Oh Wow: And just when you think that the referees cannot possibly get any worse … Ben Cummins. Yet are there any repercussions? Is there any accountability? Of course not. Cummins will pay no price. Nothing will change. Yes, mistakes happen. And well done for Cummins for owning up to it. But they happen far too often at a professional level and it is clear the NRL has no idea how to solve the dilemma if they think that building a bunker and putting Bob Fulton in charge will solve anything.
In what is singularly the worst appointment in the history of the League, the NRL has commissioned Bob Fulton to oversee referees, along with John Buchanan. Fulton has done nothing but prove how out of touch with the game he is during his stint in leading NSW to eight straight series losses while he prattles on like a total nuffy on 2GB. At least he hasn’t got himself fired. Buchanan was the unpopular coach of the Australian cricket team who has admitted to having little interest in Rugby League. These are the two set with fixing the refereeing crisis? Incredible.
And, of course, the hot solution with video refereeing is to bring a bunker into NRL HQ. While in theory it offers something it won’t with the current crop of video referees, who are bordering on being socially inept, Rugby League illiterate and mentally infirm. The only way it works is if some kind of strange magnetic effect takes place in the bunker takes hold and all the morons with their wrong ideas somehow react against each other to create a positive. A bunker in and of itself is not the solution, it is not even a solution, if the same morons who clearly don’t understand the game keep making decisions based on interpretations rather than clear rules.
We are in a sad, strange state of affairs when it seems like the idea of eliminating the video referee might be our only option.
The Make A Wish Foundation: If the clubs eliminated from the premiership race could be granted one wish, this is what the fans would wish for:
CRONULLA – The long and painful torture of anyone connected with ASADA
CANBERRA – A talented, rep quality player … anyone … seriously
NEWCASTLE – To actually do to Nathan Tinkler as the fat man claimed the city had done to him
GOLD COAST – Speed, speed, speed … preferably on someone who can catch a football
WESTS TIGERS – A coach who picks a team trying to win? A captain who shuts his mouth? Nah, an actual board who will make decisions should do.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA – Oh, to have a few forwards who can get in and make some metres. The once proud prop factory can’t buy a bookend.
If I Were A First Grade Coach: The first thing I would do is get all my wingers in a room and yell at them until they understood not to run in off the wing in defence. It is the most infuriating thing in footy. Mitch Brown’s act of stupidity in running in like a baby gazelle high on meth on Thursday night cost Canterbury the match against Souths and quite possibly a home final. It was moronic and as a Bulldogs fan I’ll be happy to see the back of him. It is just a shame Des Hasler is addicted to rotten outside backs and he will be replaced by Jono Wright.
Bring In The 5-Minute Bin: Brad Walter wrote an excellent piece on why the five-minute Sin Bin needs to be brought back. He cites the overcoming need of players to cheat when under pressure due to instruction from the coaching staff. Players can get away with too much knowing referees are too gutless – and too hamstrung – to do anything. Bring back the five-minute bin.
Aussie Challenge Cup Gains Momentum: It was pleasing to see the great Steve Mascord push the idea of a Challenge Cup in Australia. It is an idea this column has been banging on about for years. It is the ideal solution for the Origin scheduling dramas, allowing big names from finals bound clubs to rest up while maintaining the legitimacy of the premiership and the excitement of meaningful football for all clubs in the mid-season malaise. The FFA has had great success with its version of an Aussie knockout cup and Rugby League should be doing the same. It is a great idea, one without flaws, and it should be implemented next year.
Record Line: Congratulations to the Cronulla Sharks, whose 32.5-point starting line is a record for the NRL Era.
Must Buy: Do yourself a favour and get yourself a copy of Ian Heads’ new book on the 1974 Western Division Amco Cup heroes The Night The Music Died. It is a truly incredible read, one of the best Rugby League books you will read anywhere. Heads is Rugby League’s greatest living author and this is a story that few know and all must.
The Book of NRL Lists: Do you love Rugby League? How about lists? How about the man who writes this rambling prose each and every week, just for you? Well, the answer is yes to any of those three questions, you should check out The Book of NRL Lists, written by myself and the fabulous Will Evans. If there is a topic, we have a list on it. Who doesn’t want to know who the NRL’s greatest drug cheat is or who is University’s greatest player? If you answered yes to all three questions I can only assume you are stalking me so I just ask this: please don’t cut my hair off in my sleep and buy the book! It is perfect for Father’s Day … you know it’s true. Check it out here.
Fun Fact #1: Cory Paterson has retired from his career as a professional turnstile to take up a career as a professional boxing bag.
Fun Fact #2: Parramatta have spent the most weeks in last place in premiership history. The Eels have been in last spot for 229 of their 1503 rounds played. Wests rank second with 216 followed by Norths with 174.
Rumour Mill: Ricky Stuart has begun his massive cleanout of the Raiders, cutting Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Reece Robinson. Leaoryd-Lahrs will join the Dragons while Robinson is expected to join Cronulla. Sam Williams will return to the Raiders. The Broncos have reportedly signed a promising young English back with Greg Eden believed to have agreed to terms after getting a release from Hull KR. Dan Hunt is expected to join Cronulla. Anthony Watmough will be at Parramatta next season. Manly forward Glenn Stewart has played his last game for the club. Akuila Uate is likely to sign with the Raiders next year.
Betting Market of the Week: The number of players who will play rep footy in the future from the Raiders-Tigers game are:
What I Like About … Luke Bailey: I have always had a special affinity for hard working prop forwards and I therefore have always had an abiding affection for Luke ‘Bull’ Bailey. Bailey this week announced he would retire, bringing the curtain down on a decorated 14-year career that brought about everything bar a Grand Final appearance. At his peak Bailey was the top forward in the game, a relentless go-forward man who was a true leader. It is shameful that the Titans didn’t offer him a deal to go on as the young Titans side could use someone of his leadership. The game will be sorer for his going.
Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: Needing just to hold their lead for the final 40 minutes against Newcastle to likely win their first finals berth since 2009, Parramatta soiled themselves in the most undignified manner. The Eels conceded 34 unanswered points in the second stanza and saw their finals hopes left to the fortune of fate.
1. South Sydney 15-8 (1)
2. Sydney Roosters 15-8 (2)
3. Manly 16-7 (3)
4. Penrith 14-9 (4)
5. North Queensland 13-10 (5)
6. Melbourne 13-10 (6)
7. Brisbane 12-11 (7)
8. Canterbury 13-10 (9)
9. New Zealand 12-11 (11)
10. St George Illawarra 11-12 (10)
11. Parramatta 12-11 (8)
12. Newcastle 9-14 (12)
13. Canberra 7-16 (15)
14. Gold Coast 8-15 (13)
15. Wests Tigers 9-14 (14)
16. Cronulla 5-18 (16)
The Coaching Crosshairs: Neil Henry’s odds of coaching the Gold Coast Titans have blown worse than an Anthony Cummings favourite when he isn’t on after another hammering. The Titans were embarrassing in their 42-0 loss to the Warriors and have been humiliated in each of the last two weeks. Henry seemed a shoo-in for the job a fortnight back but it would not surprise at all to see either Anthony Griffin or Kevin Walters win the job.
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 25: Manly-Penrith, 26-25. There could be just one answer to this one. In one of the most amazing comebacks of the season, the Sea Eagles overcame a 22-6 deficit to defeat the Panthers 26-25 in the final minute. Penrith played superbly and took their chances early despite missing a host of key players. The Sea Eagles are rarely beat though and dug deep to find their way to a miracle victory, scoring twice in the final four minutes. Wow. Just wow.
Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week: With the Canberra Raiders’ win on Saturday night, Ricky Stuart has now won consecutive games for the first time since 2009.
Correspondence Corner: Witty Reference, thanks! Hopefully The Book of NRL Lists sells like a beast.
G_Dog, Steven Clark is the worst of the worst and he needs to be cut immediately.
Andrew Quinn, the Mata’utia boys – Sione in particular – would be very highly regarded and have bright futures.
Davey G, apologies for being so kind to the Sea Eagles-Eels match!
Beard Watch: My favourite beard in the NRL right now belongs to Parramatta prop Joseph Paulo. The Eels beast looks like one of those fat garden gnomes with the chubby cheeks and the moustache-less beard. Good stuff.
Watch It: For reasons not really clear to myself, this week we go back to 1992 and a Wally Lewis celebrity match featuring plenty of familiar faces like Steve Walters, Fatty Vautin, Tim Brasher, Peter Jackson, Cliffy Lyons and Des Hasler. It was a pretty active affair for an exhibition. Watch it here.