Saturday, 27 October 2012

Woodwork Class (2012)

In today’s woodwork class, you’ll be building a pencil case. I have given you all instructions to follow. Up the front here are the wood and tools, so when you’re ready, let’s get started!

*All the kids rush up the front and frantically gather all the tools and supplies they need, before heading back to their bench*

It looks like you’ve made a good start here Steven.

Price: Thanks. I made one of these a few years ago, it was really easy. Wayne showed me how it was done.

Speaking of Wayne, how are you doing there?

Bennett: I forgot.

Forgot what?

Bennett: How to build this thing. I know there’s wood involved and some other stuff. It was all so clear to me before class started, but now … I just don’t know …

Where are the instructions I gave you?

Bennett: I just don’t know.
Smith: Why don’t you get your fatty friend to buy you some new instructions?

Brian, that’s not very nice. Now let’s have a look at your progress.

Smith: I’ve finished! See, it flies really well too!

Brian, you are supposed to make a pencil case, not a paper aeroplane!

Smith: Ohhhhh! I was wondering why everyone else was doing it wrong.

Focus Brian. Now, what’s all this fuss over here?

Hasler: Nothing
McLennan: BULL! You stole my stuff!
Hasler: No I didn’t.
McLennan: Well someone did, and you’re the only one who’s finished already!

I must say Des, that is a magnificent pencil case you’ve made there, easily the best I’ve ever seen.

Hasler: No it isn’t. Craig’s is better
Bellamy: No way!
Bennett: Dessies is easily the best. Teachers pet!

Okay boys that’ll do, now how is ……
*interrupted by a loud outburst*

Kearney: I can’t do this, it’s too hard! I’m going home! *storms out crying*

Oh dear, what dramatics! Now what’s going on here, why haven’t you boys started building yet? Geoff?

Toovey: My mum says I’m not allowed to use the saw, but my dad says if I don’t I’ll be a sissy.

I’ll have a word with your parents. Now Neil, what are you doing? Why aren’t you building?

Henry: I’m just cleaning up these bits of wood so that they match the other pieces. This one gave me a splinter, this other one had a crack in it, and this one was just old and needed cleaning.

Okay, but don’t waste too much time doing that. Now Ivan, why are you eating?

Cleary: I swapped my wood with Shane in exchange for his sandwich.

How are you going to make a pencil case with a half-eaten sandwich?

Cleary: Oh … err … um … I didn’t think about that.

And John, where are all your supplies and tools?

Cartwright: I couldn’t get any.

Why not? There’s plenty there.

Cartwright: Daddy said he can’t afford it.

Oh I see. And Anthony, you haven’t made a start yet either, what are you doing?

Griffin: *speaking to himself while looking under the bench* … it was here last class …


Griffin: Sorry! I’ve lost my hammer. I had it here last lesson. I can’t nail it all together without it.

Furner: Oh Fiddlesticks!

What’s the matter David?

Furner: I’ve accidentally glued my nose to the hammer and I’ve nailed my hand to the saw handle.

WHAT?! How did you even get glue on your hammer?

Furner: I think Tim did it. He said he was trying something different. An honest mistake I’m sure.

Tim, what is the meaning of this?

Sheens: Ah yes, I was trying to use the hammer to close the glue bottle. Had a bit of an oops.

I’d say! Now what is this that you’ve built?

Sheens: It’s a pencil case. Obviously, there’s been some issues. Shane took some of my pieces …
Flanagan: No I didn’t! I asked if you wanted them and you said ‘no’.
Price: He said the thing to me too, and then snatched the piece back after he said I could have it.

Ok boys, settle. Tim, what are you doing?

Sheens: Well I’m trying to staple this bit of glue onto this sticky tape here and I reckon that’ll hold it all together.

What’s wrong with following the instructions?

Sheens: I don’t need instructions.

Okay. Shane, I see you’ve finished. It’s a bit motley, but still looks very good.

Flanagan: Thanks
Monaghan: Mines better than everyone’s.
Toovey: It’s not better than Dessies
Hasler: Yes it is!

I Won (2012)

Hello everyone and welcome to this museum showcasing the greats of Rugby League. My name is Tom and I will be your guide today.

Today I shall take you on a tour of the professional career and the life of the great Australian Rugby League player, Harry Robbins, whom I sure you have all heard of.

So, are we foregathered?

Very well, I will begin.


Harold Arthur John Robbins.

Robbins is a Rugby League player with whom I have always felt a special bond. Ever since our early schooling days, aged just eight, when we both took an interest in the game Rugby League. He, a burly centre who looked as big as the children three years his senior, and me, a human who resembled an anorexic pencil with the athletic ability of an old cabbage.

In those young days, Robbins was a popular figure, even at such a young age, often informing those with lesser ability, myself included, just how superior he was, physically and verbally.

Alas, we both persisted with the great game for a many number of years. Finally, aged just seventeen, I won a ‘best on field’ award. At the same age, Robbins was on his way to Sydney, about set to make his name in the toughest competition in the country. Robbins was almost lost to the world or Rugby League when his father demanded he join the family business, just as my father, despite my insistence demanded I take a job in a post office.

Robbins defied his father.

And so it was that by the age of twenty three he had played one hundred first grade games for his club, including his first appearance for his state and was in strong contention towards earning his first test jumper, whereas I at the age of twenty three had played no Rugby League at all and was working in a post office.

For both Robbins and myself our twenty seventh year was a decisive one. For him it was the year that he became captain of the Kangaroos thus earning him the glory of being the youngest ever Test captain at the time. For me it was the year that my post office was unexpectedly burnt to the ground in a brazen attack by disgruntled customers. The post office was rebuilt however many colleagues positions were made redundant.

But not mine.

I continued working in a post office.

In his thirties, Robbins was beginning to be considered as the most prominent Australian Rugby League player of his era. In my thirties, I was beginning to be recognised by some of the more regular customers at the post office.

In this photograph, the famous test match at Leeds known as the ‘Zulu War’, the beautiful vignette in the group on the left is thought to be Robbins’ mistress of the time, Jane Harrison, one of a string of mistresses Robbins enjoyed over the course of his life.

I am married to Dawn. She is not one of a string of wives I have enjoyed; she is the wife I have … had.

At the age of forty seven, Robbins had long since retired as a player and coach as well as failing to contribute any commentary on the great game for the past six years. In this at least we were precisely similar.

Walking home from a pub late one night in Surrey Hills, it began to rain heavily. In his dishevelled and inebriated state, stumbled into a lamp post, passed out and lay in the unrelenting downpour. His life of heavy drinking and smoking coupled with the night in the rain saw Robbins quickly suffer from pneumonia. Just two weeks prior to his forty eighth birthday, he died.

And now the tables begin to turn.

At the age of forty eight, I was working in a post office. Robbins was buried!

At fifty eight I was working in a post office. Robbins was a skeleton!

Today I am sixty five years old, I have severe arthritis in my hip, I have retired from the post office and I do volunteer work every second weekend in this sports museum telling people about all of Robbins magnificent career feats as a rugby league player.

But I am at least still here.

When Robbins was my age the bugger wasn’t even breathing.

So in the long run I’d like to think …

I won!

Dream Team On The Cusp Of Realism (2012)

For those of you aficionados of Rugby League who have yet to found themselves thrust into the world of Fantasy Football or Dream teams, here’s a brief run down:

*You pick a squad of 25 players (Just like in the NRL)
*You have a salary cap (Just like in the NRL)

Because player wages are mostly speculation to us plebeians, a value for each player is calculated based on each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, statistically.

Each week, every player earns points for scoring tries, goals and field goals, tackles made, off loads, hit ups, line breaks, line break assists and 40/20 kicks. They also lose points for missing goals and field goals, missed tackles, penalties conceded, handling errors, being sin binned and being sent off.

When you think about it, it’s a very good gauge as to a players overall worth.

It’s a system where good performance is rewarded, poor performance is penalised. I love a statistically basic but exceptionally accurate concept attached to work ethics and morals so as to create realistic values for players in a virtual game for the greater public, don’t you?

Now this is all a very fun game and enjoyed by hundreds of thousands people nationwide. But is that all it should be?

Given all of the debacles that happen every year with clubs exceeding the salary cap, some by small amounts, others more excessively, perhaps it’s time that a players value was dictated by their actual performance on the field and not by which player manager runs enough rumours around town to drive up their clients asking price.

Imagine a competition where players could only improve their value by working harder.

Crazy concept I know, but stay with me.

Poor behaviour gets punished as well.

Calm down, I know the idea is sounding preposterous, but I’m pretty sure there are some people left in this crazy world whose workplace runs along similar guidelines.

In this crazy otherworld dimension, Corey Parker would be the games’ greatest player and possibly being touted as the next immortal. Only Paul Gallen would be close to being his equal.

Players like Michael Gordon, Shaun Fensom, Aiden Tolman, Ashley Harrison, Liam Fulton, Jake Friend, David Stagg and Dave Taylor would be regular test players.

It would also mean regular rep players like Justin Hodges, Adam Blair, Willie Tonga, Manu Vatuvei, Greg Inglis and Keiran Foran wouldn’t even be regarded as one of the best 100 players in the game today.

It would also see the minimum wage increased by $17,000, which is not a bad thing, especially when the highest paid player is earning under $500,000. The NRL always talks about evening out the competition, well evening out player wages is just one facet of achieving that goal.

By having player wages based on performances only, it also allows for a more even competition and more importantly, an end to those pesky parasites known as player managers, an increase in the average player salary across the board, thus reducing the risk of players betting on games etc.

As you can see, we are solving quite a lot of problems just through a magnificent concept knocked up purely for the purposes of mucking about.

This system also allows us to see which teams are over the cap right now. After some extensive research and calculations, using player values obtained from the Dream Team competition on the Daily Telegraph website, combined with the 25 man squads as listed in the official 2012 season guide, we can immediately see which teams need an audit for exceeding the $4.4 Million Salary Cap which the NRL currently has in place.

Brisbane - $4,621,496
Gold Coast - $4,451,832
Melbourne - $4,586,648
Newcastle - $4,480,256
North Queensland - $4,695,504
Parramatta - $4,476,296
Cronulla - $4,625,984
St. George-Illawarra - $4,444,352

These 8 clubs are currently over by a combined total of $1,182,368, while the other 8 clubs are under by a combined total of $1,318,416.

This system thereby gives us a fair and level competition on the field and on the books.

We could make these cheating clubs shed players to the honourable teams, or we could strip them of all their premiership points for 2012.

At least then, Souths would be able to play finals footy again….

….It truly all is just a dream!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Tumultuous Thursday - Bulldogs, Media & Mad Monday (2012)

A great year of record breaking Rugby League culminated on the weekend when the Melbourne Storm overcame all the setbacks of their salary cap breaching penalties, to defeat this seasons fans favourite, the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs in a grand final that gave us everything.

And as is the case for sporting teams in varying codes all around the world, once their season has finished, they indulge in just one day of fun, unwinding, relaxation and a few beers (and a few more) with their team mates to celebrate the season, whether good, bad or indifferent. This is known as Mad Monday.

Similarly, it is just like the staff Christmas parties we mere fans have every year. Even the news media organisations have them. They are not just unique to sporting teams. Occasionally and unfortunately, mistakes and stupid actions will happen at these events.

Sadly, some unsavory comments were made at the Bulldogs mad Monday celebrations this week to a female news reporter. The comments were unjustified, moronic, vulgar and just downright stupid.

However the question has to be asked, why was the media trying to get access to the players at a closed mad Monday celebration?

A celebration held behind closed doors, which the Bulldogs should have been praised for, as it was clearly their attempt to ensure that no matter what mischief the players got up to, it wouldn't affect the public.
A celebration which the media was not invited to.

So why was a helicopter circling above the venue? Why was a crime reporter on the scene where no crime had been reported?

If the media people involved in this incident didn't attend the venue, there would be no story. They created this story for the ensuing publicity it has received. Some may argue that this piece indeed is just another example of taking the bait. However, I believe a stance has to be taken against this despicable type of 'journalism'.

Some prominent people in the media no longer solely report on the news, they also antagonise until something happens and then like the hypocrites they are, get on their moral high horse and write up pieces about how deplorable the players are.

For some of these media people, they watched the comedy TV series "Frontline" and saw it as an instructional manual.

While the Bulldogs are right to investigate the situation and issue punishments accordingly, where is the same investigation into the behavior of the media people who actually contributed to this incident?

Rebecca Wilson's comments about Brett Stewart when he was wrongly accused of sexual harassment alone were deplorable. Yet she was never questioned, fined, suspended or forced to apologise for her actions. Stewart's life was turned upside down and his public image has been forever tarnished, exacerbated further by Wilson's tirades.

Instead of being punished, Wilson, gets paid. She gets paid to run her uneducated, simplistic, biased, anti-Rugby League agenda, yet is never accountable for her actions. 

Being public figures for professional athletes is a consequence of their profession. People in news media are professional public figures. Yet some of them say much more despicable things than what was said at the Bulldogs mad Monday celebrations.

Alan Jones' recent comments about Julia Gillard spring to mind.

There are some people in the media now who do anything to 'get' a story, sometimes going to extraordinary lengths to 'make' a story, yet they are not brought to question.

If an organisation, including sports clubs and media outlets, is holding a private function, closed to the public, then that should mean all public, including the media, are not allowed to attend unless invited.

Mad Monday - Benefit Of The Doubt (2012)

There is a blight on our great game which came to head this weekend.

It is a case of our game becoming so stupid and soft, that it's turning into AFL, almost literally.

Most seriously is the video referee awarding tries via benefit of the doubt.

Lets put this simply, we are saying 2+2=9 because 9 looks a bit like a 4 and that's good enough. Just like in AFL if you can't kick the ball between the two big sticks, you still get rewarded for going close by getting a point.

We have referees to ensure the game is fairly played by both teams.

So why do we completely and blatantly contradict this by allowing one side a massive advantage when a decision whether a try has been scored or not?

Benefit of the doubt. Doubt. How, when you have admitted doubt of a try being scored, come to the conclusion that it has been scored?

After the uproar over the tries scored in the Manly vs North Queensland final on the weekend, I was not at all surprised to hear Bill Harrigan trot out his all too frequent comment of "The video ref got it wrong."

Bill, if this happens more than once in the year, then the person who is reviewing, training and coaching these refs is clearly not doing his job properly.

Today we now have more refs in the game, the refereeing quality has declined rapidly and now it's got to the extent where it isn't just affecting game results, but also who advances in the finals race.

It's time for Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper not to resign, but to be sacked. They are incompetent. The referees don't have their support and they are not improving. You cannot get a more damning situation against you then that.

It's high time we stopped having this media craving, self-obsessed, incompetent, unreliable, unsupportive man and his sidekick who is quiet, ineffective, unskilled and utterly inexperienced in refereeing as our ref bosses.

Make the refs boss someone who cares only for the game. Someone who will stand by the referees instead of alienating them and publicly criticising and sacking them. This ritual only makes the referees more cautious and less inclined to make a tough call, which, whether right or wrong, fans would be able to accept more.

Otherwise we'll continue seeing illegal on-field acts being cautioned while victims of said act are unable to return, which is essentially penalising the victim and rewarding bad behaviour. We'll continue seeing the utter debacles we do over benefit of the doubt tries being awarded, completely legitimate shoulder charges being ruled dangerous, teams exploiting the obstruction rule and the like.

Harrigan and Raper should be getting the sack, not the referees in the middle, whose performances have been completely hindered by these two idiots.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Mad Monday - Sonny Bill Williams (2012)

Ever since he fled from the game in 2008 to play French rah rah, participate in farcical boxing matches against pie shop owners and call centre operators who had no idea how to box, before lining up in the Super 14's with some team that no doubt has 15 massive athletes unable to excite an easily exciteable child, Sonny Bill Williams has been rumoured to be returning to the NRL.

And as his Rugby Union contract draws to a close, there's talk he is coming to the NRL some day in the next 1-2 years, but for just one season only.

On the proviso he can still participate in his fights against florists and service station attendants and then can leave after just one season so he can play in the Soccer world cup.....or is it Rugby Union World Cup? You know, the one where they run around all day, get nowhere and just kick goals.

Once he plays in the World Cup, his career is open. He'll continue trying to be a boxer. But his other sporting career, playing footy, will be in the balance.

Anyways, it appears that Williams is going to play for the Roosters for one season. Given how much cash he'll no doubt be seeking, is it worth it?

Is it worth losing any players already at the club, so as to accommodate Sonny's salary for a year?

Is it worth risking all on one bloke who, lets face it, has been bludging since he left Rugby League.

Fighting pensioners and fast food restaurant staff isn't really going to require much exertion of energy, preparation or training. Playing as a centre in Rugby Union is the most mundane, boring and easiest sporting role anyone could ever hope to have. Running nor tackling are pre requisites to becoming a test standard Union centre.

Is he worth the risk? No

Is he worth the money? No.

Is he worthy of Rugby League? Definitely not.

So what sport can Sonny play after the World Cup? Rugby Union will be able to accommodate him for another two decades. But there's another sport he can try out.

One that is keen on paying excessive sums of money to athletes from other games.

One that has the worlds most pathetic fights (if you can call them that).

Sonny Bill, welcome to the Greater Western Sydney Whipping Boys.

You wouldn't be expected to be good or to win. You wouldn't get hurt, you would still be in a game where kicking goals, forward passes and knock ons are vital, expected and appreciated. Because of this, you can play like crap and get paid millions and the AFL will love you for it. You won't ever have to leave the country disgraced again.

And because there's no rep scene, you'll have from September til April free to box against waitresses and taxi drivers from Newcastle.

Mad Monday - Ricky Stuart & the new NSW Origin coach (2012)

So it appears that Ricky Stuart's desire to be an NRL coach was far far greater than winning a State of Origin series. There's nothing wrong with that, God knows we'd all prefer full time work to casual work.

Good luck to him, hopefully the Coaches curse at Parramatta comes to an end under his reign, for the sake of the Eels fans more than anything.

But it does now leave a big question.

Who will be the New South Wales State of Origin coach in 2013?

A few people have put their names forward but I personally don't think they have the credibility or coaching ability to get the job done. Names like Laurie Daley and Brad Fittler have already been bandied about.

But I think its time to go to someone who has actually coached in pressure situations. Someone who has played Origin and been a victor. Someone who has adapted to the changing game from when they once played.

So I think it's time for the Blues to look at some older heads as Blues coach, not younger and inexperienced ones.

Daley's coaching victories at the elite level can be counted on one hand (not including the thumb). And not one of those games has been played in a pressure cooker environment. They have been one off games, some may even regard them as 'novelty'.

In short, Laurie Daley is a novelty coach.

Brad Fittler is a great ambassador for the game and he's an affable larrikin whom everyone sees to like. He won't get the respect or performance from the players that is required at Origin level. This is easily proven when looking quite simply at how quickly his NRL coaching career took a nosedive.

In short, Brad Fittler is a boy who giggles at naughty words.

We need to look back at previous coaches who can inspire and motivate his players. Someone who was able to do the very same with his actions in the Origin arena.

I think it's time to coerce Wayne Pearce back to coaching the Blues.

As an Origin coach, his reign lasted three seasons, earning a drawn series in 1999, a won series in 2000 and a lost series in 2001. NSW won 5, drew 1 and lost 3 games under his tenure.

Sure people will use the infamous horse riding incident as some sort of dopey argument against him, but no one can deny with any intellect or honesty, that he wouldn't be a better coach at Origin level than Daley or Fittler.

The only concern would be the lack of coaching he has done since that 2001 series. And if that were to be a hurdle then there is but one remaining option who is currently looking for a coaching gig, has been an NRL coach, has played and won in an Origin series for NSW and has coached at the highest levels in club footy.

Come on down, Royce Simmons!

Mad Monday - The Shoulder Charge Debate (2012)

The shoulder charge debate.

It's been raging all year and will continue to do so.

So let's get straight to it. Should it be banned?


But, if it really is that big an issue, then it should cop a big suspension when it goes wrong. If a shoulder charge ends up collecting a player in the head, then that player can expect to be charged with no less than a Grade 3 reckless tackle charge.

We don't want to remove the big collisions and big hits that embody this great game, but at the same time, we don't want to see players getting smashed in the face and stretchered off the field. It's called finding a balance.

However, I think that the issue of shoulder charges is a minor one in comparison to something that is a horrible blight on the game which fails to be addressed.


Ask anyone what aspects they love about Rugby League as a player and/or as a spectator. I can guarantee you no-one will say wrestling.

This madness about slowing down the play the ball has got out of hand. Referees can only do so much. I think it’s time a full-time match review committee is appointed and they will go over every game played in the NRL every week and issue out fines/suspensions to all players involved in this grotty behaviour.

The disgraceful maneuvers such as chicken wings, crusher tackles, knees in calf muscles and all that other rubbish is as bad and cowardly as eye gouging and biting and should be dealt with similarly.

The game is not about trying to debilitate your opponent by attacking their joints, crushing their windpipe, chewing on their limbs or raking their eyes out.

Dealing with the shoulder charge is easy and to be honest, can wait. This wrestling rubbish is infecting the game. The ARL Commission and the referee’s first true focus should be eradicating this aspect of the modern game. Dishing out severe penalties to clubs and players should be brought in immediately to wipe this crap out once and for all.

Mad Monday - NRL Finals (2012)

With the 26 NRL Rounds now complete and we embark on the pointy end of the season, many pundits start to talk up the prospects of the remaining clubs in the race.

I will hereby try and help enhance some viewpoints and destroy some others with some simple facts.

I have compiled a tally of all the teams and their win-loss records against teams who have made the finals and those who haven't. These statistics, like any, can be used to sway an argument any way you wish. There may be consequential circumstances surrounding a teams abject failure in one department etc, there may not.

Thats the beauty of stats. And today, because this is my opinion, I'm going to suggest that these stats show which sides are mentally tough enough to compete with the top sides and make the grand final.

Thes best way to show this is in my crazy ladder. How this works is simple. Any team that beat a top 8 side gets an extra 2 points. Any team that lost to a bottom 8 side loses 2 points.

Wins v Top 8 sides
Melbourne - 8
Canterbury, Manly, North Queensland, Cronulla and Gold Coast - 6
Newcastle - 5
Souths, Canberra, Wests Tigers and Parramatta - 4
Brisbane, St.George-Illawarra and Warriors - 3
Sydney and Penrith - 2

Wins v Bottom 8 sides
Canterbury and Souths - 12
Manly - 10
Melbourne, North Queensland, Canberra and Brisbane - 9
St.George-Illawarra - 8
Wests Tigers - 7
Cronulla, Sydney and Penrith - 6
Newcastle and Warriors - 5
Gold Coast - 4
Parramatta - 2

Losses v Top 8 sides
Manly - 3
Canterbury and Melbourne - 4
North Queensland and Cronulla - 5
Souths - 6
Canberra - 7
Gold Coast - 8
Brisbane, Wests Tigers, Sydney and Parramatta - 9
St.George-Illawarra, Newcastle and Penrith - 10
Warriors - 11

Losses v Bottom 8 sides
Canterbury and Souths - 2
Melbourne, Brisbane and St.George-Illawarra - 3
North Queensland, Canberra, Wests Tigers and Newcastle - 4
Manly and Warriors - 5
Cronulla, Gold Coast, Sydney and Penrith - 6
Parramatta - 9

Overall Ladder
Melbourne - 44
Canterbury - 40
North Queensland - 34
Manly - 34
Souths - 32
Canberra - 26
Cronulla - 25
Brisbane - 24

St.George-Illawarra - 22
Newcastle - 22
Wests Tigers - 22
Gold Coast - 20
Warriors - 12
Sydney - 9
Penrith - 8
Parramatta - 2

Obviously this sort of ladder isn't something that can be implemented, but it does show which teams have performed better against the top sides and also, how frequently they have played the top sides.

Based on the current top 8, this last list shows many times each team played against a side in the top 8 this year, out of their 24 games. This list shows some quite surprising results:

Newcastle - 15
Gold Coast and Warriors - 14
Parramatta, St.George-Illawarra and Wests Tigers - 13
Brisbane, Melbourne and Penrith - 12
Canberra, Cronulla, North Queensland and Sydney - 11
Canterbury and Souths - 10
Manly - 9

Only 2 teams in top 8 played at least half of their games against other sides in the top 8 (Melbourne and Brisbane, both with 12 of 24 games)

So are we seeing the finals of the best teams in the competition, or are we seeing a finals system of the teams that are consistently better against the rabble in the bottom 8?

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Wests Tigers 2012 Review

Wests Tigers is a joint venture between pioneer clubs Balmain Tigers and Western Suburbs Magpies. They began their life in 2000 under Balmain’s coach the previous year, Wayne Pearce.

The club spent a lot of money on some players considered to be on the decline in their playing career. Despite this, the club managed to be placed at second in the 2000 NRL competition after 17 Rounds, and with just 9 remaining, however a 40-10 loss to Melbourne in Round 15 saw the horrific spear tackle that ended star Tigers signing Jarrad McCracken’s season and career. The Tigers beat the Northern Eagles the following week, but then won just two of the remaining 10 games to finish tenth.

In 2001, Wayne Pearce was replaced as coach by former Western Suburbs player Terry Lamb, in his first Full time NRL coaching role. The Tigers won 4 of their first 7 games, before a mid-season slump saw them winless for 8 straight weeks. They won 5 of the next 8 before losing the last 3 games of the year to finish a dismal 12th.

It was in 2001 that John Hopoate was suspended for ‘inappropriate conduct’. When Lamb was questioned about this, he laughed at it. It was also the year that halfback Craig Field and centre Kevin McGuinness both tested positive to illegal drugs and were suspended for 6 months each. McGuinness was given a reprieve with two months to serve on his suspension after performing a huge amount of volunteer work for the game. Field retired from the NRL after the incident.

In 2002, the Tigers won 4 of their first 6 games before winning just 3 of the remaining 18 games. At the end of 2002, Terry Lamb was relieved of his duties as head coach.

Tim Sheens was coach of the North Queensland Cowboys from 1997 til midway through 2001 when he was sacked. 2002 was the first time he was not coaching a first grade team since he became Penrith’s coach in 1984.

A losing culture and a bad public image at the Tigers had become a major concern for the club and quite remarkably, given his tenure at the Cowboys, Sheens was lured to coach the Wests Tigers in 2003.

Although the Tigers won a meagre 7 of 24 games, a host of fresh new talent was brought into the Tigers team. Players such as Dean Collis, Benji Marshall, Liam Fulton, Bryce Gibbs, Robbie Farah, Dene Halatau, Chris Heighington and Luke Covell all made their debut in 2003 under Sheens.

In 2004, Sheens made some astute purchases, blending experience with the great youth he had brought into the squad the previous year. Most notably were the acquisitions of Pat Richards, Scott Prince, Brett Hodgson, Todd Payten and Scott Sattler. It was a year of rebuilding, however the Tigers fell just one win shy of making the finals that year.

The in-fighting between Wests and Balmain had simmered somewhat, the image of the club had been completely revamped and the team was becoming one that fans loved to watch.

2005 started slowly, but by mid-season the team had finally gelled and went on a remarkable run of form that catapaulted them all the way to premiership glory.

In three years, Tim Sheens achieved what neither Balmain, Wests or the first 3 years of the Wests Tigers failed to achieve in 37 years, a premiership.

2006 saw the Tigers struggle to find any consistency whatsoever as they spent most of the year sitting just outside out the top 8. At seasons end Scott Prince and Anthony Laffranchi left to join the new Gold Coast Titans. Although the team had won a premiership the squad itself was very inexperienced. The average age was just under 24 years old, and only one player was over the age of 28, John  Skandalis (30 years old).

With this very talented group of youngsters, which now boasted Bronson Harrison, Chris Lawrence and Isaac DeGois, it seemed that the team was only going to improve.

Seasons 2007, 2008 and 2009 saw the Tigers finish 9th, 10th and 9th respectively. The teams’ failure to go one win better to make the finals was becoming frustrating. At first it was put down to the inexperience of youth, but by 2009, those players had now played at least 4 seasons of NRL football.

In 2009, English test back rower Gareth Ellis made his debut for the Tigers. In 2010, dual international winger Lote Tuqiri also joined the club. The players Sheens had brought through in his first three years were now experienced, bigger and better and now joined by International quality players.

2010 also saw the addition of Steve Folkes to the coaching ranks, alongside fellow former first grade coach Royce Simmons. The wealth of knowledge and quality as the club was a riches of which the clubs and its predecessors had not seen in almost two decades.

2010 saw the Tigers return to the finals arena. They finished third before going down valiantly to eventual premiers St.George-Illawarra  in the Grand Final qualifier. Benji Marshall was awarded the Golden Boot award at season end, for being the greatest player in the world that year. Defence coach Royce Simmons accepted a position as head coach for English Superleague heavyweights St Helens.

2011 the Tigers were expected to achieve similar results, which they almost perfectly matched. They finished fourth and in the first week of the finals, they reversed the result against the Dragons from the previous year before losing on the full time siren to eventual grand finalists Warriors the following week.

At the beginning of 2012, the Tigers were hotly tipped to be the favourites to win the premiership. The suggestions were valid for many pundits given the vast improvement of the Tigers in the previous two seasons. However what happened in 2012 can only be described as an unmitigated disaster which raised many questions people had begun to ask more frequently as far back as 2006.

The Tigers team of 2006 was a young and enthusiastic side, however they lacked experience. The Tigers team of 2012 had plenty of experience and most of the players were at an age where careers generally are at their peak.

Herein lies a detailed and thorough analysis as to some of the issues, many of which are recurring issues, and almost all are attached to a culture that coach Tim Sheens has created, a culture much different to the one he brought to the club when he arrived a decade ago.

Pre 2012

Retention and recruitment were the biggest issues that plagued the club during the mid-season of 2011. The club had extended Bryce Gibbs’ contract by another 3 years in the 2011 off-season. Just four months later he was released from his contract along with promising young prop Andrew Fifita, who were both signed by Cronulla.
This news lead to talks that fellow players Chris Heighington, Beau Ryan and Liam Fulton were also being shopped around to other clubs, all amidst news that the club was trying to lure Melbourne Storm and Kiwi test forward Adam Blair to the club on a deal rumoured to be worth half a million dollars per year. This news divided a lot of Tigers fans. Fans of clubs will always show a deeper connection with players who came through the junior ranks and had always remained loyal to the club, so the loss of Gibbs, especially after he was re-signed only months before his release sapped a large amount of confidence the fans had in the Tigers board regarding their professionalism and knowledge of how to run the club.

It was also around the time of Gibbs’ and Fifita’s releases being made public that young utility Tim Moltzen was announced to have signed a three year deal with the Dragons, starting in 2012. During the 2011 off-season, an ugly fight over Moltzen’s contract was reversed, keeping him at the Tigers to see out the last year of his contract. This bitter dispute, after the handling of loyal clubman Gibbs saw the public and media’s perception of the Tigers beginning to turn from its largely positive tone of the previous years under Sheens.

The 2011 off-season also saw young half Robert Lui arrested for the second time in two years over allegations of him assaulting his girlfriend. The club stood by Lui the first time he was arrested, which also added to the change of perception people displayed towards the Tigers. In 2011 though, the club sacked him.

It was the first off-season the Tigers had with such negative press in Sheens’ time at the club.

2012 Pre-Season

The sacking of Lui, albeit quite early in the offseason, meant that the Tigers had to create a new halves combination for 2012. The obvious choice was to go with Tim Moltzen at halfback, given his great success partnering with Benji Marshall in the halves.

It also meant that one of the Tigers rookie front rowers would have to step up and become a full time starter in 2012. Aaron Woods put his hand up.

While Gibbs loss dominated a lot of concerns for Tigers fans, it was the first time they had ever had 5 current test players all in the forward pack in the same season (Galloway, Farah, Blair, Ellis and Heighington), with the backs boasting test players (current and former) in Matt Utai, Chris Lawrence, Lote Tuqiri and Benji Marshall.

There was clearly no lack of experience or quality in the squad. The only concern was depth.

From the 2011 squad, Tigers had lost Geoff Daniela (centre), Andrew Fifita (prop), Mark Flanagan (Back row), Bryce Gibbs (prop), Robert Lui (halfback), Wade McKinnon (fullback) and Todd Payten (prop, back row).

Tragically, the Tigers had also lost promising young back rower Simon Dwyer with a nerve injury in his back, which he is still recovering from.

To cover these losses, the Tigers brought Matthew Bell (Back row, prop), Adam Blair (back row), Tom Humble (fullback, halfback) and Joel Reddy (Centre).

2012 Season

Injuries: Injuries are unavoidable for all club and they can never be avoided nor prepared for. Therefore they should not be used as an excuse. Every club is given a squad size of 25 players so as to help cover most injuries when they inevitably arise. It is the selection of this squad that is of utmost importance.

Lote Tuqiri was the only player still injured prior to the start of the NRL season. He returned in Round 5, playing every game until an injury in Round 20 ended his season.

In Round 1, debutant fullback James Tedesco suffered a knee injury which ended his season tragically. Keith Galloway was also injured during the Round 1 clash and didn’t return until Round 6. He missed just 2 games for the rest of the season, in Rounds 20 and 21.

Matt Utai was injured in Round 2 and returned to the field in Round 11, missing just one game after that in Round 18.

Gareth Ellis missed Round 3, returned for Round4 and injuring himself in Round 5. He didn’t return until Round 20.

Robbie Farah was suspended for 2 games (Rounds 4 and 5) and missed Rounds 11, 14 and 18 due to Origin commitments and missed Round 15 after the tragic passing of his mother. A Hand injury in Round 24 saw him miss the last two games of the year.

Chris Heighington suffered an injury in Round 6, which saw him miss Rounds 7 to 11. He played in every game from Round 12 til the end of the season.

Chris Lawrence suffered an injury in Round 20, which saw him on the sideline for 4 weeks before returning in Round 25.

These were the major injury issues to hit the Tigers players in 2012.

During the season the Tigers released Mitch Brown (wing, centre, fullback) and signed Ray Cashmere (prop) and Masada Iosefa (hooker).

Covering of absences in the spine (Fullback, five-eighth, halfback, hooker):

Tedesco (Fullback) – In Round 2, new recruit Tom Humble started at fullback and retained the position for Round 3. He was then replaced by halfback Tim Moltzen from Rounds 4 to 12, 15 and 16, 19, 22-24 and 26. Beau Ryan replaced Moltzen in Rounds 14, 18, 20, 21 and 25.

Halfback - Because Moltzen had shifted from halfback to Fullback, it left a vacancy in the halfback position. This was filled by: Jacob Miller (Round 4), Tom Humble (Rounds 5 to 8), Benji Marshall (Rounds 9-20 and 22-26) and Robbie Farah (Round 21).

Five-Eighth - Because Benji Marshall had shifted from five-eighth to halfback, it left a vacancy at five-eighth. This was covered by: Chris Lawrence (Rounds 9, 11 and 26), Blake Ayshford (Rounds 12, 15 and 16), Curtis Sironen (Rounds 13, 14, 16, 18 and 19), Liam Fulton (Rounds 22 to 24) and Tim Moltzen (Round 25).

When centres Chris Lawrence and Blake Ayshford played at five-eighth, their vacant centre positions were filled by Joel Reddy (Rounds 9 and 11) and Beau Ryan (Rounds 12, 15, 16 and 26)

Farah (Hooker) – Liam Fulton replaced Farah at Hooker in Rounds 4, 5 and 25. Tom Humble played as hooker in Rounds 11 and 14. New recruit Masada Iosefa played at hooker in Rounds 15, 21 and 26.

The reshuffling of positions that took place not just on the team sheet, but during games as well, resulted in a confused defensive line and an incompatible attacking structure. A large majority of these changes were unnecessary and could have been filled more effectively by specialised players in the respective positions, thus having minimal impact on the teams’ cohesion, games plans and structures in defence and attack.

In 2012, The Wests Tigers used more players at Five-Eighth and at Halfback than any other club. This is concerning enough, but even more so when you consider that there was only one injury to one of those players, Curtis Sironen, who was the 7th player to get a run in the halves, In Round 13.

The player who trained all off-season at halfback, Tim Moltzen, only played 3 games at halfback. Tedesco’s Round 1 injury saw Humble play at Fullback before being relegated to the bench, replaced by Moltzen. To add to the absurdity of this move, was the selection of a specialist fullback in Sean Meaney, who sat on the bench for almost the entirety of the games, before being cut, never to return.

Considering that Ryan had played considerably well at Fullback as a replacement the previous year and Sean Meaney, who also had some limited first grade experience over the two previous seasons, and is a specialist fullback, were both overlooked and replaced by the only player to have trained all off-season at halfback, was not only risky, but rendered an entire off-season pointless along with all set plays, game plans and offence structures.

In Farah’s absence, Liam Fulton played at Hooker. Fulton had only played at hooker twice since his debut, the last time was in 2010. Given that youngster Pat Politoni had trained with the senior squad and even played in a trial game barely more than a month prior, it seemed obvious to replace a hooker with a hooker. Tom Humble was the next to replace Farah at Hooker. Humble had never played at hooker in the NRL before. On the last two of those occasions, specialist hooker Masada Iosefa was on the bench. Iosefa was also on the bench when Fulton returned to the hooking duties in Round 25.

Given the great emphasis Sheens placed on junior talent when he first arrived at the club, he has seemingly turned his back on it, only bring them in when his hand is forced through injuries, his own positional switches of players out of their specialist positions and by the clubs poor retention and purchasing strategies which, leading into the 2012 season, decimated the depth for the blind pursuit of one marquee player, Adam Blair.

Blair came from a club where every player is given strict instructions and very definitive directions aimed at maximising each players strength and hiding their weaknesses. This strategy worked superbly for Blair at Melbourne. However at the Wests Tigers he was given free reign and left to his own devices. He was out of place and essentially, entirely ineffective. While many commentators suggested he just needed time to fit into the structure at the club, which may have been very true, what wasn’t addressed was his low work rate, especially during the weeks when Gareth Ellis, arguably the Tigers best player for the past 3 straight seasons, was out due to injury.  Blair did change this very late in the season, but the fact that there were no attempts made to try and harness his strengths, left the team struggling up front and struggling to create opportunities off the back of the forwards.

Because the halves were completely unsettled for the last 21 games of the year, meant that the outside backs struggled to find themselves with much opportunity to capitalise on good field position. This consequently lead to a drop in confidence and form for Lawrence and Ayshford.

Coupled with both Ayshford and Lawrence being shifted during games into the back row at the start of the year to accommodate Joel Reddy when he came on as a replacement, and their time in the halves, they had little chance to stay focussed on their specialist roles as centres.

Because the centres were being moved around and not getting good ball, it meant the only way the wingers were given scoring opportunities were via kicks.

Poor depth in the front row saw young prop Aaron Woods and the injury dogged Keith Galloway play longer minutes each week than most props would, Woods especially regularly exceeded an hour per game on the field. For such a young player in such a physically demanding role upon which so much of our attack relies upon, this was an immense task. Thankfully it was one that Woods rose to and almost earned himself Origin selection.

The Tigers were slow starters most of the year and fast finishers. In the first 20 minutes of games this year, the Tigers scored just 15 tries and conceded 24.  In the finals 10 minutes of games, they scored 19 tries and conceded 15. Giving away early leads meant the Tigers had to play a lot of risky catch up football, removing the element of building and sustaining pressure. Tigers lead at Half Time in 10 of their 24 games, winning just 6 of those games. They trailed at Half Time 12 times, Winning 5 times.

The excuse of injuries is a tired one and also one which should not be entertained. All clubs suffer injuries throughout the year as well as losing players through suspension and representative duties. It’s a fact of life in the NRL.

In 2012 the Tigers used 29 Players. Comparing this to the three years they made the finals, they used 30 players in 2011; 31 players in 2010 and 26 players in 2005. In all three years combined Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah both missed just 2 games. Farah played all his games in that time at Hooker bar 1, which he played at halfback. Marshall played all his games in that time at five-eighth bar 4, which were also at halfback.

Marshall has won 59.23% of his games when at five-eighth and 45.23% of his games at halfback. Farah has won 56.69% of his games when at hooker and 35.71% of his games at halfback.

The numbers of times since their debuts that Marshall has played at five-eighth and Farah at Hooker in the same game is 104. They have won 64 of those games at a success rate of 61.54%.

It is pretty clear where both perform at their best and how much that helps the Tigers to win.

So it seems absurd to have them play anywhere else in the team, yet this year their respective positions as well as the players themselves were moved around for no genuine reason, such as injury or suspension.

Poor performing players very rarely, if at all, are dropped to lower grades for poor performances, similarly, lower grade players in good form are not given adequate chances anymore either. This system creates a comfortable feel, players knowing that a poor performance will not see them lose their side in the team. Even though players will ultimately feel guilty or disappointed in their performances, sometimes bring relegated to lower grades against lesser opponents is enough to get a players confidence and form back. However constantly picking them when their form is sliding only compounds the issues and makes it so much harder for the player to get that confidence back.

This system breeds complacency. Complacency is a mindset and it rots to the core very quickly.

The only way to overcome this is to force the coach to drastically change his style and behaviours, or to change the coach.

These issues are not new to 2012. Amidst the success of the previous two years, we have still seen these issues crop up from time to time, even more prominently in 2006-2009.

Tim Sheens is a great coach in respects to getting a struggling team back on track and moving in the right direction. But he is not a long term coach and it is abundantly clear that for the benefit of Sheens and Wests Tigers, he needs to move on and take on a new role and new challenge where he will undoubtedly be a great success.

Staying at the Wests Tigers making the same mistakes is only going to damage his credentials and reputation and harm his prospects of obtaining a full time coaching role elsewhere in the future.

He needs to move on because currently his performance is having a detrimental effect on the team and could see the club lose talented local juniors, disgruntled with not getting a chance in first grade.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

My New NRL Structure & Draw (2012)

There are a number of pertinent issues in Rugby League in Australia today that are the result of over a decade of self-interest by the NRL.

A lot of these can be quickly and easily addressed and rectified immediately through the implementation of a smarter draw.
What the NRL needs to do is look back at what the NSWRL, ARL and dare I say it, even Superleague did.

They looked beyond the local stage.

They knew that by spreading the game as far as possible on as big a stage as possible, the game would grow quickly and a plethora of new talent would be uncovered, heralding in a magnificent new generation of players from all around the world.

One of the issues we currently face is on the international scene. A lot of smaller, less established rugby league nations are struggling, let alone improving. Player eligibility laws are a big part of the problem. They need to be rolled back to much clearer and tighter guidelines. My plan would be something along the lines of:

*You play for the country you were born in.

*If you are born in Australia, New Zealand or England and have ancestory (only as far back as your grandparents) linking you to a smaller nation, you can choose one country to represent. Once you make your decision, it cannot be overturned, unless you become a legal citizen of another country you wish to represent.

That’s it!

People born in other countries will not be eligible to play Origin. However, I believe if smaller nations in our hemisphere were to get more opportunities to represent their own country on a big stage, this could ultimately see a lot of talented individuals consider representing their birth country instead, which would in turn, help the game globally.

This leads me to my next point. International Rugby League. Australia is surrounded by a host of small island nations that are absolutely brimming with talent and enthusiasm to play the game. We should do all we can to nurture and encourage this growth. Presently Australia and to a much lesser degree, New Zealand, are taking the great players from these nations and making them play for Australia and New Zealand, depriving the smaller nations of a rep player.

Also, these smaller nations simply don’t get enough exposure or opportunity to see their game grow. The NRL has a magnificent opportunity to inject a huge amount of focus immediately into these nations which would see an explosion of more great talent enter our game.

Another issue for many years recently has been players concerns about the season being too long, especially for representative players. The NSWRL had a very good system in place many decades ago and its time that should also be revisited. It included a ‘Country Week’ whereby the competition stopped for a few weeks and the Sydney clubs went and played Bush teams.

The NRL’s birth has seen a drop of interest by the games governing body in Australia in bush footy. Playing a few trial games and a representative fixture that many want to be rid of, as the only big games played in rural Australia simply isn’t good enough.

For years now Rugby League has been growing its viewers, crowd figures and revenue but the Country has been left behind and rival codes have started swooping in.

So now, I move onto the draw. When players complained a few years ago about the season being too long, the NRL responded by throwing more bye rounds into the draw. This didn’t actually shorten the season. It intentionally made it longer in a vein attempt to appease the players, but ultimately it was done to try and rake in more revenue by having a longer season.

It’s high time the players were listened too.

So here’s my draw, which is fairer to rep teams and rep players. It will allow all teams to be unaffected by rep duties while ensuring the standard of games are improved over the course of the season and giving the players enough rest time after rep fixtures and their club games.

Each team will play each other once (a team they play at home in 2013, they will play at the oppositions home the following year). After those 15 Rounds have completed, the teams that finished in the top 8 the previous year will play each other again. The teams that were in the bottom 8 the previous year will play each other again. That comes to a total of 22 games. 2 less than in the current system, which would appease the players, as well as providing better quality games over the course of the entire year.

Pre-Season Trials – Weeks 1 and 2 – NRL teams play against Country teams and Oceania island teams. Each NRL team must play at least once in these two weeks.

Pre-Season Trials – Weeks 3 and 4 – NRL teams play each other in Country and Oceania regions. Each NRL team must play at least once in these two weeks.

Pre-Season Trials – Week 5 - All Stars v Indigenous

NRL – Rounds 1 to 8 (8 weeks)

Representative Weekend #1 (1 week)

*City v Country (NSW) – NRL Players. 
*City v Country (NSW Cup v CRL Rep team)

*City v Country (QLD) – NRL Players. 
*City v Country (QLD Cup)

*OCEANIA CUP – ROUND 1 – Papua New Guinea v Fiji
*OCEANIA CUP – ROUND 1 – Tonga v Samoa

*Women's RL Test - Australia vs New Zealand

NRL – Rounds 9 and 10 (2 weeks)

Representative Weekend #2 (1 week)

*State Of Origin I

*NYC State of Origin

*OCEANIA CUP – ROUND 2 – Tonga v Papua New Guinea
*OCEANIA CUP – ROUND 2 – Samoa v Fiji

*Women's RL Test - Australia vs New Zealand

NRL – Rounds 11 and 12 (2 weeks)

Representative Weekend #3 (1 week)

*State Of Origin II

*NSW Country v QLD Country

*OCEANIA CUP – ROUND 3 – Papua New Guinea v Samoa
*OCEANIA CUP – ROUND 3 – Fiji v Tonga

*Women's RL Test - Australia vs New Zealand

NRL – Rounds 13 and 14 (2 weeks)

Representative Weekend #4 (1 week)

*State Of Origin III

*NSW Residents v QLD Residents

*OCEANIA CUP – FINAL – Top 2 teams
*OCEANIA CUP – PLATE – Bottom 2 teams

NRL – Rounds 15 to 22 (8 weeks)

NRL – Finals – Using 2012 Finals system (4 weeks)

International Football

Year 1 – Australia tours Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Cook Islands, playing no more than 10 games. 2 squads of 17 players are to be used for these games. Matches against above nations to be given Test status.

New Zealand tours France, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Lebanon and Italy, playing no more than 10 games. 2 squads of 17 players are to be used for these games. Matches against above nations to be given Test status.

Year 2 – Four Nations Tournament – Have two of these tournaments running at the same time and in the same country. Four Nations Tournament 1 comprises of Australia, New Zealand, England and the team ranked 4th at the time. The Other tournament to include the highest available ranked team in Europe and in Oceania, as well as the USA. The final spot to be filled by the next highest ranked available team.

Year 3 – New Zealand tours Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Cook Islands, playing no more than 10 games. 2 squads of 17 players are to be used for these games. Matches against above nations to be given Test status.

Australia tours France, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Lebanon and Italy, playing no more than 10 games. 2 squads of 17 players are to be used for these games. Matches against above nations to be given Test status.

Year 4 – World Cup – Looking to having an entire competition being played in USA.

All games listed above are to be shown live on Free-to-Air television. 8 NRL games are to be played in Country Australia, that way every team plays in Country Australia once every year.

The NRL Season, including finals and Rep Weekends alone is one week shorter than what we currently have. However there is more time between rep games, with more players being involved in rep fixtures, making each club more involved in promoting the game outside of the NRL.

Less games for the players, more involvement outside their club, big promotion of the game outside of its local area,

This seems like a big project and many will deem it too complicated or make up some other excuses as to why it shouldn’t be implement. Some of those reasons are likely to be quite valid, but the main thing is, this draw helps improve grassroots Rugby League, International Rugby League, the players, match quality, unearthing more great talent, attracting new sponsors and the generation of revenue for the game locally and internationally.

With smaller nations getting greater exposure, their native players will be more inclined to represent their country, instead of switching allegiances which essentially leaves their national teams languishing.

Also, a greater focus on Country Rugby League will help push away the risk of losing grassroots players and clubs to rival codes. It would be so effective, that it could essentially force some codes to retreat from their current expansion plans, which is again, great news for the game.

We need to start looking at strengthening the game outside the NRL itself. A strong international game means a strong local game.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Mad Monday - Referee Standards (2012)

Yes, I'm about to lace into the referee's. Its not to do with any bad calls my team has received recently or any massive blunders that may have happened on the weekend.

It's because I watched some footage of rugby league games recently from the sixties to the nineties and I fear that the refereeing standard back then far exceeded that of the referees today.

Are the modern refs to fault? No.

A mass of rugby league commentators, print, radio and television, all expressed many years ago the desire to have video refs to assist in the decision making of whether tries were scored.

This has inadvertantly forced the refs on the field into complacency. If they dare go it alone and make a decision based on what they saw, they stand to be harrangued by the hoardes of fans on the receiving end of the decision.

If they then opt to go to the video everytime, which is more and more frequent in occurence today, then they get harrangued for not having the gumption to make the call like the refs in the good old days.

This softly softly approach by referees when ruling on tries has also extended to illegal play. But only half of it.

Diving has become a blight on the game. Players know they can stay down after getting hit, despite not being injured, knowing they'll get a penalty.

It's high time that diving was issued with a similar penalty. If you are hit late and stay down, the ref should immediately rule you are unconscious and are not to return to the field for the rest of the game. The player will also have to have an extra week off so as to ensure the concussion has been medicated appropriately and the player has fully recovered.

If we are going to have officials feign an interest in the players safety, they may as well enforce that concern fully. This way we weed out diving while also ensuring players who genuinely do get concussions and other injuries are properly treated.

On the other side of the coin, is the placing of players on report ad-nauseum. This makes no sense. If we have a video ref to ajudicate on tries, then surely they can assist with illegal play.

Putting someone on report for a high tackle that leaves one player injured and unable to return, while the attacker remains on the field for the rest of the game is not a fair system.

People can handle when a ref makes a bad call on his own as it's not always possible to make the right call every time while in the moment. But when the technology is there to assist and errors are still made, then it makes the job for the men in the middle even harder.

It's time that video refs are given upgraded technology, such as high definition footage on high definition screens and the opportunity to be asked to make a review of an illegal play when asked to by the refs on the field.

If we don't make the step forward, then we take the referee quality backwards and subsequently, the quality of the games as well.

Mad Monday - Origin Eligibility Farce (2012)

The word 'origin' is defined in many dictionaries as meaning:
*The first stage of existence

With this in mind, I hereby put forward my crazy idea to put an end to all this debate over Origin eligibility.

After much researching and digging around, mostly in my wallet, I came across an amazing document, which I already knew existed for every other human being.

Way back in time, further than we can remember, there was a time when we were all extracted from
our hosts in a bloodied and agonising moment, known as birth. There were people who actually recorded all of these instances, detailing such information as name, sex, length and weight of the new life, as well as place of birth.

This information all proves to be very helpful for my point.

You play Origin for the state you were born in. If you were not born in Queensland or New South Wales, then you don't play Origin.

Some say this harsh. "What about Petero Civoniceva? He was born in Fiji and his family moved to Australia when he was 1. We can't lose players of his quality from the Rep football scene."
Fair point, but one which I can counter.

Petero is Fijian. He plays for Fiji. Fiji has a National team, he can play for them, thus he won't be lost to the representative football scene, furthermore, he'd be a great help for Fijian Rugby League. The Australia game appears to be doing fine in comparison.

Now my opinion has been met with much discussion and some criticism. Most don't like my "No grey area's" stance.

But when the word 'origin' is used as the main term in the phrase "State of Origin" then it may as well be enforced.

Otherwise, we can just call it "State of Wherever."

If I had to implement just one 'grey-area' rule, it would be that if you were not born in Australia and want to play Origin, then you become an Australian citizen and represent Australia only. This decision can not be reversed. If you are a Kiwi and want to play Origin, then you can never represent New Zealand in any way ever again.

One last thing, the Blues fans have been harping on for years about Queensland having Origin players from outside of Queensland.

Well after some digging around, I found there have been 33 players all up, representing both states, who were not born in the state they represented, or even in Australia. 19 played for Queensland, 14 for New South Wales.

And so I present to you, the State of Wherever champion teams

New South Wherever
1 - Ken Nagas
2 - Hazem El Masri
3 - Chris Johns
4 - John Hopoate
5 - Akuila Uate
6 - Peter Wallace
7 - Peter Sterling
8 - Justin Poore
9 - Ben Elias
10 - Willie Mason
11 - Ian Roberts
12 - Mario Fenech
13 - Timana Tahu

14 - James McManus

1 - Karmichael Hunt
2 - Israel Folau
3 - Greg Inglis
4 - Paul Bowman
5 - Lote Tuqiri
6 - Mat Rogers
7 - Adrian Lam
8 - Petero Civoniceva
9 - Neville Costigan
10 - Antonio Kaufusi
11 - Sam Thaiday
12 - Brad Thorn
13 - Michael Crocker
14 - Chris Flannery
15 - Robbie O'Davis
16 - Julian O'Neill
17 - Scott Sattler
18 - Willie Tonga
19 - Tonie Carroll

Monday Monday - Benji & Farah (2012)

Every year the media circle around Concord, concocting wild and fanciful stories about division within the Wests Tigers ranks.

We've heard stories, and I mean stories, about a Tigers player sleeping with a team-mates wife, some sort of love-in between 'room-mates' Benji Marshall and Tim Moltzen, who don't actually live together, fueds between Farah and Sheens and the most frequently reported one of all, fueds between Farah and Marshall.

Every time these fanciful, lets call them what they are, bullshit, stories come out, Benji and Farah refute them, laughing off the claims.

Then the media says "What would you expect them to say, of course they'll deny it."

How can they win? The media world has made up it's mind and they'll do whatever they can to force the public to believe it.

Yesterday the Wests Tigers and the Rugby League world was deeply saddened to hear that Robbie Farah's mother, Sonia, passed away, just hours before the Tigers were to kick off against the Roosters.
Her loss will be devastating to Farah and to his team mates, some he has been playing alongside for the duration of his NRL career.

They are all family.

The scene of Benji Marshall openly crying and trying to hold back tears yesterday during the minute silence to remember his mate's mother shows just how close the Tigers are.

Just how close Benji and Robbie are.

Family is stronger than sport.

We can only hope that all those responsible in the media for feeding this concoction realises they have got it all completely wrong and give the whole rubbish about a fued between Marshall and Farah a rest because clearly, there's no story there.

It's time that the media started reporting facts instead of trying to make them up.

Benji's tears were those of a friend, who is deeply saddened by the loss of another friend's mother.

I speak on behalf of everyone here at League Unlimited when I say we give Robbie Farah and his friends and family our warmest, heartfelt and deepest sympathies and condolences for the loss of his beloved mother.

Home Ground (2012)

Every Sunday at sixteen hundred hours, members of the people’s army of National Rugby League, reach for the remote control and turn their television on to Channel 9 (or Channel 90 if you live outside of QLD and NSW) to sit and watch the delayed telecast of the game played that day.

And for the most part, those games invariably contain the Wests Tigers. As a Tigers fan this doesn’t particularly worry me too much, but the one thing that irritates many fans, including those supporting the Tigers, is the commentary by Ray Warren and his luminary Phil Gould about Sunday afternoon games at Leichhardt Oval.

These two old men, whose memories seemingly stopped recording data in 1989, will wax lyrical for the majority of the broadcast about AMCO Cup games and the old interstate clashes before Origin being played at Leichhardt.

If the game is in a particularly low point, we may even be subjected to memories of when the ground ran east to west (not north to south like it does today).

In fact, when you look at the TV guide prior to kick off and see “Leichhardt Oval” in the guide, you know, with military precision, exactly what commentary you will expect.

And with the precision of a Swedish clockmaker, they deliver.

Why is this irritating?

It’s because they are stating the bleeding obvious.

Leichhardt Oval is a magnificent ground. Unlike the plethora of stadia around the country and the globe nowadays, Leichhardt Oval has charm and a sense of loyalty about it. While the rest of the world has gone on to bigger and better things, such as 80,000 seated stadiums and the like, the grand old girl on the water has stayed true to her original self for nigh on eighty years.

The ground began as essentially park as far back as the 1880’s, with cricket mostly being played there. It wasn’t until Balmain Tigers planned a move there in the early 1930’s, that the ground was upgraded so as to accommodate fans who would invariably make the pilgrimage to the watersiders new home.

The first game the Tigers played at Leichhardt Oval was in Round 1 of the 1934 season, when they took on the best team in the competition and eventual premiers that year, as well as the team who Balmain would eventually merge with some 6 and a half decades later, Western Suburbs. Balmain lost 18-5.

From those halcyon days, Balmain turned Leichhardt Oval into somewhat of a fortress. From that first game in 1934 til the last game of 1950, Balmain won 61, drew 5 and lost 19 games there.

This period coincided with a decade of dominance by the Tigers, clearly their most dominant era in the games history in Australia. In that time, Balmain missed the finals just 4 times, appeared in 8 grand finals and winning 4 premierships.

Balmain would have success in the future as well, but not as consistently over such a long period time, yet they still managed to maintain an upper hand when playing at home.

Leichhardt was revamped in the 1970’s, her first major upgrade. The field was rotated ninety degrees and lighting was installed at the venue. Leichhardt Oval was a marquee venue. Before long it became home to Interstate games, preseason competitions and mid-week cup competitions as the lighting at the venue was a major drawcard.

The 1970’s and 1980’s were the busiest period in Leichhardt’s Rugby League life, hosting 395 matches between 1974 and 1987. To put this in perspective, in the 65 years either side of the 1974-87 era, there were 399 games played at Leichhardt.

The trees guarding the ground from the nearby water, the hill bereft of seating, grand stands and all the other mod-cons, the glorious old scoreboard which harks back to the days of a simpler but seemingly more honest time, are truly romantic concepts that warm the cockles of our hearts.

Even the betrayal by the Balmain club in the mid 90’s to change its name and move to Parramatta stadium couldn’t last. Leichhardt’s charm had won over everyone and Balmain soon came crawling back, like a child to its mother, happily reunited.

Not even a big screen can make the ground look out dated. It just reveals how much technology looks out of place in our true environment with nature.

With our home.

Our home ground.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Tumultuous Tuesday - David Gallop (2012)

Today saw the shock resignation of NRL Chief David Gallop. Gallop began as CEO in seemingly surprising circumstances on February 4, 2002. Up until his appointment, he was never considered as a real chance of being the top man, and even 3 days prior to his appointment, he ruled himself out of the running.

Gallop's rise to CEO was one which divided the Rugby League landscape in Australia, because in 1995 he was hand picked by John Ribot to be the legal affairs manager of the yet to be formed, News Ltd backed Superleague, a position he held until Superleague's demise at the end of their only season in 1997.

The reunification of the competition in 1998 saw Gallop instated as director of Legal and Business affairs for the NRL, which he held until accepting the role of CEO in early 2002, some four months after previous boss David Moffett had resigned.

Gallop spoke today about the great advancements in the game in his time, but failed to acknowledge the great contribution he made in splitting the game apart, which potentially sent the game back many many years. In this writers opinion, he has done just enough work to clean his slate.

His tumultuous leadership of the game wasn't without controversy. The Salary Cap scandals surrounding the Bulldogs in his first year running the game in 2002 and the Melbourne Storm saga in 2010 which saw them have two premierships stripped from them. A year later he likened the Storm fans to terrorists in one of his lowest and dumbest moments.

There was also the Brett Stewart saga in 2009 where he was alleged to have drunkenly sexually assaulted a 17 year old girl, which lead Gallop to suspend Stewart for a month under the flimsy ruling of essentially, being drunk. Stewart was later found to be not guilty of the assault, but it created a great tension between Stewart, his club Manly and Gallop.

In 2004, the Bulldogs were embroiled in an ongoing drama surrounding an alleged gang rape by several first graders at Coffs Harbour during the pre-season.

There were other sexual assault allegations during his reign, of which he took little to no action against.

In 2010, Bulldogs player Ryan Tandy was found guilty of match fixing.
In 2009, Newcastle player Danny Wicks was arrested and charged with drug possession and trafficking and in 2011 was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. Gallop took no action in this case either.
Robert Lui, the Wests Tigers halfback at the time, was arrested and charged on two seperate occasions in the space of 12 months for assaulting his partner. He was acquitted the first time but found guilty the second time. Again, the NRL took no action, save for a one-season suspension. Lui will be welcome to play in 2013.

And there have been other assault allegations committed by players against girlfriends and members of the public, nearly all of which found the players not guilty. Most notable of these were the cases surrounding Benji Marshall, Greg Bird and Greg Inglis.

There was also the odd case of Joel Monaghan and his dog.

And the several cases against the likes of Willie Mason, Todd Carney, Brett Seymour et al.

Truth be told, under Gallop's reign, the game's players have become more highly paid than ever before, but the off field scandals have been increasingly more frequent in occurrence.

More and more clubs have been exceeding the salary cap than ever before and the game has become more and more distanced from grassroots and country rugby league.

Merchandise, memberships and just average game day costs have also risen sharply.

The media has been allowed to portray Rugby League in a very negative light, most notably the media organisation he once worked for.

Channel 9 had been allowed to televise the game however it seemed fit with no punishment or warnings from Gallop.

Sure it's easy to sit here and talk about all the negatives that happened under Gallop's reign, but it's even harder to conjure up a decent list of great things he did to move the game forward.

The game has cleaned up its image, but it wasn't done on the back of anything Gallop decided. In fact, if Gallop had've taken a more stern stance to the issues mentioned above, the games image would have been cleaned up many years ago and its possible that some of the lives affected by reckless NRL player behaviour could have been avoided.

So David, thank you for your time and your effort. No doubt you did try and make a positive influence on the game, but too often you were hesitant, reluctant to act and on the times you did react, you were too severe or you jumped the gun, further alienating yourself from the players, clubs and fans.

I hope for your sake, that you are remembered as the man who was CEO of the NRL as it moved into its more enterprising era ever, and not as a News Ltd lackey who played a key role in Superleague.

Onwards and Upwards!