From The Couch – Rd 9

From The Couch – by Nick Tedeschi at makingthenut.com

The Bunker is Rugby League’s Secret Government: The Bunker is everywhere. It is involved in every player of every game. It is attempting to dictate how matches are played. It is trying to give off the aura of both control and balance. It is about officiating without accountability. It is about being both near and far. It is Big Brother.

This was no better seen than on Sunday afternoon when The Bunker was clearly the head official in the Dragons-Storm game. They were constantly “tipping” the on-field officials and it led to a multitude of delayed decisions, none more disgraceful than when the Storm were robbed of a key try that could have levelled the scores with a successful conversion because of a defensive penalty in the play-the-ball that was not called until after the try was scored.

Nearly every sporting league offers some structure around video officiating, about who can talk to who when and what can be reviewed and when it can be discussed. Not the NRL. They have a public-facing set of rules. And then let those in The Bunker whisper to officials for the entire game, essentially deceiving the public, the players and anyone with even a passing interest in the game.

If the NRL is serious about providing transparency, it will allow for a live broadcast of all Bunker-Referee communications or, at the very least, full recordings.

Until then, the NRL cannot be trusted while they are determining games from The Bunker.

Talking Origin – Blues Forwards: With State of Origin just around the corner and a new regime in place at the top of NSW, it is time to look at who should and shouldn’t be picked for the Blues. This week, the pack.

Hooker
Cameron McInnes supposedly has his nose in front of Api Koroisau and Damien Cook with those connected with the team stating that at one stage or another, each has had their nose in front. Cook should be clearly out in front though. He is a game-changer with his speed, his defence is sound and his service is first class. Incumbent Nathan Peats is long odds. The new regime will hopefully avoid the temptation to waste a bench position by picking a reserve hooker.

Selection: Damien Cook

Prop
There are a multitude of contenders for the Blues prop position. Andrew Fifita is reportedly out with a desire to play for Tonga and Aaron Woods should be well and truly ignored after a poor start to the year and some indifferent rep form. David Klemmer has struggled this year but is an incumbent who will likely retain his bench position. Reagan Campbell-Gillard is an assumed starter. No prop is going better than Paul Vaughan. Ryan James is the ignored man but has played as well as any prop over the last 18 months. Trent Merrin has had another consistent year. Talk of Matt Lodge is laughable.

Selections: Paul Vaughan and Trent Merrin (Starters) + Ryan James and Reagan Campbell-Gillard (Prop)

Backrow
Boyd Cordner is the incumbent skipper and despite an inauspicious start to the season will keep his starting spot on the left edge and the captaincy. Tyson Frizell started at lock last year but may move to an edge. Josh Jackson was the right edge but despite playing well at Origin level could miss out for being too one dimensional. Jake Trbojevic is likely to start as a middle. Wade Graham is in a fight to keep his bench position but his versatility will prove a big plus. Saints pair Jack De Belin and Tariq Sims, South Sydney’s Angus Crichton, Melbourne’s Dale Finucane and Parramatta’s Nathan Brown could all make their debuts.

Selections: Boyd Cordner, Tyson Frizell, Jake Trobojevic (Starters) + Jack De Belin and Nathan Brown (Bench)

Pray for Bozo: Bob Fulton is sad. He is sad that he is being blamed for the team he assembled at Manly being so poor despite that team being paid more than the salary cap. He is sad that the coach he handpicked to be his puppet is no longer acting so puppet-like. He is sad that his involvement in salary cap fraud met with admonishment from the league. Pray for Bozo. Nobody deserves your prayers more.

When Referees Think They Are Above the Game: Referees need to make decisions. Sometimes they go with you. Sometimes, they don’t. That’s Rugby League. You hope for consistency. You hope for accountability. Both are rare beasts. What the game should never accept though is an approach where an official thinks he is above the game, smarter than those who play and those who watch. That is exactly what we see week in and week out from Gerard Sutton, whose arrogance was on display for all to see on Thursday. While the final penalty against Moses Mbye was questionable at best – it was a penalty under the strict interpretation of the rules but it was not even close considering the amount of blocking that goes on off kicks these days – it was his ignoring of an obvious knock on followed up by a key penalty that led to two points for dissent that showed shows how much disdain he has for others in the game. Without any public accountability, this situation will not get better.

2018 Field Goal Update – 15: No field goals this week in what was very disappointing.

Fun Fact #1: Julian O’Neill and Hazem El Masri were the only two players during the 1997 Super League season to score four tries in a match.

Fun Fact #2: Brendan Hurst holds the original Gold Coast’s franchise record for most career points with 285.

Fun Fact #3: Chris Heighington is the only player to play over 240 games and start over 100 from the bench.

Betting Market of the Week: The next drama facing Manly will be:

$4.00: Jono Wright plays another game of first grade
$3.50: Brookvale Oval declared safe to play on
$3.00: Russians outbidding the Qataris for team ownership
$2.00: Bob Fulton stops hiding behind all the smoke and mirrors and launches an outright coup at Brookvale

Rumour Mill: Speculation is running rife that a prominent player may be betting on games. While there has been no evidence uncovered, if the rumour mill is correct, it would end the career of the player. Canberra prop Shannon Boyd is set to make a switch to the Titans in 2019. Martin Taupau and Dylan Walker will not be playing at Manly next year after third-party deals fell through. Des Hasler has been linked to a return to Manly in 2019.

Key Stat for a Player Who Should Not Be in First Grade: Ken Sio has 66 handling errors in 83 career games.

What I Like About … St George Illawarra: St George Illawarra have set the standard this year and confirmed their position as the top team in the premiership with a dominant win over Melbourne. They play with devastating speed and aggression through the middle and crispness and directness in the backs, showing smarts all round. What is arguably most impressive about the Dragons though is their grasp of mathematics, expected value and the decision to nearly always take the two when on offer. The Saints don’t care what the situation is. They take the two when there. They don’t fall into any modern Rugby League thinking that it is playing into the hands of the opposition or it can only be taken in certain situations. On Sunday, they led the Storm 12-4 at halftime on the back of three penalty goals. It changed the game. That kind of thinking needs to be taken on by other clubs.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 9: Sydney Roosters – Manly, 22-20. A surprisingly good match considering it had the biggest line of the week.

The Coaching Crosshairs: Trent Barrett has told his team that he is going nowhere but that has hardly alleviated the pressure on the coach of the beleaguered team. Barrett is at a critical juncture with his career. He has lost the support of a significant portion of his playing group, the respect of much of the front office and some of his reputation in the league. He can either stay and try to salvage the virtually unsalvageable. Or he can flee and hope to protect a reputation on the verge of ruins because he will almost certainly be pushed by some of the Manly political big wigs sooner rather than later.

Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week: Nathan Brown naming Ken Sio on a wing. He has been a fearless tactician this year Brown but he is off his head if he thinks Sio is capable of playing first grade. And then to hand him the goalkicking duties, it could only suggest Brown has been on the gas for a week.

Beard Watch: Rarely do we go to referees but official Gavin Reynolds deserves a shout-out for a complete change in style, moving from the geek look to a wannabe hardman with a shaved head and a bit of stubble. Strong.

Correspondence Corner: Jason, I wouldn’t put Moylan in my NSW U-10s side, let alone at centre with actual first grade footballers. I’m a fan of Adam Reynolds and could have him in the side.

Mav63, Cartwright might be that bad he may not even good enough to play Super Rugby.

CTPE, Latrell has hardly been given a chance this year.

Davey G, it had to be called a knock on.

Watch It: For no particular reason, Penrith and Manly from late in the 1988 season. The Sea Eagles won 18-4, holding Penrith tryless. Among those who crossed Manly was journeyman Jeremy Ticehurst. Watch it here.

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