Season 2009: Round 19

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

From The Couch

State of Origin III Review: It became apparent about twenty minutes into Origin III that the Queensland team had been on the drink for the majority of the week. A traditional Mal Meninga preparation, full of celebration and bonding. Queensland to a tee and I should have known better. Against the worst New South Wales team ever fielded, Queensland looked slow and lethargic. They hung in the contest for a while but mainly on the back of two contentious video referee decisions. Apparently bouncing the ball over the line is now a try. The match meant little to Queensland and it showed in the second half. The loss of Civoniceva and Hannant also hurt the Maroons up the centre. The highlight of the match was certainly the heavyweight pugilism of Brett White and Steve Price.

White decided he wanted to throw hands with Price and embarrassingly for Price, he got knocked out by the Marshmallow Man. Trent Waterhouse and Justin Poore both tried to be heroes, throwing an unconscious Price around. That pretty much summed up those two turkeys. A shame Poore wasn’t that tough when Israel Folau ran straight over the top of him in game two. In all the fuss, Waterhouse was sent off and Justin Hodges pulled the old signal for the Cripple Crossface. The Maroons received the penalty, put up a bomb and then went and smashed Kurt Gidley with two more players sin binned and Michael Crocker seen chasing Michael Ennis around. Classic Origin and a real throwback to better times.

A Rare Occurrence: Rugby league fans were treated to the ornithological equivalent of spotting the Ivory Billed Woodpecker on Wednesday night when the State of Origin officials gave the Blues an eight point try. The decision was entirely correct and is one that should be bought out more often. Thurston absolutely nailed David Williams’ cheekbone with the force of a Cristiano Ronaldo strike. The last eight point try I can recall came in 1993 when Bill Harrigan took out more of his hatred on the Bulldogs when he awarded one in the top-of-the-table clash with Norths. The Bulldogs led 17-12 with barely any time on the clock when David Hall crashed over out wide. Craig Polla-Mounta came in to stop Hall from improving the position. Craig Makepeace, who had missed his first three shots at goal, missed the first shot before Harrigan moved to the front of the uprights to give the Bears a penalty. Makepeace made the shot and the Dogs lost 18-17, one of only five losses for the Bulldogs who went on to win the minor premiership before going bang-bang in the finals. Norths finished sixth and were dead by the end of the decade.

More Double Headers: Friday night’s double header at Suncorp Stadium was a rip roaring success with all four clubs to be applauded. Queensland has become the home of rugby league over the last decade and the faithful did not let the game down with a packed house turning up to watch the Broncos get touched up by the Rabbitohs and Canterbury hold off a gallant Gold Coast team on a four day backup. The NRL needs to be proactive and look to encourage double headers next season and beyond. A double header at the SCG with traditional rivals such as South Sydney and the Wests Tigers and Canterbury and the Sydney Roosters would be a brilliant spectacle while it could even be a success in Melbourne with the Warriors also bringing a home match to Victoria. The NRL needs to look at new revenue streams and staging double headers could be just the ticket.

A Wise Move: The Sydney Roosters have pulled off an almighty coup by luring Brian Smith from Newcastle. The Roosters have signed Smith to a four year, multi-million dollar deal with the mandate to clean out the club and rebuild from the bottom up. Smith certainly isn’t a popular coach among players, particularly senior ones, and he has proven that he is not the man to lead a club to a premiership. He has, however, proven himself as a quality rebuilder of clubs living in squalor. The Roosters are just that. Every club he has coached has improved markedly under his direction, particularly in years two and three when the cleanout is complete and the rebuilding has begun. It happened at Illawarra, the Dragons, Parramatta and most recently, Newcastle. And if any club needs a broom put through it, it is the Roosters. Players like Willie Mason, Lopeni Paea, Sia Soliola, Anthony Minichiello and James Aubusson will all be shown the door while the recidivists like Jake Friend, Nate Myles and Sandor Earl will be told to comply with his system or leave. Even Braith Anasta will be lucky to survive. There will be no leniency and nor should there be as the free ride they have all been given under Brad Fittler has proved disastrous. The Roosters stuck by him a month too long. The Roosters won’t win a title under Smith but they should be back in finals contention by 2011 and in the eight by 2012. Smith did a remarkable job at Newcastle and will need to do an even better one at the Roosters. From Newcastle’s perspective, the loss of Smith is no big deal. Smith laid the groundwork for a new coach who can actually come in and lead the club to a title. Smith was never popular at Newcastle and even though he did a stellar job in cleaning house, many in the front office and in the stands never forgave him for punting a few local lads. It was the right move to let him go. The next move should be to sign Michael Maguire as soon as possible. If they do, they will be top four certainties in 2010.

They Were the Best of Buys, They Were the Worst of Buys:

Nineteen rounds in and the time has come to pass judgement on the recruitment class of 2009. Some players have exceeded expectations and lifted their new club to great heights. Others have taken the money and spent the season dogging it in a sea of ineptitude and laziness. Below, the ten best and ten worst buy’s of 2009.


1. Brett Kimmorley (Bul): Organiser who has changed the culture at Canterbury.

2. Ben Hannant (Bul): Provided the Dogs with some go forward and grunt.

3. Michael Weyman (Dra): Former fringe player now NSW prop. Outstanding.

4. David Stagg (Bul): Top tackler in the NRL who offers plenty in attack structure.

5. Josh Morris (Bul): 13 tries in 12 games and now among top left centres in NRL.

6. Bronson Harrison (Can): A revelation. A threat in attack and a hard worker.

7. Michael Ennis (Bul): Key to the Dogs success. Added mongrel and zip.

8. Isaac De Gois (New): Close to the Knights best and offers plenty around ruck.

9. Bryson Goodwin (Bul): On a pittance, won wing spot and now top try scorer.

10. Gareth Ellis (Tig): Underrated but has adapted to the NRL well.


1. Reni Maitua (Cro): Did nothing for the Sharks before copping a 2yr drug ban.

2. Arana Taumata (Mlb): Recidivist viewed as Storm #6 before axed prior to season.

3. Aaron Gorrell (Brs): Had been awful since returning to the NRL. Qld Cup awaits.

4. Stuart Flanagan (Can): Certainty to start in the #9. Dropped to 4th rake. Terrible.

5. Corey Hughes (Cro): The Sharks are now suffering as Bulldogs fans did for 10yrs.

6. Antonio Kaufusi (NQ): Former Test rep who now struggles to make the bench.

7. Lagi Setu (Brs): Highly touted flop who is making 54m and 17 tackles per game.

8. Luke Priddis (Dra): Too old, too slow. The game has passed him by.

9. Denan Kemp (War): Failed to produce Brisbane form and now a NSW Cup player.

10. Jordan Tansey (Roo): Fled the team for Hull after doing not much in 7 games.

Welcome Back, Tunza: Tonie Carroll has always loved a hit and he laid on possibly the best of his career when he left referee Tony De Las Heras out cold on Friday night. De Las Heras was taken off on a stretcher and subsequently to hospital after attempting a vicious head-butt to the knee of Carroll. De Las Heras had been flattened by Souths winger and cancer survivor Jamie Simpson when De Las Heras was seemingly trying to imitate the Shannon Hegarty school of defence. De Las Heras hit the deck and just as he was rising, boom, he let rip at Tunza’s very thick and very hard knee. It is certainly the leading contender for hit of the year. The only shame is that it wasn’t Bill Harrigan or Steven Clark who copped it. Welcome back TC…you have always been an entertainer.

Get A Haircut: Chris Sandow and Nathan Merritt both sported shocking haircuts on Friday night, some intricately cut crop lines along the side that left them looking like they had plastered a road map on their head. That kind of lair is acceptable when you are winning but when you are playing as poorly as Sandow is, perhaps concentrating on the game plan may be a better way to spend your time than getting flashy gangster haircuts that make you look like an even bigger twat than you are.

Cop That: Warren Ryan gave Manly winger Tony Williams the biggest caning a commentator has ever laid on a player, spending two hours telling the ABC audience what a dumb and lazy player he is. The comments were well deserved. Cop that.

Rumour of the Week: Michael Hagan will return to Newcastle as coach of the Knights in 2010. With Brian Smith shockingly moving to the Sydney Roosters, there has been some very strong mail that the man he replaced could return. Hagan is well liked at Newcastle, he did take the club to a premiership, has a 53% record at the club and he took the team to the finals in four of his six seasons at the helm. It is a long shot but a Michael Hagan return would not come as a complete shock.

Fun Fact #1: Michael Crocker’s statistics for Origin III: 2 errors, 2 penalties, 22 tackles, 3 missed, 6 runs for 23 metres.

Fun Fact #2: Michael Crocker’s statistics for Origin II: 4 errors, 1 penalty, 18 tackles, 1 missed, 13 runs for 74 metres.

Fun Fact #3: Michael Crocker’s statistics for Origin I: 1 error, 0 penalties, 23 tackles, 3 missed, 9 runs for 80 metres.

Fun Fact #4: Michael Crocker: 7 errors, 3 penalties, 7 missed tackles, an average of 21 tackles and 59 metres per match.

Fun Fact #5: Michael Crocker was the first player chosen for Queensland this season and will be in 2010. Michael Crocker is The Luckiest Player Alive.

Fun Fact #6: Michael Crocker did not back up for South Sydney on Friday night. Now Origin is finished, Crocker probably won’t be seen until the last few weeks of the season and only then if Souths are a chance of September action.

Coaching Stocks:

Kevin Moore [5] A fine win that showed the Bulldogs class in the first half and their toughness in the second.

Wayne Bennett [5] Bye: The Dragons are in prime position for the minor premiership thanks to their new steel and grit.

Craig Bellamy [4.5] Tough loss to Parra but they were without most of their key playmakers.

Brian Smith [4.5] Bye: Smith took the chance of the bye to say he was fleeing to the Roosters in 2010 on huge deal.

John Cartwright [4] Titans lost no admirers on a 4-day backup against a hot Bulldogs, taking the match the whole 80.

Des Hasler [3] Manly snuck home against Cronulla but were fairly dreadful. Defence has fallen away horribly.

Tim Sheens [3] The Tigers love their daytime footy and they didn’t let the Leichhardt faithful down with a big win.

Neil Henry [2.5] The Cowboys cannot play in daylight or on the road. Both major worries for Neil Henry.

Matt Elliott [2.5] The Panthers just keep hanging around. Winning the matches they should and may sneak into 8.

Daniel Anderson [1] Lifted for a big win over a much better team. Stuck strong on the line which has been rare in ’09.

Ivan Henjak [0.5] Brisbane could not be going any worse. Gave up against Souths. Attitude a huge issue.

David Furner [0.5] Why does he refuse to start Butriss? More selection issues. Middle defence and discipline worries.

Ricky Stuart [0] The Sharks were tough against a better team but threw away victory with poor handling.

Jason Taylor [-2] Big win against Brisbane, first at Lang Park since ’89. Has Sutton firing. At the crossroads now.

Ivan Cleary [-2.5] Much needed win for the Warriors on the road though nearly tossed it away. Lucky.

Brad Fittler [-50] Fired for 2010. Doubt his prospects for new employment are high.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 19: Bulldogs-Gold Coast, 23-16. As the old sporting expression goes, it was a game of two halves. And it was only the sage old dog Brett Kimmorley that ensured the Bulldogs left Suncorp Stadium with the two points in hand. The Bulldogs damn well flew the gate with Luke Patten turning in one of the best halves of football by anybody in 2009. He made the bust and then grubbered through for Josh Morris to score the opener and he made a remarkable save on a probable Brett Delaney meat pie. Jamal Idris was also spectacular in his earlier-than-expected return with a brilliant display of speed and strength for his 40 metre solo try. The Dogs led 16-0 at the break and had all the running but the tide turned in the second half. Gold Coast scored the opener through Mat Rogers but the Bulldogs responded in kind through the mighty Haz who finished a gorgeous pass from Daniel Holdsworth. Two tries to the Titans in the last ten minutes and another attacking raid and the Bulldogs looked to be in a lot of trouble, up 22-16. Old Noddy, though, with the patience of a saint and the boot of a Welshman, nailed a long range field goal with aplomb and sealed the win. It was a brilliant match, full of ebbs-and-flows and had the intensity and crispness of a September meeting.

The Colin Best Express Fan Revue: The Colin Best Express showed his true speed and the brute force with which he hits on Friday night when he launched into a cameraman. We all got the close up we craved when old Colin went Smack! Bang! into a camera just before the break. It pushed Colin Best to his best half of the season where he helped lay on a try and contributed plenty to Souths demolition of the pathetic Broncos.

What Did Shane Rodney Do This Week? Channelled once-revered pug Roberto Duran and shouted, once again, No Mas.

Beard Watch: Melbourne and Queensland lock Dallas Johnson deserves plenty of praise for his patchy Abraham Lincoln beard. Usually DJ can be a little inconspicuous during matches, doing the grunt work but rarely mentioned in dispatches or seen in the camera lens. Last Wednesday was a different story, however, when Dallas scored the first try for Queensland, scooping up one of the multiple David Williams dropped balls to score a rare meat pie. DJ was up and all of a sudden his Abraham Lincoln/Teen Wolf special was on display for the world to see. The moustacheless beard is a real rarity and has been for the majority of the last century-and-a-half so it was a delightful to see an atypical beast like Mr. Dallas Johnson bring it back.

Dallas Johnson

Thems Were The Days: There was a bit of an upheaval in rugby league in the mid-nineties. The Super League War and all that. Heads rolled, the game changed and rugby league was never the same again. There were also plenty of fatalities in said war and one of the oft-forgotten casualties was the Western Reds. One of the few decent things the Arthuson regime did in its final tyrannical years was to take big time rugby league to Perth. Ever since World War II, rugby league has been part of Perth thanks to a strong East Coast population and many ex-pat South Africans bought up on a diet of rugby. For 45 years they toiled away in a local competition before it was announced in 1993 that the Western Reds would be added to the 1995 Australian Rugby League competition. It was a move filled with vision and sense. A reasonably strong local competition, the backing of local television, plenty of new mining money and a solid natural supporter base meant that if the team was given time and support, rugby league would have flourished in Perth. The Reds certainly got off to a great start. They had signed promising young coach Peter Mullholland, former Dragon international Brad Mackay, Dally M Medal winner Mick Potter, hardmen Mark Geyer and Rodney Howe, Kiwi backrower Brendan Tuuta and former Rookie of the Year Matt Rodwell. It was a solid team and after opening the season with a 28-16 victory over 1992-93 Grand Finalists St. George at the WACA in front of nearly 25,000 people, the going looked great.

One of four expansion teams in 1995, the Western Reds were, to the surprise of many, the best of the lot, finishing with an 11-11 record and missing out on the finals by only one win. Tragically for rugby league in Western Australia, the Super League war struck early on in their first year and the team became nothing more than a pawn. The costs of travel were pretty horrendous for the Reds so they needed success to ensure gate takings and corporate support remained. Super League put an end to that. The Reds had little choice but to side with Super League and after forfeiting the opening game of the 1996 season, the Reds only won a single match before round 12 with Mackay, among others, having fled to ARL aligned teams. With Mick Potter only playing three matches and the team struggling to score points (they broke 20 only twice all season), the crowds halved and the corporate support all but dried up. The Reds finished sixteenth in 1996 and by 1997 it was only the backing of News Limited that saw the team stay afloat. 1997 proved a disaster for the Reds under new coach Dean Lance. Despite having players like Robbie Kearns, Matt Geyer, Julian O’Neill and Matt Fuller on the books, the Reds lacked depth and travel certainly took its toll. The Reds went 7-11 and finished eighth and were appalling in the World Club Challenge. Worse, they drew over 10,000 fans only three times at the WACA. When a peace deal was forged, the Reds were the first to go. They had accumulated a debt of over $10 million and had been so poorly handled that the product in Perth was tarnished almost beyond repair. With the new NRL looking to cut costs wherever possible after such an expensive war, there was no money to help sustain rugby league in Perth. The Reds were shut down and essentially, along with the Hunter Mariners, became the Melbourne Storm. A decade on and there is still no team in Perth. It was an opportunity missed for rugby league, one which could have bought plenty of money to the game and given the code a more national flavour. When a Perth team is reintroduced, and hopefully that is not too far away, the NRL needs to commit to the region for a generation and it will undoubtedly be a major success.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. L.Patten (Bul)
2. M.Vatuvei (War)
3. B.Champion (Sou)
4. T.Symonds (Roo)
5. J.Tia-Kilifi (Pen)
6. J.Sutton (Sou)
7. B.Marshall (Tig)
13. S.Manu (Mlb)
12. N.Hindmarsh (Par)
11. E.Pettybourne (Sou)
10. S.Tronc (NQ)
9. R.Farah (Tig)
8. D.Taylor (Brs)

Geurie Greens Update: A peaceful week for the Greens who enjoyed a rest after winning the minor premiership. Jimmy Soward was presented with the coveted Friend Medal, an outstanding achievement for a fantasy revelation. There have been a few concerns in the camp with Steve Price’s jaw and Michael Jennings’s hamstring causing plenty of worry among fans and coaching staff alike. The return of Jamal Idris provided plenty of excitement, however, and all signs are pointing to a Greens Grand Final berth with a win next week.

What I Hate About Rebecca Wilson This Week: Rebecca gets a break this week for being one of the few AFL loving pundits not to slam State of Origin III as a spectacle in brutality and violence. So all hatred directed her way will be held off until next week.

Watch It: Anthony Watts and Robbie Farah staged an old school hooker battle at Leichhardt on Sunday, throwing punches and starting fights. Cowboys hooker Watts threw a stinging upper cut to Farah for seemingly no apparent reason at the backend of a scrum, one in which the Tigers scored from. Next scrum and vengeance was sought. Farah freed an arm and went to town with a flurry of punches that put Watts on the turf. On a sun drenched Sunday afternoon at Leichhardt, it was delightful to wander back into 1989. Click here.

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