From The Couch: Round 24
Bill Harrigan Must Go: Bill Harrigan's position as referees boss is untenable.by NRL
Bill Harrigan Must Go: Bill Harrigan's position as referees boss is untenable. So too is Stuart Raper's. They both must go.
The abomination that is the obstruction rule rests almost solely on Bill Harrigan and his predecessor Robert Finch. They have promoted the confusion that is so great that even the most ardent rugby league fan, even the biggest rules nerd, even those who make their living from the game, have no idea what the rule is and how it should be enforced.
It is a disgrace. It defies belief that Jonathan Wright was awarded a try on Friday night after Frank Pritchard clearly ran behind a teammate. As the Tigers players said on the field, that was a blatant shepherd. This wasn't a breach of some ridiculous interpretation bestowed upon us by the oh-so-wise Harrigan. This was a blatant shepherd.
Yet a try was awarded.
Even the referees don't know what is happening. Morale is at an all-time low and the number of errors must be at an all-time high. And to be fair, I find it hard to blame the referees, as this is how they have been coached. If they don't referee to these absurd interpretations, if they don't "manage" the game, if they don't reach their key performance indicators, they are dumped. They cannot referee as they are supposed to.
We simply need to start again and that means dumping Harrigan, who has spent his entire career believing he is smarter than everyone else and then attempting to prove it at every chance. He has helped turn a simple game into a very complex one by refusing to admit wrong decisions and then using the justification to further complicate the way the rulebook is interpreted. He encourages referees to manage games, not enforce simple rules. He works to undercut the confidence of every official.
Once he is out and someone who knows the game but lacks the ego of Harrigan is in, we can start again. Referees will be charged with officiating. That means blowing penalties for breaches. Not giving second chances. Playing the hard-ass. That is their role. There will be no more "cute" interpretations. Rules will be rules. You need control to score a try. You run behind a player and gain an advantage, it is a shepherd. It comes off your hand and goes forward, it is a knock on.
Once this is all in place, we need to bring in the challenge system, consigning the video referee to history. The arguments against the challenge in recent weeks put forward by the neigh-sayers is that the video referees already make enough errors - why give them the chance to make more? Well, that is because the challenge system put forward still relies on the video referee. And is still inherently flawed.
The NRL must go further. It must adopt an NFL-like model where the on-field referee makes a decision and then must find conclusive evidence to overturn his call. There are monitors placed at each end and at halfway and the referee can check any challenge that can only be made at dead-ball plays. There will be some teething problems but the main benefits are that the referee must follow his gut and make a call, that only the burden of proof is changed to eradicate the always-misused benefit of the doubt and that video referees will be eradicated.
The game has reached such a crisis point that this is well worth a shot.
Mini Had to Go: Anthony Minichiello is not a dirty player. Not even close. But he had to be sent off in the clash with Canberra and any argument to the contrary is absurd. He recklessly hit Josh Dugan in the head while trying to score a try. Alan Shortall should be credited for having the bottle to raise his finger. Send offs are too rare these days. Acts of foul play deserve penalty. For once, they got it right and Minichiello should be sidelined for the rest of the year.
Looking Forward: Looking at what each team needs, the best available fits for 2013, the best off contract in 2014 and a possible trade, if the NRL would get its act together and introduce a formal trade window. This week, we look at eight of those teams.
Need: Need a quality halfback, possibly a hard-running fringe backrower.
Available for 2013: Aidan Sezer is still unsigned but the Broncos will likely give their younger players another year.
Available for 2014: Plenty of big names off contract at the end of next year with the Broncos likely to make a move for the best in the game, Johnathan Thurston.
Possible Trade: Matt Gillett seems to be on the slide. Canterbury may be prepared to give up Trent Hodkinson for him though a more dynamic second receiver is probably more desirable.
Need: In desperate need of a hooker.
Available for 2013: The Titans' Kayne Lawton leads a very thin field.
Available for 2014: Robbie Farah, Nathan Friend and Kevin Kingston are all off contract but Parramatta's Nathan Smith or Brisbane's Kurt Baptiste are two young hookers on the rise who could help the Raiders.
Possible Trade: St George Illawarra have Mitch Rein and Cameron King, as well as Nathan Fien. They may be reluctant to give up either but could be persuaded with Rein for a quality half or hooker - Sam Williams could fit that bill.
Need: Look pretty well stocked across the park but maybe a speedy winger would help.
Available for 2013: Adam Henry or Omar Slaimankhel would be a nice addition but Canterbury won't make any moves having re-signed Steve Turner.
Available for 2014: Akuila Uate is the prize offering but a player more of the level of Josh Mansour would be the play.
Possible Trade: Not desperate enough for a big-name trade, but something like moving David Stagg or Dene Halatau on for Kalifa Faifai-Loa would be helpful, as the Bulldogs seem to be over Stagg.
Need: The Sharks need speed out wide.
Available for 2013: Michael Lett has never quite made it in first grade but is in rare form in the NSW Cup. Tim Simona at the Tigers looks a handy type.
Available for 2014: Could keep the Penrith pipeline open by poaching Josh Mansour while Canterbury's Tim Lafai has plenty of class.
Possible Trade: Should chase Kalfifa Faifai-Loa with plenty of vigour. Chad Townsend would be a nice swap while John Morris may be acceptable.
Need: The Titans probably needed to look for a fullback but William Zillman has found form and at any rate, he is locked in for five years. Finding replacements for Luke Bailey and Scott Prince are probably priorities.
Available for 2013: Russell Packer would be a great get but it is hard to see him leaving New Zealand. Young Raider Shannon Boyd is worth chasing.
Available for 2014: The Titans could look to wedge one of the two Cowboy international props free in Matt Scott or James Tamou or Aiden Tolman from Canterbury but such a big purchase is unlikely to be feasible. Trent Hodkinson would be a nice replacement for Scott Prince.
Possible Trade: Prince and Bailey still have a few years left so chasing depth in the outside backs is probably the most pressing need. Giving up five-eighth Beau Henry to the Dragons for Nathan Green could be the go.
Need: Manly's props are aging and they need some young blood.
Available for 2013: Russell Packer would be a good get but probably out of Manly's price range. Shannon Boyd, Brisbane's Jarrod Wallace or the Roosters' Lama Tasi may be nice pick-ups. Already picked up Richie Fa'aoso.
Available for 2014: Keith Galloway and James Tamou would be top of the hit list but salary cap constraints are still expected to be an issue. James Gavet or Jack Bosden may be more realistic.
Possible Trade: Not a lot for Manly to do as they have a well-balanced side. A side like the Eels could probably use Liam Foran. In return, perhaps a Mitchell Allgood could be sent to Brookvale.
Need: The Storm need a hard-running, dynamic forward with a bit of size.
Available for 2013: Anthony Cherrington could be worth a risk on the cheap, while Jake Marketo has plenty of talent.
Available for 2014: Greg Bird, Feleti Mateo, Boyd Cordner, Matt Gillett and Brad Takarangi will all come under consideration, pending room in the salary cap.
Possible Trade: Could maybe get Takarangi now but would have to give up a young outside back, possibly even local junior Mane Fonua.
Need: Quality props and hardworking backrowers.
Available for 2013: David Stagg. David Stagg. David Stagg. Russell Packer would add quality up front, while Ray Cashmere would provide depth.
Available for 2014: The chequebook will be open looking at the likes of James Tamou, Matt Scott, Aiden Tolman and Michael Weyman will all be targeted.
Possible Trade: Five-eighth Ryan Stig seems surplus to needs. He could be flipped to the Dragons for a player like Dan Hunt, though a double trade may be required for balance.
Why It Has All Gone Wrong in Auckland: The Brian McClennan era is coming to an end in Auckland. What started out with high hopes has quickly disintegrated into an absolute disaster. The Warriors made the Grand Final in all three grades last year and had picked up a classy hooker in Nathan Friend, while there was a heap of young talent pushing through. All that was needed was a coach to continue Ivan Cleary's regime of strict discipline. McClennan could not provide that and the season has unravelled in a typically Warriors way.
The post-mortems are already being written for McClennan. He is done. With the finals on the line, his sides allowed 97 points in a fortnight and then got beaten by his predecessor who fielded a team with two debutants and six players who never played first grade football until this year.
Perhaps this quote from Elijah Taylor gives the best insight into why the Warriors have fallen apart: "The rules, his templates of football, his mindset. I think it's great for the way Polynesians and Maori play the game. A bit of ad lib, but hard-work football."
Ivan Cleary succeeded at the Warriors because he limited "ad lib" football. To succeed in the NRL, you have to play disciplined rugby league. The best guide to success over the last six years has been defence - the top defensive sides are inevitably playing off in the Grand Final. The Warriors have regressed from the 5th best defensive side to 13th. It has almost totally mirrored their fall in ladder position. You can't win long-term by playing touch football, by caring little for defence, by playing stupid. That is how the Warriors are playing this year.
If the Warriors want to succeed, they need a disciplinarian who eradicates ridiculous ad lib football and brings in the type of game that succeeds. Appeasing players isn't always the way and it is never the way at the Warriors.
The talk is Stephen Kearney. The man that should be looked at is Brian Smith. Smith has his limitations but is good at developing young talent, is a strict disciplinarian and loves coaching Polynesian and Maori players. Smith would help get the Warriors back on track and can undo the mess left by Brian McClennan.
Props to the Commission: Congratulations go out to John Grant and his team for saving City-Country and sending next year's Anzac Test to Canberra. The City-Country game is an integral part of the calendar and it was pleasing it was saved from the chopping block. Hopefully the ARLC continues its commitment to the country. And it was wonderful to see Canberra get given a Test. Canberra is the forgotten rugby league town and it is pleased to see it given a major game. Heaven knows, Nine refuse to show a match and the club refuses to act remotely professionally. Canberra has a great stadium and honest fans and deserves a push.
Half a Worry: Canterbury and South Sydney will need to defy 35 years of history if they are to go on to win the premiership. Not since the duo of Rod McGregor and John Bailey led St George to a 22-0 victory in the 1977 premiership decider has a club won a premiership without at least one halfback or five-eighth who had played representative football prior to the Grand Final. Neither Josh Reynolds or Kris Keating or John Sutton or Adam Reynolds have played state or international football. It is going to be a big barrier to overcome for two of the premiership's frontrunners.
Notes from the '91 Playoff: Fox Sports made my week and that of plenty others by showing the famous 1991 playoff game between Canterbury and Western Suburbs, the last ever mid-week playoff. The Bulldogs may have lost but it was wonderful to see the classic again. One player who got off lightly in that match was Scott Tronc, who did a number of dumb things that cost Canterbury. It was great to see Ewan McGrady in red-hot form though. Simon Gillies played it hard, Jonathan Davies was a star, Scott Burns made Paul Doolan look like Eric Grothe. Trevor Cogger looked like he was wheeled out in a chair while Andrew Farrar was very good after defecting from Canterbury that season. It was a super game though to this day it makes no sense why Bill Harrigan blew fulltime while Canterbury were on their way to scoring the winning try.
The Best Not to Represent: Last week we asked the question, who are the best players not to play either state or international rugby league in the Origin era. Here is that team, as nominated by the readers of From The Couch.
1. Luke Patten (282 games for Illawarra/St George Illawarra/Canterbury)
2. Nathan Merritt (196 games for Cronulla/South Sydney)
3. Paul Mellor (221 games for Souths/Cronulla/Canterbury)
4. Scott Gale (180 games for Wests/Easts/Balmain/Norths/Canberra)
5. Noa Nadruku (111 games for Canberra/North Queensland)
6. Craig Polla-Mounter (192 games for Canterbury)
7. Matt Orford (235 games for Northern Eagles/Melbourne/Manly/Canberra)
13. Alan Tongue (220 games for Canberra)
12. Paul Taylor (160 games for Parramatta/Penrith)
11. Micheal Luck (223 games for North Queensland/New Zealand)
10. Steve Edmed (157 games for Balmain/North Queensland)
9. Preston Campbell (267 games for Gold Coast/Cronulla/Penrith/Titans)
8. Todd Payten (259 games for Canberra/Roosters/Wests Tigers)
This Week's Facebook Question: Go to the Making The Nut Facebook page to vote on who is the greatest team to ever play the game. Was it the '75 Roosters? The '92 Broncos? The '07 Storm? The '81 Eels? The '60 Dragons? The '68 Bunnies? Log your vote.
Songs From The Rugby Lesague Collection: This week, "A Christmas Card from a Hooker in Canberra" by Tom Waits
Hey Charlie Saab, I'm a reserve grader
and living in Q-Town
right above the Central Cafe
off Crawford Street
and I stopped taking dope
and I quit drinking whiskey
and my old man blows differentials
and wonders why I haven't got the sack
and Furner says he loves me
even though i'm not his baby
and he says that he'll raise me up
like he would his own son
and he gave me a ring
but I'll never be a Furner
though he takes me out bench-warmin'
every saturday nite.
and hey Charlie Saab I think about you
everytime I see the No.17
on account of all the bench time
you used to wear in in home games
and I still have that record
of most missed tackles in a game
Nobody will break that record
how do you like that?
hey Charlie Saab I almost went crazy
after Berrigan got busted
so I went back to hooker to
miss some more tackles
but everyone I used to know
was either dead or at St George
so I came back to first grade
this time I think I'm gonna stay.
hey Charlie Saab I think I'm happy
for the first time in the top grade
and I wish I had all the money
that we used to spend on dope
I'd buy me a used car lot
and I wouldn't sell any of em
I'd just drop the keys to em all
every day dependin on how
hey Charlie Saab
do you want to know
the truth of it?
I don't have a contract
Furner don't play the Trav
and I need to borrow money
to get some decent hands
and Charley, hey
I'll beon the open market
for 2013 and beyond.
Injury Update: It is going to be tough going for the Wests Tigers from here on in with Robbie Farah unlikely to play again, at least in the regular season.
Matt Ballin (Manly): The Manly rake damaged his calf. Resilient, having not missed a game through injury in the last five seasons. Not a lot of depth at the Eagles in the hooking ranks.
Jamie Buhrer (Manly): Took a big concussion against the Knights but should be okay for Brisbane.
Josh Dugan (Canberra): Took a mighty whack from Anthony Minichiello. A little shook up but will not miss any time.
Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers): Broke his hand and looks likely to miss the rest of the year, a huge blow to the Tigers. Masada Iosefa will take his place.
Nathan Friend (New Zealand): Courageous Warriors hooker busted his shoulder early against the Panthers. Won't play again this year.
Jason King (Manly): Damaged his shoulder after only recently returning from a pectoral injury. Awaiting scans.
Sione Lousi (New Zealand): Knocked out early against Penrith, should be fine for next week though.
Sam Mataora (Canberra): The young Raiders prop has busted a finger and won't be seen again in 2013. Young Jarrad Kennedy should get more time.
Tim Moltzen (Wests Tigers): Dislocated a finger, which may explain his shocking game. Shouldn't miss any time though his first grade spot must be hanging by a thread.
Jason Nightingale (Dragons): Took a knock in the first half and wasn't seen in the second stanza. Didn't seem to be anything in it.
Ricky Thorby (North Queensland): Suffered a shin injury and it could keep him out a week on the short preparation.
David Williams (Manly): Suffered a leg injury and didn't see out the Newcastle game. Dean Whare is an able replacement.
Fun Fact : In the last 10 seasons, Parramatta have made the finals four times and had six coaches. The Wests Tigers have had just Tim Sheens yet have made the playoffs just three times and could miss out in 2012.
Fun Fact : Dimana Tahu in Bahasa Indonesian means "where's my tofu". Newcastle games make Indonesian vegetarians very hungry.
Fun Fact : Len Stacker is the only coach with a win percentage under 25 per cent to be hired by a second club. Stephen Kearney will become the second if hired by the Warriors.
The 2012 Willie M Medal: The Willie M Medal has cranked up a notch with voting in round 24 with Tim Moltzen, Mitchell Pearce and Chris Sandow all polling and are now tied for the lead with 18 votes. Moltzen was abhorrent against Canterbury and was given three votes by judges Nick Tedeschi and Matt Fisk. Pearce missed some key tackles and offered a very ordinary kicking game and picked up one vote from Nick Tedeschi. The winner of the 2010 Medal, Chris Sandow, was given three votes by Cliff Bingham. We have a wild ride to the finish.
Canterbury v Wests Tigers
3-Tim Moltzen (Tig)
2-Adam Blair (Tig)
1-Jonathan Wright (Bul)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi and Matt Fisk
Brisbane v Melbourne
3-Ben Hunt (Bri)
2-Gerard Beale (Bri)
1-Corey Parker (Bri)
Judge: Craig Finlayson
Canberra v Sydney Roosters
3-Braith Anasta (Roo)
2-Sam Williams (Can)
1-Mitchell Pearce (Roo)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi
Cronulla v South Sydney
3-Adam Reynolds (Sou)
2-John Sutton (Sou)
1-Ben Lowe (Sou)
Judge: Nathan Boss
New Zealand v Penrith
3-Lewis Brown (War)
2-Bill Tupou (War)
1-James Maloney (War)
Judge: Cliff Bingham
Gold Coast v Parramatta
3-Chris Sandow (Par)
2-Cheyse Blair (Par)
1-Kevin Gordon (GC)
Judge: Cliff Bingham
Manly v Newcastle
3-Timana Tahu (New)
2-Tyrone Roberts (New)
1-Chris Houston (New)
Judge: Cliff Bingham
St George Illawarra v North Queensland
3-Daniel Vidot (Dra)
2-Chase Stanley (Dra)
1-Jamie Soward (Dra)
18: Tim Moltzen (Tig), Mitchell Pearce (Roo), Chris Sandow (Par)
16: Cheyse Blair (Par), Ben Hornby (Dra), Ben Roberts (Par), Peter Wallace (Bri)
15: Timana Tahu (New)
14: James Maloney (War)
13: Blake Ferguson (Can), Ben Pomeroy (Cro)
12: BJ Leilua (Roo)
11: Braith Anasta (Roo), Brad Tighe (Pen)
Rumour Mill: The search for the new NRL CEO is reportedly town to three: Racing NSW boss Peter V'Landys, AFL second in charge Gil McLachlan and Panthers Group CEO Warren Wilson. V'Landys is the front-runner but McLachlan is still in the mix. Roosters coach Brian Smith is expected to be shunted to a coaching director role with Jason Taylor to take over. Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend is expected to join St George Illawarra next season in pursuit of an opportunity. Brian McClennan is expected to be replaced by Stephen Kearney at the Warriors.
1. Canterbury 17-5 (1)
2. Manly 14-8 (2)
3. Melbourne 15-7 (4)
4. South Sydney 14-8 (3)
5. North Queensland 13-9 (5)
6. Cronulla 12-9-1 (6)
7. Wests Tigers 11-11 (8)
8. Brisbane 11-11 (9)
9. Gold Coast 10-12 (10)
10. Newcastle 10-12 (7)
11. Canberra 11-11 (11)
12. St George Illawarra 9-13 (12)
13. Penrith 7-15 (16)
14. New Zealand 9-13 (13)
15. Sydney Roosters 7-14-1 (14)
16. Parramatta 6-16 (15)
What I Like About ... Josh Jackson: Canterbury have uncovered a real nice one in second rower Josh Jackson. The Gulgong product is a real goer, one who hits the line hard, knows how to get the ball away and always gets through his workload. Against the Tigers he made 38 tackles and made 10 runs, playing the entire 89 minutes. This kid looks like a superstar in the making.
Betting Market of the Week: Marika Korobiete fell over when untouched on Friday night because:
-He actually received a faint ankle tap: $41.00
-Lote Tuqiri was in the grandstand with a sniper rifle and a good shot: $3.50
-George Speight's forces were carrying out vengeance: $5.00
Moniker XIII of the Week: With Brian McClennan expected to be fired after just one year, we find the greatest Brians/Bryans in premiership history.
1. Brian Carlson (72 games for North Sydney)
2. Brian Bevan (7 games for Eastern Suburbs)
3. Brian Hetherington (230 games for Newtown/Illawarra)
4. Brian 'Chicka' Moore (173 games for Newtown)
5. Brian James (95 games for St George/South Sydney)
6. Brian 'Poppa' Clay (233 games for Newtown/St George)
7. Brian Smith (43 games for Balmain/Eastern Suburbs)
13. Brian Hambly (138 games for South Sydney/Parramatta)
12. Brian Davies (57 games for Canterbury)
11. Bryan Fletcher (170 games for Sydney Roosters/South Sydney)
10. Brian Lockwood (62 games for Canterbury/Balmain)
9. Bryan Fitzsimmons (4 Tests for Australia)
8. Bryan Orrock (113 games for South Sydney/St George)
Analysis: The Brians are a superstar outfit with three internationals left out. The only real weakness is halfback. The backline has two legends in Carlson and Bevan plus a champion in Clay. The pack has skill and hardness with all six playing for their country. Maybe the best named team outside of Andrew.
The Coaching Crosshairs: The coaching career of Brian McClennan will not extend beyond this season. The Warriors have become a rabble and former Parramatta boss Stephen Kearney is set to take his place. Kearney has reportedly already made moves to hire assistant coaches and is on his way to Auckland. It is a bad move but McClennan has not done enough to keep the job. There is no way he is around in 2013.
The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy shares a birthday with Roy Disney, Rod Stewart, George Foreman and Pat Benatar.
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 24: Canterbury-Wests Tigers, 23-22. An absolute classic that was sadly ruined by some dreadful officiating. This match held plenty of importance for both teams: Canterbury were chasing 12 straight wins while the Tigers needed a win to keep a grip on their spot in the eight. It was a belter that went to the business end of golden point, containing some scintillating Ben Barba brilliance and the further ascension of Josh Reynolds. The Tigers scrapped well but in the end, class told. What a beauty of a match.
Correspondence Corner: Mick K, Kris Keating was very close to getting Willie M votes against the Broncos - the next in line actually.
Witty Reference, it is astonishing that you can realise you made an error and not just send the play back to where it was.
Anonymous, I didn't see the whole Dragons-Tigers game. Craig Bellamy has been strongly linked to the Roosters - Sonny Bill won't like that. Phil Rothfield has built a career on cheap populism.
Anonymous, Daniel Fitzhenry was a terrible player and deserved his nomination.
Logos, yes, I didn't delve deeper into the Telegraph stats. I just took them at face value.
Rabby, hopefully Perth is given the same opportunity as Melbourne.
Dragons68, I don't think this refereeing situation is tied into gambling at all. I think it is more about "creating a spectacle" which rugby league does well enough as is.
Mav63, I would almost give Laurie Daley the NSW job just to get him off Fox Sports. Losing Andy Raymond would be a travesty.
Bluebags1908, I agree completely - meaningless field goals can become meaningful - and they are the best ones. I love an early field goal that seems pointless but becomes crucial.
Mike From Tari, yes, hopefully someone finds room for Dane Hogan as he has plenty of go in him. Love your Queensland Cup updates.
Ferret, I am not and have not argued for a challenge system that relies on the video referee. I have called for an NFL-like system where the referee on the field makes a decision and then uses a monitor to rule, only overturning based on overwhelming evidence. You can feel free to accept the current mediocrity like Crocker and Ikin. It is, of course, the rugby league way to say no to everything. But this system is worth a shot. And Des Hasler's style is successful so you can't argue with results.
Andrew, the great and glorious game, to quote Roy Masters, deserves every standing and we can't pass up giving a shot to that silly code when given a chance.
Beard Watch: The position doing the most for the beard in recent times is the hooker and it is great to see so many rakes donning a bit of facial hair. Robbie Farah is leading the way, with a nice full beard, while Cam Smith maintains his regular stubble, Isaac De Gois is getting his beard on nicely and we all know Kevin Kingston has a beauty in there somewhere. Rakes are where it's at.
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 go back to 1976 and the minor semi final between Canterbury and St George at the SCG. Lining up for the Berries were Steve Mortimer, Bob McCarthy, George Peponis, Phil Charlton and a plethora of Hughes' while for the Dragons, Billy Smith, Rod Reddy, Steve Edge and Robert Finch played. It was one-way traffic for Canterbury with the highlight being George Peponis' break. Watch it here.
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