From The Couch: November 1

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on November 1, 2011

Issac Luke, Grub to the Core: Rugby league would be better off without Issac Luke. He is the kind of skirt better suited to soccer or random midnight park attacks on innocent victims. He has done so much to shame the game this year that I would be embarrassed to be in any way associated with this filthmonger.

He added to that list with another cheap shot in the Four Nations opener, attacking the knees of a stationary opponent for the second time in two Tests in what was a shameful and disgraceful act of thuggery. It follows on from his lay-down against the Cowboys, where he showed no pride in himself or the game. I used to be such a fan of Luke. Never again. He is a disgrace.

Luke will likely avoid punishment. But he must live with being a pariah, a leech on all that is good in the game, a total and utter filth merchant. The quicker he is removed from the game, the better.

Carney of the Shire: After many denials and the like, Todd Carney officially joined Cronulla last week. It was the desperate move of a desperate club and the last-ditch effort from a selfish player who still wants it all.

It is understandable that the Sharks made a play for Carney. They are a team who have played in just three Grand Finals in over 40 years of existence and are still searching for their first title. They have a no-name coach in what will likely be his last season if Cronulla miss the finals. There is no chief executive. The club has been starved of recent success. There is little long-term thinking. Looking for snake eyes is not surprising.

And Carney, of course, was never going to pass up the opportunity to stay in Sydney with his mates at a club that wouldn’t force him to stop drinking and one without the strong culture to likely impede his ways. It was easy money, an easy solution. Todd Carney is all about easy.

I concede there is some chance this works out. But it is minimal, a 50/1 hope at best that this doesn’t end in tears. And when it does, the Sharks will just have to start again.

Dan's The Man: The Roosters have done very well by securing the signature of maligned five-eighth Daniel Mortimer. The well-heeled youngster has finally escaped the madhouse that is Parramatta. Mortimer and his father Peter most likely couldn't be happier.

For some reason, young Daniel found himself on the outer at the Eels. There is no doubt he was struggling in his second year. He seemed to be getting worn down by defence and he is by no means a number one playmaker. But he was a better option than most used by Kearney including Jeff Robson, Casey Maguire and Jarryd Hayne.

Mortimer could have done with a more experienced halfback inside him than Mitchell Pearce but he is level-headed and committed to improving his game and he should get the opportunity to win a spot in the Roosters’ strongest 17, be it as a five-eighth or as a bench utility option.

He will add bulk. He will benefit from playing with the likes Braith Anasta and Pearce, who are far better playmakers than Mortimer ever played with at the Eels. Hopefully he settles in to be a good solid first-grader without the expectation of superstardom or the burden of playing at the worst run club in the game.

Bye George: There is little that works me up into a frenzy more than seeing some want-to-be-trendy with a modicum of power playing Little Hitler to rugby league’s Czechoslovakia. But that is the case with that conniving hipster mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, who has put the kibosh on plans to erect a state of South Sydney legend George Piggins at Redfern Oval.

Moore is taking the vindictive approach after Piggins opposed the refurbishment of Redfern Oval because, rightly, it was a rugby league oval and not a public park. Nor should it be.

With the petty bitchiness one would expect from Moore, a low-rent chardonnay socialist with a penchant for bad haircuts and worse decisions, the idea was nixed. "It's ironic that someone who was vehemently against the Redfern Park and Oval refurbishment would now seek to be immortalised there,” she wrote of Piggins.

Whatever you think of Piggins now, there is no doubt he has been a significant figure in the history of Redfern, a far bigger figure than Moore could ever hope to be. He played 118 games in the cardinal and myrtle, coached the club to its last minor premiership and most importantly saved it as a standalone club when the Bunnies were kicked out following the Super League war. To many, he is a folk hero.

But Clover Moore is most likely one who has always looked down on the Great Game.

Craig Bellamy’s Biggest Challenge: It was confirmed over the weekend that the Melbourne Storm had officially signed Jason Ryles. He will now become Craig Bellamy’s greatest challenge.

Bellamy has a reputation for turning horse manure into gold and Joseph Tomane into platinum. He is the magic man. But he has never been set a task like turning an aging, ill-disciplined, soft-bellied player like Jason Ryles into a competent cog in a good team.

Make no mistake. Ryles will strip fit next season. He will be flogged pre-season like he has never been flogged before. The question is discipline. There is no more disciplined team in the competition. Will Ryles adapt or has he gone too far down the path of stupidity? We will soon find out.  

Bennett is Mad: Seven premierships with two clubs and a Grand Final appearance with every team he has led shows Wayne Bennett is one of the great all-time coaches. But Adam Cuthbertson and his pursuit is just is just goddamn mad. Newcastle have plenty of strengths next year but ol’ Cutbo ain’t one of them.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The NRL draw is set to be released this weekend and already there have been leaks about the key opening round fixtures with the highlight certainly the Newcastle Knights hosting St George-Illawarra, Wayne Bennett’s first game in charge of his new club against his old. There will not be a spare seat in the house.

It also seems likely that there will be an opening round Grand Final rematch with the Sea Eagles and Warriors set to meet on the opening weekend.

The one downside of the leaked opening round draw is the Broncos being forced to play away. Brisbane have played at home every year since Suncorp Stadium was redone, usually in a derby against the Cowboys. It is a surefire win for the League and for the game. To miss this chance is a major oversight.

Of course, the major downside again will be the NRL’s resistance to a fixed draw for the entire season. Again the game will be run by television interests, the draw being released only five weeks ahead of time, providing fans with no certainty.

While AFL analysts pored over the release of last year’s fixture, those in rugby league can do little but guess at how many free-to-air television matches they will have, how many day games they will play and how many short turnarounds they must endure. It is a great shame that a fear of these television jokers is again holding the game back.

Is There Anything Better Than…: Waking up at 6am to watch international rugby league from the small industrial towns of England with Mike Stephenson and Eddie Hemmings. I think we all know the answer to that.

Well Done Italy: The Italian team became the final team to qualify for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup with a dramatic 19-19 draw with Lebanon enough to secure passage for a team that contained Anthony Minichiello, Cameron Ciraldo and Vic Mauro. Italy went through on points difference, qualifying for the first time.

The 14 teams who will partake are Australia, England, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, France, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Cook Islands, Scotland and the United States.

Rumour Mill: There has been plenty of talk that Gareth Ellis will quit the Tigers after next season. The bustling second rower has been the Tigers best player since joining the club three years ago but is certain to have a farewell stint in Super League before his retirement. New Zealand halfback Thomas Leuluai is expected to join South Sydney as the Bunnies chase a quality halfback. It now seems like Krisnan Inu will stay at the Warriors with no other club willing to eat his contract. Parramatta recruit Chris Sandow has reportedly run into trouble back in his hometown of Cherbourg. Tim Moltzen is expected to sit out next season if a deal cannot be reached with the Dragons with Moltzen adamant he will play for no club other than the Tigers in 2012.

Moniker XIII of the Week: This week we find the best ever Tims, in honour of Australian coach Tim Sheens.

The Tims
1. Tim Brasher (244 games for Balmain/Wests Tigers/Souths/North Qld)
2. Timana Tahu (167 games for Newcastle/Parramatta/Penrith)
3. Tim Moltzen (63 games for Wests Tigers)
4. Tim Horan (49 games for Souths/Western Reds/Illawarra)
5. Tim Patterson (31 games for Gold Coast/Balmain/Parramatta)
6. Tim Pickup (7 seasons for Norths/Canterbury)
7. Tim Smith (89 games for Parramatta/Cronulla)
13. Tim Murphy (9 seasons for Wests/Balmain/Norths)
12. Tim Maddison (115 games for Newcastle/Easts/Hunter/Sharks/North Qld)
11. Tim Sheens (166 games for Penrith)
10. Tim Grant (74 games for Penrith)
9. Tim Russell (43 games for Easts)
8. Tim Mannah (73 games for Parramatta)

Tims Analysis: There is not much to write home about with the Tims. They have a decent rotation with Sheens, Grant, Mannah and Maddison all capable forwards. Pickup was a wonderful playmaker. Brasher and Tahu were both very good at their primes. The team falls away quickly though with Smith getting a run at halfback.

Correspondence Corner: AJL, even if Ben Roberts had Jarvis Cocker next to him, he would suck. The Eels are well on track for the wooden spoon next year.

George, they were the two errors I cared to recount. There were six in eight games this year where he rightfully hardly played. If the NRL had a decent stats section on their website, I'd be able to rattle off a whole heap more with the smart money on him averaging close to one per game.

Dragons68, the dumber of Ryles and Roberts is like choosing between horse dung and pig vomit. I love the idea of playing the WCC all over the world.  Having been on the drink with Mascord, I think it would be fair to say neither he nor I will go too hard on someone having a drink. Something about hypocrisy…

Anna, that Ben Roberts match against Souths meant his card was permanently marked.

Gee, I also enjoyed your piece despite it infuriating me no end. Roberts hasn't been treated harshly enough. I take your point with Ennis though. He does get a free pass for his constant run of stupidity. He offers something positive though. Overall though, I don't get the gushing.

Arthur, he has signed with the Sharks so it doesn't matter too much now.

Bronko, as Chris Riediger said, this is an opinion piece. I'm glad you enjoy parts of the column but there will always be a Bulldogs push in it because I cannot separate that from who I am as a rugby league fan and columnist. I don't hide behind a veil of objectivity. What you see is what you get.

Dragonheart, I did my best to get "Bustling" Billy Peden in, I really did. But I just couldn't find a spot. As for those other clowns, you know where I stand on players like Mason and Judas.

BKR, James Maloney is homesick and asked to be released but at the moment it would seem highly unlikely the Warriors would let him go. He will almost certainly be at an Australian club in 2013 though and Souths could well be it.

GC Tiger, everyone gets an opinion here.

Watch It: The best of Australian rugby league in the 1970s, presented by Mike Gibson in that fabulous series "The Spirit of Australian Sport". Watch it here.



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