Season 2009: Round 12

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

From The Couch


Origin Prediction: New South Wales 22-Queensland 18. Phil Gould is right in his assessment that the opening game is critical for the Blues. Failure to win at the Telstra Dome and the Blues will lose four straight series as they will have little hope of winning a decider at Lang Park . So Craig Bellamy will have his team jacked for a big opener. He has seemingly learned from the mistakes of last year and has adjusted accordingly in both his team selection and the preparation the Blues will undertake. A focus on attack will be key and the selections of game-winners Terry Campese, Michael Jennings and Jamie Lyon puts the Blues in good stead to match it with the Maroons star-studded backline. Picking players on form should also put New South Wales in a much better position to get on top and stay on top. Up front, the Blues probably hold the ascendancy. Price and Civoniceva are clearly better than the Blues props but the New South Wales backrow is better than the Queensland one and Farah is in arguably more dominant form than Cameron Smith. Throw in the Blues game one record in recent years (5-2) and New South Wales are going to be right in the mix. An upset is looming.

Karma is a Bitch: "The Professor" Paul Gallen found out karma is a bitch this week. A shoulder injury cost him a position in the New South Wales team while word on the street is that Gallen will be dumped as captain of the Sharks this week. It is about time the grub got what was coming to him.

Match Report, Cronulla-Parramatta: Apologies. That would have meant watching possibly the worst match in the history of rugby league. I opted to spend the time more wisely and took up the task of counting the hairs on each arm. I have no regrets.

Toughest Player in the Game: Alan Tongue has to be the most courageous player in the NRL. There are bigger men who lay on bigger hits, players who prance the tough man dance. There are those who make more tackles, those who get covered in more blood, those who hit more heads and those who leave more carnage. But no man is tougher in rugby league than Alan Tongue. The Canberra skipper played Monday night with a shocking wrist injury that requires immediate surgery. He is putting it off until season's end. Not once did he shirk the task in defence, not once was he found larking in attack. He is an ornament to rugby league and is the personification of true toughness.

The Next NRL Coach: Michael Maguire should be the next man appointed to an NRL head coaching gig. He has done a tremendous job at the Storm, one often overshadowed by higher profile assistant Stephen Kearney. Maguire played no more than a handful of first grade matches with Canberra and Adelaide but he comes from the Tim Sheens coaching tree and has an outstanding grasp of the sport. The next available position, and it will be the Roosters, should be his. The Roosters will inevitably go for a big name, however, so don't be surprised to see him bob up at Canberra in a couple of seasons or Parramatta even sooner.

Screwed Again: Another sensational effort from the video referee again this weekend with the Bulldogs once again on the wrong end of a heinous decision that cost them a try. Jamal Idris had ducked behind a sleeping Wes Naqaima, who was watching the ball over the sideline, and planted the ball in goal for a try. It was obvious to anyone who saw it and with the ludicrous "benefit of the doubt" rule still in place, it seemed patently clear that a try had been scored. Of course, that would assume the video referees use any form of logic. This is clearly not the case. Paul Simpkins said no try and the Dogs trailed 20-0 rather than 20-4 at the break. The time has come for all video referees to be shot. Immediately. Only displays of brutality and violence will jolt these fools from their pedantic and illogical mindset.

Rumour of the Week: An extremely high profile AFL footballer, a prominent goal-kicker and a genuine blueblood, allegedly is in the hole for over $400,000 after a disastrous run on the poker tables at Crown. Why is this important in a league column? If it were a rugby league player his name would no doubt be plastered all over the newspapers and his life sent to the shredder. The double standards shown between the reporting of league and AFL is immense.

Fun Fact #1: If Cronulla, as expected, win this season's wooden spoon, Corey Hughes and Reni Maitua will claim consecutive wooden spoons for two separate teams.

Fun Fact #2 : Hughes, the slowest hooker in the NRL, averages 25.3 metres per match. Only James Aubusson and Aaron Gorrell average less. He is currently playing New South Wales Cup.

Fun Fact #3 : Maitua sits second on Cronulla's list of missed tackles with 2.9 per match. He has averaged 58.5 metres and 19.6 tackles per match. He has made 7 errors and conceded 3 penalties. He has been indefinitely suspended for a positive drug test.

Fun Fact #4: The last player to win back-to-back wooden spoons with different clubs was front rower Duncan MacGillivray. MacGillivray won the 2001 wooden spoon with Penrith and then the 2002 wooden spoon with Souths. He also topped it off with the 2003 wooden spoon at the Bunnies. MacGillivray's record in Australia is 25 wins and 47 losses.

Coaching Stocks:

Wayne Bennett [5] The Dragons showed great maturity in grinding out a first half lead and then clearing out late. They will be in the GF.

Brian Smith [5] Simply huge win against the Bulldogs sans Gidley. Smith had them fired up and they had a 20-0 lead very early.

Kevin Moore [4.5] The Dogs should have been better against newcastle . No points early and then panicked late. Disappointing performance.

Ivan Henjak [4] Bye: Brisbane continue to tick over nicely.

Craig Bellamy [4] Bye: The bye has come at a much needed time for the Storm, who have not been able to build up any momentum in '09.

John Cartwright [3.5] Bye: The next few weeks are critical to the Titans as this is when they have fallen off in the past few seasons.

Neil Henry [3.5] Bye: Thurston is free and Henry is reaping the rewards. How Both deal with the Origin period will decide season.

Tim Sheens [3] The Tigers were poor against the Warriors. No Farah hurt but they still had plenty of chances to get on the scoreboard.

Matt Elliott [2.5] Huge loss has seen them slip down the ladder. Playing above expectations and with good attitude but really not that good.

Des Hasler [2] Bye: Constant bleating about last week's loss sets a very poor example for a team on the ropes.

David Furner [2] Huge road win minus Campese and on the road. The Raiders may be right to make a move soon. Directness=win.

Jason Taylor [1.5] Shocking home loss as a big favourite to the Raiders, particularly considering Sutton's return. Night football is a problem

Ivan Cleary [1] The Warriors weren't pretty against the Tigers but they got the job done on the back of great defensive hustle. Turn. Point?

Daniel Anderson [-1.5] Worst loss of the year against the Sharks. They have no attack and little go forward. Huge attitude problems at Parra.

Ricky Stuart [-2] Much needed win for the Sharks. Credit to Stuart for dumping Hughes and Pomeroy.

Brad Fittler [-3.5] Bye: But still a very busy week for Fittler after player uprising and huge public backlash. He is week-to-week at present.

The Colin Best Express Fan Revue: These are the hardest words I may ever have to write: Our beloved hero, the Colin Best Express, the champion of champions, reigning winger of the year.he may be done. CBE just hasn't got it at Souths. He is still a better player than 75% of three-quarters in the competition but he seems to have lost a yard of pace and he is finding it ever so hard to find a hole. He is anything but the Colin Best Express of his Raiders days. Against the Raiders on Monday, Best was shutdown to the point that it was hardly noticeable he was playing. Hopefully the Colin Best Express can get it going would be an unfortunate way for his career to end in such mediocrity.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 12: Newcastle-Bulldogs, 22-14. A brilliant display of daytime rugby league at a fabulous stadium packed to the hilt. It was exactly how winter rugby league should be played. Brian Smith had a Knights team missing Gidley, McManus, Simpson, Cross, MacDougall and Rogers, among others, fired up from the outset and after some fabulous goal-line defence early where they repelled a number of Bulldogs attacking raids, the Knights became the first to score. It was a critical try that drove the Knights to a 20-0 lead at the break though some appalling video refereeing decisions against the Bulldogs (the Idris no-try, the Mika try) certainly helped. The Bulldogs launched a spirited comeback in the second half and pulled the score back to 20-14 but a Knights penalty goal saw the Dogs panic. Jarrod Mullen was brilliant for Newcastle along with Scott Dureau and Chris Houston. Andrew Ryan was close to the Bulldogs best though Ben Roberts, Greg Eastwood, Michael Hodgson and David Stagg were not far behind. A significant negative for the Bulldogs was the performance of hooker Michael Ennis. Ennis was terrible and will need to find his early season form if the Dogs are to remain in the premiership hunt.

What Did Shane Rodney Do This Week? "Sugar" Shane was thoroughly confused by "Synecdoche, New York " though he thought Phillip Seymour Hoffman was "a triumph" and "a tribute to thespianism". We are all looking forward to At The Movies with Margaret, David and "Sugar" Shane, upon Rodney's retirement.

Beard Watch: Constantine Mika certainly made a big impact on debut and it had little to do with his try or his five tackle breaks. Rather it was Mika's combination of blue head-gear, long hair and wispy beard that got the experts talking. That kind of brashness is rarely seen in a debutant but Mika was hardly overawed and wanted nothing to do with the clean cut look. Good hustle, Con. May the future be as bright as your headgear.

Thems Were The Days: Four Corners has been in the news lately with the "Code of Silence" program turning the game on its ear but its impact has been nothing compared to a story by Chris Masters on the same show 26 years ago which led to the boss of the New South Wales Rugby League resigning and a chief magistrate being sent to prison. "Big League", aired in 1983, was the biggest scandal to hit rugby league at the time and is probably to this day only second on the list behind Super League in terms of dramatic events in Australian rugby league. "Big League" was originally to be a story about corruption in sport and at first was strongly focussed on the perceived official bias towards Manly. Refereeing, in particular, concerned many in the game at the time with the Greg Hartley fiasco of 1978 still rankling plenty with the belief he was "Manly's referee" and helped them win the 1978 Grand Final. The story quickly changed stride, however, when Masters discovered that New South Wales Rugby League boss Kevin Humphreys had been charged with stealing $50,000 from the Balmain club when he ran the Tigers to fund gambling debts. Making the story more widespread were the allegations that Humphreys was let off after pressure was put on the magistrate in charge by Chief Magistrate Murray Farquar who in turn, it was alleged, had been pressured by Premier Neville Wran. Two days after the story aired, Kevin Humphreys resigned in shame after being in charge of the NSWRL for 10 years, becoming the first NSWRL boss ever to resign from his post. Humphreys was the Richard Nixon of Australian rugby league. The story eventually led to a Royal Commission, the imprisonment of Murray Farquar and a court case with Neville Wran. The story also bought about the demise of the demise of the cartel culture in rugby league's corridors of power. No longer was the game owned by a select few but by the vast majority and corruption would not be tolerated. The bosses reign was coming to an end. The system would still kick under Ken Arthuson until Super League arrived but for all intents and purposes, "Big League" cleaned up the administration of rugby league and bought it into the modern professional world. Kevin is not well these days, old age and hard living having caught up with him. But he still has plenty of friends in the sport and there is no doubt his legacy will be long lasting.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. D.Milne (Can)

2. K.Locke (War)

3. B.Scott (Stg)

4. C.Stanley (Stg)

5. W.Sailor (Stg)

6. J.Soward (Stg)

7. B.Hornby (Stg)

13. Z.Taia (New)

12. F.Pritchard (Pen)

11. G.Eastwood (Bul)

10. D.Tilse (Can)

9. M.Ennis (Bul)

8. L.Douglas (Cro)

Geurie Greens Update: The Greens are locked in a neck-and-neck battle with the hated Otford Orangemen that won't be decided until the final siren sounds at the Telstra Dome on Wednesday night. Jamie Soward was once again a brilliant scorer and Ben Roberts surprised with a very handy contribution but the late withdrawal of Steve Simpson (Simmo, you are on your last warning!) and Taniel Tuiaki's worst game of the year have the Greens only just ahead. A couple of Michael Jennings tries and another monster effort by Steve Price and we should be on our way to 12-0, however.

What I Hate About Rebecca Wilson This Week: Rebecca Wilson had the nerve to call Fairfax rival Jacqueline Magnay a "morality crusader" in her Sunday gossip column. Does this woman have no idea how hideously hypocritical she is? Her hypocrisy isn't even subtle or disguised. Magnay is no great advertisement for rugby league but compared to Wilson , she deserves to be canonised.

Watch It: In true Origin spirit, From The Couch presents one of the most memorable Origin stoushes from one of the great Origin matches. The year was 1991 and Michael O'Connor slotted a brilliant conversion in driving rain to level the series after Mark "Sparkles" McGaw crashed over out wide. The most enduring memory of that match, however, was the fierce battle between Wally Lewis and Mark Geyer with referee David Manson forced to stand in between the two as they went up the tunnel at half-time as the two kept on at it with Lewis mouthing off and dropping the shoulder into Geyer's chest. The battle started when Steve Walters took a tap on half-time and meekly took it up to Geyer. Geyer hit him with a swinging arm and then a forearm to the head. It was on from then with Lewis, Gee, Elias, Walters, Gary Coyne and Stuart all getting involved. Geyer, who looked like he was in the throes of a coke binge, didn't let up in the second half when he charged at Paul Hauff's head with a cocked elbow. The highlight of this stoush was certainly Geyer, realising what he had done, running backwards and hiding behind David Gillespie. For a supposed hard man, he sure looked scared. ( )

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