From the Couch - Number Three 2005

As The Footy Show reported last Thursday Night, the Gold Coast Rugby League Bid Consortium has decided to pursue a new identity as they strive for admission into the 2007 Telstra Premiership. They have dropped the Dolphins name and logo and have begun searching for a new nickname. NSC approached the Bid Committee with the following suggestion last week:

The GOLD COAST IRONMEN

Ian Buchanan, a member of the Bid Consortium, has already informed NSC that they will be adding the identity to their current list of potential names. The name not only invokes a direct association to the surf and beach culture of the Gold Coast, but it is clearly an Australian brand and will definitely stand alone as a sporting nickname in mainstream Australian sport. It also is a strong and catchy name and avoids heading down the road of copying names and logos from American Pro Sports. Add in the climate of the Gold Coast and crowds would not only flock to see their own team in comfortable temperatures but maybe to catch a glimpse of Male and Female ?cheerleaders? decked out in cozzies. Surely ladies that will help convince you that going to the footy is all about the football...

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Test selection at this time of year is nearly always reliant on one thing ? past performance at the highest level. Club form after 5 or 6 rounds can get a player back in the media spotlight for a jersey but unless they have represented Australia within a 2 year period or were injured for the last team selection they are buckleys of getting a guernsey for the ANZAC Test. Rhys Wesser has been in breathtaking form for the Panthers this season and his maligned defensive game actually stood out as a positive on Friday night against the Storm. Is he unlucky? Yes, but was his omission unexpected? No. The same goes for Matt King who was probably the most hard done by omission as he has out pointed his rival centres in every game this season, and he had the size to match the traditionally physical Kiwis. However considering a former Kangaroo Brent Tate missed out, King?s omission again shouldn?t come as a great surprise. What signed the death kneel for players without Australian experience for this Test is the fact the Tri Nations Tournament was played only 6 months ago and everyone must remember we won that tournament with the majority of the 23 man squad announced for this Test. That being said there were a few interesting selections but by and large there were no grossly unfair selections.

Probable Test Team 1. A Minichiello 2. L Rooney 3. W Tonga 4. S Berrigan 5. M Sing 6. D Lockyer (c) 7. B Kimmorley 8. L Bailey 9. L Priddis 10. J Ryles 11. P Civoniceva 12. N Hindmarsh 13. C Fitzgibbon

14. A Ryan 15. S Price 16. M O?Meley 17. C Wing

However FTC thinks Craig Gower and Billy Slater could be bolters for the 17 man squad.

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Four players who have fallen off the face of the Earth in the past 12 months:

Dane Carlaw, Broncos ? resembles a spruced up poodle more than a Great Dane in the last 12 months since he succumbed to a shoulder injury. In 2000 and 2001 Carlaw looked like the heir apparent to Gorden Tallis? crown as the game?s best forward, but apart from a superb try to draw the Origin Series in 2002 we?ve failed to see even a glimpse of the talent the big Queenslander has to offer the game. Francis Meli, Warriors ? sorry Francis but the odd big hit while impressive is not what you?re in the team for. While opportunities have been few and far between in genuine attacking zones for Meli this season, his form last year never approached his scintillating finishing of the 2003 season when he topped it off with 5 tries against the Bulldogs in the Qualifying Final. Joe Galuvao, Panthers ? although now injured the former ?hair bear? has struggled to recapture the tear away power he exhibited in the Penrith march to glory in 2003. Last year he battled injury and failed to make any real impact on the edges like he had, and this year prior to his painful groin tear on Friday night, the effort was there but the impact level was not. Joel Monaghan, Roosters ? highly criticised by Canberra fans for leaving the Raiders for the Roosters in the off-season, Monaghan has made little contribution to the Sydney backline so far this year. But his form had tapered off last season when he lacked any of the potency he exhibited in the 2003 season. As Brett Finch regains his touch he will bring Monaghan into the game more but Monaghan needs to start looking for the ball to get involved and help turn the wheel in his favour again.

All four players are capable of more and have shown they are quality NRL players in the past, FTC is eager to see them recapture that form.

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Five Things I Think (I unashamedly borrow this idea from Peter King, the superb Sports Illustrated NFL writer who actually has ten things each week)

1. Is it just me or does Channel Nine need to offer a genuine highlights show a late Sunday or Monday night? Given the majority of fans do not have Foxtel and for even those that do the quality show that is NRL Scoreboard still fails to show a complete highlights package of each game, there is a real need for a comprehensive highlights show of all 7 games. The argument that Sunday night is ?movie? night is no longer valid as CSI has taken the 8:30-9:30pm spot and I?m sure they could fill the next hour with another US medical/cop/scientific/investigation drama just for something different to hold over to the 10:30pm news and then show a 30 minute highlights show at 11pm. Its just a thought but it doesn?t seem that improbable does it? 2. Thoughts from the Cronulla-Nth Qld game: a. How good is Luke Covell going! He still is the slowest winger since Albert Fulivai but he had a great game against the Cowboys on Saturday night. With all due respect he won?t put any pressure on representative selectors but his progress in two weeks has been nothing short of extraordinary. Covell is the closest thing we?ve seen to Darryl Halligan since the great sharpshooter retired, but like ?Chook? he seems to be improving as a footballer. b. Brett Kimmorley?s 5 Try Assists secured his Australian jumper in a dominant display by the Test incumbent. With Andrew Johns not considered due to his recent return from knee surgery Kimmorley gets his first chance to fight off the coming challenge ? from Johns ? in the ANZAC Test. In short Kimmorley needs a gigantic game against the Kiwis and the Sharks need to be in the Top 2 come Origin I for him to beat Johns to the NSW halfback spot providing Joey is fit. Like the Test team it isn?t necessarily fair but it will happen because Andrew Johns is Andrew Johns. c. Danny Nutley is a different player this season. The hard work, energy and commitment remain but there is one glaring omission from Nutley?s game in 2005 = penalties, and stupid ones at that. By making an effort to avoid giving away dumb penalties, Nutley could be making a strong case for selection in the Queensland Origin squad. d. David Peachey is fortunate not to be playing for the Melbourne Storm, otherwise he?d find the tiny in-goals at Olympic Park a tad harder to navigate in his try-scoring escapades. e. Can Carl Webb drop the angry ant act for a while and let his football talents do all the talking. With his team well beaten Webb was a shining light with some great runs and at times looked like the only forward who could dent the defensive line of the Sharks. But he refuses to learn that he pushes the envelope too far when things don?t go his way and he incites incidents with unnecessary niggle. I still can?t believe his blatant and completely disrespectful shove of rookie referee Gavin Badger last year failed to attract NRL scrutiny or for that matter no public apology to Badger from Webb for the incident. Webb is very talented footballer but he crosses the line when there is no need or provocation for it. 3. An interesting statistic. The Raiders now 4-0 on the young season learnt during the week that their best prop Ryan O?Hara is out for six months with a shoulder injury. The cruel blow now leaves Canberra without HALF of their starting pack from last season. Ruben Wiki went to the Warriors and Luke Davico to Wigan during the off-season and now O?Hara is gone for the year. Yet the Raiders despite those significant losses remain undefeated. 4. As you are no doubt aware Anthony Mundine has announced his intention to return to Rugby League following his May 11th World Title fight, but just how serious Mundine is remains debatable. If you saw his interview on The Footy Show last Thursday it appears age has not humbled the 29 year old after his foray into boxing. His constant self praise and assumption that the footballing world will come around to his claim he is and was better than retired legends Laurie Daley and Brad Fittler, has moved past casual annoyance and into frustration for the regular fan. Given his age he is running out of time to even contemplate being ranked in the same status-sphere as Daley and Fittler, and quite frankly even if he gets his ?4 or 5 more years? out of his body (which is clearly an amazing physical specimen) I cannot see him achieving half of what his lesser opponents achieved. Finally I don?t believe Mundine will return to Rugby League long term, I suspect the only team that can offer him immediate 1st grade status is South Sydney and that is only because young John Sutton is injured. If Mundine is asked to play Premier League to begin resurrecting his career, I don?t think his ego will quite see eye to eye with the coaching staff of that club and he will walk out on the game once again. 5. Last night, I was lucky enough to catch a Fox Sports documentary series called ?Beyond the Glory? (if you can catch a replay please set the VCR) and this episode was on former gridiron running back Walter Payton. ?Sweetness? as he was known to all NFL and Chicago Bears fans alike was widely regarded as the greatest running back to have played the game and his passing in 1999 was felt not only because of his footballing legacy but also due to the genuine man that he was. His brother Eddie Payton was interviewed and he summed up what made his brother great not only on the field but how he approached what he did for a living. ?He adopted the mail man approach, no matter rain, hail, sleet or snow he always went out to perform for Joe Q Public who had spent two weeks pay on tickets for their family to brave the cold and snow to sit in the nose bleed section to watch Walter Payton play.? If that doesn?t gob smack you then I do not know what will, here is a guy who held so many individual records for running a football, actually knew what he did wasn?t for his own personal acclaim but for the people who followed the team and the game. What makes Payton even greater was the fact in 13 years of pro football he missed ONE game. He truly delivered. Later in the program showing footage of his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Payton summed up the kind of modesty that is oh so rare in American (and the world for that matter) Pro Sports today when he delivered this stinging reminder to his fellow athletes and indeed his fellow human beings ?Everybody is a Role Model?. Walter Payton, I never saw you play but your legacy will not be forgotten.

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Feedback

Your recollections of games when one team was white hot.

I think you should take a look back to Round 22 of 2002 when Cronulla smashed the Knights 64-11 at home. It was a huge turnaround after their 52-8 loss to the Knights earlier that year in Newcastle. The Sharks enthusiasm was just amazing, as shown when Brett Kimmorely chased his own kick to score that miracle try before the ball went dead. Michael, Baulkham Hills NSW

Agreed Michael, those two games were perhaps one of the rare times when such a turnaround occurred between two sides within the same regular season. I?m just surprised you forgot the Parramatta game in 2003 when the Eels racked up 70! ... How about the Mighty North Sydney Bears over the tigers in 1998 (or 99?). Their return to Bear Park after the graham park stadium debacle signaled a 50-0 thrashing of the tigers. And I also remember the following year they beat Nth Qld 62 ? 0. Poor old club. Ben, Sydney NSW

It remains a pity that the Bears never made their home in Gosford and we need not go into the years that followed in the ?marriage? with Manly. Some weeks the Bears looked like world beaters in those last two seasons, but with their future as a club under a cloud its not surprising they couldn?t do it all season. ... Brisbane vs Norths 1998 = 60-6 Brisbane vs Parramatta 1995 = 60-14 (Brisbane trailed 14-6 at 1/2 time), it was Lockyer?s debut in 1st grade in the number 35 jersey. Brisbane scored 54 in the 2nd half and I think at one stage they scored 4 tries in 9 minutes. David, Sydney NSW

Games like this go under the radar somehow, which is probably a testament to the quality of the Broncos side than the game just being forgotten as a one off. They could pull teams apart some days and 54 points in 40 minutes, that?s just astonishing! And its scary to think the Bears were a finals team in 1998 and they still got hammered by that magic number again ? 54... anyone notice the score on Sunday at Suncorp?

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2005 NSC CONSISTENCY RATING - CR? - ROUNDS ONE TO FIVE

TEAM CR RAIDERS +10.5 STORM +6.0 SHARKS +6.0 SEA EAGLES +3.5 TIGERS +3.5 BRONCOS +2.5 COWBOYS +2.0 WARRIORS +0.0 PANTHERS +0.0 RABBITOHS -1.0 ROOSTERS -2.0 BULLDOGS -4.5 EELS -4.5 DRAGONS -8.0 KNIGHTS -14.0

Eliminating the Bye from the table and weighting wins/losses at home and away gives the CR for 2005 so far. ? Canberra as undefeated competition leaders have backed up their position with a CR 4.5 greater than their nearest rivals the Storm and Sharks who have both had a number of convincing wins so far. ? The Knights thanks to their woeful defence have a lot of work to do to get out of the cellar with an atrocious -14 CR after only four games. Saints put a gap between the two sides with a strong win over the Sea Eagles finally showing some form. ? Even with the bye having affected a third of the competition, the NRL ladder is mirroring the CR so far in 2005, suggesting teams have earned their positions so far and not simply relied on the bye for positions.

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From The Couch will appear on League Unlimited every second Thursday, and is archived on the Nicolson Sports Consultancy Website www.nsc.leagueunlimited.com. You can reach Warrick Nicolson via email at nicolsonsc@yahoo.com.au and an assortment of correspondence will be featured each FTC.

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