From the Couch Rd 18

Pressure to Break Blues: There is absolutely no doubt at all that NSW have been the dominant team of this series. They brutalised Queensland for three straight halves with direct running, fast play and working over defensive weaklinks. New South Wales executed the blueprint to beat Queensland and had the series all but one were it not for Jarryd Hayne being a self-important wannabe hero and Mitchell Pearce leading the collapse under pressure. It was that collapse that will weigh heavily on the Blues for the decider. Everyone knows it and no matter which way you chop it, Pearce has never done anything for the Blues under pressure and his teammates have surely lost faith in him and/or the coaching staff after they completely abandoned winning tactics in the face of the first bit of pressure Queensland managed to apply. On home turf, on a last stand, the pressure will be on the Blues. This is not the same old team that got hammered in Game 1. This is a better and younger Maroons outfit trying to carry on a legacy. Betting is wrong here. Queensland deserve to be favourites even though this game is probably in New South Wales’ hands. The Blues will probably make a mess of it though. There is no reason to think they won’t.

NRL Embarrass Themselves Again with Scheduling: It is little wonder that other sports laugh at the way the NRL is administered. The latest scheduling fiasco is the cancellation of the 2018 Nines. Four years after the event was a two-day sellout at Eden Park in Auckland, virtually killing off the long-standing Wellington Rugby Sevens, the NRL has fucked it to the point there will be no event next year. It is a brilliant start to the season  yet will almost certainly never be back to its full glory and may not be back at all thanks to the disrespect the NRL has shown it. How hard is it for the NRL to actually take control of its own assets and come up with something resembling a coherent schedule. Nobody would care if the season was two weeks shorter and the Nines were kept with the big names on show. It is sickening how idiotic these decisions are.

Players Don’t Deserve More Cash: Andrew Webster and Paul Kent were spot on in their assessment that players don’t deserve more of a share in the game’s revenues and definitely don’t deserve a say in how the game is run because the players do very little to sell the game. They don’t speak to the media, they never speak honestly and they rarely go out of their way of their own volition to promote the game widely. The NRL shouldn’t be held to ransom by the ideas of some former AFL stooge.

Lamb to the Slaughter: Trent Hodkinson’s decision to forego the final kick at goal to level the scores after the fulltime siren on Sunday was gutless. There is no other word for it. He is a goalkicker who has kicked in Grand Finals and Origins yet handed the ball to a rookie with fewer than 30 NRL shots at goal. It was an astonishing moment.

2017 Field Goal Update – 20: Nothing doing in the shortened round.

Fun Fact #1: Manu Vatuvei scored 10-plus tries for an incredible 10 straight seasons.

Fun Fact #2: Manu Vatuvei was the Warriors’ top tryscorer for eight straight seasons.

Fun Fact #3: Manu Vatuvei scored at least one try in his last three Tests for New Zealand.

Betting Market of the Week: Chances that any Daily Telegraph “journalist” other than Paul Kent picks Queensland to win the decider:

$1001: Yes
No Betting: No

Rumour Mill: Speculation is running wild that Cooper Cronk is set to join premiers Cronulla with James Maloney to depart Newcastle on a big-money contract. Wayne Bennett has been angling behind-the-scenes to coach Queensland in 2018. Newcastle are set to lose Danny Levi and Joe Wardle to Super League clubs. Canberra are looking to offload Aidan Sezer and are looking at Canterbury to re-sign their former lower grader. The Titans are hopeful of luring Trent Barrett to the club and Barrett may well walk just to have Bob Fulton out of his life.

Robbie Farah Anger Level – High: Robbie is furious he did not get a late call-up to not only play for the Blues but captain them.

What I Like About … Boyd Cordner: Captains rarely lead by example much these days. It is nearly always talk, talk, talk. Not Cordner. He is one tough, honest, hard SOB. He is the right man to lead NSW for a long time. The Blues could not ask for a man more ready to lead them. His toughness in being available for the decider is inspirational.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 18: Sydney Roosters – South Sydney, 14 – 12. A courageous win by a very good Roosters team.

The Coaching Crosshairs: Des Hasler is surely gone at Canterbury after the most unimpressive win by any team this year. The Bulldogs needed a miracle to defeat last-placed Newcastle at Belmore as the club said goodbye to favourite son Josh Reynolds. The Bulldogs are a club that has become a steaming mess. And there is nobody to blame but Hasler. The whispers are out that Hasler will be let go at the end of the year.

Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week: In a shortened round where the NRL had just four matches, referees boss Tony Archer made an obscene decision appointing Henry Perenara as one of the lead officials. His refereeing is laughable. He has absolutely no idea, shown by his 14-4 penalty count against Manly. He is not in the top 153 referees in this country, let alone the top four minus the Origin officials.

Beard Watch: The NRL this week said goodbye to one of the great beards and facial hair exponents of the last decade in Manu Vatuvei. Manu was an enigma in every way including his ridiculous haircuts and beards. He will be missed.

Correspondence Corner: Scotty2Hotty, better speak to the great Kris Gale about that.

Davey_G, I don’t think Cameron Smith ever retires. He doesn’t need to.

Watch It: What better way to start Origin decider day off than to watch Martin Bella play the ball backwards. Watch it here.

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