From The Couch: Round 13

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on June 9, 2014


Tears and Fears in the Capital: It should have been a good week in Canberra – none other than the New York Times declared the city a hipster haven, a natural beauty, the place to be – but the free agents clearly haven’t read the piece with the Raiders’ recruitment plans in tatters after Josh Mansour and Michael Ennis rejected over to move while Kevin Proctor and James Tedesco backflipped, knocking back mammoth deals. It has been an embarrassing, demoralising week in Canberra – but one the club brought entirely upon itself through the hiring of their coach.

Canberra fans deserve plenty of sympathy. The club deserves plenty for losing their juniors. You can’t make sponge cake with sour cream though and the Raiders, who struggle to recruit players anyway, were never going to lure players with Stuart at the helm.

It is tough to blame Tedesco for changing his mind. He had clearly been promised the world and handed a map. He is a competitor and he doesn’t want to be stuck losing for a long time.

The Raiders need help. They need to rebuild. And they know exactly what they need to do first.

Until then, beds are being made by those who must lie in them.

Draft Time: The time has come for the NRL to either fund junior football or – the better option – establish an external draft. Clubs like the Raiders, Cowboys, Panthers and Tigers simply get screwed. An external draft with the NRL funding junior football separate of clubs is the best scenario here – and the NRL has the cash to make it happen.  There is plenty to be made from a draft as well. The interest in junior athletics in sports that have drafts – AFL, NFL, basketball – is immense. The AFL get miles of coverage showing their under-age footy and the NRL can do the same after putting in an external draft.  An external draft also gives clubs like Canberra and Cronulla a chance, something both desperately need.

Midseason Report Card: Each team graded at the midway mark of the season …

Brisbane (B): Found a gem in Ben Hunt and playing some good footy but salary cap investigation is a dark cloud on the horizon.

Canberra (F): Spent up big on Ricky Stuart but only have an embarrassing recruitment drive and the NRL-worst defence to show for it.

Canterbury (A): The Bulldogs have rediscovered their identity this year. Found their feet on the back of outstanding prop and halves play.

Cronulla (F): Injuries, incompetence, a suspended coach, an ASADA investigation … it has been an ugly 2014.

Gold Coast (C): The Titans started the season in fine nick on the back of some hearty defensive displays but some key injuries – namely Aidan Sezer – has derailed their challenge.

Manly (A): Despite suffering a heap of injuries the Sea Eagles just keep marching on, leading the premiership again. Best culture in the NRL.

Melbourne (C): The Storm started the season as they typically do but Origin I through everything into disarray. This could be the year Melbourne fall off the mountain.

Newcastle (F): Season 2014 has been an absolute debacle from beginning to end with a key recruit sent to prison and the owner going bust and being forced to sell. Huge internal dramas.

New Zealand (C+): Started the season abysmally but made the call to sack Matt Elliott and it is reaping some rewards with the Warriors ready to make their move.

North Queensland (C+): The Cowboys are killing it at home and cannot buy a win on the road. The talent is there but they have underachieved.

Parramatta (B+): The Eels have come along in leaps and bounds under a new coach. Have developed some real talent, most notably winger Semi Radradra.

Penrith (A-): Phil Gould and Ivan Cleary have done a stellar job in rebuilding the Panthers and there is no question Penrith are ahead of their five-year plan.

St George Illawarra (D): Sacked coach Steve Price and made a shocking recruitment decision in paying big coin for Benji Marshall.

South Sydney (B): Haven’t set the world on fire but premierships aren’t won in April or May. They are winding up well. Probably deserve to be close to title favourites.

Sydney Roosters (B): Looked ordinary over the first few months but have given up the booze and have benefitted from Mitchell Pearce getting himself and James Maloney dumped from Origin.

Wests Tigers (B+): The Tigers have significantly overachieved with their squad and it is a credit to them. Regardless of how the season finishes, this has been a good year for the club.

Perhaps the Greatest Field Goal Ever: Pat Richards, take a bow. His field goal last year for Wigan was something to behold. His freakish effort on Sunday in Newcastle was better. There is an argument that Richards may be the most naturally talented field goal kicker to ever play the game. He can land them from anywhere. The Tigers should be using this skill a lot more.

No More Wok: To the bitter end – and if there is one man in Rugby League who knows bitterness, it is Warren Ryan – he held firm that the use of the term ‘darky’ in 2014 was acceptable as long as it was  a quote from a movie made 80 years earlier. To his credit, he is consistent. Ryan this weekend quit the ABC and the Rugby League media, refusing to apologise for his remarks. It seems strangely appropriate that Ryan would leave this way. Ryan, once a great analyst, simply refused to change, not acknowledging that the game he once knew was evolving along with the world around it. Ryan’s commentary in recent years has been tough to listen too. The ABC should now start fresh and bring in some young brains with fresh ideas and a modern take.

Fun Fact #1: Canberra Raiders prop Brett White owns a restaurant with former Raiders backrower Glen Turner called The Pita Pit.

Fun Fact #2: Cronulla have not scored a try in 189 minutes of football.

Fun Fact #3: The Sharks have failed to score a point in the last three games Daniel Holdsworth has played and have averaged just 4.67 points with him on the paddock.

Rumour Mill: There are rumours coming out of Canberra that the failed recruitment drive from Ricky Stuart has left an element of the club flummoxed and wanting him out. The Raiders’ latest recruitment targets are believed to be Daniel Mortimer, Tom Symonds, David Mead, Tautau Moga and Blake Ayshford. Terry Campese won’t be at the club in 2015. Don’t expect Jamal Idris to play football for Penrith anytime soon. Ben Te’o is likely to be playing French rugby next year but could also return to Queensland and the Cowboys. Tariq Sims will leave North Queensland with Newcastle, Penrith and St George Illawarra potential destinations. The Warriors are leading the chase for Steve Matai but Manly are not out of the hunt. Konrad Hurrell is firming to make a move to South Sydney.

What I Love About … Footy in the Mud: How good was seeing a muddy centre to a heavy Brookvale Oval? James Graham covered from head to toe in mud. Players sliding through the grime. Blonde hair and white jerseys darkened by the dirt. Tough, sleeves up footy. Drainage has taken much of this way but not at Brookie … as much fun as footy gets.

Betting Market of the Week: Warren Ryan’s next career move will be:

$51.00: Coach of the 2015 Aboriginal All-Stars Team
$34.00: Indigenous Player Liaison
$26.00: New caller for NITV
$2.25: Movie critic for Fox Classics

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: Having Willie Tonga selected for the Queensland Origin squad. The guy who couldn’t go an inch under the astute stewardship of Ricky Stuart was made an Origin bolter on Monday night when named in an extended Maroons squad. In other news, Mal Meninga’s mental health is currently being checked.

Power Rankings:
1. South Sydney 8-5 (3)
2. Manly 8-4 (4)
3. Canterbury 8-4 (1)
4. Sydney Roosters 8-5 (5)
5. Penrith 8-4 (6)
6 .North Queensland 6-7 (2)
7. Parramatta 7-5 (8)
8. Brisbane 8-5 (10)

9. Wests Tigers 7-5 (12)
10. New Zealand 6-7 (9)
11. Melbourne 6-6 (7)
12. Gold Coast 6-6 (11)
13. St George Illawarra 5-7 (14)
14. Newcastle 2-10 (13)
15. Canberra 4-9 (16)
16. Cronulla 2-10 (15)

The Coaching Crosshairs: St George Illawarra will announce sooner rather than later that Neil Henry will be the club’s next head coach. The Dragons have been interviewing Henry and are close to reaching terms. The club hopes interim coach Paul McGregor will remain as an assistant.

Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week: According to Brad Walter of the Sydney Morning Herald, the players that have refused to come and play for Ricky Stuart over the last two seasons: Internationals Greg Bird, Matt Scott, James Tamou, Josh Papalii, Israel Folau, Robbie Farah, Kevin Proctor and Gareth Hock as well as Anthony Milford, Josh Mansour, James Tedesco, Michael Ennis and Peter Wallace.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 13: Newcastle-Wests Tigers, 20-23. What a scintillating game of footy that had everything from one of the greatest field goals ever, a declined conversion, a sin bin and a very odd try, to go with a club record being busted. What a marvellous display of Rugby League.

Correspondence Corner: Cliff Bingham, I don’t think it was a spear tackle and I think the culpability, if it fell anywhere, fell to Beau Scott.

Martin, I could not agree more with your eloquent response. I remember the nightmare of living in Melbourne and either watching the delay or an illegal feed. The NRL has a responsibility to force the network – and affiliate – to show the game or ensure those states can stream online free of charge etc.

Davey G, I can’t say I saw a lot in Vai Toutai and have always fancied Hunt … perhaps I was wrong. Darius Boyd has been sponging all year. He won’t be at Brisbane though. Likely, gulp, Bulldogs or Titans.

Rick, apologies, I will make sure if goes up on Facebook from now on.

WittyReference, Mansour is definitely more of a threat. The problem with officiating is that the refs do not know how to control a game any longer.

Mav63, been spending up on Marty Kennedy!

Beard Watch: Beards are back! So much so that Phil Gould, AM mentioned the prevalence of footy follicles during the call of the Chooks-Storm. Beards! Mos! Now for the sideburns …

Watch It: Friday night brought back great memories of footy in the mud and there are few better than Craig Polla-Mounter’s try in the last game at Belmore, where he slid from a mile out on a water-logged ground. A classic try. Watch it here.


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Comments (3)

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  1. Mav63 says:

    Yep Nick that’s worked out well hasn’t it. No wonder Gee got the flick.

    I actually thought we must have over spent on our cheer squad.

  2. Grumps says:

    I enjoyed your interesting summary. Keep writing the good stuff. I miss Tim Napper’s contributions since he moved to Vietnam.

  3. WittyReference says:

    The refs… again. The Brisbane/ Canberra game was just confusing. One general play got overturned by the video ref? How do they randomly decide when they can do that? What’s the point of 2 refs if the one standing next to the ruck makes a decision about stripping but the ref 10 metres away ignores him? Oh why bother even going on about it. So many head scratchers every week.

    Wille Tonga can have only been picked because he’s been there before.