From The Couch: Round 23

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on August 18, 2014

Ballboy-Gate: Only in Rugby League. Only in our great game could we put in place a rule that swings on what a 12-year-old boy does. Only in Rugby League could a grown man who works as an official for the code blame the kid for the defeat.

The 40/20 as it currently stands is utterly ridiculous. Worse, the NRL has not clear-cut rule in place in how to deal with it. Once again the NRL has put a rule in without considering how it could be used and abused.

I understand where the NRL is coming from. They have an obsession with speed. They want to make the game faster. They think that will make the game better. But once again the NRL has missed the mark.

For starters, this is just the latest example of the NRL tangling itself up in misplaced logic, basing this rule change on the game getting slower because the NRL can’t and won’t stop wrestling. The NRL always get itself into these kind of messes with reactionary rule changes and rule interpretations.

It  is also another example of the NRL’s lack of consistency. Ballboys throw the ball to players all the time. Nothing happens. It is like the quick tap. There was a big song and dance at the beginning of the year about bringing it back. It lasted a week and now refs almost never allow it.

Most pointedly though, it is this silly premise that quicker is better. It isn’t. It is a false premise. Quick taps should be part of the game but not after a 40/20.

The Eels can maybe feel a little bit hard done by on Friday night but the reality is the rule shouldn’t be there, the ballboy interpretation was correct (if dumb!) and Sandow didn’t even tap the ball. It would be nice if the NRL actually took this opportunity to be, for once, not reactionary and to actually examine how they want the game to look and be played and start putting in place a long-term plan to see this happen.

Translating Ricky’s Rant: Ricky Stuart went on (another) bizarre rant after the Raiders were humiliated at home by the Dragons. Here is what he said and what it really means.

Ricky: Seven tries there today. You get four Origin players, two Origin players score four of them. You get an international score another one and you get two internationals in the halves who have had outstanding games.
Players selected for Origin and Test football are typically better than those who aren’t. We were beaten by a team who was better recruited, better developed and better managed than ours. That is unfair. Ricky’s teams should never have to start on the wrong end of the talent stick.

Ricky: but until I get Origin players or internationals here around that group of blokes in there, I’ve got some brilliant young players coming through, it ain’t going to change, that’s my job.
My job is to recruit Origin players and internationals. This is somewhat of a problem as I have not recruited an international since 2010 when I got the great PNG international Paul Aiton to the Sharks. The only other internationals I have recruited since 2007 are Reni Maitua and Anthony Tupou – who both spent their entire Test careers under my coaching – and a 31-year-old Trent Barrett. I also got Origin players Josh Hannay and Danny Nutley but I dropped Hannay to club football.

Ricky: Until I can recruit those boys, until we can grow our own, we’re going to have to stick solid and keep working hard to get a win for this club.
Until I prove to the world that I am actually Jesus and can turn water into wine then everyone will just have to accept that the Raiders are going to lose.

Ricky: Today, international players and Origin players beat us. We haven’t got any. Until I get them here, we’re going to have to keep fighting hard. 
Well, we actually have four including two that played today but until I can fill the huge gulf between what I promise I can deliver in terms of recruitment and what I actually can recruit (I like to call this the Greg Bird – Justin Hunt Canyon – then we can just throw our hands up and blame the fact we don’t have any quality players.

Ricky: I’ve said all year it’s time and patience. If you want me to be more open and honest about it, which I don’t like doing because it just gives all the knockers out there an even crack at me. So be it, it doesn’t hurt me, I don’t give a stuff what people say about me.
I’ve said all year, despite my total inability to win throughout most of my coaching career, despite plenty of evidence counting against my claims that I know what I’m doing, that clubs should trust me and pay me lots of money while they do trust me.

Ricky: I’m here to do a job, and the way I do it is we slowly, slowly build.
I do prefer to do things slowly. That way I get paid quite a lot of money before it is revealed I don’t actually know what I’m doing. And I am of the belief that ‘build’ is a synonym for ‘gut and destroy’.

Ricky: I’ll grow my own in there, I’ve got Origin [potential] players in there that one day will play Origin
I’ll be able to grow my own. Surely. How hard can it be? Sure, only three players have made their Origin or international debut since 2006 and one of them was one-Test Kiwi winger Luke Covell, I am sure I can turn these kids into Origin stars.

Ricky: I will gradually get our own and I will gradually recruit players to this club, and we will be a force again one day. It’s time and patience. 
Trust me, just trust me … sure I am saying the exact opposite of what I have done but trust me … remember, I just need time and patience and my you can deposit a large cheque into my bank account every week while we wait. As an aside, did you know you have a large inheritance waiting with the King of Nigeria and he has personally asked me to broker the payment for you?

Ricky: I’m not looking for a scapegoat and I’m not trying to make excuses, I’m just telling you exactly how [it is]. 
People who are looking for a scapegoat or an excuse always say I’m not looking for a scapegoat and I’m not trying to make excuses.

Ricky: It doesn’t affect me at all. What was in the paper today and I’m not trying to be rude, it was wrong. 
It was wrong that you blokes in the media can read  because Hull recruitment manager Motu Tony declared that his club had tabled an offer to the Raiders for Campese but a deal could not be reached.

Monday Night is a Must: The knockers out for Monday Night Football are the same idiots who trot out the same unresearched and unsubstantiated rubbish year in and year out, never offering a solution, never thinking big picture. Let’s scrap City-Country. Let’s play Origin on weekends. There isn’t enough depth for expansion. Blah blah blah. Monday Night Football is and always has been a spectacular success. Crowds are down but it simply doesn’t matter because it rates on Fox, is a huge boon to betting markets and is an extra night of footy, a free kick against other sports. The only thing that should be considered in relation to MNF is a move to free-to-air. Other than that, it stays, as it should.

Beau v Manu: Manu Vatuvei may have the size but in a fight I’d take Beau Scott any day. He has the crazy eyes, the Mike Tyson look. I wouldn’t be surprised if he bit Manu’s nose off and then showed it to him before he ripped his throat out. Beau Scott is the man you want to be on in any scrap, any time, anywhere.

Bugger Off Ben: It is pleasing to see the NRL coming down hard on those turning their back on the code and going to play that other sport. Ben Te’o can rot in Rugby hell. It is a shame we may still see him again in the NRL.

Fun Fact #1: Over the last five seasons, Melbourne and Manly have the best record over the final month of the regular season with a 14-6 record. Canterbury sit second with a 13-7 record. Cronulla rank last with just 6 wins from 20 in their last month of the year since 2009.

Fun Fact #2: James Segeyaro has conceded the most penalties in 2015 ahead of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

Rumour Mill: There is plenty of speculation that Manly veteran Glenn Stewart won’t play again as he battles a career-threatening injury. Brad Takairangi will be at Cronulla in 2015 as the Sharks continue to chase slow players. Frank Pritchard has been behind much of the recent unrest at Canterbury and will be cut at season’s end. He won’t play another first grade game for the Bulldogs. Terry Campese has been told he won’t be playing first grade for the Raiders next year but is digging his heels in and said he will get paid $500,000 to play NSW Cup. Willie Mason will be at the Dragons next year and could be joined by teammate Chris Houston. Danny Wicks is close to signing with Parramatta.

What I Like About … Luke Keary: Luke Keary has not been South Sydney’s best player since returning to the No.6 jersey. He has not been their most brilliant. What he has been though is arguably their most valuable. The energy he has brought to the Bunnies side has them playing like legitimate title favourites. He is everywhere. In attack he has made the South Sydney edges far more dangerous while he is fearless in defence. He has sparked the Bunnies and they deserve to be title favourites.

Betting Market of the Week: With the Dragons breaking their curse against the Raiders this week, the best jinx in Rugby League is:

$4.00: Steve Clark and correct rulings
$3.50: Michael Ennis and smart kicking
$3.00: Steve Matai and legitimate injury
$1.01: Ricky Stuart and winning

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: Close call this week. While Darcy Lussick – yes, Darcy Lussick – was embroiled in a salary cap scandal with the infamous Obeid family, it is hard to go past ballboy-gate and the club’s ability to get a 12-year-old boy central to a defeat.

Power Rankings:
1. South Sydney 14-7 (1)
2. Manly 15-6 (2)
3. Sydney Roosters 13-8 (3)
4. Penrith 14-7 (4)
5. North Queensland 11-10 (5)
6. Melbourne 11-10 (7)
7. New Zealand 11-10 (6)
8. Brisbane 10-11 (8)

9. Canterbury 12-9 (9)
10. Parramatta 11-10 (10)
11. St George Illawarra 10-11 (11)
12. Newcastle 8-13 (13)
13. Gold Coast 8-13 (12)
14. Cronulla 5-16 (14)
15. Wests Tigers 9-12 (15)
16. Canberra 5-16 (16)

The Coaching Crosshairs: The longer St George Illawarra take to appoint a coach the less likely it seems that interim coach Paul McGregor will get the job on a full-time basis. The Dragons have missed out on Wayne Bennett, Neil Henry has declared he wants the Titans job, the players want McGregor but the drums are beating for a Tim Sheens return to the NRL. Don’t be surprised to see the Australian coach back in 2015.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 23: Newcastle-New Zealand, 28-22. A sensational game of footy on a glorious Newcastle afternoon. The home side got to the lead early and continued to hold off a more capable and more talented Warriors side in a courageous and talented win. And there was some absolutely brilliant tries from the wing contingent, freakish athleticism that defied physics. The only shame of the day was the realisation of how good Newcastle could have been this year without all the drama  of the Nathan Tinkler Show.

Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week #1: Ricky Stuart has now ended two long-standing streaks at Canberra this year – the Warriors had not won at Canberra Stadium since 1997 and the Dragons had not won at Canberra Stadium since 2000. In the space of three weeks, Ricky Stuart has overseen the end of both hoodoos.

Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week #2: Ricky Stuart has been at the helm of the three least successful teams by wins over the last eight seasons.

Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week #3: The Canberra Raiders have four Origin players/internationals – Josh Papalii, David Shillington, Terry Campese, Brett White – on their books plus Jack Wighton and Jarrod Croker, who were named as 18th men for NSW in matches this year.

Correspondence Corner: Witty Reference, Brisbane’s current situation suggests they can afford a lot more than they’re allowed. I doubt Barba will stay there and Martin Kennedy and Josh McGuire likely go too, as well as Josh Hoffman. And JT was just salting the wound. Did it from right of the sticks.

Robbo, I think Rabs was embarrassed and was making the most of a rough situation.

Mike Butterfield, it is clear that the refs have no feel for the game. That is a sensational initiative from the Queensland Government and the QRL. It would be great to see such leadership from the NRL.

Luke, yes, Parker was not considered at lock as he has been playing in the front row. Cameron Smith would probably be best lock too but plays a different position so wasn’t considered. Same story.

Stephen, who is a better hooker for either Wests or Balmain or the Tigers in the modern era than Robbie? Benny is a fair way below Robbie …

Davey G, the ‘babying’ of players has led to a lot of the rubbish with refereeing now.

Beard Watch: Jordan Rapana has returned to Rugby League this year after some time spent self-flagellating on both a mission and playing rugby union. It is good news for Ricky Stuart, he is one of the few players willing to play under The Game’s Greatest Thinker. Rapana has honoured his return with some 1990s-alt rock band goatee. Perhaps he is trying to be one of Hootie’s Blowfish or is running a Cake impersonation band.

Watch It: This week we go back to 1976 and a clash between Western Suburbs and South Sydney at Lidcombe Oval. The Magpies ended a four-game Bunnies winning streak with a 17-13 win. Highlights include George Piggins’ bustling try, the sneaky work of Geoff Foster and some amazing scenes with kids on the sideline. Watch it here


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Comments (4)

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  1. WittyReference says:

    Here is an example of Channel 9’s incompetence, admittedly on the pettiest of levels:

    They started the year adding a noise to the coverage when the 5th tackle graphic appeared on the screen. At some point they added the same sound to whenever they show any and all stats. Now like Pavlov’s dog, every time I hear that noise I think its the 5th tackle. Anyone with a smart phone knows how easy it is to start identifying unique things by their different tones.

  2. Gareth says:

    Where did that Pritchard rumour come from? Sounds like absolute BS.

  3. Mav63 says:

    Geez I hope Ricky keeps coaching at NRL level. There wouldn’t be anywhere near as many laughs in your column without him.

    As for Maguire I think he is a lock playing out of position. He reminds me a lot if Anthony Watmough. Nuggety, tough with goid leg speed and a high work rate. His career is being cruelled in the front row.

    As for Barba someone please take him now and we’ll throw in plodder Reed as a bonus.

  4. WittyReference says:

    I’d like to see Barba leave but surely he’d only want to move if it’s to the Gold Coast.
    Be a shame to see McGuire go even though he always takes half a season to warm up.

    I thought about it later and it would be the right side of the field that is better for the hook on a left footed kick. The left side is easier for right footed.

    How the hell did Teo get more time then Reynolds?