whearat (73 games for Roosters/Parramatta)
6. Shane Perry (57 games for Brisbane/Canterbury)
7. Shane Walker (149 games for Brisbane/South Sydney)
13. Shane Muspratt (64 games for North Queensland/Parramatta)
12. Shane Rodney (130 games for Penrith/Manly)
11. Shane Rigon (183 games for Roosters/South Sydney)
10. Shane Walker (178 games for St George/Easts/Tigers/Wests Tigers/Storm)
9. Shane Flanagan (78 games for St George/Wests/Parramatta)
8. Shane Webcke (254 games for Brisbane)

Analysis: Well, the Shanes look pretty damn ordinary. Outside of champion prop Webcke, the best that can be said for them is that they have some hard-working warhorses and journeyman like Rodney, Flanagan, Walker, Walker and Rigon, who give their all. Speedster Whearat never really lived up to his potential. Five-eighth Perry won a title with Brisbane as the starting No.7 but he had a player named Lockyer outside of him.  Would be towelled by any other team presented so far.

Check This Guy Out: Those looking for an entertaining rugby league read should check out Damon Roast's Tuesday Roast blog. It is a highly amusing read. Give his annual awards piece a look out. Check it out here.

From Deep in the Bowels of Twitter: This week we go to my Twitter feud with some rugby union player called Zinzan Brooke. Admittedly, I may have picked the fight.

Tedeschi: @Heineken_Beer @ZinzanBrooke8 @WillCarling Who gives a fuck? Get off the top of twitter so i can follow a real sport like league.

Brooke: @NickTedeschi @heineken_beer get stuffed you little shit

Tedeschi: @ZinzanBrooke8 @heineken_beer play a decent sport and talk to me you repressed twat. League is for men. Union is for clowns.

Brooke: No response.

Game, set and match Tedeschi, winning for rugby league.

Obscure Score of the Week: Russia-Ukraine, 36-4. The Russians warmed up for October’s World Cup Euro Zone Qualifier with a comfortable victory over their neighbours. The Bears led 12-0 at the break but kicked clear in the second stanza. Rugby league is looking to bounce back in Russia after it was expelled in 2010 due to a government desire to excel in the rugby union sevens.

Game of the Year Nomination, Finals Week Three: Melbourne-New Zealand, 12-20. In a cracking preliminary final, the Storm’s dream of redemption was shattered by a well-drilled and enthusiastic Warriors team that got the jump on the Storm and never let up. It was one of the rare times that the Storm have been completely and utterly dominated at home. At no stage outside of the first 10 minutes did Melbourne control the action. After an easy first try to Sika Manu, the Warriors quickly got on top with tries to Bill Tupou and James Maloney. Beau Champion, in the throes of a shocker that saw him dragged, went the distance before the break but the Warriors went into half-time up 14-12 with a penalty on the siren. The writing was on the wall though. The Warriors were just killing the Storm up the middle, exposing an average forward pack with hard running and aggression. In the first half, the Warriors were making 9.74m/run on every hitup/dummy-half run compared to the 7.77m of the Storm. The gulf would extend in the second stanza where a poor kicking game meant Melbourne were constantly rucking the ball out from deep in their own territory. Disciplined to the end, the Warriors just kept tearing the Storm apart in the middle and kicking for the corner. For 36 minutes, there was no score before Lewis Brown dived over and James Maloney sealed it with a wonderful kick from the sideline. The Warriors found the Storm’s weakness and relentlessly hammered them, totally outplaying Craig Bellamy’s men. It was a huge win, the greatest in their history.

Correspondence Corner: Hunter, the two field goals in a match was in reference to finals field goals only. There have been plenty of other matches that have seen two field goals including John Morris in the famous 8-1 game.

Arthur, yes, Origin hurt but the Dragons managed through it last year. I think the deeper problem was the fact they won last year and that desire to work harder through the issues simply wasn't there. I thought the Dragons were gallant to the end. That is no knock on them. It happens to most teams after a title. It takes a very special team to go back-to-back.

Zig, it is most disappointing that Gould acts as he does sometimes. I also love Todd Carney as a player but we are at a fragile point with the Dogs and to my eye Carney is nothing but a selfish brat. We don't need him. And I maintain that SBW should never be allowed in the NRL so hopefully that scumbag never sets foot in our great code ever again.

Anna, I was also at that game and it was one of the great moments in Canterbury history. I was also at the game between Norths and Brisbane the day before when Taylor booted Norths home and Halligan was sitting in one of those boxes at the SCG end and leaned over to sign my Bulldogs jersey. Champion bloke.

Dragons68, I agree that it was a bit of an unnecessary shot on Morris but I was just reaffirming my point about Issac Luke being a gutless milk drinker for laying down and highlighting some problems that can come from low-rent fools bludging. For the Grand Final, I like the Warriors. Read my forecast on Wednesday at Making The Nut and Thursday at Back Page Lead.

Gino, Gallop is in for a bigger caning whenever he steps foot in Melbourne now for the rest of his tenure. Any hope of reconciliation was blown up last week.

AJL, I didn't realise the Raiders board was a closed shop though I am not surprised in the slightest. What a disgrace. You are right: nothing will change.  It is so sad to see these morons who accept mediocrity in charge of one of the great clubs in Australian sport. In regards Campese, he won't be back to his best until late next season at the earliest so if he is the solution then heaven help us.

Beard Watch: The smart money for the Grand Final is already rolling in for the Warriors as their permanently bearded captain Simon Mannering prepares to lead the club out for their second premiership decider. Those who believe in the power of the beard will be right behind the Warriors next Sunday.

Watch It: Any rugby league fan who wants to relive the glory days of the eighties and early nineties should do themselves a favour and watch the eight-part “200 Magic Memories” series that looks back on The Winfield Cup era. It is an absolute must. Here is the final part of chapter one.

100 Bonus + comeback refund

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