From The Couch: Round 23

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on August 19, 2013


Get Up, GI: There is nothing that makes my temple itch, my cheeks turn Rothfield-red and blood sizzle like bacon fat in a frying pan than diving. Sadly, that is what we copped on Friday night when Greg Inglis stayed down from a nothing shot hoping to win a penalty. It was a dog act – though he is not entirely to blame, as the Bunnies trainer clearly rushed over and told him to keep put.

Diving is a gutless, pussy play. Pure and simple. This is not soccer. This is not rugby. This is ryugby league – a man’s sport. Coaches who coach diving are eating at the fabric of the game and deserve to be called out and chastised. I have long been a fan of Michael Maguire but it is clear that Souths are being coached to stay down and it is disgraceful. And players who do it should be tarred by the stain of gutlessness for a long time. I haven’t forgotten – for all their fine acts – cowards like Ray Cashmere and Paul Gallen staying down. It is an act as ugly as ball grabbing, eye gouging and biting.

The NRL needs to clamp down on this. Fast. They have already let the game go soft. They cannot allow diving to take hold ever.

Canberra in Crisis: The Canberra Raiders are a club in big trouble – both short term and long term.

In the short, they are ravaged by injuries and their two most promising young talents want out. Their finals hopes are now virtually gone. Shaun Fensom, the backbone of the club, won’t play again this year. The Raiders will dig their heels in regarding Anthony Milford – as they should – but they will lose him. The club needs to take a stance on Blake Ferguson’s ill-discipline but the recidivist pest  is unlikely to do a lot more for the Raiders with a career at another club or a spell at Her Majesty’s Pleasure looming.

In the long, they have major issues with their coaching, their professionalism and their ability to recruit and keep talented players. David Furner, whatever way you cut it, is a poor coach with an ordinary record and little in the way of having built a team identity. The club is divided in its senior players about how to discipline players and there is a real lack of top-down control and bottom-up leadership. No talented senior player wants to go to the Raiders because of the city, the weather and the team’s lack of success while the best players force or are frorced out.

The NRL is going to need to step in with the Raiders. They need to get the board in order – and in 2013 – and look at throwing the Raiders salary cap concessions. Fix the front office, fix the coaching, give the club some breaks and the Raiders will return to former glories.

There is a Storm Coming: Melbourne were far from perfect against the Knights. Cooper Cronk was well off his game. So was Cameron Smith. They took a while to get going. But the end result was a thumping of a quality Newcastle team. This Melbourne side is on its title run and I am starting to reach the opinion that they will not lose a game for the remainder of 2013. They just do everything right and Craig Bellamy knows exactly what he is doing. They will be in the Grand Final. You can mark that down as gospel.

Matai No Try Correct: Steve Matai was correctly ruled not to have scored a try on Friday night. Geoff Toovey does not agree. He went beserk at the officials in an ill-directed spray that only highlighted the mere averageness of his coaching. His team has not own in five attempts against the other top four sides this year and they were thumped at the business end of the year in 2012. Toovey, rather than accepting Manly were beaten by a better team, gave it with both barrels to the officials. The call was correct though. Henry Perenara cannot be blamed for calling it a no try. In the throng of bodies, it appeared to be a hold up. No conclusive video evidence presented itself to the contrary. On the balance of probabilities was it a try? Probably. Under the current rules where clear evidence is required to overturn a call, should the video ref have awarded it? Certainly not. This current system is far from perfect but it is far better than the inconsistent mess we had in previous years. It was a close call and it went against Manly. And so it should have. Bad luck.

A Massive Coup: The NRL should be congratulated for signing a partnership with Touch Football Australia, making rugby league now one of the highest participant sports in Australia. It is a massive win for the game, that will now make the game more accessible across the country.

Rugby League Election Notes: Not a lot of news from week two of the election campaign but Tony Abbott was out at Penrith to pledge $12 million to a Western Sydney Community and Sports Centre at Panthers. The Coalition leader made a misogynistic remark there but he gets points for giving to rugby league.

Ricky Cops His Just Desserts: Kudos to Todd Balym of the Courier Mail, who has rightfully called out Ricky Stuart for the fraud he is in this fine piece titled ‘Why is Ricky Stuart Untouchable?’ He calls Stuart ‘a protected species’ who points out the Eels are two wins shy of last year’s record that got Stephen Kearney fired. A clear reader of this column, he points out that Stuart has won just 14 of his 62 games since 2010. “Two years ago he was labelled NSW’s messiah, but he never delivered a trophy and returned back to the NRL where his coaching record now stands at just one finals appearance in his last seven seasons.” Few in the game have seen through Stuart's facade but it is good to see Balym have a go. He is reportedly on Ricky's badside. Never mind. It is the right side. 

Ball Tampering in the NRL: Hats off to the Knights, who are always looking for an edge. Off kick-offs against the Storm, they soaked the ball in water. Cooper Cronk complained but officials did nothing.

Cam Smith Makes His First Mistake: His conversion from near the sticks that shanked the post and bounced away was about as big an error as you will ever see Smith make. It had to be seen to be believed.

Where the Hell is Feleti Mateo? The Warriors re-sign Feleti Mateo and ever since he has gone like an absolute busted. The Eels saw the same thing. When the Warriors need something, they should be able to rely on a player who is without question in their top three paid. Instead, he goes missing. Over the last five weeks, Mateo has not been involved in a single try, has committed four errors and given away five penalties and averaged just 69.6 metres and 18.8 tackles a game. He is not only out of form, he is unwilling to play himself into form. It is little wonder the Warriors are sinking like your typical Ben Roberts game.

Fun Fact #1: Manly have not own any of their five games against top four teams this year, averaging just 9.6 points a game against the competition’s big dogs.

Fun Fact #2: John Morris, who this week joined the top 25 most capped players, playing his 283rd game, has played in just six finals and won only one – the 2005 qualifying final while playing for Parramatta.

Fun Fact #3: Of the 25 most capped players, only four have not won a premiership: Nathan Hindmarsh, Andrew Ettingshausen, Greg Florimo and Morris.  

Rumour Mill: Ben Barba will not be at Canterbury in 2014 with the Bulldogs set to release him. Do not be shocked, however, if Josh Hoffman finds himself at the Bulldogs in a direct swap. Blake Ferguson was not injured against the Bulldogs with his absence very much a play to force the Raiders’ hand as he seeks a release. Expect Neil Henry to end up as a senior assistant at the Tigers.There are some rumblings at the Warriors that Matt Elliott’s position is far from safe. He is not seen as a long-term mentor but he was expected to do better with this current squad.

What I Love About … Josh Mansour: It is hard not to love tough Panthers winger Josh Mansour, who scored two spectacular and acrobatic tries in a match-winning performance against the Warriors. Mansour is exactly the kind of player the Panthers need: tough, athletic, uncompromising. He involves himself everywhere and he will do anything to win. He is a fullback of the future.

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: I do enjoy Parramatta politics as much as meaningless field goals and the odd scrum push and I particularly enjoy seeing Parramatta types turning on each other. This week, from 1EyedEel, who has reportedly been banned from Parramatta Leagues Club. The main attack goes at Roy Spagnolo, particularly squaring up with Eric Grothe jnr. Take particular note of the outstanding artwork.

Betting Market of the Week: This week Geoff Toovey will:

$61.00: Retract his obscene and potentially defamatory post-match referees rant
$51.00: Admit that the Sea Eagles were beaten by a better team and one that is better coached
$41.00: Return to being a mild mannered accountant and NRMA board member
$1.33: A homicidal rampage on the Manly Corso

Power Rankings:
1.Melbourne 14-6-1 (1)
2. Sydney Roosters 17-4 (2)
3. South Sydney 16-5 (4)
4. Manly 13-7-1 (3)
5. Canterbury 12-9 (5)
6. Newcastle 10-10-1 (6)
7. Cronulla 12-9 (7)
8. Brisbane 9-11-1 (9)
9. North Queensland 9-12 (12)
10. Gold Coast 9-12 (11)
11. Canberra 10-11 (10)
12. Penrith 9-12 (13)
13. New Zealand 9-12 (8)
14. St George Illawarra 6-15 (14)
15. Wests Tigers 6-15 (15)
16. Parramatta 4-17 (16)

Combo XIII of the Week: Combining three foundation clubs, the best players to turn out for the Roosters and either Balmain, Western Suburbs or the merged Wests Tigers.

1. Ian Schubert (Easts/Wests)
2. Paul Cross (Easts/Balmain)
3. Terry Hill (Easts/Wests/Wests Tigers)
4. Jacin Sinclair (Balmain/Roosters)
5. Sid Williams (Balmain/Easts)
6. Scott Gale (Wests/Easts/Balmain)
7. Arthur ‘Pony’ Halloway (Easts/Balmain)
13. Paul Langmack (Wests/Easts)
12. Gavin Miller (Easts/Wests)
11. Arthur Beetson (Balmain/Easts)
10. Nev Charlton (Wests/Easts)
9. George Watt (Balmain/Easts)
8. Jack Arnold (Wests/Easts)

Correspondence Corner: Jason from Sydney, you are spot on about Hodges getting involved when his team needs him. And don’t put anything beyond this Tigers board. If Tim Sheens gets the job with the Dragons, they will only need to pay Potter and their new coach. Remember the Warriors fired Brian McClennan at the end of his first year.

Anonymous, the Bulldogs are the fifth or sixth best team in the premiership, clearly below the top four but well ahead of Cronulla in seventh.

Anonymous, your comments on SBW and Marshall are utterly ridiculous. A contract is a contract. They signed. They were getting paid. They are money hungry grubs, pure and simple.

Dragon Eyes 91, I can’t agree with your more. The NRL needed to step in and ensure this Marshall situation didn’t set a precedent. And Potter should drop Marshall on form alone, let alone how he has slapped the game down.

Semi Pro, nice blueprint!

The Coaching Crosshairs: The drums are getting louder that Tim Sheens will be the Dragons head coach in 2014. Another heartbreaking loss for the Dragons has left the club still in wooden spoon contention. The Dragons are keen to hire an experienced coach and Sheens is keen to get back in the club game. Sheens’ stocks have certainly been rising as the Tigers descend into a state of chaos. It would be a surprise if Sheens wasn’t at the Red V in some capacity next year.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy scored the Sharks’ opening try against the Dragons … but more miraculously, did not make an error. With his confidence up and without a contract for next season, he is believed to be considering a defection to The Blue Man Group.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 23: St George Illawarra-Cronulla, 18-22. We have had some absolute crackers this weekend, including Friday’s top four clash between South Sydney and Manly and both of Sunday’s belters. It is tough to go past the Southern Derby though. The Dragons  bounced from the box and it appeared their attack would finally fire when they led 18-6. But the Sharks ground their way back into it before winning the game in spectacular – and controversial – circumstances when Andrew Fifita outsprinted Jason Nightingale for a loose ball and the deciding try. It was a rough finale for totals punters as well, who were home on the under until that final try.

Beard Watch: The Daily Telegraph should be congratulated this weekend for putting together a montage of the 20 best beards in league. Based on the photos here, my favourites are Sisa Waqa’s Abe Lincoln and Ben Matulino’s full growth. It was also great to see Frank Pritchard mistaken for Sam Kasiano.

Watch It: This week we go back to 1979 and the Round 13 clash between Balmain and Western Suburbs at Lecihhardt, long before the idea of the Wests Tigers was even an inkling in rugby league’s eye. The highlight, no doubt, is John Dorahy’s duffer. Watch it here.


Comments (14)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    $7,000,000 for seven years? Haha.
    John Fordham is the best.
    Tony Monero

  2. Anonymous says:

    Another week, another cheap shot at Rugby Union. Now accusing RU players of staying down to milk penalties. Do you ever watch RU? My guess is probably not because taking dive is a rare occurence.

    While I am at it, as a RL & RU supporter (yes they do exist) your constant rants against the other code cheapen you and this site. Is it owing to your once beloved doggies poster child SBW going to RU? Which I also suspect is driving your whole “a contract is a contract” mantra. A simplistic response to player issues that lacks any humility. Ever managed people? If you have then you’d know that trying to keep people that really don’t want to be there is an exercise in futility.

    A grudge is a terrible thing to bear.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I hope you have the nuts to acknowledge benjis superb performance against the Dragons. Or will you conveniently ignore it to suit your crooked agenda??

  4. Anonymous says:

    Have you really long been a fan of Michael Maguire?

    Check out this 2011 article outlining his thug tactics, with Jeff Lima as his hired muscle:

  5. Anonymous says:

    A contract is a contract where exactly? In the imaginations of sports fans with some sort of misplaced nostalgia. That's the only place. Everywhere else contracts are open to negotiation. SBW in particular was made promises prior to signing. Marshall during quite recent discussions. If you are not asking clubs to honour their word, then why are you asking the players?

  6. SemiiPro says:

    Nice video link. RIP David Grant. What a player when on song. Like so many Aboriginal men, gone too soon.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Something doesn't sit right right with me in respect to the coaching and leadership at Souths. Yes they are well drilled and playing well – they should be they have a roaster to die for.

    However the diving, the leg twisting (I'm sure Vince McMahon could come up with a sexier name),the Squirrell Grip and the Cannon Ball tackles just aren't in th spirit of the game or the club.



    • Anonymous says:

      Former Storm players getting up to grubbiness under the tutelage of a former Storm assistant coach?  It's not really surprising. If Bellamy and co teach us anything, it's that pushing the boundaries of rules and sportsmanship is more likely to reap rewards than punishment.

      It's sad, but my impression is that the most successful coaches don't just look for the weaknesses in their opposition, they also look for weaknesses in the fabric of the game. They look for ways to exploit refereeing behaviour, the toothless judiciary, the media, the salary cap, etc. – every level of the game. 


  8. WittyReference says:

    Hoffman is signed at the Broncos until 2015 and is at least as good as Barba, so why are we signing him? Just because he's available I guess. You'd think one of them could move to the halves but isn't that where Milford would play if he gets signed too? Hoffman supposedly already rejected the Bulldogs offer which is almost a shame as it will be a waste if ends up back on the wing.

    Ricky Stuart's crap coaching ability was on full display Friday night. 23 weeks in and the Eels still look abysmal. Agree with you on the Matai try and the Storm looking ominous. Be wary the out of form team that keeps winning.

    Semi Pro's comment last week was fantastic.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I get it, matai’s try can’t be a try under the new rules. But fair dinkum it was a try. The most worrying aspect was perenara’s lack of confidence and lack of feel for the game. This came out in a few other occasions in the match. You can tell by the souths players’ reactions that they knew it was a try, their body language slumped a little, one player threw the ball away, and they weren’t making eye contact with the ref or each other. Dead giveaway. The main issue to note is matai’s momentum, and where he finished, with no player under him. A ref who understood footy would have made a decision “try” and sent it upstairs on the evidence in front of him, but he wimped it. As a player perenara could only tackle, and I fear he has minimal understanding of the game’s finer points. The strip on buhrer was another incident. Hayne penalized manly for having their hands on the ball in a couple of tackles. One ref had strict standards while the other didn’t.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Paul Gallen a coward??? And I guess Inglis is a coward too then by your standards? Some fat journo sitting behind a keyboard in another state, calling the hardest man in our game, who played 80 minutes in the front row in the hardest game on earth, a coward!


    It doesn't get much more cowardly than that buddy! Last time I read your trash!

  11. Anonymous says:

    We need to clamp down on this staying down rubbish and GI and Souths were guilty of it Friday but why are Souths and GI alone getting the blame for this supposed new phenomenon?  We have been seeing it for years and saw it earlier in this game.  Watmough stayed down after having his knee twisted earlier in the game and jumped back up once Jeff Lima was placed on report.  It's a bit much for Manly to take the moral high ground on this.

    Let's go back to how it was when I was a kid.  If a player with the ball is hurt, he hands the ball off to a teamate who plays it and we play on whilst the inured player is seen to by the trainer.  No more referring these incidents to the video ref.  If it's high tackle and the 2 on-field refs miss it, too bad.  Play on.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Geez, for someone who would love to dutch rudder Des Hasler, you sure have a lot of animosity towards Manly. 

  13. Anonymous says:

    I think you are completely misguided by Toovey's rant. If you were as in touch with the people as you claim to be – then go have a look at what the social media users have been saying about it. While not intentional, what he said about the officialdom, the leg twisting and diving is exactly what the fans have been saying. Even the Matai no-try is something the fans are sick of – inconsistency in the video referees box. I don't think it was a try, but myself, and a majority of fans, would love to see the video referee scrapped. 
    Don't let your anti-Manly agenda cloud your judgement.


    Penrith Fan, NSW