Some Kind Words for a Rugby League Legend and the Midseason NRL Review (Part 2)

Filed in Other by on December 9, 2010

It was an inglorious way for such a legend of the game to depart the arena he had come to dominate. Danny Buderus, an Origin icon, was sent out a loser, the captain of a team who lost three consecutive series to the Old Enemy. It was an unfortunate farewell for a man who deserved better.

Buderus himself can’t be blamed. He turned in another fine display, another performance for which he has become renowned.

No, the blame lies elsewhere and these fools deserve to carry the burden with them for the rest of their lives. They have let a great man down and must now fight the demons to get to sleep at night. That is, of course, if they have a conscience, which is a matter of great debate in some circles.

Bob McCarthy. Bob Fulton. Laurie Daley. They let Buderus down in the sickest way possible. They put together a team of selfish players, fools, grubs and soft-bellies who in the end left Buderus with little hope. Brett White, for reasons unknown to anybody who knows anything about rugby league, was an automatic selection throughout the series despite the fact he is one of the softest props in the game. Paul Gallen, the biggest grub in rugby league, continued to get the nod despite the fact his only contributions are cheap shots and dumb penalties. And all the while, Anthony Laffranchi starts the game on the pine. Despite persistent failure at Origin level, Willie Mason was again chosen. Anthony Tupou was tried once more. And once again, he failed.

Favourites were played and in the end it was Danny Buderus who picked up the cheque.

It was a true shame and one that should end careers forthwith.

As for Buderus, he will hopefully get redemption at the World Cup though with Cameron Smith ahead of him, that would appear unlikely.

Buderus is one of the great modern day hookers, a pioneer and a leader of men. It is unfortunate that those in positions of power let him down so badly.

Now, Danny Buderus will ride off into the sunset with his legacy tarnished and his self-belief hurt. It is criminal that such a great player must leave in such a fashion.

But that is how it played out and nothing can be done to change it. We must move on.

And we will. Now, without further ado, part two of the NRL mid-season review:

Gold Coast Titans

Prediction: 8th
Pre-Season Prediction: 14th
2008 Best: Anthony Laffranchi, Scott Prince, Ashley Harrison, Mark Minichiello
2008 Disappointments: Mat Rogers, Aaron Cannings, Brenton Bowen

The Titans have ridden a number of factors to the top of the table. First, they have the biggest home ground advantage in the NRL with Skilled Park proving very difficult for away teams to win at. Secondly, Scott Prince has been outstanding this season in laying on tries for the Titans. Thirdly, a hard working and explosive forward pack that contains Laffranchi, Minichiello and Bailey has allowed the Titans to play off the front foot all season. Things, however, have started to go somewhat awry for the Titans of late. After having a fairly handy run with injuries, Luke Bailey has been ruled out for the season and Scott Prince has broken his arm. They are two massive losses. The Titans will still be dangerous at home but Brad Davis is no Scott Prince and the Titans are missing a lot of oomph up front. Expect the Titans to fight it out with the Raiders for the last finals position.

Parramatta Eels

Prediction: 7th
Pre-Season Prediction: 4th
2008 Best: Feleti Mateo, Nathan Hindmarsh, Luke Burt, Krisnan Inu, Joel Reddy
2008 Disappointments: Tim Smith, Eric Grothe, Mark Riddell, Jarryd Hayne

Parramatta once again started the season disastrously, losing six of their first eleven while controversy reigned supreme. For the better part, it appeared as if the Eels were more concerned with getting themselves wrecked than they were in playing decent rugby league. From the Hayne drive-by shooting through to the Tim Smith debacle all the way to Eric Grothe’s appalling attitude, Parramatta have been an embarrassment to themselves and their fans. Big wins over the Tigers and the Raiders suggested that their season was about to turn around, as per 2007. Those hopes, however, seem forlorn as the Eels were absolutely pathetic against a no-name Melbourne Storm team, getting home only because their halfback was the son of the referee’s boss. The Eels are talented enough to make it to the finals but will again underachieve and be on their end of season holiday by mid-September.

St George-Illawarra Dragons

Prediction: 6th
Pre-Season Prediction: 13th
2008 Best: Ben Creagh, Jamie Soward, Jason Nightingale, Matt Cooper
2008 Disappointments: Dean Young, Simon Woolford, Ben Hornby, Chase Stanley

Let me make this perfectly clear: No team with Nathan Brown as coach and Jason Ryles as prop will ever win a premiership. Ever. Everybody seems to have forgotten that Nathan Brown is an awful coach and that has not changed, despite the fact the Dragons have got hot recently. And Jason Ryles, in spite of his fine numbers, is still a dumb player who will do dumb things that will cost the Dragons dearly. It must be remembered that the Dragons have been gifted a finals position this season with the softest draw you could possibly imagine. They have won six on the trot but two of those wins came against depleted Storm and Broncos outfits. They have some class in the backline but they simply don’t have the forward pack to worry the big teams. They will make the finals and be discarded early on like the trash they, at heart, are.

Cronulla Sharks

Prediction: 5th
Pre-Season Prediction: 10th
2008 Best: Greg Bird, Brett Seymour, Brett Kearney, Paul Gallen, Luke Douglas
2008 Disappointments: David Simmons, Ben Ross, Kevin Kingston

The Sharks have been successful this season because referees are rewarding dour teams who seek to choke the life out of a game. The Sharks are solid enough in defence but get their real advantage in slowing down the play the ball and standing offside, knowing that referees probably won’t penalise them. Ricky Stuart was smart enough to figure this out and is taking full advantage of it. The Sharks offer little with the ball but do have a good creative core in Kimmorley, Seymour, Kearney and De Gois. Stuart just refuses to use them and that will prove costly. The Sharks are well below the level of the top four sides and are set for more September disappointment. It will be an enjoyable time for all.

Sydney Roosters

Prediction: 4th
Pre-Season Prediction: 11th
2008 Best: Craig Fitzgibbon, Mitchell Pearce, Braith Anasta, Anthony Tupou
2008 Disappointments: Willie Mason, Anthony Minichiello, James Aubusson

The Roosters have shocked me this season. They recruited self-interested players who did not seem to fit well with where the Roosters should be headed. The forward pack appeared to be too big and immobile for the modern game while the backline looked lifeless, particularly with the likelihood that Anthony Minichiello would continue to be felled by a chronic back injury. The Roosters have, however, been sharp with Brad Fittler ensuring his team is well drilled and playing to its strengths. Anthony Tupou has lifted his game and has given the forward pack some penetration while outside backs like Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Amos Roberts have been threatening out wide. The two that make it all work, however, are Mitchell Pearce and Braith Anasta. They have both been brilliant this season, particularly with their respective kicking games. They are probably a level below the top three teams but they will be there deep into September. Expect Setaimata Sa to lift his game to Feleti Mateo-standards over the run home.

Brisbane Broncos

Prediction: 3rd
Pre-Season Prediction: 7th
2008 Best: Karmichael Hunt, Peter Wallace, Sam Thaiday, Tonie Carroll, Darius Boyd
2008 Disappointments: Darren Lockyer, P.J Marsh, Dave Taylor, Joel Clinton

The Broncos have actually done remarkably well this season and with Origin done and a number of stars set to return, they are going to be a real threat come September. The Broncos currently sit 7th in the league but they still have a bye to come and over the coming weeks will see Darren Lockyer, Justin Hodges, Peter Wallace and David Stagg return. This may well go down as Wayne Bennett’s finest season as head coach of the Broncos. He recruited well in securing the services of Peter Wallace, he has opened up the Broncos style of play focusing more on mobility than size and he has his young players playing inspired and confident rugby league. This isn’t the Broncos of old where stars fill nearly every position. This is a home grown effort and it has been wonderful to watch. If the Broncos can stay injury free, they are capable of sending Bennett out a winner.

Manly Sea Eagles

Prediction: 2nd
Pre-Season Prediction: 3rd 
2008 Best: Matt Orford, Brent Kite, Brett Stewart, Glenn Stewart, Jamie Lyon
2008 Disappointments: Steve Bell, Steve Matai, Jason King, Matt Ballin

Defensively, the Eagles are the best in the NRL. They are tough, uncompromising and don’t give an inch without payment. The likes of Watmough, Perry and Kite have been tough around the middle while the outside backs rarely make the wrong reads. Brookvale remains a fortress and could be enough to see Manly claim the minor premiership. The main concern with Manly is their ability to score points. When they are on song, the Eagles have plenty of try scoring threats with Matt Orford more than capable of assisting the likes of Brett Stewart, Robertson, Bani, Bell and Matai over the line. The concern, however, is the unimaginative tactics of Des Hasler. He likes to grind out a win and that can be dangerous in September. If Hasler gets his side to play a more open game in attack, Manly are a bigger threat to Melbourne this year than they were in 2007. Expect the Eagles to be playing Grand Final day.

Melbourne Storm

Prediction: 1st
Pre-Season Prediction: 2nd
2008 Best: Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Dallas Johnson, Jeff Lima
2008 Disappointments: Antonio Kaufusi, Michael Crocker, Brett White

The Storm look like they are headed for back-to-back titles with Manly their only genuinely legitimate concern. Across the park they are full of class. Billy Slater has been hot this season, Cooper Cronk has been exceptional, the three-quarter line gets over the line and the forward pack is perfectly balanced between heavy hitters and hard workers. Cameron Smith will come into his own in the back half of the season, as will Greg Inglis. More concerning to rivals is the depth at Melbourne. They have a plethora of quality youngsters to fill in for injured stars and their bench is full of players who would start for most clubs. Their most positive quality, however, is their professionalism. Craig Bellamy has developed a positive culture designed to provide success and that is exactly how it plays out. You can be sure that Bellamy won’t allow the Storm to get arrogant and that should ensure they are holding the premiership trophy aloft come that first Sunday in October.

There are only four teams who can win the premiership this season and in all probability it will most likely be a race in three. The Storm will play in their third straight Grand Final and will take on either the Eagles or the Broncos. That is how it will play out and you can bank on that.

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