NRL End of Season Gee Star Awards 2012
The first annual Gee Star Awards were such a success, some people even left comments.by NRL
The first annual Gee Star Awards were such a success, some people even left comments. However, I am still waiting on TVS Community TV to get back to me about a television deal. Sadly, the TV spot was not forthcoming, so the committee had to press on with the awards for 2012 - without a television contract and a defining trophy.
So.....Welcome to the 2nd Annual Gee Star Awards!
The "Gee Star Awards" reflect my observations, and those of my angry sidekick "Damo", of the 2012 NRL regular season.
Due to no television deal for the awards (yet of course), there are no ad breaks, so we can get right into the Awards for 2012!
Gee Star Player of the Year - Ben Barba
Runner Up: Cooper Cronk
This makes it two years in a row where the Dally M judges have got it right - wow! Who said things never change. Barba is also the second fullback to win in a row, highlighting a shift in the game, where fullback has become the key attacking weapon for a team.
Barba has been electric this year - a pure match winner. Barba is a player who turns a half break into a try, and a routine dropped ball from the opposition, into an 80 metre counterattacking masterpiece.
Barba comes into the backline and creates panic and fear in the defence and space and time for his outside players, with his speed and skill. All season he has been consistently breathtaking, the fans are on the edge of their seats when he touches the ball - always expecting something to happen. In a hotly contested fullback field, he was the best in 2012.
Congratulations Ben Barba! You are the Gee Star Player of the Year.
More like Cooper the Conductor. Melbourne almost won the minor premiership, again, and they would have, if they didn't have an uncharacteristic late season losing streak (maybe they were just tired of kicking everyone else a... during the regular season).
Cronk was one of the major reasons - he attacks the line at speed all the time, the defence has to make a decision - tackle Cooper, watch his runners or watch for a kick, and keep an eye on Billy Slater, not easy to defend!
He has a great long and short kicking game, he dictates the tempo, direction and speed of the Storm backline movements, and can break the line should a gap appear. Cronk really is Melbourne, mechanical, consistent and methodical. Is he the greatest, instinctual player - probably not, but he fits perfectly into and runs the Melbourne machine beautifully. A great season from Cronk, and probably his best season so far - a worthy runner up for the Gee Star Player of the Year Award.
Gee Star Rookie of the Year: - Adam Reynolds
Runner Up: Josh Jackson
Just like last year - another rookie halfback, and another easy choice. One year ago, the formerly mean streets of gentrifying Redfern, were full of angry Souths fans - putting down their organic eggs with grilled pecorino sourdough breakfasts, in outrage, when Chris Sandow got the keys to the vault at Parramatta. "It was a disaster!", "A massive loss" - that's' what they thought, but it has turned out to be addition by subtraction - and by either good choice or good luck, allowing Adam Reynolds to come through has been a master stroke.
Reynolds, brings everything Sandow didn't - he basically brings extra things to the dinner table (Sandow ate all the extras in the offseason). Reynolds, has controlled and directed the side, he rarely seems to overplay his hand (in fact probably should do more), has a good kicking game, good passing game, is a good goalkicker and can run at the line and step defenders. Just by standing in the way of an attacker, his defence is better than Chris Sandow's, and as a result the massive holes in Souths defence - are gone. Reynolds appears to be a well-rounded player who is good at most things and could get better. He can easily be the halfback for Souths for the next 5 years - a real find!
As for our runner up - I thought long and hard about this one and it was very difficult - players like Jorge Taufua, Andrew Everingham, Ken Sio, Aiden Sezer, and Josh Mansour had very good debut seasons and were making impacts in games. However, I just couldn't go past Josh Jackson for the Bulldogs. Jackson was always considered to be a future first grader, but what impressed me the most was that he hasn't just come in and held his own - he makes big plays every week both defensively and in attack to help the Bulldogs win. Jackson runs hard, keeps his legs going and makes good metres. He is hard to stop close to the tryline and defensively has been fantastic. He is making an impact week after week - looking like not just a first grader but a key backrower, not just in the future, but right now. Jackson has been marvellous and consigned David Stagg and Halatau to the bench or NSW Cup. Impressive - but just not enough games to unseat Adam Reynolds.
Gee Star Team of the Year: - Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Runner Up: - Melbourne Storm
Without a doubt the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have been the surprise team of the season (wish I gambled on their odds at the beginning of the year). Most Bulldog fans would have agreed that a great season would have been to make the top 6 - and form a basis to build on for future seasons - sneaking into 5th would have been overly optimistic. Instead the team ripped of a 12 match winning streak - one of the longest of all time, has dealt with injuries, blooded rookies throughout the season and finished as minor premiers. Even the most deluded fans would have found that a little bit too fanciful. The Bulldogs' great season has been built on the Desire of Des (no it's not an x-rated film). The Desire of Des is the desire to look for and analyse every detail to find what can be used to help his team be prepared physically and mentally each and every week to give their best. Most of the players have improved - the team is fitter, faster and better than the last couple of seasons. The Desire of Des has made sheer hard work the key to his teams and the clubs success in 2012. The team has also been exciting to watch and brilliant defensively - the team has happily played passing football, which for some reason is fashionable to now describe as 'risky football'. A great season for the Bulldogs, a likely Grand Final and as a result they are the Gee Star Team of the Year for 2012 (who needs the JJ Gilltinan Shield!).
As for Melbourne - what can you say, they are a machine, in fact for those old enough to get this dated reference, they are like a team of Terminators - robots sent from the future that look human. They would have been minor premiers again, if they didn't have an uncharacteristic 5 game losing streak during the back end of the season. They are unbelievably consistent, they play at a tempo few teams can match and have an unquenchable thirst (not for Gatorade), but for winning, that never seems to stop - season after season. Once again, they do the little things better than everyone else, from slowing down the ruck, to the speed of their backline movements, through to the speed and number of their decoy runners. The Salary Cap had nothing to do with their success - they are again filled with more retreads than a tyre shop, some youngsters and the big three (missing for the Origin period) and yet the Storm have once again continued their remarkable record since 2006. Looking like another GF appearance in 2012.
Coach of the Year: Des Hasler
Quite wtf was going through the Manly Board's minds during the deliberations to give Des Hasler a better and longer contract in 2010 - stalling long enough to piss him right off, to the point where even after winning the competition in 2011, being offered more money by Manly - Des was going to the Bulldogs no matter what.
As for Hasler, he packed up his Desmond Laboratory at the northern beaches, took his test tubes, bunsen burners, and vials of beetroot juice and calves blood with him in his suitcase, and went to Belmore. He even hired a people mover and took all his staff with him and even stole Manly's social media person too - in fact if the grass at Brookvale wasn't rooted in the ground, he may have taken that as well. The only thing different at Belmore, were the players and the location.
What did Des Hasler do? Take advice from his assistant Jim Dymock - tailored his game plan to utilise the skill of the Bulldog players - allowing the forwards to pass the ball and play with skill. He modified Michael Ennis' game, blooded rookies in Josh Reynolds, Josh Jackson and Dale Finucane, brought out the best from Kris Keating, Josh Morris, and even got Aiden Tolman to develop a passing game. Des also had his scouting network pinch Krisnan Inu from the reserves bench at the Auckland Vulcans, and took Sam Perrett away from the Roosters - who happily gave him away.
Somehow, he has taken the same team that missed the 8 for two years in a row to a minor premiership - whilst implementing a playing style that was different to that of his Manly side and indeed the rest of the NRL. Just about every Bulldog player has improved, the team is unpredictable, plays a passing game that few teams can counter, and the team play with solid attacking and defensive structures. This in addition to the Des staple of the team being committed every single week, and being tough to beat. Quite simply a performance that makes certain Des Hasler is the Gee Star Coach of the Year.
Comeback Player of the Year: Willie Mason
With Willie off playing Union in France (aka known as a holiday), he wanted to come back to the NRL - who even knew Willie Mason wanted come back? It did however, become quite obvious as he was pawning himself around, so much so, that I thought I was going to see him outside Moore Park NRL HQ, with a cardboard sign saying "Will Play for Free". Eventually, Nathan Tinkler gambled that Willie Mason might still be strong enough to dig coal with his bare hands (and if not bail hay for Patinack Farms at the very least), and authorised his signing for the Knights. It was a welcome home to Newcastle for Big Willie, even if it was because he'd been kicked out of every other NRL home.
So the Knight in the not-so shining armour, was signed and back in 1st grade. After taking a little while to settle in, Willie Mason ended up being a good signing for the Knights. Willie Mason held his own against other props and added a little something to the Knights pack, earning himself a contract in the process. Welcome back Willie, whether you love him or hate him he is the Gee Star Comeback Player of the Year.
A few other random Gee Star Awards for 2012:
Eric Grothe Jnr Award - for the most disappointing utilisation of talent in 2012:
Team - Gold Coast Titans
Individual - Jamal Idris
Gold Coast Titans
The Titans once again had a massive recruitment drive - this time signing Beau Champion, Jamal Idris and Luke Douglas to massive deals. Add them to an already deep squad containing a savvy veteran no 7 in Scott Prince, an emerging five-eight in Aiden Sezer, a team with a State of Origin backrow of Nate Myles, Ashley Harrison and Greg Bird, a fantastically crafty hooker in Matt Srama, a dynamic fullback like Will Zillman, speed on the flanks in David Mead and Kevin Gordon and Luke Bailey and off-season recruit Luke Douglas at the props, there is absolutely no way that this team should have missed the top 8. They only needed to win half their games, yet they couldn't do it. They did not really have to contend with any major injuries, unless you count Idris injuring his waistline due to it hanging out of his shorts. That really is not an acceptable return. Add to that the reported financial problems and it was a disaster of a season for the Titans.
The highest paid centre in the game - signed on a massive deal reserved for the best of the best, and the only thing that was bigger than the off-season signing of Jamal - was his waistline to begin the season. 2012 was his 4th full season, on massive money and Jamal couldn't even get himself into shape to have a big season. He was a step off the pace in attack and defence, didn't have a regular impact and appears a massive waste of money. I am not sure he will ever be a premier centre, he is 'happy to be there' type of guy, but doesn't yet have the mentality to knuckle down and really dedicate himself to get the best out of his athletic ability and become an elite player. Jamal wins the Eric Grothe Jnr Individual Award for 2012.
NRLWWC - National Rugby League World Wrestling Championship: - Melbourne Storm
For the best wrestling performances in 2012 and for remaining the undisputed wrestling champions of the NRL - The Melbourne Storm! This reign is going to be as long as Hulk Hogan's title-run back in the 80s in the WWE (WWF at the time). The Storm are like Telstra in the mobile wars - working on their 4G wrestling moves whilst the rest of the NRL are like Vodafone, fine tuning and upgrading their 3G wrestling moves. Melbourne is 10 steps ahead. I can't see anyone else beating them for a long time.
King Pyrrhus Award - for the greatest Pyrrhic Victory in 2012: - NSW State of Origin Team
I may as well copy and paste from last season. Once again, the selectors, their NSW management team representative - Mitchell Pearce, Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley, were talking about progress. "We nearly won", "We got closer to QLD!" - "The gap is closing". Historically officials, players and coaches have been sacked for losing a series, coaching credentials questioned, playmakers like Pearce dropped, somehow, this NSW team, has enhanced its reputation in the last two series for merely coming close. Close is relative, QLD weren't that great this year IMO and they still won because NSW simply wasn't good enough. The cherry on the not so tasty sundae - Laurie Daley who has been a culprit in the selection of favourites to the detriment of the NSW side for years - is the new coach!
Lucky Lotteries Award - for the person who hit the biggest jackpot in 2012: - Ricky Stuart
Ricky Stuart - has had a very poor winning % as a coach in the NRL since 2005 - winning less than half the games he has coached - including a season where he coached Cronulla to a near minor premiership. Stuart has also led NSW to two series losses in a row in the State of Origin series.
We know Ricky will bring passion and hard work and commitment to the Eels (which they definitely need), problem is, he will exert far too much control and over structure the Parramatta attack and shackle the team's playmakers - which is exactly what Parramatta don't need. It will be an interesting experiment and one that will not last the long-term if Ricky Stuart, stays as - Ricky Stuart.
However, despite the results since 2005, and what appears to be an ill-suited playing staff, Stuart gets a long-term deal with the Parramatta Eels and becomes one of the highest paid coaches in the game - talk about hitting the jackpot! Coaches like Steve Folkes, Daniel Anderson, and Ivan Henjak languish in the singles bar still waiting for a team to pick them up.
The Everybody Hates Chris is Criminally Underrated Award - for the most criminally underrated NRL player like the show - Aiden Tolman
Aiden Tolman - the show he puts on every week isn't flashy - it's just damn effective. IMO one of the best props in the competition and yet no body realises - no representative duties for Tolman. He doesn't bust tackles and make breaks, no he doesn't have a big side step or enormous power to swat players away - nor does he have magical offloading skills - still he is amongst the best front rowers in the game.
Tolman has an elite motor regularly playing big minutes, but also making 10+ metres every time he touches the ball even against set defences, his work rate is fantastic in defence and attack, he rarely if ever is beaten in defence and can defend effectively on the fringe or in the middle of the field. He is also always 'there' - first forward back after a break by the opposition ready to tackle, first run after a long break, he doesn't have any elite skill or athleticism, but he has an elite motor. He si almost never ineffective. Everyone raves about Paul Gallen and Nathan Hindmarsh for their work ethic - they should also do that about Aiden Tolman.
Eternally Damned Award - for the player who can't please anyone: - Jarryd Hayne
This remains Jarryd Hayne and I think it will always remain Jarryd Hayne. There is just something about him - the alien like run in 2009 - the amazing talent, vision, amazing plays, skills, the fact that everything looks too 'easy' and he just appears to be too casual, doesn't care - he is extremely polarising and seems to frustrate fans, commentators, and selectors as they see his magic, but eh always leaves you wanting more (he could be the human version of MSG). Even though other players can appear similar, with Hayne it seems - no matter what he does - it's either too much or never enough. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.
The Heads or Tails Award ($2 coin) - for the team that picked tails when it could have picked heads - Parramatta Eels
If Todd Carney = Heads and Chris Sandow = Tails.
Parramatta could have picked Heads but they instead picked tails. Parramatta could have signed Carney instead they spent the big bucks on Chris Sandow - making him one of the highest paid players in the game. Carney has looked good leading Cronulla back to the semis, and Sandow looked like a midget Michelin Man, with tyres around the guts, rather than one of the elite halfbacks in the competition. Sandow was a disaster in 2012 not even adding his attacking spark to his non-existent defence, and Parramatta probably regrets it didn't pick heads and throw their money at Todd Carney.
The Heads or Tails Award ($1 coin) - for the team that picked tails when it could have picked heads - Parramatta Eels
Two Craig Bellamy assistants: - Michael Maguire = Heads and Stephen Kearney = Tails.
Parramatta picked Stephen Kearney as their Craig Bellamy assistant. Sadly for Eels, fans, they should have went heads and taken Michael Maguire. I am sure if the Eels threw their money bags at Maguire he would have taken them as well. Maguire seems the right blend of the intense, demanding coach which was a great fit at both Souths or Parramatta. Kearney, appeared to be far too much of a gentlemen for the playing group he inherited. He was understandably wedded to the Melbourne style of play - despite having the totally wrong personnel to play such a mechanical game - which cost him dear - inheriting and then recruiting a Parramatta playing group that needed to the freedom to throw the football around and be allowed to adlib some of their football. As a team they also looked off the pace fitness wise from nearly every other NRL club - Kearney was simply too nice. Despite the results, Kearney kept his dignity, didn't throw any players under the bus or humiliate them in public despite their form and attitude over two seasons. Bet Parramatta wishes it had chosen heads instead. As for Michael Maguire he led Souths to its first Top 5 finish in 23 years and won as many games in one season as Kearney did in two.
In the ironic hall of fame, probably the best coach for Parramatta's roster was ... Daniel Anderson! I'm sure he coached Parramatta before?
The Where's Wally Award - for the recent NRL coach who is as hard to find as Wally - Ivan Henjak
With all the coaching movements, coaching disappointments and sackings - one wonders wtf happened to Ivan Henjak (or at least I wonder about it)?
Does anyone know where Ivan Henjak is? Does anyone care? Did the Brisbane Bronco hire henchmen to dispose of him for daring to challenge the omnipotent Darren Lockyer? Can't anyone find the gleam on his bald forehead anywhere? Will it be easier to see the reflection in summer?
For a coach that led Brisbane to within one game of the Grand Final, whilst playing an extremely exciting brand of football, blooding the future generation of Broncos and all the problems and issues that come with that, and had experienced players playing their best ever football, where the hell has he gone?
Is anyone trying to hire him as a coach? Why wouldn't teams be staking out his house and trying to sign him instead of gambling on guys like Stephen Kearney hoping they have what it takes? As usual, with some rugby league decisions, its baffling, but the team that finds Wally (Henjak), will not regret it.
The Barry O'Farrell Award - for the most asset stripping in the NRL - Ivan Cleary/Penrith Panthers
What on earth is Ivan Cleary thinking? He treated the Penrith Panthers assets this year like the Premier treats the State Assets of NSW - get rid of em!
In his short stint so far: He has feuded with Michael Jennings and tried to offload him (he will be gone in the offseason), he created a perfect sneak attack on Luke Lewis by 'loaning the captaincy' to someone else during Origin time (which he conveniently forgot to mention to Luke Lewis) and he got rid of Michael Gordon despite Penrith looking far better every time he plays and basically looked for anything else he could sell that wasn't bolted down at Penrith.
The NSW Token Award - for the random Dragons player that undeservedly gets picked in SOO: - Beau Scott
I thought that this year, my luck would have run out for this award, and I would need to ditch it, but... Hey this one never fails to come through! With the Dragons in a form slump and Beau Scott clearly struggling since announcing he had signed with the Knights, and his defence literally missing (which is the only thing he brings to the table other than a salt shaker of niggle) - what do NSW do? Drop Trent Merrin and bring Beau Scott straight into the team, for a game 3 decider! Despite Trent Merrin's club form being far superior to that of Scott's. The NSW Selectors - you gotta love em!
Teams of the Year - First XIII, Second XIII, The New Stars XIII and Eric Grothe Jnr All-Stars
Now to finish off the 2nd Annual Gee Star Awards - I have compiled some teams based upon performances throughout 2012.
The First XIII - for the best team of the year
The Second XIII - for the players who were great but couldn't crack the first team
The New Stars XIII - the best rookies in 2012 and the
Eric Grothe Jnr All Stars XIII - for the 13 most talented players who failed to deliver in 2012.
First XIII - The Best of the Best
1 Ben Barba
2 Reece Robinson
3 Josh Morris
4 Jamie Lyon
5 Ashley Graham
6 Johnathon Thurston
7 Cooper Cronk
8 James Graham
9 Cameron Smith
10 James Tamou
11 Nate Myles
12 Shaun Fensom
13 Feleti Mateo
Second XIII - The Best of the Rest
1 Greg Inglis
2 Beau Ryan
3 Brent Tate
4 Joseph 'BJ' Leilua
5 Brett Morris
6 Josh Reynolds
7 Daly Cherry-Evans
8 Sam Kasiano
9 Andrew McCullogh
10 Aaron Woods
11 Anthony Watmough
12 Corey Parker
13 Paul Gallen
The New Stars XIII - The Best Rookies
1 Josh Mansour
2 Jorge Taufua
3 Cheyse Blair
4 Konrad Hurrell
5 Andrew Everingham
6 Aiden Sezer
7 Adam Reynolds
8 Matt Ryan
9 Nathan Smith
10 Dale Finucane
11 Jason Tuamololo
12 Josh Jackson
13 Ben Henry
The Eric Grothe Jnr All Stars XIII - Talent that Failed to Deliver
1 Darius Boyd
2 Manu Vatuvei
3 Willie Tonga
4 Jamal Idris
5 Beau Champion
6 James Maloney
7 Chris Sandow
8 Kade Snowden
9 Isaac Luke
10 Tim Mannah
11 Adam Blair
12 Matt Gillett
13 Beau Scott
That's a wrap for 2012 - feel free to add your own awards or debate the team selections. Until 2013, when the NRL will be flush with funds - that fingers crossed, flow down to the Gee Star Awards, we might be back with a new venue and a flashier night. Hopefully many more players will reach beyond the sky in 2013 and instead reach to be a Gee Star.
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