All the world is a stage, coach
The coaching fraternity was under greater siege than Steven Seagal even before Round 1 Began. Messrs Steve Price (Dragons), Anthony Griffin (Broncos) and Mick Potter (Tigers) were all dead men walking, and not because their delivery in interviews and at press conferences was remarkably similar to the Elliot Goblet-like Sean Penn.
They had been the stewards of woefully underperforming clubs in 2013, the knives were still embedded between their shoulder blades, and early season trial form suggested nothing had changed.
But enter Round 3, and their teams have irritatingly gone on to win most or all of their games so far, removing all three as fuel for the media life support system!
Not content to allow the issue of coaches’ job security disappear meekly into the night (thanks, Bill Pullman) and into the oblivion from whence a completely new story must be created (cue: NRL expansion and the draft … Dun dun dun – shoot me now), John Cartwright and Matt Elliot had nobly and unselfishly stepped up to the plate to fill the void.
Annoyingly, both the Titans and Warriors won away from home this weekend, so they’re out now too.
Best we go back to old faithful, Ricky Stuart …
The Tigers’ Prospects and their ‘Big 3’ Spine
A tough – no, mighty tough – and well-constructed win over the Rabbitohs has caused a few commentators to go a little frothy at the mouth about the Tigers’ prospects. Certainly, any time a team’s bravery in a hostile body contact sport is questioned there are going to be fireworks. The Tigers have shown signs that they have the mettle to compete, and beat, the biggest and best.
The Tigers have talent, and they are not ‘small’, as many seem to think. What they had been lacking was desire and resoluteness, which goes with the territory of not quite knowing who your coach is going to be. That issue has been resolved, and the Tigers would need to have a lobotomy to sack Potter in the middle of what could be an existential crisis. They really could turn out to be the 2014 version of the 2013 Sharks!
And who knew Aaron Woods had such mongrel? He looks like the pasty-haired technogeek who lives in a basement trying to hack into NASA. He sure put a rocket up Souths, even though he probably couldn’t calculate the trajectory of one. Then again, most people can’t, including the person to whom your current interlocutor is in the habit of referring via the implementation of the perpendicular pronoun.
By the by, have you noticed how well the Tigers’ version of the Storm’s Big 3 performed? The Melbourne blueprint is all over the game plans of Farah, Brooks and Tedesco. I’m excited to see how this relationship evolves over the season, and more than a little excited about their match-up with the Storm.
However, amongst all the hoopla, it might be useful to recall their first two games as we step back and take a calm, measured breath. Their very short season so far has included being pumped by the Dragons, then doing the same to the Titans, a lower-ladder team if ever I saw one. Before getting too excited, we have to keep an eye on whether they can reproduce Friday’s effort more than once a fortnight, and also how they respond to the inevitable losses. It’s not as easy as it sounds if the first 3 rounds are any indication.
Who are the favourites again?
Speaking of which, the failure of so many favourites over the first 3 rounds to help the punters out with a bit of spending money makes me wonder how the favourite/underdog distinction will be constructed henceforth. What is now classified as an upset?!
The more highly regarded teams have struggled early, and though some place the new rules at the heart of it, I can’t quite see it, personally. I prefer (as you know) to see the competition as fairly even, where the absence of any pivotal player brings a winning team back to the field. Not only that, but winning in such a competition is largely a function of attitude and preparation.
The Rabbitohs turned up on Friday as if their mere presence guaranteed a win. When it got tough, the mouths got going, and not a game plan was to be seen for miles. Knowing Madge, it is unlikely he would field a team without one, so the performance was one where the Bunnies completely lost their heads. Adam Reynolds, as one example, even forgot how to count, preferring a kick to using an overlap 20m from the Tigers’ line. It was a disaster, Inglis or no Inglis.
Apart from the Bunnies’ record now standing 1-from-3 for 2014, the really bad news for Round 4 is saved for the Raiders, who play them away.
That being said, there is clearly more than the consecutive Preliminary Final letdown affecting the Bunnies … opponents know exactly how to put Sam Burgess off his game, and seem guaranteed to succeed.
Doggies have Michael on the Lichaa
Lichaa Tiger has a better ring, but suffers from the dual factoids that he is not going to the Tigers, nor is his name pronounced as if containing a ‘k’. Alas, he’s been dropped anyway …
There are two sides to this:
– Either the Sharks deem Lichaa to not be good enough to play NRL, in which case, he has done the only sensible thing by moving to the Bulldogs on enormous money (so why the uproar?); or
– He is being dropped in an act of discontent bordering on bloody mindedness.
The message being sent is inconsistent with retaining Andrew Fifita in the NRL side. And if the very strong indications are true that Lichaa was offered NRL game time should he decide to stay, it heavily implies the Sharks management are content to sacrifice this season’s results. Yes, so offended are they that a young colt has decided to take a different path, that they are willing to hit the self-destruct button to prove a point. I just don’t know what that point is, though.
It’s certainly not giving him a reason to change his mind before the Round 13 deadline where contracts become official legal documents (yeah, describing them that way makes me chuckle too).
Referees and the rules – Penalty tries, Obstructions – Where’s Tony Archer?
The referees continued their near unified affront to common sense and decency over the weekend, but crucially for them, appear to have secured the prized $10,000 ‘blow up’ fine that keeps their end-of-year celebration kitty turning over. At this rate they’ll be throwing a bigger party than MC Hammer.
Eels Captain Jarryd Hayne was seething at his side’s loss after incompetent and inconsistent refereeing, and called them on it. It appears the NRL, in turn, will call his bank manager. Bias wasn’t the accusation, but then again, neither was Ricky Stuart’s fine early last year – and that was paid.
Next in line in coming weeks must surely be Des Hasler, who is a hair’s breath away from completely losing it, and even shorter odds of completely transforming into Mel Gibson. If he can manage to conduct his press conferences drunk, and in Aramaic while abusing certain sections of the community, he may well be a chance of blowing off steam without anyone understanding a damn word.
Now, I kind of want to hear from the referees post-match in the same way we do the players and coaches As some have suggested. And I also sort of don’t …
The innovation the game is really screaming out for is a Tuesday night press conference with Tony Archer, where he can clearly explain the weekend’s contentious refereeing decisions, and also articulate what the referees are trying to achieve in certain areas.
It might go something like this:
“So, Tony, why on earth wasn’t pat Richards awarded a penalty try on Friday? In your answer, please consider if the decision would have been different if the game were a Finals match, or a Grand Final …”
… “Dahhh, which game again?”
“So, Tony, in a ‘high ball’ situation when a defending team obstruct the chasing team by rushing into their path with zero intention to compete for the ball, is it, you know, like, a toss of the coin whether your referees blow a penalty or allow play to continue? In your answer, you may like to explain just how spectacular the obstructed players fall has to be (e.g. Jarrod Croker last night) in order to attract a penalty …”
… “Dahhh, let me get back to you on that …”
As it stands, their inability to send a message of any description makes me seriously question their fitness to operate Microsoft Outlook. Five striking reports from the Rabbitohs-Tigers match alone, with the first sin bin – for anything – occurring only within the final 10 minutes, simply has to make them wonder what they’re trying to achieve.
They must have a plan, right? Right?
A quick word on player access
I’m all for increasing player access – both to fans and media. The problem thus far has been the manner in which this access has been sought (I’m talking the media at this point).
The Hayne incident noted above highlights that access must be NRL-centric, not media-centric. The NRL must get this sorted out. Accosting a player immediately post an emotional loss full of controversial refereeing decisions is aimed purely at ratings, nothing more. The hope is that Jarryd will go off the hook with criticism, or that Tariq might drop the f-bomb again. It gives the media something to write about, and someone for the NRL to fine should the comments be intemperate.
Well, what do you expect in the heat of yesterday’s Manly-Parramatta match?
Where is the consideration for the context of the remarks, let alone what was actually said and not said? Where is the consideration also for the fact that most NRL players aren’t exactly Toastmaster-quality after-dinner speakers, and whose remarks are not always well structured?
What does the NRL actually want? This is disappointing. Referees do more each and every week to bring the game into disrepute. Players like Hayne do the opposite.
A Tale of Two Halves – by Jamie Soward-Dickens
It was the best of halves, it was the worst of halves, and I’m not talking about Peter, if you know what I mean. It was an act of off the cuff ball-playing wisdom (by me) in a sea of foolishness (by everybody else, mostly Doggies), it was an epoch … what does epoch mean? … I don’t know, but I’m incredulous just thinking about it. It was the start of the season, a season of light with Ivan at the helm to follow the Darkness (when Ivan was also at the helm, but I like to put the past behind me), and me and Pete steering the good ship Panthers in the spring of hope, even though it was autumn, before the winter that was impending, after the autumn, which was after the summer … something – in short, I threw an awesome long ball and Matty kicked a goal from the sideline that I could have, but someone else has to contribute too, and the noisiest authorities in the grandstand behind insisted on Matty being the difference, but I for good or evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only, know the truth. Oh, woe, woe, woe …
Say what you like about Jamie Soward, who can put on a cliché clinic and talk frumpily in the 3rd person with the best of them, but the kid can play – and always could. What’s more, he owns a resilience that would put many bigger, so-called tougher men to shame. Throughout all the hurtful slings and arrows fired his way during his career – and continuing even now – he continues to come out the other side as match-winner with stoicism, skill and foresight.
So say what you like, but be ready to retract when he proves you wrong. And guess what, that’s beginning to happen … again. Some have no shame.
Congratulations (or not) to:
Channel 9 – who retain the no.1 chutzpah ranking with daylight second. Without a hint of irony, the upcoming Major League Baseball exhibition at the SCG was advertised as streaming live on GEM the following night during the delayed NRL match between last year’s Premiers, the Roosters, and a valiant Broncos.
In a unique twist to the whole charade, that particular NRL match will be hard to displace as match of the season.
In case anybody missed the above, Channel 9 made doubly sure of alienating fans by disclosing score of the Rabbitohs-Tigers match half-way into the delayed telecast into Queensland.
The NRL – who insist that, in 2014, the video referee should have to put up with blurred stop-frame replays in order to adjudicate tries, and not the super slo-mo technology that is readily available. Stopping on a frame can prove almost anything – if you can see past the blur.
The NRL (again!) – for scheduling the Cowboys-Warriors game so late that not only was the crowd small, but it was 11pm NZ-time. Fortunately, the Warriors were able to overcome a large body clock-effect to record a brave win against both time and the Cowboys.
The NRL (again, yes, again) – there seem to be a lot of very easily pleased fans and commentators out there. If you believe the hype, the small amount of time-off in the last five minutes of games is the biggest innovation since seat numbers on the Brookie hill. I would say it is even less innovative than Kylie Minogue lyrics.
It’s a band aid.
Watching the clock tick down until the kick is made, or 1m:20s, means, by definition, 1m:20s is lost. This is absurd, and the obvious amendment is to stop time once the try has been awarded, and restart it at kick-off. The conversion can easily be taken in a time-off period. It’s not like the ball is ‘live’ should the kick miss.
More to the point, it should apply for the entire game, along with other time-saving recommendations written over a year ago as an introduction to this blog.
Manly and the Roosters – the two Grand Finalists were able to produce sub-par performances, yet manage to remain composed enough to snatch victories right on full-time.
Parramatta – an enormous performance against one of the toughest opponents they will face all year. The Eels are 1-from-3, but their effort is 2-from-3. They are a far better team than the one thrashed by the Roosters. I haven’t given up on them, and today proved why. Nor should their fans.
Can I slip it in? No, it’ll have to wait … it’ll be a good ‘un.