From The Couch: Round 17
Origin III Preview - The Decider: For the second straight year and the fourth time since Queensland began its Origin reign of dominance, we have a decider.by NRL
Origin III Preview - The Decider: For the second straight year and the fourth time since Queensland began its Origin reign of dominance, we have a decider. Oh, the excitement. This is one hell of a match and one hell of an occasion, a game the experts fancy will be the highest rating league match ever. One can hope.
Gee, two months back, a decider at Suncorp Stadium, I would have declared the Maroons certainties. All series they have rated as the stronger team. They have had a better-balanced side, more ability, have been better prepared.
The gap between the two has certainly closed. The NSW forwards now hold the upper hand and have asserted their strength in both games this series. The Blues bench has probably been more dominant. The primary weakness of the Blues - Akuila Uate - has been dumped. The Maroons are playing like an aging team.
The question for this game is this: do the Maroons have one last stand in them?
Heading into the series, my thoughts were simple: Queensland would towel the Blues. I could not have been more confident after the selection of the side for the opener. But things change and the Blues are certainly in with a shot.
The Maroons have a number of weaknesses heading into the decider.
The loss of Billy Slater hurts more than most figure. In 10 of the last 13 games Slater has played, the Maroons have won, Slater winning two Man of the Match awards. His finest quality in Origin is his positional play. There is no better positional fullback in rugby league. He makes Mitchell Pearce look like a moron and is the launching pad that gets the Maroons rolling on nearly every set. Even when the Blues win, Queensland still seem to have the best of the field position. Greg Inglis is a dynamic player, a star, but Queensland lose out by losing Slater as Inglis is not a forceful kick returner.
Inglis' move to fullback also leaves the Maroons weak in the centres. Justin Hodges is injured and playing with little form. Dane Nielsen is a purely defensive type who has never set the world on fire.
Ashley Harrison's injury is big. Corey Parker is a similar type but Harrison is a heavier defender.
Petero Civoniceva is not in the Maroons' best 17 on form this year and needs to pull one out of the bag.
But this is a decider, a series on the line at Suncorp, a match for all the marbles in what will be a Queensland legend's final game.
For that reason, I have to run with Queensland in this.
The Blues are close. The forwards look strong though the dropping of Trent Merrin was strange and the loss of Glenn Stewart diminishes the creativity required. That creativity is required because Mitchell Pearce offers nothing. Beau Scott is a sound defender - and I'm not critical of bringing one of those in - but attack on the fringes is required. That is the only way the Blues can break the line in the Maroons' half.
I like the inclusion of Morris. Tony Williams, if fit and on-song, is a risk but can make a positive impact. Anthony Watmough is excellent off the bench. Give me Peter Wallace or Jamie Soward and I probably get on board the Blues.
But the Maroons play a better field-position game - always - and have it all to lose. They are also at home and the Blues haven't won any of the last six live games in Brisbane.
I hope the Blues can pull it off ... and the line seems about right ... but I think the Maroons get the money by four.
The Much Anticipated Return of Opes: It may be at Parramatta but I could not be more excited to see one of the great all-time coaches return to the game with Chris Anderson back in rugby league as Stephen Kearney's coaching director.
It was the first smart recruitment decision the Eels have made since Daniel Anderson was hired.
Anderson is rarely mentioned among the great premiership mentors but he is one of only two coaches to win premierships with two different clubs (including taking the Bulldogs in the throes of the Super League war in the same year the Filthy Four took the Bulldogs to court and then guiding the Storm to the title in their second year), has won a World Cup as an Australian coach, has the ninth most wins in premiership history with 201 and his 56.5 per cent win rate is 13th among coaches who have coached 180 games.
Chris Anderson is one of the greatest coaches rugby league has known, a sharp brain (save the one-marker policy) and a top-notch motivator. Only poor health has driven him from head coaching. He is perfectly suited to a role as coaching director and he should get more out of the Eels than Kearney is at present.
And, fingers crossed, it may just lead to Anderson once again finding a premiership coaching gig.
Losing Leckie Hurts League: Rugby league lost a big ally last week when Seven boss David Leckie was moved on by Kerry Stokes. Make no mistake: this will play a significant part in how hard Seven are prepared to go at the rights.
League had two things in its favour with David Leckie in charge at Seven. Firstly, Leckie is a rugby league man, and wanted Seven to be the home of the Great Game. Secondly, Leckie has a deep and abiding hatred of Nine after being moved on from the network he established as the preeminent force in Australia. That manifested itself in Leckie moving to Seven, poaching many Nine stars and establishing Seven as the top network in Australia, a station that won every week in 2011. He is widely regarded as the only man to lead two networks to the pinnacle.
To top $1 billion, the NRL needs Seven to be serious about winning some or all of the rights. They need Seven to realise they can sink the boot into Nine, finally delivering the death blow. Seven may still go in hard but it is no certainty now Leckie is out after a "spell".
It is a shame the man Steve Mascord named as the 11th most powerful in the game is now out. He was a very important element of this negotiation.
Stuart Raper Has to Go: For mine, Stuart Raper was the submissive little twink to Bill Harrigan's mean and dominant old bear, the offside in the refereeing coaching ranks who never really got a say and just had to adhere to whatever wild whim Harrigan had.
Apparently not. Apparently Raper is pushing the same barrow as Harrigan and doing it of his own accord. And for that very reason Raper must join Harrigan as rugby league discards when the refereeing powerbase is swept from power at the end of the year.
Last week, Raper spewed out this bollocks to the Daily Telegraph when asked about the raft of mistakes made by video referees in round 16:
"Our game is about tries and we want to promote tries," Raper said.
"So he has to be 100 per cent sure it is not a try.
"The way these guys carry a football and reach out across the line these days, if we didn't include the arm as downward pressure, we'd be disallowing a lot of tries.
"A lot of tries are scored with the arm when they are in possession.
"(The video ref) married a side shot with a front shot. We have found in the past that different angles can create different illusions.
"I've looked at it in high definition. I've freeze-framed it. It looks like there is a gap between the ball and the line that is actually a shadow. It actually hits the line. I was happy with that."
Of the Graham try, he said: "I have looked at it 20 times and I still can't prove it is a no-try and that is why we have benefit of the doubt. I was happy with that decision.
"The other ones, the Krisnan Inu and the Uate one (both awarded), I definitely have no problem. But that Ash Graham one is a real touch-and-go and very, very hard to adjudicate on."
Where do you start with such stupidity? The video referees never get any better because they are given absolutely no guidance. All their garbage is justified. The real kicker was this: "You are not going to please everyone."
The referees don't even seek perfection. The interpretations are that complicated, that convoluted that refereeing coaches are happy to settle for almost. Refereeing is at a real low ebb and the interpretations need to be cleaned up so that we can please everyone. Anything short of perfection should not be tolerated.
It Is Just Basic Physics: Ray Warren, in between his incoherent ramblings and his childish contrived fights with Phil Gould, made a very poignant remark in Sunday's South Sydney-Penrith clash after the Bunnies were denied a fair try by an incorrect forward pass ruling. "When you throw something outside the car window at 60 km/h, it always goes forward". It is just a matter of basic physics. Yet referees always call those passes forward despite the fact they come out the back of the hands. It is astonishing that referees still get this wrong and even more astonishing that video referees are not allowed to rule on the matter. It is very disheartening to see the lack of coaching given to referees playing out week after week after week.
Bring Back the Wok: With Chris Anderson returning to rugby league as the Parramatta coaching director, it seems to be the week of the old coach with betting shop Betstar naming Warren Ryan as the $6.00 third favourite to replace Ricky Stuart as NSW coach. The Wok, I believe, was Dally Messenger's mentor and hasn't coached big time league since 2000, when he finished a two-year stint at the Knights where he was generally thought to be out of touch. His commentary on ABC Grandstand do little too dispel the notion that he is in touch with modern trends. I would love to see Wozza Ball in Origin but I can't help but think the $6.00 is just a touch of unders on the 1000-1 shot.
Club Coaches Must Be Out: While it won't be The Wok in charge of the Blues in 2013, it certainly shouldn't be Ricky Stuart, if he decides to take up a club position, as is most likely. It shouldn't be any other club coach either, be it Des Hasler, Wayne Bennett or anyone else. Queensland have been right to go with the model of no club coach for a long time and the Blues made that commitment two years back after a serious review. There is no question that having a coach without club commitments has improved the Blues. Stuart has done plenty wrong - but he has done a lot right too and there is no disputing how much time he puts into the job. He cannot make that commitment at club level. Further, Stuart has a history of playing favourites. Anthony Tupou anybody? He cannot be allowed to use his position as a rep coach to lure players to his new club and to pick his favourites for rep jumpers. The NSW coach is virtually a sole selector now - there needs to be a balance.
Whoever gets the gig next year - and it will likely be a playing legend like Brad Fittler or Laurie Daley - Daniel Anderson must be involved. He is the smartest brain in the game not currently involved in coaching and if he misses out on the top job, he should be brought in to fill a Michael Hagan like role as the chief tactician.
A Big Thumbs Daaaarrggghhhn to the Pirates: The West Coast Pirates is not the worst name in the NRL - that would probably belong to the Melbourne Storm (I hate teams that don't end in an 's') and the Gold Coast Titans is just stupid marketing garbage. But it is an awful name that makes no sense. It has no local connection like the Reds did and just comes across as lazy, marketing drivel. I am all for a team in Perth but it will be the Sage/Elias group, not the bloody Pirates that I'll be backing. How can anyone possibly get behind a team with a name like the Pirates?
Don't Be Stupid: Only the Roosters would be stupid enough to get involved with Sonny Bill Williams and it seems they will have him for only a year at best as the whore looks to chase every dollar he can fighting bums and being a skirt playing rugby union. The Roosters have a good young team on the build. They shouldn't be shilling for a Judas who has no interest in anything but how many dollars he can pocket.
Meaningless Field Goal of the Week: James Maloney loves a field goal and took a meaningless one on Sunday to put the Warriors up 35-18. Orange lads love their one-pointers.
The Best Moment of 2012: Wins against the head are about as rare as quality games from Ben Roberts. Tries directly from a tight head have not been seen since Bob Hawke was Prime Minister and we all hummed along to Johnny Farnham. "Two strong hearts, we stick together like the honey and the bee ... ". But on Friday night, we saw just that when the Broncos put the push on the Sharks deep in Cronulla territory and won the scrum against the head. Alex Glenn, surprised, picked it up, busted through some flimsy Sharks defence and bounced over. It was a marvelous throwback to the way it used to be. If you are a nostalgia freak or a trainspotter, your weekend was made right there.
Patrick Mills Loves His Broncos: One of Australia's best sporting talents, NBA star Patrick Mills, is a massive Brisbane Broncos man. Mills was very keen to get a score on Twitter on Friday night. Here is to hoping he comes back from London with a medal.
The Worst Post-Try Celebration: Konrad Hurrell and his kiss. I don't know who he is kissing and frankly, I don't care. He has clearly spent too much time playing rugby union. He needs to be told league is a man's game and he needs to man-up and act his age and his size.
Recruitment in the NRL Era - Penrith: The Panthers recruit big names less than any other club. And they have had to give up more than a few since 1998. Clear losers in the recruitment stakes. Have rarely shown any astuteness.
Best Year: 2002 was a year of change for the Panthers and the recruitment staff did well, bringing in premiership players Ben Ross, Luke Priddis, Joe Galuvao, Martin Lang and Paul Whatuira. A few older players left for England but no name of note moved to another NRL club.
Worst Year: The Panthers have been in trouble for a number of years and 2011 summed it up. The Eels lost international Frank Pritchard (who, admittedly, was struggling for form), workhorse Gavin Cooper and the exciting Wade Graham. All three have been excellent at their new clubs while the Panthers replaced them with Timana Tahu, Buddy Gordon, Junior Vaivai and Dayne Weston with only the latter offering anything.
Best Buy: Preston Campbell was a man of little stature but great heart and in his four years at Penrith, the Panthers won their second title and made a preliminary final. The Panthers have rarely attacked the open market but found a player with great courage and good skills in the former Dally M Medal winner. The Panthers have made the finals just once since he left.
Worst Buy: The Panthers forked out for a 30-year-old Timana Tahu after Tahu fell out with nearly everybody at Parramatta. He managed just seven ordinary games at the Panthers before injuring his pec. Moved to Newcastle after just one year.
Worst Loss: Peter Wallace was a promising local junior who was allowed to slip off to Brisbane after two years at the foot of the mountains. He played Origin football in his first year at the Broncos and has consistently performed at a decent level ever since while the Panthers have been forced to endure Travis Burns and Luke Walsh.
Origin/International Players Recruited:
Already: (7) Mark Geyer, Craig Greenhill, Geoff Bell, Martin Lang, Luke Priddis, Petero Civoniceva, Timana Tahu
Became: (4) Scott Sattler, Joe Galuvao, Paul Whatuira, Ben Ross
Origin/International Players Lost:
Already: (13) Phil Adamson, Matt Adamson, Scott Sattler, Paul Whatuira, Joe Galuvao, Ben Ross, Joel Clinton, Luke Priddis, Rhys Wesser, Paul Aiton, Frank Pritchard, Petero Civoniceva, Timana Tahu
Became: (2) Steve Turner, Peter Wallace
*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: Knights prop Kade Snowden and Broncos international centre Jack Reed were the two biggest names to go down this weekend.
Blake Austin (Penrith): Dislocated his shoulder badly and was in a world of pain. He is a hard nut but will miss a bit of time.
Jason Bukuya (Cronulla): Hurt his ankle early in the second half. Wade Graham will likely start. Could miss up to six weeks.
Shaune Corrigan (South Sydney): Knocked cold. Seemed okay. Won't be in first grade though because he isn't very good.
Glen Fisiiahi (New Zealand): A late withdrawal against the Cowboys with a recurring knee injury.
Josh Hoffman (Brisbane): Was hammered every which was against the Sharks and went off with a sore jaw. Will probably be sweet after the bye.
Jarrod Mullen (Newcastle): The Knights halfback has done ligament damage to his thumb. Won't miss any time.
Jack Reed (Brisbane): Reed was cleared of a broken leg but will miss a month with a fracture. This should see young Lachlan Maranta play top grade footy for the foreseeable future.
Kade Snowden (Cronulla): Suffered medial ligament damage and is going to miss a month. The Knights are desperately short of props. Evarn Tuimivave may get a recall.
Ray Thompson (North Queensland): Looks to have done an AC joint when recovering a ball. Could miss a fair amount of time.
Fun Fact : Nathan Hindmarsh made his debut in Round 10, 1998 against the Adelaide Rams at Pioneer Oval in Parkes. The last active player from that game was Rams reserve Adam Peek, who played his final match in the 2008 preliminary final for Cronulla. The player in that match who had made the earliest debut was fellow Rams reserve Wayne Simonds, who made his debut in the opening round of the 1988 season for Western Suburbs against Penrith, also on the bench.
Fun Fact : The only still-existent premiership team Hindmarsh has not scored a try against is Newcastle, failing to score in 24 appearances. Hindmarsh played his final game against the Knights on Saturday night.
Fun Fact : Hindmarsh has not scored a try in 19 finals matches.
The 2012 Willie M Medal: There has been little change at the top of the leaderboard with the Eels' Cheyse Blair and the Raiders' Tom Learoyd-Lahrs earning points at the top end of the board. Blair is one to watch - there are few more uncoordinated players in the NRL.
Brisbane v Cronulla
3-Josh Hoffman (Bri)
2-Peter Wallace (Bri)
1-Dunamis Lui (Bri)
Parramatta v Newcastle
3-Ryan Morgan (Par)
2-Joel Edwards (New)
1-Cheyse Blair (Par)
New Zealand v North Queensland
3-Aaron Payne (Cow)
2-Ricky Thorby (Cow)
1-Gavin Cooper (Cow)
South Sydney v Penrith
3-Arana Taumata (Pen)
2-Etu Uaisele (Pen)
1-Cameron Ciraldo (Pen)
Canberra v St George Illawarra
3-Jamie Soward (Dra)
2-Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Can)
1-Daniel Vidot (Dra)
15: Ben Hornby (Dra)
12: Tim Moltzen (Tig), Ben Roberts (Par)
11: Chris Sandow (Par), Mitchell Pearce (Roo)
10: Jarrod Croker (Can), Mitch Rein (Dra)
9: Cheyse Blair (Par), Lachlan Coote (Pen), Timana Tahu (New), Brad Tighe (Pen), Jason Ryles (Roo)
8: Braith Anasta (Roo), Ben Pomeroy (Cro), Antonio Winterstein (Cow), Lote Tuqiri (Tig), Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Can)
Rumour Mill: The hottest rumour in league circles this week has been Mitchell Pearce moving to the Dragons. In what would be a shock move, Pearce is said to have already made the deal as the Roosters try to free up funds to bring in Sonny Bill Williams. Pearce is off contract at the end of 2013. The Dragons are looking to lure big names to the joint. It is more likely that any move would not take place until 2014. Brian Smith could be gone sooner though as he is apparently in plenty of trouble. The Bulldogs are expected to announce the re-signing of Dene Halatau soon though the Sharks are also in the mix. Expect Jeremy Smith to be back at the Dragons next season. He wants to stay but his family is based in Wollongong. The Melbourne Storm are said to be chasing Warriors workhorse Elijah Taylor. Parramatta officials are said to be infuriated by Justin Poore's refusal to accept a mid-season transfer to Canberra.
1. Melbourne 12-3 (1)
2. Canterbury 10-5 (2)
3. Brisbane 10-6 (3)
4. Manly 9-6 (4)
5. South Sydney 9-7 (6)
6. Cronulla 10-5 (6)
7. North Queensland 9-7 (5)
8. New Zealand 8-7 (8)
9. Wests Tigers 8-7 (9)
10. Newcastle 6-9 (11)
11. Gold Coast 6-9 (10)
12. St George Illawarra 7-9 (12)
13. Sydney Roosters 6-9 (13)
14. Canberra 6-8 (14)
15. Parramatta 3-12 (15)
16. Penrith 4-12 (16)
What I Like About ... Nathan Hindmarsh: There really is no more likable man in rugby league, quite a compliment coming from me considering he plays for Parramatta. He won my affection even further on Sunday afternoon when talking about the Warriors' pink and black jersey on Fox Sports. Ryan Phelan noted to Mark Gasnier that they look like the Stade Francais jersey. Hindmarsh, taking the piss, asked what that is. Gasnier, too stupid to get the joke, explained to Hindmarsh that he played rugby union in France. Hindmarsh just looked at him and said "did you?" Brilliant.
Betting Market of the Week: If the Blues lose Origin III, Ricky Stuart will:
- Take the loss with good grace: $401
- Act like it didn't really matter after all: $4.00
- Physically castrate Tony Archer: $3.00
- Immediately announce he is returning to club football: $1.80
Moniker XIII of the Week: With Chris Anderson back in rugby league, we this week come up with the greatest Anderson team in premiership history.
1.Jarrad Anderson (14 games for Cronulla)
2. Chris Anderson (230 games for Canterbury)
3. Ben Anderson (17 games for Melbourne)
4. Brett Anderson (12 games for Parramatta/Melbourne/North Qld)
5. Tommy Anderson (30 games for Souths/Balmain)
6. Ted Anderson (78 games for Canterbury)
7. John Anderson (1 game for Canterbury)
13. Vinnie Anderson (55 games for New Zealand)
12. Fraser Anderson (45 games for Brisbane/Cronulla)
11. Louis Anderson (67 gamers for New Zealand)
10. Scott Anderson (68 games for Melbourne/Brisbane)
9. Fred Anderson (254 games for Canterbury/South Sydney)
8. Vic Anderson (1 Test for Australia)
Analysis: The Andersons are not spectacular despite having two Australian wingers and some nice forwards. Wouldn't win many games.
The Coaching Crosshairs: The drums appear to be getting louder at Bondi Junction that Brian Smith may be on the way out at the Roosters. There is no question that Smith is very good with young teams but he is also divisive and rarely stops too long at a club. The team is reportedly toxic at the moment and you can bet your bottom dollar that Smith is pissing someone off.
The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy is so popular in the coal mining areas of the United States that an Ohio town has been named after him. He should be the new face of our push into the United States. To read more about Pomeroy, Ohio, click here. They have even named an education program after him. God bless their devotion.
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 17: Brisbane-Cronulla, 12-26. Not an outstanding weekend of rugby league but the Broncos-Sharks match was an entertaining affair, highlighted by a try from a scrum win against the feed. It was a physical encounter, very tough, with Wade Graham and Jeremy Smith laying some big shots on. Nine Origin players missing but still a nice match.
Correspondence Corner: Mike From Tari, I'll keep an eye out for Joe Bond.
Michael, Adam Reynolds has a big future and he would be a better option on Wednesday than Mitchell Pearce, don't mind next year. I hope Ben Hornby bows out before he does any significant damage to his reputation.
The Ram Jam, I'd consider sitting out a year or two as well if Ricky Stuart or Jason Taylor came to Canterbury. Your best hope is Steve Folkes.
Semi Pro, the Dogs are wonderful to watch this year and I'm actually starting to believe they are the real deal, touch wood.
Anonymous, Nathan Fien has not done a lot of late and will be joining Dean Young, Ben Hornby and Matt Cooper on the way out soon I'd imagine. I hope for the Dragons' sake that Stuart doesn't come anywhere near your club.
WittyReference, If Origin does go standalone, I imagine there would be other games over the weekend just to appease the broadcasters. Origin won't be on a standalone weekend anytime soon though.
Beard Watch: Was there a better beard in 1980s rugby league than Kevin Hardwick? The Balmain hardman had a free-flowing beard to go with his free-flowing mullet. It was a wild scene.
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.
Watch It: This week we have two random videos from days gone by. The first, seen here , is from the Australia v France Test in Parkes back in 1990, where Brad Mackay scored three tries in debut, sadly the second last time the French have played in Australia with their last tour coming in 1994. The second, seen here, is the Adelaide Rams' first victory in front of a packed Adelaide Oval, where the boot of Kurt Wrigley proved key.
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