From The Couch: Round 4

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on April 5, 2011

Newcastle Do The Right Thing: The members of the Newcastle Knights did the right thing and they did it in style, selling the club to mining magnate Nathan Tinkler. The vote was overwhelming, 97% of all voters giving the green light for the sale to proceed. Only old grumps, weird fringe-dwellers and little Hitler’s attempted to block the move that will clearly be to the long term advantage of the Knights and rugby league in Newcastle.

The money woes are a thing of the past. The Newcastle Knights are once again a powerhouse. The talented crop of local juniors are unlikely to flee anymore while the club will constantly be in the market for big name recruits. Just look at the sounds being made in relation to Kade Snowden and Jamal Idris.

Nathan Tinkler may be a bit of a prick. But nearly anyone successful in business is and he has done nothing but good for Newcastle for a long time. He provides stability and hope for the number one game in Newcastle, just as he has for the Jets and any other number of local Newcastle sporting clubs.

This is also another tick for private ownership in rugby league. Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court have taken South Sydney from perennial cellar dwellers to legitimate title contenders. Manly won a title under the Delmege-Penn regime though that relationship remains fractious. The Brisbane Broncos have been the most successful club of the last two decades. The Gold Coast Titans have improved very quickly.

At the very least, the smart money is on Wayne Bennett coaching there next year.

So good luck to Newcastle. I wish the Knights well and I’m sure they will thrive though please, Mr Tinkler, leave Jamal alone…he is a Bulldog now.

Time to Get Heavy: Kevin Moore has to get heavy and dump Bryson Goodwin. Goodwin is deadweight. His general disinterest, his lack of pace and his failure to show any commitment means he needs to be dumped. He isn't even that good a kicker, striking them at only 79.82%. Michael Lett, a winger of great promise, is waiting in the wings. Bring him in and hand the goal-kicking duties to Trent Hodkinson. Please.

Commentary Call of the Week: I missed who it was but the New Zealand caller on ABC Radio gave Krisnan Inu the most accurate of descriptions: “Krisnan Inu is the Rip Van Winkle of the NRL”. Never have truer words been uttered. So overrated, the New Zealand lot are quickly finding out his true worth and are turning on him after only a month. Rightly so. He is an impostor of the highest order, a thief robbing the Warriors fans and stomping on their hopes.

Injury Update: Lordy, Lord, the injuries keep on-a-rollin’ but round four was about as good as it has been this year with the carnage of round one and round three, thankfully, avoided.

Preston Campbell (Gold Coast): Injured his medial ligament and is extremely doubtful for the next month as the Titans sustain another  injury.

Josh Dugan (Canberra): Reports suggested he hurt his leg on the Friday training session before the Titans game and he managed to hobble through only 25 minutes before going off hurt. The problem is nerve related and it is getting no better. This is a major problem for the Raiders.

Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers): The Tigers injury crisis continues to worsen with Robbie Farah continuing to battle through a groin injury that may be OP. If so, he needs immediate surgery. He is being courageous but stupid not going for the required operation. He has been modest at best this year and can no longer afford to not train and play poorly. The smart thing is to undergo the knife.

Dylan Farrell (South Sydney): Went down heavily when scoring his third try, dislocating his shoulder and damaging his wrist. Unlikely to play this week and could be out for up to a month. Hasn’t been in red-hot form this year and if Junior Vaivai shines, may be out of first grade.

Matt Keating (Parramatta): Attacked by his dog and will miss six weeks. Is now the unbackable favourite to win the “David Kidwell Memorial Weird Injury of the Year” award.

Luke Lewis (Penrith): As mentioned last week, the injury to Luke Lewis appeared to be worse than reported. He has major thumb and wrist issues and despite playing last week, will undergo the knife and leave Penrith without their best player for six weeks.

Brad Meyers (Gold Coast): Damaged his wrist against the Raiders but should be right for round five.

Ryan Morgan (Parramatta): Limped off just after half-time with an ankle injury. May be back soon, may never be heard of again.

Scott Prince (Gold Coast): Didn’t play against Canberra after hurting his hamstring and is only 50-50 for this week. The Titans desperately need him back.

Zeb Taia (Newcastle): Went down heavily on his shoulder in the third minute and was in a ton of pain but he battled on and will be fine. Taia is a tough player, a hard worker and a great line runner and it is great to see him back to his best this year.

Rhys Wesser (South Sydney): Tweaked his hamstring at training last week and missed Friday’s game with Manly but will be right for round five.  

One Thing I Hate: There is nothing more infuriating in the great game that is rugby league than an idiot winger moving off his man and attempting to take an interception. That fury is only heightened when the stupidity and selfishness occurs on the tryline and is even more ball-bustingly horrible when it is a slow winger like Steve Turner or Anthony Quinn. This week, Michael Robertson cost Manly by doing just that. Think about it Robertson. He would have been run down in twenty metres anyway. What a moron.

Anthony Watmough: Anthony Watmough is a total, utter and unmitigated fool. Taking a leak after a night out isn’t a big deal. It really isn’t. But in this current environment and with his body of work, having a slash on The Corso is the height of stupidity. Anthony Watmough just doesn’t learn. He should concentrate more on making tackles and finding something resembling form than getting smashed and acting like a douche.

Television Talk: The NRL has taken a couple of ordinary breaks with the next television deal with those bastards at Nine reportedly pushing the price of the AFL deal up for Seven-Ten and One HD reportedly moving from a sports network to a more general, male 18-29 type channel.

Though it isn’t a particularly cunning strategy, Nine’s obvious ploy of driving the value of the AFL deal up is not going to bode well for the next NRL television deal, set to be finalised after the AFL.  If Seven-Ten max out their budgets, Nine will get another five years of raping and pillaging the great game, stifling its growth and limiting its appeal. In Melbourne, Nine isn’t being viewed as a legitimate contender for the AFL but they remain in the game for one reason and one reason only: to screw the NRL. Kerry Packer pulled this stunt and got away with it in 2007. The one hope the NRL has is that those incompetent fools at Nine fuck it all up, a distinct possibility.

Also an issue for rugby league is the expected strategy shift for One HD. The new Packer-Murdoch regime is looking for One to have broader appeal with prime time set to feature more young, male-oriented programming such as sitcoms and dramas. This could impact rugby league in a couple of ways. Firstly, the new rugby league programs One has on are very good and will hopefully remain. Secondly, the shift away from sport makes rugby league less necessary and will limit their bidding if they were to chase a game or two down.

The one upside for the NRL is that the AFL has now been revealed as a loss-leader with ad revenue not covering costs while AFL ratings have been on the slide over the last year, according to media experts. The NRL certainly has no such problem. This will hopefully put a cap on the number Seven-Ten and Foxtel are prepared to pay for the AFL so that the NRL can finally escape the clutches of Nine.

Hopefully, the NRL smarten up and sign only a four-year deal this time so that the next television deal comes up at the same time as the AFL. Then we will soon find out which code has the highest television value.

Get Well, Rex Mossop: Rugby league legend Rex Mossop is not well with the Manly and Australian player believed to be in hospital. Rex Mossop is a legend of the game who, while reportedly a very good player, will forever be known as a forthright commentator who was the voice of the game in the seventies and eighties with both Seven and Ten. Get well soon, Rex. Rugby league needs its legends living.

Lookalike Time: Which one is Aiden Tolman and which one if the fat nephew of Kenny Powers in the damn-funny television show Eastbound and Down? Check them out here and here.

About Time: That moron in North Queensland, Neil Henry, finally decided to give Kalifa Faifai-Loa a chance and look what happens. In his first match for the Cowboys, he ran straight over the top of Cameron Smith to sprint 50 metres and lay a try on for Matt Bowen. Against Parramatta, he scored a double including arguably the try of the year. Faifai-Loa got on the outside of the Eels defence and bolted ahead. He then got to Jarryd Hayne, who some fools want to label one of the best players in the game, and gave him the in and away, leaving Hayne flat on his ass without laying a finger on him. Faifai-Loa then outpaced the cover to plant the ball in the corner as the majority of his body was over the sideline.

Faifai-Loa reminds me of one player: Manu Vatuvei. Quote me on that. He is going to be an out-and-out superstar like Manu and hopefully Neil Henry is smart enough to see that now.

Let It Bleed: For those who love the crimson, it was a fine weekend to follow rugby league. Joel Thompson’s face was mummified after a knock to the face. Joel Reddy had a nice gash when he was pushed into a head clash. Micheal Luck, never shy of the dirty work, also got opened up. Rugby league and blood are synonymous and it was great to see so much of the red stuff. Kevin Campion would have been proud.

Traitor Tale #1: Karmichael Hunt has seemingly proven an AFL bust after only one game, his team being beaten by 119 points and managing a lowly five disposals in what must surely have been a major embarrassment to the AFL after spending so much money on him. Coach Guy McKenna gave him an unsatisfactory rating.  I’m not sure how many of those who turned up to watch the Suns’ humiliation because of the Hunt train wreck factor either. He had better get used to it though. He is dead to rugby league fans.

Traitor Tale #2: Israel Folau was even more embarrassing to the so-called “indigenous game”, though, admittedly, on a far less noteworthy stage. Playing for Greater Western Sydney, Folau picked up zero possessions and was reportedly as lost as an atheist on Christmas when playing the Swans’ reserves. I would think that such a lowly performance is not particularly healthy for the AFL or the players on about one-tenth of his salary who are many-times the AFL player Folau is.

Traitor Tale #3: It looks like former Penrith halfback Craig Gower wants to come back to rugby league. Gower claims “rugby league is in my blood”. That point is debatable. Those with rugby league in their blood don’t walk out on their club and their game, as Gower did at the end of the 2007 season. They certainly don’t betray rugby league by resorting to that low game of rugby union. Gower does not deserve to be loathed for his decision. People get greedy sometimes and his course at Penrith may well have finished at any rate. But I will not sit idly by and listen to him casually throw out platitudes like “rugby league is in my blood” when those who actually bleed the game would never walk away for such a piddling mess like rugby union.

Fun Fact #1: Darren Lockyer announced his retirement last week and has been lauded for his achievements throughout his career, often being referred to as the most decorated player in the game. While that may be the case from an individual perspective, Lockyer is not currently the most decorated player in the game, nor is he the greatest winner. That honour goes to St George-Illawarra hooker Nathan Fien.

Fien is, as this is written, plays for the reigning NRL premiers, NRL minor premiers, World Club Champions, World Cup winners and Four Nation winners. Fien currently possesses every major trophy worth winning in world rugby league that is currently available to him and played in all deciding games. It can only be hoped that he leaves the Dragons midseason to pursue the Challenge Cup/Super League double.

(Thanks to Steve Turner for alerting me to this most fun of facts)

Fun Fact #2: Awarded between 1975 and 1987, Rugby League Week presented the Brisbane Player of the Year award. The only player to win it twice was Ian “Bunny” Pearce of Redcliffe, who won the award in 1977 and 1978. Pearce was a staple of Queensland teams in the seventies and set a pointscoring record for the Brisbane premiership that still stands today, scoring 281 points in the ’78 season. Bunny died in 1993.

Fun Fact #3: The Sun-Herald awarded its annual Player of the Year award from 1949-74. Those to win the award on multiple occasions were:

4: Keith Holman (Western Suburbs-1950, 51, 56, 58)

3: Johnny Raper (St George-1960, 63, 67)

2: Dennis Pittard (South Sydney-1971, 73)

2: Garry Dowling (Canterbury-1973, 74)

Fun Fact #4: Legendary rugby league writer E.E Christensen awarded a much revered Player of the Year award from 1946-77. Those to win the award on multiple occasions were:

4: Ron Coote (South Sydney-1968, 69; Eastern Suburbs 1974, 76)

3: Clive Churchill (South Sydney-1949, 50, 52)

3: Keith Holman (Western Suburbs- 1951, 56, 58)

3: Reg Gasnier (St George-1959, 61, 64)

2: Johnny Raper (St George-1960, 64)

2: Graeme Langlands (St George-1971, 72)

2: Bob Fulton (Manly-1972, 73)

Fun Fact #5: Those to win both awards in the same year:

1951: Keith Holman (Western Suburbs)

1952: Clive Churchill (South Sydney)

1956: Keith Holman (Western Suburbs)

1958: Keith Holman (Western Suburbs)

1960: Johnny Raper (St George)

1965: Ken Thornett (Parramatta)

1966: Billy Smith (St George)

1970: Graeme Langlands (St George)

The Willie M Medal: In the space of twelve minutes early Saturday evening, my phone was in a constant state of harassment as five good rugby league judges wrote, called and texted me regarding Matt Orford. In those twelve minutes, it was asked if Orford could be presented with the Willie M now, if it was possible to give double points to Matt Orford and if I knew where Matt Orford lived. We have a new favourite for the Willie M.

Round Four Votes

South Sydney v Manly

3-Jamie Lyon (Man)

2-Joe Galuvao (Man)

1-Brent Kite (Man)

Brisbane v Penrith

3-Michael Jennings (Pen)

2-Lachlan Coote (Pen)

1-Kevin Kingston (Pen)

Canberra v Gold Coast

3-Matt Orford (Can)

2-Blake Ferguson (Can)

1- Ryan James (GC)

Parramatta v North Queensland

3-Ashley Graham (NQ)

2-Willie Tonga (NQ)

1-Shane Shackleton (Par)

Cronulla v New Zealand

3-Feleti Mateo (NZ)

2-Ben Pomeroy (Cro)

1-Paul Aiton (Cro)

Newcastle v St George-Illawarra

3-Jarrod Mullen (New)

2-Adam MacDougall (New)

1-Beau Scott (Dra)

Sydney Roosters v Wests Tigers

3-Robbie Farah (Tig)

2-Bryce Gibbs (Tig)

1-Mitchell Pearce (Roo)

Melbourne v Canterbury

3-Ben Barba (Cant)

2-Michael Ennis (Cant)

1-Bryson Goodwin (Cant)


8-Feleti Mateo (NZ), Matt Orford (Can)

7-Lachlan Coote (Pen), Michael Jennings (Pen)

5-Jarrod Mullen (New)

4-Jason Ryles (Roo)

Round 4 Judges Panel: Nick Tedeschi, Brett Oaten, Stephen Ferris, Rohan Kendall, Nathan Boss

Rumour Mill: The biggest rumour to hit the rounds this week is that rugby league boss David Gallop could be on the way out. Word is that Gallop is getting frustrated by the continual delays regarding the Independent Commission and could be on his way to the Australian Sports Commission. Gallop has done a good job and hopefully he stays. There is plenty of gossip in the coaching ranks at the moment. Brisbane are supposedly favourites for Wayne Bennett’s services but the smart money is on Newcastle. Matt Elliott is done and will be gone sooner rather than later. Tim Sheens is ready to re-sign with the Tigers and will not be on his way to Souths as rumour has it. Souths, as noted last week, will be coached by Mick Maguire. Ricky Stuart has also allegedly been in talks with the club. Mal Meninga is in the box seat for Penrith. As mentioned above, Robbie Farah is suffering from a serious injury but continues to play on. He will play until Robert Lui returns, then go under. There are reportedly major problems at the Warriors after Ivan Cleary wielded the axe. Expect Matt Duffie to be a Parramatta Eel next season while Gareth Widdop may well look for a new club, unhappy with his new role of five-eighth.

What I Like About…Jamie Buhrer: Buhrer has been outstanding in helping out an injury ravaged Manly and had a breakout game against South Sydney, where he scored a double and set up another while working extremely hard in the unfamiliar position of centre. Buhrer ran for 124 metres and made 21 tackles as well as six tackle breaks. After twice missing his debut last year when forced to ride the pine for 80 minutes, Buhrer is starting to develop into a tireless work horse with a great enthusiasm and awesome old-school headgear. Stick with Jamie Buhrer, he is going to be very good.

Power Rankings:

1. St George-Illawarrra (3-1) LW: 2, R: 1-3

2. Melbourne (3-1) LW: 4, R: 1-4

3. Canterbury (3-1) LW: 1, R: 1-3

4. Brisbane (3-1) LW: 5, R: 4-14

5. Sydney Roosters (2-2) LW: 8, R: 5-8

6. Wests Tigers (2-2) LW: 3, R: 3-6

7. Newcastle (2-2) LW: 7, R: 5-7

8. South Sydney (2-2) LW: 11, R: 8-15

9. Manly (2-2) LW: 6, R: 6-13

10. New Zealand (1-3) LW: 14, R: 10-14

11. Cronulla (2-2) LW: 10, R: 10-16

12. Gold Coast (1-3) LW: 13, R: 9-13

13. Canberra (1-3) LW: 9, R: 4-13

14. North Queensland (2-2) LW: 12, R: 11-16

15. Parramatta (2-2) LW: 16, R: 8-16

16. Penrith (1-3) LW: 15, R: 10-16

LW: Last Week R: Range

Round Four Selection Notes

North Queensland:Neil Henry has named an unchanged team but expect late changes with Antonio Winterstein and Scott Bolton named on an extended bench with both expected to play if fully fit. Scott Bolton is a great boost to the Cowboys.

Gold Coast:Scott Prince returns at halfback, replacing the now-injured Preston Campbell. Luke Capewell comes in for a suspended Greg Bird. Most importantly though, Nathan Friend is back at hooker after an extended injury layoff, tightening up the Titans middle.

Wests Tigers:The poor old Tigers have been smashed by injury meaning Robbie Farah will push on, likely until Robert Lui returns. The rusty Tim Moltzen keeps the starting halfback spot with Jacob Miller on the bench. It is unlikely there will be any late returners.

South Sydney: Sam Burgess returns for Souths, which is a massive coup for a team that has won two straight. Rhys Wesser is also back though Lang should seriously think about keeping Merritt at the back.

New Zealand :Ivan Cleary is sticking to his guns, leaving Lance Hohaia and co in the NSW Cup. The Warriors did win without them so he may be right here. The Fish looks a nice type.

Sydney Roosters:Nothing new at the Roosters though Phil Graham is on an extended bench and could be a surprise inclusion in the three-quarter line.

Cronulla:  The Sharks tried hard in Taupo and everyone deserves another chance except for Ben Pomeroy, who again defied the odds to win selection. He should count his blessings. His first grade career has gone on eight years longer than it should have.

Manly: Anthony Watmough and Terrence Seu Seu are out after being suspended for a week for being goddamn morons. Steve Matai, the king of the Manly morons, is back in the centres with Brett Stewart returning at fullback. Will Hopoate has kept his spot on the wing ahead of Tony Williams, and rightfully so, while the hardworking Jamie Buhrer has been rewarded with a starting second row spot.

Penrith:Panther fans seem to be happy with this side but I have no idea why with the absence of Luke Lewis and Lachlan Coote making this look like a reserve grade team. Michael Gordon excelled at fullback in 2010 and I expect the same again here but the three-quarter line is again abhorrent and the forward pack, without Luke Lewis, is horrible. Dayne Weston to the bench says it all, really.

Canberra:  David Furner, being the stubborn fool he is, decided to stick with Matt Orford for this must-win match. Surely it is Orford's last chance. He has also decided to play Blake Ferguson at fullback instead of calling in specialist David Milne, another questionable (read: moronoic) decision. Lucky brother Don is the man who signs his cheques. 

Melbourne: As expected, Craig Bellamy has made no changes after the Storm’s Monday night win. Hopefully Anthony Quinn stays out of the seventeen.

Parramatta: Ben Smith replaces the injured Ryan Morgan in the centres, most likely signalling an end to the careers of Chris Hicks, Paul Whatuira and possibly Chris Walker. If they can’t get a run in this injury crisis, they won’t be getting into the top grade again.

St George-Illawarra: Dean Young returned last week and though he has been named on the bench for the Dogs clash, expect him to start in place of Matt Prior.

Canterbury: The Bulldogs played Monday night so not surprisingly, no changes to the named team. Hopefully Kevin Moore never allows Chris Armit to play first grade again while Bryson Goodwin should have his head on the block.

Brisbane:The new Broncos boss has a winning team and is not making any changes anytime soon.

Newcastle: The Knights have shown plenty of guts this year and I like the looks of them with Wes at the back and Gidley in the halves, at least for the meanwhile. There is still no need to prolong the career of Antonio Kaufusi though. Rick Stone is a top class coach but he has a blind spot here.

Betting Market of the Week:

Matt Orford to remain in first grade for the remainder of 2011:                    $10.00

Matt Orford to cost Canberra a finals berth:                                                     $2.20

Matt Orford to be named the worst recruit of 2011:                                        $1.90

Matt Orford to outrun a crippled tortoise on valium:                                        $2.25

Matt Orford to be hung, drawn and quartered at Parliament House:           $1.33

Matt Orford has been going worse than the proverbial busted and after three straight losses in his opening three games in the lime green, the wolves are at the door and Orford is about to be torn to shreds. Andrew Moore noted that Matt Orford was “slower than a wet week” and it is true: Matt Orford is the slowest player in the NRL, not just in terms of acceleration and on-field speed but in his movements and decision making. In a year, Matt Orford has aged ten. David Furner may have to bite the bullet soon and drop Orford to the Queensland Cup, trying hot young prospect Sam Williams, who decimated the Sharks in the opening week.

Coaching Stocks:

5: Wayne Bennett: Such is his reputation, the coaching carousel has stopped for him.

4.5: Craig Bellamy: The Storm rarely play two straight games poorly and they didn’t.

4: Tim Sheens: The Tigers showed plenty of heart in the throes of a major injury crisis.

3.5: Kevin Moore: Disappointing effort from the Dogs, who threw the towel in early.

3.5: John Cartwright: The Titans were missing their 4 best players but won in Canberra.

3.5: Rick Stone: You rarely go up off a loss but Stone is getting the best out of his team.

3: Des Hasler: Hasler would be mightily disappointed with Manly’s loss to Souths.

3: Brian Smith: The Roosters were given a fight but responded and showed a ton of class.

3: Anthony Griffen: The Broncs have now won 3 in a row and their defence is top notch.

2.5: Stephen Kearney: Hardly an impressive win but still collected the two points.

2.5: Ivan Cleary: The Warriors were desperate, Cleary wielded the axe and it paid off.

1.5: Shane Flanagan: It wasn’t his fault the Sharks game was moved to Taupo.

1.5: John Lang: Souths weren’t the best team but won in what must make Lang happy.

1: David Furner: The Raiders looks directionless and Furner has few ideas it seems.

-1.5: Matt Elliott: He may have 8 weeks, he may have the season but he is on his way.

-3: Neil Henry: If the Cowboys are to be anything, they need to beat teams like the Eels.

From Deep in the Bowels of Twitter:

Lote Tuqiri, dealing with the big issues: “What the?? Just came across purple/black carrots at the Supermarket! Hybrid?”

Tim Sheens discussing tactics with Royce Simmons: “Im Planning on moving the entire front row to the backline just before kickoff. massive shock tactic.”

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 4: South Sydney-Manly, 32-30. I love games played at Gosford and I very much enjoyed this high end thriller from the Central Coast though, I didn’t make a mess of my pants as Phil Gould did when discussing the match. There were plenty of entertaining tries and attack seemed to be end-to-end. The Bunnies got to a big lead but the Eagles came home late and had a shot on the bell to tie it up. Unfortunately for the Eagles, who were the better team all night, Daly Cherry-Evans couldn’t land it from the sideline and the Bunnies escaped a lucky 2-point winner.

Obscure Score of the Week: Coppa Italia Final, Etruschi-Roma, 14-6. The semi-finals and final were all played on the one afternoon with Roma progressing after downing Briganti 28-8. Etruschi dominated Fenice 32-0 in the second semi to go in favourites and they didn’t disappoint supporters with a tough gritty win in the decider.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: The Special Needs Penguin is back. After a few weeks masquerading as a first grade footballer, the Special Needs Penguin returned to his mediocre best with a hapless performance against the Warriors where he dropped a ball, gave away a penalty, missed three tackles to his 13 made and took only six runs for 40 metres. Good to have you back, Pomeroy. I didn’t know what to do with myself with you playing competently. I thought perhaps the Apocalypse was upon us.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. Billy Slater (Man)

2. Daniel Vidot (Can)

3. Jamie Buhrer (Man)

4. Dylan Farrell (Sou)

5. Matt Duffie (Mel)

6. Kieran Foran (Man)

7. James Maloney (NZ)

13. Corey Parker (Bri)

12. Nathan Hindmarsh (Par)

11. Anthony Laffranchi (GC)

10. Tim Mannah (Par)

9. Cameron Smith (Mel)

8. Jesse Bromwich (Mel)


14. Matt Hilder (New)

15. Cory Paterson (New)

16. Kalifa Faifai-Loa (NQ)

17. Jason Nightingale (Dra)

Waiver Wire Advice: Two big names in Robbie Farah and Josh Dugan have to go. Farah, a former fantasy star, is putting up his worst ever numbers as he looks to protect his groin while Josh Dugan's leg injury has seen him sidelined or hobbled all year. Neither injury looks likely to come back anytime soon. At $333,200 (Farah) and $268,100 (Dugan), it is time to cut your losses and invest elsewhere. Cameron Smith at $304,500 is back to his best and is a better play than Farah while someone like Billy Slater at $252,200 is a better option than Dugan, who looks like he will frustrate all year.

Beard Watch: Ring the bells, get the banshees ready, call a priest and the funeral parlour too. It is, sadly, game over. The best beard in the NRL is gone. Brad Meyers, the reigning two-time From The Couch Beard of the Year winner has shaved. It is over. The dream is dead. Long live the beard.

Correspondence Corner: Ferret, on the rleague comments section asked: “Will Chris Lawrence ever be the same player again?”

That is a tough one to answer, Ferret. I certainly hope so. Chris Lawrence is the leading defensive centre in the game, he never runs a bad line, he has his share of toe and he never shirks the issue. A dislocated hip is a massive injury and I would be shocked if he played again this year. The only real gauge is the Ross Conlon injury from ’83 but he was never as talented as Lawrence and the game was different then. I expect Lawrence will be back. I expect he will have the same heart and he won’t let confidence issues be a concern. But I am not sure he will have his litheness/slipperiness and there have to be concerns over his speed. The honest answer though Ferret is I don’t truly know and I don’t think anybody does.

Watch It: This outstanding video takes us back to two old-time clashes between South Sydney and Balmain. The first is the opening round of 1969, a match that would turn out to be a preview of the ’69 decider. Balmain get away with the match 16-9 and win their last ever premiership six months later. The highlight of this was, without doubt, the performance of exciting South African winger Len Killeen and his goal-kicking. The blunder from Eric Simms is well worth having a laugh at as well. The style of referee Arthur Neville is also amusing. No time wasted. We then get a look at 1982 where Souths again got rolled Balmain at Leichardt Oval with a Ziggy Niszczot double not enough for the Bunnies. The highlight: the hit of Olsen Filipaina on hapless Souths centre Mitch Brennan. There were plenty of famous names rolling around in that game. Future coaches Steve Martin and Graham Murray were the opposing halves. Former ARL boss Neil Whittaker packed down at hooker for Balmain. Dr Nathan Gibbs, former Souths doctor and now Swans medico, came off the bench for the Bunnies. Watch it here

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  1. serict says:

    re the Matt Keating injury. Has Kearney sent a Smackos gift pack round yet? Must be relieved he doesn't have to get brutally honest with Keating for at least another six weeks now.