From The Couch
Explanation Required: Perhaps Bob McCarthy, Bob Fulton and/or Laurie Daley could explain why the 31 year old five-eighth of the fifteenth placed team who has not played for New South Wales in four years and has played twelve NRL games in three seasons was selected to wear the number six jersey for New South Wales. Trent Barrett, in an act of the grandest stupidity, was selected ahead of Terry Campese, Jarrod Mullen, John Sutton and Jamie Soward, among others. Since his return to Australia, Barrett has been involved in four wins. He has hardly set the world on fire with 6 try assists and 3 tries. In the last month he has set up only three tries. The Sharks played three teams outside the eight in that period. Terry Campese was far from brilliant in game one of the Origin series but he played better than Peter Wallace. They persisted with Wallace. If they were going to drop Campese, they should have selected the in-form Mullen or Soward. The Blues deserve to be whipped and that is exactly what is going to happen next Wednesday night.
Au Revoir Reni, It Was Unpleasant Knowing You: Reni Maitua this week accepted a two-year ban for testing positive to the prohibited performance enhancing drug Clenbuterol. Maitua, as tends to be the case, maintains his innocence despite accepting the ban. Rugby league fans everywhere can be grateful that they will never have to see this lazy grub again. Cronulla fans, in particular, should be ecstatic: no longer will they have to deal with the frustration of seeing him shirk the task and then collect the big pay cheque while showing no respect to his team or its supporters. Farewell Reni. I can sleep easier knowing you won’t be robbing the rugby league fans anymore.
Parramatta Payoff: The Eels have finally done something positive for their future with the signing of Justin Poore and Shane Shackleton. Both players are outstanding workers and will bring a work ethic to the Eels that have been non-existent outside of Hindmarsh and Cayless for years. For the Dragons, the loss of Poore continues the recent tradition of losing their best props while the Roosters have lost one of their few players with upside.
Buster: Gary “Buster” Warburton is continuing the tradition of gutsy and hardworking Bulldogs backrowers. The unheralded “Buster” Warburton was again outstanding in doing the small things on Friday night, making 94 metres on 8 hits and 27 tackles in 52 minutes of play. Buster is clearly the heir apparent to great Dogs workhorses like Steve Reardon, Tony Grimaldi, Robert Relf and Simon Gillies. Buster may not get the headlines or the man of the match awards but he is definitely a player who Bulldogs fans are proud of.
Josh Morris and the Look of Pain: Does Josh Morris ever score a try and get up not looking hurt? He always has the most pained expression on his face when he crashes over. The Bulldogs faithful love The Good Morris but he is creating a good deal of worry with his “I have an inner-ear infection” face that he brings out every time he scores a meat pie.
John Morris = Horrible: It is nearly unbearable to watch John Morris play rugby league. He could be the worst five-eighth in the NRL. He is certainly one of the worst players to have played 180 first grade games. He does nothing in attack but run across field, put in useless grubber kicks and leaves overlaps wanting. How the Wests Tigers faithful haven’t driven him out of town is beyond me.
Most Humiliating Moment of the Season: Ashton Sims crashing through three Bulldogs players to score a try. There is nothing more embarrassing than seeing one of the worst regular first-graders of the last decade go through your team. It was his 10th career try and his first for the Broncos.
Commentary Highlight of the Week: Ray Warren talking about Joel Clinton and his indiscretion in bringing back a woman to the team hotel on Friday night’s Bulldogs-Brisbane match: “For a cup of tea. $50,000. My god, it must have been a good cup of tea”. Rabbits at his finest.
The Steve Renouf All-Stars: Below, a team of players with the safest skulls and strongest necks: The Headgear Heroes.
1. Preston Campbell
2. Josh Dugan
3. Jarod Croker
4. Steve Renouf (Captain and Spiritual Leader)
5. Ty Williams
6. Jamie Soward
7. Scott Porter
13. Alan Tongue
12. Nigel Plum
11. Adam Cuthbertson
10. Troy Thompson
9. Nathan Friend
8. Frank Puletua
Rumour of the Week: South Sydney’s Craig Wing will be in blue and gold next season. Wing is unhappy at Souths due to a lost third party sponsorship and Jason Taylor’s refusal to play him in the halves. Wing will seek a release and head to the Eels for big money. He is shorter than even money to be the first choice Parramatta seven next season.
Fun Fact #1: The Roosters have had five coaches since Super League. They have won only one premiership (and a tainted one at that).
Fun Fact #2: Australian coach Tim Sheens has had only one winning season since leaving Canberra in 1996.
Fun Fact #3: Penrith coach Matthew Elliott has had only two winning seasons in seven years.
Wayne Bennett  The Saints marched on with a dominant win over the Cowboys. They are flying.
Craig Bellamy  Win over Souths wasn't their best but it was the win of a contender, playing against a bad team when not switched on.
Kevin Moore  The Dogs absolutely blitzed the Broncos in Brisbane. Moore's greatest accomplishment is creating such a potent attack.
Brian Smith [4.5] The Knights showed plenty of courage against the Warriors but no Gidley hurt. Two losses to two bad teams is a concern.
John Cartwright [4.5] The Titans were anything but impressive against the Roosters but they got the points when they would have lost in '08.
Neil Henry [3.5] The Cowboys got shown up big time by the Dragons. Daytime football is a worry as is their reliance on Thurston.
Des Hasler  Manly seem to be back on track and Hasler seems to have settled on a winning team.
Ivan Henjak [2.5] 90 points in the last two weeks is a major concern as is a distinct lack of go forward. Not getting any easier with Origin.
Matt Elliott [2.5] Penrith without Jennings and Lewis look impotent. Worrying signs and could fall again with red hot Dogs this Friday.
Tim Sheens [2.5] The Tigers looked awful but got the points. Sheens' position must still be in doubt.
David Furner  Horrible loss to Cronulla. The Raiders were home and blew it against a bunch of youngsters. Worse loss of '09.
Jason Taylor [0.5] Tried hard against the Storm but were outclassed in the end. Best performance in a long time, however.
Ivan Cleary [0.5] Critical victory at home. The Warriors were unimpressive in attack but they played the conditions well
Ricky Stuart  Courageous win against a classier Raiders team. The young guns have provided some zip to the Sharks play.
Daniel Anderson [-1.5] Pathetic display against a team they should have hammered. The Eels are going nowhere anytime soon.
Brad Fittler [-4] Another week, another Roosters loss. Fittler is pretty much gone.
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 14: Brisbane-Bulldogs, 22-44. A hugely entertaining match where the final scoreline belied the closeness of the contest. The Broncos came in underdone after being floored by the swine flu panic all week but turned in a massive effort and were only beaten in the final twenty minutes due to a lack of conditioning. The Bulldogs jumped from the blocks with Josh Morris having a double after only 14 minutes but the Broncos fought back and held an 18-16 lead at the turn. The Dogs hit the front after Bryson Goodwin scored not long after the break but again the Broncos equalised with exciting winger Jharal Yow Yeh. A Ben Roberts try in the 55th minute put the Dogs in front and they weren’t headed after that with tries to Goodwin, Michael Hodgson and Hazem El Masri blowing the score out. Ben Roberts was simply brilliant, scoring a try and setting up four while playing a hand in two others. The left side combination of Morris and Goodwin were dashing, scoring four tries between them. David Stagg and Ben Hannant were at their mule-like best against their old club. For Brisbane, Corey Parker led the way while Karmichael Hunt didn’t give up. It was not a purists dream but with so many entertaining tries and an up-and-back tempo, the top of the table clash was one of the most entertaining of the season.
The Colin Best Express Fan Revue: The Colin Best Express may have been snubbed by representative selectors this year and most but our main man has had the joy of representing Australia in days gone by: at indoor soccer. The CBE used to be a dasher on the indoor soccer courts of Sydney and was so good that he donned the green and gold. Luckily for all of us, he opted not to pursue a career in the round ball game.
What Did Shane Rodney Do This Week? “Sugar” Shane passed the 7,500 career metres mark against his former club with his tally of 74 metres in 41 measly minutes.
Beard Watch: Manly winger and genuine beard lover David Williams wrapped up the Beard of the Year award on Saturday night when he died his fuzzy face pink. It was a tribute to the women in league but it could well have been the finest Animal from The Muppets impersonation ever offered by a man. Williams was already the benchmark for beards in the NRL but he cranked it up a notch on the weekend in a match that was tremendous for lovers of facial hair with the Eagles opponents Penrith all donning tremendous beards. The pink beard clearly provided Williams with extra powers with his second-effort rundown of Lachlan Coote that saved a possible try superhuman.
Thems Were The Days: It has now been a decade since the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs played their final match at Belmore Sports Ground, the spiritual home of the club and the heart of the district the team represents. It was round 23, 1998 and the in monsoon like conditions, the Bulldogs snuck home 8-4 against the Melbourne Storm, a brilliant Craig Polla-Mounta grubber that stopped dead was scooped up by the kicker who slid from seven metres out to score. It was Canterbury’s 322nd and final win at the ground and the farewell moment for a great stadium that has hosted over 600 premiership matches and sits behind only the Sydney Cricket Ground, the Sydney Sports Ground and North Sydney Oval in terms of rugby league longevity. Belmore Sports Ground is these days a dilapidated mess and will be until the club can receive government funding to redevelop the stadium but once upon a time it was the pride of the league and regarded as one of the best grounds in the football. When the ground was built in 1920, an old stand at the SCG was taken down brick by brick and rebuilt at Belmore. In 1936 it became the Bulldogs home ground and it was a fortress until it was abandoned by the club some 62 seasons later.
In 1968 the ground was redeveloped with lights added and the stadium took on its now familiar rectangular shape. In 1980 the Stewart Stand was completed and it still stands tall. It was never the most attractive stadium nor the most picturesque but it always felt like home to those who wore the blue and white. The rattle of the train at one end no matter what time the match was played. The derelict sheds at each end of the ground. The Terry Lamb Family Hill. The familiar feeling of no parking. The Peter Moore Scoreboard and the Steve Mortimer Bar. It is one of the great shames that the ground was allowed to slide into the history books, where it will remain until at least 2015 when the Bulldogs are hoping to return to the ground as the Tigers have returned to Leichardt and the Dragons to Kogarah. Many of rugby league’s great stars called Belmore home. Terry Lamb and Steve Mortimer. Chris Anderson and Les Johns. Fred Sponberg and Greg Bretnall. Eddie Burns, Roy Kirkaldy and Henry Porter. And the ghosts of many great games and moments live on there. The Bulldogs first win, an 11-6 victory over Wests in the opening round of 1936 after a horror debut season. The famous 15-15 draw against the dominant Eastern Suburbs team in 1938. The ten game winning streak in the mid sixties. The 20,000 people who showed up for the first game under lights at Belmore, a preseason affair against Western Suburbs. Terry Lamb’s first farewell match where the Bulldogs defeated the Cowboys 66-4 in a match that inspired a Bulldogs premiership run. His actual farewell in 1996, when he came back out of loyalty to the club, where the Dogs defeated the Cowboys 50-22 with Baa scoring a double. The night Solomon Haumono’s mum ran onto the field. Hopefully the Bulldogs will get back to Belmore. And soon. It is a great rugby league venue and one sorely missed in rugby league.
Fantasy Team of the Week:
1. N.Stapleton (Cro)
2. S.Turner (Mlb)
3. G.Inglis (Mlb)
4. M.Cooper (Dra)
5. B.Goodwin (Bul)
6. B.Roberts (Bul)
7. B.Marshall (Tig)
13. P.Gallen (Cro)
12. R.Hoffman (Mlb)
11. T.Waterhouse (Pen)
10. M.Hodgson (Bul)
9. N.Friend (GC)
8. P.Civoniceva (Pen)
Geurie Greens Update: Tragedy seems to have struck the Geurie Greens this week! Controversy will rule the roost all week with the Greens seemingly beaten by an administrative error. It first appeared that the Greens had recorded an historic 15 point win over the Yenda Yuans, Yenda recording the highest ever losing score. Rleague.com has not updated the Saturday night games, however, and that bungle will cost Geurie victory if not amended by Thursday. It could be the most brutal fantasy defeat in the history of man.
What I Hate About Rebecca Wilson This Week: Becky thought it amusing to list the chapters in Dennis Fitzgerald’s proposed book. Great idea, Wilson. Let us list the first eight proposed chapters in her eagerly anticipated autobiography: 1) Drink Driving in the Fast Lane, 2) Hypocrisy: My Favourite Hobby, 3) Snorkelling in a Pool of Mud, 4) How to Abuse a Bar Manager When Thrown Out for Obscene Drunkenness, 5) How to Rudely Cut Off Guests and Ruin Television Shows with My Sad Want for Attention, 6) How To Alienate My Peer Group, 7) Using My Sex As An Excuse for My Professional Failings and 8) Journalism and Life in Second Grade: There Really is No Difference.
Watch It: Those familiar with the work of British league caller Mike Stephenson will enjoy Stevo and his partner in crime Eddie Hemmings performing a unique version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” while on a boat. Stevo “bleeds red, white and blue” and shows how much heart he has with this touching rendition, found here. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOxmziJQX7A&feature=related)