From The Couch: Round 23

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on August 16, 2011

Douchebag Tale #1: To me it seems completely untenable for Todd Carney or Nate Myles to ever play for the Roosters again. Of course, both probably will. That is The Way of the Roosters.

The two, along with Frank-Paul Nu’uausala, were out on the drink only seven days after the playing group at the Roosters agreed on a club-wide booze ban as they tried to avoid their second wooden spoon in three years. It went on the night the Roosters were towelled by Manly in a totally inept showing. To go out on the sauce was a flagrant disregard for the Roosters, their teammates, their fans and those at the club who have stuck their neck out for the two so often in the past.

Nu’uausala gets a pass on this one. He did bad, he will pay a price. He can be redeemed.

The other two cannot. Not that Nate Myles cares. He has signed a big money deal with the Titans with the Roosters unable to get him out the door quick enough. It is rare Test players are told they can look around with a year remaining on their deal but Myles has long been regarded as a disruptive influence at the Bondi club and his “leadership” certainly won’t be missed.

Carney, on the other hand, would care quite a bit. His career is again at the crossroads. He gets another chance. He should be sacked. He probably won’t be because he is too talented and Nick Politis has a god-complex that tells him he can save Todd Carney from himself, from his demons, from the drink. He can’t but it won’t stop him trying. Just as it won’t stop a club with a weak culture like Parramatta or South Sydney signing Carney if the Roosters do let him go.

Let me make this clear: there is no crime in going out for a drink. I don’t buy all this role model garbage. He did nothing criminally wrong nor did he do anything to harm the image of the game.

But Carney’s blatant disregard for his teammates became apparent again and it is clear that his fellow players will never trust him again. Nor should they. Todd Carney cares for nobody but himself and the constant string of excuses, justifications and apologies for his behaviour only serve to hurt Carney as a person. Not that Carney’s well-being is rugby league’s responsibility. That defence is a joke. Steve Irwin wasn’t rugby league’s responsibility and neither is the drunk who regularly bugs me outside The Imperial Hotel at the top of Spring Street when I bust out for a late night dart. Rugby league owes Carney nothing and if Carney never played again, saw his life spiral further out of control and, in the worst of cases, killed himself or died of some kind of overdose, he is still not rugby league’s responsibility.

Todd Carney is Todd Carney’s responsibility. The game owes him nothing.

Todd Carney is a self-involved reprobate, a drama queen, a prick of a human it would seem and I have no sympathy for any club who signs him. You wouldn’t see Wayne Bennett or Craig Bellamy bring him in. The Roosters’ victory on Sunday against the Dragons should be evidence enough that the Tricolours are better off without the 2010 Dally M Medal winner.

The sad thing is, when both Carney and Myles stayed off the drink in 2010, they were both outstanding. They were both fit, in tune with their teammates, trying hard. This year, Carney and Myles are likely to be seen working harder for a handjob in a knock shop than on the footy field in the blue, red and white.

If I was running the Roosters, I would throw Carney out immediately. No more chances. No counselling. No c hance of redemption. He is a recidivist who will never be cured. As far as I’m concerned, he can piss off and if rugby league never sees him again then so be it because we won’t be missing anything.

As for Myles, good luck with that, Titans. Myles is a selfish bum who will have a grand old time on the Gold Coast. That should equal one, maybe two, decent games in 2012. Another bottom-four finish awaits.

Douchebag Tale #2: Michael Jennings is a moron and Phil Gould would not be out of order in tearing up his contract. The Penrith centre has been an absolute disgrace this season. For the second time this year, Jennings has been disciplined for a drinking offence as rumours continue to swirl about his domestic situation, which seems anything but settled or stable. It comes in a year where he has scored just one try in 14 appearances. His only decent showing came in his surprise State of Origin appearance, an effort which had senior Panther players fuming. Jennings was set to get a chance at fullback against the Tigers with the club missing stars like Luke Lewis, Michael Gordon, Lachlan Coote and Travis Burns. Michael Jennings seems to care for nobody but himself and he needs to keep getting whipped by Phil Gould and the powers that be at Penrith until his ass bleeds lime Fanta.

Remembering Two Legends: Last Friday, Darren Lockyer became the first player in the history of Big League football in Australia to step out for 350 games, a wonderful achievement for a true champion of the code.

As regular readers of this column are well aware, Lockyer is well regarded here. He is a beloved figure of class and longevity in these pages. And there will be a steady stream of gushing words emanating from this column over the coming weeks as his career draws to a close.

But this week, we will remember the two champions he took the games record from: Terry Lamb and Steve Menzies.

Terry Lamb always has been and always will be the matinee idol of my rugby league love. There is no path possible where an adult’s adulation of a sporting hero surpasses that of a child which, when dedicated, is whole. For me, Terry Lamb sat atop Champion Mountain. He still does.

There have been few players like Lamb. When he was on the field, you always felt you were a chance. There were certainly very few opportunities missed as the greatest support player the game has ever known was always there to finish off a play. Lamb sits fourth on the all-time tryscoring list but it is an achievement that is undervalued: He is one of only three halves to score over 125 tries and the other two, Bob Fulton and Phil Blake both spent time in positions more suited to finishing rather than creating.

Lamb’s list of achievements is as long as a giraffe’s neck and probably longer. Dally M and Rothmans Medals. Australian jersies. Three premierships and five Grand Finals. The most Dally M gongs. Two-time leading tryscorer. The only player to ever play every game of a Kangaroos tour. One of the 100 greatest players to ever play the game.

My favourite memory of Lamb was the 1995 season. Lamb was a cripple by this stage of his career but when on the field, he was brilliant as the captain of a team being torn apart by the Super League War. Lamb kept the team together. In my first trip to Belmore, I was there when Terry Lamb scored a magical double in Canterbury’s 66-4 rout of the Cowboys. It was to be Lamb’s last home game and I still have the commemorative t-shirt of that day, signed by the great man himself. Come the finals, the Bulldogs were the team of destiny.

My lasting memory of that finals series-where Canterbury won as an underdog four times- is of Terry Lamb selflessly and intelligently winning Canterbury’s first week match against St George and the Grand Final against Manly by getting sin binned. Both binnings came at critical moments where Lamb robbed his opposition of momentum. Eddie Ward knew his game and put him in the bin but Lamb had done the right thing.

There has been no moment before or since where I have been overcome with such joy than seeing Terry Lamb hold up the last Winfield Cup. I still choke up thinking about it. A champion farewelled as he should be. He then selflessly returned in 1996 when the treacherous four walked out on the club. He shouldn’t have had to but he did anyway.

Steve Menzies, in a lot of ways, was like Lamb. He was a magnificent support player, a tryscorer not in the traditional tryscorer mould, a champion who went out a champion. Miraculously, he is still playing in the Super League. It is incredible.

His great legacy outside of his longevity should be his durability. Menzies could play nearly anywhere and do so effectively. He was one of the top backrowers in the game for the better part of a decade and there were few more common sights in the 1990s than Menzies busting through a hole that Cliff Lyons put him through.

Both Lamb and Menzies were champions of the game who deserve to be remembered long after we are all nothing but dust in the wind.

Another Wonderful Chris Sandow Field Goal: Chris Sandow sure loves a field goal, potting his seventh of the season against Canberra. Better yet, it skewed towards meaningless with the Bunnies up 36-18 at the time of the one-pointer. It looked even better on the final scoreboard: 47-18 to the Bunnies. Sandow now has 13 career field goals, equal fourth among active players behind Darren Lockyer (20 in 350 games), Jamie Soward (18 in 125 games) and Braith Anasta (15 in 232 games). The wonderful thing about Sandow: he has booted his 13 in only 81 matches. He is on track to become one of the great modern day field goal kickers. His field goal was also his seventh of the year, the most in the NRL era in a single season. The last person to kick seven in a season was John Simon in 1997 (who retired with 23 in 230 games). The last player to kick eight or more was Noel Goldthorpe in 1993, who booted 10. Goldthorpe retired with 16 field goals in a 183 game career.

The Footy Show’s 500:The Footy Show has been much maligned over the years but those knockers have been proven to be morons. Its longevity and relevance in the rugby league sphere is unquestioned and to be still running in exactly the same format 18 years down the line is somewhat amazing in the world of modern media.

While I don’t hide the fact that I loathe Channel Nine and nearly everything it does, including most of its rugby league coverage, it deserves a nod of recognition for sticking with The Footy Show. The Footy Show is what it is. It is low brow, it is irreverent, it is stupid, it is sometimes informative, it is funny, it is silly, it is rugby league.

Paul Vautin may not be the best caller. He never has been. Never will be. But his personality fits perfectly with The Footy Show and he has been the primary reason behind the shows longevity. There have also been plenty of other solid contributors. Matthew Johns is the finest talent to have been on the show. His characters were magical and his enthusiasm infectious. Allan Robinson gets plenty of laughs as the pest. Beau Ryan is stepping into the Matty Johns void. Mario Fenech has always played then unsuspecting fool to aplomb.

It was a weird trip down memory lane last Thursday night. A weird trip indeed. Seeing Mahatma Kote and Fatty all boofed up and Sterlo with hair and “Yeah, Yeah” and Blocker and Bolts and Chief and Girds and the lot of them meant you couldn’t help but think how long it has survived.

To put it in perspective, The Footy Show has survived four rugby league administrations, it predated the Super League War and is older than four current NRL clubs. Brad Fittler, now a host, was only 22 when The Footy Show started and James Roberts, the Souths fullback/winger, had onlyjust turned a year old when Fatty first wobbled his head. Your author had only just started high school.

The Footy Show is an enduring tribute to rugby league. I, for one, certainly hopes it lasts another 18 years. If, for no other reason, than to see more Ian Rubin clips and relive Craig McLachlan’s horrid stand-up performance one more time.

Why the Superstition? Perhaps someone can explain why Josh McCrone maintains his superstition of not removing his mouthguard until after he has showered? One would think he would try to shake any habit he has if he is the superstitious type because he is playing as well as a four-day old prawn on a concrete driveway on a Perth summer day. McCrone should worry more about learning to pass than keeping his mouthguard in his chompers until the strides are on and the hair parted post-game.

The Josh Hoffman Look of Death: You do not want to get in Josh Hoffman’s bad books. The look he gave Dale Copley-something akin to the look of a white supremacist before they lay the boot in to some race they perceive has wronged them- after Copley made a horrid defensive error was one that would shake even the most hardened man to his core.

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Commentary Call of the Week: Brad Fittler, like your author, finds great amusement in the differential penalty. When one was awarded on Friday night, Freddy chuckled aloud: “Nice movement of the arm there”.

Suspend Him, Please:Dear NRL Judiciary, please suspend Frank Pritchard. His elbow to the head of Wade Graham was vicious and I would out him for at least two years. My suggestion would be three but I do love a mouth bleed. I hold hope Canterbury can still make the finals and Pritchard being outed would be very helpful. Yours sincerely, Nicholas Tedeschi. 

ESPN Gets Involved with Rugby League: The Worldwide Leader this week involved itself in rugby league by purchasing Australia’s leading tipping site,

It is great to see ESPN finally involved with rugby league after the international division has made a foray into cricket and the other rugby code. offers tipping competitions across 20 sports, most notably the NRL and AFL, and is clearly the leading tipping platform in Australia.

This is a great boon for rugby league and one Willie M Medal judge and fine rugby league mind Rohan Kendall believes could lead to some wonderful innovations for rugby league.

The first, he is hopeful of, is that ESPN makes a play for one live NRL game a week. Competition in the pay-television rights negotiations could prove critical in bumping up the price to a proper level while an ESPN purchase of the sport could help give the game some legs in the United States with the possibility of NRL games being shown regularly at a decent timeslot on a major network a distinct possibility.

More hopeful is the prospect that ESPN will soon bring the American-style fantasy competitions to Australia so we can finally do away with the silliness of competitions like Supercoach and Dream Team. It is madness that a proper fantasy competition with drafts and unique player ownership has not been introduced to Australia on a commercial level.

Purchasing may just provide the platform for ESPN to roll out its NFL-like fantasy product into Australia. That is the hope anyway.

Awesome Penalty: It made absolutely no sense but it was brilliant to see Dean Young penalised in Sunday’s Dragons-Roosters clash for not feeding the ball with two hands. There is no way that penalty has been enforced since Dean’s dad “Constable Craig” was playing.

The Story of Barney Dalton: I love when rugby league and organised crime cross paths and I love the detective work of Daily Telegraph writer Josh Massoud, who discovered that Barney Dalton “was the baddest man to ever play rugby league”. Few have heard of Dalton but his name is about to enter popular culture thanks to the new Underbelly: Razor series focussing on the razor gangs of Kate Leigh and Tilley Devine in 1920s Sydney. Dalton was a standover man and bodyguard on the Leigh side of the ledger. Before that, however, he was a speedy winger for Eastern Suburbs from 1910 to 1915, where he scored 16 tries and booted three goals in a golden era for the Tricolours, playing in the 1911 decider. Read Massoud’s article on Barney Dalton here.

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Injury Update: There is no doubt the biggest concern over the weekend belongs to Craig Bellamy, who saw his star halfback Cooper Cronk hobble off with an ankle complaint.

Maurice Blair (Melbourne): Blair has done a shoulder and is no better than 50-50 for this week. Beau Champion will start in the centres if Blair is out.

Jason Bukuya (Cronulla): The Sharks second rower lasted only three minutes before leaving Shark Park with what looked like a fairly serious ankle complaint.

Cooper Cronk (Melbourne): The Storm halfback rolled his ankle but has been cleared of a fracture or ligament damage. He still has severe bruising and is certainly out for this Friday’s clash with St George-Illawarra but is some hope of returning in round 25. Gareth Widdop will play halfback with Rory Kostjaysin likely to start in the No.6 jersey with Maurice Blair in doubt.

Mark Gasnier (St George-Illawarra): Missed the Roosters loss with a hip-flexor concern but is in no doubt for the Storm clash.

Wade Graham (Cronulla): Tried to battle on after having his jaw smashed with a Frank Pritchard elbow. Was bleeding profusely from the mouth and was taken off, likely with a heavy concussion.

Josh Miller (Canberra): The Canberra prop, looking for a new contract somewhere, damaged his shoulder in Sunday’s humiliation.

Dane Nielsen (Melbourne): Nielsen played through an ankle injury against the Titans but is in some doubt for the Dragons clash. A likely started though.

Justin O’Neill (Melbourne): Fractured his back with play delayed five minutes as he was stretchered off. He won’t be seen again in 2011.

Mick Picker (Canberra): The Raiders debutant hurt his shoulder but should be right for this week.

Justin Poore (Parramatta): Missed Parramatta’s loss to Manly with dizziness. Has an Origin player ever fallen so far, so quickly?

James Segeyaro (North Queensland): The Cowboys hooker seemed to be in plenty of pain when hurting his ankle on Friday night leaving the Cowboys short on hookers with Aaron Payne also hurt.

Jamie Soward (St George-Illawarra): The Dragons five-eighth shouldn’t have played Sunday as his back was still clearly affecting him and he is an unlikely starter against the Storm. Soward will be replaced by Kyle Stanley and is likely to be out until the finals.

Clinton Toopi (Gold Coast): The Titans centre suffered a “vertigo-like concussion” according to Sports News First. Astonishing. Thankfully for the Titans, he is out for the year.

Luke Walsh (Penrith): Broke his thumb in the loss to the Tigers and is unlikely to be seen again in 2011.

Playing With Confidence: The Eels are really flying at present. Against Manly, they went to a 4-0 lead on the back of two penalty goals. I don’t have the stats on this but that may be the first time in the NRL era that a team has opened the scoring with two penalty goals.

The Willie M Medal:Canberra winger Blake Ferguson may have pinched this year’s Willie M Medal by collecting two points in Canberra’s humiliating loss to South Sydney at home. He was perhaps a little unlucky though with judge Matt Tedeschi, an avid Canberra Raiders fan, saying “there was a gap between three and two… in reality it should be McCrone six and Ferguson one but what can you do, rules are rules”. His only likely challenger now is Jarryd Hayne, whose abysmal effort against Manly, capped by a no-look pass on his own line that led to a Steve Matai try, has him a chance of running down Ferguson.

Penrith v Wests Tigers
3-Matt Utai (Tig)
2-Trent Waterhouse (Pen)
1-Harry Seijka (Pen)

North Queensland v Brisbane
3-Johnathan Thurston (Cow)
2-Glenn Hall (Cow)
1-Dale Copley (Bri)

New Zealand v Newcastle
3-Richie Fa’aoso (New)
2-Ukuma Ta’ai (War)
1-Ryan Stig (New)

Gold Coast v Melbourne
3-Dominique Peyroux (GC)
2-Preston Campbell (GC)
1-William Zillman (GC)

Parramatta v Manly
3-Chris Hicks (Par)
2-Jarryd Hayne (Par)
1-Luke Burt (Par)

Canberra v South Sydney
3-Josh McCrone (Can)
2-Blake Ferguson (Can)
1-Alan Tongue (Can)

St George-Illawarra v Sydney Roosters
3-Jamie Soward (Dra)
2-Nathan Fien (Dra)
1-Beau Scott (Dra)

Cronulla v Canterbury
3-Ben Pomeroy (Cro)
2-Nathan Stapleton (Cro)
1-Frank Pritchard (Bul)

20: Blake Ferguson (Can)
14: Jarryd Hayne (Par), Matt Orford (Can)
12: Preston Campbell (GC), Robert Lui (Tig), Jarrod Mullen (New), Ben Pomeroy (Cro)
11: Greg Bird (GC), Krisnan Inu (NZ), Steve Michaels (GC), Bodene Thompson (GC)

Round 23 Voting Panel:Nick Tedeschi, Matt Tedeschi, Rohan Kendall, Chris Parkinson, Matt Fisk

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Fun Fact #1: Ian Rubin played for six seasons from 1996-2001, playing in 84 games for South Sydney and the Sydney Roosters. He scored two career tries, both in 2000, the same year he captained Russia in the 2000 World Cup. Despite this limited career, he was seen approximately 4,214 times on The Footy Show’s 500th episode special.

Fun Fact #2: Darren Lockyer played in his 232nd win on Friday night. He is one of only four players to win 200 NRL games. Second is Terry Lamb (213) followed by Brad Fittler (211) and Cliff Lyons (201) meaning all four players to win 200 games were five-eighths.

Fun Fact #3: Steve Menzies tops the all-time losses list with 149 ahead of John Skandalis (146), Luke Stuart (145), Tim Brasher (145) and Scott Prince (142). Prince will almost certainly become the all-time greatest loser in 2012.

Fun Fact #4:Of Darren Lockyer’s 350 first grade games, he has started 166 at fullback, 161 at five-eighth, 20 on the bench and one apiece on the wing, in the centres and at halfback.

Round 24 Selection Notes:
South Sydney:Roy Asotasi hasn't come up yet meaning the Bunnies will line up as per last week against the Cowboys.

North Queensland:Aaron Payne has been named to start at hooker with James Segeyaro on the bench, who is highly unlikely. Ben Jones will likely replace the PNG up-and-comer. Tariq Sims will jump from the pine.

Melbourne:Dane Nielsen and Maurice Blair have both been named despite both being in doubt. Cooper Cronk is out with Gareth Widdop shifting to five-eighth. Beau Champion has been named in the centres with Sisa Waqa replacing Justin O'Neill in the centres.

St George-Illawarra:Jamie Soward has been named in the No.6 jersey but is no better than a 50-50 proposition. Mark Gasnier has been named to return. Wayne Bennett is bereft of ideas on how to turn the Dragons around but will need to find some answers quick on Friday.

Gold Coast:Does it really matter anymore? The backline is horrid, Clinton Toopi has been named, Steve Michaels is starting and Anthony Laffranchi returns to bow out a loser.

Canberra:David Milne will play just his third game of 2011 and possibly his last for the Raiders with Josh Dugan out hurt. Josh Miller will miss with injury with Jarrad Kennedy set to debut.

Sydney Roosters:The three troublemakers have again been left out from what proved a winning team.

Cronulla:Ben Pomeroy has been dropped after his Monday night shocker along with Ricky Leutele. Matthew Wright and Isaac Gordon replace the three-quarter duo. After a cracking game, Sam Tagataese will start instead of the injured Jason Bukuya.

Penrith:Luke Walsh has been named despite a broken thumb and is highly unlikely. If Michael Jennings stays sober, we will get to see him at fullback. To the joy of the Panthers faithful, Shane Elford has been named on the bench.

New Zealand:The only change at the Warriors is Lance Hohaia returning in place of backup hooker Pita Godinet, a certain upgrade for a team looking very much like premiership hopefuls.

Manly:Manly head into their clash with the Bulldogs with an unchanged lineup. Watch for Shane Rodney, who is starting to find some form, and Tony Williams, who is making an impact off the bench.

Canterbury:The biggest change at the Bulldogs is Johnathan Wright, who has had his name changed to Jono. Joel Romelo returns from suspension with David Stagg named on the bench.

Wests Tigers: Lote Tuqiri has been given another week with Matt Utai lucky to hold his spot after an horrific display against Penrith.

Parramatta:I get the feeling Stephen Kearney doesn't like himself much, naming the same team this week that lost to Manly in ordinary circumstances last Saturday.

Newcastle:Nothing changing much at Newcastle after an honest effort across the ditch.

Brisbane:Ben Hannant and Jharal Yow Yeh are out with injury with Josh McGuire and Dale Copley coming into the starting team. David Hala joins the bench.

Power Rankings:
1. Melbourne (18-3) LW:1, R:1-4
2. Brisbane (15-6) LW:3, R:2-14
3. Manly (16-5) LW:2, R:2-13
4. New Zealand (12-9) LW:6, R:4-14
5. St George-Illawarra (12-8-1) LW:4, R:1-5
6. North Queensland (13-8) LW:5, R:5-16
7. Wests Tigers (12-9) LW:7, R:3-9
8. South Sydney (10-11) LW:9, R:8-13
9. Newcastle (11-10) LW:8, R:5-11
10. Canterbury (10-11) LW:10, R:1-12
11. Sydney Roosters (7-14) LW:12, R:5-16
12. Cronulla (7-14) LW:13, R:7-16
13. Penrith (8-13) LW:11, R:8-16
14. Canberra (6-15) LW:14, R:8-16
15. Parramatta (5-15-1) LW:15, R:8-16
16. Gold Coast (5-16) LW:16, R:9-16

LW: Last Week, R: Range

Rumour Mill:All the mail coming out of Canterbury is that the only point of conflict with Ricky Stuart coaching Canterbury next year is the length of the deal. He is believed to want four years while the Bulldogs will only offer him a two-year deal. I could not be filled with anymore sadness. There is talk that Greg Bird could find his way back home to Cronulla in the near future. He is not happy at the Titans. The word out of Canberra is that Josh Dugan is as good as gone. He will be at either the Tigers or the Bulldogs in 2013. Lote Tuqiri is nearing a return to first grade with Matt Utai the one who will make way for the former international.

Betting Market of the Week:What excuse will Nick Politis use as justification for not firing Todd Carney:

Todd Carney needs rugby league and the Roosters: $1.30
Todd Carney may spiral out of control if he is sacked: $2.50
Todd Carney is too talented to be shown the door and is above the law: $6.00
Todd Carney is not actually a human being and simply needs to be reprogrammed: $11.00
Go fuck yourself, I’m Nick Politis and I can do what the fuck I like: $4.00

What I Like About…Carl Webb: I like the fact Webb is now retired and I will never again have to watch his listless, lazy efforts ever again. There are few footballers I cared for less than Webb. He never delivered. He went from representative forward with some fire in the belly to a lazy fringe first grader unwilling to do even an iota of work, often finishing matches with 7 tackles and 3 hit-ups for 21 metres from 40 minutes of action. Webb was a hack at the Cowboys. He was a hack at the Eels. And now he will prove a hack in the boxing ring. At least he provided some amusement by highlighting the inadequacies of the Parramatta recruitment team.

Moniker XIII of the Week: This week Darren Lockyer became the first player to play 350 first grade games. He will be remembered as one of the top dozen or so player to ever play the game and is the deserved favourite to become the next rugby league Immortal. In tribute to Darren Lockyer, here is the greatest Darren team of all-time.

The Darrens
1. Darren Junee (51 games for Roosters)
2. Darren Albert (112 games for Newcastle/Cronulla)
3. Darren McCarthy (77 games for Souths/Canterbury)
4. Darren Smith (290 games for Canterbury/Brisbane)
5. Darren Willis (164 games for Penrith/Wests)
6. Darren Lockyer (350 games for Brisbane)
7. Darren Rodgers (28 games for Norths/Manly)
13. Darren Treacy (181 games for Newcastle/St George/St George-Illawarra/Parramatta)
12. Darren Brown (147 games for Souths/Canterbury/Wests/Penrith)
11. Darren Maroon (61 games for Souths/Manly/Roosters)
10. Darren Fritz (132 games for Canberra/Illawarra/Norths/Wests)
9. Darren Senter (226 games for Canterbury/Balmain/Wests Tigers)
8. Darren Britt (227 games for Wests/Canterbury)

Darrens Analysis:The Darrens have one of the all-time greats in Darren Lockyer but he will be partnered in the halves by Darren Rodgers, who never actually started a game at halfback but is the best option available. The front row of Britt and Fritz both played rep football while hooker Senter was a tough, scheming first grader. The backrow is filled with tradesmen but nothing more. Smith adds a touch of class to the three-quarter line that also includes Grand Final hero Albert and speedy winger Willis. Fullback Junee was a good fullback after moving from rugby.

From Deep in the Bowels of Twitter: From Ricky Stuart’s soul, a presumably fake address as he is unlikely to have one: “After last nights performance, Ben Pomeroy should apply for a job as a doorman because he's good at letting people in!”

It’s alright Debbie, we are all on your side: “had another 7 sports to fit in this morn besides soccer & I'm sure there are union fans who are pissed their sport missed out.”

Obscure Score of the Week: Dubbo CYMS-Forbes, 56-0, 1986 Group 11 Grand Final. An old copy of Rugby League Week tells me fullback Marty Gordon contributed 22 of the points in the rout of the Magpies with props Danny Shepherd and James Purvis the best afield. Shepherd went on to play 41 games for the Roosters but had his career cut short in round two of the 1990 season when he collapsed from sunstroke against the Gold Coast Seagulls. Shepherd nearly died, spending 11 days in hospital.

Coaching Stocks:
5: Craig Bellamy: Has some headaches with Cronk out hurt and the Storm face acid test Friday
4.5: Anthony Griffin: Will forever be revered in Brisbane if he can send out Lockyer a champion
4.5: Des Hasler: The Eagles were lucky to beat the Eels in an attitude that was disappointing
4: Wayne Bennett: Admits he has no answers to the Dragons’ horrid form slump
4: Ivan Cleary: The Warriors are legitimate smokies for the premiership with another good win
4: Tim Sheens: The Tigers were unconvincing but still collected the points and are eyeing higher
3: Neil Henry: Would be disappointed with the lost opportunity against the Broncos
3: Rick Stone: The Knights showed plenty of pluck in a place they rarely get the win at
3: John Lang: Souths are 9th with a bullet, having scored an incredible 103 points in a fortnight
1.5: Steve Georgallis: The Panthers have no personnel left and just can’t match it in the NRL
1: Jim Dymock: Another insipid win for Canterbury but the two points were collected
-0.5: Shane Flanagan: Tried hard all night but the Sharks are just lacking that punch to threaten
-2: Brian Smith: An absolutely gigantic win over the Dragons that may well save his career
-4: Stephen Kearney: Tried a lot harder but basic skill errors are really causing more heartache
-10: David Furner: It is embarrassing that he still has a job after a 47-18 home loss to Souths.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Agents are liars, pure and simple. Just look at Titan Management’s description of their client Ben Pomeroy: “Ben is a strongly built player with an ability to hold a defender and set up opportunities for his outside men. He has proved to be a real handful for opposing teams and his size and strength can cause major headaches for his opponents.” The only opportunities he has created for his outside men are in the business of cleaning up spills while the only headaches he causes are for his very own coaches. That was certainly the case on Monday night when the Penguin played a Penguin classic. The highlight came midway through the second half when he creamed Johnathan Wright while chasing a bomb…only to smash Wright about 15 seconds before the ball arrived. We shouldn’t forget his exceptional effort on the last tackle of a set though. The play had broken down and Jeremy Smith raced back to collect the ball. Under pressure, Smith offloaded to Pomeroy, who, ever aware, took a hit-up straight into the handover. And, of course, there was his magnificent flick pass, which landed somewhere in the third row. Ben Pomeroy may be the dumbest player in the NRL. 

The Game of the Year Nomination, Round 23: New Zealand-Newcastle, 20-12. It wasn’t the best ball handling you will ever see but it was a compelling match that saw two more-than-decent teams fight it out. The Knights were the team to jump the gates, bolting to a 12-4 lead the break on the back of an 84% to 61% completion rate. Everything was going Newcastle’s way but in the blink of an eye, the Warriors were back in front, scoring two tries in five minutes with Shaun Johnson finishing off a Manu Vatuvei break and Simon Mannering scoring a controversial four-pointer. Feleti Mateo sealed it with three to go on some brilliant inside work from Aaron Heremaia. These two match up nicely and it showed on Saturday night.  

Fantasy Team of the Week:
1. Nathan Merritt (Sou)
2. Steve Turner (Bul)
3. Jamie Lyon (Man)
4. Brent Tate (Cow)
5. Blake Ferguson (Can)
6. John Sutton (Sou)
7. Cooper Cronk (Mel)
13. Corey Parker (Bri)
12. Gareth Ellis (Tig)
11. Chris Heighington (Tig)
10. Jason Ryles (Roo)
9. Cameron Smith (Mel)
8. Luke Douglas (Cro)

14. Jake Friend (Roo)
15. Matt Bowen (Cow)
16. Billy Slater (Mel)
17. Daly Cherry-Evans (Man)

Waiver Wire Advice:Picking up the Wests Tigers’ Benji Marshall and Robert Lui for the finals run aren’t is a positive play that could prove critical in your finals run. The Tigers have a cushy run in with games against the Gold Coast, Cronulla and  Parramatta and their halves should have a field day over that time. At $238,000 for Marshall and $185,000 for Lui, the Tigers halves are both great value. Expect them both to get plenty of try assists in the coming weeks.

Making The Nut Poll:It has been a whitewash in the latest Making The Nut poll with Craig Bellamy a runaway winner in the Coach of the Year Stakes with 64% ahead of Anthony Griffin on 17%. Bellamy has done a magnificent job and will deserve the reward when the gongs are dished out.

Be sure to check out this week’s poll question: Who is the best rugby league writer?

Correspondence Corner: Harris, Lasalo is hopeless. He brings nothing to the team. You are right about Stephen Kearney’s preference for younger players over experienced but to be fair in this situation, he hasn’t had any decent older names to work with thanks to the worst recruitment class ever.

Kginger, I don’t disagree with a lot of what you had to say about Phil Gould in terms of his history, his preference for square-ups and the like. But he does make sense on this issue and I’m afraid I’m siding with him here. It is just a shame he has an inability to make a case without carrying on like a complete dick.

Lyndon, a pleasure mate. In regards Seven or Ten, I think it would be wonderful to get a fresh take on league. The Nine coverage is tired and middle-of-the-road, reflecting the nature of the station.

AJL, Ricky Stuart certainly isn’t the answer at Canberra. He isn’t the answer at Canterbury either but that doesn’t seem to be stopping the Dogs from signing him. Massive sigh. Candidates for Canberra would be Justin Morgan, Graham Murray, Steve Folkes, Nathan Brown and assistant Andrew McFadden. Rick Stone would be the best choice though.

Renegade, the Raiders have been this season’s biggest underachievers but looking back, perhaps we were all a little too quick to label them premiership hopefuls, particularly considering their spine and lack of quality within.

Zig, that is a wonderful assessment of what needs to be done in Western Sydney, particularly in regards more professionally run clubs and discount merchandise. It is not easy to win kids’ hearts. You just need to do it early and with true affection.

Davey G, poor old Nathan Hindmarsh. I love the big cat but he is struggling emotionally this season. I think he goes around again and I think he actually breaks Darren Lockyer’s games record in three seasons time. But he will have to get over the misery of playing for the Eels this year. I also think your call on Kevin Kingston is spot on. He was great at Penrith last year and was brilliant at Parramatta the year before. The Eels have not had a sharp dummy-half since his unnecessary departure.

Dan, we will have to disagree on Josh McCrone. He was in decent form to start the year but has done nothing much since. I would move him to hooker for the rest of the year and hope for the best. But be prepared for more ridiculous statements…sadly, they come with the package.

Mike From Tari, thanks for the heads up re: the rugby league museum. I will get in touch. I love the Fonda Metassa yarn as well. He is a true legend of the BRL.

Cam, Daly Cherry-Evans will be close to the Origin halfback spot in 2016, don’t mind that.

Dragons68, I wasn’t actually advocating Parramatta’s removal from the competition. As a regular reader, I would have thought you would have picked up on the deliberate extreme hyperbole. No, in truth, I prefer them in the comp and getting beaten regularly. You are right though. Those comments were inflammatory so let me state for the record: don’t burn your jersey, ever you Parramatta lot. I do remember the semi-final thrashing. I do remember 2008. Tough times. But hey, get off Darren Lockyer’s back. He is a great player and to suggest otherwise is just foolish.

Warren, you are right about the Raiders’ big pack. Size doesn’t mean ability and that has been proven this year.

Macca, I’m not sure Josh McCrone is overrated because I’m not sure anyone rates him. But he is struggling big time at the moment and his kicking game is as bad as any half in the competition.

Beard Watch:There is nothing more enjoyable in the facial hair department than seeing a coach with a bit of something something adorning their chops. So it has been with great delight over the last few weeks that Tim Sheens has started showing off his raggedy grey beard. Outstanding. He looks like a weary old sailor after a spell on the old sea.

Watch It:The greatest referee of them all was undoubtedly the irrepressible Percy Le Blanc. The great French whistleblower was a star, respected by all and beloved by many. It was such a shame that it all went so wrong on that fateful day at Lidcombe Oval. Watch the five-part documentary, starting with part one here.

Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images AsiaPac

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  1. markmcgrath says:

    Souths may not have their house completely in order, but much  has changed since the bad old days pre the Russell Crowe takeover, and to label them as having a weak culture who would purchase Todd Carney is going a bit far in my view. The old Souths yes, but not the one we are seeing now.

    Since Crowe took over the club adopted a "no dickheads" policy towards recruitment and retention, with several players being let go after disciplinary breaches (eg Yileen Gordon…a Canterbury purchase BTW Nick, Junior Vai Vai, Roy Bell) and some other well known dickheads on the open market not being pursued by Souths.

    The fact that the club has for the last 3 years been able to recruit, develop and retain representative class players such as Sam Burgess, Dave Taylor, Isaac Luke, Roy Asotasi, Michael Crocker and Greg Inglis is a strong indicator that things have changed at Souths. Before Russell Crowe took over Souths wouldn't have a hope of recruiting and retaining players of this calibre.

    John Lang hasn't appeared to me to be a coach that enforces a hard work ethic and seems to have a more laissez fare approach, which I think explains some of Souths' lacklustre performances this year. But that problem will disappear next year with the arrival of John McGuire who by all reports is a tough, smart, no-nonsense operator who cares little for reputation or egos.