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From The Couch: Round 10

Stuart Gets a Pass Mark: When the New South Wales State of Origin team was being named, my initial reaction was utter disbelief.
From The Couch: Round 10
by NRL

Stuart Gets a Pass Mark: When the New South Wales State of Origin team was being named, my initial reaction was utter disbelief. I was numbed by the shock that Ricky Stuart and his "advisor" Bob Fulton had made the tough calls and picked the right team.

Josh Dugan was selected over Jarryd Hayne at fullback, the golden child finally and deservedly on the outer for a custodian not only more talented but more suited. The mainstream media quickly circled Hayne like a pack of vultures, ready to pick his character apart. Get in line schmucks. Punt was here first.

With Michael Gordon sadly doing an ACL, the wing selections were no-brainers. Brett Morris on the left, Akuila Uate on the right. Discussion over.

Never mind the public outrage over Jamal Idris' non-selection in the centres. The key story is that a left centre was picked on the left and a right centre was picked on the right.

Mark Gasnier is in better form than Jamal Idris and is actually a better player. With Beau Scott and Jamie Soward also set to be chosen, Gasnier over Idris was the correct call.

Michael Jennings was a bolter at left centre ahead of Josh Morris but at least he is a left centre. I would have bet my right nut that selectors would be dumb and switch Jamal Idris around but credit where credit is due, they realised the importance of keeping players in position and even though no left centre has been in hot form, they stuck with a player used to patrolling the left. Michael Jennings will hopefully rise to the occasion. At the very least, he is not playing outside Luke Walsh and Travis Burns.

Finally, oh Lord, finally, Jamie Soward had been given his due and the Origin No.6 jersey. He will kick. Any late charge by the likes of Jarrod Mullen, Greg Bird and Luke Lewis never eventuated. A genuine five-eighth was selected. Stuart now just has to stick with him, something I will believe when I see.

Mitchell Pearce was never really challenged. All this talk about Jarrod Mullen's form is bollocks. He is not having much of a year. Trent Hodkinson is Pearce's closest challenger but he hasn't done enough to dislodge the incumbent.

My relief over the backline selection was, however, quickly tempered when the forward pack was read out.

Whoever plumped for Jason King, and I'm looking at you Bob Fulton, deserves to be shot. Let me list the props in the NRL who are Blues eligible who are better than Jason King: Luke Bailey, Luke Douglas, Andrew Fifita, Keith Galloway, Bryce Gibbs, Tim Grant, Dan Hunt, Brent Kite (marginally), Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Tim Mannah, Trent Merrin, Todd Payten, Kade Snowden, Dane Tilse, Aiden Tolman, Michael Weyman, Brett White, Adam Woolnough. By my count, that makes Jason King the 19th best prop available yet he is the starter. What an absolute disgrace.Worse, he is going in injured. King is a big, lumbering and useless who has neither a strong work ethic or a major impact on matches. He is nothing but a modern day Jason Ryles.

Kade Snowden deserved his position.

Michael Ennis can consider himself lucky. He is getting the charmed run while Robbie Farah has been blacklisted. Ryan Hinchcliffe would have been a bolter but he would have contributed a bit more toughness than Ennis.

The backrow was astonishing, really. Paul Gallen is the rightful lock and captain. Beau Scott has claims though I'm not sure strong enough to warrant a starting spot. But the most abhorrent selection outside of Jason King was Greg Bird. Is there a more overrated player in the game? Bird has terrible hands, is constantly missing tackles and is renowned for giving away dumb penalties. But like Michael Ennis, his stupidity and agro has been misconstrued as Origin toughness and he is now seemingly a certainty for Origin. This season Bird has made 17 handling errors in only eight games. Put that with his poor tackling (18 misses, 152 tackles for a 10.52% miss rate and a workrate of only 19 per game), an average of nearly one penalty per match and a combined four tries/try assists and it is quite apparent that Bird is a one-dimensional player who is a solid ball-runner who is prone to error. Hardly worthy of a starting Origin berth.

The bench seems acceptable enough. Dean Young is an ideal utility and may be playing for the starting hooking role when Kurt Gidley returns. Tim Mannah and Trent Merrin both had claims though Aiden Tolman can consider himself unlucky to miss out. Ben Creagh should have been starting.

It was pleasing to see the likes of Jarryd Hayne and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs ignored. Stuart even gave Hayne a serve on the way out, suggesting his best position is five-eighth. That call says plenty of Stuart's intelligence; he obviously has forgotten the Hayne to No.6 cluster of 2009. But I did enjoy him sticking it to the lazy Parramatta fullback who has coasted along and been pandered too for way too long.

Overall, the team is better than what I expected. Like a brow-beaten dog, I expected the same old faces, the same old policies, the same old favourites. But for the most part, I am thrilled with the team. The backline is the best New South Wales had available and the best that has been selected in many, many years. The bench is very good. It is only up front that I have my questions.

Hopefully Ricky Stuart sticks with most of these. At least those not named Jason King. For the first time in a long time, I'll be cheering on the Blues.

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Nothing Much Changes North of the Border: There were few surprises with the Queensland team due to the stability within the team and the large number of leaks in the Queensland selection room.

Two debutants have been selected to start. Jharal Yow Yeh was a moral after a fine Test debut, coming in for the dirty turncoat Israel Folau. Dane Nielsen was the big shock. The fringe Storm first grader who has never really done much was named as Greg Inglis' replacement. Brisbane rookie Jack Reed can consider himself unlucky.

It is pleasing to see Corey Parker recalled on the bench. Parker has been outstanding over the last two seasons and deserved a spot on the bench ahead of the overrated and overfed Dave Taylor.

The big omission was Dallas Johnson, selectors preferring Jacob Lillyman instead. Johnson was most unlucky, considering the blood he has shed and the years of his life lost for Queensland. With Nate Myles and Sam Thaiday both named in the second row but capable of playing prop, Johnson's selection wouldn't have upset the balance of the team.

But we are splitting hairs here. Queensland have another hot team and will go in deserved favourites.

Gus Gets Back in the Game: Welcome back, Gus. The Penrith Panthers pulled off a massive coup in hiring one of the sharpest minds in the game to run the football department and oversee the hiring of a new coach. Gould may be arrogant, bombastic, prone to hyperbole and paranoia and somewhat of an egomaniac but he knows his league, he knows about winning, he knows about Penrith and he knows about talent. Gus will at least get Penrith back on track.

The Raiders Deserve What They Get: I was a season ticket holder at Canberra for many years and have spent more time at Bruce Stadium on cold and wintry nights than I care to remember so I say this out of love, not hate: the Canberra Raiders deserve what they get.

It all may be covered up after Saturday night's shock of the Melbourne Storm but the fact remains, after hearing Raiders board member John Mackay talk about coach David Furner, it is clear that nothing is about to change anytime soon.

"We regard David as one of our favourite sons,'' Mackay said.

"If we had a choice between David and someone who was there to win games and nothing else, we'd have David every time.

"He'd have to lose another 30 games.

"We're not looking for other (coaches), we've got David Furner and we're really happy about that.''

"He has my support and the board's support, which runs deeper than a losing streak.''

For starters, rugby league is about winning. At Canberra, a team who hasn't tasted any real success in 15 years and who finally had the roster in place to seriously challenge this year, making the most of this window was critical yet Furner was allowed to roll on with his normal way of doing things, which have always resulted in poor starts.

And to suggest a coach can lose 30 games before he is even under pressure shows how out of touch the Raiders board are and how much the club is wrapped around the Furner family tree. What an absurd remark to make. The Raiders are clearly not even going to assess the performance of David Furner let alone his position at the club. That kind of pig-headedness is what has Canberra in its current spot and why they won't leave anytime soon.

Saving Monday Night Football: It was pleasing to see at least one rugby league club executive show a bit of long-term vision when it comes to Monday Night Football rather than bleating about being hard done by and crying poor. Moves were afoot as late as this year to eliminate Monday Night Football with clubs upset by struggling attendances, showing little understanding that Monday Night Football is about television. Peter Doust recognises this and was anything but upset when a big game against the Sharks was scheduled for Monday, rather talking up the possibilities of the game to grow in the timeslot, calling on the NRL to maximise the revenue from the game.

Talk shouldn't be about scrapping Monday Night Football. It should be about growing it, using it as a tool to expand the game in a timeslot where rugby league has no competition. Vision is needed. The game should become an event like it is in the NFL. Scheduling needs to reflect this with matches between marquee teams at grounds that are suitable. The perfect example here is the Wests Tigers and Leichardt Oval. The Tigers always pack Leichardt and should host two or three games a year at the ground a year against the likes of South Sydney and the Sydney Roosters.

I have been pushing for Monday Night Football to go to free-to-air and the NRL are now thinking the same thing. The games consistently rate through the roof, usually topping Foxtel weekly ratings. The problems with keeping it on Fox Sports, however, are two-fold. Firstly, they pay under-the-odds for the game, particularly compared to what they are now paying for the AFL. Secondly, an agreement to televise the match nationally on free-to-air presents a great opportunity to grow the game into new markets. The game can make real progress in non-traditional states with free-to-air exposure on a Monday night when there is no AFL and most people are in and television is generally poor.

There would be nothing better than Seven or Ten winning the rights for Monday Night Football. It will bring in the dollars and spread the word, two things rugby league are desperately in need of.

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Oh, There Is A God: And he sure ain't a Parramatta fan. A wonderful feeling of serenity and unabashed joy swept over me when I read the news that Ben Roberts was on his way to Parramatta. Paul Osborne has struck again, recruiting one of the dumbest fools ever to pull on a boot. I never thought I would enjoy life more than seeing Ben Roberts running around in the NSW Cup. I was wrong. Watching him run around for Parramatta will be even better. I am excited about 2012 already.

The Best Rookies of 2011: We are 10 weeks in and it is now time to assess the best rookies who have come through in season 2011. To qualify, players need to have played three or fewer matches before 2011.

15. Tyrone Roberts (Newcastle): Sizzled at No.6 in starting debut after 3 good bench efforts
14. Nafe Seluini (Penrith): As lively as a meth-head when subbing in as hooker, just what Penrith need
13. Michael Oldfield (Manly): Not a regular but has shown real class when filling in on the wing
12. Mitchell Allgood (Parramatta): A strong ball carry suggests he will get better with age
11. Sam Williams (Canberra): Performed well under a mountain of expectation in Raiders No.7 jersey
10. Jake Foster (Canterbury): Looks a likely type with a Watmough-like game and genuine hardness
9. Aaron Woods (Tigers): A real bopper who could be the man to toughen up the Tigers pack
8. Elijah Taylor (Warriors): A real workhorse who loves to tackle and hit the edges
7. Kalifa Faifai-Loa (Cowboys): Excelling on the wing for the Cowboys though getting little ball
6. Glen Fisiiahi (Warriors): Showed tremendous upside in only three games before injury got him
5. Beau Henry (Newcastle): The answer to the Knights No.6 woes who has shown great composure
4. Jack Reed (Brisbane): Unawed by the step up to first grade with his physicality the highlight
3. Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly): Had his ups and downs but is a halfback who is a real keeper
2. William Hopoate (Manly): Played rep footy in his first full year after some exciting return work
1. Gareth Widdop (Melbourne): The Storm No.6 has been one of Melbourne best playing out of position

League at the Commonwealth Games: In what is great news for the growth of rugby league, the Rugby League International Federation has applied to have The Great Game included in the Commonwealth Games from 2018. With Gold Coast favourite to win the Games in 2018, rugby league would be a popular choice. The proposed version would be either sevens or nines with nines preferred. International rugby league is on the up and up and the old saying that too much rugby league is never enough still holds. It would push the game into new markets and put in on display for all of the old empire. This may help keep some stars in rugby league. Here is to hoping The Great Game gets the nod for a Commonwealth Games appearance.

A Memorable Weekend for the Meaningless Field Goal: Nothing excites me more than a meaningless field goal. The one at the end of the match when a team is towelling another. One just before half-time. The rarer breed: one that opens the scoring or one from a losing team when down. This weekend fulfilled at least a couple.

Luke Walsh kicked the finest. Penrith leading 32-10 and the full-time siren about to roar, Walsh, highly amused, rocked back and slotted a one-pointer. It was his fourth career field goal and the second where his team won by more than two converted tries. On the other two occasions, Penrith lost.

Jamie Soward slotted one just before the break, as he has become accustomed too. That put the Dragons up 15-0. They went on to win by the highly unusual margin of five. Soward has now slotted 17 over the last five seasons and is the modern day master of the lost art form.

Chris Sandow is throwing the gauntlet down though. He loves a drop-goal and knocked over a clever one just before the break to give South Sydney a 27-0 lead. How insulting! Souths went on to win by 11, another highly unusual margin. Sandow has now potted 10 field goals in only 69 matches.

James Maloney capped it off with a one-pointer in the final minute to give the Warriors a nine-point win. The last time Maloney kicked a field goal, it was to seal a 37-10 win over Cronulla in 2010.

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Injury Update: It was heartbreaking seeing Michael Gordon carried off with a suspected season-ending ACL injury on Friday night. The game was over, he was on the cusp of Origin selection and was playing outstanding rugby league. And just like that he is gone. If there is one player I hope to see come back at full pace, it is Flash. He is such a delight to watch.

Paul Aiton (Cronulla): Sustained a serious knee injury just after half-time against the Roosters and is likely done for the season. John Morris is named and Stuart Flanagan is set to see too much game time.

Mitch Aubusson (Roosters): Dislocated his shoulder at training and will be out for 4-6 weeks. The Roosters are now real short in the backrow.

Lewis Brown (New Zealand): Suffered a knee injury in the Warriors win and will await scans. First guess is an MCL which would sideline the tough nut for 4-6 weeks though he has been named this week. His versatility will be missed if he is out.

Greg Eastwood (Canterbury): Suffered a cork and only managed 37 minutes in an ordinary performance. Should be right for round 11.

Paul Gallen (Cronulla): Bruised his shin and elbow but completed the win over the Roosters before being named New South Wales captain.

Michael Gordon (Penrith): Twisted his knee in horrible fashion and tried to walk it off but couldn't. Scans revealed a ruptured ACL and he is now done for 2011.

Tim Grant (Penrith): Strained his hamstring in the warm-up to the Broncos game and missed the match. He should be right for this week against the Tigers though will be a week-to-week proposition for the next month.

Justin Hodges (Brisbane): Went down like a shot duck when running crossfield against Penrith and quickly clutched at his hamstring. He will miss four weeks with a hamstring strain, ruling him out of Origin I. Willie Tonga will take his spot. Josh Hoffman looks set to return for Brisbane, meaning Gerard Beale will push up into the centres.

Michael Lett (Canterbury): Improved on Friday before suffering a hamstring injury. Bryson Goodwin will likely get the nod though Tim Lafai and Junior Tia-Kilifi are both in the mix.

BJ Leulia (Roosters): Hurt his leg but stuck out the Sharks loss and with the injuries to the three-quarter line, will keep his spot in first grade.

Kane Linnett (Roosters): Dislocated his shoulder scoring a try after being recalled to first grade. The injury appears serious with his season looking to be over. The best case scenario is 4-6 weeks. Justin Carney has been recalled.

Darren Lockyer (Brisbane): The Broncos skipper sustained a worrying blow to his neck and shoulder against Penrith and looked despondent in the dressing room afterwards, suggesting he may be out a while. But the early diagnosis is that it was just a bump and he will be right for Origin I in his farewell series.

Mickey Paea (Canterbury): Only played 17 minutes before hurting his knee. Will be no loss to Canterbury.

Junior Sau (Newcastle): Hurt his leg late in the loss to New Zealand and was forced from the field. Adam MacDougall, if he deigns the Knights with his presence, will come in for Sau if he is a late withdrawal.

Brett Stewart (Manly): Missed the Manly game with his dicey hamstring. This will be a major problem for the rest of 2011, it seems. Andrew Johns is no doctor but he said on Triple M that Stewart will miss at least two weeks and could miss three.

Tom Symonds (Roosters): Suffered a nasty compound fracture of his finger against the Sharks and will have surgery to piece it back together. With Mitch Aubusson also out and Nate Myles on Origin duty, the Roosters are incredibly short in the backrow.

Timana Tahu (Penrith): Started for Penrith and tore his pec and has been ruled out for the remainder of the year. His rotten luck continues while his injury confirms the silliness of Penrith signing him in the first place.I doubt he will play again. Michael Jennings will come back in for the Panthers and Adrian Purtell will continue to play, in what is horrible news for Penrith fans.

Matthew Wright (Cronulla): Whacked away with a knee injury though didn't do anything at all when taking on the Roosters.

The Best Game on the Internet: Those awesome girls at Oh Errol never let you down when it comes to rugby league fun and now they have come up with the game that is sweeping the internet. It is all very simple. Wait for a Manly game. Guess what stage of the game Steve Matai goes down and winces in pain. Get the closest, win the game. And there is a winner every time with the alleged rugby league hardman always seeking sympathy as he prances about in supposed pain. Matai Minutes, play it next week at .

Purtell the Turtle: It was a real thrill to see Adrian Purtell back in the three-quarter line for Penrith on Friday. A real thrill for everyone not a Panthers fan, anyway. The Turtle was at his best, loping along, bumbling through a game doing plenty of nothing. I doubt any coach in the NRL loves a player as much as Matt Elliott loves Adrian Purtell. What The Turtell will do next year is anyone's guess. I can't imagine Gus will be plumping for him anytime soon.

A Mighty Effort: Andrew McCullough may have finished in the Willie M votes this week (see below) due to some poor decision making and a couple of dumb and costly penalties but he has to be applauded for his defensive workload. In only 54 minutes of action, McCullough made an incredible 63 tackles. That is an astonishing effort. That kind of tackling week in, week out will have him in the Stagg/Johnson/Hindmarsh category soon.

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The Willie M Medal: The only thing saving Matt Orford from being crowned the second annual Willie M Medallist is his inability to stay healthy. Congratulations go out to Michael Jennings for his selection in the NSW Origin team. Jennings has defied form and his second-placing in the Willie M Medal count to be chosen for rep football.

Canterbury v St George-Illawarra
3-Jamal Idris (Cant)
2-Greg Eastwood (Cant)
1-Dene Halatau (Cant)

Penrith v Brisbane
3-Corey Norman (Bri)
2-Andrew McCullough (Bri)
1-Dale Copley (Bri)

Melbourne v Canberra
3-Kevin Proctor (Mel)
2-Adam Blair (Mel)
1-Josh Dugan (Can)

North Queensland v Parramatta
3-Joel Reddy (Par)
2-Joel Atkins (Par)
1-Taniela Lasalo (Par)

South Sydney v Wests Tigers
3-Matt Utai (Tig)
2-Fetuli Talanoa (Sou)
1-Robert Lui (Tig)

Newcastle v New Zealand
3-Junior Sa'u (New)
2-Antonio Kaufusi (New)
1-Manu Vatuvei (War)

Cronulla v Sydney Roosters
3-Mitchell Pearce (Roo)
2-Braith Anasta (Roo)
1-Mose Masoe (Roo)

Gold Coast v Manly
3-Joseph Tomane (GC)
2-Preston Campbell (GC)
1-Steve Michaels (GC)

Leaderboard
14: Matt Orford (Can)
10: Michael Jennings (Pen), Jarrod Mullen (New)
9: Blake Ferguson (Can)
8: Feleti Mateo (NZ)
7: Lachlan Coote (Pen), Jarrod Croker (Can), Wade Graham (Cro), Matt Wright (Cro)

Note: Due to some technical difficulties, last week's leaderboard has not been updated. Normal programming will resume next week.

Carty Needs an Axe and a Chopping Block: It makes perfect sense why the Gold Coast have purchased two quality centres for 2012 in Jamal Idris and Beau Champion. It is, simply, to keep John Cartwright from going on a homicidal rampage. If he is left with the likes of Joseph Tomane, Steve Michaels, Clinton Toopi and Preston Campbell as his outside backs, he is going to kill a lot of people. Joseph Tomane is right in the mix for the worst player in the NRL. He is certainly rated in the top three or four dumbest. He lost the Manly match almost single-handedly, allowing the second try by stupidly running out of the line and finishing with a dumb play-the-ball penalty. Those two plays bookended a night of bad passes, horrible reads and ill-discipline. Steve Michaels has no coordination and nearly always makes the wrong choice. Preston Campbell had another one of his shockers. Campbell may be tough but he is so washed up I fancy Gary Wurth or Jonathan Docking would offer more, even as both approach 50. The Titans are going nowhere with such a stupid, useless, selfish, moronic group of outside backs.

Giddy-up Gallop: Manly have every right to be annoyed about the NRL's suspension of Brett Stewart in 2009. Brett Stewart's try celebration was amusing. But it is about time Manly let sleeping dogs lie. It is all in the past. It was totally out of order but it is gone. Move on Manly. Rejoice in Brett Stewart's return and start working on keeping him healthy.

Most Exciting Moment of the Weekend: The most exciting moment of the weekend, at least for rugby league traditionalists like myself, was the differential penalty from a scrum won against the head in the Titans-Manly match (hashtagged, quite amusingly, as on Twitter). Luke Bailey raked it and the Manly prop tried to grab it back, all too late. Differential penalties have made a bit of a nostalgia run this year but scrums against the head have not been too common. My guess on the last time this happened: 1987.

Fun Fact : The last time the Canberra Raiders defeated Melbourne in Melbourne before Saturday night was in 2000. The Raiders won 20-16 round 25. That day:

-The match was played at Olympic Park, a ground that no longer exists
-Canberra Raiders coach David Furner was playing for the Raiders, in what was his fourth-last match for Canberra
-Furner's second-row partner was Raiders skipper Alan Tongue, one of only two players playing in the match who are still in the NRL. The other is Todd Payten
-One other NRL coach was playing in the match: Parramatta's Stephen Kearney
-Two Kelly's adorned the Raiders bench: Brad, who played 28 games, and Shane, who played 11
-The match contained 12 internationals
-Melbourne were coached by Chris Anderson, who subsequently coached two more clubs
-Current Storm coach Craig Bellamy was an assistant at Brisbane
-Goalkickers that day were Brad Watts and Luke Williamson with Watts having a career strike rate of 60% and Williamson slightly better at 70.03%

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

LW: Last Week, R:Range

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Round 11 Selection Notes:

Canberra: The Raiders have lost Josh Dugan to Origin. He has been replaced by Nathan Massey, who will be looking to make amends after a disappointing debut against Manly. David Furner has done the right thing and left Matt Orford out with Sam Williams to keep the No.7 jersey. Sticking with youngsters Josh Papalii and Sam Mataora is the right call.

Canterbury: It is exciting to see the promising Josh Reynolds make his first grade debut. He replaces Michael Ennis, on Origin duty. Reynolds is an outstanding talent who will be a long-term first grader. Bryson Goodwin is in for the injured Michael Lett. Blerg. Big youngster Sam Kasiano comes in for the injured and terrible Mickey Paea.

Wests Tigers: The Tigers, remarkably, have no players on Origin duty. Bryce Gibbs is a chance of making a return this week. Gareth Ellis is set to miss another week.

Penrith: No Michael Gordon means no dice for Penrith. At least Lachlan Coote is back, though he may take a few weeks to find his feet. Adrian Purtell seems locked into a three-quarter berth for the remainder of the season. Success will rest on Luke Lewis. Tim Grant should be back after an warm-up injury last week.

New Zealand: Lewis Brown has been named in the centres but is unlikely with Shaun Berrigan the most likely candidate to replace him. Jacob Lillyman is on Origin duty. Ivan Cleary has named a seven-man bench.

South Sydney: No changes at the injury ravaged Bunnies with Dave Taylor missing out on Origin and Greg Inglis ruled out with injury.

Sydney Roosters: The Roosters have been decimated by injury and Origin with Mitch Aubusson, Tom Symonds and Kane Linnett all out for a significant period while Mitchell Pearce and Nate Myles are on Origin duty. Jason Ryles and Justin Carney return while Aiden Guerra plays his first game for the season. He is a player with upside. Willie Mataka and Mark Khieralla are both on the bench. Combinations were poor last week and it is hard to see them improving against Newcastle. Sam Perrett is some hope of making a comeback from a severe ankle injury.

Newcastle: Akuila Uate is out on Origin duty with Keith Lulia coming in for him. Beau Henry returns from injury in what is a massive inclusion. Junior Sau was named but is in doubt. Isaac De Gois could play this week.

Parramatta: Tim Mannah is the only Parramatta player to don the blue or the maroon. Carl Webb replaces him in what is a downgrade that can't even really be measured. Joel Reddy has been dropped for the returning Ryan Morgan.

Cronulla: The Sharks have been hard-hit by Origin with Paul Gallen and Kade Snowden selected. Jeremy Smith and Nathan Gardner are also missing though injury. John Morris returns for the injured Paul Aiton and has been named co-captain with column favourite Colin Best. Scott Porter keeps Tim Smith out of first grade after a good showing against the Roosters. Stewart Mills has plenty of wraps on him and has retained his wing position. Taulima Tautai starts at lock.

Rumour Mill: It is thought that high ranking NRL officials are extremely perturbed at Foxtel's involvement in the AFL television deal. There could be ramifications down the road when the television deal is negotiated. Adam Blair is going to the Wests Tigers with the deal to be announced soon. Parramatta are now chasing Ben Roberts (Note: Deal is now done). The Eels are also chasing Esi Tonga. That comes as no surprise, given their recent recruitment history. Ricky Stuart is absolutely no chance of taking the Penrith job now Phil Gould is overseeing matters. Every week we have a new favourite and this week Mick Potter's name is being bandied about. Isaac De Gois could be on his way back to the Sharks with Danny Buderus a better than even-money shot at having a farewell run with Newcastle in 2012.

Betting Market of the Week: What did Corey Parker say to referee Matt Cecchin to get sin-binned on Friday night:

$17: "Dear chap, I do not believe, on the balance of things, that the correct decisions are being made."
$41: "For the good of rugby league, Petero should stay on the field."
$101: "What are your thoughts on the five-minute sin bin being reintroduced, good sir?"
$3.50: "You are a maternal copulating unique part of the female anatomy with a unique part of the male anatomy protruding from your forehead whose parentage is unknown."

What I Like About...William Hopoate: I like that William Hopoate is buggering off to wander the world in a white shirt and necktie, hammering home the Mormon creed, rather than signing with Parramatta. Sure, I wanted him at Canterbury. Sure, I think he is a fantastic player who should stay in the game. Sure, I think it is absurd that a religion would want to stop someone from doing what they are best at. But at least Hopoate isn't butchering his career at Parramatta.

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From Deep in the Bowels of Twitter:

Beau Champion is rightly outraged at rugby league coverage in Melbourne though perhaps he wasn't paying that much attention in Sydney because Boots N All hasn't aired for the better part of a decade: "Wish we got the Sunday footy show and boots n all down in Melb for a laugh ... The TV coverage of NRL in Melbourne is a joke !!"

Jarryd Hayne feeling sorry for himself...I'm not sure what there is to be confused about... you aren't good enough! "Thank you TW for the msg's of support. Very shocked an confused but life goes on. I will always be a blue an have faith the boys can do it."

Andrew from the super website Rugby League Project: "given tonights nrl hashtag is , one can only rue the axing of cumberland in 1908"

Obscure Score of the Week: Gulf Isapea-Simbu Warriors, 8-8, round two of the PNG Digicel Cup. New team Gulf Isapea bounced back from a disappointing first round loss to draw with the Warriors. The new boys led until a late try saw honours split.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: It's a bit hard to put the knock on Ben Pomeroy after a double for the Sharks that proved central to Cronulla's win over the Sydney Roosters. So it is a week off from Penguin hunting season this week.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 10: Canterbury-St George-Illawarra, 10-15. What a classic game of rugby league. The contest was an arm wrestle the entire way with the Bulldogs stamping themselves as premiership contenders even in defeat. The Dragons took a 15-0 lead into the break after dubious try to Matt Prior that most certainly shouldn't have been awarded and a sneaky field goal from Jamie Soward. The Dogs had most of the ball in the second half and somehow ground their way back into the match thanks to some outstanding play from Ben Barba, Kris Keating, Frank Pritchard, David Stagg and Corey Payne. If the Bulldogs could have kept a clean pair of hands, they would have won. A sensational match that could win match of the year honours. If this were for worst game of the year, Gold Coast-Manly would now be into favourite. It was a horrible match.

Coaching Stocks:

5: Wayne Bennett: The Dragons won 8 in a row for the first time under Bennett
4: Craig Bellamy: A horrible loss at home to Canberra, suggesting the Storm may be in trouble
4: Anthony Griffin: He could not have been happy with such a lifeless performance against Penrith
4: Ivan Cleary: Another road win for the Warriors, who are playing some super footy
4: Des Hasler: Manly were far from impressive against the Titans but a win is a win
3.5: Kevin Moore: The Bulldogs lost no admirers in their tough loss to the Dragons
3: Tim Sheens: Undoubtedly their worst loss of the season and his team is now at the crossroads
3: Rick Stone: Would be disappointed about blowing a lead at home to a beatable team
2: Neil Henry: Surely was concerned over the Cows horrid start but what a finish, even against Parra
1: John Cartwright: The outside backs are so dumb and ill-disciplined that I feel sorry for Carty
1: Stephen Kearney: He must seriously be questioning why he took the Eels job after that blown lead
1: John Lang: A monster win over the Tigers that may kick-start South Sydney's season
0.5: Shane Flanagan: It was only the Roosters but what a big win considering key position injuries
0: Brian Smith: The Roosters have reverted to 2009 and I would be surprised if Smith made it to 2012
-1.5: Matt Elliott: A shame the Panthers couldn't play that well when he still had a chance
-5: David Furner: A massive win but that doesn't take away from the damage he has done

Fantasy Team of the Week:

1.Jarryd Hayne (Par)
2. Kalifa Faifai-Loa (NQ)
3. Joel Reddy (Par)
4. Willie Tonga (NQ)
5. Michael Robertson (Man)
6. James Maloney (War)
7. Johnathan Thurston (NQ)
13. Corey Parker (Bri)
12. Paul Gallen (Cro)
11. Luke Lewis (Pen)
10. Aiden Tolman (Bul)
9. Robbie Farah (Tig)
8. Luke Bailey (GC)

14. Michael Gordon (Pen)
15. Shaun Fensom (Can)
16. Issac Luke (Sou)
17. Kevin Kingston (Pen)

Waiver Wire Advice: The injury to Michael Gordon is horrible news but it leads to an opening with Lachlan Coote. Coote was a very good fantasy player last year but has suffered through injury after injury. He is back just in the nick of time with Gordon out for the season. He is only $222,000 and though his numbers have only been fair in four games this year, he will get better with more game time.

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Correspondence Corner: It looks like my thoughts on recruitment at Parramatta and Chris Sandow's signing has garnered the most need to comment.

Anna, I agree...let's hope Paul Osborne stays at Parramatta as long as possible, particularly when he has the nerve to call on the NRL to be careful with any funds the week he blows the Eels budget on Chris Sandow.

Warriors_fan, Stephen Kearney is a very good coach and Parramatta's only hope so he deserves as long as he needs. I doubt the Eels have even bottomed out yet so they are going to need at least three years. On John Lang, he was a sound technical coach in his day but his comeback has not been all that memorable.

Michael, your Michael Lett prediction is looking more and more like reality every week. I am still prepared to give him time but he is not repaying my faith at present. In regards Sandow (and this is to you Ferret as well), there is no doubt Sandow has more as an attacking player. I said as much last week. I just don't think he is worth three times as much, such relativism being important in the salary cap era. With no cap or at equal prices, I'd have Sandow too...though I certainly would be keeping him on short deals. You can't go burning up so much of your cap on a player of Sandow's ability though.

Doyen, Sandow has upside but he will never be as good as Cooper Cronk. He simply doesn't have it in him and playing at Parramatta certainly won't help.

Josh, good luck with Sandow. We'll see how long it is until the Eels faithful turns on him. I will set the line at mid-2013. There is no real knock on him not winning a title...but there is on him not taking the Rabbitohs to the finals for four straight seasons. What other good halfback has had that kind of record? No player on the money Sandow is on.

Ryan, you are delusional if you think Parramatta are better positioned at a title run than Canterbury and I'm happy to take the black odds you are seemingly prepared to offer on the Dogs winning a premiership before the Eels. Comparing Paul Osborne to Todd Greenberg is like comparing the meth-head selling friendship bracelets, bare-footed, out the front of your nearest McDonalds with Albert Einstein.

Doubter, thanks for the kind words. Your chook raffle win makes you better qualified to run Parramatta than Paul Osborne. When Lett went off, I did think he was doing a Goodwin. I think Tia-Kilifi probably is coming back...or that young centre Tim Lafai, who may shift out.

Ferret, I'd love a Dessie hairpiece! I'll leave that in your capable hands...

Mike from PNG, yep, that was pretty gutless from Ennis and I wouldn't have popped for him in Origin but he has been selected. Blerg.

Gareth, I'm sure you are thrilled with Michael Jennings receiving and Origin call-up. And my assessment of "Tommy Large" has never been high and I am embarrassed to be a New South Welshman and an Australian knowing he has "won" both state and national honours.

Dragons68, I am extraordinarily cynical... butter cynicism on my toast every morning. My hatred of Parramatta is a fun fact. I don't hate John Sutton though. I hate players with natural talent who don't use it because they can't be bothered trying. Sutton fits right in that mould. There is nothing worse than a bludger and he is just that. To answer your question, I am a Canterbury fan and I would be very upset if the Bulldogs went anywhere near him. But they won't...they are way too sharp to get involved with that milk drinker.

Beard Watch: It is about time Jarrod Sammut made his way back to the NRL. If facial hair equated to talent, the former Penrith custodian will be Australian captain. Sammut has cultivated a significant fanbase while at the Celtic Crusaders, based almost entirely on his bushy and waxed moustache and flowing hair that has seen him nicknamed "Jack Sparrow". That is a real commitment to facial hair and one that has me wanting to see a return for the livewire.

Greg Bird also deserves a mention. He may have been caned for his play in these pages but he is doing outstanding work with his mo.

Watch It: Phil Gould has returned to Penrith after 17 years away from the foot of the mountains. It is hoped Gould runs into as much mischief as he did this night against Cronulla, where he was sent from the field. Hopefully he will also bring back that dandy of a tracksuit he was wearing that night.

www.makingthenut.com




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