From The Couch: Round 22

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on August 6, 2012

Bring Back Gus: The word is out – Phil Gould wants back in – and the NSWRL must make it happen.

There is little question that Phil Gould is one of the great all-time coaches, successful at each of the three clubs he has coached and the greatest Blues mentor, with six series victories.

And that is why he must be the next New South Wales coach.

Gould has that rare combination of tactical nous and an understanding of the drive and intensity it takes to win Origin. He has done it before. He can do it again. Queensland have won seven straight series … and are well on their way to making it 10 straight.

Phil Rothfield is vehemently opposed to the idea so that has me thinking it is exactly the right move.

Ricky Stuart many many mistakes the last two years but he certainly did deliver to everyone – players, fans, the media – the message about what an honour it is to play for the Blues. Gould has delivered the same message for two decades,

There is no question the Blues need a man with experience. To throw Laurie Daley or Trent Barrett or even Brad Fittler in the deep end would be madness. It must be Gould. It is time to bring back Gus and bring him back now.

Oh Parramatta, Oh NSW: It says a lot when the most gracious and wise man in any situation is Ricky Stuart but that has been the case with the Origin coaching fiasco with the NSWRL reportedly offering Stuart a chance to coach both the Eels and the Blues and the Eels board, despite finishing bottom two the last two years, allowing Stuart to split his time. Luckily, for all involved, Ricky stepped aside, knowing he couldn't do both jobs. The column has been very critical of Stuart but appreciate his graciousness in not attempting to do both jobs. It was the smartest decision for all involved.

Parramatta, who shouldn't be devastated, probably are. It seems that while few can tolerate Ricky Stuart playing favourites, using rep jumpers to help lure players to his premiership club, Parramatta were basing their whole recruitment drive on him. Perhaps it might be an idea to get a stable atmosphere, a decent coach, some hope for the future … but perhaps that is just too similar to what would go on at a succesful club.

Bring in the Coaches Challenge: Shane Flanagan early last week called on the NRL to introduce the coaches challenge. By late Sunday afternoon, I'm fairly sure John Cartwright would have been right behind the concept.

Sean Hampstead's decision to award a try to South Sydney's Justin Hunt was reckless incompetence that went a long way to ending any chance the Gold Coast had of an upset. Hampstead awarded the try without seeing one shot that showed Chris McQueen's hands, despite the fact one was available, showing the bomb flicked the Souths player's hands. The justification, as always, was benefit of the doubt. If a tackler was so reckless in doing his job, he would be out as long as Travis Burns. It was arguably worse than his call in Origin I.

It is clear to anyone who follows the game that the video referees are not up to it. The coaches challenge must come in and it must be the on-field officials who make the call, and may only overturn the decision with conclusive evidence.

This madness must end.

Recruitment in the NRL Era – Ricky Stuart: Parramatta have signed Ricky Stuart as much for his ability to recruit as anything else. Here is a look at how he has done in nearly nine seasons as an NRL coach.

Best Buy: His most talented buy was probably Ashley Harrison but he did very well in identifying Kade Snowden as a future rep player and getting the most out of him, particularly in 2010, when the prop came of age and made his rep debut.

Worst Buy: It would have to be Reni Maitua. Signed by Stuart despite a reputation as a selfish player with discipline issues. Lasted not long before being done for performance enhancing drugs. Anthony Tupou rates a very close second.

Worst Loss: It is tough to be overly critical of the loss of Justin Hodges back to Brisbane but losing Ben Hannant so early was a terrible move. Hannant would develop into one of the top props but Stuart got only a handful of games out of him at the Roosters.

Origin/International Players Recruited:
Already: (11) David Kidwell, Brett Mullins, Chris Walker, Braith Anasta, John Doyle, Ashley Harrison, Josh Hannay, Danny Nutley, Trent Barrett, Reni Maitua, Anthony Tupou
Became: (4) Jason Cayless, Justin Hodges, Brett Finch, Kade Snowden

Origin/International Players Lost:
Already: (12) Matt Sing, Bryan Fletcher, David Kidwell, Paul Green, Shannon Hegarty, Justin Hodges, Jason Cayless, Michael Crocker, Chris Walker, Nigel Vagana, Greg Bird, Brett Kimmorley
Became: (4) Eric Grothe, Ben Hannant, Beau Scott, Dane Nielsen

*Super League Tri Series and International matches are recognised.
** Only players who went to or came from another NRL club are noted with the exception of English internationals.
*** Inaugural players recruited from Balmain and Western Suburbs are considered to not be recruited from outside

The Worst Recruits of 2012: The 10 worst signings of 2012:

1. Ben Roberts (Parramatta): Canterbury fans weren't unhappy to see him go and he has been abhorrent for the Eels. His first half against the Tigers was all-time horrible.

2. Robert Lui (North Queensland): Cut by the Tigers after beating up his girlfriend for a second time. Played one game before rightly suspended for the year.

3. Chris Sandow (Parramatta): Hailed as Parramatta's saviour and like all previous, has failed. Was always a poor fit and has been unable to fit into structure Kearney style. Tied for 35th in try assists.

4. Willie Tonga (Parramatta): International centre who has not tried all year when on the field, making just 80 metres and nine tackles a game, to go with nine errors and near three missed tackles a game in his 13 outings.

5. Adam Blair (Wests Tigers): Signed for a reported $500,000 a season by a team considered title favourites pre-season. Is tied for fifth in penalties conceded and 11th for errors, while making just 75 metres a game. 

6. Adam Cuthbertson (Newcastle): After his best year at the Dragons, lured to Newcastle by Bennett. Has been typically loose with his carry and seems well off the pace in defence.

7. Esi Tonga (Parramatta): Has played just three games since joining the Eels and has been appalling. Has no defensive technique and cannot catch.

8. Jamal Idris (Gold Coast): Turned up as big as a house and has hardly got any smaller. Made no impact for the Titans. The Blues had major centre issues – and Idris' name was not mentioned once.

9. Beau Champion (Gold Coast): Injury ravaged first season with the Titans, where he has averaged a shocking 58 metres, four missed tackles and an error a game, to go with just four tries in his nine showings.

10. Michael Greenfield (Melbourne): Craig Bellamy was hoping to get another Bryan Norrie with Greenfield but injuries limited him to one game, when a neck injury forced retirement. Very sad story.

Honourable Mentions: Kade Snowden, Timana Tahu, Leeson Ah Mau, Chris Armit

Stats courtesy or and

The Definition of Dog: Jarrod McCracken had the nerve to call Stephen Kearney a dog for not jumping into the boxing ring with him. No, McCracken. A dog is someone who backs out on a signed contract, as you did in 1995. A dog is someone who takes a player to court after an on-field incident that lacked any malice. That is a dog.

Reni Maitua, Belt Up: Parramatta backrower Reni Maitua came out looking like a delusional fool over the weekend when he took aim at Matthew Johns for the very fair criticism Johns has levelled at the Eels in the wake of Stephen Kearney getting fired and the Eels finally playing committed football.

"He's talking out of school and he's talking out of line," Maitua said.

"He seems to be having a dig at the senior players.

"If he wants to have a go then be a man and name names. Don't let a guy like Nathan Hindmarsh fall into that category."

I'm fairly sure Matthew Johns wasn't having a go at Nathan Hindmarsh. I'm fairly sure he was taking aim at a player like Reni Maitua, who scored just two tries and has averaged over four missed tackles a game through the first 20 rounds. Maitua should concentrate on not letting another coach down and not letting another club down rather than having a go at media commentators.

Bonus Reni Maitua fun fact: Reni Maitua's last four seasons in first grade have resulted in a wooden spoon (Canterbury, 2008), two second lasts (Cronulla, 2009 and Parramatta, 2011) and a last with four weeks remaining (Parramatta, 2012).

That is hardly a resume that allows you to take the high moral ground on criticism.

Saturday Afternoon Football, Hooray: It was sensational to see Saturday afternoon football return on the weekend. The Storm-Panthers clash did not reach any great heights and only 9,223 fans showed up but it is a time slot the NRL must fill when the next television deal is signed. What are rugby league fans expected to do on a Saturday afternoon?

Signings, Signings, Everywhere:  There have been a number of signings over the last week, some good, some not so good:

Joel Edwards (Canberra): A big hitter, no question, but has been exposed plenty of times this year defensively. Rejected a reasonable offer from the Knights so must be on plenty at the Raiders. Not sure he is the type the Raiders need with Fensom and Papalii already owning two backrow spots.

Jake Foster (Canberra): Promising young Bulldog backrower out of favour with the premiership leaders. No superstar but will offer value for money, particularly if his hands improve.

Jeremy Latimore (Penrith): A real trier but the Panthers have a million of those. At some stage they are going to need a superstar. Will do his job but will be a bench player at best.

Kyle O'Donnell (Penrith): If he is anything like his brother, he will be a hard nut. Looks one player with promise, something the Panthers need. Could well be a starter in round one next year.

James Roberts (Cronulla): Apparently found in a strip club being a nuisance in Bunnies gear before being sacked. Will be a good get for the Sharks if they can put him on the straight and narrow.

Payne Retires: North Queensland hooker Aaron Payne last week announced his retirement. Payne has played 11 seasons with the Cowboys, notching up 214 first grade appearances, the second most ever. There is no question

The Worst 50-plus Gamers: Leave your nominations for the worst 50-plus gamers in premiership history and we will put together a team next week.

Injury Update: The most serious injuries of the weekend seemed to occur to two sliding teams with Alex Glenn and James Maloney suffering nasty knee injuries.

Sam Burgess (Souths): Hurt his ankle but unbelievably will be available this week after getting a low charge for his reckless shot to William Zillman's head.

Jason Clark (Souths): Bled like an abattoir pig, gushing from the head before an old-fashioned nose bleed. Ric Flair would have been proud.

Gareth Ellis (Wests Tigers): Rolled his ankle against Parramatta. Won't miss much time. Desperately needed by the Tigers.

Alex Glenn (Brisbane): Looked to do a hamstring/knee injury scoring his second try and then collapsed at his next run. Another key Bronco down.

James Graham (Canterbury): Hurt his knee against Newcastle and sent a great deal of worry through the Bulldogs camp but returned and shouldn't miss any great length of time.

Aidan Guerra (Roosters): The Roosters' second rower strained some ligaments in his ankle. Should miss a week or two.

James Maloney (Warriors): Went down with ligament damage in his knee early against the Sharks. It would be a surprise if he played again in 2012.

Ben Matulino (Warriors): Suffered a chest injury against Cronulla. May miss a week.

Josh Miller (St George Illawarra): The Dragons tough-man got laid out by Martin Kennedy and looked to suffer a pretty hefty concussion.

Michael Morgan (North Queensland): Hurt his shoulder against Manly but played the game out. Ray Thompson will likely replace him, healthy or not.

Billy Slater (Melbourne): Hobbled a little in the clash with Penrith. Shouldn't be any issues going forward.

William Zillman (Gold Coast): Got smashed in the head by Sam Burgess, who was lucky to stay on the field. Played concussed. Tough effort.

Fun Fact #1: The three most successful teams in Olympic years are Canterbury, Manly and South Sydney, who have each won four titles in the year of the summer Olympics. Canterbury and Souths sit first and second on the ladder while Manly are running fourth.

South Sydney (1908, 1928, 1932, 1968)
Eastern Suburbs (1912, 1936)
Balmain (1920, 1924)
Western Suburbs (1948, 1952)
St George (1956, 1960, 1964)
Manly (1972, 1976, 1996, 2008)
Canterbury (1980, 1984, 1988, 2004)
Brisbane (1992, 2000)

Fun Fact #2: Greg Smith, who played one game for Newcastle in 1999, never played in the NFL, despite his claims to the contrary.

The 2012 Willie M Medal: Dragons halfback Ben Hornby and Broncos counterpart Peter Wallace pushed up in the standings of the Willie M Medal with just four rounds to play  with Hornby's one points pushing him to second and Wallace's two taking him into a tie for third. Tim Moltzen also collected a point to join Wallace and Chris Sandow in a tie for third placing.

Sydney Roosters v St George Illawarra
3-Nathan Green (Dragons)
2-Anthony Minichiello (Roosters)
1-Ben Hornby (Dragons)
Judge: Rohan Kendall

Melbourne v Penrith
3-Michael Jennings (Pen)
2-Clint Newton (Pen)
1-Lachlan Coote (Pen)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

Newcastle v Canterbury
3-Joel Edwards (New)
2-Tyrone Roberts (New)
1-Darius Boyd (New)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

North Queensland v Manly
3-Scott Bolton (Cow)
2-Darcy Lussick (Man)
1-Johnathan Thurston (Cow)
Judge: Rohan Kendall

New Zealand v Cronulla
3-Carlos Tuimivave (War)
2-Ben Henry (War)
1-Elijah Taylor (War)
Judge: Nathan Boss

Canberra v Brisbane
3-Petero Civoniceva (Bri)
2-Peter Wallace (Bri)
1-David Shillington (Can)
Judge: Chris Parkinson

Gold Coast v South Sydney
3-William Zillman (GC)
2-Michael Crocker (Sou)
1-Beau Falloon (GC)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

Wests Tigers v Parramatta
3-Joseph Paulo (Par)
2-Cheyse Blair (Par)
1-Tim Moltzen (Tig)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

17: Mitchell Pearce (Roo)
16: Ben Hornby (Dra)
15: Chris Sandow (Par), Peter Wallace (Bri), Tim Moltzen (Tig)
14: Ben Roberts (Par), Cheyse Blair (Par)
13: James Maloney (War), Ben Pomeroy (Cro)
12: BJ Leilua (Roo), Timana Tahu (New)
11: Blake Ferguson (Can), Brad Tighe (Pen)

Rumour Mill:Speculation is rife that Daniel Anderson will be in charge of the Sydney Roosters next season. Anderson is reported to have been approached. Anderson does a wonderful job on the ABC, unquestionably the best analyst in the game. His signing will be a big loss for those who enjoy his media work. The NSW coaching job will be a hotly contested position. Phil Gould will get the job if he wants it wit Laurie Daley believed to lead other candidates Trent Barrett and Brad Fittler. There is speculation that Justin Poore is on his way to Newcastle but that will not happen. Bennett is not believed to be a big fan of Poore's work.

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

Betting Market of the Week: After adding red wings to his white hair over the weekend, Phil Gould's next hair move will be:

– Totally bald, King Kong Bundy style: $31
– Blue, to signify his return to the Blues coaching job: $3.50
– A combination of black, white, brown, teal, pink, yellow and every other one of Penrith's array of colours: $2.20

What I Like About … Josh Miller: There is no tougher player in the NRL and no player more deserving of respect than former Raider hardman Josh Miller. Cannonball, as he is affectionately known as in the right circles, was absolutely destroyed in Friday's match with the Roosters, laid out by an absolute bell-ringer. Miller laid stunned on the ground for a few moments, jumped up, dazed and confused mind you, and looked to play on. He was taken off but he was not happy. What a champion, the kind of player you build a club around. Cannonball!

Moniker XIII of the Week: With Phil Gould firming as a potential candidate to coach the Blues in 2013, we come up with the greatest Phils in premiership history.

The Phils
1. Phil Sigsworth (176 games for Newtown/Manly/Canterbury/Balmain)
2. Phil Duke (27 games for Wests)
3. Phil Carey (128 games for Canberra//Manly)
4. Phil Bailey (127 games for Manly/Northern Eagles/Cronulla)
5. Phil Graham (147 games for Canberra/Roosters/Gold Coast)
6. Phil Hawthorne (57 games for St George/Easts)
7. Phil Blake (264 games for Manly/Souths/Norths/Canberra/St George/Auck.)
13. Phil Gould (105 games for Penrith/Newtown/Canterbury/Souths)
12. Phil Adamson (108 games for Parramatta/Penrith/Manly)
11. Phil Clarke (12 games for Sydney City)
10. Phil Lowe (72 games for Manly)
9. Phillip Lee (104 games for South Queensland/Brisbane)
8. Phil Daley (123 games for Manly/Gold Coast)

Analysis: An honest team with few superstars with the halves the real highlight of the working class team. Daley was a tough prop while Sigsworth got around, as did Gould. The journeymen would be an appropriate moniker.

The Coaching Crosshairs:Steve Price's decision to drop Jamie Soward wreaked of panic and suggests he could be on his way out at the Dragons. Price not only dropped Soward – he attempted to orchestrate a cover-up and then had Soward's replacement Nathan Fien play exactly the same style in exactly the same shape as Soward. Price does not seem to have the bottle to drop the man he should, Ben Hornby, or the nous to actually make the adjustments required to suit his personnel.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: The name of the village in County Tyrone that shares the same moniker as our beloved penguin has named its GAA team the "Plunketts". The Plunkett family crest does not contain a penguin.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 22: North Queensland-Manly, 6-8. An incredibly tough game of football marked – aside from some ordinary officiating – by stoic defence and a real September feel. Both teams slugged it out like a couple of old heavyweights in the dying rounds and both never gave an inch. In the end, it was a late penalty goal that got Manly the two points. A real fine game of old school football.

Correspondence Corner: Dragons68, the Willie M Medal really should be the Paul Carige Medal or the Ben R Medal but Willie was unlucky enough to have a last name beginning with M. I hope Bob Fulton isn't NSW coach. I would love to see a Canterbury-South Sydney Grand Final. I like the Bulldogs, considering the run they are on and my natural bias. The one sliding under the radar is the Cowboys, if they can sneak into the top four and then find some Sydney form.

Scott, William Zillman can score a hat-trick for the next 20 games of his career and it still doesn't justify the five-year deal they gave him. I like Zillman. I remember watching him run around in Canberra and being in love with him. But you don't sign someone with his form and his injuries to a long-term deal. Good luck to him though. He is one player I'd love to see hit his straps and avoid serious injury. At full burst, he is great to watch.

Solly, your old man has had it tough, being a Parramatta fan. I think the whole Stuart/Parramatta politics is bound to blow up.

Boonboon, I can never figure out the Tigers/Tim Sheens relationship. Every year there is rumours he is on the outs but he is loved by his players and is always seemingly safe. He has been there 10 years. Steve Folkes is a good coach. He could toughen up the Tigers, mentally and physically.

Mav63, I cannot put my finger on the decline of Peter Wallace. His form has gone through the floor.

Col Quinn, I saw a lot I liked at the last Four Nations from England and I think if they get a few more players seasoned in the NRL, it is well and truly game on.

Keith, you are free to run plugs for the Magpies here whenever you like. It has been a courageous effort, to field a team this year. Good luck.

Brett, I'm not sure about your Monday night conspiracy.

AJL, I have nothing against the diehard Canberra fans – just the general lack of them when they have an entertaining team and a great ground to watch footy. There is rarely much noise  at the ground and Canberrans don't seem to be all that proud of the Raiders. That jibe certainly wasn't directed at the faithful – who I have a great deal of fondness for.

Woody, your thoughts on Stuart and Pearce are music to my ears.

Semi Pro, Larry Corowa was such a star. What about his comeback?

Witty Reference, I'll endeavour to find the missed tackle stats for you mate but I imagine 64 would be about triple the average.

Beard Watch: This one goes out to the readers: was Jamie Lyon sporting a little upper lip fur against the Cowboys? I couldn't get a good look at him but be seemed to have a nice little porn-do happening. If this was the case, please let me know.

Join Us:If you like From The Couch and you like Making The Nut, join the Making The Nut Facebook page. Trust me: you'll enjoy it.

Chasing Greatness:Anyone looking for inspiration, rugby league style, should check out my new book Chasing Greatness, available in all good book stores. I've pulled the best quotes from Jack Gibson and Arthur Beetson to Bob Bax and Royce Simmons.

Watch It: With South Sydney set to return to the finals with their best season in over two decades and arguably their best team in four, it is well worth remembering the day when Souths kicked against the pricks, as they say, and won reinstatement into the NRL. They were certainly emotional days. Watch it here.



Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    A little left field, but my vote is former Tiger Michael Gillett.

    Equally inept at five-eighth, halfback or fullback, ‘the speed hump’ came to the Tigers in that glorious wooden spoon year of 1994 and somehow stayed for 7 painful seasons.

    Other honourable mentions (off the top of my head): Sean Rudder, Corey Hughes and Daniel Fitzhenry

    • Anonymous says:

      Mate! That's scandalous. Michael Gillett was a jewel amoung footballers. Sure, he couldn't tackle or pass or kick but give him the ball in broken play and he was amazing.

      If he is in this team then Lockyer had better be there too.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Can't you lower the selection bar to 49 games? The team can't do without Scott Fulton.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Surely Michael Ennis must be a certainty for the 'Worst 50-plus Gamers' team. What he offeres any football team is beyond me.

    The run of losses NSW now finds itself in would most certainly be over if Blues selectors had stuck to their guns and continued to pick Farah, who by now should have over 10 origins under his belt, instead of listening to News LTD media like Ritchie.

    Selecting Ennis because he is an 'origin' type player was laughable. He is barely an NRL standard player. His mid-field bomb on the opening set of origin three in 2011 will go down as the worst play in Origin history. The second worst play also belongs to Ennis: that punch on Nate Myles to gift QLD more points and another win seals the No.2 spot.

    If Ennis isn't in the team, it's not a crediable 'Wrst 50-plus Gamers' side.

    Yours in football,

    Robert Horry.