Season 2009: Round 20

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

From The Couch

Special K: A few thoughts on the Karmichael Hunt defection to the AFL before I find a bottle of whiskey and read the extreme and apocalyptic opinions of the crazed NRL and AFL columnists of the mainstream newspapers.

Hunt’s defection is probably the most salivating cross-code defection in the history of Australian sport. Not the most important but certainly one of the most interesting.

Gold Coast Titans chief Michael Searle, one of the best executives in rugby league who has sewn up the Gold Coast for rugby league, is 100% correct in calling the move a circus act. How could an athlete who has never played the game before become one of the top paid athletes in the sport? If someone like Chris Judd joined the NRL, he would be lucky to get $100,000 per season. Hunt joining the Gold Coast is nothing more than a publicity stunt that will have plenty of long-term negative ramifications for the new AFL club.

The AFL seems somewhat desperate to have chased Hunt, realising that their structures and culture would lead to the new Gold Coast franchise having few if any marquee names to bring punters to the club. Hunt is seemingly nothing more than a marketing tool. To allow him to play rugby for the first half of 2010 only confirms this view.

While his skill, hardness and talent are certainly a loss to rugby league, it will hardly be the death of the sport or any such nonsense espoused by those infatuated with AFL. Bigger names have left rugby league and the game has continued to flourish.

Hunt suggesting he left for a “new challenge” after he “achieved everything” in rugby league are nothing but bald faced lies. Hunt whored himself out to the highest bidder. He has been doing so for seven months and was always going to go to whoever threw the most money at him. If a Canadian Football League team offered him more money, he would be a Saskatchewan Roughrider. If a Japanese baseball team had of offered him more money, he would be a Hanshin Tiger. It is simple economics and the new challenge he is attempting is finding a place for all his money. And to suggest he has achieved everything in league is laughable and an insult to the greats of the game. Stop being duplicitous and admit that you are chasing the cash.

The NRL will not launch any “retaliatory strikes” as suggested by Eddie McGuire. McGuire has proven what an insular world he and his AFL colleagues exist in by comparing their purchase of Hunt with Super League. The NRL won’t chase a single AFL player and they certainly won’t make an AFL player one of the highest paid players in the NRL. As hard as it may be for the AFL to understand, the NRL is not in a war with them. Rugby league will always rule in New South Wales and Queensland and AFL in the remainder of Australia.

Karmichael Hunt will be back in the NRL by the time he is 30. Just like Rogers, Sailor, Tahu etc, Hunt will be back when the AFL money well dries up. Once his marketing value is gone and the interest in the cross-code move has diminished and he is released after he proves only a fair-to-middling AFL player, he will come back, cap in hand, to the NRL.

The Broncos are going to have to find a new playmaker in the next twelve months. Darren Lockyer is fragile and nearing his end. Hunt was destined to wear the six once Lockyer retired but all that grooming was for nothing. Brisbane are going to need to find a genuine playmaker soon.

Turner & Hooch: Steve Turner is coming to the Bulldogs in 2010 and it is a move that will work out well for both parties. Turner is a good fit for the Dogs and the Dogs are a good fit for Turner. Stevie T is a solid clubman who can finish well, is a hard worker and has a few wrinkles to his game that make him a threat. His goal-kicking will also be an asset as he has been bought in to replace Hazem El Masri. If Kevin Moore can turn Bryson Goodwin into one of the best finishers in the NRL, he should do plenty for Turner, a player of greater natural talent. It is good to see the Bulldogs continuing to recruit smartly.

Finch Tantrum: It is little wonder Brett Finch is considered one of the biggest sooks in the NRL after the way his dad responded to a recent referee’s poll in the Rugby League Week. Robert Finch reportedly went ballistic when he found out that not only did some officials defy his order not to participate but actually voted his son the biggest sook and worst behaved player in the NRL. Finch senior threatened to sack any referee found to have participated. Perhaps Finch should show the same outrage when he and his sidekicks constantly ruin games with their pathetic interpretations than when they speak their mind. Finch is a fool and should be fired immediately. There is no bigger blight on the game.

Rookie Team of the Year: We are twenty rounds down and there have been some wonderful rookies emerge this season. Jamal Idris is the clear favourite for Rookie of the Year honours but the likes of Daniel Mortimer, Scott Porter, Josh Dugan and Kevin Gordon are all hot on his heels. Below is the best of the rookie brigade.

1. Josh Dugan (Canberra)
2. Kevin Gordon (Gold Coast)
3. Jamal Idris (Bulldogs)
4. Jarrod Croker (Canberra)
5. Kevin Locke (New Zealand)
6. Daniel Mortimer (Parramatta)
7. Scott Porter (Cronulla)
13. Alex Glenn (Brisbane)
12. Lewis Brown (New Zealand)
11. Steve Rapira (North Queensland)
10. Dave Tyrell (South Sydney)
9. Joel Romelo (Penrith)
8. Josh McGuire (Brisbane)

Meaningless Field Goal of the Week: Jamie Soward, you just continue to excite. Never mind your 100 metre tries or your pin point kicks. Never mind the smorgasbord of try assists or the newfound confidence in defence. Never mind the talk of Origin or the fantasy dominance. No, the most exciting element of Jamie Soward is his love of the field goal. Little Jimmy S just laps up a field goal with almost the same hunger as Neil Baker once did. He kicked his fourth of the season in the dying minutes of a clash with the Warriors with the Dragons already having the game in the bag. It was his second shot of the day after he attempted a 50 metre special just on the stroke of half-time. Soward is coming into his own and hopefully in the next few years he attempts a Neil Baker of 1986 and just keeps knocking them over.

Rumour of the Week: The defection of a player from rugby league to another code and the scandal that has engulfed the Queensland State of Origin team over the last week are not completely unrelated. Two and two rarely equals five.

Fun Fact #1: Nick Kouparitsis has won only two of his last twenty-four NRL matches. (Thanks to Mr. Rugby, a real student of rugby league history and the failings of future trivia question targets, for that one).

Coaching Stocks:

Wayne Bennett [5] Never looked in danger across the ditch. The defence is solid and the attack is dangerous.

Craig Bellamy [4.5] The Storm looked ordinary for 60mins but won easily in the end despite plenty of big names out.

Kevin Moore [4] Worse loss of the year for the Dogs. Smacked by an inferior team with no excuses. Crunch time.

John Cartwright [4] Big win over the Broncos as expected but would have been disappointed with the finish.

Brian Smith [4] Shocking effort against Manly in the last 50mins. His move may prove a major distraction.

Des Hasler [4] Manly are building momentum and are verging on being considered title contenders.

Tim Sheens [3.5] Three on the trot for the Tigers and a big win away in Canberra. Now in the mix for a top 8 spot.

Matt Elliott [3] If Penrith do hold on for a top 8 spot then Elliott must surely be in the mix for coach of the year.

Daniel Anderson [2] Huge victory over the Dogs. Now have two on the trot against top 4 teams. This week huge.

Neil Henry [1.5] Lost at home to Penrith. A major rift between coach and star player. They will miss the eight.

Ivan Henjack [0] Another touch up. At least the young blokes didn’t give up this time.

David Furner [-0.5] Shocking home loss to the Tigers in a must win match. The Raiders need a new man for ’10.

Jason Taylor [-0.5] Two wins in a row have the rabbits back in the finals mix but they have beaten nobody.

Ricky Stuart [-0.5] Toughed it out for 60mins but never really looked like winning.

Ivan Cleary [-4] Only 4 points at home. Attack is pathetic.

Brad Fittler [-70] Who cares? He will never coach NRL after this year.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 20: Manly-Newcastle, 44-20. It was a terrible weekend of NRL action with not one single match capturing the imagination and seven games having a final margin of 16 points or more. The Manly-Newcastle gets the nod primarily because bustling prop Georgie Rose crossed for a meat pie in a lively effort that recorded a 4.2 on the Richter scale. The Knights jumped to a 12-0 lead after only 8 minutes and were holding firm until 30 minutes in when the Eagles scored the first of five tries in the ten minutes before and ten minutes after the break. It only got worse for Newcastle and for those watching the match. The Knights were so bad that Roosters coach Brad Fittler claimed that Brian Smith “tanked” the match so that the Knights would be at their best to smash the Roosters this weekend.

The Colin Best Express Fan Revue: The Colin Best Express, allegedly, rejected the same offer from the AFL that Karmichael Hunt. The AFL was after the NRL’s star attraction but Best would not be swayed. They eventually settled for a lesser light in Hunt.

What Did Shane Rodney Do This Week? Shane Rodney played a measly 9 minutes. Thank you, Des Hasler. For the remaining 71 minutes, “Sugar” Shane wrote his thirteenth essay on Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick Incident. The essay is tepid in tone and uninspiring in nature, his worst yet.

Beard Watch: The desire to see more facial hair in the NRL has reached even greater heights with the Oh Errol girls, unashamedly pro-beard in rugby league, publishing an open letter to David Gallop from the very cool guys at The Sport Count calling for the NRL Godfather to take the lead of his NBA counterpart David Stern and legislate for more facial hair. It is a touching letter that calls on Gallop to bring facial hair back to the NRL, not merely as a novelty but as a beacon to masculinity in rugby league. To read this most heart-warming of letters, click and scroll right down. Click Here.

Thems Were The Days: 2009 marks the 20 year anniversary of Canberra-Balmain Grand Final, the greatest decider ever played. It also marks the 10 year anniversary of the Melbourne-Dragons Grand Final, the most controversial decider of the modern era. Lost in the milieu is the fact that 2009 marks the 15 year anniversary of the 1994 decider, a brutal match for Bulldogs fans and the last great hurrah of the mighty Raiders dynasty. It was hardly a classic match but history proved it to be a pivotal turning point in the history of rugby league. Despite the fact Canterbury had won their second minor premiership on the trot in 1994 and had beaten Canberra on the back of a Daryl Halligan field goal in the major semi final, the Raiders entered the decider as favourite. The core of the team that had won the premiership in 1989 and 1990 and had lost the 1991 Grand Final remained: Meninga, Stuart, Daley, Clyde, Walters and coach Tim Sheens. They were joined by an exciting bunch of youngsters including Brett Mullins, David Furner, Ruben Wiki, Jason Croker and Ken Nagas, giving the Raiders a team that would stack up against the best of any era and one that would be unlikely to stand up to modern day salary cap scrutiny. The Bulldogs were not a team short on talent, however, with Terry Lamb, Darren Britt, Jason Hetherington, Jim Dymock, Dean Pay, Jason Smith (his brother Darren was not considered by Chris Anderson after Darren announced he was going to Brisbane in 1995), Steve Price and Martin Bella. Yes, Martin Bella. For the Bulldogs faithful, Marty Bella would forever be the man who defined the 1994 Grand Final. Raiders fans remember it as Paul Osborne’s match but those in the blue and white remember it as the day Marty constantly fucked up. It didn’t take him long. Bella knocked on from the opening kick off and the Raiders scored soon after. Paul Osborne set up the first two Raiders tries but by that stage Bella had dropped the ball and missed tackles and was generally a tidal wave of ineptitude, mediocrity and bad luck. The game looked gone after two minutes and was shot after ten. It was during this time that Terry Lamb was taken out with a vicious high shot delivered by Mal Meninga in his farewell match. Legend has it that Terry Lamb took out Ellery Hanley in the 1988 decider but that shot (still unproven) was nothing compared to Meninga hitting Lamb with his ever-plastered meat axe of an arm. A dazed Lamb could do little after it despite having the courage and tenacity to play on. By half-time the match was over. The Bulldogs could not hold the ball or contain the hot shot Raiders backline and with Lamb essentially a passenger the team lacked cohesion or organisation. In the end the Raiders won 36-12 with Meninga scoring an intercept try (another Jarrod McCracken screw up) in his farewell match.

The Bulldogs and Chris Anderson and Terry Lamb would get redemption a year later by claiming the 1995 premiership but it was a devastating defeat at the time. And for the Raiders, it would be their last hurrah. It was their third and final premiership. Meninga retired. Sheens would leave a year later. Stuart and Clyde would be gone after three. And Canberra has not since been a force. In essence the 1994 Grand Final was the end of the final dynasty and the start of parity. No team assembled since those Raiders teams of the early nineties have been as star studded or have achieved as much. It was the final game for Mal Meninga. It was also the final game for the era of the true dynasty. And for your author, he developed a severe sinus problem just after full time and was laid up in bed for two weeks. The doctors called it sinusitis but it was really a broken heart.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. B.Slater (Mlb)
2. J.Simpson (Sou)
3. J.Hodges (Brs)
4. C.Stanley (Dra)
5. B.Anderson (Sou)
6. J.Soward (Dra)
7. S.Prince (GC)
13. N.Hindmarsh (Par)
12. T.Waterhouse (Pen)
11. S.Mannering (War)
10. R.Fa’aoso (New)
9. I.Luke (Sou)
8. F.Moimoi (Par)

Geurie Greens Update: The major semi-final came and went and not with a lot of drama with the heroic Geurie Greens now into the FFL Grand Final. The Greens had few problems in disposing of Tuncurry despite skipper David Stagg failing to show at Ears Ronny Oval. Stagg was reportedly too ill to play over the weekend after one too many Stagg Chilli dishes. Another exquisite performance from Jamie Soward got the Greens home, however, with big games from Michael Jennings and Ben Creagh putting the icing on the cake. This week the Greens watch on as perennial preliminary final losers Tuncurry and the flash in the pan Ulladulla fight it out for the right to tangle with Geurie at The Big Dance.

What I Hate About Rebecca Wilson This Week: A leopard doesn’t change its spots and a fool always lets the drivel flow from her mouth. So it was this week with Wilson who decided to chastise the ARL and the NRL for the fisticuffs that finished off Origin III. All this only a week after she said how much she loved it. Rebecca Wilson is so ignorant she can’t even recall what she has written.

Watch It: There are a number of great clips on You Tube telling the history of the Challenge Cup and these covering 1947-1959 are two of the best, showing the legends and the style of a different time. There was some attacking brilliance and some defensive starch, rivalries and royalty and some fine commentary from Eddie Waring, the first voice of rugby league in Britain. For old rugby league addicts, this stuff is as pure and brilliant as anything you will ever find. To see Billy Boston in full flight is something else. Click here also Click here.

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