International Football Must Be Fostered: Once again international Rugby League shone when given a rare opportunity to take centre stage with three fantastic Tests. While the Anzac Test was the main event, the real show of how far the international game has come came with the Pacific Tests, both of which were hard-fought, passionate and highly supported. The Samoa-Tonga game was up there with the best match of the year. One of the great knocks on Rugby League has been the lack of genuine international competition. That is a problem that can be solved by fostering the development of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, who can all turn into legitimate competition if given time, money and exposure.
The key to their development is allowing players with Origin desires to play for Tier 2 nations. The likes of Josh McGuire and David Mead shouldn’t have to change their international eligibility to Australia to be eligible for Origin. It makes no sense and only detracts from international footy.
If the RLIF does this – and the NRL puts money into these nations and adds more Test opportunities for these nations – then international Rugby League will flourish.
A Right Rort: The NRL should not have called off Friday’s Test. For starters it should have been the domain of the RLIF, not the NRL. And Rugby League is meant to be played in any conditions. The League called the game off because they didn’t want to refund punters who couldn’t get to the ground. As long as the players and officials were at the ground and the safety of same along with the crowd was assured, the game should have gone ahead. It was a disgrace that it didn’t. And so went what would have been one of the most memorable games in recent memory.
Farewell, Veterans: It was quite apparent before Sunday’s Test that Tim Sheens and the ARL were looking to force generational, made abundantly clear by the absurd decision not to pick Justin Hodges. That will be fast-forwarded after a humiliating defeat at the hands of New Zealand, the Kiwis’ third-straight win over Australia, the first-such occurrence since 1953. While the decorated stars like Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston will be stuck with – as will those who continue to put in like Corey Parker. It is all over for Nate Myles, Luke Lewis and probably Greg Bird and Sam Thaiday though. They were found wanting and the time has come to bring in the likes of Josh Jackson, Boyd Cordner and Aiden Guerra.
NSW Origin Outlook: Fullback: The injury to Josh Dugan has Matt Moylan into favouritism for the Blues No.1 jersey.
Three-Quarters: Michael Jennings has one centre spot locked up and will likely be paired with Josh Morris, if fit. Dylan Walker is also a chance if fit. If neither come up the position is up for grabs with Will Hopoate and James Roberts potential bolters. Alex Johnston will have one wing spot while Daniel Tupou likely has the other if Brett Morris remains hurt.
Halves: Josh Reynolds probably played himself – and teammate Trent Hodkinson – out of an Origin jersey with an ill-disciplined showing for City. Sadly James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce are now the front-runners. All we can do is hope for a quick Adam Reynolds recovery. Blake Austin looms as the bolter after a sublime showing for City.
Hooker: Robbie Farah.
Props: The prop rotation looks pretty much set if Paul Gallen comes up. Gallen and Aaron Woods will start with James Tamou and Trent Merrin to come off the bench. Andrew Fifita could also slide into the side if Laurie Daley decides to go big.
Backrow: The backrow is wide open with Greg Bird likely suspended, Beau Scott hurt and Ryan Hoffman nearing the end of his rep career. Josh Jackson will almost certainly be named to start, as will Boyd Cordner. Merrin could also get a slot in the backrow. Daley will likely stick with Hoffman though.
Bench: Tamou, Merrin and Fifita will probably be joined by Luke Lewis, though Wade Graham could be a shock selection. Blake Austin and Tyson Frizell are potential bolters.
Nine Joins the Modern World: It seems as if Nine is finally catching up to the modern world with the network set to announce that in 2016 they will broadcast both Friday night games live. After finally showing a live broadcast on Sunday, it seems that Nine really believes they could lose the rights when the next TV deal is discussed.
Punters Screwed: Shame on the bookmakers who kept bets – including totals and margins – from Friday night’s postponed Test. The line was as low as 30 but immediately went up to 38.5 when the match was shifted to Sunday – yet bookies relied on archaic rules to keep bets. All bets should have been declared null and void. Ladbrokes rightly refunded all bets while William Hill and Bet 365 gave money back if called. The other joints simply kept the bets in what was a major screwjob.
2015 Field Goal Count: 12 – There was – to the surprise of nobody – no addition to the field goal tally over the rep weekend.
Fun Fact #1: The New Zealand Warriors have the longest streak without an Australian representative with Brent Tate the last player to represent from the Warriors in 2010.
Fun Fact #2: The longest streak for an Australian club is Parramatta with Jarryd Hayne the last Australian rep from the club, playing in the 2013 World Cup final.
Rumour Mill: Nate Myles will return to Sydney next year with St George Illawarra the front runners for his signature. It will be of little comfort for Myles though who likely played his last Test on Sunday. Justin Hodges is reportedly filthy he was overlooked for a farewell Test. He was sorely missed. James Tamou and Joey Leilua will sign with Canberra with the announcements to be made this week. Chris Sandow and Todd Carney are the likely halves pairing for the Sea Eagles next year. Lewis Brown is set to join the Wests Tigers in 2016. Don’t be shocked to see Ben Barba playing rugby union next year.
What I Like About … International Refereeing Standards: Once upon a time I was a big fan of both two referees and the video referee. Not anymore. The NRL has confused things so much that the video referee gets things right only marginally more than an on-field ref and has the added disadvantage of making the game significantly softer while two refs seems to do nothing but allow confusion and the foregoing of responsibility. So it was great to see the refereeing on the weekend, particularly in the Samoa-Tonga Test where both Sam Kasiano and Konrad Hurrell stayed down in an attempt to win a penalty, pleas that went unheard. It was great to see and something the NRL needs to get back into the game. Divers be damned!
Betting Market of the Week: Josh Reynolds’ primary goal for 2015 is:
$4.00: To win the NSW Origin No.6 jersey
$3.00: To win a premiership with Canterbury
$1.15: To break the NRL record for most suspensions in a season
Manly Collapse Update: Manly have now gone all-in on the powerful Bob Fulton in the hope that he can somehow convince Daly Cherry-Evans to remain at Brookvale in the next five weeks. It is Manly’s last card after they missed out on signing boom rookie Kane Elgey. The Sea Eagles are cast if Fulton can’t convince Cherry-Evans to stay. Lucky for Manly Fulton remains one of the code’s most influential figures.
The Coaching Crosshairs: Tim Sheens’ time as Australian coach has almost surely ended after suffering a third consecutive defeat to New Zealand for the first time in 62 years. Sheens has now lost two major tournaments and has overseen the end of Australia’s near 20-year mid-season Test streak. International football is now a lot tougher but the Australian position comes with very high expectations and Sheens has not lived up to them, particularly with some curious selection calls. It is time to move on and give the coach of the next World Cup side the reins.
Game of the Year Nomination – Rep Weekend: Samoa-Tonga, 18-16. A match played with ferocity and passion and enjoyed by anyone who witnessed it, Samoa-Tonga cemented the Pacific Tests concept for a long time. Filled with amazing talent on both sides, Samoa and Tonga left nothing on the paddock, exemplified by the astonishing cover tackle of Sam Kasiano and Frank Pritchard. While both nations could do with better playmaking in the halves and goalkicking, neither lacked anything else. What a brilliant battle between two sides desperate to win.
Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week: Ricky Stuart is the only Australian coach in over 40 years to coach Australia to a World Cup defeat.
Beard Watch: It is hard to go past the patchy-yet-following facial follicles of Sam Kasiano after the most amazing cover tackle ever seen. His effort to prevent what would have been a match-winning Tongan try had to be seen to be believed with the big-bellied, big-bearded behemoth launching himself like a missile to bring victory to Samoa.
Watch It: After a sensational weekend of international Rugby League, we go back to 1992 and look at the highlights of Papua New Guinea’s finest performance against Australia. The Kumuls were outstanding in the 36-14 loss, their smallest ever margin against an Australian team, in what was a belter in Townsville. Phillip Boge starred in one of the Kumuls’ finest moments. Watch it here.