Season 2010: Round 19

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

From The Couch

The Campaign to Finish Ricky has finally succeeded: 2010 has been a wonderful year for all us Ricky Stuart haters and finally the most overrated coach of the last decade has been driven out of the game, at least temporarily.

Ricky Stuart finally plucked up the decency to walk away from the Cronulla Sharks. Earlier this season he agreed to leave the club at the end of the season. After the Sharks players embarrassed the club again in a humiliating defeat to Manly, Stuart finally had his fill, realising that he could no longer get the players to play for him. It was the only card he ever had.

Stuart’s time at the Sharks has been appalling. He leaves the club with only 36 wins from 92 games in charge. The list is unarguably worse now than it was when he joined the club four years back. Retention has been appalling. Recruitment has been worse. The Sharks have had the worst attack in the League since Stuart signed on at the club. Stuart has had near total power at Cronulla and he is solely responsible for the position the club found itself in over his tenure. Stuart left the Roosters in a mess that took three years and three coaches to sort out. The story at Cronulla will be similar.

The sad news for the Sharks is that incoming coach Shane Flanagan learnt at the knee of Stuart and will add little to the team. He is not revered as an attacking technician or a defensive guru. He does not have the name-power to pull in big name players or help the club out of financial strife. He does not provide fans with a good deal of hope.

The Ricky Stuart Era is at an end. At least when the Sharks fail next season, they will be doing it on the cheap. Stuart will likely get another job. All you can hope for is that it isn’t at your club.

The Melbourne Storm: I have laid down most of my thoughts on the Melbourne Storm in the latest Making The Nut Click Here. but there are just a few more that need getting down on paper.

It has come out this week that former CEO Matt Hanson has come out and told the media that News were aware of the cheating back in February. If this is proven, it will damage the credibility of News. It will also put the health of the Melbourne Storm in significant peril. Hanson better have evidence to back up these claims or he will do further damage to his already shredded reputation. It is hard to trust a person who kept the second set of books at his house.

The fans should come to the realisation that they have come out of this as good as can be expected. The club will be around in 2011 and it will have most of its big names. The team can be competitive and the club can rebuild around at least three Australian stars and one of the best coaches in the sport.

The Storm should let Greg Inglis go to Brisbane even if they have to pay between $50,000 and $100,000 of his salary next year. The Storm are going to keep Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith and they are going to surround them with promising kids like Widdop, Duffie and O’Neill. The club is, however, going to be short on forwards. Keeping Adam Blair is a positive start but they are going to need a few more experienced players on cheap money. Releasing Inglis will allow the Storm to keep some good forwards and maybe bring in some old warhorses.

The English Exodus: Four big names this week announced they would be off to England with at least one more expected to be gone very soon. Storm players Brett Finch, Jeff Lima and Ryan Hoffman this week announced they had all signed with Wigan to play under former Storm assistant Michael Maguire. Cowboys grub Luke O’Donnell has signed a four year deal with Huddersfield worth, unbelievably, $1.8 million. Fellow Cowboys liability Carl Webb is expected to join O’Donnell by travelling to the Super League but that is more of a result of no NRL club wanting him.

Maguire, unsurprisingly, has signed well and has Wigan as the current 2011 favourites. Wigan lead the Super League and have added a sharp and experienced half in Finch, a dangerous fringe runner in Hoffman who will thrive in English conditions and Lima, a tough prop who, when his mind is on the job, can be a damaging player on both sides of the ball.

Huddersfield, by contrast, have blown a huge sum of money by signing a lowlife grub. O’Donnell’s departure was met with unprecedented glee at the From The Couch desk, however, with the dirtiest scumbag in the NRL now exiled to England. He has cried hard-done-by for the final time and no longer will we have to deal with his name being bandied about at Origin time. O’Donnell leaves Australia with a gutter reputation, long regarded as a liability, a thug and a hot-headed fool. Farewell, bitch. You will not be missed in the slightest.

On Brett Finch, it is sad to see him leave the NRL. Finch has been a polarising character, one loathed by many, and I have, at times, been infuriated by him. He has endured, however, through four clubs and 250-plus matches along with three Origin appearances. And he has done it all before the age of 29. It is sad to see Finch flee to England. It is also sad to see that the Melbourne Storm did not release Finch for the remainder of the season. The Tigers made a play for Finch just before the June 30 deadline and with the Storm having nothing to play for and a need to ease their salary cap burden, they should have let him go. The Storm have had my support through much of this ordeal but their refusal to release Finch to the Tigers is unacceptable and stupid.

Titans on the Slide: The Gold Coast Titans are, to use a crude colloquialism, fucked. Their season has gone from contender to pretender very quickly and six losses over the last eight months has them down at eighth and sinking fast. Their season is about to get much worse with five-eighth Greg Bird out for at least a month with a torn hamstring. The Gold Coast have already lost three outside backs to injury, Scott Prince is playing hurt and now Bird is done. With the Titans having the Dragons, Warriors, Parramatta and Roosters over the next month, the Titans will conceivably lose each and every one of those matches. Bird has been hot and cold this year but he has been critical not only for his actions and aggression but for the attention he takes off Scott Prince. Bird has knocked up 10 try assists for the year, only one less than Prince. He ranks second in the Titans in tackle breaks and is the club’s second kicker. His contribution is immense and the Titans do not have the personnel to cover for him. Preston Campbell is too error-prone to wear the six while Mat Rogers is not creative enough nor does he have the kicking game to be a five-eighth. The Titans are in big strife.

Johnny Lang Goes Nuts: John Lang blew up deluxe after the Bunnies got done on Friday night, at least by his standards, claiming that Souths got “some really rough calls” and that he was forced to bag referees for the first time in 300 matches as a head coach. He also went so far as to say that they missed the rub of the green last week due to Brian Smith’s blast the week before. Good work, Johnny. Lang is a sneaky one. More, he is a true professional. Souths will be back in the good books of the referees this week, that is for sure and certain. Lang is calm and measured and his thunderous words and heavy insinuations won’t go unnoticed at referee’s headquarters.

Beware Benji Marshall: This year, at stages, Benji Marshall has been outstanding, a genuine match-winner and an excitement machine. His last try against the Cowboys on Monday night shows just how fast he is while his chip and chase and pass to Lote Tuqiri shows just how much skill he has. Marshall will, however, cost the Tigers a game and it could be a big one this season if his goal-kicking does not improve.

Marshall can kick field goals from 50 metres but he cannot kick a goal to save himself.

Marshall has kicked at the appalling strike rate of 63.38% in 2010. To put that in context, only two other goal-kickers with 30 or more shots shoot at under 70% with Issac Luke (69.84%) and Cameron Smith (69.39%) over six percentage points ahead of Marshall. Lance Hohaia in 2008 and Darren Lockyer in 2005 are the only other goal-kickers in the last five seasons to have taken 30 shots at goal and had a worse strike rate than Marshall.

In 2009, Marshall kicked at 66.99%, behind only Denan Kemp (65.63%).

On two occasions this season he has kicked at less than 20%.

Tim Sheens needs to find a goal-kicker or help Marshall find his form with the boot and fast because it is going to end in tears for the Tigers if he doesn’t.

Kevin Moore, Think About It: My patience is wearing very thin with Kevin Moore. Very thin. Moore may have single-handedly cost the Bulldogs victory on Sunday afternoon against the Roosters with some perplexing interchange decisions. Moore has moved Barba to five-eighth as advised, he bought in Ryan Tandy to add some much needed grunt and he moved Jamal Idris to the backrow in a move that has reaped rewards so far for Idris though it has left the Bulldogs short out wide. The consequences of this have been that David Stagg is no longer playing 80 minutes, Jamal Idris has averaged 20 minutes on the pine since pulling on the #11 jersey, Shane Neumann and Tim Winitana are playing extended time in first grade and, worst of all, Ben Barba is being substituted near the end of matches. Barba was hooked with the Bulldogs holding onto a slender lead against the Roosters. He was then thrown on with only two minutes left to save the Dogs bacon. This came after David Stagg was watching from the sideline as Blake Green and Gary Warburton eat into his minutes. Stagg’s value is that he plays 80 minutes. Idris can do the same. So does third backrower Andrew Ryan. Moore also seems to think that Barba cannot play 80 minutes despite the fact he has proven more than capable. If Moore needs only props on the bench then just use props, keep a player like Gary Warburton on the bench for a quick sub of Neumann/Winitana with Idris resting in the centres and have a back to sit on the pine until the match is over, only to be used in case of emergency as Tim Sheens does. Moore cost the Bulldogs two points again and it is about time he starts to get it right.

What I Learned from Twitter This Week: Both Karmichael Hunt and Jarryd Hayne seem to be of the opinion that know, as in “to know something”, is spelt “no”. Also, Cory Paterson’s shoulder is gone: “fuck u shit shoulder why won’t you get any better”. At least that is what I assume it means. I am also assuming C-Pat isn’t making excuses for an abhorrent performance at the weekend.

Brett Kimmorley: Congratulations to Brett Kimmorley for reaching the milestone of 300 first grade matches. Kimmorley has been an ornament of the sport for over a decade in which he has not only been a star player but a fine promoter of the sport. Many people forget but it was a genuine debate in the late-nineties over whether Kimmorley was a better halfback than Andrew Johns and after leading the Storm to premiership glory in 1999 he got his nose in front. Their career legacies diverged, however, in 2001 when Johns led the Knights to another premiership while Kimmorley had an ordinary year at the Northern Eagles. During his time at Cronulla he was maligned for being Chris Anderson’s boy but the simple fact is Kimmorley is the greatest halfback ever to wear the Sharks jersey and he took the club to preliminary finals in his first and last year at Toyota Park. He showed his class by taking Canterbury-Bankstown to a preliminary final in his first year at the club and he has become so entrenched in the team that he is likely to coach there immediately after retirement. Noddy is arguably the third best halfback of the post-Super League era and it is unfortunate that he has been made a scapegoat at rep level and at the Sharks while it is sad that his time at the Storm has been forgotten due to the success Matt Orford and Cooper Cronk have had at the club. Brett Kimmorley is a champion and he will be around in a coaching and a media role for many years to come.

As an aside, Noddy was right to blast the NRL for not recognising his achievement on the weekend. Playing 300 games is one of the rarest achievements in rugby league and it should have been heavily promoted by the NRL with David Gallop on hand to make a presentation to Noddy. Rugby league needs to make more of events and milestones. They are major events from the players that make the sport. The new independent commission needs to learn from the failings of the current administration and pay homage to the likes of Kimmorley when a major achievement is reached.

The 300-Gamer Team: These are the 15 players who have played 300 matches, 15 true champions of the sport. In honour of Brett Kimmorley becoming the first half-back to play 300 matches, here they are in the extremely exclusive 300-Gamer team.

1. Darren Lockyer (330*: Brisbane)
2. Hazem El Masri (317: Canterbury)
3. Andrew Ettingshausen (328: Cronulla)
4. Brad Fittler (336: Penrith, Roosters)
5. Jason Croker (318: Canberra)
6. Terry Lamb (349: Wests, Canterbury)
7. Brett Kimmorley (300*: Newcastle, Hunter, Melbourne, Eagles, Cronulla, Canterbury)
13. Luke Ricketson (301: Roosters)
12. Paul Langmack (315: Canterbury, Wests, Roosters)
11. Steve Menzies (349: Manly, Eagles)
10. Steve Price (313: Canterbury, Warriors)
9. Luke Priddis (301*: Canberra, Brisbane, Penrith, Dragons)
8. Ruben Wiki (312: Canberra, Warriors)

14. Cliff Lyons (332: Norths, Manly)
15. Geoff Gerard (320: Parramatta, Manly, Penrith)

To pay further homage to Brett Kimmorley, this week’s fun facts will centre on players who have surpassed the mountain of 300 matches in the top grade.

Fun Fact #1: 16 clubs have had a 300-gamer play for them at some point with Canterbury having the most with 5 (Lamb, El Masri, Langmack, Price, Kimmorley) ahead of Canberra (Croker, Wiki, Priddis), Manly (Menzies, Lyons, Gerard), Penrith (Fittler, Gerard, Priddis) and the Sydney Roosters (Fittler, Langmack and Ricketson) with 3 each.

Fun Fact #2: Only 4 current clubs have never had a 300-gamer play for them: Gold Coast, North Queensland, South Sydney and Wests Tigers. 3 more current clubs have never celebrated a 300-game player: Melbourne, Newcastle and Parramatta with Brett Kimmorley and Geoff Gerard playing for the clubs before they achieved the milestone.

Fun Fact #3: Geoff Gerard is the only 300-Gamer to have played rugby league in the seventies, debuting in 1974. Six 300-Gamers played in the eighties: Gerard, Terry Lamb, Cliff Lyons, Andrew Ettingshausen, Paul Langmack and Brad Fittler.

Fun Fact #4: On three separate occasions at three different clubs have three 300-game players played together:

1996: Terry Lamb, Steve Price, Hazem El Masri (Canterbury-15 matches)
1997-98: Jason Croker, Ruben Wiki, Luke Priddis (Canberra-20 matches)
1999: Brad Fittler, Luke Ricketson, Paul Langmack (Roosters-1 match)

Fun Fact #5: On sixteen occasions two 300-game players played together with Jason Croker-Ruben Wiki (1993-2004, Canberra), Brad Fittler-Luke Ricketson (1996-2004, Roosters), Hazem El Masri-Steve Price (1996-2004, Canterbury), Cliff Lyons-Steve Menzies (1993-99, Manly) and Terry Lamb-Paul Langmack (1984-90, Canterbury) the five duos who have played five or more seasons together.

Fun Fact #6: Seven of the fifteen 300-game players have scored over 100 tries: Menzies (180), Ettingshausen (165), Lamb (164), El Masri (159), Fittler (122), Croker (120), Lockyer (118).

Fun Fact #7: The eight 300-game players who haven’t scored over 100 tries: Lyons (87), Kimmorley (81), Wiki (72), Priddis (63), Langmack (43), Ricketson (40), Gerard (40).

Fun Fact #8: Eight of the fifteen 300-game players played in Super League in 1997.

Willie M Medal Voting: The much anticipated award honouring rugby league’s biggest liability in 2010. The NSW-QLD votes from Origin III are through a week late because, well, I forgot to run them last week.

NSW-QLD 3-Brett Morris (NSW)
  2-Dave Taylor (QLD)
  1-Michael Ennis (NSW)
Gold Coast-Brisbane 3-Mark Minichiello (GC)
  2-Luke O'Dwyer (GC)
  1-Greg Bird (GC)
Souths-Dragons 3-Fetuli Talanoa (Sou)
  2-Dave Taylor (Sou)
  1-Luke Priddis (Dra)
Warriors-Melbourne 3-Jeff Lima (Mel)
  2-Adam Blair (Mel)
  1-Cooper Cronk (Mel)
Penrith-Parramatta 3-Sam McKendry (Pen)
  2-Wade Graham (Pen)
  1-Luke Burt (Par)
Cronulla-Manly 3-Issac Gordon (Cro)
  2-Tim Smith (Cro)
  1-Anthony Tupou (Cro)
Canberra-Newcastle 3-Cory Paterson (New)
  2-Ben Rogers (New)
  1-Akuila Uate (New)
Roosters-Bulldogs 3-Tim Winitana (Bul)
  2-Shane Newmann (Bul)
  1-Kane Linnett (Roo)
Tigers-Cowboys 3-Leeson Ah Mau (Cow)
  2-Daniel Fitzhenry (Tig)
  1-Carl Webb (Cow)
Leaderboard 16-Mark Minichiello (GC)
  15-Preston Campbell (GC)
  14-Carl Webb (Cow)
  13-James Maloney (War), Chris Sandow (Sou), Tim Smith (Cro)
  12-Scott Dureau (New), Josh McCrone (Can), Joseph Tomane (GC)
  11-Brett Kimmorley (Bul), Dave Taylor (Sou)
  10-Trent Barrett (Cro)
  9-Greg Bird (GC), Todd Carney (Roo), Krisnan Inu (Par), Ben Pomeroy (Cro)


Rumour Mill: Rumours are circulating that News Limited may have known as early as February about allegations the Storm were significantly cheating the salary cap. Former chief executive Matt Hanson stated in an interview that News knew about the seriousness as early as February but the advice from them was to push on through the audit. Any information on News knowing of this cheating earlier could have dire ramifications for the game. While on the Storm, Greg Inglis is almost certain to leave. It is believed a deal is already done with the Broncos. Inglis’s girlfriend recently got a job in Brisbane. Many clubs are concerned that Inglis is just transferring between one News owned club and another with Inglis refusing to even entertain talks with other clubs. Two player agents are reportedly on the verge of losing their accreditation due to their role in the Storm salary cap scandal. The manager of Greg Inglis is allegedly one of them. Trent Barrett will be at Parramatta next year. He is going to renege on his decision to retire and will be at the Eels in 2011 to mentor struggling youngster Daniel Mortimer. The injury to Taniela Tuiaki could be so serious that he may never play again. He is certain not to play again in 2010 and with his contract up and his age being near 30; it is looking increasingly like Tuiaki may never play again. The injury to Joseph Tomane is apparently worse than first thought and he is likely to be out for the season.

Power Rankings:


Last Week
Wests Tigers
Gold Coast


Where the Storm Would Be If: The Storm certainly would still be riding an eight year streak of not losing three consecutive matches as they have since 2002. That streak ended on Saturday night when the Warriors downed Melbourne 13-6 in a display by the Storm that can only be described as belligerent and petty. The Storm have received plenty of support throughout the League despite their guilt in a cheating scandal but they will keep no fans playing with such bitterness and belligerence.

Exchanges with Fisk:

Fisk on the Tigers: “Skando on the bench this week. I’ll be there to cheer him on.”

Tedeschi on John Skandalis: “I love Skando but he has dead-set had more retirements and made more comebacks than George Foreman.”

Coaching Stocks:

Wayne Bennett [5] Dragons were flat for most of the game but they still got the win. Again set themselves as standard.

Craig Bellamy [4] Lost three on the trot for the first time as coach. The Storm are hitting tough times now.

John Lang [4] Blew up over poor reffing and rightfully so. Souths have been getting a raw deal. Top coach.

Tim Sheens [4] The Tigers continue to frustrate but they are winning the close ones and did so on Monday.

Matt Elliott [3.5] Blowing a 22 point lead is not acceptable. It could prove a turning point in Panthers season.

Brian Smith [3.5] Another close one but Brian Smith has the Chooks playing with confidence and pride.

Des Hasler [3] Smashed the Sharks as expected. Needs to get Manly beating good teams though.

Ivan Cleary [3] Cleary was nearly fired. He now has the Warriors in 5th. Deserves credit for adding steel.

John Cartwright [2.5] Times getting tougher at the Titans with Bird gone a month. Needs to stop the slide quick.

Ivan Henjak [2.5] Tough win after losing Thaiday early. They are joining the realms of contenders.

Kevin Moore [2] Made a shocking error in judgement in dragging Barba and Green. That may be it.

David Furner [1] about and building momentum.

Daniel Anderson [0.5] Right in the mix again after huge comeback win over 2nd placed Panthers. Pressure easing.

Rick Stone [-1.5] Knights have a finals berth to play for and turned in a gutless performance. Can’t play in 8.

Neil Henry [-7] Another brutal loss when victory was there to be had. Under real pressure.

* Ricky Stuart Should have the decency to walk away now. Late Mail: He has.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 19: Penrith-Parramatta, 28-34. There were two cracking matches this weekend and both have legitimate claims to match of the year honours. The Roosters-Bulldogs clash was a see-sawing battle that was not decided until the final bell with only the stupidity of Kevin Moore in taking off Ben Barba and David Stagg costing the Bulldogs a fourth straight win though in fairness to the Roosters the Bulldogs did get the rub of the green. It was a classic Sunday afternoon contest full of drama, meaning and wonderful play. The Chooks-Dogs clash just got pipped, however, by an outstanding Parramatta-Penrith match that could quite easily win match of the year honours. To put the match in context, the disdain between these two local rivals runs deep. This season, Penrith have defied predictions to be running with the big dogs in the top four while Parramatta have let all their supporters down by yet another miserable showing to open the season after entering the year as premiership favourites following a GF performance in ’09. Penrith hit a hurdle last week, however, while Parramatta showed their first signs of life against the Cowboys last Monday. The Eels appeared to be back in a coma as Penrith built a 22-0 lead after only 20 minutes with Penrith scoring four tries including three off kicks a classic to Michael Gordon that came off two kicks. It was then Parramatta switched on and scored two before the break including Jonathan Wright’s best effort in first grade that involved a break before dummying the fullback and walking across. The second half was all Parramatta. Jarryd Hayne scored one of the tries of the year when stepping three on a kick return before going 90 metres in a sizzling effort. The Eels got up 30-22 before a try to Wade Graham put the Panthers back in it with ten to go. The Panthers hammered hard but against some poor refereeing that favoured the Eels and their own poor handling, Penrith couldn’t get back to the front as a record Penrith Park crowd watched on. Parramatta’s comeback tied the club’s greatest ever comeback while it ranked equal sixth in the greatest comebacks ever with the Cowboys coming back from 26-0 down against Penrith the biggest ever half-time deficit overcome. A truly wonderful match that is going to be hard to beat when the match of the year is decided.

Obscure Score of the Week: Northern Rail Cup final: Batley Bulldogs 25-Widnes Vikings 24. This writer could not have been happier to have spent Sunday night in front of the computer watching this classic and historic final that had everything a rugby league fan could ever want to see. For those unaware, the Northern Rail Cup is a knockout cup competition comprising teams Britain’s Championship and Championship One. Played for the sixth straight season at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road, Widnes went in raging hot favourites at $1.40 with Batley as long as $3.50. Widnes had won the Northern Rail Cup in 2007 and 2009 and have a trophy cabinet chock full of silverware including seven Challenge Cups and three British championships with their last only a touch over twenty years ago. Batley, by contrast, have not won a trophy since claiming the Championship and Yorkshire Cup in 1923/24 and have not played in a final since the 1952 Challenge Cup, a long and painful drought for one of rugby league’s foundation clubs.

The Northern Rail Cup was the stuff of fairytales though. Against the odds, the Bulldogs triumphed in a classic encounter that will be remembered for many years in West Yorkshire. The Bulldogs jumped the gates and established a 12-0 lead before Widnes fought back to equalise. As half-time loomed, Batley slotted a field goal and then a penalty and went in 15-12 up. It was Widnes who looked home in the second-half, however, when some strong running had the Vikings up 24-15. Some shocking ball handling from Widnes put Batley back in the contest as outstanding winger Alex Brown broke clear and Batley trailed 24-21 as the match came to a close. Batley pounded the line and probed the defence but nothing…until Alex Brown leaped high to catch a small chip over his opposite number, pirouetting midair and planting the ball down. Scenes of raw emotion and utter jubilation ensued.

It was an outstanding match and a truly historic day for the Batley Bulldogs.

Queanbeyan Kangaroos 2010 Campaign: Oh watch the Roos, the mighty Roos, oh watch the Roos go marching in. Marching right into the finals that is. With the Kangaroos having already conquered Queanbeyan by sending the Blues to Braidwood with a derby whipping last week and this week the Roos bested Gungahlin 30-26 at Freebody Oval. The Bulls were one of the preseason favourites but are now down to fourth spot after the Kangaroos stomped on their heads and then demanded more. The Pride of Queanbeyan are now almost assured of a top two position with Canberra Raiders Cup glory almost touchable.

Stats from the Penguin: Ben Pomeroy played his 8th career match against Manly on the weekend. He suffered his seventh loss against the Eagles and it was the sixth time The Penguin’s team allowed 29-plus points against Manly. Pomeroy’s teams do not have a worse record against any club.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. Jarryd Hayne (Par)
2. Daniel Vidot (Can)
3. Jonathan Wright (Par)
4. Adam MacDougall (New)
5. Lote Tuqiri (Tig)
6. Todd Carney (Roo)
7. Josh McCrone (Can)
13. Corey Parker (Brs)
12. Liam Fulton (Tig)
11. Anthony Watmough (Man)
10. Shane Tronc (Brs)
9. Michael Ennis (Bul)
8. Bryce Gibbs (Tig)

Waiver Wire Advice: I love Liam Fulton. He should be on each and every fantasy team. The guy gets through a mountain of work, is as strong as an ox and he has some deft skills that he showed on Monday night when laying on two tries and scoring another. In seven of his ten matches he has hit fantasy numbers in excess of 60 with four matches above 80. He is $275k at the moment and is well worth jumping on board. With Kevin Moore screwing with David Stagg’s time, sell him and purchase Fulton and upgrade another position.

Beard Watch: Big Red never ceases to amaze. When you think the Brad Meyers Look could not get any more impressive, the great ranga turns it up a notch. Already with a flowing beard that has him looking like a Scandinavian god, Meyers fronted with same along with a shaved head. The shaved head merely accentuated the beard and its flowing goodness. You would take $1.0005 on him getting beard of the year at present.

Lazy Long Bay Days, Part 20: “We are going to have to open an NRL wing” the Warden chuckled as the five Storm rats came filing in. “You bastards really did a number on the League.” Seriousness then overtook the Warden. “And now I’m going to do a number on you.” A nightstick then hit Peter O’Sullivan in the back of the knee as two other guards took Waldron off to the hole, where he would be spending plenty of time.

Watch It: Over the next few weeks we will look back on some anniversary Grand Finals (mainly because 0 and 5 have been lucky last numbers for Canterbury!) and we will start with the infamous the 1975 Grand Final Click Here, the first broadcast in colour in Australia. The Roosters smashed the Dragons 38-0 in a rambunctious performance that is most renowned for Dragons captain-coach Graeme “Changa” Langlands and his white boots. Changa had a pain-killing injection pre-match and it didn’t take, leaving him without co-ordination or the ability to run. The white boots came to symbolise the hiding the Dragons copped. The Roosters had, however, lost only two matches all season and were primed for a big showing. They delivered. Easts ran in 33 second-half points and equalled the most tries in a Grand Final at eight. The best was likely Bruce Pickett’s try after he ran off Ian Schibert, who beat all bar one after fielding a kick. Best for the Roosters on Grand Final day 35 years ago were Johnny Mayes, Ian Schubert, John Brass and John Peard.

Correspondence Corner: Esteemed rugby league mind, devout Catholic and Sharks supporter, perennial fantasy football failure and the master of the crumple run, Nathan Boss, dropped me an interesting email this week.

“I have determined that the main problem facing Cronulla in recent years has not been money, coaches or recruitment but, rather, a lack of Paul Mellor.

Cronulla Sharks (1999-2009) with Mellor:
Seasons: 6
Years missed finals:1
Position on ladder (regular season): 1st, 8th, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 13th
Prelim Finals: 3
Minor premierships:1

Cronulla Sharks (1999-2009) without Mellor:
Seasons: 5
Years missed finals: 4
Position on Ladder (regular season): 12th, 11th, 11th, 3rd, 15th
Prelims: 1
Minor premierships: 0”

The Bossman may be onto something there. Paul Mellor has long been regarded as a rugby league talisman, a man who bought out the best in teams with his deft range of skills, his brute strength and his deceptive speed. While I wouldn’t rule out the lack of money, the shocking recruitment or the poor coaches the club has employed over the years, the lack of Paul Mellor could certainly be contributing to the Sharks recent decline. Shane Flanagan would do well to find Paul Mellor and bring back the 221 game veteran with 90 games under his belt. He is, of course, faster than Luke Covell and he has better hands than Ben Pomeroy. Bonus Paul Mellor fact: Mellor’s number in Super League was 51, which he wore twice for the Bulldogs.

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