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From The Couch: Round 25

One Wild Night: Enough with all the moralistic bullshit, the insufferable high and mighty vitriol, the hypocrisy offered by most of those who have been "outraged" at the "ugly" scenes on Friday night: there was not a single rugby league fan who did
From The Couch: Round 25
by NRL

One Wild Night: Enough with all the moralistic bullshit, the insufferable high and mighty vitriol, the hypocrisy offered by most of those who have been "outraged" at the "ugly" scenes on Friday night: there was not a single rugby league fan who didn't enjoy seeing Glenn Stewart and Adam Blair go at it.

It was violent. It was old school. It was Greg Dowling and Kevin Tamati, hammer and tongs, swinging wildly. It was rugby league, a fight for the true believers.

Don't get me wrong. I don't condone a lot of went on and I understand that kind of thing can be off-putting to those who don't follow the code. But all this jibber jabber about the league's image being ruined is such gross hyperbole it hardly warrants a response. It was a fight, it was one that got out of hand. It needs to be dealt with but it has not turned one fan away from the game. To the contrary, that kind of passion may well win some new eyes on the eve of the finals.

Let's break it down from the start.

Act One: Ryan Hinchcliffe, despite claims of it being accidental, elbowed Manly prop Darcy Lussick. Lussick whacked Hinchcliffe in the face. Lussick then slapped Hinchcliffe and it was on. Adam Blair then put an uppercut on Lussick's chin in his true third-man style. Stewart chimed in. The fight simmered down. Referee Shane Hayne did the right thing and sin binned Stewart and then Blair.

To this point, there was nothing too untoward and all had been handled correctly. It was a stink with a bit of grubbiness and that's it. No further penalties outside of the sin bin required.

Act Two: Glenn Stewart walks to the bin, looking over his shoulder, waiting for Blair. Blair jogs to Stewart. Blair allegedly says something. Stewart shouldered Blair. Stewart then attempts to drop Blair with a right hook. It is on again, one-on-one.

At this stage, I still don't see a lot wrong, outside of some procedural issues which have now been tidied up. Usually the first sin-binned is escorted off by a trainer but most of the Manly staff were with David Williams. Stewart was more culpable. He premeditated hitting Blair. He waited. But it was still one-on-one. It was enough for both to be sent but as far as any moral issue, there seemed little to worry about. At this stage, suspensions for those two should be a week to two.

Act Three: Manly players, on the right side of it all, charged at Blair. Brett Stewart launched himself. It was five-on-one with Blair cowering, looking for cover. Mayhem ensured. Melbourne bench players involved themselves. They didn't enflame the situation but they shouldn't have been involved.

This is where it gets real messy. The most culpable player here is Brett Stewart. He had violence on his mind and involved himself in a one-on-one duel. Stewart deserved the lengthiest suspension. He didn't get it. The rest of the Manly lot who charged in will also be lucky to escape suspension. That was where the game got ugly. Blair and Stewart deserve to be sidelined. As the NRL says, this can't be seen to be tolerated. But what they did was scrap and mostly one-on-one. They shouldn't be outed for the year, as looks likely, with the direct referral to the judiciary is a little over-the-top.

What will be done will be done but let's hope the judiciary doesn't get all Jim Comans on Stewart (Glenn) and Blair. This little stink didn't hurt the game an iota and those who claim it has just can't see the forest for the trees. We don't want rugby league going the way of the AFL and losing its hardness and its mettle all for the sake of the mythical soccer mum.

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Oh God, No: The hottest rumour to be doing the rounds regarding the Canterbury coaching job is that Jason Taylor is about to be offered the job with Daniel Anderson as his recruitment man. While I am all for Anderson, such is the contempt I hold Taylor in, dating all the way back to his playing days, that I would rather Ricky Stuart.

I couldn't stand Taylor as a player and it didn't take a genius to figure out why he held the record for most consecutive games for many years. A total of 276 games netted maybe 12 tackles and perhaps seven runs. Pass. Kick. Kick. Pass. Fall over. That was the Taylor way.

We certainly don't need that kind of rubbish at Canterbury either. We need a disciplinarian and a guy who gets his kicks from pissing in a jar and throwing it in the air at the cricket and from punching his second rower in the chops is not a real good example. Throw in his bitter temper tantrum that he threw at Michael Hagan, his 41-47-1 coaching record and the fact he is a disciple of Brian Smith and that should be three strikes and you're out.

While Jason Taylor is an undoubted moron who killed off three clubs in his playing days and would rate as one of the least desirable candidates for the Canterbury coaching job, he is not even close to the worst record of coaches who have coached from 1990 onwards. Just check out the list of mediocre mentors, calamitous coaches and brainless bosses below, who are all the coaches in the last 22 seasons to have a winning record under 40%, all 36 of them.

Graham Rogers (PEN) 0-1 0.0%
Grant Bell (NQ) 2-20 9.1%
Paul Langmack (SOU) 5-29-1 14.3%
John Harvey (GC) 10-54-2 15.2%
Wally Lewis (GC) 7-36-1 15.9%
Steve Bleakley (SQ) 4-18 18.2%
Murray Hurst (NQ) 6-21-2 20.7%
Bob Lindner (SQ) 9-33-1 20.9%
Stephen Kearney (PAR)* 5-17-1 21.7%
Arthur Kitinas (SOU) 3-9-1 23.1%
Shaun McRae (SOU) 12-35-1 25.0%
Ken Shine (SOU) 22-62-4 25.0%
John Bailey (WES)+ 17-46-3 25.8%
Rod Reddy (ADE) 7-20 25.9%
Hugh McGahan (ROO) 6-15-1 27.3%
Wayne Ellis (WES) 6-14-2 27.3%
Bob McCarthy (SOU/GC)+ 36-92-4 27.3%
Craig Coleman (SOU) 20-52 27.8%
Phil Economidis (GC) 20-48-2 28.6%
Shane Flanagan (CRO)* 9-21 30.0%
Frank Curry (SOU) 20-46 30.3%
Ron Hilditch (ILL/PAR) 41-86-4 31.3%
Terry Lamb (TIG) 16-33-1 32.0%
Kieran Dempsey (NOR) 8-16 33.3%
Tom Raudonikis (WES) 39-76-1 33.6%
Russell Fairfax (ROO)+ 15-27-2 34.1%
Tony Kemp (WAR) 13-24 35.1%
Wayne Pearce (BAL/TIG) 66-114-4 35.9%
Mark Graham (WAR) 18-30-2 36.0%
Alan Jones (BAL) 24-39-3 36.4%
Peter Sharp (MAN/NE) 46-76-2 37.1%
Mick Cronin (PAR) 33-53-2 37.5%
Frank Endacott (WAR) 16-26 38.1%
Allan McMahon (CAN/NEW/ILL)+ 44-62-6 39.3%
Peter Mulholland (WR) 17-25-1 39.5%
David Furner (CAN)* 29-44 39.7%

+ Includes records pre-1990
* Active coach

Making The Nut Poll: Be sure to vote in this week's Making The Nut poll: Who is the worst coach of the last 21 years? Culling the list down to 10 has been extraordinarily difficult with the likes of the little-known Steve Bleakley, the terrible Jason Taylor and the amusing Terry Lamb not even making the final nominees.

Last week's poll saw Steve Mascord (27%) pip Roy Masters (25%) as the most popular rugby league writer with Paul Kent (10%) running third. It is hard to argue with any of those.

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Eight Critical Last Round Games of the NRL Era: There is always something highly enjoyable about the last round, with finals spots on the line, minor premierships to be won, heartache to be felt, glory, however temporary, to be enjoyed. This week we have two matches to decide the minor premiership, the top four far from decided and a single game playoff for eighth spot. Here are the eight most important and memorable last round games of the NRL era.

1. Canterbury def. Illawarra 25-24 at Wollongong (1998)

The final Sunday of the 1998 season was a wild one with St George, Canterbury, Illawarra and Manly all chasing three finals spots along with Cronulla, who were hanging on grimly after downing the Gold Coast Chargers on the Saturday night 20-18. Results did not go Cronulla's way. St George drew 15-all with Parramatta to win eighth spot and Manly beat Auckland 38-12 in Auckland.

While all this was going on, Canterbury were playing Illawarra in Wollongong. Manly's likely win meant the Steelers were virtually eliminated but Sharks fans were desperately cheering them on. The equation was simple for Canterbury: win and they were in, lose and they were out with Cronulla set to run 10th.

It went right down to the wire. A Craig Polla-Mounter field goal in the dying minutes gave Canterbury a memorable 25-24 win. The Bulldogs went on to make an incredible run through the finals with extra-time wins over Newcastle and Parramatta before losing to Brisbane in the decider.

2. Newcastle def. Wests Tigers 26-24 at Homebush (2007)

The Tigers had disappointed in 2006 after their surprise premiership in 2005 and were again inconsistent in 2007, where they needed to win their final game of the season in front of 13,500 people to sneak into the eight.

They met a Newcastle team desperate to avoid the wooden spoon in a very even competition that saw the last placed team finish on 18 points, the highest of the NRL era.

The Tigers led 12-0 until just before the break when Cory Paterson stormed over for Newcastle and 24-12 with 10 minutes to play when two tries to the Knights in the final 10 minutes levelled the scores at 24-24. A Kurt Gidley penalty goal sealed it for the Knights and a year of disappointment for the Tigers, who wouldn't play finals football again until 2010.

3. Penrith def. Northern Eagles 68-28 at Brookvale Oval (2002)

After Canterbury were controversially removed from the competition three weeks earlier, New Zealand became surprise minor premiers when they defeated the Tigers 28-12 on the Friday night of the final round and watched on as Canterbury shocked the Broncos 25-18 and the Dragons stunned Newcastle 40-22, allowing the Warriors to leapfrog Brisbane and the Knights to finish top on for-and-against by eight points.

The real battle in that last round, however, was for the final two spots in the eight which had become a four-way battle between Canberra, Manly, Melbourne and St George-Illawarra. Canberra defeated Melbourne 25-16 on the Saturday night but could still miss out if both the Dragons and the Eagles won on the Sunday.

The Dragons, as noted, upset Newcastle 40-22 on the back of a Ben Hornby double but the Northern Eagles turned in a disgraceful showing against the 12th placed Penrith, losing 68-28, with their season on the line. The match was the second highest scoring of the NRL era with Rhys Wesser and Luke Lewis both scoring hat-tricks and Ryan Girdler scoring 28 points.

The Northern Eagles would never again play another game.

4. Penrith def. Parramatta 40-22 at Penrith Park (2003)

Penrith were the competition frontrunners heading into the final round of the 2003 season while their arch-rivals Parramatta were desperately hoping to slip into eighth spot with the two due to play each other to round out the regular season in front of a packed Penrith Park on the Sunday.

Brisbane's surprise 26-25 loss to St George-Illawarra on the Friday night meant Parramatta would need to win by 45 to sneak into the finals while a win for Penrith would be enough to secure the club's second minor premiership.

There would be no fairytale for Parramatta. A Rhys Wesser hat-trick gave the Panthers the double joy of eliminating Parramatta and holding aloft the J.J Giltinan Shield.

5. St George-Illawarra def. South Sydney 38-24 at Kogarah (2010)

The Saints and the Bunnies met in the last game of the regular season in front of a sold out Kogarah Oval with Wayne Bennett's men having already wrapped up the minor premiership and South Sydney needing an 18-point win to leapfrog Manly and win only their second finals appearance since 1989.

The cards had fallen South Sydney's way all weekend. Canberra had knocked off Brisbane, Manly had been shocked by Canterbury and the Wayne Bennett had decided to rest four stars, including captain Ben Hornby and hooker Dean Young.

The money came for the Bunnies all afternoon but it wasn't to be as the undermanned Dragons led 26-6 at half-time thanks to a Ben Creagh hat-trick inside of 17 minutes. It was all over for Souths, who eventually lost 38-24.

The Dragons went on to win the premiership, the first for the Red V in 31 seasons, while South Sydney entered 2011 as one of the competition favourites after a heavy recruiting spree but will face a similar must-win last round game this year.

6. Wests Tigers def. Canterbury 34-12 at Sydney Football Stadium (2009)

All Canterbury had to do to claim their first minor premiership in 16 seasons was to defeat a Tigers team whose final aspirations were dashed the week previous by the Titans. Across town St George-Illawarra, with a superior for-and-against were playing Parramatta but a win by Kevin Moore's team in his first season in charge would secure top spot.

Canterbury never looked likely. They were blown off the park by Benji Marshall as word came from Kogarah that the Dragons had touched up Parramatta 37-0. The Bulldogs would win in the opening week against Newcastle but lost the preliminary final to Parramatta two weeks later.

7. Canberra def. South Sydney 62-22 at Canberra Stadium (2004)

Heading into the last round of the 2004 season, the Raiders were smack bang in a battle with the Wests Tigers and Cronulla for eighth spot, all three teams being locked on 24 points.

It would all be decided across three cities on the Saturday night. The Tigers opened up the evening with a 26-16 loss to Newcastle. Tim Sheens' team still had hope of competing in their first finals match but needed the Sharks and the Raiders to lose. The Sharks complied, going down 36-20 to a North Queensland team ready for their first finals run. But the Raiders decimated the last-placed Bunnies 62-22 with winger Marshall Chalk, in his finest hour, scoring four tries and Clinton Schifcofske recording a personal haul of 20 points.

The Raiders were eliminated a week later by eventual Grand Finalists, the Sydney Roosters.

8. New Zealand def. Parramatta 28-6 at Parramatta Stadium (2008)

The minor premiership went down to the wire with Melbourne, Manly and Cronulla all finishing up on 38 points. It came down to 12 lousy for-and-against points and it was Melbourne who secured the crown on the Sunday afternoon with a 42-4 rout of the Bunnies after Manly had beaten Penrith and Cronulla had rolled the Cowboys on the Saturday.

It was the Warriors, however, who left the weekend the happiest with their 28-6 win over Parramatta securing them eighth spot. Newcastle had a chance to wrap up a spot on the Friday evening but were thumped 24-2 by the Broncos in Wayne Bennett's final season at the club.

The Knights would fall in if the Eels could roll the Warriors but it was never close with the Warriors running out comfortable 22-point winners. The Warriors then became the first eighth-placed team to roll a minor premier when beating Melbourne the week after. The Warrriors were eventually eliminated by Manly in the preliminary final while Melbourne lost the Grand Final 40-0.

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For AFL Use Only: I read with a good deal of disgust and more than a little concern that the AFL was buying off local councils in Western Sydney to zone certain ovals exclusive for AFL use, therefore preventing honest young kids from Sydney's west from enjoying rugby league and the like.

It is a disgrace that local councils would allow this to happen and worse, it is a total abhorrence that the NSW State Government has allowed this to go on. Sports minister Grahame Annesley should know better. Public land is public land and if you did a survey of what the people of Western Sydney wanted for their limited public ovals and parks, they would say rugby league and soccer fields, not AFL ovals.

The NRL should also be more than scared. The AFL is pursuing its scorched-earth policy. They are trying to force kids into playing the southern code and will stop at no ends to ensure it happens. League is the game of Sydney and always will be but the NRL cannot afford to let the AFL march in like this. The NRL must use a heavy hand and some reserve funds to fight the battle on the ground before the southern code gets a foothold in Western Sydney.

This is rugby league heartland and needs to be treated as same.

The battle is also on in the bush as Roy Masters points out in this article. But Roy, ever the optimist, thinks the AFL might be left vulnerable on its home turf. The fact the AFL has made an impact in Tamworth is terrifying but league is making inroads down south and hopefully, as Roy puts it, the ice will break.

Try of the Year: There have been some magical tries this year but it would be hard to argue against Ben Barba's somersault special. Barba has had his trials and tribulations this year but his attack cannot be questioned as seen in his try that defied both belief and gravity. Barba placed the ball down just inside the deadball line while mid-somersault, his entire body past the line. It was a truly remarkable try.

Do You Believe in Miracles? Canterbury fans will require either a draw in the Newcastle-Souths game or something approaching a 70-point win over Canberra for the honour of being molested by Melbourne next week, but you can't stop believing.

Tony Grimaldi, Back in the Action: Canterbury trainer Tony Grimaldi is a personal hero of this column and it was great to see him back in the action against Newcastle. Grimaldi, upset at a decision, argued with referee Matt Cecchin. The high-strung ref sent Grimaldi from the field.

Remember...John Croucher: One for the trainspotters, Croucher was Big League's Footytab guru. He used to punch selections out of the much-vaunted computer and deliver all the good oil, all with a delightful perm. Fans of Croucher will be pleased to know that Croucher is now a professor at Macquarie University with doctorates in history and statistics and is an internationally acclaimed speaker. He still has the perm. Attempts to find the whereabouts of his magical computer are unknown.

Remember...ET's Rugby League: It was the greatest rugby league computer game ever made. ET's Rugby League, put out 19 years ago, still stands the test of time for rugby league excellent. Sure, the graphics were simple and the game play easy but there was nothing like kicking a 45-metre field goal on the run with Ian Russell in a 9-3 win over Western Suburbs. Those looking for a nostalgia kick can probably download it somewhere. The internet is, of course, a beautiful place.

Meaningless Field Goal Update: Well done Robbie Farah. There is nothing like a one-pointer to send the margin from 28 to 29.

Injury Update: There were plenty of big injuries over the weekend with Greg Inglis' season-ending ankle injury the biggest of the lot.

Travis Burns (Penrith): The Panthers pivot took a head knock. The most surprising aspect of this was that doctors could tell.

Greg Inglis (South Sydney): Inglis was going to be the class the Bunnies needed to make a finals run but won't play again this season after doing significant damage to his ankle ligaments. The bad news is that Shaun Corrigan will likely play in the centres.

Dallas Johnson (North Queensland): Suffered a heavy concussion against the Sharks but will likely have his best game of the season against the Warriors as he loves a head knock.

Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Roosters): The Tricolours centre suffered a groin injury and may be put away for next year after a tough season.

Keith Lulia (Newcastle): Won't be seen in the red and blue again after hurting his knee.

Tim Mannah (Parramatta): The Eels prop strained his hamstring but should be right for the wooden spoon decider on Saturday night.

Tariq Sims (North Queensland): Suffered a nasty break with his impact on the fringes sure to be missed. Scott Bolton will likely take his spot. The break snapped both the tibia and fibula.

Brett Stewart (Manly): The Manly fullback strained his medial ligament in his knee and will miss a couple of weeks, likely to be coupled with a suspension for his involvement in the brawl.

Zane Tetevano (Newcastle): The young Knights backrower strained his hamstring and could miss this week's all-important clash with Souths.

Trent Waterhouse (Penrith): The Panthers backrower hobbled off with a serious knee injury and may have played his last game with Penrith.

David Williams (Manly): The Manly winger's horrible run of luck continued with Williams breaking his neck. His career is now in doubt with Williams unlikely to return until midway through next year if he does make it back.

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The 2011 Willie M Medal: The Willie M Medal will go right down to the wire with the judge for the Parramatta-Roosters game, Fire Up's Brett Oaten, awarding Jarryd Hayne two points. "Don't get fooled by his try", was the accompanying comment. Blake Ferguson, despite a questionable performance against the Panthers, avoided the judges' wrath with Grant Vickers keeping him out of the votes. If Hayne gets the three next week and Ferguson misses the votes, we have a tie. If not, Blake Ferguson will be awarded the second annual Willie M Medal.

Manly v Melbourne
3-Todd Lowrie (Mel)
2-Adam Blair (Mel)
1-Rory Kostjaysin (Mel)

Parramatta v Sydney Roosters
3-Fuifui Moimoi (Par)
2-Jarryd Hayne (Par)
1-Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Roo)

Canterbury v Newcastle
3-Zane Tetevano (New)
2-Sam Kasiano (Bul)
1-Isaac De Gois (New)

North Queensland v Cronulla
3-Anthony Tupou (Cro)
2-Albert Kelly (Cro)
1-James Segeyaro (Cow)

Canberra v Penrith
3-Reece Robinson (Can)
2-Sam Williams (Can)
1-Travis Burns (Pen)

St George-Illawarra v New Zealand
3-Dean Young (Dra)
2-Matt Prior (Dra)
1-Krisnan Inu (War)

Brisbane v South Sydney
3-Fetuli Talanoa (Sou)
2-Dave Taylor (Sou)
1-Peter Wallace (Bri)

Wests Tigers v Gold Coast
3-Clinton Toopi (GC)
2-Steve Michaels (GC)
1-Preston Campbell (GC)

Leaderboard:
22: Blake Ferguson (Can)
19: Jarryd Hayne (Par)
15: Jarrod Mullen (New)
14: Matt Orford (Can)
13: Preston Campbell (GC), Steve Michaels (GC), Clinton Toopi (GC)
12: Jamal Idris (Bul), Krisnan Inu (NZ), Michael Jennings (Pen), Robert Lui (Tig), Ben Pomeroy (Cro), Matt Utai (Tig)

Fun Fact : Steve Menzies is 37 years, 265 days old as of writing, three years and 102 days older than his coach at Catalans Trent Robinson.

Fun Fact : Menzies is one of three 37 year olds in Super League with rugby convert Gareth Thomas (Crusaders) and lock Stuart Howarth (Wakefield Trinity).

Power Rankings:
1. Melbourne (19-4) LW:1, R:1-4
2. Brisbane (17-6) LW:2, R:2-14
3. Manly (18-5) LW:3, R:2-13
4. St George-Illawarra (13-9-1) LW:5, R:1-5
5. New Zealand (13-10) LW:4, R:4-14
6. Wests Tigers (14-9) LW:6, R:3-9
7. North Queensland (14-9) LW:8, R:5-16
8. South Sydney (11-12) LW:7, R:7-13
9. Canterbury (11-12) LW:10, R:1-12
10. Newcastle (11-12) LW:9, R:5-11
11. Sydney Roosters (9-14) LW:11, R:5-16
12. Penrith (9-14) LW:13, R:8-16
13. Cronulla (7-16) LW:12, R:7-16
14. Gold Coast (6-17) LW:14, R:9-16
15. Canberra (6-17) LW:15, R:8-16
16. Parramatta (5-17-1) LW:16, R:8-16

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Round 26 Selection Notes:
St George-Illawarra: Can be no excuses this week with the Dragons virtually at full strength.

Penrith: There will be no farewell from the NRL for Trent Waterhouse.

Newcastle: Kurt Gidley goes back to fullback with Ryan Stig starting in the No,6 jersey. Matt Hilder goes to the bench after overcoming his head gash.

South Sydney: Shaun Corrigan and Chris McQueen will line up in the centres, one of South Sydney's worst ever centre pairings. Roy Asotasi is some chance of a return though he hasn't been named.
New Zealand: Alehana Mara comes in for the injured Aaron Heremaia while Lewis Brown has again been named 18th man.

North Queensland: Gavin Cooper starts for Tariq Sims with Ashton taking his brother's spot in the 17.

Cronulla: Ben Pomeroy has again been dumped but will again likely receive a late call-up.

Wests Tigers: The Tigers are unchanged from their big Monday night win though Lote Tuqiri is in some doubt.

Gold Coast: No changes for the Titans though injury prevented much change at any rate.

Parramatta: Jarryd Hayne has again been named at five-eighth but will likely play at fullback with Luke Burt shifting to the halves. Tim Mannah is under an injury cloud.

Canterbury: Nothing of note out of Belmore this week.

Canberra: Danny Galea starts in the centres for the Raiders this week while Josh Miller won't get a farewell game in the lime green.

Brisbane: Ben Hannant will again start from the bench for the Broncos.

Manly: The Eagles have been decimated by suspension with Will Hopoate at fullback, Michael Oldfield onto the wing, Jamie Buhrer in his first game at five-eighth, Joe Galuvao at prop and Daniel Harrison likely to get the starting lock spot.

Sydney Roosters: Shaun Kenny-Dowall hasn't come up with Phil Graham to play his last game for the Tricolours on the wing.

Melbourne: Cooper Cronk returns for the Storm in an important return. Todd Lowrie starts in place of Adam Blair.

Rumour Mill: There have been a number of rumours doing the rounds in regards the Dragons with Darius Boyd believed to have fallen out with senior players over his decision to join Newcastle as well as a number of personal issues. One suggested he came to blows with Jason Nightingale while others suggest he and Dean Young exchanged heated words. The Roosters are going to fire Todd Carney. They are just stalling until the end of the season so as not to create any more disruption. Leeds are reportedly close to releasing Danny Buderus with Buderus certain to sign on with the Knights. There is some chance that Canterbury will have co-coaches next year with Terry Lamb and Jim Dymock offering themselves as a package.

Betting Market of the Week: In 2012, Todd Carney will be:

Playing football for the Roosters: $5.00
Playing football in France: $4.25
Becoming mayor of Goulburn: $41.00
Working for the RTA teaching safety courses: $51.00
Smashing beers and feeling sorry for himself: $1.50

What I Like About...Greg Eastwood: I like that Brett Oaten, he of Fire Up infamy, has given Eastwood the best nickname in league: "The Butch Nurse". Stick your head into The Sly Fox on a Friday night and tell me you don't see 12 Eastwood's.

Moniker XIII of the Week: On request, this week we look at the best X,Y,Z team of all-time.

The X,Y,Zs

1. Anthony Xuereb (34 games for Penrith/Western Suburbs)
2. Nick Yakich (7 seasons for Manly)
3. Nick Zisti (72 games for South Sydney/St George/Hunter/Cronulla)
4. Kevin Yow Yeh (41 games for Balmain)
5. Jharal You Yeh (51 games for Brisbane)
6. William Zillman (91 games for Canberra/Gold Coast)
7. Scott Zahra (6 games for Gold Coast)
13. Peter Young (4 seasons for Western Subrubs)
12. Lew Zivanovic (116 games for Penrith)
11. Charles York (6 seasons for Balmain)
10. Grant Young (42 games for South Queensland/Auckland)
9. Dean Young (183 games for St George-Illawarra)
8. Craig Young (234 games for St George)

X,Y,Z analysis: Clearly the weakest of the teams we have looked at but still some good players. Craig Young was one of the top props of his era while his son Dean is a quality hooker. Jharal Yow Yeh and Charles York both represented Australia. William Zillman and Lew Zivanovic are/were good first graders. Kevin Yow Yeh was reportedly one of the top potential centres of his time.

Obscure Score of the Week: New York Knights-Connecticut Wildcats, 38-4, AMNRL Grand Final. The Guillaume Cieuta-coached Knights won their second AMNRL title in three years with a comprehensive victory over the Wildcats at Pier 40 Stadium in New York on a wet evening.

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Coaching Stocks:
5: Craig Bellamy: A bad loss for the Storm but I doubt Bellamy will be too upset
5: Des Hasler: Has done a remarkable job with Manly this year, huge win v Storm
4.5: Anthony Griffin: Locked in third spot in his debut season with little prep
4.5: Ivan Cleary: Cleary has every right to be frustrated at refereeing v Dragons
4.5: Tim Sheens: Hitting form at the right time with a top four spot likely
4: Wayne Bennett: Dragons far from impressive but at least scored a big win
3: John Lang: The Bunnies were honest against Brisbane but aren't a finals team
2.5: Neil Henry: The most disappointing win of the season, lucky to get the two
2: Rick Stone: The Knights are fading fast and their blown lead v Dogs was awful
1.5: Steve Georgallis: There is no questioning the fight of the Panthers under him
1.5: Jim Dymock: Dogs looked hopeless but clicked big time second half to win
-1: Shane Flanagan: Excellent showing early v Cowboys with more life to team
-1: Brian Smith: The Roosters are looking half decent without Carney to concern
-2: John Cartwright: Poor old Carty has none of the answers and no players
-6: Stephen Kearney: It is unlikely that he had visions of the wooden spoon
-15: David Furner: Lost in Tonguey's last game, a horrid embarrassment

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy was again a late inclusion for the Sharks and managed a real contribution with a mighty 50 metres on seven touches and four missed tackles. How many times will fate intervene on the side of the Special Needs Penguin?

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 25: Manly-Melbourne, 18-4. The result may have been a comfortable win to the Sea Eagles but this was a match that will long be remembered. It started off normal enough, or at least as normal as you would expect a match between the top two teams in the league, who loathe each other. But it all got wild soon after an act of great kindness by Billy Slater and Anthony Quinn, who looked after an injured David Williams. It started with a Ryan Hinchcliffe elbow to Darcy Lussick, which saw Adam Blair lay a cheap punch and then Glenn Stewart lose his bottle. We got the old fashioned 12-on-12 when both were binned before Stewart waited for Blair on the sideline and was duly welcomed with another blue, both players being dismissed. The loss of Stewart hurt Manly more than the loss of Blair hurt the Storm but Melbourne had no Cooper Cronk and Manly proved just a little too strong.

Fantasy Team of the Week:
1. Darius Boyd (Dra)
2. Brett Morris (Dra)
3. Jamie Lyon (Man)
4. Mark Gasnier (Dra)
5. Beau Ryan (Tig)
6. Benji Marshall (Tig)
7. Chris Sandow (Sou)
13. Corey Parker (Bri)
12. Chris Heighington (Tig)
11. Nathan Hindmarsh (Par)
10. Jason Ryles (Roo)
9. Issac Luke (Sou)
8. Kade Snowden (Cro)

14. Sam Thaiday (Bri)
15. Josh McCrone (Can)
16. Jason Taumalolo (NQ)
17. Glenn Hall (NQ)

Waiver Wire Advice: With Glenn Stewart sure to be suspended this week and Joe Galuvao a question mark this week, expect Shane Rodney to play big minutes. He is coming off his best game this season, where he made 178 metres off 17 runs to go with 26 tackles and four tackle breaks. At $175,000 he is a nice cheap option for Grand Finals this week.

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Correspondence Corner: Mark McGrath, regarding South Sydney's culture, you do make a fair point about Todd Carney and perhaps my judgement of the club is a remnant of days gone by. You are right on the no dickheads so for that I apologise. But the culture of winning, always putting your best foot forward, being prepared, just isn't there yet, at least to my eye.

Grievous and Mike From Tari, we will never know until it happens but I believe I would be as critical of David Stagg (my favourite player) as I was of Issac Luke. Regular readers of this column know that, despite my affection for Canterbury, they are not spared from my wrath and readers of this column for the last six years will know my attack on divers dates back a long time, from Ray Cashmere and Ben Creagh and Paul Gallen right through to now. So I believe that if it was a Canterbury player in a Grand Final, I would be just as angry because the game and how it is played is more important than anything else.

Anna, Frank Pritchard has improved the last few weeks since Jim Dymock has taken the reins but he is rarely giving 100 per cent and I find that intolerable. He has not lived up to what he has to offer.

Mitch, we don't live in a totalitarian society and I don't need to blindly accept as golden all those who play and are Canterbury. I don't rate Utai. I don't rate Roberts. I think Pritchard has a ton of ability but rarely shows it. I think Dymock is a traitor to the club.

Darren, Jim Dymock should never have been allowed to coach Canterbury. Ever. He sued the club and defected to Parramatta. How has that been forgotten?

Green Eyed, I appreciate your anti-diving passion. It must be rubbed out. Immediately.

Darren, Allan McKean may have been ordinary but there have been some bad ones. Antonio Kaufusi, Carl Webb, Aaron Raper, Jim Sedaris, Mark Hohn and Michael Buettner may have something to say about being the worst of the lot.

Nick, Aiden Tolman has probably been Canterbury's best player this year. You couldn't have summed up my thoughts on Pritchard et al any better either. These players have all the natural ability and rarely any of the passion and I simply cannot abide by people who make a living off the game and don't care about it.

AJL, I hope you are right about Karma. I prefer my punishments swifter and more obvious, but I will take some long-term universal balance retribution. I hadn't linked the Soward dive to the Eels loss either but you are right. It may have cost them the 2009 title.

Kalvin, Ben Pomeroy has never offended me personally outside of assaulting my senses every time I watch a Cronulla game.

Dragons68, I try to offer a balance between the positives and the negatives, the history and the issues, the on the field and off. Trawl my articles and you will find I have been incredibly harsh and vigilant on match fixing, calling for life-time bans for offenders and demanding the NRL introduce an integrity office. Yes, I work for Betfair. I have previously worked for Sports Alive, Racing Odds and Portlandbet and also have ties to Flemington Sportsbet and Luxbet. I believe that the sports betting industry should be further deregulated and I don't believe match fixing is widespread but when there have been instances, I have been as hard as anyone. So I won't sit here and be accused of being a hypocrite, at least on that front. I will continue to talk about the good?but for the good of the world, I will get the bad off my chest as well. Do with that what you will.

Doubter, thanks for your kind words. They are very much appreciated. I am not a mainstream journalist. I am an independent columnist just doing my thing. And I'm glad you appreciate it.

Beard Watch: Was that Clinton Toopi or Richard Pryor in the centres for the Titans on Monday night? Both don a nice moustache but I suspect Richard Pryor in his current state would be more useful in defence.

Watch It: Ewan McGrady played only 61 first grade games over five seasons, being a regular in first grade in only three seasons. But he was a magical player, a star with the ball and a speedy tryscoring wizard who won the Rothman's Medal in 1991. He was like a flaming comet in the sky. Watch the best of his work right here.

www.makingthenut.com


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