Season 2010: Round 20

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

From The Couch

The Diver: Let’s make this clear right off the bat: I never give Steve Matai the benefit of the doubt. Ever. Matai is a grub and worse, he is as mad as a cut snake. I would trust Hannibal Lecter before I ever trusted Steve Matai. Last Sunday, however, I believe he was rightfully angry that Robbie Farah stayed down after taking an innocuous hit from Matai. The contact may have been high but there was no force in it. Farah went down like Paul Briggs. The Tigers then received the penalty and Farah was straight back up. He played on for the remainder of the match. Matai was then sin binned for pushing Farah after calling him a diver, among a number of other pleasantries.

There are certain parts of Robbie Farah’s game he deserves to be lauded for. He is a tireless worker in defence. He offers creativity out of dummy half and is certainly ranked among the top three hookers in the game. He provides the Tigers with versatility as he can play as a second halfback. He is a sound leader.

Farah does, however, have a narky tendency to bend the rules. He can play grubby yet speaks from the high moral ground. He uses the press to whinge and moan and bleat with self-pity. He can fake injury in order to win a penalty.

Farah should lose those latter characteristics and soon if he wants to be remembered as one of the best players of his generation. He has the talent and he is building the resume but nobody likes a grub and nobody likes a whinger and absolutely nobody likes a diver. This isn’t soccer. This is rugby league. It is a man’s game. Robbie Farah should start acting like one.

The Central Coast Bears: It really was a treat watching top level rugby league at Grahame Park in Gosford on Sunday afternoon in front of a packed house. The area certainly loves its league. And rugby league should start loving the area back.

There has been plenty of talk about the NRL expanding and there is no doubt the Central Coast will be first cab off the rank. The added benefit of the Central Coast will be the association the club and the area has with the old North Sydney Bears. It would be wonderful to see the red and black back in the NRL along with that wonderful ground hosting its own team.

The NRL needs to act on expansion before the next television deal. And the Central Coast should be awarded the licence now in order to give them time to prepare.

Sin Bin: John Elias certainly was a colourful character. A rugby league player and a convict, he mixed with plenty of what could best be described as interesting identities. As most punters in the league game are aware, he has a book coming out soon. It will be quite the read. In the Sunday Telegraph, Elias spoke of an alleged plot to fix a match at the end of the 1994 season when Elias was playing for South Sydney. The match was against Western Suburbs with the Magpies winning 34-26. Elias said that he attempted to pay off four players to ensure the Bunnies did not win by more than 6 ½. The plan was allegedly aborted when the requirement changed for Souths to lose the match. Elias did not name the four Souths players involved. Below is that team and what they achieved before and after the match.

1. Darrell Trindall (Debuted for Souths in 1990 and stayed at the club until 1999 before moving to the Bulldogs from 2000-01, finishing with 171 career matches)

2. Mark McGaw (Sharks legend who debuted in 1984 and played for Australia. Went to Souths in 1994 after a year at Penrith, finishing with 191 matches)

3. David Penna (Had two stints at Parramatta circling his Souths run from 1994-97. Played 134 matches, 56 for Souths)

4. Jacin Sinclair (Started and finished his career at Balmain but played for Souths for 28 matches between 1994-96, knocking up 80 matches over a 9 year career)

5. Paul Mellor (Debuted for Souths in 1991 and stayed with them until 1996 before returning in 2006-07. Played 221 NRL games also with Canterbury and Cronulla)

6. Jason Bell (Played 173 games for four clubs from 1989-2000 including 58 games for Souths from 1994-96)

7. Craig Field (Played 183 games for Souths, Manly, Balmain and Wests Tigers. Was at Souths from 1994-96 where he goal-kicked and played 84 games)

8. Terry Hermansson (Debuted for Souths in 1993 and left after the 1994 season before rejoining the club in 1998. Played with Warriors and Roosters. 150 career matches and a New Zealand Test representative)

9. Duncan McRae (Played 34 first grade matches with Souths and Canterbury before defecting to rugby union. Played 23 matches for Souths from 1993-95)

10. Brett Goldspink (Debuted for Illawarra in 1992 before defecting to Souths for the 1994 season. Joined the Reds for 1995-96. Finished with 60 games)

11. Jeremy Donougher (51 games for Souths between 1993-95 before a few seasons with Bradford in England)

12. Tony Mestrov (Played three seasons with Manly before joining Souths in 1994, staying until 1995. Played 47 games before playing in England for six years)

13. Tyran Smith (Journeyman who played 188 games for seven clubs from 1993-2005. Was at Souths from 1993-96 where he played 52 matches. NZ international)

14. Gene Ngamu (Played 91 games between 1991-1999 after debuting for Manly and finishing with the Warriors. This was only match in Souths colours)

15. John Elias (Played 131 matches for five clubs between 1984-94. Retired after the 1994 season. Joined Souths midyear after transferring from Balmain)

16. Brett Langford (Only lasted 8 matches for Souths between 1994-95)

Elias noted that Craig Field, Jacin Sinclair, Darrell Trindall and Tyran Smith were named in the media and all sued for defamation. As such, I won’t be naming any names in my theory. Needless to say that the rort probably wouldn’t have included any bench player. It would have been a waste of money. I refuse to believe Paul Mellor would have been involved. He went on to a long and distinguished career. I also doubt any winger would be included. Aside from that, well, I think how long a player stays at a club says a fair bit about their character. The rest is for the imagination.

The Best Rookies of 2010: Each and every year a talented crop of rookies come through the ranks, particularly since the Toyota Cup came into being. Some come on like a Melbourne change of weather. Others seem to disappoint after an initial boom. Some have upside. Others come in at their peak and never get better. Below are the top fifteen prospects of 2010. They are the rookies that will make the biggest impact on the NRL over the next ten years. They may not have been the best rookies this year but these are the players who shape as the future of the NRL.

15. Robbie Rochow (Melbourne): Only played the 1 match for the Storm this year but is a promising forward with a high work rate who is highly touted by Storm coaching staff. Will be a key first grader in 2011.

14. Simon Dwyer (Tigers): Has played 9 matches for the Tigers despite being stuck behind the most talented backrow in the NRL. Will be a high impact attacking forward who punishes defenders on the fringes.

13. William Hopoate (Manly): Been pumped up since early teenage years but showed plenty in 2 first grade games on the wing. Will play fullback eventually but may need to switch clubs to get a proper run in first grade.

12. Ryan James (Gold Coast): James is a hit and miss prospect but his size is menacing and he has shown plenty of aggression in limited time in 4 NRL games. Will be a big shot and big impact player with huge upside.

11. Isaac John (Warriors): John showed plenty of poise in guiding the Warriors to 4 straight wins in his 5 first grade matches this season. Looks more a five-eighth but will get his chance again over the next few years. A high football IQ.

10. Kyle Stanley (Dragons): The Stanley’s are a team of athletes with great football bloodlines. Stuck behind an outstanding three-quarter line but has shown wonderful footwork, speed and skill in 6 NRL appearances.

9. Justin O’Neill (Melbourne): O’Neill is now one of the most chased after prospects in the NRL after being named the next Greg Inglis. Could flee the Storm but will be a top line outside back for years to come. Perfect body and wonderful athlete. Origin potential.

8. Cory Norman (Brisbane): Shot onto the scene after winning the duel for the fullback jersey. Showed wonderful poise but was playing out of position. Sensational skill set and is being groomed as the successor to Darren Lockyer. Sublime player who floats on air.

7. Kalifa Fai-Fai Loa (Dragons): Fai-Fai Loa needs to move elsewhere immediately. He is ready for first grade now but has only gotten 2 matches where he has averaged 162 metres and 10.5 tackle breaks per game. A fearsome wing/centre prospect.

6. Gareth Widdop (Melbourne): Has played only 2 matches for the Storm but made his Test debut for Britain this year. Has played fullback and centre but will wear six next year for Melbourne. He has a super amount of heart and a fine all-round game.

5. Nathan Gardner (Cronulla): Gardner is the one bright light at Cronulla at present. He has claimed the fullback role and is behind only Gallen, Snowden and Douglas in achievement this year. A fine attacking player who the Sharks desperately need.

4. Trent Merrin (Dragons): Merrin is the latest prop to come out of the Dragons system. He is going to be playing Origin within three years. A big bopper with plenty of athleticism, the only thing that will stop him is weight. The next Luke Bailey.

3. Matt Gillett (Brisbane): Gillett has come from nowhere to star for Brisbane this year. Versatile and skilful, Gillett looks a Corey Parker type player. He works hard, he has the body to take punishment and he can bust a tackle. He has long term Queenslander written all over him.

2. Shaun Fensom (Canberra): If Dugan was the most important player to re-sign with the Raiders, Fensom is second. He has a huge appetite for the dirty stuff and could be David Stagg reincarnate. He is also a long-term captain of the team. Every club needs a player like Fensom.

1. Trent Hodkinson (Manly): You couldn’t get $1.01 on him being named rookie of the year. Has already played rep footy and signed a big deal to play at Canterbury next year. He has the defensive capabilities and workload of Andrew Johns with a super kicking game, wonderful composure and a high footy IQ. Few faults in his game.

How Old is Robert Lui? Wests Tigers halfback Robert Lui is allegedly 20. He looks 40. A Stanley Gene investigation needs to be launched. Lui was supposedly born on February 23, 1990 in Townsville but he has the head of a weather-beaten 40 year old. There may be a touch of the Pakistani accuracy when it comes to Lui and his age. The over-under is set at 28.5 and the smart money is on the over.

Thanks: Michael Jennings had seven errors last weekend. Seven. Wonderful if Jennings is part of every fantasy team you manage. Thanks again.

Never Trust a Person with a Neck Tattoo: Fetuli Talanoa is the latest NRL player to get a neck tattoo. He may have had it for a while but I only just noticed it. He can no longer be trusted. Any man with a neck tattoo simply needs to be given space. They cannot be relied on, they are clearly reckless fools and they are more than likely headed for a life in criminal activity. Whether it be fantasy wise, punting wise or simply enjoyment wise, never trust a man with a neck tattoo. You will be well and truly better off in the long run though it will significantly restrict your activities surrounding the NBA.

Extra Time: The debate over the legitimacy of extra-time again raised its head over the weekend with two matches determined in golden point. The Titans rolled the Dragons in a huge boilover 11-10 at Kogarah on Friday night before the Cowboys escaped with a 28-24 victory on Saturday night over Newcastle. This column would prefer to see teams divide the points. It is the fairest and most sensible manner to approach matches. If teams battle it out over 80 minutes and are tied up then each deserves a single point. Not only is it the fairest way but it breaks the premiership table up and diminishes the importance of for and against.

While From The Couch is pro draw, we would prefer the golden point as it stands now ahead of such silly ideas as the golden try or the match not ending on a field goal. A field goal is a legitimate means of scoring and can win a match in the 79th minute so if the game is going to go to 81 minutes then it should be able to win a match then also.

As an aside, while this column is pro draw, it is very much opposed to washed up hacks and hypocritical fools like Greg Hartley and Peter Peters arguing for the draw because that was always the way. Rugby league is an evolutionary sport and one that constantly changes and arguing tradition shows just how out of touch these fools are. Peters also went after Fox commentator Warren Smith for criticising Greg Hartley with Peters relying on the old argument that Smith doesn’t know what he is talking about because he never played. That is the most pathetic stance in rugby league and it shows why these two have lost their own show and are now nothings in rugby league. Hartley was, in a manner which won’t lead to court action, a somewhat controversial referee while Peter Peters has never been anything more than a Manly sucktard who cannot handle proper debate. The quicker 2ky fires both of them and hands the show over completely to Jimmy Smith, the better off everyone will be.

Fun Fact #1: There have been 48 matches decided in Golden Point since the rule was introduced in 2003 when a Ben Walker penalty goal helped Manly to a 36-34 win at Brookvale Oval.

Fun Fact #2: Only 8 of the 48 matches have ended up in a draw with South Sydney involved in the first 3 drawn Golden Point matches and 4 of the 8 drawn matches.

Fun Fact #3: 2004 and 2007 were the most prevalent seasons for Golden Point matches with 9 apiece. 2005 witnessed only 2 Golden Point matches.

Fun Fact #4: Including last weekend, there has been two Golden Point games on a single weekend only six times. Only twice has there been two Golden Point games on a single day: July 25, 2004 when Newcastle lost to the Cowboys 28-24 at home after a Travis Norton try and the Raiders beat the Warriors 30-29 on the back of a Clinton Schifcofske field goal at Bruce Stadium and March 30, 2007 when a Luke Burt penalty goal gave Parramatta the win over the Wests Tigers 22-20 and a Peter Wallace field goal provided Penrith with an incredible 29-28 victory over Brisbane.

Fun Fact #5: Only one weekend has seen three Golden Point matches: August 10-13, 2007 when Joel Monaghan won the match for the Roosters with a try against the Tigers, a Brett Seymour field goal got Cronulla the 25-24 win against Parramatta and an Ashley Graham try got the Cowboys a 30-26 win over Penrith on Monday Night Football.

Fun Fact #6: In the 48 Golden Point matches, 12 have been decided by tries, 6 by penalty goals, 22 by field goal and 8 by the full time siren.

Fun Fact #7: Clinton Schifcofske is the only player to provide the decisive score in Golden Point matches 3 times (2 field goals, 1 penalty goal). Todd Carney, Stacey Jones, Luke Burt and Jarrod Sammut have done so twice. Stacey Jones has the biggest gap between Golden Point winning plays with his first in 2003 and his last in 2009.

Fun Fact #8: Team records in Golden Point:

Brisbane 8: 4-2-2
Canberra 5: 5-0
Canterbury 3: 1-1-1
Cronulla 9: 5-4
Gold Coast 4: 2-2
Manly 2: 1-1
Melbourne 4: 2-1-1
Newcastle 6: 2-4
North Qld 9: 4-4-1
Parramatta 6: 2-3-1
Penrith 10: 5-3-2
Roosters 4: 2-1-1
Souths 8: 2-2-4
Dragons 4: 0-4
Tigers 6: 1-5
Warriors 8: 2-3-3

What I Learned from Twitter this Week: I learned from Twitter this week that former Tigers flyer and current Wigan points-scoring machine Pat Richards hurt his neck sitting in the front row of Toy Story 3. It was a “schoolboy error” according to Richards. From The Couch is not sure Richards does have children.

Willie M Medal Voting: As we hit the home stretch, the worst clamour to be honoured with the distinction of being the first Willie M Medal winner.

Bulldogs-Parramatta 3-Jamal Idris (Bul)
  2-Shane Neumann (Bul)
  1-Josh Morris (Bul)
Dragons-Gold Coast 3-Shannon Walker (GC)
  2-Brett Morris (Dra)
  1-Jamie Soward (Dra)
Canberra-Cronulla 3-Dean Collis (Cro)
  2-Terry Campese (Can)
  1-Luke Covell (Cro)
Melbourne-Penrith 3-Michael Jennings (Pen)
  2-Travis Burns (Pen)
  1-Brett White (Can)
Cowboys-Newcastle 3-Akuila Uate (New)
  2-Antonio Kaufusi (New)
  1-Ty Williams (Cow)
Souths-Warriors 3-Jerome Ropati (War)
  2-Jesse Royal (War)
  1-Kevin Locke (War)
Manly-Tigers 3-Robert Lui (Tig)
  2-Chris Heighington (Tig)
  1-Daniel Fitzhenry (Tig)
Brisbane-Roosters 3-Antonio Winterstein (Bri)
  2-Alex Glenn (Bri)
  1-Ben Hunt (Bri)
Leaderboard 16-Mark Minichiello (GC)
  15-Preston Campbell (GC)
  14-Carl Webb (NQ)
  13-James Maloney (War), Tim Smith (Cro), Chris Sandow (Sou)
  12-Scott Dureau (NC), Josh McCrone (Can), Joseph Tomane (GC),
  11-Brett Kimmorley (Bul), Dave Taylor (Sou)


Rumour Mill: The Melbourne Storm may have got the money on the weekend but they are a team down on spirit and enthusiasm. Three players are keen to leave the Storm with Greg Inglis and Adam Blair certainties to go. Inglis will be at the Broncos, Blair at the Warriors. Craig Bellamy reportedly nearly walked out on the club last week when the Daily Telegraph was set to publish the pay packets of each player at the club. Bellamy allegedly called John Hartigan and said he would resign immediately and his players would strike for the rest of the season if the story was published. It was pulled. There are also rumours that the Storm will be running a rotation policy through the rest of the year with big names to be rested sporadically in order to give fringe players some exposure. Matt Orford is the latest halfback to be linked with the Raiders. The Raiders would prefer Brett Kimmorley but will take Orford with Orford certain to be back in Australia next year. He is rehabilitating here and he won’t be back in England in 2011. Seven are in the box seat to win the rights to the NRL when the next television deal is negotiated with the league hierarchy further put off my Nine in recent weeks over Phil Gould’s constant criticism of the administration.

Power Rankings:

Last Week
Wests Tigers
Gold Coast


Where the Melbourne Storm Would Be If: The Storm would be 10-8 and a clear fourth on the premiership ladder.

Exchanges with Fisk:

Tedeschi on the Big Argument: “Kostya Tszyu or Brad Haddin with a bat?”

Fisk in response: “Ha. Kostya.”

Tedeschi: “Bugger off. Haddin with a bat.”

Coaching Stocks:

Wayne Bennett [5] The Dragons were dreadfully disappointing. Bennett needs to get them winning to stop choke talk.

Craig Bellamy [4.5] Bellamy did a brilliant job in getting the Storm up against Penrith. Remarkable coach.

John Lang [4] Monster win over the hot Warriors with an injury depleted forward pack. Souths back on track.

Brian Smith [4] The Roosters are playing with a belief not seen in years. They can score from everywhere.

Tim Sheens [3.5] Tigers turned in a shocker against Manly. Goal-kicking a concern. Need to bounce back soon.

Des Hasler [3.5] Manly are well and truly back with a top notch victory on the Central Coast. Nice time to get hot.

John Cartwright [3.5] Titans season seemed to be slipping but huge win has them back on track for a finals surge.

Matt Elliott [3] The Panthers have now lost three on the trot and are falling fast. Discipline a concern.

Ivan Cleary [3] Lost no admirers with a good effort against Souths. Warriors could prove smokies in September.

Ivan Henjak [2.5] Somehow they fell behind by 22 before they almost pinched the win. Tough loss to explain.

Kevin Moore [1.5] The first 10 mins from the Bulldogs were awful, just awful. Poor preparation.

David Furner [1.5] The Raiders are back in the finals hunt with three straight wins. Dugan injury a concern.

Daniel Anderson [1.5] Parramatta are shaping to do what they did in 2009. Revving Hayne up was genius.

Shane Flanagan [0] The Sharks showed plenty of heart against the Raiders. Flanagan has nothing to lose this year.

Rick Stone [-1.5] Probably only rolled by injuries against Cowboys. A hearty effort.

Neil Henry [-6.5] A much needed win by the Cowboys but it was hardly inspiring with the talent they have on offer.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 20: Dragons-Gold Coast, 10-11. This was not one for those who fancy tries, attacking football or quality refereeing but it was a thriller that went down to the final minute of extra-time. The Titans scored a dubious first try before the Saints hit back with one of their own. Both weren’t tries, pure and simple. The Dragons were clearly the best team in the first half but they couldn’t cross. The Saints scored the first legitimate try through Matt Cooper after a bomb by Jimmy Soward was dropped by Shannon Walker but somehow Paul Simpkins ruled no try. The Dragons went into the break 10-6 up after a couple of penalty goals but that lead was offset by a Kevin Gordon try in the 53rd minute after Jason Nightingale did his best impersonation of Joel
Monaghan by rushing in and grabbing thin air and allowing the Titans winger to get on the outside and score. The game then ground to a halt as the battle for field position took hold. Field goals were missed, balls were dropped and conservatism ruled supreme until Mat Rogers took one of the top field goals of the season when dummying to Scott Prince and jamming it over from dummy half. It was a bright play and a very interesting game for the league diehard.

Stats from the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy, also known as The Special Needs Penguin, officially weights 97kg. It is believed 73 of those kilograms are found in the flippers he calls hands.

Obscure Score of the Week: New Haven Warriors 80-Conneticut Wildcats 14. New Haven wrapped up the AMNRL minor premiership with an 80-14 victory over local rivals Connecticut in a dominating display that has them clear favourites to win it all as they chase their second title in three years.

Queanbeyan Kangaroos 2010 Campaign: The Kangaroos suffered their first loss since round four and what a loss it was with the Pride of Queanbeyan were punished 36-12 by the Goulburn Bulldogs. The less said about last weekend the better. The Roos now look locked in for second.

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1. Kurt Gidley (New)
2. Fetuli Talanoa (Sou)
3. Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Roo)
4. Israel Folau (Bri)
5. Akuila Uate (New)
6. Kieran Foran (Man)
7. Todd Carney (Roo)
13. Paul Gallen (Cro)
12. Matt Gillett (Bri)
11. Anthony Laffranchi (GC)
10. Kade Snowden (Cro)
9. Cameron Smith (Mel)
8. Luke Bailey (GC)

Waiver Wire Advice: Now is the time to get on board any fit South Sydney forward with a touch of class. The Bunnies have been losing forwards all year and over the last week Souths have lost Luke Stuart for the season and Dave Taylor for six weeks over the last nine days leaving Souths short on big name props. That makes the likes of Ben Lowe, Garrett Crossman and even Michael Crocker good pick-ups this week. Lowe has already revealed himself as a fantasy star this week and is still value at his purchase price of $265k. Crossman has hardly played this year but scored 39 minutes against the Warriors and despite not accumulating any points is worth a spec at $104k. Michael Crocker is a perennial injury risk but should return this week and will get big minutes. $212k is a big price but expect to see his playing minutes increase over the coming weeks.

Watch It: This week we move to the 1980 Grand Final and that classic between Canterbury-Bankstown and the Eastern Suburbs Roosters, seen here Click Here. This year is the 30th anniversary of that wonderful match, at least for the Bulldogs faithful, with the most memorable moment of the match being the Steve Gearin try off a Greg Bretnall midfield bomb. To this day it is one of the all-time classic Grand Final tries. It was Canterbury’s first premiership in 38 years but it would be the first of four over the next nine seasons as Canterbury proved themselves the team of the decade. Coached by Ted Glossop, the Bulldogs were filled with stars such as Steve Mortimer, Chris Anderson, Steve Folkes, George Peponis and the Hughes boys. The Roosters weren’t too bad themselves with John Lang, Kevin Hastings, Noel Cleal, Kerry Boustead and Royce Ayliffe lining up. The Dogs were far too classy on the day; however, getting the win 18-4 as Gearin amassed a personal tally of 14 points.

Lazy Long Bay Days, Part 21: John Elias pays a visit to Long Bay to visit some old associates and present them with some signed copies of his new book Sin Bin when he bumps into Chris and Danny. “Hello boys” Elias says with a grin on his face. “How is the yard treating you?” Elias then laughs at Houston. “Fuck, you have copped some old son. That is the way it goes with drugs though. There are safer vices to get mixed up in. Which has me thinking…you boys keep in touch with any of those old Knights boys? I got $250,000 to go around and it is that time of year and I figure we can get a nice thing set up in the final round against the Storm.”

Beard Watch: This week Beard Watch moves into the realm of the touch judge and pays homage to one Daniel Eastwood. Most league fans will have paid Eastwood no attention…it isn’t like touch judges do much and few are recognisable outside of their own family. Not so Daniel Eastwood. Eastwood has made a name for himself with a couple of lengthy burns used to frame his obscenely thin face. They have length and shape and remind me, if I may say, of the burns once manicured by a teenage Tedeschi, when the face was thinner and the desire to design was far greater. Good work Eastwood. Keep working on the facial hair and you will get a cult following before you can say Moghseen Jadwat.

Correspondence Corner: Rob Clark this week writes: “Love the weekly offering ‘from the couch’….just need to say that if T Campese doesn’t get the full 6 points on offer from that game on Saturday there has to be a stewards inquiry. In fact double the 6 points available for the game and give him 12 on the basis he was the worst performer and I assume the highest paid man on the paddock. If ever there was an advert for not putting players on long contracts that was it.” Sorry Rob but Terry only copped the two points this week despite turning in yet another shitty performance. He has been pretty ordinary this year and he has probably proven incapable of being a team leader in terms of handling the pressure of directing a team solely. His running game has been nonexistent this season and that has been particularly disappointing. On the issue of long contracts, however, I am in full agreement Rob. Players dig deep in contract years. It is the survival instinct kicking in. Comfortable players are lazy players. No club should sign any player for longer than three years.

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