Season 2008: Round 27

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on December 2, 2010

From The Couch

A New Top Eight… The McIntyre System, simply, is ridiculous. It is inherently unfair, confusing and convoluted and if I ever find this McIntyre bastard I will whip him until his ears bleed for concocting such stupidity. One needs only look at the weekend just gone to see how absurd the system is with the absolute worst aspect of it being the Canberra Raiders getting eliminated while sitting at home on Sunday afternoon. No game has any clear meaning, it is possible for teams who finish third and fourth to be eliminated in week one, and if all results go as expected then teams three-to-six merely switch opponents. These are but three flaws in the maddening finals system ludicrously instituted by the NRL post-Super League.

From The Couch has officially become an advocate of the format known as the “Clarke System” and has began lobbying the NRL for a change. The new system combines the old top eight with the top five system and is inherently fairer as it ensures all top four teams can only be eliminated after two losses while all teams outside of the top four must play elimination matches every week. The Clarke System, taken from, works as such:

E = elimination

Week 1 (teams listed first receive home advantage)

MATCH A: 1 v 4
MATCH B: 2 v 3

MATCH C: 5 v 8 E
MATCH D: 6 v 7 E

Week 2 (teams listed first receive home advantage)

MATCH E: 3 v 6 E (Loser B v Winner D)
MATCH F: 4 v 5 E (Loser A v Winner C)

week 3 (all games at neutral venues from now on)

MATCH G: 1 v 2 (Winner A v Winner B…winner straight to GF)
MATCH H: 3 v 4 E (Winner E v Winner F)

week 4

MATCH I: 2 v 3 E (Loser G v Winner H)

week 5

MATCH J: 1 v 2 [Grand Final] (Winner G v Winner I)

The Power of the Playoff Beard… My behaviour was inadvertent and the results were tragic. Standing in the outer of Olympic Park with a wild beard that has seen your favourite author referred to as a “homeless fisherman” in recent weeks and an official ‘Playoff Beard’ hat, the power of my situation was not realised until it was all too late. It was not until I wandered away from the deflated ground that the reality of the situation dawned on me. The Warriors had beaten the Storm, eighth had beaten first. How was this possible? Had it really just happened? Was it all a strange and perverse dream? No…the Warriors had won for one reason and one reason only. The playoff beard. The Warriors, all sporting hairy faces, continued their finals run because of their commitment to the playoff beard. I had inadvertently assisted. Expect New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to deliver a speech to Parliament in the next few days honouring the concept of the playoff beard and the power that resides in the facial hair of professional athletes. If only the Canberra Raiders had grown beards, they would still be alive.

Match Analysis: Roosters-Brisbane… This game was an absolute belter, a truly brutal contest that marked the Broncos as genuine premiership threats. There was blood and broken bones and awe-inspiring hits that reminded everyone lucky enough to see the match why rugby league is such a brilliant sport. The Roosters won the early battles but it was the Broncos who won the war. Both teams were physically tough but it was the Broncos, led by inspirational skipper Darren Lockyer, who were mentally stronger. Wayne Bennett played a key role in getting the Broncos up for the second half. The Warriors upset of Melbourne has hurt both teams as the Roosters now have to travel to Auckland instead of playing Cronulla in Sydney while the Broncos get the joy of meeting Melbourne instead of Canberra. The Roosters may struggle to bounce back after giving it their all and falling short while the Broncos will have to take on Melbourne with the pall of sexual assault allegations hanging over them.

Match Analysis: Cronulla-Canberra… The Sharks were ruthless in disposing of a Raiders team that was hurt by injury and seemingly overwhelmed by the occasion. Cronulla can choke the life out of inferior teams and did just that to the Raiders. Canberra are a momentum-based team and after their poor start they were never going to come back. Still, they would have expected to be playing this week. Their season is instead done after the Warriors’ shock win. The Sharks get next week off. I remain unconvinced that Cronulla’s style of football will threaten Melbourne, Manly or Brisbane and doubt they can win the premiership. History also casts a long shadow over the team. Better Sharks outfits have lost from this position.

Match Analysis: Manly-St. George-Illawarra… The game was probably over when Ben Rogers was selected to play number six ahead of Jamie Soward. Soward destroyed Manly the last time the two teams met. Rogers is a Souths reject. Even when Rogers was named, most thought Soward would get called in come gametime. Brown decided to go with Rogers. Unbelievable. The game itself was a fizzer. The Dragons copped some rough decisions but were never in the contest. Their cause wasn’t helped by Mark Gasnier sitting out on the wing all night. Little can be gleamed from Manly’s win. They smashed a clearly inferior team, as expected. They advance to the preliminary finals weekend and have the easy path through to the Grand Final.

Match Analysis: Melbourne-New Zealand… In what will go down as one of the great upsets in modern rugby league history, the Warriors outhustled, outenthused and outplayed the Melbourne Storm in a stunning display of rugby league. Ivan Cleary engineered a great game plan that involved being extremely physical in defense and relying heavily on second-phase play in attack. It worked. The Storm were starved of space and could get no momentum while the Warriors stuck true and broke through the Storm line three times. The Warriors are now favoured to play in the preliminary final while Melbourne must travel to Brisbane to take on the Broncos. The Storm were disappointing but can bounce back…they remain a great team with a great coach who should still be regarded as the benchmark.

Vale, Jason Ryles… There was no player more adept at giving away penalties at inappropriate times, creating an error in the clutch, failing when it matters, whining at deserved criticism and getting selected for representative teams when such selection was totally unmerited. You were an icon of failure. It is doubtful that you will be missed by anyone.

Vale, Mark Gasnier… Gasnier is now gone and he left with little more than a whimper. Such a finale seems rather apt considering the tendency Gasnier had for dogging it throughout his time in rugby league. Rather than chime in and involve himself and potentially prolong his rugby league career on Saturday night, Gasnier hid on the wing, caring little for his team or the game. It has also been reported that Gasnier played a key role with Matt Cooper and Nathan Brown in selecting Ben Rogers to play five-eighth ahead of the much more suitable Jamie Soward. It was one of the biggest selection blunders in semi-final history. Mark Gasnier, you deserve rugby as much as rugby deserves you. You will be missed by very few. Fire up now, Bitch.

Vale, Nathan Brown… How six years flies when you are having so much fun. Nathan Brown will be remembered fondly by nearly every rugby league fan that did not support the Dragons. His ineptitude, madness, lack of professionalism, lack of control and ability to always fail in September was enjoyed by most in rugby league. He was like the circus, a freak down sideshow alley that could always be relied on to entertain. Nothing inspired confidence like rocking up to a game with a copy of Best Bets in your back pocket. Or watching on live television as you called your star playmaker over to the sideline and slapped him in the chops. Hoho. Even his last game was a further chapter in the study of how to fail in September. His decision to play Ben Rogers ahead of Jamie Soward was one of the most appalling selection decisions in recent memory…it resulted in the Dragons getting walloped by a team they have consistently beaten for years. Oh Nathan Brown, we will surely miss you. The folk of Huddersfield sure are in for some fun.

Political Notes… The Matt Brown dancing-in-his-underwear scandal is one of the funniest political scandals in this country ever and is the perfect representation of New South Wales Labor.

The Colin Best Express Fan Revue… Colin Best finally got the accolades he so richly deserves when he was named the Dally M Winger of the year at last week’s Dally M awards. All those haters who have referred to the Colin Best Express as “Colin Worst” have been made to look like the fools they are. Colin Best was simply outstanding for the Raiders this season and is a very good chance of being named in Australia’s World Cup squad. It would be another just reward. Those readers who took the lead early on that Colin Best was a king among men felt a great deal of pride last Tuesday evening when CBE was given the honour. Tears welled in these parts…

The Qualifying Finals in 2004… A Craig Gower field goal was the difference in the first qualifying final with the fourth placed (and defending premiers) Penrith Panthers defeating the fifth placed St. George-Illawarra Dragons 31-30. Both Preston Campbell and Trent Waterhouse scored doubles to get the Panthers over the line. The win proved crucial as two upsets led to the Dragons shock elimination. Those upsets were a 31-14 victory to the sixth placed Melbourne Storm over the third placed Brisbane Broncos and a 30-22 win to the seventh placed North Queensland Cowboys over the second placed (and eventual premiers) Canterbury. The Storm backline were outstanding against a lethargic Brisbane side with six of the seven starting backs scoring tries. Graham Murray’s gameplan of bombing to Matt Utai worked a treat for the Cowboys as Matt Sing scored three tries on the hapless Bulldogs flanker. The Cowboys kicked high all night to Utai’s wing and the plan worked a treat with the Cowboys pulling off one of the great finals upsets.

2008 Game of the Year Winner…

Winner: Round 12: Brisbane-Parramatta, 30-26. An absolute classic for the ages with moments of individual brilliance and tremendous courage mixed with some amazing tries and the most dramatic of finishes. Darren Lockyer stood up when it mattered once again and was the star of the match.

Runner-Up: Round 22: Manly-Melbourne, 10-16.

Second Runner-Up: Round 24: Gold Coast-Brisbane, 21-25.

Rebecca Wilson is on Holiday and Will Hopefully Stay in Whatever Circle of Hell is Housing Her… It is always a delightful experience on a Sunday morning, with the smell of bacon filling the air and the warm coffee filling the belly, when you get to open the Sunday Telegraph and find that not a single word has been written by the least knowledgeable woman in journalism. It is like Christmas when you get something you actually want.

And One Final Thought… If sexual assault allegations against three Brisbane Broncos are found to be true, both the team and the game are in for a rough few weeks at a time when the sport of rugby league should be celebrated. While I refuse to be critical of rugby league players going our for a drink and I reject completely the notion of athletes being role models, players are bound by the law and have an obligation to both their team and the game to avoid situations that will damage either. If these players are found to have sexually assaulted a woman then they have shown scant regard for the game and their teammates, essentially derailing the Broncos premiership campaign while taking the focus off a thrilling finals series. The one saving grace is that the Broncos have always acted extremely vigilantly in the past in regards player misbehaviour and will be sure to take a heavy hand against those who have acted against the interests of the team.

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