From The Couch: Round 21

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on August 2, 2011

A Champion Says Goodbye: In the list of great Canterbury players, Andrew Ryan will sit comfortably in the top 20. The word champion is overused but the Bulldogs skipper is one in the most genuine of senses.

So it was with a great deal of sadness to hear Ryan announce his retirement on Monday. What was sadder was the fact it seems he was forced out by a club who could have kept him on the books for nothing, at least in salary cap terms.

When Ryan arrived from Parramatta in 2003, I wasn’t sure what to think. He seemed like a quality country boy and he had made his Origin debut in only his second season in first grade in 2001 but he had played for Parramatta and that stench is hard to wash off.

I quickly came around though and it wasn’t long before Ryan, affectionately known as Bobby to the faithful, became a favourite to all who support the blue-and-whites.

He really came into his own in 2004 where he played two Origin matches, played in four Test matches and scored 13 tries in 26 games for the Bulldogs, winning a premiership in his first game as captain. It was a memorable night and the smell of Bobby’s sweat when we hugged lingers in the nostrils to this day. It was the high watermark of a tumultuous decade and Ryan topped it off winning Canterbury’s best and fairest. It was his finest year.

Over the next three seasons, Ryan was arguably the best player at the club, a regular in both the New South Wales and Australian teams. A tackling machine with plenty of ball skills to boot, there was no better attacking backrower from 2004-07.

By 2008, his Origin and Test careers were over and Canterbury were headed to a wooden spoon. It was a year of disgrace for the club but Ryan, forever proud, was the Bulldogs’ best, winning another club best and fairest. The mighty captain held his head high in the most trying of circumstances and I would very much like to believe he would smack Sonny Bill Williams in the mouth if he ever passed him in the street.

From 2009 through to now, his role in the team has changed. His speed and attacking abilities have been in decline so Ryan has played tighter and become more tackling-oriented. You could count on one hand the amount of times he let the club down. He was wonderful.

Ryan has played 213 times for Canterbury and will hopefully be sent out with a finals run. You wouldn’t count on it but it is still possible. A man has to dream.

It is such a terrible shame Ryan was not kept on for one last year. We need a champion of his qualities at Canterbury. And I can’t help but feel he was forced out. He still has another year in him. But that is football. Hopefully we have someone who can step up to the mark because players of his calibre, his leadership, his smarts, his will, they don’t come along every day.

The Rugby League Week Players’ Poll: Every year, Rugby League Week polls 100 players to get a feel for the game. And every year in From The Couch gives its unsolicited views. So, let’s dance. My answers up first, followed by the poll result …

Who is the best player in the game?Cameron Smith (Johnathan Thurston 32%)
Thurston tipped Billy Slater (24%) and Cam Smith (19%) for best player in the game. Thurston has had a good year but Smith, as always, is flying under the radar as he guides the Storm to the minor premiership. Smith has been the best player of the last half-decade and remains the top player in the game.

Do you know of any players who bet on an NRL game?No (No 81%)
But I would bet my bottom dollar that it does go on…

Should the NRL expand and if so, where:Yes/Perth (Yes 85%, Perth 35%)
The NRL should absolutely expand the code as the AFL is and Perth, due to its time zone advantage and sound demographics, should get the nod ahead of a second Brisbane team. Sadly, there is little room for the Central Coast Bears at present.

Who is the most overrated player?Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Jamie Soward, John Sutton 7%)
Most players pussed-out, not offering a comment but those who did foolishly named Soward and rightfully pointed at Sutton. For mine though, Canberra’s Tom Learoyd-Lahrs is the most overrated player in the game with Sutton and Jason King close behind. What does Tommy Large actually do at any level? Nothing is the correct answer there.

Who is the biggest grub?Sam Thaiday (Michael Ennis 51%)
Maybe I just have a soft spot for Ennis because he is a Bulldog but Deborah Mailman, aka Sam Thaiday, is the biggest grub for mine. Always the third man in, always on the niggle, he is a total grub.

Which player wouldn’t you pick a fight with? John Sutton (Paul Gallen 13%)
Paul Gallen is just one man. John Sutton has a whole gang behind him…

Who is the most intimidating player?Petero Civoniceva (Civoniceva/Billy Slater 10%)
Petero is just a man mountain and remains one of the dominant go-forward props in the NRL. A strange question though.

Who is the best new face of 2011?Gareth Widdop (Tariq Sims 35%)
Widdop was in raging hot form at the beginning of the season and continues to be a wonderful foil for Cooper Cronk down the left side in a new position of five-eighth. Sims has the raps but it is Widdop who will be the best long-term player.

Are the referees better or worse in 2011?Better (Worse 50%)
I am surprised with this result because the standard of refereeing, particularly video refereeing, has been significantly up with fewer nit-picky tries and a better flow in games. There have been some abhorrent performances but overall the standard has been stronger and it is disappointing the players don’t recognise this. It must be remembered: Robert Finch did more to hurt rugby league than any man over the last quarter-century.

Who is the hardest referee to deal with?Jason Robinson (Brett Suttor 32%)
Suttor looks like a junkie with his beard and is clearly not popular with players. Robinson though is pretty smug and arrogant though when he talks to the players and has a face that looks like a flattened prune.

Will NSW win an Origin series in the next five years?Yes (Yes 75%)
The retirement of Darren Lockyer and Petero Civoniceva and the likes of Thurston, Smith and Slater entering the twilights of their careers means the Blues will pinch one sooner rather than later.

Which is more important; Test footy or Origin?Origin (Test 54%)
I would very much like to believe it is donning the green and gold but there is certainly a greater focus on Origin football, rugby league’s sacred cow. Test football has been rejuvenated in recent times but Origin still gets more attention and is more revered.

Was Mal Meninga out of line with his comments about NSW?Yes (No 63%)
Mal’s line fell apart when he suggested some organised conspiracy. Rugby league in New South Wales hasn’t been able to organise itself in 103 years so to suggest they have finally got it together now is just stupid.

Have you seen a player take recreational drugs?Yes (No 89%)
Go to any music festival and you are bound to see an NRL player dancing away, ecstatic to be away from the footy field.

Who is the best coach in the NRL?Craig Bellamy (Wayne Bennett 66%)
There are only two in the conversation and Bellamy’s efforts over the last two seasons have me convinced he could be one of the best two or three coaches ever.

Who is the worst coach in the NRL?David Furner (Brian Smith 24%)
If Furner’s brother wasn’t running the Raiders, there is no way he would still be in a job. The Raiders’ underachievement this year has been monumental and Furner has to be accountable.

Who will win the 2011 premiership?St George-Illawarra (Melbourne 37%)
For mine, the premiership is a three-horse race between the Dragons, Storm and Sea Eagles. That is how the players see it too, those three teams getting 92% of the vote. The Dragons have been struggling of late but Bennett will have the Dragons ready come September. The Storm are flying but there is a question mark over their pack. I have little respect for Manly’s pack either.

Which club won’t win a premiership in the next decade?Cronulla (Cronulla 38%)
The Sharks haven’t won a title in 44 years so why would anything change in the next decade? They will do well to remain in the Shire for the next 10 years let alone win that elusive title.

Who is the dirtiest team in the NRL?Manly (Melbourne 49%)
Melbourne just play to the rules. It is a team like Manly-with renowned grubs Steve Matai and Anthony Watmough-who is the filthiest, always looking for cheap shots and undertaking nasty, untoward behaviour.

Best Fullback:Billy Slater (Billy Slater 89%)
Despite a real depth of quality fullbacks across the NRL, Billy Slater is unchallenged as the top custodian in the game and will remain so until Josh Dugan has a breakout season.

Best Winger:Manu Vatuvei (Akuila Uate 58%)
This is a battle between Vatuvei and Uate with Vatuvei just getting the nod for mine. He has a size edge on Uate and is more prone to finding the tryline. He also gets in the middle and does a little more work than Uate. Both are very close though.

Best Centre:Justin Hodges (Greg Inglis 50%)
What a joke it is that Inglis gets the nod as the best centre in the game. He isn’t in the best half-dozen this year with his reputation clearly getting him the vote. Justin Hodges has missed a good portion of the year but at his best, is the top centre in the game. On Friday night, Hodges carved up the Sharks and gets the tip of the cap here ahead of Mark Gasnier, Matt Cooper and Jamie Lyon.

Best Five-Eighth:Kieran Foran (Darren Lockyer 75%)
The Broncos captain is having a rejuvenated season but Foran has turned Manly’s fortunes around this year with his ability to put a teammate through a hole or kick for field position. Benji Marshall and Jamie Soward are just behind Foran and Lockyer.

Best Halfback:Johnathan Thurston (Johnathan Thurston 82%)
The Queensland halfback remains well ahead of the chasing pack, led by Cooper Cronk.

Best Backrow:Paul Gallen (Paul Gallen 48%)
Gallen has lifted his game this year, eliminating much of the grubbiness from his game, and it has made him an inspirational leader. He was magnificent in Origin II and has done extremely well at Cronulla this year. Luke Lewis is the clear second best.

Best Prop:Matthew Scott (Matthew Scott 68%)
Scott has had a breakout year in 2011, surpassing old warhorse Petero Civoniceva and fellow Queenslanders Ben Hannant and David Shillington. Scott has been central to North Queensland’s return to the top of the table while he was the best player on the park in Origin I. A special mention to Aiden Tolman, who has had a very good year on an ordinary team.

Best Hooker:Cameron Smith (Cameron Smith 92%)
The gulf between Smith and the rest of the hooking fraternity is as great as it has ever been as he continues to get better while the likes of Robbie Farah drop off.

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Canterbury Are Foolish: Canterbury were extremely foolish to outright reject a play for embattled Parramatta five-eighth Daniel Mortimer. Mortimer has been offered a release by the Eels if he can find another deal. The Mortimer name is as good as royalty at Canterbury but more importantly, the Bulldogs are short on talented playmakers. He is after an opportunity and will be available on the cheap, so there is nothing but upside in bringing him on board and trying him in the No.6 or even using him as a backup to Mick Ennis in the No.9 jersey. Mortimer has struggled this year but the club was prepared to throw big money at him only last year. It is very disappointing the Bulldogs recruitment team didn’t give him a go.

Get Well Simon Dwyer: It was terrible to read that promising young Tigers forward Simon Dwyer is staring down the barrel of never playing rugby league again. A hard-running fringe player who hit the right lines hard and tackled with genuine ferocity, Dwyer has suffered severe nerve damage in his arm after a tackle gone wrong against the Bulldogs. He has still yet to get full movement back in it and has been told by a specialist he is unlikely to ever play again. It would be a tragedy for the young Tiger, who seemed a sure bet to have an Origin and possibly an international future. It is never nice to see a young player cut down before their prime, particularly if that player has a genuine love of the game and a deep well of untapped potential. Hopefully Dwyer can get healthy and then find his way back onto the football field.

On the Dwyer incident, the Tigers could very well find themselves in trouble somewhere down the line. The sight of the Tigers trainers yanking Dwyer up by his injured arm was ugly to say the least. What additional damage such rough treatment did is unknown but if Dwyer doesn’t play again, there is a fair chance there could be some legal action down the road. It would be very interesting to hear what NRL chief medical officer Ron Muratore has to say about the incident.

The Warriors Sign Bluey:The New Zealand Warriors have made the right decision in announcing Brian McLennan as the club’s new head coach. McLennan, who will be the club’s seventh head coach, enters the job with plenty of expectation. The Warriors have been remarkably stable over the last six seasons under Ivan Cleary and have a good core of quality senior players and exciting young prospects. McLennan, meanwhile, guided the New Zealand national team to the 2005 Tri-Nations final while winning two Super League titles with Leeds in his three years in charge. He is the coach to take them to the next level and I would not be surprised at all to see the Warriors play in a Grand Final over the next two years.

Commentary Call of the Week: Andy Raymond came out with a classic on Saturday night after Luke Lewis stretched out for a grubber kick. “And it looks like Luke Lewis is doing some planking.” Lewis, of course, wasn’t planking. He was knocked out cold by the hard Townsville turf. Brilliant.

Meaningless Field Goal Update: James Maloney, one of Orange’s favourite sons, has quickly wormed his way into my eternal affections with his love of the meaningless field goal. He was at it again on Sunday afternoon, taking two shots in the final four minutes with the Warriors up by 18. It was all very exciting. Maloney has now kicked four NRL field goals, three of them meaningless. There must be something in the water out Orange way.

Too cute, too stupid: Jarryd Hayne may be talented. He may be skilful. He may be fast. But he can be a complete and utter moron at times and so it was on Monday night when Hayne collected an intercept and then ran himself into touch when any half-decent player could have scored. Being chased by the incomparable Mo Blair, Hayne couldn’t shake the former Penrith fatboy. But Hayne still had plenty of room and simply needed to put the foot down and get low. He did neither. Untouched, he willingly dived out, around the corner post, trying a one-handed put-down inside the corner post. It was a totally moronic play and one that should be shown to all those Hayne apologists when they try to push him as one of the game’s best.

Fear and Loathing at Parramatta Stadium:There is nothing grander than seeing a Parramatta fan remember the pain of the last quarter-century of futility. Adrian Proszenko does a wonderful job in this piece here. Read it. It is self-explanatory

The End of an Era:For likely the final time, coaching legends Wayne Bennett and John Lang went head-to-head. It was the 33rd time the duo had met in the NRL, dating back to the opening round of 1993 when Bennett’s Broncos rolled Lang’s Sharks 19-10. The two have had some stunning duels over the years with Bennett coming out ahead 19-14. They butted heads in the 1997 Super League Grand Final, the Broncos downing the Sharks 26-8.  They met another six times in the finals with Bennett triumphing 34-2 in 1997 and 34-20 in 2000. Lang won the other four finals matches with Cronulla downing Brisbane 22-16 in 1996, 42-20 in 1999 and 22-6 in 2001 and Penrith winning 28-18 on their way to the 2003 title. These two Queenslanders are two legends of the game and it was nice to see their last battle turn out to be a classic.

Congratulations Newcastle:Well done to the Newcastle Knights. They have managed to shake their worst player, Antonio Kaufusi, who has signed with Harlequins. It is the second straight contract that has been cut short with the Cowboys dumping the lazy prop 18 months into a three year deal before the Knights punted him with a year to go. Antonio Kaufusi will leave with the honour of being the worst player to ever play for Australia, coming off the bench in a 33-10 win against Great Britain in 2006.

Remembering the Bulimba Cup:I have a deep affection for long-lost rugby league trophies and one of those is the Bulimba Cup, contested by representative teams from Brisbane, Ipswich and Toowoomba between 1925 and 1972. These trophies need to be remembered and like the Maher Cup, this was one of the great rugby league competitions. There are so many tales. In 1926, Australian captain Tom Gorman was chaired off the field after Brisbane defeated the hot Ipswich team. Herb Steinort, the “king of the Clydesdales”, battering Brisbane and Ipswich players. There was the astonishing 100-yard zig-zag try in the 1931 clash between Brisbane and Toowoomba that resulted in “hats being hurled in the air”. There was Toowoomba’s forfeit in ’35 after there was a dispute over champion five-eighth Vic Hey’s eligibility. Hey was in the news again, moving from Toowoomba to Ipswich in ’37 before moving to Leeds, much to the dismay of Ipswich fans. The Cup was suspended in ’42 due to the war, restarted again in ’44. By ’48, a radio ban saw crowds fall significantly. In 1950, the mighty Toowoomba failed to win a game but “The Downs Fox” Duncan Thompson was brought in as coach and the Clydesdales would win six Cups in a row. In 1956, six Toowoomba players were selected for the Kangaroos squad. In ’65, Toowoomba went through the season undefeated, ending a four year title run from Brisbane. 1969 saw the Cup reduced to just one round and a final. In 1972, the final Cup was played with Brisbane thumping Toowoomba 55-2 in front of only 3,582. And that was that, a time-honoured tradition ended. But it should never be forgotten.

Injury Update: The most spectacular injury of the weekend was no doubt that of Luke Lewis, who stretching out for a try, fell head first into the turf. When he arose some five minutes later, concussed and having re-injured his shoulder, half his face had skin taken off.

Kalifa Faifai-Loa (North Queensland): The Cowboys winger went straight off after hurting his hamstring when saving a ball from touch. It was all iced up and he will likely miss at least a couple of weeks. Will Tupou will replace him.

Luke Lewis (Penrith): In major doubt after sustaining a concussion, facial lacerations and a reoccurrence of a shoulder injury. His loss would be tragic for the Panthers, who are missing a whole raft of key position players. Nathan Smith will start in his place.

Micheal Luck (New Zealand): Had a huge chunk taken out from under his eye in the Raiders win but finished the game off and won’t miss any time.

Simon Mannering (New Zealand): The Warriors skipper hobbled off with a knee injury with 10 minutes to play. It looks like a minor MCL strain and he is unlikely to miss any time but with Lew Brown returning through NSW Cup on the weekend, the burly utility will come in for Mannering if he is ruled out.

Ben Roberts (Canterbury): The rubbish Canterbury five-eighth hurt his quad early in the Roosters loss but battled on, ensuring Canterbury had little in attack or defence. Has hopefully played his last game in the blue and white.

Jeff Robson (Parramatta): Fractured his cheekbone early in the loss to Melbourne and it looks like he will be out for the season. His injury could open the door for a return to first grade for Daniel Mortimer.

Jason Ryles (Sydney Roosters): Suffered a concussion when hit by Frank Pritchard but you can never really be sure how much damage a hit does to the dumbest man in league.

Kade Snowden (Cronulla): The Sharks prop managed only 28 minutes as he continues to complain about a sore back. He played competently but will have to manage the injury until the Sharks are out of the race.

Aiden Tolman (Canterbury): Damaged his AC joint early in the loss to the Roosters but got it taped up and played 48 minutes as one of Canterbury’s best.

Gareth Widdop (Melbourne): Missed Monday’s match with an elbow injury, a blow primarily to the Yenda Yuans (managed by Willie M Medal Judge Rohan Kendall), with his absence costing Kendall a preliminary final.

William Zillman (Gold Coast): Left the field early in the second half with a heart concern. This is a rarity, so who knows how long he will be out for.

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Willie M Medal Voting:Some old favourites topped the voting in round 21 with Adam Cuthbertson, Ben Roberts and Adrian Purtell all collecting maximum points this week. A shocker by Josh McCrone saw him also collect the three for the first time in 2011. Blake Ferguson has failed to extend his lead at the top of voting.

Brisbane v Cronulla
3-Colin Best (Cro)
2-Nathan Gardner (Cro)
1-Tyson Frizell (Cro)

Manly v Wests Tigers
3-Brett Stewart (Man)
2-Matt Groat (Tig)
1-Steve Matai (Man)

Sydney Roosters v Canterbury
3-Ben Roberts (Bul)
2-Jamal Idris (Bul
1-Jonathan Wright (Bul)

North Queensland v Penrith
3-Adrian Purtell (Pen)
2-Brad Tighe (Pen)
1-Luke Walsh (Pen)

New Zealand v Canberra
3-Josh McCrone (Can)
2-Brett White (Can)
1-Sam Williams (Can)

Newcastle v Gold Coast
3-Bodene Thompson (GC)
2-Mark Minichiello (GC)
1-Beau Henry (GC)

St George-Illawarra v South Sydney
3-Adam Cuthbertson (Dra)
2-Jamie Soward (Dra)
1-Nathan Fien (Dra)

Parramatta v Melbourne
3-Sisa Waqa (Mel)
2-Mitchell Allgood (Par)
1-Ben Smith (Par)

18: Blake Ferguson (Can)
14: Matt Orford (Can)
12: Jarryd Hayne (Par)
11: Greg Bird (GC), Krisnan Inu (NZ), Steve Michaels (GC), Bodene Thompson (GC)
10: Preston Campbell (GC), Wade Graham (Cro), Michael Jennings (Pen), Antonio Kaufusi (New), Kris Keating (Bul), Robert Lui (Tig), Jason Ryles (Roo), Clinton Toopi (GC), Matthew Wright (Cro)
9: Ben Barba (Bul), Lachlan Coote (Pen), Jamal Idris (Bul), BJ Leulia (Roo), Nate Myles (Roo), Ben Pomeroy (Cro)

Round 21 Voting Panel:Nick Tedeschi, Matt Tedeschi, Rohan Kendall, Cliff Bingham

Fun Fact #1: Adam MacDougall had his first win in 11 ½ months on Sunday with his last win coming against Brisbane in round 24 last year.

Fun Fact #2: Over his 16-season career, Adam MacDougall has averaged 11.88 games per season. He has played 20 games in a season only twice. Adam MacDougall is a part-time footballer.

Fun Fact #3: New swimming champion James Magnussen has said he always wanted to play rugby league for Canterbury, making him this column’s favourite swimmer of all-time.

Round 22 Selection Notes:

Canterbury:Josh Morris returns to the team after two weeks in the NSW Cup with Tim Lafai being dropped. Lafai can consider himself unlucky. Ben Roberts and Jonathan Wright have both been extremely lucky to hold onto their spots.

North Queensland:Neil Henry has made to changes to the Cowboys side that beat Penrith though winger Kalifa Faifai-Loa remains in some doubt with a hamstring injury. Will Tupou will shadow him.

Wests Tigers:Nothing too unusual from Tim Sheens this week other than Wade McKinnon being named on the bench again. 

St George-Illawarra:Dean Young returns this week, being named on a six-man bench with Mitch Rein. Rein and Adam Cuthbertson are the likely omissions.

Melbourne: Craig Bellamy has not named any of the four Storm players who missed Monday's clash as late withdrawals with none of the quartet of Matt Duffie, Gareth Widdop, Sika Manu and Rory Kostjasyn expected to play.

Penrith:Luke Lewis has been named though is in serious doubt for the Storm clash. Dayne Weston has been dumped with Nafe Seluini and Masada Iosefa set to fight it out for the last bench spot.

Cronulla:Shane Flanagan has rung in the changes this week, dropping John Williams, Colin Best (under the guise of an injury) and Stuart Flanagan from the team and Nathan Gardner to the bench. Isaac Gordon starts at fullback, Matt Wright shifts to the wing and Ricky Leutele plays his second game in the centres. Paul Aiton returns from an ankle on the bench.

Gold Coast:Greg Bird is out with a hamstring injury and is replaced by Luke O'Dwyer. Clinton Toopi has mercifully been dropped but sadly, he is replaced by Steve Michaels. Dominique Peyroux moves to the centres. Bodene Thompson can consider himself lucky to only be dropped to the bench.

Brisbane:Ben Te'o returns from two broken arms and comes in for prop David Hala. Anthony Griffin has not been keen to change a winning formula.

New Zealand: The wonderful Lewis Brown returns to first grade after an injury layoff, named on a five-man bench.

Newcastle:After a false start last week, Evarn Tuimivave returns for the Knights this week. Adam MacDougall has somehow kept Keith Lulia out of a centre position.

Canberra:Josh Dugan, Bronson Harrison and Jarrod Croker have all been named but are all under an injury cloud. Nathan Massey, Joe Picker and Danny Galea would be the respective replacements.

Manly:Tony Williams returns from injury on the bench but no changes to the starting thirteen.

Sydney Roosters:BJ Leulia has been named in the centres with the rejuvenated Phil Graham on the wing, meaning Kane Linnett is still out hurt. The bench again looks extremely thin.

South Sydney:Dave Taylor returns from suspension for the Bunnies with Nathan Peats likely to be the player to miss out.

Parramatta:Casey McGuire comes in for the injured Jeff Robson at halfback with Manase Manuokafoa joining the bench. Still no Daniel Mortimer. Jordan Atkins comes in for the unlucky Chris Hicks on the wing.

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

Rumour Mill:Cronulla are set to make a late play for Willie Tonga, attempting to poach the international centre from Parramatta in what would be another huge blow to the Eels’ recruitment drive. There has been some speculation that both Benji Marshall and Ben Barba could be in for positional switches in 2012. Marshall is being touted for a move to fullback while Barba could find himself at five-eighth. Josh Dugan is believed to be on the verge of signing with the Tigers for 2013 and beyond. If Dugan were to leave, it would be a huge blow for the Raiders. Daniel Mortimer will sign with Penrith.

Betting Market of the Week:John Cartwright’s twisted bowel was caused by:

Clinton Toopi’s inability to do anything useful: $2.50
Bodene Thompson’s inability to tackle: $2.50
A fear of losing his job: $41.0
The prospect of drinking with Brad Izzard and Mark Geyer at the Panthers 20-year premiership anniversary: $4.00

Moniker XIII of the Week: This week, the long and completely underwhelming career of Chris Walker came to an end.  Walker scored 81 tries in 151 games for six clubs, representing Queensland six times in 2001-02. In honour of Walker, here is the greatest Chris team of all-time. Needless to say, it doesn’t include Chris Walker.

The Chris’

1. Chris Hicks (195 games for Penrith/Manly/Parramatta)
2. Chris Anderson (230 games for Canterbury)
3. Chris Close (166 games for Manly/Gold Coast)
4. Chris Mortimer (250 games for Canterbury/Penrith)
5. Chris Johns (223 games for St George/Brisbane)
6. Chris O’Sullivan (202 games for Canberra)
7. Chris McKivat (54 games for Glebe)
13. Chris Flannery (126 games for Sydney Roosters)
12. Chris Heighington (174 games for Wests Tigers)
11. Chris McKenna (160 games for Brisbane/South Queensland/Cronulla)
10. Chris Walsh (163 games for St George/Illawarra)
9. Chris Caruana (157 games for North Sydney/South Sydney)
8. Chris Beattie (92 games for Cronulla/Sydney Roosters)

Chris’ analysis: The Chris’ are strong in the halves with inaugural Australian captain Chris McKivat and Raiders legend Chris O’Sullivan directing traffic. The three-quarter line is of an international standard. The forward pack is honest but only a bunch of toilers really. Chris Hicks is also a weak-link at fullback.

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What I Like About…James Segeyaro:There is something very cool about seeing a Papua New Guinean do well in the NRL and mark my words, James Segeyaro is doing very well at the Cowboys and will be around for many years to come. He had a cracking game for the Cowboys on Saturday night where his shot on Sam McKendry looked like he had been launched from a cannon. It was Jushin Liger like, for all those wrestling fans out there. He has a nice future and I for one hopes he keeps making inroads for Papuan New Guinea players in the big league.

From Deep in the Bowels of Twitter: Matt Duffie, from the dirtiest team in rugby league according to the RLW Poll, gets behind Michael Ennis, the biggest grub in rugby league according to the RLW Poll: “The rugby league community needs to stand up and get behind Mick Ennis whether u like him or not!”

Former Warriors great Awen Guttenbeil always has a fun fact on hand: “Interesting fact. Stacey Jones has been coached by all the past #warriorscoaches and the new coach to be.”

Krisnan Inu may be in the NSW Cup a while longer: “Changed my mind, snack is now burgerfuel..yuuuuuuuuum, bacon backfire combo with aioli sauce with the chips.."YES"

Obscure Score of the Week: Orange CYMS-Orange Hawks, 26-22. Orange CYMS, my local team when growing up out Orange way and the defending premiers, won a spiteful affair that saw the match called off with 22 minutes to go due to constant brawling. It is the third time a Hawks match has been called off this year for same, something completely unsurprising for such a low-down scumbag club. A Hawks supporter then assaulted the referee as he left the field with the referee eventually being protected by CYMS skipper Des Knight. Little responsibility was taken by Hawks after the match, who now must show cause why they shouldn’t be kicked out of Group 10. I, for one, would kick them out the door and tell them never to come back.

Coaching Stocks:
5: Craig Bellamy: An incredible comeback with four first graders ruled out on gameday
4.5: Wayne Bennett: Bennett ripped his team’s attitude in capitulation against Souths
4.5: Anthony Griffin: Has to be happy with how his side decimated Cronulla
4: Des Hasler: Bad loss to Tigers, may have blown any hope of minor premiership
4: Ivan Cleary: In a little bit of a danger game, the Warriors passed with flying colours
4: Neil Henry: The Cowboys now have won 3 of 4 without Thurston and are going well
3.5: Tim Sheens: Monster win on the road against Manly with season now on track
2.5: Rick Stone: Attack clicked into order in fine style, putting 50 on for first time in ‘11
2: Steve Georgallis: Panthers tried hard but injuries really hit the team hard in loss
1: Shane Flanagan: No Paul Gallen hurt but the lack of effort in defence was very poor
1: John Lang: A huge win over the Dragons that may just get Souths on track for finals
0: Jim Dymock: An ill-disciplined effort from the Dogs and was too late dragging Roberts
-0.5: Stephen Kearney: Another loss in cruel circumstances with the Eels non-winners
-4: John Cartwright: In hospital with a twisted bowel and his team did him no favours
-5: Brian Smith: Snuck home against a disappointing Dogs team, did get calls go his way
-7: David Furner: Another pathetic show from a team who has severely underperformed

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy stared his future in the face on Friday night when he played 23 minutes off the bench. In that time he made an error. He surely won’t find himself in first grade much longer. Put us out of our misery Shane Flanagan and get rid of him for good.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 21: St George Illawarra-South Sydney, 24-32. There were some absolute bottlers the weekend just gone with the Tigers thrilling win over Manly a cracking match, the Bulldogs-Roosters affair a real interesting slugfest and Melbourne overcoming an 18-0 deficit to win 22-18 another memorable affair but the pick of the matches was the Bunnies’ win over the Dragons. The game looked over 20 minutes in. The Dragons had bolted to a 20-0 lead and given their history of dominance over South Sydney and the Bunnies’ horrible capitulation against the Warriors the week prior, few would have bet on a thrilling finale. But that is what occurred when Souths somehow put themselves into the match. Rhys Wesser scored just before the break and then the floodgates opened in the second half with the Bunnies in front 13 minutes after the break when Dylan Farrell scored his second. When he went over for number three, he put Souths in front for the final time before Nathan Merritt scored the sealer. It was a brilliant match, just how Sunday afternoon rugby league in July should be.  

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. Darius Boyd (Dra)
2. Akuila Uate (New)
3. Matt Cooper (Dra)
4. Justin Hodges (Bri)
5. James McManus (New)
6. James Maloney (War)
7. Chris Sandow (Sou)
13. Corey Parker (Bri)
12. Greg Bird (GC)
11. Aiden Guerra (Roo)
10. Nate Myles (Roo)
9. Andrew McCullough (Bri)
8. Ben Hannant (Bri)

14. Dylan Farrell (Sou)
15. Darren Lockyer (Bri)
16. Jeremy Smith (Cro)
17. Mark Gasnier (Dra)

Score a $100 Free Bet from Luxbet!Waiver Wire Advice: The season may be over for those who have gone heavy on Gold Coast backs but for those who have any remaining, it is time to move on. The likes of Clinton Toopi and David Mead haven’t scored strongly all year. Beau Henry is still learning the system. William Zillman can’t even get a full game anymore. Scott Prince remains overvalued. Any Titans backs, dump them and dump them now.

Correspondence Corner: Nick, yep, the Tedeschi school is a tough one and McCrone failed the test last week. He also happened to be the worst player on the field against the Warriors so I would say him taking stupid risks is not a real smart way of doing business.

Joe, John Grant has been signed to a one-year deal with the Tigers. His uncle James played 65 games for Balmain. Jonathon, there haven’t been too many rugby union converts make a name in league since Michael O’Connor and while I agree there is upside, I doubt he will even start 2012 in first grade so I think we can rule Origin out.

Zig, I am all for a round being played in the country as well but you won’t change my mind on City-Country, a must-keep fixture. And keep me posted on the bloodbath!

Gareth, I think you are right on the money in terms of stoppages. If you read the article I linked to last week, the NRL Stats team breaks down stoppages per game and average time with each stoppage. I think keeping the quick 20-metre tap, a fine rule introduction, is a must. To me, it doesn’t seem like a difficult concept to grasp.

And I awarded votes for the Raiders-Dragons and while Creagh was close, there were worse players on the field, to my eye.

Rob, players who have signed with the Crusaders will be released from their contracts. It will be in the interests of both parties for that to happen.

Grievous, Justin Horo has a great porntache and I am remiss for not commenting on it earlier.

Warriors_fan, thanks for the kind words. I quite enjoy the NZ commentary team and was lucky enough to hear them on Sunday. The play-by-play man (Steve McIvor I think) is very good. The Toyota Cup is entertaining and it is good catching a player on the up but as a lover of the defensive side of the game, the hardness and the like, you just don’t see that in the 20s.

Dragons68, Bellamy has a shocking Origin record but I don’t consider Origin records important or relevant when evaluating coaching ability. A clown like Ricky Stuart can excel at Origin level but can’t do anything with their club. To me, club records are what really matters. I think you are being too harsh on the NFL too. It is a wonderful sport and I think they have found a good balance.

Rabby, I hope Bellyache stays down south as well. He is a wonderful advertisement for the game. Nick, you are right about Bellamy having three of the best five players in the game but it must also be remembered that they were all developed by Bellamy.

Dean Q, the game has to be paid for somehow and that is through advertisements. In an ideal world there would be no ads but this isn’t an ideal world and people rallying against these stoppages are relics of a bygone era who do the game no good at all.

Mike from Tari, I haven’t heard enough Queensland Cup commentary so I’ll defer to you on that.

Pete, thanks for the pleasant words. We really must force this clock issue. Hopefully the new IC will be more open to it. On Benji, running the ball dead, I think it was just a heads-up play, like a quarterback taking a knee in the NFL. It isn’t a good look but if I was a Tigers fan, I’d be happy.

Rambo, The Ram Jam and Mick Pearson, glad we are all on the same page with McCrone. They should try him at hooker for mine.

Beard Watch: Not quite a beard this week. More in the realms of ridiculously stupid haircut. Ashton Sims has perhaps the worst Mohawk ever seen in the NRL. It is little wonder Neil Henry dumped him to the bench. His head looks like someone slammed the breaks on and went straight over his melon.

Watch It: This interesting documentary, aired after the 1993 Grand Final, looks at the evolution of rugby league and its future. Despite a touch of corniness, it is a fascinating look back in time to how, on the cusp of rugby league’s biggest upheaval, the game viewed itself. Perhaps the most accurate predictor of the future was Ray Warren. Watch it here and here.

Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images AsiaPac

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Comments (2)

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  1. harris says:

    Nick, I'm pretty sure that nobody else on the Canterbury team can fill the $200k long serving player allowance next year once Ryan leaves. The bulldogs board is so dumb.

    Oh, by the way, it's very nice of you to give an injured Ben Roberts the 3 Willie M points. NOT

  2. AB78 says:

    I think that Richard Villasanti, Brad Godden & Aaron Raper could certainly rival Antonio Kaufusi as the worst player to don the green and gold.