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From The Couch: Round 26

Congratulations Tim Moltzen, Ben Roberts and Chris Sandow: On a weekend of high drama for the Willie M Medal, the Wests Tigers' Tim Moltzen polled two votes in the loss to Melbourne while Ben Roberts received two votes and Chris S
From The Couch: Round 26
by NRL

Congratulations Tim Moltzen, Ben Roberts and Chris Sandow: On a weekend of high drama for the Willie M Medal, the Wests Tigers' Tim Moltzen polled two votes in the loss to Melbourne while Ben Roberts received two votes and Chris Sandow one in the final game of the year to lead to a three-way tie for the 2012 Willie M Medal.

It is Sandow's second Willie M Medal, after the Eels halfback won the inaugural award with South Sydney in 2010.

On an unprecedented weekend, the Parramatta halves duo and Wests Tigers fullback all recorded votes on the final weekend to win rugby league's most dubious honour.

Moltzen and Sandow both posted votes in 10 games, each winning four worst on ground efforts, while Roberts posted in nine games and also had four worst on ground performances.

Moltzen played all 24 game for the Tigers and committed 17 errors and missed 44 tackles, struggling under the high ball all season while offering very little support at the back.

Roberts was actually dropped throughout the season but managed 19 games, making the award all the more remarkable. In his first season at the Eels, he combined 24 handling errors and an average of over two missed tackles a game with a horrible kicking game, poor options and astonishingly bad defensive reads. His game against the Tigers was one of the worst ever.

Sandow, a perennial vote-getter, returned to his best in 23 games for his new club. Signed on a big-money deal, he contributed 24 errors and 5.5 missed tackles with a general disinterest in playing rugby league.

Congratulations goes out to all three as well as Tim Sheens, Stephen Kearney and Brad Arthur. Their names are now etched in history, forever linked with mediocrity, below par rugby league, stupidity, gutlessness and a general lack of ability.

Willie M Rollcall of Honour
2010: Chris Sandow (Sou)
2011: Blake Ferguson (Can)
2012: Tim Moltzen (Tig), Ben Roberts (Par), Chris Sandow (Par)

Newcastle v South Sydney
3-Adam Cuthbertson (New)
2-Timana Tahu (New)
1-Akuila Uate (New)
Judge: Craig Finlayson

Brisbane v Penrith
3-Lachlan Coote (Pen)
2-Corey Norman (Bri)
1-Andrew McCullough (Bri)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

Gold Coast v Manly
3-William Zillman (GC)
2-Steve Michaels (GC)
1-Jamie Lyon (Man)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

Canterbury v Sydney Roosters
3-Tautau Moga (Roo)
2-Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Roo)
1-Nafe Seluini (Roo)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

Wests Tigers v Melbourne
3-Benji Marshall (Tig)
2-Tim Moltzen (Tig)
1-Chris Lawrence (Tig)
Judge: Matthew Fisk

New Zealand v Canberra
3-Konrad Hurrell (War)
2-Feleti Mateo (War)
1-Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Can)
Judge: Matt Tedeschi

Cronulla v North Queensland
3-Ben Pomeroy (Cro)
2-John Morris (Cro)
1-Nathan Stapleton (Cro)
Judge: Nathan Boss

Parramatta v St George Illawarra
3-Luke Burt (Cro)
2-Ben Roberts (Par)
1-Chris Sandow (Par)
Judges: Nick Tedeschi, Matt Fisk, Aaron Marriott, Rohan Kendall and Cliff Bingham

Final 2012 Leaderboard
21: Tim Moltzen (Tig), Ben Roberts (Par), Chris Sandow (Par)
18: Mitchell Pearce (Roo)
17: Timana Tahu (New)
16: Cheyse Blair (Par), Ben Hornby (Dra), Ben Pomeroy (Cro), Peter Wallace (Bri)
15: Lachlan Coote (Pen), James Maloney (War)
13: Blake Ferguson (Can), William Zillman (GC)
12: BJ Leilua (Roo)
11: Braith Anasta (Roo), Brad Tighe (Pen)

The Willie M Team of the Year: The team of the year is in and it looks hideous and an accurate reflection of the worst team of the year. Parramatta lead the way with three players, followed by the Wests Tigers, Canberra and Newcastle with two members each. In the team for the second straight year are winger Blake Ferguson and prop Jason Ryles.

1. Tim Moltzen (Tigers - 21)
2. Cheyse Blair (Parramatta - 16)
3. Timana Tahu (Newcastle - 17)
4. Ben Pomeroy (Cronulla - 16)
5. Blake Ferguson (Canberra - 13)
6. Ben Roberts (Parramatta -21)
7. Chris Sandow (Parramatta - 21)
13. Mark Minichiello (Gold Coast - 10)
12. Adam Cuthbertson (Newcastle - 10)
11. Adam Blair (Tigers - 10)
10. Jason Ryles (Melbourne - 10)
9. Mitch Rein (Dragons - 10)
8. Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Canberra - 9)

Willie M Club-by-Club:
Brisbane
Total votes: 74
Top votegetters: Peter Wallace (17), Gerard Beale (7)
Last year's winner: Jack Reed (6 - tie for third)

Canberra
Total votes: 75
Top votegetters: Blake Ferguson (13), Jarrod Croker (10)
Last year's winner: Blake Ferguson (13 - first)

Canterbury
Total votes: 37
Top votegetters: Michael Ennis (8), Sam Kasiano (7)
Last year's winner: Jamal Idris (left club)

Cronulla
Total votes: 65
Top votegetters: Ben Pomeroy (16), Todd Carney (9)
Last year's winner: Ben Pomeroy (16 -first)

Gold Coast
Total votes: 66
Top votegetters: William Zillman (13), Steve Michaels (10), Mark Minichiello (10)
Last year's winner: Clinton Toopi (retired)

Manly
Total votes: 59
Top votegetters: Brent Kite (8), David Williams (7)
Last year's winner: Steve Matai (1 - tied for 17th)

Melbourne
Total votes: 53
Top votegetters: Jason Ryles (10), Sisa Waqa (6)
Last year's winner: Kevin Proctor (2 - tied for 8th)

Newcastle
Total votes: 91
Top votegetters: Timana Tahu (17), Adam Cuthbertson (10)
Last year's winner: Jarrod Mullen (3 - tied for 11th)

New Zealand
Total votes: 88
Top votegetters: James Maloney (15), Konrad Hurrell (9), Shaun Johnson (9)
Last year's winner: Krisnan Inu (4 -tied for 8th before leaving club)

North Queensland
Total votes: 60
Top votegetters: Ashley Graham (8), Antonio Winterstein (8)
Last year's winner: Ray Thompson (1 - 15th)

Parramatta
Total votes: 104
Top votegetters: Ben Roberts (21), Chris Sandow (21)
Last year's winner: Jarryd Hayne (1 - tied for 14th)

Penrith
Total votes: 75
Top votegetters: Lachlan Coote (15), Brad Tighe (11)
Last year's winner: Michael Jennings (6 - tied for 4th)

St George Illawarra
Total votes: 81
Top votegetters: Ben Hornby (16), Mitch Rein (10)
Last year's winner: Jamie Soward (9 - tied for 3rd)

South Sydney
Total votes: 57
Top votegetters: John Sutton (7), Dave Taylor (7)
Last year's winner: John Sutton (7 - tied for 1st)

Sydney Roosters
Total votes: 90
Top votegetters: Mitchell Pearce (18), BJ Leilua (12)
Last year's winner: Justin Carney (did not poll), Jason Ryles (left club)

Wests Tigers
Total votes: 82
Top votegetters: Tim Moltzen (21), Adam Blair (10)
Last year's winner: Robert Lui (left club), Matt Utai (6 - tied for 5th)

The Moment of 2012: Nathan Hindmarsh understands rugby league. He gets it. The man who gave it all on the paddock but understood when it was time to have a laugh and pay homage to the great game. So it was in his final moment on a rugby league field. With the Eels down 29-6, the Eels received a penalty 25 metres out, halfway between touch and the posts. Hindmarsh took the two, though luckily got the shot in only after Tim Mannah stopped moron Ben Roberts from taking the quick tap. Hindmarsh then called for the sand, added some water, pulled his socks up and calmly slotted it to leave the score 29-8. He laughed. We all laughed. It was a fitting way for a total champion to leave, an old school act from one of the most admirable champions of his generation.

Closing Words for Some Rugby League Champions: This year we have seen some real legends say farewell to the Greatest Game of All, having played their last game. I could pontificate for 20,000 words on these champions. I won't. Rather, I'll offer just a few sentences on the character of these men and the memories they left.

Nathan Hindmarsh: A warrior in every sense of the word, there have been few greater competitors. A player from the old school, Hindmarsh became the pre-eminent defender in the game for a decade, leading from the front and by example. There has been no more popular player to ever play the game.

Luke Burt: Not fast, not strong, not overly spectacular but forever reliable. You never wanted Luke Burt taking an important kick against you. He would nail it every time.

Dean Young: There have been few tougher men play the game. The guy has been a cripple for most of his career and even overcame a golden staph infection to play on. Few players have got more out of their body.

Ben Hornby: One of the NRL's good guys, Hornby was one of those quiet leaders who was a deserved premiership captain in 2010. A skilful player with plenty of heart, Hornby will forever be revered by fans of the Red V.

Colin Best: My fondest memory of Colin Best was watching him in 2008 when I still lived in Canberra, a key player in a very entertaining team. Unlucky not to play rep footy, Best was a survivor. When I think of Best, I think reliable.

Petero Civoniceva: The man mountain prop rates as one of the top bookends to ever play the game. Remarkably free of injury for most of his career, Big Pet just lead from the front. Few players bent the line as much. Always stepped up. There is no more apt image of him than seeing him belt into the line, defenders falling backwards as the man mountain pushes through.

Micheal Luck: Grizzled. That is what Micheal Luck became. No player more readily bled for his team that the tough Cowboys and Warriors lock. Without question, one of the real tough bastards of the NRL. Would have played forever if his body allowed it.

Aaron Payne: Wiley and sharp, Payne never got a lot of kudos at the Cowboys but like Paul Bowman before him, was the man who was always there.

Scott Geddes: Never had much luck with injury but had plenty of size and was one of the few decent propositions during those dark days after the Bunnies returned to the premiership.

Dally M Predictions: Who will win league's biggest awards ...

Player of the Year: Ben Barba - an absolute certainty who will win by a likely margin of 5-7 points. Has been unchallenged as the top player in the game. Will be the first Bulldog since Ewan McGrady in 1991 to win league's top individual honour.

Fullback: Ben Barba - In what has been a down year for fullbacks, Barba has shone with only Greg Inglis coming close to his form.

Wing: Ashley Graham - Winger can only really be measured by tries so the nod goes to Graham, who managed 21. Jason Nightingale should give him a run.

Centre: Josh Morris - Has become a model of consistency under Des Hasler, where he scored 17 tries and became a defensive powerhouse. Jamie Lyon will go close after another classy year.

Five-Eighth: Johnathan Thurston - Todd Carney has claims after the Sharks' turnaround this year but he has not had the consistency of Thurston/

Halfback: Cooper Cronk - Should win his third Halfback of the Year gong after another outstanding season. No real challengers. A down year for No.7s.

Lock: Shaun Fensom - The Canberra lock has quietly gone about his business and has been a workhorse off the ball and well-improved with it.

Second Row: Nate Myles - Not a lot of people have seen Myles but he has performed at an exceptional level all season. Genuine workhorse.

Prop: Sam Kasiano - Has been magnificent since Des Hasler arrived, showing some deft skill to go with his powerhouse running.

Hooker: Cameron Smith - Didn't stand out but rarely does as he does everything at a high level all the time. Without question, the best rake of all-time.

Captain: Jamie Lyon - Manly were on the rocks heading into this season but Lyon got the premiers united and the Eagles are now favoured to go back-to-back.

Coach: Des Hasler - Michael Maguire has claims but Hasler has improved every Bulldog and took a fringe-eight team to their first minor premiership in 18 years.

Rookie: Adam Reynolds - By the length of the straight and then some ...

Well Done Cronulla: The Sharks have finally got that infamous development through and have secured their future. Good luck to the boys from The Shire. It has been a long time coming.

Shoulder Charge Stupidity: The ARLC must have lost the plot to launch a crackdown on the shoulder charge on the eve of the finals series. It looks set to cost Ben Pomeroy the 2012 finals series. It could take out a bigger name.

This whole reaction to the shoulder charge is cheap populism. Greg Inglis' penalty was way too harsh. Pomeroy's will be even more absurd.

The shoulder charge is part of rugby league. There are rules in place protecting the head. A breach of those rules and there are consequences. There is no need to launch a crackdown on the eve of the finals.

It has met with widespread criticism across the game. Rightly so. This is the height of madness.

An Embarrassment to the Game: The New Zealand Warriors have embarrassed the game and themselves over the last two months of the premiership season and have set any in-roads the code made last year in New Zealand back with their pathetic, spineless, morose football. In a quarter-century of watching rugby league, I have seen few teams try less. Their effort to concede 36 points in a half of football to Canberra was beyond embarrassing. James Maloney can leave the Warriors knowing he turned in a gutless performance over most of his last year - the worst of a horrid bunch. Few can hold their heads up. Ben Matulino perhaps. Micheal Luck. It was a shameful effort.

Turning Up: It was outstanding to see the NRL break its record crowd number for a season this year along with setting the highest regular season crowd mark with the 45,000-plus who turned up to say goodbye to four retiring legends. A total of 3,151,660 punters turned up to NRL fixtures this year and the number will just rise over the coming years as membership becomes more engrained in the code. The game is on the up and up ... let's hope those in charge of nurtuting the code can keep the trajectory.

A Rugby League Brownlow: It was pleasing to get word that the ARLC are looking into instituting their own official best and fairest award from 2013, bringing back an equivalent to the old Rothmans Medal or the AFL's Brownlow Medal. The Dally M Medal certainly has some prestige to it - but the simple fact remains, it is a media award and the drama of the evening is ruined by votes being made public over the first two-thirds of the season. An official award should be a real priority. Let's hope it comes off. The game could do a lot worse, too, than name the award after Nathan Hindmarsh, one of rugby league's true champions.

Songs From The Rugby League Collection: This week "Warren Boland the Headless Thompson Gunner", a tribute to the great Wests winger and ABC caller.

Warren Boland was a warrior from the Land of the Lidcombe Sun
With a moustache punt for hire, fighting to be done
The deal was made in Lidcombe on a dark and stormy day
So he set out for Belmore to join the bloody fray

Through seventy-nine and eighty they fought the Fibro war
Fingers on their triggers, knee-deep in gore
For days and nights they battled the Eagles to their knees
They killed to earn their living and to help out the suburbanese

Warren Boland the Thompson gunner...

His comrades fought beside him - Donnelly and the rest
But of all the Thompson gunners Boland was the best
So the Eagles decided they wanted Boland dead
That son-of-a-bitch Les Boyd blew off Boland's head

Boland the headless Thompson gunner
They can still see his headless body stalking through the night
In the muzzle flash of Boland's Thompson gun
In the muzzle flash of Boland's Thompson gun

Boland searched the continent for the man who'd done him in
He found him in Cootamundra in a barroom drinking gin
Boland aimed his Thompson gun - he didn't say a word
But he blew Les Boyd's body from there to Johannesburg

Boland the headless Thompson gunner...

The eternal Thompson gunner, still wandering through the night
Now it's ten years later but he still keeps up the fight
In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine and Berkeley
Brendan Hurst heard the burst of Boland's Thompson gun
And bought it

Injury Update: The biggest injury concern heading into the first week of the finals is Todd Carney, who went down with an ankle injury against the Cowboys.

Todd Carney (Cronulla): Hurt his ankle against the Cows and it is in doubt for the final against the Raiders. Probably 70-30 at this stage.

Will Chambers (Melbourne): Did his hamstring against the Tigers and is almost certain to miss the clash with the Rabbitohs.

Fun Fact : Nathan Hindmarsh retires as the player with the second most losses in premiership history with 152 - two short of Gold Coast's Scott Prince. Third is Steve Menzies with 149.

Fun Fact : With the retirement of Nathan Hindmarsh, Petero Civoniceva, Colin Best and Casey McGuire, only Scott Prince, Joe Galuvao and Danny Buderus remain from the 1998 season. Prince and Galuvao are the last active players to have taken on the Adelaide Rams.

Fun Fact : Adrian Vowles has the worst record of any premiership player with 50 games experience, winning just 12 of 79 games in a career that encompassed stints with the Gold Coast and North Queensland.

Rumour Mill: Tim Sheens has been linked to a move to the Warriors. The Auckland-based club has targeted Craig Bellamy but the Storm coach has another year to run on his contract and is more likely to move to the Dragons or Roosters with the Dragons a much better fit as Bellamy has a string sense of history. Gillon McLachlan will be the next boss of the NRL if he wants the job but he is unlikely to move, if his comments over the weekend are anything to go by. The return of Sonny Bill Williams to the NRL is not a done deal yet. Hopefully he stays away. Brian Smith will not be coaching the Roosters in 2013 but is likely to stay at the club as a coaching director. Jason Taylor is favoured to take over. Cronulla are chasing ex-Bronco and Warrior Joel Moon.

Power Rankings:
1. Manly 16-8 (1)
2. Canterbury 18-6 (2)
3. South Sydney 16-8 (3)
4. Melbourne 17-7 (4)
5. North Queensland 15-9 (5)
6. Canberra 13-11 (7)
7. Brisbane 12-12 (8)
8. Cronulla 12-11-1 (6)

What I Like About ... Coloured In-Goals: Gee it was wonderful to see Nathan Hindmarsh sent out with specially coloured in-goals during the last game of the season. There was no sponsorship ... just a "Farewell Hindy". The Eels can't do much right but they sure did a tremendous job sending out club legends Hindmarsh and Luke Burt. The coloured in-goal adds a sense of occasion to a game and it would be good to see them used more often for finals and in Origin and Test match footy.

Betting Market of the Week: The first item donated to the new rugby league museum from the 2012 season will be:

- Nathan Hindmarsh's shorts: $6.50
- Rugby League's testicles, donated by David Gyngell: $4.50
- Ricky Stuart's love letters to Ben Creagh: $2.20
- The list of Parramatta's recruits, 2009-12: $1.50

Moniker XIII of the Week: This week we ditch the moniker and put together the all-time games played without playing state or international football:

1. Luke Patten (281 games for Canterbury)
2. Luke Burt (264 games for Parramatta)
3. Colin Best (260 games for Cronulla/Dragons/Canberra/Souths)
4. Paul Mellor (221 games for Souths/Cronulla/Canterbury)
5. Michael Robertson (209 games for Canberra/Manly)
6. Preston Campbell (268 games for Gold Coast/Cronulla/Penrith/Titans)
7. Craig Coleman (266 games for Souths/Gold Coast/Wests)
13. Jeff Hardy (245 games for Illawarra/St George)
12. John Cross (265 games for Illawarra/Penrith/St George Illawarra)
11. Paul Marquet (231 games for Newcastle/Hunter/Melbourne)
10. John Skandalis (249 games for Wests/Tigers)
9. John Morris (262 games for Newcastle/Parramatta/Tigers/Cronulla)
8. Todd Payten (259 games for Canberra/Roosters/Tigers)

The Coaching Crosshairs: The drums are beating for Tim Sheens at the Wests Tigers after a pitiful finish to the year for the pre-season favourites. The Tigers have made the finals just three times in 10 years and suffered some horrendous runs this year including five straight losses and a 3-8 finish to the season. Sheens is rightly being lumped with the Adam Blair signing and should be heaped with the Tim Moltzen mess too. It would be a real surprise to see him at the club in 2013.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Forever pushing the boundaries, the Special Needs Penguin took it upon himself to test out the ARLC's new tough stance on shoulder charges by launching himself shoulder first into Johnathan Thurston's head. He certainly didn't use his flippers! He has been referred straight to the judiciary.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 26: Brisbane-Penrith, 19-12. The Broncos secured a semi final berth with a hard-fought 19-12 win over the Panthers in Petero Civoniceva's last game at Suncorp Stadium. The Broncos champion left a winner after scores were tied at 12-12 going into the last 10 minutes, before Alex Glenn scored the winning try and Peter Wallace secured it with a field goal. It was a game that went end to end, a real entertaining affair.

Correspondence Corner: Witty Reference, everyone should read your 15 things you learned this year - I agree with each and every one. Outstanding.

Semi Pro, I have no huge issues with advertising on jerseys but it needs to be contained.

Anonymous, David Stagg would be a huge signing for the Storm. I hope somebody picks him up and starts him.

Cam, I haven't seen a player whose whole name was incorporated in another player's. My favourite name situation occurred a few years back, however, when Bill Tupou and Will Tupou debuted on the same weekend.

MagpieMick, advertising union during the league was a disgrace. I don't think Tim Sheens will be at the Tigers next year.

Joel, Central Queensland wouldn't be the first place I'd be heading too but they certainly have the money to be self-sufficient from the start.

PolishEel, Nathan Hindmarsh absolutely should have been given a farewell game at Parramatta Stadium before Sunday night.

Solly, the decision to go with Nine was clearly a pat on the back for the station when they deserved a kick in the balls.

Rabby, it is tragic we have to endure another five more years of Nine rubbish.

Mav63, the one blessing with Laurie Daley becoming NSW coach is that he is no longer someone to be endured on Fox Sports.

Renegade, you are in a clear minority with your views on the TV deal. Freddy would have had Gus in his ear and has his own ideas - so is a much better choice, even if he does like hitting the pipe with Joey on a Sunday morning.

Scott, Ben Hornby got every bit of talent he had out and is deserving of all the accolades he receives.

Brett, I am no longer based in Melbourne. I recognise the Storm's premierships because I saw them win both Grand Finals.

Davey G, great stat on the Cayless brothers. Jeff Robson was very close to the underrated player list.

Beard Watch: Canterbury behemoths Frank Pritchard and Sam Kasiano have vowed not to shave their beards off until they are eliminated from the premiership. They have brought in the playoff beard! It is just the edge the Bulldogs need ...

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: The latest offering from Denis Carnahan: "Goodbye Hindy". Watch it here.

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