From The Couch: Round 4

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on March 31, 2014


Farewell Fifita: The Canterbury Bulldogs have made the stunning – and entirely correct – decision to tear up the contract of new recruit Andrew Fifita.

The Bulldogs made the announcement on Monday following the disgraceful comments from Fifita over the weekend saying he regretted his decision to pocket $3.5 million from the Bulldogs over four years. He declared his love for that inferior game of Rugby Union.

“If I could go back now, I wish I chose rugby and then I wouldn’t be getting all the s*** I’ve been catching now,” Fifita told AAP. “I grew up playing rugby so it was one of the best things. It’s always going to be there and I will eventually go to union. It’s another dream and I just want to chase another dream. I’ve pretty much got everything in rugby league except a premiership and that’s all I really want, and to win an Origin series.”

They were abhorrent comments and do little but point to Fifita’s lack of character. Rugby Union should not be tolerated in Rugby League. A player who expresses no desire to be at a club should not get paid.

And so, thankfully, it has come to pass.

It is rare that someone gets a do-over. Fifita does. He declared his love of Rugby Union. Now he can go and be a big fish in a little pond. He can now hide in obscurity and not be forced to justify his decisions. Now he can avoid criticism.

But he will not tarnish the blue and white. And he will not collect his $3.5 million.

I have rarely been prouder to be a Bulldog member.

Rise for Alex: The Rugby League world is devastated that Newcastle backrower Alex McKinnon has been diagnosed a quadriplegic. It is horrific news for a young man just starting out on his journey in football and his journey in life. His fate is shattering for young Alex, his family, his friends and his teammates. Everyone in Rugby League wishes him the absolute best in his recovery. It is awful news and a sobering check that these men who play this game are as tough as they come but they are indeed human. To Alex, godspeed and good luck. Miracles do happen and we certainly hope one is headed your way. The game will stand behind you because that is what Rugby League is about more than anything – mateship.

Field Goal Attempt of the Week: Steven Matai is not your first choice field goal kicker but it didn’t stop him from attempting a spectacular field goal against the Roosters in the dying moments. From wide out, Matai attempted a jerking kick that wasn’t that far away. Matai can be an infuriating player but that drop goal attempt seems to have redeemed everything.

Smart Signing: Well done to the Gold Coast Titans, who are attempting another reclamation project with James Roberts. Potentially the fastest player in the NRL, Roberts has huge upside. Albert Kelly upside. He could be anything, Roberts, and will help a shocking three-quarter line come good.

Tight Tries: We saw a lot of tries from tight forwards – big props, hookers and middle-defending backrowers – over the weekend. The number was eight, a huge number, with the likes of James Graham (3 tries in 44 games), Dane Tilse (12 tries in 171 games) and Todd Lowrie (16 tries in 184 games) all crashing over on the weekend. With increased concern about concussions, players are simply put their head down and trying to bury their way over. This should put rulemakers in a very awkward position.

Day-Time Footy: The NRL made a big song-and-dance about bringing back Saturday afternoon footy but it has all been smoke-and-mirrors. Not only have two of the four Saturday afternoon games actually been twilight matches from New Zealand, Sunday afternoon games were halved for the first three rounds. Fans want more day-time footy. The NRL has promised same. Now it is time to deliver.

That Try: Shaun Johnson is a freak and the try before halftime in the Warriors-Tigers was one for the memory bank. It was length-of-the-field and absolutely brilliant. That kind of ad-lib footy is something to behold.

Ridiculous Away Jerseys: I can accept that clubs use away jerseys to raise revenue. Fine. There needs to be some sort of standardisation though to avoid unnecessary clashes like we have seen on numerous occasions. Simply, it needs to be like the NBA. Predominantly white at home, predominantly coloured on the road. No club can argue with this. The Dragons will cry poor but they use predominantly red with their Illawarra jersey. The Bulldogs use a predominantly blue more often than not. Let’s get some consistency.

Fun Fact #1: This is the fourth time in the last seven seasons that no team has been undefeated after four rounds of the premiership, highlighting the NRL’s excellent parity.

Fun Fact #2: Outsiders have covered 25 of the 31 games played this season … it has been a total strip out for favourite punters.

Fun Fact #3: The Men of League support fallen Rugby League players and donations can be made here.

Rumour Mill: South Sydney are expected to come in with an offer for Andrew Fifita though it would seem long odds considering his love for Rugby Union and his desire to defect. Melbourne are offering Kevin Proctor around and the Titans are believed to be a potential destination, though don’t rule out Manly if the price is right. Tim Grant is believed to be considering a move to Cronulla after being dumped by the Panthers on the weekend. The mail that Anthony Milford may stay at Canberra – as the rumour mill has it – is off the mark. Expect Canterbury to fire a huge offer to James Tedesco now Fifita is out of the mix. Peta Hiku will be at either Canterbury or the Wests Tigers next year, pending on how the Tedesco cards fall.

What I Love About … Wayne Bennett: Wayne Bennett hates chatting to the media. He hates the inanity of a lot of it. But in this most tragic of weeks, Bennett has been front and centre to tell the story of Alex McKinnon. He has shed tears. He has opened his heart. He has represented the Knights and Rugby League with such humanity, such kindness, such sadness that he has shown us all that footy is just a game and a young man is now likely a quadriplegic for life. Bennett has been perfect in as sad a situation as I have been through in Rugby League.

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: After Buzz Rothfield’s blow-up about the uneven draw, his next breaking story will be:

$4.00: Limited tackle football a blight on the game
$3.50: The field goal should be reduced from two points to one
$2.25: New team University to enter premiership
$2.00: Dally Messenger to sign with Rugby League

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: Two words: Pauli Pauli. It could be the greatest double-bunger since Bill Williams and not the Sonny variety.

Power Rankings:

1. Manly 3-1 (3)
2. Melbourne 3-1 (1)
3. Sydney Roosters 2-2 (2)
4. Brisbane 3-1 (6)
5. St George Illawarra 3-1 (5)
6. Canterbury 2-2 (9)
7. Penrith 2-2 (4)
8. Gold Coast 3-1 (8)

9. New Zealand 2-2 (13)
10. Canberra 2-2 (14)
11. Parramatta 2-2 (12)
12. South Sydney 1-3 (7)
13. Wests Tigers 2-2 (9)
14. North Queensland 1-3 (11)
15. Newcastle 1-3 (15)
16. Cronulla 0-4 (16)

The Coaching Crosshairs: While there is probably no coach in the NRL under immediate pressure, questions are starting to be asked about not the future of interim coach Peter Sharp but Shane Flanagan. There are whispers that the Sharks may be ready to move on from Flanagan to put this whole sorry mess behind them.

Ricky Stuart Quote of the Week: “I didn’t play a backrower on the bench”. Stuart, surely, became the first coach since the introduction of the interchange to not play a backrower. Though Paul Vaughan might be a little insulted …

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 4: Sydney Roosters-Manly, 0-8. These two teams have a knack of playing sensational games and so it came to pass again on Friday night with another stunning defensive battle. Fans can bellyache all they want about tries but the best games are the low-scoring, tense defensive grinds. Manly showed plenty of ticker in rolling the Roosters. Brilliant football.

Beard Watch: Mitchell Pearce rarely gets much praise in this column – something unlikely to change soon – but he deserves full credit for his dandy of a moustache. It mighty be trendy rockabilly but it is putting the moustache front and centre again. Sure, it looks like he has stuck his face into a jar of blackberry jam and has left a smear on his top lip but oh well …

Correspondence Corner: Mav63 and Raging Bunny, I sadly have zero pull at Channel Nine. Do you think bringing Andrew Voss back wouldn’t be my first order of business?

Mike Butterfield, I can’t cop Hadley’s tone, his attitude, his always-right self-belief, his inability to differentiate between radio and television.

Robbie Horry, The Tigers look better than predicted but I wouldn’t want them to finish out of the bottom four. Four wins looks to have undersold them though.

Jason, I fully support the move to bring back the five-minute bin. Teams who flout the rules need to pay a price.

Andrew Quinn, you should regularly write the fun fact! Andrew Farrar, I note, did not last long.

Watch It: I am in an old Test match kind of mood so this week we go back to 1959 for the Second Test between Great Britain and Australia from Headingly. Highlights include a magnificent penalty goal from Keith Barnes, the strong running from Harry Wells, the brilliance of Reg Gasnier and the decisive Featherstone against the head that led to the winning try. Watch it here.



Comments (9)

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  1. Sparkles says:

    Im getting a bit suss on Raelene Castle. Not withstanding the fact she looks like something out of a Rocky Horror Picture Show bad dream, nothing ever seems to be the fault of the Bulldogs. If they thought Fifita was worth that much money perhaps they could have placed a bit of spin on what was clearly just a throw away line. I dare say they had a bit of buyers remorse and used it as an excuse to pull out, wouldnt have happened when Todd Greenberg was there as he knew how to keep his house in order.

  2. Davey G says:

    Justin Frickin Sulkypants Hodges not shaking Chris Sandow’s hand after the game on Friday night was atrocious. Many junior football players have to sign some sign of “fair play” contract, and can be removed from the team for unsportsmanlike behaviour. Pity they don’t have something similar in the NRL, as Hodges was hurling abuse at his teammates throughout as if they were letting him down,. then does this crap as if there aren’t 14 cameras pointed straight at the losing co-captain after his return to footy in 2014. How many games have they won without you, Justin? And while your offload to Copley for his try was darn good football (credit where credit is due), your 1 tackle contribution didn’t assist things greatly.
    On a personal note – as an Eels fan living in Brisbane, it was delightful to pull the team polo out from the cupboard, dust off the cobwebs and stroll around the local Westfields head held high today. Sucks up here around Origin, but today was pleasant (I’ll take what I can get, and no am not getting ahead of myself. They will be lucky to make the 8). The difference a proper hooker has made though shows the importance of a true spine, Peats is killing it.
    As for Fifita – can’t wait to see what he accepts as his next contract as every man and his dog can play this Dogs fiasco card against him. Biting the hand that feeds.

  3. Buzz's Alco Cheeks says:

    Two points …Agree to an extent with your jersey issue, I’m a Panthers season ticket holder so of course I have no idea what our colours are, or will be next year. Clubs should have a primary jersey in their colours and use an alternative only when there is a clash like Boz said. Clubs can get their additonal cash from the WiL, Nines and Indigenous jerseys, oh and ban clubs whoring themselves out for movie promotional jerseys.

    Second point, how good was Buzz’s flash back to 1998 with his conference idea? Brought back memories of when the Superleague war was ending and they were trying to work out ways for 20 teams. Good times.

  4. Mike Butterfield says:

    Nick, if you want to see a good game of footy, get a hold of the East Tigers v Png Hunters played on Sunday, it was a beauty. Easts played without the 2 Storm players, Glasby & Garbutt.

  5. Cleves says:

    Hey Nick,

    There’s some speculation some teams are intentionally & selectively giving away penalties as a way of killing momentum or providing a breather. Apparently they are easy to spot. If this is the case then shouldn’t the refs be calling them Professional Fouls and the offending payer sin binned? This is what happens when a player is held down after a length of the field break cut short.

    Any thoughts on this topic?


    • Jason says:

      Fair point Cleves, I’ve noticed the same thing.

      I don’t mean to single them out, but the Roosters have been on the wrong end of a lot of penalty counts last season and this one, but are still managing to be successful. Perhaps they’re just good in the face of adversity, but I think there are some teams, or even just individuals, who are happy to give away the professional foul. Maybe they’ve done the math and figured out that it’s worth sometimes giving away a penalty, if you get away with killing the momentum (or whatever infringement) the remainder of the time. It seems that there is very, very little that will get a player binned (or even sent off) these days and I think it’s to Rugby League’s detriment.


      • Clevo says:

        It is sometimes worth giving away a penalty especially if it means saving a try…but these are called Professional Fouls and they are sin-bin-able. Refs are making decision on “milking” these days to wipe out the blight of theatrics. The refs might just have to learn to discern the intentional penalty.

  6. Boz says:

    Hi Nick,

    My biggest gripe with the jerseys, is that teams lose their identity when they change designs every so often, plus also have almost as many jerseys as rounds in the competition *cough* warriors *cough*.

    I would rather that alternate jerseys are only used when there is a ‘genuine’ clash in colours. Such as South Sydney and Canberra, Melbourne and Warriors, Roosters and Storm, etc. This shouldn’t occur that often when you consider that New Zealand and Australia play test matches with both teams having very dark colours.

    Clubs may say that they will lose revenue, but to counter this, why not let the players pick their own number and have their name on the top of the jersey. Imagine images when a team signs a new player, such as the warriors with Tompkins, having him hold up a jersey with his own number and name on the back – would sell like hotcakes. The one rider I would put on this though, is that all Rep jerseys must keep the traditional numbering. So a player selected as fullback for QLD or Australia always wears the number 1. This would appease the traditionalists but also prevent any arguments over numbering when players are coming from different clubs.

    Also – good on the Doggies for giving Fifita the flick. Might make a few more of these blokes who make noises about possibly going to Union when their contract is due for renewal pull their heads in.

  7. Manly Fan says:

    Here’s a fun fact Nick, every week of 2014 you have used a Cronulla player as your thumbnail pic for the column.

    Also, on your jersey idea, love it, but i think it’d be better both logistically and aesthetically for the home side to be colours (similar to how the concept is meant to work now).
    Us supporters tend to buy the home strip first, and I love nothing more than looking at a packed granstand with the predominant home colours. Makes it feel like home. White just isn’t what I wanna see. Just a thought.