From The Couch
State of Origin III Preview: New South Wales are going to get whipped more than a galley slave on a slow moving boat. Bettors would have a greater chance of a collect by betting the Washington Generals to defeat the Harlem Globetrotters despite the Generals having an approximate 6-13,000 record, their last win coming in 1971. Origin III will only be of interest to Queenslanders and historians with a record book handy. There will be a few Blues who will give their all but for the most part the team selected was rubbish. Queensland are going to celebrate their history breaking fourth consecutive series win with a coronation ceremony marked by tries, tries and more tries. Queensland by plenty. QUEENSLAND 34 NEW SOUTH WALES 10
The End of Hollywood: Well, at least for Origin III. It has come all too late but Bill Harrigan and his ego have been dumped from the video referee’s box for Wednesday night’s game three. Harrigan’s little mate Robert Finch decided to axe Harrigan for game three after two shocking Origin appearances punctuated by an appalling club match. Harrigan and his ego are still in first grade, however, and the good money is that his old buddy Finch will sort him out come grand final day.
The Worst Contract in the NRL: Parramatta’s Krisnan Inu is believed to be on a deal worth around $400,000. It is, without doubt, the worst contract for a club in the NRL. No player is more overpaid. On Monday night Inu looked like a park footballer. Given a clean run to the line with the Titans heading in the opposite direction, Inu was going up and down in the one spot and was run down within 30 metres. Not a good sign for a supposed gun outside back. Inu conceded a dumb penalty by pushing Scott Prince after Prince kicked the ball and was subsequently chastised by skipper Nathan Cayless. Inu then allowed the Titans to score their second try when he inexplicably came off his wing, allowing Chris Walker to scoot down the sideline. In the second half, Inu called a blindside play on the first tackle when the Eels were in prime attacking position, going into touch. His two shots at goal were atrocious. His defensive efforts were pathetic. Inu would not rank in the top 350 NRL players at present. Daniel Anderson has no choice but to drop him. Had he not have been on the field, Parramatta arguably would have defeated the Gold Coast. He will not have a club by 2011.
You’re Not in the Wallabies Anymore: Mat Rogers should not kick the ball. Ever. His two-bit kicking game that he picked up in rugby union won’t cut it in the NRL. His pathetic shank in the first half put Parramatta back into the match. The Titans look a much better team without him on the field. At the very least he should have his foot nowhere near a ball.
The John Morris XIII: John Morris last week signed up to join the Cronulla Sharks last week, his fourth club in ten seasons. Morris leads the way for rugby league’s great modern day journeymen, those continuing the tradition of Phil Blake and Tyran Smith and Adam Peek and many other multi-club players who have never really found a place to call home.
1. Wade McKinnon (3: Sou, Par, War)
2. Shannon Hegarty (3: Sou, Roo, NQ)
3. David Kidwell (5: Ade, Par, Roo, Mlb, Sou)
4. Colin Best (4: Cro, Stg-Ill, Can, Sou)
5. Chris Walker (5: Brs, Roo, Sou, Mlb, GC)
6. Brett Finch (4: Can, Roo, Par, Mlb)
7. Brett Kimmorley (6: New, Hunt, Mlb, NE, Cro, Cant)
13. John Morris (4: New, Par, Tig, Cro)
12. Ashley Harrison (4: Brs, Sou, Roo, GC)
11. Joe Galuvao (4: NZ, Pen, Sou, Par)
10. Michael Hodgson (4: Par, Can, GC, Cant)
9. Michael Ennis (4: New, Stg-Ill, Brs, Cant)
8. Glenn Hall (4: Cant, Roo, Sou, Man)
Coach: Brian Smith (4: Ill, Stg, Par, New)
Rumour of the Week: The rumour mill is in overdrive that dual Dally M Medal winner and former Bulldog premiership winner Johnathan Thurston will “come home” in 2011. Thurston comes off contract at the end of the 2010 season and Brett Kimmorley is likely to retire. With the Bulldogs in such good shape and the hopes of winning a title with the Cowboys likely long gone, Thurston may well consider returning to the club that gave him an opportunity when none other would. He would certainly be welcomed back with open arms at Belmore and the rumour mill has it that Thurston will be in blue and white come 2011.
Fun Fact #1: There has been 69 send offs since 1998 with 16 in 1998 being the most in one season.
Fun Fact #2: This decade the most send offs in a season have been 6, in 2003 and 2008. This season there has been only one send off meaning the NRL is on par for the fewest send offs since 2005 (2).
Fun Fact #3: The clubs with most send offs over that period are the Warriors (8), the Roosters (7) and Cronulla (7).
Fun Fact #4: The Gold Coast have not had a player sent off. South Sydney and Newcastle have both only had one player dismissed.
Fun Fact #5: Only two players have been sent off three times: John Hopoate and Ali Lauititi.
Fun Fact #6: John Hopoate (Manly and Wests Tigers) and Adam Peek (Parramatta and St.George-Illawarra) are the only two players to be sent off for two different clubs.
Fun Fact #7: John Hopoate and Geoff Toovey (Manly-1998) and Dale Newton and David Peachey (Cronulla-2003) are the only occasions where two players from the one club have been sent off in the one match.
Fun Fact #8: Paul Simpkins and Sean Hampstead have sent the most players off with 10 each.
Kevin Moore  A stunning win from the Bulldogs, in New Zealand without eight of their best. Confidence is high.
Wayne Bennett  The Dragons systematically decimated Manly with precision and skill. The GF seems their destiny.
Craig Bellamy Bye: [4.5] Melbourne well positioned for another GF run.
Brian Smith [4.5] Huge win for the Knights with Gidley on Origin duty and Mullen down hurt. Gritty, tough effort.
John Cartwright  Were again disappointing, this time not putting the Eels to the sword. Got the points though.
Des Hasler  Manly were whipped by the Dragons in a disappointing effort. Tough to get a grasp on.
Neil Henry  Bye: Nicely positioned. Need to hit the ground running post-Origin in pursuit of a top 4 spot.
Tim Sheens [2.5] Bye: Signed a crock with a busted knee. The Tigers are done.
Ivan Henjak  Bye:Hit the bye on the back of a win but need to put it on against good opposition.
Matt Elliott  Thrashed by Souths when they had every chance. Missing plenty but defence is bad at present.
David Furner  Miserable effort against Newcastle in a must-win game. Road problems persist.
Ricky Stuart Bye:[ 0] Dean Collis 2010 signing questionable.
Daniel Anderson  The Eels showed plenty of heart on Friday but were let down by a notable couple.
Ivan Cleary [-3] Just an awful loss to a Dogs team without eight of their best. Just shocking application.
Jason Taylor [-3] A loss would have seen him fired. Got home in the end but the scoreline was flattering.
Brad Fittler Bye: [-20] Quite amazingly, the Roosters were not embroiled in off field drama this week.
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 18: Gold Coast-Parramatta, 18-12. A generally ordinary weekend of NRL action. Souths flogged Penrith but with little precision. The Raiders were embarrassed by their most inept performance of the year, losing convincingly to a Newcastle team sans Mullen and Gidley. The Saints just tore through Manly, putting their premiership aspirations back in perspective. A Bulldogs team missing eight regulars defeated the Warriors in Auckland in the final minute in what, for the most part, was a match of quite the poor standard. The Titans-Eels match at least showed glimpses of brilliance and some defensive gumption from both teams. Luke Bailey showed a remarkable pair of hands for the first try. The second Titans try was a two-play, 80 metre effort that started with a good run from Esi Tonga before a sweeping backline movement finished by Chris Walker. Not a great game but the best of an average lot.
The Colin Best Express Fan Revue: Colin Best’s season was summed up perfectly midway through the first half when, after halfback Chris Sandown kicked the ball dead despite Souths having a two man overlap. Best threw his hands in the air in total and utter frustration. Sandow pulled another rubbish play out of the bag, acting before thinking. And the man to suffer is Colin Best. South Sydney needs a new coach and a proper halfback immediately. Only then will Colin Best be given an opportunity to shine.
What Did Shane Rodney Do This Week? Shane Rodney withdrew from Manly’s match with the Dragons when he was granted a rare opportunity to start for the Eagles. Shane Rodney, injured again.
Beard Watch: This video is a triumph and a tragedy, a tale of facial hair and shaving, one of looking interesting and then throwing it all away. The Penrith Panthers, as everyone knows, grew beards for charity. All good and well but how about just growing a beard so you can have a beard? Watching all these facial follicles dropping to the floor brings a tear to the eye but there are some tremendous ‘stache shots in there. Shane Elford has possibly the best mo in existence with its thickness, shape and style while big Petero could very easily pass for a seventies pimp in any number of blaxspoitation films. Shane Elford should never shave. He has very little to offer in terms of talent so some facial hair fun would be most appreciated. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sAFWMwUKlw)
A shout out must also go to two delightful chaps, always well dressed and delightfully adorned with the most fashionable of facial hair. The T-Bone and Johnny G looking enchantingly resplendent in what should be a shining example for the modern day rugby league star:
Thems Were The Days: The Alexander name is as synonymous with the Penrith Panthers as any other and it would be the central moniker in both the rise and fall of the team in the early nineties that would reach the heights of premiership success and the depths of the tragedy and despair of death. From their inception into the competition in 1967, Penrith had rarely tasted success by 1989. It had been two decades of misery with only one finals appearance and three winning seasons in their first twenty-two years of existence. There were few stars and there was very little for those at the foot of the mountains to get excited about. By the backend of the eighties, however, the times were a-changin’ and a local hotshot named Greg Alexander was starting to come into his own. By 1989 he was nearing his best and with a quality supporting cast that included spiritual leader Royce Simmons, John Cartwright, Mark Geyer, Steve Carter, Graeme “The Penguin” Bradley and a 17 year old Brad Fittler, the Panthers made only their second finals appearance, going 16-6 throughout the year before going bang-bang in their two playoff matches. The signs were positive, however, and when premiership winning coach Phil Gould was bought in for the 1990 season, hopes were high. Those hopes were not disappointed with Alexander, Fittler, Geyer et al. taking the club to their first Grand Final. It would end in a heartbreaking 18-14 defeat to the defending premiers Canberra but the foundations had been laid for a dynasty. The Panthers had put together a team of stars, most of them local juniors, with a coach who knew how to win and a community willing their success. 1990 was also notable for the debut of Ben Alexander, the talented brother of local star Greg, whose fate would be the beginning the end of that brilliant Panthers team. That wouldn’t be until 1992, however, and 1991 would be their year. It was the perfect storm: a fresh coach, a talented young team, a superstar halfback at his peak, a club legend retiring, the necessary old-heads. And it resulted in a long-remembered premiership where the team was lauded out west and Royce Simmons was sent out a hero (where he had his only ever two-try match). Penrith won the minor premiership, lost only four matches all year and were undoubtedly the best team in the competition. And they were young. The future was bright and a dynasty was born. Come June 1992, however, and the Panthers world came crashing down and it would take a decade for the club to recover.
Midway through the 1992 season, with Penrith on the fringe of the top five but threatening a surge, Ben Alexander was killed in a car accident. The Panthers had a presentation in the June of the 1992 season where Phil Gould handed out Grand Final jackets. Ben, who along with teammates had been drinking, stormed out with some lower graders after he was overlooked for a jacket. Alexander did not play in the Grand Final due to injury but spent much of the season in the top grade. Alexander, who recorded a blood alcohol reading of 0.14 and was not wearing a seatbelt, slammed his car into a telegraph pole and was killed. It tore the club and the community apart with many close to Ben blaming Phil Gould for the tragedy. Mark Geyer immediately went to Balmain and fell further off the rails. Greg packed up and went to the Warriors within three years, shocking the district and the club. Gus was out the door in 1994. He took Brad Fittler with him when the Super League war erupted. And Penrith would not have a winning season until 2000. Ben Alexander’s death was a tragedy of the highest order and it tore a club that could have been anything apart. That era in Panthers folklore will always be defined by the Alexander name: for taking the team to the top and signalling its awful end.
Fantasy Team of the Week:
1. L.Patten (Bul)
2. M.Lett (Dra)
3. C.Stanley (Dra)
4. M.Cooper (Dra)
5. B.Morris (Dra)
6. J.Soward (Dra)
7. D.Holdsworth (Bul)
13. D.Stagg (Bul)
12. Z.Taia (New)
11. N.Hindmarsh (Par)
10. D.Hunt (Dra)
9. P.Aiton (Pen)
8. R.Asotasi (Sou)
Geurie Greens Update: A mammoth weekend for the Geurie Greens. Having already wrapped up the minor premiership, there was little incentive for most of the boys with the exception of star five-eighth Jamie Soward. Soward was in pursuit of the Clayton Friend Medal, the FFL equivalent of the Dally M. Robbie Farah of the Yenda Yuans has led the way all season and had established a two vote lead heading into the final round meaning Soward would need a man-of-the-match performance to claim the much coveted award. And that is what Soward did with a mammoth performance against Manly, racking up his seventh century of the year. Bar an unexpected monster performance in State of Origin from a few forwards, Soward will take the three points and become Geurie’s second Friend Medal winner. To check out past winners, click here. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clayton_Friend)
What I Hate About Rebecca Wilson This Week: A regular reader forwarded me a Bulletin article from 2005 where Jennifer Byrne interviewed Wilson. It was just prior to Wilson joining The Footy Show, where she quit after one episode despite promising to see out the season, and decided to slag Paul Vautin, Peter Sterling and male sportsmen in general. She attempted to rewrite history while appallingly seemed proud that she had an opinion on topics even if she knew nothing about them. It was infuriating. Thanks to the kind reader who forwarded that one on.
Watch It: This classic piece from The Elle McFeast Show featuring Rex Mossop is one of the most amusing items of television on You Tube. Rex is put under the hammer by Elle and looks most uncomfortable discussing penis size, sexual performance, his failure to ever wear a condom and sexually transmitted diseases. Rugby league needs more “Moose” Mossop and his refreshing honesty and distinct style would be a welcome treat in these days of staidness and political correctness. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyGInuGDbfo)