March 12, 2018
From The Couch – Round 1
From The Couch – NRL Round 1, 2018
by Nick Tedeschi, Making The Nut
Broncos Busted: The Brisbane Broncos have arguably never been at a lower point as a club than they are now. For the better part of three decades, they have been beacons of success. But in the throes of their longest premiership drought, the wheels have completely fallen off. One should never read too much into an opening round loss but Brisbane were embarrassing and for once in their history they look shallow and fragile. They can no longer attract big names. Their halves situation is a major cause for concern. The pack looks meek. They are tarnishing their brand and hampering their focus by getting behind a criminal whose behaviour was as vile as it was inexcusable. He is also not on his second chance. And the venerable coach seems to be losing the plot, playing Sam Thaiday at hooker, among other questionable calls. Brisbane are in real trouble and most of it is of their own making.
Perth Is Calling: Let’s hope all this focus on Perth – the opening double header, the Origin clash next year – results in a team from the west being announced to join the NRL this year. Even if the start date is 2022, the NRL needs to get the wheels rolling on expansion and Perth is clearly ready for Rugby League with its flash new stadium, the death of its union team and the nostalgia for the Reds.
Vale, Steve Folkes: A Bulldogs legend left us way too early over the offseason when Steve Folkes was struck down by a heart attack at the way-too-young age of 57. Folkes was a courageous player and a tough-but-fair coach who turned out 245 times as a player for Canterbury before coaching Canterbury for 11 seasons and 288 games. He was involved in a remarkable eight Grand Finals, every decider the Bulldogs played in between 1979 and 2011 with the exceptions of 1994 and ’95. He was blue and white to the core, taking Canterbury through some very difficult times. The likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Willie Mason should be ashamed for how they helped end his coaching career. The Bulldogs have lost a favourite son.
The Family Club is Back: The most wonderful news of the offseason was no doubt the victory of Lynne and Chris Anderson, who took control of the Canterbury board, sweeping to power on the back of a call to return the club to its roots. Ray Dib was tossed from power after the spiralling debacle that has been the last two years. The daughter of the club’s greatest administrator and the club’s finest ever coach are the right people to get the Bulldogs back on track. It was a surprise win but a necessary one.
Brain Dead Raiders: There is no dumber team in the NRL than the Canberra Raiders. The way they blew their season opener to the Titans was as stunning as it was expected. They led 18-0 early and had a 28-24 lead with two minutes remaining when the biggest simpleton in the premiership stuck his hand out on a nothing play, giving the Titans another set, one which they took full advantage of. Canberra went 2-8 in close games last year. They are 0-1 so far this season. Usually close games can be struck up to luck but with a team of morons the Raiders’ record may need to be put down to total stupidity.
Punters Guide Tipping Service: If you fancy finding a winner for the NRL season, get involved with the Punters Guide Tipping Service. Yearly and weekly subscriptions offered. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
2018 Field Goal Update – 1: Mitchell Pearce slotted a golden point winner against Manly in the only drop goal of Round 1.
Fun Fact #1: Sam Williams and Ryan Hoffman both began their third stints with the Raiders and Storm respectively in Round 1.
Fun Fact #2: Steve Clark holds the record for most premiership games officiated without a Grand Final with 314. Gavin Badger on 306 should surpass him midway through the 2018 season.
Fun Fact #3: Melbourne are a perfect 11-0 under referee Gavin Reynolds.
Fun Fact #4: The most common name in the NRL is Sione Katoa.
Neil Henry in the Commentary Box: Rugby League officially has its Ian Chappell. The monotone is alive in the greatest game of all. Not since Jack Gibson has Rugby League had such a boring-sounding bloke behind the stick.
Betting Market of the Week: With Blocker Roach getting three games on the trot, Vossy limited to just a single match, an actor getting a play-by-play gig and Neil Henry now on colour, what magic will the executives at Fox NRL pull out for us next:
$6.00: Have Blocker Roach do all eight games in an attempt to break the weekly record for most games covered with fewest insights given record
$2.50: Add Matt Lodge to the analyst rotation
$4.00: Bring back Lex Marinos to give around-the-grounds scores from North Sydney Oval
$1.80: Have Andrew Voss do a Rex Mossop impersonation for the remainder of the season
Rumour Mill: Aiden Tolman is expected to be released to join the Titans prior to the end of March. Robbie Farah is also in negotiations to join Canberra. Laurie Daley is expected to take over from David Kidwell as New Zealand Test coach as the broom goes through the highest levels of New Zealand Rugby League. Michael Maguire is being sounded out as a potential replacement for Anthony Griffin at Penrith with the Phil Gould-Anthony Griffin relationship now believed to be irreparable. Nathan Peats will be at Parramatta in 2019, if not earlier. One big name hero from Round 1 has been doing plenty on the drink at his new club and has not impressed his coach one iota.
Key Stat for a Player Who Should Not Be in First Grade: The 2018 season is Dale Copley’s 10th year in the NRL.
What I Like About … Referees: It has been outstanding across the opening round that the play-the-ball has been so strictly enforced. Put your foot on the ball and play it backwards. It has been the rule for over a century yet officials decided to let standards slip in recent years for reasons only they can explain. Hopefully the hard-ass approach to the ruck is maintained for all of 2018 and this isn’t the annual crackdown that lasts two weeks.
Game of the Year Nomination: Newcastle-Manly, 19-18. The Knights pulled off the win deep in extra time as new recruit Mitchell Pearce booted the winner. It was a fairytale start for a team where more is expected in 2018.
The Coaching Crosshairs: Astonishingly, speculation has it, Roosters coach Trent Robinson is in danger of losing his job at the Roosters. The story goes that Robinson is on the outs and Des Hasler is being sounded out as a replacement. The speculation sounds utterly ridiculous. Robinson is one of the most astute coaches in the game and has done an excellent job at the Roosters. He should have the job as long as he wants it.
Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week: Wayne Bennett’s decision to recruit and then play Matt Lodge was appalling. He has not only lost his standing as the game’s more compass but he appears to be starting to lose the plot completely. Shocking sense for what is right for the game.
Beard Watch: Reagan Campbell-Gillard’s moustache would do Ron Swanson proud. Or ‘Outlaw’ Ron Bass. His commitment to it has been incredible too.
Watch It: Video footage of the Matt Lodge rampage through New York should surely have told the NRL all they need to know. Watch it here.