From The Couch: Round 13

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on June 7, 2011

The Midseason Report Cards:

Brisbane (A)
Position:5th (8-4)     
Best: Ben Hannant, Darren Lockyer, Corey Parker, Gerard Beale
Disappointing: Nick Kenny, Shane Tronc, Justin Hodges, Dane Carlaw
Strengths: Defence has been the basis of their rise, where they rank 4th in points allowed; they have been outstanding on the road going 5-1 away from Lang Park.

Weaknesses: Prop rotation is a worry with very little class below Hannant; the loss of Justin Hodges has left the outside backs vulnerable in defence with the fringes being exploited more frequently.
So Far: The Broncos have exceeded expectations under first year coach Anthony Griffin after he was appointed only three weeks out. Their defence has been outstanding, for the most part, and they did put together seven wins on end. Even with key injuries (Hodges, Hoffman), the Broncos have ground out win after win.
Outlook: Have a good run home though they have been vulnerable over the last month, admittedly when resting rep stars. Will make the eight and have the defence to legitimately challenge.

Canberra (D-)
Position:16th (3-9)   
Best: Shaun Fensom, Josh Dugan, Josh McCrone
Disappointing: Matt Orford, Bronson Harrison, Brett White, Daniel Vidot, Joel Thompson
Strengths: Can score points when Josh Dugan is fit and healthy.
Weaknesses: Where do you start? The coaching is bad, the team is playing without direction, fringe defence has been abhorrent, props are underperforming, hooker is a major issue and little respect is being shown for the ball.
So Far: Expectations were high for 2011 but the Raiders have lurched from one disaster to another, losing eight straight games. Even when they put together a couple of good wins, all that momentum was lost when they blew a 22-0 lead at home to the Cowboys. They have the worst defence in the NRL and a brewing halfback controversy.
Outlook: The Raiders made a late season surge in 2010 to threaten but though they have the talent to win games against good teams, they are too far back to seriously challenge and have too many mental scars to go on a run at any rate.

Canterbury-Bankstown (C+)
Position:8th (6-6)     
Best: Aiden Tolman, Ben Barba, David Stagg, Kris Keating
Disappointing: Josh Morris, Mickey Paea, Greg Eastwood, Bryson Goodwin
Strengths: The Dogs have some incredibly hardworkers in the middle with Stagg, Ennis, Tolman and Ryan usually keeping the middle third tight; Ben Barba is a genuine threat from anywhere on the field and continues to get better
Weaknesses: Ball handling has been horrible, ranking 3rd in the NRL in errors; Outside of Ben Barba, the Bulldogs seem to really lack the fringe firepower to scare opposition teams
So Far: Canterbury seemed to be travelling okay up until round 10 with their only losses coming to top-four teams but horrid losses to Canberra and Manly have the coach under threat and the team struggling for confidence.
Outlook: The Dogs are at the crossroads right now and can finish anywhere from top four to well outside the eight. They have a much better run in but a brewing coaching controversy and destabilisation over the future of Andrew Ryan could see them stumble to teams they should beat. They have the talent to make the eight and really, should get in reasonably high though there is little confidence.

Cronulla (C)
Position:14th (3-9)   
Best: Paul Gallen, Luke Douglas, Kade Snowden
Disappointing: Wade Graham, Tim Smith, Anthony Tupou, Matthew Wright
Strengths: The Sharks have an elite middle with Gallen, Douglas and Snowden all top class players; they have the propensity to show plenty of fight, rarely throwing the towel in.
Weaknesses: Attack has improved but is still diabolical with the Sharks hitting 20 only twice; the halves are a major concern with Wade Graham not living up to the billing; the outside backs are particularly unthreatening with the three-quarter line scoring only 11 tries all season.
So Far: The Sharks recorded the upset of the season in round 2, handing defending premiers St George-Illawarra their only defeat before taking Manly to the bell in round 5 but have won only once since round 3 as their depth and lack of class have been exposed.
Outlook: The outlook for the Sharks is not bright. They have a decent run in but they don’t have the ability to worry any team on their game.

Gold Coast (D-)
Position:15th (3-9)   
Best: Ashley Harrison, Luke Bailey
Disappointing: Preston Campbell, Scott Prince, Clinton Toopi, Bodene Thompson
Strengths: Luke Bailey just keeps on keepin’ on; John Cartwright is an exceptional coach and the Titans work hard underneath him.
Weaknesses: The Titans have the worst three-quarter line in the NRL, with their defence and handling abhorrent (the Titans rank last in handling errors); they are playing slow football and the result has been the fewest tries in the NRL.
So Far: Many expected the Titans to fall this year but I was not one of them. I could not have been more wrong. The Gold Coast have been awful all year, arguably the worst team in the NRL, with their three wins arguably an overachievement as they should have lost to both the Raiders and the Tigers. At no stage have the Titans looked like the team who made a preliminary final in 2010.
Outlook: The Titans are going to finish bottom four, even if new blood like Matt Srama add some life to the team. The pack remains solid but Scott Prince is playing well below par and he has little to work with outside of him.

Manly (A)
Position:3rd (9-3)     
Best: Kieran Foran, Matt Ballin, William Hopoate, Anthony Watmough
Disappointing: Brent Kite, Jason King
Strengths: Fortress Brookvale is back with Manly undefeated at their home ground this season; Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans has the attack firing on all cylinders with the talent-laden three-quarter line finding the line.
Weaknesses: Manly may have big name props but they are ineffective and lumbering; Goalkicking is a bit of a worry and could hurt come finals time, kicking at 66.7%.
So Far: Manly have snuck under the radar for most of the season but are now viewed as one of the leading threats to St George-Illawarra’s tight grip on the premiership. It is only over the last fortnight they have won stylishly but they have been winning with their only awful loss coming to South Sydney, which they could have stolen late.
Outlook: Manly are going as well as any of the challengers and have defied calls of being old and slow with some slick attack and tight defence. They look bound for a top four finish.

Melbourne (A-)
Position:2nd (9-3)    
Best: Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Gareth Widdop, Ryan Hinchcliffe
Disappointing: Adam Blair, Beau Champion, Todd Lowrie, Troy Thompson
Strengths: The Storm have three of the top ten players in the game right now with Slater, Smith and Cronk all in the top two at their position, capable of winning matches on their own; they are coached by a true master who extrapolates every last bit of talent from the team; Gareth Widdop is going to be a star and he just improves every week; they can run in big scores and are the leading attacking outfit in the NRL, averaging 24.4 points per game.
Weaknesses: The Storm are vulnerable against big, aggressive forward packs who wear down their straight up pack; Craig Bellamy lacks depth with any injury hurting the Storm’s chances; they have won three of four away but have looked vulnerable on the road.
So Far: The Storm have well and truly put the misery of 2010 to bed, winning 9 of their opening 12 and sitting second on the ladder. Among those victories were classy wins against Manly and Canterbury. They did, however, suffer shock losses at home to the Warriors and Raiders and they have not had a difficult start to the season with an easy draw and eight home games.
Outlook: The easy draw means the Storm face a tough run in with the majority of their games on the road. If they avoid injuries, they should be odds-on to finish in the top four but they will fall from second and any injuries could see them drop to the bottom part of the eight, really impacting on their premiership prospects. They can win it all but their frailties are starting to become more evident.

Newcastle (B)
Position:9th (5-7)     
Best: Chris Houston, Matt Hilder, Kurt Gidley
Disappointing: Jarrod Mullen, Neville Costigan, Antonio Kaufusi, Cory Paterson
Strengths: Have lost seven games but have only been towelled once, suggesting they put in each and every week; are extremely well coached by an underrated mentor; when fit and healthy, the Knights have a top class and well balanced set of backrowers.
Weaknesses: Lack genuine class in most positions with Kurt Gidley their only elite level player; halves have been a worry this year with the Knights actually looking better when Jarrod Mullen plays second fiddle or not at all; lack a really effective prop rotation.
So Far: The Knights are what they are and no different. They have pulled off some nice wins with their victory over North Queensland in round two the highlight but they have not beaten any other team of substance and have lost close games to potential top four teams the Dragons, Manly, Brisbane and New Zealand.
Outlook: The Knights will keep playing honestly and their finals chances will swing on whether they win those closes ones against those close to them on the ladder. A nasty injury toll makes me wary about getting too positive but Rick Stone will get the best out of them. They are a classic 7th to 12th team who can’t make any waves in the finals.

New Zealand (B+)
Position:6th (7-5)     
Best: Lewis Brown, James Maloney, Ben Matulino, Sam Rapira
Disappointing: Krisnan Inu, Manu Vatuvei, Feleti Mateo
Strengths: The Warriors defence has been outstanding this year, allowing 20 points only once since their three-game losing streak that opened the season; they have an outstanding ability to create second-phase play with their offloading, which has become much smarter this year; the Warriors have a top class, young prop rotation.
Weaknesses: Halfback is a major concern with the Warriors with the team almost entirely reliant on James Maloney at five-eighth for kicking and organising; the poor handing of Inu and Locke has put the Warriors under pressure on numerous occasions this year.
So Far: As always, the Warriors have been streaky, losing their first three games before winning seven of their next eight, their only loss coming to the high-flying Manly. That momentum was ended with a shock loss to the Roosters on Saturday night. They are winning in Australia and they are defending well, suggesting there is depth to their form.
Outlook: The Warriors are poised for a top four berth though they must survive the next month to slide in. The loss to the Roosters looked like a hiccup and if Shaun Johnson can find his feet, the Warriors are going to take it to a lot of good teams.

North Queensland (A+)
Position: 4th (9-3)     
Best: Johnathan Thurston, Dallas Johnson, Matthew Scott, Ray Thompson, Tariq Sims
Disappointing: Scott Bolton, Ashton Sims, Antonio Winterstein, Ben Jones
Strengths: The Cowboys attack has improved from 14th to 2nd and their defence from 16th to 6th; they have been strong at home, going 6-1 at Dairy Farmers; they have the best halfback in the world playing in good form and their backrow is well balanced with Johnson, Scott, Tariq Sims and Gavin Cooper.
Weaknesses: Their road form has been shaky with a loss to Parramatta and periods of struggle against Cronulla and Canberra; they are over-reliant on Johnathan Thurston, so if he goes down, it is season over for the Cows.
So Far: After a forgettable 2010, little was expected of the Cowboys but they signalled their intent with a win over the Broncos on opening night and have gone on to hammer Melbourne, roll Manly and overcome big deficits to Parramatta and the Raiders. They are sitting way above where nearly anyone forecast them to be.
Outlook: It is almost entirely dependent on the health of Thurston. He is resilient so should be right and hence the Cowboys should be back in the finals. With more road games than home and Origin in the mix, a 5th to 8th finish seems likely. Their defence has improved but it still isn’t at premiership levels yet.

Parramatta (C)
Position:11th (4-7-1)           
Best: Nathan Hindmarsh, Casey Maguire, Tim Mannah
Disappointing: Daniel Mortimer, Justin Poore, Chris Hicks, Jarryd Hayne,
Strengths: Play very well at Parramatta Stadium, winning three from five and drawing against St George-Illawarra; when Jarryd Hayne is on song, the Eels are capable of matching it with most teams.
Weaknesses: Attack and defence have both been appalling, ranking 3rd lowest in points allowed and 2nd highest in points scored; the Eels still have not found an effective way to use Jarryd Hayne as well as motivate the No.1; Halves play has been diabolical; the Eels have one of the worst three-quarter lines in the NRL, a completely ineffective wing and centre set that threatens no team.
So Far: Have turned in some quality performances in drawing with the Dragons, winning in New Zealand and downing the Cowboys but have been embarrassing at times, getting whipped at home by Penrith, decimated by Melbourne and flogged by both Canterbury and South Sydney. Have shown some signs of quality but have mostly coasted through at a mediocre level.
Outlook: As always, the Eels are down and are banking on a late run. This Parramatta outfit this year though lack class and it is hard to see them getting it all together to make the finals though they will scare a few teams when they do decide to switch on.

Penrith (C)
Position:10th (5-7)   
Best: Michael Gordon, Luke Lewis, Petero Civoniceva, Nigel Plum
Disappointing: Michael Jennings, Kevin Kingston, Timana Tahu, Travis Burns
Strengths: Michael Gordon is one of the most outstanding kick returners and attacking players in the game (though, sadly, he is done for the year); have a strong prop rotation which can make metres at will when focussed.
Weaknesses: Prepared to throw the towel in too easily with their commitment and desire questionable at best; their attack is entirely predictable with Luke Walsh and Travis Burns marginal first graders at best; depth is a major concern with the Panthers bench always thin.
So Far: The Panthers started the season so poorly that coach Matt Elliott got told he was no longer required only eight weeks into the season following the club’s first finals appearance in five years. They have found their feet over the last month though with three wins, including their best win of the year, a 33-10 towelling of Brisbane.
Outlook: The Panthers have snuck up the ladder and can find themselves entrenched in the eight with a good run over the next seven weeks. Face a tough run in though. With Michael Gordon out, the Panthers will likely miss out.

St George-Illawarra (A+)
Position:1st (10-1-1)
Best: Mark Gasnier, Jamie Soward, Jason Nightingale, Dean Young, Ben Creagh
Disappointing: Brett Morris, Michael Weyman, Michael Greenfield
Strengths: Have class across the paddock with outstanding depth at nearly every position; Jamie Soward and Ben Hornby have the strongest kicking game in the NRL; the entire backline has played international football with the exception of Origin No.6 Soward; are the best defensive team in the comp and one of the best of the NRL.
Weaknesses: The Dragons have very few weaknesses but can be found out around the ruck with quick, relentless attacking of the middle third.
So Far: Have been almost flawless this year, winning 10 of 12 with their only hiccups coming against lowly teams when clearly flat. They went through a five game stretch where they allowed a total of only 24 points. They have been the dominant team in the NRL and are clearly the team to beat.
Outlook: The only things that can beat the Dragons this year are calamity and themselves. The premiership is theirs to lose with their stranglehold on the NRL as strong as any of the NRL era.

South Sydney (C-)
Position:12th (4-8)   
Best: Chris Sandow, Issac Luke, Nathan Merritt
Disappointing: John Sutton, Greg Inglis, Dave Taylor, Rhys Wesser, Dylan Farrell
Strengths: Have few problems running up scores with Souths ranking 7th in points scored, the Bunnies putting on 24 points on five occasions; on paper, they have an all-star forward pack.
Weaknesses: Defence has again been abhorrent with Souths having the third worst defence, twice losing when scoring 24 points; John Sutton is a total impostor and has given the left fringe little to work with; injuries have been a major concern again with the soft tissue injuries sustained by the forwards again suggesting the Souths medical team is doing something wrong; Greg Inglis and Dave Taylor have been allowed to go at their own pace, which has resulted in some unprofessionalism at the club.
So Far: South Sydney, quite stupidly, started the season as third favourites for the title. Again they are letting supporters down. They again flashed the cash in the offseason but the result has been only four wins, including getting the nod over Manly, their only victory over a top notch team. They have allowed 30 points four times and scored six or less four times, so nothing has been going right for the Bunnies.
Outlook: The long list of injuries, the reported internal distractions and the inability of the likes of Inglis, Taylor and Sutton to constantly put in at club level makes it highly unlikely that they will make a run. They at least have a good run home draw wise.

Sydney Roosters (D-)
Position:13th (4-8)   
Best: Anthony Minichiello, Jake Friend, Sam Perrett, Braith Anasta
Disappointing: Todd Carney, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Nate Myles, Jason Ryles
Strengths: On paper, they should have one of the top halves combinations though it hasn’t been playing out that way this year; their defence has been reasonably solid, not allowing more than 24 points since round two.
Weaknesses: The Roosters have scored only 29 tries and have the worst attack in the NRL; they have the worst pack in the competition with nearly all players either out of form or lacking class; playing to sterotype, off-field distractions are again significantly hampering their on-field showings; despite a Grand Final in his first year, Brian Smith does not seem a good fit.
So Far: The Roosters have gone from bad to worse in 2011 as they battle off-field distractions and on-field mediocrity only a year after an impressive Grand Final run. They have not scored more than 13 points since round four and they have not recorded back-to-back wins all year. Their 13-6 win over the Warriors at the weekend was their best show of the year.
Outlook: The Roosters don’t have the forward pack to seriously threaten. They may put a few wins on end but unless Pearce and Carney carry them to a multitude of wins, the Roosters are going to finish nearer the bottom than the top.

Wests Tigers (C+)
Position:7th (6-6)     
Best: Benji Marshall, Chris Heighington, Robbie Farah, Simon Dwyer
Disappointing: Robert Lui, Tim Moltzen, Beau Ryan, Bryce Gibbs
Strengths: Have one of the best game-breakers in the NRL in Benji Marshall, who can take over a game; their backrow is arguably the best in the NRL with Heighington, Ellis, Fulton and Dwyer all rep quality; they are well coached by Tim Sheens; at full strength, there is danger right across the three-quarter line.
Weaknesses: Injuries have gutted the Tigers this year; they have gone backwards defensively from the improvement last year; Robert Lui at halfback remains a major issue; Tim Moltzen is a player without a position; they are poor starters who can often dig themselves into too big a hole.
So Far: The Tigers have been disappointing to date after such a fine 2010 where they came within a point of rolling the Dragons. The only team of substance they have rolled is the Warriors and they have been threatened by some poor teams. But they have been killed by injury and they have got themselves in the eight despite some poor play.
Outlook: The Tigers are one team who can shoot up the table if they get a fair shake with injuries and can build some momentum. It would take a game man to suggest the Tigers are still premiership threats but it would be surprising if they missed the finals.

Traumatic Times at Belmore: Reports circulated over the weekend suggesting Kevin Moore would be fired, quite possibly, before the season is out. Board members are reportedly upset at Canterbury’s underachievement over the last 18 months and were furious at Manly’s decimation of the Dogs on Saturday night. We all were. It was a disgraceful showing, one lacking commitment, care or class.

Moore has reportedly also fallen out with the board and management on his defence of Andrew Ryan, fighting heavily to give the Bulldogs skipper the one more season he desires.

On the matter of Andrew Ryan, Moore is correct. Ryan deserves one more season. He has not only shed blood, sweat and tears for the Bulldogs, leading us through some mighty tough times over the last seven seasons, but he is still playing well enough to hold a first grade spot. He is no longer the sharp fringe runner he once was, but he is a hard worker and is arguably Canterbury’s second best prop at present.

But Moore has right to be worried. Canterbury dreadfully underachieved in 2010 and are on the precipice of doing so again.

The Dogs were disgraceful last year and after a good start, losses to Canberra and Manly suggest the same problems-namely a lack of attacking structure and a propensity to miss a large number of tackles-remain at the club. Canterbury are clearly off the top teams but it is being threatened by mediocre teams that is most concerning, as is the general lack of threat Canterbury seem to be. They are playing like Newcastle without Kurt Gidley.

I am not calling for Moore’s head. But I am pretty close to it and despite his name, all his father did for the club and the dignity that he has carried himself with, even his most ardent defenders would struggle to produce a compelling case for him. He has not shown a lot as a coach and this window, that should be wide open after all the club has spent, will quickly close come 2012/13.

The one thing that is holding me back from going for Moore’s throat is the prospect of Ricky Stuart, arguably the worst non-Souths club coach of the last ten years, being appointed. Never have I been filled with such fear, such loathing, such genuine worry about opening the paper’s and seeing that mug being handed the reins of the might Bulldogs.

Ricky Stuart does a reasonable job at Origin level. He is a good coach in one-off Test matches. He has the ability to get teams up. But as his poor record at club level has shown, he overcoaches teams so that they peak too early and he offers little in attack. Cronulla’s list was not nearly as bad as it played in his final years.

If Moore is moved on, I beg, I implore, I grovel, I demand: no Ricky Stuart. Not now. Not ever.

Origin II Selection Thoughts: Oh, it all looked so bright, like the wheel was turning, the possibility of the first decider since 2008 distinctly realistic.

Those hopes now seem dashed with five changes made to the Blues team and likely a sixth on its way.

First to the injuries. It has been a horrid spell for New South Wales in terms of injury. Brett Morris was done and dusted before the weekend just gone, doing his hamstring in round 12. Kade Snowden has been battling injury and even though he has been playing with the Sharks, he was never going to get the nod, at least not after his poor display.  Then Michael Jennings went down with a severe ankle injury as did Josh Dugan.

All four injuries are set to have a significant impact on the Blues’ chances in Origin II though Snowden can be easily enough replaced, though it would have been nice to see his courageous Sharks teammate Luke Douglas included in the team.

The loss of Josh Dugan is particularly troublesome but combined with the injuries to Brett Morris and Michael Gordon, it is cataclysmic.

There is no doubt Jarryd Hayne would have been called in to replace Dugan if the Raiders custodian was the only player to fall. It would have been a downgrade but it would not have been as awful as the current situation with Brett Morris also down.

Michael Gordon would have been the perfect fit, preferably at fullback, with Hayne on the wing but that is no longer an option and with the best available wingers being players of the quality of Nathan Merritt and David Williams, the Blues have to stick with Hayne on the wing.

That put the likes of Brett Stewart and Anthony Minichiello into the mix, though Kurt Gidley could have been used at fullback with another utility coming onto the bench. But Stuart went for his old Roosters pal Minichiello. How old is Mini? 111? Didn't he greet Captain Cook when he arrived? Heyo, there he is. While I can't see it helping New South Wales a great deal, seeing Mini returned is kind of nice, in a kickback, Journey, nostalgia kind of way,

Left centre is a major concern with the selection of Will Hopoate interesting and high risk call. Heading into 2011, Hopoate was not forecast to be a regular in the first grade Manly team and in his limited experience of 14 games, he has played only twice in the centres.  Hopoate is a gifted attacking player, a fine kick returner and a brilliant speedster but left centre is an extremely difficult position, particularly defensively.

There were precious few other options though. Josh Morris is the only other regular left centre in the mix and he has been the worse part of dreadful this year with his defence on Saturday night shameful. Jamal Idris could have been moved across, while Beau Scott and Joel Thompson could have been moved across.

Hopoate was probably the best of a bad bunch of choices. At least he has upside and at least he is an attacking threat, something New South Wales have rarely plopped for in recent times.

The two players dropped were Jason King and Dean Young. King was a no-brainer. He is a lumpy, no-impact front rower in unacceptable form who should never be thought of as a representative player again. Dean Young was a bit harshly done by but that is representative football and both Kurt Gidley and Luke Lewis are better options.

The move of Paul Gallen to prop will be seamless and it does give the Blues more flexibility in the front row. He plays tight anyway. It would have been preferable, however, if Luke Lewis was selected to start at lock.

It also would have helped if a third front rower was selected. Anthony Watmough is a high risk selection with his volatility, selfishness and frailty in defence not going to help the Blues. The Blues should have gone for a big body. Luke Douglas is tough and is consistently one of the top workrate props while Keith Galloway can make an impact. Watmough just isn’t what the Blues need.

Overall, Ricky Stuart did a fair job in tough circumstances. But it is hard to picture such an injury-ravaged Blues team knocking off the all-conquering Maroons.

The NRL Tries to Whack Gambling: The NRL’s approach to gambling is strange, to say the least. It is important that the NRL protects the integrity of the game. It is important that it doesn’t bury its head in the sand. It is important that it realises the money that can be injected into the game from bookmakers.

So it seems strange that the NRL has decided to focus on making ridiculous bans on such betting options as whether a field goal will be kicked and the first scoring play of the second half, options that receive little action and are unlikely to ever be the focus of spot betting.

The NRL needs to set up a betting integrity office and fill it with people who understand rugby league betting. They need to maintain positive relationships with bookmakers. They need to work with lawmakers to form significant legal deterrents to spot fixing.

The NRL is chasing at shadows while the man with the axe sits in the corner. These bans are frivolous, silly and not what are required.

Ouch: There was, arguably, one person more unhappy than David Furner and Alan Tongue when the Raiders butchered a 22-0 lead at home to the North Queensland Cowboys. One bookmaker reportedly took a $1 million wager on the Raiders at $1.01 when the Raiders led 22-0, the punter looking to buy an easy $10,000. He would have been filled with fear when both Josh Dugan and Terry Campese went down hurt in the space of minutes and then the Cowboys pulled the score back to 22-18 at the break.  Hope was renewed as the Raiders drew to a 24-22 lead late in the game but three quick tries gave the Cows a 40-24 win in what was a gut-wrenching loss for the Raiders and a bank-busting one for the bettor. The loathing he arguably fears right now is likely fairly high. Ouch.

Big Shot: I rarely have too many kind words for Jarryd Hayne but I had little choice but to stand up and applaud when he very nearly landed a mammoth 58 metre field goal in what would have been the biggest drop goal this author has ever seen. It had the length but only just drifted wide. If he keeps taking long shots like that, he may just weasel his way into my heart.

Oddity of the Weekend: It was a little strange to see the video referee called into action in the Roosters-Warriors match on Saturday night with the chance a try could be scored at either end. It was a rare moment. The Warriors appeared to have scored but in a good piece of refereeing, play was allowed to continue with BJ Leulia going the distance to score at the other end. The call then went upstairs and the Warriors were awarded a dubious try.

Injury Update: Nobody felt the wrath of the injury gods more than the New South Wales team on the weekend (with the possible exceptions of my fantasy team, the Geurie Greens) with Michael Jennings floored for a long while as Josh Dugan looks set to miss Origin II.

Terry Campese (Canberra): Lasted 10 minutes in his return from a knee injury but strained his groin and is now out for six weeks.

Josh Dugan (Canberra): The NSW No.1 was flying in the first 25 minutes before going down on his ankle in a tackle from Tariq Sims. He will miss 3-5 weeks with Nathan Massey set to take his place.

Michael Jennings (Penrith): The Origin centre went down with a nasty ankle injury early in the second half and first diagnosis says he will miss at least eight weeks.

Kris Keating (Canterbury): Played 41 minutes before succumbing to a hamstring complaint, a complaint that could see Ben Roberts return. Blerg.

Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Roosters): Suffered a high ankle sprain against the Warriors and will miss up to four weeks. Sam Perrett will return soon, which should see BJ Leulia shift to the centres.

Tim Mannah (Parramatta): Damaged his ribs in Friday night’s epic but was named for Origin II and will be fine.

Steve Rapira (New Zealand): Like Terry Campese, returned from an injury but will miss significant time after breaking his wrist.

Lote Tuqiri (Wests Tigers): Did an ankle and knee early against the Tigers and soon found out he wasn’t playing rugby union anymore. He could be gone a while with a season ending diagnosis not out of the question though he was named this week.

Horrible: You give the referees a rap one week and what do you get? Arguably the worst decision of the year. Ben Cummins decided he was too smart to throw it to the video ref and the price was the Bunnies were left without a rightful and critical try. That kind of refereeing just isn’t acceptable.

Thoughts on Golden Point: What is wrong with the draw? It cops a bum rap, undeserving of the criticism, the comparisons and the moves to eradicate it from rugby league. So on that front, Wayne Bennett is right. Do we really need Golden Point extra-time?

There are times when both teams are deserving of a point. The one point for a draw breaks up the competition. It saves the legs and bodies of our players.

We don’t need Golden Point. It is nothing but a cheap marketing exercise designed to appease those with short attention spans who only take entertainment from seeing a winner paraded and a loser shunned.

Bring back the draw. But for heaven’s sake, let’s end all this silly talk about a move to a Golden Try. There can’t be one way to win the game in regular time and one in extra-time. Let all talk of such stupidity end here.

A Big Week for Michael Crocker: Surely it is about time Michael Crocker is recalled for Origin. It is his usual go to get the call up even when he has spent the year sidelined with injury or suspension. It has been two long years since the part-time forward donned the Maroon jersey and if they are going to give a start to Jacob Lillyman, then surely Michael Crocker is in the mix. With Queensland so dominant, it seems only fair that they give The Luckiest Man in League, Michael Crocker, a farewell tour.

The 2011 Willie M Medal: What the hell happened to Bronson Harrison? Only last year, he was playing at an elite level, forever threatening on the right edge, working hard, making his tackles. This year, he is nothing but a swinging gate, a non-factor in attack and a liability in defence. He is not even playing at a first grade standard this year.

Parramatta v St George-Illawarra
3. J.Bosden (Dra)
2. C.Webb (Par)
1. D.Hunt (Dra)

Cronulla v Brisbane
3. W.Graham (Cro)
2. C.Best (Cro)
1. M.Wright (Cro)

Gold Coast v Penrith
3. G.Bird (GC)
2. S.Tagataese (GC)
1. D.Weston (Pen)

Canterbury v Manly
3. D.Halatau (Bul)
2. M.Ennis (Bul)
1. S.Kasiano (Bul)

Sydney Roosters v New Zealand
3. S.Mannering (NZ)
2. K.Inu (NZ)
1. T.Carney (Roo)

Canberra v North Queensland
3. B.Harrison (Can)
2. B.Ferguson (Can)
1. A.Sims (Can)

South Sydney v Melbourne
3. E.Pettybourne (Sou)
2. J.Roberts (Sou)
1. K.Proctor (Mel)

Wests Tigers v Newcastle
3. B.Ryan (Tig)
2. N.Costigan (New)
1. R.Lui (Tig)

14-M.Orford (Can)
11-B.Ferguson (Can)
10-W.Graham (Cro), M.Jennings (Pen), J.Mullen (New), M.Wright (Cro)
9-P.Campbell (GC), J.Hayne (Par), A.Kaufusi (New)
8-G.Bird (GC), K.Inu (NZ), F.Mateo (NZ)

Round 13 Voting Panel:Nick Tedeschi, Matt Clements (Zero Tackle), Rohan Kendall, Nathan Boss

Fun Fact #1: Canterbury have only twice changed coaches midseason and have not done so in the last 60 years. In 1944, legendary centre Ron Bailey resigned as captain-coach (his second stint as coach after a spell in 1941) after losing the first five games of the season but continued to play until his retirement in 1946, replaced by Cec “Dicky” Fifield for the remainder of the season, who finished with a 3-5-1 record and not being reappointed in 1945. In 1951, Vic Bulgin retired after five games as captain-coach, replaced by 1950 head coach Alby Why, who went on to coach the club in 1952.

Fun Fact #2: 31 men have coached Canterbury with seven having guided the club to a premiership: Jimmy Craig, Jerry Brien, Ted Glossop, Warren Ryan, Phil Gould, Chris Anderson and Steve Folkes.

Fun Fact #3: Malcolm Clift is the only Canterbury coach to coach 100 games and not win a premiership. He is also one of only two coaches to have coached more games than Kevin Moore and not led the Bulldogs to a Grand Final.

Round 13 Selection Notes:

St George-Illawarra:The Dragons team is almost unrecognisable with six players on Origin duty and a few key injuries. Jason Nightingale moves to fullback, Matt Prior to the centres and Nathan Fien to five-eighth and Alex McKinnon and Reece Simmonds coming into the three-quarter line. Michael Greenfield and Jack Bosden will start in the second row.

Gold Coast:Bodene Thompson has been dropped to the bench with Joe Tomane being recalled, allowing the worst centre combination in the NRL in Toopi and Tomane to let force its reign of terror. Anthony Laffranchi returns, taking Greg Bird’s place in the backrow.

Manly:William Hopoate and Anthony Watmough are on Origin duty so Michael Oldfield comes onto the wing while Joe Galuvao and Tony Williams will start in the second row.

North Queensland:Michael Morgan comes in for Johnathan Thurston while Ashton Sims starts in place of Matt Scott. Ben Jones is recalled for a bench spot.

Brisbane:Sam Thaiday, Ben Hannant, Darren Lockyer, Corey Parker and Jharal Yow Yeh are all on Origin duty. The big surprise is the selection of boom centre Jack Reed at lock. Shea Moylan will debut on the wing while Dane Carlaw will start in the backrow.

Canberra:Injuries to Joel Thompson, Josh Dugan and Terry Campese have pushed Blake Ferguson into the centres while Nathan Massey and James Stuart will play fullback and right wing respectively. Glen Butriss has been recalled to the bench.

New Zealand: Shaun Johnson has again been named at halfback after a fair first grade debut last week.

Wests Tigers:Making a mockery of naming teams, Tim Sheens has named the 18 he named last week, including injured winger Lote Tuqiri, who is about a 5% chance to play.

Melbourne:Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk are all out for Origin, replaced by Justin O’Neill, Rory Kostjasyn and Ryan Hinchcliffe.

Sydney Roosters:The Roosters have lost Mitchell Pearce, Nate Myles and, surprisingly, Anthony Minichiello to Origin. Sam Perrett returns after 10 weeks on the sidelines with Rhys Prichard named at fullback. They will likely swap. Braith Anasta moves to five-eight and Todd Carney to halfback to cover for Pearce. Boyd Cordner replaces Myles.

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

LW: Last Week, R: Range

Rumour Mill: As mentioned, Ricky Stuart is reportedly the raging hot favourite to take over from a soon-to-be-deposed Kevin Moore. Stuart has a history at Canterbury and is close to a number of those on the board. Part of the issue with Moore is his defence of skipper Andrew Ryan, with Ryan supposedly on the nose with the board, a very disrespectful act considering what Ryan has contributed to the Dogs. Bunnies boss Shane Richardson is expected to follow friend and current coach John Lang out the door at season’s end, Russell Crowe reportedly unhappy with his performance. Souths, meanwhile, are reportedly in the hunt for Dragons hooker Nathan Fien, with an eye to moving the international to halfback.

Betting Market of the Week: Markets the NRL will be looking to ban next:

First Tryscorer:         $51.00
Total Points:              $34.00
Tackle Head-to-Heads: $11.00
From The Couch Betting Market of the Week: $1.12

What I Like About…Tariq Sims: I find it hard to imagine that the same parents managed to produce both the ball-busting Tariq and the utterly hopeless Ashton. As Tariq marked himself as a future rep star with a memorable effort against the Raiders, talk after the game even suggesting he may be an Origin bolter, Ashton again turned in one of his typically inept games that has him constantly mentioned when discussion turns to the worst player in the NRL. Like Billy Carter and Dean Waugh and Jim Hanks, Ashton is the strange, talentless one to Tariq’s Jimmy, Steve and Mark and Tom. He looks a nice player, Tariq, and to cap it off, he has the name of a Pakistani off spinner.

From Deep in the Bowels of Twitter:The Rugby League Week Mole is asking the pertinent questions: “why is Fuifui wearing a bra???”

Probably for the best that Trent Hodkinson wasn’t playing on the weekend: “Just got back from Brazilian restaurant…Probably about 10kgs of meat sitting in my stomach! Lucky I have cardio first thing tomorrow!”

Obscure Score of the Week: Werribee-Casey, 100-12. The Bears, who were formed in 2008, hammered the appropriately named Sharks in round three action of the Victorian Rugby League first division. It was Werribee’s first win of the season while Casey remain winless. 

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin:In eight years of first grade, Ben Pomeroy has finished a season with a winning record: the 2008 Sharks.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 13: Parramatta-St George Illawarra, 14-14. There were a couple of crackers on the weekend including the Cowboys’ amazing comeback against the Raiders, the Tigers and Knights went to extra-time and the hard fought Roosters-Warriors clash but the Friday night draw was an excellent match. The Eels surprised the Dragons early and built two leads of eight points but the Dragons ground it back to 14-14 and even 10 minutes of extra-time couldn’t separate the two teams as the defensive pressure refused to let up.

Coaching Stocks:
5: Wayne Bennett: The Dragons came back well against Parra after Bennett’s mum died.
4.5: Des Hasler: Bent the Dogs over as the Eagles continue to improve, especially at 6&7.
4: Craig Bellamy: The Storm ground out a win over the Bunnies despite losing contest.
4: Anthony Griffin: The Broncos bounced back well after three losses with strong win.
3.5: Ivan Cleary: A hugely disappointing loss to a team the Warriors should have rolled.
3.5: Neil Henry: A monster comeback win against his former club that will inspire team.
3: Tim Sheens: The Tigers are going awful and their win over Knights didn’t dispel idea.
2.5 Rick Stone: Heartbreaking and undeserved loss to the Tigers.
1.5: Stephen Kearney: Best result of the year as Eels dug deep against title faves.
1: Kevin Moore: Humiliating loss to Manly and is reportedly on the chopping block.
0: John Cartwright: 2011 just goes from bad to worse for the hapless Titans.
0: John Lang: The Bunnies did their best against the Storm but let stupidity cost them.
0: Brian Smith: Huge win against the Warriors though attack is worrying.
-0.5: Matt Elliott: The Panthers are fighting their way back into the comp.
-1: Shane Flanagan: Horrible effort against Brisbane, as their season looks done.
-5: David Furner: Raiders blew a 22 point lead at home to make 2011 even worse.

Fantasy Team of the Week:
1. Jarryd Hayne (Par)
2. Blake Ferguson (Can)
3. Jamie Lyon (Man)
4. Jarrod Croker (Can)
5. Kalifa Faifai-Loa (NQ)
6. Travis Burns (Pen)
7. Daly Cherry-Evans (Man)
13. Corey Parker (Bri)
12. Tariq Sims (NQ)
11. Liam Fulton (Tig)
10. Fuifui Moimoi (Par)
9. Cameron Smith (Mel)
8. Nate Myles (Roo)

14. Jake Friend (Roo)
15. Johnathan Thurston (NQ)
16. Alex Glenn (Bri)
17. Nathan Hindmarsh (Par)

Waiver Wire Advice: I hate to say this but the seemingly serious injury to Michael Jennings makes Matt Elliott’s favourite Adrian Purtell a pickup. Purtell is only $180,000 and has averaged 53 since returning to the team in round 12. He is likely going to play centre and should continue to increase in value.

Correspondence Corner: PRobertson73, I disagree with you. Luxbet is providing a service plenty of punters want and these are great markets to be into for stats nerds like ours truly. The argument shouldn’t be about prohibition. It should be about the NRL providing free data and statistics on a game they want people to engage with. Fantasy is one of the top ways sports get new fans introduced or old fans more engaged so they should provide a decent stats service free of charge. This isn't the Arena Football League. The difference between the NRL and AFL is nothing to do with the quality of the two codes (we all know league is a more enjoyable sport to watch) but it is the fact that the AFL controls everything and ensures fans are properly catered for at all levels, something the NRL could learn plenty from.

Michael, see above for my thoughts on Kevin Moore. There is no doubt he deserves to be under pressure after the underperformance of the last 18 months. But I would take him over Ricky Stuart every day of the week and twice on Sunday’s.

TheTruthTeller, I fear you are right and I am full of loathing, despair and pure fear. Ricky Stuart would be the worst thing that ever happened to Canterbury. I don’t think Dan Hunt is too far off Origin. Having said that though, if Luke Douglas is constantly overlooked, I have no idea if Hunt will ever get a look in.

Reminder: Be sure to vote in Making The Nut’s new weekly poll. This week: who is rugby league’s biggest traitor? Register at Making The Nut to vote.

Beard Watch: I am usually very pro beard but one look through squinted eyes at Greg Inglis with a few days facial hair and his added girth of 20kg and you would swear Artie Beetson is back up and about.

Watch It: “The Fibros v The Silvertails” is perhaps rugby league’s best documentary and this portion where Greg Hartley’s Manly favouritism is discussed (and vigorously denied by Hartley, Manly and the League) is perhaps the most interesting. It also reaffirms why I was vehemently pro-Super League as Ken Arthurson plays the innocent old man when he did his best to drive league into the ground during his administration. Watch it here.

Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac

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  1. probertson73 says:


    Point taken – I guess I'm just as stunned as you are that betting is opened on something with no transparency. But sooner rather than later prohibition won't be necessary because punters will just stay away from the bet type if there is no transparency.

    I'm going to follow this up with some people I know in the industry so stay tuned something might come of it.