Despite all of it’s foibles, I have always been and will always be a huge fan of the greatest game of all, rugby league.
Sure there are some changes I’d made, and although it doesn’t have the international appeal of the round ball game, or the money of other games, there is nothing I’d rather tune in to after a tough week at work that a game of NRL action.
Below are a collection of 50 random NRL thoughts, opinions, questions and suggestions, mainly to get the thoughts off my chest. Please let me know if you agree with some, all, or nothing of the below.
1. I find it funny that people are calling the currently top four rated Penrith Panthers pretenders instead of praising the efforts of the club after a few lean years.
2. Although the gap is closing, I do not believe Robbie Farah to be as good as Cameron Smith.
3. Footy fans are quick to bag those in the media for criticising their club, even if it is completely warranted. I didn’t see many Tigers fans bagging journos for being negative when the spotlight was on the Sharks.
4. Channel 9 needs to stop defending their delayed telecasts on Sunday afternoon and either play the games live, or organise a 4 pm kick off timeslot with the NRL. In this day and age, where anyone can stream games online, and those in New Zealand get every game live, there is no excuse for delayed telecasts.
5. I can’t see a non-Sydney side contesting the Grand Final. Although there is a fair way to go, Manly, despite their off-field turmoil, look like absolute certainties for October.
6. Although it’s extremely fun to bag referees, I’m yet to see social media agree on a single 50/50 call. When, after repeated looks via the video, those watching at home are unable to agree, perhaps it’s time to cut the men in the middle a little slack? Just maybe …
7. If I were to pick a World 17 to play for the safety of Earth I would go with 1. Slater 2. Morris 3. Inglis 4. Morris 5. Hayne 6. Thurston 7. Cronk 8. Scott 9. Smith 10. Burgess 11. SBW 12. Thaiday 13. Gallen … 14. Fifita 15. Bird 16. Myles 17. Foran
8. An NRL World 7’s, or even 9’s would be awesome for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, to be held on the Gold Coast. Unfortunately the home side would have to be made up of NSW and QLD cup players as no NRL side would release stars.
9. Can Ricky Stuart really still be referred to as a ‘super coach’? Since guiding a massively over achieving Sharks side to within 80 minutes of a Grand Final, has a side he has coached made the finals?
10. Despite calls from all sections of the public, General Admission tickets still remain too high. The Integrity Committee should be asked to investigate how the Sharks continue to justify charging $30 for an impeded view on a patch of grass at Remondis Stadium.
11. At $2 per week, the NRL’s digital pass is fantastic value. Live games on your device all season long is brilliant, especially for those of us unable to connect to Foxtel.
12. The NRL needs to stop broadcasting live scores on games being shown on delay on the aforementioned Digital Pass. At least put the “match now” option on a different page.
13. I love Suburban grounds. Brookvale, Remondis, Leichhardt etc may not have the facilities of the larger stadiums, but how many childhood memories start with “I was sitting in row six, seat 17, isle 30” … I grew up watching on the hill.
14. The Tigers have the most exciting bunch of youngsters I’ve seen. Promising players pop up all the time, however not in these numbers. Brooks, Moses, Sironen and Tedesco may all be playing together for NSW one day.
15. Player contracts need to mean more. It’s too easy for players to shift clubs mid-season, and too easy for players to be shifted off by clubs midseason. What ever happened to knuckling down to earn a first grade spot?
16. I, like everyone else, am sick to death of the Asada saga. Surely it would have been better to have gathered evidence before staging a hyperbolic press conference?
17. I wish more talented played from the English Super League would test their skills in the NRL. The only way England will ever truly challenge the Kangaroos and Kiwis is if their players ply their trade in the most elite competition in the world.
18. An Australian landslide victory over the USA is a bad look in a World Cup finals fixture, but if we were to remove all the less advanced nations from the competition, you might as well just run the tri-nations each season.
19. I thoroughly enjoyed the Auckland 9’s tournament and am looking forward to next year’s event. We will see more stars this time around as it is not a World Cup year.
20. There needs be a 3pm Saturday afternoon game every round.
21. Scrap Monday Night Football during Origin. Crowds are low enough for the created for television timeslot, let alone when clubs are missing their biggest names.
22. Play Origin over three consecutive weeks. The three week gap between fixtures causes way too much disruption to the NRL competition. Each team would have two byes during the four affected rounds, minimising disruptions.
23. What ever happened to the “Two hours of Rugby League content each evening on digital Channel 94 plus two hours of content on Saturday and Sunday morning” clause in the NRL rights deal?
24. Pre-game and halftime entertainment is almost a forgotten art. Who decided it was a good idea to book a boy band to play in front a crowd dominated by 20-something year old males? Bulldogs, washing cars is not entertainment.
25. Jarrod Croker is currently the top point scorer with 150 points for the season. Almost 30 tries have been scored down the Raiders left edge. Raiders fans, it’s the second stat that means he will not play Origin any time soon.
26. You couldn’t pay me enough to be an NRL winger. Semi Radradra, Manu Vatuvei … no thanks.
27. How does a team under a salary cap investigation sign a marquee player without shedding players first?
28. Is the NRL talent pool deep enough to justify talk of expansion? The last thing the league needs is an A League North Queensland Fury type situation.
29. If the game were to expand, surely Perth would be favourites for a spot based purely on the television friendly timeslot games in WA would present.
30. I could name at least five NRL players who would walk straight into the Wallabies backline. I can name only one Wallaby who would make the Kangaroo’s squad. Israel Folau.
31. If I could pick any side to avoid when they’re “on their day” it is the Warriors. If I could play any side when they are not on their day, it would also be the Warriors.
32. Jamie Lyon’s refusal to play State Of Origin sums up why it took NSW nearly a decade to dethrone QLD. Players born and raised in NSW fight to be ruled eligible for QLD. Meanwhile, our best centre fights to not represent his state.
33. Although I am sick of Channel 9’s obsession with Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Burgess, if I were running the station, I’d probably be doing the same thing. They’re internationally marketable stars. Doesn’t stop it from being annoying tho.
34. The Raiders are currently $1001 to win the competition. Those odds are still too short.
35. The Cowboys should treat every game as though it was being played in the second half of the season. They sure know how to time their run. Too bad they’ll be eliminated via another refereeing shocker come September.
36. I hope the Titans pull through their current troubles and return to the form they showed earlier in the season. They’re an exciting team to watch when at full flight, and there’s no better away trip for fans than visiting the Gold Coast.
37. Greg Inglis could very well be the best fullback in the game, however there’s the very real chance he may never play fullback for QLD. Anthony Milford’s rapid rise could see him take over when Slater retires given Inglis’s amazing records set while playing centre.
38. I fully understand that NRL players have no obligation to talk to the media, but if they did there’d be a lot less false reports printed. Players are the best promoters of the game. For the money they get paid, surely a two minute interview here and there is no big deal.
39. I believe the NRL Grand Final should always be played at ANZ Stadium, and in an afternoon time slot. Can you imagine the AFL shifting the time or venue of their grand final so suit broadcasters? NO CHANCE!!!
40. Next year’s MCG based Origin will be a massive event, but NSW, having lost so many series in a row, deserve a chance to defend the shield with two genuine home games. Melbourne is always a QLD dominated support base due. This is due to the Melbourne big three, and probably a fair bit of jealousy.
41. The NRL should look at moving an entire week’s fixtures to the bush each season. Each team would have to move one home game every two years into the bush. This would promote league and bring in new fans. Props to Penrith for moving a game to Bathurst.
42. The World Club Challenge is a great one off event, but in the fair dinkum stakes, any NRL side in the top eight would handsomely beat the top side in England if the game was played on even terms. Right now, Manly would put 40 on St Helens.
43. If you ever need proof that the broadcasters run the game, why don’t the Warriors have to host their fair share of Monday Night fixtures? Without consulting Google, I challenge any non Warrior fan to tell me the last Monday Night game they hosted. (Hint: it’s never)
44. I have no idea how the second tier salary cap works. For mine, if a player stands out in the Holden Cup and earns a first grade position, they should be able to play first grade.
45. The current NRL finals system makes about five times more sense than the old McIntyre system and rewards the top four sides. I don’t think we’ll see an NRL winner from outside the top four for a fair while
46. Kurt Gidley could be the best utility player of the current era, but cannot hold down a regular position in a struggling Newcastle side. Jack of all trades, master of none?
47. The fact Darren Lockyer never won a Dally M medal slightly devalues the award for mine.
48. I support the introduction of a marquee player system, similar to that of the A-League. This allows one player’s earnings to be salary cap exempt. It would surely stop the top line players considering French Rugby. This may disadvantage the poorer clubs, but the NRL should not penalise success.
49. Should points records achieved by the Storm players stand considering the side they partly secured them with were way above the salary cap? One could argue that Cam Smith would not have secured as many points as he has had his backline not been stacked with above the cap stars.
50. The best player I’ve ever seen was Andrew Johns. Of the current era, Darren Lockyer would have to be at the top of a very talented group.
Other Stories Of Interest
Major news sources are suggesting that current Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter may be removed from his position, possibly as soon as the completion of his side’s match with the Dragons.
Although nothing has been confirmed from the club, the rumours are swirling, and although there had been reports of player unrest in recent weeks, Potter’s possible sacking comes as a major shock.
The Tigers, currently caught in the log jam that is the middle of the NRL Competition table, looked as though they had found some much needed stability under Potter’s guidance.
The joint venture club sits just one win behind those tied for fourth place, and look on track to play finals football for the first time since 2011.
Lead by influential skipper, and NSW standout Robbie Farah, the Tigers have played some amazing football at times in 2014. Luke Brooks and Mitch Moses look as though they will form a halves pairing that could lead the club for the next decade.
Harbouring arguably the hottest crop of young talent in the competition, the Tigers would surely be doing their players and fans a disservice by sacking Potter so close to the finals.
With only seven games remaining, the timing would be almost unbelievable if the rumours are proved to be correct.
Assistant coaches David Kidwell and Todd Payten reportedly have the support of the playing staff and one, or perhaps both, would likely be given the job for the rest of the season if Potter is removed.
I could fully understand the club’s removal of their coach at the end of the season, if they were to miss out on the finals, however surely this is a disruption the young squad does not need at this key stage of the season.
Today’s game with the Dragons is a crunch game for both clubs. Surely players would be well aware of any pending movement within the coaching ranks, and surely it would be playing on their minds.
Unless something is seriously wrong within the ranks of the 2005 Premiers, surely Potter has earned the right to lead the side on their charge to the finals.
All will play out in the next 24 hours or so, however the timing of the reports could not have come at a worse time for either Potter or his players.
If Potter is removed before the end of the season, surely there is more to the situation than meets the eye.
I just hope any decision that is made is made for the right reasons and does not affect the exciting young side’s run to the finals.
Cowboys Become City Slayers
After a horrible run of results in the Harbour Sydney, it looks as though the Cowboys may have finally worked out the secret to winning away from home.
After putting the Sharks to the sword last Friday Night they managed to post back to back away wins after defeating the Bulldogs.
Bulldogs fans took to social media to express their worry about recent results, with some questioning Des Hasler’s team selections.
Although far from finished in terms of their season, the Dogs have lacked energy and creative spark in the previous weeks.
The Cowboys on the other hand, look as though they may have AGAIN timed their run to peak at the business end of the season.
Sharks Continue Panthers Dominance
The Sharks 18-16 victory over the Panthers in Bathurst was their fifth win in six games against the second placed side.
Andrew Fifita turned in the type of performance that made him the most sought after free agent earlier in the season before he ultimately ended up re-signing with the Sharks.
Jacob Gagan’s double continues his brilliant strike rate at NRL level.
Worryingly for the Panthers, who have now lost twice to the bottom placed Sharks this season, they now hold less victories over the top eight sides than the wooden spoon favourites.
Is the result just a blip on the radar, or have the Panthers been exposed?
Other Stories Of Interest
- Daniel Nichols (@suthodan)
Australia is about to get a visit from former WWE, New Japan and ROH superstar Shelton Benjamin. The former Intercontinental, United States, and two-time WWE Tag Team Champion travels down under in mid September to headline an AWE supershow against fellow former United States Champion, Orlando Jordan.
The two will do battle atop the seventh anniversary show emanating from Concord RSL on the 19th of September in a match that is set to be amongst the best ever seen on our shores.
Shelton, best known for his incredible athletic ability, has travelled the world, and won titles across the globe. Shelton’s tag team combination with Charlie Haas was one of the most exciting of the 2000′s
As well as showing off his skills in front of live crowds, Shelton will also run wrestling seminars, passing on his wealth of experience to the young wrestlers of Australia. Before travelling down under, we spoke to the ‘Gold Standard’ about his upcoming tour, his time in the WWE and the world first match up with Orlando Jordan:
Follow Shelton On Twitter – @Sheltyb803
Monstasport: We’ve heard you’re headed to Sydney Australia in the near future to wrestle for the AWE promotion. What brings you ‘Down Under’?
Shelton Benjamin: What brings me back to Australia is my deep appreciation and love for the Wrestling fans of Australia. I will be performing and holding seminars as well as reconnecting with friend and taking in as much culture as possible.
MS: The Main Event for the AWE show will feature the first ever meeting between yourself and former WWE United States Champion, Orlando Jordan. What can fans expect from this massive clash?
SB: Its funny to think how long Orlando and myself had worked alongside each other yet never had a match. I don’t even remember being in the ring at the same time during the Royal Rumble. None the less, fans can expect to entertained by a highly competitive athletic extravaganza by two world class athletes.
MS: You’ve visited Australia on WWE run tours previously, what have been the highlights? Any plans to sightsee this time round?
SB: The biggest highlight for any pro-wrestler has got to be the fans. Every time I’ve performed in Australia the fans have been so into the shows and very interactive which made my performance so much fun. You don’t want it to end, and in Sydney in particular, the after show interaction with fans packed on the parking tower was a highlight for all the WWE guys & Divas. I will definitely be touring around while there. I’m even planning to stay a few days after may last engagement so there could be “Shelton” sightings all over Sydney.
Shelton’s Opponent On August 19th via Ian Spruce Photography
MS: You had some memorable moments in your time with WWE, none more so than your amazing feats in the Money In The Bank ladder matches. Were you the one to suggest the big spots or were they put to you? Ever have any second thoughts when standing all the way up there?
SB: I give Edge and Jericho most of the creative For the MITB 1 and 2 . MITB 4 & 5 were all me. MITB 6? hmmm let just say a metaphorical nail was hammered into my foot so there were no big spots
MS: We’ve heard you were extremely successful in a wide range of athletic sports. When did you decide that you wanted to be a professional wrestler?
SB: I was a standout athlete in American Football, Track and amatuer wrestling, with accolades in all three, too extensive to list here. I fell in love with Pro-Wrestling when I was maybe eight or nine and like any kid who falls in love with a sport early in life I wanted to do it right then. I was just lucky enough to get the opportunity when I grew.
MS: Your time with Team Angle was one we certainly remember fondly, how was it working with amazing talents that are Kurt Angle and Charlie Haas? Did you learn much from Kurt?
SB: Working with Kurt and getting the early opportunities was one of the funnest times of my career. Getting to showcase my talent under Kurt’s banner was a huge boost for my career and I thank Kurt for helping draw attention to my career. But to be quite honest, it was Arn Anderson that was the brains behind Team Angle. We became a great team because we had a great coach that would put us through the paces and molded us into the cohesive unit we became.
MS: During your time in ROH and other independent promotions across the world, you’ve had some brilliant matches. Any that stand out in your mind?
SB: My first ROH show WGTT Vs the Kings of wrestling (Chris Hero & Claudio AKA WWE’s Cesaro) was great fun and working with Mark and Jay, The Briscoe Bros is a huge highlight.
MS: Did you catch the latest Wrestlemania? If so what did you make of it? Do you have any memories of those Manias you took part in?
SB: Didn’t watch Wrestlemania, still haven’t. I have many fond memories, being my first ‘Mania when everything was fresh and new to me. Winning our match helps.
Check Out The AWE Facebook Page: Here
MS: The upcoming AWE card aside, where can fans see Shelton Benjamin in the near future?
SB: I am currently very active in New Japan Pro-wrestling (NJPW) so that is where I’m easiest to find. I will be at this years London Comicon for my Uk fans. Aside from that, I can pop up anywhere on the globe. But i would love to make Australia a frequent stop.
As well as being headlined by this world first Main Event, the AWE seventh anniversary show will also feature a AWE Championship Triple Threat match which will see the despited champion Bruza put his title on the line against crowd-favourite Psykotic and Lance Storm trained superstar Mikey Broadrick. The Aussie Express, widely regarded as the nation’s best tag team will also be defending their belts.
For tickets to the show, be sure to call Concord RSL on 9743 1308 and pre book over the phone. Family passes are available, and all tickets include a meet and greet with both Shelton and Orlando. Doors open at 7pm, with a 7:30 bell time. Check out the AWE Facebook page for more info, including promos from both former WWE superstars.
Other Stories Of Interest
Dan Nichols – @suthodan
2014 has been a season full of twists, turns and surprises. Wayne Bennett has signed for the Broncos, the Sharks have had two coaches, and look like appointing a third, and a certain former Tigers favourite son returned to the game that made him a star.
With the competition being so close at both the top and bottom of the competition, the need for NRL clubs to take an educated gamble to gain that advantage, has increased.
Although there have been multiple ‘punts’ undertaken across the competition, and no we’re not talking about the NRL betting scandal, we’ve tried our best to pick the top ten.
I’ve decided not to take State of Origin gambles, such as the new look halves pairing of Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson into account, and instead focus on those undertaken by NRL clubs.
Let us know on the facebook page if you agree, or disagree. Did we miss anything? Will the gambles pay off?
10. Tigers Don’t Lock In Mick Potter
The Tigers possess the competition’s most exciting crop of youngsters. Headlined by Luke Brooks, Mitch Moses and James Tedesco, the young group need a consistent environment to fully realise their potential.
Questions have recently been asked as to whether current first team boss Mick Potter is the right man, with club captain Robbie Farah refusing to publicly back his current coach.
Originally reports indicated that more than a few players had re-signed or extended their deals based on their relationship with Potter, however it has come out in the last few days that Potter had very little to do with player discussions.
With very few NRL experienced coaches available on the market, are the Tigers taking a punt in waiting to decide whether to tie Mick Potter down to the club? Is he the right man? If not, should be removed right away in favour of the candidate the board and players deem is the right man?
9. Roosters Aiming To Sign Blake Ferguson/ Let Moga Go
The Roosters are so confident that they can land NRL bad boy Blake Ferguson despite the troubled star’s disciplinary record, that they allowed potential superstar Tautau Moga to leave the club.
If the club were to sign Ferguson, playing wise, there is no surer thing. Ferguson is a star and would likely have six origin jerseys to his name but for his NRL imposed suspension due to off field indiscretions.
Canberra were ultimately left burnt by Ferguson’s off field activities, having to sack their superstar centre after repeated offences. Cronulla also suffered despite supporting Ferguson through his teenage years.
Can the Roosters provide the environment Ferguson needs to thrive? Will the NRL register him? Will releasing the extremely talented Moga come back to haunt them?
8. Bulldogs Backflip Of Huge Fifita Deal
Andrew Fifita agreed to sign a monster contract with the Bulldogs, and even went as far as to break the news to teammates, only for the deal to fall over.
Heading into the season Fifita was a World Cup winning prop who top scored for his club side, making him the biggest name on the open market. The Dogs, Sharks and other clubs battled for the superstar’s signature, with the Dogs ultimately winning out.
Reports differ, but the end result saw the Dogs withdraw a contract that Fifita’s reps say did not match that agreed on in negotiations.
Fifita has battled injuries and distractions and has failed to live up to his match winning form of 2013, although at times has shown the signs that made him an instant multi millionaire. Will the Dogs regret withdrawing the contract and letting Fifita get away? Will the Sharks regret re-signing him on far increased terms?
7. Andrew McFadden Promoted At The Warriors
The Warriors, on their day, are almost unbeatable. Unfortunately not since Ivan Cleary, has a coach been able to consistently get the best from the extremely talented squad.
Earlier in the season when Matt Elliott was removed from his post, a host of heavily experienced NRL coaches were linked to the New Zealand club. After a series of far improved performances under his watch, assistant coach Andrew McFadden was announced as a full time coach.
Since his taking up the top post, the Warriors have looked a different side, and are now firmly in the eight, something that earlier in the season looked a long shot.
It’s been smooth sailing since McFadden’s appointment, however we are yet to see how the rookie coach reacts under pressure. Should injuries hit, or belief drop, how will he react? Did the Warriors make the right choice?
6. Broncos $4 Million Deal For Bennett
On the surface, the decision to bring back multiple time premiership winning coach Wayne Bennett to the club he enjoyed so much success, seems like a no brainer.
At over $1.3 million a season, there is a degree of gamble in this decision, no matter what the stature of the super coach.
The decision has already caused dissension in the ranks of the players, with co captain Corey Parker publically declaring his support for the removed Anthony Griffin.
Bennett’s recent stint at the Knights yielded less than spectacular results with recruitment coming under heavy fire. Circumstances will be different in Brisbane, but the $1.3 million price tag is a big gamble for a coach whose appointment may have already divided the playing ranks.
5. Nu Brown Selected For The Sharks
When Todd Carney was released from his contract, Sharks fans were certain they’d be forced to endure another back rower in the five-eighth position after seeing Wade Graham, Luke Lewis and the like played out of position during Carney’s absence earlier in the season.
Worse still for suffering fans of the Shire club was the possibility of Daniel Holdsworth once again donning the black, white and blue in first grade.
Instead the Sharks turned to boom youngster Nu Brown, who has since re-signed with the club for a further three years.
Brown has offered spark and was instrumental in his side’s comeback victory over The Roosters. To throw a youngster in over the far more experienced options available was definitely a big punt, one the Sharks have not been known for over recent years.
4. Josh Dugan Moved From Fullback Position
A simple positional change usually wouldn’t make a list of this sort, however the fact Dugan was established as the second choice NSW fullback behind only Jarryd Hayne shows just how highly he was regarded in the number one.
Signed by the Dragons as their long term solution at the back, few would have guessed he would be lining up for NSW, at centre.
The move at first looked to be a temporary solution to the centre problem for the red V’s, however the move looks like it may became more permanent.
Although the move looks like it may pay big dividends, the punt to move an Origin fullback to the centres was a big one. Will he remain out wide, or return to the back as the Dragons make their last charge for the eight?
3. Manly Not Offering Glenn Stewart A Contract
There are conflicting reports on whether or not Manly even tabled an offer for their superstar second rower, or whether it was just not comparable to the offer accepted at Souths.
What is certain is that senior players at the club are not happy with management. Stewart, an extremely popular player with senior players, has been sacrificed and disrespected in the eyes of said senior players.
The reality of the salary cap meant this situation was always going to arise, however Manly’s decision to allow Stewart to leave the club may have far reaching consequences.
Although we are yet to see the full fallout of the decision, if reports are to be believed, senior players may ask to join Stewart in leaving the club before the end of the season.
2. Bulldogs Signing Michael Lichaa On Big Money Deal
The Bulldogs have taken one of the biggest recruitment gambles in recent times in investing big money in Sharks rookie Michael Lichaa.
Lichaa, who has signed a long term deal with the Belmore club at the expense of former Origin hooker Michael Ennis, comes with big wraps. player to Sharks fans were filthy when the decision was made, which is always a good indicator of a player’s worth.
Ennis, an established member of the squad, and current captain, will head in the opposite direction after being told he would play second fiddle to a player who had at that point played less than 40 minutes of NRL action.
Lichaa’s performances have been below expectation for the Sharks, however it’s hard for a young player to thrive under the circumstances at the Cronulla club. A huge punt that could see the Dogs inherit a ten year hooker, or one that could see them lose out greatly if Lichaa fails to fire.
1. Benji Marshall Signing By The Dragons
No one this season took a bigger gamble with their roster than the Dragons upon signing former Tiger and union dropout, Benji Marshall.
Facing big competition from the Sharks and Storm, the Dragons were forced to outlay big money for a player who by all accounts was years past his best.
The Dragons season was either going to live or die on Marshall’s signing, and although the jury is still out on the money offered to sign the former World Player Of The Year, Marshall has helped kick start the Red V’s season.
Have the Dragons made the right decision in signing Marshall long-term? Will he re-find his form, or will he divided the dressing room as he did in the final year of his Tigers tenure? Signing Marshall was a huge punt, and we may not know for a while yet whether the decision was a success or not.
Other Stories Of Interest
Dan Nichols – @suthodan
As we move towards the finals series, unfortunately some teams are already focusing their efforts towards 2015 and beyond.
The Sharks, Knights, and Raiders are now in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon rather than make the top eight and are looking for reinforcements to help their cause next season.
Although the majority of big name stars are now either re-signed or moving on next season, if you look hard enough there is some serious unsigned talent out there.
There has been a lot of speculation about the contract status of many players, so the below is pure speculation, but if I were working on recruitment, these are the players I’d be targeting:
Fullback: Reece Robinson (Canberra)
At one point last season Robinson had fans wondering if he, not Milford, was the long term fullback option in the capital. A fall from grace of sorts sees Robinson off contract and may be looking for a new club in 2014. With plenty of teams looking for quality outside backs, I’m surprised Robinson’s name has not been linked with a number of clubs.
Likely Destination: Re-signed. Possibly Souths or Cronulla
Wing: Dale Copley (Broncos)
Copley’s form had been such that his name was mentioned as a possible replacement for Brent Tate in Origin. Unfortunately for Broncos fans he seems to have tailed off over the last few weeks and has been a little shaky under the high ball. In saying that Copley, at 22, has shown more than enough to attract plenty of attention.
Likely Destination: Will field big offers from Souths and the Sharks. Likely to re-sign.
Centre: Jonathan Wright (Sharks)
A few years ago Jono Wright was playing in a grand final, now he struggles to hold down a permanent spot in a struggling Sharks outfit. Has matured as a centre and has been solid one in from the wing at Cronulla, however completely wasted on the wing. The Sharks have looked a different team since he has replaced Ayshford in the centres.
Likely Destination: Bulldogs
Centre: John Folau (Eels)
The younger brother of Israel, John has the size, speed and strength to worry plenty of opponents in the not too distant future. His try in the under 20’s Origin showed just what he is capable of. Will likely come in to the first grade side next season when Willie Tonga moves on.
Likely Destination: Re-Signed
Wing: Jacob Gagan (Sharks)
Having scored three tries in the Sharks brilliant comeback wins over the Broncos and Roosters, I can’t believe the Sharks have not moved to re-sign their exciting outside back. After promising so much at Manly, Gagan moved to the Sharks in search of first grade footy, and has impressed in both attack and defence in his four games so far.
Likely Destination: Re-Signed
Five-Eighth: Isaac John (Panthers)
The New Zealand international has played his last game for the Panthers and should have plenty of interested clubs, should he be able to overcome a horrible injury. If fully fit, would surely be in the Panthers side right now with the injury to Wallace. Plenty of clubs could use his versatility.
Likely Destination: England
Halfback: Penani Manumalealii (Sharks)
We’ve heard conflicting reports as to the contract status of Ben Hunt, but being unable to find confirmation, we will go with the hattrick hero for Samoa earlier in the season in Penani Manumalealii. The fact he has not added to his one NRL appearance has Sharks fans baffled. The Sharks seemed to have turned to Nu Brown, although have a potential star in Penani, if they choose to allow him an opportunity.
Likely Destination: Re-Signed
Prop: Ben Hannant (Broncos)
Once amongst the first players picked for Origin, Hannant looks certain to move come the end of the season. If Hannant does move at the end of the year, he will bring with him plenty of rep experience, size and strength. May yet be re-signed by the Broncos, however a move looks like the best option for club and player.
Likely Destination: A Sydney based team
Hooker: Matt Srama (Titans)
Slim pickings in terms of available number nines after Michael Ennis signed for the Sharks. Srama looked like being the next big thing in the hooking role but seems to have completely fallen off the radar on the Gold Coast. A change of scenery may be what he needs to rediscover the form that had plenty talking.
Likely Destination: Cowboys
Prop: Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Raiders)
The former NSW representative giant incredibly may be headed out of the club come the end of the year. At six foot four, TLL should be fending away offers. Canberra look like they may re-sign him, at far reduced terms than his current contract, however we would not be surprised to see him picked up and return to somewhere near his best.
Likely Destination: England
Second Row: Tim Browne (Bulldogs)
May not be the biggest name off contract but Browne has all the abilities to become a serious fixture. Des Hasler won’t let him go easily and to be honest, we don’t see him going anywhere. Browne has played 34 times for the Dogs, and will add plenty more games. At 26 the best is yet to come for the Penrith product.
Likely Destination: Re-Signed
Second Row: Tinirau Arona (Sharks)
One of the quiet achievers in a star studded Cronulla Sharks pack. Put in a mountain of work in his attempt to cover the losses of Gallen and Lewis early on in the season. More than just a stats man, Arona scored the club’s first try of the season, and has threatened regularly. The Sharks surely won’t let this cut price work horse go without a fight.
Likely Destination: Re-Signed
Lock: Tom Symonds (Eagles)
Flies under the radar in a pack containing rep stars a plenty, but Symonds is quality. Was one of his club’s best in their 2013 campaign. Will likely add his two City Origin rep jerseys in the future. At only 25, the Eagles would be mad to let him go after allowing Glenn Stewart leave to the Bunnies.
Likely Destination: Re-Signed
Although we expect many of the above to be re-signed, most won’t happen without a fight. The Sharks and Raiders have big money to spend and are looking to improve their underperforming squads, and could become BIG players in the coming weeks.
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Dan Nichols – @suthodan
The world’s biggest sporting tournament has come to a close and has crowned its champions in the form of the brilliant Germans.
A fantastic tournament ended with a late winner off the boot of Goetze, just as the final looked as though it would head to penalties.
With the end of the tourney, we now take a look at how we did in terms out our pre tourney predictions:
Winners – Germany (Correct)
We hope plenty took our advice and got all the super organised Germans. Without a doubt the team of the tournament, and deserved winners.
Their seven-one drubbing of home nation Brazil summed up just how dominant they had been at times during the past few weeks.
They opened the tournament with a four nil win over the highly fancied Portuguese and never looked like losing a game, despite a two all draw with Ghana.
Runners Up – Brazil (Close)
We picked the wrong superpower South American side here. Brazil just ran out of puff in the end, and went out with a bang, losing by six goals in their semi final with eventual winners Germany.
Many saw their World Cup dream end the exact moment Neymar was carried off and looked unlikely to take any further part in the tournament.
Played extremely well under huge pressure, however will be disappointed to end with two huge defeats to end their campaign.
Dark Horse – Belgium (Tied)
Belgium, Costa Rica and Columbia were the underdog stars of the Cup.
We’re happy to take this as a win as the Belgians not only topped their group but won through to the final eight of the competition before falling to Argentina.
Costa Rica and Columbia also fell at the quarter final stage to the Netherlands and Brazil respectively. All three had brilliant tournaments and should build on their success.
Golden Boot – Neymar (Close)
When Neymar scored two goals in the opening game of the Cup, we were almost counting our money. It seemed like no one could stop the home nation’s superstar.
Injury ultimately denied the youngster a crack at the Golden Boot award, however it’s hard to see the semi final result ending up any different, even if Neymar had been on deck.
James Rodriguez from Columbia topped the charts to many peoples surprise. A brilliant campaign from the 23 year old that is sure to mean Monaco have a fight on their hands to keep their star. Neymar finished with four goals, two behind Rodriguez.
Emerging Star – Paul Pogba (Correct)
What an campaign by the French midfielder. Pogba came into the tournament with big wraps and leaves with his reputation far enhanced.
There are talks of Chelsea offering a staggering transfer fee to Juventus to pry the 21 year old away from the Italian giants.
He won the young player of the tournament award and is set to feature heavily for either Juve or Chelsea in 2014 and far beyond.
Socceroos – Out In Straight Sets (Correct)
We take absolutely no credit for this one, as there was never a great chance the Roos would emerge from the 2014 Group Of Death.
We did predict that our best performance would be against the Dutch, and it was. Going down three-two after leading at one stage is about as good as it could possibly get.
The Socceroos far surpassed many expectations, as most had us going out with three drubbings to nil. Tim Cahill scored the goal of the tournament, and Matt Leckie has emerged as a future superstar.
Wayne Rooney To Score A World Cup Finals Goal (Correct) – Finally
The Winner Of Group C To Be Bundled Out In Round Of 16 (Incorrect) – Columbia made it through to the final eight after upsetting Uruguay.
England Won’t Qualify (Correct) - Ended up with the single point, and last spot in their group. A horrible campaign in a tough group from the former footballing super power.
Ronaldo To Score All Of Portugal’s Goals (Incorrect) - A bit of a tongue in cheek pick here, but a half fit Ronaldo just couldn’t carry his side through a tough group. Scored the single goal.
Overall: Six from ten
Very happy with our performance. Columbia’s amazing run to the final eight cost us in a few areas but such was the entertainment they delivered, we’re happy to be wrong.
Hopefully a few readers put some money on the majority of our bold predictions, as today, they’d be celebrating almost as much as they are in Germany.
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Dan Nichols – @suthodan
Today it was revealed that the NSW State Government will stop funding for local, suburban grounds such as Brookvale Oval, Remondis Stadium, Kogarah and Leichhardt Ovals.
The announcement means that clubs such as the Sea Eagles, Sharks, Dragons and Panthers will be forced to move games to Allianz or ANZ Stadium, or play in front of rapidly declining venues.
In theory the idea is a good one: the stadiums are in brilliant condition and best to showcase rugby league to a wider audience, while enabling crowds more seats to sell at home games.
The only problem is, it’s a 50 minute trip from Cronulla to Allianz Stadium, a 40 or so minute trip from Manly to Moore Park, and over an hour from Penrith.
Today 17,000 fans travelled to Remondis to watch the last place Sharks play the second last placed Knights.
There is no chance, I repeat, NO CHANCE, th game would have attracted a crowd that size if played at Allianz Stadium.
Manly fans have already shown they are unwilling to travel to Moore Park for semi finals, let alone regular season games.
13,000+ braved the ridiculous cold on the hill at Brookvale Oval to watch their home side put on a show in putting the Tigers away.
Sharks fans, who already had to travel to the game without trains due to yet another train outage on the Illawarra Line, would not have travelled to Allianz today to watch their side play.
It also absolutely destroys any notion of home ground advantage for teams other than the Roosters, Souths, and Bulldogs.
It also means teams such as Newcastle, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Gold Coast and the Warriors will get to play at the two major stadiums much more often, meaning home city advantage will also be nullified.
This decision will destroy season ticket sales for the Sharks, Manly and Panthers especially as people simply won’t be willing to travel over an hour more times than not week-in, week-out.
What about the poor fans of the forgotten sides of the joint venture clubs, those living in Campbelltown and Wollongong?
Dragons fans can attest to just how horrible having to travel so far for ‘home’ games can be, having spent a season playing well away from their fans
The Tele had a Panthers fan mention that he doesn’t overly enjoy sitting on the hill on a Monday night in Winter. I’ve been to plenty of Allianz Stadium games on a Monday Night and it’s not much warmer. Rugby league is a winter sport after all.
This decision is pretty much saying, unless you don’t live in the centre of Sydney City, you don’t matter.
Dave Smith needs to stand up and fight for Suburban grounds, or ensure there are free shuttles running from EVERY leagues club to EVERY “home” game.
We’d love to hear from fans of the possibly affected clubs. Are you happy with the idea of moving home games to the larger stadiums? Are ANZ and Allianz willing to put up the big bucks to host games without a guarantee of a big crowd?
How good is this Milford kid? No wonder the Raiders fought so hard to keep him in the capital after his original decision to move to Brisbane late last season.
Before the season started the argument was, who out of Milford or Barba shifts from their favoured fullback position?
There can be no argument now. I hope Barba can play five-eighth.
Who moves from fullback? Let us know.
Klein Is Kidding
Sunday afternoon’s game at Remondis featured some horrible defence, some brilliant attack, and one of the most absurd refereeing decisions of the season.
Jeremy Smith broke through and popped a beautiful ball to Tyrone Roberts who batted the ball forward deadset three metres.
Klein went to the video referee and said he believed it to be a try? Everyone watching at home, the stadium, or listening to the match on radio saw it was batted a mile forward.
Yet he is one of the best referees in our game? Oh dear … What about that no try ruling on Friday Night too? Yet no one at the NRL will admit there is a problem?
Gal vs Kimbo?
Paul Gallen continues to prove himself to be one of the better promoters in rugby league, saying that he wants a boxing bout with Kimbo Slice.
Although I would have thought Gallen, who played in the World Cup last season, would want, and need a break at some point, it looks like he may box twice during the off season.
Kimbo Slice is a big name opponent, but anyone who has seen him fight in the professional ring will tell you he’s not a great boxer.
Famous for his brutal street fights against other scrappers, Kimbo was shielded heavily in MMA until absolutely torn apart by talented fighters.
Currently 7-0 in the boxing ring against hand picked opponents, Kimbo will present a big name for Gallen and will attract plenty of interest.
Anyone interested in seeing that fight? Sharks fans, how do you feel about your captain fighting during the off season?
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Dan Nichols – @suthodan
Common sense alert: NSW should have lifted the Origin shield three weeks ago when they wrapped up the series in front of 80,000+ at ANZ Stadium.
Last night, Queensland dominated NSW for 70 plus minutes out of the 80, before running out convincing 32-8 winners.
Surely the occasion for Paul Gallen to lift the shield for the first time in seemingly forever was three weeks ago, after Jarryd Hayne ran the ball dead to wrap up the series for the blues.
Instead tonight the NSW captain was left to lift the winner’s trophy in front of about half of the crowd who attended game three … the majority of whom booed the ceremony.
I fully understand the tradition of waiting until game three, but it is time to change tradition and let common sense reign.
What is achieved by waiting an extra few weeks to have the victorious captain lift the interstate competition’s biggest prize in enemy territory?
The only reason I can think of is to maximise television viewership for the third game … but why cut to an advertisement halfway through the celebrations?
Although NSW won the series, Queensland comprehensively belted NSW off the park in game three, meaning that no matter how good it felt to watch the shield return to the premier state, and oh boy did it feel great, you couldn’t help but feel a little flat.
NSW, on the back of a five tries to one defeat, were forced to celebrate a landmark streak breaking win, in front of a majority of fans whom only stayed back to avoid the crowds exiting the car parks.
Surely in the future common sense must prevail, and the shield should be awarded in the victorious state whenever possible.
Heavyweight Clash On Sunday
Show of hands, who can’t sleep in anticipation for the clash of the titans this Sunday afternoon DELAYED on channel 9, as the Sharks host the Knights?
The Sharks, on the back of two miracle wins, will be full of confidence, as they face a Newcastle side chock full of emotion on the back of the #RiseForAlex round.
Although on paper this doesn’t look like a game to mark on the calendar, it could be an absolute sleeper.
No team wants to finish bottom of the table, and the result of this game could have a huge bearing on just who that is.
No More Excuses
Now that the “Origin disruption” excuse is gone, we should see some amazing footy leading into the finals.
The Dogs look set to lose key five-eighth Josh Reynolds for an extended period, however late injury news aside, there shouldn’t be too many disruptions stemming from the Origin series from this weekend on.
Expect the battle for the minor premiership to kick into top gear, as well as the battle to avoid the spoon.
It’s one of the closest competitions in recent memory, and now that the Origin series is done and dusted, all eyes are now on club footy.
Can the Panthers hold on to top spot? Can Souths return to top form with the return of Greg Inglis? Will the Roosters fire again? Stay tuned, this is going to be a fun ride.
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- Daniel Nichols (@suthodan)
It seems like an eternity ago that mainstream media was calling the Australian boxing scene ‘dead’ after an underwhelming Mundine fight card.
Fast forward to July 2014 and there’s a good argument to be made that the Aussie boxing scene has never been stronger.
Sam Soliman and Sakio Bika sit atop the world as current World Champions. Daniel Geale is fighting to undisputed champion of the middleweight division Gennady Golovkin in late July for the IBO and WBF World Titles.
Blake Caparello also travels to the states in early August to take on light heavyweight world champion Sergey Kovalev. Lucas Browne, Jarrod Fletcher and Daniel Dawson also have big fights coming up in the next month or so.
We turn our attention to the younger fighters of the boxing ranks in this, our fourth instalment of the future of Aussie Boxing, profiling four of Australia’s best emerging talents:
Ahmed Dib - 14-0 (8 KO’s) – @Dynamitedib
Although still in the infancy of his professional boxing career, Ahmed Dib has shown enough in his 14 professional fights to have experts predicting a big career ahead.
At only 26, Dib is coming into his physical prime, and under the tutelage of super star trainer Billy Hussein, the sky’s the limit for the hard working Sydney resident.
Training out of Body Punch with stablemates Billy Dib and brother Bilel, Ahmed has proved to thrive within what is really a family environment under the aforementioned Hussein.
Now recovering from a hand injury suffered in his successful NSW Title defence over Michael Dan, Dib is putting in all the work required for a quick return to the ring.
In our interview with ‘Dynamite’ earlier this year, Dib mentioned the plan was to stay busy so he could continue to learn his craft. Having fought five times already in 2014, despite it being only early July, Dib has proven once again to be a man of his word.
Dib is currently fighting in the super stacked light middleweight division, and will have plenty of work to do to climb the ranks within the country. Ahead of him are names such as Mundine, Hogan and Dawson, just to name a few.
Down to Earth and friendly outside the ring, Dib’s mind is perhaps his greatest asset in his quest to take on the world. At only 26, Ahmed has completed a law degree as well as competing five times already this year.
A step up in competition is not far off as Ahmed continues to improve. One to watch
Renold Quinlan 8-0 (4 KO’s) – @RenoldQuinlan
25 year old Renold Quinlan has impressed so much during his eight fight career fight that his next opponent is undefeated Australian champion Jake Carr.
A last up stoppage victory over Dechapon Suwunnalird in the fourth round was enough to set up what is one of the sleepers for Aussie fight of the year.
Not since his debut has Quinlan fought an opponent with even close to the same experience he himself brought into the fight.
His best win to date was unanimous decision over Joseph Kwadjo, who at the time was 21-6. Quinlan took his far more experienced opponent the distance and won across all three judges cards.
Quinlan is managed by the very clever Ben Thompson, who in our time talking has shown great support and genuine love for his fighter.
Followers of Quinlan’s facebook account can keep a tab on just how hard this youngster trains to achieve his goals. Above all else, his genuine enjoyment of the graft shines through.
We will learn a lot about Quinlan as a boxer in the coming weeks before his clash with the established and dominant Carr.
David Aloua11-1 (8 Ko’s) – @dave_rocket
We’ve finally forgiven the big New Zealand born Sydneysider for knocking out Brad Pitt earlier in the year.
Those who were unaware of Aloua’s talents before the Pitt fight are more than aware now after Aloua dug deep after losing the first three rounds to stop the heavy favourite.
Aloua, currently in helping in camp with Blake Caparello, mentioned that he was completely focused on helping ‘Il Capo’ win his upcoming title fight, but also said he would be back in the ring himself before too long.
At only 27 years of age, Aloua has established himself as the top cruiserweight in Australia, and has just broken into the top 15 in the world, according to boxrec.
The only blemish on his otherwise perfect record was a unanimous decision to the talented and far more experienced Daniel Ammann.
As strange as it sounds, the loss may have been a blessing in disguise as Aloua has put three strong wins together since the loss, and looks a far improved boxer.
The fact Blake Caparello would call him into camp for the biggest fight of his life says a lot about the talent and attitude of the young finisher.
With eight stoppages, including the highlight reel knockout of the previously untouchable Brad Pitt, it’s unlikely contenders will be lining up to challenge for his titles.
Rohan Murdock 14-1 (11 KO’s) – @NoMercyMurdock
Rohan ‘No Mercy’ Murdock is not exactly a household name, but we’re more than confident that in a few years, plenty will be said about this talented youngster.
At 22 years of age, Murdock holds a record of 14 wins with just the one loss, a majority decision loss to the man who recently took Dennis Hogan the distance, Steve Moxon.
Set to fight Gaston Alejandro Vega on the 30th of July in Jupiters Casino for the WBO Asia Pacific Youth Title, ‘No Mercy’ is looking to continue his rapid rise.
Currently ranked third in a ridiculously talent rich Super-Middleweight division, Murdock is looking to make a big statement in his next fight.
Two wins over tough as nails Les Piper headline his impressive record to date, however the young Western Australia is only getting started.
Although still in the early in his professional career, Murdock has 75 wins from 90 amateur fights, racking up a stack of QLD and national titles in the process.
A win over Vega will open up a road to big fights. 11 stoppages in 14 victories further creates an aura of excitement about a very, very exciting young talent.
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@NRL_TheGummy … Remember to hashtah #AskGummy … Thoughts are those of the Gummy.
Gardner going Green
Reports that the 2010 Rookie of the year nominee, Nathan Gardner is set to link up with the man who originally fought for his signature at the Sharks way back in 2009, Ricky Stuart. The 24 year old has undeniable talent, but is falling behind Sharks youngster Valentine Holmes in the pecking order and has been told to find a new club. The Canberra Raiders who have no regular fullback for 2015 are looking to snap up Gardner on a 1 year deal.
Sharks looking at Willy
No, not Todd Carneys… Big Willy Mason has been in talks with Cronulla to join their already strong forward pack. At 34 years of age Willy is still one of the most consistent forwards in the game and was even talked about for Origin just last year. Mason is contemplating retirement however and could leave his decision until very late in the season, but by all reports the big man will go around one more time.
Falou going nowhere
Israel Falou will NOT leave Rugby Union, at least not just yet. He has had an exceptional first season in the 15 man code and interest from the Bulldogs and Eels cannot persuade him to return to league. Waratahs have just secured 1st spot in the regular season with Falou topping the try-scoring list with 11.
Tweet me @NRL_TheGummy or #AskGummy
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