From The Couch – Round 3

From The Couch – Round 3

By Nick Tedeschi

Let’s Get The Immortals Whole: The NRL hasn’t done a lot right lately but one thing they have nailed is adding a framework around the Immortals concept, announcing two more players could be added this year and most importantly, extending those eligible back to 1908 and the founding of the game in Australia. The Immortals concept is not only the highest elevation one can get to in Rugby League but is arguably the highest honour in Australia. It should cover the entire history of the game.

While the judging panel has changed over the years, hopefully the NRL doesn’t forget about doyens of the game like Ian Heads when naming those to decide who will select the two Immortals.

I for one will be hoping the judges take a stance of sensibility and use the two slots available for pre-war players. It is important the right pre-war players are added now before the likes of Mal Meninga, Darren Lockyer and maybe even Brad Fittler are even considered.

While everyone will plump for Dally Messenger, and he should certainly be in the mixer, Dave Brown and Frank Burge should be ahead of him. Messenger was the game’s first superstar but Brown’s scoring deeds remain records to this day while Burge was a giant both figuratively and literally of the game, a devastating forward who scored nearly a try a game including a record haul of eight in one match. Harold Horder, Wally Prigg and Duncan Thompson also need to be deep in the discussion.

Let’s sort the pre-war Immortals out before resuming regular coverage.

Laughable HQ At It Again: The Matt Lodge affair continues to get more embarrassing and humiliating for the NRL. In a single week, Todd Greenberg claimed he knew all about Lodge’s disgraceful history of domestic violence despite claims from his victim that she was never spoken to before Greenberg acted surprised that Lodge hadn’t attempted to pay back his victims and threatened to kick him out of the NRL if he didn’t set up a payment plan. It was classic Greenberg, defiant in a position before capitulating completely. To call this one of the great PR clusterfucks of all-time would be an understatement.

Friday Night Fuck-up: The disgrace of Friday night’s “not square” penalty in golden point that cost the Tigers their match against the Broncos wasn’t that a penalty was awarded in golden point. The game should be officiated from the 81st to the 90th minute the same way it is from the 1st to the 80th. It wasn’t the fact it ended the game. Some penalties decide matches. It wasn’t even that the call was patently wrong. Referees make mistakes and the NRL has at least come out and said they got this wrong. No, the real disgrace is the mentality of the referees and in particular Ashley Klein, who finds it necessary to pull a penalty that is almost never awarded from his backside in the most critical of moments for no other reason than to draw attention to themselves. There was no need to call that penalty. It is never called. There were instances in that match – in that golden point period! – that were clearer breaches of the not square rule yet weren’t called. There are always going to be issues with officials but awarding a penalty that is constantly breached yet never penalised at such a moment only solidifies the thinking that officials have no feel for the match and are pleased to put themselves into the centre of a situation they have no right being in.

There is Nothing Wrong with a Draw: The debacle that brought about the end to the Tigers-Broncos clash on Friday night need never have occurred if the NRL would just simply accept that the best way to end a game level at 80 minutes is to call time and split the points. There are so many benefits to a draw. Firstly, it is usually the fair result. Secondly, it stops the embarrassment to Rugby League that typically is golden point. Thirdly, it breaks up the ladder. There is nothing wrong with a draw. Bring it back.

Off You Go: While the referees have rightly copped a bake this week, fair play to Grant Atkins, who did the right thing in sending Adam Blair to the sin bin for a late shot. Atkins had warned the Warriors over repeated infringements and wasn’t standing for this rubbish. It is about time referees ended this stupid rigidity over how and why the sin bin can be used.

Pray For Denver: Pray for Denver, pray for international Rugby League. The narrative being pushed by the NRL, the RLPA and the clubs declaring the mid-season international between New Zealand and England in Denver is nothing short of disgraceful, a concerted conspiracy to stop the match going ahead because the match is supposedly “dangerous”. What absolute poppycock. The match is being played on a dedicated Origin weekend. Other Tests are taking place. NFL players regularly play in Denver. When will Rugby League ever learn. The code – led by the NRL – needs to foster the international game, not stifle it at every opportunity.

Shameless Promo #1: The Punters Guide is back for 2018 and punters are already cashing in with the three big bets across the opening three rounds – Wests Tigers +10.5 in Round 1, Brisbane +4 in Round 2 and Canterbury +4.5 in Round 3 – both saluting with the underdog winning off the stick. Don’t miss out on the best stats-based analysis in Rugby League. Yearly and weekly subscriptions offered. Email for details. Email now for a free preview.

Shameless Promo #2: I am back on the air with a new podcast with the TAB in New Zealand called ‘The Advantage Line’, a betting focussed look at the week ahead with host Alex Coogan-Reeves, bookie Paul Maoatie and soon-to-be-on former Australian halfback Johnny Gibbs. Listen, subscribe and review at wherever you get your podcasts.

Shameless Promo #3: I’m not usually in the business of promoting individual bookmakers but a good mate of mine Andy Fahey has set up Pointsbet and they are definitely the most punter-friendly book out there. They offer both fixed odds and spread betting and will look after you if you sign up here.

2018 Field Goal Update – 6: Well that cranked up a notch! After having just one field goal slotted in the first 18 matches of the season, we saw five kicked in the next two with Jamayne Isaako and Luke Brooks slotting field goals in the 9-7 Broncos-Tigers clash before Shaun Johnson kicked two and Sam Williams one in the Warriors-Raiders affair. Huge weekend for field goals.

Fun Fact #1: The Wests Tigers have scored three tries and conceded two in 240 minutes of football.

Fun Fact #2: The Sharks and Eels scored on try apiece on Saturday night but the Sharks booted five penalty goals to zero.

Fun Fact #3: The Raiders have won just 9 of 36 one-score games since 2015.

Fun Fact #4: This is the first season the Warriors have opened the year with three straight wins.

Fun Fact #5: British athletes who love Super League: Golfer Tommy Fleetwood, Cyclist Bradley Wiggins and cricketers Ben Stokes and Johnny Bairstow.

Betting Market of the Week: After Canberra’s next close loss, Ricky Stuart will blame:

$101: Poor coaching
$101: Poor defence
$101: A lack of heart
$101: An ordinary culture
$1.01: A refereeing decision that was clearly correct

Quote of the Week: “We were the better team” – Ricky Stuart.

Rumour Mill: The rumours about the disruption Jarryd Hayne has caused at the Eels just won’t go away with one big-name player looking to get out as a result. Disgruntled Canberra half Blake Austin has been in talks about a switch to Canterbury but the Bulldogs’ fraught salary cap position means a move in 2018 seems unlikely. Expect Clint Gutherson to return to Manly at some point in the near future. Marika Korobiete is eyeing a return to the NRL with Penrith his most likely destination.

Key Stat for a Player Who Should Not Be in First Grade: Mitchell Moses has a 39.53% career win strike rate.

What I Like About … Moses Mbye: This time a year ago, the Bulldogs, frankly, were an embarrassment. Moses Mbye, rightly or wrongly, was cast as one of the villains when he could not get Canterbury out of their own way when wearing the No.7 jersey. With Des Hasler gone though and Mbye now in the No.1 jersey, he is starting to look like the player who was signed to a long-term deal a few years back. His return game was exceptional against Penrith on Friday night and his touches always dangerous.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 3: Wests Tigers – Brisbane, 7 – 9. A generally shocking game of football with an incredibly dramatic finale. Tough weekend for footy though with no standout game.

The Coaching Crosshairs: The net is surely closing in on Canberra coach Ricky Stuart after another complete bottle-job, their third blown lead in the final four minutes of the game. This time they led by seven with four minutes to play before allowing the Warriors to match up the field three times and go converted try-field goal-field goal in three straight sets. Golden point wasn’t even required. Ricky Stuart’s Raiders have now won just 9 of the last 36 one-score games, a statistic that defies belief with one-score games nearly always regressing to 50-50 from year-to-year let alone over a four-season period. The Raiders move slowly on these matters and won’t axe Stuart mid-season but there will be serious consideration over his future if the Raiders continue to blow games they should be winning.

Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week: Anthony Griffin’s continued tinkering with the Penrith starting side has finally caught up with him. His continual naming of Villame Kikau to start and then deciding to play him off the bench is just idiotic and has all the hallmarks of Brian Smith as he began to descend into madness. It is unnecessary and also unsettling to the Panthers team, in particularly Kikau and others he pulls to the pine. His time at Penrith is coming to an end.

Beard Watch: Corey Norman deserves a big mention this week for his wispy little moustache that certainly brought back images of Freddie Mercury. The moustache is certainly on the way back.

Correspondence Corner: Cam, Parramatta sure took a beating at the hands of Manly.

Watch It: No clip this week. Just watch Andrew Voss’s new show ‘The Fan’ on Fox League. It is the best thing on television. Any show that finds that the first man to score a premiership try was also the first man to get Bradman out in first class cricket is brilliant.

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