From The Couch: Round 17

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on July 7, 2014


State of Origin III Preview: Origin III is upon us and with the series wrapped up a lot of the air has gone out of it. The Blues have likely been on the drink for a week. Mal isn’t showing up for press conferences. Sex tapes are floating about. JT is getting narky. The passionate Queenslanders still haven’t sold the match out. Never mind – Origin is Origin and it is always great.

It is hard to envisage NSW winning this despite their superiority throughout the series. Queensland have not been swept since 2000 and that series left such an indelible mark that the Maroons – at least a side this experienced – won’t let that happen. On home turf, celebrating their incredible achievement … no.

We should certainly see a few more tries. A rarity over the last three years, the ref change and the situation should see this one open right up. That certainly plays into the hands of Queensland, who have a more skilful and faster backline.

Two players who will have monster games will be Billy Slater and Cameron Smith.

Slater has been great all series and is hitting his best form. Smith will not take too kindly to Robbie Farah’s claims about being his equal.

The Blues are young. They will learn from this. But they will likely be thinking about their series win and not about the damage they can do with a sweep. They have done what most thought they couldn’t and there is no denying they have earned that right.

QLD 24 NSW 18

Dally M Predictions:  Dally M voting went behind closed doors this week. Here are my long-term predictions:

Player of the Year – Johnathan Thurston
Coach of the Year – Ivan Cleary
Rookie of the Year – Luke Brooks
Fullback – Jarryd Hayne
Wing – Josh Mansour
Centre – Josh Dugan
Five-Eighth – Johnathan Thurston
Halfback – Ben Hunt
Prop – James Graham
Hooker – Cameron Smith
Second Row – Matt Gillett
Lock – Sam Burgess

The 2008 NYC Team of the Year – How It Panned Out:

  1. Lachlan Coote – Played 83 games for Penrith and twice represented City before a shift to the Cowboys this year. Plenty of talent but injuries have stymied his career. Jury still out.
  2. Jharal Yow Yeh – Scored 33 tries in 60 NRL games and played for both Queensland and Australia before a shocking fracture ended his career at just 23. Sad story.
  3. Justin Carney – Played 37 games across five uninspiring seasons with the Raiders and Roosters before shifting to Super League. Generally considered a bust. Didn’t go on.
  4. Tony Williams – Heavily maligned through stints with Parramatta, Manly and Canterbury, but a fearsome runner when right who has represented NSW and Australia. Strong but inconsistent.
  5. Kevin Gordon – A Titans regular on the flank since 2009, he has become the club’s greatest tryscorer. Represented Country in 2014. Genuine speedster hurt by his team. Solid, average first grade winger.
  6. Ben Barba – Received Rugby League’s highest individual accolade in 2012 after one of the most sensational years ever. Played in a losing GF before career derailed completely in 2013. Brisbane move in 2014 has not panned out. Unfulfilled potential.
  7. Chris Sandow – Been a first grade regular – for the most part – since ’08 with 134 top grade games. Won Dally M Rookie of the Year but has struggled with consistency, particularly after a big money move to the Eels. He is a unique player but is on significant overs. Off-field issues have typically bested him.
  8. Russell Packer – Considered one of the top prop prospects in the game and played two Tests for Kiwis but fell out with the Warriors and his move to Australia saw him imprisoned before playing a match. Major flop.
  9. Masada Iosefa – Managed 57 NRL games at Penrith and the Wests Tigers but has only ever served as a backup. Now Manly’s fifth-string half. A long way from first grade. Shown very little.
  10. John Kite – Changed his name to Sione but the behemoth played just 12 top grade games across four seasons before a move to Widnes also failed. Currently playing for Burwood North Ryde United in the third-tier Ron Massey Cup. Epic fail.
  11. Joel Thompson – Enjoyed a strong six-year career with the Raiders, playing for Country in 2011, before a disappointing shift to the Dragons this year. Shifting of positions haven’t helped his career. Honest first grader.
  12. Daniel Harrison – Undersized workhorse who was graded at Canterbury and has managed just 26 first grade games with Manly and Parramatta, not debuting until 2011. Doesn’t look like he will make it.
  13. Shaun Fensom – A desperately unlucky tackling machine who contributes in attack, he has been a staple for the Raiders. Has regularly topped the NRL tackle count but has not received the rep honours he is due. Better than credited.
  14. Ben Hunt – Struggled as a bench utility until this season when anointed the Broncos halfback. Now leading the Dally M Medal, was called into Queensland squad and is commanding big money. Finally getting his chance.
  15. Matt Mundine – Never played a single game of first grade. Has been knocking around in the NSW Cup since, last playing for the Jets in 2013.
  16. Jordan Rapana – Played five games for the Titans before defecting to Rugby Union. Tried a comeback with the Raiders this year but has not got a sniff.
  17. Ben Matulino – Has come along slowly but turned into one of the better props in the game. Has played nearly 150 games and 19 Tests and is one of the best players to come through the class of 2008. As honest as they come.

Draw Debacle: Only the NRL. Professional sports at least try to give off the air of professionalism and sophistication from head office. Not the NRL, who last week made a monumental mess of releasing the draw for the final six weeks that included delaying the release a day, putting some teams on a four-day backup and not scheduling against major events from other codes. Sigh. How does the NRL manage to constantly defy the low expectations placed upon it?

Video Review: At the request of reader Ferret, here are my thoughts on the video referee as a concept and in its current format.

While the video referee can be disruptive, does get it wrong and is wildly inconsistent, it does typically eradicate horrific errors, which would be more prevalent without it.

The NRL is not using the best system available though and that is where the problem lies.

The main gripes with the video referee, in order, are inconsistency, nit-picking, time wasting, referees abrogating responsibility.

None will ever be solved completely but the game can do a far better job. The move to forcing referees to rule on the field is the right one but it hasn’t gone far enough. Referees must make a call and then – via challenge – if a team disagrees with a decision, the referee then checks the video and has 1 minute to make a call. It is what happens in the NFL and it works. It does not do a lot for inconsistency but it does ensure referees take ownership of decisions, it should eliminate nit picking and it will reduce the time wasted – because of the 1 minute limit and the restriction on challenges.

It is the best system. Better than the current one. Better than the proposed bunker system. Better than any idea out there.

To fix up consistency, it requires more than systemic change – it requires a significant improvement in the quality and education of officials combined with the simplification of the law book. This is a longer term goal but it should be the goal.

The NRL needs to do something and soon. To disallow a clear Sharks try on Saturday for obstruction but then allow a Penrith try the day after in identical circumstances is unacceptable.

Guts, Heart and Passion: Rugby League is the most unpredictable of all sports but even the most optimistic fan could not have seen Canterbury rolling Manly and then the Sharks shocking the Roosters when down 24-0 but that is what we got. Anyone who says Rugby League isn’t the greatest game of all is an idiot. Both teams dug deep and it showed once again that the most important characteristic in any Rugby League side is desire. The Bulldogs and the Sharks did us all proud.

Farewell Ben Roberts: A year after we had to say goodbye to the incomparable Ben Pomeroy shifted to Catalans (15 errors in 18 games – for those keeping track), we now must bid farewell to the great Ben Roberts, Rugby League’s most inconsistent player. Roberts has signed with Catalans. What a terrible loss such a hysterically funny player is to the Australian game.

Happy 300, Brent Kite: The Penrith prop has never been one of mine – I’m still scratching my head as to how he won a Clive Churchill Medal and racked up 10 Origins and five Tests – but you have to respect anyone who makes it to 300 games. Kite has done it all and becomes just the 20th player and fifth prop to reach the milestone. Well done, Brent Kite.

Fun Fact #1: The Wests Tigers have now lost two fullbacks to fractured kneecaps.

Fun Fact #2: Cronulla coach James Shepherd scored three tries and kicked five goals in the last of his six first grade games, a 30-28 win over the Gold Coast in the final round of the 1994 season.

Fun Fact #3: Former Roosters, Tiger and Dragon winger Peni Tagive is currently enrolled in Baylor University where he is playing as a backup running back. He is not listed on the depth chart.

Rumour Mill: The Queensland player who allegedly stars in a sex tape has run into trouble before while in Origin camp. There is big news around the Sharks with Nathan Gardner set to leave for the Raiders and Knights forward Willie Mason to join them in 2015. Darius Boyd is the frontrunner for the Bulldogs fullback jersey in 2015. Robert Lui is expected to shift to Cronulla next year with the Raiders set to again miss out. Paul McGregor is shortening to become the Dragons full-time coach next year. One player supposedly caught in the NRL’s gambling net is a former Origin player who is no stranger to off-field trouble. Bodene Thompson is expected to shift to Canberra. Anthony Laffranchi will be back next year and the Roosters are the favourites for his signature.

What I Love About … Michael Gordon: The NRL is filled with underrated players but perhaps the most underrated of them all is Sharks sharpshooter and all-round champion fullback Michael Gordon. Gordon was the hero on Saturday night against the Roosters with a perfect goalkicking display to go with another fine performance. Gordon should have been called into the NSW Origin camp for Origin III yet was never even mentioned. At least he had his moment in the sun.

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: The vote rigging controversy that is swallowing the club up is about to involve police with three former staffers set to face an inquiry. The last thing Parramatta need now is another boardroom controversy to derail their most promising campaign in years.

Betting Market of the Week: Todd Carney’s chances of becoming an NFL linebacker, as was touted this week:

$1,000,001: Yes – an NFL team will pick up a small Australian with no American football experience and a record as both a convicted criminal and a urine drinker to play in the elite NFL

$1.00 – No – Todd Carney will be totally ignored as the nobody he is outside of Rugby League.

Power Rankings:
1. Manly 9-6 (1)
2. Canterbury 10-5 (4)
3. Penrith 10-5 (5)
4. South Sydney 9-7 (3)
5. Sydney Roosters 9-7 (2)
6. New Zealand 8-7 (6)
7. Melbourne 8-7 (7)
8. Brisbane 8-7 (10)

9. Wests Tigers 8-7 (8)
10. North Queensland 7-9 (9)
11. Parramatta 8-7 (11)
12. St George Illawarra 8-8 (12)
13. Gold Coast 7-8 (14)
14. Newcastle 4-11 (13)
15. Cronulla 4-11 (16)
16. Canberra 4-11 (15)

The Coaching Crosshairs: While Cronulla were chuffed with the incredible comeback win against the Sydney Roosters, the club will hire a senior figure with NRL experience to coach out the remainder of the season. Steve Price is expected to be named early this week with an eye to becoming senior assistant in 2015 and beyond. Matt Elliott is also in the mix. A school of thought is that if this goes beyond Wednesday, Laurie Daley will take the job but that would seem highly unlikely. The Sharks need a hard hand so the man they should be chasing is Brian Smith, though he may not look kindly upon such a difficult task.

Ricky Stuart Fact of the Week: Canberra are now equal last. If the Raiders do win the wooden spoon, Ricky Stuart will become the first coach in 106 years of Rugby League to win the wooden spoon in consecutive years with two different clubs.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 17: Sydney Roosters-Cronulla, 30-28. One of the great upsets. After an horrific week for the game’s most beleaguered club, 24-point outsiders Cronulla overcame a 24-0 lead to stun the defending premiers in what must surely rank as the biggest upset of the NRL era. Unknown coach James Shepherd pulled off one of the great Rugby League miracles, uniting a team severely divided and without its biggest stars. Finishes don’t come more exciting – or unexpected – than this.

Correspondence Corner: Les Hegedus, I could not agree more with you that clubs and the game need to lose the preposterous notion that players are automatically role models equal to their skills as a footballer. In the case of Carney though, the Sharks had little choice from a purely business point of view. How many chances do you give someone who doesn’t want to take them? He was a disruption to the club and this was merely a good excuse to punt someone who was hurting the team.

Davey G, it will  be interesting to see if Mick Robinson does cop any grief. I’d doubt it though.

King Cowboy, Maven, I disagree – I have been generally disappointed with Norman this year. He is playing his role but he has lost a lot of his zip. He is still plenty better than Luke Kelly though.

Paul, I love  Phil Rothfield’s revisionist history. I’m fairly sure he once declared the signing of Todd Carney Cronulla’s greatest only a few years earlier.

Witty Reference, I hate the rule of a player losing the ball when being tackled but because it hit an opponent the other team gets a fresh set. Stupid.

Beard Watch: Do Queensland have an anti-facial hair policy? While veterans like Sam Thaiday and Nate Myles have kept their facial follicles, Ben Hunt shaved his mo off before Origin II and now Will Chambers has lost his garden gnome. Very disappointing Maroons if this is the case.

Watch It: I have been waiting for this field goal for a long time. It is now up. It has 751 views and I think I have contributed 100. It is Terry Lamb, against Newcastle, in 1992, down by two, with a minute on the clock, Rugby League’s most infamous field goal. Watch it here.


Comments (2)

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  1. Davey G says:

    Just throwing it out there, but here is a proposal to ensure there is never a dead rubber in State of Origin – aggregate.

    You see it used in Europe for the soccer, with home and away scores totaled to see who goes through to the next round, so could you imagine the attacking footy we would see from our 34 best athletes (who qualify for NSW or QLD) rather than the niggle fest it has become? Granted, last night saw tries scored due to a decent “10” kept by the refs, but can you imagine if the aggregate was level with ten minutes to go in the final game, how exciting would that be?

    State of Origin is the biggest money earner for the game and for TV, and we saw last night that it was even a struggle to fill Suncorp due to the result already decided. You would still alternate the home games each year like the current system, but teams would need to select their fittest and best players (it was painful watching Josh Morris limp around Suncorp, as good as he is).

    Just so you know – if the last 5 years were decided on aggregate :

    2014 – NSW 26 / QLD 44
    2013 – NSW 30 / QLD 44
    2012 – NSW 46 / QLD 51
    2011 – NSW 46 / QLD 68
    2010 – NSW 48 / QLD 85

    You have to go back to 2007 for NSW to get up using this system (even though they lost 2 out of 3 games) – NSW 42 / QLD 39.

    Will it ever happen? Doubtful. Would it ensure every minute of every Origin counted towards the trophy? Absolutely.

    On another note – Josh Reynolds’ defence was Sandow-like, which is really disappointing because I am a big fan. His shoulder charge though was a cracker, and evidence that people don’t die which the NRL should take notice of and reconsider their decision to ban it.

  2. Stephen says:

    Why would Smith be upset at Farah’s comment? It’s the best laugh he’s had all year.

    A change to the video ref system is just swapping one set of problems for another until the decisions are generally right as a rule. Only after achieving that is it worthwhile to consider which system is best. However, I doubt that your restricted challenge system will fare any better. It suffers from the problem that demonstrably wrong decisions *will* stand–despite the ability of the video ref to correct them–if a team chooses not to challenge (to preserve its challenges), or if the challenge quota has been exhausted. RL media and fans are only too willing to whinge about things like that.

    Qld Cup televised games used (use?) a good system where the field referee reviewed the decision himself using the ABC’s sideline screens. The information was with one referee: the initial view during the play, and the replays. I think test rugby does something similar, with the field ref watching replays on the stadium screen and talking to the video ref.