From The Couch: November 28

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

Luke Must Go: South Sydney and New Zealand hooker Issac Luke confirmed his standing as the biggest grub in rugby league by admitting he tried to break the leg of England’s Rangi Chase throughout the Four Nations. Where are all the apologists for Luke now, who want to defend this filth-merchant when he continually brings the game into disrepute? He is the lowest form of air-thief in the game and the quicker he is given an extended period on the sideline, the better. I cannot wait for the day when the wheel turns and Luke gets exactly what is coming to him. The wheel will turn and in this column’s mind, it cannot turn fast enough.

A Marvellous Idea: I was greatly heartened reading a recent piece that suggested David Gallop and the NRL are prepared to dig their heels in over a fixed schedule with the proposal being a set draw for all bar the last four rounds, where the League has the power to flex any game into the prime television slots. This is an outstanding compromise. The game needs a fixed schedule. The release of the AFL fixture is a huge deal that gets plenty of coverage. The NRL’s release is an afterthought. The AFL allows fans to plan ahead. The NRL does not. At least moves are now being made to right the wrongs of the past and take power away from the television stations who never have the interests of the game at heart.

Betting Trials, Winners and Losers: The latest trial of Ryan Tandy’s continued this week while that of John Elias came to a surprise end. It is all murky, it is all a poor reflection on the efforts of the NRL to stop match fixing and it is all an indictment of how little bettors are respected in Australia. But let’s see how it all plays out first. At the moment, let’s look at the winners and losers.

Ryan Tandy (Loser): Found guilty on one count and is staring down the barrel of being proven guilty over lying to the Crime Commission. Will be happy to avoid prison. Will be banned from rugby league for life when it is all over.

John Elias (Winner): Found not guilty of having played a role in attempting to rort betting agencies. It was a shock result but one that came about when police tried to bite off more than they could chew and then lost control of a key witness. Walks from another shady situation.

Brad Murray (Loser): Pulled a 180 during the Elias trial by retracting an earlier statement implicating a number of people including Elias by saying he was betting with inside information. Now has the blowtorch applied over his credibility and it seems highly unlikely he will ever play grade football again.

Paul Osborne (Loser): Was suggested to have forced Brad Murray’s false statement. Already gone from the Eels but may face more sordid allegations.

Sam Ayoub (Winner): Will take great heart from Elias’ victory and has managed to keep his claws in Brad Murray, which suggests he still controls a key witness.

Ray Murrihy (Loser): Torn apart by the judge in the Elias case, who says he has no authority or expertise in rugby league matters.

Steve Price (Loser): The new St George-Illawarra coach’s brother bet heavily on a Cowboys penalty and was found to contact a few key people. Not a good look for a rookie coach.

Joel Caine (Loser): Publicly revealed to have bet on the Cowboys penalty goal. Has carved out an image as a respected caller. This certainly tarnishes his image.

The End of an Era #1: And so it is over, the wonderful career of Darren Lockyer finally ended after leading Australia to a stunning Four Nations final victory. Lockyer was inspirational in the win, playing a key hand in the final 20 minutes as the Kangaroos surged ahead of the Poms to salute in fine style. Then came the moment of the match: Darren Lockyer, finally, took the tribute kick from next to the posts. Hysterically and astonishingly, considering he has kicked 33 Test goals and 341 first grade goals, he hit it horribly to miss. It is with a great deal of sadness that I now realise there will be no more Darren Lockyer, the personification of excellence for so long. Andrew Johns was the most talented footballer I have ever seen but Darren Lockyer is the most accomplished and has achieved the most. He was so consistent, so durable, so reliable, so wonderful. Rugby league will not be the same without him.

The End of an Era #2: At the other end of the spectrum, it is the end of the Paul Osborne Era at Parramatta. After 2 ½ years of absolute disaster, Paul Osborne has quit as CEO of the Eels. After being cleared in what can best be described as a whitewash investigation of any misconduct, Osborne resigned. It follows a period where a coach was fired a season after making the Grand Final, the worst recruitment in the history of rugby league and numerous off-field scandals involving the CEO that included not paying for groceries and allegations of bullying. Not one administration in my 25 years following the game has been so poor. The only way is up from here for the Eels, who should smarten up and hire someone capable of doing the job.

Trouble at the Tigers: There is big trouble at the Tigers and despite the protagonists trying to sweep the latest dispute under the carpet, it is a club divided as it was for most of 2011. The latest knuckle-up came between coach Tim Sheens and skipper Robbie Farah, who had it out in England over Sheens’ decision not to play Farah in the Wembley Test. Farah was completely out of line. It is Sheens’ job to name the best team and if Farah isn’t in it, then so be it. He is not half the player Cameron Smith is and it is debatable that Farah is the best bench utility option. It must also be remembered that Sheens has been Farah’s patron at the selection table in the past.

Farah is generally seen as a precious character with a fragile ego and a hot temper. That doesn’t wash real well with Benji Marshall and the majority of the team. Marshall may not be skipper but he is the real powerbroker in the playing group and his frosty relationship with Farah was a primary reason for the Tigers’ poor start to the 2011 season.

I am not sure the club can house all three personalities and win the title. Farah may be excess to needs and I would not be too surprised to see him moved on in the next year or two.

Braith Back to the No.6 Jersey: Sydney Roosters coach Brian Smith has declared captain Braith Anasta will return to five-eighth next season after Todd Carney was shown the door. Anasta is obviously chuffed, having yearned for the No.6 jersey ever since Carney arrived. But it is the wrong move by Smith to anoint Anasta this early, particularly after the signing of young playmaker Daniel Mortimer. The strongest Roosters team has Anasta at lock and Mortimer at five-eighth and even if Anasta is the preferred choice at No.6, Mortimer should be given the off-season to prove his wares.

Dwyer Done: The Wests Tigers have officially de-registered promising backrower Simon Dwyer, who suffered an horrific nerve injury in his shoulder last season that appears to have ended his career. Dwyer will work with the club in an off-field capacity but the rangy second rower was viewed as a future Australian prospect after only 35 top grade games. It is hoped he can get back but it appears as if his promising career has been tragically extinguished. This column wishes the youngster all the best with his future endeavours.

On The Move, Yay or Nay: Denan Kemp: The former Broncos and Warriors flanker has signed with St George-Illawarra after a spell with rugby union. It seems the Dragons are trying to collect rubbish wingers after also signing Daniel Vidot.

Dane Chisholm: The Melbourne lower grader has moved to the Wests Tigers for an opportunity at the open halfback position. Chisholm has already represented France and is firming for the Tigers’ No.7 jersey in 2012, particularly if Tim Sheens decides to keep Tim Moltzen at fullback.

Thomas Leuluai: The Wigan half has signed with the Warriors for 2013 and beyond, covering for the loss of James Maloney. Leuluai was certainly promising when left the Warriors after the 2004 season and has done well at international level but backs rarely return well from England. This is a risk.

Tony Abbott Must Control His Team: With the rugby league vote freely available after Julia Gillard’s selling out of the game, the Liberal Party should have used Barrack Obama’s visit to spruik the code. They didn’t. Instead, shadow minister Julie Bishop presented Obama with a West Coast Eagles jumper. At least New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell found Tiger Woods, hooking the champion golfer into the Wests Tigers.

Book Review: Every fan of the history of the great game of rugby league should do themselves a favour and get themselves a copy of Greg Mallory’s wonderful “Voices From Brisbane Rugby League” where the author interviews 10 greats of the BRL’s golden era from the 1950s to the 1970s. Among those called upon are Norm Pope, Barry Muir, Brian Davies, Pedro Gallagher, Fonda Metassa and Des Morris. It remembers Brothers and Valleys and the Bulimba Cup and a different era of the game. Whether you grew up with the BRL or not, this is a wonderful read that I cannot recommend highly enough.

Toovey Finds Help: Geoff Toovey has found some help at Manly after the rest of the Sea Eagles staff decided to flee to Canterbury. Former Tigers assistant and Salford head coach (for six games) Matt Parish has signed with the club while Toyota Cup coach David Penna has been promoted. While both Parish and Penna seem to be coaches on the up, not signing an experienced assistant was a major error. Just as the Dragons have given Steve Price Steve Folkes and just as the Sharks have given Shane Flanagan Peter Sharp, the Sea Eagles should have looked for an experienced mentor to guide Toovey in these trying times.

Rumour Mill: Warriors five-eighth James Maloney is poised to join South Sydney for the 2013 season. Maloney has already announced his intentions to leave the Warriors after 2012 in a bid to return closer to home with the Bunnies throwing big money at the Central Coast product. The Roosters, despite denials, are the latest team to enter the fray for the Stewart brothers. Brett is seen as the perfect replacement for Anthony Minichiello, whose career is drawing to a close. Josh Dugan is another fullback available after next season with the Dragons being rumoured as a possible destination for the Raiders’ custodian. There is speculation Tigers captain Robbie Farah is poised to quit the Tigers and join the Eels. Despite denials from the Tigers skipper, Farah has fallen out with both coach Tim Sheens and star playmaker Benji Marshall and has quickly realised he has little pull with the team.

Moniker XIII of the Week: With James Maloney in the news this week, quitting the Warriors and heading back to Australia, we come up with the greatest James/Jamie/Jim team:

The James’/Jamies/Jims
1. Jimmy Craig (93 games for Balmain/University/Western Suburbs)
2. Jamie Ainscough (228 games for Wests/Newcastle/St George/St George-Illawarra)
3. Jamie Lyon (182 games for Parramatta/Manly)
4. Jimmy Devereux (5 seasons for North Sydney)
5. Jim Porter (154 games for Eastern Suburbs/Parramatta)
6. Jimmy Lisle (106 games for South Sydney)
7. Jamie Soward (130 games for Roosters/St George-Illawarra)
13. Jim Dymock (214 games for Western Suburbs/Canterbury/Parramatta)
12. Jim Duckworth (11 season for Balmain)
11. Jim Bennett (3 Tests for Australia)
10. Jim Morgan (111 games for South Sydney/Eastern Suburbs)
9. Jim Serdaris (208 games for Souths/Canterbury/Western Suburbs/Manly)
8. Jim Abercrombie (3 seasons for Western Suburbs)

Analysis: The Jims are a very good side with a lot of old-time superstars from the first three decades of the game. Jimmy Craig was named among the 100 greatest players ever to play the game and was regarded as one of the best players of his time. All played for Australia with the exception of second rower Duckworth, winger Porter and halfback Soward. Lyon is a superstar centre. Lisle was a real try scoring whiz for the Bunnies. This team would go very well.

Watch It: They don’t do half-time entertainment like this anymore. When the BRL was still strong in the 1980s, one game saw four of the great goal-kickers brought in for an old fashioned kicking contest between four of the retired greats of the game: Norm Pope, Howard Fullerton, Peter Lobegeiger and Ian Dauth. Outstanding stuff. Watch it here


Comments (1)

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  1. Keyboard Rambo says:

    The manouvre Mr. Luke pulled is known as a heel-hook in MMA. Executed properly it results in the shin-bone more or less splitting down the middle. It's considered to be the nastiest of the nasty and the unfortunate recipient's career as an athlete is invariably history. Luke would have known this since greco wrestling/MMA training are part of the cross-training packages for footy players these days. Calling him a grub is inslting to beetle larvae.