Season 2009: Round 11

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

From The Couch

Thoughts on the NSW Origin Team: For once the NSW Origin selectors seem to have done a reasonable job. I never thought I’d see the day. They showed faith in Terry Campese despite a few quiet weeks instead of panicking and going for Lewis or Barrett. McManus was the right choice over Monaghan. Excitement was chosen over defence with the selection of Michael Jennings over The Cooper Trooper. Four props was a smart call though I have some question marks on Brent Kite. Ben Creagh starting was a pleasant surprise. My only real problem was with Luke O’Donnell’s selection ahead of Anthony Laffranchi. Laffranchi is a more devastating ball runner, a harder worker and a more accomplished tackler than O’Donnell, who seems to have “earned” his spot because of the notion that he is an aggressive player built for Origin. He will be found out. All in all though, NSW selectors have overhauled the team significantly and given the team a chance to stop Queensland’s dominance.

Refereeing Reforms: Round 11 was once again marred by further displays of incompetence, ineptitude and stupidity by NRL officials, who seem incapable of doing the job they are paid to do. The Souths-Parramatta game was unbelievably called by Brett Suttor despite the fact a scrum had been formed and the ball had not been fed. The Tigers match was filled with a number of incomprehensible decisions including the awful ruling that sent Benji Marshall to the sin bin for ten minutes. Bill Harrigan miraculously didn’t award the Bulldogs a penalty try when Bryson Goodwin was taken out when leading the race to the ball, an abhorrent decision that defied precedent. And the worst decision of the lot went to referee Matt Cecchin, who incorrectly reached the conclusion that Matt Orford took out Preston Campbell that allowed the Titans to kick the winning penalty goal as time was on the verge of expiring. Changes need to be made and they need to be made now. The NRL must do the following:

Fire Robert Finch and Bill Harrigan. Their pathetic justifications of clearly wrong decisions allows the referees to continue to act as pedants. Both should be fired with a former coach such as Michael Hagan appointed to the position of referees boss.

Referees should be assigned to teams, NFL style. They should operate together every week. Each team should include a senior referee, who controls the better part of 80 % of the game, a junior referee whose main role is in the pocket and two touch judges. The same video referee(s) should also be assigned to each team. This would allow for consistency within games and better communication between officials.

There should be five teams at most with those doing the Friday matches doing the Sunday matches and the best of the Saturday crews doing the Monday night game. This would limit the amount of referees required to ten at most.

Video referees should be restricted to ruling on offside and grounding. They should no longer have the right to rule on double movements, obstruction, penalty tries and in-field play. This would put a greater onus on the referees to make decisions, holding them more accountable. It would also minimise the influence of the all-too-pedantic and all-too-failing video referees.

Each match should have two video referees. The video referees should be in separate boxes and without contact. When a decision is referred, both rule. If they are in disagreement, refs call is the decision and it goes back to the on field officials.

The NRL needs to do something now before referees are allowed to unnecessarily ruin anymore matches. These reforms won’t solve every problem but they should minimise the damage currently being done.

The Difference between the Sydney and Melbourne Media: The Sunday Herald Sun ran a story telling the tale of a woman who slept with up to 200 AFL footballers including engaging in group sex with up to 12 footballers at once. The woman told how she was outraged by the treatment of Matthew Johns and disgusted at the Four Corners program. She stated that she never felt degraded, she had engaged in group sex because she enjoyed it and she defended the footballers involved. Most interesting was the fact that no further comment was made on the story by the Melbourne AFL media, who aside from being protective of their sport, are not quick to jump up as the moral guardians of society. There have been no calls for players to be named, no headlines screaming scandal, no demands that those involved lose their jobs, no decrying the death of the code. In Sydney, where the rugby league media take every opportunity to kick the code in the balls, the story would have been front and back page news accompanied with vicious editorials slamming the game and its culture. It is a shame the mainstream Sydney sports media have far less perspective than their Melbourne counterparts as it only serves to further denigrate the game they make their living off.

Channel Nine: A member of the Melbourne public called Nine to complain about the lack of rugby league coverage in Melbourne and was given an interesting response by an employee who refused to be named. The employee stated that Nine would not show NRL games at a reasonable hour in Melbourne, even when the AFL has no games on, because Nine is attempting to endear itself to the AFL in order to win the rights to the AFL when they are up next. Such an explanation also explains why Nine will not show NRL matches even on their HD network before midnight. If this is in fact true, the NRL should blackball Nine next time the rights are up. Nine are actively working against the NRL, attempting to stunt the game nationally in order to appease a sport they do not have the rights for. This is a disgrace of the highest order if this tale is indeed true.

Just Brilliant: The Raiders scored one of the most remarkable ever tries yesterday to seal the rout of the hapless and impatient Warriors. With only minutes remaining on the clock and the Raiders up 34-12, Dane Tilse flicked a ball out the back that hit the turf. The quick thinking Terry Campese deftly thrust out a boot that propelled the ball onto the chest of Jarrod Croker, who stepped a lame attempted tackle by Denan Kemp to score a super try. The high flying Raiders were back yesterday and hopefully they stick around as there are few more exciting teams to watch.

The Racist Professor: The Professor, Paul Gallen, was back to his grubby ways on the weekend when he allegedly called Dragons bench player Mickey Paea a “black c***”. Paea was clearly upset by it and audio picked up by Fox Sports clearly indicates that Paea is claiming Gallen racially vilified him. The surprise isn’t that Gallen racially attacked Paea, it is that Gallen manages to find new depths to his grubbiness. When you think he has learned a lesson he pulls out a stunt like this. High shots, cheap shots, faking injury, raking the face and now racism. He is exactly the kind of man Cronulla should want leading their club right now! Ricky Stuart should set an example and strip him of the captaincy immediately while the NRL should take immediate action against Gallen and sit him on the sidelines for an extended period.

Mick Crocker, The Chosen One: After Mick Crocker’s adequate performance against Parramatta on Friday night, it is now assumed by all that he will be the first Queensland backrower selected. Crocker has played two NRL games this season yet has somehow overtaken Johnson, Stagg, Thaiday, Myles, Parker and Harrison. He must either have quite the library of incriminating documentation or he is the modern day rugby league messiah. Unbelievable. There is also word that Crocker will be canonised at half-time.

Fun Fact #1: Braith Anasta is probably not a fullback. Nothing about his game suggested he ever was yet Brad Fittler thought it a fine idea to play the man he touted as a lock preseason in the custodian role. It was a horrific failure.

Fun Fact #2: The over-under line on Brad Fittler’s coaching career is round 16. Smart punters are taking the under.

Fun Fact #3: The Panthers made one more error than the Roosters yet won by 42 points.

Fun Fact #4: In 80 minutes Willie Mason, who has played 174 NRL games, 24 Test matches and 13 Origin games, managed 91 metres and 24 tackles in 80 minutes of action for the Roosters on Saturday night. Debutant Tom Symonds managed 91 metres and 24 tackles from only 62 minutes.

Fun Fact #5: Jarryd Hayne averaged 101 metres per match through the first six rounds, breaking 100 only twice. During that period he averaged only 11.17 runs per match and 2.33 tackle breaks per match. He scored 4 tries and made 5 line breaks.

Fun Fact #6: Over the last four rounds, with Origin on the horizon, Hayne has averaged 198.75 metres per match on the back of 19 runs per match. He has scored 5 tries, has 3 try assists (he had 0 through the first six weeks) and made 7 line breaks, averaging 9.75 tackle breaks per match. Hayne does this every year. Eels fans have every right to be livid that Hayne refuses to put in until a Blue jersey is on offer.

Fun Fact #7: Matt Hilder took his first shot at goal since 2004 against North Queensland. It hit the crossbar. Coincidentally, his last shot at goal was also against the Cowboys when playing for Cronulla.

Fun Fact #8: Craig Wing kicked his first goal in twelve seasons and 245 games of NRL football on Friday night against Parramatta.


Coaching Stocks:

Kevin Moore [5] Led the Dogs to their most outstanding win since premiership in '04. Has taken the w.spooners to premiership favouritism.

Wayne Bennett [5] Another brilliant defensive effort by the Dragons. Big props for getting best out of B.Morris. And Soward back to best.

Brian Smith [4.5] Disappointing to be flogged by the Cowboys, there were excuses. Form during Origin w/out Gidley will be critical.

Ivan Henjak [4] Got the points though disappointing against Tigers. On paper they should have murderered the Tigers. Focus issues?

Craig Bellamy [3.5] Dreadful display against Canterbury. Outhustled, which is unusual for Melbourne, in every facet.

John Cartwright [3.5] Lucky to get away with a win. The Titans played tough in a very hard game. Home winning record excellent.

Tim Sheens [3.5] A great display by a young Tigers team without Farah. Probably should have won. Good signs for the future.

Neil Henry [3.5] The Cowboys are firing now and totally decimated an in-form Newcastle. Henry has set JT free and it is working well.

Matt Elliott [3] The Panthers put a bad team to the sword: a very good sign. Has done very well with a limited roster.

Jason Taylor [2.5] Souths should have killed Parra but were outenthused all night. Bunnies struggle with night football…needs to be fixed.

Des Hasler [2.5] The Eagles were stiff. Turned in a good road effort but struggled with execution at times.

David Furner [1] A much better effort on Sunday. Played more direct. Must bring Dugan back, however. Must utilise Herbert more too.

Ivan Cleary [0.5] Abhorrent display in an emminently winnable game against Canberra. Warriors falling into old habits of loose play.

Daniel Anderson [1] A more committed showing on Friday night but Hayne was the only player who kept them in it and he can't be relied on.

Ricky Stuart [-2.5] Couldn't get the Sharks up for their most important match in years. Cronulla's finances are the only thing saving his job.

Brad Fittler [-3] The Roosters are a rabble and Fittler has no idea. Anasta to FB? One of the worst moves of the year. Gone very soon.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 11: Gold Coast-Manly, 18-17. Yet another exciting game ruined by the officials. The game was evenly poised for most of the match with the battle for Origin positions and the need to gather some momentum producing some outstanding displays. Luke Bailey clearly outplayed Brent Kite and Josh Perry up front while Anthony Laffranchi was a knockout winner over Glenn Stewart in the backrow battle in a typically tireless effort that netted 51 tackles and 172 metres. Titans outside backs Kevin Gordon and Esi Tonga both displayed flashes of brilliance while Matt Orford had his best game of the season. Orford put Manly ahead with little time on the clock when snapping a field goal to put the Eagles up 17-16 but the wheel quickly turned when Orford gave away the game losing penalty in controversial circumstances. Orford, clearly diving for the ball, was penalised for taking out Preston Campbell. Scott Prince duly slotted the penalty goal while Orford, quite rightly, told referee Matt Cecchin he would “be in reserve grade next week”. A solid defensive game full of excitement and a real arm wrestle between two teams desperate for the win.

The Colin Best Express Fan Revue: The lucky numbers of a Sagittarian are 5 and 7. This means one thing: Colin Best should be moved back to the wing by Jason Taylor. The Colin Best Express had his best season last year where he spent most of his time on the wing. In the centres at South Sydney, he is being stifled. The stars say so and so do I. Smarten up JT and put the Colin Best Express back on the flank so he can get that graceful stride back in open spaces.

What Did Shane Rodney Do This Week? Shane Rodney did not engage in mail fraud this week though the least likely candidate to commit mail fraud, according to Sassy of the Oh Errol girls in a late night conversation from Campbelltown, is Dean Young. Good to know.

Beard Watch: Perhaps my eyes were deceiving me but it appeared that Manly hooker Heath L’estrange lived up to his French name with a dainty little moustache gracing his upper limp against the Titans. Perhaps it was wishful thinking and/or perhaps it was the seven pints I had consumed leading up to the Manly game but it certainly appeared as if L’estrange was darting out of dummy half with a fluffy upper lip. Manly have certainly been the leaders in the field when it comes to facial hair this year with Davey Williams’ wolfman special, Adam Cuthbertson’s forays into both beard and ‘stache, Glen Hall’s magnificent handlebar and now Heath L’estrange’s “Yoplait Man” effort. Penrith aren’t far behind but they will need to get creative if they are to catch the Eagles.

Thems Were The Days: It has been 17 years since the last tryless semi-final and what a classic it was. In 1992 the St. George Dragons and Newcastle met in the minor preliminary semi-final. It was the Dragons first finals series since losing the 1985 Grand Final to the Bulldogs and the Knights first ever finals run. Both teams were desperate for a result and played like it for 80 brutal minutes. In the end, no line was broken. The closest anyone got was Newcastle winger Tony Herman, a forgettable Knights winger who managed only 7 tries in 48 games between 1989 and 1995. Herman, donning the old Darren Smith headgear, received a Mark Sargent one handed pass in the second half and scooted 15 metres to crash over but was penalised by referee Graham Annesley for a double movement. The only scoring up to that point were penalty goals to Ian “Chook” Herron, who landed 1 from 3, and big John Schuster, who nailed his only shot. It was left to Peter Coyne, the oft forgotten brother of legendary Queensland and Dragons centre Mark (who played much of the game covered in blood after a cheap shot from Robbie O’Davis), to break the deadlock. With the clock winding down, Coyne avoided the heavy Knights pressure to kick his most important point and his second and last field goal of his short career. It proved the difference with St. George claiming victory 3-2. Newcastle were eliminated but would go on to claim their maiden premiership five seasons later. The Dragons defeated Illawarra 4-0 in the preliminary final but were soundly beaten by Brisbane in the 1992 Grand Final. The Dragons have still not won a premiership since that day. Peter Coyne would play only two more games before his career came to a sudden end. Chook Herron would end up playing 74 matches with three different clubs and wound up his career playing for Ireland in the 2000 World Cup despite being one of the slowest wingers to ever play rugby league. John Schuster had one more season with the Knights before heading to England. Mark Sargent, the first Knights legend, would play three more seasons but would retire before Newcastle claimed their first tirle. And Robbie O’Davis became an icon in Newcastle who struggled to accept retirement and is probably still available for a comeback if asked. A thanks goes out to Aaron Marriott for helping me recall the bloodied Mark Coyne element of the match.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. J.Hayne (Par)
2. B.Morris (Dra)
3. M.Jennings (Pen)
4. D.Millard (Bul)
5. B.Goodwin (Bul)
6. T.Campese (Can)
7. M.Herbert (Can)
13. L.Lewis (Pen)
12. L.O’Donnell (NQ)
11. N.Hindmarsh (Par)
10. S.Price (NZ)
9. C.Smith (Mlb)
8. B.Hannant (Bul)

Geurie Greens Update: The Geurie Greens parade just marches on with another huge victory. The Greens are now 11-0 after decimating Pooncarie, the inaugural minor premiers who are now competition lightweights and resembling closely the NRL team supported by their boss, Cronulla. Michael Jennings had one of the great fantasy matches for an outside back, Jamie Soward returned to his dominant form of a month back and Craig Wing benefited from being the sole playmaker for Souths. Geurie this week meet loathed arch-rivals Otford as the dream of an undefeated season continues.

What I Hate About Rebecca Wilson This Week: Her article in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph “The Loss of Innocence” was possibly the biggest piece of drivel ever printed in a newspaper anywhere in the world. She told the story of a ten-year-old Sharks fan called Sarah who would grow up “disappointed” because women can’t play first grade rugby league and because the Sharks may not exist. Not only was the story another unnecessary dig at rugby league, it was a ridiculous over-exaggeration with absolutely no relevance to anything. Worse, she refuses to acknowledge her role in the position not only the Sharks are in but rugby league. There is no more disgusting “journalist” in all of Australia.

Watch It: This compilation of the plethora of Paul Carige mistakes in the dying moments of the 1998 preliminary final is amusing to anyone who doesn’t support Parramatta. Carige turned in one of the most abhorrent individual displays over the final five minutes of regulation and the twenty minutes of extra-time to help give the Bulldogs an unlikely victory. The Dogs were down 18-2 with eleven minutes remaining but came back to tie the scores. Carige’s first mistake came when he gave the Bulldogs the ball back after stepping dead when the ball was stopped in his own in-goal, incorrectly believing he had won his team a twenty metre tap. Then, with time expired, Carige chipped ahead for himself. The ball went straight to Craig Polla-Mounta, who attempted a 49-metre field goal that only just went under the crossbar. Then twice in extra-time Carige caught bombs near the sideline and went out. On both occasions the ball was travelling out off the Canterbury kick but Carige played at it. On the second occasion there was nobody near him. The look of disgust on Karl Lovell’s face said it all. It will be remembered as one of the worst displays of rugby league ever and one that brings a smile to the face of every Bulldogs fan. Carige was released by the Eels soon thereafter and after one year with Salford retired from rugby league for a life of anonymity and quietude. (

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