From The Couch: October 17

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on October 17, 2011

An Utter Disgrace: Those officials that signed their name to the ransom note attempting to extort the game last week should immediately resign. An email was sent by South Sydney’s Nick Pappas demanding an increase in club grants of nearly 50% to $6 million. Failure to do so will result in the clubs refusing to sign on for 2012, potentially giving rise to a Super League like situation.

What a total disgrace, a criminal attempt to extort the game, an embarrassing attempt to stall the formation of the Independent Commission, a continuation of the rugby league tradition of small-mindedness and self-interest. What a horrible lack of dignity, what a shocking dearth of vision. This is why these club bosses should have little say in the running of the game and why the IC needs to be truly independent. This group of self-interested, narrow-minded morons are prepared to see the rest of the game raped because they can’t find alternative revenue streams.

The clubs will get more money when the next television deal is done. Before then, there just doesn’t seem to be the money in the code.

Regardless of the finances though, to make this public and pathetic threat to the code should see these bozos all forced out of their jobs. Someone needs to whip these idiots into line.

A Risky Call: It is tough to be too critical of a team that has won two premierships in the last four seasons and has won eight in the last 40 but there have to be question marks over the appointment of Geoff Toovey. There is no doubt that Manly like appointing their own: since 1970, only Graham Lowe (1990-92) and Peter Sharp (1999-2003) have not played for the club and all eight titles have been coached by former players. But this is a different era and Manly, without any competition from other teams, would have been far better served doing due diligence and looking at all options available. Geoff Toovey may prove himself to be a good coach. But he may also be no good at all. The Sea Eagles front office panicked in signing him when they did. They had time and they didn’t use it.

Vale, Keith Holman: Rugby league lost a true legend of the game last week when Keith “Yappy” Holman passed away at the age of 86. There is not a single thing Holman didn’t achieve in rugby league, playing 205 games for Western Suburbs and 35 Test matches for Australia before becoming a referee and officiating the 1971 Grand Final and then becoming a coach, leading the Magpies in 1977 to the Amco Cup. There have been precious few who have achieved so much in the great game, a game which Holman bled and breathed for.

It was never meant to be easy for Holman. He grew up an orphan in the hard-as-nails Surry Hills, years when Bumper Farrell was controlling the pros and the pimps, and he required significant plastic surgery after World War II when he was the victim of a petrol explosion. When he returned he was knocked back by both South Sydney and Manly.

That didn’t stop Holman from becoming one of the all-time greats. He made his first grade debut for the Magpies in 1948 and by 1950 he was playing for Australia, helping the Kangaroos reclaim the Ashes for the first time in 30 years, scoring a try in the second Test and starting every match of the series. That year he was named the Sun Player of the Year, an honour he would receive a record four times. He would also win Ernie Christensen’s Player of the Year award three times and was without dispute the best player in the game in 1951, 1956 and 1958, an incredible feat considering the quality of players in the game at the time including Clive Churchill, also at his peak.

Holman would miss Wests’ 1952 premiership because of Kangaroo duty and he would never win a club title, retiring after the 1961 Grand Final loss to the almighty St George team. Such was his fine ability as a player, he was subsequently given an MBE, honoured with a rare testimonial match, was named to the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame and listed in Australia’s 100 Greatest Players.

The honours were well deserved for the nuggetty little halfback whose toughness in defence was often as brilliant as his attacking flash.

His life in the game didn’t end there though. He would referee 159 first grade games, officiate a Grand Final and two Test matches and then coach the Magpies in 1977 to Amco Cup glory.

Holman was one of the true giants of rugby league and his memory should never be lost to the game.

Yappy’s Last Wish: It is certainly hoped that the friends and family of the late, great Keith Holman honour his last great wish: to have his ashes dropped from a helicopter just before Australia take on England in a Test match. “I want to be cremated and before Australia play the Poms I’d like them to scatter my ashes over the ground from a helicopter,” Holman told Rugby League Week in November of 1987. “Hopefully the ashes will get stuck in some big Pommie forward’s eyes”. Holman couldn’t have timed his death any better. The Aussies take on England at Wembley on November 5 and I would like to think Holman’s family will have the helicopter ready and raring to go.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: Not much has changed from November 1987 with that month’s special edition of Rugby League Week containing:

-‘TV Turmoil’ with “dramatic changes certain for television league next season”
– A Melbourne woman complaining about TV coverage in Victoria
-‘Ivan’s Summer of Regret’ where Ivan Henjak has to deal with the “nightmare” of having signed with Newcastle before reneging to stay with Canberra amid threats and question marks over his personality.
-‘Farewell to Inferiority’ with the English claiming their international game was on the verge of a turnaround

A Wonderful Test Match: There is something incredibly enjoyable about daytime Test match rugby league and despite the 42-6 walloping, the Australia-New Zealand Test on a glorious Newcastle Sunday afternoon was one to remember.

It was a fitting home farewell to Darren Lockyer, who put on a clinic in the first half with some outstanding playmaking. Despite copping a disgraceful deliberate elbow to his fractured cheekbone from Russell Packer, Lockyer tore the Kiwis to shreds with deft movement of hand. He put Akuila Uate over for the first and soon had Darius Boyd over on the opposite wing. It was game over by half-time with Lockyer and fullback Billy Slater far and away the best on the paddock. Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Anthony Watmough led the way in the forwards.

The only incident worth commenting on in the second half was the dog act of Issac Luke, who continues to enhance his reputation as a total filthmonger by attacking the knees of a stationary Sam Thaiday. I struggle to find too much sympathy for “Third Man” Thaiday but there is no doubt Luke again took the low road. It is no surprise. He is an absolute grub.

Longer-term, this result will mean little. The Kiwis were well understrength and they usually struggle in one-off Test matches and at the start of tournaments. They will get better, particularly when they strengthen their three-quarter line and their bench. The Australians should not get complacent but should be happy with the result and the small experiments like Akuila Uate debuting and Paul Gallen at prop. The Four Nations is there to lose … but it won’t be as easy as it was on Sunday.

Big Trouble at Parramatta:  It was widely expected when Dennis Fitzgerald was ousted from power after 30 years in charge a few years back, that a new and bright dawn had arrived for Parramatta. How much those who put the Roy Spagnolo-ticket into power now must be regretting their decision now. The Spagnolo regime has been an unmitigated disaster. Club legends have felt used and alienated. There has been little stability in the coaching regime. Recruitment and retention has been beyond putrid. On-field performances have been underwhelming. Champion players like Nathan Cayless have been publicly embarrassed. Their chief executive has been caught in a number of concerning situations including walking out of a supermarket with groceries and not paying.

Osborne is in trouble again with the boss of chief sponsor Pirtek resigning from the board amid allegations that the CEO misappropriated $35,000 in funds, money which he has been forced to repay and money which has been loaned to him by chairman Roy Spagnolo. Read all about it here at the Sydney Morning Herald.

This is going to get a lot worse for Paul Osborne and Parramatta. This has more than a little Kevin Humphreys stink about it and the SMH seems to have its teeth stuck in now. A major sponsor is set to walk. His less-than-straight-up past is going to be dug up. There is no way Osborne survives this. Regardless of what posturing there is, what attempts there are to cover it up, Osborne’s job at the Eels is surely untenable. The only questions are: how much collateral damage will be done and was there any criminality involved?

This is a big story that is only going to get bigger, uglier and bloodier.

What A Man: If there is one thing you have to love about Krisnan Inu, it is his commitment to the game. Despite playing only three Test matches for New Zealand and none since 2008, and managing only 18 first grade games on the wing this year, Inu withdrew from the Kiwis Four Nations squad, citing the fact he needed a break. “Just decided to have a rest from Kiwis," Inu said. When you see the likes of Petero Civoniceva and Darren Lockyer and Paul Gallen put in year after year at every level of the game, it makes you sick to see a punk like Inu cheapen international football. Hopefully his card is marked ‘never to play again’.

Rumour Mill: It appears to be a three-team race to sign Todd Carney with Cronulla and South Sydney reportedly in the mix to sign the recidivist half. I have no doubt the Sharks are desperate enough to sign him but surely South Sydney, after a lot of the good work done in recent years, aren’t that stupid. With the Sharks set to offer Carney a longer-term deal and presumably with fewer behaviour clauses, he will probably go to Cronulla. Shaun Berrigan is expected to be signed by the Raiders in the near future. Tony Williams is on the verge of signing a two-year deal with Manly. There is supposedly a power-play in the Manly boardroom from Scott Penn to take full control of the Eagles.

Random Supreme Court Note: There was so much talk of anal cavities at the Supreme Court Wednesday morning in the Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington that Justice Antonin Scalia asked, "You want us to write an opinion that only applies to squatting and coughing?"

Moniker XIII of the Week: With Tony Williams shockingly making his Test debut on Sunday, we will honour the greatest Tonys in the history of the Australian game.

The Tonys/Anthonys
1. Anthony Minichiello (227 games for Roosters)
2. Tony Iro (184 games for Manly/Easts/Hunter/Adelaide/Souths)
3. Tony Currie (77 games for Canterbury/Brisbane)
4. Tony Kemp (95 games for Newcastle/South Queensland)
5. Tony Melrose (181 games for Parramatta/Souths/Manly/Easts)
6. Anthony Mundine (127 games for St George/Brisbane/St George-Illawarra)
7. Tony Brown (9 seasons with Newtown)
13. Anthony Watmough (214 games for Northern Eagles/Manly)
12. Tony Puletua (211 games for Penrith)
11. Anthony Laffranchi (204 games for Wests Tigers/Gold Coast)
10. Tony Rampling (115 games for Souths/Easts/Gold Coast/Wests)
9. Tony Rea (120 games for Norths)
8. Tony Butterfield (233 games for Penrith/Newcastle)

Analysis: The Tony name stretches nearly the entire span of rugby league and as such this is a strong team with its peak coming in the 1980s and 1990s. The international backrow of Laffranchi, Puletua and Watmough is fearsome and skilful. The backline is full of five-eighths … meaning international Brown has been shifted to halfback and Melrose reverts to his less-preferred wing. He teams up with behemoth Iro. Currie and Kemp are solid centres. Minichiello has been one of the top fullbacks of his generation. The front row is very tough. A nice team that may lack that genuine class but would run plenty of these teams close.

Correspondence Corner: Fletch, it’s a bit rich that a Manly fan is crying poor about buying talent considering the long history of Ken Arthurson pillaging clubs like Souths and Wests for talent. I also didn’t notice too many local juniors running around in the Manly Grand Final starting team either with Jamie Lyon (Parramatta), Tony Williams (Parramatta), Joe Galuvao (Parramatta), Brent Kite (Dragons) and Michael Robertson (Canberra) all picked up with previous first grade experience, Steve Matai and Kieran Foran being New Zealand, Matt Ballin and Daly Cherry-Evans both coming from Queensland and the Stewart boys from Wollongong. By my count, William Hopoate and Anthony Watmough are the only Manly local juniors, the rest have been purchased and plucked from elsewhere. I don’t resent Manly for any of that. That is rugby league. Well done to them. But buying talent is the name of the game these days and I won’t tolerate any hypocrisy when it comes to fans of certain clubs crying poor.

Dragons68, if you go to Making The Nut, you’ll find the first From The Couch this year offered predictions … most well off the mark!

Arthur, the Titans haven’t picked Carney up yet but they have offered him a deal and he will take it unless there is another club stupid enough to offer him more money and a longer deal.

Jack Muir and Renegade, it was remiss of me not to offer some kind of preview/commentary on the Test match. My sincere apologies. The international game is flying at present and I should have given it more play. There will be plenty of coverage throughout the Four Nations.

Anthony Rayner, Bellamy has two premierships and four minor premierships in my eyes.

Woody, much of the stuff you have mentioned has been eradicated under Todd Greenberg. Des has signed with the richest club in Sydney and one that simply needs direction. He will provide that and the Dogs will win a premiership in the next five seasons.

Mitch, glad to see we have finally found some common ground on Des Hasler.

Pablo, Todd is an outstanding CEO and his job in securing Hasler was one out of the box.

Watch It: Keeping with the lower grade theme of last week, this week we present the President’s Cup and Reserve Grade Grand Finals from 1992. The President’s Cup was a thriller between Western Suburbs and St George while Reserve Grade was a blowout between North Sydney and Balmain, with James Grant again scoring in a losing Balmain decider. The highlights of the first clash was the head-to-head battle between Stephen Kearney and Gorden Tallis. Watch them here and here.

Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images AsiaPac

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