From The Couch: Round 12

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on May 31, 2011

Origin Breakdown: Origin I was a real gem with New South Wales both lucky to have been in the contest with 10 minutes remaining and unlucky to lose in the end.

Ricky Stuart’s re-emergence into the Origin battle was, for the most part, positive though it did show all the traditional Stuart characteristics: grittiness and heart in defence and confusion and simplicity in attack, something that does not necessarily bode well for the future.

It all started rather poorly for the Blues, who gave themselves little chance early on. Mitchell Pearce wanted confidence in his kicking game so did all the early kicking, one of the greater acts of stupidity I have ever seen in Origin football, and New South Wales were immediately on the back foot.

Queensland’s first try was soft.  The Blues were on the rack and poor marker play ensured Cameron Smith could dribble a kick through where there wasn’t a Blue to be seen. Queensland 6-0.

The first half ended 6-0. Refereeing decisions went against the Blues, who should have received a penalty when Josh Dugan was tackled in the air and when Akuila Uate was stripped on a mighty kick return. So did possession, two extra errors and a poor kicking game forcing New South Wales to defend five extra sets. Michael Jennings was dangerous as was Greg Bird but New South Wales were playing as dour as a Melbourne Cup grinder. Matt Scott was rolling through New South Wales and Johnathan Thurston was flying.

The story of the first 25 minutes after the break was much the same, bar a moment of great stupidity and laziness from Brett Morris, who allowed Jharal Yow Yeh to pinch a try off a Cooper Cronk grubber. It was a horrible moment after the Blues had defended so gallantly and one that was mightily deflating. Across the board, the Blues had defended like warriors, only to be let down by the foolish actions of a winger.

The Blues should have been done then.

But somehow, miraculously, they came to life.

Mitchell Pearce finished off a nice play and then Michael Jennings scored off a long break, Josh Dugan putting him over the line. In the space of five minutes, the Blues bounced back to lead 12-10.

There was hope.

Hope that was, quite quickly, dashed. The mountain of defence had taken its toll. The Blues made 62 more tackles in the second stanza and it told in the final minutes. Queensland champion Darren Lockyer knew the Blues were tired and quickly ran an inside ball play to the fastest man on the field, Billy Slater. The inside play is the killer for a tired team and so it was, Paul Gallen lagging on the inside and unable to get the lively Queensland fullback, who scored the match-winner.

New South Wales were never going to get back in front. Not after their night. Not at Lang Park.

The stats told the tale really. The Blues made 8 more errors and completed 19% fewer sets, leading them to make 84 more tackles. The Blues didn’t deserve to win, in the sense that they were not as respectful of the ball, they didn’t win the middle of the field and they didn’t win the field position battle. But boy were they tough.

For the Blues, the big worries were their prop rotation and their ad-hoc attack.

Jason King has to go while Kade Snowden, Tim Mannah and Trent Merrin will all be lucky to hold their positions. They were all smashed by Matt Scott, undoubtedly the best prop in the game.

Ricky Stuart is also not tactically strong enough to strategise the Blues’ attack. He should have sent word to Mitchell Pearce to get out of the way kicking wise much earlier and the Blues really didn’t have many plays with strong fringe running central, an area the Blues really could have hurt Queensland. The Blues only attack, really, came from the individual brilliance of Michael Jennings, Josh Dugan and Akuila Uate.

For Queensland, life rolls on. Matt Scott was a beast, abl y assisted by Petero Civoniceva and Ben Hannant. Darren Lockyer, of course, lifted when he needed to while Johnathan Thurston lurked all night. They are unlikely to make too many unenforced changes.

Origin I Player Ratings:


1. Billy Slater (7): Scored the match-winning try and was lively from the back
2. Darius Boyd (7.5): Didn’t get much ball but was super in defence shutting down Gaz
3. Dane Nielsen (6.5): Wasn’t overawed in a quality debut that proved his worth
4. Willie Tonga (5): Showed tremendous heart seeing out the game with a bad shoulder
5. Jharal Yow Yeh(5.5): Scored the decisive try with great guile but quiet otherwise
6. Darren Lockyer (8): He just gets better with age and set up the win with a great ball
7. Johnathan Thurston (7.5): Had some handling worries but a great kicking game
13. Ashley Harrison (8): Tackled and ran the ball with his typical quality
12. Sam Thaiday (7): Was dangerous on the fringes but has had better Origin games
11. Nate Myles (6.5): Worked hard but wasn’t seen much and his form is down
10. Petero Civoniceva (7.5): Carted the ball up hard all night but is no longer Qld’s best
9. Cameron Smith (8): Not sure about the MOM award but was sharp out of dummy half
8. Matt Scott (9): The best player on the field who constantly bent the Blues line
14. Cooper Cronk (7): Made the most of his limited opportunities as a floating lock
15. Corey Parker (4.5): Didn’t get much of a chance but did get it on with Greg Bird
16. Jacob Lillyman (4): Twice dropped the ball and will do well to keep his spot for G2
17. Ben Hannant (7.5): Is back to his best with his hit-ups devastating to the Blues

New South Wales:

1.Josh Dugan (7.5): Was involved in everything and his kick return was top notch
2. Brett Morris (4): Let in a critical try through laziness after doing not much all game
3. Mark Gasnier (4.5): A very disappointing return where he was shut down all night
4. Michael Jennings (8): Was dangerous all night as he created havoc on the left fringe
5. Akuila Uate (7.5): Excellent on debut as he continually caused trouble on the run
6. Jamie Soward (7): Kicked well and was solid in defence but needed to take control
7. Mitchell Pearce (5): Made silly errors and selfishly kicked early instead of Soward
13. Paul Gallen (8): Never stopped trying, leading from the front on both sides of the ball
12. Greg Bird (8): Lifted for Origin again and was the Blues’ most dangerous forward
11. Beau Scott (7.5): Hard all night and was constantly niggling the Queenslanders
10. Kade Snowden (5): Well beaten and it was disappointing he didn’t involve himself more
17. Dean Young (6): Worked hard as a shock starter but not much offered in attack
8. Jason King (3): Clearly out of his depth at Origin level with his 4 hits a dreadful effort
9. Michael Ennis (7.5): Added some spark for the Blues and was dangerous when on
14. Ben Creagh (4.5): Unsighted in a little time but Origin future must be in question
15. Trent Merrin (4): A forgettable debut where he didn’t provide much spark
16. Tim Mannah (4): Much like Merrin, Mannah had no ability to build a platform

Drama at the Wests Tigers: Anyone who was anyone in rugby league last week received word that there was trouble at the Wests Tigers with one player whacking another player for allegedly sleeping with a third player’s wife.

From The Couch  cannot confirm or deny the veracity of the claims. Who knows how much of it went on, if any at all.

The interesting element to me, however, has been the way the Tigers have responded to the allegations. The Tigers front office has been fierce in this while coach Tim Sheens has vowed to hunt down those responsible. The players, who at first claimed to be amused by it, are rallying around each other, all claiming to be best buddies.

It is a highly unusual response to a rumour which, while scurrilous, is commonplace in league circles. These, occasionally baseless but sometimes true, rumours are usually ignored. Why give the rumours legs? Why breathe life into the fire? Many worse allegations have done the rounds in recent times, and many just as public, yet the clubs involved have simply ignored the rumours. To me, it makes little sense to give credence to such a rumour from a source that can't be considered reliable.

What this says about the Wests Tigers is open to interpretation but I can’t see too many ways that such a reaction is going to in any way serve the club favourably.

Something Stinks at NRL Stats:I would very much like to know what is going on at NRL Stats at present because their quality of work and product has been disappointing at best and suspicious at worst.

I have taken to betting on tackle head-to-heads and run metre head-to-heads and have found a couple of results in recent weeks quite odd.

The first came in the New Zealand-South Sydney match. Betting on the Issac Luke-Dave Taylor had Luke a strong favourite, around the $1.40 mark, with Dave Taylor easing from $2.70 to $3.00. Watching these bets, you get a decent feeling as to whether you have won or lost and how close it may be. It didn’t seem close. Taylor was certainly the winner. I called a betting comrade who also backed Taylor and it was clear Taylor won. We checked NRL Stats and Taylor was the winner.

And then, on revision, he wasn’t, Luke beating Taylor 26-22. I have not gone back and watched the tape and counted the tackles but I would be prepared to bet right now that Taylor was not out-tackled by Luke. At best, it seems like some very poor work. At worst, it could be a rort. I am not firing out accusations but it is simply wrong to say Luke beat Taylor and suspicions are certainly raised after the well backed favourite got the favourable revision.

It was a similar story in Origin I with the Billy Slater-Josh Dugan match-up. Slater was favoured at $1.33 but it was apparent that Dugan clearly ran more than Slater. He led by 30-odd metres on first count but the review put Slater ahead by nine metres, an unbelievable result to anyone who watched the match and saw the Blues kick away from Slater as Queensland managed to find Dugan.

The Slater win stunk to high heaven.

And this is to say nothing of two non-try assists on the weekend to Gavin Cooper and Gareth Widdop.

NRL Stats, half-owned by the NRL, has already let rugby league fans down this year by reducing their free offering, taking away cumulative stats, team rankings and historical data, something freely available for all AFL fans. Now they cannot even get it right with the data they do provide. No guidelines are provided on what constitutes a tackle or a try assist and there are some very suspicious numbers being offered.

The NRL needs to get these simple stats in the public domain, they need to provide guidelines as to how stats are calculated and they need to ensure there is nothing untoward with the official stats. I certainly don’t believe they are accurate at present and really, they should be indisputable and easily accessed.

Willie Mason is an Idiot: I was extremely disappointed to see One HD’s The Game Plan interview recent code defector and renowned moron Willie Mason. Mason has recently abandoned Hull KR after only six games to take up a contract on big coin in French rugby with Mason freely admitting he lacked the bottle to play in the forwards in the weak-as-piss excuse for football. Mason again refused to take responsibility for his actions, again blaming the club. He also seems to think he is some change of having a positive legacy in this code. Willie Mason is a renowned Judas whose legacy in the game will be his ability to cause trouble, disruption and chaos wherever he goes. He will not be missed at all by rugby league.

Hybrid Poppycock: While on rugby union, let’s take this opportunity to put the kibosh on the ridiculous notion of an IPL-style hybrid league/union tournament. This ridiculous idea has been bandied about in recent weeks with Rugby League Week saying it was a real possibility of happening with David Gallop even deigning to legitimise the idea with a response.

My colleague Steve Mascord put it best in Discord last week: “Rugby league is in a dominant market position in this country and loaning players to such a competition would only lend credibility to a second rate rival.”

Rugby league has nothing to gain from such a ridiculous, stupid idea. We have one of the two dominant codes in the country, one that is watched in high numbers, that dominates the back and front pages of the newspapers, that is at the forefront of popular consciousness in two states.

Rugby union, meanwhile, hardly gets noticed by anyone outside the silver-spoon class.  They have not a single player rugby league fans would be excited to see and league fans certainly don’t want to see our beautiful, open, hard game diluted by stupid rucks, mauls and line-outs.

The NRL should ban for life any player who ever defects to one of these competitions, if it ever does come to fruition.

But the likelihood is that it won’t because rugby league is flying and we don’t need any of that union bollocks ruining it. Consider this for a moment: if a combined side of the best footballers was selected to play such a hybrid game, how many Wallabies would make the team? I doubt any would. Rugby league has the best athletes, the best game and the best entertainment. We don’t need to engage this second-rate, third-class sorry excuse for a sport.

Trip Down Memory Lane: Andrew McCullough was penalised on Friday night for getting involved in the match after starting the tackle in front of the Brisbane play-the-ball. It is a penalty not seen in a quarter-century. Bill Harrigan’s lot are certainly pulling a few rabbits from the hat this year. It is just a shame that they couldn’t see a blatant tackle in the air or a blatant strip in the State of Origin opener.

Never Trust a Moron with a Neck Tattoo: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: never trust an idiot who thinks it is a good idea to get a permanent ink stain on your neck. Chris McQueen and his utter laziness and total stupidity in allowing Lachlan Coote to dive on a ball and score a try should ensure he never plays first grade again. Stuff like that is intolerable. Watching South Sydney show absolutely no effort at throughout the match on Monday night, I started to wonder why they were allowed back into the competition in the first place. But, you play a guy with a neck tattoo, you get what you deserve.

Monday Whistleblowers: It was wonderful to see the referees list on Monday night and see three former players among the lot with Luke Phillips refereeing, Henry Perenara running the line and Paul Mellor sitting in the video referees box.

Phillips refereed his 3rd NRL game after playing 105 games for Canberra, North Queensland, Manly and the Sydney Roosters, the latter with whom he won a premiership ring in his last ever match.

Henry Perenara was a rugby league journeyman who played 72 games with Auckland, Melbourne, St George-Illawarra, Parramatta and Cronulla along with a solitary Test for New Zealand.

Paul Mellor was a quality three-quarter who debuted at 16 for South Sydney and played 221 games for the Bunnies, Bulldogs and Sharks along with 40 games at Castleford in Super League.

It is good to see so many former players now involved in officiating as it should improve the standard of refereeing.

Injury Update: The doctors were mighty busy over the weekend with a whole raft of injuries to big name players including a serious torn pec to Jarrod Mullen and the worrying hamstring concern to Brett Morris.

Matt Cooper (St George-Illawarra): Fractured his cheekbone against the Tigers and will be out for six weeks. Kyle Stanley is likely to be his replacement.

Josh Cordoba (Cronulla): Damaged his hamstring in the first half against the Storm and could be out for 4-6 weeks.

Luke Douglas (Cronulla): Did his MCL in his knee and after 133 consecutive first grade games since his debut, he looks set to miss a match, bringing to an end one of the great durability streaks. Cronulla are in the throes of a prop crisis with Douglas set to miss at least a month and probably longer.

Simon Dwyer (Wests Tigers): Rolled an ankle against the Dragons but toughed out the match.

Greg Eastwood (Canterbury): Played only six minutes before his eye closed up after seemingly poking himself in it. These can be nasty and I doubt he’ll be about this week, though he has been named.

Dylan Farrell (South Sydney): Went off with a badly sprained ankle. Will be absolutely no loss to the Bunnies.

Liam Fulton (Wests Tigers): Played 80 minutes despite a dicey ankle. Nothing serious though.

Chris Heighington (Wests Tigers): Suffered an eye injury against the Dragons but he won’t miss any time.

Sam Kasiano (Canterbury): Suffered a cork and played only 35 minutes. He should be right for this week.

Jason King (Manly): Hobbled around claiming a dud ankle but in 48 minutes made only 14 tackles and took only 10 hits for 80 metres in a typical performance. Doubt he will miss any time but will struggle to get back in for Origin II.

Brent Kite (Manly): Bruised his back and winced and cried throughout the win against Brisbane. Should harden up and be right to play this week though hasn't been named so maybe he is a grade-A skirt.

Issac Luke (South Sydney): Finished on the bench after hurting his leg. Looked bad but will need to await scans. Souths won’t win a game without him so they are hoping it isn’t serious.

Wade Mackinnon (Wests Tigers): Twinged a hamstring in the pre-game and was a late withdrawal, forcing a significant reshuffle. Has a history of bad hamstrings so may miss another week.

Steve Michaels (Gold Coast): Concussed after a bit of Trent Hodkinson rough play. Perhaps Michaels should have yelled out the safe word.

Brett Morris (St George-Illawarra): Morris strained his hamstring as he scored from a 40-metre burst just before half-time. It looks like he will miss a fortnight and that should go close to ruling him out of Origin II.

Jarrod Mullen (Newcastle): Lasted 32 minutes before going off in extreme pain with a suspected torn pec. Scans suggest the tear is partial, which would sideline him for 8 weeks but I have a feeling it could be season ending.

Steve Naughton (Roosters): Broke his collarbone attempting to score a try with the head-geared winger out at least six weeks. Sam Perrett isn’t far away and could be back next week.

Frank Pritchard (Canterbury): Went off with a cork after scoring two tries in the opening ten minutes. Very soft.

Tyrone Roberts (Newcastle): Would have been in the mix to replace Mullen but damaged his PCL and will miss six weeks, meaning Kurt Gidley is moving to the halves.

George Rose (Manly): Managed only nine minutes before succumbing to a calf injury. It looks the most serious of Manly’s prop worries. It is only a strain but he could be out a couple of weeks. Has been named.

Cameron Smith (Melbourne): Received a concussion against the Sharks in his 200th game but saw out the rest of the match, as expected.

David Stagg (Canterbury): Hurt his hip against the Gold Coast and went off after 58 minutes. No word yet on how bad it is but he is a tough nut and should be sweet for round 13.

Willie Tonga (North Queensland): Dislocated his shoulder early in Origin I but battled on with valour. Has avoided season-ending surgery but will miss at least 8 weeks.

Matt Utai (Wests Tigers): Broke both his hand and his forearm but stayed on and played until 5 minutes to go. Utai broke his left arm and has a fractured right hand and will be out for at least 8 weeks and quite probably longer. The Tigers are now mighty short in the three-quarter line but Lote Tuqiri should be back next week.

William Zillman (Gold Coast): Went down 23 minutes into the Dogs game with a neck complaint after Bryson Goodwin collected him.

Moment of the Weekend: Listening to ABC Radio on Saturday night, I was shocked to hear just before half-time the fire alarm sounding in the commentary box at Newcastle. Craig Hamilton seemed perplexed, unaware of what to do. As the half-time siren sounded, they were forced to evacuate. High amusement though I was glad they were back after the break, the alarm being of the false nature.

The fire alarm drama only just pipped Chris Sandow’s kick for touch, that barely made it, travelling about two metres forward.

Why Wayne Pearce Was Overrated: Wayne Pearce was a good footballer, sure. But his place in rugby league lore is overstated. Pearce was a good player who gained a competitive advantage…by being extremely unmasculine and un-rugby league. In an era when all players smashed beers after Thursday night training and smoked cigarettes at half-time, Pearce got cute and decided to avoid booze and train every day and hit the vegetables. Junior was as sharp as a street hustler, building a career out of not much. Good luck to him. Anyway to get an edge, hey?

Stats Breakdown from the From The Couch Stats Guru: Our From The Couch stats wizard, Adrian Flanagan, has taken to his computer and found some try scoring data over the last four seasons. His findings were interesting.

Across the competition, the breakdown of tries by position goes as such:

*Winger: 27%
*Centre: 21%
*Fullback: 11%
*Second Row: 10%
*Interchange: 7%
*Five-Eighth: 7%
*Halfback: 5%
*Lock: 3%
*Prop: 3%
*Hooker: 3%

One look at this and the story is fairly simple: the widest players are more likely to score tries. From a betting point of view, these numbers suggest the best value in try scorer markets are second rowers, who generally start $21 or better in first and last markets yet score 10% of tries.

Not all clubs are consistent across the board though.

The Dragons, with renowned tryscorers Brett Morris and Jason Nightingale on the flanks, score a remarkable 35.7% of tries from their wingers while the Warriors are the only other team above 30%, Manu Vautvei the main reason behind the Warriors scoring 32.1% of tries from their wingers.

At the other end of the spectrum on the wing is the Sydney Roosters, whose wingers score only 21.97% of their tries.

The Roosters are, in fact, the only club in the NRL whose centres score more tries than their wingers and one of only five clubs (Canterbury, Melbourne, North Queensland and Penrith being the others) whose centres score over 22% of their tries. Canterbury lead the way with centre tries with Jamal Idris and Josh Morris central to centres scoring 25.57% of Bulldogs tries.

The Gold Coast, with their never-ending parade of god-awful centres, score the fewest tries from centres at 15.95%, some 2.44% below the second worst New Zealand Warriors.

The Roosters also lead the way in tries from their halves with Mitchell Pearce, Todd Carney and Braith Anasta scoring 20.33% of all Roosters’ tries. Second on that list is the Gold Coast at 17.7%. Last for tries from halves has been Brisbane (8.46%), who along with Penrith are the only teams to get less than 10% of their tries from halves.

Only three teams have had more than 13% of tries scored by their fullback but considering those are Manly (Brett Stewart), Melbourne (Billy Slater) and Parramatta (Jarryd Hayne) that comes as no surprise.

The Gold Coast are last in fullback tries at 4.65%, reflective of Preston Campbell’s inability to score in his declining years. The Titans are, however, the leading team for second row tries, scoring 15.95% as Anthony Laffranchi and Mark Minichiello find their way to the tryline. Parramatta are the only team to get less than 8% of their tries from second rowers, scoring only 5.63% from the No.11 and No,12.

Lock scoring is fairly even across the board at between 2% and 5% with only Cronulla and Penrith above that, the Sharks’ Paul Gallen above 8% due to their reliance on him to do everything.

So when looking at tryscoring options, take note of the above data and you may just find an edge.

Commentary Call of the Week: Phil Gould has always been a leading league thinker and so it was on Friday night when, with the Titans down 26-0, he called for the Gold Coast to take a field goal “to get something”. That would be a brilliant meaningless field goal and one I would love to have seen.

The Willie M Medal:It looks like we may have put the mock on Jarrod Mullen, declaring him favourite for the Willie M Medal only to see the Newcastle halfback go down with a serious pectoral injury that could rule him out of Willie M Medal contention!

A note goes out to Jason King, who this week created history, picking up four votes in a single round, claiming the three in Origin I before getting in the points in the Manly match.

Queensland v New South Wales
3-Jason King (NSW)
2-Brett Morris (NSW)
1-Jacob Lillyman (QLD)

Manly v Brisbane
3-Jharal Yow Yeh (Bri)
2-Dale Copley (Bri)
1-Jason King (Man)

Canterbury v Gold Coast
3-Bodene Thompson (GC)
2-Preston Campbell (GC)
1-Jake Foster (Cant)

Newcastle v Parramatta
3-Jarryd Hayne (Par)
2-Taniela Lasalo (Par)
1-Fuifui Moimoi (Par)

North Queensland v Sydney Roosters
3-Justin Carney (Roo)
2-Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Roo)
1-Nate Myles (Roo)

Melbourne v Cronulla
3-Ben Pomeroy (Cro)
2-Adam Blair (Mel)
1-Anthony Tupou (Cro)

St George-Illawarra v Wests Tigers
3-Tim Moltzen (Tig)
2-Bryce Gibbs (Tig)
1-Matt Utai (Tig)

Penrith v South Sydney
3-Chris McQueen (Sou)
2-Chris Sandow (Sou)
1-Dylan Farrell (Sou)

14-Matt Orford (Can)
10-Michael Jennings (Pen), Jarrod Mullen (New)
9-Preston Campbell (GC), Blake Ferguson (Can), Jarryd Hayne (Par), Antonio Kaufusi (New), Matthew Wright (Cro)
8-Feleti Mateo (NZ)

Round 12 Voting Panel: Nick Tedeschi, Matt Clements (Zero Tackle), Brett Oaten (Fire Up), Craig Finlayson

Fun Fact #1:Matt Geyer is the only player to play in both Melbourne’s ’99 and’07 premierships. No player played in both the ’99 and ’09 titles.

Fun Fact #2:Steve Menzies is the only player to play in both Manly’s ’96 and ’08 premierships. Des Hasler played in the ’96 premiership and coached Manly to the ’08 title. Hasler, along with Cliff Lyons and coach Bob Fulton, were the only three directly involved in Manly’s ’87 and ’96 titles.

Fun Fact #3: Not a single Bulldog played in both the ’95 and ’04 Canterbury premierships though Steve Price played in ’95 and was ruled out of the ’04 decider through injury. Terry Lamb was the only Bulldog to play in both the ’88 and ’95 premiership victories.

Fun Fact #4: No Penrith Panther played in both the ’91 and ’03 titles.

Fun Fact #5: Michael Hancock and Kevin Walters were the only two players to play in both the ’93 and ’00 titles.

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

Round 13 Selection Notes:

Parramatta:Only one change by Stephen Kearney to the starting side with Jacob Loko coming in for Chris Walker while Carl Webb comes onto the bench for Anthony Mitchell. The team still looks horrible.

St George-Illawarra:Peni Tagive comes in for the injured Brett Morris. Matt Cooper was named but is no chance with Kyle Stanley the most likely to play in the centres.

Cronulla:The Sharks are in the throes of a prop forward crisis and as such, Taulima Tautai is the shock replacement for Luke Douglas. Tyson Frizzell has been named on the bench to make his debut.

Brisbane:Josh Hoffman returns to Brisbane are suffering a fractured leg. Gerard Beale moves back to the centres, Dale Copley to the wing with Dane Gagai dropped. Scott Anderson replace the dropped Nick Kenny while Darren Lockyer and Sam Thaiday both return from Origin duty. Dane Carlaw will get a run on the bench.

Gold Coast:Greg Bird and Ashley Harrison return to the starting team of a horrible Titans team. Matt Srama made a good impression on debut last week and gets another chance this Saturday.

Penrith:Played Monday night an won so, no team changes.

Sydney Roosters:Debutant Rhys Pritchard replaces the injured Steve Naughton. Mose Masoe has been dumped with Jason Ryles starting and Tinirau Arona coming onto the bench. The Roosters team just gets worse and worse.

New Zealand:Steve Rapira is back for the Warriors who are looking mighty strong at present, even with a couple of backrowers in the centres.

Canterbury:Josh Reynolds will play his second game of first grade this week, replacing the suspended Trent Hodkinson. Andrew Ryan will again play prop while Greg Eastwood has been named despite an eye concern.

Manly:Brent Kite hasn’t been named but Jason King and George Rose have both been listed though both are unlikely. An extremely inexperienced bench has been named to cover.

Canberra:No Terry Campese yet despite talk of him returning. Matt Orford is this week “sick”, so hasn’t been considered. Tom Learoyd-Lahrs is back for the Raiders, starting on the bench.

North Queensland: Gavin Cooper will again start in the centres in place of Willie Tonga. Tariq Sims gets the chance to start in the second row. No major changes for a team that keeps on winning.

South Sydney:Greg Inglis is named to return in the centres, replacing the injured Dylan Farrell. Chris McQueen has somehow been promoted to the starting team, replacing Chris McQueen.

Melbourne:Craig Bellamy has named an unchanged team though Anthony Quinn is a chance of being a late inclusion for Sisa Waqa.

Wests Tigers:Wade McKinnon and Lote Tuqiri come back in place of Matt Utai and Beau Ryan. Gareth Ellis is also back with Liam Fulton dropping back to the bench.

Newcastle:Junior Sau returns for the injured Jarrod Mullen, causing a reshuffle that sees Wes Naiqama move to fullback and Kurt Gidley to halfback.  Shannon McDonnell should feel harshly treated.

Rumour Mill:Parramatta are rumoured to have paid off the gambling debts of Chris Sandow, something the Eels deny. Tim Sheens is thought to be considering turning Benji Marshall into a fullback next season, something I doubt will ever happen. Everyone has heard the other Benji rumour. The latest out of Penrith is that Ricky Stuart has agreed to coach and is delaying the announcement until after Origin. Ryan Hoffman is on the verge or re-joining the Melbourne Storm with Hoffman expected back in Melbourne. It is not believed the Kade Snowden deal with Newcastle is far from a done deal. James Maloney wants out of the Warriors and is a chance of returning to Australia in 2012. If he can’t get a release, he will be back in 2013. The Canberra Raiders are favourites to sign Isaac De Gois though he could end up at the Gold Coast. One coach is believed to be on very thin ice in Sydney and if results don’t improve soon, he may find himself on bad terms with yet another club.

What I Like About…Luke O’Dwyer: O’Dwyer has never been much of a player. In 86 games for Parramatta and the Gold Coast, he has done little to distinguish himself, making his tackles and running his lines and doing little more. That was until Friday night when O’Dwyer, in six minutes of genius, charged the ball down three times including once from a Scott Prince kick! It was brilliant. Steve Price, of course, is the great charge-down artist of the modern game but there was also Jamie Feeney, whose most memorable trait was his ability and desire to charge down kicks. Hopefully O’Dwyer is on his way to becoming the next Jamie Feeney.

Betting Market of the Week: The next drama that will allegedly cripple the Tigers will be:

Revelations that Tim Sheens and Daniel Fitzhenry are having an illicit affair: $2.10
An attack on Todd Payten demanding answers as to why he is regarded so highly: $3.50
Revelations that Keith Galloway dyes his hair red: $4.50
News that Matt Utai has been re-signed for four years: $9.00

From Deep in the Bowels of Twitter: Former NRL journeyman Nick Youngquest, whose profile reads “Frequent bed wetter, self confessed Kylie fanatic and nomadic gypsy. Play Rugby League poorly” is no fan of Corey Parker: “Good game, wish birdy pumped Corey Parker because he is an A grade knob”

Words of wisdom from Royce Simmons: “chips are like women. You don't touch someone elses. Unless you're trying to get rid of your chip/woman, then its fair game

Obscure Score of the Week: Swinton-Oldham, 18-16. The Lions continued their great run in 2011 with a gutsy 18-16 win over Oldham in a Conference 1 classic between two Lancashire rivals with long and storied histories traversing way back before the formation of rugby league. Swinton jumped to a 12-0 lead but the Roughyed fought back to lead 16-12 with only 12 minutes to play when Swinton scored the match-winner. Oldham appeared to score on the bell but the try was disallowed and the Lions remained atop the ladder.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: A classic performance from Ben Pomeroy was seen against the Melbourne Storm, filled with errors, dumb penalties and missed tackles. I was pleased to see it live. There is nothing like seeing the Penguin at his uncoordinated, dumbest best.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 12: St George Illawarra-Wests Tigers, 24-18. There were some cracking matches this weekend including Manly’s impressive second half decimation of Brisbane but the replay of the classic 2010 preliminary final gets the nod. Played on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Oki Jubilee, the Dragons jumped the gun, getting out to a 20-6 half-time lead on the back of a brilliant try to Matt Cooper and a nice four-pointer to Brett Morris. The Tigers weren’t done for though and were right in the game when the final siren blew, fighting back to 24-18 even though they were killed by injuries and supposed internal ructions. A very good match that suggests the Tigers may well be back.

Coaching Stocks:

5: Wayne Bennett: The Dragons have now won nine on the trot and his team is cruising
4: Craig Bellamy: The Storm hardly lifted for Smith’s 200th but they still collected 2pts
4: Des Hasler: The Eagles are up and about and playing with some real aggression
4: Ivan Cleary: Bye
3.5: Antony Griffin: Tough to be too critical with stars sidelined but he did make the call
3: Tim Sheens: The Tigers bounced back strongly, even in defeat, going close to victory
2.5: Kevin Moore: 26-6 was not nearly reflective of how poorly the Dogs played to win
2.5: Neil Henry: The Cowboys just keep getting stronger though the Roosters were inept
2.5: Rick Stone: Attack is a major worry but they showed plenty of fight to hold off Eels
1: Stephen Kearney: The Eels simply can’t afford to lose like they did to the Knights
0.5: John Cartwright: Must be suicidal watching his team blow game after game
0: John Lang: I weep for John Lang after such a horrid performance against Penrith
-0.5: Shane Flanagan: The Sharks showed plenty of grit against a superior Storm team
-1: Brian Smith: Is under immense pressure to keep his job as the Roosters sit last
-1: Matt Elliott: Showed plenty of class in knocking back Phil Gould’s offer to stay
-3: David Furner: Bye

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. Lachlan Coote (Pen)
2. Jason Nightingale (Dra)
3. Mark Gasnier (Dra)
4. Jamie Lyon (Man)
5. Will Hopoate (Man)
6. Kieran Foran (Man)
7. Johnathan Thurston (NQ)
13. Corey Parker (Bri)
12. Paul Gallen (Cro)
11. Frank Pritchard (Bul)
10. James Tamou (NQ)
9. Isaac Luke (Sou)
8. Ben Ross (Sou)

14. Daly Cherry-Evans (Man)
15. Cameron Smith (Mel)
16. Luke Lewis (Pen)
17. Nathan Hindmarsh (Par)

Waiver Wire Advice: Now is the time to get on Beau Henry. The Newcastle five-eighth will now share the halves duties with Kurt Gidley, a much better pairing for Henry than his team-up with Mullen as both Henry and Mullen play like traditional halfbacks. Henry will move to the No.7 role and should get his hands on the ball more. He opened up the year with back-to-back 50s and after two weeks recovering from a nasty leg injury, he should get back to scoring more strongly.

Correspondence Corner: Calum, Jeff Robson turned in a ripper performance against the Sharks and set up Parramatta’s only try in their loss to Newcastle. He is a solid performer and he should find another club in the NRL where he can get an opportunity. To my eye, he is a good fit as the “second half” of a club and would be at his best playing alongside an established ballplayer but the likelihood is that Robson will end up at one of Penrith, Cronulla or South Sydney, where he will automatically become the leading halfback.

Redman, I didn’t see the Tigers-Penrith game due to the large consumption of sake at a popular Japanese restaurant, so I’m not sure why Lui didn’t get the three. I do agree with you about Farah though. I would take him every day of the week and twice on Sunday’s ahead of Ennis.  This whole “Origin type player” is a load of hogwash, a myth designed to justify personal favourites being picked over the best candidates. Sadly though, Farah is on the outs and after Ennis played well in the series opener, I wouldn’t expect to see him in the next couple of years wearing a Blue jersey.

In regards the Origin selectors, you are right: they are all out-of-touch, incompetent fools. Check out this piece written a year ago.

Woody, Gus may have lost the unlosable series but he never lost any of the other series’ he coached and is without doubt New South Wales’ greatest Origin coach.

Ryan, the Bulldogs are going fine and Trent Hodkinson is playing decently.

Mark McGrath, you were spot on about Jason King’s ineptitude. He was rubbish in Origin. Though calling for Brett White’s return doesn’t fill me with much joy either.

Beard Watch:The blame for New South Wales’ loss in Origin I should perhaps be laid at the feet of Greg Bird. Or at the very least, the bald upper lip of The Birdman. The Titans backrower went into camp with a wonderful, thick, full moustache but astonishingly, before kickoff, That moustache, particularly considering previous comparisons of Bird to King Wally, could have been just what the Blues required. The answer to life is never at the end of a razor.

Watch It: Queensland outrage and the hurling of XXXX cans as an expression of said outrage did not start with State of Origin and it didn’t start when Wally Lewis was sin binned in 1988, as seen in this video of the New South Wales-Queensland match from 1971. In a vicious and fiery affair, former international Keith Holman sent four players from the field including three Queenslanders. There are a few highlights in this video: the Maroons with a three-man scrum, the spectator who ran onto the field to remonstrate with Holman and seeing young winger Wayne Bennett in action.

Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac

Tags: ,

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. probertson73 says:


    In relation to NRL Stats, as you know I am a punter and a player of fantasy comps but IMO the combination of both may be a bridge too far. This is certainly the case if their is no objective rules in place as to what constitutes a tackle for example. 

    It was discussed recently on Fox Sports that there should be more points for first into a tackle but within this action = worth lies a fair bit of subjectivity.

    If there are no clear conservative rules in place ahead prior to setting up these markets and absolutely free data then these markets should not be permitted. Its one way or the other folks.