From The Couch: Round 25

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on August 27, 2012

Further Notes on the Television Deal: A week on from the television deal and I am as flabbergasted as ever that Nine maintained the free-to-air rights. To get my initial thoughts on the deal read "A Deal with the Devil", here.

Perhaps the most shocking element to come out of the deal was that Ten reportedly offered $800 million to broadcast four live games a week. That deal would have included live coverage into Victoria on the main Ten channel with a separate commentary team and graphics to explain the game to non-believers. This is an incredible opportunity missed to spread the word and strengthen the game's base

The propaganda being put out on this one is that the deal with Nine needed to be accepted because it was tied in with Fox Sports and the pay television rights. What this argument fails to account for is that Foxtel is a separate entity and would almost certainly have come up with the $200 million difference – quite possibly more – for the rights to the game, which they no doubt would have on-sold to Fox Sports, at worst.

The decision to stick with Nine and Fox Sports certainly had a lot to do with getting rid of each's first and last rights. But it had plenty to do with the old boys club, pals helping each other out, the NRL too scared to separate from Nine. It is incredible that with what Ten offered, they could not at least force Nine to match the live coverage component.

This was an incredible opportunity lost.

From the pay television side, it was disappointing that the NRL did not get an individual channel. The Fox Sports coverage is, generally, very good. They could do a few more programs and some of their talent selection (Braith Anasta, Brett Kimmorley, Mark Gasnier, Mark Geyer) is questionable, but they have generally been very good with the way they treat the great and glorious game. There is no question that Fox Sports 2 is predominantly league – but the NRL, for branding purposes, should have insisted on a dedicated NRL channel with old games, chat shows and the like. To not win this was most disappointing.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. And while the price may have changed, rugby league is still television's whore and it is the game and the fans that pay the price.

Facebook Question of the Week: Go to the Making The Nut page and let us know what you think of the television deal. Was it as bad as we all think? Or should we rejoice that the game copped $1 billion?

Laurie Daley, Wrong Choice: Laurie Daley was last week named NSW coach. It was the wrong call.

It was obvious that qualified coaches were not what the NSWRL was chasing. For some reason, they wanted "a former Origin great". This, for reasons unknown to me, meant Trent Barrett was included. Barrett never played a full series in his NSW career.

So the likes of Daniel Anderson and Steve Folkes were disregarded, despite four Grand Finals and a premiership between the duo.

In the end, they plumped for Laurie Daley. Daley beat out Barrett and Brad Fittler. Of those three, Fittler was clearly the man. He has at least coached at NRL level before and he was recommended by Phil Gould, the greatest Origin coach of all. It was a confounding decision.

Naming Daley in itself is not criminal though. He was the conservative choice, the one most like Ricky Stuart, and the NSWRL were unlikely to change things up too much. Daley has had the reins at Country.

What is criminal is the appointment of Trent Barrett as his top advisor. Queensland succeed because Neil Henry and then Michael Hagan run the strategy. It is clear NSW are copying the Queensland model. Yet at its most crucial point, they have selected a rookie only a few years out of the game rather than an experienced tactician with years of senior coaching experience.

Simply following on from Ricky Stuart's lead isn't going to work. It didn't even work for Ricky. The right men need to be put in the positions of power. They haven't. The right systems need to be put in place. They haven't. Queensland, sadly, will extend their Origin run to eight years in 2013.

Brian McClennan Had to Go: There is no question that Warriors coach Brian McClennan had to go. He became one of the few coaches to go in their first year– just Kieran Dempsey and Murray Hurst are the only other two to have their first grade careers end in their first full season in charge during the NRL era and Dempsey's came to an end because the Bears died – and it was apparent he had lost the dressing room and more tellingly, was not hard enough in putting an end to the loose kind of football that has crippled the Warriors since their entry into the competition. The Warriors need a hard-ass, one who will put the reins on that bullshit ad-lib rubbish and play it tight and tough, like Ivan Cleary did. The club cannot afford a coach who will encourage "Maori football", as lock Elijah Taylor calls it. Using those skills is great within the bounds of structure. Players can't just run loose, playing side-to-side, not defending, throwing the towel in when the going gets tough. Stephen Kearney is not the answer at New Zealand. The club needs to throw the world at Craig Bellamy and then some. Because if he arrived, the club would have four premierships in the next decade, considering their array of talent.

A Strange Dream: I awoke from a rather vivid dream last Friday morning. I had just had a frank and rather fulfilling debate on the rules of rugby league with Bill Harrigan. We were located on the hill at Shark Park. He listened and pledged to change. I realised it was a dream, however, when Harrigan seemed reasonable. Nothing will change with him in charge. Nothing.

Match Review Mess: Anthony Minichiello is a straight-up kind of guy. He is a player who, considering his injury history, has done an astonishing job to get to 250 games. But there is no way he deserved to celebrate it this year after whacking Josh Dugan in the head with a flying forearm that would have made The Rock 'N' Roll Express proud. Yet because the Match Review Committee graded Minichiello's hit as a grade three dangerous contact rather than a reckless high tackle, the Roosters fullback got off. It was a stupid charge and one that did not allow justice to be carried out.

Nice Move: Congratulations to the NRL and the state government for orchestrating the St George Illawarra-Parramatta move from Parramatta Stadium to ANZ Stadium, to accommodate the multitudes who will want to say goodbye to four 200-game legends. It is a disgrace that the game will be played at 7pm but at least those who can get to the game can get in. Common sense, for once, prevailed.

Finals Records in the NRL Era: This week we look at the finals records of the likely top eight in the NRL era.

Team                          Seasons         Record           PF       GF       P
Canterbury                           8         11-11                  4          2          1
Melbourne                           11        18-11                 6          5          3*
South Sydney                      1          0-1                    0          0          0         
Manly                                   8          8-7                    3          3          2
North Queensland                4          6-5                   3          1          0
Cronulla                                6          5-7                   4          0          0
Canberra                              8          3-9                   0          0          0
Brisbane                              13       16-15                 7          3          3

*Making The Nut recognises Melbourne as champions in 2007 and 2009.

The Best Players You Don't Watch: The term underrated is overused in rugby league. Everyone looks to get cute. But there are quality players who don't get the recognition they deserve. Here is a team of the best players you don't watch, the players who don't get enough credit, the ones that slip most under the radar.

  1. 1. Beau Ryan (Wests Tigers): Having his best year at the age of 27. Fitted seamlessly into fullback and centre. Is on the fringe of Origin.

    2. Kalifa Faifai-Loa (North Queensland): Neil Henry refuses to play this very good attacking winger, who just needs some stability in first grade to really make a mark.

    3. Colin Best (Cronulla): In his final year and probably past his best, the Sharks centre was consistent since coming back to the NRL and still operates as a top-notch defender.

    4. Kane Linnett (North Queensland): One of the hardest line-runners in the NRL, Linnett runs the outside in line better than any centre in the NRL. He could be a future rep type.

    5. Josh Mansour (Penrith): In his first year at the Panthers, this bullocking winger has burst onto the scene at 22. Versatile, smart, strong and quick, Mansour has all the tools to be an effective outside back in the NRL.

    6. Kyle Stanley (St George Illawarra): The Dragons have not been able to play this unquestioned talent in the No.6 yet but he will thrive when put into the halves.

    7. Daniel Mortimer (Sydney Roosters): It is a travesty young Mortimer is being left to flounder in reserve grade when he is the best half at the club. No superstar but has spark and energy and the smarts of a first grade half.

    13. Shaun Fensom (Canberra): Started to get some plaudits but this workhorse should have been playing Origin this year. Effective both sides of the ball. The new Bradley Clyde.

    12. Gavin Cooper (North Queensland): A journeyman who gets few plaudits, he has excelled since moving to Townsville. Excellent fringe-runner who doesn't shirk his defensive workload.

    11. David Stagg (Canterbury): A tackling machine who has been left on the fringes under Des Hasler. An 80-minute workhorse who can play with the ball and never gets left wanting anywhere.

    10. Bryce Gibbs (Cronulla): The Sharks prop has been a godsend since switching clubs, uniting a club with his shenanigans and getting through a ton of work.

    9. Nathan Friend (New Zealand): A late bloomer, Friend was the Titans' best player when at the Titans and has been good when healthy for the Warriors as the top central defender.

    8. Martin Kennedy (Sydney Roosters): Runs a million miles per hour and never leaves anything on the paddock. The kind of hard-man the young Chooks need.


A Grand Tradition: There is no sweeter tradition in rugby league than seeing the departing hero leave with a kick at goal. It started last weekend with Ben Hornby, who missed a shot from wide out after the bell. Hopefully we see plenty more this weekend: from Dean Young and Nathan Hindmarsh, Petero Civoniceva (who has already famously missed one) and Aaron Payne, from all the other retiring veterans.

Songs From The Rugby League Collection: This week, "It's A Shame About Ray Cashmere" by The Lemonheads.

I've never been too good with games
The reserve grade door was open I could never stay away
I know it's probably not my place
It's either or I'm hoping for a simple way of saying
It's a shame about Ray Cashmere
In the stone under the dust his name is still engraved
Some things need to go away
It's a shame about Ray Cashmere
If I make it through today
I'll know tomorrow not to put my feelings out on display
I'll put the cobwebs back in place
I've never been too good with games but I remember faces

Injury Update:A weekend free of brutal injury, which pleases the finals hopefuls, no doubt.

Liam Fulton (Wests Tigers): Played on with a banged-up wrist against the Roosters. Toughed-it out but in doubt for this week's must win match with Melbourne.

Ben Hannant (Brisbane): Hurt his leg early against Brisbane but had another spell. He'll be there next week.

Chris Houston (Newcastle): Left dazed and confused at the death against the Cowboys. Will be fine.

Scott Prince (Gold Coast): Had blood pouring from his nose but played out the Panthers match.

Adam Reynolds (Souths): Got whacked high by Fuifui Moimoi. Played the game out. A tough little bastard.

Ben Ridge (Gold Coast): Took a bad concussion but will be sweet to rock up for the season finale.

Dave Taylor (Souths): Supposedly damaged his thigh but he won't be missing any time.

Sam Williams (Canberra): The Raiders halfback is unlikely to show against the Warriors after hurting his shoulder. It isn't clear who will come in for him – Mick Picker or Shaun Berrigan are the two favourites.

Fun Fact #1: Laurie Daley will become the first Origin coach to "pop his own champagne" in front of a sitting Prime Minister when leading the team out in 2013.

Fun Fact #2: New Zealand Warriors outside back Omar Slaimankhel has signed a $610,000 a season to play Japanese rugby after five games, where he has made six errors and missed seven tackles (17.9 per cent miss rate).

Fun Fact #3: Tony Iro will coach the New Zealand Warriors for two games before a new coach is appointed in 2013. The shortest coaching careers in premiership history:

2: Graham 'Buck' Rogers (1 game Canberra 1991, 1 game Penrith 1992)
2: Barry 'Bunny' Reilly (Eastern Suburbs 1990)
5*: Brad Arthur (Parramatta 2012)
8: Jim Dymock (Canterbury 2011)
8: Peter Burge (St George 1937)
8: William Farsnworth (Newtown 1924)
8: Jack Hiney (Glebe 1924)
8: George Mason (Canterbury 1937)
8: Harold Matthews (Balmain 1937)
8: Laurie Ward (North Sydney 1937)

The 2012 Willie M Medal: The Willie M Medal is now Chris Sandow's to lose after Rohan Kendall gave the Parramatta halfback two votes in the loss to his former team South Sydney, where he missed seven tackles and contributed nothing to the attack. . The votes came the same weekend that Sandow was voted by Daily Telegraph readers as the worst value player in the NRL. His only competition is teammate Ben Roberts, Wests Tigers player Tim Moltzen and the Sydney Roosters' Mitchell Pearce. Roberts nailed the three votes in the loss to Souths and is tied on 19 with Tim Moltzen, who picked up a vote against the Roosters in another insipid display. Pearce remains on 18.

Manly v Brisbane
3-Ben Hunt (Bri)
2-Corey Norman (Bri)
1-Ben Te'o (Bri)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

Canberra v Canterbury
3-Jonathan Wright (Bul)
2-Sam Kasiano (Bul)
1-Josh Reynolds (Bul)
Judge: Matt Tedeschi

Penrith v Gold Coast
3-Jamal Idris (GC)
2-Lachlan Coote (Pen)
1-Scott Prince (GC)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

St George Illawarra v New Zealand
3-Lewis Brown (War)
2-Alehana Mara (War)
1-James Maloney (War)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

North Queensland v Newcastle
3-Danny Buderus (New)
2-Alex McKinnon (New)
1-Ashley Graham (NQ)
Judge: Chris Parkinson and Cliff Bingham

Sydney Roosters v Wests Tigers
3-Matt Utai (Tig)
2-Adam Blair (Tig)
1-Tim Moltzen (Tig)
Judge: Michael Harrison-Ford

South Sydney v Parramatta
3-Ben Roberts (Par)
2-Chris Sandow (Par)
1-Reni Maitua (Par)
Judge: Rohan Kendall

Melbourne v Cronulla
3-Ryan Hoffman (Mel)
2-Sika Manu (Mel)
1-Anthony Quinn (Mel)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

20: Chris Sandow (Par)
19: Tim Moltzen (Tig), Ben Roberts (Par)
18: Mitchell Pearce (Roo)
16: Cheyse Blair (Par), Ben Hornby (Dra), Peter Wallace (Bri)
15: James Maloney (War), Timana Tahu (Par)
13: Blake Ferguson (Can), Ben Pomeroy (Cro)

Rumour Mill: The new NRL chief executive will be named this week. The hot rumour doing the rounds last week was that NZRL chief Jim Doyle – who quit his post last week – was to be named. That is unlikely to happen now with Shane Mattiske the man to be crowned as boss. Gillon McLachlan is the NRL's first choice, but apparently his asking price was too high.The New Zealand Warriors are believed to be chasing Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy, with St George Illawarra and the Sydney Roosters also in the mix. Bellamy would be a great fit at the Warriors and may be swayed by the club's amazing array of young talent. Mick Potter, Stephen Kearney and David Kidwell are also said to be in the mix.  Manly prop Brent Kite is expected to be released by the Eagles due to salary cap pressure. Kite will be at the Tigers.

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

What I Like About … Ben Hornby: The St George Illawarra skipper has not been good this year. His legs have left him and he is playing old. But all credit too him – he didn't delude himself – he sucked it up and chose to retire. It was the act of a man truly dedicated to his team. Hornby never left anything on the football field. He gave it all and reached great heights. Never the most talented player, Hornby still managed to win a premiership, play three Origin matches and represent Australia, while playing 13 seasons in the toughest competition in the world. Hornby is a credit to himself and the game.

Betting Market of the Week: If NSW win next year's Origin series, Laurie Daley will:

-Be signed for life by the NSWRL: $1.60
-Make an incoherent statement: $1.12
-Purchase more product for his hair: $1.90
-Wait for the PM to enter the dressing room, drop his strides and celebrate like it is 1989 all over again: $1.40

Moniker XIII of the Week: We are going surname this week and looking at the greatest Smiths of all time.

The Smiths
1. Damien Smith (58 games for St George/North Queensland)
2. Tyran Smith (188 games for Souths/NQ/Hunt/Auck/Bal/W Tig/Canberra)
3. Len Smith (74 games for Newtown)
4. Darren Smith (290 games for Canterbury/Brisbane)
5. Paul Smith (119 games for Penrith/Wests)
6. Jason Smith (209 games for Canterbury/Parramatta/Canberra/Cowboys)
7. Billy Smith (234 games for St George)
13. Jimmy Smith (120 games for Easts/Wests/Souths)
12. Jeremy Smith (136 games for Melbourne/St George Illawarra/Cronulla)
11. Athol Smith (45 games for Balmain)
10. Wally Fullerton-Smith (78 games for St George)
9. Cameron Smith (233 games for Melbourne)
8. Craig Smith (153 games for Souths/Illawarra/St George Illawarra/Newcastle)

Analysis: The Smiths have plenty of class about them with halfback Billy, centre Len, brothers Darren and Jason and hooker Cameron outstanding types while the likes of Craig, Jeremy and Tyran were good Kiwi internationals. The only real weakness is out wide, where Tyran was forced to a wing and Paul and Damien were just players. 

The Coaching Crosshairs: Tim Sheens will do very well to maintain his hold on the Wests Tigers coaching position next year. The Tigers look set to miss out again on finals football after entering the season as one of the premiership favourites. Sheens has long run the Tigers with dictatorial powers but the fact remains, he has made the finals just three times, often with a quality team. This year has been a tremendous disappointment, after he chose to spend big on Adam Blair and fight to keep Tim Moltzen. With a faction at the club ready to move, Tim Sheens may not get another year.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy has 130 likes on his Facebook page. That is 70 more than centre partner Colin Best.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 25: Melbourne-Cronulla, 20-18. Another amazing finish on Monday night football, with the Storm gone. They were insipid for much of the clash with Cronulla just grinding out the game, holding a slender lead and the points. Then in the last four minutes, the Storm scored an assy try to Ryan Hoffman and then, the grand finale, with the hero being Sisa Waqa, who overruled more experienced teammates to run the blind and put Will Chambers over. It was another astonishing finish.

Correspondence Corner: Anonymous, I agree that refs need to start demanding respect. Anasta's comments after Minichiello's send off were absurd. Who cares if Mini is a good bloke? He whacked a guy with his forearm in the head.

Meryck, my views on the new television deal can be found here.

Jason from Brisbane, I didn't see the Broncos game but Corey Parker is certainly a hero for the Broncos.

Paul Robertson, Paul Taylor was a great fullback but I had to do some positional fiddling to get all the champions in.

Zig, that is a great yarn about Steve Edmed. Warren Ryan certainly wasn't one to play nice.

Brett, Solly, Ferret, there should be no capped third party sponsorships, full stop. It is absurd. Players need to be able to earn and if an outside sponsor wants to fork out, good luck to the player. The advantages Brisbane will get are certainly there but more to the points: The NRL has no right to prohibit this kind of earn.

Simon Durrie, I read Jim Doyle had resigned and I thought that was a fair sign he would be the NRL CEO but apparently Shane Mattiske is now the man.

Jiminy Cricket, Trent Hodkinson is a good halfback and I think he is worth sticking with though obviously a quality halfback would be nice, we won't be chasing one. And Josh Reynolds is the rep quality half we need, for sure.His development has astounded me.

Mike From Tari, Kurt Baptiste has big raps so your son must be a handy type. The Nick Tedeschi Management Stable is now open …

Col Quinn, Nine won't change their coverage. Their coverage defines the station's mediocrity. If Sterlo leaves for Fox Sports, Nine will have nothing but the stoner twins, Joey and Fred.

Jeff McGinn, I believe it is the match review panel who deserve the most blame.

Beard Watch: Nate Myles has had a very good year and it is in no part due to his full and flourishing beard. There is nothing cute about his facial hair. It is just straight-up. But it gets the job done.

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:It was Challenge Cup final weekend and as such we go back in time, to the 1950s, to watch highlights from the great event from 1954-59. Highlights include the 150,000-strong crowd at the 1954 replay and the work of Brian McTigue and Billy Boston in 1959. Watch it here.


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  1. Anonymous says:

    As a Storm fan, last night's game was both wonderous and horrifying. I honestly felt that we looked good throughout the match, and noticed a few 'new' attacking plays used, but kept stuffing things up with our pathetic ball control. The finish was the (obviously) wonderous part, and hearing the (just shy of) 13,000 crowd go into raptures as Chambers got the ball and crossed is something that will stay in my memory for years to come. It actually reminded me of our 16-12 win against the Bulldogs in Round 16 of 2006. During that game, Cooper Cronk saw a gap on the far side of the field, about 60m out from our try line, less than 20 secs to go. He chipped the ball to the far side of the field for Hoffman to pick up before putting Webster across. Those are the games that keep my love for League well and truly alive.


    Re: David Stagg. I've enjoyed watching his efforts the last few years, and would really like to see my club pick him up for next season, even if only on a 1 year deal, if the Doggies keep him on the outer. With Jaiman Lowe retiring, and a number of our more veteran forwards getting towards the end of their careers, another veteran, albeit one with a few more years to play, would be a big plus for the side. Especially as I suspect we'll be seeing a few more of our former NYC forwards playing NRL next year.

  2. WittyReference says:

    Things about Rugby League I've learnt this year:

    1 – It is now almost impossible to stop a try once a player is within 3 metres of the line.

    2 – Wingers still can't mark their opposing winger

    3 – Two thirds of the time Corey Norman will throw a pointless dummy, go himself and get tackled.

    4 – I want the pot video referees smoke.

    5 – The game is still run by an old mates club who care more about being able to say they got as much money as the AFL did for tv rights then they do the fans.

    6 – With the level of rep games going up, maybe 26 club games a year is to many by a couple.

    7 – Qld can play well below their capabilities and still win Origin

    8 – Interchange should be reduced to 8

    9 – Phil Gould has become insufferable when paired with Ray Warren.

    10 – Fuck everyone at channel 9 besides Sterlo and Joey.

    11 – I was given a Broncos jersey for my birthday and am almost embarrassed to wear it as it's completely covered in multiple large advertising logos and one tiny club logo. They should pay me to wear it but yet they charge $150? The AFL's rules on jersey designs are way better for the game and the fans, so they obviously have no place in the NRL.

    12 – Confidence and belief are amazing things.

    13 – More teams should do skills training with AFL teams. The game should have way more consistently good kickers by now, practice catching marks, learn to spoil a bomb by knocking it out of bounds instead of trying to catch it, etc

    14 – There's so many possibilities in game play for innovation that are being ignored. It was a revolution this year when forwards started passing the ball. OMG!

    15 – You must read From The Couch each week

    • SemiiPro says:

      Nice one WittyReference.

      I too hate advertising on jerseys. I want to buy an Aussie jersey. Can’t find one without a massive VB sticker on the front. If I wanted ‘VD’, I’d go to the whorehouse called ARLC-Channel 9.

      Rant over