Season 2009: Round 24

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

From The Couch

Man Love at Belmore: They may both be elder statesmen at Belmore but the excitement of a premiership run, the enjoyment of playing with a selfless team and the fun of playing for a free spirited coach has Luke Patten and Brett Kimmorley playing as well now as at any point in their careers. On Monday night each was brilliant. Even though the Bulldogs were only taking on the Bondi Bastards Touch Football Team, The General and Noddy proved why they will lead the Bulldogs to premiership glory. Patten scored two tries and had another controversially disallowed, running for over 200 metres with two line breaks and eight tackle breaks. Noddy set up two, kicked a 40/20, sliced the Roosters defence to shreds and continued to taunt the Roosters with his skills until he was given an early mark. The best sign, however, was the smiles both players had at the end of the game. They are both playing like twenty year olds and that is going to mean plenty come late September. A big thanks to Ricky Stuart who decided Brett Kimmorley was past it and released the affable half from the Sharks so the club could sign Trent Barrett.

Stuff White People Like: Stuff White People Like is one of the more amusing websites about with an offering of a full list of what we white folks enjoy Click here. Assists, David Sedaris, Wrigley Field, the Colbert Report, Sarah Silverman, Mad Men and St. Patrick’s Day all ring fairly true for your author though dinner parties, the idea of soccer, organic food and not having a television are all perhaps taking things just a little too far. We have an entry to the list. Tackling. White guys love tackling in the NRL. They have a monopoly on the art as well as total ownership of descriptions such as “having a high work rate” and “doing the grunt work”. A look at the top ten average tacklers in the NRL this season tosses up ten white guys who could all easily be mistaken for ghosts or at the very least the board of The Marylebone Cricket Club. Michael Luck, David Stagg, Nathan Hindmarsh, Dallas Johnson, Nathan Friend fill the top five slots and it isn’t until we get to the 15th slot and Paul Aiton that we get a black man in the top of the average tackles list. With Polynesians and Aboriginals making up 40% of the NRL that is quite a feat for whitey. And not only does whitey love tackling but most white guys, your author included, love a tackler. They are the stars of our fantasy football teams, they reinforce the notion that sometimes hard work will take you places and they are always good names to throw about when trying to prove your rugby league intellect at pubs, clubs, games and football themed soirees. Nathan Hindmarsh has won four straight Provan-Summons Medals for the most popular player in league and will probably win it every year until he retires. Tackling: whitey’s favourite footy feat.

Challenge Cup Final Thoughts: The Challenge Cup final is on this weekend with two unlikely teams fighting it out in Warrington and Huddersfield. Warrington have not won the Challenge Cup since 1974 and have not played in the final since 1990 while Huddersfield have not won since 1953 and have played in only two finals since that win. This year is the year of the fairytale with the big four of St. Helens, Leeds, Bradford and Wigan, who have won all bar two cups since 1987, missing out on the trip to Wembley. Betting is 1.90 take your pick and I certainly will with the smart money and the Tedeschi tip being for Warrington. The reason is simple: Nathan Brown coaches Huddersfield and I could never back a Nathan Brown coached team in a big match. His record at the Dragons was abysmal and though he is doing well at the Giants, his true colours will soon come out. Huddersfield are currently fourth on the Super League ladder with sixteen wins compared to Warrington’s eleven wins and ninth spot and Huddersfield may have the Man of Steel favourite in Brett Hodgson but the Wolves will tough this out in a close one with Michael Monaghan to leave the hero. If you plan to watch the match live in Australia, well, you best get new plans. Channel Nine have bought the rights and they won’t be showing the match live despite the fact the match has a worldwide appeal and is the rugby league equivalent of the FA Cup. Another kick in the balls from rugby league fans courtesy of Channel Nine. Bring on 2012 and the Ten bid for league.

Bye, Bye Bowen: The North Queensland Cowboys won’t pull the trigger and dump Matt Bowen but his latest injury setback will consign his best play and even his good play to history. Matt Bowen, at his best, was an electric try scorer and brilliant cover defender whose speed was a constant threat. A severe and degenerative left knee condition will finish him. He is now out for ten months which will mean he will have missed the majority of football between 2008 and 2010 and will have his major attribute severely blunted. Players rarely recover their speed after so many knee injuries. The Cowboys, if they are to be a force in the coming years, need to cut him loose and prepare for the post-Bowen era. Otherwise they are going to have another Anthony Minichiello on their hands. His comeback should be enough to deter all clubs from persisting with older players who have a history of long-term injuries that damage speed.

Dane Nielsen: Dane Nielsen is as talented at reading rugby league as I am at reading Mandarin while having laser eye surgery performed in the dark after 72 hours of straight whiskey consumption. He may well have edged past Tony Williams for the award of dumbest outside back in the NRL. On Sunday he again proved he had no idea by going out when he needed to go in, going in when he needed to go out, taking the wrong man, missing the right man. He is a player destined for a long NSW Cup career.

Rumour of the Week: Ron Palmer could be off to Cronulla. A week after getting fired by Brian Smith after a twenty-plus year stint at the Roosters, the word is The Cougar could end up in the Shire in 2010. Sharks coach Ricky Stuart wrote a glowing tribute to Palmer in The Sunday Telegraph and the rumour mill has it that Stuart is hoping to bring him into the Sharks fold in some capacity next season.

Fun Fact #1: Premiership favourites St. George (prior to their merger with Illawarra) have won 15 premierships. The last time they won the title under a Labor Prime Minister was in 1949 in the last months of the Chifley Government.

Fun Fact #2: St. George premierships under Liberal/Country rule: 14 (Fadden 1, Menzies 11, Fraser 2). St. George premierships under Labor rule: 1.

Fun Fact #3: St. George has lost nine Grand Finals since World War II. Five have been under a Labor Prime Minister (Keating 2, Hawke 1, Whitlam 1, Chifley 1) and six have been in a year when there was a Labor Prime Minister for part of the season (the other being 1996).

Fun Fact #4: Premiership second favourites Canterbury have won eight premierships (excluding the 2002 title) with five coming under a Labor Government and only three under conservative rule. The last time the Bulldogs won under a Labor Prime Minister was in 1995 when Paul Keating led the government.

Fun Fact #5: The last opinion poll taken in July has Labor ahead 57% – 43% in the two-party preferred with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s approval at 66%. Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull’s approval rating was 16%. The chances of an election pre-Grand Final is minimal and the chances of a Coalition victory are infinitely smaller.

Fun Fact #6: Records of other premiership contenders under both Labor and Coalition rule:


Under Labor
Under Coalition
Title Odds
Gold Coast
Wests Tigers

Another Eight-Point Try: The referee’s fascination with the eight-point try continued over the weekend with Parramatta awarded the third eight-pointer of the season on Friday night after the always thuggish and always stupid Bryce Gibbs dropped his knees into the back of Luke Burt after he had crossed for a try. Prior to this season there has not been an eight-point try awarded for seven years. While the eight-point try is a bit of a lark to those rugby league freaks who get off on obscurity, the latest flurry of them proves once again how referees get carried away with certain rules at times and then completely disregard certain rules at other times. A little bit of consistency wouldn’t hurt.

Coaching Stocks:

Kevin Moore [5] The Bulldogs are now the deserved minor premiers. They may actually finish top of the ladder too.

Wayne Bennett [4.5] Two losses on the trot to two inferior teams including one the Dragons own. Peaked too early?

Craig Bellamy [4] Stuck with Manly well in a gritty affair. No lack of effort. Centres are biggest concern.

John Cartwright [4] Far from impressive but never looked like being troubled by a Sharks team looking at 2010.

Tim Sheens [4] The Tigers played well but a lack of patience and discipline cost them when it was all on the line.

Daniel Anderson [4] Parramatta is surging into finals contention but they still sit ninth and must win this weekend.

Rick Stone [3.5] An amazing victory after trailing early. Newcastle are playing with plenty of heart under Stone.

Matt Elliott [3] Comfortably downed Souths and right in the mix for a finals berth. Next game v Parra is huge.

Des Hasler [3] Never easy winning at Olympic Park but did so in trying conditions. Stewart return a huge plus.

Ivan Henjak [1.5] Has gotten the Broncos out of their slide just in time. Win over Dragons biggest of season.

Neil Henry [0.5] Must be tearing his hair out after blowing last finals hope when up 22-8 and losing.

David Furner [0.5] Another road loss for the Raiders. Needs to figure out a way to get them winning away from home.

Jason Taylor [-1] 2009 will be considered a major disappointment by everyone at Souths. Head on the block.

Ricky Stuart [-3] Showed plenty of heart against Titans but outclassed big time.

Ivan Cleary [-10] Well they got a win…but it is all too little and all too late.

Brad Fittler [-99] An inglorious exit from coaching for a once brilliant player continues…

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 24: Wests Tigers-Parramatta, 18-26. It was billed as the round of the decade and while it didn’t quite live up to the hype it was a fascinating round that kept the dream alive for some, finished the nightmares for others and put question marks over the remainder. Souths and the Cowboys had their finals hopes extinguished with insipid performances. Brisbane, Newcastle and Manly arrested their poor form to reassert themselves in the hunt for premiership glory. Penrith keep on keeping on. Melbourne’s premiership hopes look forlorn with no Greg Inglis. The Gold Coast are there and thereabouts. The Dragons suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time in 2009. The Bulldogs are back in the minor premiership race. The game of the round, however, was the Tigers-Eels clash on Friday night. In essence it was a match that would make or break either team. Such was the anticipation; nearly 35,000 punters filled the Sydney Football Stadium to witness the blockbuster battle of the west. Few left disappointed. The Tigers jumped the gun on the back of some Benji Marshall magic but his failure to convert followed by an eight point try to the Eels left the scores tied 8-8 at the break. Both teams then exchanged tries with the Eels leading 20-18 with less than five minutes on the clock. Cometh the hour cometh the man, they say, and in the 77th minute the most in-form player in the competition, Jarryd Hayne, chipped and regathered and sent the Eels to not only victory but fourth in premiership betting. It was a classic match with significant ramifications. The loss sent the Tigers from fifth to tenth and most likely to yet another lonely September on the sidelines. It also catapulted Parramatta into the throes of the finals race. It was a huge match that was fantastic spectacle.

The Colin Best Express Fan Revue: Our old pal Colin Best thinks he is having a rough year this time around but at least he hasn’t pulled one of these stunts in 2009. Oh, for the carefree days in Canberra. Click here.

What Did Shane Rodney Do This Week? Shane Rodney started this week with your Sugar loving author on the hill at Olympic Park, beer in hand, to cheer him on. Unfortunately Rodney’s idiot coach Des Hasler opted to keep him riding the pine after substituting him in the 26th minute, all of a sudden believing it was 1987 again. Hold the presses, hold the presses…Shane Rodney broke his thumb and will now be out for at least a fortnight. Oh Shane, will you ever get through a month without injuring your fragile body. Sorry Des…my fault.

Beard Watch: The emerging beard of Eagles skipper Matt Orford seems to be the reason behind Manly’s changing fortunes. Orford has moved beyond mere stubble and seems to be laying the groundwork for a fully fledged facial follicle frenzy. Exciting times lay ahead for Manly. Forget Brett Stewart’s comeback or Anthony Watmough’s form: the hopes of Manly rest in Matt Orford’s beard.

From The Couch also has a pony tail update from the English Super League with Bradford winger Semi Tadulada fined for pulling the hair of pony-tailed Huddersfield flanker Eorl Crabtree. Crabtree, the nephew of former professional wrestler Big Daddy, was tossed over the sideline, pony-tail first, by Tadulada in a most interesting of tackle that would have been more suited to the WWE. The lesson, as always, is facial hair over long hair.

Thems Were The Days: One of the great tragedies of the Super League War- possibly the greatest- was the loss of the North Sydney Bears. Had they have had the bluster and arrogance of South Sydney they may still be here. Had they not trusted their most hated rivals they may still be here. Had the fates fallen a little differently they may still be here. Had the Sydney Harbour Bridge never been built they may still be here. But they are not. And it is one of the enduring sadness’s of the game turning fully professional as the death of the Bears meant not only the death of a foundation club but the death of one of the league’s most distinct set of colours and the death of the league’s most charming ground and the death of the league’s great underdog. The history of the North Sydney Bears is not one of greatness or success or brilliance. It is one of both pride and passion, however, and is one that should never be forgotten.

The Bears were a foundation club and donned the red and black from the very beginning but those first years would be lean for the team from north of the harbour. After making the semi-finals in the league’s inaugural year, the club would not have a winning season until the year of their first premiership success, 1921. Norths went undefeated that year and then won the title again in 1922, defeating Glebe 35-3 in the final under the coaching of legend Chris McKivat with one of the greatest backlines ever assembled including “The Downs Fox” Duncan Thompson, Harold Horder and Cec Blinkhorn, all ranked in the top 100 players in the game’s history.

A dynasty was being built, a club ascending to greatness. It was not to be, however. North Sydney would never again win a premiership in the next seventy-seven years of their existence. The Bears would, in fact, only ever play in one more Grand Final (1943) and they would never again even win a minor premiership. Over those seventy-seven years North Sydney would only reach the finals sixteen times and prior to their run of five consecutive finals appearances in the nineties would have only one run of three straight finals showings (1952-54). Despite the many greats that would wear the distinctive red and black, the North Sydney Bears could never get it together. And it remained that way until those last tragic days.

In 1943 under the captain-coaching of the iconic Frank Hyde, the Bears were heavily fancied to beat Newtown in the Grand Final after beating them twice and drawing with them once throughout the season but the loss of star lock Harry Taylor, who was called up on war duty, cost the Bears heavily and has long been cited by Bears fans as the reason for the team’s loss.

The next great Bears player to come along would be the greatest try scorer of them all, Ken Irvine, who would debut in 1958. In 176 appearances for the Bears up to 1970, the voracious try scoring appetite netted the great flyer 171 tries as well as 33 tries for Australia from only 31 appearances. Irvine’s time at Norths would end like all the rest, however: without a premiership and with only two finals appearances. Irvine would go to the great arch-rivals of the Bears, Manly, in 1971 after a falling out with enigmatic English coach Roy Francis and in three seasons would win two titles with the Eagles. Billy Wilson, Brian Carlson, Trevor Allan, Allen Arkey, Ken McCaffrey and Fred Griffiths all played for Norths during the Irvine years but none could help the star-crossed club with the brilliant winger to a title. The failure to win with Irvine burned deep north of the Harbour.

The Bears would not make the semi-finals until 1982 and then not again until 1991 with Tim Pickup and Mark Graham the best players of the era bordered by Irvine’s departure and the installation of Peter Louis as coach but like the other greats who wore the red and black, success was not forthcoming. And then came the Peter Louis era, the clubs most successful time since their premiership run that produced wonderful players like Gary Larson, David Fairleigh, Greg Florimo and Billy Moore, all who were fitted out with purchases like Mario Fenech, Sean Hoppe, Phil Blake and Brett Dallas. In the six full years under Peter Louis the Bears made three preliminary finals including a heartbreaking 17-12 loss in 1997 and missed the finals only once. Hopes were raised for the Bears faithful. It would soon prove to be a false dawn, however. The Bears hit financial troubles at the worst possible time as the aftershock of Super League shook the game to its core. North Sydney was forced to merge with Manly and within three years Manly had driven the Bears out. That long elusive premiership would never come and the Bears would be consigned to history.

The reasons for such a long run of failure are plentiful but the most credible comes from historian Andrew Moore who argued the demise of North Sydney came with the building of the Harbour Bridge. 500 cottages in North Sydney were demolished in the building of the bridge and the working class nature of the North Shore was gone. Geographic isolation was replaced by social isolation. The bridge in turn led to the Warringah Expressway which led to the growth of Manly and changed the nature of North Sydney from residential to business. The growth of rivals Manly also served to stifle the Bears who choked with no room to grow. It is one of the great shames that the North Sydney Bears are no longer around. Hopefully one day they will rise from the Ashes as the Central Coast Bears but regardless, the team should always be remembered as a great contributor to rugby league.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. J.Hayne (Par)
2. M.Gordon (Pen)
3. J.Croker (Can)
4. K.Inu (Par)
5. J.Tia-Kilifi (Pen)
6. J.Mullen (New)
7. B.Kimmorley (Bul)
13. P.Gallen (Cro)
12. F.Pritchard (Pen)
11. N.Hindmarsh (Par)
10. D.Taylor (Brs)
9. L.Hohaia (War)
8. L.Bailey (GC)

Geurie Greens Update: The FFL season finished at just the right time for the Geurie Greens. Less than a fortnight since the season concluded and Jamie Soward has lost all semblance of form, Taniela Tuiaki has broken a leg, Cooper Cronk is having his worst run in years, Steve Price’s body is catching up with him and Steve Simpson’s body has passed him by. It all went downhill south. Luckily the FFL trophy is safely in hand.


What I Hate About Rebecca Wilson This Week: Third paragraph, her always-painful Saturday column: “For those who are not familiar with this columnist, let me say from the outset that rugby union is my code of first choice. When I put myself to the "What game do I watch the day I die'' question, the answer is invariably a Bledisloe Cup match.” Perhaps she should use the disclaimer when writing one of her many slanderous columns sinking the boot into the NRL. Her gushing moistness for the inferior rugby code comes as no surprise and is yet one more reason to loathe her and everything she claims to stand for.

Watch It: Terrible goal-kicking is the theme this week and we have some real dandies for your entertainment this week. We will start off with this Click here. from The Footy Show where Vossy gives us five of the worst including Laurie Daley’s Test match shocker, Colin Scott’s dribbler and Shaun Timmins’ choke. We then move onto “The Covell Award” nominations that have all been placed on You Tube for laughs and, boom boom, kicks. The Covell Award is seemingly presented for the worst kick of the season and is named in honour of the kicker who shanks more sitters than Phil Mickelson down the stretch of a major. One of the best nominations comes from the man himself right here Click here though the build up from Gus on this Benji kick offers plenty of hilarity Click here. while this one from Josh Dugan was just plain terrible Click Here Props for the good looking trophy.


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