From The Couch – Rd 15

From The Couch – Round 15 by Nick Tedeschi at

Fear and Loathing at Belmore: Des Hasler, Ray Dib and Raelene Castle should never work in Rugby League again. They should all consider themselves lucky they are not in jail though, in Castle’s case, she is suffering a fate far worse than prison: rugby union. Their wilful mismanagement of Canterbury’s salary cap and roster situation has done so much damage to the club that the Bulldogs have no real alternative but to grit their teeth, swallow their pride and endure a Newcastle-like complete rebuild. The Bulldogs can look inside the chest but they won’t anything … the club has been plundered by Dib’s thirst for politics, Hasler’s desire for total control and Castle’s sheer and utter incompetence. From backended deals that will see someone as ordinary as Greg Eastwood paid $800,000 a year to the seven-figure deal to bring in a “star” half who can hardly walk, to six years of pathway neglect and no player development, the trio have looted and torched a proud club. Let’s not talk about monies given to Tony Williams and opportunities to denied to Damien Cook.

The Bulldogs have not historically been a two-bit operation. For so long, they have been one of the best managed organisations in the premiership. Peter Moore is arguably the greatest administrator in Rugby League history. They will now have to endure three and maybe four seasons anchored in the bottom four. They will start short-priced favourites for the wooden spoon next year. They will be paying probably 6-8 players to play at other clubs, maybe the best 6-8 players. It is the only way to rebuild now.

The appetite for such a rebuild was there for all to see on Saturday at Belmore when less than 7000 fans turned up. The Bulldogs were favoured but turned in their worst performance of the year.

The club is back in the right hands. If any team will have the patience of rebuild it is Lynne and Chris Anderson. They have backed coach Dean Pay and CEO Andrew Hill. All are realists. They know the predicament they have entered. It Is just unfortunate that it took such horrific circumstances to give the levers of power at the club back to good people.

In Freddy We Trust: State of Origin II has snuck up on us with the game to be played on a Sunday night for the first time in 17 years. The short preparation will almost certainly favour the Blues, who have the stability of a win and home field advantage. Teams have yet to be announced yet but Reagan Campbell-Gillard is out for NSW with Ryan James and Matt Prior named in an extended squad. James is the short-priced favourite to get the nod. Kevin Walters has some headaches of his own. Michael Morgan is out for the year and will almost certainly be replaced by Kalyn Ponga while Dylan Napa, Jarrod Wallace, Gavin Cooper and Anthony Milford are all battling to retain their positions. Billy Slater may need to be chosen without a club game under his belt.

The simple analysis is this: the game is New South Wales’ to lose. They have too much speed and too much creativity across the paddock. The Maroons lack a genuine playmaker who can break a game open. Cameron Munster is close but he needs experience around him, which he doesn’t have.

The Maroons will dig deep. They go in the biggest outsiders of any team in nearly 15 years but they will try hard. The Blues’ ability to score points though will prove too strong. With so many players taking so much from that first game, the mountain seems too great for the Maroons to overcome.

Do Yourself A Favour: All Rugby League fans should be following NRL chairman Peter Beattie on Twitter. There is no more entertaining follow, particularly if you understand Rugby League. Fair play to the boss though … he engages with EVERYBODY. The grammar is bad and the takes are not always directly in tandem with the truth but he is a must follow.

The Greatest Serve of All: Anthony Watmough unleashed on former teammate Daly Cherry-Evans last week, labelling the Manly skipper, among other things, “a fuckwit”. He also accused him of holding the club to ransom. Now in fairness, Watmough sits at the north end of the flog scale himself but Cherry-Evans’ lack of production this year has been startling.

An Indictment on the Game: The system is clearly broken when a promising young player is denied an NRL debut because of reactionary rules and bureaucratic narcissism, as well as a touch of pig-headedness. This is exactly what happened last week when Manly were denied the opportunity to start former NYC star Manase Fainu because the Sea Eagles had filled their second-tier salary cap. Manly’s season is done and dusted. They should be granted an opportunity to play a youngster they want to see, not have the NRL dictate selection policy. The second-tier cap is in place to stop clubs stockpiling first graders. It is not there to prevent a youngster making a debut. This is just another case of the NRL leaning on rules they don’t understand.

Just Run The Same Play: South Sydney are a smart football club but they didn’t need to be geniuses against Parramatta. And they weren’t. They simply ran the same play at the Eels’ right edge defence and Michael Jennings kept charging in and George Jennings followed him and Robert Jennings kept scoring. It was an indictment on the senior Jennings, who continually fell for the same play. It was more of an indictment on the Eels’ coaching staff, who could not get a message to their players that they could understand.          

Get A Room: The obsession of the Fox NRL coverage with Kalyn Ponga is starting to get scary. If I were Ponga, I would be getting security on my house and be very careful about being asked for “a post-match interview”. It is reaching sickening levels, highlighted by the obscene commentary in the Warriors game where it was suggested that Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had learnt his step from Ponga. Every show just gushes about him. He is a wonderful player to watch. He will be a superstar. But he is not the second-coming of Dally Messenger, as is suggested constantly by those at Fox without even the slightest sense of perspective or history.

2018 Field Goal Update – 23: Shaun Johnson secured the Warriors a win in Townsville with a late field goal that broke the heart of the Cowboys.

Fun Fact #1: The last time reserves were used instead of interchange players was in 1990.

Fun Fact #2: If Paul Gallen plays next year and plays in the final round of the season, he will most likely become the fifth oldest player in premiership history and the oldest player to play a premiership game since Billy Wilson played at 40 in 1967.

Fun Fact #3: Jordan Rankin is the youngest post-war debutant, playing his first top grade game at just 16. He has since played just 40 NRL games.

Betting Market of the Week: The total and complete obsession Fox NRL has with Kalyn Ponga will result in:

$4.00: The channel being re-named ‘Fox Ponga’
$2.70: Dr Braith Anasta attempting to ‘slip him a Mickey’
$2.20: Mark Gasnier proposing marriage
$3.50: Steve Roach asking who he is and saying the only ‘Ponga’ he knows is the former Raiders prop Quentin
$1.50: Danny Buderus selling nude artwork of Ponga

Rumour Mill: Canterbury are reportedly doing their best to clear their books for the coming years. Aaron Woods will be at Cronulla, likely this week, while the Bulldogs are looking at all avenues to offload Kieran Foran. South Sydney will not stand in the way of Robbie Farah if he does request a release to return to the Tigers. Dylan Napa has been linked to the Knights.

Key Stat for a Player Who Should Not Be in First Grade: Brian Kelly weighs 92kg and surely holds the record for player thrown into touch most in a single game in 2018 after Saturday night.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 15: Cronulla – Brisbane, 16 – 20. Absolutely outstanding game that was on from the charge down try that opened the game in the first minutes and was thrilling all the way through to Corey Oates’ insane try where he somehow stayed in the field to score.

The Coaching Crosshairs: Two coaches who will be able to rest easy, at least through 2019, are Craig Bellamy and Nathan Brown. Bellamy just re-signed with the Storm on a monster deal after the little soap opera with Brisbane where the Storm boss managed to up his price and publicly humiliate Wayne Bennett, all at the same time. Brown signed one of the most interesting deals in coaching history, an incentive-laden document that will allow Brown to keep the reins for a long time if the Knights continue to improve while he could be ousted early if Newcastle don’t show the requisite improvement. Brown has always been  punter.

Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week: Brad Arthur has plenty of issues at the Eels but his decision to play Bevan French at fullback is proving costly. French is a tremendous finisher but his light frame means he is easy pickings on a kick return, as is winger Josh Hoffman. With Clint Gutherson and Jarryd Hayne both in the team, it seems odd at best that French would be given the No.1.

Beard Watch: Josh McGuire is sporting one of the most impressive beards in premiership history. It is unkempt, it is tight, it is terrifying.

Correspondence Corner: Al D, I wouldn’t call it Napa bashing! His kind of forward – big on talk and low on work – irritate me no end and don’t actually offer much to their team. The Roosters can spend their cap money better than on Napa.

CTPE, Mitchell Moses stormed out of training over preseason because Hayne was carrying on. That happened.

CTPE and Davey G, there are some absolute muppets at Fox led by Blocker and Anasta but to put Matt Russell and Michael Ennis in that grouping is well off the mark. If you can’t enjoy Ennis’ analysis, you’ll enjoy nobody.

Strettell, Harris was close to the list but there is a gap between him and Arrow. Plus – I probably make terrible calls all the time.

Mav63, amen!

Davey G, agree with you totally on the Brown deal.

Watch It: Frank Hyde is regarded by many as the doyen of Rugby League callers, a giant who dominated the commentary game for four decades. This is his last call. Listen to it here.


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