The Willie M Team of the Year: Honouring Rugby League’s most consistently mediocre for 2014. To get the full results of the Willie M Medal, click here.
1.Ben Barba (Bri)
2. Mitch Brown (Bul)
3. Jonathan Wright (Cro)
4. Joey Leilua (New)
5. Dale Copley (Bri)
6. James Maloney (Roo)
7. Benji Marshall (Dra)
13. Adam Docker (Pen)
12. Cory Paterson (Tig)
11. Simon Mannering (War)
10. Adam Blair (Tig)
9. Josh McCrone (Can)
8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roo)
The 2014 Willie M Medal – Your Club’s Worst: The most consistently mediocre players by club:
BRISBANE: Ben Barba (15), Dale Copley (14), Jack Reed (8)
CANBERRA: Josh McCrone (19), Bill Tupou (13), Jack Wighton (13)
CANTERBURY: Mitch Brown (15), Corey Thompson (8), Michael Ennis (7)
CRONULLA: Jonathan Wright (17), Blake Ayshford (15), Daniel Holdsworth (11)
GOLD COAST: David Mead (11), William Zillman (10), Brad Takairangi (9),
MANLY: Peta Hiku (10), Brett Stewart (9), Justin Horo (6)
MELBOURNE: Mahe Fonua (10), Ben Hampton (10), Sisa Waqa (8)
NEWCASTLE: Joey Leilua (19), Jarrod Mullen (10), Akuila Uate (10)
NEW ZEALAND: Manu Vatuvei (12), , Ngani Laumape (10), Simon Mannering (8)
NORTH QUEENSLAND: Robert Lui (7), Tautau Moga (6), Tariq Sims (6), Michael Morgan (6)
PARRAMATTA: Chris Sandow (12), Semi Radradra (7), Kenny Edwards (6)
PENRITH: Jamal Idris (13), Adam Docker (8), Kevin Naiqama (8)
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA: Benji Marshall (13), Josh Dugan (11), Mitch Rein (7)
SOUTH SYDNEY: Kirisome Auva’a (5), Sam Burgess (5), Lote Tuqiri (5)
SYDNEY ROOSTERS: James Maloney (16), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (8), Sonny Bill Williams (6)
WESTS TIGERS: Chris Lawrence (13), Cory Paterson (11), Adam Blair (9), Kurtis Rowe (9)
Quick Memories of the Retiring Class of 2014: Quick one-line memories or thoughts of those retiring from the game this year.
Luke Bailey: Bald-headed, tough, feared. When I think of hit-ups, I think of Bailey charging fearlessly into the line.
Anthony Minichiello: At his best he was untouchable. Became tremendously consistent post-injuries but what might have been.
Brent Tate: Overcame so many injuries and setbacks to forge a wonderful career.
Brett White: Played for Australia, won premierships … but is best remembered for his Origin KO of Steve Price.
Mark Minichiello: Could bust a line like few others but had Pomeroy-esque hands.
John Morris: It is incredible that he made it to 300 games! Should never kick the ball.
Jason King: Can anyone explain how he ever played State of Origin? Oh, Bob Fulton …
Beau Ryan: Wonderful television talent, mediocre Rugby League talent.
Ashley Harrison: My kind of player, Harrison was a workhorse and a true competitor. Should have played for Australia.
Kevin Kingston: Unheralded but showed plenty of class despite being shoved out by club after club.
Braith Anasta: A Bulldogs premiership winning player, his shining moment was his field goal in the 2010 final against the Tigers.
Ben Smith: I didn’t even realise he was still playing. Totally anonymous.
Liam Fulton: A favourite who tackled all day and who was very much underrated with the ball.
Cory Paterson: Talked up ability to play NFL, has ended up boxing, never did much in League.
No Try … Ever: Awarding Daniel Tupou the first try on Thursday night was the latest epic fail from NRL officials. The ball was clearly knocked on … an incredible three times … yet was awarded. The NRL needs to clean the game up and not allow ugly rubbish that led to Tupou’s opener.
It Gets Worse: The NRL officials’ total lack of understanding of Rugby League was highlighted once again on Friday night when Corey Parker was allowed to take a shot at goal despite being off the field when the try was scored. In a match that had a major impact on the finals, it was a major blue.
Getting Run Down by Mitchell Pearce: Not good Greg Inglis, not good.
Josh Reynolds Has Lost His Mind: Has there been a more idiotic play all year than his play just on halftime when he ran towards the sideline and then threw a forward pass straight at the Titans, giving the Gold Coast one last crack at Canterbury? I don’t care about his issues with his brother. He is arguably Canterbury’s most important player and he owes the jersey some respect after some of his rubbish this yea. He needs to get his head right for the finals or the Bulldogs will be out next week.
James Graham, Champion: What about his chase of Anthony Don? He just doesn’t give up. It is a damned shame there aren’t more of him at the Bulldogs. Canterbury are playing so stupid and with so little regard or heart at the moment that the team as a whole could learn from Graham.
Robbed: It was terribly sad that we were denied a farewell appearance from the great Luke Bailey. The champion prop deserved better. An absolute beast, Bailey has personified Rugby League for so long.
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 … even if it is a little late. Check it out here.
Not So Fun Fact #1: There was not a single farewell shot at goal in the final round, putting a dampener on the weekend. It is one of the great Rugby League traditions and we saw none of it.
Not So Fun Fact #2: Canterbury became just the second side in 17 months to lose to a team with Steve Michaels in it.
Rumour Mill: Brett Stewart will be at Canterbury next season. There is strong speculation from within the Sea Eagles camp that Stewart has already reached a deal to play under former coach Des Hasler. Reece Robinson is set to join South Sydney in 2015. Ben Hannant will be playing for the Gold Coast next year. Willie Mason is expected to be at the Dragons next season and could be joined by Sam Kasiano.
Betting Market of the Week: Names that would be an improvement on the name The Warren Ryan Medal for the ABC’s Player of the Year:
$3.00: The Damn Sambo Medal
$2.50: The Casual Racism and Misogyny Is Okay Medal
$2.25: The Bring Back Blackface Medal
$2.00: The Greg Smith Must Have Played in the NFL Because He is Black and He is American and He is Fast Medal
What I Like About … Brent Tate: Another champion of the game announced his retirement last week with veteran centre Brent Tate announcing he would not go around again in 2015, his latest injury simply too much to overcome. In a distinguished career that saw him win a premiership with Brisbane and enjoy success at New Zealand and North Queensland. Despite suffering a string of serious injuries, Tate enjoyed a remarkable rep career that spanned 13 seasons with both Queensland and Australia. They don’t come much tougher than Tate and Rugby League will be sorer for his retirement.
Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: Allowing the Canberra Raiders to score 30-plus for just the fourth time in 2014 – against their hated former coach, no less – with their season on the line.
1. Sydney Roosters 16-8 (2)
2. South Sydney 15-9 (1)
3. Manly 16-8 (3)
4. Penrith 15-9 (4)
5. North Queensland 14-10 (5)
6. Melbourne 14-10 (6)
7. Brisbane 12-12 (7)
8. Canterbury 13-11 (8)
9. New Zealand 12-12 (9)
10. Newcastle 10-14 (12)
11. St George Illawarra 11-13 (10)
12. Parramatta 12-12 (11)
13. Canberra 8-16 (13)
14. Gold Coast 9-15 (14)
15. Wests Tigers 10-14 (15)
16. Cronulla 5-19 (16)
The Coaching Crosshairs: The new-look Wests Tigers board are expected to hand coach Mick Potter his walking papers within days with the club unlikely to rubber stamp either assistant David Kidwell or Todd Payten. The board will go outside the club and look for a long-term prospect with no current connections to the club. One name being bandied about is Anthony Griffin while Kevin Walters, Stephen Kearney, Matt Parish and Jim Dymock are all in the mix.
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 26: Sydney Roosters-South Sydney, 22-18. It was far from a high quality affair with the Roosters jumping to a 22-2 lead on the back of an awful looking Souths side ‘led’ by John Sutton but it had the minor premiership on the line and was a game met with plenty of hype.
Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week: Ricky Stuart’s one ban of Mad Monday equalled his longest winning streak up to Round 25.
Correspondence Corner: Jason, I agree with you in regards Anthony Griffin’s class but Hasler and Toovey get results so it is hard to query their methods. And I am not advocating abolition of 10-minute bin – just the introduction of a 5-minute bin for minor infractions.
Witty Reference, yes, my mail on Tom Learoyd-Lahrs was wrong … and everyone pointed it out last Monday night, don’t mind that! And after reading your coaching theories, I want you coaching first grade.
Gus, the ‘consecutive set’ for penalties inside the 10 metres is a quality idea and one I would love to see introduced.
Mat, I forgot about the Kiwis but still … no way Wighton is playing rep footy. What does everyone see in him? I want a good Orange lad to be good but I just see nothing in him …
Mike Butterfield, there is little question the the standard of refereeing at the moment is horrific.
Dan, no rose coloured glasses but the old amber ones were on. And we all know I hate wingers charging in.
Luke, Zillman? It isn’t 2006. I reckon I have him for pace. Kelly is unlikely to play again. I don’t think there will be a lot of first grade in Gordon’s future. Roberts and Mead are true speedsters though.
Wes, I don’t need perfection from referees, just consistency and competency.
Beard Watch: The bearded team of the year for 2014:
1.Josh Dugan (Dra)
2. Sisa Waqa (Mel)
3. Kirisome Auva’a (Sou)
4. Dave Taylor (GC)
5. Josh Mansour (Pen)
6. Gareth Widdop (Dra)
7. Ben Hunt (Bri)
13. Adam Cuthbertson (New)
12. Nate Myles (GC)
11. Pauli Pauli (Par)
10. James Tamou (Cow)
9. James Segeyaro (Pen)
8. Joseph Paulo (Par)
Watch It: The story of legendary referee, the one and only Percy Le Blanc. Watch it here.