From The Couch: Round 7

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on April 29, 2013

Salary Cap Shakeup: While all of the talk in league circles has revolved around the appointment of Todd Greenberg as the NRL’s Head of Football, more needs to be made of new COO Jim Doyle. The former boss of the NZRL will start his post next month and is already making the right noises. Doyle has indicated there will be a complete overhaul of the salary cap with Ian Schubert’s position as Cap Dictator seemingly all but over. This will be good for the game. Too often, small-minded bickering and a cumbersome process has cost the code players. Doyle will implement a system that ensures parity but allows the game to get the best athletes and then keep them in rugby league. He is a sensational appointment.

Gutless: There is only one word to describe the failure of referees Ashley Klein and Phil Haines to dismiss Richie Fa’aoso: gutless. Fa’aoso’s two reckless spear tackles each merited a send off on their own. For him to just be placed on report – twice – and now face a 10-week ban with no punishment at the time is ridiculous. The send off exists as a deterrent to foul play but to also benefit the team that has been victimised. Daniel Anderson has done a great job with officials so far but needs to reinforce that the send off is part of rugby league.  

An Incredible Run: Little has been written about it but the Melbourne Storm are in the throes of one of the great winning streaks in rugby league. Their victory against the Warriors last Thursday made it 15 straight wins – putting them in equal fifth with the 1925-26 Rabbitohs and the 1995 Sea Eagles. A win this week against the Raiders will put them in a tie for third with the 1908-09 Rabbitohs and 1912-13 Eastern Suburbs team with just the 2002 Bulldogs and 1975 Roosters ahead of them. For a team with so many incredible feats under Craig Bellamy, this is one of their great achievements.

Robert Lui’s Cousin: Well done to the Cowboys for trying the old “my cousin tweeted my star halfback’s bets from my star halfback’s Twitter account”. It is doubtful it will work and Robert Lui has likely played his last game for North Queensland. After the Ryan Tandy incident, players have to be most vigilant. The injured Lui – or so it seems – tweeted from the sideline that he hoped the Cows wouldn’t take the two because he had them 13+. A classy play by someone who has had his share of off-field incidents. If Lui does get off though, the next time Greg Bird is going to blame his housemate or the Bulldogs point the finger at a little-known trainer, the answer should be simple: blame Robert Lui’s cousin.

The Brits Are Coming: British players like Gareth Ellis, the Burgess boys, Adrian Morley and James Graham have added plenty to the NRL in recent years and we are set to get more Brits in the NRL with Gareth Hock and Lee Mossop signing with Parramatta and Mike Cooper set to join St George Illawarra. Sam Tomkins has been linked to the Titans and the Warriors while Tom Briscoe has been mentioned as a possible Sharks recruit. With the game struggling in Britain, the stars of the northern game are looking to come down under. We should welcome them with open arms.

Brooks the Goods: Keep an eye on young Tigers halfback Luke Brooks, who may be thrust into the top grade this week thanks to the Tigers’ injury crisis. Brooks is the best half in the Holden Cup and while he may not be ready, he is a sublime talent who shapes as a rep half of the future.

Defending The Daily Telegraph: There are times when it is hard to defend The Daily Telegraph. For example, when ‘Buzz’ Rothfield steals the concept of The Willie Ms and cheaply rebrands it the Sally Ms, with no actual format or work done. Or when Rebecca Wilson puts pen to paper. But the newspaper deserves credit and not derision for publishing the Jon Mannah/peptides story last week. While it is no doubt upsetting to the Mannah family and those associated with the former Shark, the story is newsworthy and the news must be published. Kudos to the Tele for running with it.

Carney in Front – Or At Least He Should Be: The four-way battle for the NSW No.6 jersey continues in earnest with incumbent Todd Carney hoping to stave off the challenges of James Maloney, Josh Reynolds and John Sutton. The Sharks No.6 returned from injury on Sunday and was impressive, outplaying rival Josh Reynolds despite the scoreboard and the Nine man-of-the-match award going to the Bulldogs pivot. Carney created plenty for the Sharks – it wasn’t his fault he was forced to play with a bunch of lumbering fools. Maloney and Sutton are both flying but both have obvious flaws in their game. Maloney is a defensive liability. Sutton can drift in and out of games. Carney has done enough this year under trying circumstances to keep his spot. Let’s just hope he is paired with Adam Reynolds and not Mitchell Pearce.

The Willie M Medal: Such has been the popularity of The Willie M Medal that it has become bigger than the confines of From The Couch. The Willie M Medal votes and leaderboard will now be published each and every Monday night. So check in tomorrow for all the latest Willie M action.

Fun Fact #1: The Top 10 active tryscorers, their age, where they sit on the all-time list and their strike rate.

1. Nathan Merritt – 145 tries (29y, 338d) – 10th – 70.05%
2. Billy Slater – 145 tries (29y, 315d) – 10th – 62.77%
3. Brett Stewart – 128 tries (28y, 61d) – 19th – 77.11%
4. Matt Bowen – 125 tries (31y, 51d) – 23rd – 48.64%
5. Matt Cooper – 124 tries (34y, 11d) – 24th – 51.24%
6. Timana Tahu – 119 tries (32y, 195d) – 32nd – 61.98%
7. Anthony Minichiello -119 tries (32y, 340d) – 32nd – 46.12%
8. Manu Vatuvei – 104 tries (27y, 56d) – 49th – 67.10%
9. Greg Inglis – 102 tries (26y, 104d) – 51st – 62.20%
10. Ashley Graham – 100 tries (28y, 329d) – 52nd – 51.81%

Rumour Mill: The drums are beating that exciting Broncos fullback Corey Norman will renege on his Parramatta deal and stay with Brisbane. After the Broncos missed out on Gareth Widdop, they will go all out for the exciting utility. Don’t expect to see Dave Taylor back in Queensland colours this year, regardless of his form. He managed to turn off a number of Queensland teammates last season when in camp. Newcastle have been linked to Dragons prop Michael Weyman, as have his former club Canberra. Weyman still has plenty to offer. Manly prop George Rose will be playing for the Tigers within weeks. Andrew Everingham is likely to make a shift to Japanese rugby. For some reason, clubs are willing to pay big money for Eels centre Jacob Loko – the Warriors, overburdened with centres, are leading the race. English fullback Sam Tomkins is expected to sign with the Titans.

What I Like About … Steve Matai: There isn’t much I like about Steve Matai. He is always whinging about an injury. He plays like a grub. He carries on like a pork chop. But gee, when he hit George Burgess with a wild swinging arm off the kickoff, it was as old school as you get. He lined the big Brit up, came flying in with an intention to hurt and then happily threw hands afterwards. It was wonderful to watch. It was high, he deserves a suspension but gee … it does take you back.

Betting Market of the Week: Before ASADA actually finishes its investigation into rugby league, it must:

$3.00 – Slander the game and a majority of players and fans
$5.00 – Somehow try to justify the irresponsible politicking of the issue by the Labor Government
$7.50 – Stall as long as possible and pray to their deity of choice that evidence is found
$101.00 – Act in a responsible and efficient manner

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

Combo XIII of the Week: With rivals Manly and South Sydney doing battle last week, we look at the best players to done the maroon and white of Manly and the cardinal and myrtle of South Sydney.

1. Marty Gurr
2. Tom Mooney
3. Ray Branighan
4. Alan Scott
5. Tony Melrose
6. Gene Ngamu
7. Craig Field
13. Bob Moses
12. Ian Roberts
11. Mark Carroll
10. David Hosking
9. Darren Maroon
8. John O’Neill

Correspondence Corner: Semii Pro, City-Country is a wonderful concept. It needs to be done right. Hopefully it is next year.

Anonymous, I can’t blame the people of Coffs because the NRL allowed the game to be gutted.

The Coaching Crosshairs: The Dragons last week ensured Steve Price would be coaching until at least the 2014 season with the club having an option for 2015. The announcement came during the Dragons’ horrid Anzac Day loss to the Roosters. Price was under immense pressure but when a search for a big-name coach failed and Price won three games, he got a one-year extension. Price deserves a chance but the timing of the extension was curious to say the least and the one-year deal is hardly a ringing endorsement. The Dragons are once again set to be left in a holding pattern. Re-signing Price was not the worst idea in the world. Doing it for simply a year was.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy showed us why we all love The Special Needs Penguin on Sunday by performing one of the most obscenely special things you could hope to see on a football field. Pomeroy made a bust down the right side, ran over Mitch Brown and then had just Ben Barba in front of him with two support players inside and Beau Ryan outside. Getting far too tricky for his capabilities, Pomeroy shaped inside, shaped inside again and then threw outside … about four metres behind Beau Ryan, into touch. It was vintage Penguin: an easy task butchered by a player with the ball handling skills of an elderly Estelle Getty.  

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 7: Manly-South Sydney, 12-20. The Sea Eagles-Rabbitohs clash was described by Peter Sterling in the call as “the match of the year” and he was not wrong. No game has been played with the singular intent, the intensity, the violence, the line speed, the excitement. It was a wild match that had all the feeling of a final. It established Souths as the clear No.2 in the premiership while showing Manly must be able to control the tempo if their aging team is to be able to win matches. Steve Matai’s shot on George Burgess was incredible while the brawl afterwards took us back to the Battle of Brookvale two years back. An incredible game of football.

Beard Watch: Three players I would love to see with a beard – and I mean a real beard, full and thick, unkempt and wold: Tom Symonds, Sam Thaiday and Aaron Woods (goatee).

Watch It: This week we go back to 1997 and watch Mat Rogers tie his father Steve for the most points in a single game – against Bradford, in the ill-fated World Club Challenge. Watch it here.


Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Are people going out of their way to drop Inglis on his head, or is he helping the process by diving just a little bit? Like a ballcarrier has a responsibility to not carry the ball loosely and hope for a penalty when it's knocked from his grasp, a tackled player should have a responsibility to not try to do a somersault every time someone tackles him below the waist.

    A new salary cap setup should include a franchise player for each team, to whom they can pay as much as they want. That way the top 16 players in the world will always be in the NRL, even if it does hurt league parity a bit when the Broncos pay Thurston $6m/yr outside the cap and the Sharks can only pay Gallen $1m.

    I'd also like to see a loyalty bonus, with 10% of a player's salary not counting towards the team cap for every year – over 5 – they've been with the club. So only 90% of the salary of a player who has been with the club for 6 years counts towards the cap. Only 50% of a 10-year player's salary counts. If a player's been with the club for 15 years (like a Steve Menzies, who was loyal to his club and so couldn't bring himself to play against them in the NRL, but couldn't fit under his team's cap so had to leave the NRL for Super League), their whole salary is outside the cap.

    What a new salary cap setup MUST include is publication of player salaries and cap hits, like the NFL. That way we can all see the numbers and know for sure whether or not the Roosters (eg.) are over the cap (with the additions of $onny Bill, Maloney and Jennings without losing much, plus the fact that their cap guy was with the Storm when they were merrily cheating, there's suspicion). You'd have less fans talking about the "cheating _________s" and more fans talking about "we have $x cap space and Player Y is after $z a year, so we should sign him".

  2. Anonymous says:

    Mate, how good was Joel Edwards' brutal tackle on Kalifa Faifai Loa?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree for the most part that it was gutless not to send Fa'aoso off, but I don't think you can give 100% of the blame to the on field refs.  To be fair, there seem to be a growing number of sin bin/send off offences that are only ever penalised and put on report.  I don't know if the referees are instructed not to use this punishment or if they prefer to play it safe and not experience the wrath of certain coaches.  For Geoff Toovey to suggest that his team was hard done by against Souths is audacious at best.  I don't think many would have argued if Brett Stewart was walked for his elbow; it may have not been a full bodied shot, but it was malicious and intentional.  I guarantee that Billy Slater, for example, would not have been so lucky, if he was the perpetrator.  Likewise with Matai's reckless swinging arm; I've seen players of yesteryear sin binned for less.  He may have made initial contact with the ball, but it was a wild, out of control swing that always had the capacity to go bad, at a time in the game that the referee was starting to lose control.  Maybe it would have been a different story if the recipient had been knocked out.  


    It seems that Rugby League is going down the road of AFL where players are only ever penalised and put on report, and never sent from the field.  It's not a good look when a player can theoretically go out and illegally injure an opponent and the victim's team is the only one that suffers in that particular game.  Personally, I think the sin bin/send off is one area where Rugby Union has got it right.  It's not unsual for a player to get sin binned for repeated infringements, so the referees seem less reluctant to use the send off in really serious cases.  Frankly, if the judiciary gives a player more than a month suspension, that's a pretty good sign that it was serious enough to warrant on field action.


    Jason from Singapore

  4. Anonymous says:

    Nick, surely Phil Blake is the halfback for the manly/souths team? Wayne Chisolm on the bench. Cam