The Prince by Robbie Farah: Robbie Farah can deny it until the cows come home – and the Cows are more likely to win a premiership before the Tigers are if Robbie Farah remains the most powerful figure at the club – but he is firmly behind the push to oust Mick Potter. Once again the lunatics are running the asylum or, in this case, the whining squawker is playing big boy politics.
The Tigers are a mess at all levels and it has led to this horrid situation where a team on the fringe of the eight with a promising list of young talent are divided, the coach is a dead-man walking and the board hasn’t the bottle to either axe Potter or pull Farah into line.
Let’s break this down:
The Coach: Mick Potter is not one of mine. He clearly has issues with communication. His results are strong enough, however, with his combined player development to deserve the loyalty of the club’s senior players. He has made some queer decisions in his time but has also got better results than anyone expected this year with some smart tactics and the improvement of some marginal talent.
The Players: Senior players ousted Tim Sheens, which has left the club in an incredible pickle, and now they have moved against Potter. Robbie Farah clearly had it in for him from last year. Even his manager admitted Farah thought Potter couldn’t coach last year. It was claimed by Gorden Tallis, who does not lie, and it was confirmed by Farah’s manager Sam Ayoub. Farah’s refusal to publicly support Potter has said plenty. Farah has form in being interested in little but himself – see his falling out with Sheens when he missed a bait on a Kangaroos jersey. In a young side, he wields plenty of power and rather than use it for good, he has started politicking. His behaviour would not be tolerated at any club that was anywhere near run decently.
The Board: The Wests Tigers board made be the most gutless in the NRL. It is little wonder the League has got involved. They have clearly made a decision to axe Potter but rather than be seen to be reacting to a push by the players, they have left Potter in place without an extension. This after the club has refused to stick by their coach or discipline their senior players. The Tigers don’t deserve success while these gutless jokers are running the show. Mike Bailey needs to go back to reading weather and leave Rugby League to someone with some bottle.
What Should Happen: Regardless of Potter’s ability, he is off and needs to be axed. The players should be told in no uncertain circumstances that they will have no say in the coach. The assistants who have been working against Potter should also be axed. A strong disciplinarian – dare I say, Brian Smith – should be brought in to bring the players into line.
What Will Happen: The board will take the gutless option. They will keep Potter swinging and then blame not making the eight for sacking Potter during the finals. Nothing will happen to the players. Todd Payten will be elevated because the players want him.
Clubs without strong boards and front offices don’t win. See Canberra. See Cronulla. The Tigers have the talent to do well soon. Let’s hope it isn’t stymied by a prickly player and a weak-as-piss board.
Bulldogs Bullshit: The Canterbury Bulldogs are, for the most part, a well-run club these days. Ray Dib does a good job. There is plenty of money. I have few complaints with Noel Cleal’s recruits. Des Hasler is one of the best coaches in the game. But the whole organisation is deluded if it thinks Canterbury can win a premiership without a fullback and with a heinous cadre of outside backs. Sam Perrett is a competent winger. The club has no other first graders though at fullback or on the wing. The recruitment of Jacob Loko and Curtis Rona should be applauded but the fact the club has been stranded with Mitch Brown, Drury Low, Corey Thompson and a bunch of other schmucks who shouldn’t be anywhere near an NRL team sheet – let alone one of a contender – is an indictment. The club is chasing a fullback – it better land one. It better start giving young talent like Pat Templeman a crack at the top grade too before it is too late.
Assistant Coach Power Rankings: With a number of jobs open or opening up in the NRL, here is a quick top 10 of the best assistant coaches in the NRL:
- Rick Stone (Newcastle) – Great job at Knights previous with poor roster.
- Neil Henry (Gold Coast) – Very smart tactician who will get another crack.
- Garth Brennan (Penrith) – The current boom coach after big results at Penrith.
- Jim Dymock (Canterbury) – Enjoying the right apprenticeship under Hasler.
- Justin Morgan (Melbourne) – Good England record and smart learning with Bellamy.
- David Fairleigh (Penrith) – Seasoned assistant who is Ivan Cleary’s most trusted lieutenant.
- Terry Matterson (North Queeensland) – Experienced and did well at Cas.
- Kristian Woolf (Brisbane) – Highly rated youngster who done well in Queensland.
- Jason Taylor (Sydney Roosters) – Had a couple of chances but has seen success.
- David Kidwell (Wests Tigers) – Played under enough coaches.
Halfback Off: The constant grumblings out of South Sydney that Adam Reynolds is off at the club is one of the strangest stories of the season. Reynolds was touted as a NSW No.7 contender in 2013 and has been far from poor this year. He has seven assists, is leading a top five side around the park and is kicking as well as anyone in the premiership. Luke Keary might be an exceptional talent but the Bunnies can find room for both. It would be a major shock if he was allowed to walk considering he rates somewhere between five and eight in terms of halfbacks (he is certainly behind Cherry-Evans, Cronk and Johnson, lacks the upside of Brooks and sits somewhere with Hodkinson, Hunt and Pearce and probably ahead of all of those). Most clubs would take him. Surely the Bunnies won’t be so stupid to shop him.
Sweet Sugar: It was great to hear Joel Caine once again pushing the barrow for the short kick-off. It should be used at any time. It would be great to hear more commentators push more interesting thinking in Rugby League.
Flying Fifita: Andrew Fifita finally returned to the form that saw him win rep jerseys in 2013. Fifita was dominant, decimating Penrith, running for 222 metres, busting six tackles, giving six offloads and setting up a try. He is not the most consistent prop but he is close to the most devastating. He is the man the Sharks need to get them off the bottom of the paddock.
Au Revoir, Inu: I have rarely been as happy as when news came down the wire that Krisnan Inu was on a plane to France, waving goodbye to the Bulldogs and goodbye to Rugby League. It was a magical day for the code.
Fun Fact #1: The coach to premiership ratio of all teams during the NRL Era (1998-2014):
Brisbane – 3:3
Canberra – 6: 0
Canterbury – 4: 0
Cronulla – 7: 0
Gold Coast – 1:0
Manly – 3:2
Melbourne – 3:4
Newcastle – 6:1
New Zealand – 9:0
North Queensland – 6:0
Parramatta – 8:0
Penrith – 6:0
St George Illawarra – 6:1
South Sydney – 7:0
Sydney Roosters – 7:2
Wests Tigers – 4:1
Fun Fact #2: The last six last-placed teams after Round 20 – and nine of the last 10 since 2004 – have finished with the wooden spoon.
Rumour Mill: Robbie Farah is allegedly the man behind the Tigers’ now-inevitable sacking of Mick Potter. Gorden Tallis revealed Farah told him Potter “couldn’t coach”. The club has gone too far now and despite Potter being guaranteed until the end of the season. The problems at Manly are serious but the club will not release Steve Matai or Anthony Watmough, though Brett Stewart could be let go with Peta Hiku on the books. Mitch Cornish is looking to get out of his Canberra contract with the Raiders youngster unhappy at being given few opportunities by Ricky Stuart. Penrith are looking to sign Russell Packer, another reclamation project for the Mountain Men. There is more to the fall out between Matt Parish and the Raiders than is being reported.
What I Like About … Ray Warren: The great Ray ‘Rabbits’ Warren released his autobiography ‘The Voice’ this week and it has been great to see Rabs doing the rounds. Without question the voice of Rugby League, Rabs remains a humble gentleman, a true ornament to the game. He will never be mistaken for being the most accurate caller but absolutely nobody creates the kind of excitement and buzz that Rabs does. He is one of Australia’s great sportscasters, no risk, and here is to hoping he is around a lot longer.
Betting Market of the Week: The Titans’ alleged salary cap breach was a result of:
$6.00: Free plastic surgery for Matthew White so he can look more like Luke Bailey
$5.00: Agency fees for the production of Jamal Idris’ famed children’s television show
$5.00: Paul Carter’s bail
$3.50: Getting Dave Taylor a 6th grade education
$2.00: A $3 million payment to the ARU to take Joey Tomane off their hands
$1.25: Paying William Zillman approximately 900% of his market value on the longest deal in the premiership
Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: Ben Smith bleeding like a stuck pig against the Titans. It was a big moment for the Eels veteran – I didn’t even realise he was back in first grade.
1. Manly 13-5 (1)
2. South Sydney 11-7 (4)
3. Sydney Roosters 10-8 (3)
4. Canterbury 11-7 (2)
5. Penrith 11-7 (5)
6. Melbourne 10-8 (8)
7. New Zealand 9-9 (7)
8. North Queensland 9-9 (10)
9. Brisbane 9-9 (6)
10. St George Illawarra 9-9 (11)
11. Wests Tigers 9-9 (9)
12. Parramatta 9-9 (13)
13. Gold Coast 8-10 (12)
14. Newcastle 6-12 (14)
15. Cronulla 5-13 (16)
16. Canberra 5-13 (15)
The Coaching Crosshairs: John Cartwright will not be in charge of the Titans in 2015. The seven straight home losses and another blown season will be just too much for him to overcome. In a season where four coaches have already been dumped, Cartwright will become the fifth. The fact that the Titans may have underachieved so badly when allegedly overstepping the salary cap is a further indictment. The Titans have never had an identity under Cartwright. His blind loyalty to some players (Example A: William Zillman) yet his wantonness to chop and change other areas has done the club no favours. He seems like a decent chap and one of Rugby League’s most likable figures but with a review into the Titans’ season already underway, he is no chance of surviving.
Ricky Stuart Fact of the Week: In his last five years as a first grade coach, Kade Snowden is the only player Ricky Stuart has coached to a representative debut. Not a great advertisement for his ability to develop talent.
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 20: Penrith-Cronulla, 16-18. Big-time footy in the bush is outstanding and so it was on a muddy Carrington Oval in Bathurst on Saturday afternoon when a gritty Sharks team out-hustled and out-lasted the high-flying Panthers. Andrew Fifita turned in one of the best individual games from a prop all year while young winger Jacob Gagan had a statement game. It was a monumental win.
Correspondence Corner: Jason, that is a very cynical view. The Rise For Alex round was a wonderful example of how Rugby League can rally around its own. I think Parra need to chase a halfback and DCE is a club-changing No.7. I have no idea where Beale should play – I don’t watch rugby union.
Gaz and Zig, clearly the Bulldogs did not deserve to win against the Tigers. They were disgraceful defensively. I missed the press conference though.
Davey G, I am going to take that Stones parable as one related to Wayne Bennett. I still think Wayne has plenty to offer though.
Beard Watch: I love seeing an official don a fine bit of facial hair so a big congratulations goes out to the touch judge in the Sharks-Panthers clash that had a full beauty. Keep an eye on Phil Henderson and his flag work. This column is predicting a big, big future for young Phil. He could well reach the daunting heights of greats such as Martin Weekes.
Watch It: Should there be two teams located in Brisbane? This column is well behind the Bombers coming into the premiership. It is also pleasing to see this same debate was going on 20 years ago. Watch Mario Fenech claim the Crushers are in good shape. Gary Belcher has a moustache. And Tony Durkin is looking as stunning as ever. Watch it here.