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From The Couch: Finals Week 3

Save Dave: It was with a great deal of sadness and anger that I read last week that David Stagg may be considering an early retirement because he has been unable to secure a contract.
From The Couch: Finals Week 3
by NRL

Save Dave: It was with a great deal of sadness and anger that I read last week that David Stagg may be considering an early retirement because he has been unable to secure a contract. This would be an absolute travesty, an indictment on the game. David Stagg is what rugby league is all about. He is a hard worker, a grafter, always willing to do the little things that make a rugby league team successful. It is no surprise that in a 10-year career, Stagg has missed the finals just twice, played in a premiership side and another that has won the minor premiership. He should remain a Bulldog. He is a great fit and better than some who have been kept, including Dene Halatau and Corey Payne, who both seem to be staying. But if he doesn't, there are a dozen clubs who could use him. Parramatta have no hardworking backrowers. Penrith lack his class. The Tigers have shifted most of their talented backrowers. Souths would improve dramatically with him at lock. Melbourne, Newcastle, St George Illawarra and the Warriors would all improve with Stagg. Hopefully one of these clubs do the right thing and put the right offer down for the Canterbury champion.

Prelim Breakdown : This wasn't a game - this was the slaughtering of a half-asleep team of impostors. Melbourne just murdered a Manly team that have not played that poorly since they screwed the Bears out of the premiership. It looked like Anthony Watmough had dished out the Stillnox the night before. Anthony Watmough dropped the ball on the second tackle - and set the tone for a heinous performance. If Cameron Smith could kick and Jamie Lyon wasn't playing, the margin would have been 60. The Storm are a ruthless team and they exposed some real Manly pretenders - Tony Williams, Jorge Taufua, Steve Matai, Brent Kite, Jason King - as well as the injured Glenn Stewart, who turned in the worst performance of his career. Taufua couldn't have caught syphilis in a Deadwood brothel, Williams managed just five runs and Matai not only allowed a rugby union player to run around him but contributed to at least four Storm tries. Such was their horrendous play, they failed on two short dropouts with longer than 15 to go. Only Lyon and Brett Stewart could hold their heads up high for the Eagles.

For the Storm, Cooper Cronk played a perfect game. Billy Slater was everywhere. Cameron Smith was all class. Ryan Hoffman was a total professional. Will Chambers and Justin O'Neill were constant threats.

What should not be lost in the result, however, was another abhorrent video referee decision. See below for a bigger rant but the fact Billy Slater's first try was awarded was just astonishing. No caller thought it was a try. No fan. I dare say no player. Yet Russell Smith hit the green light. It would be shocking if it wasn't so expected.

The Storm have hit form at the right time of year and with their big-game experience, are going to be tough to roll in the decider.

Prelim Breakdown : This game will forever be known as either The Eastwood Game or The Reynolds Game, depending on who you support. Greg Eastwood pulled out the most amazing half of football he has ever produced in the second half for Canterbury, setting up two tries and then outpacing Greg Inglis for the game-sealer. In their biggest game for 41 seasons, having finally found that elusive halfback, Souths led 8-4 when Reynolds went down clutching his hamstring on a kick-chase. It was the defining moment of the game.

There is no question that Souths were on top early. Canterbury scored on their first set but a combination of favourable refereeing and the dominance of Issac Luke had the Bulldogs on the back foot. It remained that way until Reynolds hit the turf. His injury created further problems. Luke, so dominant out of dummy half, was moved to halfback while the less effective Nathan Peats moved to hooker. It was an interesting and probably wrong call by Maguire, who eliminated the Bunnies' biggest strength.

Souths looked like they would hold on until halftime. They didn't. Playing with great width, the Bulldogs scored a wonderful try through Sam Perrett, one that was rightly made an eight-point try when Sam Burgess did his best Billy Slater, using Perrett as a soccer ball. When Jono Wright crossed on the bell, Souths were down 16-8 but were never going to win.

And they didn't. The Bulldogs cleared out, getting on top up the middle and making the Bunnies pay on the edges.

Greg Eastwood played the game of his life with a beautiful short ball to Frank Pritchard, a monster cut-out to put Sam Perrett over and then showing plenty of dash to out-run Greg Inglis. James Graham and Aiden Tolman were both sensational. Kris Keating lifted for the occasion. Michael Ennis did well.

Canterbury win the wrestle but they also play with unique width. Josh Reynolds plays as the right-hand sweeper, Ben Barba the left, a shape seen with no other club. Craig Bellamy will need to find some way to stop what looks like the best attack in rugby league.

When Will This Madness End? John Grant should get a shotgun, Bill Harrigan, Stuart Raper and every video referee in the NRL out behind League Central and shoot them all. This incompetent cadre of morons, dickheads and Mr Magoos have ****ed up two Origin games and now two finals. How could the Billy Slater try possibly be awarded? Nobody who understands the game could possibly award that try yet Russell Smith did. Bill Harrigan will somehow justify it or, if saying it was the wrong call, justify "the process". The majority of these clowns thought Kieran Foran didn't knock the ball on the week before!

I am officially putting my hand up. I have two eyes. I know rugby league. And I'm not a complete and utter moron who gets his kicks from trying to be smarter than everyone else. So ARLC, bring me on. I will make this guarantee: if I make as many ****-ups as the entire video referee morons from this year, I will work for free. Put me on four games a weekend in four different cities on four hours sleep a night and I'll still hit a better strike rate. This isn't a projection. This is an iron-clad guarantee.

I'll tell you what though - I won't be answering to Bill Harrigan or any of those idiots.

Des Hasler last week called for an NFL-style challenge system. It has to happen. Now. The longer we continue with this garbage - a separate video referee, benefit of the doubt, Bill Harrigan Thinking - we are ****ed.

The Next Batch: The success of Michael Maguire and, to a lesser extent, of Anthony Griffin and Shane Flanagan, has clubs looking for the next superstar assistant. We look at potential head coaching candidates for the future.

Been There: There were 10 assistant coaches year who have been a head coach in the NRL ranging from veterans like Steve Folkes (228 games, 56.3 per cent win rate, one premiership), Graham Murray (331 games, 50.8 per cent) and Matt Elliott (236 games, 45.8 per cent) to assistants who had finished off seasons Brad Arthur (6 games - 2 wins), Tony Iro (2 games - 0 wins), Jim Dymock (8 games - 5 wins) and Steve Georgallis (11 games - 4 wins). Rick Stone (54 games, 46.3 per cent), Jason Taylor (89 games, 46.1 per cent) and Peter Sharp (117 games, 39.3 per cent) are the other three with NRL experience.

Of those with experience, there are some that almost certainly won't win another head coaching gig. Peter Sharp's record is too poor while Steve Georgallis and Brad Arthur don't have the name recognition or the strong connections from a recognised coaching tree to win another job. Graham Murray is regarded as too old and probably doesn't want another head coaching job, Matt Elliott has a shocking record, particularly during finals games. Tony Iro probably worked himself out of a job with his efforts in the last two games of the Warriors' season.

The real star in this group is Rick Stone. He did a fabulous job at Newcastle before Wayne Bennett arrived but clubs may overlook him because of his lack of name recognition. They shouldn't. This guy can coach.

Steve Folkes has an exceptional record and would be a good fit at some clubs. He stayed too long at the Bulldogs and allowed the roster and the culture to deteriorate but with a strong front office can be the man.

Jim Dymock is viewed as the rising star of the group. He was appointed as the coach of Canterbury before Des Hasler's arrival and has received plenty of credit for Canterbury's attack this year. Has worked at rep level and was in the mix for the Blues job. Probably first cab off the rank in 2013-14.

For some reason there is an opinion about Jason Taylor. His petulant end to his time at the Bunnies should scare off any intelligent club.

Super stars: Seven current assistants have experience as Super League head coaches including former NRL coaches Matt Elliott, Graham Murray and Peter Sharp. These are Terry Matterson, Justin Morgan, Kevin Walters, and Matt Parish.

Parish coached Salford for just six games but is believed to be the man to replace Tim Sheens at the Wests Tigers. He is highly regarded but comes from the Ricky Stuart tree, so has obvious question marks over him.

Morgan left Hull KR with a win rate of 47.9 per cent after five seasons, including playoff appearances in the final three years. He did very well at the club and is certainly going to be talked about by clubs with an open mind. Probably needs to be an assistant and get a promotion but wouldn't be out of place as an NRL head coach.

Terry Matterson (137 games, 38.7 per cent, 1 finals game at Castleford) and Kevin Walters (57 games, 36.8 per cent, 1 finals series at Catalans) probably don't have strong enough records though Walters will benefit learning from Craig Bellamy.

All coaches relying on their English records will hope Trent Robinson does well at the Roosters after the failure of Brian McClennan at the Warriors.

The Others
The assistants considered to have the best chance to rise to a head coaching role without having already done so in Australia or England are Kelly Egan (Canterbury), David Kidwell (Melbourne), David Fairleigh (Penrith), Justin Holbrook (St George Illawarra) and John Ackland (New Zealand).

Egan is Des Hasler's right-hand man and given Hasler's success, Egan could take nearly any job open if he went for it.

Kidwell did a good job as Souths' NYC, taking them to the Grand Final in his first year in charge, before becoming an assistant under Craig Bellamy. Is in the mix for the Warriors job and is certainly going to be in the mix for a job over the next few years.

Fairleigh has always been viewed as an NRL coach but made the poor decisions to (1) accept the Central Coast Bears coaching offer and (2) assist Ivan Cleary in New Zealand. Fairleigh has the chops but has been out of sight and with the Bears highly unlikely to make it to the NRL, his chance may have sailed away.

Holbrook did well with the Bulldogs NSW Cup team, coaching them to a premiership, before taking the St George Illawarra NYC team to the final four this year. Could be a smoky to succeed Steve Price.

Ackland has done an excellent job with the Warriors NYC team, having won two premierships, but is a relative unknown in Australia and the Warriors are unlikely to take a punt on a local after the McClennan failure.

Assistant Coaches and NYC Coaches - 2012
Brisbane: Allan Langer, Kristian Woolf, Kurt Richards (NYC)
Canberra: Justin Morgan, Andrew McFadden, Andrew Dunemann (NYC)
Canterbury: Jim Dymock, Kelly Egan, Andy Patmore (NYC)
Cronulla: Peter Sharp, Joe Grima, James Shepherd (NYC)
Gold Coast: Trevor Gillmeister, Steve Murphy, Jamie O'Connor (NYC)
Manly: Matt Parish, David Penna, Luke Williamson (NYC)
Melbourne: David Kidwell, Kevin Walters, Dean Pay (NYC)
Newcastle: Rick Stone, Graham Murray, Michael Crawley (NYC)
New Zealand: Tony Iro, John Ackland, (NYC/assistant), Ruben Wiki
North Queensland: Terry Matterson, Peter Ryan, Todd Wilson (NYC)
Parramatta: Brad Arthur, Craig Catterick, Steve Speechley (NYC)
Penrith: David Fairleigh, Alex Melville, Garth Brennan (NYC)
St George Illawarra: Steve Folkes, Paul McGregor, Justin Holbrook (NYC)
South Sydney: Kurt Wrigley, Wayne Collins, Ben Gardiner (NYC)
Sydney Roosters: Rohan Smith, Matt Elliott, Jason Taylor (NYC)
Wests Tigers: Steve Georgallis, Grant Jones, Todd Payten (NYC)

Bring Back Julie Anthony: Why do we continually faff about with who does the national anthem every year? Bring back Julie Anthony ... the lady can sing and has a real sense of occasion. She did a mighty job in '95 ...

2012 Club Award Winners (So Far): The club award winners thus far ...

Parramatta: Nathan Hindmarsh (Ken Thornett Medal)
Sydney Roosters: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Jack Gibson Medal)
Referees: Ben Cummins

Songs from the Rugby League Collection: This week reader Ross Finley has provided us "Tandy Man" (to the tune "Candy Man" by Sammy Davis Jr)

Who can take a kickoff
Drop it in the dew
Smother in a tackle
To give away two?

The Tandyman
The Tandyman can
The Tandyman can cause he mixes with grubs and makes the odds taste good

Who can fake a hitup
Give away a try
Drop it on the run
And make a true supporter cry?

The Tandyman
The Tandyman can
The Tandyman can cause he mixes with grubs and makes the odds taste good

The Tandyman makes
Everything he fakes
Satisfying and delicious
Talk about your gambling wishes
Now the odds are really vicious

Who can make a tackle
Penalise his team
Underneath the posts
And collect up all the cream?

The Tandyman
The Tandyman can
The Tandyman can cause he mixes with rubs and makes the odds taste good

Injury Update: Without question, the injury that hurt the most this week was Adam Reynolds.

Steve Matai (Manly): At various points in the loss to the Storm, clutched every part of his body. Loves the attention.

Adam Reynolds (South Sydney): The Bunnies fell apart when the Souths halfback limped off with a torn hamstring after 27 minutes.

Jason Ryles (Melbourne): Was set to return after missing the last five weeks but his hamstring gave way at the club's main training session. No chance for the Grand Final - sadly for Canterbury fans.

Sisa Waqa (Melbourne): A late withdrawal with a leg concern. He will replace Mahe Fonua if he does get the nod.

Fun Fact : Grand Final field goal kickers of the last 25 years: Greg Inglis (2009), Darren Lockyer (2006), Brett Finch (2004), Terry Lamb (1995), Greg Alexander (1991) and Chris O'Sullivan (1989).

Fun Fact : Players who have played in Grand Finals for three different clubs: Phil Sigsworth (Newtown '81, Manly '83, Canterbury '86), Glenn Lazarus (Canberra '89, '90, '91, Brisbane '92, '93, Melbourne '99), Anthony Mundine (St George '96, Brisbane '97, St George Illawarra '99), Kevin Campion (St George '96, Brisbane '97, '98, Warriors '02), Joe Galuvao (Penrith '03, Parramatta '09, Manly '11). Phil Sigsworth is the only player to lose Grand Finals with three clubs.

Rumour Mill: Expect an announcement on the new NRL chief executive soon. The winning candidate is rumoured to be a former club chief executive who has been succesfully involved in a rival code most recently. Tim Sheens is out at the Tigers - it is only a matter of when, not if. Matt Parish is set to replace him. Sheens is very much the favourite to take over the Warriors though. Others believed to be in the mix for the Warriors job are current assistants Justin Morgan and Matthew Elliott. Jeremy Smith will be at Newcastle in 2013 with Chris Heighington replacing the tough backrower at the Sharks. Blake Ayshford has been told he is free to leave the Tigers with Souths shaping as a potential destination. Tom Humble is also out- Canberra may be a possibility for him. The Raiders may lose one of their two young halves: Josh McCrone and Sam Williams. Williams has been linked to the Panthers and the Dragons with McCrone linked with the Dragons and Eels.

Betting Market of the Week: The odds that the video referee will make a major ****-up during the Grand Final

- Yes: $1.02
- No: $101.00

What I Like About ... Des Hasler: Well, aside from almost EVERYTHING, I was chuffed with his call for the introduction of an NFL-like challenge system. He is clearly an avid fan of From The Couch! I have been calling for this system for years and Halser wants it for the same reasons: making the on-field ref the man in charge, changing the burden of proof, eliminating an extra official who needs to find relevance. Des may be the smartest man in rugby league and this confirms it.

Power Rankings:
1. Canterbury 20-6 (1)
2. Melbourne 19-7 (2)

Moniker XIII of the Week: To honour the great "Rampaging" Roy Slaven, who will return to rugby league calling this Sunday night with partner HG Nelson after four long years, we name the greatest Roys in premiership history.

The Roys
1. Roy Dykes (71 games for Easts/Newtown/Manly/Balmain)
2. Roy Bell (9 games for South Sydney)
3. Roy Ferguson (201 games for Wests/St George)
4. Roy Norman (51 games for Annandale/Glebe/Wests)
5. Nigel Roy (157 games for Illawarra/North Sydney/Northern Eagles)
6. Roy Hasson (76 games for St George/Canterbury)
7. Roy McCarter (85 games for Canterbury)
13. Roy Thompson (63 games for North Sydney)
12. Roy McCallum (45 games for Canterbury)
11. Roy Fisher (161 games for Parramatta)
10. Roy Bull (177 games for Manly)
9. Roy Kirkaldy (147 games for Canterbury)
8. Roy Asotasi (193 games for Canterbury/South Sydney)

Analysis: The Roys have a strong pack and some quality sprinkled throughout but not an outstanding team.

The Coaching Crosshairs: Tim Sheens has reportedly lost the confidence of the playing group and is almost certain to be ousted within the next month. Sheens survived - kind of - a board meeting last Friday after a player uprising following the departures of Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington. The club is undertaking a full review of the failure of the 2012 season, however, with Sheens not expected to survive. Expect Sheens to land at the Warriors next year with Matt Parish to take charge at the Tigers.

Game of the Year Nomination, Finals Week 3: Canterbury-South Sydney, 32-8. With a crowd of over 70,000 punters to witness this clash between two of Sydney's most popular teams, this was always going to be played in a big-time atmosphere and the game delivered ... at least until Adam Reynolds went down hurt. Canterbury dominated the second half but when the going was tough early, this was an entertaining game of footy to watch.

Correspondence Corner: Anonymous, yes, Mini did score a penalty try in '08 though I can't recall it.

Anonymous, I don't hate Manly ... though I can't say I am all that fond of them. They don't cause irrational anger though, like Parramatta and the Sydney Roosters.

Greg, Ryan Hoffman probably was a little unlucky in hindsight. I'd give up on the Tigers too, after this week.

Semi Pro, I still think it is too early to judge the ARLC and I had no problem with them chasing someone from outside the game. Hopefully they see the writing on the wall with Harrigan and axe him forthwith.

Zig, stick with me old son, there won't be a year goes by where we won't reminisce about the Paul Carige game.

MagpieMick, there is absolutely no reason why ex-referees should be video refs. If we insist on having them, they should be ex-players with training in video technology and an understanding of the rule book. I reckon you'll be rid of Sheens soon enough as well.

Dan, Matt Bowen has had an excellent season and I don't think it was an unwillingness to catch the bomb.

Ferret, you are spot on about Tate - he had an absolute Michael Crocker, particularly with his selfish play.

WarriorsFan, the poor crowd at the SFS for the Eagles-Cows was a stinker. I love Daniel Anderson but he won't be at Mt Smart next year, sadly for you guys.

Woody, the unwillingness of Eagles fans to travel is shameful.

Scott, I expect Daniel Mortimer will be at the Dragons next season. Robert Lui is a long shot. Josh McCrone also a possibility.

Davey G, I'm sure there must be plenty of painful memories being an Eels man!

Arthur, no question Clark and Simpkins need to be sacked - but so do their bosses.

Mike From Tari, I'll try anything to shake up this video refereeing situation ... anything.

Solly, Manly are strong across the park, no doubt, but while they have few weaknesses, I don't think their strengths are up there with Canterbury and Melbourne, except perhaps for their right edge brilliance.

Beard Watch: The beard count for the remaining teams:

Canterbury: (2) Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard
Melbourne: (4) Sika Manu, Dane Nielsen, Cameron Smith, Mahe Fonua

Join Us: If you like From The Couch and you like Making The Nut, join the Making The Nut Facebook page. Trust me: you'll enjoy it.

Chasing Greatness: Anyone looking for inspiration, rugby league style, should check out my new book Chasing Greatness, available in all good book stores. I've pulled the best quotes from Jack Gibson and Arthur Beetson to Bob Bax and Royce Simmons.

Listen To It: With the return of Roy and HG and the famed "Festival of the Boot" this year after a four-season absence, we go back to 1988 and the call from "Rampaging" Roy Slave and HG Nelson of Ellery Hanley's unfortunate ending, a "turning point of world rugby league". Listen to it here.

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