From The Couch: Round 13

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on June 10, 2013

Origin I Wrap: Are we witnessing history? Is the witch about to die? Perhaps. But while the Blues’ win in the opener of 2013 was dominant and impressive on so many levels, it is best New South Wales does not get ahead of themselves as behind the scoreline and the statement, there were plenty of flaws that need ironing out.

There is no question the Blues were deserved winners. Of the match, and the fight. They came out with more energy and more intent and never lost the upper hand. They rolled through the Queensland pack, forced the hand of the Queensland halves and eliminated the Queensland outside backs. Most notably though, they made Queensland look old and more than fallible.

The Blues simply had more hustle all night long, spurred along by a willing ANZ crowd who said enough was enough.

Blues skipper Paul Gallen also drew a line in the sand by laying a beautiful combo on Nate Myles who, after years of headbutting and knee twisting, got his just deserts. To his credit, he seemed to love it both at the time and in the post-match chit-chat. Gallen didn’t deserve a game. He deserved a pat on the back. But whatever the price, it was worth it as it told Queensland that the Blues would be bullied no more.

While the Blues were never seriously challenged on the scoreboard, their performance was far from perfect and it should not be masked that handling and discipline were poor while a number of supposed stars simply did not shape up. The Blues made 14 errors to the Maroons nine and gave Queensland every chance. Mitchell Pearce was again a total non-factor – in supposedly his best Origin performance. James Tamou is a shadow of his 2012 self.

Queensland are deserved favourites for game two. It is hard to see the Blues going up to Lang Park and winning. But the decider, they are right in it. This series is there for the taking. The foundation has been laid. A few tweeks and seven years of misery is over.

Origin Ratings: This year we are going about things differently with Origin ratings, listing players 1-34 (or 1-33 in this case) from the best to the worst.

1.       Luke Lewis (NSW)

2.       Jarryd Hayne (NSW)

3.       Paul Gallen (NSW)

4.       Robbie Farah (NSW)

5.       Greg Bird (NSW)

6.       Nate Myles (QLD)

7.       James Maloney (NSW)

8.       Cameron Smith (QLD)

9.       Justin Hodges (QLD)

10.   Brent Tate (QLD)

11.   Blake Ferguson (NSW)

12.   Andrew Fifita (NSW)

13.   Michael Jennings (NSW)

14.   Anthony Watmough (NSW)

15.   Corey Parker (QLD)

16.   Matt Gillett (QLD)

17.   Brett Morris (NSW)

18.   Billy Slater (QLD)

19.   Josh Morris (NSW)

20.   Trent Merrin (NSW)

21.   Sam Thaiday (QLD)

22.   Ryan Hoffman (NSW)

23.   Matt Scott (QLD)

24.   Ashley Harrison (QLD)

25.   Mitchell Pearce (NSW)

26.   Ben Te’o (QLD)

27.   James Tamou (NSW)

28.   Greg Inglis (QLD)

29.   Chris McQueen (QLD)

30.   Cooper Cronk (QLD)

31.   David Shillington (QLD)

32.   Johnathan Thurston (QLD)

33.   Darius Boyd (QLD)

New South Wales’ No.1 Problem: The Blues certainly need plenty to go right to finally end Queensland’s streak and losing Jarryd Hayne – most likely – for Origin II is not ideal. It does present an opportunity to select one of two excellent players though with Josh Dugan and Michael Gordon both in the mix for the fullback position.

Laurie Daley needs to be hard on Hayne. If he does not pass the initial medical, he must be sidelined. The Blues cannot afford a Darius Boyd-like debacle. Boyd played injured and it cost Queensland dearly. He should have had the decency to withdraw. He didn’t. Daley needs to provide certainty for the Blues in their preparation for game two.

Dugan is certainly in the box seat after a stellar performance in scoring two tries to single-handedly roll the Knights. Gordon should not be forgotten though. He is the best kick returner in the game and would not be found wanting at Origin level.

The Blues have plenty of options for Origin II. In trouble may come opportunity. Let’s hope Laurie is a little more decisive this time around.

What’s The Matter, Parramatta? The Eels can’t say they were warned. Anybody who knows anything about rugby league knows exactly what kind of character Ricky Stuart is and he put it on full display last week when, trying to hide from the glare like a rat in the night by making the announcement on the afternoon of Origin I, Ricky Stuart decided to publicly humiliate nearly half the first grade squad by telling them they would not be playing at the Eels in 2014. Among this lot was the captain he himself appointed just months ago.

Rather than simply tell each player individually, Stuart decided to make a show about it and then had the gall to try to justify it in his column that it was the right thing to do to tell players in front of officials and their peers that they were out. Not only were those who were punted left annoyed, it left a sour taste in the mouth of everyone up to captain Jarryd Hayne, who could not hide his disgust for the manner in which Stuart went about his business.

Word then leaked out – and we all know how cosy the Eels coach is with some sections of the media – that Adam Blair was top of the recruitment list.

Yikes, even I am feeling sorry for the Eels here. Not only is it time to make the nut on the poor recruitment decisions of the last half decade, it is time to make it on a crazy coach who has no idea how to rebuild. This is going to get ugly. And there is very little promise that it is going to get any better. The game’s greatest thinker is trying to out-think everyone again. As always, it will only be himself he fools.

Moylan Mess Derails Panthers
Former North Sydney legend Mark Graham once made a fairly poignant remark. “Rugby union is an amateur game run by professionals. Rugby league is a professional game run by amateurs.” While union may have become professional and totally irrelevant, rugby league has not evolved from its amateur administration and that was seen again last weekend when the Panthers were prohibited from playing exciting young fullback Matt Moylan.

Moylan was forced out of first grade because the NRL said he could not play due to problems with an ultra-restrictive and the return of Wes Naiqama. Instead, the NRL dictated who should play where at the Panthers in one of the biggest disgraces I have witnessed. Roster lists simply aren’t big enough. The salary cap implementation is too rigid and not transparent.

Matt Moylan is a young star who helped turn Penrith around with his deft play and intelligent return work. Every Panthers fan – and they have been through a decade of hard times – has a right to feel aggrieved this week.

To punish a club for discovering a talent, to stifle and perhaps derail the career of a promising young player and to hurt the image of the game is the height of amateurism. The NRL has its head stuck up its ass if it thinks this is a positive outcome.

Storm in a Pee Cup
At least Don McKinnon had the decency – when taking a leak on the field – to pull his schlong to the side of his shorts before firing on to Lang Park. Russell Packer did the same but just stood there. It seems like he was having a one man pee party. It would have been very unpleasant to tackle him soaked in his own urine like a bum. Perhaps he was just try to send the rugby league word to the masses. Or perhaps he just lacks any form of self control.

Fun Fact #1: Wayne Bennett has coached against 90 men in the Sydney premiership.

Fun Fact #2: In Wayne Bennett’s long and stories coaching career there are just four coaches he has never won against: current coaches Anthony Griffin, Steve Price and Michael Maguire and Bill Anderson.

Fun Fact #3: A total of 30 men have coached against Bennett without winning – the most games among those who could not beat Bennett was Tom Raudonikis.

Fun Fact #4: The coach with the best record against Wayne Bennett, with a minimum of 10 games experience, is Nathan Brown, who holds a 9-3 advantage over the most capped coach in premiership history.

Rumour Mill: As mentioned, there is speculation that the Eels are chasing Tiger Adam Blair. They are likely only going to be saved by Mick Potter’s refusal to release him. Raider Sam Williams is the most in-demand player in the premiership with the talented No.7 being chased by the Dragons, the Sharks and the Bulldogs. Sam Tomkins is on the verge of signing with the Warriors and will play fullback, with Kevin Locke reportedly set to move to five-eighth. Reni Maitua, despite talk, is not going to retire. It would not surprise at all if he showed up at the Roosters or the Tigers.

What I Love About … Ricky Stuart: It was that great Bellamy-like tactician Sun Tzu who once said your enemy’s enemy is your friend. And so it is with Ricky Stuart and the Parramatta Eels. It has not been hidden in these pages that I have a total and utter contempt for Ricky Stuart’s style and record as a coach. Have I mentioned his strike rate post-Brad Fittler? It sits at 39.7 per cent. As a Canterbury man, I naturally despise Parramatta. So it is with some joy that I can sit back and watch Ricky Stuart not only take a chainsaw to the Eels. Let’s be fair, the club needs a chainsaw taken to it in terms of its culture and recruitment policies. But Ricky is not the man you want to holding the machinery and that became plainly evident when the big piece of his recruitment masterplan was none other than epic bust Adam Blair. It had to be read to be believed. Stuart clearly has a god-complex. But as long as he has it at the Eels, he is harmless and provides little more than amusement. He is in phase one of his plan now. The tear down. He has proven very accomplished at this element of execution. The rebuild though, well, let’s just say, not so good. Unless, of course, you are Broderick Wright or Anthony Tupou or some other player handed an obscene contract. Hello, Adam Blair. I do feel a little sorry for the Parramatta faithful. But the club bought in to Stuart’s “vision”. It will be a costly and unproductive one.       

Betting Market of the Week: After the Eels poach Adam Blair from the Tigers, Ricky Stuart’s next big recruitment move will be:

$1.35: Sign Anthony Tupou to a seven-year, $17 million deal
$1.60: Pinch Albert Kelly from the Titans on $900,000 a season and then play him at fullback before dropping him to Wentworthville.
$2.20: Try to reunite every Wright in the NRL.
$2.30: Make the surprise signing of Jamie Buhrer and then play him seven minutes a game.
$3.00: Look to sneakily pick Ben Creagh at every chance.
$3.10: Bring back Tim Smith to play halfback.

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

Combo XIII of the Week: With Newcastle and the Dragons having such a cross-pollination of players these days, we come up with the all-time best team to have played for Newcastle and either St George/St George Illawarra/Illawarra. Such has been the number of players who have been a Knights and a Dragon/Steeler, we could have named two teams.

1.Darius Boyd
2. Wes Naiqama
3. Beau Scott
4. Alex McKinnon
5. Jamie Ainscough
6. Steve Linnane
7. Matt Rodwell
13. Jeremy Smith
12. Marc Glanville
11. Chris Houston
10. Craig Smith
9. Michael Ennis
8. Danny Wicks

Correspondence Corner: Anonymous, there is no question that Julia Gillard has turned her back on rugby league and I trust western Sydney and Queensland will respond in kind. I don’t know if Manly will be there in the decider but I am confident Tony Abbott will be there to present the trophy.

Semi Pro, you are spot on about Bozo. It is incredible he is still charged with helping select a side for a game he lost touch with a long time ago. And while it was a good win, I can’t give Bozo any credit. It must go to Laurie and Gal.

Anonymous, if you are a long time reader, you will know how long I have defended Soward. I am no hater. But his attitude the last 18 months has stunk. Yes, I was wrong in saying he would go to water. He is as good a field goal kicker as there is. So I apologise for that. But he has a bee in his bonnet and until he gets rid of it and accepts some personal responsibility then he won’t ever fulfil his undoubted potential. I hope he does.

Davey G, see my Origin wrap-up above, but I take your point totally on the hypocrisy of Queenslanders going after Gallen after defending Sam Thaiday at every opportunity.  I also thought it was wonderful that we had a coach – and I was highly critical of the preparation and still am – who got the boys fired up without giving Queensland ammo, and who didn’t use Reynolds unnecessarily but comforted him appropriately. And I have heard the same rumour re: Folau’s deal with the Eels that went sour.

Tony Monero, Farah’s play was selfish but he played very well I thought and was among the Blues’ best.

Anonymous, it is more a time thing re: no reasons for votes but it is something I will look into for 2014.

Anonymous, I did not see the Souths-Knights game so would not like to comment on why Jeremy Smith got the three.

Anonymous, it has never been disputed that personal bias doesn’t play some role in the Willie M voting. I certainly don’t manufacture votes to go to players I don’t like but there are things on a football field I notice/don’t like more than others and they tend to be reflected in the votes and they tend to be the players I write negatively about. Stupidity, poor defensive reads/missed tackles and a lack of involvement from halves are probably the three things I can’t stand and when I vote this is often reflected. Other voters no doubt have their bug-bears. What I will say though is – and I value the integrity of this award too much to compromise it – gone out to deliberately give a player a certain number of votes. It doesn’t work that way.

The Coaching Crosshairs: Neil Henry is unlikely to see out the season with the Cowboys after his side slumped to a fifth-straight loss. Even with mitigating circumstances like Johnathan Thurston’s absence, the loss to the Bulldogs on Saturday night should spell the death-knell for Henry, who rightly criticised his team by saying there were only nine first graders out there. Terry Matterson is the senior assistant and coached in Super League while Trent Barrett and Brad Arthur have been linked to the job. Kevin Walters and Rick Stone both should be. With plenty of options available and Henry having had more than long enough to prove himself, he looks a goner.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: From Sharks tragic Nathan Boss, after Sunday’s dismal performance from Pomeroy: “Pomeroy is getting worse with age. He missed four tackles that led to tries. It’s time to put the Penguin down.”

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 13: New Zealand-Manly, 18-16. An absolute thriller between a team that has been severely underperforming this year and one who has probably slightly overachieved. The Warriors are very much a confidence team and they have now won three on end with a pretty gutsy display after trailing 12-0. Manly won’t be too devastated by the loss, with Brett Stewart set to return soon, but there are certainly question marks over just how good the Eagles are with their lead over fifth now just one point.  Konrad Hurrell may not be able to defend but his try was a highlight not just of the game but of the season.

Beard Watch: This week we go into beard rant mode and ask the question: why doesn’t a fringe player who often goes unnoticed grow a beard and become a cult hero? This is the fast track to a reputation. Nobody knew or cared who Kirk Reynoldson was before he went bushranger. So if you are a Joel Edwards, a Matt Robinson, a Liam Fulton or an Alex McKinnon, grow a big fat beard so you get the due recognition.

Watch It: This week we go back to 1987 for the quarter final of the Panasonic Cup between Canterbury and Eastern Suburbs, played at Seagulls and refereed by NSW Sports Minister Graeme Annesley. It was a cracking affair won 12-10 by the Chooks. Winger Wayne Challis scored the match winner but he owed the Chooks after two horrendous defensive plays led to the two Canterbury tries. Despite scoring 26 tries in first grade, he managed just 50 games. It is not hard to see why. The highlight is probably Peter Tunks’ try assist, though Laurie Spina’s play was magnificent. Watch it here


Comments (4)

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  1. SemiiPro says:

    Is R Stuart an AFL stooge trying to obliterate Rugby League in the west by being himself? It’s the only possible explanation I guess. Doesn’t he have an eye for non-talented players. Drum-roll……The Special Needs Penguin will be Parra captain next year.

    You know how a poor tradesman blames his tools? Well, Ricky Stuart is a tool. (That makes no sense, but it’s a great sentence.)

    • Anonymous says:

      as a sharks fan i dont know if i could handle another season of pomeroy, although i have been saying that for 4 or 5 years i think. love to all, sparkles

  2. Anonymous says:

    I was reading somewhere online today (I think it was foxsports) that spoke of Josh Papalii's dream of playing origin is in tatters after being put on report. Are they telling me his lifelong dream, growing up in New Zealand, was to play Origin for QLD? And what it got me to thinking was this – how did the debacle that is the current State of "Origin" begin?

    Who was the first player chosen from elsewhere to represent that started the rule-bending that has exploded into the farce we see these days. We all saw (and laughed and laughed) at the 'Where Is QLD" song showing where so many players are from, but I couldn't recollect who and how it started. Artie was from QLD, so seeing him run out in a Maroons jersey when it began was fair. If you or any readers know definitely (we can all speculate) who it was that first played for QLD when they really should only be eligible for NSW, it would be very interesting reading no doubt. Please note – eligible for NSW is written referring my post a few weeks back where QLD pick players the NSW selectors in their wisdom would never consider. perhaps that is how it started, someone couldn't get a run for NSW so they played for QLD. Funnily enough, my master plan for competing in a Commonwealth Games is to, at age 55 or so, switch lawn bowls allegiance to trinidad and Tobago and play for them. Or something like that.

    Speaking of Origin, I cannot believe how much attention Gallen's 2 punches have received this past week. Regardless if it was premeditated as some claim (as Nate had been headbutting and knee twisting for years apparently), it was a game of footy where some bloke punched another. We can all agree that it is not something for the kiddies, but then all would have to agree that if your kids saw that, then you as a parent would teach them what is right and wrong and how society is supposed to work. Why it has been raved about incessantly is so very annoying, and to me has taken some shine off the win (however, living in Brisbane, it has been delightful just smiling at the locals when they try and make excuses for why they lost and how much of grub Gallen is. Look at the scoreboard, boys).

    As for the Eels culling – loved it. I personally would have only called the 12 players together into a room so they were all notified at one time but not in front of their peers, but hey I'm not a ruthless NRL coach. These players have finished pretty much last last last since 2009, and can't blame the coach as there have been 38 of them. Let's just see who the money is spent on – the Blair word I am getting is rumour only, a bit of a gee up in fact, but who knows if a new coach is what Blair needs right now? We know he can play, maybe it's like anyone who joins a new club and starts to play properly again (I'm looking at you,  Michael Jennings). The glass is half full.

    Davey G

    • Anonymous says:

      The issue of a player who is from one state(or country) and plays for another only seems to have become a popular whinge since Greg Inglis crossed borders. I'm sure there were many more that did in either direction but were not as high profile as GI. I would like to know how many ACT born or bred players have pulled on a Blues jersey over the years.