From The Couch: Round 1

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on March 11, 2013

Carnage at Cronulla: It has not been a good offseason for rugby league and it seems the off-field drama will not subside now the season has started. Last week the Cronulla club was thrown into a state of carnage – at stake is its very existence and at fault are those men charged with overseeing its safety, the board.

It is hard to believe a club could possibly have handled a situation worse than the Sharks have this disaster. It was not helped by the club refusing to appoint a CEO for the last three years. With no internal leadership or front office oversight, it is little wonder Cronulla have found themselves in such strife.

Everyone, of course, knows the story. Rumours swept league circles last week that the ASADA net was closing on Cronulla, that 14 players would be nabbed. Cronulla go into lockdown and bring in a former ASADA lawyer to provide advice to the players. His advice is to take a six-month ban for all players. Senior players paid a visit to the home of former trainer Trent Elkin, who they believe has been informing ASADA. In damage control, the Sharks stood down coach Shane Flanagan and fire four football club staff. The chairman of the club claimed players were injected by drugs meant for horses. Former Broncos CEO has been sent in by the NRL. Speculation has run rife that the Sharks could be shifted to Perth or banned from competing in 2014.

Had a group of people been paid vast sums to destroy Cronulla, they could hardly have done a better job.

It is apparent that the board of directors, who have failed to properly oversee the running of the club, have acted in their own personal interests over the last week. They certainly haven’t been acting in the interests of the club. Offering players payment to accept shortened bans is the height of inappropriateness. Not keeping players Paul Gallen, Ben Pomeroy and John Morris from attempting to intimidate a witness shows how chaotic proceedings are at Shark Park. Standing down Shane Flanagan while not offering their own resignations showed the board was acting in nothing but their own self-interest. Who knows what Damian Irvine’s comments were set to achieve?

And things will only get worse before they get better. ASADA may not have any positive tests but it is difficult to imagine they don’t have enough evidence to nail at the very least a few players considering the evidence that has been made public. The Sharks almost certainly won’t field a full side for the majority of the season. The NRL have now stepped in and are controlling the club’s finances. Relocation has been mooted – it could well become a reality.

It would be sad to see Cronulla die. I certainly don’t believe they will. But this is one hell of a mess. Blood is in the water and there will soon be trophies on the mantelpiece.

Daniel Anderson, We Worship You: The standard of refereeing over the opening weekend was exceptional and there is one man to thank for it: Daniel Anderson. I can’t recall a weekend so bereft of controversy. Very few decisions caused a stir and those calls that were dubious always went with the on-field decision. There were no video officials trying to find a try. The game was simpler and it thrived as a result. Daniel Anderson, we can’t thank you enough.

Cowboy Coup: The North Queensland Cowboys have been a team on the up over the last two seasons and have done a tremendous job in re-signing their champion skipper. Thurston has inked a four-year deal that will see him finish his NRL career in Townsville as well as become possibly the highest paid player in Australian football. Thurston is worth every cent. While he hasn’t always played on successful teams, he has been an elite half for a long time and he has matured no end in recent seasons. Getting him to sign early should see that the Cowboys avoid unnecessary distraction throughout 2013. The front office should be roundly applauded.

About Time: The NRL has finally signed a New Zealand broadcast deal. It comes on the first weekend of the season. New Zealand is a market that is really growing thanks to the boredom associated with rugby union and the massive success of New Zealand players in the NRL. The League really needs to be more vigilant in setting up infrastructure for the game over there and not merely leave it to the Warriors to keep the game strong in NZ.

Klemmer Pens Deal: Boom Bulldogs rookie prop David Klemmer has finally made his top grade debut and he penned a new million-dollar deal with the Bulldogs. Klemmer played just 17 minutes against one of the best packs in the NRL but certainly held his own. The young pup has a huge body and will develop into an elite prop. His re-signing was an outstanding coup for the Bulldogs.

Fun Fact #1: Interim Cronulla coach Peter Sharp has an all-time win rate of 39.3% in five seasons as an NRL coach. None of those seasons were winning ones for Manly or the Northern Eagles.

The Willie M Medal: Such has been the popularity of The Willie M Medal that it has become bigger than the confines of From The Couch. The Willie M Medal votes and leaderboard will now be published each and every Tuesday. So check in tomorrow for all the latest Willie M action.

Rumour Mill: There has been a never-ending stream of rumours surrounding the ASADA drug investigation and plenty did the rounds last week. One included a former premiership-winning international rolling over on his former club and signing a full confession implicating his coach. Another suggests a Sydney club will be targeted by ASADA this week with two star players reportedly tangled up in it all. There is speculation that Cronulla players may sue the club. The Broncos and Dragons have played just one game but both clubs are believed to be monitoring the coaching situation carefully.

Power Rankings:
1. Melbourne 1-0
2. South Sydney 1-0
3. North Queensland 1-0
4. Newcastle 1-0
5. Manly 1-0
6. Penrith 1-0
7. Parramatta 1-0
8. Brisbane 0-1
9. Croulla 1-0
10. Canterbury 0-1
11. St George Illawarra 0-1
12. Sydney Roosters 0-1
13. Gold Coast 0-1
14. Canberra 0-1
15. Wests Tigers 0-1
16. New Zealand 0-1

Betting Market of the Week: The next thing to come out of Shark Park will be:

$3.50: Chairman Damian Irvine has been running an opium racket and insists on being called Chairman Damo.
$4.50: Paul Gallen is, in fact, former sprinter Ben Johnson.
$6.00: Paul Gallen has, in fact, eaten former sprinter Ben Johnson.
$8.00: That the Sharks employed Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell in the sports science department.

What I Like About … Sam Burgess: He loves to hit. And he is smart enough to understand the narrative of his matches. He wasted no time in sitting that giant impostor Sonny Bill Williams firmly on his ass. Burgess made sure Judas knew he was back playing a real sport. Let’s hope the Bunnies bruiser stays healthy in 2013.

Combo XIII: Gone in 2013 is the Moniker XIII. In is the Combo XIII, a makeup of the greatest players who have played for two or more teams. This week, the oldest rivalry of all, South Sydney and Eastern Suburbs. The greatest combined Roosters/Bunnies team:

1. Russell Fairfax (115 games for Easts, 4 games for Souths)
2. Terry Fahey (90 games for Souths, 47 games for Easts)
3. Herb Gilbert (23 games for Souths, 14 games for Easts)
4. Terry Hill (9 games for Souths, 13 for Easts)
5. Michael Cleary (140 games for Souths, 13 games for Easts)
6. Ray Norman (38 games for Souths, 51 games for Easts)
7. Col Donohoe (43 games for Easts, 86 games for Souths)
13. Ron Coote (148 games for Souths, 119 games for Easts)
12. Michael Crocker (92 games for Roosters, 65 games for Souths)
11. Ashley Harrison (66 games for Souths, 41 games for Roosters)
10. Elwyn Waters (129 games for Souths, 61 games for Easts)
9. Craig Wing (71 games for Souths, 185 games for Roosters)
8. Arthur Hennessy (26 games for Souths, 4 games for Easts)

The Coaching Crosshairs: Shane Flanagan has likely coached his last game at Cronulla. While he was technically stood down, it would seem highly unlikely the Sharks boss will ever get his job back. The wind is against the Sharks and it is hard to envisage a situation where the 2011 team come out of this clean while Flanagan has likely had his fill of the Sharks board. It would not surprise in the slightest though if he popped up at St George Illawarra.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Last week our hero Ben Pomeroy decided to “pay a little visit” to former Sharks trainer Trent Elkin “seeking an explanation” over reports Elkin is assisting ASADA in their investigations into the Sharks. A post-football career as a standover man seems inevitable.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 1: Cronulla-Gold Coast, 12-10. It wasn’t the greatest game but it was solid and it was certainly the most memorable. To cap off the most tumultuous week in club history – and perhaps the last week the best side will play together this year – the Sharks pulled off a courageous and memorable 12-10 win over a Titans side who showed plenty of gumption. It could turn out to be the high watermark of a pretty rough year for the Sharks.

Beard Watch: Round 1 is always a fascinating time for beards and haircuts and this year has been no exception.A nod and a shake goes to the Raiders though. It was great to see Josh Dugan sporting a big, full beard – perhaps channelling his hero, Ray Lewis. And it was certainly not great to see Sandor Earl with died yellow hair. He looked like he was not real good with his banana paddle pop. The highlight without question though was Aaron Woods' goatee. The Dude returns! Going all Big Lebowski will always impress this correspondent.

Watch It: Do yourself a favour and watch NRL 360 if you have Fox Sports. We are one week in and the Ben Ikin and Paul Kent show is the best rugby league show on television. It started with a bang and it doesn’t look like it will slide anytime soon. Tune in on Wednesday at 9.30pm. Check it out here.



Comments (11)

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  1. SemiiPro says:

    I’m with anon. Where’s the early iine? Don’t tell me the anti-gambling agenda setting nerds have got to Nick too?!?!

    I’m all for the proliferation of gambling. The greater the number of mug punters, the better the return for Semiipro.

    • Nick Tedeschi says:

      Apologies – there will be no Early Line this year because of various time pressures and the like. Though follow my Twitter account and I wil lay out the best bets for the weekend. Promise. And I am very much for the proliferationof gambling!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Based on Ben Roberts' performance last night against the Dogs, which I feel independantly cost Parra the game, the only way he won't get himself the Willie M in 2013 is if he gets dropped to Wentworthville immediately. Unlikely based on Parramatta historical data (which, from an Eels member, is disappointing).

    • Anonymous says:

      Can I propose that Nathan Fien's new nickname is "Wolf" – as in the boy who cried. Seeing Fien take a dive in a match after a "late" or "high" tackle is as reliable as Steve Matai clutching his shoulder during a game.

      He is a virus, and it is sad to see players who get on in years choose that path. Scott Prince against the Dragons was niggling and looking for penalties where there weren't any, and if this is an indication of his role now at Brisbane it's very disappointing (it's also strange for team harmony that he is a half back playing 5/8, while the guy who would prefer to play 5/8 is playing fullback, while the guy who prefers playing fullback is on the wing).

      Hornby, for example, may have lost speed and ability to read the game towards retirement, but he certainly did not add the niggle and diving to his game, so kudos to those players who continue to play the game with the respect it deserves. Fien, Prince and anyone else who choose to milk – fingers crossed you are put down properly and really can't get up. You are a blight on our game.

      Davey G

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mate agree with the refs, the game is looking up in that regard….finally!

    Bit harsh on SBW with the Judas comment, but you are a Dogs fan and it's probably a bit much to ask for a Journo to be unbias these days.

    I think you are wrong about Flanno, he seems to love the players and vice versa. I recall the dogs having a poor time of it when they were all accused of rape! A much more serious allegation, involving alot of negative press etc…

    It only seemed to fortify the group as they won the comp the very next season. Don't be so quick to write off the club. We will take damage no doubt, ASADA would look foolish otherwise. But the Sharkies have survived glassing scandals and bankruptcy. We perhaps have pretty thick skin!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Good to be couching again.
    Surely the most dismal image of the weekend was Dugan and Ferguson “boozin” it up on the roof. The only thing missing was an umbrella in their girly drinks. What a couple of putz’s. Neck tatts and stupidity = full brothers.
    All the best for 2013 couch


  5. Anonymous says:

    Good to have you back Nick, lovin the nut!

    Just a few quick ones from me.

    1. Can we give 3 points in the Willie M to the Broncos marketing team for the dismal “wave your rally towel” initiative? The most embarrassing thing ever to be associated with the club. Even more so than Ashton Sims, Joel Clinton and the second half performance on Friday night.

    2. I agree that the refs were outstanding all weekend. The speed of the play the ball was excellent and the try decisions in the main we’re spot on. I just have one question re when a penalty try should be awarded. I thought Andrew McCollouch was denied a try by a player in an offside position. If Watmough had not tackled Macca, would he have score? Yes, therefore should a penalty try have been awarded? It certainly would not have changed the result but surely it was ape ally try.


  6. Avoozl says:

    Off with a bang! Good to have the couch column cranking again, Nick!

    • Anonymous says:

      You know the footy season is back in full swing when On The Couch reappears. I heard a rumour that Pomeroy was trying to hold a gun to Elkins head in an attempt to have him confess, but he kept dropping it.