GRAND FINAL DAY LOCKED IN | Three big fixtures next Sunday at Sydney's ANZ Stadium! Burleigh and Ill...
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SOUL REASON FOR LEAVING
Brian Smith has been, is, and will forever be, one of the best coaches to have graced the game of rugby league. However, I fear the enormity of the task ahead at the Roosters will be beyond him.
And I say that simply because the Roosters club is without a soul. There is no genuine culture of mateship or closeness which is synonymous at clubs such as the Bulldogs, the Storm or even the club he's leaving, the Newcastle Knights.
The club with the reputation of "eating their own" has been referred to as a "transit lounge" for decades with a management that becomes quickly intolerant of both players and coaches.
This tactless and ruthless approach from the hierarchy at the Bondi-based club has only served to add to the low opinion that league fans - other than their own - have of the Roosters. The club is so despised these days that it has taken the mantle from the Manly Sea Eagles as the least liked in the NRL. And recent events such as the ones involving Nate Myles and Brad Fittler suggests it will be with the eastern suburbs club for a very long time.
Smith's coaching record gives him the proper grounding to achieve some degree of success at the Roosters. In the 1990s, he managed to get St George to over-achieve massively only to lose the grand final on both occasions to a Brisbane side that had one of the most powerful rosters of the modern era. The Broncos resembled a Queensland Origin side with the added bonus of one of the greatest ever props in Glenn Lazarus, international centre in Chris Johns and NSW forward in Terry Matterson.
In 2001, his rookie Parramatta side swept all before them - setting all types of records along the way - to charge into the grand final before losing narrowly to a brilliant Newcastle side that included three of the game's greatest players in Andrew Johns, Danny Buderus and Ben Kennedy.
He has lifted the Knights out of the doldrums to be a major threat for this year's premiership. He was roundly criticised for his tough stance on Kurt Reynoldson, but as per usual was proven 100 per cent correct in decision.
And to think a seasoned rugby league commentator ranked him 12th out of 16.
That's ludicrous especially given said person had Jason Taylor and Matt Elliott placed above him.
WILLIE LOSES HIS FIGHT TO FIGHT
My, my, my how the worm has turned, or in this case how Willie has turned.
News that Willie Mason no longer harbours the desire to take up boxing is in direct conflict to the excuse given for his desertion of the Bulldogs.
Mason let anyone who wanted to know that he was furious that the Bulldogs wouldn't give him permission to box. This latest revelation suggests the kerfuffle Mason created was nothing more than a "smother" trumped up to conceal the real reason for his joining the Roosters, which I hazard a guess was purely financial.
If he follows through with his snap retirement from boxing, than the big forward will finish up with a record of 1-0 with his victory being a "mickey mouse" affair against an opponent who had even less ability than the hopeless individual that Sonny Bill Williams demolished in his first bout. What was his nickname? The Buffoon, the Baloon the Baboon. Sonny would have found more resistance from yours truly and I am here to tell you that I am ordinary when it comes to pugilism.
Back to Mason, no doubt one of the biggest challenges facing incoming coach Brian Smith in season 2010, will be to resurrect the career of the big Rooster forward. It was only a couple of seasons ago that Mason was one of the most destructive runners in the game.
He is fast approaching 30, so next year is crunch time and if he doesn't aim up it will be another failed exercise by Rooster management in their insatiable appetite for ex-Bulldog players.
Of all the Bulldog signings, only Braith Anasta has delivered a reasonable return. Queensland star Nate Myles seems to reserve his best for Origin matches, outgoing prop Mark O'Meley was unable to sustain his high standards in a Rooster jumper, Charlie Tonga made little impact and is no longer with the club whilst latest recruit Nick Kouparitsas is also struggling to find his best form.
Any wonder Rooster fan-sites are being bombarded with irate supporters demanding that their club ceases its recent obsession with signing Bulldog players.
Remains to be seen if the "coin drops" before they swoop on the likes of Freddie Briggs, Charlie Leaneo, Michael Sullivan and co.
NO LONGER HEAD OVER EELS
The impassioned plea by new Parramatta CEO Paul Osborne for lost fans to return to the fold may convince some but it is unlikely to change the opinion of Norm and Dot Williams. The couple from Prospect were driven out of the club they once worshipped and it will take a lot more than an open letter - no matter how genuine - to see them back cheering for the blue and golds.
Dot and Norm, whose son Wayne played for the club and who Eels legend Ray Price refers to as his "other" parents, gave their heart and soul to the Parramatta Eels for decades, only to be ostracised by the club because they dared challenge the old regime. Their only "crime" was to voice their disapproval at the direction the club was going in - which was south in a hurry - and rather than do nothing about it campaigned for change in the early 1990s.
They, along with lifelong Eels fan and Carlingford businessman Hammond Faddy, established PSAG (Parramatta Supporters Action Group) with the view to getting better candidates on the board such as Price for his profile along with others with proven business acumen.
But incumbent CEO Denis Fitzgerald wouldn't have a bar of it and even though PSAG "rattled the cage" through articles that appeared in the then Fairfax paper, The Parramatta Mercury, it was always a fight they could never win. Fitzgerald wielded enormous power in those days and he used it to crush any entity that rose up against his empire.
Dot and Norm switched their allegiances to the Penrith Panthers and though they have and always will support Ray Price to the hilt, the damage done during Fitzgerald's reign is irreparable. You don't rip someone heart out, stomp on it and than expect them to forgive you?
Had they and PSAG had the support that they deserved back then, the Eels would have been 17 years better off than they are now as opposed to 17 weeks. Suffice to say, they could have easily ended a premiership drought that's nearing a quarter of a century. I guess that's an example of karma in all its glory.
FREDDIE TO STOP STRIVE FOR FIVE
Brad Fittler's sacking as Roosters coach clears the way for the New South Wales hierarchy to set aside their egos and adopt the Queensland coaching model.
Freddie is the perfect fit as the Blues' counterpart to Mal Meninga with the likes of Des Hasler, Brian Smith or John Cartwright filling the role handled so superbly by Neil Henry who has outpointed Craig Bellamy in the tactical battle.
Queensland were in danger of defeat on more than one occasion and had better decisions been made by Bellamy the result and the overall winner of the series could have been so, so different.
The prospect of the Maroons winning an amazing five series in a row in 2010, should provide enough incentive for New South Wales to lift to a whole new level and with Blues great Fittler at the helm they have a great chance to stop the rot.
Injury permitting, the Blues will have at its disposal wonderful attacking players in Brett Stewart, Jarryd Hayne, Michael Jennings and the Morris brothers and power forwards in the shape of Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Keith Galloway, Paul Gallen, Anthony Watmough.
Guiding them around the field and captain of the side should again be veteran half Brett Kimmorley. He was wonderful in Game III. Why on earth he wasn't selected for the entire series is ludicrous and the very reason a fresh batch of selectors should come in.
New South Wales' victory in Game III must have been bitter sweet for selector Laurie Daley who was vehemently opposed to Kimmorley even being considered for Origin let alone feature in it. You cannot get much more wrong than that.
Produce the proverbial sword Laurie and duly fall on it. Anything less would be insufficient.