From The Couch: Round 9

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on May 13, 2013

Viva La Counter-Revolution: After four of the most entertaining years imaginable – at least for those who despise the Parramatta Eels – revolution is over. Roy Spagnolo and his bandits who overthrew ‘The Emperor’ Denis Fitzgerald in 2009 on a platform of systematic change have been thrown from office, replaced by a team with close links to Fitzgerald, led by Steve Sharp. In the three full seasons of the administration, the club finished 12th, 14th and 16th and currently sits 14th. Spagnolo appointed arguably the least qualified CEO in the history of the game – Paul Osborne – who assisted in the firing of a coach who only 12 months earlier had guided the club to the Grand Final, a sacking that had more than a small stink of politics. His replacement, Stephen Kearney, was given nearly two seasons before his position became untenable. The team then forked out $800,000 a season for the most overrated coach in the modern game, one who has a win rate of less than 45 per cent since the retirement of Brad Fittler.

Among the long list of failed recruits the club signed were washed up hacks like Carl Webb, Chris Walker and Willie Tonga, high price failures like Justin Poore and Darcy Lussick, all-time terrible players like Ben Roberts and Chris Sandow, a talented player who has never lived up to his potential. The revolution – by any measure – has been an epic failure. The Eels members had no choice. Beware though – The Emperor is looking to slide back in. For good or ill, you can bet your last that we have not seen the last of Denis Fitzgerald.

ASADA Leaks: The ASADA investigation into drugs in rugby league reached new lows across the weekend when News Limited were leaked a supposedly confidential ASADA report. It involved specific allegations against certain players, the overall allegation of systematic doping by the Sharks and a timeline of events they believed to have occurred. Yet, we still have no charges. ASADA is a law unto itself – as one Shark said across the weekend, “they keep changing the rules”. Perhaps the Sharks will be found guilty. But at the moment, it is without question that ASADa are the bad guys and the club should say nothing.

Close Losses: Closes losses are defined as those of less than a converted try. Closes losses are very much a measure of luck and have traditionally evened themselves out over a period of time. A team with more close losses than not are considered unlucky. A team with more close wins is considered lucky.

The close game record of the 16 teams through nine rounds:

Brisbane 1-2
Canberra 3-0
Canterbury 1-2
Cronulla 2-1
Gold Coast 3-2
Manly 1-1
Melbourne 2-2
Newcastle 1-2
New Zealand 2-3
North Queensland  1-2
Parramatta 1-3
Penrith 1-1
St George Illawarra 2-2
South Sydney 3-0
Sydney Roosters 1-1
Wests Tigers 0-1

Poor Rabs: Anyone who knows anything about one of rugby league’s true gentlemen – Ray ‘Rabbits’ Warren – knows that the doyen of rugby league callers hates to fly. So it was with a fair bit of amusement that Sunday’s game between the Titans and Dragons had to be postponed 14 minutes so that Rabs could get a helicopter from Coolangatta airport to Skilled Park. According to Phil Gould, Rabs was terrified. To read Gould’s wonderful account of the flight, click here.

The Four Problems with the North Queensland Cowboys: North Queensland are suffering from four problems and their season will never reach full speed if these matters aren’t alleviated:

(1)    Matt Bowen’s kick returns: The Cowboys fullback manages under 60 metres a game in an era when nearly every fullback averages over 100. He does not seem interested and ensures his team nearly always starts with no momentum.

(2)    Slow hooker play: The loss of Aaron Payne and James Segeyaro has caused no end of pain. Scott Moore and Rory Kostjasyn are simply too slow and too one-dimensional out of dummy-half.

(3)    Uncreative attack: Bar Robert Lui’s brief involvement, the Cowboys have operated with just Johnathan Thurston as an effective playmaker and he is limited by the overreliance on simple block plays.

(4)    Bench Errors: This season, the Cowboys bench has been highly ineffective with the likes of Scott Bolton, Ashton Sims and Glenn Hall failing to make an impact off the pine. This year they have made 11 errors and conceded nine penalties.

Dugan Returns: While Josh Dugan has carried on like a total moron – the equivalent of Ben Roberts on a football field – it was pleasing to see the NRL has registered Josh Dugan’s contract with St George Illawarra. The Raiders-Dugan beef was an intra-club one and did not involve the law or bringing the game into disrepute. Now he is the Dragons’ problem. He has said he won’t give up the drink or social media. It will end in disaster. It is hoped it won’t, but it will.

A Rugby League Titan: It was wonderful to hear that one of rugby league’s true warriors, Luke Bailey, has signed on for another year. Bailey, in his 14th year and with 239 games under his belt, has hardly diminished in ability and has again been one of the Titans’ shining lights this season. You can’t top a good prop and that is exactly what ‘Bull’ is.

Uneven Draw: Across the first nine rounds, some teams have played six home games while others have been afforded just three. The Roosters have been the beneficiaries of a kind early season draw while the Cowboys, Dragons and Rabbitohs have had just three home matches. Expect the Roosters to find wins a little harder to come by while the Cowboys will be sharp improvers. The performance of the Bunnies to lead the comp with only three home matches is exceptional.

Falcon of the Century: Michael Ennis’ falcon against the Warriors – where a bomb landed smack on his head that lead to a line drop out – was one of the great falcons since the great Mario Fenech managed to get the name coined.

Blake’s Shank: Canberra centre Blake Ferguson has been playing in such good form that he is considered a very real chance of playing Origin football this season. But he will not be goalkicking, if his first shot against the Knights is anything to go by. The shot landed closer to the corner post and was more likely to hit Parliament House than it was to secure two points.

Meaningless Field Goal Strikes Again: Very few positive words have been written about Jarryd Hayne but his meaningless field goal about the Broncos was one of the most impressive landed and turned out to be decisive. With the halftime siren having already blown when the Eels received a penalty, Hayne punched a kick deep before taking the tap and slotting a field goal from well out, 10 metres in. It put the score 11-8. The Eels ended up winning by a point. Hayne has been extremely focussed the last two weeks and this field goal has shown how good Hayne can be when his mind is clear.

Fun Fact #1: Forwards who have scored more than 12 tries in a season in the NRL Era:
1998: Steve Menzies, Manly (20)
2001: Ben Kennedy, Newcastle (17)
2001: Glenn Morrison, North Queensland (13)
2001: Steve Menzes, Northern Eagles (12)
2004: Andrew Ryan, Canterbury (13)
2004: Trent Waterhouse, Penrith (12)
2007: Frank Pritchard, Penrith (14)
2007: Sonny Bill Williams, Canterbury (14)
2007: Anthony Watmough, Manly (12)
2008: Anthony Laffranchi, Gold Coast (12)
2012: Alex Glenn, Brisbane (13)

Fun Fact #2: Queensland coach Mal Meninga scored the final points of the last residency-based state series and the first points in the inaugural State of Origin clash.

Fun Fact #3:(courtesy of reader Balyn McDonald) – The Bulldogs' lucky number is 20. If they score 20 or more points in a regular season game they win, score 19 or less and they lose. The last time they won a regular season game with less than 20 was Round 23, 2011 against the Sharks (19-12) and the last time they scored 20+ and lost was Round 21, 2011 against the Roosters (32-28).

Rumour Mill:New Zealand backrower Feleti Mateo will leave the Warriors at the end of the season. He is considering offers from Penrith and St George Illawarra, with the Dragons favoured. Sam Tomkins is on the verge of signing with the Titans. Sam Williams will be a Panther in 2014. He is unhappy about being dropped to reserve grade. The Dragons are in the mix. David Williams has been linked with Parramatta.

What I Love About … Wayne Bennett: He may be coaching a team that appears to have turned south rather dramatically but at least he was smart enough to drag Timana Tahu after another hopeless defensive play on Blake Ferguson. He missed three key tackles and was the one reason the Raiders managed to get their way back into the game prior to halftime. Tahu hobbled off but nobody was fooled. Tahu has always been terribly overrated but it appears his time in the top grade is now over.

Betting Market of the Week:To get the full worth out of Benji Marshall and Adam Blair after yet another inept and guileless display, the Tigers will:

$3.00: Appoint the duo as full-time janitors of Leichhardt Oval … for the next 63 years.
$3.50: Use the two as tackling bags at training.
$8.00: Have the two wrestle as a tag team to be known as ‘The Lazy Pussycats’.
$1.20: Offer both significant contract upgrades and extensions.

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

Combo XIII of the Week: With this week’s outstanding clash being Manly and the Sydney Roosters, we look at the best players to don both the maroon and white and the blue, red and white. There have been some outstanding players to play for both clubs, led by Immortal Bob Fulton. All 13 played international football with the likes of Terry Hill, Andrew Walker and Kevin Junee missing out.

1. Ian Schubert
2. Dale Shearer
3. Tony Paskins
4. Bob Fulton
5. Kerry Boustead
6. Wally O’Connell
7. Johnny Mayes
13. Paul Vautin
12. Noel Cleal
11. Ron Gibbs
10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
9. Elwyn Walters
8. Dave Brown

Correspondence Corner: Semi Pro, I think Sunday’s showing made me a non-believer in the Knights.

Anonymous, the cap is going up significantly next year – that is how the Dogs will be able to afford Folau. Both Canterbury and Souths also don’t fork out a significant proportion of their cap to one or two individuals who are out and out stars, as other clubs do. I would prefer Folau not be welcomed at the club or the NRL but he is without question a talented type. I expect Hodkinson and Morris will remain at the club as well.

Sideline, yes!! Featherstone is an ET’s Rugby League reference. Great spot.

Tony Monero, I expect Lawler to go again and he will have to endure the sham that is Ricky Stuart.

The Coaching Crosshairs: Another blown lead by the Warriors has New Zealand coach Matt Elliott in the spotlight. Defence and fitness are clearly not where they need to be and with the players already expressing their displeasure at Elliott’s hiring, he faces a battle to survive the season. Expect David Kidwell to be appointed by season’s end.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy continued to push to the limits his first grade career with a game that encompassed 55 metres, a knock on, a missed tackle and an ineffective tackle rate of over 35 per cent.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 9: Manly-Sydney Roosters, 4-16. In what shaped as an absolute belter between two top four teams, the Sea Eagles and Roosters didn't disappoint in what was a real ripper of a game. In what was a sensational disaplay of both attack and defence, the two teams played end-to-end footy but tries were hard to come by. In the first stanza, only a lucky intercept from Michael Jennings saw the Roosters jump to a lead. In the second, a wonderful catch from Steve Matai put the Eagles back into the game. It was searing, brilliant football between two excellent sides. The game really cranked up a notch when Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was rightly sent off for a heavy high shot on George Rose. The Roosters held firm though and took the points in an exceptional showing.

Beard Watch: North Queensland prop James Tamou has always had a nice beard going but he is now looking like the biggest garden gnome in the known world.

Watch It: This week we go back to 1980 and an interview on ‘Sportscene’ with Wally Lewis. Highlights include Wally’s jumper, highlights of Valley-Souths and a young Pat Welsh’s hair. Watch it here.


Comments (5)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Retrograde – Bring back the:
    * Ten minute sin bin
    * Reserve grade

    Tony Monero

    Ps.. And no Phil Rothfield, you cannot steal my idea. As its not mine anyway!

  2. SemiiPro says:

    Rant time, and today I cast my steely glare at ASADA and their direct link to communist East Germany. Now, before you call me loony, here’s the set up. At one stage, East Germany was absolutely killing it in athletics. In direct response to that, the Aussie government established the Australian Institute of Sport and government involvement in sport was established. The success of the AIS ensured that people became grateful for government involvement in sport and government stuck its filthy tentacles into every sport in the land. Of course, when government puts so much money into sport, it wants sport to be run as it sees fit. Enter ASADA (aka The Stasi). It’s methods are exactly the same as any totalitarian regime’s modus operandi – get mates to dob in mates and create an atmosphere of fear. Ethical behaviour be damned.

    Unfortunately, RL can’t really de-link itself from government funds and go it alone because its major competitor, the AFL, has its snout right up the government clakka and just lurves the easy money. This money can destroy opponents. But the way I see it, the AFL is Vichy France and, like those who don’t resist, will prosper. RL and Wade Graham are the resistance and proud of them I am.

    PS It is not a cosmic accident that the women’s 400m world record, that still holds from 1985, was run at Canberra Stadium (nee the AIS athletics track).

    PPS Nick, you’re power rankings have improved.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Great read as always, look forward to it every week. Slightly disappointed that no-one else has seemed to notice that at almost EXACTLY the same time on Friday night (i.e. within SECONDS of each other, and I mean in actual time, not the match clock), both the Tigers and the Cowboys elected to kick for touch from the "Optional 20m Restart". It happened late in the respective games (around the 72nd-74th minute mark, from memory?) and it's such a rare occurance these days that surely it has to be some kind of record?

    Big shout out to Davey G. Loved the Beasties link…

  4. Anonymous says:


    I can’t agree Souths don’t pay one or two stars overs. If not then how do they keep the best back GI and the best forward, Sam Burgess, happy and at the Club

    • Anonymous says:

      Inglis is definitely on big money starting this year.  When he first signed with Souths, it was reported that his contract was backended with the payout this year.  I think he's on more than $1M from next year.  They afford it because their other Test backs are King (years past his best) and Goodwin (let go by his last club) so low prices all around.

      Burgess was on medium dollars (for rugby league) including this year, and I expect still so under the increased salary cap next year, though that still means a raise for him.  Forwards just aren't worth as much.