From The Couch: Round 1

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on March 5, 2012

The Great Shark Stitch-Up: I'm not interested in prattling on about much of what Shane Flanagan has had to say about Cronulla's defeat at the hands of the Wests Tigers. His thoughts on the Colin Best try were a beat-up with some question marks placed on his honesty after he claimed video referee Steven Clark would have awarded a try if it was sent upstairs and referees' boss Bill Harrigan subsequently denying the conversation ever took place. It was touch and go and I don't like double movement tries being sent upstairs. It was a justifiable decision.

I will, however, jump to Cronulla's defence regarding the abysmal and gutless refereeing of Jared Maxwell in the first minute of golden point extra-time.

Maxwell's decision to keep the whistle away and not penalise the Tigers for being offside when Todd Carney was attempting a field goal was gutless. The Tigers duo was clearly offside. But you can't hang a referee for that. Maxwell isn't alone in his lack of testicular fortitude. Most referees would have kept the whistle in the pocket.

The call to give the Tigers a penalty after a chargedown, claiming the Sharks were offside was stupid and stunk to high hell of a home town call. I was sweating on the hill at Leichhardt and even the most faithful of the Tigers supporters found it hard to justify the call. Maxwell pulled it straight from his ass and left the ground bathed in a sea of cheering rather than cat-calls and boos.

He has been dropped to reserve grade. He should stay there til he grows a pair.

League expert Matt Fisk and I disagreed over whether the Sharks deserved to win. "Deserved? What the fuck does that mean. It's a grown man's sport that reflects life. Deserved is a word used by left wing chardonnay sippers. Winners win and losers blame bad luck." Well indeed. It is tough to argue with that.

But you also have to feel a touch sorry for a Sharks team robbed by some incredibly horrible officiating.

Change the Charge-Down Interpretation: The interpretation of the charge-down rule has officially become farcical and it is up to Bill Harrigan to change and change it now.

On numerous occasions – most notably a Michael Ennis charge-down against Penrith – a player who was clearly attempting to pressure the kicker and charge the ball down were deemed not to have played at the ball because they turned their shoulder. In the Ennis case, he ran straight at Luke Walsh and when Lachlan Coote recovered, Canterbury amazingly received the ball on account of a handover.

The rule has become murky and disrespectful of the intent of the law.

Players who are running towards the kicker are clearly attempting to pressure the kicker. If they touch it, it should be called a charge-down. This is pretty simple to fix and before we see anymore ridiculous decisions, Harrigan needs to stop trying to be a hero and call the rule old school style.

Timana Tahu is Just Not Worth It: I find it hard to accept that talented Kiwi international Junior Sa'u is sitting in reserve grade while a liability and loose cannon like Timana Tahu is out playing first grade. Tahu has clearly lost the plot since returning from rugby union and quite possibly since signing with Parramatta the first time. He is selfish, he is stupid and he is senseless. His grubby act to knee Dragons forward Matt Prior sums up Tahu the player. Unable to contribute as a talent, the aging three-quarter resorts to cheap niggles in order to try and get an advantage. He should grow up. Far be it from me to tell Wayne Bennett how he should coach but I can't see what Tahu offers. He deserves to cop at least a couple this week. Hopefully he won't be back in first grade afterwards.

Welcome Back, Cuthbo: Great to see Adam Cuthbertson and his horrible ball skills back in first grade, costing his team games. He did everything in his power to get the Dragons home on Thursday night.

Keep An Eye On: Keep an eye on young Dragons forward Jack De Belin. De Belin was sensational on debut, making 32 tackles and 93 metres and most importantly, playing with fearlessness and unquenchable aggression. He has a huge future.

Welcome to Australia: Canterbury have an absolute star in English prop forward James Graham. The former St Helens star was just magnificent for Canterbury, making 51 tackles and 115 metres in 66 minutes of action. Be sure and certain: he is going to be among the two or three best props in the game and could mark himself as the greatest Englishman to play on our shores if he continues the form of his first game.

A Magnificent Nickname: On Graham, it is great to hear that he is now called Bupa out Belmore way. In reference to the ad for the health insurance provider that shows individuals with their old unhealthy selves. Graham is Bupa, as in an unhealthier version of Aiden Tolman. Excellent.

What of Ben Hornby: Anyone who ever bets on the man of the match award is completely crazy after Dragons captain Ben Hornby got the honour in the season opener. Hornby also got the three Dally M votes. Hornby was dreadful, as he was for most of 2011. He kicked out on the full off the kick off and missed a key tackle that led to a try. Ben Hornby is a questionably first grade halfback these days and the myth that he starred the other night is ridiculous.

Cry for Faifai: The sanity of North Queensland coach needs to be questioned over his treatment of star winger Kalifa Faifai-Loa. The Cowboys' most dangerous outside back, who excelled playing outside renowned ball-hog Willie Tonga. With Brent Tate out hurt, Faifai-Loa was expected to get a reprieve. No. Instead Henry handed Moses Pangai a debut. Pangai dropped the ball three times and the three-quarter line as a whole made 12 handling errors. If Faifai-Loa doesn't get the call up this week, the Cowboys deserve to get hammered.

Stayin' Alive: Michael Maguire, I'm loving  the big collar and the jacket, looking very Saturday Night Fever with a touch of Fredo Corleone. Build a style, build a profile. Mick Maguire, confident in his own threads.

Mitch Brown to Canterbury: Well at least he isn't Jonathan Wright.

Injury Update: All the injuries, all the expected returns.

Blake Austin (Penrith): Exciting Penrith youngster suffered a bad cork and wasn't sighted again. Will be given time but shouldn't miss too many matches.

Matt Cooper (Dragons): Sprained an ankle and is highly unlikely for Canterbury this Saturday with the Dragons' strike centre likely to spend a couple of weeks out. Chase Stanley will come in for the Cooper Trooper.

Robbie Farah (Tigers): The Tigers skipper busted his nose late in the game against the Sharks but shouldn't miss any time.

Michael Gordon (Penrith): The outstanding Penrith winger, on the comeback from an ACL injury, lasted just 25 minutes before breaking his ankle. Gordon was in the running for NSW and Australian wing jumpers. He has had surgery and will likely be out for 12 weeks. Sandor Earl and Ryan Walker are in line to replace him.

Steve Matai (Manly): It appears as if the "always hurt" Manly centre actually has done some damage this time, breaking his wrist. He will spend at least two weeks on the sideline and quite possibly as many as six.

Reece Robinson (Canberra): The Canberra winger fractured his cheekbone and will miss a month. Exciting Orange youngster Jack Wighton looks set to get a start.

Jerome Ropati (New Zealand): The injury prone Warriors centre has again gone down, this time spraining his ankle. He will miss four weeks with boom youngster Konrad Hurrell now locked into a top grade spot.

David Simmons (Penrith): Was flattened in a shoulder charge by former teammate Frank Pritchard and was out cold. Very unlikely to see action this week.

Glenn Stewart (Manly): The tough Manly lock broke his finger early in the Eden Park clash but won't miss any time.

James Tedesco (Wests Tigers): In a heartbreaking debut for the exciting Tigers custodian, young Tedesco ruptured his ACL just 30 minutes into what shapes as a promising first grade career. He won't be seen again in 2012 but will be very good going forward. Tom Humble will now wear the Tigers' No.1.

Not Very Fun Fact #1: In Saturday's victory over Penrith, star backrower David Stagg played just 35 minutes while  mediocre type Dene Halatau played the full 80. New coach Des Hasler has to show Stagg more respect. He is an excellent player, one in the Glenn Stewart mould. Hopefully Hasler realises this and soon.

The 2012 Willie M Medal: The Willie M is back folks and after two years honouring mediocrity, hopelessness and stupidity, it has become the most watched award in the NRL. It was new Parramatta halfback Chris Sandow who won the inaugural award in 2010 with Canberra winger Blake Ferguson winning the coveted gong in 2011 with a season of ineptitude, stupidity and carelessness.

Our expert panel of judges (see, myself and well respected rugby league types who understand the essence of poor play) will dish out a 3-2-1 every week. Here are this week's votes.

Newcastle v St George Illawarra
Adam Cuthbertson (New)
2-Nathan Fien (Dra)
1-Wes Naiqama (New)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

Parramatta v Brisbane
Reni Maitua (Par)
2-Esi Tonga (Par)
1-Ben Te'o (Bri)
Judge: Rohan Kendall

Canberra v Melbourne
Jarrod Croker (Can)
2-Josh Dugan (Can)
1-Terry Campese (Can)
Judge: Matt Tedeschi

Penrith v Canterbury
Lachlan Coote (Pen)
2-Nathan Smith (Pen)
1-Frank Pritchard (Bul)
Judge: Chris Parkinson

North Queensland v Gold Coast
Johnathan Thurston (NQ)
2-Ashley Graham (NQ)
1-Gavin Cooper (NQ)
Judge: Cliff Bingham

New Zealand v Manly
Kevin Locke (NZ)
2-Manu Vatuvei (NZ)
1-Matt Ballin (Man)
Judge: Adrian Flanagan

Wests Tigers v Cronulla
Tim Moltzen (Tig)
2-John Williams (Cro)
1-Adam Blair (Tig)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

South Sydney v Sydney Roosters
Roy Asotasi (Sou)
2-Sam Perrett (Roo)
1-Greg Inglis (Sou)
Judge: Brett Oaten (Fire Up)

Rumour Mill: The hottest rumour in rugby league this week is that the Stewart boys have agreed to terms with Canterbury. Nothing has been signed yet but the deal is reportedly as good as done. I am dubious but hopeful. Also heading Canterbury's way will be Brisbane backrower Ben Te'o. Sadly, it looks like David Stagg will make way. Ricky Stuart has been spotted in talks with Canberra brass and could be back at the Raiders in 2013. He is better than David Furner … just. Darcy Lussick will be on his way to either Parramatta or the Sydney Roosters in 2012.

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

Betting Market of the Week: In 2012, Timana Tahu will:

Behave like a civilized human being – $26.00
Knee, gouge, punch and sledge opponents – $2.50
Face assault and/or manslaughter charges – $3.60
Have his career finish in reserve grade – $1.65

What I Like About … Matthew Johns: Wowee, it is great to have the NRL's best media personality back on television. Matty Johns has returned to TV with an absolute bang, firing on both NRL on Fox and as host of Monday Night Football. Nobody combines his enthusiasm, knowledge of the game and quick wit. Johns is so good for rugby league and is combining very well early on with Gorden Tallis and the rest of the team. It is great to have you back, Matty.

Letter of the Week: From Willie M judge and Cronulla fan Nathan Boss:

"It’s a worrying trend of one sided Tigers bias from [Jared] Maxwell. He also did his absolute best to help the protected species over the line in last year’s semi against the Warriors. Plus he was tackled by a disgruntled Broncos fan after a dubious display against the Tigers in 2009. It’s a shame Horsehead’s injuries weren’t more significant at the time.

The Tigers are fast becoming the new Manly.

Referees in their back pocket. Check.No loyalty to current players. Check.Poaching players from other clubs. Check.Paying little heed to the laws of estoppel. Check.Abusing the salary cap/residential rules etc through underhanded agreements. Check.Attempting to price gouge fans. Check."

Moniker XIII of the Week: To honour the horrific refereeing of Jared Maxwell, who will surely never see another big game again.

1.Jarryd Hayne (128 games for Parramatta)
2. Jarrad Anderson (14 games for Cronulla)
3. Jarrod McCracken (163 games for Canterbury/Parramatta/Tigers)
4. Jarrod Croker (71 games for Canberra)
5. Jared Maxwell (Referee)
6. Jarrod Sammut (38 games for Penrith)
7. Jarrod Mullen (122 games for Newcastle)
13. Jarrod O'Doherty (28 games for Newcastle)
12. Jarrad Millar (7 games for Western Reds)
11. Jarrod Saffy (61 games for Wests Tigers/St George Illawarra)A
10. Jarrad Hickey (72 games for Canterbury)
9. Jarrad Lawrence (4 games for Canberra)
8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (47 games for Manly/Sydney Roosters)

Analysis: There is little to write home about with the Jarrad/Jarrod/Jarryd/Jared lot. Hayne is a decent fullback. Mullen has upside. Yep. We even had to use a referee on the wing.

The Coaching Crosshairs: We may be only a single round down but David Furner, Stephen Kearney and Neil Henry are all under the pump. Furner has reportedly been given six weeks and despite an honest showing against Melbourne, the Raiders still failed to come away with the points. Parramatta is a club without patience and the Eels looked dreadful on Friday night. He had a fair say in recruitment this year so if things go south, and they look like they might be headed that way, then he is going to come under severe scrutiny. And Neil Henry, whose team selection is questionable, has never been particularly popular in Townsville and if the Cowboys can't score early, he could be gone by May. Expectations are high at the Cowboys and failure, so common there, won't be tolerated this year.

Obscure Score of the Week: South City-West Wyalong, 24-6, West Wyalong Knockout Final. A double from Peter Little helped the Group Nine champions  to victory over the Group 20 hosts with the Bulls deserved winners after rolling through Bidge, Temora and Wagga Brothers before winning the final, allowing only two tries all tournament.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: The rumour doing the rounds at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday was that Ben Pomeroy, the Special Needs Penguin, has had flipper surgery. Pomeroy made only a single error and caught some pretty difficult passes. There was a great deal of surprise and even excitement among the Sharks faithful.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 1: Newcastle-St George Illawarra, 14-15. What a cracking weekend of games with Manly's win over New Zealand brilliant, the Roosters' amazing comeback and the Tigers golden point victory over the Sharks all very close. But for a season opener, the Knights-Dragons clash had it all with some brutal hitting, some clever play and some real heat, all mixed in with a grandstand finish. A brilliant way to open 2012. On a sidenote, the Titans win over the Cowboys probably has the worst game of the year wrapped up.

Correspondence Corner: Sally Burton, the Roosters will most likely sign Sonny Bill Williams. Sadly, he is allowed back in the NRL and even more sadly, Canterbury have approached him.

Jiminy Cricket, I thought long and hard about Kevin Ward but he just couldn't edge out the very good props of Ryan and Hansen. Close call though.

Warriorman, Tamati was also close but that forward pack was very good. On the other points, I'd take Uate. Speed is just irreplaceable and he makes far fewer errors than The Beast. And I don’t get how you could want to see that grub Sonny Bill back in the game. I hope Issac Luke does turn it around as he is a very talented hooker.

Rabby, Maguire is an outstanding pick-up by the Bunnies and he will fundamentally change the way the club goes about its business. Channel Nine are a disgrace with no interest in growing the game. The longer the NRL sticks with them, the longer the game will remain stagnant. And don't mind what rubbish Danny Weidler is pushing … Nine are big outsiders to win the rights.

Michael Forgham, thanks for the kind words. You can watch the video here.. If SBW ever wears the blue and white again, I would seriously reconsider my affiliation to the club. Not much could test my Canterbury loyalty but having that Judas back would shake the foundations of a fine club.

Col Quinn, your sentiments are well supported here.

Davey G, I think the Sharks were stitched-up mate. It was brutal.

Beard Watch: All you need to know about facial hair this week or any other is Shayne Hayne's moustache. No bit of facial hair has caused such excitement, such joy. It was one of the great moustaches ever seen on a football field. I implore the whistleblower to stick with it and ride it throughout 2012.

Watch It: This week we take you back to 1982, Lidcombe Oval, for Western Suburbs against defending two-time premiers Parramatta. The highlight, no doubt, was a field goal to rugged prop Dallas Donnelly. It was a wonderful kick and one enjoyed by everyone from Rex Mossop to Terry Fearnley. Watch it here

The Punters' Guide to the 2012 NRL Season:It has all been written and will be out next week so get ready for the best rugby league guide anywhere in the world.

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* The thoughts and premiership prices of Australia's top rugby league gambler and former Punting Ace guru, Mr Rugby
* Comments from leading bookmaker Jason Sylvester of Flemington Sportsbet
* An in-depth and original statistical analysis of all 16 teams
* Detailed betting data for each and every team
* Recruitment analysis, positional and coaching assessment and draw evaluation for every club
* Predictions and betting advice for the 2011 season
* A full list of blue-chip players

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Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac


Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hornby's 250th game. Seriously always worth throwing $50 on players for MOM when a milestone above 150 games comes around.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You slag off Ben Hornby but then he doesn't even garner even 1 Willie M point from you?

    I'm not a big fan of his myself but he's hardly worth the paragraph of criticism you've bestowed on him. Did he get your sister pregnant or something?

  3. Rohan says:

    Yep, got to admit we did get the rub of the green a bit on Sunday to get out of jail. It was a double movement for mine but yes – Maxwell simply isn't up to first grade standard right now. That being said, his effort in the wet against the Broncos in 2009 meant he should have been shown the door there and then.

    As for the Tigers being the new Manly….

    We need to win a few comps first. That'd be nice….

    Finally, none too happy about Mitch Brown. Dudded by the Tigers and deserved a spot every week but kept missing out to a Utai who has been better than I'd have believed. I really do thing the Dogs have picked up a very dependable first grader there, and if there's anything the Tigers needed to hang on to, it was reliable, consistent players. He'll rarely set the world on fire, but he won't let you down.

    • Anonymous says:

      Nick exactly right about young Jack De Belin. Has a massive future. Has come on in leaps and bounds during the off season. I know he got Toyota Cup player of year last year but thought it was more because he stood out  in an ordinary team more than anything. WRONG! He will be an Australian rep within 3 years…given he stays injury free. Would love to see him running a bit wider.