From The Couch
The Shame of Queensland: 21 seasons under Wayne Bennett and the Broncos never embarrassed themselves, Brisbane and Queensland like they have over the last two months. The traditional powerhouse who has not missed a finals series since 1991 has won only one match in their last eight, conceding an astonishing 293 points in those seven defeats at an average of 41.86 points per match. On Saturday night they were beaten 56-0 by a team who was only two wins off last spot. Brisbane has never finished with a negative differential yet currently are 137 the wrong side of zero with only five matches to play. Most concerning for the Broncos organisation is that the problems are deep rooted and could hold the club down for years. The loss of Wayne Bennett is the most cited reason and while his absence is certainly a contributing factor to the insipid displays Brisbane are turning out, it is the politics that drove him out of the club he made great that is the real issue
. Bennett lost a power struggle with CEO Bruno Cullen. Bennett was driven out and with him went the glue that held the club together. The structures in place under Bennett only worked because he was there and was strong enough to keep players in line and the procedures in place. In his final years, his power over recruitment was stripped back and the result were the signings of hacks like Ashton Sims, Joel Clinton, Ben Teo and Lagi Setu while workhorses like David Stagg, Ben Hannant and Mick Ennis were allowed to leave. Ivan Henjak was key to those decisions and he is now reaping what he has sowed. Henjak’s demeanour has also been a major issue. Players are running amok and giving up because Henjak seems content to find excuses for their dismal showings. The failure to account for Darren Lockyer’s age and provide him with adequate support must also be a prime reason for the club’s failing. Not so much in the backline but up front, there are few forwards who are putting the Broncos on the front foot. There is a limit to what Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker can do. Lockyer has never been a player who has been able to operate on the backfoot and that isn’t going to change in his advancing years. Inadequate defensive structures are a huge problem. The outside backs not only can’t make one-on-one tackles, they consistently make wrong reads that allow for the simplest of tries to be scored on them. It is simple under-eighteens stuff but again the Broncos have been lazy in the fundamentals. I doubt very much that Ivan Henjak will see out his contract but I suspect the problems inside the Broncos run deeper than him. The club is going to need a hard and experienced coach going forward and a cleanout of the playing staff is going to be required before Brisbane can climb into the realm of legitimate title contender again.
Paul Cariage Flashback: The crash of Manly winger David Williams continued on Monday night when the former bearded speedster did his finest Paul Cariage impersonation on the stroke of half-time when he attempted a mid-range chip from his own in-goal. The ball went straight to Benji Marshall who, luckily for Williams, did not have the wherewithal to use it productively. If you closed your eyes just a little, the ghost of Paul Cariage appeared on the television screen. Williams may not be consigned to delightful pieces of trivia from Bulldogs sportswriters but his career seems to have come full circle in the space of eighteen months: park footballer to premiership winner and Test player and Origin representative all the way back to mediocre first grader who will struggle to keep his spot in 2010. David Williams was like The Ultimate Warrior in the early nineties WWF. Hot for a while because of his gimmick but once that wore off there proved to be actually no substance to his game.
Grand News: Brett Delaney is off to the United Kingdom. Watching that little bitch used to be a heavy task. I’m pleased that will soon be over.
Some Advice for Corey Payne: Corey Payne has the drawn out look of a meth addict who has spent the last three weeks sifting through garbage bins collecting baby clothes and dog food cans. He has the worst eye circles ever seen on a football field. Corey Payne does not sleep, has poor blood circulation or is in the throes of menopause. In what will be the first and hopefully last Tedeschi Makeover, I would suggest to Corey Payne to get some regular shuteye, put teabags on your eyes, drink plenty of water and if none of that works, apply some foundation. Looking like a meth freak will not go down well next contract negotiation.
Meaningless Field Goal Attempt of the Week: Jamie Soward attempted to poke one over with four minutes on the clock with the Dragons up 26-12. Outstanding. Your love of the field goal is adorable.
Rumour of the Week: Brian Smith will be fired as coach of Newcastle this week with assistant Rick Stone put in charge of the team for the remainder of 2009. Smith’s defection has caused a great deal of angst in the Knights camp and their performance on Saturday night was so insipid that management believe they have no choice but to sack Smith if they are to salvage 2009 and reach the finals. Smith has one more week at longest. Stone will be given first crack and if he proves unsuccessful Michael Maguire is favourite to take the reins.
Fun Fact #1: John Morris and Glenn Hall played a combined 13 minutes in Monday night’s match, making a combined 32 metres and 7 tackles.
Fun Fact #2: John Morris started the first fifteen matches of the season for the Wests Tigers. The Tigers won only five of those matches.
Fun Fact #3: Since John Morris was demoted to the bench a month ago, the Tigers have not lost, winning four straight matches.
Wayne Bennett  The Dragons were simply ruthless against a very good Storm team. Deserved title favourites.
Kevin Moore [4.5] Strong performance from the Dogs who won in a gritty, finals manner. Back on track.
Craig Bellamy [4.5] Turned in a solid effort against red hot Dragons. Ticking over nicely. Fatigue biggest concern.
Tim Sheens  The Tigers are remarkably back in the title picture after an outstanding win over Manly on MNF.
John Cartwright [3.5] Huge slipup against the Cowboys at home. Were disgraceful first half. Lack firepower to win it all.
Des Hasler [3.5] Manly opened up poorly but fought hard. Playmaking and kicking game huge concerns.
Matt Elliott [3.5] Should have beaten Warriors but did remarkably well to get a draw after down 32-6 with 25 to go.
Daniel Anderson [2.5] Another win and all of a sudden Parra are in the finals race. Quite amazing really. Playing well.
Neil Henry [2.5] May have saved Cowboys season with huge win against Titans on road. Thurston may be an issue
Brian Smith  Humiliating defeat to the Roosters. Knights on a heavy slide. Smith likely to be fired very soon.
David Furner [0.5] Provided the Broncos with a touch-up. Had the Raiders loose. He may need to stick with McCrone.
Jason Taylor [-0.5] Souths were fairly tough against the Bulldogs. Dumb plays cost them, however.
Ivan Henjak [-1.5] The Broncos are embarrassing themselves like never before. Henjak may not see season out.
Ricky Stuart [-1.5] A bad season continues to get worse. Injuries are killing Sharks. Now right back in spoon hunt.
Ivan Cleary [-5] Wow…Cleary may be suicidal after watching his side blow a 26 point lead with 25 mins to go.
Brad Fittler [-70] Big upset win for the Roosters but it reflects poorly on Fittler that they finally started to play.
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 21: Wests Tigers-Manly, 19-18. Four cracking matches over the weekend. The Dragons-Storm match on Friday night was intense and of a high standard and had the stink of semi-final football all over it. Penrith provided one of the most amazing comebacks in rugby league history on Saturday night, coming back from a 32-6 deficit to the Warriors with twenty-five on the clock to tie the match at 32-32. Ten minutes of extra-time couldn’t separate the two teams. The Bulldogs-Souths game was a tough affair with the Bunnies putting up a score and then the Bulldogs running them down on the back of class, grit and some old fashioned Bunny stupidity. The match of the round, however, came on Monday night when the Tigers rolled the Eagles 19-18. To sum it up, the best team lost but the more deserving team won. The Eagles outplayed the Tigers but were killed on numerous occasions by the inept playmaking of Matt Orford and Jamie Lyon. Two Tigers tries came off the back of Eagles attacking raids that were finished by piddling kicks that landed right in the laps of the Tigers, who sprinted downfield for tries. Shannon Gallant and Tim Moltzen were very good for the Tigers while Robbie Farah again ran the show with class. Manly looked dead and buried when they were down 19-6 but a spectacular performance from Anthony Watmough that netted him two tries, 269 metres, 13 tackle breaks, 9 offloads and 3 line-breaks put Manly right back in the contest. In the last fifteen minutes, Watmough was unstoppable. A Matt Orford field goal drifted a little wide with not long remaining and then a Matt Orford pass went out in the dying seconds. Put a decent halfback in the team and Manly win the match and by quite a few. They didn’t get the points, however, and the Tigers now have four on the trot and are on the verge of entering the finals with the same momentum as 2005. It was an exciting weekend of league that has set up the last five weeks to perfection.
The Colin Best Express Fan Revue: Our old pal Colin Best had a day to forget on Sunday when three errors helped contribute to a come-from-behind Bulldogs victory. The most stunning was when he called for a ball from John Sutton in his own in-goal only for the pass to go astray and Hazem El Masri diving on it for a four-pointer. The Colin Best Express ground to a halt on Sunday…hopefully it can kick start before season’s end.
What Did Shane Rodney Do This Week? Shane Rodney compiled a list of his five favourite Rodney Dangerfield one-liners. He presents them for you, below…
5. My mother never breast fed me. She told me she only liked me as a friend.
4. They say love thy neighbour as thy self. What am I supposed to do? Jerk him off too?
3. I’m a bad lover. I once caught a peeping tom booing me.
2. My wife’s got a face like a saint- a Saint Bernard.
1. The other night a mugger took his mask off and made me wear it.
Beard Watch: Ten players I would like to see with facial hair-
• Ben Creagh: Big and bushy, Noel Cleal like.
• Billy Slater: A well groomed fu Manchu.
• Ben Hannant: Hello, Santa Claus.
• George Rose: A massive biker beard for a massive prop.
• Gary “Buster” Warburton: A thin Clark Gable special.
• Colin Best: Any kind of facial hair…please CBE!
• Alan Tongue: Massive and red and under some headgear.
• Glen Turner: An albino moustache is very funny.
• Krisnan Inu: Just to prove he isn’t a complete pussy.
• Shane Elford: It looked so good last time.
Thems Were The Days: Ever since the formation of rugby league at the George Hotel in Huddersfield 114 years ago, the defining characteristic of the sport has been passion. And it is debatable whether there has been a more passionate day than in mid 1928 when a match between Balmain and St. George boiled over into a wild brawl that involved players, spectators and the local constabulary. It would become known as the Earl Park Riot and is one of the most infamous displays of passion in the history of rugby league. In the years of 1927 and 1928, the trajectories of the Balmain and St. George Rugby League clubs would intersect. St. George, the newest club in the New South Wales Rugby League who joined in 1921, had endured their early teething problems and after two wooden spoons the club would have its first winning season in 1927, going 12-3 and becoming runner-up under the astute eye of Frank Burge. Balmain were headed in the other direction by the late twenties, however. Balmain had won six premierships between 1915 and 1924 and did not post a losing season between 1913 and 1926 but by the late twenties the club was entering a period of decline that would last nearly a decade. The star players for Balmain at the time were George Bishop and Reg Latta but the team who would become the Tigers were outclassed by a St. George team that included Australian players George Carstairs, Arthur Justice and Percy Fairall. There was no love lost when the two teams met on a cool August afternoon at Earl Park before 9,000 fans. Balmain had won only two matches all season while, save a loss against Norths in round two, St. George had not lost all season and were riding an eight match winning streak that included a hard fought 21-12 victory against Balmain only three rounds earlier.
The match was a brutal affair from the outset and descended into outright violence come the second half. The crowd was bubbling and was somewhat upset that Saints hardman Harry Flower had been dismissed while the Balmain players were seemingly able to get away with murder. As it became apparent the Saints had victory in their grasp- the final score was 21-3 in favour of St. George- Balmain became increasingly violent with Tigers forward Tony Russell leaving the most popular Saints player of the day, George Carstairs, unconscious after kicking him in the head. When Russell was only cautioned, the crowd demanded blood. Come the full time siren and that is what they got. As soon as full-time was called, Balmain’s George Bishop chased the Saints Arnold Traynor while fans from both sides stormed the field with hate in their hearts. Saints fans headed straight for Tony Russell, seeking vengeance, while many ripped out fence palings to be used as weapons. The brawl continued for many hours. One man was seen wielding an axe. Another was arrested and handcuffed to the goalposts yet forgotten about for many hours. Fans of both teams whacked and belted each other and the police for many hours. There was even a brawl in the back of an ambulance where a now revived Carstairs and Tony Russell, who was being treated for his riot related injuries, went at it before being broken up by an ambulance officer. Civil charges were laid against Russell and Carstairs for inciting a riot but they were dropped. And the legend of the Earl Park Riot lives on, the passion of that day still burning brightly in the rear vision mirror of the rugby league train.
Fantasy Team of the Week:
1. J.Hayne (Par)
2. J.Monaghan (Can)
3. J.Moon (War)
4. J.Croker (Can)
5. P.Graham (Can)
6. T.Campese (Can)
7. M.Orford (Man)
13. C.Fitzgibbon (Roo)
12. G.Cooper (Pen)
11. A.Watmough (Man)
10. S.Rapira (War)
9. C.Smith (Mlb)
8. B.Hannant (Bul)
Geurie Greens Update: Panic has paralysed the Geurie Greens camp over the weekend with a few sleepless nights worried about Jamie Soward’s possible suspension. He was cleared on Monday afternoon but not before an afternoon of heavy prayer and numerous emails had been sent. Injury concerns over Steve Price, who missed the clash against Penrith, and David Stagg, who was concussed against South Sydney, have also sent team management into a spin as Geurie attempts to become the first club to win two FFL titles. Hopes are high in the Central West, however, with the Greens sure to enter the Grand Final strong favourites against Tuncurry. The local chapter of the CWA will host the Grand Final Breakfast on Thursday while Cardinal George Pell will bless the team shortly after.
What I Hate About Rebecca Wilson This Week: The fact Beck can throw out baseless accusations about the alleged drug use of an international player and then claim his club has covered it up without any evidence. Wilson then passed the information on to David Gallop who called the club in question, Brisbane. Cullen and the Broncos should sue Wilson until she is destitute and on the street, singing for her supper.
Watch It: More a listen to it this week with the call of the final minutes of the 1997 Grand Final from the incomparable Roy and HG. There are no more entertaining callers and from the card table they provide plenty of entertainment, talking about Newcastle fans “coming down on billy carts…fifteen billy carts towed by a single horse…and they wouldn’t let the horse in”. Manly players were “spitting at the referee until he looked like a lemon meringue pie”. “Prince” Albert scored the winner. A Manly kick out on the full was met with a “I hope that costs you a contract and the match!” It doesn’t get much better than this. Click here and Click here.