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?
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.