From The Couch: Round 10

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on May 20, 2013

Mediocre Matt Must Go: A few statistics on Matthew Elliott’s coaching career, before the butchering begins.

He has a win ratio of 45.1 per cent – one of just two mentors to coach over 200 games and win fewer than 50 per cent of game. His record betters only that of Don Furner.

He has coached 10 seasons and seven finals without a finals win – he is the only coach to coach more than four finals games without a finals win.

He has had a team finish in the top four just twice.

This was the man the New Zealand Warriors’ board and front office, in all their wisdom, placed in charge of a club that is fragile at best and fractured at worst. He was actively not wanted by the players and he has not developed a reputation of getting players playing for him.

This potent mix of mediocrity and lack of maturity, of inability and self-interest, of quit and deficiency of desire combusted on Saturday night and the result was the most humiliating in the club’s history. The defeat came to a team who went into the match with three wins, who take up just over half the salary cap and who were the pre-season favourites for the wooden spoon.

It says plenty about the Warriors as a club that Matt Elliott still has a job today – and none of what it says is good.

There is arguably no more important club in the game than the Warriors and nearly 20 years into their existence the game must still deal with the rubbish put out on Saturday night.

The likes of Glen Fisiahii, Carlos Tuimivave and Bill Tupou should never see first grade again – their ability may justify a top grade spot but their pathetic attitude is another matter completely.

It seems the front office may need a clean out as well.

If they don’t fire Elliott within the week, the board should resign en masse to boot.

It now seems a long, long time ago that many – including this author – believed a golden age was beginning for the Warriors.

Buzz Hypocrisy: Phil Rothfield has never feared taking a hypocritical stance – he has embraced it, if anything. And so it was on Monday when The Daily Telegraph’s so-called ‘sports editor-at-large’ decided that a fixed NRL draw has to go because of some blowout results. This stance comes after years of demanding the NRL institute a fixed draw to allow punters to plan. It is astonishing that one person can be of such little rectitude that they will do a total 180 on an issue and then argue against their previous stance with equal piety. It comes as no surprise though. Todd Carney anyone?

His argument holds no weight to boot. He claims that the draw is the reason we endured the rotten games on Friday night. He has obviously not studied the selection habits of Nine. Let’s take this weekend as an example. Brisbane were on a Friday night – check. In fact, I can’t recall a South East Queensland Derby that was not on a Friday night. Nine also selected two big and popular Sydney teams. Would they have likely chosen that game a few weeks back even knowing where the teams are? Probably. They certainly wouldn’t have gone to Townsville for the Cowboys-Roosters. The Storm-Sea Eagles shaped as the best game of the weekend – as it did last October when the draw was decided and Nine overlooked the game because the Storm don’t rate. I doubt very much that they would have selected the Sharks-Raiders clash, who have had approximately three free-to-air games between them since Tommy Bishop was causing trouble. There is no chance that the Eels-Dragons or Panthers-Warriors – two games featuring bottom six teams. The only game that may have been shown would have been Nine’s Sunday game between Newcastle and Canterbury – and that game (1) turned into a blowout and (2) was equally appealing last October as now.

So once again, Buzz has been put in his place. His argument, as most of them are, is fundamentally flawed. He assumes Nine will select the notional best game – which they never do unless it involves at least one club who rates in a city staffers want to go to. That is their prerogative but it is also a fact.

So Buzz, before your next hypocritical rant, try and conjure up something resembling a reasonable argument.

Welcome Back, Josh Dugan: It took just one showing for former Canberra fullback to make his mark with the Dragons, scoring two tries and running for over 200 metres while completely outplaying the man ridiculously anointed as the Blues’ Origin I fullback. Dugan was the best player on the paddock and put forward his claims – amazingly – for a Blues jersey. Laurie Daley should be having second thoughts about some of his moronic decisions to pre-ordain players. Dugan would cause a lot more damage in Origin I from the fullback spot than Hayne will. Sure, he has rolled the Raiders under the bus but on football terms alone, he is the best choice.

Tigers Spoon-Bound: The Wests Tigers are headed for the wooden spoon – and may be on their way an historically bad season. After 10 rounds, the Tigers rate as the seventh worst team in the NRL Era. Four of the six teams above them went on to win the wooden spoon. Their differential of -164 (or an average loss of 16.4 points) is the second worst of the NRL Era. Injuries have rattled this team but senior players simply aren’t putting in. The year is not getting any prettier for a team that is not very pretty.  

The 15 worst teams after 10 rounds in the NRL Era:
1. 2005 Newcastle: 1-9, -182 differential (15th – wooden spoon)
2. 1998 Adelaide: 1-9, -162 differential (17th)
3. 2006 South Sydney: 1-9, -152 differential (15th – wooden spoon)
4. 2012 Parramatta: 1-9, -143 differential (16th – wooden spoon)
5. 2003 South Sydney: 1-9, -92 differential (15th – wooden spoon)
6. 1999 Brisbane: 1-1-8, -53 differential (8th)
7. 2013 Wests Tigers: 2-8, -164 differential (*)
8. 1998 Gold Coast Chargers: 2-8, -140 differential (19th)
9. 2013 New Zealand: 2-8, -133 differential (*)
10. 2008 South Sydney: 2-8, -114 differential (14th)
11. 1998 Western Suburbs: 2-8, -111 differential (20th – wooden spoon)
12. 2011 Canberra: 2-8, -94 differential (13th)
13. 2009 Canberra: 2-8, -93 differential (15th)
14. 2000 North Queensland: 2-8, -81 differential (14th – wooden spoon)
15. 2003 Parramatta: 2-8, -53 differential (9th)

Kev Cruelled: Poor Kevin Kingston – it’s happened again. After being forced out of the Eels due to salary cap constraints and watching Penrith great forced out of the captaincy last year, the Panthers skipper has been told he won’t be offered a new deal in 2014. He has taken it like a man. Hopefully he finds a new club in the NRL. Canberra Raiders, I’m looking squarely at you. And the Eels could do far worse than bring back one of the key men behind their 2009 finals drive.

The Hayne Pain: There is no question that Jarryd Hayne has been much better across the last three weeks, in terms of attitude if nothing else. His defence has been particularly impressive with his trysaving tackle on Josh Dugan a rare highlight for the Eels in a horrid showing against the Dragons. But he is clearly not captaincy material and Ricky Stuart is only deluding himself and robbing the Eels faithful by having him lead the side out either week. His petulance, his constant whining, his churlish relationship with the officials sets a terrible tone for a young team. Stuart should pull his head out of his own backside and face reality.

Captain Blood: James Maloney looked like he had been wrestling ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper in a chain match rather than playing rugby league during the Roosters clash with blood streaming from his mouth and his jersey covered in the claret. Great bleed.

Fun Fact #1: The NRL currently has three referees named Gavin: Badger, Reynolds and Morris. The highest ranking for Gavin in terms of popularity, according to Baby Center, did not surpass 293.

Fun Fact #2: Adam Blair missed seven tackles last week. His estimated per game earnings are $18,750.

Fun Fact #3: Parramatta have the only Api, Vai, Reni, Fuifui, Kelepi, Kaysa and Jarryd to ever play top level rugby league.

Rumour Mill: The Warriors are firming by the day to get the signature of Sam Tomkins – in what would be one of the great coups for the club. There is speculation that Tim Grant has asked for a release from Penrith. Grant denies the rumours but there is a thought that the in-form prop does not get on at all with coach Ivan Cleary. The Dragons are chasing Bulldog  centre Josh Morris. If the Dogs do indeed have Israel Folau signed, they are unlikely to stand in Morris’ way.

What I Love About … David Stagg: I love everything about David Stagg. Everything. The guy personifies all that is good about rugby league: hard work, humility, teamwork, a willingness to do whatever is necessary. So it was with great sadness that we saw what was possibly his last game for the Broncos on Friday night. The hardworking champion suffered a vicious knee injury that has put his career in jeopardy. Let’s hope he makes it back. He doesn’t deserve to go out like this.

Betting Market of the Week: After Josh Dugan’s sensational debut for the Dragons this week, Raiders fans will spend the week:

$501: Fondly remembering all the glory and trophies Dugan brought to Canberra
$331: Wishing Dugan the best of luck with his new club
$667: Drinking vodka cruisers and toasting their old fullback
$1.04: Wanting to kill themselves and Dugan

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

Combo XIII of the Week: This week we look at the best players to play for both Canterbury and Newcastle. Famous one-game American legend Greg Smith gets included on the wing – technically he played just one match for Newcastle but he was so poor in that game against Canterbury he may as well have been playing for the Bulldogs.

1. Glenn Frendo
2. Marty Crequer
3. Luke MacDougall
4. Michael Hagan
5. Greg Smith*
6. Michael Ennis
7. Brett Kimmorley
13. David Boyd
12. Willie Mason
11. Peter Johnston
10. Paul Rauhihi
9. Brett Clements
8. Mark Sargent

Correspondence Corner: Anonymous, I’m not saying the Rabbitohs don’t pay players but I doubt very much that they are paying one of their stars a ridiculous amount of coin. Inglis and Burgess are no doubt well looked after but neither would be on stupid contracts – but that is very much just a guess.

Anonymous, I was at the Souths-Cowboys so missed that in both games the least favoured option of kicking was used as at the optional restart in both games at nearly the same time … the trainspotting gods were smiling that night.

Semi Pro, I love your rants and comparing ASADA to The Stasi and the AFL to the Vichy regime filled me with much joy.

Tony Monero, it would be a delight to have both reserve grade back but the 10-minute bin still exists … we just don’t see enough of it!

Anonymous, Tony Williams is not in the good books and won’t be for a while. And it won’t hurt to follow my tips … the Willie M is about all I will be able to hit at the moment.

The Coaching Crosshairs: The whispers out of the Titans camp are that all is not well on the coaching front with John Cartwright reportedly told he has until Round 13 to get his team firing or he will be out. The Titans have overachieved this year but they have never really threatened. Still, word of his possible dismissal comes as a surprise with Cartwright viewed as a “20-year coach” by some current and former powerbrokers. Rick Stone shapes as his most likely replacement.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: It was lucky that I was there to see it live – I would have thought it the trickery of television had I been watching it on the box. Ben Pomeroy made a bust, then looked inside and actually hit Isaac De Gois on the chest to set up a Cronulla try. We may well have just seen this year’s Frillingos Headline Moment of the Year.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 10: Manly-Melbourne, 10-10. What a sensational game between two of the heavyweights of the premiership, a defensive battle that had the tension of a final and went all the way to golden point. While the Storm were off defensively, the Sea Eagles couldn't have gone much better. Manly jumped to an eight-point lead early thanks to some Jamie Lyon brilliance but the Storm ground their way back into it with a relentless second half. They weren't on song but they never gave up. Penalties were exchanged in the final 10 minutes, punctuated by a superb Daly Cherry-Evans 40/20. Golden point was the typical field goal shootout but defence again won out. An absolute pearler of a game.

Beard Watch: Titans man-child Dave Taylor has decided to embrace the beard, donning a full and thick special against the Broncos. It is not clear if Taylor was directed to grow the beard by ‘The Mad Hueys’. What is clear is that Taylor is not bright enough to make any decision by himself.

Watch It: Some punters bemoan the lack of competition in scrums these days. I’m not one of those but I do enjoy going back and watching old scrums and the glorious mess that they were. Watch old hookers in old scrums here.


Comments (5)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Forgotten Jarryd Hickey already?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am glad you brought up the lack of competition in scrums – the rule on no pushing was to allow for a backline play and to encourage more entertainment possibilities for the NRL crowd. I have watched almost every game for the past 3 weeks (loving that), and on all but 3 occasions 3 times the scrum was fed, the person standing at lock picked it up and passed it once, then the receiver ran at the defensive line (ie a standard hit-up). This goes against exactly why the scrums are not competitive, yet the coaches have pretty much managed to nullify it and keep it basic. Fail.

    With Adam Blair in the news regarding his lack of participation, I again believe my theory of many years is one to be seriously considered – to really treat footy as a business by offering incentives. Any business these days have individual KPI's for staff to achieve to get their bonuses, so why should footy be any different? Let's take Blair as an example – let's say he earns $400,000 at present. He could have been offered $300,000 with KPI's set to achieve the other $100,000 such as minimal missed tackles, hit-ups per game based on minutes played (individual) and team based such as wins. The salary cap for Tigers is still calculated based on Blair earning $400,000, however the Tiges would be saving decent coin based his his efforts in 2013. Spread across a team, a club could only ever spend their cap limit, however there are savings to be had across the board. College basketball is massive in the USA because every kid plays his guts out 100% of the time trying to earn that NBA contract and the mega bucks. If a major star has an off night, it's just how it is because they are earning the coin. The current NRL is no different, as those who have either deservedly or luckily scored a big dollar contract can now sit back and reap the rewards. If you know anyone who has the opportunity to reach goals and targets at work for a bonus, you ask them if they always make the effort to achieve these at every opportunity or if they don't bother. If the players had to give 100% to earn all their pay, the competition would be closer, you wouldn't see many people with atrocious stats (I'm looking at you, T-Rex), and all clubs would be able to make a profit without relying on poker machines. The hardest part would be introducing it, as every club would need to be on board at once.

    Just throwing it out there


    Davey G

  3. Anonymous says:

    I'm so pleased that you gave David Stagg the wrap that he deserves.  As a Broncos fan, I was over the moon when he came back at the start of the season and a little perplexed as to why no other teams (I'm looking at you Eels and Tigers) thought it prudent to pick up a proven tackling machine.  It legitimately upsets me to think that he may have played his last game, but I hope that's not the case.  The Greg Inglis' of this competition may receive plenty of column inches, but very few of the current crop of 'stars' have the same work ethic and attitude of Stagg.  If his playing career is over, there are teams out there that could do a lot worse than having him as a defensive coach.


    Whilst I think you make a very good point about Matt Elliott and I agree that he should have never been picked to coach the Warriors in the first place, I think clubs need to give a new coach sufficient time to recruit new players and instill their culture.  Perhaps that will never happen with Elliott, but it usually takes more than a few months to turn a team around.  In their trial against the Broncos, the thing I noticed was that the Warriors were incredibly undisciplined and that doesn't seem to have been adequately addressed.


    Keep up the good work.


    Jason from Singapore

  4. Anonymous says:

    On my way home from tonight’s game. Will remember that one for a while. Loved the kick for touch from the optional 20m restart during golden point, a shame that half time was called for the scrum, buy perhaps a draw was the fairest result. However, was the ref right to call HT after blowing time off? Not entirely clear on that rule, but seemed a bit odd.


    • Anonymous says:

      The referee called time off when the scrum was packed but it was pointed out to him by Anthony Watmough that the Storm didn't have a halfback at the scrum. If there is no halfback then the scrum isn't set and timeout can't be called. Ref called time on and blew half time. That's how I saw it anyway.