Category Archives: NRL Editorials

Editorials on the big issues in NRL Rugby League

Canterbury Bulldogs still stand proud

canterbury-bulldogs-team-logo-nrl.jpgThe Bulldogs, a proud past writes HateQld – Established in 1935 and winning their first premiership only 3 years later in 1938, just thirty years after  Rugby League was born – the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs have had their fair share of success on the football field.

Their have been unwanted headlines too, dating back before the start of the NRL too – controversy has never been far from the Bulldogs.

Regardless, many great players to have donned on the blue and white jersey and run out for the Bulldogs onto Belmore Oval or more recently Stadium Australia.

In their first Rugby League year the Berries as they were known then, received the biggest defeat in Rugby Leagie history. The much fancied St George Dragons served them up a 91 -6 smashing and then there was the forgettable hammering by the Eastern Suburbs Roosters to the tune of 87 – 7.

Fast forward to 2008, Canterbury now holds many great records – they were the team in 1967 to stop the mighty St George Dragons winning a twelfth consecutive premiership, only losing to the South Sydney Rabbitohs on a runaway intercept try by Bob McCarthy in the Grand Final who was to join the club in the mid seventies after he was unwanted by Souths and was later joined by an other Rabbits player in Gary Stevens.

During the mid 1970’s the Bulldogs were coached by a quietly spoken Ted Glossop, they threw the ball around all over the field , scoring one the best tries ever to be seen. The movement started in their own half  by a rampaging Norm Thomas, after the play the ball , the side to side movement of the ball across the field began ,  first to the right , back to the left ,then back to the right in a movement which saw at least fifteen pairs of hands handle the football , with some touching it twice and the Hughes brothers combining to send Don Moseley across the line.

Such was the quality of Canterbury in the mid 1970’s they were turning on the entertainment week in, week out.

Canterbury had to wait until 1974 to make an other Rugby League Grand Final appearance, losing 19 – 4 to an Easter Suburbs side coached by the late Jack Gibson and captain by Arthur Beetson .

The following few years they managed to reach the finals on five occasions missing out only once in 1977 . St George got revenge on the Bulldogs in 1979 taking the crown 17 -13 , a bitter sweet moment for the Dragons , for whom the Bulldogs had stopped  from doing that twelfth consecutive victory lap.

The following year the Bulldogs turned the tables on the 1974 result by beating the Eastern Suburbs Roosters  18 – 4 . On that day at the SCG the Bulldogs scored a try which is still talked about today. Fullback Greg Brentnall takes a pass from near the half way line , running at full pace putting up a bomb, and to everyone’s surprise , Canterbury
winger Steve Gearin taking the ball on the full to score one of the best grand final tries at the SCG , a treasured ground for many rugby league grand finals.The only team to have two sets of  brothers to appear in a winning grand final team Mark ,Graham and Gary Hughes  and the Mortimer boys Steve, Peter and Chris .

During the eighties they would share the tile of  best clubs with arch rivals the Parramatta Eels ,who shared Belmore Sports Ground with the Bulldogs while Parramatta Stadium was being built . The Bulldogs winning the premiership four times during the eighties , taking the tile in 84, 85 , losing to the Eels in 86 in the first try less grand final. Lead by the brilliance of Steve Mortimer and coached by the controversial Warren Ryan a man who based his game on defence , the entertainers became the enforcers,as the low score lines during those three grand finals would indicate .

The scores during those years would represent more of  a  tennis game at Wimbledon rather than a Rugby League game , 6 – 4 , 7 – 6 , and  4 – 2 .They only had to wait two years to regain the trophy , in 1988 defeating the Balmain Tigers .The Tigers were coached by the old master Warren Ryan who took them to three consecutive grand finals  .The Bulldogs again appeared in four more deciders losing in 94 and 98, winning in 95 and 2005.

Along with all the success, the club also have personal achievements .Terry Lamb the only player to have played in every match on a Kangaroo tour.Steve Mortimer was the first NSW captain to win a state of origin series for the blues.Hazem El masri is about to become the greatest points scorer in the game .

Disappointment has also been inflicted and  a lot of controversy along the way , and hate came at the club at every angle, from every rival fan. The salary cap scandal in 2002 , followed by the Coffs Harbour alleged rape incident , followed by players who couldn’t keep out of the media for more than a month.

Now comes along the Sonny Bill Williams affair.

Sonny Bill Williams was brought into the club at a young age, moulded and supported into the big time. He was a sensation. The Bulldogs were to become a victim of their own success, SBW launched them into the NRL big time with a 2004 Grand Final win – but maybe he was getting too many pats on the back and eventually started to believe he was bigger than the game. 

While naturally the NRL is a business these days and clubs will on occasion ‘cut’ players who aren’t peforming – they has always been the sanctity of a ‘contract’. The most important issue at hand now, is the Sonny Bill Williams has simply walked out on a binding contract. No regard for the Bulldogs club or the NRL competition as a whole.

Then there are the side issues, the kick in the guts to team mates. SBW walks out on a struggling team of mates who are battling to avoid the NRL wooden spoon. I am sure if the Bulldogs were chasing a Top 4 finish – that Sonny Bill Williams would be very keen to stick around and share the success.

Plenty has been written about Sonny and his decision to flee the country; but as others have already pointed out - with SBW falling into the company of Khoder Nasser and Anthony Mundine, there was always going to be problems.

Firstly, full credit to Nasser and Mundine for their ability to make money. First and foremost they are very good at that, the way they have turned Anthony Mundine into a ‘villian’ in the Australian publics eyes has made them massive dollars - very astute. Mundine seems content to be a ‘hated’ man because it brings him big dollars and thats fine. But when it comes to Sonny Bill Williams, who plays a team sport – is it really the best move for SBW long term?

By linking with Khoder Nasser, Sonny Bill Williams looks to be able to earn a significant payrise by taking the alleged Nasser advice to flee the country and ply his trade internationally.

Accepting a higer paying job is understandable, but to disregard a contract and drop your mates in the deep end is truly a ‘dog’ act. As they say “If you lie down with Dogs, you get Fleas” and it seems SBW has really had a good lay down in the Nasser/Mundine camp.

It’s all history now, the chances of Sonny Bill Williams playing NRL again are remote and theres every chance that the talented youngster might regret his decision in the years ahead.

As for Canterbury, they have had plenty of success in the past and will see more in the future – they have signed quality talent for 2009 and have strong stars coming through in the likes of Ben Barba.

Previously the Dogs have always had a very tough and no nonsense administration, the family club run by the astute and uncompromising CEO in Peter “Bullfrog “Moore . Todd Greenberg should take a leaf out Bullfrogs book and let the players know , if you don’t want to be of this once very successful club , then show them the exit door, no mercy.No player is to big for the game. For those who do the game and their respective clubs proud are the players the league needs to reward .

Hate Qld

Where’s the loyalty gone in the NRL?

Loyalty in the NRL is gone in 2008 as SBW and Mark Gasnier quit Wheres the loyalty gone writes Ricky Ricardo; – has the last ounce of loyalty gone with the likes of Mark Gasnier, Sonny Bill Williams and the Union brigade?

And what is it with these get out clauses in NRL contracts these days? What’s the point of agreeing to sign a multi-year contract with a team only to have a get out clause that says a player can leave after a year?

How would the NRL club feel losing one of their best players or one of their most promising youngsters all because of a clause such as that.

That’s where the loyalty situation becomes a problem in the NRL.

And something has to be done to stop such things happening, while admittedly we seem to have at least ‘one crisis’ every year in the Rugby League – this player drain is something that needs to be addressed immediately.

Dragons CEO Peter Doust didn’t do a whole bunch to stop Gasnier from going to play Rugby Union in France. The bumbling Dragons knew for some time that Gasnier was unhappy and probably didn’t do enough to accommodate the star back. It was pointless trying to work out a backup plan in the weeks or even days leading up to the Gaz departure. Way too late guys.

How any NRL club could simply let it happen is beyond me.

Considering Mark Gasnier is one of the greatest centres in the game, surely more could have been done by the Dragons initially and then possibly the NRL.

But its too late now, he made up his mind and there’s no stopping him. And in letting him go, we’ve just lost one of the greatest NRL
players of the modern era. This has to stop. The exodus to Rugby Union may just outweigh the exodus to England with the UK Super League soon, if the NRL isn’t careful – this could really put the problem into the dangerous category. With the European Union clubs throwing big dollars around – NRL players would be eyeing the big dollars no doubt.

Think about this.

asnier has a $600,000 a year deal until 2011. What more could he want? He’s getting paid a hell of a lot of money, is idolised by many young kids out there, is looked up to by all the youngsters coming through the Dragons youth teams, admired by fans and other players alike, playing in one of the most prestigious clubs in the NRL, what more does he possibly need or want?

The NRL have claimed it was too expensive to retain Gasnier and it would send clubs broke to try and compete. But losing someone like Mark Gasnier probably costs even more – gatetakings, merchandise, representative fixtures – the list goes on.

That is something the NRL cannot afford to cop.

We want to make the game even bigger than what it is, but we continue to let our best players go to England. And those aren’t going to
England to play in the UK Super League are looking at local or international Rugby Union clubs. So it’s a leaking bucket of talent in all different directions.

Would you believe that there are only 26 players left in the NRL that have played for the same club their whole career? Soon to be 25 that is with Corey Hughes being squeezed out of the Bulldogs.

That only leaves only 25 players who are a single club player.

Who would have guessed that Petero Civoniceva was moving to Penrith? Who would have known that Steve Menzies and Danny Buderus would finish their careers in England?

No one I bet.

It cannot keep happening.

Its about drive and passion and heart. If a player has the desire to play day in and day out for the same NRL team then let them,
they have the heart and the character and deserve a special arrangement. The faith that one day they can be remembered as a
player who stuck by his team in the good time and the bad would sit nicely with themselves, the fans and the games elite.

Darren Lockyer, Tonie Carroll, Corey Parker, Hazem El Masri, Alan Tounge, Steve Simpson, Matt Bowen, Nathan Hindmarsh, Nathan Cayless, Luke Burt, Rhys Wesser, Matt Cooper, Ben Hornby, Anthony Minichello

The only players that will remain after the end of the current season to have played with the same NRL team their whole career.
Take away from that list, Steve Menzies, Danny Buderus, Tony Puletua, Jason Ryles, Wairangi Koopu and Logan Swann, all going to England to play in the UK Super League tournament.

Quite amazing isn’t it.

Again it reinforces the message of retaining the games best players. Greg Florimo, former North Sydney Bears legend says “The NRL should provide greater salary cap exemptions for long serving players than those that are already in place”

Currently all clubs are given a $100,000 total allowance to keep players who have served a continuous period of eight years in first grade.
“There’s no other reason that those guys aregoing to play other than the cash” Florimo said. “If you’ve got a guy who has been with the one NRL club for more than 10 years, there has to be some exemption for him – some sort of reward for that loyalty to both the club and the player. I think our game is built on loyalty, tradition, heritage and those sorts of qualities are quickly disappearing unfortunately.”

Outgoing Bulldogs Hooker Corey Hughes says “I think it is sad that these guys are being pushed away from their clubs. Its sad for the fans who grow to love the players.”

Strong words there coming from a current player on the current situation. Corey Hughes himself being forced out due to salary cap restrictions.
On the other hand, former St George great John Raper said let the man acclaimed as the world’s best centre “Mark Gasnier” leave the Dragons because coach Wayne Bennett would develop “three Mark Gasnier’s” at St George Illawarra when he takes over the reigns in 2009.

“If he’s not happy at the club then let him go”. said Raper Snr

But we can only bury out head in the sand for so long, we are fortunate to have some good juniors coming through – but the quality cannot continue when the cream keeps getting taken away from the top.

Sonny Bill Williams walks out on Bulldogs

Sonny Bill Williams quits Bulldogs and NRLSources suggest today that prominent Bulldogs and New Zealand Rugby League forward, Sonny Bill Williams has walked out on the Bulldogs club and quit the NRL. Information is still coming to hand – but it’s believed Sonny Bill Williams has actually left the country for reasons unknown and is shortly about to link up with French Rugby Union club Toulon.

Williams apparently left Australia yesterday without letting team mates or officials at the Bulldogs know.

The star Rugby League forward has a contract with the Bulldogs in the NRL for another 4 season and the walk-out will surely see a legal battle erupt.

Bulldogs SEO Todd Greenberg said: “”I’ve had QC’s look at his contract and there is absolutely no get-out clause.”

”I’m shocked to hear of this situation with Sonny Bill Williams because I saw him Oatley at 7.30am today.’’

Williams was selected in the Bulldogs side to face the Dragons on Monday night.

While it’s only early stages and information will continue to come to light regarding Sonny Bill Williams and his quitting the Bulldogs and NRL; its hard not to speculate as to why the star backrower as not only left the Bulldogs but walked out on the NRL in 2008. Since linking with new player manager Khoder Nasser (who also manages Anthony Mundine) SBW has been keenly chasing Bulldogs management for an upgraded NRL contract and/or the option to leave the club should demands not be met.

Update: Bulldogs CEO Todd Greenberg has just told ABC radio that Sonny Bill Williams’ manager Khoder Nasser has now confirmed the star NRL Rugby League player has left the country.

“I’ve just got off the phone to Sonny’s manager Khoder Nasser and he has confirmed to me that Sonny has left the country,” Greenberg said.

“Quite simply, if Sonny intends to play overseas, we’ll be looking to take out an injunction which will effectively stop him playing in France, England or anywhere else he intends to do it.”

We are getting a lot of feedback and comments from Bulldogs fans; feel free to comment below or join in the detailed conversation on the NRL News Forums page, by Clicking Here.

Has the NRL become too edited?

NRL usage of Video Referees in 2008 is it hurting or helping the Rugby League game?By HateQld

The game of NRL Rugby League goes through constant rule changes, its probably a big plus for our game. It’s constantly evolving and keeps us ahead of other sports.

The NRL administrators have tried to make the game more attractive in recent times by bringing the video referee into several elements of the game, however this has had no effect on bringing more people through the turnstiles at the Rugby League grounds. The NRL needs to measure the benefit of rules changes they have implemented to ensure they are certainly helping, not hindering the game.

Just look at soccer. It’s the world game and the most powerful sport in the world – played in every country on the planet. The round ball game draws big crowds in most countries. It’s very successful and the administrators have not changed the rules of the game for a very ,very  long
time. They have a solid product that works and naturally they are sticking with it. At one stage, they were considering a rule change,which would have seen more goalscored. They actually wanted to widen the goalposts . But do you think more points in any given port makes that game more attractive ?

Bigger scoreline margins can also have the opposite affect and ruin a sport , whether it be NRL, soccer, Rugby Union – certainly higher scores or margins don’t really mean a better game. Would a score line of 42 – 20 be more apparelling then a score line of 14 – 7?

In the past the tight contests have attracted more crowds to the NRL game. A close game puts the fans on the edge of their seats and with time ticking away, there is nothing better than a heartstopping comeback or a 1 point victory. The golden point rule initiative has been a great step forward for the NRL, while some have complained about the field goal shootout – it adds a new dimension to the game and someone gets to leave the ground a winner.

The NRL administrators however have changed so many other rules and added video exploration to so many areas, it has become hard to keep up with whats ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ with the game , it’s caused confusion amongst fans, commentators and coaches alike . There is a difference of opinion in the commentary box as opposed to the  referees decision. The referees and the touch juges are not coming up with decisions on their own, they are relying far to much on the video referee man to get involved for tries, strips, high contact, loose carries, foul play and more. Sure, the amount that needs to be managed on the NRL field is extensive; and the referee has an extremely hard job – the video does have some place in the game.

But is the constant start stop a good thing? What about the try situation? Something needs to change there, each week there is a new controversy. Simply no consistency. Just look at recent weeks; the Bunnies get 2 tries that many felt were knock-on’s. Canberra denied what should have been a try. Manly are pulled back for a forward pass, that was actually fine. The Eels score off a bomb and despite no video evidence, the ref’s call doesn’t factor in benefit of the doubt. The video referee decision is quite simply; a lottery. Commentators, supporters, players and officials have no idea what result will be returned.

While it’s a hard game to adjudicate – other sports are laughing at the state of the video referee. It’s gobsmacking and whats even more scary is the element it leaves open for points shaving and match fixing. When a result can be swung either way in terms of a try, without any form of review or retribution – the power it gives that official is way too great. It really does open pandoras box and provides a scary thought for the future.

The game of NRL has increasingly got like NFL, which isn’t the end of the world. Stoppages can be painful sure, but if we are going to video manage a game – lets be totally clear and consistent on the calls. The rule book doesn’t always allow for this; it needs to be tightened up.

There is a big element of supporters who are frustrated with the time wasting and stoppages in the current game. Too slow, too boring which makes it more suited to a TV package rather than a live event at the stadium. The removal of referee and touch judge decisions does swing the game more to a TV package and hence the reduced crowd numbers.

Ultimately; there are to many grey areas in the NRL game today.

  • Benefit of the doubt to the attacking team. (This rarely happens, or is rarely given) (This rule should replace ‘Refs Call’)
  • Stripping rule. (Too 50/50, knocked back? knocked forward? during a tackle?)
  • Control / Downward pressure when scoring. (Is a finger on the ball downward pressure / control? Knock-on’s?)
  • The Ruck (Dominant, Surrender, Knees, Hands on the ball)
  • Diving/Milking (This is becoming rife, players laying down regularly or faking for referee intervention)

A balled is passed, is it forward or backwards? The rule states that the ball must be passed backwards. Now they say “Oh its it leaves the hands and it goes forward , thats OK due to the hand pointing backwards as it was passed”.

What a load of rubbish that is.

The list goes on, with so many views and interpretation of the rule no wonder we all confused, angry and disappointed.

Keep the rules simple, allow the referees and touch judges to make a decision on their own. Reduce the usage of the video referees; sadly the video referee should not be making any mistakes as they have the benefit of slow motion video. However, they make the most mistakes of NRL officials during a game. (On top of that, they usually take way too long to adjudicate – it’s extremely frustrating.)

Give the men in the middle some more control in several areas of the game , if they make a mistake , so be it , do not continually show the replays at the grounds on the TV to crucify the men in the middle. Simplify the game and make it easy for the officials and everyone  else to follow.

Panthers pushing Wesser out the door

Penrith Panthers trying to offload Rhys Wesser from NRL contractSpeculation was rife in NRL and Rugby League circles tonight that the Penrith Panthers are secretly trying to offload Rhys Wesser for the 2009 NRL season.

The talented Wesser is reported to be earning over $300,000 a season; meaning the livewire fullback takes up a big chunk of the Panthers salary cap. A Grand Final winner with the Panthers in 2003, Wesser has been with the club for a decade and has remained tight lipped today about a possible relocation from his current club.

Named Penrith’s player of the year in 2006 at the club’s annual presentation function, Wesser has enjoyed a successful run with the Panthers. In 2006, breaking the club try-scoring record which was jointly held by Greg Alexander and Ryan Girdler.

The recent explosive form of Panthers rookies such as Lachlan Coote has put the pressure squarely on Wesser as well as Penrith club officials, as they try and justify Wessers large pay-packet. Panthers coach Matt Elliott has been forced to shift Wesser on to the wing to accomodate the exhilarating rookie Coote and have a star player on big dollars pushed to the wing wouldn’t sit well with club officials and bean counters.

As the Panthers try to arrange a deal with Wessers management and potential homes for next season, it’s believed that Penrith are open to paying at least party of Wessers contract for the 2009 NRL season in the hope a ‘sub-letting’ deal can speed up the process and find the veteran fullback a home before the end of this year.

Should Wesser leave the Panthers, only a small number of players from the core group that won the Panthers the Grand Final in 2003 will remain as Penrith continue their rebuilding phase.

The Penrith club will want this contract arrangement dealt with quickly or quietly at least, as the club tries to maintain its recent good form run. The possibility of player unrest and uncertainty as the Wesser situation goes public could have a negative affect on the clubs results. The Panthers face the Gold Coast Titans at Skilled Park this weekend and enter the game with the knowledge that possibly only 4 more wins can secure them a place in the 2008 NRL Top 8

SBW rolls sleeves up, Bulldogs are back

Sonny Bill Williams helps Bulldogs beat Broncos NRL Round 18 2008Not just Bulldogs supporters, but most NRL supporters know the skill levels and natural ability of one Sonny Bill Williams. The guy is a freak.

But it seems yesterday, Sonny Bill Williams took on a new element of his game and became an absolute workhorse for his team.

Fighting a back injury that even his own coach Steve Folkes said should have kept him out of the match, SBW led the way as the Bulldogs upset Brisbane at Suncorp. Williams was in everything, he wasn’t just scoring tries – he was slapping balls free from attackers, fetching in-goal grubbers and was the last desperate attempted tackler for several Broncos tries.

It seems SBW has added a ‘Nathan Hindmarh’ or ‘Craig Fitzgibbon’ element to his bag of tricks. An element the Bulldogs so badly needed yesterday and for the rest of this year, they have some young, raw and skilful players – but they need experience and hard work to keep winning.

Yesterday SBW had some help. Ball playing backrower Reni Maitua also had a strong game (Maitua should have also been on the sideline with his own injury woes), hooker Corey Hughes a rib injury, Le Te Maari a hip … They were all putting their hand up for the club.

“We had a few blokes that played with things they probably shouldn’t have,” Folkes said. “But they just wanted to play. Sometimes, the power of the mind …”

“He probably played with something he maybe shouldn’t have played with,” Folkes confirmed. “That’s the spirit. There’s been a lot of talk about the team being down … we’ve been getting bombarded from all areas. But the players and coaching staff are tight-knit. It’s a really good reward for them. They’ve been trying bloody hard, and people don’t see that. They only see them on the weekend.”

Even Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett threw some praise SBW’s way: “He was outstanding. No one probably tried much harder than he did all day. He was on the right side of the field, left side of the field, he was everywhere. He played himself into the ground.”

In a Round of upsets it seems the Dogs pulled off one of the biggest of them all. The Dogs had dropped 5 games straight and had several team members injured and struggling to believe, with skipper Andrew Ryan admitting the past few months had been the toughest period he had experienced in his NRL career.

“We’ve been working our backsides off, and so to not come away with the wins, it’s been disappointing,” Ryan said. “But that’s what made today a little bit more special.

“It’s definitely the toughest, especially as we’re right down at the bottom of the table. The most frustrating thing is the last team we beat was Cronulla. And today we beat Brisbane. They’re two of the better teams. But people expect success. In a successful team, it hurts.”

Said Folkes: “It’s been really difficult for everyone at the club. Obviously, the expectation is that we’re successful, and that hasn’t been happening. It’s just a real good reward for the players, because they’ve been turning up every day and working really hard. I’m really proud of the way they played against a pretty good side.”

After the Bulldogs’ previous failure, a horror loss to South Sydney, prop Jarrad Hickey was hurting more than anyone. He had given away the ball that allowed Rabbitohs fullback Luke Capewell to score in golden-point extra time.

He too carried an injury into yesterday’s encounter, a corked thigh, and was as good as he was the previous week, without the howler to spoil it.

“I was shattered at the end of the game, very disappointed,” Hickey said. “It was probably the lowest I’ve felt. But my family and friends, my teammates, they really stuck by me. I was getting a bit depressed after the game, but they told me not to worry about it. It was just a mistake, one of those things. I don’t even care about it now.

“I reckon I’ll have a lot more lows and a lot more highs in football. If that’s the lowest I’ll feel in my life, I’ll have a pretty good life.”

BULLDOGS 26 (D Holdsworth H Nanai A Taumata S Williams tries H El Masri 5 goals) bt BRISBANE 18 (M Ennis S Thaiday P Wallace tries M Ennis 3 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: T Archer. Crowd:  37,683.

Souths Chris Sandow dodges praise; keeps cool

Chris Sandow South Sydney Rabbitohs Halfback NRL 2008While Bunnies captain Roy Asotasi and coach Jason Taylor have heaped praise on new no.7 Chris Sandow for his efforts in the past 5 weeks, but the South Sydney rookie believes he still has a long way to go before classing himself as a complete  first grade player..

The livewire halfback has yet to be in a losing Souths side, playing in  Souths’ 5 wins on the trot, their longest winning succession in 14 years. Regardless of his own thoughts, Sandow has lived up to comparisons with Allan ‘Alifie’ Langer. While obviously a little green in some areas, Sandow has more than the foundations for an impressive career.

His passing selection and decision making around when to take on the line have been quite good. He initially lacked a strong mid to long kicking game, but this is improving each week. His short kicking game is virtually bulletproof, with a barrage of chips, grubbers and reverse banana kicks to get his side plenty of repeat sets against the Eels last night.

Last night’s 32-20 conquest of Parramatta at ANZ Stadium was centred around 2 upcoming playmakers, Sandow and Parramatta pivot Feleti Mateo.

Sandow had a hand somewhere in 4 of Souths’ 6 touchdowns, while Mateo also played impressively until suffering a medial ligament knee injury shortly after halftime.

He returned to the field for the last quarter after a ten minute break but given he is carrying an ankle injury as well there’s serious concern about his availability over the coming weeks.

Rabbitohs captain Roy Asotasi said Sandow had done “wonders” since coming into first grade, while coach Jason Taylor said the rookie halfback’s kicking game had made “a massive difference to our whole team.”

Sandow, who hadn’t spoken to the media before last night, was quick to down play his part in the Rabbitohs resurgence.

“I’m not a first grader yet, that was my fifth game, I’m just taking each game as it comes,” Sandow told AAP.

“I want to stay there to the end of the year, but I’ve got to perform each week.”

Taylor, Asotasi and Sandow all stressed that Souths weren’t worrying about trying to make the finals, even though their latest win pushed them to within three points of eighth spot.

However, their next three fixtures are all against teams currently outside the top eight.

Slumping Parramatta, who are just two points ahead of Souths after crashing to their third loss in four games, were sweating on scans on Mateo to be performed tomorrow.

Asked if he would be right for Friday, Mateo said: “You can never tell, sometimes they say if you don’t feel anything it’s worse, so I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see,” Mateo said.

Parramatta hope to have captain Nathan Cayless back from an infected shin, but acting skipper Nathan Hindmarsh was brutally honest about what the potential loss of Mateo could mean to the Eels.

“We are up shit creek pretty much, we’ve got one paddle (Mateo) left, if we loose that we’re in strife,” Hindmarsh said.

“Its going to be difficult for us. “This year he’s been our standout player and sets up most of our tries and scores a lot himself.”

Paramatta coach Michael Hagan believed the Eels needed to win five of their eight games to make the finals and said he couldn’t knock the effort of his players.

Allan Tounge fuming; Pappa escapes Prowler

Allan Tounge NRL Round 17 2008 Prowler TackleCanberra Raiders forward Allan Tounge was today fuming after the NRL match review committee cleared Cronulla Sharks player Misi Taulapapa of any wrong doing; after the Sharks flanker hurled himself at Tounge while the Raiders captain attempted a tackle on a ball carrying player.

It was a bizzare situation and many felt Misi Taulapapa would be charged today after video footage was reviewed.

Allan Tounge feels he is a victim due to the fact he is a low profile player, playing for a regional club.

“Imagine if it was Brett Kimmorley and I came in and busted him and he was out for the rest of the game and we came back and won the game, imagine how much (Cronulla coach) Ricky Stuart would be blowing up,” Tongue said.

“I’m not as influential in the game as someone like a Kimmorley.

“Imagine if someone came out … when it’s so close with the top eight, and took out another side’s main playmaker, I definitely think there’d be people jumping up and down.

Tounge raises a very valid point, this kind of bizzare interference could be used by a team to directly or intentionally hurt an opposition player. Consider the likes of Israel Folau or Justin Hodges targeted in a semi-final, or a half-back such as Matt Orford or Cooper Cronk being attacked by player totally independant of the ball carrier?

A physical clash could put the player out for the match and the culprit is free to play the rest of the game and the following week.

Any prowler type tackle in the NRL should be outlawed, there were a few in the Storm/Eels game on the weekend by both sides. Ball carriers were being held up by two tacklers and a third tackler was chopping legs and lower body in a dangerous fashion.

This latest unique method by Misi Taulapapa should have been stamped out quickly by the review committee, now it’s been let go – will Cronulla and other teams try to use it to their advantage?

How can NSW revive their State of Origin hopes?

State of OriginWith State of Origin Game 3 only days away, what can the Blues really do to reverse the trend in Game 2? While they won in Sydney – it was only by a small margin and the flood gates really opened up in Queensland for Game 2. The quality of the Queensland players shone through and the stop/start tactics – more based on prevention from NSW in the original game were now useless.

The NSW Blues should really look at starting the game with Kurt Gidley at fullback. Manly flyer Brett Stewart certainly hasn’t put a foot wrong, but his offensive impact has been limited at best so far in State of Origin.

Craig Bellamy could look to start Stewart on the bench and inject him when defence has tired, in a similar way Queensland smartly use Billy Slater.

Many believe that for Kurt Gidley to have a strong impact he needs to be out there for the full 80mins. This is how he does it for Newcastle on a weekly basis. The Queensland Origin side has four kickers in their team; Jonathon Thurston and Scott Prince on either side of the ruck and the Storm’s Cameron Smith can kick from dummy half, with Karmichael  Hunt as a fallback.

For Game 3, NSW have only two genuine kickers in the side with Braith Anasta and Mitchell Pearce. Danny Buderus is not a noted kicker therefore putting a lot pressure on the new halves combination.

Although he has a good kicking game, Pearce will be under a lot of pressure as an Origin rookie and probably doesn’t have the distance kicking game under pressure that others possess.

This is where Gidley can play a crucial role.

Gidley not only has a good kicking game but he has the options and speed, thus he can run the ball as well when the situation arises.

The Sydney Roosters do score the majority of their tries through kicks, however Queensland won’t be easily beaten in the air on the fringes. Pearce and Anasta will certainly give the Maroons more to think about on final tackle plays.

Queensland have worked overtime to ensure high balls won’t be a problem and developed a good counter-strike from these attempts in Game 2.With Gidley starting the match it will help relieve pressure on both Anasta and Pearce from the outset. The more options NSW have on tackle 5, the more difficult the situation is for the Queenslanders to defend against. Having defenders in two minds, unsure whether to stay in the defence line or drop back – this could prove very handy for NSW.

NSW will lose nothing with Gidley at the back; his defence is sound and he is a good positional player, his speed is also comparable to Brett Stewart. He is the ace up the sleeve for the Blues.

Another player who was unlucky to have missed out on State of Origin selection is Sea Eagle Anthony Watmough . He has a strong running game and can tackle with aggression. Anthony Tupo is lucky to have retained his spot after having never really fired up at Origin level, he has lost that running edge and does come up with the odd error.

From a NSW point of view, a new look side was always going to find it tough against the quality of Queensland right across the park. In Game 1, NSW had the right mix of players to frustrate the Maroons. A solid gameplan from Craig Bellamy, carried out to the letter by players – it all worked.

With several key members from that NSW side now suspended or injured; the new look side has a huge task at hand. It will probably take more than a few positional changes to get this NSW side home, they will need a full house at ANZ Stadium and the bounce of the ball to come their way all night. Buckle up NSW, this is going to be tough.

Fan Feedback: Suburban Home Grounds

Leichhardt Oval NRL Rugby League Suburban Home GroundsAt NRL News we are lucky to have a large group of active fans who regularly provide their feedback through the ‘Shout Box’ on the website. Any NRL enthusiast can quickly post their thoughts and discuss current Rugby League issues with fellow supporters of the NRL.

One of our more active users that goes by the nickname ‘HateQld’ has provided us with the first ever – ‘Fan Feedback’ article. We always encourage visitors to send us detailed feedback or articles, so if you’d like to have your article posted at NRL simply email:

Suburban Home Grounds

By HateQld

Think of the suburban home grounds etched in the memories of so many Rugby League players and supporters; the likes of Belmore Sports Ground , Kogarah Jubilee Oval, Brookvale Oval, Leichhardt Oval, North Sydney Oval,and the SCG.

I remember hearing stories about the home teams hosing down the
visitors dressing rooms before a game leave them feeling cold – trying to put them
off their game or leaving the grass slightly longer to combat a kicking game that might be employed by a certain team.

The atmosphere was always electric as you approached any of those grounds.Two to three vendors selling hot food outside the grounds, with young kids selling the big league programs as you filed into the ground.

Regardless of the suburban Rugby League ground, the opposition feared enemy territory. The fans from both teams loved to travel to those grounds to see the teams do battle. Some of those grounds would hold between 20,000 to 30,000
with an atmosphere strong enough to run a small power plant.

Where the seating capacity was smaller, you still felt the power of the hits and you were able to sit close enough to the game to provide the crowd support and cheering of twice as many people in a bigger venue.

Come September all the finals and grand finals would be played at the SCG or the Sydney Football Stadium. Teams from both sides would not an advantage due to the mutual venue.

I’ve been to ANZ Stadium (formerly Telstra Stadium) several times and it’s impossible to experience anything like the atmosphere a traditional venue can produce. The advantage to the home team is non-existent, even with a large home crowd – most of the players admit they can’t hear them at the large Homebush Stadium.

It’s simply hollow.

The ANZ stadium is now used by four clubs and it doesn’t feel like a home ground to any of them at all. Everyone you talk to says the same thing; they all want their clubs to have a specific local venue.

While corporate sponsors and amenities must be considered, the attraction of a suburban home ground still holds many advantages for clubs. When done right, a balance between a traditional ‘hill’ such as at Leichhardt Oval or Brookvale Oval combined with state of the art amenities, media and corporate areas – the best of both worlds could even be possible.

As clubs look for a quick cash grab and move operations to ANZ, they are failing to see the big picture – their future direction and earnings are being forfeited. The short sighted ‘stop gap’ solution is happening too often and hurting several clubs as the Sydney crowd squeeze continues.

After watching the NRL clash today between the Wests Tigers and the NZ Warriors at Leichhardt Oval, the venue was near full even before the preliminary matches got underway. The vibe, the roar and all the family atmosphere that Rugby League was built on was totally evident. Even the lower grade players got to experience it, the place was packed.

The strong local support was most evident when a Warriors player was attempting a sideline conversion. You could see and feel the roar’s and boo’s from Wests Tigers fans putting the the kicker off. Youngsters were literally metres away from their hero’s as they watched them do battle right before their eyes; a far greater experience than sitting in a deserted ANZ Stadium and trying to get a peek at the action on a TV Screen Replay.

As the clock winds down on Sunday afternoon at Leichhardt, the sun casting a shadow over the stand, the great Australian salute is in full cry as people on the hill shield the sun from their eyes, some of them making an early exit to avoid traffic.
Some say the game must only look to the future and build bigger stadiums. While progress is always important, you still need to give the fans what they want. With crowd figures so far in the NRL season being average at best, maybe it is time to truly go ‘Back to the Future’ and use suburban grounds albeit with some future proofing? Lets try for that ‘balance’.

All that was missing from Leichhardt Oval today was Laurie Nichols shadow boxing on the sideliens, as his team did battle right before the fans eyes.