From The Couch: Round 3

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on March 24, 2014


The Sharks Play Their Hand: It was great to see Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan – oops, Peter Sharp – play it hard and tough with boom rookie Michael Lichaa and dropping him to reserve grade a day after his debut and the day he announced he had signed with the Bulldogs. It was something Chris Anderson would have done – nay, did do – and it is good for the club. When Darren Smith signed with the Broncos in ’94, Smith was dumped to reserve grade, playing just twice after Round 19 and missing the Grand Final. All gets forgiven though – Ando, of course, plucked Smith from Super League to play an unlikely Ashes Test in 2003. That’s Rugby League. The Sharks, will of course, forgive Lichaa one day.

Now is the time to draw a line in the sand though. The rats are deserting, so to speak. It would make only sense that Andrew Fifita will be playing NSW Cup this week. The Sharks certainly don’t want to draw criticisms of hypocrisy and, worse, bullying.

It is a little rich that the Sharks are taking such a stance. They were happy to raid the Panthers and scavenge from the Tigers. This is the business of Rugby League. Play the game.

Well done to Cronulla for taking a strong stance. Now they need to standby their actions and play it straight across the board.

It is nice seeing the Sharks following the lead of Chris Anderson. He is, of course, a hero in the Shire.

Bring in the Rookie Draft: It is most exciting to see the NRL considering the introduction of a rookie draft. This is a seismic shift from the Gallop administration, who refused to even contemplate the idea, claiming that local juniors make the game tick. It was a shaky premise. The promise of fame and riches is what make the game tick and nearly every other major sport in the world use a rookie draft as an entry point. The introduction of the draft will certainly help in evening up young talent. It will also help the less advantaged clubs become more sustainable with the NRL to start funding a lot of junior football while capping the costs in signing young talent. It will also provide a new stream of income with interest in junior footy set to skyrocket while draft night will become a sensational television event.

The NRL must be careful though and learn lessons from the NBA and AFL about tanking. Systems can be put in place and they need to be to stop teams throwing games at the backend of the year.

If they are though, the draft will be an undoubted winner.

Stop The Clock: Stopping the clock in the last five minutes is a good move. The NRL has taken plenty of credit for it. Except the clock does not stop in the final five minutes. It doesn’t stop when a try is scored or when a team gets a penalty or when a conversion is being attempted or in plenty of other situations. For the sake of consistency, the clock should be stopped whenever the ball is dead. As simple as that. The NRL needs to fix this inconsistency forthwith.

Welcome Back, Jimmy Soward: It was a soul-crushing loss for your author but Jamie Soward’s sensational three-try assist display against Canterbury was scintillating. He is well and truly back. The maligned half has been reborn under Ivan  Cleary. He may well win the Dally M Medal this year.

A Spectacular Try: Brett Morris, one of the great tryscorers, scored arguably his best try on Saturday with a spectacular four-pointer off a bomb. There are few more sensational tries than wingers scoring with their bodies out and in the air and Morris did all that and more. Wowee.

Bunnies Banged Up and Busted: It is time for South Sydney to hit the panic button. Season 2014 is going down the gurgler and fast. Things are getting ugly and don’t look like improving anytime soon. They were humiliated on Friday night, flogged by a Wests Tigers outfit who few expected anything from this year. It was an embarrassing display. There were excuses. No Luke Keary and no Dylan Walker severely stifles the attack while losing Greg Inglis five minutes in was a major blow. But there was some ordinary stuff with the Bunnies. Their lack of composure was embarrassing. Sam Burgess overeacted to nothing while they as a team resorted to high shots and nastiness. They let a younger, less talented, less experienced side dictate terms and force the Bunnies into a style they were uncomfortable with. A late injury to Issac Luke just added insult to injury. Michael Maguire faces the toughest job a coach has – changing the attitude of his team. These are trying times for Souths.

Modern League:  Like the great Modern Seinfeld Twitter feed, this week we look at Rugby League’s best from the past and how they would survive in today’s game.

NRL executive Shane Mattiske steps aside and does so without any controversy. There are no Four Corners expose, no charges of fraud, no magistrates going to prison, no premiers stepping aside. Dragons coach Steve Price considers shifting Brett Morris to halfback, a reverse move of what his father did. Jarryd Hayne is not sanctioned by the NRL for calling officials disgraceful and retorts by making it known he wishes Jarryd Maxwell is run over by an electric car – he is, of course, environmentally conscious.

Fun Fact #1: Cronulla hooker John Morris scored his sixth double on the weekend – and his first in eight seasons. Morris coincidentally scored a double in the same game as namesake Brett Morris scored a double.

Fun Fact #2: The Sharks have scored just two first half tries this season – and just five in all.

Fun Fact #3: Brett Morris, who scored his 100th try on the weekend, with dad Steve became the second father-son duo to score 100 tries after Bill and Brett Mullins. Josh Morris needs just 12 tries to join them. No other player with 100 tries has a son in the NRL.

Rumour Mill: The rumour mill has gone into overdrive regarding the future of rising fullback James Tedesco. The Tigers No.1 has been heavily linked to the Bulldogs while it was reported that the Roosters were the frontrunners for his signature. Tedesco will almost certainly re-sign with the Tigers. Canterbury signing Michael Lichaa is expected to seek an early release after being demoted following his signing with the Bulldogs. Sam Kasiano is expected to sign with South Sydney. All is not well in the Tigers front office. Expect changes soon.

What I Love About … Brett Finch: There isn’t much I enjoy about Nine’s coverage of Rugby League but I am loving the work of new recruit Brett Finch. Like the rest of the mob they throw on television, he is a knockabout. Unlike most of them, he has a quick with and good delivery. Finch has a smart footy mind and a good sense of humour and should be the breakout media start of this season.

The 2014 Punters Guide:  If you don’t get yourself a copy of my fine tome The Punters Guide to the 2014 NRL Season you’ve not only let yourself, your family, your friends and your community down, you’ve let Rugby League down. Nobody wants to let the great game down now. Get your copy at any good newsagency or online at the iTunes store.

Betting Market of the Week: In an attempt to calm the fuck down, the Burgess boys will:

$4.00 – Take the lead from brother Luke and become boring and robotic
$6.00 – Take some valium and find a bean bag
$3.00 – Visit famed Australia psychologist Dr Bob Lui
$1.50 – Sam realises that signing with Rugby Union has made him a social outcast and a victim of God’s wrath and reneges

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: It is not really right to laugh at the Eels after their gutsy performance at Brookvale Oval but their goalkicking is well worth a snicker. Corey Norman and Joseph Paulo have now kicked 5-from-13 between them. It cost them dearly against the Sea Eagles.

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

Ricky Stuart Fact of the Week: Ricky Stuart became the first coach in premiership history to run a three-hooker rotation, playing Josh McCrone, Glen Buttriss and Matt McIllwrick.

Ricky Stuart Fact of the Week #2: When winger Edrick Lee went off hurt on Saturday night Stuart decided to move backrower Jarrod Croker to the wing and Jarrad Kennedy to the centres when he could easily have played 2013 five-eighth Josh McCrone to five-eighth and 2013 winger Jack Wighton to the wing. Stuart’s decision reaped another well-earned loss.

The Coaching Crosshairs: The word out of Auckland is that Matt Elliott will be sent packing on the weekend of the Anzac Test if the Warriors don’t improve dramatically. The Warriors were gifted a win in Townsville on Saturday night but it is merely masking the significant levels of underachievement Elliott has got out of a talented Warriors roster. Auckland bosses need to make a move quickly to save the season.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 3: Brisbane-Sydney Roosters, 26-30. There were so many ripping games over the weekend but the highlight had to have been the cracking Friday night affair between the Chooks and the Broncos. Four tries in the final 10 minutes with the matchwinner in the 80th is a pretty good formula for a cracking match.

Beard Watch: Greg Bird has one of the best moustaches in the game and deserves proper credit. The Titans skipper has just a hairy little number on top of his lip. It might be the most exciting bit of facial hair in the NRL.

Correspondence Corner: King Cowboy, I’m glad you don’t agree with everything I say! It would make for a boring game if you did. Rothfield is a disgrace and a hypocrite.

George, it is infuriating his attempts to be relevant.

Davey G, it is never too early to get behind Nigel Plum for NSW. A shame Bob Fulton has never heard of him. If only he played for Manly.

Mike Butterfield, the application of all rules related to head-high tackles and concussions are seemingly at the whim of the NRL with little heed for consistent application.

Watch It: This week we travel back to 1967 and the third Test between Australia and Great Britain in Swinton, the deciding Test. Highlights include the “malarkey” (according to Eddie Waring) of Australia’s pre-match dance (hard to believe they punted it!), the coathanger on Roger Millward, Johnny Raper’s headgear, Ron Coote’s running game, Noel Kelly’s send off and Johnny King’s outstanding try. Watch it here.


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Comments (7)

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  1. Andrew Quinn says:

    Andrew Farrar played three hookers more than once in 2002 … Shane Millard, Mark Riddell and Aaron Gorrell.

  2. Jason says:

    It obviously wasn’t included in this week’s article, but I imagine a lot of the NRL news this week will relate to the horrible injury to Alex McKinnon. I saw today that the ‘experts’ are already out in force with knee jerk changes they want made and they’re all wrong. The rules are already in place to punish lifting tackles. Cam Smith can wax lyrical about McKinnon ducking his head (which anyone would do in that situation), but the Storm players had a hand between his legs and lifted him past horizontal. It was the third similar tackle by a Storm player that game.

    Perhaps I’m watching too much rugby union these days, but players seem to be thumbing their nose at officials in rugby league. There are plenty of penalties being blown (usually for good reason), but it doesn’t appear to be altering behaviour. Both the Roosters and Knights were on the wrong end of terrible penalty counts in round 3, and justifiably so for the most part, but didn’t lose a single player. I think Gidley was penalised 5 times for ruck indiscretions. It’s one area (probably the only one) where I think Rugby Union surpasses League and that’s where repeated infringements are punished with sin binning. I get the argument that 10 minutes is a long time in such a quick game, but there is nothing stopping the NRL bringing a 5 minute sin bin or ice hockey style sin bin until a point is scored. New rules aren’t required, just better enforcement of the ones that already exist (same should have gone for the stupid shoulder charge rule).

  3. Robbie Horry says:

    Still on the Tigers for four wins tops?

  4. Mike Butterfield says:

    I don’t see anything about Hadley being a bigot,bully but talk about sucking up to Wally & Locky, I wasn’t sure who the other team was after listening to the 3 of them pump up the Broncos, I wonder if Ch9 realise that they are putting off more viewers who watch football than are broncos fans.

    • Mav63 says:

      Just check his radio broadcast history Mike. But being the worst caller the game has ever had would be enough.

  5. mav63 says:

    Nick, I’m not sure how much pull you have at Channel 9 (I’m guessing somewhere between zero and naught) but why do we Queenslanders have to suffer Ray Hadley each week? Hadley is a bully, a bigot and a fairly poor caller of the game on TV. Get him off my set. Rant over

    • ragingbunny says:

      Well put. He is awful. I wish Sterlo would get an AVO against him. He only has to open his mouth for dross and piffle to fall out.
      And the telecast is not even live!