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NICK TEDESCHI wraps up the week in rugby league in From The Couch.

The Conference System Can Work With Some Common Sense

The NRL has thrown out the bait of a conference system and even though much of the concept has been either bastardised or slammed, it can work with some common sense.

The idea is simple. When the NRL expands, a draw will be based on two conferences, one for Sydney teams and one for out of Sydney teams.

And this can work as long as it is based on a draw and nothing else, including the ladder and more pressingly the finals system. If this system is to work, there can be conference standings but the most important element will be draw consistency and an ability to draw crowds through derbies. If this is reflected in a ladder, that is fine, as long as there is a combined ladder that determines the finals seedings. One element that can never happen is a separated finals series. The prospect of never seeing an all-Sydney Grand Final would be a disgrace.

The biggest argument placed against this is the unfairness. Unless you are the Canberra Raiders or Newcastle Knights, almost nothing will change. Out-of-town teams travel.

Arguments from people like Blocker Roach, who are angry that every team doesn’t play each other an equal number of games is idiotic. It doesn’t happen in US sports. It doesn’t need to.

One thing that was thrown out that absolutely will not work is a second team in New Zealand. Anyone who has lived over there knows Rugby League does not have enough support and the country does not have enough money. The 18th team needs to be in Perth and it needs to happen now.

This can work but common sense needs to prevail.

A Sad End To a Fine Career

It was the low point of the weekend, A legend in tears. His brother consoling him. A seemingly understood notion that arguably the greatest winger of the NRL era had played his last game. Brett Morris, in his 276th game and with just five minutes to play, ruptured his ACL. At his age, he is unlikely to attempt a comeback, which will leave him fourth on the all-time tryscorers list at 176, some 33 shy of the great Ken Irvine. Such has been his ripening with age that he has scored 11 tries already this season. Morris has always been a delight to watch, a player with unnatural speed and elusiveness who knew how to find his way to the tryline. He also played with a boyish delight rarely seen these days. It is never nice to see a great leave with injury but sadly that is what we have with the man known as B-Moz.

Ricky Ridiculousness

Ricky Stuart must take us all for fools as he continues to make up excuses and lies as reasons for clearly dropping players. Jarrod Croker, Josh Hodgson, Josh Papalii and a host of others have all been out of the Raiders team for training injuries and mental health reasons and a variety of other excuses. It is clear Stuart is not happy with his senior players. It is pretty clear they are not that happy with him. Stuart needs to start showing a bit of bottle and declare if he is dumping a player. The NRL also need to provide significant more transparency over injuries.

Canterbury Has an Outside Back Addiction

The last thing any Bulldogs fan wants to see rocketed out in the media is that the Bulldogs have been suckered into signing another outside back, particularly a player with questionable behavioural issues currently playing reserve grade on anything more than the minimum. Having clearly overpaid to recruit Nick Cotric, Corey Allen, Nick Meaney, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Will Hopoate at various times over the last decade – mostly recently – the Bulldogs’ faithful has no interest in the salary cap being wasted on underperforming three-quarters. Josh Addo-Carr could be joining that list soon. The club is in desperate need of a hooker, has only one decent half signed and obviously has no fullback. The Bulldogs need to be chasing Scott Drinkwater, hitting the Raiders up for Tom Starling and finding key spine players, not falling for the folly that all poorly run clubs fall for – overpaying outside backs.

NRLW Expansion Long Overdue

The NRL Women’s Competition has been a revelation the last three seasons. The football is outstanding. The biggest problem has been it has looked like a bolt-on because only four teams have participated and they play each other only once. The NRL is looking to expand the competition to six teams – a long overdue – but hopefully they will expand the competition to 10 regular season rounds plus a finals series. The skill level is there and so is the appetite.

Walker on Sunshine

Sam Walker is remarkably just 18 and has already established himself as a legitimate star of the future as well as the unquestioned Roosters No.7. He is leading the team with aplomb thanks to a great temperament and a dazzling array of skills. How any team could let Walker go is astonishing. He is absolutely at the right club though to maximise his extraordinary talent.

2021 Field Goal Update – 10

There were no field goals in another sad weekend for the drop goal.

Fun Fact #1

Anthony Seibold told now-Roosters halfback Sam Walker that he was a fullback, leading Walker to sign with the Roosters.

Fun Fact #2

Walker became the first Roosters player in history to record five try assists in a single game, playing halfback.

Fun Fact #3

Anthony Seibold is an assistant coach/consultant with the Newcastle Knights, who lost 38-4 to Walker’s Roosters on Saturday night, including allowing a try when playing against an 11-man Roosters side. Walker was playing halfback.

Betting Market of the Week

Ricky Stuart’s next dubious team omission:

$4.00: Jack Wighton ‘got lost’ and ‘could not find the ground’
$3.50: Curtis Scott was ‘overworked’ and is being rested by a tree in Centennial Park
$2.20: Victor the Viking is unavailable because of clapping complications

Rumour Mill

Greg Alexander is fueling the fire that Matt Burton will backflip and stay with Penrith though there is next to no chance the Bulldogs would allow that to happen. Adam Reynolds looks certain to join Cronulla after rejecting an offer from Brisbane. Remarkably Daly Cherry-Evans has been linked with a shift to Redfern – as well as to Red Hill – but will almost certainly stay at Brookvale. Kurt Capewell is almost certain to return to Queensland with both the Broncos and Cowboys making offers. Kotoni Staggs will almost certainly re-sign with Brisbane. Sam Burgess has sounded out a number of clubs about an extraordinary comeback but it would be highly doubtful the NRL will sign off on same.

The Coaching Crosshairs

Adam O’Brien’s name has rarely been mentioned in dispatches as being on the hot seat but the pressure is surely going to start mounting on O’Brien after insipid displays like the Knights threw up on Saturday night against the Roosters. O’Brien signed on with big raps on him, particularly as a nurturer of talent. Very little talent has been developed. He has come through both Bellamy and Robinson so is well aware that successful clubs develop an identity. O’Brien is not close to doing that with Newcastle. The Knights are 14-14-1 during his tenure and did make the finals in his first showing but against the big six teams of the last two seasons, is 2-1-7 with five straight double digit losses. There have been plenty of injuries and they are buying O’Brien plenty of time but it is getting increasingly clear that he is not going to be the next great coach or the coach the Knights thought they had signed up.

Moronic Coaching Decision of the Week

Ricky Stuart’s use of the interchange was so bad on Thursday night that Joseph Tapine’s partner took to social media. This is rarely a strong strategy. Curtis Scott virtually got run out of the Storm because of it. In an instagram post, Kristen Tapine called Stuart’s use of the interchange rubbish via an emoji and questioned why her partner played only 32 minutes while Ryan James played just 23. Even Stuart admitted he made a total hash of it. Ricky is battling at the moment and needs to get all his horses pulling in the one direction as the Raiders season and title window both look in grave danger. Of course, they are not in as much danger as Tapine’s career at the Raiders after that social media outburst.

Jersey Watch

The Wests Tigers continually parade the worst jerseys in the NRL and it is time for the team to rethink their colours. It has been 20 years since Balmain and Western Suburbs merged. The club can no longer justify these consistently awful jumpers that combined black, white and orange. The white needs to go, This is a united club but unless the team goes back to black and white, the club needs to be black and orange.

Watch It

The Morris brothers have likely played their last game together, It is a terrible sadness. They have scored many great tries together across three different clubs. This moment though summed them up when playing for different teams. Their ‘fight’ was one for the ages. Watch it here.