From The Couch: November 13

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on November 13, 2011

The Great Implosion of the Manly Sea Eagles: To the surprise of nobody, the clusterfuck at Manly has gone extremely sour and the only policy being invoked by all involved is a scorched earth one and it has sent the club straight to the galleys only six weeks after winning the premiership.

In the history of the game, no premiership winning team has imploded so quickly. It is as historic as it is disturbing.

For the Manly faithful, the week could not be sadder. For those involved at the club, it has been a disaster of epic proportions.

It all started early in the week when it was rumoured Kieran Foran was on the verge of signing with Canterbury. He was set to follow a host of Hasler acolytes, including recruitment manager Noel Cleal, to Canterbury. The Manly board, already divided and clearly not up to the job, panicked and decided to not only renege on their stupid agreement to keep Hasler at Manly, they decided to accuse him of breaching his contract for what were purely financial reasons.

It was a low act from an incompetent and ungrateful board. It was also seemingly very untrue. Noel Cleal said he left this week because board members and the chief executive tried to interfere in recruitment, not because Des made the switch. There is no evidence that Hasler was actively working for Canterbury and it would be drawing a very long bow to suggest he was. It is also incredibly hypocritical of a team built on stealing talent from elsewhere to now start crying poor.

Hasler was soon fired without being given exact details. He threatened to sue the club for defamation and wrongful dismissal. Some old Manly heads have slammed Hasler. Others have come out in his defence. The playing group seems to have no idea whether they wanted Hasler or not after it was them who bullied the board into keeping him on despite his 2013 deal with the Bulldogs.

A semi-truce was reached. Hasler would withdraw his legal threats if he could coach the Bulldogs in 2012.

The fall-out is this. Manly will have Geoff Toovey as their coach next season. They will spend much of the year worried about which players will follow Des Hasler to Canterbury. The board will remain divided and most likely, completely incompetent. Chief executive David Perry may see out the year but I doubt it. The backbiting and public chirping will continue until the requisite blood is spilt.

At Canterbury, Des Hasler will soon be appointed head coach of Canterbury for 2012. Jim Dymock will go back to being an assistant. This is the best case scenario for Canterbury, who have pulled off an astonishing coup. They are now a top eight team and possibly better. At least one Manly player will join the Bulldogs. My money would be on Brett Stewart.

This is the dawn of a new era for the Bulldogs. But the darkness has not yet settled fully on the scene that is the Manly Sea Eagles.

Rub Luke Out: What defence are the Issac Luke apologists going to pull out now? This absolute grub was at it again against England, lowering the colours of rugby league and humanity with another filthy act that surprised nobody who has followed this column or his recent descent into filthmongering. Rangi Chase tackled, Luke, having already gone low, attempts to break the ankle of the England player by grabbing it, jerking it and then twisting it in a deliberate act of sheer cowardly grubbiness. As the great Matt Fisk said, he is a flea. How long are we going to let this clown get away with such disgraceful behaviour? If I had my way, he would not be seen in the NRL again for at least a year. Better, I’d like to see how he reacted if his acts of sheer bastardy were performed on him.

Kiwi lock Jeremy Smith is another who needs to go. His forearm shot on a downed player was appalling.

Welcome Back, Graham Murray: The Newcastle Knights have staged another coup, signing one of the sharpest minds in the game to come on as coaching director in Graham Murray.

Murray is arguably the most underrated coach of the last 20 years. He never won a premiership but he took the Roosters to their first Grand Final in two decades, led the Cowboys to their first and only Grand Final appearance and led Illawarra through their most successful period.

In 349 games with Illawarra, Hunter, the Sydney Roosters and North Queensland, Murray won 50.4% of his matches, an incredible achievement considering the teams he took over.

The Steelers were wooden spooners two years before Murray took the reins and in his second season he had the club in a preliminary final, never coaching the club to a finish in the bottom half of the table.

The Mariners were hastily thrown together but Murray guided them to a 7-11 sixth-placed finish in Super League, also coaching them to the World Club Challenge final.

In his first season at the Roosters he took the Tricolours to a Grand Final and led them to the finals in his two years at the club before being knifed.

At the Cowboys, Murray inherited a team who had won three wooden spoons in seven years and whose best season was a 9-15 16th in 1998. Within three seasons he had the club in a preliminary final and within four, the Grand Final.

Murray is a smart football operator and he is just the man to bring all facets of the new Knights together. And he is sure to be a lot more popular in Newcastle this time around than he was 14 years back, when he was one of the most hated men in the city. He is a perfect complement for Wayne Bennett and is sure to prove a great success at Newcastle.

Shame on the Tigers and Cowboys: It came as no shock that only days after Tim Moltzen was stolen back from St George-Illawarra, the Wests Tigers released disgraced halfback Robert Lui, who immediately signed a two-year deal with the North Queensland Cowboys.

Both clubs should be incredibly ashamed.

The Tigers have acted as Machiavelli would in retaining Moltzen, after initially agreeing to release him. To use the shameful incident of Robert Lui assaulting his girlfriend (an accusation seemingly not in dispute according to police statements) for the second straight Mad Monday is just low. And there is no doubt at all that the matters are linked.

The Cowboys should be just as humiliated. Lui has not been found guilty yet. But the facts of the case should surely mean that the club would not take a risk on such a player with such accusations hanging over his head.

If he is found guilty, the NRL should ban Lui for a significant period. And the Cowboys should be forced to pay every cent of his two-year contract if, for no other reason, total stupidity.

Refereeing Royalty: The rugby league world should be mighty excited about the prospect of one of the game’s great players, Luke Patten, becoming a first grade official. The General, a veteran of 282 top grade games and one of the great Canterbury fullbacks, has made enquiries into obtaining his referee ticket with NRL referees boss Bill Harrigan giving him a rousing reference. Patten was one of the most even-tempered and thoughtful players of the last decade and would make the perfect referee. We should all be grateful that such a fine champion wants to continue giving back to the game.

Tiger’s a Tiger: It was pleasing to see Tiger Woods dolled up in a Tigers jersey this week, presented by Lote Tuqiri. Now Woods has a rugby league team, he might find a way to win again.

Payten Makes The News: He spent 16 seasons and 259 games as a first grader and hardly made the news but in retirement, Todd Payten has let loose. Payten was this week found guilty of urinating on Sydney’s War Memorial after getting well on the drink following the Tigers’ finals loss to the Warriors. He said he was embarrassed and remorseful and is going to work hard to make amends.

A Wise Old Cat: I feel a special affinity with Melbourne Storm winger Matt Duffie after he tweeted last week that new movie “Drive” was the “worst of all time”. He is spot on. It was a total heap of bollocks, mixed with bad Chinese food and the stench of the Australian cricket team. Duffie should replace David so that the ABC now has “The Movie Show with Margaret and The Duff Man”.

Rumour Mill: There is speculation that a number of Manly players could be about to follow Des Hasler to Canterbury next year and the following with Kieran Foran, Brett Stewart and Jamie Lyon all believed to have been sounded out. Stewart has also been sounded out by St George-Illawarra. There will be a spill on the Manly board soon with the Leagues Club representatives led by Bob Reilly expected to be ousted as the Sea Eagles’ implosion continues. Paul Osborne will be fired early this week after a Parramatta investigation decided his position was no longer tenable. Disgraced former Cronulla boss Tony Zappia, amazingly, is set to replace him.

Moniker XIII of the Week: With Geoff Toovey this week appointed as the new Manly coach following the sacking of Des Hasler, we look at the greatest team of Geoffs and Jeffs.

The Geoffs/Jeffs
1. Jeff Orford (101 games for Easts/St George/Gold Coast/South Sydney)
2. Geoff Bell (124 games for Cronulla/North Queensland/Penrith)
3. Geoff Starling (65 games for Balmain)
4. Geoff Weekes (88 games for St George/Parramatta)
5. Jeff Doyle (136 games for Newcastle/North Sydney/Western Reds)
6. Jeff Hardy (245 games for Illawarra/St George)
7. Geoff Toovey (286 games for Manly/Northern Eagles)
13. Geoff Connell (90 games for Balmain/Canterbury)
12. Geoff Robinson (139 games for Canterbury)
11. Geoff Foster (125 games for Western Suburbs)
10. Geoff Gerard (303 games for Parramatta/Manly/Penrith)
9. Jeff Masterman (69 games for Eastern Suburbs)
8. Geoff Bugden (145 games for Newtown/Parramatta)

Analysis: Despite Geoffs spanning two-thirds of the games’ history, the all-time team is not particularly strong, particularly in the backline where only Toovey and Starling have donned the green and gold. The forward pack is rugged with Gerard, Bugden, Robinson and Connell but has no all-time legends of the code.

Correspondence Corner: Rabby, a move to Perth for the Sharks does make the most financial sense and you break it down extremely well in your notes. It is sad that the game lost Joel Tomkins. I would be very disappointed if a club steeped in the social history of the game as much as Wigan would enter into some sordid agreement with a rugby union club.

Pete, there is no rule saying a writer has to be “unbias[ed]” as you say and there is a belief, in the Gonzo tradition of Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson, that the greatest truth is honesty through unabashed subjectivity, not hiding behind some veneer of objectivity. You know where I stand. And with Canterbury being the richest club in Sydney, I don’t think relocation is on the cards there, son.

Russell Johnson, I hate when these players act like they aren’t leaving for money, playing us all for fools. Tomkins is a whore and should have the decency to admit same.

Renegade, Scott Daly, Glenn: I am not out to get the Sharks. But the facts are this: Sydney is an overcrowded marketplace, the game needs to expand, Cronulla are always on the brink of financial ruin. Maybe they hang around a while longer. Maybe not. But if I were a Sharks fan, I would rather the team exist in Perth than nowhere, which is a very real possibility. I don’t think many people know just how close the club came to going to the wall a few years back. And Scott, I appreciate the passion of Irvine. But passion isn’t all that matters and the stories of his controlling nature combined with his refusal to appoint a chief executive need to be factored in.

Davey G, the game is about opinions and I would much rather read or listen to someone with a strong view than some fence-straddling middler scared to pick a side. I also love when the diehards rant and rave against me. At least they care enough to write. I particularly love the old chestnut about needing to be unbiased. Your incentive payment scheme is interesting and also worth thinking about.

MachineHead94, Moltzen has played a dangerous game, particularly for someone of his limited ability.

Mike From Tari, an ARL fan I presume?

Warriorsman, I was interested to see what the punters of Perth would think about a relocation. Look at Adam Blair’s numbers: they are not up to what a so-called leading prop or backrower should be putting in. Issac Luke may not be a grub but he has certainly played like one the last six months.

Watch It: The 1930 Test between Australia and England at Swinton was famous for many reasons, most notably causing a drawn series that forced a fourth Test and being the only 0-0 Test in history. The Australian team was led by Tom Gorman with greats Eric Weissel, Joe Busch, Frank McMillan, George Treweek and Vic Armbruster all playing. After winning the first Test 31-8 in Hull, they lost the next game 9-3. This Test is best remembered for the no-try ruling against Busch, who in the dying minutes darted from the scrum, ran 30 metres and scored in the corner. The referee was set to award the try when the touch judge emerged from the crowd that had flocked onto the field. The ref allegedly said “fair try Australia but I am overruled”. Busch insisted til his death in 1999 that he had scored. Australia lost the famous fourth Test 3-0 in Rochdale. Watch it here.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Sorry Nick, I just received an email from a mate called Mark…

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Mark for recognising my cousin Geoff Bell in your Team of the Week. I have always believed him to be a very underated player, worthy of more than just one (SuperLeague) State of Origin apearance, where he was blamed for leaving the player he was marking to tackle an inside back, allowing his opposite winger to score. Covering for a mate…

    In a time when 'professional' football was in vogue, he was one of very few to continue with a full time job as well as contributing to church youth groups, (often after games), with Dan Stains and some others from Cronulla. (I'm sure he did this when in Townsville and with Penrith as well, although I don't have first hand details.

    He held his own in a team that included Mark McGaw and ET, benefitting from having them inside him.

    In his first NRL game against a rampant Canberra outfit, Cronulla were spanked by 50 plus. The only Canberra back not to score was Geoff's direct opponent. Some bloke called Mal Meninga. I can just imagine Geoff wrapping himself around the tree trunks running at him and not letting go for dear life, as he did. (He was voted the Cronulla Players' Player for that game).

    After knee injuries and repeated concussions he faded from the scene and now leads a happy family and work life. Most of all a great bloke and someone I am proud to call family as well as a mate.

    • Nick Tedeschi says:

      That is great mate. I'm always pleased to hear that former players are doing well and are actually good blokes. I remember Geoff as a very dependable outside back. He was no superstar but exactly the kind of player you want in your team. For mine, he was a little like Cronulla's Matt Ryan. I know all the Sharks fans speak very highly of him. I hope it brings a smile to his face knowing he was part of the all-time Geoffs/Jeffs!