Season 2009: Round 17

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

From The Couch

The Funniest Joke in the World: What do you call the five dumbest men in the world? The New South Wales State of Origin selection panel. Hoho. The four-man Blues selection panel and coach Craig Bellamy have again made a bigger mess than Nate Myles in selecting the Blues team for game three, the worst team yet. A blind monkey sedated by horse tranquilisers with a learning disability and no arms could have tossed darts at a random list of NRL players with his toes and come up with a better seventeen. Queensland will not only sweep the series but will celebrate their coronation with a 40 point thumping of the most pathetic team ever sent out by New South Wales. More on all matters selection in this week’s Making The Nut.

The Apostle of Julian O’Neill: The Roosters outstanding run of form continued over the weekend with Nate Myles firing off a giant number two in the corridor of a Central Coast hotel before being discovered naked and drunk in a fire escape. In between he tried to enter the room of a family. It is difficult to pinpoint what is more amusing. The adulation Nate Myles has for Julian O’Neil. Or yet another ex-Bulldog disgracing himself and the game. Or perhaps the continued implosion of the most arrogant and poorly run club in the game. Myles has cost the Roosters fifty large but the club was fully deserving of the fine. Brad Fittler would have been fired by every other club in the league for his disgraceful drunken display yet he was given a rap on the knuckles by the Roosters. I’m looking forward to seeing how Todd Carney fits in next season. Quite well, I would imagine. If only Jeremy Schloss and his sneakers were involved.

The Doorman: Michael Lewis eloquently talked about the rise in prominence of the left tackle in American football in The Blind Side. The role of the left tackle is to protect the most valuable asset an American football team has: the quarterback. Wayne Bennett has kick started a similar reconstruction of positional play over the last few years with his assignment of a protector for his number one playmaker. Tonie Carroll played that role with Darren Lockyer (and has been pulled out of retirement to rekindle that role after Ivan Henjak could not find an adequate replacement) while Beau Scott has become Jamie Soward’s guard. With Beau Scott out hurt, Matt Prior has become the doorman. Bennett is obviously prepared to sacrifice the attack of the doorman in order to keep the key playmaker safe and fresh in a plan that is as logical as it is smart. Expect the position of doorman to become par for the course within five years.

What is Rugby League Becoming? On Sunday, Canberra big man Tom Learoyd-Lars was penalised for raising an elbow in attack after Canberra had ripped the Titans defence to shreds. Anthony Laffranchi went down with referee Alan Reid deciding he needed to get his head on television by providing a report to fellow official Steve Chiddy that Learoyd-Lars had raised his elbow. There was absolutely nothing in it yet the Raiders were penalised and Tommy Large was put on report. It was a terrible decision. Players have to be allowed to run hard and protect the ball and that is all Learoyd-Lars was doing. The elbow wasn’t cocked nor was it raised. Referees cannot continue to nitpick on such matters as they are taking the physicality out of the game. And the last thing league fans want is to see the game reduced to the grab-like nature of AFL football. Tommy Large, of course, wasn’t cited yet it is too late by Tuesday afternoon to clear him. That decision could have cost Canberra the match.

Mutterings from the Social Pages: Friends of the column, the Oh Errol girls, are making it big in the world of rugby league. One of the girls featured in the “Guess Who, Don’t Sue” gossip section of the Sunday Telegraph. Which footy reporter makes notes on a baby pink mock crock laptop? Though I have no real idea what a baby pink mock crock laptop could be in any specific sense, it certainly doesn’t sound like Roy Masters or Steve Mascord have too much in the baby pink range of the colour spectrum and it is doubtful that Rebecca Wilson or Jacquie Magnay would actually take notes. It is pleasing to see our favourite footy girls climbing the social ladder.

Cannonball: Josh Miller’s first half double was a brilliant reward for a true workhorse of the Raiders pack. And he nearly had the hat-trick before Tom Learoyd-Lars snatched the ball from him. The Cannonball epitomises the true nature of rugby league. And if the Blues selectors are short on props- and the naming of Josh Perry and Brett White suggests they are- they could have done a lot worse than give the Cannonball his props and name him on the New South Wales bench.

Dan The Man: You can put this one down in blue ink: Daniel Mortimer will be playing for New South Wales within five years. There have been few pivots in the last decade who have looked as composed and as dangerous with the ball as Mortimer does at such a young age. Mortimer was again outstanding against Penrith, scoring a double and setting up another as well as breaking the line three times. In five matches he has three tries and three try assists along with 26 tackle breaks. His defence is also not an issue with the young number six making 16 tackles per match, averaging only 1.8 misses a game. He has the pedigree, maturity and natural flair to be a rugby league superstar and it is only a matter of time before he gets his shot on the rep scene.

Messages from Deed Poll: Name changes appear to be all the rage in the NRL at present. There hasn’t been as much confusion among journalists, statisticians and record-keepers since Brandon Pearson became Brandon Costin. Three changes this season have been part-nuisance, part-amusing. Rookie Gold Coast winger David Mead was once upon a time (see 2008 World Cup) David Moore. Bulldogs prop John Kite occasionally seems to be known as Sione. And the one that really is a little odd is the name change of Raiders prop and likely Blues debutant Tom Learoyd-Lars. Tom Learoyd-Lars was once known as Thom Learoyd-Lars and occasionally as Tom Learoyd-Lahrs. What happened to the H? And the other H? Very odd. Tom Learoyd-Lars has also been part of both the Queensland and New South Wales Origin squads. One can’t help but get the feeling Tom (see Thom) Learoyd-Lars (see Lahrs) is a little indecisive.

Rumour of the Week: Melbourne winger Steve Turner will be at Canterbury kicking goals next season. Stevie T has been almost penned in as the heir apparent to Hazem El Masri and with the Storm unable to afford his services, Turner will head north to Canterbury. (Author’s note: Double thumbs up).

Fun Fact #1: 13 players had multiple try scoring games on the weekend. Luke Capewell, Taniela Tuiaki and Michael Jennings scored hat-tricks. Steve Price, Craig Fitzgibbon, Jamie Soward, Matt Prior, Matt Bowen, Josh Miller, Phil Graham, David Mead, Daniel Mortimer and Josh Morris all crossed for doubles.

Fun Fact #2: It was the first multiple try game for five players: Price, Prior, Miller, Mead and Mortimer.

Fun Fact #3: Josh “The Cannonball” Miller scored a try against Brisbane on debut in 2004. He did not score again until his double against the Gold Coast on Sunday.

Fun Fact #4: It took 311 games for Steve Price to record his first double. It took David Mead 3 matches and Daniel Mortimer just 5 matches.

Coaching Stocks:

Kevin Moore [5] The Dogs were tremendous in defeat with their steely defence. Unlucky in the end.

Wayne Bennett [5] The Saints struggled in the first half against the awful Roosters but fought back for a big win.

Craig Bellamy [4.5] A tremendously tough and gritty win when they should have been beaten. Pulled one out of the fire.

Brian Smith [4.5] The Knights lost no admirers in getting pipped by the Storm. Desperately unlucky.

John Cartwright [4] Opened with their worst half of the year but showed real fight to claw the Raiders back to a try.

Des Hasler [4] Huge home win over the Dogs that signalled the Eagles are genuine premiership hopes.

Neil Henry [3] Did as expected and rolled the hapless Sharks. Attack struggled in first half but showed courage.

Matt Elliott [2.5] Brilliant in attack, pathetic in defence, the Panthers relied on the brilliance of Jennings. Dangerous.

Tim Sheens [2.5] Turned on a show against Souths by running in a half century.

David Furner [2.5] Two on the trot for the Raiders, who are playing some good footy. They just need 80mins of it now.

Ivan Henjak [2] Great recovery by the Broncos though they didn’t beat much.

Ricky Stuart [0] Tough road trip and had no attacking options to use. Recruiting a major issue still.

Daniel Anderson [0] Must be appalled at defensive play. If Hindmarsh wasn’t an Eel, they would have conceded 60.

Ivan Cleary [-1] Another pathetic display in Australia. Steve Price is the only player who can hold his head high.

Jason Taylor [-4] Allowed the second last placed team to run in fifty. Embarrassing. Team selection is appalling.

Brad Fittler [-20] How low can he go? He must accept a lot of blame for the Nate Myles incident. Fire him.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 17: Manly-Canterbury, 19-12. There were plenty of fantastic matches over the weekend with three matches featuring in excess of 70 points. It was certainly a weekend where you didn’t want to be on the under in the round grand salami and if you sold the total points for the weekend in the spreads then you are either suicidal or looking to take out some hefty loans. The best game of the weekend, however, was the brutal defensive battle on Monday night between Manly and the Bulldogs. It was true grand final football characterised by brutal defence, high intensity and sheer desperation. Manly were on top the entire game yet very nearly lost the match due to the sheer desperation of the Bulldogs goal-line defence. The Eagles had most of the ball yet struggled to break the Bulldogs line and were down 12-7 with 13 minutes to go when David Williams crossed out wide and Matt Orford slotted an unlikely conversion from the sideline. A Josh Perry try on the buzzer sealed it. It was a fiery affair with a number of stinks, a vicious high shot by Steve Matai (unpenalised, mind you) that left Buster Warburton with a mangled mouth and at least three spear tackles. Manly proved they were back with a tough display while the grittiness of the Bulldogs suggested they were right on track for their first grand final berth since 2004.

The Colin Best Express Fan Revue: The Colin Best Express provided a glimpse of his blistering best with an outstanding try assist in what was one of the few highlights for South Sydney as they got whipped like the old village drunk. Best sliced through the Tigers brittle defence, slipped away, looked left and right and then passed for the meat pie. It was the Colin Best Express of 2008.

What Did Shane Rodney Do This Week? Shane Rodney took to the readings of Zen teacher Hsu Yun in an attempt to reach spiritual enlightenment and inner peace. Perhaps then the gods of luck will bestow him with an injury free run.

Beard Watch: Eric Grothe is doing his bit for the beard with some nice full coverage developing. His beard has tremendous thickness with nice colour and a certain je na sais quoi about it. The Parramatta winger has always been a little left of centre (well, technically, right of centre) with his dreams of rock iconicism, his rugby league pedigree and his flighty ways. Perhaps Eric Grothe is the most interesting man in the world. His beard may cause him wind resistance but he knows the women like it and he has no intention of shaving it off. (Insert over “most interesting:

Thems Were The Days: One of the great shames of the Super League war was the death of the preseason cup. Rugby league in Australia has a long tradition of knockout cup competitions that have always complimented the premiership with aplomb, creating interest for bad teams and good teams alike. No competition has ever been on the level of the Challenge Cup in the UK but various knockout competitions from The City Cup in the first fifty years of the New South Wales rugby league through to the Challenge Cup of the early nineties have always added plenty of interest to the game. The City Cup was certainly very important until 1925 with the postseason competition providing the beaten teams with a chance to claim some silverware with many contenders for the following year announcing their presence. The City Cup was briefly revived in 1937, 1941-45 and 1959 but it wasn’t until the sixties, when the preseason cup originated, that the knockout competition returned to prominence. The first year of the preseason competition was 1962 and the Bulldogs, mired in the depths of a two-decade long form trough, defeated Wests 14-10 in the final after Barry Smith scored a 100-metre intercept try in the dying moments. The preseason competition lasted until 1981 with teams like Newtown and Balmain collecting some rare silverware. The preseason competition was abandoned in 1982 but the midweek competition which began in 1974 survived. The Midweek Cup was an outstanding success in the early years and included teams from country New South Wales, Queensland, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand and in the first year a fairytale was written when Western Division, led by “TV” Ted Ellery, won the lot. The Midweek Cup went through various name changes but provided plenty of memories. Cronulla won their only ever trophy when they claimed the 1979 Amco Cup. Combined Brisbane took the trophy in 1984. St. George won their last piece of silverware in 1988. And in the last ever Midweek Cup final, the Brisbane Broncos won their first trophy, defeating Illawarra 22-20 in a thrilling Panasonic Cup final. In 1990 the midweek format was abandoned with a preseason cup reintroduced. The Challenge Cup lasted for six seasons and saw both Illawarra and South Sydney take out the title. It would be Illawarra’s only ever competition win and it is the fondest memory of South Sydney fans under the age of 40. When Super League arrived, the knockout competition was abandoned and as yet has not been revived. Let’s hope it isn’t far away from a return as there was little more exciting than the thrill of elimination football at the beginning of the year, the perfect appetiser for the premiership feast.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. J.Hayne (Par)
2. T.Tuiaki (Tig)
3. M.Jennings (Pen)
4. B.Ayshford (Tig)
5. C.Walker (GC)
6. J.Soward (Dra)
7. M.Orford (Man)
13. C.Fitzgibbon (Roo)
12. A.Laffranchi (GC)
11. M.Prior (Stg)
10. S.Price (War)
9. R.Farah (Tig)
8. J.Miller (Can)

Geurie Greens Update: The Geurie Greens had a record-breaking weekend with, my calculations being proven correct, the Greens becoming the first team in FFL history to break the 1000 point barrier. The 1000 point barrier is the FFL equivalent to the four-minute mile and the Greens this week are as renowned as Roger Bannister was in 1954. Led by the incomparable Jamie Soward, who set the record for the highest individual score, the Greens had three centurions with Steve Price and Michael Jennings also participating in the festivities. A hat-trick to Taniela Tuiaki and big games from Ben Creagh and Luke Douglas capped off a remarkable weekend for Geurie.

What I Hate About Rebecca Wilson This Week: The fact she gets paid to write her pathetic populist rubbish. It keeps me up at nights and not in a good way.

Watch It: A bit of exciting American National Rugby League action never hurt anybody and this collection of Jacksonville Axemen highlights is fairly entertaining, particularly if you mute the sound. Defence is a bit thin on the ground, bar the odd monster hit, but the attacking league is extremely exciting. Plenty of ball movement and some support play Terry Lamb would be proud of. The highlight was certainly the blindside scrum move that saw the halfback pop a short ball and then wrap around and receive the ball downfield to crash over in the corner. (

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