An Interview for the Ages
There was nothing over the eight games last weekend as close to bringing the same amount of joy to the Rugby League World than that of Peter V’Landys’ interview with Matthew Johns. There is no bigger character in the game. V’Landys knows the character he needs to play and he plays it to a tee. Vince McMahon would be proud. He mocked the AFL and rugby union. Claimed salvation for the AFL. Talked up his Rugby League credentials. It was captivating viewing and one that told all league fans that their sport is in the right hands.
The Big Gap is Getting Bigger
The jury remains out on the impact of the new rules. There is no doubt the game is significantly faster. There are far fewer penalties. Referees are hiding behind the set restart. The full ramifications are yet to be seen but the one certainty is that they have widened the gap between the haves and the have nots. There is going to be a lot of touch-ups. Usually, early season home underdogs are money. They are a long way from that now. The good teams can build momentum. They are better prepared. They have more talent and the new rules allow that to shine at the expense of parity. It is going to be a major story this year. The strong teams are going to have a field day against the poor teams this year, something minus punters are going to lap up.
The Love of the Game
Anyone who claims to be a Rugby League fan and did not feel a deep and abiding love for both James Graham and Josh Kerr this week has no heart. Both claimed they were prepared to die for Rugby League. Graham certainly lived that mantra throughout his career, sacrificing his body for the game and his teams. Kerr is fearless hitting the line. There is no doubt that concussions are a massive issue facing the game and the game has a duty of care to protect players but it is hard not to have the utmost respect for those who have sacrificed so much for the love of the game and an appreciation of the opportunity afforded them.
Rugby League’s Newest Statue
The Melbourne Storm erected a statue of George Jennings at Bankwest Stadium. The timing and location were interesting. It was erected at around 8.30pm last Thursday night on the middle of the playing surface. Parramatta continually bombed at the statue and it proved the difference.
Hunt Returns to Form
Ben Hunt has barely played a good game for the Dragons. He claimed the Willie M Medal last year and has been the whipping boy at the Saints ever since signing his big contract. He was outstanding against the Cowboys though, the new skipper and completely engaged. His bake of Zac Lomax early for not jumping showed how focused he was. He kicked well. He ran well. It would be a tremendous redemption story if he was to continue this form for the rest of 2021 under his old coach.
Just imagine, for a second, eyes closed, in a quiet moment, that somebody loved you with the same passion, verve and heart that Josh Hodgson loves the crash ball.
Middle Tries a Sure Sign of Despair
Gold Coast’s ability to score so many tries through the middle was an indictment on the club and the effort put forward. Jaimin Jolliffe, a hardworking but plodding prop, scored his first try. So did backup hooker Erin Clark. Jarrod Wallace scored just the 12th try of his 154-game career. David Fifita waltzed over for two tries. Most of those were tries not scored by recognised tryscorers. They were soft. The Walters era has picked up just where the Seibold one left off.
Chad Townsend missed three extremely gettable kicks in the final 20 minutes of the Sharks two-point loss to the Raiders. It was absolutely astonishing that a professional kicker could miss so poorly in the clutch. He will struggle to live that showing down for a long time.
2021 Field Goal Update – 2
Corey Norman slotted a beauty from 38 metres just before halftime in the Dragons’ win over North Queensland in Townsville. It was an absolute beauty and proved important with the Saints winning by seven points, that drop goal keeping the Cowboys to two scores in the dying moments. We also saw Matt Moylan attempt the first two-point field goal in what was a forgettable effort.
Fun Fact #1
Luke Brooks is 63-87 through 150 NRL games. His only winning season was when he went 1-0 when winning the final game of the year on debut for the Tigers in 2013.
Fun Fact #2
Five current coaches played in a winning Grand Final as a player: Kevin Walters, Ricky Stuart, Craig Bellamy, Des Hasler and Todd Payten.
Fun Fact #3
Two former Adelaide Rams players have coached in the premiership while a further has coached at international level: Michael Maguire, Tony Iro and David Kidwell.
Betting Market of the Week
Brisbane Broncos v Souths Logan Magpies
$1.80: Souths Logan
Gold Coast have been linked to a number of Broncos players including star centre Kotoni Staggs. Ryan Matterson is reportedly shopping himself around with Canterbury expressing the most interest. Tom Dearden is expected to leave the Broncos with the Cowboys favoured to get his signature.
The Coaching Crosshairs
Kevin Walters may have felt like the Broncos coaching job was his destiny. Destiny may not last that long. Walters has had a very ordinary start to his run at Brisbane with two straight defeats making it 13 on end. Tom Dearden, the future of the club, is stuck in reserve grade. The middle is showing no gumption. The chairman seems to have little invested in the coach. The pressure is already on. He is a legitimate chance of being one-and-done if the Broncos don’t start offering more.
Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week
Des Hasler is without question among the most successful coaches this century but his stubbornness and failure to adapt has got Manly into plenty of trouble this year. His insistence on playing Dylan Walker at fullback is bordering on criminal neglect. His limited use of Cade Cust is nearly as bad. This is to say nothing of his roster construction with Manaise Fainu and Kane Lawton. Hasler left Canterbury in a complete mess. He is on his way to doing same at Manly.
Penrith warmed up in a delightful throwback brown-and-white vertical stripes number that was tantalising and mesmerising. The Panthers then ran out in a gaudy pink. What a terrible shame that the Panthers never throw back to their heritage and don the brown. No team is less identified with a single colour than the Panthers, who are black and teal and pink and who knows what else.
With the big wet hitting Sydney and much of the east coast over the weekend, we go back to 1998 and Canterbury’s last try at Belmore for nearly two decades. The Bulldogs were battling the Storm – in their debut season – with former coach Chris Anderson at the helm. The Bulldogs led 2-0 going into the final quarter in torrential conditions when beloved Bulldogs half Craig Polla-Mounter grubbered into a puddle. He scooped it up and slid from five metres out for a stunning try. Watch it here.