From The Couch: Round 12

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on June 23, 2013


State of Origin I Preview: It takes a game man to tip against Queensland these days – and while your author may be valiant, he does not have such courage.

All the talk leading up to Origin I is that the Blues finally have the team to beat Queensland. I have heard that before. It is a better policy to be one year late on the Maroons than it is trying to get the Blues whenever the tide has apparently turned.

The Maroons have won four straight series openers and four of the last six at ANZ and for mine, the Blues have not taken the necessary step and Queensland have not regressed enough to suggest a change of result.

The Blues got within a point last year, playing to their optimum while the Maroons were still a touch off. Mal’s boys have more room for improvement than Laurie’s.

There is no question Laurie is one of the concerns with the Blues. A lovely bloke and an Origin legend, Daley has no coaching experience, has not been viewed as particularly insightful as an analyst and some of his thinking after his appointment has been more than a little worrying. Last week’s fiasco (see below) with Josh Reynolds and John Sutton was a totally self-imposed distraction while his commitment to Mitchell Pearce, who is 2-7 in Origin matches and still needs his hand held, is as odd as it is dumb.

The halves are the other main concern. James Maloney has been going well but has been brought in – as a debutant – to calm Roosters teammate Mitchell Pearce. Maloney is not a calm player, and should not have been heaped with such pressure at any rate. He has the kicking game for Origin but his defence is a big worry. Maloney is not the worry though. Pearce is the issue. He has not performed in any of his nine Origin showings. He simply goes to water. He refuses to run the ball. His kicking game is a mess – it is like Billy Slater has a magnet in the ball when Pearce puts the ball to boot. He isn’t good enough to win a series.

The lack of football intelligence from Michael Jennings and Blake Ferguson is also worth getting into a tizz about. Mercifully, the duo are on opposite sides of the field. Both are prone to losing their mind, particularly in defence, always ready to go for an intercept that isn’t on or rushing in to cut a play off when it isn’t necessary.

The one advantage the Blues do have over the Maroons is their pack. The NSW pack is bigger and more dynamic than Queensland’s – and gets through a lot more work. Queensland selectors surprised by naming four backrowers on the bench – but they are long odds to start that way, with Nate Myles likely to start at prop with David Shillington on the bench and Ben Te’o or Corey Parker in the backrow. The New South Wales pack is better – but I’m not sure the gap is as wide as being touted. With the exception of Petero Civoniceva and Ben Hannant, this is the same pack that has carried the Maroons for a long time.

I expect the Blues to be good. They are at home and they have a taste. But the wet conditions suit the Maroons and their stronger kicking game and they are always forever reliable in close encounters. Amazingly, the Maroons go into this as underdogs. Points will be rare. But the Maroons should have more on the board come full time. Queensland 14, New South Wales 6

State of Stupidity: Last week’s circus that surrounded Kurt Gidley’s replacement was an indictment on Laurie Daley, Bob Fulton and the NSWRL.

Daley has been claiming for months that he has contingency plans for everyone and everything. Yet when Gidley is withdrawn at the medical, we have to wait over 24 hours for a replacement to be named. The delay is reportedly because Daley cannot contact fellow selector Fulton. What a disgrace. How Fulton can continue in his role is beyond me. It is a disgrace and an embarrassment.

It was not helped by Daley’s refusal to name someone in his stead.

It blew right up when two players were named and given just one night and one training session in camp, before one was cut. Josh Reynolds won the duel, while some three days of Origin preparations were wasted. John Sutton got the going away present of it being revealed on Twitter that he actually was the man selected, only for the NSWRL to back away from it.

So much time was wasted. Two players’ emotions were played with. The entire team was distracted. It was a joke. Daley needs to be more decisive. And Fulton, simply, needs to go.

Sulking Soward: It seems certain that Jamie Soward has played his last game for St George Illawarra, with Steve Price and the Dragons set to release Soward immediately. Despite being in desperate need of halves – and Soward being their most accomplished and most talented – the Dragons have had a gutful of the petulant playmaker. Coach Steve Price has given Soward time off to consider his future. It is a dumb move on the Dragons behalf. They have no salary cap issues and no halves. But he has clearly worn thin with his teammates. Soward can be good with a fresh start. But he needs to grow up. The Dragons lot should get a bit of maturity as well.

Meaningless Field Goal Update: Well done Aidan Sezer, for dropping a meaningless one-pointer on the stroke of halftime. The young Titan extended the Gold Coast’s lead to 15. The young fella has a bright future.

Queen of the Castle: Canterbury have made a gutsy – and historic decision – by replacing current chief executive Todd Greenberg with Raelene Castle, the current head of netball in New Zealand and just the third female CEO in rugby league history. While I was disappointed to be overlooked, it is great to see a woman reach the pinnacle of club administration. Hopefully she comes through with the goods like Greenberg – because expectations are very high at Canterbury and those that don’t meet them rarely last long. Good luck – the Bulldogs faithful are rooting for you.

Vale, Geoff Carr: One of league’s most enduring administrators, Geoff Carr has left his stamp on the game, no doubt. But he is done once this Origin series is over. A great drinker and a master of the long lunch, Carr was one of the old guard who did much for the game but whose time has come.

Fun Fact #1: Mitchell Pearce has the worst winning percentage across first grade and rep footy of any of the eight spine players taking the field on Wednesday night.

Fun Fact #2: Mitchell Pearce has only twice in seven years played in more wins than losses.

Fun Fact #3: State of Origin has had 10 referees who have officiated just one game. On that list are current NRL officials Jared Maxwell and Matt Cecchin.

Fun Fact #4: Only three players have scored 100 State of Origin points: Mal Meninga, Johnathan Thurston and Michael O’Connor.

Rumour Mill: The word continues to get stronger that Israel Folau will be returning to rugby league next year. Even Phil ‘Buzz’ Rothfield managed to get in on the action, coming up with the ‘scoop’ that Folau would be at the Bulldogs. That rumour was, of course, revealed on these pages months ago. Adam Blair is rumoured to be on the outs at the Tigers but no other club will pay his contract, so he will remain. Grant Mayer is expected to be named the club’s new CEO this week. The Warriors are again going to dip into the Super League coaching pool with Wigan boss Shaun Wane set to be appointed in 2015 – spending 2014 as an assistant. There is strong speculation that Ben Te’o will not play in Origin I.

What I Love About … Josh Reynolds: It was wonderful to get news through on Thursday that Canterbury pivot Josh Reynolds will make his Origin debut. The tenacious Bulldogs never gives anything but everything and will not be found wanting on Wednesday night. He may not be the most skilful player but he is the toughest little SOB in the game. He is exactly what NSW need and it was pleasing to see Laurie Daley realise same.

Betting Market of the Week: This Wednesday, Mitchell Pearce will be:
$101: Lauded for his penetrating and intelligent attacking game.
$81: Hailed as the best halfback NSW has to offer.
$2.10: Left grasping at air and putting his hands on head after another poor kick.
$1.95: Invisible.

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

Combo XIII of the Week: This week, to honour the long and storied rivalry between the Bulldogs and the Dragons, we find the best combined team to play for both clubs.

1.Luke Patten
2. Ross Kite
3. Johnny Greaves
4. Josh Morris
5. Steve Gearin
6. Daniel Holdsworth
7. Jason Alchin
13. Tony Grimaldi
12. Troy Stone
11. Solomon Haumono
10. Kevin Ryan
9. Billy Johnstone
8. Henry Tatana

Correspondence Corner: Cam, it is astonishing that Daniel Harrison has not got a run under Ricky Stuart. The Eels have been disgraceful and he is an honest type. He deserves a chance. Stuart certainly is not renowned for developing talent.

Jason from Singapore, I do agree with you that the incumbent should have been favoured in line ball calls. Todd Carney is a case in point, as is Tim Grant. The Maroons certainly stick. I agree that the Maroons are lacking a prop.

Mick K, yes, Pearce and Maloney were regular pollers in last year’s Willie Ms. Points will be very hard to come by.

Semi Pro, that is a very cynical view of State of Origin and one I can’t concur with.

Bulldog Timbo, I just looked at the Dragons in both their forms – no Illawarra. It is the same this week.

Anonymous, I disagree on your analysis of Reynolds – but you make a good point on Maloney. A rookie won’t be a calming influence and more to the point, a veteran of nine Origin games shouldn’t need a calming influence.  

The Coaching Crosshairs: Neil Henry is under increasing pressure to keep his job at the Cowboys. It was reported last week in News Limited papers that the Cowboys had made contact with Trent Barrett after warning Henry he had two weeks to turn the team around or he will be outed. The smart money is on Henry being shown the door – his hold on the job has always been fairly tenuous – but it won’t be Barrett who takes over but Kevin Walters. Walters just missed the Wests Tigers job and Storm assistants are all the rage at present.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy spent the bye weekend cleaning his boots in the hope he will receive that long-awaited Origin call-up.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 12: Canterbury-St George Illawarra, 16-14. Not a classic game – particularly with four stars missing to Origin – but one full of drama. The Bulldogs dominated the match but couldn’t convert. It kept the Dragons in the match. Before halftime, they scored a fortuitous try that became an eight-point try when Ben Barba dropped his knees into Jamie Soward. The game appeared to be well in hand with the Bulldogs holding an eight-point lead when the Dragons crossed and it was game on. The match eventually swung on the controversial final play that was layered with meaning. Josh Dugan chipped, got crunched by Frank Pritchard, Ben Barba collected the ball and went the distance. The try was very exciting to punters who had jumped on the Bulldogs giving 7.5 points but he really should have just run out to ice the game. The try was then disallowed after Pritchard was penalised – an obscene decision. Jamie Soward then lined up a shot from wide out to send the game to Golden Point – and as so often happens when he is under pressure, he went to water. A sound game. A dramatic finale.

Beard Watch: Kurt Gidley’s patchy attempt at an ‘Old Dutch’ on The Sunday Footy Show is well worth comment. It may be the most disgraceful attempt at a beard I’ve seen. He is obviously in a bad way. Someone needs to keep a close eye on giddy-up.

Watch It: To celebrate the return of Origin, we go back 21 years to the last kicking duel State of Origin has ever seen. Between Ricky Stuart/Laurie Daley and Dale Shearer, it was, in the words of Peter Sterling, “most interesting”. Watch it here


Comments (7)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Rumour mill extension – the word is that a reason Israel didn't end up at Parra is because they wanted him for 3 years and he wanted 1, because he already had intentions on going to the Dogs in 2014 once they had freed up some salary cap.

    Davey G

  2. Anonymous says:

    Jus lt cos he’s got a beard doesn’t mean you can’t get stuck into him Nick but Farah lost the momentum NSW had in the second half by playing the greedy hooker and trying to dive over for a try from dummy half. Instead of scoring from the resulting plays to wrap up the game that self indulgent act was the catalyst for the Queensland fight back. Something that can’t happen at Lang Park. This is a team game and these things shouldn’t go unnoticed.

    Tony Monero

  3. SemiiPro says:

    New South Wales! New South Wales! I take it all back. Laurie and Bozo got it right. And now that Qld players are older and slower, we have the best specimens. 3-0 whitewash coming up. I’ve been in a seven year fugue and now I can finally see the light! How good is life now?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Delighted with the result last night, so many positives coming out of the game for NSW. Well done Nick for picking the score, even if it was arse-about. I did notice that the Blues didn't contest any bombs though, instead waiting for the QLDer to catch it and then belt them. The NSW handling was dodgy, and if the majority of the QLDers weren't almost 30, NSW should have been punished more for the soft errors. That Mitchell Pearce "pass" to Luke Lewis was sinister, and if he were a Lannister would have his hands cut off for such atrocity.

    I couldn't find any reason for Josh Reynolds to play last night, so Laurie was right to leave him off. It is a shame as I am a fan, but it would be like in years gone by when they threw Gidley (or Bowen or Cronk) into the game for the sake of it – your bench is there to add something, not to take turns. They could have had Grant or Woods in that spot, but of course if they did Maloney would have done his ACL.

    I sent a message to my sister at the 60 minute mark asking if Inglis was playing, and then he set up their try. I will shut up next time. I do know for sure that the difference in last year's series is Billy Slater – I thought he was not that special in games 1 and 2, and the only reason QLD won in Game 3 was because Billy was injured and they put Inglis at fullback. If Inglis stays in the centres for the rest of the series, NSW will win. It will be a lot tougher with GI's hands on the pill more from the back,  so let's hope QLD stay too proud and stubborn to change.

    Up here in Brisbane, everyone I have spoken to this morning have complained that Gallen is a grub, but they don't seem to understand why he punched Myles. They truly believe Myles is a choirboy and Gallen is mental, and I learnt long ago that trying to have a rational State of origin conversation up here is like scouring your nipples off with a rusty SOS pad. Pointless.

    Davey G

  5. Anonymous says:

    "Jamie Soward then lined up a shot from wide out to send the game to Golden Point – and as so often happens when he is under pressure, he went to water."

    Please name 3 more times that this has happened in his career?

    Soward has been one of the coolest and most accomplished players under pressure for several seasons. If there was one player in the comp I would want to kick me a field goal with the game on the line, it would be that short, little bitch of a turd…

    You are as bad as Matthew Johns and his morning lackeys… Don't kick a man just because he is down.

  6. SemiiPro says:

    Bozo. He proves the adage is true: you don’t need a red nose to be a clown.

    He’s just one of many old guys throughout society who trots about making a fool of themselves. It’s the baby boomer need-to-be-forever-young syndrome. It’s pathetic.

    But these old gits just stick around like a bad smell in a betting ring. Alan Jones, Eddie Macguire, Ray Hadley – theses blokes are somehow Too Big To Fail. Like their Wall Street counterparts, they are morally bankrupt and getting away with it. They make it easy for Semiipro to be a hater.

    I’m still confused as to why Bozo didn’t pick Tim Grant. He usually loves a big bloke and he was a beast last year. He’s a specimen and would have been handy in the annual Specimen v Specimen series. Nick, I dare you to find a State of Origin game in the past 5 years that involved more than one tactic from either side. You won’t find one.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I mustve missed the cut last week, but I'd love to know your thoughts/feelings on the PM turning up to the opening of lights at Kardinia Park…. considering she can't turn up to a Grand Final…
    Ahhh well, looks like Abbott will be there to hand his beloved Sea Eagles the trophy this October!