Season 2009: Round 25

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

From The Couch

Tragedy at Homebush: The entire season flashed before my eyes, the colour drained from my face and the prospect of vomiting was a very real one. Brett Kimmorley was being assisted off the field after only five minutes, his face broken and contorted in pain. The word from the sheds did nothing to quell the sinking feeling of despair, angst and sadness. Brett Kimmorley had a depressed fracture of the cheekbone and possibly the eye socket. He would be out for at least three weeks but most likely the remainder of the season. The most important player in the Bulldogs resurgence this season would miss at least the first semi-final and most likely the preliminary final and grand final if the Bulldogs make it that far. The injury was so serious that Kimmorley’s family was jettisoned to the sheds. The premiership seemed all but won. The gods then sought their wrath. The Bulldogs are now relying on Ben Roberts and Daniel Holdsworth to get us home. Ye Gods, the horror, the shame! Our only hope is that a Horace Grant like mask is developed immediately and Noddy comes back with a fractured cheekbone to guide us to a preliminary final victory. Noddy Lector is our last chance. That and the mercy of the sporting gods whom are now demanding at least two hours of prayer a day and the sacrifice of someone very important.

Triumph at Homebush: There is not much that needs to be said after nearly 42,000 fans showed up to honour Hazem El Masri for his last home game for the Bulldogs. El Masri is a legend and the turnout showed just how much he is revered. The enduring image of the season should be the “Thanks Haz” sign put together and held up by 5,000 fans. Few players have achieved what El Masri has in the game and no player in the modern era has been such a pioneering force. He will forever be lauded for this outstanding contribution to the sport.

Warrington Win: Always bet against Nathan Brown when it comes to big games. That theory held true once more when Warrington rolled Huddersfield in the final of the Challenge Cup 25-16. Warrington jumped the gates after scoring in the first minute and were never headed in an outstanding performance from the Wolves. Michael Monaghan became only the third Australian (after Brett Kenny and Graham Eadie) to win the Lance Todd Trophy for best on ground while compatriots Chris Hicks and Matt King also collected winner’s medals. It was the Wolves first trophy in 35 years and was a win for the battling town that loves its league.

The Return of Canterbury-Bankstown: Get the trumpets out, call on the masses. The Bulldogs are no longer the Bulldogs but, blessedly, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. After a decade of listening to so-called marketing boffins and advertising gurus claiming that removing the geographic home from the Bulldogs title would expand the appeal of the club, common sense has finally taken hold and tradition finally acknowledged. Todd Greenberg just doesn’t stop with his brilliance. The Bulldogs should never let him go.

Ben Rogers is a Clown: How any club could sign Ben Rogers is beyond me. He is a clown who for every decent thing throws up eight offerings a mentally retarded monkey wouldn’t dare. He can single-handedly be blamed for the Raiders first try after he let the initial kickoff go dead in a rookie error and then got sent to the bin for a vicious attack on young Raiders winger Daniel Vidot. Rogers is set to be suspended for five weeks. That is an outstanding outcome for Newcastle, who can now field a team sans Ben Rogers.

The Dismissal: Your lefties and your bleeding hearts scream and rant and cry foul when they talk about Whitlam being dismissed but even they wouldn’t be as outraged as Cronulla fans rightfully were about the shock send-off of honourable and gritty Sharks prop Luke Douglas. Douglas was sent off for a shot that was marginally high, didn’t involve a swinging arm and clearly was not delivered with intent or recklessness. Referee Phil Haines tried to make a name for himself by sending Douglas off, almost wholly as a result of Bailey’s concussion than any incident of extreme foul play. It may well be the worst send off in a decade. Phil Haines should never referee first grade again. He has been dropped yet referees boss Robert Finch once again escapes without sanction. How much rubbish must we tolerate before he is thrown out of the sport?

Future Test Five-Eighth: Daniel Mortimer will play for both New South Wales and Australia and is, without doubt, the best young prospect in the game. In 13 games for the Eels he has scored 8 tries and set up 6 more and more importantly been apart of nine wins. He has the patience and maturity of a more seasoned player to go with a game that is crossed between Darren Lockyer and Terry Lamb. Mortimer is going to be a true superstar of the game. Now let’s hope he comes home to the Bulldogs, the place he belongs.

The Hoff: Storm second-rower Ryan Hoffman indulged in a treat usually reserved for retiring club legends when taking a rare conversion attempt on Saturday night against the Roosters. The Hoff attempted to slot one from out wide but the kick never looked likely. That was just fine for all of us who had bet the under 43 ½ total points. I would hate to imagine what kind of carnage would have been caused had I bet the over, however.

Meaningless Field Goal Update: Maligned Warrington halfback Lee Briers kicked one of the great meaningless field goals in the Challenge Cup final when slotting a one-pointer with the game already in hand. Warrington led 24-16 with not long remaining when Briers calmly slotted a field goal to extend the lead to nine. It was Briers 60th field goal for Warrington, an outstanding record for a true lover of the one-pointer. Chris Sandow also kicked a field goal over the weekend that turned out to be quite amusing. Sandow put Souths up 19-6 with a punch on the stroke of half-time. Souths ended up winning 41-6, the field goal the extra salt into the wound for the Saints.

Rumour of the Week: An end-of-season holiday may have been paid for over the last week for a certain out-of-finals contention club who has been in the news at a fairly regular rate throughout 2009. Certain key players at the club with some colourful associates who don’t mind a punt certainly didn’t appear to be going too hard over the last two weeks when their opposition covered big starts on both occasions. Last week the line in the match moved 8 points. It is pleasing to see the pride some players have for their jersey and their teammates.

Fun Fact #1: No team has won the premiership since the introduction of the mandatory Grand Final in 1954 after losing three of their last four matches of the regular season.

Fun Fact #2: The Dragons have lost their last three matches and are favoured to lose four on the trot heading into the semi-finals.

Coaching Stocks:

Kevin Moore [5] Are now in prime position to claim the minor premiership after super win w/out Kimmorley.

Daniel Anderson [4.5] Parramatta are now near title faves after 7th straight win. He is now a hero out Parra way.

Wayne Bennett [4] The Dragons has now lost three on the trot and are looking a shadow of the team they were.

Craig Bellamy [4] The return of Inglis allowed the Storm to put on a score albeit only against the Roosters.

John Cartwright [4] The Titans continue to sneak under the radar and are some hope of finishing top two.

Tim Sheens [3.5] Injuries have got the best of the Tigers but that is no excuse for awful defence when season on line.

Rick Stone [3] The Knights were a rabble when they could have wrapped up a finals berth. Critical game ahead.

Des Hasler [2.5] Coaches rarely move backwards after a win. Manly were pathetic. Didn’t deserve the points.

Ivan Henjak [2] Brisbane back on track now with a finals spot wrapped up. Defensive attitude improved a ton.

Matt Elliott [2] Penrith turned in an awful display in a must win match. They now need to win in Newcastle.

David Furner [1] The Raiders are still dreadful on the road but at least Furner has them winning at home.

Neil Henry [0.5] The Cowboys showed some fight against Brisbane. That trait has not been present all year.

Jason Taylor [0.5] Probably Souths biggest ever win under Taylor. A shame it came all too late.

Ricky Stuart [-2.5] The Sharks showed a ton of spunk to nearly roll Manly at Brookvale with only 12 men. Robbed.

Ivan Cleary [-12] The Warriors again lacked discipline and organisation in another dreadful performance.

Brad Fittler [-150] Why do the Roosters even bother turning up? They are pathetic at present.

Game of the Year Nomination: Canterbury-Warriors, 40-20. A salivating weekend of rugby league action that was highlighted by nearly 42,000 fans attending Hazem El Masri’s last home game. It was a sight for sore eyes seeing so many pay tribute to a true champion of the game. The game could not have started any better with El Masri slotting a penalty goal in only the second minute. It all took a turn for the worse not soon after when Brett Kimmorley fractured his cheekbone in a nasty head clash. Normal transmission was quickly resumed, however, with the Bulldogs marching to a 28-4 half-time lead on the back of a Josh Morris hat-trick that spanned seven minutes. The Bulldogs were never really challenged in the second-half with El Masri finishing the match with a magnificent 8 from 8 on the boot along with almost scoring a try that he most surely would have had Jarrod Hickey passed him the ball. While the match itself was entertaining, the occasion was something that will be remembered for many years to come by all rugby league fans.

The Colin Best Express Fan Revue: Colin Best scored his 91st try in top grade Australian rugby league. It, of course, seems an appropriate time to look back on some of CBE’s milestone tries to see who he scored them against and who his opposite man was in preparation for number 100 in 2010.

Opposite Number
Career Match
North Sydney S.Pethybridge 1998
Nth Queensland Brian Jellick 1999
Penrith Robbie Beckett 2000
Northern Eagles Ben MacDougall 2001
Parramatta Jason Moodie 2002
Melbourne Jake Webster 2005
Brisbane Leon Bott 2005
Melbourne Israel Folau 2007
Bulldogs Tim Winitana 2008
Gold Coast Titans Jordan Atkins 2009

What Is Shane Rodney Doing This Week? Our man Shane Rodney recalled how the Eagles are 5-1 in 2009 when he is starting and only 5-7 when he is riding the pine.

Beard Watch: Patrick Ah Van is leading the facial hair stakes at the Warriors this season with a wonderfully full and thick and flowing beard that has him looking like a Syrian prince lost in the desert. It is such a great beard that he is in the mix for beard of the year. If Ah Van keeps his follicles full then he is assured to hold down his first grade position. Nice work Patty!

Thems Were The Days: It may seem hard to believe for rugby league fans under the age of sixty but once upon a time France was the most dominant powerhouse in international rugby league. It was just after World War II when France rose to prominence, less than a decade after the game was banned under the Vichy Government and all assets taken and given to rugby union. And the man who led France to their glory was an eccentric star known throughout the country as Pippette: Puig-Aubert. Aubert was an outstanding natural talent, a fabulous and accurate kicker and sharp runner of the ball who to this day is regarded as one of the best fullbacks to ever play the game. He was also his own man, an unconventional chap whose behaviour was as odd as his play was brilliant.

And there is no doubting his play was brilliant. Legendary Immortal Clive Churchill remembered Aubert as one of the greatest opponents he ever faced while great halfback Keith Holman said “I’ve never seen his equal”. Such was his brilliance that he captained France to a crushing 35-14 win over Australia in the deciding Test at the SCG in 1951. Puig Aubert “played a dominating role in the victory” according to Jim Mathers of The Sydney Truth. “His positional linekicking and general play were…deciding factors”. It was France’s greatest moment in rugby league where they were unchallenged as the number one team in the world. Aubert kicked an unparalleled 18 from 18 in three Test matches that tour where France comprehensively smashed a very good Australian team 2-1.

It was not just the brilliance of Aubert that won him over to the hearts and minds of fans across the world, however. His charismatic style and individual ways played just as big a role. A chain smoker, Aubert would often leave the field of play for a chuff with fans, leaning over the fence while play went on upfield. His nickname of Pippette is an affectionate reference to his love of the gasper. Famously in a game against Wigan while playing for his club Carcassonne he smoked on the field, catching balls with one hand while keep his cigarette alight with his other. Aubert was also not particularly fond of tackling and would often allow opponents who had broken through the frontline to score untouched while he berated teammates for having missed their tackles and showed them up for their failures. He would simply refuse to make the tackle. Puig was also not really one for training and would often argue with coaches when he could be bothered attending. His disdain for training certainly caught up with him later in his career when he ballooned from his regular playing weight of 60kg to over 100kg. A player of his eccentricity certainly wouldn’t make it today but natural flair propelled him to the top only sixty years ago.

His unorthodox yet successful ways, however, seemed to supersede his eccentricity in the eyes of fans and teammates. He was a winner and everyone knew it and he could do things others couldn’t dream of. His favourite party trick was to kick a conversion from where the corner post would normally be located while he would often convert tries by laying the ball flat and then slotting it with no thought given to marking out a run or getting the ball in an optimal position. He was that talented.

The list of achievements, however, of Puig-Aubert should be remembered more than his eccentricities though they are a cherished part of his legacy. He played for France 46 times and led them through their finest hour. He won five French championships and four Cups. He was the first footballer to earn France’s “Champion of Champions” honour and he was an inaugural inductee into the Rugby League Hall of Fame. His peers regard him as one of the greatest and his reputation has stood the test of time.

Puig-Aubert, a remnant of a long-forgotten era but a champion of the game.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. J.Hayne (Par)
2. M.Vatuvei (War)
3. W.Chambers (Mlb)
4. G.Inglis (Mlb)
5. M.Robertson (Man)
6. J.Sutton (Sou)
7. S.Prince (GC)
13. P.Gallen (Cro)
12. R.Hoffman (Mlb)
11. T.Waterhouse (Pen)
10. S.Rapira (War)
9. R.Farah (Tig)
8. S.Tronc (NQ)

What I Hate About Rebecca Wilson This Week: Old Bourbon Bec pulled the tired line of “I’m a woman in a man’s world” in her Saturday column when whingeing and whining about the hate mail she receives. It is doubtful any of it is misogynistic but rather a rally against an ill-informed and ignorant gossipmonger who uses her position to spread poisonous lies and half-truths and push her own agenda. One wouldn’t expect her to look at it that way, however.

Watch It: Highlights of the 1987 World Club Challenge between Manly and Wigan at Central Park. It was only the second match between the champions of both Australia and England and the talent on the park was remarkable. Playing for Manly were Paul Vautin, Cliff Lyons, Dale Shearer, Michael O’Connor, Darrell Williams and Mal Cochrane while Wigan fielded a virtual Great Britain team with Ellery Hanley, Andy Gregory, Shaun Edwards, Joe Lydon, Steve Hampson and Andy Goodway in the red and white. The match had no tries but was fierce and willing and involved plenty of passion. Joe Lydon was taken out attempting a field goal by “Rugged” Ronnie Gibbs. Paul Vautin was smashed over the fence. There was a kick to the head and an all-in brawl. A fabulously entertaining match that is well worth watching for those who remember it and those who have never seen it. Commentary from David Fordham and “Wombat” Eadie is a bonus. Click here.

Tune in every Sunday to Southern FM in Melbourne at 1:15pm to hear Nick Tedeschi talk rugby league on Sportsfanz and follow him on Twitter @ NickTedeschi to get all his latest thoughts on sport.

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