Season 2008: Round 4

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on December 1, 2010

From The Couch

Steven FolkesIt was time. It will catch us all and it has caught Steve Folkes. Graceful and with dignity, Folkes announced that he would not be seeking reappointment as the Bulldogs mentor. An association that has spanned over five hundred first grade games as a player and a head coach will end at the conclusion of 2008. He has won a premiership and all Dogs fans know that he really won us two. He will be remembered fondly and with love in the heart. He had to move on, however. A new era is needed at Canterbury and that means tearing town the monuments of the last regime. As fondly as I regard Folkes, I do not hide from the fact that I was one of the throng calling for his papers. Missing out on Wayne Bennett, however, has caused some angst. Bennett should have been chased hard by Bulldogs powerbrokers yet laziness and indecision mean the Bulldogs have missed out on the best coach in the game. That means the stick and the carrot will be handed to either Kevin Moore or Mick Potter. Either is acceptable but neither rate with Bennett.
The Red Rooster and Bob Backlund Would Not Be Impressed…First things first. The so-called “chicken-wing tackle” phenomena sweeping rugby league is incorrectly named. Those of us who have seen plenty of Big Time Wrestling over the years have seen plenty of the chicken wing and we are not seeing it performed in rugby league. Just yet, at any rate. The move is nothing more than an arm bar, stock standard in ‘rasslin matches in the eighties and still around for those with the wherewithal to find it. Now, to the more serious ramifications of this completely populist, over-the-top response to the “chicken-wing tackle”. Your always-on-the-ball author has no problem with the NRL suspending any third man in who rips the arm away from the ball-carrier and then puts weight on it. This would be the measured response. Penalising and attempting to lynch Melbourne prop Adam Blair for his tackle on Michael Ennis is insane and goes against the spirit of rugby league. Blair simply made a tackle. Ennis had one arm out and Blair grabbed it and made the tackle. If Blair’s tackle is deemed illegal, rugby league is heading down a road made of bones. It will essentially allow the fend to be used without defence whilst making yet more of the body untouchable. The NRL needs to stand strong and not cave to populist media outlets keen on manufacturing The Story.

The Number One QuestionWe live in a golden age for fullbacks. Never before has rugby league been blessed with so many wonderful custodians. Great players who would be selected for representative honours in any other era will not even be considered for much of their career. This is the era of the fullback and we must keep the talisman polished if these grand times are to continue. On the matter of the Origin fullbacks, Brett Stewart should be the Blues number one while Karmichael Hunt should mind the back for Queensland. Incumbent Test fullback Stewart should be retained for the green and gold. Stewart has a wonderful ability to score tries from anywhere on the field and with youth and speed on his side, he gets the nod ahead of Anthony Minichiello (sensational return) and Kurt Gidley (wonderful creator) for the Blues. Luke Patten will again miss out despite being the safest, most consistent, most underrated fullback in the game. For Queensland, the race is two. Matt Bowen has shown nothing this season and is out of the running. Hunt pips Billy Slater for the spot, though only just. Hunt is such a delight to watch, playing the game hard and with passion. Slater is an excitement machine with speed in his pores. Hunt’s height and incumbency should get him the job. In years to come,Willie Zillman, if he stays upright, will also be in the mix.

Jason Ryles, King of the DuncesThere is no player in the NRL, not one, who plays with more stupidity than Jason Ryles. If he was not playing for Nathan Brown, he would not be playing first grade. On Saturday night, with a local derby win on the line, The Big Dumb gave away a golden-point penalty on the last tackle that gifted the Sharks the win. His own teammates gave it to him as he watched Covell land the winner and he copped a spray from all and sundry as he left the field. The new era at the Dragons must coincide with the end of the Jason Ryles era if they are to atone for past failures.

Some Whistleblower Statistics, To DigestThe value of the penalty is much higher today than it was yesterday and a hell of a lot higher than it was a decade ago. Under the current playing conditions, rules and interpretations and coaching, winning the penalty count wins you the game. The battle of tries and goals, today, is only marginally more important than the score in the penalty count. Of the thirty-one games played, at writing (yes, yes, it is Monday evening and the whiskey is flowing and the thrill of heavy wagering will be taking place in one hour, nine minutes and counting) twenty-two have been won by the team winning the penalty count while only eight teams on the wrong end of the whistle have taken the two points. That is a 73% correlation. Teams today simply are severely handicapped if they do not play with discipline. And for the record, home teams have won the penalty count and the game in all seven games refereed by Gavin Badger and Ben Cummins.

Stop The Presses, Stop Them NowThe Tigers won the penalty count and were comprehensively beaten. That makes it 22-9 for the season.

Bitches #1Canterbury. The Bulldogs did not show much commitment in a game that should have been fuelled with hate and vengeance. The end result was a Roosters 40-12 win and Willie Mason scoring two tries. The head of almost every Bulldogs fan nearly exploded.

Bitches  #2St. George-Illawarra. See the Jason Ryles comment, above. Only the Dragons can blow a winning lead in such a painful, excruciating manner. Even with the Dragons leading with only minutes to play, it seemed an inevitability that they would be beaten. The Dragons need to toughen the fuck up.

Bitches #3Souths. The Bunnies did not score a try against Manly, losing 20-2. They were inept, pathetic, hopeless, disjointed, a bus without a bus driver. Many, your author included, had high hopes for the Rabbits. Those were shot when Craig Wing went down but there was still an expectation that Souths would prove competitive. Wrong. They are headed for the spoon.

Gut-Wrenching Injury of the WeekLuke Bailey. The Old Bull was courageous, attempting to convince Titans staff to let him back onto the field despite breaking his arm. He will be out for six weeks and the Titans will be a shadow without him.

The Colin Best Express Fan RevueDoes the Colin Best Express ever fail to entertain? No. He certainly doesn’t. He is an entertainer in the truest sense, a modern day Charlie Chaplin in studs and lime green. Ah, you’ve seen me in the papers/I’ve been in the magazines. This week’s Colin Best Express Special came early, the sixth minute to be precise. Best, lurking as always, pounced on an ill-considered cut-out pass, running the length of Skilled Stadium to score an unlikely field-long intercept try. Ah Colin Best, you are still as fast as a whippet and as graceful as a full moon on a starlit night.

Doppelganger CornerMaurice “Mo” Blair is a spot-on replica of Owen Craigie. Owen Craigie, the early years, at any rate.

Round Four in 1995Brisbane win the inaugural Brisbane Derby with a 32-0 demolition of ugly step-sister, the South Queensland Crushers…Manly, Newcastle and Canberra, along with the Broncos, remain undefeated after a month of action with dominant wins…All four expansion teams suffered defeat over the course of the round…Graeme “The Penguin” Bradley scored a try for the Dragons in a close 22-18 win over the Bulldogs…A young Andrew Johns scored eighteen points in the Knights rout of the “Sydney Tigers”.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 4Roosters-Bulldogs, 28-8…and that is only due to the intense build-up and the fueling of the fire. There were some awful games played over the weekend and none of which will be remembered for anything bar their mediocrity.

Canterbury Backrower of the YearSteve Reardon, the Temora Terror.

Fantasy Players of the WeekSonny Bill Williams, Greg Bird, Luke Priddis, Craig Fitzgibbon, Jamie Lyon, Billy Slater, Anthony Laffranchi, Mark Gasnier, Willie Mason.

Surprise Fantasy Players of the WeekChris Heighington, Mitchell Pearce, Beau Scott, Brett Kearney, Anthony Quinn, Tony Puletua, Ben Pomeroy, Mark Minichiello, Jason Ryles.

Rebecca Wilson-Danny Wiedler, ScorecardWiedler got back on top this week thanks to getting the Good Word on Luke Lewis. Wiedler didn’t miss the opportunity to sink the slipper into Wilson, who had written that Lewis was headed to the Bulldogs. Wiedler 10-9. Finish her Danny. Finish her.

And One Final ThoughtFantasy Football can be a brutal business. I know the truth of that better than most. In a month of football I have lost four of my forwards (Price, Bailey, Creagh and Reece Williams) and my halfback. Things are starting to go pear shaped. Ray Cashmere will suit up this week and that is terrible news for everybody. Excuse the bleating. It’s the bitterness of being the recipient of bad luck.

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