From The Couch: Round 2

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on March 17, 2014


A Spectacular Signing: Canterbury have pulled off an incredible coup in landing the prized signature of Andrew Fifita. The Bulldogs have invested significantly in the Sharks prop, spending nearly $850,000 a season. It is a signing that has been widely panned but it is one of the most brilliant signings in recent years. Fifita is a legitimate game-changer. He was ranked the top player in the game by this author last year in the MTN Annual Top 50 and he has more upside than any prop I can recall. Brad Walter wrote a great piece in the Sydney Morning Herald about how the new rules make the need for small, agile, fast props critical and Canterbury have just locked in one of the best to go with another in James Graham. It is a formula that will net Canterbury a title.

Goddamn Badger: The lack of bottle shown by referee Gavin Badger on Saturday night in failing to send Darcy Lussick off was appalling. His refusal to blow a penalty on the next tackle because his hand would have been forced to make the big call was embarrassing. In a day and age where we are supposedly protecting the head – even to the extent where we ban a legitimate and fair tackle like the shoulder charge because of the hysteria that has swept the game – it is ridiculous that a senior referee is scared to send a player off. Players should be dismissed all the time. If you want to protect the head, penalise high shots, not shoulder charges.

Stop The Clock: Perhaps the best rule change implemented over the offseason was the stopping of the clock in deadball situations in the final five minutes of a match. No longer are dramatic finishes tarnished by time wasting. Games are played out. We saw that in the Storm-Panthers with three scores in the last five minutes and a very real shot at a fourth on the siren. It is a fantastic rule that promotes more Rugby League and that is what we all want.

Praise The Lord: Steve Mascord reports this week that the NRL and Nine are considering showing free-to-air matches live on Sunday afternoon. It is appalling that it has taken this long. We footy fans have been treated like schmucks by both the League and the broadcaster for too long. No other sport expects its fans to watch on delay. Let’s hope Mascord is on the money.

The Value of the Fast Fullback: Make no mistake – the most valuable asset a footy team can have in 2014 is a fast fullback and preferably one who can ball-play. Teams with a quick fullback won’t automatically win but those with a slow one won’t win often. The Titans on Sunday were a prime example. William Zillman was ordinary and made too many mistakes but the real cost for the Gold Coast was having someone slow at the back who couldn’t build any momentum from kick returns. The Bulldogs have this problem. The Cowboys have made a nice call in putting Michael Morgan at the back but he simply lacks elite speed at this stage of his career. Speed has always been the name but it has never been so valuable for a fullback as it is now.

A Field Goal to Remember: Gareth Widdop’s 360-degree one-pointer against the Warriors was one of the finest field goals you will ever see. Widdop fumbled a poor pass, was turned to face his own goalline before spinning to snap a critical field goal. It was an absolute beauty and will be very hard to pot for Field Goal of the Year.

Farewell, Jharal Yow Yeh: There are few sadder tales in Rugby League than that of a talented player whose career is cut short by injury and so it is with Jharal Yow Yeh. The Broncos winger played for Queensland and Australia in just his third year in the top grade and seemed to have an extremely bright future before one of the most awful compound leg fractures you will ever see. After battling to return, Yow Yeh has officially succumbed. Rugby League is a tough and often cruel game and we should never forget the tough breaks players like Yow Yeh cop. Good luck to him in all his future endeavours.

An Almighty Drop Kick: One of the most exciting aspects of 2014 is the return of Pat Richards and in particular his ridiculously long boot. He pulled off an amazing 75-metre drop out against the Titans. The Tigers will do nothing this year so hopefully Richards steps up and makes the season memorable with a crazy field goal. Come on Patrick …

Unbelievable: After watching Wigan and Hull KR on Saturday morning, what should I discover but a 30-minute documentary on Blake Green. I couldn’t quite tell if this was an indictment on the English game or Eurosport programming but it was at least one or the other.

 Like the great Modern Seinfeld Twitter feed, this week we look at Rugby League’s best from the past and how they would survive in today’s game.

Parramatta forward Darcy Lussick is upset at being hit with a high tackle charge and after facing the judiciary spits at the waiting media. Lussick is forced to attend anger management counselling and is forced to sit courses in media training before he is allowed to play again. Canterbury hooker Michael Ennis tries to rake the ball back in the play-the-ball but is laughed at. Players laugh when Warriors coach Matt Elliott tells his team they are going on an alcohol ban and are shocked when there are no schooners after training.

Fun Fact #1: Warriors coach Matt Elliott has coached one winning season in his last six as an NRL head coach.

Fun Fact #2: Parramatta have won just five of their last 46 games away from Parramatta Stadium.

Fun Fact #3: Gold Coast warhorse Luke Douglas has played in 196 straight games but 117 of those have been losses.

Rumour Mill: Canterbury are chasing a number of fullbacks. Peta Hiku and Glen Fisiahii have been linked to the position but take it as gospel that James Tedesco is being pursued with absolute vigour by the Bulldogs. In the meanwhile, James Roberts will sign with Canterbury and is likely to see first grade action at some point in 2014. Sam Kasiano is expected to sign with South Sydney after the Bulldogs lured Andrew Fifita to Belmore. The Sharks are also in the hunt. Dave Taylor has done his dash at the Titans and won’t be at the club in 2015. Don’t be surprised to see him end up at the Sydney Roosters. Despite concerns, Glenn Stewart will be re-signed by the Sea Eagles. Karmichael Hunt is expected to return to the NRL in 2015 with the Broncos.

What I Love About … James Graham: There isn’t much I don’t love about the rugged Canterbury prop. From his hard work to his unique skills for a prop to his love of a beer and tales from days gone by, Graham has it all. As a Canterbury man, I could not be happier that he is staying with the Bulldogs. He is the best prop in the game and will continue with that mantle in blue and white for a long time yet.

 If you don’t get yourself a copy of my fine tome The Punters Guide to the 2014 NRL Season you’ve not only let yourself, your family, your friends and your community down, you’ve let Rugby League down. Nobody wants to let the great game down now. Get your copy at any good newsagency or online at the iTunes store.

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: The Eels’ incredible 48 missed tackles against the Roosters. And when they were making them, they were high and will lead to a lengthy suspension. It was an ugly performance … reminiscent of the last two seasons.

Betting Market of the Week: After locking in both Andrew Fifita and James Graham, Canterbury’s salary cap management team will next be asked to:

$4.40 – Solve Venezuela’s Financial Crisis
$4.00 – The Treasury spokesteam for the NSW ALP opposition
$51.00 – Save Australian Rugby Union (from bankruptcy, not irrelevance … nothing can save it from irrelevance)
$2.00 – Become understudies to the far more creative Sydney Roosters salary cap team.

Power Rankings:
1. Melbourne 2-0 (3)
2. Manly 1-1 (4)
3. Sydney Roosters 1-1 (6)
4. South Sydney 1-1 (1)
5. Penrith 1-1 (3)
6. St George Illawarra 2-0 (9)
7. Brisbane 2-0 (8)
8. North Queensland 1-1 (5)
9. Canterbury 1-1 (12)
10.  Canberra 1-1 (11)
11. Gold Coast 1-1 (7)
12. Wests Tigers 1-1 (16)
13. Newcastle 0-2 (13)
14. Parramatta 1-1 (10)
15. New Zealand 0-2 (14)
16. Cronulla 0-2 (15)

Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week: Ricky Stuart is now 6-12 all-time against Wayne Bennett after the Raiders’ upset of Newcastle.

The Coaching Crosshairs: The word out of New Zealand is that coach Matt Elliott has just a matter of weeks before the axe falls. The Warriors were disgraceful on Saturday afternoon and have now dropped their opening two games to two of the three worst teams from last season. The direct Warriors that thrilled in the preseason have reverted to type and are now trying to run around teams. It is awful to watch. Elliott is a terrible fit at the Warriors and always has been. The Warriors have made significant investment in their roster this year and expect results. Expect a move to be made against Elliott sooner rather than later.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 2: Melbourne-Penrith, 18-17. What a classic finish! The Storm and Panthers played a fine game for such appalling conditions but this game made its mark in the last 10 minutes with each team exchanging penalty goals and field goals before Cooper Cronk hit the winning drop goal after a magnificent play to find touch off the kickoff from Cameron Smith. The Panthers had a chance to win it after the bell with a long-range penalty but Peter Wallace’s kick was pushed wide and the Storm had a famous win.

Beard Watch: Beards are becoming all the rage in the NRL these days and we saw some absolute belters over the weekend, particularly at the Gold Coast Titans. Nate Myles leads a stellar group that includes most of the forward pack.

Correspondence Corner: Davey G, I agree that no football program should be named after any person, particularly one that didn’t play. It is a fail from Fox Sports for mine.

Watch It: This week we go back to 1979 and a report from Ray Warren on a day that saw six players sent off, including three from the Canterbury-Western Suburbs match at Melbourne. It is great to see a young Rabs at work. Watch it here.


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  1. From The Couch: Round 2 – | March 20, 2014
  1. Sam says:

    James Graham’s headbutt in the losing GF goes unmentioned!?

    As long as uncle nicks accountant keeps Boyd Cordner at Bondi I don’t care what else he does, he is the new Brad Clyde, injuries and all!

  2. Mike Butterfield says:

    I agree with what you have said about attacking the head, I am still wondering how Martin Kennedy did not get suspended by the match review when he hit Ennis & then Graham in the face in successive tackles last week.

  3. Davey G says:

    Is it too early to vote 1 : Nigel Plum for NSW Origin?

  4. george says:

    rothfield is terrible. its like wally lewis still playing nrl. a dinoasaur

  5. King Cowboy says:

    I am no Phil Gould fan due his commentary on nine but the crap dished out by Rothfield re fish and chips was nothing short of disgraceful. He deserves the greatest amount of respect for what he has done at the panthers. The rugby league community should not put up with Rothfield for one second longer. Something must be done but what? P.S never miss your weekly article, don’t agree with everything you say but love your passion for the game.