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From The Couch: Round 10

The Total and Utter Cluster**** That is New South Wales Selection: Oh, where to start.
From The Couch: Round 10
by NRL

The Total and Utter Cluster**** That is New South Wales Selection: Oh, where to start. Ricky Stuart and Bob Fulton could not have picked a worse New South Wales team if they tried. If I was in charge of the NSWRL, I would fire Stuart and Fulton now. I'd lock Fulton in a darkened underground one-man cell and never let him influence anybody in rugby league again. Stuart should be charged and imprisoned for fraud. He has destroyed any semblance of hope New South Welshmen should have.

So let's break this down, let's see why Ricky Stuart has made a mockery of the Blue jersey, his hypocrisy and his stupidity, along with the fantastic contribution of Bob Fulton, who has done so much to set back the NSW Origin team through his politicking and partisanship.

Michael Jennings: For the first the first time in 30 years, a NSW player has been selected from reserve grade. In what is perhaps the biggest insult to any NRL player and a complete debasement of the NSW jersey, Michael Jennings was selected a week after being dropped to reserve grade by club coach Ivan Cleary. He was dropped for poor form and a poor attitude. Look how much better the Panthers played without him. He will be back in reserve grade when he next plays for the Panthers. For Chris Lawrence to be snubbed for a player who cannot even be bothered making a tackle is shameful.

Jarryd Hayne: Another one of Ricky's favourites, Hayne made the wing despite playing in a 1-8 side and being widely panned for putting in no effort at all for the Eels. Beat out Brett Morris in an absolutely astonishing call, particularly when coupled with Michael Jennings. Says he will lift for Origin but is about as reliable as City Rail. Another bludger rewarded by the system of patronage Ricky Stuart has promoted.

Mitchell Pearce: Not overly controversial in the end as he turned his form around and Peter Wallace went down injured but to not consider Jamie Soward for the halfback slot shows that Stuart is prepared to use his position to further personal vendettas.

Ben Creagh: Based on form, Creagh might be the 25th backrower considered by the Blues. Based on Origin reputation he would rank about 40th. He apparently beat out Anthony Watmough - a renowned Origin performer playing in better form than Creagh - not because Watmough injured himself against the Broncos but because Stuart "wanted a different body shape". Perhaps Creagh is "an Origin type player". Astonishing.

Jamie Buhrer: I feel sorry for Jamie Buhrer. I like the type of player he is. He is honest. But he would not be in the first 150 players I would consider for NSW. He is merely a tool of Stuart's ridiculous selection policy of playing for the worst possible outcome, a policy pushed by idiots and morons. He was aided by the fact he is one of Bob Fulton's Manly boys, a player who has benefited from Fulton just like Jason King, David Williams and Brent Kite. It didn't hurt that Ricky Stuart's obsession with a utility player is similar to that of the Australian selectors and their pursuit of an all-rounder. The fact he will have one Origin jersey and Alan Tongue has none is disgusting.

Tony Williams: Has not played a game in seven weeks, has never been that great yet gets the nod ahead of Tariq Sims and Feleti Mateo. Stuart has again showed no consistency and nothing but personal favouritism.

Two Props: Ricky Stuart has selected two players who run around as props in premiership football - James Tamou and Trent Merrin. Both deserved to be there but with Paul Gallen named at prop, a third big man should have been selected. No. Ben Creagh got the nod instead.

Ricky Stuart said last year that he would "stick-and-pick". He has made seven changes from Origin III last year, most unforced. He has promoted a culture of entitlement, picking players out of form, players so far off the mark they can't get a run in first grade. He has promoted a culture of favouritism, when Fulton's Manly boys get looked after along with Ricky's favourites while far more deserving players don't even get a look in.

I am disgusted that Ricky Stuart is representing my state. I was nearly sick when the side was read out. This is the worst Origin side ever put up by the Blues,. I'll be backing Queensland and by plenty. This is a sad day for New South Wales.

Diving Rears Its Ugly Head, Again: Once again, so-called men are diving in the NRL. They are staying down like gutless little twerps with not an ounce of respect for the game and worse, respected figures in the game are encouraging it. I am just appalled.

Last Monday night, the Cronulla Sharks made an art-form out of staying down with that, to use his own derogatory term, "eight ball" Mark Taufua leading the way. Hardly touched, Taufua acted like some pussy soccer player in order to win a penalty and a couple of free interchanges. It was appalling and is the lowest act in the game. I'd rather see Matt Prior going elbow first every week than grubs like Taufua staying down to jerk penalties out of the officials.

Worse, however, was the support such diving received from two highly respected figures in the game - Paul Gallen and Wayne Bennett.

Gallen on The Footy Show said he has stayed down and would encourage it to win a penalty. Bennett said he would be encouraging his players to do the same after Darius Boyd got hit around the chops and didn't get a penalty.

Both should start showing some respect for the game.

At least Michael Crocker was quick on it, calling out Gallen on Twitter: "Paul Gallen shouldn't be talking about players staying down and playing for penalties.Supposedly one of the toughest in game " and "For those who missed the point yesterday, laying down&playing for penalties 'within the rules' or not, has no place in our game".

And congratulations to the likes of David Stagg, Benji Marshall and Darius Boyd, who have all stood up when hit high when they could have laid down like low-down skirts like Taufua and won a penalty.

It is time the NRL changes the rules on diving. Video referees should not be able to influence the on-field referee. They should be out of the game until a try is scored.

But until then, players need to play like men. Stand up. End this diving rot.

A Disgraceful Club: The Parramatta Eels have been a joke for a long time now. They have been a shockingly run club with a shambolic front office, a historically insipid recruiting staff, a lazy and lacklustre playing group and the odd coach who is well out of his depth. We have been over it all before and it didn't get any better on-field when, in Luke Burt's 250th first grade game, the Eels scored 34 points against an injury-ravaged Raiders and still managed to lose.

But that paled into insignificance compared to the humiliation the Parramatta players were forced to endure last Monday when made to stand on stage like hapless lambs as the Eels membership took pot shot after pot shot. The meek and disgraceful Parramatta board - who had only that week further destabilised the club by leaking the news about the possible recruitment of Jason Taylor in an assistant coach/coaching director role - sat behind coach Stephen Kearney and the players.

It was one of the most gutless, self-interested, idiotic moves by a football board I have ever had the misfortune of seeing. To put Nathan Hindmarsh up there - even as a Canterbury fan who loathes the Eels, I just felt sad. Why was the board not out front arguing for their existence after hiring Paul Osborne and overseeing the recruitment team and firing Daniel Anderson and letting Stephen Kearney implement one system and then recruit for another?

It was a cheap publicity stunt that plunged the Eels even deeper into the mire.

Who would have thought the days of Denis Fitzgerald would have been the longed-for halcyon days?

If there isn't change from the very top in the next year then the Eels members are just as culpable.

Farewell, Petero: One of rugby league's true greats last week announced his retirement with Broncos forward Petero Civoniceva announcing he would retire at season's end. There have been few better prop forwards to ever play the game. His 298 premiership games, 30 Origin appearances and 45 Test matches say it all. He has been a top line prop for well over a decade and one of the great advocates for the game. Tough, hard, inspiring, the Broncos will miss Petero when he goes for reasons that will only become apparent when he is not around.

Quote of the Week: Jarryd Hayne, upon being selected for NSW: "as soon as I put on the Blues jersey, things are different...when it comes to giving my all for NSW, I really don't think that should be in question". The Parramatta faithful will love hearing that one. The assumption there: he willingly admits he does not give his all for the blue and gold.

Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Reader: It was pleasing to see that the Roosters have come full circle on the short kick-off. I had only recently advocated its use at any stage in the game, saying it was a 50-50 proposition. The Roosters conceded s costly one against the Dragons, which captain Braith Anasta said was a "1 in 100 shot" but then opened up against the Knights with a short kick. In Big League this week Roosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall says it is a good play because it is a "50-50 shot". Thanks for taking us on this journey, Roosters.

Harsh Luck: The final try in the Knights-Cowboys game was brutal for those who had bet the under. After four kicks and God knows how much spilt ball, Gavin Cooper scored a try that was a 10/10 in ass and pushed the total over, for all those punters involved in the game. One of those punters seemed to be Andrew Johns, who did not appear too happy on The Sunday Footy Show when Peter Sterling chuckled that a panellist had a fair interest. It appeared that he certainly did when I mentioned it at Shark Park. To say he wasn't happy ... that would be putting it mildly. A rough, rough loss that I totally empathise with. The harsh road of the punt. I should have told him about the Broncos with 1.5 on Friday night ... thank you Corey Parker.

Martin Bella Impersonation of the Week: Anthony Minichiello, for his 180 degree play the ball in the final moments with the Roosters chasing victory on the Warriors line. Taking a pretty heavy knock, Mini played it the wrong way - game over, but very entertaining.

Call the Guinness Book of Records: Bryce Gibbs has promised to not cut his hair until he scores a try. He has not scored a try since the 2005 Grand Final and has just three in 162 games. He could have hair as long as Fabio soon and could be growing until well into retirement and if there is one man who wouldn't back out of a bet, it is Gibbs.

Rabs Has Lost It: On Friday night he mixed Sam Kasiano up with Antonio Kaufusi. Kasiano could sue, that comment is so insulting to the big Bulldogs prop.

Well Done: Stephen Kearney dropping Ben Roberts is about the first move he has made that has had any semblance of sense to it all year.

Old School British Bulldogs: Canterbury's form has been hot and cold all year but I do enjoy the old British style they are playing, getting the forwards passing both before and at the line and taking advantage of their skill. It is beautiful to watch. David Stagg's ball to put Dene Halatau through a hole against the Titans was a tremendous highlight.

TV Rights Breakdown: If you want a full breakdown of how the TV rights are shaping up read my 3500-word rant here.

Oh Henry: Henry Perenara may turn out to be a decent referee. It doesn't look like it, but you never know. But he should learn when to shake his arm for a differential. He awarded a scrum penalty on Saturday night and kept a straight arm. It was very disappointing.

Recruitment in the NRL Era - Gold Coast: The premiership's newest club, the Titans are in just their sixth year and they have focussed on buying established Origin players and internationals but ones who often no longer play at the top level. It has had varying levels of success but overall, has not really come off.

Best Year: 2007. The Titans front office did a pretty handy job in starting the team by luring tremendous leaders Luke Bailey, Preston Campbell and Scott Prince along with real talent like Anthony Laffranchi. Depth was a worry but the Titans did well for a first-year outfit.

Worst Year: 2010. They lured Greg Bird back to Australia but signed Joseph Tomane, Clinton Toopi, Steve Michaels and Shannon Walker, who have all oscillated between bad and horrendous for the club.

Best Buy: Luke Bailey. The Titans have picked up plenty of stars throughout their short existence but none have performed as consistently and at such a high level as the top class prop. If he was still eligible for the Blues, he would be in the best 17. During some pretty trying times, the three-time Broughton Medal winner has always led from the front.

Worst Buy: Clinton Toopi. Signed as a washed-up 30-year-old in 2010 and was absolutely one of the worst players in the NRL during his two-year, 26 game stint. He could not tackle and could not play.

Worst Loss: Nathan Friend. The Titans have found a nice replacement in Matt Srama but Friend was the heart of that side, a workhorse in defence who was never once found wanting.

Origin/International Players Recruited:
Already: (10) Luke Bailey, Brad Meyers, Scott Prince, Mat Rogers, Chris Walker, Ashley Harrison, Greg Bird, Clinton Toopi, Jamal Idris, Nate Myles
Became: (1) Anthony Laffranchi,

Origin/International Players Lost:
Already: (1) Chris Walker
Became: (0)

*Super League Tri Series and International matches are recognised.
** Only players who went to or came from another NRL club are noted with the exception of English internationals.

Injury Update: The big injury blows across the weekend went to Manly backrower Anthony Watmough and Bulldogs lock David Stagg.

Justin Hodges (Brisbane): Ruled out late for the Broncos on Friday night. Named for Queensland and should be sweet but is no certainty.

Anthony Minichiello (Roosters): Got belted against the Warriors and played the ball backwards. Has a concussion but won't miss any time.

Jarrod Mullen (Newcastle): Took a big knock to the ribs and could miss the Knights' next game in round 12 though he is a tough one.

Dane Nielsen (Melbourne): Took a heavy knock to the leg but won't miss any time.

Josh Papalii (Canberra): The Raiders suffered more horrible injury news with the bustling backrower breaking his arm on his 20th birthday. He has been the Raiders' best forward this year.

Scott Prince (Gold Coast): The Titans skipper left the park early against the Bulldogs with a hamstring worry but that was more precautionary. Should be sweet. The Titans look better without him, at any rate.

Jerome Ropati (New Zealand): The most injury-prone player in the NRL has dislocated a kneecap, his third injury of the season. Glen Fisiahii will likely take his spot at fullback.

David Stagg (Canterbury): Looked to suffer a pretty serious knee injury against the Titans. Hobbled off under his own weight but was in a heap of pain. First thoughts were an ACL but looks a lot better now and first guess is only a month (MCL) though scans come on Monday.

Ricky Thorby (North Queensland): Cowboys prop took a blow to the ribs and may miss a week with Ashton Sims set to start in his place. Yikes.

Anthony Watmough (Manly): Got absolutely annihilated by Alex Glenn and left with whiplash, such was the heaviness of the hit. His bung shoulder reportedly cost him an Origin berth.

Michael Weyman (Dragons): Suffered a suspected ACL in a huge blow to the Dragons.

Fun Fact : The letter 'u' comes before the letter 'w'. That comes for NSWRL chief John Chalk, who read the Origin team in alphabetical order and called out Tony Williams before Akuila Uate.

Fun Fact : The last time a player was picked for New South Wales out of reserve grade (Ray Brown, Manly, 1983), New South Wales lost 43-22 after trailing 21-0 at halftime. It is quite a blueprint to be working from. Brown, who was just 26 at the time, would play just 36 more premiership matches over the next three-and-a-half seasons before retiring.

The 2012 Willie M Medal: With Ben Roberts in reserve grade and the Tigers on the bye, there has been no change in the top two slots of the Willie M leaderboard but 2010 winner Chris Sandow has moved into equal third with a point against Canberra. John Williams is the hot man though, scoring five points in the last week with eight handling errors, a total that shapes as about half the size of his appendage ... in inches, the story has it.

Brisbane v Manly
3-Corey Parker (Bri)
2-Brent Kite (Man)
1-Dale Copley (Bri)

Canterbury v Gold Coast
3-Bryson Goodwin (Bul)
2-Beau Champion (GC)
1-Michael Ennis (Bul)

New Zealand v Sydney Roosters
3-James Maloney (War)
2-Mose Masoe (Roo)
1-Sione Lousi (War)

Newcastle v North Queensland
3-Darius Boyd (New)
2-Akuila Uate (New)
1-Alex McKinnon (New)

Canberra v Parramatta
3-Joseph Paulo (Par)
2-Shaun Berrigan (Can)
1-Chris Sandow (Par)

Cronulla v Melbourne
3-John Williams (Cro)
2-Billy Slater (Mel)
1-Cooper Cronk (Mel)

Penrith v St George Illawarra
3-Mitch Rein (Dra)
2-Nathan Fien (Dra)
1-Brad Tighe (Pen)

Leaderboard
12: Ben Roberts (Par)
11: Tim Moltzen (Tig)
8: Jarrod Croker (Can), Chris Sandow (Par), Mitch Rein (Dra)
7: James Maloney (War), Steve Michaels (GC), Mitchell Pearce (Roo), Willie Tonga (Par), John Williams (Cro), Brad Tighe (Pen)
6: Ben Hornby (Dra), Clint Newton (Pen), Jerome Ropati (War), David Simmons (Pen), Timana Tahu (New), Brad Tighe (Pen), Antonio Winterstein (NQ)

Rumour Mill: Matt Ballin is set to announce he is leaving the Sea Eagles soon with the Cowboys marginal favourites but Canberra still in the mix. Make no mistake about it: Penrith are looking to force Michael Jennings out. The Panthers are far too top heavy in their cap and are looking for ways to get rid of the enigmatic centre and not take too large a cap hit. The whistle is getting louder that Jamie Soward is on his way to England with Wigan shaping as a potential destination. Parramatta are looking to pay $1 million a season to Sonny Bill Williams, which would have the club paying $2.3 million to just three lazy bums. He seems like a natural fit. Michael Gordon will be playing at Cronulla in 2013. Wade McKinnon is close to re-joining the Tigers this year. The only concern is getting him in under the salary cap. Fired Broncos winger Dane Gagai is looking to sign with a Sydney club with Canterbury and Parramatta the favourites.

Power Rankings:
1. Melbourne 9-1 (1)
2. Brisbane 7-3 (2)
3. Cronulla 7-3 (3)
4. Manly 6-4 (4)
5. North Queensland 6-4 (7)
6. South Sydney 5-4 (6)
7. New Zealand 6-4 (9)
8. Canterbury 5-5 (5)
9. Wests Tigers 4-5 (11)
10. Sydney Roosters 5-5 (12)
11. St George Illawarra 5-5 (8)
12. Newcastle 4-6 (12)
13. Canberra 4-6 (13)
14. Gold Coast 3-7 (14)
15. Penrith 3-7 (15)
16. Parramatta 1-9 (16)

What I Like About ... Aidan Sezer: The Titans five-eighth is four games into his NRL career and has already potted his first meaningless field goal, a dagger to the heart of the Bulldogs to make the final score 25-14. Here is to a big future.

Betting Market of the Week: Ricky Stuart's next great Origin selection ploy:

-Name an entire team of utilities to cover for every scenario: $2.10
-To let Bob Fulton name every Manly player and then state colours: $2.20
-Cloning nine Michael Ennis' and eight Greg Bird's to produce a team of "Origin type" players: $2.75
-Pick an entire team of reserve grade players in a sneak attack on the Maroons: $4.00

Obscure Score of the Week: Queanbeyan Kangaroos-Goulburn Workers, 36-12. The Kangaroos maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a dominant win over the winless Bulldogs.

Moniker XIII of the Week: Usually we honour a player with this. This week, it is done as an active slight to New South Wales coach Ricky Stuart.

The Ricky/Ricks
1. Rick Bevan (1 season for Eastern Suburbs)
2. Ricky Walford (230 games for Eastern Suburbs/St George)
3. Ricky Leutele (3 games for Cronulla)
4. Rick McGrady (6 games for Gold Coast)
5. Rick Bourke (156 games for Cronulla/South Sydney)
6. Rick Chisholm (30 games for Manly/Newtown)
7. Ricky Stuart (243 games for Canberra/Canterbury)
13. Rick Patrick (1 game for Country Firsts)
12. Rick Possetti (2 games for Illawarra)
11. Rick Baber (3 seasons for Parramatta)
10. Ricky Thorby (26 games for St George Illawarra/North Queensland)
9. Rick Montgomery (2 games for South Sydney)
8. Rick Powell (7 games for St George)

Analysis
The Ricks are simply dreadful with only three players of note in Stuart, Walford and Bourke. The rest of the team are hardly recognisable. Bevan got the run at fullback because he is the father of tryscoring whiz Brian. That seemed enough.

The Coaching Crosshairs: One potential contender for the Parramatta job should it become vacant is former Northern Eagles boss Peter Sharpe. Sharpe us being credited with much of Cronulla's renaissance and is widely regarded as being most tactically astute. It would not surprise to see him in the mix as the Eels will be looking for an older head after this disaster and Sharpe has worked at Parramatta as an assistant in the past.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: I get the feeling that Ben Pomeroy may have been involved in a Trading Places experiment, playing the Eddie Murphy-character Billy Ray Valentine to John Williams' Dan Akroyd-played Louis Winthorpe III. Pomeroy is playing extremely well this year, his finest season. Williams cannot catch, dropping six balls against the Storm.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 10: Manly-Brisbane, 24-22. What a cracking weekend of rugby league with the Cronulla-Storm and the Warriors-Roosters both absolute crackerjacks. But the Sea Eagles win over the Broncos was just a ripper, one of the top matches of the season. The game was so incredibly fast and incredibly skilful with some simply astonishing play for a game that had two of its four starting halves out. Jamie Lyon was just incredible. Corey Norman marked himself as a superstar. Matt Gillett? Wowee. Even The Wolfman turned it on. A game of super speed and the most dramatic of endings.

Correspondence Corner: Gareth, Michael Jennings is on closer to $700,000 and is being shopped around by the Panthers despite denials. Matt Ballin would be an excellent buy for the Raiders - he would add some professionalism to the club.

Queenslandah, I see where you are coming from with the David Williams tackle. Certainly worth a second look but not sure of a suspension. I also don't think Matt Prior's tackle had anything to do with Origin. I just think it was a reckless (possibly intentional) shot borne out of frustration.

Dan, Blake Ferguson is such a lazy player. I'd be surprised if he doesn't win a second title before this is all done.

Warriorman, that isn't the side I'd have but I rate you better than both Ricky Stuart and Bob Fulton.

Mike From Tari, see above for my vitriol on diving and the Sharks. Most of the Couch is written on a Monday so there is never much from the Monday night game due to time factors. You'll be pleased that Sam Kasiano is about to be suspended, no doubt.

Mitch, deep down I know Ben Roberts is a very good country footballer and a terrible NRL first grader.

Davey G, Jim, regular season college basketball is much better to watch than the NBA, for sure. I dislike seeing bludgers but they are always going to be part of the game, sadly. Before re-doing salaries, we should stop rewarding bludgers like Hayne and Jennings with rep honours.

Col Quinn, rugby league will get $1 billion over five years. I'd put my last on it.

Bennis, your joke side is nearly as bad as the one Ricky named.

Hunter, you weren't far wrong with your Raiders-Eels scoreline!

AJL, Matt Ballin will be a sensational pickup for the Raiders.

Mav63, Darius Boyd got the three Willie M votes for the Knights game. I only saw the highlights but he looked rubbish.

Beard Watch: This is how harsh bloody Parramatta are - they made Nathan Hindmarsh shave off his beard for the cattle parade at the AGM. Disgraceful. At least he is starting to grow it back now.

Watch It: For once I agree with Ricky Stuart - one out of three won't be bad. Hell, with the team selected for the opener, I'd take a lead at any point throughout the series. "I'd be happy if they won one game". It looks like Ricky is aiming for zero. Keep lowering those expectations. Anyway, the great Denis Carnahan wrote this brilliant song. Watch it here.

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