From The Couch: Round 5

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on April 2, 2012

Nathan Hindmarsh Killed A Guy With A Trident: This is the kind of guy Nathan Hindmarsh is – the kind of guy who will tackle his guts out for 15 seasons and then, when selflessly  announcing his retirement in the most dignified of manors, quotes the greatest movie of all, Anchorman. Is it a coincidence that Ron Burgundy, in the same week Hindmarsh announced his retirement, announced the second coming of Anchorman? When in Rome, as they say.

Hindmarsh should be remembered as perhaps the greatest Eel of all. When Ray Price, Mick Cronin, Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny excelled, they did it with each other. Hindmarsh has done it on his lonesome with a parade of coaches and dramatic instability in the front office, at least in the latter part of his career. No great Eel has worked with less.

Even though Hindmarsh is widely loved and revered – he has won five Provan-Summons Medals for being the most popular figure in the game – and has been honoured with five Dally M Second Rower of the Year awards as well as 23 Test and 17 Origin caps, I can't help but feel he is underrated. He has been without question the pre-eminent worker in the game and could still rate among the top half-dozen backrowers in five years time. He never let the Eels down, not once, and often covered for the inadequacies of his often gutless teammates. Yet he is often just lumped in with others and towards the end of his career was overlooked for rep honours when he should still be playing for NSW.

It is just a shame he has had to play his career out at Parramatta, where he was destined never to win a title.

Nathan Hindmarsh is a very important person. He has lots of books and his house smells like mahogany. He can even eat a whole wheel of cheese. Most of all though, he was and is a rugby league hero who is loved by all and respected by just as many. They don't come much better than Hindy.

You Ain't Getting Nothing for the Titanium Bar: My last trip to the Gold Coast was in January, for a bucks weekend. We adjourned to the Titanium Bar on the Sunday morning after two heavy nights of drinking and strippers to watch the NFL. There were 12 of us. We were all drinking and eating. All we wanted was one of the 40-odd television sets to show the NFL playoffs, Denver and New England. No. After fucking us about for 30 minutes with incompetency, they decided that no, all 40 would be on UFC for the 30-35 guests at the hotel. We simply packed up, found an accommodating joint down the road and proceeded to spend the better part of $1500 there. Good business sense Titanium Bar. With that kind of incompetence, it is no wonder the joint is broke and the whole of the Gold Coast has turned on the Titans.

Where's Clive? Rugby league needs more crazy rich men in charge of clubs. Clive Palmer loves his rugby league and despite his calls that he is not interested in saving the Titans, he will step in if required and the right approach is made. Let's have some Clive action.

A Wise Move: It was pleasing to see Cooper Cronk stick true to the Storm and re-sign with Melbourne for another four years. There is no better sight in league than seeing him combine weekly with the greatest all-time hooker in Cameron Smith and arguably the greatest all-time fullback Billy Slater. It is such a treat. Cronk handled everything wonderfully and came to the right decision. Hopefully we will see Cronk top 300 games by the end of his new deal.

Ben Barba Coming of Age: The maturing of Ben Barba has been a wonderful thing to watch. He still makes the odd howler but for the most part he has been magnificent. He had a hand in the two most critical plays in the win over the Titans – a magnificent break from his own in-goal that led to a 108m Josh Morris try and a desperation save from an impossible position on Titans bull Luke Bailey – and was bobbing up everywhere. He is a smokey for the Maroons bench this year and he would not be out of place.

TV Talk #1: Channel Nine is getting desperate as the network slowly comes to the realisation that they are on the verge of losing the rights. Nine has pulled two moves both designed to secure the rights – they have joined forces with Fox Sports and they have started using their multichannels to broadcast games live into Melbourne. The first element should have little bearing. The NRL have the leverage and what they should be pushing for is a rugby league network, enforcing the free-to-air provider allow content to be repeated on the station. The second element shows how far Nine realises it has fucked up by not attempting to grow the game in the 20 years they have had the rights. In the last year of their deal, they finally decide to give Melbourne rugby league fans a break, something they should have done years ago. While it is good for rugby league, it is also symbolic of the desperation at Nine, who are set for a significant fall if they lose rugby league. What other middling show would you watch on a network renowned for mediocrity? Let's hope they don't hit the ground too hard.

TV Talk #2: In further good news for rugby league fans, the English Super League has thankfully left the clutches of the hated Channel Nine and is now in the hands of pay television channel Eurosport. Eurosport has started showing Super League games live and is broadcasting them on replay throughout the week. What wonderful news for those of us who have missed the English game.

Good Luck: The New Zealand Warriors are missing defensive lock Micheal Luck more than most think. Luck provides the stoutness in defence that the Warriors are clearly missing. He brings balance and attitude to a team that is struggling with the defensive aspect of the game. The Warriors are a poor 2-5 over the last two seasons without Luck. He might be their most important player and the longer he is out, the further the Warriors are going to slip.

Paint It Brown: It was great to see the NRL use a brown ball in the Wests Tigers-South Sydney match. Heritage Round is an excellent concept and it is great to see the game of yesteryear embraced.

A Fine Field Goal Weekend: Regular readers of this column are well aware of my fondness for the field goal and there was plenty to get excited about over the weekend with Chris Sandow, Todd Carney and Greg Inglis all kicking critical field goals. My favourite shot, however, was Sandow's pot shot after 30 minutes to put the Eels up 19-6. It missed. He was panned by Peter Sterling. But it was wonderful from the greatest lover of the field goal in the game today.

Why Tigers, Why? Braith Anasta can still contribute to a football team. He is a nice backrower who has plenty of leadership qualities, is a versatile type and he can make a nuisance on the fringes. He would be a nice fit at many clubs – Penrith, Parramatta, Cronulla, even Canterbury – but the Wests Tigers is not one of those clubs. The Tigers already have two competing leaders, they have enough backrow talent to suggest Anasta is being groomed for the No.6 jumper and they already have trouble dividing up the playmaking duties between Farah, Marshall and insert random halfback. Anasta is not a five-eighth now. He shouldn't be used as one. But he will be and it will be to the Tigers' detriment. This is another poor recruitment decision by the Tigers.

The Height of Self-Interest: Anthony Minichiello will one day, presumably, become a rugby league administrator, such is his ability to push his own interests. Last week he called on NSW to pick a Dad's Army side for Origin I. Wow – that sounds like a grand idea. Let's not worry about Josh Dugan, Brett Stewart, Lachlan Coote, Brett Morris or Nathan Gardner. Let's, rather, go with Old Man Minichiello, who has done very little in 2012. He should just be counting his blessings that he got a run last year – he won't be getting another go this time around.

Get Well Soon: A get well cheerio goes out to Ron Massey, Jack Gibson's right hand man, who is not well. There are few sharper minds in the game. Let's hope he gets well and soon.

Cop That: There was a good deal of talk a few weeks back that Dave Taylor had walked out on Souths to sign with the Titans. It turns out that Souths turned their back on him with coach Mick Maguire sick to death of Taylor's poor attitude to training and lack of hardness in games. Despite being built like Frankenstein's monster, Taylor continues to play the fringes, attempt to step and roll through his grubber kicks. Souths, subsequently, withdrew their offer with Taylor now riding the pine. If Maguire can't flog Taylor into the player he can be, it is doubtful John Cartwright will be able to manage it. 

Smart Buy: Expect Lewis Brown to be one of the purchases of 2013 when he arrives at Penrith. Brown isn't a match-winner but he is the kind of player every team needs. With Penrith lacking quality backrowers, he will slip straight into the starting team and is just the kind of player who will benefit from playing with Luke Lewis. Brown's career is on the up and up.

Michael Ennis, Hopeless: I want Michael Ennis to be a good player. I really do. I enjoy his niggle, his workrate, his competitiveness. But for the life of me I cannot understand why he refuses to play to his limits and why he doesn't concentrate on what's in front of him. His kicking game has been atrocious and his handling very poor in recent weeks and his inability to play the whistle led to a Titans try. There is no way he can be the Blues hooker in his current form.

Robbie Farah, Little Bitch: Imagine how good a player, how successful a career Robbie Farah would have had if he didn't act like a whiny 14-year-old girl after being grounded by her mum. Robbie Farah needs to man up. Matthew Johns did nothing wrong on NRL on Fox.  It wasn't an ambush, it was a simple question about a team that is under the gun. Farah needs to stop being so abrasive, so touchy, so sensitive and man up and lead his team from the doldrums. If he can't get it done, the captaincy should go to Benji Marshall.

Fun Fact #1: Tim Sheens this week coached his 650th game on the weekend, a loss to South Sydney. Here are his results and who he coached against in other milestone matches:

50th: September 7, 1985 – 38-6 loss v Parramatta (John Monie)
100th: March 13, 1988 – 34-10 win v St George (Ted Glossop)
150th: March 25, 1990 – 18-4 win v Illawarra (Ron Hilditch)
200th: March 22, 1992 – 14-10 win v Penrith (Phil Gould)
250th: April 10, 1994 – 30-16 win v Illawarra (Graham Murray)
300th: April 26, 1996 – 34-4 win v Canterbury (Chris Anderson)
350th: June 20, 1998 – 10-8 loss v Melbourne (Chris Anderson)
400th: May 27, 2000 – 20-6 loss v Parramatta (Brian Smith)
450th: April 25, 2004 – 30-22 win v Manly (Des Hasler)
500th: April 2, 2006 – 30-28 win v Melbourne (Craig Bellamy)
550th: April 20, 2008 – 30-10 win v South Sydney (Jason Taylor)
600th: May 2, 2010 – 12-8 loss v Sydney Roosters (Brian Smith)
650th: April 1, 2012 – 17-16 loss v South Sydney (Michael Maguire)

Highlight of the Week: Wests Tigers hardman Gareth Ellis nearly potting a 40-20 with a brown ball. Does rugby league get any better than that, to use a Gould-ism.

Injury Update: It was a big weekend for injuries with some of the biggest names in the game going down.

Greg Bird (Gold Coast): Bird was playing well against Canterbury but was in severe pain when sustaining a leg injury late. Not clear how bad it is but it would be a surprise if he showed up next week. It looks like an ankle sprain.

Sam Burgess (Souths): Received good news, busting only his MCL. He will miss eight weeks but it looked like a season-ender at the time.

Isaac De Gois (Cronulla): The Cronulla hooker has been going very well of late but picked up a knee injury that looked like an MCL that could keep him out for up to a month. John Morris will step into the starting lineup.

Gareth Ellis (Wests Tigers): Fractured his foot and in his last season in Australia will tragically ne sidelined for three months. It is a tragedy. The Tigers pack is very thin right now so expect Liam Fulton to start permanently in the backrow.

Kieran Foran (Manly): The Manly No.6 strained his hamstring and is unlikely to be seen for a couple of weeks. If Jamie Lyon returns this week, he could move into five-eighth.

Kurt Gidley (Newcastle): The Knights skipper has been in the wars this year and has hyperextended his knee. Shouldn't be too bad but could sideline him for a month. Ryan Stig is good to go as his replacement.

Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta): Corked his thigh but saw out the 80 minutes for the first time this year and will be right for next week.

Kayne Lawton (Gold Coast): Pulled up short while on a run and looks like he has done a hamstring. A month or more seems likely.

Sika Manu (Melbourne): Has done ligaments in his ankle and could miss up to six weeks. Craig Bellamy might look for a young forward to take his spot with the Storm travelling so well.

Mark Minichiello (Gold Coast): Got half an inept game in before sustaining a serious foot injury. Was in a moon boot and his immediate future looks fairly clouded.

Brett Stewart (Manly): Took a big hit to the ribs and will be monitored throughout the week. Manly cannot afford to lose him with Michael Oldfield likely to shift to fullback if the regular custodian is out.

Joel Thompson (Canberra): The injury-prone Raiders backrower rolled his ankle and will miss a few weeks and it may be even more serious than that. Hopefully Shaun Fensom won't be far away.

Brett White (Canberra): The Raiders prop ruptured his ACL and is out for the year. It was brutal. As a veteran, I wouldn't expect him ever to be the same. We may have seen the last of him.

2012 Willie M Medal: Tim Moltzen retains the lead in the 2012 Willie M Medal despite not polling in the one-point loss to South Sydney. An early 40-20, followed by a try and then a concussion saved him. Willie Tonga retains second place. The big movers this week are Ben Hornby, Roy Asotasi, Ben Pomeroy and Adam Cuthbertson shooting to five points and a share of third place. Hornby is one to watch – he has lost his touch and has been dreadfully exposed in defence this year.

Melbourne v Newcastle
3-Akuila Uate (New)
2-Adam Cuthbertson (New)
1-Anthony Quinn (Mel)
Judge: Nathan Boss

Brisbane v St George Illawarra
3-Ben Hornby (Dra)
2-Beau Scott (Dra)
1-Corey Norman (Bri)
Judge: Cliff Bingham (Making The Nut)

Penrith v Cronulla
3-Brad Tighe (Pen)
2-Ben Pomeroy (Cro)
1-Clint Newton (Pen)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

Sydney Roosters v New Zealand
3-Shaun Johnson (War)
2-James Maloney (War)
1-Simon Mannering (War)
Judge: Brett Oaten (Fire Up)

Parramatta v Manly
3-Daly Cherry-Evans (Man)
2-Dean Whare (Man)
1-Jamie Buhrer (Man)
Judge: Pat Healy

Gold Coast v Canterbury
3-Scott Prince (GC)
2-Beau Champion (GC)
1-Michael Ennis (Bul)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

Wests Tigers v South Sydney
3-Chris Lawrence (Tig)
2-Roy Asotasi (Sou)
1-John Sutton (Sou)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

Canberra v North Queensland
3-Jack Wighton (Can)
2-Bronson Harrison (Can)
1-Jarrod Croker (Can)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

8: Tim Moltzen (Tig)
6: Willie Tonga (Par)
5: Roy Asotasi (Sou), Adam Cuthbertson (New), Matt Groat (Tig), Ben Hornby (Dra), Mark Minichiello (GC), Mitchell Pearce (Roo), Ben Pomeroy (Cro)

Rumour Mill: There is speculation that Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan is on the verge of being offered an extension. He has impressed all those at the club with his recruitment and development. It is expected that Michael Searle will be forced out of the Titans before season's end. He is not as popular within the club as many believe. Ray Cashmere may have had a move to the Wests Tigers stopped by St George Illawarra but don't be surprised if he finds himself at South Sydney. B.J Leilua is expected to sign with the Tigers giving Tim Sheens another outside back, for some unknown reason. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is also on the Tigers' radar.

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

Betting Market of the Week: In Heritage Round next season, the NRL will:

Bring back actual leather balls: $41.00
Take the worth of tries back to three and field goals to two: $21.00
Enforce the 'Residential Rule', making Cronulla the stongest Sydney team: $51.00
Have a referee bet against one team: $6.50

What I Like About … Erin Molan: This girl is good, be sure and certain of that. The Nine reporter is not simply some trumped up eye candy delivering the news, as Nine has tried so often in the past. This girl is good. She gets great mail, her demeanour is perfectly suited to the game, she is well grounded in its history and she doesn't let the testosterone throw her off. I hope she has a long and stellar career in the game.

Moniker XIII of the Week: With Ray Cashmere back in the news after St George Illawarra refused to release him to play with the Wests Tigers out of spite, we look back on the greatest Rays.

The Rays
1. Ray Laird (1 Test for Australia, 14 games for Queensland)
2. Ray Morris (57 games for Wests/University)
3. Ray Branighan (169 games for South Sydney/Manly)
4. Ray Norman (135 games for Annandale/South Sydney/Eastern Suburbs)
5. Ray Preston (130 games for Newtown/Parramatta)
6. Ray Gartner (185 games for Canterbury)
7. Ray Thompson (34 games for North Queensland)
13. Ray Johnston (43 games for Newtown)
12. Ray Price (259 games for Parramatta)
11. Ray Higgs (71 games for Parramatta/Manly)
10. Ray Cashmere (58 games for Western Suburbs/Wests Tigers/North Queensland)
9. Ray Brown (115 games for Western Suburbs/Manly)
8. Ray Stehr (174 games for Eastern Suburbs)

Analysis: As Expected, very much an old school team. The pack has two all-time greats in Stehr and Price, two of the hardest men to ever play the game. The backline has plenty of quality with Branighan, Norman and Preston the picks. Not a great team but not one you’d ever mess with.

The Coaching Crosshairs: Is Tim Sheens in trouble at the Wests Tigers? The rumours persisted that the Tigers boss was not popular with some of the board when the club was going well. Now they are mired at 1-4 and going nowhere fast, could he be pushed out? He may have 650 games under his belt but he is far from the safest coach. He is signed to the end of 2014 and probably has the support of enough powerbrokers at the club but don't be surprised if talk bobs up that Ricky Stuart is in the mix to take over.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: It is hoped that we will all get to see Ben Pomeroy in what is set to be a highly amusing new show, The Shire. There will no doubt be Andrew Ettingshausen and Paul Mellor and 'the playboy' and 'the nice guy poorly treated'. Todd Carney will surely star as 'the bad boy done good'.  Paul Gallen will just be there as a machine, tackling – like Dexter, on steroids. Presumably Jonathan Docking will just be there in headgear doing nothing in particular. As for Pomeroy, well, just throw him a football and get it on video because it leads to hilarity more often than not.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 5: Penrith-Cronulla, 14-15. There were a couple of thrillers on the weekend but the Sharks putting together three in a row with Todd Carney playing the hero was the best. Carney played his best game since arriving in The Shire with some brilliant defence and fine playmaking and he has the Sharks poised to make a finals run.

Correspondence Corner: Sal, in Australia, clubs not only have a salary cap but a salary floor so by the laws that govern the game and the latest collective bargaining agreement, clubs must spent a certain amount of money on players. Having said that, it does not seem responsible or prudent to chase a series of big names while relying on club grants.

Warriorman, I'm not saying it is right to punt Stephen Kearney but even with one win I don't think he is safe. You are being too harsh on Jamie Soward – he has returned to decent form – but James Maloney is a quality option who could step up to Origin level.

Craig, I'd have a look at the ladder before making too many comparisons between Newcastle and Canterbury. And as for the Bulldogs being a club with no morals well, that may well have been the case under Malcolm Noad but it certainly is not the case these days under Todd Greenberg.

Arthur, obviously Cooper Cronk has decided to stay in Melbourne. I would not be surprised in the slightest if Willie Mason ends up at Parramatta with Shane Shackleton. They love a horrible recruit.

TigerMS, the Storm released enough talent to get under the cap. They are entitled to keep whoever they want legally. They have done so and good luck to them. They are brilliant to watch and it is a smart salary cap model to pursue. Mav63 and Renegade are right.

Renegade, Parramatta do have a rubbish team on paper and I'm also well on them for the spoon. Despite the win against Manly, I'm still confident. Regarding the Wests Tigers, the most questions have to be asked of Adam Blair – he has experience at prop and yet is offering nothing in the middle of the field.

Nick, I know Canterbury got the win against the Gold Coast but it had little to do with Kris Keating, who was most unimpressive.

Fred, it is a great shame that Nathan Hindmarsh is retiring and worse, not getting a full 80 minutes.

Warriors Fan, Andrew Voss is certainly on the outer at Nine with Ray Hadley the number two man now. Voss can't even get a bait on The Footy Show or The Sunday Roast these days. He pissed a lot of people at the station off with his unpleasant remarks about Ray Warren's statue last year and it is all coming back to bite him now.

Warriorman, Michael Ennis does not rate in the top 50 per cent of hookers in the game and in his current form, he sits somewhere between Mitch Rein and Aaron Payne.

AJL, if Robbie Farah had a different personality he would have been hooker for the last four seasons but he doesn't so he is well out of the mix. Danny Buderus is still smart out of hooker and is the Blues' best choice.

Dan, I've written extensively on Adam Blair and what an overrated bum he is. He has done nothing for the Tigers and the Storm clearly aren't missing him too much – I'd take Sika Manu over Blair any day. And regarding wrestling, I don't blame the Storm at all. They just happen to be in front of the curve. If the NRL is serious about stamping out wrestling, they will either increase suspensions, outlaw third man tackles or reduce the 10-metre rule.

Mike From Tari, I hope the Queensland Cup is well shown.

Tony Monero, I lived in Melbourne for four seasons and never got one Friday night game or Sunday Footy Show. I am happy for you and hope this is the start of a new era. Nine is now getting desperate. National coverage is a must and the NRL mustn't be fooled by this sudden change of heart.

Beard Watch: Greg Bird is really doing his best to bring the straight-up moustache back to rugby league so it was sad to see him do some serious damage against the Bulldogs on Sunday.

Watch It: This week, our treat is the 1979 Amco Cup Final between Cronulla and Combined Brisbane. There were plenty of highlights – the short kick-off, the striped in-goal, Kurt Sorensen in full flight, Sharks five-eighth Gary Cameron busting over for a match-winning hat-trick, Johnny Lang's shaggy haircut, the burst of Norm Carr, the commentary of Keith Barnes. Watch Cronulla's last ever trophy win here.


Comments (1)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Did anybody else pick up on Anthony Watmough attacking the injured knee of Jarred Hayne when Hayne was fielding a kick underneath his posts? Watmough, who is a dirty piece of arse mucus, Intentionally targeted Haynes Injury sliding in with his knee. This issue has been raised throughout last week in the media regarding players like Sika Manu kneeing the calf muscle and intentionally trying to injure players through these filthy low dog acts. Surely it isn't in the best interest of the NRL to have these trout sniffing cretins go unpunished for their disrespect and lack of consideration for the good nature of our game.