From The Couch: Round 20

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on July 27, 2015

The Fifita Fools: Andrew and David Fifita are giant human beings. And they also appear to be giant knobs. They should not have been eligible to play for the Sharks on Sunday against the Bulldogs. David didn’t play because he is as bad a first grade footballer as he is a spectator at junior Rugby League games. But Andrew played and put up some big numbers despite admitting – at least according to Sharks CEO Lyall Gorman – partial guilt. All players deserve the presumption of innocence but that presumption is waived once guilt is admitted. There are differing versions of what happened in the incident with referees at the junior match but the pair according to Gorman admitted there was some level of verbal abuse. Given David had already copped a year-long ban for it they should have both been suspended straight away. Instead the Sharks stalled so they could play their star prop and collect the two points. It worked and they should be ashamed for flouting the presumption of innocence to get a win. The NRL should bury the Sharks for it.

Diving is the Scourge of Rugby League: The Cronulla Sharks did their best to embarrass the game over the weekend with the Fifita twins being allowed to play and then players staying down and faking injury, led by none other than the upstanding citizen Paul Gallen. Diving and staying down are not acceptable in the game and is more insidious than eye gouging, fighting, refereeing incompetency and Steven Clark put together. Once it gets into the game – and Gallen is doing his best to get it in – there is nothing that can be done because referees have a duty of care to trust a player who says he is hurt. The first solution for this is to cut off all communication between the video referees and on-field officials. The second is to penalise players who are clearly feigning injury by throwing them in the sin bin. We must eradicate diving before it becomes as pervasive as it is in soccer.

The Shot Clock Won’t Work: The shot clock will not work, at least in the silly half pregnant format where the clock will only be used at scrums and at drop outs and will be arbitrarily operated by referees with the game clock still running. All this proposed format does is provide set time outs during the game. Why the NRL continues to ignore the obvious and simply match the shot clock by stopping the game clock during all deadball situations – like nearly every other sport in the world – is something only Todd Greenberg and his team can tell us because we all know that they are smarter than the rest of us. The clock is not just about the length of games, it is about the fairness of matches, and once again the NRL has failed on this front.

How Are Parramatta Cheating the Salary Cap … Again: The Parramatta Eels are something else. Their reward for missing five and probably six straight finals series – and collecting two wooden spoons in the process – is another serious breach of the salary cap. After overpaying the likes of Cheyse Blair, Reni Maitua and Brayden Williame – and getting a massive fine and a suspended deduction of four points – investigative journalist Kate McClymont has found the club breached the cap to fix up Darcy Lussick, Will Hopoate and Jarryd Hayne … to play NFL. The Eels are an absolute basketcase. To get the results they have – and to have to start 2016 on negative points as they likely will – is truly extraordinary.

Sandow Runs: The always amusing – and extremely volatile – relationship between Chris Sandow and the Parramatta Eels is now over. Sandow took a $50,000 ‘get the fuck outta here’ cheque from the Eels and didn’t even say goodbye, heading to Warrington where he will look good for a month before he gets homesick and returns sometime in 2016. His time at the Eels involved being dumped to reserve grade on numerous occasions, accusations of not trying, the highest missed tackle count in the NRL, a Willie M Medal, a crashed car on a test drive, feuds with a few coaches and the use of profanity on social media. He will only be missed by those who enjoy seeing the Parramatta trainwreck. I have seen few more selfish players and the Eels will be infinitely better for his departure and any NRL club who tempts fate with him in the future deserves everything they get.

Warriors Cast: The Warriors have been pretenders all season and they will now almost certainly miss the finals now their best and most dangerous player has been sidelined for the remainder of 2015 with a busted ankle. The Warriors are an ordinary 2-6 against Top 8 teams and 0-5 against Top 4 teams this year, losing by an average of 14.4 points to them. The Warriors have beaten up on the puss of the competition and got nowhere near the best. They will fade and fade fast.

Memories of Tony Iro: While it was a bitter pill to swallow with the Bulldogs going down on Sunday afternoon, it was great to see Michael Ennis finish off the close-fought win over Canterbury by channelling Tony Iro and running backwards for 40 metres.

2015 Field Goal Count – 32: The Sydney Roosters have made a habit of kicking meaningless field goals that have had a huge bearing for punters and did so again on Friday night when a broken play led to a wobbly left-footed James Maloney field goal that extended the score to 27-8. When Brendan Elliot scored on the final play of the game, the total tallied 41 … a half-point clear of the 40.5 total posted by bookmakers.

Fun Fact #1: David Fifita has started exactly zero NRL games.

Fun Fact #2: No St George Illawarra player has scored more than five tries this season.

Fun Fact #3: Valetine Holmes’ 11 tries this season makes him the first Shark since Luke Covell in 2008 to score double digit tries in a season.

Rumour Mill: The names linked early to the Newcastle job include Geoff Toovey, Nathan Brown and Garth Brennan. The Knights will do all they can though to get Danny Buderus into the gig permanently. Matt Ballin leads the list of players not wanted at Manly next season. Ballin may end up at the Titans but will likely dig his heels in at the Sea Eagles. Dave Taylor will be moving to Super League next season with St Helens looming as favourites. Chris Heighington could get a farewell season in Wests Tigers colours next year though Manly are also looking at him.

What I Love About … Matt Duffie: It was so great to see Matt Duffie back in the NRL, playing his first top grade game since Round 4, 2013 after overcoming two ACL tears and a shoulder reconstruction to fight his way back into the big league. His return is a true inspiration, a story of overcoming tremendous adversity. There is not a single person involved in the great and glorious game who has their fingers crossed that Duffie can have an injury-free run and find some of his old form that saw him rise through the ranks to play international football.

Betting Market of the Week: The next person to be put in charge of the Parramatta Salary Cap will be:

$7.00: Nick Gleeson
$5.00: Roger Rogerson
$3.25: Brian Waldron
$2.00: Mr Magoo
$1.70: Someone worse than all of the above … a ‘Parramatta person’ like Steve Sharp or Roy Spagnolo

Manly Collapse Update: The Sea Eagles will this week sack coach Geoff Toovey, bringing to an end months of public charade and once again solidifying the powerbase of Bob Fulton, once more the most powerful figure at Brookvale. Nobody thrives on or succeeds more at the game of thrones that is Rugby League politics than Fulton, who is again a kingmaker and again taking nepotism to new heights. Toovey’s sacking will no doubt be an embarrassment to the Sea Eagles. Manly are up to 11th on the ladder and just thumped the Warriors in Auckland and could well sneak into the Top 8 with the Warriors and Saints stopping and the Raiders, well, coached by the great Rick Stuart.

The Coaching Crosshairs: The mail was right on Rick Stone and the Newcastle Knights have sacked their coach just 18 games into his second stint in charge of the club. Stone opened the season with four straight wins but won just two of his next 14 games as the Knights fell into wooden spoon contention. A 52-6 humiliation at the hands of South Sydney forced the hands of the Knights, who sacked Stone on Monday. Danny Buderus has been hired as the interim coach. The Knights have pledged to undergo a formal review and search process but they are chips-in with Buderus. While the club needs a hard ass like Geoff Toovey or young blood like Garth Brennan, they will do their best to get in a man who is one of their own. It is a dumb position but it is very much a Knights position.

Referee Power Rankings: Jared Maxwell has used his position as nothing more than an on-field referee to rewrite the rules of Rugby League by using the sin bin for an act of foul play. Maxwell held the company line by not sending Martin Taupau off but then went rogue by sending Taupau to the sin bin not for dissent or a professional foul or repeated infringements or fighting but for a swinging arm. It defies belief that these referees continue to find new ways to embarrass themselves.

  1. Ben Cummins (3)
  2. Adam Devcich (5)
  3. Matt Cecchin (4)
  4. Grant Atkins (n/a)
  5. Gavin Badger (7)
  6. Gerard Sutton (2)
  7. Jared Maxwell (1)
  8. Henry Perenara (8)

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 20: Penrith-Canberra, 24-34. A terrible round of Rugby League with big margins and some ordinary football. The Raiders and Panthers put on plenty of points and it was somewhat dramatic despite only 8000 punters showing up.

Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week: If the Raiders win one more game in 2015, it will be Ricky Stuart’s biggest win tally since 2008.

Beard Watch: Does one man’s haircut and facial hair better reflect his grubby style of play than Martin Taupau? Long cornrows and a tuft under the chin seem to perfectly fit a guy who likes to lay a swinging arm to a defenceless half lying on the ground and then pretends to bite one of his defenders.

Correspondence Corner: Zig, Des is well and truly off Williams. He will be either in the Super League or at the Tigers next year.

Cam, you have nailed it about Mitchell Moses. He is getting decimated by being thrown in the deep end by being put in with Luke Brooks and arguably the worst pack in the NRL. Moses has ability but has been given no chance to succeed.

Packy, good coaches adapt game plans to their roster not force players to change their styles to suit a template.

Davey G, it isn’t just the errors, it is their inability to learn from them and the continual making up of rules and then the inconsistency in enforcement that is just so damned frustrating.

McFlavour, very harsh on Aaron Woods but the players are a big part of the problem at the Tigers.

MagpieMick, not all clubs can abide by the rules of the round. It is very ordinary that clubs can have so many different jerseys.

Mike Butterfield, hope with officials seems to be lost.

Gerry, someone has to be No.1. After sin binning Taupau though, he is off this week.

Mav63, the shot clock is ridiculous and almost won’t be enforced after two weeks while building in mandatory stopped time. The clock should be stopped in all dead ball situations. The referee then should demand a team restart play and if they don’t, penalise them.

Andrew Quinn, Luke Brooks would love to be Braith Anasta with a TV gig, a hot wife, a low handicap and NSW and Australian jerseys.

Witty Reference, I totally agree. Stop coaching and start refereeing.

Watch It: This week we go back to 1991 and one of the most memorable Rugby League presentations of all, that of Ewan McGrady and the 1991 Rothmans Medal. McGrady had an outstanding season but come Rothmans Medal night, could not be found. Peter Moore eventually tracked him down at a barber shop and ordered a police escort to bring him just in the nick of time and then gave a two-line speech that was a cracker. Watch it here.



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Comments (12)

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  1. Rick says:

    Hey Nick, I saw his and thought of you. Possibly the most mean less FG of all time. Hopefully a reader of your column.

  2. Davey G says:

    After the Roosters game, back comes the shoulder charge discussion. A player unfortunately died this year from “a shoulder charge gone wrong”, but the shoulder charge should not be blamed, but the player. Any contact with the head is illegal, so if attempting a shoulder charge and you contact the head, penalty and weeks on the sideline. Same as a high shot, same as a hard tackle gone wrong, same as picking someone up and going further than horizontal. As we saw on Friday night, a good shoulder charge done properly is awesome, as are the big tackles as are the fantastic cover tackles etc that make our game special.
    I truly believe the shoulder charge can be brought back into the game with the players and coaches all in agreeance (and they have to sign something) to say that if there is any contact with the head – accidental or not – it is a minimum 8 weeks on the sideline. This will encourage coaches to train how to do it properly and make players only do it if they are confident, because they have all agreed to the penalty.
    It was an awesome hit though, hey…

    • Davey G says:

      And as for Tedesco – apart from Jennings who doesn’t really lurk around the ruck, you tell me Teddy wouldn’t change the team by zipping past the 30+ year old QLD forwards after an offload or two in Origin next year. Dugan is good but can’t do what Teddy does.

      • Davey G says:

        Sorry for the extra comments, but I had an idea for the penalty that the Fifita brothers should cop if found guilty (looks likely)

        If found guilty of ref abuse (seems likely), I reckon their penalty should be that they are allowed back to the NRL after they have done their referee’s training and officiated their first junior match (same level as the match where the incident occurred).

        They could take 6 months, they could take 2 years, it would be up to them, but any number of weeks handed down from the NRL would just be made up (8 weeks? 12 weeks? Where does that number come from?), so this would put it back onto them as to how quickly they want to return to the game.

  3. Gaz says:

    What do you think about the rumour that sbw is back to the Bulldogs? I thought they would never have him back?

  4. mav63 says:

    Simple solution to diving, if the player stays down bring out the blanket and the long stick. Boom! Problem solved.

  5. Mat says:

    As a Tigers fan I have to agree regarding Taupau. He is fast becoming a side show, which is a shame because when he plays direct, smart and measured footy he is one out of the box. His efforts on Friday screamed of a player who wanted a week off, which is a disgrace given he is one of only three players (with Woods,Farah) in the Tigers pack up to NRL standard.

  6. Gerry says:

    don’t you think its a bit too much of a coincidence that the roosters have won a lot more penalty counts since buzz rothfields article on penalties against them. I have been saying for years that the refs are being influenced by the media and theres proof…

  7. Mike Butterfield says:

    Matt Duffie has been playing with East Tigers, at the start of the season he was tentative, but it has been very satisfying to watch his progress in every game, each game he got better & better, the Tigers Coach needs to be congratulated for his part in getting Matt back into the Storm side.

  8. Jason says:

    You might not think it, but soccer has had a degree of success in mitigating the problem of diving and it would be simple to implement in the NRL. If play has to be stopped for an ‘injured’ player, then that player must leave the field to receive ‘treatment’. If it’s worthy of a penalty, they obviously get a free interchange, but if not, they either play with a man down until he comes back or use an interchange. If players know that they are potentially leaving their side a man short, you’ll see a lot less staying down, unless it’s actually something serious.

    It was interesting to see Tapau get binned on the weekend; I was beginning to think that there was nothing you could possibly do on the field anymore to get sent to the bin. Whilst I certainly think the incident deserved it (credit to the onfield ref), I think he could feel a little hard done by that the plethora of other similar/worse incidents throughout the year are only ever put on report and penalised. I get that 10 minutes is a long time, but bring in a 5 minute sin bin and/or bring in an ice hockey type rule where the sin binning ends as soon as the opposition scores, if before the end of the time limit.

  9. Taro says:

    There is no other professional sports competition that allows such mediocre club management to thrive. In any other league teams like the Eels, Titans and Sharks would be booted out or relocated. Its a pretty good indication on how amateur the NRL is when it comes management.