From The Couch: Round 12

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on May 31, 2015

Origin Wrap: Once again it was New South Wales’ conservative selection policy that cost them the first Origin encounter and any chance of defending the crown they were fortunate to claim in 2014.

Under Laurie Daley the Blues have played seven times and have yet to score three tries in a single match. It is very hard to sustain victory when all team selections are based on being able to contain Queensland and not being able to beat them.

While there is no shame in rewarding defensive players and focussing on a defensive brand of football, that style only works with reliable halves who can control a team. Trent Hodkinson is not that player. Nor is Mitchell Pearce. Those who claimed the duo performed adequately to well no nothing about Rugby League and should have a good hard look at themselves before defending their inclusions. Hodkinson and Pearce both made critical unforced errors. Neither showed any leadership when it was required at the finale. Both kicked as if Billy Slater had a magnet in his chest. The Pearce apologists will claim this as tactic but that is the most abhorrent form of revisionist history imaginable. It is what Pearce has always done in Origin – kicked poorly. If it was a tactic it was the height of stupidity from Daley.

For the coach to declare just moments after the match that the duo would be selected for Game II defies belief. Once again a perverted from of loyalty has superseded accountability.

The halves weren’t the only concern. The three-quarter line is just as worrying. Daniel Tupou was picked for size and size alone. He failed at every challenge. Will Hopoate was serviceable but nothing more. Michael Jennings’ game just isn’t suited to an Origin side constructed around a lack of speed and playmaking. In Origin, having your three-quarters lay a platform through sharp dummy half running is critical. Will Chambers and Justin Hodges ran all night on the Blues. Not a single Blue outside back managed to run 100 metres. Picking Josh Mansour is critical for the second game while a legitimate speedster like James Roberts or Alex Johnston is required.

Heaven knows what the Blues will do without Robbie Farah in Game II. Michael Lichaa is the best candidate but whoever is selected is a risk.

This is a mentality issue, a construction problem. Daley needs to start plumping for a team who can outscore Queensland. Not a team who can hold the Maroons tight and hope for the best because the experience and class of the Queensland spine is just too much when push comes to shove.

Once again the Maroons did what was required. They usually do. It is a credit to them. They will win this series and likely the next and as many as the stars want to keep playing for while the Blues run a selection policy so conservative it would scare Bob Katter.

NSW Hooker Options Top 10: In order, the mediocre options available to the Blues for Game II if Robbie Farah is ruled out with a shoulder injury:

  1. Ryan Hinchcliffe
  2. Michael Lichaa
  3. Nathan Peats
  4. Josh Reynolds
  5. Mitch Rein
  6. Cameron McInnes
  7. Michael Ennis
  8. Kurt Gidley
  9. Mitch Aubusson
  10. Adam Clydsdale

Oh No Rabs: You can’t call every Penrith outside back Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. Waqa Blake looks nothing like him! Robert Jennings looks nothing like him!

Penrith In Strife: Some teams endure seasons where nothing breaks right. The Panthers are seemingly in the throes of one such year with injury after injury. They lost star Matt Moylan on Friday and potentially Jamie Soward to boot. The Panthers are a team with depth but they can’t do anything without those two, full stop. Hopefully Soward is not out too long.

2015 Field Goal Count – 22: Only Cooper Cronk’s Origin special was added to the field goal count for 2015 with sadly not a single drop goal across Round 12.

Fun Fact #1: Mitchell Pearce is now 3-10 in the Origin arena.

Fun Fact #2: Into Round 12, Adam Devcich and Matt Cecchin had the most decisions overturned by the video referee with nine apiece.

Rumour Mill: Daniel Vidot is all but signed with Canterbury and should join the club over the next two weeks. Kurt Mann is expected to move to a Sydney club before the June 30 deadline. The shakeup at NRL HQ is far from over with one high profile NRL head expected to be tapped on the shoulder. Don’t be surprised to see the NRL absolutely make a mess of the Auckland Nines by potentially shifting it to the middle of the year and staging it over multiple weekends. Tom Burgess is looking at potentially making a move to American football. Todd Carney has been linked to a move to Penrith but Manly shapes as his most likely destination.

What I Like About … Bryce Cartwright: Let me tell you about Bryce Cartwright … he will become a true superstar of the NRL in coming years. He is still a raw piece of work but when he gets some experience he is going to be something else. Thrust with playmaking responsibilities when trailing to Parramatta on Friday night, he did a truly wonderful job He has plenty of size but it is his vision and skill that make him stand out. His deft footwork and subtle ballplaying are treats to watch. The future is extremely bright for Bryce Cartwright.

The Coaching Crosshairs: Newcastle coach Rick Stone will not be coaching the Knights in 2016 if his side finishes well outside the eight with Nathan Brown looming as his likely successor. Stone is a popular figure in the Hunter but he is not getting a lot out of a Knights side that should be performing better. Those close to the Knights suggest he isn’t an overly thoughtful coach and he has trouble with communication. Brown is the favourite for the gig but don’t be surprised if Jim Dymock or Garth Brennan come into contention.

Betting Market of the Week: Excuses Laurie Daley will make for another mediocre performance from his halves in Origin II:

$3.00: They played to the tactics of the coaching staff
$3.50: We were really pleased they kicked straight to one of the most explosive tryscorers in Rugby League history.
$2.60: Why do you need composure at the end of a close game?
$1.80: They were terrific … it doesn’t matter that they made eight errors and set no tries up in a 30-point loss … they tackled well and that’s why halves are in the team, right?

Manly Collapse Update: Geoff Toovey will coach Manly for the last time this weekend when the Sea Eagles travel to meet the Broncos. Trent Barrett will be his replacement with John Cartwright coming on as his senior assistant. Barrett will be the first ‘non-Manly’ coach since Peter Sharp. Toovey has lost the confidence of the board and the playing ground while the new CEO wants to bring in his own team. He will be moved on prior to the Sea Eagles’ Round 14 bye.

Referee Power Rankings: Ben Cummins had an absolute stinker in New Zealand in the clash between the Warriors and the Knights. In the space of a minute he referred two decisions to the video referee and managed to get both wrong in what turned into a 10-point swing in New Zealand’s favour. How he was ever viewed as the best ref in the game is beyond me. Let’s get British referee James Child out here, who had no problem sending Daryl Griffin off halftime for a swinging arm that connected with head – and four days after Griffin’s dad passed on. At least he has some bottle.

  1. Ashley Klein (1)
  2. Gerard Sutton (3)
  3. Jared Maxwell (4)
  4. Grant Atkins (8)
  5. Matt Cecchin (7)
  6. Adam Devcich (2)
  7. Gavin Badger (5)
  8. Ben Cummins (6)

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 12: Penrith-Parramatta, 20-26. For a weekend after Origin we enjoyed a remarkably high quality round. The highlight was the Friday night clash between the Panthers and Eels. Parra came ready to play and dominated the match all night, helped by injuries to Penrith’s playmakers Matt Moylan and Jamie Soward. Parramatta saw big performances from Reece Robinson, Chris Sandow and Semi Radradra and looked to have the game in hand before Bryce Cartwright put the Panthers back in it with a dominant performance that might be a precursor to a brilliant career.

Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week #1: Ricky Stuart’s press conference after the Broncos game last one question, 35 seconds and 68 words.

Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week #2: The inevitable NRL fine for Ricky Stuart should top his total fines over the $115,000 mark. His total currently stands at $105,000 – surely the most dished out to a single coach.

Beard Watch: It is great to see Junior Paulo and his garden gnome beard back in the top grade. I couldn’t help but think Paulo looks a little bit like this posted from The Bearded Tit in Redfern. #Doppelganger

junoirjunior 2

Correspondence Corner: Anthony, I’m not sure what to think of Brad Arthur. There isn’t enough evidence for mine and he hasn’t really had his own team. The Eels still have front office dysfunction. I’m inclined to think he has been overrated and is just a middling coach but I think he is better than last place and certainly not in the Sticky league.

Gus, it is sad that one Origin team has become so predictable.

Davey G, I was lucky enough to be working the game so missed the Nine coverage and I’m grateful I did.

Mike Butterfield, I think you and I might need to apply to become video referees.

Watch It: Everyone should have seen this by now but if you haven’t you are about to witness one of the tries of the year. Lachlan Maranta finished off a 95-metre movement that saw the ball spill loose, go through six sets of hands, involve a chip kick and send the Broncos fans into delirium. It was one of the great tries. Watch it here.


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Comments (6)

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  1. Mike Butterfield says:

    Pierce should be dropped not only for his useless kicking game but for his absolute stupidity, my mouth fell out of my arse, when NSW looked set for a field goal who called for the ball & ran it, you guessed right, what was Farah doing, you talk about Qld being old but experienced week Farah & Pierce are experienced players so I would label them Dumb & Dumber.

  2. Balyn says:

    I’ve heard a couple of people mentioning the lack of consistency regarding shoulder charges lately, which makes me think it’s not just me getting confused about where the sport stands when it comes to the hands-free tackle. I know Slater is a protected species, but that shot on Dugan would have been 2 weeks in the stands a year or two ago. Am I wrong?

  3. Strettell says:

    As always this is the best rugby league read you will get every week.

    I actually attended the Origin the other night as a guest in a corporate suite (i would never actually pay to watch it live these days) and was wishing during every minute that I was at home in front of my TV.

    I have probably missed no more than five origins ever so feel I am reasonably well placed to comment on the fixture despite not being from either of the 2 States (I have lived in NSW for 7 years however).

    Mark down Wednesday 27th May 2015 as the day state of origin died, although there is an argument that this happened 2 years earlier but NSW winning the thing probably rubs out that notion. The game was painstakingly boring played in slow motion, players attempting to execute the most basic and uninspiring gameplans was akin to your garden variety NRL game without the crowd.

    Anyone who still utters the words “origin is the pinnacle of the game” simply has rocks in their head and if the whispers are true about officially integrating (the rules have long been rorted) non Australians into the fixture then the NRL are actually smarter than we give them credit.

    It became clear as Alan Tongues translucent skin on Wednesday night that origin is missing over 50% of the games best players. This wasn’t the case 10 or possibly even 5 years ago but is abundantly obvious now.

    Put it down to the continual browning of the NRL as the primary reason however the 2 coaches reluctance to pick players with flair as they aren’t “Origin” players (no frills white guys that run hard and straight and don’t make mistakes) sure plays its part.

    Can someone remind me what William Hopoate has ever done apart from a pre mission behind the back pass in the 2011 GF, if he was white he he would be Jack Reed and don’t mistake his appearance for being evasive I haven’t seen him beat a man for weeks.

    You can wax lyrical about Robbie Farrah’s 50 tackles all you want, Dallas Johnson, Michael Luck & Shaun Fensom would do the same “in the origin cauldron” but his offensive skills have dwindled to such an extent that id think long and hard about selecting him again in teh future.

    Nick I’ve agreed with your thoughts on Pearce for years and two years ago was aghast with his bottom feeding kicking game that I declared he has the single worst kicking game in the NRL. On Wednesday his kicking game was all time, his mini bombs to Slater with no pressure were embarrassing and the fact that he continued to do so was a just as much an inditement on him as it was on the buffoon who came up with them. He did tackle extremely well though so props to him as he does have ticker, he just isn’t up to representative level.

    What made me cement my view of origin was the ease at which Queensland scored then they actually touched down, it was as predictable as a Uate handling error under pressure in his own 20. The same plays were run over and over and over in the Anzac team only to be repelled time and time again it actually became a joke.

    Ill give Darius Boyd a break having just come back from an achilles but right now he is Beau Ryan and nothing more, Beau Ryan played the game for the sole reason of milking a penalty by humping the ground and Darius is no better currently

    Given that there are 2 games still to go NSW will benefit greatly from getting Brett Morris & Paul Gallen back but they would do a lot worse than looking hard at Blake Austin, Bryce Cartwright & James Roberts. Roberts would scare the bejesus out of the Queenslander’s, he is an excitement machine and makes William Hopoate look like Joel Reddy.

    My final point to highlight the death of origin is where ill pick origin teams from all NRL players with QLD getting Melbourne & NSW getting the Warriors, not a great sight NSW fans.

    Tuivasa-Sheck, B Morris, J Morris, D Whare, M Vatuvei, K Foran, S Johnson. P Gallen, G Bird, S Mannering, G Burgess, I Luke, B Mautalino. M Taupau, A Fifita, T Merrin, J Warea-Hargraves.

    B Slater, M Korobete, G Inglis, J Hodges, W Chambers, J Thurston, C Cronk, C Parker, J Taumololo, A Guerra, J Bromwich, C Smith, M Scott. K Proctor, T Harris, M Gillett, N Myles.

  4. Red Raider says:

    What is even crazier to me is how many rugby league media personalities (mainly ex-players and especially Andrew Johns) seem to be defending Pearce’s performance? Trent Robinson said it was “clinical”. Joey said he thought Pearce was “superb”. It’s baffling. His kicking game display in the second half might be the worst ever seen at Origin level and yet he is copping little to no heat. It’s enough to make you convert to New Zealand.

    • Eddo says:

      I’m dead certain that Wayne Pearce has compromising photos of all these old players who constantly back Mitchell Pearce. There can be no other explanation.

  5. Mark Seymour says:

    Even with all the deficiencies in the NSW side, they still had a chance to win (and then at least tie) in the final minutes but couldn’t get a field goal attempt off. Given Hodkinson’s ability to convert, I was amazed he never got the ball in his hands. If you were picking the NSW team for the next origin game, who would you have in the side?