From The Couch: Round 26

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on September 5, 2016

The NRL is Killing Rugby League: The NRL is a joke. It is the least funny joke you can imagine, akin to watching the worst of The Umbilical Brothers while you are getting stabbed in the leg by Carrot Top and one of his stupid props. That is the only way to explain how on the same weekend Michael Ennis and Jack Wighton can both deliver shoulder charges yet Ennis escapes charge while Wighton faces three weeks on the sideline.

It would be easy to say Michael Buettner has lost the plot. But that wouldn’t do the situation justice because he seemingly has never had the plot. He has a sick, warped, perverse sense of right and wrong that any notion of logic has to be dismissed. He, simply, has no fucking idea and is embarrassing the game with the ridiculous inconsistency he applies the so-called rules of the game.

He is as ordinary at writing up the charge sheet as he was at playing first grade footy.

Both Ennis and Wighton should have escaped charge. The shoulder charge rule, as I’ve said many times, is applied to a ridiculous level. There was nothing inherently dangerous about the shots of Ennis or Wighton – though Ennis’ was late.

Even under the crackdown on the shoulder charge, both should have received the same penalty. Yet the NRL took the unprecedented step of outlining a ridiculous justification of why Ennis was let off and Wighton copped a serious charge. In it there was talk about Ennis’ arm being away from his body – and Wighton’s was not – though Wighton’s arm was clearly away from his body. It is maddening, like Buettner is both blind and stupid and is just throwing darts to see what lands.

It feels like we are in the upside down on Stranger Things and the bloody monster is the NRL trying to eat itself.

Post-Mortem On Hand: The 2016 season is over for eight clubs. Here is where those clubs are at heading into 2017:

WESTS TIGERS: The Tigers are a lot further away than they would like to admit. They have a star at fullback but there are rightful concerns about their overrated halves pairing and there is no hooker in sight. A stubborn, foolish coach combined with an incompetent board doesn’t help. In salary cap strife so finding a quality winger or a decent backrow could be an issue.

NEW ZEALAND: There is no club in the NRL that inherently displays less spine than the Warriors. It has seen the team underachieve over and over again for their 21-season existence. Andrew McFadden will be dumped and they will attempt to move on some underperforming veterans. It is culture not talent though that is the issue.

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA: Finished the season with the second-worst differential so to win as many games as they did was a huge overachievement. Are attempting to rebuild by moving on Benji Marshall and Mitch Rein but players don’t want to join the club. Paul McGregor will be axed as coach but the club can only afford a cheapie meaning they are hoping for a dart to hit bullseye. Going backwards.

MANLY: Manly astonishingly started the season as fourth in betting for the premiership but they were never really in the hunt after being flogged in Round 1. They had a rough run with injuries but their lack of depth was exposed highlighting a terrible recruitment and retention performance in recent years. The Trbojevics can be built around but like the Dragons good players won’t go there. Still a few years away.

PARRAMATTA: The Eels were good enough to play finals football this year and would have were it not for the constant front office drama and the salary cap rorting. Brad Arthur did a tremendous job to get the team playing even when their season was cast. Things are on the verge of turning for the Eels. Bevan French is an emerging superstar. The forwards are tough. The team is built on defence. The Eels should be playing finals next season.

SOUTH SYDNEY: It is hard to see where Souths are at with so many pieces up in the air. Will Greg Inglis be there next year? What about Damien Cook? There is no doubt Michael Maguire is a quality coach and there is some top-end talent at Redfern but depth is a huge issue with far too many vanilla players rounding out an unbalanced roster. It is hard to see them pushing into the Top 8 again without a significant recruitment spree.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS: Nothing went right for the Roosters this year. At their best they seemed capable of beating nearly anybody while at their worst they were embarrassing. They have the stability though of an excellent coach, a key playmaker and some excellent young talent. They need to find a five-eighth but with their pack and the development of some young stars they will be title contenders in 2017.

NEWCASTLE: The gutting of the Knights by Nathan Brown has been awful and it won’t help build anything of any note anytime soon. The young talent who has been thrown in the deep end are unlikely to develop. Being whipped every game is not the right way to go about nurturing young talent. This is a team that will win the wooden spoon next year and quite possibly 2018.

Dally M Award Winners: The regular season is done and dusted and here are those who should be taking home a Dally M gong in 2016:

Player of the Year: Cooper Cronk
Coach of the Year: Brad Arthur
Rookie of the Year: Ashley Taylor
Captain of the Year: Cameron Smith
Rep Player of the Year: Darius Boyd
Fullback: James Tedesco
Wing: Jordan Rapana
Centre: Joey Leilua
Five-Eighth: James Maloney
Halfback: Cooper Cronk
Prop: Ryan James
Hooker: Josh Hodgson
Second-Rower: Elliot Whitehead
Lock: Jason Taumalolo

The Bulldogs Have A Lot To Answer For: Canterbury are a club in dire straits. They have faded from legitimate contention and look to be cannon fodder for a red-hot Penrith team. And they will do it without their fullback, who amazingly is allowed to forego playing on Sundays. It was a disgraceful decision to make the concession and could cost the club and its fans any chance of title glory. Typically a well-run club, the Bulldogs have embarrassed themselves on this one.

2016 Field Goal Update – 35: No drop goals were added in the final round of the season.

Fun Fact #1: Two of the season’s top three tryscorers had not debuted by Round 6.

Fun Fact #2: The Knights’ 18-game losing streak is the seventh longest in premiership history.

Fun Fact #3: Canberra are the only team of the NRL Era not to play in a preliminary final.

Rumour Mill: Andrew McFadden will not see out September as head coach of the Warriors with the club almost certain to return to Ivan Cleary. Brisbane are still eyeing Greg Inglis and if Inglis does go then James Roberts will likely be released to Manly. Jake Mamo will likely move to English Super League team Huddersfield. Semi Radradra may have played his final game with Parramatta if his being handed a farewell kick is any indication. Blake Austin and Matt Scott are both chances to return this week.

Betting Market of the Week: Who would win an IQ Test between Michael Buettner or Brick Tamland?

$1.10: Brick
$9.00: Buettner

The Barrett and Bozo Show: Apparently the cleanout at the start of the year was not enough with Barrett and Bozo wiping 17 players from the squad for next season. There will be no excuses next year.

What I Like About … Robbie Farah: Farah’s time at the Wests Tigers came to an inglorious end on Sunday, on the sideline and stuck on 247 games, watching his team bundled from finals contention in embarrassing style. He was forced out by a foolish coach in a humiliating way. And while he has hardly handled it with grace he has not lost any of the respect of the Tigers faithful. He has dug in, got his money and will be better for the experience. He is a great player and deserved a better farewell.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 26: Melbourne – Cronulla, 26-6. It is hard to go past the battle for the minor premiership clash. The Storm dominated most of the match and in the end won easily but that should take nothing away from their obscenely good defence and their ferocious energy. It was the performance of a fantastic team.

The Coaching Crosshairs: Paul McGregor is set to be axed as soon as the Saints can identify a cut-price option. Garth Brennan is the front-runner though Storm assistants Adam O’Brien and Jason Ryles are well in the mix. The club cannot afford a big-name replacement for McGregor.

Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week: The die had already been cast but Jason Taylor’s decision to snub Robbie Farah likely cost the Tigers a finals berth. He has too much talent to be sitting onthhe sidelines.

Beard Watch: He has come from a long way back but Michael Gordon will get the gong for the best facial hair in Rugby League for his full commitment to a 1970s cop moustache. It is absolutely outstanding.

Correspondence Corner: CTPE, Cleary had a winning record in 5 of 6 seasons at the Warriors – something they have not achieved since – and while he underachieved at Penrith he has done far more good than bad.

Dan and John, I am also starting to get very concerned about the tactics of Hasler but to be fair he has taken the club to two Grand Finals in four seasons.

Johno, Channel Nine aren’t getting my ratings – they go to Fox Sports.

Mark, I was not offering criticism of them as players. I think many of them have been ruined by being thrown in the deepend in an impossible situation. So I am happy to revisit though for the record I think the Safiti twins and Mitch Barnett are all talented forwards.

Watch It: This side-by-side vision of Michael Ennis and Jack Wighton says it all. Watch it here.


Comments (10)

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  1. John says:

    Thank god that Canterbury (and I) have been put out of our misery. I see a tough few years ahead for the club. At least they have cut adrift some dead wood (Perrett, T-Rex, Browne) but who have they replaced them with? They have the Morris twins who are ageing duds, a fullback who doesn’t play on Sunday’s, a hooker who doesn’t know how to run / kick and 2 prop forwards who think that they are Terry Lamb and Craig Polla-Mounter. Compounding this is that their only genuine try scorer has been allowed to go to WA Rugby (a team that may not even be around in 2 years!). I don’t see any good on the horizon, clubs (and gameplans) that the Raiders, Panthers and the Tigers play are the future of the game – Canterbury cannot compete with his. Lastly on this – it is pleasing to see that finally the media have woken up to the fact that Hasler is a myth and I hope they ride him throughout 2017. It will be the only way to see change at Belmore!

  2. James says:

    I have to ask- who was/is better? Joey Johns or Jonathan Thurston?

    • Mark says:

      if you have to ask the question you have no idea about rugby league. Thurston is a good player as was Stuart, Sterling etc in their day. Thurston is lucky he’s playing in an era that has a dearth of dominate halves and the game always needs heroes.
      “In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king” . If they make Thurston an immortal it will severely diminish the award.

      • James says:

        I was too young to follow footy for much of joeys career mate but I still hear the debate. Interested to hear opinions on it

    • Bob W says:

      IMO Johns was better than Thurston. Thurston is a great player, I would rate him above players like Fittler and Lockyer but not as good as Johns and Lewis. Areas where I would rate Johns higher than Thurston are first and foremost defence but I also think Johns had a better kicking game and made fewer mistakes. Not many players can say they changed the game like Johns did with the kicks he introduced (banana kicks etc). Another strength of Johns was how he made other players look good – George Carmont for example. His game management was outstanding, like Lewis in Origin.

  3. John says:

    Great opening story Nick – rugby league is dying. The suits don’t see it, the TV types don’t see it but the average punter is all over it. The constant tinkering with the rules, the tweaks, the knee-jerk reactions, the inconsistencies – the game is dying a slow death and no one seems to care.

    Die in the wool fans such as me used to watch all games religiously but now I can’t be arsed. The NRL is a spineless organisation that needs to wake up. Look at the NFL and take a leaf out of their book. Force coaches and players to front the media in the week leading up to the game. Take the power away from the clubs and make decisions in the best interests of the game. Hold people accountable and turf them out on their arse when they come up with the garbage that they have been delivering (Archer, Buettner – i’m looking at you here…)

    They need to rule with an iron fist.

    On field, I hate bashing referees but something has got to give, the product is now sanitised to within an inch of its life and ref’s do not have the bottle to make the tough decisions. Do we even have the sin bin and send off rule? I remember back in the day when Bill Harrigan was named to ref Bulldogs games and I dreaded it because you knew he wouldn’t put up with any shit. He would let the game flow but also pull up anyone who deserved it.

    I fear for the long term health of the game. I also fear that the ones entrusted to lead it are asleep at the wheel.

  4. Thetruthteller says:

    A good way to finish the regular season. I agree with everything you have said. To the casual observer the decision to let one player off and the other 3 weeks is moronic at best and what ever word is moronic x 1000 (dimwittedlybraindeadedstupidlyIdioticlyimbecilic) is the best I could do yet barely scratch the surface to connoisseurs of the great game like us.

    To command 350k a year and then demand from your bosses that you not attend critical work meetings/busy days would see you on the unemployment line very quickly. Yet Hoppa somehow is given this leeway. I don’t understand this. Maybe he should seek employment in a 5 day a week Monday to Friday job and see how far he gets.

    But we are at loggerheads regarding Farah. The way I see the situation is that the doctor has told you that you have a cancerous growth on your body, your choices are get rid of it and get healthy or leave it unchecked and have it affect the rest of your body. I know what choice I would make, and I think the Tigers did the right thing. Could have been handled better, but in this case the end justifies the means.

  5. How is it that you and countless other morons continue to side with Robbie Farah? In the past 5 years he has fallen out with 3 coaches, including one of the best coaches the game has seen i.e Tim Sheens.

    Let me guess, Farah was right and Sheens, Potter, Taylor and countless other assistant coaches were all wrong?

  6. Davey G says:

    Why isn’t the obvious question being asked – why didn’t Wighton try and tackle the player? All this finger pointing “oh but he did this and they did that” is schoolyard rubbish. The shoulder charge rule is a farce, and I still believe it can be easily policed if allowed, players “certified” at training on how to do it and signing part of their NRL contract so they understand that any proven contact with the head – accidental or no – results in 2-4 weeks on the sideline even if the recipient gets up and walks away. Allow the charge, but head contact means time on the sideline uncontestable. If all the clubs don’t agree, then leave it out (which would be a shame).
    Would also be a shame to lose Semi. Can play, and apparently can kick a goal. That to me may be the difference for Eels next year, as Gordon was the first noted goal kicker they have had in years. See how they go, I guess

  7. Albert says:

    Totally agree on your Newcastle comments. Surprised how lenient the media has been on this diabolical rebuild. There’s no draft so there’s no reason to be this bad. Few if any of their players will be regular first graders. They go down as one of the worst teams of the modern era along with the 93 Seagulls and 99 Magpies