NICK TEDESCHI wraps up another big week in rugby league in the latest instalment of From the Couch.
The NRL needs to seriously review how it schedules its final round. Let’s start with the matches. Whoever thought it was a good idea to stage a major rivalry match like the Panthers and Eels in the final round is a complete and utter fool and so is anyone who signed off on it. There is always a risk players will be rested in the final round. There is absolutely no reason to run that risk for a major rivalry game. Even minor rivalries like the Rabbitohs-Dragons should not be staged in the last round. Resting players is going to become more of an issue. The NRL can do little about it. They probably don’t need to intervene, as worrying as it is. They could consider a general bye but that does seem extreme. What they should be managing better though is games with related importance. The last round should be left free and then scheduled accordingly. While we no longer see games head-to-head with each other and won’t, games should at least be played on the same day. Cronulla, Canberra and Gold Coast should all have been playing on the same day. The NRL should not be giving dates and times of the final round until after Round 24.
Calamitous Canberra Completely Cast
Canberra’s performance with their season on the line on Thursday night was more inept and uninspiring than even the biggest Raiders hater could not have scripted it. The lack of will and commitment tells a pretty strong tale of where the club is at. They have too much talent to play as pathetically as they did with a potential finals berth on the line.
Farewell, Matt Cecchin
The fact Matt Cecchin received a tunnel from Souths and Dragons players on Saturday night shows how well respected the veteran referee is and his retirement is really a loss for the game. Cecchin may not be the referee he once was but he is still close to the best official in the game and certainly the most beloved. He has refereed over 300 games, he has called 25 finals matches, been the pocket referee for three Grand Finals and done numerous internationals but it is the lack of support he has received from HQ that drove him away from the NRL the first time and is playing a role this time around. At a time when the standard of refereeing is average at best, the game has lost a good one.
No NRLW a Brutal Result
This season was expected to be a critical one in the growth of the women’s game but now the season won’t come to be with the NRLW delaying the season until the start of 2022. The competition was set to be expanded in both footprint and length. The NRL were in a mighty tough position but the female game cannot be thrown away. It has been a huge success in recent years and must continue to be prioritised. It is also the greatest betting fill-up of all-time, for those astute enough to back the Broncos in every game.
Two Astonishing Challenges
We could go another decade before seeing two more confusing and ridiculous challenges than we saw this week. It kicked off with James Tedesco, who challenged that a player who was taken about four metres over the sideline was in touch. It was a challenge that appeared insane but may have opened the door for a new challenge – the obvious inane challenge – where you challenge something tangential to what you are challenging and then get a breather and don’t lose your challenge. We then saw Blake Ferguson. He challenged a touch judge call from the kickoff. One where he was 50m away. The touch judge was 50cm away. Why any captain, no matter how inexperienced, would listen to Ferguson is just next level stupidity.
Lack of Farewell Conversions An Indictment
The lack of farewell conversions across the last round was an indictment on the game. A time-honoured tradition, the lack of prop forwards taking conversions or backrowers taking penalty goals cast a pall over the final week of regular season action. At least we got Will Hopoate to slot one.
Not since the ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage married Miss Elizabeth at Summerslam has there been a more perfect marriage than Anthony Seibold and rugby union. Dally M Coach of the Year in 2018, Seibiold’s career has nosedived to such an extent that he has been ridden out of Newcastle and has now signed to be an assistant coach in English rugby union. He has now officially been excommunicated for Rugby League.
The Most Speechless Play of All-Time
It is unlikely that any writer will ever be able to do full justice to what is unquestionably the try of the year. I am, of course, talking about the incredible final try by Manly. Despite leading by 22 and with finals waiting next week, Reuben Garrick tip-toed along the deadball line to avoid a tired chase before breaking what seemed like about six tackles and firing the ball down the left wing. Daly Cherry-Evans put the afterburners on before kicking inside to Tom Trbojevic. It was a stunning try that showcased all of Manly’s skills. It also provided what would almost certainly rank as the worst beat of all-time for those who took the Cowboys at the +24.5. The Cowboys didn’t need to kick. Garrick certainly didn’t need to return it. There was no need for the expansiveness of the return. They also needed some incredible skill to return it 110m in distance from deadball to tryline but in essence closer to 150m, considering the backing up all the way down the paddock. The try was as good as the beat was bad.
2021 Field Goal Update – 26
Anthony Milford kicked a farewell field goal in his final game for the Broncos that was, in the words of the great Dan Ginnane, “very important to some”, giving Brisbane a 13-point win over finals-bound Newcastle.
Fun Fact #1
St George Illawarra are 0-8 since their infamous BBQ, conceding 32-plus in six of those, falling from seventh to 13th on the ladder.
Fun Fact #2
Marcelo Montoya has won just 22 of 72 first grade games including just 12 of his last 51.
Fun Fact #3
The first player alphabetically in premiership history is Leo Abberton, who played three games for Balmain and Glebe in 1925-26. Current Roosters winger Brad Abbey is second.
Betting Market of the Week
Blake Ferguson’s next recommended challenge will be:
$2.50: He does not believe Rugby League is played on a rectangular field
$2.20: He does not believe Rugby League is played for 80 minutes
$1.80: He does not believe Rugby League is played with a ball
Penrith star Viliame Kikau has been linked with a big-money move to St George Illawarra. Tariq Sims is expected to sign a deal with Manly. The rumours won’t die at Brisbane that Payne Haas is unhappy and will look to exit the club in the coming years though a recent pay rise may quieten that discontent. John Bateman has been linked to a return to the NRL with the Wests Tigers his most likely destination.
Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week
Anthony Griffin’s decision to bring in Larry, Curly and Moe to assist him this week really backfired with nearly every South Sydney try coming from absolutely inane Saints errors. Ravalawa dropping an easy grubber. Beale spilling a simple pass. Sloan dropping an easy bomb. If he had passed the bucket bong around before the game and made everyone take a hit, it would not be a complete surprise.
The Coaching Crosshairs
The Wests Tigers have announced that they are undertaking a full review of the club’s operations and after that inept 38-0 loss to the wooden spooners Canterbury, his time at the club will be drawing to a close rather quickly. The Tigers had nothing to play for but neither did the Bulldogs. Canterbury showed some pride. The Wests Tigers disrespected their fans, their jersey and whatever it is that the club supposedly stands for. The bloodshed should not stop with him. If the CEO, the halfback and the majority of the roster survive this, then it was nothing but a dog and pony show.
For a so-called traditional club, no team screws around with their jerseys more than South Sydney. It is bad enough when teams like the Tigers make cheap cash grabs with 15 jerseys a year but traditional teams need to take more of a lead from the AFL and respect their colours and their jumper. It is a beautiful and unique jersey and it needs to be respected more.
It is astonishing that it has been 30 years since the great Ewan McGrady dazzled the league on his way to the 1991 Rothmans Medal. A scintillating player with silky skills and speed to burn, McGrady didn’t shine long but he shone bright. He famously required a police escort to the Rothmans Medal ceremony, organised by Peter Moore, when he no-showed and was found at a Belmore barbershop. Here are some of the best moments from one of the most enigmatic and mysterious stars of the last three decades.