Melbourne Will Win the 2016 Premiership: The Melbourne Storm have been the defensive benchmark all season, they have posted 34-plus four times, they have kept opponents to six points or fewer in five of the last six games, they have the game’s best coach and they have three of the best dozen players in the NRL yet nobody wants to believe they will be there on Grand Final day. The Storm are very much the real deal. This is an outstanding side that has class across the paddock. They have their defensive mojo back. They can run in scores when they need to. They will be in the Grand Final and they should go in favourites.
The Strangest of All Tries: The try now infuriatingly called by a class of terrible sub-editors ‘The Hand of God’ was the strangest try you will ever hope to see. Williams passed it backwards, knocked it forward, collected it and passed to Will Hopoate. Technically, it probably had to be awarded but technically, it should not have gone upstairs because video refs cannot rule on forward passes. It was strange – but surely no more strange than seeing Tony Williams actually running hard and playing well.
Gerard Sutton is Not Up to Origin: His performance in doing his utmost to get North Queensland home against Cronulla was appalling and not that much different to his terrible refereeing in Origin I. Like Bill Harrigan, he is too smart for his own good. Unlike Harrigan, he has absolutely no bottle. There are better referees in the game. Only just but better.
Go Down Moses: Moses may have been able to part the Red Sea but his namesake Mitchell could not split the uprights on Friday. He went 2-from-7 in a game that tallied 44 points, little solace for punters who bet the over 44.5 closing line.
Welcome Back: Zac Santo has not played first grade in four years but was outstanding for the Raiders in their loss to the Broncos. Ricky Stuart could do worse than find him a spot in the NRL side regularly. Jack Wighton to the wing with Santo at fullback could work.
Rugby League Election Notes: The Turnbull Government has committed $100M to a new Rugby League stadium in Townsville.
2016 Field Goal Update – 19: Matt Moylan slotted the only field goal of the weekend, a belter that secured Penrith’s incredible comeback win against Manly.
Fun Fact #1: Greg Eden has made nine handling errors and missed eight tackles in just five NRL games.
Fun Fact #2: Jamie Soward missed 3.6 tackles a game before being dropped.
Fun Fact #3: Joey Leilua leads the NRL in offoads with 3.4 per game. Bryce Cartwright and Andrew Fifita sit second with 2.5 a game.
Rumour Mill: Despite the rumour mill attempting to pour cold water on betting allegations against Manly, there is a very real possibility charges will be laid. While it is essentially an underworld dispute, there does seem to be plenty of smoke. Penrith are set to wave goodbye to Josh Mansour after inking James Tamou. Mansour is being chased by the Roosters, Bulldogs and Rabbitohs. The Bulldogs and Rabbitohs are both also in the mix for Zak Hardaker though Canberra and Newcastle are both ahead. Cronulla have not given up hope of signing Matt Gillett. The re-signing of Curtis Sironen is a clear indication the Tigers are willing to move on from coach Jason Taylor. Brisbane will sign James Segeyaro this week.
Betting Market of the Week: Newcastle will this week announce the signing of:
$3.50: The entire Fiji under-16s team
$3.00: Six mediocre Holden Cup players
$2.50: Greg Eden
$1.20: Four babies
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The Barrett and Bozo Show: Nate Myles is a red-hot contender for the worst buy of the year, part of the genius plan hatched by Bob Fulton to keep Daly Cherry-Evans and stop Manly disintegrating. Cherry-Evans stayed and the Sea Eagles are still disintegrating. Much of it is to do with how badly the pack is getting bullied. The man brought in to lead the pack – a veteran of 30 Origins – is earning an estimated $1.5M over three years and has been appalling. He is averaging a paltry 87m and 28 tackles while the last time he made a tackle break it was against Dally Messenger. When fools who don’t know the game are left in charge, the result is the 2016 Manly scene.
What I Like About … The NRL Rookie: It is low rent, it is cheesy, it is full of players who have never played Rugby League before and none of the contestants look like they are even close to NRL prospect standard. But The NRL Rookie is fun to watch. It is a great concept. Brad Fittler is amusing as the sergeant-major. Seeing all the ridiculous bro talk up close is entertaining. Having Adrian Lam assist in kicking off the son of a former player he sued just five years ago was probably coincidence but could have been so much more. It is well worth a watch. For what it is worth, I am off anyone with a union background, anyone who has cried on camera, anyone who wouldn’t fulfil a challenge and anyone who with a straight face tries to legitimise ‘baggsing’.
The Coaching Crosshairs: Nathan Brown is fooling nobody but the jokers left in charge of the Newcastle Knights. He is blooding young players but he is also throwing them to the wolves to buy himself more time. All this youth movement is not going to help the Knights next year or in three years or in five. The Philadelphia 76ers tried something similar in the NBA and it was a disaster and that was with a draft. Newcastle are playing a dangerous game allowing Brown to continue on his current path.
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 14: Cronulla – North Queensland, 13-10. What a game! This was a game of fire, of class, of drama, of intent, of total physicality. Footy does not get any better.
Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week: The continued persistence with Sam Perrett is going to cost Canterbury dearly at some point. While he can be praised for being reliable at fullback, he is a total liability on the wing. He continues to rush in and continues to not shut the play down. He conceded a try against the Dragons and what should have been a second. Des Hasler has better options available to him and should take them.
Beard Watch: Josh Mansour might have the most manicured beard in the NRL. He might also be the best winger. And for some reason the Panthers are prepared to let him go. Any club with any room to move with their cap should throw the sink at signing Mansour in 2017.
Correspondence Corner: Differential Penalty, losing an interchange for each team change is a fascinating idea and worth exploring.
Jason, James Roberts hasn’t been in career best form but he is still a better option than Josh Morris. Players who can score a try in the backline is a fair starting point for mine.
Tony Monero, the wrong people are in power. Bob Fulton should be nowhere near the team and Laurie Daley doesn’t seem ruthless enough for the job.
Dominic Stevenson, Leilua has never been one of mine but at least he can create and provides some attacking prowess.
Watch It: With Cronulla flying this season – and in search of their first premiership – we look back at the last time the Sharks took home a piece of silverware, the 1979 Amco Cup final between the Sharks and Combined Brisbane. The Sharks team featured the likes of Steve Rogers, Greg Pierce and the Sorenson brothers while Combined Brisbane lined up Mal Meninga, Chris Close, Wally Lewis, Des Morris and Johnny Lang. Watch it here.