August 7, 2017
From the Couch Rd 22
From the Couch
by Nick Tedeschi
How The Contenders Shape Up: A quick analysis of how those still in the running for a finals berth shape up:
Melbourne: Flying. Well clear at the top of the ladder. Have most of their stars fit and healthy. More depth than most years. Will be in the Grand Final and with the club farewelling Cooper Cronk they will be winning. Only way they get rolled is if it all goes wrong on the day.
Sydney Roosters: The Roosters have won 8 of their last 11 and have a good run in with two games they definitely win but play both of last year’s Grand Finalists on the road. Unlikely to win a minor premiership. Key injuries are starting to hurt. Losing grip on second-best team status.
Brisbane: The way the put the Titans to the sword on Saturday night suggested Brisbane may well have ascended to top contender status to Melbourne. There is no more dangerous attack in the NRL. An even run in will be a good indicator of where the Broncos are at but if they can handle life without Andrew McCullough then there is no reason they can’t return to the Grand Final.
Cronulla: Cronulla’s title defence just hasn’t really been able to gather any momentum all year. Haven’t posted three straight wins since Round 12 and had some awful losses. The drive just doesn’t seem to be there. James Maloney is a bad injury but all the off-field drama around him and Jack Bird isn’t helping. Tough run in. Can see missing the Top 4.
Parramatta: The Eels have won six straight and have claimed some decent scalps along the way. Defensively outstanding. Brad Arthur is an outstanding coach. No Clint Gutherson a big concern but they come home against three teams outside the Top 8 and a monster game against Brisbane. Seem Top 4 bound. Not good enough to win it all but a Grand Final not beyond them.
North Queensland: A brutal run in combined with the loss of Johnathan Thurston has the Cowboys season on the verge of derailing. Tried hard against top two teams but couldn’t break down their defences. Still have teams three and four on the schedule. Unlikely to miss out but that is more a reflection of chasing pack. First week fodder seems most likely.
Manly: Huge win over the Roosters to stop the rot after conceding close to 100 points over the last two weeks. Very hard to stop once they get on top as they are extremely energetic and disciplined. Will be huge favourites in their next three and may even sneak a Top 4 spot.
Penrith: The Panthers have the hot hand at the moment with five straight wins and nine victories in their last 11. Been doing so with a few injuries of late too (Moylan, Merrin). Had a very soft run though with just two of those matches against Top 8 teams. Have final four matches against finals contenders. Can see them missing out, particularly if they lose to the Raiders.
St George Illawarra: Seem to have blown the season completely. Have won just 4 of their last 13. Josh McCrone is their half. Have lost last two as big faves. Will start fave in probably two more games but hard to see them getting back in the Top 8 after Souths loss.
Canberra: Might have found some momentum now with three wins in their last four, including a total decimation of the Sharks on the road. Will beat the Warriors and should beat the Knights. A key clash with Penrith likely decides their finals fate. Odds still against but could be dangerous with some momentum.
2017 Field Goal Update – 23: Unfortunately, there were no field goals landed in retro round.
Fun Fact #1: The last father to coach against his son in the NRL was Bob McCarthy in 1990, when he coached the Gold Coast Seagulls against his son Darren and the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Fun Fact #2: 43 players have attempted a shot at goal this season with 40 players landing at least one.
Fun Fact #3: Cameron Munster has the worst kicking percentage in the NRL this season of someone with at least 15 shots, kicking at 52.94%.
Betting Market of the Week: Des Hasler’s next move to fix Canterbury’s attack:
$4.00: Sign Kyle Stanley – either the ex-NRL player or the golfer, it doesn’t matter – to partner Chase in the halves
$3.00: Attempt to use sports science to convince the NRL the ball is not required any longer in Rugby League
$1.30: Pay the five-eighth of the team that lost to the Warriors a million bucks
$1.10: Give Aiden Tolman more touches, particularly inside the attacking 20
Rumour Mill: The rumour mill won’t quieten that Jack Bird is set to try and pull the pin on his move to Brisbane, unhappy he won’t be playing in the halves. Bird’s camp denies this. There is speculation Stephen Kearney could be dumped just a year into his Warriors deal as the club tries to find a long-term mentor that can rebuild the team. Tim Grant is expected to go back to Penrith in 2018. Agnatius Paasi and Gerard Beale are on the radar of South Sydney. Brenton Lawrence will be at the Titans next season. Adam Blair will be at either the Warriors or Dragons next year.
Robbie Farah Anger Levels – Off The Charts: Robbie Farah played just 19 minutes against the Dragons as his career flashes before his eyes.
What I Like About … Retro Round: Fox League does a brilliant job covering the NRL but their work on retro round is really something else. They commit to it. Fully. Balls deep. From the 1980s music and theme songs, the graphics, the Street Fighter ads, Hindy and Fletch as The Ultimate Warrior and Macho Man, Gorden Tallis doing Wally Lewis and Tina Turner opening the Thursday night coverage, it was a great weekend.
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 22: St George Illawarra – South Sydney, 24 – 26. It is hard to go past such a dramatic finish in Retro Round at the SCG with Adam Reynolds once again the hero, slotting the matchwinner from the sideline.
The Coaching Crosshairs: The pressure rightly continues to mount on Des Hasler and the slothful Canterbury board after yet another pathetic performance against Parramatta on Thursday. The Bulldogs were beyond lifeless in attack and put in some pathetic efforts defensively. The decision to play Chase Stanley in the halves rather than try a youngster like Josh Cleeland shows how out of touch Hasler is. The team has no idea and won’t with Hasler at the helm. Hasler’s style just isn’t working in 2012 and the quicker the Bulldogs board do something to end this rot the better the club will be. Even if Barrett has signed – as the mail suggests – Hasler has to go and an interim coach put in place.
Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week: Ivan Cleary is an excellent coach but his in-game coaching of the Tigers was diabolical on Sunday, leaving tired players out there while Josh Drinkwater sat on the bench unused and Sauaso Sue hardly got a run while Matt McIllwrick missed 11 tackles.
Beard Watch: The most famous beard in refereeing since Greg McCallum celebrated his 300th game in the top grade with Gavin Badger trimming down for the big event. Badger’s first appointment was in 2003 when Cronulla defeated South Sydney 54-34, a match that featured Paul Gallen (the only NRL player still in the league) as well as such luminaries like Jess Caine and Jarrad Anderson, who scored a double and 18 points respectively.
Correspondence Corner: Jonny, Melbourne have enough respect to let Cronk go and do as he chooses. He has done his time.
The Truthteller, the NRL made a huge mistake with John Grant but that shouldn’t preclude the game from continuing to pursue independence. Peter Beattie is a good hire. Political influence is something the game desperately needs.
Hugoaugogo, my guess is he will start the season at Souths and the powers-that-be do rate him but he may not last long.
Tony Monero, I’d love to get in the hot tub time machine.
Davey G, I would welcome Maguire to Canterbury.
Watch It: See the highlights of one of the great routs of the NRL era, when Parramatta whipped Cronulla 74-4 in a total annihilation. Watch the second half highlights here.