From The Couch: Round 19

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on July 22, 2013


Origin III Recap: Another Origin series has come and gone and Queensland remain the champions. They have never been so close to losing their crownover the last eight years but again a lack of execution, a lack of composure and a rotten halfback cost the Blues. Any judge with a good eye leading into the series questioned Laurie Daley’s unwavering loyalty to Mitchell Pearce. It surprised not a single one that Pearce again let New South Wales down. Pearce was appalling in the decider and overall dreadful throughout the series. He was at least a converted try’s handicap every game. His decision making in the decider was abhorrent. His kicking poor. His passing well off the mark. There are some players who are rocks and diamonds. Pearce is the slime on the underside of the lowest rock. Had the Blues played Adam Reynolds, they would have won the series, I’m sure of it. Queensland were there for the taking but the Blues just lacked the polish.

There were some great things from the Blues. Anthony Watmough and Andrew Fifita were both beasts. Josh Morris killed Greg Inglis. Greg Bird is made for Origin. Ryan Hoffman had his best game for the Blues. Josh Dugan is only going to get better. New South Wales gave no inch and did so without two of their best players.

But Pearce – along with various acts of stupidity and ill-discipline – proved decisive. James Maloney’s dumb shoulder charge penalty. Josh Dugan’s drop. James McManus’ ridiculous attempted catch. Andrew Fifita’s tackling in the air penalty. Aaron Woods’ softness. Stupidity told.

That takes nothing away from Queensland’s monumental achievement. The Maroons again stepped up when they needed to. Their veterans may have been out-hustled but they weren’t out-thought. Matt Scott was absolutely incredible while Corey Parker has locked down the No.13 jumper for years to come. Cooper Cronk had his best game of the series. Cameron Smith was Cameron Smith.

The Maroons now have eight. They will make it nine next year with two home games in Brisbane. So we look towards stopping the 10.

History is a wonderful sight to behold.  But it can be cold and empty and tough to deal with if it goes against you, make no mistake about that.

Origin III Rankings: From best to worst, the 34 players in Origin III.

1.       Matt Scott (Qld)

2.       Corey Parker (Qld)

3.       Cooper Cronk (Qld)

4.       Anthony Watmough (NSW)

5.       Cameron Smith (Qld)

6.       Andrew Fifita (NSW)

7.       Johnathan Thurston (Qld)

8.       Justin Hodges (Qld)

9.       Josh Dugan (NSW)

10.   Brent Tate (Qld)

11.   Greg Bird (NSW)

12.   Ryan Hoffman (NSW)

13.   Billy Slater (Qld)

14.   Trent Merrin (NSW)

15.   Brett Morris (NSW)

16.   Josh Morris (NSW)

17.   Robbie Farah (NSW)

18.   Darius Boyd (Qld)

19.   Nate Myles (Qld)

20.   Daly Cherry-Evans (Qld)

21.   Josh Papalii (Qld)

22.   Chris McQueen (Qld)

23.   Sam Thaiday (Qld)

24.   James McManus (NSW)

25.   Michael Jennings (NSW)

26.   Luke Lewis (NSW)

27.   Boyd Cordner (NSW)

28.   James Maloney (NSW)

29.   James Tamou (NSW)

30.   Ben Te’o (Qld)

31.   Greg Inglis (Qld)

32.   Matt Gillett (Qld)

33.   Aaron Woods (NSW)

34.   Mitchell Pearce (NSW)

Quite the Streak: There has been plenty said about Wati Holmwood in the conclusion of his infamous Origin streak. I won’t harp on it, other than to make a few notes. Firstly, why weren’t Aaron Woods and James Tamou so aggressive with their running. Secondly, why are the idiots who run security at major sporting events paid if they can’t stop a 140kg naked man from sprinting 110 metres? Thirdly, Wally Lewis was very excited. Fourthly, his invasion was disruptive but its contribution to the loss of the Blues has been way overblown. Queensland were on the verge of a try. Finally, I hope the police gave that fat idiot the whooping he deserved in the bowels of ANZ.

Man of the Match Madness: It should really be no surprise that Australia has lost a number of major tournaments in recent years when it is remembered how stupid the four men who pick the Australian side are. And those four men somehow decided that Brent Tate – winger Brent Tate – was the best player on the park on Wednesday night. It was an incredible decision considering  Matt Scott’s rampaging performance, Corey Parker’s tireless game, Cooper Cronk’s incredible control and the brilliant displays on a losing team from Anthony Watmough and Andrew Fifita. I can only imagine that Bob McCarthy and his gang of misfits had loaded up at the 100s.

Benji the Betrayer: Benji Marshall has turned his back on the Wests Tigers and rugby league in a manner that is every bit as bad as Sonny Bill Williams’ walkout on the Bulldogs. The only difference in this scenario is that the Tigers are better off without Marshall and have no real desire to see him stay.

He can play it however he likes. He can cry – as they all do – till he is blue in the face that it isn’t about money when, in actual fact, it is all about money. He can act like the game betrayed him. The fact is, he had a contract with two years left on it. He can proclaim his loyalty to the Tigers but he has done nothing but kick his club and the game in the balls. He should never be welcome in rugby league again.

If I was running the NRL, I would provide the Tigers with an extra $600,000 in both cash and the salary cap and tell them to play Marshall in reserve grade for two years, until his contract expires. If he doesn’t like listening to Mick Potter, he should make himself well acquainted with Paul Fletcher and grounds like Henson Park and Ringrose Oval. But it seems I am one of the few left from the old school …

It was certainly disappointing at Leichhardt on Friday not to see Marshall booed and taunted. While he received a frosty reception, there was not the widespread hatred I would have hoped for. It was also ordinary to see the Tigers allow Marshall to post a message on their website and promise him a farewell and all that crap. A stronger club would have told him to leave immediately and not bother returning.

Rugby league fans – particularly those who call the Tigers their team – should never forget this. Benji Marshall is a greedy, treacherous man-boy with little regard for anything other than his own wallet and his own diminishing talents. The Tigers are better off without him. And rugby league will survive. But a message needs to be sent that those like Marshall who use the game like a prostitute should not be welcome in our game. Ever.

Whare Are They Looking: How in the world did Luke ‘Diamond’ Phillips award Dean Whare the first try of the Panthers-Knights match. Whare provided a brilliant finish but it was clear to anybody with two eyes and an IQ bigger than Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade that Whare’s hand touched the sideline before the ball was grounded. It wasn’t even close. Yet Phillips – a former first grader – pressed the green button. This wasn’t a failure of the system. This was a failure of personnel.

Reason No.597 Why Ricky Stuart is a Moron: In his column in The Sunday Telegraph, Ricky Stuart claimed that New South Wales must remain loyal to halfback Mitchell Pearce, that Pearce was not to blame for the Blues’ loss despite his shocker. If Ricky was coach, Pearce would be the No.7 again next year. Ricky Stuart does not understand that loyalty isn’t a one-way street. And it wasn’t like Ricky is unaccustomed to waving the axe. How loyal has Stuart been to Chris Sandow? Stuart is a moron, Pearce is not an Origin halfback and this is common sense. Full stop.

Grant Mayer, Take a Bow: It was sensational to see Tigers CEO Grant Mayer push for a knockout Challenge Cup-style competition to be played over Origin weekends on Sunday. Mayer must read this column, which has long advocated the plan. Hopefully the powers-that-be take note.

Use the Short Kick-Off: Over the weekend we saw one short kick-off. Parramatta used it when down 14-0 in a situation they were expected to use it. They naturally got the ball back on the attack. It is moronic that teams don’t use it far more often – if not on every kick-off. The upside is immense: six tackles and the ball in attacking territory with an attacking kick certain on the last. The downside is almost nil: the loss of possibly 20 metres. It is time teams started playing the percentages.

The Place to Be: When watching Craig Gower discuss his favourite wines in the lead-up to his return to Penrith, I could not help but think of former teammate Luke Rooney’s praise for Penrith relative to Prague some 10 years earlier. On Prague, Rooney said: “There was nothing to do. There were hardly any pubs. No TABs. I’d rather be in Penrith.” A real renaissance man.

Fun Fact #1:  Benji Marshall has just three try assists in 15 games this year. That is below reserve grader Sam Williams (seven games, five assists) and Eels discard Reni Maitua (16 games, four assists).

Fun Fact #2: Benji Marshall leads the Tigers in errors this season with 18 and sits in the top 20 in the NRL.

Fun Fact #3: With 3.38 missed tackles per game, Marshall ranks seventh among the worst defenders who have played 10 or more games.

Fun Fact #4: The Tigers have had three winning seasons in the 11 years Marshall has been at the club.

Rumour Mill: The NRL is reportedly very close to implementing a marquee player allowance. Expect the first person to take that up to be Israel Folau, who was sighted deep in discussions with Todd Greenberg at Origin III. Kurtley Beale could be another lured across. Karmichael Hunt is also expected to be heavily pursued by the Broncos. Cowboys coach Neil Henry has reportedly been told he will not be in charge in 2014. There are plenty of contenders with Brad Arthur the favourite. There is plenty more to the story of Ken Edwards’ exit from the Eels. The Sharks are reportedly chasing Joel Reddy, giving the club yet another Tiger and yet another slow outside back.

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: Parramatta lost their eighth game in succession on Saturday evening, their longest losing streak in 18 years. And the game’s greatest thinker – and supposedly one of the great coaches – in Ricky Stuart has been at the helm. Not a bad effort for a coach who is on $800,000 a year plus at least $25,000 in NRL fines.

What I Love About … Kevin Kingston: There is arguably no player in the premiership that tries harder or gives more than the Panthers skipper. There is certainly no more professional player. When told he would not be required by the Panthers, Kingston didn’t bitch or moan. He got on with the job, told the world he held no bitterness and chatted with other clubs. In the end, the Panthers realised the character of the man and signed him to a one-year extension, a deserved reward for a quality player.

Betting Market of the Week: Benji Marshall turned his back on the Tigers and rugby league because:

$101: He is looking forward to the challenge of rugby
$41: The Tigers turned their back on him
$1.03: He is a sulker with an ego who didn’t like putting the team first
$1.02: He is a man of questionable ethics and almost no moral culpability
$1.00001: Money

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

Combo XIII of the Week:
1. Richie Barnett
2. Vince Mellars
3. Barry Andrews
4. John Berne
5. Jason Hudson
6. Todd Carney
7. Laurie Spina
13. Gavin Miller
12. Barry ‘Bunny’ Reilly
11. Kurt Sorensen
10. Danny Nutley
9. David Trewhella
8. Dane Sorensen

Correspondence Corner: Anonymous, I also loved Andrew Leeds. And I apologise for not giving Wests equal footing. I’ll do my best heading forward.

The Truth Teller, I couldn’t agree more with you on player managers and the idiots that hire them. And as a Bulldogs man, I couldn’t give a damn if Folau comes to us, goes to another club or stays in rugby. His character has already been revealed.

Tony Monero, if they were to pick the best rugby sevens side, there would be zero ARU aligned players because the best athletes all play league. Sadly, I think politics will play its part.

Witty, I accept that Norman can be inconsistent but I think he has been good more often than not this year in trying circumstances. I miss 1980s fashion and footy. The game has lost plenty of its free spirit, sadly. Wingers will never be able to mark wingers.

Bulldog Timbo, Josh Reynolds is a player you build your club around.

Davey G, forwards need to go forward but there is zero chance the Eels would be where they are now with Cronk. Look how much improvement they have shown with Luke Kelly. A kicking game goes a long way. I doubt Aaron Woods will play Origin again.

The Coaching Crosshairs: While there are plenty of coaches in the gun, expect Mick Potter to remain at the Tigers. The Tigers will finish well down the table this year but Potter has earned the respect of the club and the players by staring down master manipulator and general sulker Benji Marshall and winning. He runs a tough show and it will serve the young Tigers side well heading forward.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy is a man of mystery. When his ‘facts’ page on the Sharks site is googled, it comes up blank.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 19: South Sydney-St George Illawarra, 18-18. Monday Night Football this week lacked energy and execution for much of the game but had a sensational finish. The Bunnies were home and hosed for all money after Sam Burgess barged over to send the score to 18-6 with less than 20 to go  but a couple of late tries from some fortuitious Rabbitohs errors saw the Dragons level the scores before the requisite field goal shootout sent the game to Golden Point. The Dragons scored the winner off a broken field goal in a sensational finale. 

Beard Watch: Andrew Fifita may well be the biggest garden gnome in the history of the world.

Watch It: This week we go back to 1987 and the Royal Easter Show clash between North Sydney and St George. While the Bears won a scrappy game, the highlight was the all-club sprint at halftime. I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. WE NEED AN ANNUAL SPRINT! Watch it here


Comments (7)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Usually like reading your stuff but I have an issue to raise….

    As a Parramatta fan I'm sick of you dribbling shit in every couch column you write.. Yes we already know Parra doesn't have the roster or the structure or confidence to play good football at the moment. but you keep going there every week… Like a cowardly schoolyard bully, who has found the school runt, and keeps on returning to beat him because he know it's easy.   but I wouldn't expect less from a grubby bulldogs supporter. and another thing… nothing is going to please me more that hearing the slap and spatter on the bowl when the grubby, diving, trout sniffers that are the bulldogs get shat out of the arse of this finals series like a bad fish curry, and the thought that they have the roster, the structure, and the coach to play good football, but aren't…. is worse! even with a dream run home they won't get past the top 4.

  2. Anonymous says:


    Re: Your canning of Benji, I can't disagree that what he has done to the club is a joke.

    However, within the inner circles, it is well known that his asking for a release isn't about money (Well, not his, anyway).

    It's well known that Robbie Farah demanded the captaincy a few years back, not because he was being a prat, but because he could see how Benji was starting to become captain, coach, selector, CEO, ground announcer, head cheerleader, canteen boss and, well, anything else he wanted at Concord.

    When Benji wanted Blair at the club, Sheens said yes and cut loose Gibbs and Fifita. Then, when Benji and Sheens fell out, WT cut Sheens.

    Mick Potter came in and said it was his way or the high way, to which Wests said fair enough but the Tigers faction started to waver in favour of Benji.

    Given Balmain are bankrupt as we all know, the only choice was to back Potter, hence Benji spitting the dummy.

    He probably won't get the same coin as he would have at WT, but the money isn't the issue. Benji just likes being overlord of wherever he's playing, and Farah and Potter didn't want a bar of it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Daly pulled a short kick off and ended up inside then 10m line.

  4. WittyReference says:

    I compiled your Origin rankings for the players who were in all 3 games. Obviously players like Gallen were headed for a top spot but I didn't want to go on averages.

    Rank – Player – Points

    1. Cameron Smith (QLD) – 14

    2. Corey Parker (QLD) – 20

    3. Matt Scott (QLD) – 29

    4. Brent Tate (QLD) – 30
    4. Andrew Fifita (NSW) – 30
    6. Greg Bird (NSW) – 31
    6. Nate Myles (QLD) – 31
    8. Justin Hodges (QLD) – 36
    9. Robbie Farah (NSW) – 38
    10. Anthony Watmough (NSW) – 39
    11. Johnathan Thurston (QLD) – 41
    12. Luke Lewis (NSW) – 43
    13. Cooper Cronk (QLD) – 44
    14. Trent Merrin (NSW) – 47
    15. Sam Thaiday (QLD) – 48
    16. Billy Slater (QLD) – 49
    17. Ryan Hoffman (NSW) – 59
    18. Darius Boyd (QLD) – 60
    19. Michael Jennings (NSW) – 64
    19. Brett Morris (NSW) – 64
    21. Josh Morris (NSW) – 65
    22. Greg Inglis (QLD) – 67
    23. James Maloney (NSW) – 68
    24. Matt Gillett (QLD) – 71
    25. Ben Te’o (QLD) – 78
    25. Chris McQueen (QLD) – 78
    27. Mitchell Pearce (NSW) – 90

    How about that Qld defense! Thank god NSW couldn't handle the pressure and bombed so many attacking oppurtunites. Even more thankful that those halves were picked.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Manly also used the short kick off while ahead by 8, with the Titans coming back fast. Counter-attack football at its finest.

    Manly fan.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Check out Daly’s short kickoff and regather in the second half on Sunday v the titans. Pure gold. It was along the ground and went 11 meters in to an area with no titan within cooee.