Season 2009: Round 27

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

From The Couch

Finals Summary #1: Melbourne burst into premiership favouritism after a clinical and destructive display that showed Manly up as the pretenders they were. And come Sunday afternoon it was a win that would consign Manly to the scrapheap of also-rans in 2009. Manly are a team that need to start well and when they don’t they stand no chance. They are bullies and when the vinegar is applied they go to water. And so it was on Friday night. Anthony Watmough, who earlier that day had the bottle to compare himself to Steve Menzies, messed up the initial play-the-ball and Melbourne scored before Manly touched the ball again.

By the time Manly got the ball back, they had allowed the opening try and Brent Kite was on the sideline after proving he isn’t a first grade front rower once more with a shocking attempted tackle. Come half-time and the Storm led 16-0. We were halfway through the Billy Slater Show, Jamie Lyon was done for the match and Matt Orford was putting together yet another amazing performance when it counted, running across field and kicking poorly and offering nothing in attack as the Eagles looked more and more hopeless. Melbourne were never in danger and went on to win 40-12 with Slater scoring four tries in a dazzling display of brilliance that would have made Les Johns proud. All the big guns for Melbourne were on song: Inglis was a perennial threat, Smith showed why he is the game’s top hooker and Brett Finch did exactly what was required in creating options down the blind side. For Manly, most disgraced the jersey. David Williams once again decided to tackle thin air all night and can look forward to a life in the NSW Cup. Josh Perry should never play first grade again after throwing the towel in early. Matt Orford is one of the great imposters of the modern game. Manly now have an offseason to examine a hideous year marked by arrogance, insolence and stupidity while Melbourne are only a game away from their fourth straight big dance and based on Friday’s performance will probably enter the dance hall with plenty of admirers.

Big Georgie Rose: The best news for Manly over the last week was the inclusion of Big George Rose in the Kangaroos train on squad. Rose has been in outstanding form all season and has outshone Manly’s three other representative props. After a brutal broken leg almost ended his career, it is great to see the big man back and on fire.

Finals Summary #2: A disgraceful match that finished up 40-32 and mired in controversy after nearly every decision when against a Gold Coast team who were very stiff. Finals football is built on defence and neither of these two teams displayed anything resembling a sturdy line. The Titans started well but an onslaught just before the break saw Brisbane lead 28-10 at the turn with the match all but over. A big comeback from the Titans was staged, however, and with five minutes to go the score was 34-32 before Dave Taylor picked off a shocking inside ball from Scott Prince and raced away to put the Broncos home 40-32. Both teams remain alive but neither looks likely as a legitimate title contender. Brisbane showed a bit more in attack but reverted to the defence that saw them lose nearly every game over a seven week period not that long ago while the Titans had their inexperienced outside backs shown up. Brisbane now has a home final, where they will meet a Dragons team that have owned the Broncos in recent times. The Gold Coast will travel south to play Parramatta in Sydney. It seems doubtful either will win.

Diver Darren: Darren Lockyer has had plenty of critics over the years but I have rarely jumped on that wagon, preferring the path of reverence. Lockyer doesn’t have a leg to stand on today, however, after his disgraceful dive against the Titans. Lockyer was hardly touched yet went down like a goddamn soccer player after being brushed by Chris Walker in order to win the penalty. He is the Australian captain and should know better. Diving is blight on the game and cannot be tolerated.

Advantage: Only Robert Finch and his conglomerate of fools could take something as simple as playing advantage and mess it up to the point where it is frustrating everybody in the game. For 100 years the advantage rule has been simple: if the team who have not made the error are better off after they have picked up the ball then play goes on. Yet over the last month there have been various interpretations from various referees saying that you must advance the ball forward or move it forward ten metres. Only these dopey motherfuckers could come up with such rubbish and only they would have the bottle to change the rules on the eve of the finals. Advantage is simple: use common sense. At present the game is being played like bloody union when teams have the ball for 45 seconds before it is called back. It is blight on the game and NRL officials should put Finch back in his box and, if they aren’t going to burn said box, tell him that changing the rules of rugby league is not his job.

Finals Summary #3: Kevin Moore has maturity beyond his years and he showed that on Saturday night when he started maligned halfback Daniel Holdsworth from the bench. Moore is the perfect example of why coaches should do apprenticeships. Moore won’t end up slapping a player like Nathan Brown or drunk outside some woman’s hotel room like Brad Fittler or knocked out by one of his players like Jason Taylor. Moore has served a long apprenticeship and it is showing with the Bulldogs in 2009. The Bulldogs turned in a grinding performance similar to that of 1995 where, without Brett Kimmorley, the Bulldogs just held the Knights at bay. They weren’t flashy and they were rarely brilliant but they got the job done in a manner akin to the Chris Anderson teams of yore. It was a great sign. There was one moment of magic when Jamal Idris made a big burst before flicking to El Masri who deftly touched the ball on to The General. The Dogs now advance to the preliminary final where they managed to pass go and collect $200. Brett Kimmorley is coming back and the Bulldogs are now on the easy side of the draw with only Parramatta and the Gold Coast standing between them and an historic Grand Final berth. The sky is looking blue at Belmore. And it is not too dark at Newcastle either, who will be better for the run in 2010.

Finals Summary #4: For the second straight year team eight has beaten team one and thrown the entire finals system into chaos in the process. On the back of another bafflingly brilliant performance from Jarryd Hayne, Parramatta overcame a 37-0 defeat to the Dragons only nine days earlier to record a famous win over the minor premiers. The game was as good as over after twenty five minutes when the Dragons, having had all the ball and field position, couldn’t cross the stripe. Parramatta then scored two quick tries and in a script as old as Jesus ground out a win. If you don’t score early when the momentum is with you in rugby league, you can’t win. And so it was. Young Mortimer was again outstanding as were the Eels pack who asserted themselves in the second half. The Dragons have some soul searching to do along with a hunt for what was once the most exciting attack in the league. Soward has it in him but he needs to produce next week: that is no knock on the champion playmaker but it will be up to him to get the Dragons attacking machine firing. Bennett must also consider chopping Big Dell who is looking more of a liability with each passing week.

Fuck You, Ken McIntyre: Few people know who Ken McIntyre is yet his influence on all our lives is significant and if I had my way I would hunt him down and offer him the options of severe pain or a retraction of his finals system. Luckily for him, God beat me to the punch. McIntyre, an odd character who practiced law and wrote books and dabbled in mathematics, developed the ridiculous top eight finals system used by the NRL. He originally designed it for the AFL, who was wise enough to quickly get rid of it and bring in the old ARL system. The McIntyre system is fundamentally flawed in that a top four team can be eliminated in week one (Manly beat Melbourne and that is exactly what happens), it is extremely and unnecessarily complex, it provides no certainty and it does not provide for enticing match-ups in week one. The NRL should return to the system used in 1995 and 1996 and should do so immediately. The public are demanding it and so are the clubs.

How They Stand: A quick look at how the remaining six teams stand…

Brisbane: Host a home final against the Dragons. Dragons have owned the Broncos in recent years and allowing 32 points against the Titans was ordinary. This weekend should be their last hurrah. Minimal title hopes with Melbourne ahead if they win.

Canterbury: In outstanding shape and should probably be premiership favourites. Noddy returns, no major injury concerns and on the good side of the draw. They look like they have the self belief of a champion and depth all over the park. Team to beat.

Gold Coast: Have struck bad luck and poor form at the wrong time of year. Face a tough but not impossible task against hot Eels team. Inexperienced outside backs are probably the biggest worry. Over the odds for the premiership at 20-1 though.

Melbourne: Have been handed a home preliminary final thanks to the Dragons and Titans. A fourth grand final is a probability. Look rested, refreshed and about to peak. If Slater maintains current form then they are going to be tough to roll.

Parramatta: Riding a huge wave of momentum. Jarryd Hayne is the man at present and can turn a game with one touch. Return of Hindmarsh was huge. Strong favourites in semi-final. A grudge match against arch-rivals Canterbury looms.

St. George-Illawarra: Lost form at the worst possible time. Lost four of last five and have wasted minor premiership win. Have the talent to win but need to start playing more direct and with more penetration. Lucky to draw Brisbane this weekend.

Lookalike Corner: Titans hard man Anthony Laffranchi is a dead ringer for chief lieutenant of the Aryan Brotherhood James Robson in the chilling prison drama Oz. Laffranchi is a brutal beast on NRL fields across Australia while Robson certainly wasn’t to be messed with anywhere inside the walls of Oz. Lets hope the prison sex slave fate of Robson doesn’t befall Laffranchi.

Laffranchi and Robson or Robson and Laffranchi?

Rumour of the Week: Jason Taylor is a dead man walking and there are plenty of names being tossed about as his replacement. There are the regulars: Michael Maguire (who they should select), Stephen Kearney, Shane Flanagan, Steve Folkes, Graham Murray. A few bolters have also been thrown up including Mark Ellison and Brian Noble. The man who is the front runner for the job, however, is former Sharks and Panther mentor and current Souths football manager John Lang. Lang has an outstanding record and is as tight with Shane Richardson as any person is in the NRL. The word out of Redfern is that if Lang wants the job it is his.

Fun Fact #1: Chris Sandow won the coveted double of most missed tackles and highest average missed tackles. He won the former by 51 missed tackles and the latter by an average of 2 per game.

Fun Fact #2: Billy Slater and Jarrod Sammut were joint winners of the most errors in the 2009 NRL season with 38 apiece in the regular season.

Fun Fact #3: Johnathan Thurston topped the penalty count in 2009 with 23 penalties from 23 games. Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce gave away 21 in 24 matches

The From The Couch Game of the Year:

  • Third Runner-up: Manly-Canterbury 19-12 (Round 17)
  • Second Runner-up: Canberra-Dragons 24-12 (Round 23)
  • Runner-up: Tigers-Parramatta 18-26 (Round 24)
  • Winner: Dragons-Cantebury 20-18 (Round 10)

The Dragons-Bulldogs clash at Kogarah in round ten was absolutely one of the finest games of rugby league ever played. The match had it all. Two traditional rivals playing at a fine suburban ground in the showpiece game of the week with both teams flying high. Hope was high in both camps and it was well placed hope as both teams finished top two with this match essentially handing the Dragons the minor premiership. The eighty minutes of action was something to behold. The Dragons owned all the ball early on but struggled to break the Bulldogs. Eventually the sturdy Bulldogs line cracked and they were down 14-0. Young star Jamal Idris and old warrior Brett Kimmorley lifted, however, and the Dogs hit the front before a rampaging Justin Poore put the Dragons back on top 20-18. It then appeared to all and sundry that the Bulldogs had won the match on the siren when Jamal Idris scored a miraculous try but a criminal decision by video referee and avid Bulldog hater Steven Clark disallowed the try. It sullied a magnificent match and one that rates with the very best ever played.

The Colin Best Express Fan Revue: Colin Best, despite having ever right to smack Jason Taylor in the mouth, kept his hands to himself on South Sydney Mad Monday. Best had his worst season of first grade thanks to Taylor’s insistence on playing Chris Sandow at halfback and Best on the wing. Best should have dropped Taylor right in the ear.

What Did Shane Rodney Do This Week? Shane Rodney developed a reasonable and coherent argument as to why he should be Manly captain in 2010. It centred around the inadequacies of Matt Orford as a skipper, the lack of other genuine leaders at Manly and the success of teams with forwards as captains with the Bulldogs, Storm, Eels and Titans all still alive.

Beard of the Year Finalists: With the season winding to a halt, these five men are the five bearded heroes who have done facial hair styling proud. The winner will be announced next week with the Beard of the Year being treated to an eye patch, beard foaming wash, beard shampoo and conditioner, a beard comb, beard gloss and a lifetime membership into the East Bavarian Beard and Moustache Club.

  • Brad Meyers: Outstanding Viking ginger that is officially out-of-control.
  • Kevin Kingston: The evil garden gnome look was all the fashion in the middle rounds.
  • Matt Elliott: Pulled off the junkie/homeless man look to perfection.
  • Adam Cuthbertson: Tried both the prospector beard along with the House of Lords ‘tache
  • Shane Elford: The bearded Lego man.

Thems Were The Days: It was 1991 and a very strange thing happened in the world of rugby league: Radio personality and former Wallabies coach Alan Jones was named head coach of the Balmain Tigers. Jones had no experience in rugby league and worse, was from the inferior code of rugby union. Balmain was coming off a period of success where the Tigers had made six successive finals appearances including Grand Final defeats in 1988 and 1989. Balmain had not had such a sustained run of success since the late forties and still had plenty of talent to make another finals run with the core of their ’89 premiership team in Ben Elias, Steve Roach, Paul Sironen, Garry Jack, Mick Neil and Tim Brasher yet when Warren Ryan fled for Western Suburbs in 1991 the club went with the riskiest possible option in Alan Jones. Wayne Pearce had retired the year before but hopes were still high of that elusive premiership at Leichardt. Those dreams would not be fulfilled under Jones. Far from it. What followed were three years of essential failure that would lay the groundwork for the club to be forced to merge post-Super League.

Keith Barnes said of Jones that “he did a lot for this club” but Barnes was somewhat tied to Jones being as he was the man who pushed for the appointment of the radio presenter. Off the field there is no doubt Jones did plenty of good. He bought money and interest to the club which resulted in sponsorship, corporate support and fund raising revenue. He worked for free and he used his extensive range of contacts to help his players, whom he obviously cared for a lot.

Results on the field for Balmain were dismal, however, and with the appointment of Jones came the loss of the last great chance for the club to win that premiership the faithful had dreamt of since 1969. In three years under the tutelage of Jones, Balmain won only 24 games at a strike rate of 36.4% with not a single winning season recorded. 1992 was his finest year and the Tigers did no better than tenth despite the club having five international players and David Brooks, who had played Origin but was given little chance under Jones.

The Jones era started poorly and probably should have ended midway through 1991 when the Tigers could manage only a draw from their first eight matches. They would win only eight matches that season and would miss the playoffs for the first time since 1984. Jones talked about rebuilding but the club should not have been in a rebuilding phase: it had the core of a contender yet was allowed to wither because an inexperienced coach with other commitments was put in charge. 1992, as noted, was his finest season in charge but was far from what could be called a success. With Roach and Jack retiring at the end of the season and Gary Freeman fleeing, 1993 was always going to be tough. And it was. The Tigers managed only six wins and ran second last.

The novelty had worn off for both Jones and the Tigers and the two parted company. And the Balmain faithful were left to rue what might have been. Jones signed on to be the football manager at South Sydney while Balmain never again played finals football.

What I Hate About Rebecca Wilson This Week: Our bourbon swilling gossip monger friend was seemingly on leave from her tough existence this week so the levels of hatred have been kept to a minimum.

Watch It: The soundtrack is a little annoying but the memories come flooding back with this video. Greg McCallum, retrospective winner of the year for every beard of the year award from 1987-1994, stars as does fellow whistleblower Ian Parnaby. Some old faces like Mario and Tugger and Marty and Mark Soden bring a wry smile while there were some pretty amazing tries scored in 1994. This video is well worth a watch. Click Here.



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