From The Couch: Summer Special

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on January 9, 2013

1. David Who?
It took longer than it should of and the result was the NRL will again be run by someone called David and for the second time in the last 15 years, a Welshman of that name.  It was an inauspicious start for the new boss, who failed to convince anyone he knows anything about rugby league, unable to identify either Johnathan Thurston or Cameron Smith. While it is certainly not a bad thing that the ARLC went outside the code to find a new CEO, it was a poor reflection on both Smith and the Commission that he was not properly briefed on the game as it was inevitable any outsider would be quizzed hard. He will be the man to run the business while John Grant will look after the direction of the game but Smith has a lot to prove when he takes up the post in February.

2. Shoulder Charge Ban a Slap in the Face
The sneaky way the NRL decided to ban the shoulder charge did little but prove those who made the decision knew it was both wrong and unpopular. Hiding behind a cloak of player safety (an issue which diminishes in relevance when it comes to introducing a proper reserve grade or shortening the season), the NRL put an end to one of the most spectacular elements of rugby league. This was a decision that simply wasn't necessary. Rules already exist preventing hits to the head of an opponent. If there was a legitimate worry, simply instruct the judiciary to come down heavier. This is not rugby union. It is league. And it should be preserved. The only positive to come out of this decision is the likelihood that Sonny Bill Williams will spend half the season suspended.

3. Bye Bye Billy
What a tremendous day it was for rugby league when Bill Harrigan was axed as referees boss and replaced by ex-Warriors and Parramatta coach Daniel Anderson. Harrigan's arrogance eventually cost him his job after a season of unprecedented controversy. In the end, after much public outrage, it was decided that the referees system would be blown up with Anderson to lead it into a new era. He is a tremendous appointment. He is a real thinker and one who won't let his ego significantly undermine the game as his predecessors did.

4. Benefit of the Doubt Buried
Daniel Anderson proved straight away that he was the right man for the position when he successfully pushed for the death of the dreaded benefit of the doubt rule. Further, referees must now make a decision on the field before referring any call to the video official. Anderson must read From The Couch. Refereeing will be better next year. Interpretations will be less confusing, officials will have more confidence. This rule change has been the highlight of the offseason.

5. Izzy a Grub? Damn Straight He's a Grub
The whole Israel Folau fiasco highlighted one thing: he is a money-hungry grub that deserves not a single favour from rugby league. Rarely do I feel much sympathy for Ricky Stuart or the Parramatta Eels but I did following the duplicitous behaviour of Folau, who used rugby league to escape a code he had failed miserably at to sign a big deal with a third sport. Folau is a poor excuse for a role model, one who prizes the dollar more than honesty. Rugby league was slow out of the blocks but it was proven to be a sound decision not to bend the rules for someone of such poor character.

6. Axe Falls on Experienced Mentors
This offseason saw two of the three mentors to have coached 600-plus first grade games fired by their clubs with Brian Smith quickly dumped by the Sydney Roosters following a disappointing 2012 before Tim Sheens was shown the door at the Wests Tigers in controversial circumstances. Trent Robinson, a former Smith assistant, was a quick and interesting hire by the Roosters while Mick Potter was a smart decision by the Tigers. Sheens will remain in the game as the Australian coach while Smith has moved to rugby union as an assistant.

7. Princely Move
The Brisbane Broncos have well and truly put themselves into title contention this season by signing Gold Coast skipper Scott Prince. The Broncos simply had no playmaking last year. While Prince may have just a year or two left in the tank, he gives a talented Broncos team a chance at ending their longest premiership drought. The class lacking with Peter Wallace has now been injected.

8. Dumb Danny
It is unclear why Danny Buderus thought it would be okay to join the ACT Brumbies coaching staff while an NRL player but it was a humiliation for himself and the game when it was announced. The decorated Knights rake saw his appointment last less than an afternoon, however, with the NRL quick to come down hard. It was a foolish move and one that should serves as a lesson for any other player who thinks they can cash an NRL cheque without feeling any responsibility to the game. Buderus has served the game well and this was one slip-up but it was something that should never have even been considered. Rugby union has no place in rugby league.

9. No Longer Rusted On
The man who saved South Sydney announced in November that he was out, Russell Crowe set to sell his stake in the Bunnies as he goes through what appears to be a tough divorce with his wife. Crowe's loss will hurt the Bunnies. While his money was certainly appreciated at Redfern, it was his star power that helped lure players, staff and even fans to the club that has helped rejuvenate a team that has been on its knees for a long time. It doesn't appear to be a decision Crowe wanted to make. Hopefully he remains at the club in some official capacity.

10. The Best Laid Plans Go Awry at the Dragons
St George Illawarra were very much hoping to test their possible future halves combination of Kyle Stanley and Jamie Soward in 2013. That won't happen with Stanley ruled out for the season after further damaging the knee he ruptured an ACL in last year. Soward is in a contract year and will be devastated by the injury. The Dragons don't have the depth to adequately cover Stanley.

11. A Sound Investment
The NRL has made a smart investment in its own future by setting up an NRL Media unit in a similar vein to how the AFL set up AFL Media. The AFL has done a magnificent job with AFL Media, which has been so successful with its online content that it played a major role in the death of paywall plans from News Limited. The unit provides a large amount of unique content, breaks news stories and owns its video and photo libraries. The NRL has a long way to go to match this but at least is devoting resources to do so.

12. A Major League Play
St George Illawarra have made a mammoth play for Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy, an offer the Storm mentor appears to be seriously weighing up. Hopefully Bellamy does not leave. He is far too important to the Storm, who would collapse if the great coach left. Bellamy has nothing to prove. If anything, continuing the Storm dynasty will prove more than succeeding at the Dragons. There has arguably never been a better coach than Bellamy … and News Limited would be well advised to do everything in their power to give the coach all he wants to win his signature.

13. Tinkler's Woes
He was supposed to be the saviour of the Newcastle Knights but just over a year after he took over the club he is in a fight to stave off bankruptcy and pay off a large number of debts. While the staff and players at the Knights have remained calm, there is the very real possibility that Tinkler will be out by the end of 2013. With the Knights well in the race this year, Tinkler's financial woes could be the distraction that derails the season.

14. Sonny Bill Finally Signs
Well, it seems the Judas is back in the NRL, signed and sealed with the Roosters though certainly not back on the training paddock. He is either rehabbing an injury playing rugby against Mitsubishi employees in Japan or recovering from his mixed doubles partnership with Candice Falzon on the World Tennis Tour.  He should have been banned for life. Anyone who celebrates his return does not care for rugby league at all.

15. Sinfield Wins Golden Boot
Australians are very dismissive of the English game when they shouldn't be. While Super League lacks the depth of the NRL, there is some unquestioned talent at the top end. But to suggest Kevin Sinfield had a better year in 2012 than Ben Barba, Cooper Cronk, Greg Inglis or Billy Slater is absurd. The justification was more embarrassing: that he managed to kick goals when taking a head knock the Grand Final. The English players deserve recognition but to artificially inflate them only undermines the English game. Barba should have won the honour.

16. Bugger Off BJ
The Sydney Roosters, on both a moral and a practical level, did the right thing in sending overrated centre BJ Leilua packing. Leilua acted like a total grub last year when sending nude photos of his ex-girlfriend to her brother and was shockingly overrated on the field, where his poor handling and shocking defensive reads did little to help the Chooks. Wayne Bennett thinks he can save Leilua but even the great man may find him a step too hard.

17. Tom Everywhere
Rugby league fans had want to find a soft spot for Tom Waterhouse quickly because the game is about to see more of him than Billy Slater highlights following his coup in pinching the NRL betting partnership rights from the TAB and the Nine telecast spots from the TAB and Centrebet. Waterhouse has his face everywhere right now and he rubs plenty the wrong way. This is no knockabout  like Glenn Munsie. While the game has done well to win more money, it would not surprise if there was a pretty nasty backlash to the move.

18. Beau Knows Souths
South Sydney made a sneaky good play by landing former centre Beau Champion. Champion has been terrible for the last two seasons with Melbourne and the Gold Coast – blaming homesickness for his below-average form. He left Souths after a strong 2010 season though as part of the deal to lure Greg Inglis. He can hit the line hard and he fills one area of weakness for Souths. Expect a big showing.

19. What Are the Titans Thinking I
There was obviously plenty going on behind the scenes but at face value it made zero sense for the Titans cutting Scott Prince with a year remaining on his contract. The club certainly doesn't have salary cap issues based on the way it is tossing around cash to anybody who has ever worn a rep jersey. Now, they don't have a serious playmaker and almost no experience at 6,7 and 9. With perhaps the worse spine in the NRL, any chance of significant improvement in 2013 went with Prince.

20. What Are the Titans Thinking II
Having released Beau Champion, the Titans have reportedly made an offer verging on $1 million a season for Penrith centre Michael Jennings. That is the same Jennings who Penrith are desperate to be rid of and who has been hammered for his poor attitude and who was forced to hand out tickets to fans last year after arriving at training under the influence of alcohol and who was dropped to reserve grade for his lack of contribution. The Titans are not being built like a football team should – they are being built like a fantasy football team should.


Comments (6)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    very quick in bagging sbw but didnt hasler break a contract too.the way greenhorn and hasler went about it was a disgrace too.those in glass houses

  2. Anonymous says:

    What? No Beard Watch? No Willy Mason Pre season Cup Award?

    This strikes me as a shallow attempt at maintaining the ratings/cash-flow while not actually contributing anything. Much like channel 9 and T. Watershithouse.

    Good to be back on the couch.

  3. Avoozl says:

    Good to have you back, Nick!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ladies and gentlemen the 2013 NRL Season is officially open. Welcome back Couch!