Season 2009: Round 6

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


From The Couch

That’s Entertainment: Rugby league can, at times, get bogged down in structure, controversy and ill will. There are some players who do things on the field, however, that make it a joy to watch the sport. They can do what few others can. Through courage, skill, athleticism and smarts, they make and break teams and endear themselves to fans. Below is a list of the most entertaining players in the game, those who you watch with reverence and awe knowing brilliance is just around the corner.

1. Terry Campese: Incomparable vision, tremendous skills, playmaking mentality
2. Jamie Soward: Top class kicking game, prioritises attack, outstanding pass
3. Brett Stewart: Speed to burn, an outstanding support player, a try scoring freak
4. Karmichael Hunt: Runs hard, courageous, unrivalled under the high ball
5. Ben Hannant: Hardest running prop, smart, constantly bends the line
6. Greg Inglis: Natural athlete, freakish ability, the rare combo of strength and pace
7. Nathan Hindmarsh: Personifies hard work, always willing, tremendous heart
8. Johnathan Thurston: Deft skills, a brilliant kick, the best passer in the game
9. Kurt Gidley: Huge motor, unmatched versatility, exceptionally creative
10. Alan Tongue: Gets the most out of his ability, outstanding defensive technique

Malady in Melbourne Town: The Melbourne Storm are in a lot of trouble. The salary cap provides parity in the NRL ensuring success is somewhat cyclical but many, myself included, thought the Melbourne Storm had one more season left in them. I had them making the Grand Final and many other good judges did as well. On current form, however, they will struggle to make the eight. The Storm have been ordinary at best in attack despite the fact the team still has Slater, Cronk, Inglis and Cameron Smith. They are underperforming with the Storm struggling to breakdown defences. Their kicking game is off the mark and their attacking structure stifles the natural brilliance of the outside backs. Punters would be well advised to take the Storm on over the next few months.

Krisnan Inu is Not A First Grade Footballer: There have been few sharper falls from grace than that of Krisnan Inu. Inu was the toast of Parramatta in 2007 when he had an electrifying debut season that saw him net 12 tries, 122 points and a New Zealand Test jersey. That hot form dropped off in 2008 when Inu struggled with form and attitude but most judges expected that form to, at worst, flat line in 2009. It hasn’t with his form dropping to such an extent that Inu should not even be considered for first grade. His attitude is feeble, his hands have been dreadful and his defence has been abysmal. This season he has managed only two tries, two line-breaks and 92 metres per match to go with five errors and twelve missed tackles at a tackle success rate of only 80%. The longer Parramatta persists with Inu, the more the Eels will continue to lose. STOP PRESS: Daniel Anderson has taken note and dropped Inu for Parramatta’s round seven clash. About time. Kudos Daniel, kudos.

Anzac Day: The Melbourne Storm and the New Zealand Warriors will this Saturday play in an Anzac Day clash. The idea is a tremendous one that pays homage to both the diggers who served Australia and New Zealand and the game of rugby league. The NRL should immediately seek to institute the match as an annual event. Rugby league has too often in the past let opportunities slip. They should not let such a massive and significant pass them by this time.

Head’s Down: Matthew Head was spared the ignominy of three consecutive matches on an NRL bench without playing a minute by being dropped to the New South Wales Cup by Wayne Bennett.

Herbie The Love Bug: There were plenty of big injuries over the weekend that will have a major impact on a number of clubs. Brett Stewart has gone in for knee surgery leaving Manly without their key attacking weapon and Josh Morris is gone for at least two months leaving the Bulldogs without their in-form outside back. The real shame of the weekend, however, was the injury to Marc Herbert aka Herbie The Love Bug. His ankle injury has devastated fans of the bowl cut. Fans of the early-nineties bowl cut will have to wait at least six weeks to see the best haircut in league back in action.

Vale, Mick De Vere: In what will go down as one of the least stellar comebacks in rugby league history, Michael De Vere has retired again after only one match with the Brisbane Broncos. De Vere looked out of sorts in the 20-odd minutes he spent on the park and he is these days obviously more suited to a pair of slippers and the evening paper than the warzone of a rugby league field.

Fun Fact #1: Wayne Bennett and Brian Smith, two of only three NRL coaches to have coach over 500 games, clashed for the 36th time on the weekend. Brian Smith got the money this time around but Bennett holds the all-time edge 21-15 including a 2-0 Grand Final record.

Fun Fact #2: Bennett held a superior record against Smith when he was in charge of Canberra and Smith mentored Illawarra (2-0), when Bennett coached the Broncos and Smith coached the Dragons (6-4) and when Bennett coached Brisbane and Smith first took over Newcastle (4-0). Smith beat Bennett when Smith was in charge of Parramatta 10-9.

Fun Fact #3: Tim Sheens is the third coach with over 500 games in the NRL. His record against Wayne Bennett is 9-23-2. Against Brian Smith his line is much better at 17-15-1 dating back to 1984.

Fun Fact #4: Of the three coaches who have coached over 500 games, Bennett has the best record with a 356-192-12 record ahead of Smith with a 264-237-10 record and Sheens at 288-275-11.


Coaching Stocks:

Coach Comment
John Cartwright The Titans are going great guns and are probably the form team in the NRL. Toughness has been the key to their wins.
Kevin Moore The Dogs are 5-1 under him, supporters are in love with the club and he smashed the Eels. He is a god.
Wayne Bennett Benny would have been very disappointed with the Dragons lack of discipline and second half capitulation.
Brian Smith Big, big win against the flying Dragons. Newcastle all of a sudden look capable of making a big show of 2009.
Ivan Henjak The Broncos are on top of the table and looking the goods. His ability to get younger players performing has been v.good.
Craig Bellamy A shocking loss for the Storm. Their attack continues to look flacid. Speed seems to be an issue as does execution.
Ivan Cleary The Warriors showed plenty of character to come from behind. If they keep hanging in there, they will be in the mix.
Jason Tayler Souths have now lost two on the trot. A third loss may bring back plenty of bad memories at Redfern.
Tim Sheens The Storm win was huge. They actually showed some steel in defence. That win can propel the Tigers to more success.
David Furner The Raiders were tough as nails against the GC on Friday and were only beaten by a lack of experience.
Neil Henry The Cowboys smoked the Sharks but that doesn't reveal much. Rumours persist that Thurston is unhappy with Henry.
Des Hasler The Eagles appeared to have their season back on track but the loss of B.Stewart to injury will give Hasler a big test.
Matt Elliot The Panthers were disappointing against the Broncos but at least they seem somewhat united this season.
Brad Fittler The ageing Roosters once against showed their lack of bottle by blowing a 16-0 lead to the Warriors. Bottom 4 certainties.
Daniel Anderson A disastrous display against #1 rivals. Board is divided, the team loathes him and there is no talent in reserve. Ouch.
Ricky Stewart Ricky Stuart will never coach another team in Australia when his contract at Cronulla runs out.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 6: Canterbury-Parramatta, 48-18. This selection is a little biased but watching the Bulldogs whip Parramatta in a free flowing affair bought back thoughts of the glory days where the occurrence was regular. The win convinced the Bulldogs faithful that the team is a genuine contender in 2009. They not only beat Parramatta but they did so with clinical precision. And the sight of Brett Kimmorley sprinting 75 metres for a try was one that will last in the memory for a long time. The spirits were high after that dominant win.

The Colin Best Express Fan Revue: Tuesday was a great day for the Colin Best Express with our champion, our storied hero, selected in the 40-man New South Wales Origin squad. The CBE is finally starting to get some long overdue recognition from a selection panel that is starting to fear for their jobs after three straight series losses. Our man will play City-Country and is so close to an Origin jersey we can all taste it.

What Did Shane Rodney Do This Week? Shane imagined what an x-ray of his colon would look like if he undertook the Atkins Diet.

Beard Watch: It has been remiss of this author not to pay any heed to the best beard in the NRL this season, that of Gold Coast prop Brad Meyers. His bushy ginger mop is fierce and brilliant and has led to him being known as Barbarossa around the Gold Coast. He is a Viking warrior with that red beard, ready to hurt and be hurt. He strikes fear into any opponent who meets his flowing beard on the battlefield of combat. Brad Meyers, Old Captain Red Beard, is leading the way for the top beard of 2009.

Thems Were The Days: For the first 80 years of rugby league in Australia, coaching was not necessarily limited to those on the sideline. The captain-coach was an integral part of league with most clubs having a captain-coach at one stage. By the 1980’s, however, the captain-coach was virtually dead. The game had moved on and the role of the coach was considered too important to be undertaken by a player. In 1992, however, the role of the captain-coach was given one last reprieve when the Gold Coast Seagulls put the iconic Wally Lewis in charge of the lowly franchise, taking on the role of both on-field leader and off-field mentor. The results were not pretty and the Lewis experiment was probably the final nail in the coffin of the captain-coach. Lewis led a team that included fellow Queensland legend Dale Shearer, Kiwi prop Brent Todd, 1989 Grand Final hero Steve Jackson, Origin hero Wayne Bartrim, former Western Suburbs custodian Danny Peacock, Bulldogs premiership player Robin Thorne and Brett Horsnell. Needless to say, success was a rarity with the Gold Coast winning only six games and the wooden spoon. Lewis did go out on a high note though with his last game as captain-coach a victory over 1991 premiers Penrith 12-8 in front of 10,000 fans at Seagulls Stadium. The role of the captain-coach did not go out with such a blast, however, with the gig consigned to history, one of the last vestments of the amateur game. Wally Lewis, the last captain-coach.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. L.Patten (Bul)
2. H.El Masri (Bul)
3. J.Lyon (Man)
4. C.Lawrence (Tig)
5. B.Goodwin (Bul)
6. C.Wing (Sou)
7. J.Thurston (NQ)
13. L.O’Donnell (NQ)
12. W.Hauraki (Par)
11. A.Tupou (Cro)
10. B.Hannant (Bul)
9. I.De Gois (New)
8. S.Tronc (NQ)

Geurie Greens Update: The Greens continue to fire with another round passing with another victory. This week the Greens handed a lesson in fantasy football to the defending premiers Rylstone, recording a convincing 100 point win despite skipper David Stagg failing to show up in Rylstone for the match. Michael Jennings was the Greens best and he celebrated as such by spending the remainder of the weekend drinking and fighting, old school style. Jamie Soward was again magnificent while Sam Perrett, Brett Stewart and Cooper Cronk put up big scores.

What I Hate About Rebecca Wilson: Bec decided to launch into the Canberra Raiders this week with an unsubstantiated claim that the Raiders attempted to censor Canberra Times articles about the club. Bec failed to note that most of her work, when not slandering certain clubs, is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Sydney Roosters. Her hypocrisy is astounding.

Watch It: It has been twenty years since rugby league’s greatest marketing campaign. (Watch it here) Rugby league has never been made to look so big. The game was sold as being fun, hard, entertaining, brutal, accessible. It was a stroke of genius to bring Tina Turner out and this ad is as comical today as it was brilliant at the time. Bobby Lindner in his budgie smugglers. “Turtle” Conescu without a shirt on looking sheepish. Cliffy Lyon’s look of shock as Tina puts the ball in his bread-basket. Craig Young directing traffic, literally. A young Greg Florimo looking barely of legal age. A David Gillespie try, possibly his only one. “Slammin” Sammy Stewart in the Henny Penny gear. Ron Hilditch with the stop-watch out clocking his Steelers over forty yards. “Crusher” Cleal in a maroon tracksuit. Mick Neil being hammered after a kick. Brett Kenny and Sterlo looking decidedly strange whilst attempting to play laconic. It was a brilliant promo and one the marketing minds at the NRL should look to when developing their next campaign.

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