From The Couch: Round 16

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on July 1, 2013

Origin II Review: Origin II will forever be remembered for three things: the night the ALP really confirmed it cared nothing for rugby league, Nathan Merritt and the revival of Queensland’s pursuit of eight straight.

For a diehard political junkie, the only thing more exciting that a big-time football game is a leadership challenge. So it was disgusting to see a Prime Minister overthrown when all eyes were rightfully on Origin II. One of Julia Gillard’s lasting legacies will be the disdain with which she always held the greatest game of all in.

While the coverage was delayed somewhat, the game certainly wasn’t and once it was on, mission Target: Merritt was underway. I was pleased to see the great tryscoring winger get his just reward with a Blue jumper. That pleasure quickly turned to fury though as Merritt, overcome with a bout of severe stupidity, continually rushed in to tackle an already covered Greg Inglis, gifting Darius Boyd a double. In what will almost certainly be his only Origin appearance, an awful attempt at catching a bomb gave one to Inglis. The only New South Welshman the game surely made happy was Phil Duke.

His stupidity was only topped by Ashley Klein and Shayne Hayne, who decided to bin four players for what was, at best, a minor melee. Brent Tate was binned for being a punching bag. Greg Bird was binned for being Greg Bird. Justin Hodges was binned for being a fool. It was an embarrassment to the game, a far bigger eye sore than any punch Trent Merrin or Paul Gallen could deliver.

The smartest man on the field though was Billy Slater. He dropped an elbow on Mitchell Pearce but ensured it was only enough for Pearce to feel it, not enough to do any lasting damage.

Pearce was again poor, contributing nothing to the Blues attack. He most certainly holds the record for most ineffective Origin kicks. His poor showing was only topped by James Maloney, who did his best to get the Maroons home.

There was never any question the Maroons would be ready to save the series at home. They were. And the Blues had nothing. Three weeks of introspection should await.

Origin II Ratings: From 1-34, every player in Origin is rated, best to worst.
1. Cameron Smith (Qld)
2. Johnathan Thurston (Qld)
3. Corey Parker (Qld)
4. Sam Thaiday (Qld)
5. Matt Scott (Qld)
6. Nate Myles (Qld)
7. Paul Gallen (NSW)
8. Greg Inglis (Qld)
9. Darius Boyd (Qld)
10. Brent Tate (Qld)
11. Cooper Cronk (Qld)
12. Andrew Fifita (NSW)
13. Trent Merrin (NSW)
14. Josh Dugan (NSW)
15. Greg Bird (NSW)
16. Luke Lewis (NSW)
17. Robbie Farah (NSW)
18. Billy Slater (Qld)
19. Justin Hodges (Qld)
20. Daly Cherry-Evans (Qld)
21. Anthony Watmough (NSW)
22. Ben Te’o (Qld)
23. Matt Gillett (Qld)
24. Aaron Woods (NSW)
25. Ryan Hoffman (NSW)
26. Michael Jennings (NSW)
27. Chris McQueen (Qld)
28. Josh Reynolds (NSW)
29. Josh Papalii (Qld)
30. Josh Morris (NSW)
31. Mitchell Pearce (NSW)
32. Brett Morris (NSW)
33. James Maloney (NSW)
34. Nathan Merritt (NSW)

Play On: Callers rightfully pointed out in at least four games over the weekend that there is no rule preventing players from taking a quick tap or a quick kick for the line. Referees have taken it upon themselves to take this element out of the match. Rugby league is too structured. If a team who has had a penalty awarded to it because of an infringement, they are within their right to take a tap as quickly as possible if they are on the mark. It simply doesn’t matter if the second referee is in position. Daniel Anderson needs to fix this immediately.

Buzz and I Have Found Common Ground (Well, Almost): I opened the paper last week to see another ridiculous rant from Phil Rothfield, this week calling for what seemed like the blanket firing of all officials after Origin II. It was an obscene, self-aggrandizing act from a fool who knows little of the modern world. I did appreciate his attack on rugby union on Monday though, pointedly attacking the boring stupidity of the code. Where we do differ though is that he appeared to watch it, to delve into its stats. If he was a real fan of league, he would have watched the Panthers-Saints and not realised there was bloody rugby on.

The Sharpest Mind in Football:Don’t mind Cameron Smith. Johnathan Thurston. Cooper Cronk. Even Andrew Johns. Apparently the smartest football brain in town is Israel Folau – the same player who has barely been able to string a sentence together and who has shamelessly turned his back on two codes. Waratahs coach Michael Cheika (whoever he is) said of Folau: "A lot of people talk about him athletically, but he has got a very sharp football mind. He is thinking plays ahead, looking at the football field like a chess board, thinking about trying to position teammates.” Amazing. Those rugby boys will say anything to keep a leaguie.

Love the Mud: It may have rained for what seemed an eternity along the Eastern seaboard but one of the benefits is to see some old school footy played in mud and water and driving rain. We lucked out with games at Leichhardt, Penrith and Newcastle. There is something magic – very old school – about watching matches in such conditions. The nostalgia comes flooding back like a Dale Shearer kick in an old fashioned kicking duel …

Were They in NZ or Oz? Were Nine callers Phil Gould, Wally Lewis and new boy Matt Thompson (seemingly fourth in line behind Ray Warren, Ray Hadley and Tim Gilbert, none of whom seemed too interested in doing the Broncos-Warriors) actually in Auckland for the Warriors-Broncos clash or were they calling it from the studio in Sydney? Their constant discussions of the weather has me more than a little dubious that they were at the ground.

Try of the Week: Without question, one of the highlights of a really wet Sydney weekend is the long slide, where players use the water-logged field to bring that tryline ever closer. The greatest that I can remember is Craig Polla-Mounter in 1998, the last game at Belmore, who grubbered into a puddle and then dived six metres out to slide across. Blake Ayshford’s effort to get low and slide in while deep in traffic against the Storm on Saturday was similarly as sweet.

Tweet of the Week: No Tweet made me laugh as hard as this one from Random Footy Facts (@footyfacts37) who tweeted this on the return of Michael Dobson: “Despite looking like a potatoDobson is a good footballer. It raises the question though, out of Mullen, Roberts and Dobson, who misses out?”. He really does look like a potato.

Still Too Expensive: It appears Des Hasler has had enough of Tony Williams and last week tried to offload the giant bust for $1 on eBay. He received no bids. It is not hard to believe. I shouldn’t laugh. Within a year the Bulldogs will be paying $300,000 for him to play for the Eels.

A Great Moment in History: I can’t tell you when it last occurred – I’m not even sure David Middleton would have this number at the ready – but to see a penalty try and an eight-point try in the one game was one for the trainspotters.

Fun Fact #1: Two 35-year-old players turned out for Newcastle on Sunday with Danny Buderus and Craig Gower taking the field for the Knights. It is the first time since 1948 when Roy Kirkaldy and Henry Porter played for Canterbury that two players of such an age played on the same side.

Fun Fact #2: Ricky Stuart has now accumulated a tally of $95,000 in fines for bringing the game into disrepute or questioning the integrity of referees in a coaching career that is only a decade old.

Fun Fact #3: Ricky Stuart has a winning record against just two current coaches in the NRL: Matt Elliott and Neil Henry.

Rumour Mill: There has been widespread speculation that Benji Marshall will opt out of his deal with the Tigers if Mick Potter is kept on. Marshall has not appreciated Potter’s strict regime. There is talk he may return to New Zealand and play rugby union but it is hard to believe he would burn so much of his reputation shifting to rah-rah. Expect the Eels and Dragons to make a big play for Marshall but don’t expect him to shift. Michael Maguire is being courted by the Dragons but won’t go anywhere. Roy Asotasi is a good chance of making the Redfern to Wollongong shift though. Neville Costigan looks likely to move to the Storm. Don’t expect Blake Ferguson to play again this season, despite suggestions the Raiders are ready to let him play again.

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: Despite the Eels coming last, Ricky Stuart again showed his priority to be Origin by speaking to the team as a guest of coach Laurie Daley. At $800,000 a season, I’m sure the Eels don’t mind though. I’m sure if the Storm were running last, Craig Bellamy would be off with the Origin team.

What I Love About … Joel ‘Sugar’ Caine: Sugar is one of the best analysts in the game with his work on 2GB and Ten exceptional. He has a deep understanding of the sport and is fearless in taking an interesting or different position. He really won my affections though when on Saturday night, he called on all teams to take short kick-offs at any point in the game, declaring all teams would soon do it. As regular readers know, I have been pushing this barrow for years. Short kick-offs give teams a 50 per cent chance of a collect in attacking field position with the downside – if a penalty isn’t conceded – just 20-30 metres. It is ridiculous that teams don’t do it more often.

#FiskySoprano: Fans of rugby league and The Sopranos should do the right thing and follow @Fisky76 on Twitter. A long-time friend of The Nut, Fisky, a devotee of both the greatest game of all and the greatest television show of all, is doing two wonderful things under the hash-tag #FiskySoprano: he is giving a brief character synopsis of all of the characters from the show and he is comparing each to a rugby league player, past or present. Do yourself a favour and get on board. It is well worth it. My favourite comparison to date has been Ginny Sacramoni and Italian international Daniel Paolini. Gold!

The Willie M Challenge: I am putting the challenge out there for any reader to set a Willie M Medal page up on Wikipedia. Get a page set up with past winners and each team of the year – all found on – and the first to do so will receive a copy of the 2012 Rugby League Almanac and an Big League magazine from the early 1990s. Not bad!

Betting Market of the Week: Nathan Merritt will play in Origin III only if:
$4.00: He possesses incriminating photographs of Bob Fulton and past ‘big wingers’
$3.80: He gets to play against Anthony Don
$2.70: A vicious virus wipes out every other eligible winger, fullback and centre The Stand style.
$1.33: Coach Laurie Daley becomes blind, retrospectively to last Wednesday.

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

Combo XIII of the Week:  For 30-odd years, players have made their way between rugby league’s two green teams, the Raiders and the Bunnies. This is the best of those players.
1. Rod Maybon
2. Colin Best
3. Paul West
4. Mitch Brennan
5. Terry Fahey
6. Michael Blake
7. Phil Blake
13. Brandon Costin
12. Tyran Smith
11. Bill Walker
10. Scott Logan
9. Anthony Colella
8. David Grant

Correspondence Corner: Anonymous, Sam Williams won’t be going to the Dragons this year but it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up there in 2014.

Tony Monero, after the performance of the two halves, I don’t blame Robbie Farah for going himself. Pearce and Maloney were only going screw it up.

Davey G, Merritt was diabolical, no doubt. And it will be his only Origin match. Hayne will be his replacement in the decider, I would imagine.

The Coaching Crosshairs: Despite two straight wins, the drums are banging on the career of Cowboys coach Neil Henry. Speculation is rife that Brad Arthur is poised to be offered the job though Trent Barrett, Kevin Walters and Rick Stone remain in contention.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy is an anagram for ‘Boy Me Prone’ – as in ‘Boy Me Prone to Dropping Passes and Missing Tackles’.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 16: New Zealand-Brisbane, 18-16. Phil Gould (in what was, overall, a very strange call with new face Matt Thompson and Wally Lewis where they took the NZ coverage and it wasn’t really clear whether they were in Australia or New Zealand though they did pointedly note how cold Auckland was) called it one of his favourite games of the year and he wasn’t wrong. The Warriors-Broncos game was an absolute ripper on a glorious Auckland Sunday. Both teams were outstanding and the game was still in the balance after the siren as Corey Parker attempted a late penalty to square the scores. Handling was outstanding, discipline fantastic and the footy end-to-end. There was hardly a bad player on the field. Super match.

Beard Watch: There has never been a single ‘Beard’ play in the NRL but three ‘Beardmore’ players have made it to first grade: W Beardmore for Annandale in 1920, Keith Beardsmore for Manly in 1948-49 and Kevin Beardmore for Canberra. It is tough to disagree with the sentiment of more beards.

Watch It: With the Tour de France starting on the weekend, we go back to 1990 and the second last time the French team visited our shores and tackled Australia. The venue was Pioneer Oval, Parkes and the final was 34-2 with Brad Mackay scoring a hat-trick and five different goalkickers lining them up for Australia. One of the highlights was PNG referee Graham Ainui (now an ‘Executive Officer at the Rural Industrial Council), who looked like me trying to chase down Marika Korobiete, such was his fitness. Watch the highlights here.


Comments (7)

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  1. mick k says:

    On Ricky Stuart, I found Ricky's interview this weekend on SMH hilarious. Stuart, presumably to deflect attention from the Eel's terrible performance, says it is about the long term. A few nuggets of Ricky's wisdom:

    "What I'm trying to build is a team which will be competitive for the next 10 years. I don't want to have a successful team for a year or two and drop off the perch again" – I think Eels supporters would be quite greatful for a successful year or two. However, on reading this the Eels board will probably extend Stuart's contract for another 10 years.

    "I feel very confident we're moving in the right direction" – yes, as emphasised by having the worst defense and (equal) worst attack in the league. Still, Eels aren't going any worse than last year.

    ''There will be some joy in the future. I can't tell you exactly when…" – Perhaps when hell freezes over? It certainly won't be while Ricky is at the club.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I've never seen Abbott at a Sea Eagles game. In fact, I heard him interviewed where he said he didn't like watching Friday night footy at all. And isn't he an ex-Union player and coach? It's strange we never hear you complaining about this stuff. 

    • Anonymous says:

      It's because Nick is a Lib. He's worked as a staffer for Liberal Party pollies. So him getting stuck into Gillard as anti-League ad nauseam is just a cheap way for him to peddle his political prejudices. 

      Regardless of whether you love her or hate her, or are Liberal or Labor, the fact is that Gillard managed to get through a large and significant amount of legislation under very difficult conditions. Yes, she was a poor policy communicator and strategically flawed, but she did deliver lots of legislation for her side of politics. Something Rudd failed to do. Although the rabidly conservative tabloid media trashed Gillard's reputation to a great chunk of the population who prefer not to think too much about politics, history will be a kinder judge of her achievements.

  3. dragon_eyes91 says:

    Hi Nick

    What changes would you make to the origin team from game 2?

  4. Avoozl says:

    McManus had a slick "long slide" into the touchline in the Knights game too! You gotta love the weekends in the mud – I agree it invokes nostalgia. – watch from about 2:01

  5. Avoozl says:

    "Where we do differ though is that he appeared to watch it, to delve into its stats. If he was a real fan of league, he would have watched the Panthers-Saints and not realised there was bloody rugby on." – this will go down as one of the greatest quotes in history 😀

  6. Anonymous says:

    Gus was on the post game show on Sky NZ (40/20) on Sunday. Assuming he was on the show in person, this suggests he was in Auckland on Sunday.