From The Couch: Round 3

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on March 19, 2012

Stephen Kearney is in Big Trouble: Hopes were high at Parramatta when Stephen Kearney was signed. He had a good coaching pedigree and had done an outstanding job at international level, piloting New Zealand to an unlikely World Cup win in 2008 and a Four Nations victory in 2010.

In his first year, the Eels managed just six wins under Kearney. They finished 14th and were lucky not to take the wooden spoon. They were horrendous all year with a limp defence and an historically staid attack that provided nothing. The club never admitted it but Kearney was given plenty of leeway because of arguably the worst recruitment in the history of the game. With Paul Osborne as chief executive, the blame was quickly (and rightly) shifted to him.

There can be no excuses this year though. Kearney was heavily involved in all the dubious recruitment decisions. He no longer has the burden of Osborne hanging around his neck. He has, it seems, the support of the board.

Yet Parramatta have been embarrassing in 2012. Their 0-3 start is the worst the club has seen in two decades and worse, he seems to have no plan. The attack remains one dimensional. Commitment in defence is poor. His team selection is questionable at best. He is, simply, too nice to a team that need to be whipped into shape. I can't see the Eels getting out of this hole. Jarryd Hayne isn't going to save them. Nathan Hindmarsh can't.

Stephen Kearney is on borrowed time.

Mortimer Must Start: The Roosters were destined to lose on Sunday against Canberra in a very low quality affair. They just could not get anything going in attack. Braith Anasta was his usual lifeless self. Mitchell Pearce looked more like Jeff Robson than the Blues' Origin halfback. Then with 22 minutes remaining, Daniel Mortimer gets on the field and the Roosters were all of a sudden on top. Mortimer scored the winning try, he set up what was nearly the sealer (before dropping the pill cold) and he had the Roosters attack finally moving. Brian Smith must stop pandering to the ego of his skipper and shift Anasta to lock while starting Mortimer. Failure to do so and the Roosters will limp along to a non-finals finish.

A Titanic Buy, A Titanic Price: The Gold Coast Titans have pulled off a coup in signing South Sydney behemoth Dave Taylor. Taylor is finally hitting his stride at South Sydney after disappointing no end in his previous two years at the Bunnies. Michael Maguire has got him fit and he is starting to show some of the destructive qualities and if John Cartwright can keep a similar handle on him, he will be a force on the Titans.

The question is, however, how the hell can a team on the verge of bankruptcy who is looking for Papua New Guinea, of all places, who have gone on an offseason spending spree, afford Taylor?

And where is he going to play?

There is little room in the Titans' pack and if all is to be believed, there is nothing in the bank either. The Titans have turned putrid on the Gold Coast because of their refusal to pay sub-contractors and others yet they are buying their sixth representative forward.

The NRL needs to seriously investigate the Gold Coast Titans' salary cap situation and now because things are getting out of hand up at Skilled. I would not be surprised if this all went sour real quickly.

An Awful Decision: It defies belief that Frank Pritchard copped a week for his shoulder charge on Penrith winger David Simmons yet Manu Vatuvei was let off for his shot on Willie Tonga. Both stood still, both met falling opponents in their head and both clearly dropped the shoulder. It is double standards. All anyone wants from the match review committee and the judiciary is some consistency. There has been none shown over the first two weeks.

That has continued into week three with Robbie Farah facing a three-week spell for what was a very tame tackle on Ben Hornby. There are 10 worse tackles every weekend that go unpunished.

It is time some consistency is added to the system or the bitching from those who understand the game will just get louder.

Manly Copping a Hard Knock: What has been lost in all the bleating about Daly Cherry-Evans being stuck on an $85,000 contract is that Manly have actually done exceptionally well. The Eagles have no obligation to upgrade him. Cherry-Evans would have rightly taken the cash if he was still in the Queensland Cup, making him one of the top paid players in that competition. It was a beautifully negotiated deal from Manly – and a shockingly negotiated one from Cherry-Evans and his agent. Manly have been unfairly painted as the bad guy here.

NRL in the USA: The NRL has done very well by ensuring rugby league is broadcast into the United States by cutting a deal with Fox Soccer. Fox Soccer will show two premiership games live a week, all three Origin matches live and a weekly highlights package. Americans now get a better deal than Melbournians. The US is a frontier rugby league has always wanted to conquer. This will help league make an impact in the old USA.

Genius Move: Michael Maguire is going to be one of the top coaches in the game. There is no question about that. And he showed why on Sunday when he shifted Greg Inglis to fullback. Maguire didn't wait until the season was gone. He showed confidence in his conviction and it reaped immediate dividends. Inglis, now fit and now playing in a position where he can create his own opportunities, will finally be a force at Souths.

Five More Years: Billy Slater may well be the greatest fullback of all-time. He is now well in the discussion. So it is no shame to get beaten by such a superstar. His athleticism was on display for all to see against the Gold Coast with a magnificent try off a Cooper Cronk kick. It was also there to be seen when he walked around Titans fullback William Zillman untouched. He is the same fullback who just got a five-year deal. You can't go locking down a player for so long who is, really, quite limited. A fullback needs to at least get a hand on a player in a one-on-one break from well out.

Blast From The Past: Bryan Norrie getting pinged for breaching the "downtown rule" against the Titans on Saturday evening. Bill Harrigan will have the boys looking to call last on the third next week.

Simmering Volcano, Slow Mind: It is too early yet to launch into young Konrad Hurrell. He is only 20 and has played but three games, already stamping himself as tremendously hard to tackle. But he still has plenty of work to do on his understanding of the sport. He had a shocker against the Bulldogs on Sunday, giving a hospital pass to Manu Vatuvei on the first tackle that resulted in The Beast getting bundled into touch and then dropping the ball over the line. Hurrell needs to get those rough edges smoothed out before he can make an impact in the big league.

I'll Chop You Off at the Knees: Michael Ennis is, generally, a fairly competent player. He can be good. He can create from dummy half, he has a nice pass on him and he is a workhorse in defence. But he is one of the worst kickers in the game. If I see him kick the ball one more time – kick off, general play, at goal – I am going to kneecap him. It constantly puts the Dogs under pressure.

Jonathan Wright, Your Time is Limited: Few people have played as poorly for two tries as Jonathan Wright did against New Zealand. His defence is arguably the worst of any centres in the NRL with the possible exception of Jarrod Croker. Note to Wright: move up when defending on your line. You aren't talented enough to be flat-footed and stop Kevin Locke from five metres. It is time to get Tim Lafai into first grade.

Slay the Roosters DJ: The most annoying thing in rugby league right now is a stoppage during a Roosters home game. For some reason, the guy running the sound finds it necessary to play totally inappropriate and shitty dance tunes at full bore. It is horrible. If I had my way he would be taken out the back and shot like a mangy dog.

Injury Update: The biggest concern this week revolves around Canberra pair Josh Dugan and Shaun Fensom. Arguably the club's two best players, both are facing significant time on the sidelines after picking up injuries against the Sydney Roosters.

Jack De Belin (St George Illawarra): The young Dragons lock got good news over the weekend when cleared of a serious shoulder injury. Is in doubt for this week. Dean Young will start in his place.

Josh Dugan (Canberra): The Raiders fullback, in sparkling touch to start the season, will miss between six and eight weeks with an AC joint after going down hard in a tackle. The injury wasn't helped when Mitch Aubusson went hard at the shoulder late. His loss is a huge blow to the Raiders with Nathan Massey likely to replace him in the No.1 jersey.

Shaun Fensom (Canberra): Hopes of an Origin debut have been shattered with news the workhorse lock has done significant damage to his bicep. Surgery could end his year while the best news is four to six weeks out.

Nathan Fien (St George Illawarra): Looks to have done some fairly significant damage to his ankle. Will miss time and quite possibly lots of it.

Alex Glenn (Brisbane): Busted the webbing in his hand in what was a messy injury but he won't miss any time.

Aidan Guerra (Sydney Roosters): The lanky Roosters backrower appeared to hurt his ankle badly in the win over the Raiders. He tried to run it out but no dice. Looks like a month or more out.

Konrad Hurrell (New Zealand): Youngster who went off with a hand issue. No word post-match but he was in tremendous pain and it would surprise if he played this week.

Greg Inglis (Souths): The decision to move Inglis to fullback paid immediate dividends for Souths but the Australian and Queensland star damaged his ankle in the last minute of the win against Penrith. Didn't look dreadful but he could still miss a week or two.

James Maloney (New Zealand): Copped a concussion from an Aiden Tolman high shot but kept whacking away. Good to see the new concussion directives are being enforced.

Jarrod Mullen (Newcastle): The Knights halfback hurt his left ankle in the loss to Brisbane. Will likely battle on. Ryan Stig shapes as his replacement if he is hurt but that leaves the Knights desperately short in the halves.

Wes Naiqama (Newcastle): Landed awkwardly and left the field clutching his knee. The news was good – just torn knee cartilage – and he will return in three weeks.

Ben Pomeroy (Cronulla): Dislocated a finger. Hopefully won't be back for a long time.

Akuila Uate (Newcastle): Sustained a hip pointer but will miss no time.

Fun Fact #1: After Steve Mavin's infamous semi-final howler against Canberra in 1987, his debut year, where he made three crucial errors and was dragged after 24 minutes, leaving the ground before halftime, Mavin played a further three seasons with the Bunnies before moving to Canterbury for an unsuccessful 12-game stint. He returned to Souths in 1992 but played only one first grade game before retiring. His career ended with 27 tries from 101 games and 21 tries from 75 games after his most famous day. He played two more finals matches: both losses in 1989.

The 2012 Willie M Medal: Much of the talk heading into Friday night's game between St George Illawarra and the Wests Tigers was how bitter the Dragons fans were at Tim Moltzen acting like a dog and backing out of his deal with the Dragons. Afterwards, as my mate Daz said, "we may have dodged a bullet". Motzen was again dreadful for the Tigers. And his two points now have him on top of Willie M voting. Moltzen has some potential but he just refuses to realise it and all this talk about building a club around him is absurd. He is a first grader but not much more. How he is rated as highly as he is I cannot fathom. He is the backline Adam Blair. I'm fairly sure rugby league would not have been

St George Illawarra v Wests Tigers
3-Matt Groat (Tig)
2-Tim Moltzen (Tig)
1-Benji Marshall (Tig)
Judge: Matt Tedeschi

Newcastle v Brisbane
3-Matt Hilder (New)
2-Richie Fa'aoso (New)
1-Timana Tahu (New)
Judge: Rohan Kendall

Gold Coast v Melbourne
3-Jordan Rankin (GC)
2-Steve Michaels (GC)
1-William Zillman (GC)
Judge: JP Stambouli

North Queensland v Parramatta
3-Ben Roberts (Par)
2-Chris Sandow (Par)
1-Willie Tonga (Par)
Judge: Matt Tedeschi

New Zealand v Canterbury
3-Jerome Ropati (NZ)
2-Ukuma Ta'ai (NZ)
1-Konrad Hurrell (NZ)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

Sydney Roosters v Canberra
3-Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Can)
2-Travis Waddell (Can)
1-BJ Leilua (Roo)
Judge: Brett Oaten (Fire Up)

Penrith v South Sydney
3-Clint Newton (Pen)
2-Etu Uaisele (Pen)
1-Sam McKendry (Pen)
Judge: Craig Finlayson

Cronulla v Manly
3-Tony Williams (Man)
2-Kieran Foran (Man)
1-Anthony Watmough (Man)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

5: Tim Moltzen (Tig)
4: Steve Michaels (GC), Ben Roberts (Par), Willie Tonga (Par)

Rumour Mill: The latest Brett Stewart rumour is that he could be off to the Sharks, one of the few clubs willing to meet his asking price. Stewart has now been linked to the Bulldogs, the Dragons, the Roosters and the Sharks. Manly teammate Tony Williams is in high demand. The Bulldogs are keen on him as are Cronulla. Both halves are said to be disillusioned with the club and both have asked for releases in the last fortnight. Kieran Foran is next to no chance of remaining at Brookvale while the Sea Eagles will do well to stave off a challenge from Souths for Daly Cherry-Evans. The Dragons will announce the signing of Gerard Beale soon.

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

Betting Market of the Week: At one point in the 2012 season, Mose Masoe will:
Play 50 minutes and make 20 tackles: $41
Help his team ruck the ball out rather than wait at halfway just once: $26
Contribute something positive to the Roosters' campaign: $34
Show some semblance of ticker and/or pride: $17

What I Like About … Paul Mellor: If Danny Wiedler is to be believed (and that, of course, is a very big if) then it appears Andrew Ettingshausen has been behaving very badly and it involves a now very angry Paul Mellor. One can reach but a single conclusion. Who would have thought the big three-quarter had done so well. Kudos.

Moniker XIII of the Week: In a bid to push the case of Orange boy and should-be Sydney Roosters pivot Daniel Mortimer, we this week find the best Daniel/Danny/Dan team to ever play premiership football in Australia.

The Dans
1. Danny Peacock (127 games for Wests/Gold Coast/South Queensland)
2. Dan Frawley (70 games for Easts)
3. Danny Moore (121 games for Manly/North Queensland)
4. Daniel Wagon (232 games for St George/Parramatta)
5. Danny Crinkovich (79 games for Parramatta)
6. Daniel Holdsworth (76 games for St George Illawarra/Canterbury)
7. Daniel Mortimer (50 games for Parramatta/Sydney Roosters)
13. Daniel Gartner (139 games for Manly/Northern Eagles)
12. Daniel Abraham (106 games for Newcastle/North Queensland)
11. Dan Stains (170 games for Cronulla/Balmain)
10. Danny Nutley (152 games for South Queensland/Cronulla/Roosters)
9. Danny Buderus (222 games for Newcastle)
8. Danny Lee (212 games for Cronulla)

Analysis: The Dans aren't great but do have a couple of all-time champions in Buderus and Frawley. Stains, Gartner, Nutley, Wagon and Moore were all honest rep players. The pack is sustainable – tough and hard-edged – but the backs lack real class or sizzle.

The Coaching Crosshairs: The gun is pointing firmly in the direction of Parramatta coach Stephen Kearney, who has guided the Eels to their first 0-3 start in over 20 years. There is talk that the Eels are considering extending Kearney but he seems to be firmly in panic mode with no plan for the future. Another loss to Canberra and injuries to the club's two best players has David Furner's future very much up in the air. With Ricky Stuart spotted in the stands, possibly scouting his new team, the Raiders could (and would be well served) to make a coaching change soon.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy again showed a clean pair of flippers when spilling the ball in the in-goal against Manly. He did bounce back with a key try though. He ended up dislocating his finger, an odd injury for a player with flippers.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 3: New Zealand-Canterbury, 18-32. An absolute crackerjack of a game. The Bulldogs jumped the gun and led 16-0 in as many minutes before the Warriors clawed their way back to an 18-16 lead at 51 minutes. The Bulldogs then ran clear in what was a wild finale. Ben Barba played the game of his career while Sam Kasiano finally came of age. The Bulldogs are the real deal this year while New Zealand still have some work to do in harnessing their young talent.

Correspondence Corner: Dragons68 and Mav63, I too am a Hornby fan but the evidence is irrefutable. Harrigan stitched us up in '91 and I reckon there would be a few other teams who could claim similar.

Calum, the "booth" in the NFL is not the video referee. The booth is a filter that suggests the referee check a play in the final two minutes or on a scoring play. They do not act to overturn decisions.

Scott, I have nothing against William Zillman. He looks a damn nice kid and he is a trier. But he rates in the bottom quarter of starting fullbacks and there was no need for the Titans to sign him to such a long-term deal.

Renegade, it shows how desperate Nine are if they are going to start showing NRL games live into Melbourne. They know they are about to lose the television rights and praise the Lord.

Davey G, I think your idea about an armband has merit. It may be a little tough to pull off but worth investigating. Matt Russell was great in Orange – a Campbelltown boy done good.

Gareth, having Luke Burt play last Monday could have got the Eels home. Braith Anasta is a solid backrower … and an ordinary five-eighth.

Dan, the thing with first and last rights is that if games are split up, those rights no longer exist across the board, I'm led to believe. It is a complex issue but that is the advice the NRL will be adhering too if they do split up the package. I doubt Nine will lose all the rights. Let's just hope they lose most of them.

Doubter, Josh Reynolds has been excellent. He is a bit hit and miss but I love that he is a goer, that he has some mongrel, that he can create and that he runs hard. I am enjoying his work in the No.6 no end and he is one of the reasons the Dogs are on top of the table three rounds in.

Gareth, love your assessment on the forward pass. It is so simple. So it isn't surprising at all that rugby league hasn't adopted it.

Ferret, we already have a video referee to amend mistakes and this is just another mechanism to wipe out egregious errors. Getting things right is far more important than anything else.

Col Quinn, it is disgraceful that we cannot watch the Super League. A travesty. And David Gallop should have nothing to do with Khoder Nasser after what he has done to the game.

Queenslandah, you are spot on about player transfers. These are professionals and professionals move and most players continue to try their hardest after they have signed elsewhere. And regarding challenges, I would not mind if there was some other penalty to a loss of an interchange but I think penalties do eliminate clear attempts to halt momentum. I don't agree with any stoppages though. Some? Sure. But regarding strips and the like, there is very little time wasted. I'd actually like to see the number of times a captain comes to speak to a referee after a penalty is awarded limited or the referee ignore the skipper to allow teams to pull of a quick tap or a quick go at touch.

Warriorman, you don't want to know where I think Sonny Bill Williams belongs.

Beard Watch: Not quite a beard but this week we go to Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and his ridiculous curly haircut. Sitting at the Sydney Football Stadium, the gentleman next to me asked if that was Brent Todd on the pine. It may be time to go nut out if Sunday's effort was anything to go by, where he was awarded three Willie M votes in one of the most horrible games you could ever have the misfortune of seeing.

Watch It: There has been few more remarkable achievements in big-time rugby league than Martin Offiah's 10 tries in a match against Leeds in a semi-final in 1992, his first year with Wigan. It was an astonishing showing with Offiah in the right place time after time. To put that feat into context: the record in Australia is eight and no player has scored six since World War II. Watch every try here.

And as a bonus, let's have a look at the famed race between Offiah and Parramatta flyer Lee Oudenryn, won by Oudenryn but where Offiah and his British teammates collected plenty when loading up at 2-1 on the Eels winger. Watch it here.


Comments (1)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The Warriors have the same DJ problem. Loud, shitty, 90's tunes at every stoppage including Chumbawumba's "I get knocked down" everytime someone gets injured. None of it is funny or adds any value to stadium experience. I have been petitioning them to stop this for while without much luck.

    Now, don't get me started on their beer selection.