From The Couch: Round 19

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on July 21, 2014

Benny Goes Home: It is official – Wayne Bennett is going back to Brisbane. Despite a fact deals were apparently reached at stages with both New Zealand and St George Illawarra – and he was linked with South Sydney and the Gold Coast – legendary mentor Wayne Bennett will return to the Broncos, the club he guided to six premierships and the one he built from the ground up.

Despite the protestations of some of Brisbane’s greats, it is a great move by the club. Bennett, despite his age, remains not only a great coach but a widely respected figure who will bring back the gloss and the glamour that the Broncos were built on, that he built the club on.

Bennett’s record speaks for itself and his ability to influence all areas of the club is critical.

And the fact remains, he should never have been allowed to walk. If not for a disagreement with former CEO Bruno Cullen, he may never have left.

It is hard not to feel sorry for Anthony Griffin. He made plenty of mistakes but he did a lot of good as well. He certainly wasn’t the reason behind Brisbane’s current standing. He took the club to a preliminary final and his record is strong enough. He just probably wasn’t the right coach for the Broncos, a big club who require a big name. He is certainly a coach who deserves a shot somewhere else. The Wests Tigers could do worse than make a phone call. The same holds true for North Queensland, Newcastle and Canberra.

He handled his dismissal with class, which says plenty about the man.

The news isn’t great for chief executive Paul White either. He goes way back with Bennett but he was castrated by his board and it would seem highly unlikely he will be there next year. Ben Ikin has been rumoured for the role. Don’t be surprised if it is another old league warrior though.

Brisbane and Bennett are meant to be and I am a sucker for a fairytale and this is certainly that and I am happy to see him go home. He has done more for the game than he has ever got back and he deserves the joys of having a team that can win a premiership, a big payday and his family and not having to sacrifice any.

The signing certainly puts the Broncos in the hunt next year. He has a gritty and hard-headed forward pack, an exciting recruit, the potential Dally M winner. If he can find some speed out wide and maybe one more big prop, the pieces are there for a title run.

Get excited Brisbane fans. Benny is coming home.

A 70-Year Record: If Wayne Bennett is to return the Broncos to premiership glory, he will become the oldest coach to win a title. Arthur ‘Pony’ Halloway in 1945 currently holds the record as the oldest premiership coach. He won the title at 60 years of age.

Coach Tiers: Where the NRL coaches fit in the pantheon of NRL coaches … by tier.

The All-Timers Tier: Wayne Bennett, Craig Bellamy, Des Hasler
This trio have done it all and have a job at wherever they want it for however long they want. Three of the all-time greats.

The Next Best: Ivan Cleary
The best coach not to win a premiership, Ivan Cleary has thrived in two very challenging jobs. Not afraid of the tough calls.

Lifers of the Future: Michael Maguire, Trent Robinson
Robinson won a premiership in his first season. Maguire has done great things with Souths. These two will be in the League for a long time. Both very good.

Results Matter: Geoff Toovey
There is not much about Geoff Toovey that suggests brilliant coach but you can’t argue with the results he has achieved at Manly.

Solid: Anthony Griffin, Brad Arthur, Shane Flanagan
All three are hard to get a grip on but all three have positives to go with negatives. Griffin struggled at a big club and was left tactically wanting but he works his side hard, gets sound enough results and has players behind him. Arthur has done excellent things with limited quality at the Eels. The Sharks have been a yo-yo under Flanagan but his ability to recruit is a major boon.

Promising But Unproven Tier: Andrew McFadden, Paul McGregor, Paul Green
McFadden has done a superb job early while McGregor has done enough to likely win a new contract. Green has brought the Cowboys their first piece of silverware but they have been the underachievers. Still, too early to tell with all three.

Had His Chance: John Cartwright
He has coached the Titans for nearly nine seasons for just two finals appearances. He has had his opportunity to show what he is about.

Perception Is Reality: Mick Potter
Mick Potter might be tactically astute but he has been unable to communicate it well and his players have turned on him. Regardless of how good he is, communication is a big issue and he has failed miserably on this front.

The Ricky Stuart Tier: Ricky Stuart
See his 18-62 record in the last five years and every column ever written by me.

Farewell, Liam Fulton: It was with great sadness news was received that Liam Fulton was forced into retirement due to repeated concussions. Fulton was a tireless worker and one of the great reasons we all watch the game. He wasn’t chock full of talent, he wasn’t overly fast or ridiculously strong. But he tackled and he made the most of his ability and was the bedrock to a premiership team. The game will miss Fulton, be sure and certain of that.

Together: It was great seeing both teams walk out next to each other. Incredible actually. It was for the Rise For Alex weekend but let’s hope it is used way more often.

Jersey No.16: It was also fabulous to see all of the premiership’s stars wear jersey No.16 in tribute to Alex McKinnon. It was also good to see Michael Ennis wear the jersey.

Fun Fact #1: Keith Lulia scored 4 tries against Canterbury. He has 18 career tries and has only one double to his name.

Fun Fact #2: Hull Kingston Rovers have been praising their Origin trio – Michael Weyman, Justin Poore and Neville Costigan.

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: Winger Vai Toutai’s inability to fall over and put the ball on the ground. It cost the Eels a lead and ultimately the game against South Sydney. He is a terrible footballer and shoudn’t be playing first grade while Ken Sio and Ryan Morgan are in the twos.

Rumour Mill: St George Illawarra interim coach Paul McGregor will be appointed full-time after the Dragons’ deal with Wayne Bennett fell through. It is also believed a deal with the Warriors fell through for Bennett’s services. John Cartwright is under the gun at the Titans with assistant Neil Henry his most likely successor. Parramatta are set to offer Daly Cherry-Evans a huge contract and it would not surprise if he left. Steve Matai wants out of the Sea Eagles to join the Warriors. There are currently two sex tapes that have the NRL concerned, featuring three Origin players. Canterbury are supposedly close to inking a deal with Kurtley Beale – heaven knows, they need someone not named Mitch Brown.

What I Like About … Alex McKinnon: This kid is something else and to see Rugby League come together for this courageous young man was as touching as anything I’ve seen in the game. He has shown so much character in his fight and he didn’t shirk the spotlight this week. Watching him cry in the leadup to the Knights clash was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Let Rugby League forever embrace Alex, no matter what happens in the future.

Betting Market of the Week: Adam Reynolds and Michael Maguire this week will:

$101: Kiss and do the ring-a-rosey with a promise he will play 80 mins for the rest of the season.
$2.00: Will lie and agree everything is ok at Redfern
$1.50: Will agree that things aren’t working out but still reject overtures to play for Ricky Stuart in Canberra.

Power Rankings:
1. Manly 12-5 (1)
2. Canterbury 11-6 (2)
3. Sydney Roosters 10-7 (5)
4. South Sydney 10-7 (4)
5. Penrith 11-6 (3)
6. Brisbane 9-8 (8)
7. New Zealand 9-8 (6)
8. Melbourne 9-8 (8)

9. Wests Tigers 9-8 (9)
10. North Queensland 8-9 (10)
11. St George Illawarra 8-9 (12)
12. Gold Coast 8-9 (13)
13. Parramatta 8-9 (11)
14. Newcastle 5-12 (14)
15. Canberra 5-12 (16)
16. Cronulla 4-13 (15)

The Coaching Crosshairs: Don’t be at all surprised to see Mick Potter ousted from the Wests Tigers and replaced by assistant Todd Payten. Senior players at the Tigers wield too much power and they have moved against Potter. While I won’t argue Potter’s case I can say right now that replacing him with a popular assistant is short-sighted and sends the wrong message. Payten may well be a good coach but he has no power at all if this is how he comes to power. The Tigers, for once, need to make a mature decision that stands up to reason.

Ricky Stuart Fact of the Week: Ricky Stuart’s big recruitment target is now former Roosters fringe player Iosia Soliola. He last played in the NRL in 2009 and has a career 38-54 record in the premiership.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 18: Melbourne-Canterbury, 4-6. What a spectacular defensive display between two teams that have at times looked premiership material this year. The Storm had all in their favour but a gritty , gutsy defensive display from Canterbury . James Graham, wow, 3what a superstar.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 19: Brisbane-New Zealand, 28-22. What an absolute cracker! The Warriors looked set for a big win when jumping to an early lead but were clawed back by a Broncos team that sacked three players midweek for drinking and then fired coach Anthony Griffin. It was courageous in a compelling match that went right down to the wire.

Correspondence Corner: Stephen, I very much prefer the idea of the onfield referee taking responsibility for all decisions.

Davey G, the aggregate method for Origin is not for me. Each game is important. Even dead rubbers. I’ll take the off-chance at one every few years. Josh Reynolds has had some issues with his defence all year.

Beard Watch: It was exciting to see that the most famed beard in Rugby League, that of David ‘Wolfman’ Williams, outted for gambling on Rugby League matches. Beards are often a sign of intelligence – but not always.

Watch It: This week we watch one of my favourite Rugby League media personalities – the great Joel ‘Sugar’ Caine – decimate some clown called Al Baxter (anyone heard of this muppet) in a League v Union debate. Watch it here.



Comments (6)

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  1. Davey G says:

    I saw the Rolling Stones when they were 45 (what I am now), and it was awesome. I saw them last time they were in Australia,and they sounded good but it was different. Mick ran around, but the other guys didn’t put on the show, and the songs were a little slower. I won’t see them this time they tour, because they are 70+, and while there is nothing but respect for what they have achieved over the years, I don’t really want to see a bunch of 70 year old’s play rock songs – I want to see the next generation who are full of enthusiasm and energy going nuts and ripping it up, pushing boundaries with new ideas and technologies.
    Even the biggest Stones fans would also have to agree that their more recent songs just can’t compare with their “older” tunes.

  2. Zig says:

    Gaz, I read during the week that a monkey escaped from a circus in Sydney, and by reading your comment, I think they may be missing a clown as well. Hasler never implied the dogs shood have won, all he asked for was that the referees, weren’t refereeing both teams equally. He praised his team for leading at half time with only 40% ball. Tigers had 70% of ball for the game, very hard to win a game with that sort of possession flow against, and agree with Nick’s ranking of dogs at 2 still.

    Whilst not knocking Bennet or his record, it would be fair to question his integrity at getting to where he is next year. In saying that, he is an all time great and deserves to be written about as such.


  3. Gaz says:

    Des Hasler may be an “All Time” coach but I thought his press conference after the Dogs v Tigers game was disgraceful. He claimed that he thought his team “should have won” and that there were a number of wrong refereeing decisions. They were outclassed, outenthused and I thought the Tigers deserved their win

  4. Jason says:

    I wish nothing but the best for Alex McKinnon in his recovery and I think his conduct has been inspirational and exemplary, but I don’t understand what this round has been about. Sure it was a horrific injury, but he’s not the first player to suffer a career ending injury and he has already been very well looked after by both the Knights, the NRL and probably the league’s sports insurers. Ask yourself, if he’s already being financially taken care of, why does the NRL need to dedicate a weekend to raising money for him. Call me cynical, and I’m probably alone in this opinion, but I thought it was a very thinly veiled attempt from the NRL to use Alex McKinnon’s injury and the public’s goodwill towards him to buy good publicity.

    As a Broncos fan, I’m not quite sure what to think of Bennett’s signing for next year, but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with your remarks. Griffin didn’t necessarily do anything wrong, but the results weren’t quite good enough for a proud club to overlook Bennett. It still amazes me how often the Broncos don’t seem to be switched on ready to play; a lot of players in that side don’t seem to know their job. I also think that Barba has been given far too long to find his feet and someone needs to be tough enough to make a decision for the good of the team. You’re right that they need one more good prop, but I thought Kennedy was decent on Saturday night. Someone needs to just put a mirror in front of the guy to remind him how big he is and tell him to run hard and straight; the line will bend. I hear rumours that he isn’t happy at the Broncos, but hopefully the Bennett signing is the mental pick up he needs to find his form again. Parker, Hannant and McGuire are capable of big minutes, by prop standards, so impact forward like Hala and Kennedy could be all they need.

    I love DCE, but surely Parramatta cannot blow another stack of cash on a half. Behind a good forward pack, Sandow is a good enough player, and Norman is adequate if someone can teach him how to defend.

    If Beale does go to the Dogs, are you suggesting that they play him at fullback? For mine, he’s a 5/8, but isn’t good enough to usurp Reynolds or Hodkinson. Sure, he’s a very talented athlete, but I don’t know if they have room for him for the amount of coin that he’ll be on.

    • Jason says:

      I cannot agree with Jasons View on Chris Sandow versus DCE ?
      Please one is arguably the best Playmaker in the NRL and the other shouldn’t be playing in the NRL.
      Whilst Sandow has had some Fine Moments earlier in the Year, that Rocks or Diamonds, Off the Cuff approach doesn’t Cut it . it is clearly apparent he is not
      the Answer if the EELS want to be realistic Premiership hopes.
      Parramatta have not had a Number 7 since 1986…So suffice to Say give me DCE
      ANY DAY !!……

      • Jason says:

        I couldn’t agree more Jason; DCE is infinitely better. I simply meant that after all the money they’ve blown on halves in recent years, their roster can’t really afford another big splurge. While there’s no denying that he’s worth whatever he wants to be paid, I think it’s going to leave the Eels a little short in other areas.