Season 2009: Round 5

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

From The Couch

Origin I: The time has come to start thinking Origin and if you are a New South Wales selector, you better be thinking change. I, of course, have no faith that this will be the case so have taken it upon myself to name a team that would surely be more competitive than the side named by those fools. Perennial failures Willie Mason, Ryan Hoffman and Anthony Tupou are gone as are overrated “stars” like Braith Anasta and Jarryd Hayne. In their place are players with talent and form, ones that have been overlooked in years gone by only because the New South Wales selectors are derelict in their duty and all seemed to be wanting a Queensland victory. The Origin team for game one:

1. Kurt Gidley –c-
2. Colin Best
3. Michael Jennings
4. Matt Cooper
5. Joel Monaghan
6. Terry Campese
7. Peter Wallace
8. Luke Bailey
9. Michael Ennis
10. Brent Kite
11. Nathan Hindmarsh
12. Anthony Laffranchi
13. Paul Gallen

14. Michael Weyman
15. Chris Heighington
16. Ben Creagh
17. Alan Tongue

The Birdman of Olympic Park: Daniel Anderson and the Parramatta brass have made a monumental mistake in letting Brett Finch leave Parramatta Stadium. While Finch is far from the most outstanding halfback in the competition, he was Parramatta’s only legitimate playmaker. To let him go was a disastrous error in judgement and one that reeks of personal bitterness on Anderson’s part. Daniel Anderson certainly does have to impose some discipline on the club and throw out some of the deadwood but getting rid of Finch midyear when there are no viable alternatives is just idiotic. Anderson should have a look at himself and his ridiculous decision to play Jarryd Hayne at five-eighth if he wants to find out why Parramatta aren’t scoring points. The winners in the whole saga are the Melbourne Storm, who have signed Finch. He will be a great fit in the number six jersey and should allow the Storm to play more expansive football. Parramatta are genuine runners for the wooden spoon this season.

A Head Start: Wayne Bennett continues to amuse everyone outside of Matthew Head and his family with the super-coach leaving Head on the bench without playing a minute for the second straight week. That is two matches for zero minutes of action for Head. He thought his injuries were frustrating! Josh Massoud reports that he is the first player since Newcastle Knight Todd Bates spent two matches in 2003 riding the pine. Bates finished his career with four matches to his name. Head has once again been named on the bench by Bennett…hopefully his third straight minute-less match awaits.

Flipper Playing Ping Pong After A Dozen Old Fashioned’s: That is what it looks like when Matt Utai is attempting to catch a football and the scene only gets more chaotic when the rains are tumbling and the sun is long down. How a player with his lack of catching ability has made a career as a rugby league player defies logic. The Bulldogs were cruising towards a victory before Utai was bought off the bench by Kevin Moore. Utai was only on the field for 26 minutes yet made two horrendous errors that very nearly cost the Bulldogs the match. The first was a ridiculous knock-on from dummy half on the first tackle where he made a meal of the ball before he was touched. The second was a bomb where the only real surprise was that he got any of his body near it. He certainly didn’t come close to catching it. I would recommend dropping him to the NSW Cup but I doubt he is up to that standard either.

Running with the Runs: Ben Hannant turned in a herculean performance at ANZ Stadium on Monday night, racking up 140 metres and 42 tackles in 57 minutes of action whilst being struck down by what is colloquially known as The Runs. NRL Stats have Hannant recorded as having 17 runs but those close to Hannant suggest the number should be much, much higher.

Pacman: Russell Packer, henceforth to be known as Pacman, has been in outrageous form this season and is sure to be the leader of the next generation of front rowers to come to the fore. This season he sits 6th in average metres among front rowers, he doesn’t shirk the task defensively and he plays good minutes. Packer is tough, durable and has a wonderful technique for a player who has yet to turn twenty-one. When Packer gets to his mid-twenties, he could be rated the best prop forward to ever come out of New Zealand. Keep an eye on The Pacman…he is a star.

Super Read: The best column of any weekly rugby league publication is “The Insider” by Melbourne Storm assistant coach Michael Maguire in Big League. The article talks tactics and is a must read for every rugby league fan. Maguire talks about the importance of footwork for hookers and body positioning for wingers, among other things, in what is an insightful piece delivered by a future NRL coach. No article will improve your understanding of league.

The Mungo Hall of Fame: This fine site dedicated to some of rugby league’s greatest is well worth a look. ()

Fun Fact #1: Matthew Head Round 5 statistics: 0 minutes, 0 tackles, 0 metres, 0 points.

Fun Fact #2: Matthew Head Round 4 statistics: 0 minutes, 0 tackles, 0 metres, 0 points.

Fun Fact #3: Aside from Head, only six players played less than 20 minutes last round with Jason Nightingale leading the way with 14 minutes.

Coaching Stocks:

Coach Comment
Wayne Bennett Another week, another impressive win. The Dragons have not been this tough in decades.
Brian Smith Newcastle continue to win without a number of key players. They have a toughness not seen in years.
John Cartwright Another road win for a Titans team who are flying under the radar. They have been outstanding all year.
Ivan Henjak The young Broncos are playing above their weight…Henjak has settled in seemlessly.
Kevin Moore Had done an outstanding job in rebuilding the Dogs in such a quick time. The old toughness is back at Belmore.
Craig Bellamy The Storm are really struggling at the moment but they are eeking out wins and the green light on Finch was smart.
Ivan Cleary Hurt by key injuries but they are just not playing 80 minutes at present. There is a worry about their ability to score tries.
Jason Tayler Souths should have beaten the Dogs on MNF but really struggled to score points. He may need to put Wing in #7 soon.
Tim Sheens The Tigers showed plenty of defensive courage against Manly but did at the cost of their attack. The axe needs to come.
David Furner A much needed road win against the Sharks on Saturday. He seems to have got Campese back to wear he was in '08.
Neil Henry The Cowboys are going terribly and Henry needs to take some blame for putting the shackles on Thurston.
Des Hasler The Eagles were again unconvicing on Sunday but they got their first win thanks to Brett St
Daniel Anderson The decision to drive out Finch was wrong. The Eels were worse with the ball on Friday than all year. On thin ice.
Brad Fittler The Roosters were again fairly ordinary with the scoreline flattering the Tricolours. A cleanout is needed.
Matt Elliot The Panthers went down to the Storm but they played with courage and conviction and may be better than most thought.
Ricky Stewart Another dismal display by the Sharks, losing at home to a team that struggles on the road. And there is more pain coming.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 5: Canterbury-South Sydney, 14-12. 22,000 turned out to watch a thrilling defensive battle in pouring rain between two genuine title contenders. The new-look Bulldogs showed steel and grit to hold out a dogged Souths team in trying conditions. Michael Ennis and David Stagg were outstanding for the Bulldogs while Ben Lowe, Roy Asotasi and Eddy Pettybourne were the best for the Bunnies. The only downsides to the match were the abhorrent performances of Chris Sandow and Matt Utai and the failure of the officials to award an eight-point try to the Bulldogs after Andrew Ryan had scored and Issac Luke was placed on report for a forearm to Ryan’s throat. It was a blatant error of knowledge on behalf of the referees and those are unforgivable.

The Colin Best Express Fan Revue: The Colin Best Express is best known for his work as one of rugby league’s finest three-quarters but what is not known outside the town of Milton, Ontario, Canada is that Best splits his time as a local councillor of the Canadian municipality. Best is the councillor of wards two and four and has been serving the good folks of Milton for near on thirty years. CBE is currently the Vice Chairman of the Administration and Planning Committee. Those interested in Best’s other civic achievements should click here. (

What Did Shane Rodney Do This Week? Shane reminisced about his days as one of Australia’s pre-eminent rodeo stars. Sugar Shane was a champion bull-rider as a wee youngster, his shaggy red mop bouncing up and down under an Akubra. With Rodney’s history of injuries in rugby league, one can only imagine how sore Rodney would be if he pursued a career in rodeo.

Beard Watch: Not exactly Beard Watch this week. Rather, a hair watch on the dome of Hazem El Masri. Haz may be fighting for his career at present with plenty of speculation that his days in the NRL are numbered. He is seemingly so worried that his performances were not being noticed that he shaved his head clean, leaving the Bulldogs champion looking more like The Brain from Pinky and The Brain than the winger who has scored more NRL points than any other player. The plan appears to have backfired on El Masri, however, with coach Kevin Moore dragging El Masri after 50-odd minutes. Haz had better become a little more inconspicuous if he wants to keep playing first grade.

Thems Were The Days: In the late eighties, the most dominant team not to claim a premiership were the Balmain Tigers. The Tigers were littered with Test stars such as Wayne Pearce, Benny Elias, Garry Jack, Paul Sironen, Steve Roach and Gary Freeman and made both the ’88 and ’89 deciders under Warren Ryan with the latter defeat still hurting twenty years on. Two players from those teams that stood out were their long-haired forwards Kerry Hemsley and Kevin Hardwick. Both had flowing locks and big bushy moustaches and were a throwback to a time when individuality and character were regarded as positive attributes. Hemsley was a fierce frontrower who racked up 135 games for Balmain between 1980 and 1988, his long mullet and unkempt moustache making him easy to spot. Legend has it that when he arrived at his first training session with the Tigers on his Harley, he was nicknamed “Buckets” (as in bucketmouth) by coach Dennis Tutty after declaring that he was “bigger than Texas and meaner than J.R”. Once, when a new player arrived at the Tigers and was shouting a round for Kerry and the rest of the boys, the rookie arrived back from the bar with middies. Hemsley held out his hand and then let the middy slip through and smash to the floor. “My hand is only fit for schooners”, he dryly replied. His hand also wasn’t much for scoring either with the big man only scoring three tries in his career and none in his last five seasons. He retired after the 1988 Grand Final. Kevin Hardwick was of the same mould with many believing that in a career spanning 133 games from 1982 to 1990 that he did not pass the ball once. Hardwick just liked to run and hurt and he became legendary for the things he would try to crash through at the team’s bonding sessions. Similar to Hemsley, Hardwick was not particularly well acquainted with the tryline, scoring only nine tries throughout his career. He did, however, finish his career with one conversion, kicking one from three in the Tigers 15-12 win over Wests in 1988. Hardwick played in both Grand Final losses. Those were great days and every Balmain fan has a spot in their heart for Kerry Hemsley and Kevin Hardwick.

Kerry Hemsley, in all his mulleted glory.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. B.Stewart (Man)
2. D.Simmons (Cro)
3. S.Michaels (Brs)
4. J.Morris (Bul)
5. A.Winterstein (Brs)
6. T.Campese (Can)
7. J.Thurston (NQ)
13. D.Johnson (Mlb)
12. M.Prior (Stg)
11. A.Watmough (Man)
10. R.Packer (War)
9. C.Smith (Mlb)
8. B.Hannant (Bul)

Geurie Greens Update: The Geurie Greens continued their winning run this week with a huge 185 point win over the runner-up of the past two grand finals, Yenda. The Yenda Yuans have struggled this season and were given an absolute hiding by the unstoppable Greens, who are now 5-0. The return of Brett Stewart certainly assisted the Greens as did fine performances from Jamie Soward, Sam Perrett, Russell Packer and the ever-consistent David Stagg. The Greens next meet last year’s premiers Rylstone in what is sure to be the match of the season, to date.

What I Hate About Rebecca Wilson: When you move to Melbourne, you fancy you have, for the most part, gotten away from Rebecca Wilson’s sphere of dribble. Not so. Innocently listening to SEN last Tuesday, Wilson is all of a sudden filling the airwaves, tarnishing the Melbourne air with garbage about Nick D’arcy, rugby league players drinking and tales about what wonderfully dedicated rowers her sons are. It was painful. The only heartening aspect of the ordeal was the flurry of talkback callers who tore into her like she was a gazelle in a lion’s den. Well done, Melbourne. Well done.

Watch It: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. This series is a little hard to get into at first because it is difficult to get your head around Matthew Perry as someone other than that punk off Friends or Bradley Whitford as anyone other than Deputy Chief of Staff in the Bartlet administration Josh Lyman. Throw in Brian from Wings and Elliott from Thirtysomething and there is an aura of something being not quite right with Studio 60. The show works, however, with Studio 60 a combination of 30 Rock and The West Wing. It is a wonderfully written comedy/drama about the running of a late night sketch show. The characters are fantastic and the story arcs are compelling. Unfortunately, only one season of the show was made so do yourself a favour and get it. You won’t be disappointed.

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