From The Couch: Round 26

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on September 9, 2013


Ricky to the Raiders: Ricky Stuart denies he has been offered the Raiders job. He says he remains committed to the Eels, the club he has tried to put a broom through and the club with which he has a get-out clause with. Stuart is reportedly fed-up with the in-fighting at the Eels. He doesn’t realise that it is only that in-fighting that landed him a job in the first place. Stuart is on his way to the Raiders. And it could be the death of the club.

If the Raiders do offer Stuart a gig, it could be the salvation of Parramatta. They should jump for joy and take it as the slate being clean. This could be the greatest thing to happen to club this side of 1986.

For the Raiders, it is indicative of a board being so out-of-touch and so far up its own ass that it cannot recognise how bad a coach Stuart is and how divisive he is to a club and how insidious he is to its culture. The Raiders are in crisis but 2013 will like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off compared to the carnage Stuart will inflict on the club.

Don’t do it Canberra. Think about it. Talk to people. Look at his numbers. And then hire someone who can actually coach top grade rugby league.  

Finals Forecast: We are down to eight teams and it would appear that four teams are merely making up the numbers. No team outside the top four is playing well enough to be a legitimate threat. Newcastle have not got their act together all year and despite their talent, are unlikely to in the finals. Their pack certainly doesn’t have premiership written all over it. Canterbury are just as bad. They have shown glimpses but the off-field woes have overcome any on-field progress, while injuries have stymied their season. The Cowboys have won six straight but have had a pretty cruisey run in and will find it hard to beat good teams in Sydney. The Sharks are tough as Martin Lang’s head but their metrics are poor and who knows when this ASADA scene will get worse.

That leaves the top four – always important in the current system. The four can be split into the Rabbitohs and Roosters – two inexperienced teams on the rise – and Melbourne and Manly – two teams who have been here and done it plenty of times over the last seven seasons.

The Roosters have been the best team this year. They rank No.1 in attack and defence and have weapons all over the paddock. It is hard to get behind a team being guided by Mitchell Pearce though. The potential loss of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is a big blow though.

The Rabbitohs are the weakest of the top four teams. They have all the key position talent, tremendous depth and have an incredible coach but something has been off the last six weeks. Their metrics aren’t as good as the Roosters’ and they lack the big-game experience of the Storm and Sea Eagles. They are the team I am most confident won’t win.

I am still smitten with Melbourne. They have shown me nothing in the last six weeks to suggest they won’t go all the way again. Their history-making floggings showed the depth of their fire while losing to Manly was a blimp and not a blow-up. They are unmatched in the spine or at coach and no team knows how to traverse the channels of finals footy like the Storm. They remain my tip.

Manly have a top class backline and a solid forward pack. On their day, they can beat anybody. Their poor record against good teams is a concern though and Geoff Toovey is the coach I am least confident in.

This will be a cracking finals series, one that, I believe, will end in a Storm-Roosters decider. 

Broncos Busted: He has been gone just five seasons but ever since Wayne Bennett has left, the Broncos have been in a severe state of decay. Twice the club has missed the finals. A coach was fired on the eve of a season. The club has missed time and time again on free agent stars. Talented kids have not been developed. The team has lost its toughness on and off the field and it was pleasing to see former players Gorden Tallis and Kevin Walters launch into the current administration. It is tremendous shame to see the Broncos on their knees. Rugby League needs a strong Broncos. This cannot continue. Fundamental changes are required at the club and they are required now.

The ‘89 Souths Team: Well done to Nick Walshaw, who wrote this tremendous ‘Where Are They Now’ piece on the 1989 South Sydney team, the last Bunnies team to win the title. The Paul Roberts yarn was tremendous while Bronko Djurra’s yarn made me laugh.

Rugby League Hits the Senate: Once a winner, always a winner, it would seem. Glenn Lazarus, the only player in premiership history to win titles with three different clubs is now a senator. Heaven help us all. The Brick with Eyes is now Senator Brick with Eyes.

Bring In Albo: It has been far too long since New South Wales and Rugby League had a man running the Australian Labor Party. It is time for the so-called party of the people to get back to its roots and hand the reins to Albo, a passionate Souths man who earlier this year proclaimed: “who would have thought – me Prime Minister and Souths on top of the table”. Rugby League brings the world together

You Dropped the Minor Premiership: If South Sydney leave the 2013 season without the minor premiership, they can thank rookie centre Dylan Walker, who dropped the minor premiership when failing to ground a sitter in-goal. The Roosters then went the length of the field and scored the next set, putting them top of the ladder. It was a bad, bad sign for a team heading into the finals.

A Grand Tradition: There is no more quaint tradition in rugby league than the conversion granted to a retiring or leaving great. So it was the weekend just passed with Danny Buderus, Clint Newton and Matt Bowen all given shots at goal. It is a great honour for the champions of our game.

Retirement Farewells: The final round of the season is always tough as we say goodbye to plenty of workhorses and warriors, champions and craftsmen, heroes and hard-nuts. This week was no different with the likes of Nathan Fien, Michael Weyman, Scott Prince, Benji Marshall, Mose Masoe, Shaun Berrigan, Ben Ross and Ben Roberts all saying goodbye.

Just a quick word on each.

Nathan Fien retires with the Willie M Medal but he was a solid player in his day, good enough to represent Queensland and New Zealand, and offered great utility value to the Cowboys, Warriors and to a lesser extent, the Dragons.

Michael Weyman’s career was ravaged by injury and ill-discipline but his move to St George Illawarra was career defining with Wayne Bennett getting him healthy. It resulted in a premiership and NSW and Australian honours.

Scott Prince has faded over the last few years but on his day was a superstar. I rated him the top player in the game in 2009, such was his prowess. He showed plenty of bottle to overcome some horrific injuries early in his career and while he didn’t have the consistency or the luck to play steady rep football, he did win a premiership in ’05 and has been a fine leader at many clubs.

Benji Marshall, he was a traitor to the game, a selfish star-fucker who enjoyed the glitz and glamour of rugby league but never really understood it was a team game.

Mose Masoe, he has done well for Penrith but spent most of his career at the Roosters as one of the biggest bludgers in the game.

Shaun Berrigan won the 2006 Clive Churchill Medal and was an automatic rep selection for many years before departing to England. In his three seasons back, he hasn’t done a lot, but there is never any question over his commitment, something sadly lacking from his Raiders teammates.

Ben Ross has overcome some tremendous obstacles in his career but has shown tremendous resilience to fight back from a career-threatening neck injury. He didn’t fulfil the promise he showed at Penrith when winning a title back in 2003 but his heart is well worth recognition.

Ben Roberts is the worst regular first grader I have ever seen, a hot-head who continually makes terrible decisions.

Racist Siren: Phil Gould commenting on Dylan Napa playing for the Cook Islands in the World Cup and leaving the air silent after letting us all think about a white redhead playing for a Pacific Island nation. Whooooo!

Fun Fact #1: Finals teams’ premierships under a Coalition/conservative Government: Sydney Roosters 6/12, South Sydney 19/20, Melbourne 2/4, Manly 4/4, Cronulla 0/0, Canterbury 3/8, Newcastle 2/2, North Queensland 0/0

Fun Fact #2: Bryce Gibbs scored his first try against Canberra since the 2005 Grand Final.

Fun Fact #3: The attack and defence rankings of each finals team: Sydney Roosters 1/1, South Sydney 2/4, Melbourne 3/3, Manly 4/2, Cronulla 11/7, Canterbury 5/8, Newcastle 6/5, North Queensland 7/6

Rumour Mill: Blake Ferguson is set to join the Roosters next year but expect him to serve a lengthy NRL-enforced suspension following his disgraceful exit from the Raiders. Canterbury have reportedly signed St George Illawarra utility Chase Stanley. Let’s hope it was for not much because that is about his worth. Neil Henry is firming in a number of jobs but is most likely to land the Eels head coaching job. If he misses it, he will join the Storm as a senior assistant. Adam Blair has been told to look for another club. It is a naïve move from the Tigers – no club will eat any of his obscene deal. Ben Hannant has been linked to the Gold Coast Titans. Ricky Stuart, as noted above, is set to move to Canberra.

What I Love About … Luke Douglas: There are few tougher and more resilient men in football than Titans prop Luke Douglas, who this week equalled Jason Taylor’s consecutive games record. Douglas has not missed a game since debuting in 2006, an incredible achievement for a prop. The fact he is scrubbing Jason Taylor from the record books only makes me love him more.

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: The fact former player Terry Leabeater penned a 16-page letter to members trying to overthrow the board and create some unity in the place. It no doubt created nothing but more disunity with this Eels team suffering another 50-point loss.

Betting Market of the Week: Ricky Stuart will define loyalty this week, in his inevitable press conference to announce his move to the Raiders, as:

$3.50: Being honest to yourself and doing what’s best for your back pocket
$2.50: Having the courage of your conviction and making the tough calls
$1.90: Doing the right thing by everybody, even if it is contrary to previous commitments
$1001: Being a man of honour and your word

Power Rankings:
1. Sydney Roosters 18-6 (2)
2. Melbourne 16-7-1 (1)
3. South Sydney 18-6 (3)
4. Manly 15-8-1 (4)
5. Cronulla 14-10 (5)
6. North Queensland 12-12 (7)
7. Canterbury 13-11 (6)
8. Newcastle 12-11-1 (8)

Combo XIII of the Week: Something a little different this week. Parramatta, St George Illawarra and the Wests Tigers have been clearly the three worst teams in the premiership this year. This week we look at the best of those three teams this year.

1. Josh Dugan (Dragons)
2. Jason Nightingale (Dragons)
3. Ryan Morgan (Eels)
4. Tim Simona (Tigers)
5. Marika Korobiete (Tigers)
6. Curtis Sironen (Tigers)
7. Luke Kelly (Eels)
13. Trent Merrin (Dragons)
12. Kelepi Tanganoa (Eels)
11. Liam Fulton (Tigers)
10. Jack Stockwell (Dragons)
9. Robbie Farah (Tigers)
8. Aaron Woods (Tigers)

Correspondence Corner: Semi Pro, the move to hire Ricky Stuart will be the dumbest thing the Raiders have ever done.

Anonymous, Snowden’s punishment was based on the outcome rather than the action and that simply is not the right way to mete out justice. And I would rather Penguin than Ferguson as well!

Anonymous, Uate’s drop was shockingly embarrassing and he was unlucky not to get more votes.

The Coaching Crosshairs: The St George Illawarra Dragons are likely to move against Steve Price over the course of the offseason with the only thing preventing the hire of Tim Sheens is the former Tigers boss’s commitment to the Australian World Cup campaign. The loss to the Tigers and Dragons is viewed as unacceptable by powerbrokers.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Shane Flanagan rested most of the Sharks’ top players against the Raiders. Ben Pomeroy, needless to say, played.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 26: South Sydney-Sydney Roosters, 12-24. The biggest crowd for a home and away game ever turned out at ANZ Stadium to watch this clash for the minor premiership and the match did not disappoint. The Bunnies led an intense game at the break and were on top until Dylan Walker spilled a ball over the line. The Roosters went the distance and then finished it off late. It was a terrific game and one of the matches of the season.

Beard Watch: The best beard heading into the NRL finals belongs to Roosters backrower Aidan Guerra. Guerra’s beard looks like that of a 1980s NWA wrestler. The power of his beard could be enough to push the Roosters over the line.

Watch It: This week we go back to 1991 and this wonderful report from Ten in Canberra following the ’91 decider. The highlight, without question, is the pride Bob Hawke has for the Raiders in his interview with Gary Coyne. Watch it here.


Comments (6)

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  1. dragon_eyes91 says:

    As a Dragons fan I was absolutely delighted that Dugan was shown the door by the Raiders and the Broncos then eventually sign with the Dragons. But if people follow that precedent of bad behaviour to get out of clubs like Blake Ferguson, where does the NRL draw the line and step in? It definetely cannot be an easy way out for unhappy players. Something must be done, but if it does, I'll be glad it happened after the Dugan episode this year!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Did you see the manly v storm game on your week off? If so, what did you think?

  3. Anonymous says:

    The Kade Snowden suspension is the most disgraceful judiciary decision I have ever seen, especially when you factor in that SBW only got two weeks for fracturing Willie Mason's jaw with one where he had to launch himself over a teammate to hit a defenceless player who was already being tackled in order to do it. An intentional infliction of injury is treated more leniently than a terrible accident because the latter incident had a more dramatic and unsettling result. Also it kills whatever chance Newcastle have in the finals, they are light on props and without Kade they have poor go-forward.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Very harsh comment re: Benji. Granted he is nowhere near the class of some of the greats to have played the game, but watch his career highlights reel on youtube, reflect on the impact he has had on the kids who follow the game, and his commitment to the Tigers (bearing in mind he was clearly shafted by a disfunctional board). Outside of this, he brought the first premiership to Balmain or Wests since 1969 (the Tigers would have struggled to make the Finals without him in 2005, let alone win the premiership!), and for this your fans will be forever grateful.


    I for one want to say thank you Benji for the amount of joy you brought Tigers fans (outside of the numerous brain explosions where you failed to find touch from a penalty kick, threw too many speculators and struggled in defense). Best of the luck in Rugby.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Canterbury have reportedly signed St George Illawarra utility Chase Stanley. Let’s hope it was for not much because that is about his worth.

    I sure hope this is true! Dragons fans have put up this hopeless fool for far too long.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Obviously it was a season not up to the Broncos' usual standards and there will have to be a lot of analysis over the off season.  As a huge fan, I don't like to be without a team in September.  Coaches will always get a lot of the blame, but I think Anthony Griffin has unfairly borne a lot of the criticism, or at least more than his fair share.  Purchases and retentions have been a disappointment and certainly played a part, but I think the criticism of his development of young players is mostly unfounded.  Alex Glenn and Josh Hoffman are test players now, and Josh mcGuire and Andrew McCullough are two of the form front row players of the competition.  Ben Hunt's development has been stunted, but that easy to say in hindsight, when his previous performances off the bench were only solid, not spectacular.


    For mine, the Broncos have a fantastic forward pack with the biggest representative representation of any club, and a very solid backline with Hodges, Hoffman, Reed and Barba, all walk up starts in any first grade side.  The two biggest issues that I see are the halves and the captain.  Incidentally, on both fronts, they are still looking for a replacement for Darren Lockyer.  Hunt has been good in the last couple of months, but he needs someone else with him and there doesn't seem to be an immediate solution for that.  Barba could be a good 5/8, but he's untried there.  Milford is promising, but he's still contracted to Canberra.  Jake Granville is a very promising prospect, but he's more of a hooker and has been kept in QLD Cup for most of the season.  It always amazes me that coaches get given such a hard time while the captain goes unnoticed.  For 80 minutes a week, the captain is the one who should be focussing the team and leading them by example.  Thaiday is a very good player, but I don't think he's the best choice for captain.  He makes a lot of tackles, but doesn't run with the same venom that he once did and too often I see him walking back in defence.  Corey Parker's efforts every week set the standard for the best in the NRL, so I'm sure he could captain the side by example.  Likewise with Alex Glenn, who doesn't set the same incredible metrics as Parker, but is always putting in the extra little 1%.  His youth puts him in a good position to be a long term club captain and he has shown himself to be a natural leader.  I don't suggest that they should sack Thaiday, but he needs to have a look at himself and consider whether stepping aside would be best for the club.


    Finally, it's a shame to see Berrigan go (again), but my residual memory of him will be the defensive job he did on GI in the 2006 grand final.  One of the more deserving Clive Churchill medalists that I can remember.


    Jason from Sydney