From The Couch – Rep Round

From The Couch: Rep Round by Nick Tedeschi at makingthenut.com

There is Nothing Better Than International Rugby League: There is not much better in the entire world than international Rugby League. When I think of it, I think of great advocates and fans like Steve Mascord and Andrew Voss, Matt Fisk and Aaron Wallace, those who love Rugby League so much that they want the world to share in what truly is the greatest game of all. These are men who dream the Rugbyv League dream, who believe the game can soar despite the politics that has continually anchored it.

So it was with a tremendous amount of pride that we managed to watch two Tier 1 nations play in the United States while a sold-out Campbelltown hosted a passionate double header between four Pacific nations.

Seeing Rugby League in America has long been a dream. It is a market not only with plenty of ex-pats but one whose sporting tastes appreciate both violence and speed, something Rugby League has in spades.

The match did not disappoint despite a host of New Zealand players declaring themselves unavailable in what was traditional Rugby League short-sightedness. England took the match far more seriously and deserved the comfortable win. Outside of the appalling rendition of the New Zealand anthem, the football was excellent, a great display of the game. The match was played with a legitimate ferocity and the expanse of the attack was quality. Just short of 20,000 turned up for what is a great start for Rugby League’s foray into the States that will culminate with the World Cup in 2025.

The Pacific Tests also showed how far international football has come. Tonga has driven this. The duo of Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo can take significant credit for boosting not only the standing of their nation but of the hopes and dreams of all Pacific Nations. They were superb in tearing apart Samoa in a match that had a truly incredible atmosphere and saw some brilliant Rugby League.

Papua New Guinea have also come along in leaps and bounds. It is, of course, the only nation in the world where Rugby League is the national sport. The Kumuls have always played hard and with passion but their skillset and ability to get into the grind has come along incredibly in the last half-decade.

Rugby League is quickly becoming The World Game.

The Great Tradition: Seeing James Graham take the last conversion in his 40th Test was a special moment. Giving the final kick to milestone or retiring players might be the nicest of Rugby League traditions.

A Mighty Kick: The last time I can remember a team kicking it dead on the full off a kickoff and then being hit immediately with a shot at penalty was maybe an Origin game in 1990. It has probably happened since but it is rare. But that is what Gareth Widdop did for England and the kick was so sweet at altitude he could have nailed one from 65 or 70 … and  it is a damn shame he didn’t try.

One for the Trainspotters: PNG were disallowed a try because of a deliberate knock-on, potentially the first time that penalty has been given in a quarter-century. Henry Perenara must have been mightily confused.

Five Players Who Should Be in the NRL: Watson Boas (PNG): Outstanding touch and vision.

Lachlan Lam (PNG): His time will come but shows plenty of poise for a youngster.

Jake Connor (England): Outstanding international debut and has a bright future.

Junior Rau (PNG): Quality finisher who scored two on debut.

Tyrone May (Samoa): Already played some top grade with Penrith but deserves a regular gig.

Long Live Women’s Origin: Rep round kicked off with an outstanding clash between the NSW and Queensland women’s teams in what was a brutal affair at North Sydney Oval. And with 7000 fans turning up to watch, the future of women’s Rugby League looks bright. Isabelle Kelly is some kind of player and the NSW team were deserving victors. The quality of play was top notch and it seems destiny that the series will be expanded to three games next year and beyond.

2018 Field Goal Update – 23: No field goal attempts across rep weekend.

Fun Fact #1: Paul Aiton, Stanley Gene and John Wilshere are the most capped all-time Kumuls with 16 Test appearances each – and all three played in all three games of PNG’s 2008 World Cup campaign.

Fun Fact #2: Tonga’s first ever Test captain was Duane Mann – who had previously played 28 Tests for the Kiwis.

Fun Fact #3: Akuila Uate is Fiji’s all-time leading tryscorer with 14 in 18 games.

Fun Fact #4: John Schuster kicked eight goals in Samoa’s first ever Test.

Betting Market of the Week: Jarryd Hayne’s next dream will be:

$4.25: To represent Fiji in Jai Alai
$2.20: To become the most destructive force in Parramatta history
$1.10: To become a modern day Scrooge McDuck
$501.00: To represent Fiji in Rugby League with pride and dignity

Rumour Mill: Jack Bird has been strongly linked to a move to Manly next year. Blake Austin appears done at Canberra with Parramatta and Melbourne the two contenders for his signature. The latest Martin Taupau rumours continue to persist with Newcastle the latest club linked to him. There has been talk Raiders backrower Elliot Whitehead is suffering from a touch of home sickness and may look to make 2019 his last in the NRL. Michael Jennings will extend his deal with the Eels.

Key Stat for a Player Who Should Not Be Playing Test Football: Te Maire Martin has lost 24 of 40 club games.

Game of the Year Nomination, Rep Round: England – New Zealand, 36 – 18. Outstanding weekend of football. The Denver Test gets the nod because of what the game should mean and some of the brilliant tries scored.

The Coaching Crosshairs: Matt Parish’s time as Samoa’s coach is surely coming to an end after a poor performance – again – against Tonga. Parish has been in charge since 2013 and Samoa have now underachieved at two World Cups. Tonga were a far superior team but the lack of effort in the first half was most disappointing.

Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week: Matt Adamson’s start to his coaching career with Fiji got off to a horrible start when the Bati were beaten across the park. His most egregious call though was playing Jarryd Hayne at halfback. Fiji need halves but Hayne was never the answer.

Beard Watch: Hard to go past Russell Crowe’s homeless man/Unabomber special that he wore to the Denver Test.

Correspondence Corner: Knight Vision, quality rant.

Jason, laughter makes the world go by.

Mike Butterfield, we live in a world where everyone wants to label the next superstar … and the example of Ponga is the most egregious.

Watch It: To celebrate Papua New Guinea’s outstanding win over Fiji, we go back to 1991 and Townsville where the Kumuls put up a mighty showing against an all-star Australian team, going down 36-14 but scoring some spectacular tries. Watch it here.

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