From The Couch: Round 3

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on March 25, 2013

Shouldering The Burden: Ashley Harrison was laid out on Saturday night by aggressive Manly forward Richie Fa’aoso. It was a blindside shot that was both late and high. The arms also happened to be tucked in, meaning the shoulder charge ban drones were out in force, using the shot to justify the worst rule change in rugby league since, well, Bill Harrigan was allowed to change the rules every week.

Under the old rules – henceforth known as The Good Ole Days – Fa’aoso would have been punished for a late shot and a high shot. Just the same as Greg Inglis was for his shot on Dean Young. Or Ben Te’o for cleaning up Matt Groat. You were not allowed to hit players high pre-shoulder ban. And you can’t now.

The only thing the shoulder charge ban has done is take away good, momentum-changing, legal shots. Oh, for better times …

It will be interesting to see how the NRL punishes Fa’aoso, who to his credit, has apologised. My guess is they will slap him on the wrist and the shoulder charge ban will be nothing but a paper tiger. He has been hit by the match review panel … but we will see how the judiciary acts.

Obstruction Clarity: On Thursday night, we witnessed a ridiculous decision that saw Cooper Cronk denied a try by the video referee for a seemingly innocuous obstruction well infield that had little bearing on the play. Few understood the call. To the credit of referees boss Daniel Anderson though, he quickly laid down an edict to referees that they should immediately blow a penalty when block runners cause contact with the defensive line, rather than wait for it to go to the video. They did over the rest of the weekend. There is rarely going to be complete clarity with the obstruction rule but at least Anderson has shown he is prepared to fight for consistency and is willing to make the rule as clear as possible.

The Moment of the Season: There hasn’t been too much to cheer about for the Dragons this season. They have oscillated between mediocre and inept on their way to a 0-3 start. But they were central to the moment of the season when Jamie Soward, on the stroke of halftime, landed a 40-metre meaningless field goal … to take the score from 6-4 to 6-5. It was sensational, with the Dragons going on to lose 30-17. When Soward hit the field goal, my phone went into meltdown. I have long been a proponent of the meaningless field goal. Soward is one of its greatest supporters. Well done Jimmy, well done.

What The Hell Were You Thinking: Eels second-game winger Vai Toutai, for reasons known only to him, decided to try and save a ball going dead … in his own in-goal. It bounced straight past Jarryd Hayne with Tim Moltzen barely showing enough competence to dive on the ball for a try. It was the dead-head play of the season.  

The Eels Pray: Parramatta announced the signing of exciting Broncos youngster Corey Norman on Monday, a deal worth $1.5 million. It actually seems like a good signing. How long until the Broncos convince him to stay?

Robbie a Roaring Get: Despite all the flash and pizzazz that surrounds Benji Marshall, Robbie Farah is the Tigers’ best and most important player. The Tigers have done a tremendous job in re-signing the skipper for four years. It may end the recruitment rot that has set in over the last two years and turn the tide for new coach Mick Potter.

A Rotten Culture: The Canberra Raiders showed to the world why their culture is rotten to the core by bringing back recidivist Blake Ferguson after just a week on the sidelines. Ferguson has been involved in numerous incidents while at Canberra yet never seems to learn. He was with Josh Dugan when Dugan gave his final fuck you to David Furner. He rarely commits on the field. Yet after only a week in the feeder system, Ferguson was recalled. Apparently a hollow promise was enough to convince the coach and the senior player group. Ferguson is immature and self-centred. He needs to be brought into line. That simply won’t happen while this group allows him to run rampant to the beat of his own drum.

Fun Fact #1: On the last day the Dragons defeated the Raiders in Canberra:
– Current Queensland coach Mal Meninga coached the Raiders while current Blues coach Laurie Daley was the Raiders skipper
–  Only Luke Bailey remains as a player in the NRL while four players (Nathan Brown, David Furner, Daley and Justin Morgan) went onto a career in senior coaching.
–  There was a solar eclipse
– Nobody had heard of IPhones or, mercifully, Ben Roberts.

Fun Fact #2: The last player to go No.1 in the premiership draft: Pat O’Doherty, to the Gold Coast, in 1991.

The Willie M Medal: Such has been the popularity of The Willie M Medal that it has become bigger than the confines of From The Couch. The Willie M Medal votes and leaderboard will now be published each and every Tuesday. So check in tomorrow for all the latest Willie M action.

Power Rankings:
1. Melbourne 3-0 (1)
2. South Sydney 3-0 (2)
3. Manly 2-1 (3)
4. Cronulla 2-1 (5)
5. Newcastle 2-1 (6)
6. Gold Coast 2-1 (9)
7. Canterbury 1-2 (8)
8. Wests Tigers 2-1 (12)
9. Sydney Roosters 2-1 (13)
10. North Queensland 1-2 (4)
11. Brisbane 1-2 (7)
12. Penrith 1-2 (11)
13. Parramatta 1-2 (10)
14. Canberra 1-2 (15)
15. St George Illawarra 0-3 (14)
16. New Zealand 0-3 (16)

Rumour Mill: St George Illawarra five-eighth Jamie Soward has reportedly been told he will not be re-signed by the Dragons. It would make sense – he is playing like he is sooking. Josh Dugan is one player in line to sign with the Dragons, as is rising Raiders star Sam Williams. Also look for the Dragons to make a go at Tigers NYC star Luke Brooks. Todd Carney has also been linked to St George Illawarra.  Dallas Johnson is off contract at the Cowboys. The club will do all it can to keep him but is up against it. A return to Melbourne or a move to Parramatta seem the most likely scenarios. Expect David Smith to make some mass changes to the NRL administration in the coming weeks.

What I Like About … Andrew Fifita: Boy, can this guy go. He is one of the hardest forwards in the NRL to put down and has been a sensation for Cronulla since Tim Sheens decided he was taking up valuable Adam Blair space at the Tigers. In three games this year, Fifita has averaged 137 metres and 28 tackles a game. He is a beast and is the perfect example of why Tim Sheens’ time at the Tigers was well and truly over.

What I Don’t Like About … Ellen: This woman comes to Sydney, promises to attend the Penrith v Souths game at Centrebet Stadium and then no shows. I have no idea what else she would have been doing in Sydney on Sunday but unless she was at the Sharks-Warriors. In my day, if you made a commitment to rugby league, you honoured it. Let’s deport her immediately. Or at least before our current Prime Minister comes out of the closet for her and they create the most anti-rugby league state in the world.

Betting Market of the Week: The cause of Brisbane’s next line break will be:

$2.00: A Justin Hodges jink and fend
$3.50: A Corey Norman burst
$41.00: A well-timed meteorite
$1001.00: A well-time Peter Wallace pass

Combo XIII: The Canberra Raiders and St George Illawarra are intrinsically linked. The Raiders and Illawarra Steelers both entered the premiership in 1982, the first teams outside of Sydney to join the premiership. They also both achieved incredible success in the late 1980s and early 1990s – despite St George not winning a title in the era – with one of the Raiders or Dragons playing in all bar five of the 15 deciders between 1985 and 1999. There has been a strong array of talent play for the Raiders and either the Steelers or Dragons, as seen from the team below. Such is the quality of the Raiders and Dragons/Steelers players in this team, the likes of Quentin Pongia, Simon Woolford, Wayne Collins, Bronson Harrison, Josh Miller and Daniel Vidot have all missed the cut.
1. Rod Maybon (35 for St George, 9 for Canberra)
2. Craig Dimond (23 for Illawarra, 14 for Canberra)
3. Colin Best (45 for St George Illawarra, 44 for Canberra)
4. Mark Bell (50 for Canberra, 52 for St George)
5. Mitch Brennan (51 for St George, 8 for Canberra)
6. Phil Blake (16 for Canberra, 29 for St George)
7. Ivan Henjak (34 for St George, 110 for Canberra)
13. Neville Costigan (25 for Canberra, 42 for St George)
12. David Barnhill (41 for Canberra, 111 for St George)
11. Darren Fritz (53 for Canberra, 59 for Illawarra)
10. Michael Weyman (47 for Canberra, 74 for St George Illawarra)
9. Luke Priddis (44 for Canberra, 30 for St George Illawarra)
8. Paul Osborne (84 for St George, 51 for Canberra)

The Coaching Crosshairs: The Daily Telegraph reported on Monday that the Dragons, Broncos and Warriors are all considering early season coaching changes. Steve Price is under immense pressure after the Dragons opened 0-3. The club has had a very tough draw but does not have a history of midseason firings, sacking only David Waite midyear in favour of co-coach Andrew Farrar in 2000. Anthony Griffin’s Broncos have never fired a coach midseason but fired Ivan Henjak on the eve of the year. Brisbane as a club do not panic though and won’t fire Griffin. Matt Elliott though, he is a man that should be worried. The Warriors have made three mid-season switches and have had four coaches who haven’t survived two years. Elliott is unwanted by the players. This could get ugly quickly.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy is readying himself for plenty of NSW Cup when he returns from his groin injury. He is unlikely to excel at that level either.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 4: Melbourne-Canterbury, 22-18. The Storm were a little stiff to win by just four after some dud calls from the referees, particularly the decision to disallow a Cooper Cronk try because of an obstruction. Melbourne showed how far clear of the pack they are though with a clearcut knockout win. The Bulldogs tried hard but without their stars were well off the pace. They need to keep touch until the big guns return if they are to make an impact in 2013.

Beard Watch: Wests Tigers flyer Marika Korobiete has burst onto the NRL scene in sensational style but one aspect that has not been examined is his full and fierce beard. This guy will go all the way.

Watch It: Les Davidson and Peter Kelly were two hard men. They gave no inch and they asked for none in return. When Davidson launches one at Kelly, he barely flinches. Ah, rugby league, the way it once was. Watch it here.

Correspondence Corner: Anon, Hamoudi84 and Keyboard Rambo, the stats issue is totally the fault of the NRL, who like a meth head or Ben Roberts, just can’t get it together. They owe the fans stats. Hamoudi is right – it is not NRL Stats’ fault. It is the fault of the NRL and

Mik, Pomeroy can’t write scripts – he only has flippers for hands.

Semi Pro, there is nothing like a rugby league reunion.

Anon, I am no chef – that is apparent.

Anon, we have worked hard for a long time to bring back the beard. I’m just happy to be able to contribute.

Anon, I  am a shift shaper and a soothsayer – hence the early submission. I don’t want to let you behind the curtain of the magic that is From The Couch but it is nearly all written and uploaded prior to the Monday game.

Anon, Gagai was terrible when he was on but perhaps a little stiff. John Sutton was terrible against Cronulla, consistently taking the wrong last tackle options. How he got man of the match is beyond me.


Comments (5)

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  1. SemiiPro says:

    Dear Rugby League haters Peter Fitz and ASADA

    Firstly, Peter Fitz. Those in glass houses…. How can you continually attack RL when all it does is make the game safer whenever it can? I’m sick of you having a go at RL regarding concussions when Union is about a hundred times more dangerous. It’s the sub concussive hits that do the most damage, you pickled brain twat. You know, those hits that Union players get a hundred times a game in rucks, mauls and contested scrums. It’s: Touch – Pause – Engage Brain Damage. Ex-Union players are the ones who have gone troppo from such hits. There are documented cases of South African ex-Union players going out and killing people with guns thanks to your deadly game. The only good news: posh schools will ban Union very soon. It will only take one legal challenge from an ex-student to completely dissolve the game of Union forever from Australia. Former posh school kids litigious much? Can’t wait.

    ASADA – offering Essendon preferential treatment. Disgusting. Clear breach of the Public Sevice Act 1999. You’ve broken just about every aspect of the Code of Conduct. Plus, you don’t understand League people. The more you kick them down and try to suppress them, the more they fight. You idiots – we never give up.

    True stories

  2. SemiiPro says:

    Shoulder charge adherents – you’re boring me! If you like senseless violence, take your support to the MMA or cock-fighting. Don’t forget to wear your ‘tapout’ singlet, velour track suit bottoms, and low cut boxing sneakers when you leave.

    I can’t remember Terry Randall ever doing a shoulder charge. He was harder than the entire current NRL players group combined. He did love a spear tackle, though. There was outrage when that was banned too. People whining ‘I want to go to a game and see a blokes spine broken. It’s my right!’

    Fair dinkum, get yourselves a Hot Tub Time Machine and go back to Ancient Rome.

    Mind you, I do understand why youse want the shoulder charge left in – if you have to rely on R Stuart, D Furner, that Dragon’s muppet, et al for strategic entertainment and innovation from coaches, it’s a damn boring wait for something to fill the void of those sickening head clashes.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You can't seriously tell me had Richie Fa'aoso attempted to make a legal tackle, bend the back and wrap the arms, Ash Harrison would have left the field in a stretcher. The hit would still have been late, but the impact to the head gone. Penalty sufficent, the game moves on. Harrison remains on the field. Titans not down to 16 men.

    I think you're missing the point of the shoulder charge ban here, Nick. The reason the tackle has been banned is because of hits like Fa'aoso's, Ben Teo's last year and Greg Inglis' too. There's no control over where the impact is made, and when it inevitably hits someone's melon, the result is a poor bloke being carried off in a stretcher. You can't be in favour of that risk, can you?

    I like the big hits that result in a good, hard shoulder charge, don't get me wrong. But the chances of the hit going wrong is far too great, and as a result I'm happy to watch a game where the shoulder charge is banned if it means our best players remain healthy on the field.

    I know there's still high tackles and spear tackles that can serioulsy injury blokes, but, to be fair, we don't see any real clangers like we used to. 

    The game is getting safer, which can only be a good thing. Rugby League is a tough game by nature, without the shoulder charge that doesn't change.

    Think about it Nick

    Yours in League

    Robert Horry.

  4. Davey G says:

    Watching the Bulldogs game the other night, the one thing that stood out like dog's balls was how flat Tony Williams was standing. Not once did he hit the line at speed – he received the ball standing still on every occasion then took a couple of steps then was tackled. Cooper Cronk grabbed his legs on more than one occasion as he was not striding in any way, shape or form. Can you imagine Sam Thaiday or Fui Fui Moi Moi receiving the ball for a hit-up without starting their run-up 10 metres behind the play? His efforts are farcical, and much smaller players like Josh Jackson are making him look very ordinary. Perhaps he wants to play back on the wing?

    Speaking of out of position – the broncos fullback wants to play 5/8, their winger wants to play fullback, and their 5/8 is a halfback. Prince is the issue, as he seems to focus his talents on milking penalties rather than accuiracy in passing and kicks.

    As for my Eels – the focus is (as usual) on Hayne because he doesn't score 3 tries every game. In the under 6's, you just give the ball to the fastest kid, yell "run", and off he goes. The Eels have tried this the past 3 years instead of creating space the old fashion way – with a pack of forwards hitting and denting the line. There are some special players in the game, but we all know they look the best when their forwards bash the opposition and create those little gaps that are then exploited. The Eels just expect to give Jarryd the ball and score every play, which is disappointing. They have just spent big coin on a little 5/8, but I ask when will they spend coin on a player who will drive the pack now Cayless and Hindmarsh is gone (Mannah and Moi Moi can only do so much). Eels need to find a Merrin or a Tamou or a big fearless unit to lead the pack to allow Sandow ands Hayne – both confidence players who are unstoppable once things are going their way – to do their part. Eels aren't the only team without the dominat pack creating space for their backs though, and that is the difference between the top and bottom 8 teams.

    Happy Easter

    Davey G

  5. Avoozl says:

    I enjoy the Willie M as much as anyone but the Couch is still the best weekly NRL column around. Great work, Nick!