Happy Birthday, Rugby League: Rugby League turns 121 today – August 29 – so it is a happy birthday to the Greatest Game of All. Rugby League causes plenty of frustrations, creates plenty of drama, is full of heartache and angst but it really is the best thing in the world. There is no game that is more exciting, showcases more brilliance, personifies greater toughness or displays more heart than Rugby League. Long may you live.
Vale, Monday Night Football: Monday Night Football is an institution. It is not the best game of the week. Nor is it a game that is highly anticipated all weekend. But it has such a wonderful, unique feel that it is arguably the most relieving game of the weekend, the get out for punters, a bonus day for fans. The commentary team are perfect, a mix of fun, casual and enthusiastic. It will be sadly missed, particularly by this writer, who has written this column almost exclusively in front of the Monday game. The 6pm Friday game is an awful idea and hopefully one day we will return to Monday Night Football.
Finals Stadium Debacle: The NRL should be horribly ashamed that it gave up rights to ANZ Stadium for a finals match to rivals the AFL. The League allowed the AFL to take the ground even though it is likely that tenant Canterbury will likely have a home game, one that would traditionally be played on Saturday. The Bulldogs will now likely have to either shift their final to Allianz Stadium or the game will be moved to Sunday, leaving the club without fullback Will Hopoate. Any NRL official who signed off on this should resign immediately and then subject themselves to a public flogging.
2016 Field Goal Update – 35: James Maloney slotted one before halftime in the Sharks-Roosters clash but the real big ‘un was from Matt Moylan who kicked a beauty to secure Penrith a finals berth in their 15-14 win over the Titans on the Gold Coast.
Fun Fact #1: Parramatta have the longest finals drought having not played finals since 2009 followed by Gold Coast (2010) and New Zealand and the Wests Tigers (2011).
Fun Fact #2: South Queensland, Perth and the Northern Eagles are the three teams to have played at Parramatta Stadium and not won.
Fun Fact #3: Luke Burt is the highest pointscorer at Parramatta Stadium with 926 points. Jason Taylor is in second with 253.
Fun Fact #4: The Top 5 tryscorers at Parramatta Stadium are Luke Burt (65), Jarryd Hayne (43), Eric Grothe (35), Nathan Hindmarsh (30) and Semi Radradra (27).
Rumour Mill: The hooker shuffle is set to see Robbie Farah move to South Sydney, Damien Cook to either Canterbury or Cronulla and Cameron McInnes to the Dragons with Mitch Rein looking at either the Knights or Panthers. The Warriors have joined the race to ink Matt Gillett. There is trouble brewing at Canterbury with James Graham and Des Hasler reportedly at loggerheads over workload. Parramatta have expressed interest in both Tyrone Roberts and Sam Williams. Shaun Fensom will be at Newcastle next year. Garth Brennan is the favourite to replace Paul McGregor at St George Illawarra.
Betting Market of the Week: The number of Nathan Brown’s 11 2016 debutants who will play rep football throughout their career:
$41.00: 1 or More
The Barrett and Bozo Show: James Roberts is the latest target of Manly in 2017 – and he is one the club will likely land. Roberts has been awful for the Broncos and while Wayne Bennett can handle off-field misbehaviour he cannot accept on-field mediocrity. Roberts will be at Brookvale in 2017 and good luck handling him in the culture that pervades the Sea Eagles.
What I Like About … The Farewell Kick: Rugby League is not a game known for its sentimentality – nostalgia, of course, is a middle class thing – so it is fantastic that the tradition of a departing player taking a shot at goal continues. Last week we saw veteran Jeremy Smith slot his fist shot at goal in the dying minutes of the Knights’ last home game. It is such a sweet tradition and one we will hopefully see plenty of in Round 26.
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 25: New Zealand – Wests Tigers, 24 – 36. This was the old ‘loser leaves town’ match and it was the heavily favoured Warriors who left with their tails between their legs. It was a mighty performance from the Tigers though with Aaron Woods and Jessie Sue the stars. The Warriors losing that match was classic Warriors.
The Coaching Crosshairs: Andrew McFadden will be sacked as New Zealand coach as soon as another season of disappointment comes to an end. The Warriors have now missed the finals for a fifth straight season, blowing a year with a nice schedule and some big-name recruits. Ivan Cleary is the favourite to replace McFadden, who is likely to return to the assistant coaching ranks.
Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week: The game has not been played at the time of writing but the decision to drop Benji Marshall for a week was confounding. Marshall should have been dumped a long time ago but McGregor has done it with two weeks to play in a bid to save his own career … while promising him a match in the final round of the season. Paul McGregor makes zero sense and should be removed immediately by the Dragons.
Beard Watch: The Matty Johns show is always brilliant but Braith Anasta’s porn star moustache has really taken the show to another level.
Correspondence Corner: John, I’m starting to come around to your thoughts on Des. I am fully on board cutting Lichaa and bringing back Damien Cook.
Aemii, it probably is Blake Ayshford’s best season of his career and he has been awful this year just like every other year and if another player was in that position (and there are a host of minimum wage or up-and-comers) then the Warriors would be a good shout of playing finals.
Mike Butterfield and Jason, unfortunately dinosaurs like us are being driven out of the game by these morons looking after the lawbook.
Davey G, you can have Mitch Rein. Ordinary decision-maker for mine.
Watch It: We saw an absolute belter of a Challenge Cup Final on Sunday when Hull FC rolled Warrington 12-10. So let’s go back to the greatest Cup final ever played, the 1985 decider between Hull and Wigan featuring Brett Kenny, Peter Sterling and John Ferguson. Watch it here.