From The Couch: Round 17

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on July 8, 2013

Blues Selection Notes: Laurie Daley pulled a selection surprise by naming a squad of 20 with James McManus, Boyd Cordner and Aaron Woods named as cover for Jarryd Hayne, Greg Bird and skipper Paul Gallen with winger Nathan Merritt the only outright axing. James Tamou was named to return at the expense of Woods.

It was a dangerous and unsettling selection ploy. Hayne didn’t pass a medical and was replaced by McManus. It was an interesting selection. McManus has been playing well but you would have got 1000s at the beginning of the year on McManus being the one Knights winger to play Origin. He leads the tryscoring list but he has played just one game at this level – way back in 2009 – and is not a renowned speedster. Had Michael Gordon have been fit, I would like to think he would have been in. There is no qualms with Merritt’s axing – he had to go after his stinker.

Bird is rated only a 50-50 chance while Gallen is more likely to play than not. Cordner and Woods are both great replacements but a call needs to be made soon. The Blues need a perfect preparation, not the constant concern over injuries. Bird, in particular, does not look like he will come up so it’s imperative Cordner gets time to mentally prepare.

Once again, Mitchell Pearce has been given another opportunity. It is another undeserved opportunity. Can I have 12 Origin matches to reiterate that I am not an Origin No.7? Not surprisingly, Laurie Daley and company have said there is no pressure on Pearce. There probably isn’t – he has more luck than Wilt Chamberlain.

Overall, this Blues side is likable, with the exception of the key halfback slot. But there are some concerns at wing and with injuries the Blues are deserved outsiders.

The Day the Hardness Died: How did rugby league lose its way? How did we get to a situation where a player can get suspended for a shot that hit a player right in the ribs, the perfect hit? The NRL should be ashamed. Dugan could not have done any better in the situation, a shot that has been lauded for as long as rugby league existed. The quicker the NRL backs down from its absurd position on the shoulder charge, the better off we all will be.

Talking Tough: Robbie Farah has absolutely ripped the Tigers’ recruitment strategy after his side was handed their backside by a host of ex-Tigers on Friday, calling it a shambles. He is right and it is directly related to the Tigers’ position on the table. The Sharks got Andrew Fifita on the cheap and have watched him emerge into an Origin player. The Tigers paid huge overs for Adam Blair, a player that has rarely ever put in. Farah, who has bled for the club, deserves to be filthy and needs to demand that the club stop paying big money to hacks.

Roby Knocks Back Eels: England international and St Helens champion James Roby has knocked back an offer to join the Eels. Roby is the best hooker in Super League and naturally knocked back Parramatta, the latest in a long line of big-name players to reject the Eels.

Welcome Back, Saturday Afternoon Footy: The NRL released its draw for the final six rounds of the season and the wonderful surprise was the return of Saturday afternoon football, the first time big time league has regularly scheduled Saturday afternoon matches since the Super League war. League has given other codes a free kick on Saturday afternoons for far too long while not giving league-heads something to support. This is a wonderful initiative by the game.

Go West: The huge Perth crowd on Sunday evening reconfirmed the notion that the NRL needs to set up a team in the West and soon. There is enough money behind the project and enough popular support. The NRL needs to be proactive and invest in the west, where league can be a rampaging success while further marginalising that other code of rugby.

Finch’s Return: There is something extremely comforting about having Brett Finch back in the NRL, playing full minutes. This column certainly hopes he goes around again in 2014.

Fun Fact #1: Broncos winger Brett Plowman played in Steve Menzies’ first game. Plowman’s son Lachlan Maranta currently plays in the NRL while Menzies plays in his last season with Catalans.

Fun Fact #2: The man who Menzies will forever be linked with, Cliff Lyons, will turn 52 this year.

Fun Fact #3: St George Illawarra have been shut out in two straight games at Kogarah after not being shut out since the Dragons moved to the ground in 1950.

Fun Fact #4: Titans debutant Hymel Hunt is the first Hymel to play in the NRL.

Rumour Mill: Speculation is rife that Benji Marshall is poised to make a code switch to union. Marshall is a smart man and wouldn’t be so stupid. Union has nothing to offer him. He may find another NRL club but he wouldn’t turn his back on the code that has made him such a popular figure. Word has it that Ben Barba is off to the Broncos. It is said to have little to do with family and plenty to do with cash. The decision to punt assistant coach Steve Folkes is being viewed as a panic move. Price is long odds to be in charge of the Dragons in 2014. Kevin Kingston will be a Raider in 2014.

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: The fact Parramatta started 18.5-point outsiders against a team who had managed just one win in their last six games.

What I love About … Nigel Plum: ‘Slugger’ personifies all that is great about rugby league. He is as tough as a bad steak and hits harder than a good tequila and does it without an ounce of frill or fanciness. He just goes out, makes his hits, takes his runs and does it with little acknowledgement, other than from his peers, who consistently vote him the game’s hardest hitter. He has, incredibly, topped 200 metres in three of his last five outings, a feat no other forward in the NRL can boast. We all had a chuckle when the push on Twitter came for Plum to be considered for New South Wales. Six weeks on and the reality should be that Plum is knocking firmly on the door if an injury takes hold.

#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. This week, we were treated to the fine comparison of Rosalie Aprile and Joyce Churchill.

Betting Market of the Week: Following Josh Dugan’s disgraceful suspension, the next crackdown referees will be on will be:

$2.50: Suspending players who don’t pull their socks up – watch out Aidan Guerra.
$2.80: Firing line markers who don’t use the appropriate variation of white.
$3.00: Ensuring all players with hyphens are suspended at least once a year.
$2.10: Penalising tackles between the shoulders and knees.

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

Combo XIII of the Week: Manly and Parramatta joined the premiership together in 1947 and have shared sine quality players. Here are the best of those players.

1.Ron Willey
2 Scott Donald
3. Tony Melrose
4. David Liddiard
5. Andrew Frew
6. Mike Eden
7. Tony Melrose
13. Tony Williams
12. Peter Peters
11. Joe Galuvao
10. Geoff Gerard
9. Shayne Dunley
8. Ray Higgs

Correspondence Corner: Anonymous, yes, I have since been told Phil Gould and company were in Auckland.

Avoozi, no mercy and no forgiveness for rugby types.

Dragon Eyes, I would have dumped Mitchell Pearce for Adam Reynolds. Merritt had to go. In the absence of Hayne, I would have gone with Michael Gordon. If he was unavailable, James McManus is in great form.

Anonymous, there is no question Tony Abbott is no genuine league man. But at least he pays it proper lip service, unlike Gillard ever did.

Mick K, excellent Ricky hunting!

The Coaching Crosshairs: It would be a significant surprise if Anthony Griffin was coaching the Broncos in 2014. The Broncos are headed for their worst finish in their 25-year history with the club needing to win every game to make the finals. After a 32-0 thrashing against the Storm, that seems highly unlikely. Gorden Tallis has called for Kevin Walters to be hired but it would not surprise if Darren Lockyer was brought in along with an experienced assistant. The Broncos are poised to make a change soon.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy was – and not before time – dropped by Shane Flanagan for the club’s clash with the Tigers. The Sharks ran in 36 points and looked to have as crisp an attack as they have in a decade. Twitter almost melted when word came through of his dumping.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 17: South Sydney-New Zealand, 30-13. While the final margin was 17 points, the game was far closer than that with the Warriors leading into the last 15 minutes. Souths had won four straight and the Warriors five straight and 20,000 filled NIB Stadium in Perth and they were treated to a cracking match. In the end, the difference was Souths’ attacking efficiency. Adam Reynolds showed why he should be wearing the Blue No.7 next Wednesday while George Burgess showed why he is ready to become one of the most dangerous props in the game. The Bunnies are a very good side, don’t mind that.

Beard Watch: The NRL needs more referees like Super League’s Tim Roby, who not only dons some fine whiskers but has a touch of evil genius about him. Check him out here.

Watch It: I love nothing more than delving deep into the archives for old footage and this week we go back 45 years to 1968 for a clash between Western Suburbs and Eastern Suburbs at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Easts won 21-8 but you wouldn’t know it from the highlights, which showed two wonderful long-range tries to John Armstrong and John Elford. Watch it here.


Comments (5)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Rugby Sevens is a Commonwealth and Olympic sport. If you've won a league World Cup, won a league tri-series/Four Nations/whatever, won an NRL premiership, won a Golden Boot, can't play Origin even though you you'd love to and went to high school on the Gold Coast and are copping a disproportionate share of the blame for your club's poor performance (see the "Talking Tough" note above for the main problem at the Tigers) why would you stay?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Does there seem to be more punches thrown since the crackdown? Is there a stat for this?
    To me it looks like the edict may have produced the opposite result.
    Tony Monero

  3. Nick Tedeschi says:

    Mitchell Allgood tonight showed exactly what is happening at the Eels in 2013. Massive frustration and no commitment, an environment that seems difficult to tolerate. Allgood should have been marched instantly, no question. The word I heard recently was the Hindmarsh could have played an extra year or two, however the attitude of the younger Gen Y kids was atrocious and he lost interest. These kids just expected to turn up and be treated like superstars rather than put in the big ones. I doubt very much that Parramatta has this problem, but there seems to be only older players and kids there which has to be an issue. How does hardnut Ricky Stuart relate to a 20-year-old?


    One thing I do want to point out though is this – after Allgood swung his arm into the body of the player, he got up and jogged back to his position. So what then was Steve Matai doing over there? Matai ran over from near the touchline (defending at centre) into the middle of the field to the opposition line, some 15 metres at least away, obviously being the tough guy and looking for trouble. Allgood in his stupidity snotted him for whatever reason (there won’t be too many people upset at seeing Matai getting smacked in the head, let’s be honest), but this should not have even occurred had Matai not ran over to instigate it. I doubt very much Matai’s action will get mentioned, so I wanted to.


    Davey G

  4. WittyReference says:

    I read with delight your news of Anthony Griffin's apparent demise. The Broncs are painfull to watch with so much tallent doing so poorly as a team. Prince was a pointless buy and Wallace has had so many head knocks that his timing is completly gone. Norman is lazy and sporadic, Glenn is having his most mediocre year, McGuire has been quite and we need another prop as the coach obviously has no faith in the bench. I can see why you've been giving Hodges 3 Willie M points but at least he's trying. Trying too much is the problem but with the uselsess halves inside him and the very average winger outside him, It's hard to blame him. Corey Parker has been one of the best in the NRL for 3 years and it's great to see him get his due. Gillett has impressed with a step up in his physical game this year. Hoffman is fantastic and should be at fullback but I guess he wont if we get Barber.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Mr Nut,
    The issue with SOO on the NRL and the solution, according to me, some bum who knows nothing, but loves the greatest game on earth: All games played over 3 weeks on a Sunday Night, get rid of Aus v NZ mid year test as well as City/Country. On the Friday before the first game play an emerging NSW v QLD at some country town. On the Saturday have a Nth v Sth NZ game somewhere in NZ. The following week play a Tonga v Samoa game on the Friday and a NRL homebreds V The rest somewhere in the Bush, on the Saturday NSW v QLD u 20’s. All NRL players not involved in any of these games get seconded to the NRL and become league missionaries, to spread the Gospel according to Greenberg, hitting all corners of the rugby league globe (Aus, NZ, PNG and pacific). Get rid of byes and play the comp over the 26 weeks, with 3 week hiatus in the middle.