From The Couch – Rd 17

From The Couch: Round 17, 2018, by Nick Tedeschi @ makingthenut.com

Origin III Preview: State of Origin heads to Suncorp for what feels like a relatively flat dead rubber. While Queensland can get nothing but pride from this match, for New South Wales, this match should be viewed as just as important as any of the first two. This is the chance to put a spike through the heart of Queensland’s incredible run of dominance and force the Maroons to start the 2019 series well on the backfoot. Whether true or not, Queensland have long held the belief that they have managed to keep going because of New South Wales’ inability to go for the kill. This is the chance for this new Blues to really sink the slipper in. The smart money is that they will.

Queensland have been gutted this series and took two more blows for this game with Kalyn Ponga and Greg Inglis out. Billy Slater has announced his retirement. Many others will be looking down the barrel of playing their last game if their personal games don’t lift or the team gets well beaten. Jarrod Wallace, Ben Hunt, Andrew McCullough, Gavin Cooper and Josh Papalii lead the list of those who could be playing their last game.

A lift for Slater seems the best and only shot for the Maroons here.

The Blues though, they are levels above and are rightly favoured to sweep Queensland for the first time since 2000. Suncorp holds no fear and it shouldn’t as the fast track should play well in favour for the Blues. Damien Cook is up for a monster game. Such is the luxury the Blues are operating in, they could afford to drop a starter from the series win.

Freddy is focussed. He knows Queensland are as vulnerable as they have ever been. He will have the knife razor sharp.

Final Score: New South Wales 30 – Queensland 12

Myths of Mt Smart: It is official now. After a brief flirtation early in the season with the potential of being a Rugby League team that actually competes and may threaten the premiership, the Warriors have confirmed that it is in fact business as usual at Mt Smart with one of the most guile-less, gutless and galling performances in a 36-4 loss to a Penrith team missing their three key playmakers. Stephen Kearney’s job must surely come into question if he doesn’t start wielding the axe on a host of underperforming players. Shaun Johnson is an electric talent but time is fast running out on whether he can turn his potential into actual results. Issac Luke’s form has gone south quickly. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck goes missing too often. Let’s not get onto the toughness or intelligence of the three-quarters or the mental toughness of the pack. The Warriors are pretenders. They don’t deserve to play finals football.

A Man Crush for the Ages: Rhyse Martin may – I repeat may as it cannot be confirmed – not be the best player in the NRL but he has quickly become a personal favourite of this column, his ascent confirmed after a magnificent personal haul of 24 points in the heartbreaking loss to Canberra. Let’s just lay it out there: Hardworking forward – tick. No neck – tick. Goalkicking forward – massive tick. A Kumul – gigantic tick. If he starts slotting meaningless field goals then wow. The greatest player in the history of this great game is not beyond him.

Uncle Sam: Sam Thaiday has always marched to the beat of his own drum and so it was when he announced his retirement at a retirement home dressed as a senior citizen, Uncle Drew style. We can only hope the Uncle Sam movie will be coming to Netflix soon.

2018 Field Goal Update – 26: Not even an attempt in the shortened round this weekend.

Fun Fact #1: Canberra have not been in first place on the ladder for 347 rounds

Fun Fact #2: The last team to go wire-to-wire in first place was South Sydney in 1951

Fun Fact #3: No team has ever come from lower than 10th after Round 17 to win the premiership6+

Betting Market of the Week: The next incident that will beset Manly:

$3.00: Player hits a player from a rival club, killing him
$2.80: Player gets accused of point shaving
$2.50: Coach threatens vehicular murder of a referee
$1.80: High ranking official found to be operating illegal casino
$1.50: The most unpopular player in club history is signed to an eight-year deal

Rumour Mill: The rumour mill is in overdrive that the Brisbane Broncos are set to make an audacious play for Ivan and Nathan Cleary. The two don’t come off contract at the same time but with Wayne Bennett set to be moved on at the end of next year, the Broncos are desperate to find a highly rated replacement. Brisbane winger Jamayne Isaako has been linked to a shift to the Roosters. Martin Taupau has been linked to a move to Newcastle. James Segeyaro has reportedly come to terms with Parramatta. Valentine Holmes is expected to sign with North Queensland. Mitchell Pearce may have found some trouble off the paddock recently.

Key Stat for a Player Who Should Not Be Playing First Grade: Peta Hiku ranks fourth in missed tackles this season with 55 in 16 games.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 17: Melbourne – St George Illawarra, 52 – 30. One of the most ridiculous games you’ll ever see with 82 points scored in a game between two top three defensive teams with the total set at 34.5. Tackling seemed optional in this game. The Storm remarkably trailed at the 66-minute mark. Crazy match.

The Coaching Crosshairs: The hottest rumour in Rugby League is that Phil Gould has made a decision to move on from Anthony Griffin and replace him with Trent Barrett. It seems incredible that the Panthers are undertaking a “mid-season coaching review” when they are in the Top 4 but there has been a rift between Gould and Griffin all year and with Barrett keen to get out of the quagmire that is Manly, it seems a move is on the verge of happening.

Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week: Stephen Kearney’s decision to play Peta Hiku ahead of Anthony Gelling all year has seemed off. Hiku has more natural talent than Gelling but the former Wigan star has two advantages: he cares and is significantly fitter. Hiku surely won’t get picked again in first grade after one of the most embarrassing performances in memory.

Beard Watch: Broncos centre Kotoni Staggs is just a young bloke but he has brought his moustache game straight into the top grade. There are a host of young players coming in donning the mo and it is something that should be well applauded.

Correspondence Corner: Mike Butterfield, that should absolutely be a penalty every day of the week. It’s a clear obstruction in the truest sense.

CTPE, surely not since 1998.

Davey G, ridiculously unlucky was Ryan James. Harsh on Billy Slater. He is a reassure of the game.

Watch It: That’s Rugby League is perhaps the greatest Rugby League documentary produced. This week we go back to the 1940s for one of the forgotten eras of the game. Watch it here.

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