From The Couch 2019: Round 14

By Nick Tedeschi at makingthenut.com

Freddy Loses The Plot: Brad Fittler was always a high risk proposition to coach the Blues. He went wild last year ushering in significant change and reaped the rewards. Either power or some kind of mental breakdown have gotten him in the 12 months since and it has been particularly acute over the last week. The entire state was worried when word leaked that Mitchell Pearce was about to be recalled in what was a clear indication that Fittler had officially left the planet of reason and sense and was floating in the ether of complete and utter stupidity.

In the end, Pearce withdrew after picking up a hip injury and Fittler made seven changes in what will go down as one of the most bizarre team selections in Origin history.

The Good
Wade Graham and Dale Finucane are excellent additions to the bench. Graham provides versatility but can play his primary role as an edge forward. Finucane is a tough-as-nails middle who should have been there. The return of Tom Trbojevic is more than welcome. He is a genuine star.

The Bad
James Maloney has been playing well and his recall is understandable but he should have come in for Nathan Cleary, not Cody Walker. Josh Morris was stiff to be dropped. The prop forward situation is embarrassing. Daniel Saifiti is barely a first grader let alone a starting Origin prop and the lack of props on the bench is a huge worry.  Matt Prior, Alex Twal, Matt Lodge and even Aiden Tolman should be ahead of Saifiti. Ryan Matterson unlucky to miss out but for Tariq Sims to be picked ahead of him is an indictment on the selection panel.

The Ugly
Blake Ferguson had his cards marked for a reason. His form is irrelevant. He disrespected the jersey. He is completely error-prone too. His recall undermines all Fittler has done to team culture. Dropping Latrell Mitchell was a big call. Replacing him with Jack Wighton is nothing short of insanity. Wighton, who should not have been picked in the opener and then threw a match-turning intercept, is now going to play out of position. That will be a complete debacle.

On a short preparation, Fittler could barely have gone worse.

Maroons Selection Notes: Queensland, of course, were always going to be loath to make many changes after a win in the opener. Kevin Walters has made just two injury-enforced changes with Tim Glasby and Jarrod Wallace coming in for Jai Arrow and Joe Ofahengaue. Christian Welch was a touch unlucky but it is hard to have too many qualms.

No Return for Folau: Israel Folau should not be welcomed back to Rugby League. He should be banned for life. Any player who turns their back on the code to play union deserves a lifetime blackballing.

Penalty-Try Fest: Two penalty tries on the one weekend is surely a first during the NRL Era. It is certainly apparent that referees are more liberal in their interpretation and so they should as teams are far more prevalent in deliberately fouling in the act of a try. Having said that, there is absolutely no way Michael Chee-Kam should have been awarded one on Saturday night.

The Rugby League News: All Rugby League fans should be eternally grateful to the National Library of Australia, who recently digitised every edition of ‘The Rugby League News’, the predecessor to what we know as Big League. It goes back to 1921 and some of the content is unbelievable. Read it here.

2019 Field Goal Update – 21: Benji Marshall turned back to clock to slot a golden point matchwinner in Townsville while James Maloney made it three field goals in three weeks with the sealer against South Sydney.

Fun Fact #1: Canterbury have been held to 12 points or fewer in eight of their last 10

Fun Fact #2: Canterbury are 11-27 under Dean Pay

Fun Fact #3: Canterbury have gone 3-15 in the last 18 games Raymond Faitala-Mariner has played

Betting Market of the Week: Canterbury’s odds of beating the following teams:

$2.20: The 1999 Western Suburbs Magpies
$2.30: The 2002 South Sydney Rabbitohs
$2.50: The Lithgow Shamrocks Reserve Grade
$3.00: The Australian Gymnastics Team

Rumour Mill: Tim Mannah reportedly left Parramatta after a decorated career at the club because he was extremely upset at the culture of drugs and gambling that is supposedly rife at the Eels. Another line doing the rounds is that Mannah was told he would not play first grade again and needed more games to be able to win a Super League contract next season. Solomone Kata has been linked with a mid-season switch to Melbourne. Christian Welch is on the radar of both Parramatta and Penrith.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 14: North Queensland – Wests Tigers, 26-27. Benji Marshall slotted a golden point matchwinner that proved the difference after the Tigers blew a 20-6 halftime lead to fall behind 24-20 only for a last-minute penalty that levelled the scores.

Random Fact of Rugby League Stupidity: The tournament average totals at the 1954 World Cup was 33.83.

Worst Coaching Decision of the Week: Garth Brennan’s decision to recall Bryce Cartwright ended in defeat and that should be a surprise to nobody. Cartwright is a massive liability in defence and a total lair with the ball in hand. He could not send any more red flags yet Brennan continually picks him and plays him 80 minutes.

The Coaching Crosshairs: Garth Brennan is a major show to get fired this week with the premiership on hiatus this week and the Titans with over two weeks to sort out their affairs. The club is in the throes of a midseason review and even if this was not a stitch-up job, it would look highly unfavourably on the Titans and the coaching at the club. The Garth Brennan era will rightly be ending soon and with it will go “Garth-ball” and hopefully the first grade career of Bryce Cartwright.

Beard Watch: Kurt Baptiste is running arguably the strongest moustache game in the competition. There is strong speculation he may be the long lost brother of both Mario and Luigi Mario.

Correspondence Corner: Davey G, you are probably right about Haas. I hope Walker gets another crack but I am concerned he will not.

Knight Vision, I agree that Cleary’s kicking game is average at best. Agree that Crichton is only there because he is a favourite of Fittler.

Watch It: The 1990 Kangaroos Tour of Great Britain was an outstanding one, capped by a magnificent Test series. Here are some highlights including Mark McGaw’s spectacular kick and the Ricky Stuart break. Watch it here.

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