From The Couch: Round 9

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on May 10, 2011

Another Coup from the Parramatta Recruiting Team: If you are washed up, not much good, on the outs, injury prone or after a deal triple your worth, be sure to contact the Parramatta recruitment team though the likelihood is, they have probably already contacted you. Paul Osborne has a sixth sense for The Dud.

If there was an award given to a collection of people who are the worst at their job in Australia, then those in charge of Parramatta’s recruitment and retention would have gold trophies stacked to the ceiling and quite possibly a note from the Queen.

Following on from what can only be called The Justin Poore Catastrophe, the wonderful signings of Jordan Atkins, Paul Whatuira, Chris Hicks, Chris Walker, Carl Webb and Reni Maitua, the loss of Kris Keating, the force-out of Nathan Cayless and the missed signatures of, among others, Cooper Cronk, Quade Cooper and Adam Blair, the club has decided to pay inaugural Willie M Medal winner Chris Sandow $550,000 a season.

Shane Richardson was right: Chris Sandow has found his Alan Bond and he would be a total and utter moron not to have taken the cash.

Sandow is now one of the two best paid players at Parramatta and is in the top-ten paid players in the game.

Not bad for a player who ranks below Johnathan Thurston, Scott Prince, Cooper Cronk, Mitchell Pearce, Jarrod Mullen, Trent Hodkinson, Peter Wallace and perhaps even Robert Lui in the list of halfbacks.

Let’s take a look at the numbers for these two anonymous players:

Player A

28 years old, 59 games, 9 tries, a win-rate of 44.07%, four finals appearances, one Grand Final appearance.

2011: 3 tries, 1 try assist, 198 tackles, 16 missed, 11 errors.

2008-11: 55 games, 9 tries, 12 try assists, 41 tackle breaks, 24 errors, 8 linebreaks, 1375 tackles, 129 missed (miss rate: 8.9%), 28.09 metres/kick

Player B

22 years old, 68 games, 18 tries, a win-rate of 47.06%, zero finals appearances, zero Grand Final appearances.

2011: 5 tries, 3 try assists, 104 tackles, 34 missed, 6 errors.

2008-11: 68 games, 18 tries, 35 try assists, 120 tackle breaks, 72 errors, 15 linebreaks, 1114 tackles, 443 missed (miss rate: 28.5%), 29.98 metres/kick

The second player seems to be marginally more potent but far more error prone and a far worse defender. He has a little more upside but also plenty more down.

The second player is, of course, Chris Sandow. The first is current Eels halfback Jeff Robson. He is thought to be on no more than $160,000 and that is probably skewing high.

Paying over three times more for Sandow when you already have Robson seems insanity as the entrée, main course and dessert. How much were they prepared to offer Cooper Cronk? $2 million a year?

There is no doubt Chris Sandow has played well this year. It is a contract year so that comes as no surprise. Most players who aren’t called John Sutton tend to lift when the cash is on the line. He has been, indisputably, one of South Sydney’s best. He also has a fairly long record of being ordinary for a club that should be better. The Rabbitohs failed on his back last year because he was so poor. Despite the talent at the club, Chris Sandow has never been able to lift the Bunnies to a finals appearance. He pumps his fist when he looks set to score a try yet goes missing when games are there to be won.

Parramatta have made a monumental mistake in signing Chris Sandow to a long and expensive deal, one that will seal Parramatta’s fate as a miserable excuse for a rugby league team for many years to come. The Eels have panicked and will now pay the price. I can only hope Paul Osborne remains Parramatta chief executive for many more years to come. He brings me so much joy.  

Looking at Origin, Part II: Two weeks back, I broke down the story of the New South Wales backs, looking at who I thought would play for the Blues this year and who I thought should. I was plumping for Michael Gordon or Nathan Gardner at fullback but with Josh Dugan finding form, he deserves the jumper. Gordon and Morris should be certainties on a wing while I think Gasnier has the right centre berth now Jamie Lyon has opted out. Josh Morris is ahead in the race for left centre but I have a bad feeling Jamal Idris is about to be swapped over. Jamie Soward and Mitchell Pearce should be certainties in the halves.

Now to the forward pack and the bench, where I’ll look at who should be picked and who will be.

Backrow: The one certainty for the Blues is Paul Gallen. And deservedly so. He has matured over the last few years and is favourite to win the captaincy. He is a moral for the lock forward position.

That leaves two starting positions and either one or two bench spots to be fought out between over a dozen players including Dragons duo Ben Creagh and Beau Scott, Newcastle’s Chris Houston, Manly’s Glenn Stewart and Anthony Watmough, Gold Coast’s Greg Bird and Mark Minichiello, Wests Tigers’ triumvirate Liam Fulton, Chris Heighington and Simon Dwyer, Parramatta’s Nathan Hindmarsh, Canberra’s Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Penrith’s Trent Waterhouse.

Luke Lewis will come into calculations later in the series when healthy while Anthony Laffranchi, who should be in the mix, is unlikely to be thought of while injured and he does seem to have had his card marked.

Anthony Watmough has burnt too many bridges and is no hope. Liam Fulton, Glenn Stewart, Mark Minchiello and Trent Waterhouse are all deserved long odds while Nathan Hindmarsh and Chris Heighington are little chance despite the fact both should play. New South Wales need a tackler in the Dallas Johnson/Ashley Harrison mould and Hindmarsh is that man. But Hindmarsh has seemingly been put out to pasture by the moronic selectors who blamed him for the game two thumping last year. Chris Heighington is a better Greg Bird than Greg Bird, a bench forward who can have an impact with his aggression and fierce running. He has deserved a chance for so long and hopefully an opportunity arises for him under Ricky Stuart.

Hopefully Tom Learoyd-Lahrs plays no role in the series. He is unlikely to be fit for the opening game but is going so bad he should be playing for Souths Logan, not New South Wales.

Greg Bird is another who shouldn’t play but almost certainly will thanks to Ricky Stuart and the selectors’ love for him. They are like teenage boys looking at a copy of Penthouse. Bird is error prone, poor defensively and in horrible form. He shouldn’t play. But he will because, as those who know nothing of rugby league and are bound by some rigid dogma will say, “he is an Origin type player”.

Ben Creagh is a certainty and New South Wales need one hard running fringe popper and that is Creagh. He played well for Australia and will certainly be chosen. The other starting spot will go to either Chris Houston or Beau Scott. Both have claims though Scott’s reputation has sky-rocketed for reasons unknown to me as he seems like no more than a fair player. If selectors do plump for Soward and Gasnier, they may go with Scott just to keep the Dragons right side combination together. Houston is a better player though. He is lankier and is always a chance to pop the ball. He is also more likely to worry Queensland ball-runners.

Simon Dwyer shapes as the bolter. He is playing wonderfully for the Tigers and was given 80 minutes for City, such was his form. And Lord knows, these morons love a bolter. At least Dwyer can play.

So I would run with Gallen, Creagh and Hindmarsh with Houston and Heighington on the bench.

Selectors though, they will go with Gallen, Creagh and Scott with Bird and maybe Dwyer on the bench, leaving New South Wales short of defensive starch for mine.

Prop: All prop positions are wide open with Kade Snowden, Michael Weyman, Aiden Tolman, Jason King, Tim Mannah and Trent Merrin favoured ahead of possibilities Keith Galloway, Luke Bailey (who may come out of representative retirement if asked), Luke Douglas, Tim Grant and Dan Hunt.

If Jason King gets selected, just back Queensland. He is a fringe first grader and his selection last year was a joke, one of the worst blunders from a selection panel renowned for their acts of stupidity.

Kade Snowden is probably the only player you can pen in. He is coming off a Test match performance and continues to battle well for a losing team.

Tim Mannah did a solid job last year and is another battling very well on a losing outfit. He can bend the line.

Aiden Tolman deserves a call-up. He has been the form prop of the NRL for the Bulldogs, a bustling bookend who can play big minutes of heavy defending and constant pounding.

Tolman will likely be pipped though by Trent Merrin. Merrin is loved by selectors, particularly Bob Fulton. Merrin is a player of the future but is maybe a step off at the moment.

If Weyman returns to fitness and form, perhaps he takes a bench spot from a second-rower.

I think Snowden and Tolman should start with Mannah and perhaps Weyman on the bench.

They will play Snowden, Mannah, Merrin and quite possibly King.

Hooker: This is now officially a four-horse race with Ryan Hinchcliffe turning in a man-of-the-match performance for Country. He is now right in the mix with Robbie Farah, Michael Ennis and Dean Young.

I get the impression Mick Ennis is one of the favourites. He shouldn’t be. He is too ill disciplined and he does not realise the limitations of his own attack. Ennis works hard but is not much of a team man and should be the last of the four chosen.

I have always preferred Robbie Farah to Ennis but he has had a line put through his name. Farah offers more versatility and matches Ennis in work ethic but he is injured. With no Gidley, he should be considered for a bench role but I think he is on the outs and I don’t know that he has done enough this year while playing under a serious groin injury.

That leaves Dean Young and Ryan Hinchcliffe. Both are very similar in style. Both work hard, both are almost totally selfless, both are stoic defenders and both are extraordinary club men. Where Hinchcliffe gets the nod is form and a better pass out of dummy half. Young has had a limited season due to injury and his weakness at hooker has always been his pass. Hinchcliffe has burst onto the scene, has been outstanding for well over a year now and is sharp when given the dummy half role.

With Gidley unlikely to be available, I think Hinchcliffe should start and Young off the pine though I fancy a Young/Ennis double will be selected because Blues’ selectors love a high profile player and regularly disregard players like Hinchcliffe. Just think Alan Tongue and the horrid treatment he copped at the hands of Bob McCarthy’s team of fools.

Bench: The utility spot will either go to a hooker/backrower or a centre/backrower with Kurt Gidley out hurt. I think Dean Young should get the nod and it will either be him or Jamal Idris.

Selectors must then decide on a combination of prop forwards and backrowers. I am going with a backrower, a prop and a combination player. That would be Chris Heighington, Tim Mannah and Chris Houston. Mannah and Houston should be there but Merrin and Bird will also likely be in the team somewhere.

Tedeschi’s NSW Team                                               Likely NSW Team                             

1. J.Dugan                                                                   1. J.Hayne

2. M.Gordon                                                               2. A.Uate

3. J.Morris                                                                  3. J.Idris

4. M.Gasnier                                                               4. M.Gasnier

5. B.Morris                                                                 5. B.Morris

6. J.Soward                                                                 6. J.Mullen

7. M.Pearce                                                                 7. M.Pearce

13. P.Gallen ©                                                            13. P.Gallen ©

12. B.Creagh                                                              12. B.Creagh

11. N.Hindmarsh                                                        11. B.Scott

10. A.Tolman                                                              10. J.King

9. R.Hinchcliffe                                                           9. M.Ennis

8. K.Snowden                                                             8. K.Snowden


14. D.Young                                                                14. D.Young

15. C.Houston                                                            15. C.Houston/T.Mannah

16. C.Heighington                                                       16. G.Bird

17. T.Mannah                                                             17. T.Merrin

Why We Must Keep City-Country: When the argument comes up next year and the year after and the year after, as it inevitably will, about the viability of the City-Country match, the response should be swift and simple: Ryan Hinchcliffe.

Ryan Hinchcliffe is the reason City-Country is played, the reason it must survive, the reason there is beauty in the often ugly and shunned scene.

An unremarkable player who left Canberra for the Storm because, despite realising there would be fewer opportunities, he wanted to get better. Hinchcliffe has never been thought of as a representative player. For most of his time in first grade, he has been a fringe first grader, someone who cannot even play his preferred position for his team.

Yet at the Storm, he has learnt. Learnt from Cameron Smith and Craig Bellamy and in the most trying of circumstances against an all-star field, won Storm player of the year honours in 2010.

Even still, he was just a player. That was until he got called up as a late replacement for Michael Ennis in the Country team and then turned in a man-of-the-match performance, throwing himself right into Origin calculations as selectors ponder the New South Wales hooking role.

It is a wonderful tale and exactly the reason City-Country should be played. It provides a platform for forgotten players to show their wares, a match that allows quality to be tried against quality.

There is much that can be done to improve the match. Better scheduling, better venue selection, a greater respect for winning, the introduction of City and Country Seconds.

But scrapping the match is something that should be forgotten forever.

Congratulations, Brett Stewart: Brett Stewart became only the 51st player in Australian rugby league and the 3rd Manly player to score 100 first grade tries when he scored his second try on Monday night. He did so with a three-try haul in only his 10th game of the last three seasons, Stewart sidelined by two serious knee injuries, hamstring troubles and the infamous sex assault charge related suspension.

Once upon a time, it seemed like Stewart scored every other day and twice on Sundays, a regular try enthusiast who was never far away from his next. There were few prettier sights in rugby league.

Stewart is one of the great tryscorers, scoring at an amazing rate of 0.828 tries per match. The livewire Manly custodian scored at least 14 tries every year between 2004 and 2008 and was central to Manly's success over the middle part of the decade.

Luck has abandoned him lately. Let's hope his hat-trick is a sign that his fortunes are changing, that he will be a regular on the field and that he plays enough games to chase down rugby league's great tryscorers Terry Lamb, Andrew Ettingshausen, Steve Menzies and even Ken Irvine.

The Brad Fittler Words of Wisdom: "You're not going to get to Queensland and just roll through them," he said.

"You've got to get there and play footy."

Well, you can’t argue with Freddy’s logic there. Taking on Queensland at draughts or coconut splitting won’t achieve much. When are we going to get The Midnight Rider into the Origin coaching job or even the Test?

Des Hasler's Magnificent Head of Hair: I was at the wedding of my good pal and fellow Making The Nut columnist Tim Napper and we spent much of the night arguing about who has a better head of hair, culminating in a final slanging match at the urinal after a few too many whiskeys. We both do alright in the hair stakes but we both may as well be the bastard children of Larry David and Sinead O'Connor in comparison to Des Hasler.

Like a proud lion, Hasler's head of hair is magnificent, a flowing mane worthy of not only its own television show but its own postcode. It is spectacular, wild and free, full and thick, masculine and crazed genius. Des Hasler has the most wonderful head of hair rugby league has ever known. 

Injury Update: There were only four club games and a couple of rep fixtures but there were some big name injuries with the Dragons seemingly copping the worst of it.

Luke Bailey (Gold Coast): Missed the Warriors game after failing a late fitness test on his injured neck. Has declared himself a certain starter this week but neck injuries are always worrying.

Scott Bolton (North Queensland): Got busted up pretty good but won’t miss any time.

Beau Champion (Melbourne): Dislocated his shoulder badly in City-Country and will miss at least four weeks, maybe longer. Craig Bellamy should look to Justin O’Neill but it seems that Mo Blair is going to get his chance.

Nathan Fien (St George-Illawarra): Has hurt his hamstring but it isn’t serious and he will play against Canterbury.

Mark Gasnier (St George-Illawarra): Rolled an ankle late in the win over North Queensland. Played out the game but was clearly in pain. There is a concern he could miss the first Origin though will likely play beforehand.

Bronx Goodwin (St George-Illawarra): Did his ACL in his first NRL game of the season and will miss the remainder of the year, hurting the Dragons’ depth during Origin as he was earmarked to play fullback while Darius Boyd and Jamie Soward played Origin.

Greg Inglis (South Sydney): Damaged his hip early in the Test and was replaced after only 20 minutes, unable to return. It is the same hip he had offseason surgery on and he looks likely to miss a number of weeks though is hoping to play against the Wests Tigers this Saturday.

Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Canberra): Fractured his cheekbone and his eye socket playing for Country in what looks a serious injury. He is unlikely to be seen for at least six weeks. He should have been on the cusp of getting dropped so he isn’t a big loss for the Raiders.

Jason Nightingale (St George-Illawarra): Took a knock in the Test and missed the Cowboys game but will be right to take on the Bulldogs.

Sam Rapira (New Zealand): Broke his thumb in the first tackle of the Test and lasted only three minutes. He will miss at least six weeks, leaving Russell Packer to return to more regular first grade playing time.

Jamie Soward (St George-Illawarra): Hurt his groin playing for Country and missed the Dragons match on Sunday. His thumb seems to be fine but he could miss another week with the groin concern that is thought to only be a twinge rather than a tear.

Kyle Stanley (St George-Illawarra): Had a magnificent game at five-eighth, showing class beyond his years, before Peni Tagive landed on his ankle, aggravating an old injury that will sideline him for at least two weeks, causing Wayne Bennett some headaches if both Soward and Boyd don’t come up.

Bye Bye Beau Beau: It is a dreadful shame that Beau Champion has not been able to settle in Melbourne. His expected move north to the Gold Coast or even Canterbury certainly won’t bring with it the development that could turn him into one of Australia’s top centres, as he would have had in Melbourne.

Champion has all the tools. He is a hard runner and a heavy hitter, a centre who runs good lines with speed and commitment, a fine ball handler and a smart player. His major obstacles at the moment are his rawness and his need to play outside a good ball-player to get into matches.

Under Craig Bellamy, Champion would have become the all-round centre he has the potential to become. He would play outside champion playmakers Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater and he would have been on his way to the next level.

Returning north, he may think he is making himself happier but it is a decision I dare say he will regret.

This is not a criticism of Champion. It is hard to be away from home, he was thrown into the Melbourne situation thanks to a chain of events that weren’t his doing and he clearly doesn’t dig the Melbourne way of life. He has not been duplicitous, he has not whored himself out and he has not given anything but his best at Melbourne.

I just think he has the potential for great things and I cannot help but feel a tinge of disappointment that Champion has decided not to stick it out in Melbourne and do what is best for his career and professional development.

The Willie M Medal: The judge for the Gold Coast-New Zealand game noted that Preston Campbell’s game was “Orfordesque” and that it may well have been the worst showing of the season. Preston Campbell is reportedly tossing about the idea of playing on. Perhaps it isn’t such a great idea Presto. You have made a wonderful contribution to the game, particularly for aboriginals and small fellas, but time waits for no man and he has come looking for you.

In other news, Matt Orford’s performance was similarly “Orfordesque,” meaning the Canberra No.7 has extended his lead in the Chase for Mediocrity.

Australia v New Zealand

3-Lance Hohaia (NZ)

2-Sam Thaiday (Aus)

1-Shaun Kenny-Dowall (NZ)

Country v City

3-Josh Morris (Cou)

2-Nathan Merritt (Cit)

1-Tim Moltzen (Cou)

Brisbane v Melbourne

3-Jack Reed (Bri)

2-Kevin Proctor (Mel)

1-Alex Glenn (Bri)

Gold Coast v New Zealand

3-Preston Campbell (GC)

2-Ashley Harrison (GC)

1-William Zillman (GC)

St George-Illawarra v North Queensland

3-Tariq Sims (NQ)

2-Mick Weyman (Dra)

1-Johnathan Thurston (NQ)

Manly v Canberra

3-Matt Orford (Can)

2-Alan Tongue (Can)

1-Bronson Harrison (Can)


14: Matt Orford (Can)

10: Michael Jennings (Pen), Jarrod Mullen (New)

9: Blake Ferguson (Can)

8: Feleti Mateo (NZ)

7: Lachlan Coote (Pen), Jarrod Croker (Can), Wade Graham (Cro), Matt Wright (Cro)

Round 9 Judges Panel: Nick Tedeschi, Matt Fisk, Rohan Kendall, Cliff Bingham, Brett Oaten (Fired Up)

Fun Fact #1: Julia Gillard may be an unabashed fan of the game many believe resembles a flock of seagulls fighting over a chip but many who have filled Australia’s highest office were devotees of The Great Game, rugby league. Here is a selection of Australia’s rugby league loving PM’s.

Chris Watson: Australia’s 3rd Prime Minister and first Labor PM anywhere in the world was South Sydney’s first club patron. A good effort from someone born in Chile.  

Billy Hughes: A giant of Australian politics who served as both a Labor and Nationalist Prime Minister, Hughes was the founding club patron of Glebe, a devoted “Dirty Red” until they were expelled from the competition in 1929.

Earl Page: Page helped form rugby league in the Clarence River and, rugby league historian Sean Fagan notes, “as Australia's 'Minister for Commerce' in London in 1936 he accepted an invitation from the RFL to attend the Challenge Cup final at Wembley between Leeds and Warrington.”

Ben Chifley: Played rugby union and league in Bathurst, playing alongside dual international George Anlezark.

Arch Fadden: A Country Party PM for 40 days, Fadden was an instrumental figure in bringing rugby league to North Queensland.

Bob Hawke: From Australian Rules country, Hawke developed an affection for the Canberra Raiders during his time at the Lodge. He once famously won a bet of Canterbury ALP figure Leo McLeay, taking 2-1 about Canberra against the Dogs in ’91 when the Raiders came back from 16-8 down in the final ten minutes.

Paul Keating: A Bankstown boy who claimed to be a Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs fan though later life has shown more of an interest in antique clocks.

John Howard: A St George fan since he was a boy, Howard was a regular on Grand Final day and nearly always presented the Dally M Medal when in office.

Kevin Rudd: Nominally a Brisbane Broncos fan and a cringeworthy one at that.

Power Rankings:

1. St George-Illawarra (8-1) LW:1, R:1-3

2. Brisbane (7-2) LW:2, R:2-14

3. Melbourne (7-2) LW:3, R:1-4

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

5. Wests Tigers (4-4) LW:6, R:3-8

6. Manly (6-3) LW:9, R:6-13

7. New Zealand (5-4) LW:7, R:7-14

8. North Queensland (6-3) LW:5, R:5-16

9. Newcastle (4-4) LW:8, R:5-9

10. South Sydney (3-5) LW:10, R:8-11

11. Gold Coast (3-6) LW:11, R:9-15

12. Sydney Roosters (2-6) LW:11, R:5-12

13. Cronulla (2-6) LW:12, R:10-16

14. Parramatta (3-5) LW:14, R:8-16

15. Penrith (2-6) LW:15, R:10-16

16. Canberra (1-8) LW:16, R:8-16

LW: Last Week

R: Range

Round 10 Selection Notes:

Canterbury: Jake Foster comes in for the injured Grant Millington, a certain upgrade. Greg Eastwood, who was ruled out of the Test with a fitness worry, has been named.

St George-Illawarra: Despite suffering a host of injuries last week, the Dragons are at near capacity with only Mark Gasnier ruled out. Kyle Stanley will play centre if he passes a fitness test, which would seem unlikely. Darius Boyd returns at fullback. Expect Beau Scott to shift to right centre in Gasnier's absence.

Penrith: Michael Jennings is out hurt, ruling him out of Origin one would suspect. Adrian Purtell, of course, comes into the three-quarter line. Luke Lewis is a big return at lock while Nathan Smith is a chance of playing his first match of the season.

Brisbane: The Broncos array of Test stars return though Justin Hodges is in some doubt with the flu. Ben Hunt has undergone surgery so Corey Norman will play the bench utility role for at least a month.

Melbourne: Mo Blair looks set to be the permanent replacement for Beau Champion, who is out with a shoulder injury. Adam Woolnough is playing outstanding rugby league off the bench in limited minutes at present.

Canberra: Josh Dugan is the only inclusion though the Raiders played Monday night and David Furner has no bottle so no changes were expected. Dugan should play but has a boil under his arm and is no certainty to start.

South Sydney: Oh my. Not only are Souths without half their forward pack and Greg Inglis, Rhys Wesser has been recalled, pushing James Roberts to the wing. Shaune Corrigan will make his 6th NRL appearance in the centres. Shannan McPherson moves to prop. The Bunnies are without a prop on the bench.

Wests Tigers: Still no Gareth Ellis and the naming of Beau Ryan on the bench is worrying. Tim Moltzen in the centres also doesn't inspire confidence.

North Queensland: Glenn Hall returns but not much else going on in Townsville other than the fact Michael Bani is deservedly rotting away in the Queensland Cup.

Parramatta: Jarryd Hayne returns after suspension, meaning Luke Burt moves to the wing and Etu Uaisele is out. The halves and the forward pack remain horrible.

Newcastle: Kurt Gidley is still out so Tyrone Roberts will make his run on debut at five-eighth. Shannon McDonnell retains the No.1 jersey. Issac De Gois has been named on the bench and may return. Astonishingly, amazingly, unbelievably…Adam MacDougall is out. Zeb Taia may not play again this year after undergoing spinal surgery.

New Zealand: The promising Russell Packer comes into the starting team for the injured Sam Rapira and should see more minutes. Lance Hohaia has been dropped to the bench with Kevin Locke set to play fullback in what looks a good move.

Cronulla: Sharks fans will be excited to see promising winger Stewart Mills make his first grade debut; it is a shame he has to play outside Tim Smith. Isaac Gordon has been named at fullback with Nathan Gardner still hurt.

Sydney Roosters: Brian Smith has snuck Todd Carney back into the team, hoping he will solve the club's woes. He won't and I doubt Brian Smith will be at the club come the end of 2012. Steve Naughton has been named to make his debut on the wing ahead of the disappointing Justin Carney. Kane Linnett returns in the centres. Jason Ryles has a Kirk Reynoldson like "games-played" option trigger in his contract: he has not been named.

Gold Coast: Hey Carty, maybe try swinging the axe. No changes to the Titans team other than the return of Luke Bailey, who is again in doubt with a neck injury.

Manly: Played Monday night, no changes. Brett Stewart was magnificent and should play the entire match against the Titans at fullback.

Rumour Mill: Nothing quite gets the rumour mill going like a vacant coaching position and that is the case at Penrith. In the last week, the rumour mill has buzzed with absolute confidence that Ricky Stuart has been offered the job, Phil Gould has been offered the job of coaching director above Steve Georgallis, Brad Fittler was courted, Royce Simmons was courted and Daniel Anderson is now favourite. I doubt even the Penrith board know where they are at. Canterbury are closer to signing William Hopoate with a regular spot in the Bulldogs centres and a massive contract both exciting him. Kade Snowden is set to leave Cronulla, frustrated over the lack of progress the Sharks have made in dealing with him, a legacy of having no chief executive. The Sharks will now have lost two of their best three players. The hot mail is that Danny Buderus will make a triumphant return to Newcastle next season. Nathan Tinkler is pulling out all the moves and Buderus is believed to be very interested in playing under Wayne Bennett. Forwards tend to return okay from England so Buderus should be up to the class. Buderus’s return could see Issac De Gois return to Cronulla, who are throwing big money at nearly anyone including Bryce Gibbs, Ben Ross, Justin Poore, Trent Waterhouse and Liam Fulton. Nate Myles will be at the Gold Coast next year and he may be joined by Anthony Minichiello, who, if punted by the Roosters, has desires to play with his brother.

Betting Market of the Week: Penrith to chase as their next coach:

A former Penrith coach or player:                 $1.70

A failed former Penrith coach or player:        $1.30

The best available candidate:                      $501.00

What I Like About…Lewis Brown: Brown is everything you want in a footballer. He is tough, uncompromising, skilful, versatile, fast, strong and smart. He made his Test debut on Friday night and laid on a try before scoring one and laying on another against the Titans. He will play many more Test matches and is a player the Warriors should build around. He is going to be their best player within three years.

From Deep in the Bowels of Twitter: Jamal Idris keeps his television viewing high brow: “Mercedes just rocked my socks of on glee omg shivers down my spine reminds me of Randy Crawford” [Note, spelling incorrect nearly all the way through!]

Bryce Gibbs has a heartfelt Mother’s Day wish for his wife: “happy mothers day to my wife, your in the top 5 mothers our kids have had!!”

Obscure Score of the Week: City Firsts-Country Firsts, 34-35, first ever City-Country match, 1928. The City boys fielded a star studded lineup including Benny Wearing, Ernie Lapham and George Treweek but despite scoring eight tries to seven, couldn’t secure the win after Country kicker Hughes didn’t miss as Wearing and John McIntyre struggled for City.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: It came as a great surprise that Cronulla centre Ben Pomeroy did not get selected for City Origin on Friday night, particularly after Adam Cuthbertson got given the nod. Despite being unable to catch, The Special Needs Penguin played in three straight City-Country fixtures between 2007 and 2009, never losing and even scoring a try. If there is an argument against City-Country, it is that City can be so short on talent that someone like Ben Pomeroy can regularly earn a start.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 9: Brisbane-Melbourne, 22-29. For mine, Cooper Cronk is the Terry Lamb of his generation and there was no better example of that than on Saturday night where the little Storm warrior stood mighty tall to get Melbourne over the line. Cronk has a competitiveness rivalled by few in the NRL and when the two points were on the line, Cronk found his way over for a try and slotted the draw-busting field goal only 24 hours after playing in the Test. The Broncos-Storm affair may have been missing much of its star power but the game was a thrilling and high quality affair deserving of the Game of the Week honours.

Coaching Stocks:

5: Wayne Bennett: Tremendous effort to win with so many playmakers sidelined.

4.5: Craig Bellamy: He has three stars to work with but he always has them full of desire.

4.5: Anthony Griffin: Without their biggest names, they took the Storm to the death.

4: Tim Sheens: Bye

4: Ivan Cleary: Warriors are well on track with another win in Australia.

4: Des Hasler: Thrilled with Brett Stewart's return and knows Manly will beat bad teams.

3.5: Rick Stone: Bye

3.5: Kevin Moore: Bye

1.5: John Cartwright: Another disappointing performance at home as Titans season fades.

1.5: Neil Henry: No shame in losing to the Dragons but didn’t offer a lot with stars out.

1.5: Stephen Kearney: Bye

1: Brian Smith: Bye

0: Shane Flanagan: Bye

0: John Lang: Bye

-2.5: Matt Elliott: Bye

-6: David Furner: Another listless, lifeless, thoughtless, directionless Raiders effort.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. Brett Stewart (Man)

2. Anthony Quinn (Mel)

3. Mark Gasnier (Dra)

4. Lewis Brown (NZ)

5. David Mead (GC)

6. James Maloney (NZ)

7. Johnathan Thurston (NQ)

13. Corey Parker (Bri)

12. Elijah Taylor (NZ)

11. Dean Young (Dra)

10. Adam Woolnough (Mel)

9. Cameron Smith (Mel)

8. Ashton Sims (NQ)

14. Bodene Thompson (GC)

15. Simon Mannering (NZ)

16. Kyle Stanley (Dra)

17. Jamie Lyon (Man)

Waiver Wire Advice: Brisbane Broncos centre Jack Reed is super value at $149,800 and is the perfect player to have as a backup/fourth starter at his price. Reed is a certain starter for the rest of the season considering his current form and his upside and he could play more of a role throughout the next few months with many of his teammates set to play Origin. He is averaging 32.6 but has upside and as his confidence develops he will get more involved. Get on him before he shoots up in price.

Correspondence Corner: On Twitter, Dave Macalpine and NewKnight123 were both very kind in their words. Thank you to both of you. Keep on readin’.

Michael, yep, Michael Lett was appalling and I duly awarded him the three Willie M votes. One horrible game doesn’t make a bad player but a few more of those and Junior Tia-Kilifi or Jonathan Wright may get a chance.

Dragons68, I don’t do the votes for every game and the judge in the Parra game didn’t think Reddy worthy. I agree with you re: Channel Nine; I will be thrilled with any station but Nine, a network that has attempted to sodomise rugby league at every opportunity over the last two decades. In regards the negotiations, it is all being delayed while this independent commission business takes place. And really, the game has to wait to make sure we get maximum value. Hopefully it won’t be too far away.

Rocky, yes mate, putting Utai in the Fantasy Team of the Week hurt but the numbers don’t lie and he scored very well.

Redman, glad you agree with my assessment of Furner and the Raiders. I was a season ticket holder for many years when I lived in Canberra and have a soft spot for the club and wish them nothing but the best. That is why it pains me to see the club in such a state of disrepair. It is a shame many of their fans choose not to look at the obvious reasons for their failures.

In regards John Sutton, well, the rest of the NRL is better off. And at least somebody said yes to Russell Crowe.

There is no doubt the Bulldogs are very much a buying club these days. The only local junior in the team is Corey Payne. I don’t think that means there is no pride in the jersey anymore though. Todd Greenberg and the team are trying to win a premiership and they are going about it the best way possible. For a long time, juniors have not been coming through. I would rather have a team that can win a title and that is what the Bulldogs have. That is why I cannot very well be critical of someone like Jamal Idris leaving when we have gone and picked up a player like Trent Hodkinson.

Thanks for the kind words Doubter. I’ll do my best to get you to a game! Roberts to Cronulla actually would be beneficial. Relative to Tim Smith, Ben Roberts is Darren Lockyer.

Warriors_Fan (and I think there may be two of you writing), thanks for the ideas. I think the Dogs books will be just fine with Hoppa considering Idris just left. I don’t think there is anyone on huge money at the club. In regards my eyesight, I’m already a VIP at OPSM. There is no doubt Inu can sniff a try but his general lack of interest and failure to commit surely have to be brought into question. At least twice against Penrith he shirked the task and he did very little against the Gold Coast outside of drop the ball.

Nick, good luck to you having a Bulldogs bird. Half your luck, boss. Fantastic insight into Goodwin’s kicking. I can’t argue with her assessment. I’m not so sure about his form in 2009 though. He certainly was solid: he got over the line and he rarely made an error. But he doesn’t really have the tools to be a quality NRL winger and when his assets fail him (kicking, safe hands) then he can’t be given much leeway.

Dogs, I’m sorry you find my criticism of Ben Roberts “boring”. Perhaps skip over the next few sentences if you don’t wish to read any more. The key elements of the left-hand side in 2009 were Ennis (from dummy half, he was strongest working right to left), Ryan and primarily Josh Morris. Roberts had his moments. And I have no agenda other than the fact I want to see Canterbury win, each and every week. Ben Roberts may well be a lovely bloke and I hope he is but it doesn’t take away from the fact that, in my opinion, the negative of his brain snaps far outweigh the positives of his ball running.

I think the Dogs halves are going just fine as well thanks Dogs. Kris Keating is going very well and Trent Hodkinson is playing outstanding rugby league. Whatever our disagreements though, we both want what is best for the Dogs so there is no need to suggest I would be chuffed with anything but a Canterbury premiership, something that is patently false.

And on Ben Roberts, unless he gets recalled to first grade, this will be the last I say of him for a while. This constant back-and-forth is tiresome. Some of you like him. Others, including myself, don’t. So let’s just agree to disagree while he is out of the way playing in the NSW Cup.

Beard Watch: Do yourself a favour and get last week’s edition of Rugby League Week, go to the poster in the middle and angle straight for David Stagg. Just trust me on this one. If you are a male, you may feel sensations you have never felt before for a man while females, well, don’t all leave your husbands in pursuit of The Stagg. There is only so much Stagg to go around.

Watch It: City-Country has not always been the domain of New South Wales with Queensland, once upon a time, also staging the annual interstate trial. This time we go back to 1978, where Country get their first win in six years. Some fine players are running around including John Lang, Kerry Boustead, John Grant and Greg Vievers. Beware though: we only get highlights of the first 55 or 60 minutes here. Watch the videos here and here.

Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images AsiaPac

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  1. markmcgrath says:


    Re Rugby League loving PM's…although not a PM, an honourable mention should be given to H V Evatt, who was instrumental in getting Sydney University into the NSWRL competition in 1920. No mean feat given that Sydney Uni would have been even a bigger rah rah stronghold than it is today.

    • Nick Tedeschi says:

      Yep, the Doc loved his league…he was quite a decent player as well by all reports. My understanding is that he was a Balmain fan in later life when Uni went by the wayside. His older brother Clive actually played for them.