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Apr 8, 2010

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100318_ant'sanalysisThere’s not enough poetry in rugby league…

The Retirement – Vale Cayless, Price (& Turnbull)

Your body starts to fall apart,
Your mind is weak, you’re losing heart,
Your knees are shot, your spine is sore,
Support so slim you can’t ignore.

Your teams have lost, your teams have won,
You’ve now decided the time has come,
To hang your boots and say goodbye,
The timing’s right, you can’t deny.

From youngsters keen and full of steam,
You grew and rose to lead your teams,
But all good things come to an end,
With overthrows you couldn’t fend.

Moving on to better things,
Media gigs and business flings,
Enjoyed the show and what we’ve seen,
Now on to life as has-beens.

Sorry…  Won’t let that happen again.

Dragons v Broncos – 7:35pm Friday April 9, WIN Stadium

Chokers.  In rounds 1 to 4 the Dragons were breathing fire, flapping their wings, defeating challengers and cementing themselves as premiership contenders.  Enter the Melbourne Storm.  As Surly quite rightly commented last week, the “Dragons have a record of looking the goods until they come up against a quality opposition and then fold like an umbrella”.  They certainly needed their umbrellas against the Storm last week.  The Broncos are finally showing their true colours.  They suck.  There were Brisbane boys falling off tackles all over the park on Good Friday, and I don’t think much will change in the space of a week.  The Broncos’ inexperience has been exposed in the last three rounds, and the Dragons will regroup and run rampant at home.  The Dragons will make amends for the Broncos bundling the minor premiers out of the finals race last year.  The Broncos need to sort out their attitude – Te’o and Winterstein dropped for showing up late to training.  What a joke.  According to NRL playing rules, Chokers beat Jokers.

Dragons to win by 16.

Titans v Storm – 7:35pm Friday April 9, Skilled Park

Bellamy is supposedly wary of a Prince-less Titans outfit.  He shouldn’t be.  Pundits are deserting the Titans even though they beat the Storm in round 4 of 2009, and the last time these two teams played at Skilled Park the Titans romped home 18-Nil AND Prince was out!  Just quietly, in that game Melbourne were without their Origin stars – Ahhhhh now it makes sense.  The Titans will be relieved to have Laffranchi back after his last minute withdrawal last week, but Cooper Cronk’s addition to the Storm will have a greater impact on the result.  As he has shown in the last two weeks, he can spark their quality backs into attack, something that was clearly absent from the Storm in the first two rounds.  Cronk’s cheeky no-look pass Billy Slater was sweet, but it wasn’t rugby league porn like some commentators made out.  The Titans boast an impressive record at Skilled park with only two losses in ’09 and ’10, but the Storm boast an impressive record over the last decade.  The Premiers will upset the classy Gold Coast fans.  At least they have a nice stadium they can actually use…

Storm to win by 10.

Rabbitohs v Knights – 5:30pm Saturday April 10, Bluetongue Stadium

Wow.  Those were not ordinary rabbits, those were the sort of rabbits that haunt Donnie Darko, but scarier.  The Rabbitohs’ forwards finally displayed their potential and were absolutely ruthless against the Dogs starving them of possession, space and time.  The Rabbitohs’ muscle was on display in front of 30,000 and Jarrod Hickey coughing blood only made them stronger.  The Knights on the other hand couldn’t quite finish the job – there was no happy ending.  Sure, the Knights’ fans had reason to send boos resonating around the stadium, but Penrith wanted the win that little bit more.  Once again, teams that lead by 18 points at half time should not lose a game of football.  To lose in that fashion has got to leave a mark.  If the Rabbit’s forwards can set up a similar platform as they did last week, their halves will have another field day.

Rabbitohs by 8.

Bulldogs v Warriors – 7:30pm Saturday April 10, ANZ Stadium

Who’s ever heard of an Easter Bulldog.  I should have known.  The Bunnies exposed the Dogs’ frailties in the forwards, weakened further by their growing injuries list.  As far as excuses go, anything the Dogs can do, the Warriors can do better. The Warriors are plagued by even more injuries than the Doggies, but they still have a solid team across the park on their day.  That is why this is my upset for the week.  The Warriors didn’t play the prettiest of football last week, nor did they win, but they fought for the full 80 minutes.  If they can improve their completion rate and keep the Bulldogs’ replacement forwards under pressure, they will win.  The Warriors have enough skill in the backs with Tate, Hohaia and Ropati all able to throw the ball around.  The Doggies do have strike power with Ennis, Morris and Idris, but they will still be reeling from their convincing thumping at the hands of the Rabbitohs.  Vulnerable for loss.  To steal the win at ANZ Stadium, the Warriors must keep a close eye on Barba.  More Jack Russell than Bulldog, expect to see the scurrying half get plenty of game time as he has been in impressive form as an impact player off the bench.

Warriors by 4.

Cowboys v Tigers – 7:30pm Saturday April 10, Dairy Farmers Stadium

Thurston v Marshall. This game will display attacking brilliance and defensive embarrassment.  So what…  It’ll be entertaining.  With the two form halves facing off against each other, we can expect to see tries, tries and more tries.  The Tigers are sitting in third place with three wins, but it took another second half surge to down the Raiders last week.  The Cowboys had their best game of the season bumping the Prince-less Titans from top spot with ease.  The bookies are going for the Cowboys and I tend to agree.  The Cowboys have won their two home games, and the Tigers have looked less than impressive away.  Tonga had a great game for the Cowboys last week and looks to be returning to the form he was in at the Bulldogs, his damaging best.  The Tigers have a weakened squad (they’ve lost the “Red Rocket” Galloway as well), and I like the fact Bani has been dropped from the Cowboys.  He was rubbish for the Sea Eagles and a fringe first grade player.  Cowboys will be bolstered with the parochial Townsville crowd, and Benji will have an off night.

Cowboys by 8.

Sea Eagles v Sharks – 2:00pm Sunday April 11, Brookvale Oval

Ahhh, nothing better than Sunday arvo footy at Brookie Oval.  This battle of the beaches will go the way of the last three matches between these two – North. Don’t you know the water is always two degrees warmer on the peninsula? Manly are back to grinding out games, just the way Dessy likes it.  The Sharks will be back to losing games, just the way Sticky hates it.  It was an ugly, ugly win against the Eels in torrential rain, but a win is a win, and the two points the Sharks received were sorely needed.  Can they back it up with newfound belief? Not against Manly at Brookvale.  Too skilled, too strong, and our cheerleaders are better looking.  Cuthbertson is a liability who will only help his old teammates by taking the field for the Sharks.  Go Manly!

Sea Eagles by 20.

Panthers v Roosters – 3:00pm Sunday April 11, CUA Stadium

The grudge match between the east and west.  This will be a close one.  My head says Roosters, but the second half by the Panthers last week has me telling my head to shut up.  Even though Jennings is apparently playing on one knee he can play up a storm, and the Panthers weren’t far off beating the premiers two weeks ago.  The Roosters are no Storm.  Brian Smith has turned the Roosters into a structured and somewhat disciplined side, who are revelling under Anasta, Pearce and Carney, but the Panthers have been improving and will turn it up at CUA.  They just need to put in a full 80 minutes, is that too much to ask?  Like the grand final in ’03, the Panthers will be victorious. Where’s Scotty Sattler when you need him…

Panthers by 6.

Eels v Raiders – 7:00pm Monday April 12, Parramatta Stadium

Yuck. I feel sick. To be beaten by the Sharks – “How embarrassment”.  The Eels have lost their way and are embarrassing to their club, their fans, their mascot, the pie man and anyone else who witnessed last week’s match against the Sharks.  And now they’ve got a freeze on contract negotiations until the Parramatta players start turning up to the games.  Fair enough.  The crowds won’t be turning up if this continues.  The Green Machine have been just as upsetting to their fans after letting the Tigers back into the game.  The Raiders were beaten 25-Nil in the second half against the Tigers.  It was gross.  So which team is going to disappoint the least this weekend?  The Eels at home, with the return of the prodigal son Luke Burt will notch up their second win of the season.  I think the bookies are being a bit harsh to the Raiders who will test their opposition, if only for passages of play.  Parra will be back on the winner’s dais in an ugly display of error riddled football.

Eels by 4.

Multi-Magic … My long shot bets for the punter within…

  • Dragons v Broncos – Broncos +18.5
  • Titans v Storm – Storm -5.5
  • Rabbitohs v Knights – Rabbitohs 1-12
  • Bulldogs v Warriors – Warriors to win
  • Cowboys v Tigers – Cowboys 1-12
  • Sea Eagles v Sharks – Sea Eagles 19+
  • Panthers v Roosters – Panthers – 2.5
  • Eels v Raiders – Raiders +9.5

CrikeySports_markAnyway, I’m currently sitting in equal first in the Crikey office tipping comp with 12 picks from two rounds. The competition is called “Independent Media Sparkle Fairies”. Yep, First Dog on the Moon named it. In addition to that I run this Sports blog so when I thought of someone to do a weekly AFL tipping form chart thing for Crikey Sports’ wonderful readers, I came up with me, or First Dog on the Moon.

“Dog, want to do a weekly AFL tipping article?” I asked Mr Onthemoon.

“What, write something? I’m going to jump the shark soon,” was the cartoonist’s curt reply.

“OK then. What about if I write it and you can contribute a pick of the week or some such?” I asked again.

“Count me in.”

So we come to this. The inaugural Crikey Sports AFL tipping article, with Dog of the Week (First Dog’s insane contribution to this austere column).

St Kilda vs. Collingwood — 7.40pm Friday April 9, Etihad Stadium

Both the Saints and Collingwood are undefeated. And while Collingwood are at virtually full strength, the Saints are minus occasionally useful power forward Justin Koschitzke.

I struggle at the best of times to pick Collingwood. They are a very good team but they are missing something. Comic relief maybe? Why did they delist Shannon Cox? I am taking this Collingwood outfit too seriously. They are a very good team.

In contrast I like the cut of the Saints’ jib. It might be Brett Peake, or it might be that Adam Pattison is still on an AFL list, but by god, the Saints get it. They can also play football.

I couldn’t figure who to pick in this game, as it’s so close, so I asked Crikey editor Sophie Black (a Collingwood supporter) why the Pies will win on Friday. “Because they’re the best,” was her reply, “and Magpies are cool birds and a magpie would beat a Saint in a fight.”

Hard to argue with that.

In the interest of fairness I asked Crikey journalist Amber Jamieson (a Saints supporter) who would win. “Because St Kilda are a far superior team to Collingwood.” And then “2010 grand final”.

I am confused.

Saints by 24

North Melbourne vs. West Coast — 2.10pm Saturday April 10, Etihad Stadium

The Shinboners. North fans hate being called that. I don’t mind it, but then again I don’t follow North. Anyway, the “Shinboner” spirit will count for something after losing the first two matches of the season. Oooh, and I like Brad Scott. He knows North fans want to see a his first win as coach. He’d probably like to win for himself as well. It couldn’t have got much worse for North as they lost by 6,676,343 points to St Kilda last week. Captain Boomer Harvey had five touches. They need to rebound. Positives: have good kids

The West Coast Eagles also have lost their first two matches, so someone’s got to win. Yay! They lost a thriller to Port Adelaide last Saturday night — but their kids are looking good. Nick Naitanui is already a star (they do get a little ahead of themselves in Perth) — but the kid’s a freak. Luke Shuey has talent to burn and there’s a host of little Eagles that have enormous potential and talent. Shannon Hurn is out, which will hurt coach John Worsfold’s defensive structures. Dean Cox looks limp.

I’m picking North because it’s at Etihad and I know North assistant coach Darren Crocker and he’s a ripper bloke.

North by 17

Port Adelaide vs. Brisbane — 2.40pm Saturday April 10, AAMI Stadium

Did you know the AFL has approved the Crows and the Power to construct and use a coaches box behind the goals at AAMI Stadium — and the other team doesn’t get one?* Did you also know that Eddie McGuire says that South Australians are feral and that now if he goes to Adelaide he will probably die?** Did you also know that Port Adelaide have a secret bunker at AAMI that they use to breed Tredreas?*** Anyway, Port have played two and won two. They have a  great mix of youth and experience. Much maligned Brett Ebert has stepped up to the plate and improved his game remarkably. One thing you can never do is write the enigmatic Power off.

Brisbane. So good right now. Jonathan Brown. Awesome. So much has been written about the Lions champion captain this week that to add to that would probably lessen the effect. Voss’ risky Fevola recruitment plan seems to be paying off early as a fitter Brown enjoys the freedom the chinned one has given him. I like Voss. I seriously thought Staker was a hack and Maguire was finished as a player. Looks like Voss knows more about football than me. Who woulda thought?

This is a hard one to pick. For no good reason I’m picking Brisbane.

Brisbane by 12

*True
**Sorta true
***Not true

Sydney vs. Richmond — 7.10pm Saturday April 10, SCG

Why the hell is Paul Roos quitting coaching at the end of the year? He’s like Mr Freakin’ Miagi! Sydney are back and they have talent across the board. The Bloods mantra is being chanted again, led by kung fu Buddhist master Brett Kirk. They thrashed Adelaide in Adelaide (long a hoodoo) last week. Dan Hannebery won last week’s rising star nod. All good news for Swans fans.

And then there’s Richmond. I feel so sorry for the Tigers. Richmond is an awesome place to live (I live there!) but the Tigers are struggling. I saw Ben Cousins at Cheeky Monkeys cafe on Swan St on Monday and he looked sad. (Well he didn’t but you know …) Coach Hardwick is doing all he can and playing the kids. I like the look of Relton Roberts and Ben Nason. Dustin Martin will be a gun.

Swans by plenty, let’s say 54

Carlton vs. Essendon — 7.10pm Saturday April 10, MCG

Can you smell what the Blues are cooking? Is it croquembouche? I like Eddie Betts. He plays his 100th game for Carlton on Saturday. But he’s no Fev. All the doom and gloom that was thrown at Carlton pre season due to losing Fevola and no Judd for the first three weeks was probably a bit over the top, but they beat Richmond round 1 and lost to a rampaging Lions last week.  There’s too much class in the Blues midfield to be ignored . Much improved defender Paul Bower is a chance to return.

Essendon. What can I say? They lost last week to lowly pathetic Fremantle*. They couldn’t even win when trying to honour club great Matthew Lloyd. They named half a stadium after him and they couldn’t beat Freo, who hadn’t won in Melbourne since Monica Lewinsky started bonking Bill Clinton! What’s going on! The Bombers are proud however, and the winless start to the season will grate on them. And they hate Carlton.

But I think Carlton will be too strong.

Carlton by 4

*I follow lowly Freo

Melbourne vs. Adelaide — 1.10 Sunday April 11, MCG

The Demons had their heart broken last week. In the kind of way that you ask a cute girl to your Year 12 school dance and she ends up getting it on with some dude you hate. The sort of way Ralph Wiggum’s heart broke in that Simpsons episode. You know the one. And they lost by point to bloody Collingwood! Of all teams. Who was happy that the Demons lost? No one. That’s who. They are starting to show something Melbourne and their kids are looking very good.

Meanwhile there’s Adelaide. What happened to the Crows? At the end of last year they looked like some sort of Eastern German run battalion during the 80s. They were a team of Dolph Lundgrens. Well drilled, they could beat anyone on their day. And now they are a rabble. This week Tyson Edwards and Andrew McLeod play in their 300th game TOGETHER — a record. Amazing considering their many off field issues. But champions, the both of them, nonetheless.

The Demons are going to do this for Jim.

Melbourne by 23

Bulldogs vs. Hawthorn — 2.10pm Sunday April 11, Etihad Stadium

Match of the round. The Bulldogs are on the board with their win last week against a listless Richmond. As First Dog said, “it was boring.” This game won’t be. Will the Hawks have the defenders to stop Barry? Will Adam Cooney continue to go nuts? So many things to like about this Bulldogs team — but this is their second test (after losing to Collingwood round one), and they need to win.

Gee the Hawks looked good on Easter Monday. Geelong were too good. But the Hawks weren’t far behind. The biggest problem Hawthorn have is their ruck division. Renouf is a one man band, and he couldn’t run out the game. Hawks need to address this to compete against the top teams. Buddy’s back and Roughead is in form. Rioli has to be the best tackler in the league. Will get better with games into Franklin, Rioli, Bateman et al.

The Geelong game will have taken too much out of the Hawks

Bulldogs by 25

Freo vs. Geelong — 2.40pm Sunday April 11, Subiaco Oval

If the Hawks vs. Bulldogs is match of the round, then this game, amazingly, isn’t far behind. Who would have though Fremantle, an enigma wrapped in a question mark, would be two and zero taking on Geelong and full of confidence. They look great so far. Their forward pressure and tackling is as good as I have seen from a Freo team. They look committed and united. Hell must be freezing over.

Geelong, so superb for so long, and it looks like it isn’t going to stop soon. Gary Ablett has a shocker but still has 38 touches. Jimmy Bartel is a freak. Freak. Corey Enright can seriously play. And so on. They travel west without Mooney or Scarlett. They have people to cover these modern legends. They are a great team and demand high standards. Remember the days Garry Hocking changed his name to Whiskas? Good times.

Should be a ripper.

Geelong by 12

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Apr 6, 2010

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Apr 6, 2010

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This week, it was Easter. And sport is like the spirit of Easter — because sport, like chocolate, you can never have enough. And God loves sport because there was rugby on Good Friday and AFL on Easter Monday. Anyway, Crikey’s Production Manager Leigh Josey and cartoonist First Dog on the Moon look back at the week in sport.

Leigh Josey: Morning Mr Onthemoon. Happy Easter and all that. Have a good break? Haven’t seen you since last Thursday. You look well. Almost glowing.

Firstdog Onthemoon: I am glowing. There was a nasty radiation spill in the cordial aisle at the Simms on Barkly St on Friday. I got it all over me.

Leigh Josey: Interesting. I thought you may have been excited as the Bulldogs posted their first win of the year against Richmond. I assume you went to the game. How was it?

Firstdog Onthemoon: It was boring! It was an excellent way to spend an evening. The dogs weren’t great but Richmond were awful. We know more about Richmond than we do about Footscray after that. The Moleman was good, and Barry was good. Our Brownlow medallist was great. We scored 120 points and Barry only kicked 1 so all in all it was a reasonable hit out. I am advised that Richmond had some players at the game as well. And your mob did alright too I hear. Should we all be quaking in fear of the purple peril or is it just a blip?

Leigh Josey: Freo are second on the ladder. That’s weird enough. It’s like the Bronco’s being on the bottom of the NRL ladder. Something’s happened. The magnetic poles have reversed and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse may well be heading our way if Freo somehow get over Geelong at Subiaco next week. I’d just like to say kudos to the Bombers fans at Etihad on Sunday. Especially my friend Adam. They expected to win and didn’t. And were humble losers. Losers though nonetheless.

Firstdog Onthemoon: Yeah yeah. My friend Vito said the pies fans were well behaved after they robbed the Dees at the G as well. Poor Dees – although a loss like that is almost as a good as a win under other circumstances, or something. Isn’t it a funny old game!

Firstdog Onthemoon: Was there any other sport this week?

Leigh Josey: Indeed there was Mr Dog. Round 4 of the NRL saw the Melbourne Storm extend their winning streak to four and remain on top of the table. Which is interesting, given Malcolm Knox’s article for Crikey and Back Page Lead last week. And as I previously said, the Bronco’s are rooted (perhaps figuratively) at the bottom of the NRL table — for such a strong club, it must hurt.

Firstdog Onthemoon: Yeah but they are from Queensland so they must have learnt to live with pain by now. I must say that I am quite impressed with the Crikey Sports blog. There appear to be a number of people on there who know what they are talking about — and me too!

Leigh Josey: Ha! I think it’s also about time to give the Rugby Union Super 14s some love. The NSW Waratahs sit on top of the table. I’m just going to put this out there: I reckon the Super 14s have the coolest names in team sport. From Waratahs to Crusaders to Highlanders. Slightly better than Dockers.

Firstdog Onthemoon: Our Super 14s Twitter Correspondent is currently not available so I will have to get an opinion from the Crikey Patented Opinion-o-matic. I shall just set the subject to “Sport” and the viewpoint to “Angry”, and I’ll calibrate the Attitudinator to “Credible”. Flick that switch, pull this lever and…. tick tick tick DING! “Yeah Lethal, I reckon it’s a load of shite and they are all frock wearing mass murderers! Point of Order Mr Speaker you giant rabbit schtumping pansy!!!!” Ooh sorry, looks like I had it set to Question Time instead. Might have to do some work on that one in the off season.

Leigh Josey: Ahhh, the Crikey Patented Opinion-o-matic … I think Sam Newman has one of these. Also 800 metre world champion Caster Semenya, you know, the girl who might be a guy. And no, I’m not talking about Lady Gaga. Anyway, Semenya’s IAAF gender results are now not being released until June this year. What are your thoughts on this perplexing issue Dog?

Firstdog Onthemoon: Leave Lady Gaga alone. Anyway gender in sport is way overrated because so what if all those women have penises, some of my best friends are penises and I don’t hear them complaining about Lady Gaga winning at the high jump because of her betweens. No, they have better things to do like, I dunno, penis stuff.

Leigh Josey: Speaking of penis stuff. Tiger Woods. He’s back at the US Masters this week and it’s big news. A lot of people hate him now. But not my dad and every other mad golf fan. They love him. It’s going to be really good drama, the golf. Worth watching I reckon.

Firstdog Onthemoon: No, it is golf.

Leigh Josey: Ha! At all?

Firstdog Onthemoon: At all what? At all golf? [Insert Golf Complaint from the Crikey Patented Whinge-o-tron here] I mean Tiger. Golf, sex. Who cares, I know I don’t. Not sure if I am the right person to be a sports commentator this week.

Leigh Josey: OK fair point. And you are! And I agree! I can’t stand all the Tiger/sex/etc crap, but he’s one of the greats — playing at the Masters. A place of dreams, is Augusta. And I’ll be watching. Anyway, I digress. Underreported sports of the week?

Firstdog Onthemoon: Doodle Jump! It is a disgrace that this marvellous pastime is ignored by the Mainstream Media! What are they afraid of. It is a simple game in that all you have to do is get the Doodler up to the top while all sorts of clever obstacles try to stop you but you can get a rocket pack and a propeller hat. I have included some screen shots from a game I saw on the weekend.

Leigh Josey: What clever obstacles? Who is playing this game?

Firstdog Onthemoon: Clever obstacles? Some of the cleverest. Doodle monsters! Black Holes! Andrew Demetriou! It is deadly. And only the strong survive. Can you smell what Doodle is cooking?

JockWrap1

JockWrap2

JockWrap3

JockWrap4

Leigh Josey: Indeed. My vote for underreported sport of the week goes to pole dancing. I agree with Kylie Mills from NZ — it’s a disgrace that this most noble sport is not on the Olympic calendar. Sportsperson of the week?

Firstdog Onthemoon: Sportsperson of the week, almost Brodie Moles, the Moleman, for cheering up me and my friends at the footy, but no, it is a true hero this week. It is someone who crosses the great divide between all sports, who unites us all and who is utterly a champion in every way and no one would disagree, it is Doodle! For continuously going up and up and up in spite of the many obstacles put in his way.

Firstdog Onthemoon: And this just in! My friend Carl’s chicken Huddo! Who is a most excellent chicken and could probably ruck for Richmond at this point.

huddo_chicken

Leigh Josey: Sweet. Go Huddo. My Sportsperson of the week goes to the Fremantle Dockers’ Adam McPhee, aka Skeletor, aka Kevin Bacon. It was an Easter crucifixion by Bombers fans against their former best and fairest who know plies his trade in purple. In the first half McPhee played shit. They booed him, threw rocks at him, tied him to a goal post and had Angus Monfries spear a pass through him. And then he rose in the second half and played slightly less shit. And saved Christmas. I think I mixed my metaphors but you get the point. Thanks Dog. Enjoy your week.

Firstdog Onthemoon: Adam McPhee is a hack and a failed thug. You are welcome to him, good luck getting past the cats this week with that bozo running around the paddock.

Firstdog Onthemoon: Loser

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Apr 1, 2010

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Crikey Sports introduces Nick Tedeschi who writes for Punting Ace with his weekly From The Couch article  — “one of the most popular rugby league pieces anywhere.”

Punting Ace‘s Nick Tedeschi writes:

Ricky Stuart’s one great skill is his ability to create an illusion, the illusion that he is an elite coach on the same level as Wayne Bennett and Craig Bellamy. His ability to deceive a good portion of the rugby league world is a greater achievement than anything he has achieved in rugby league coaching, particularly over the last five years where all signs point to the word failure yet most in the game buy into this self-perpetuated myth that he is a working class rugby league intellectual who cares about nothing else but the greatest game of all.

He is the Harry Houdini of the NRL. The veil of intensity is his smoke while his tainted 2002 premiership and his record coaching a team with seventeen former, current or future internationals on his books are his mirrors. He is an old fashioned snake oil salesman and most in rugby league just can’t wait to buy more.

Stuart has created such a good myth that most in the NRL simply believe it. Sharks fans viewed him as a saviour when he arrived and despite his abhorrent record at the club there are few calling for his head. Stuart has near absolute power at Cronulla and is the man solely responsible for their current position but he escapes the same scrutiny as other coaches.

The street corner tip even has it that he is set to take over the Tigers in 2011, walking straight into another plum job. Journalists continue to push the notion that Stuart is a top class mentor. Daily Telegraph sports editor Phil Rothfield this week defended him despite the Sharks riding a thirteen game, nine month losing streak. He is continually pushed for rep coaching positions, generally talked up as one of the game’s thinkers, widely regarded as the type of man you want leading your club.

All available evidence points to the contrary. Stuart does have an overall record of 111-95-1 but those numbers are severely inflated by his record in his first three years of coaching the Roosters where his team went 59-22-1. That was a team built by Graham Murray, who was forced out through a political power play. Stuart did little recruiting. He inherited a team led by possible future immortal Brad Fittler and included the likes of Craig Fitzgibbon, Craig Wing, Bryan Fletcher, Luke Ricketson, Adrian Morley and Anthony Minichiello at their peaks.

Canterbury may have been thrown out of the competition in 2002 for salary cap indiscretions but the Roosters were surely lucky to escape unpunished. Even with this team, Stuart’s only premiership came in 2002 when the best team that year, Canterbury, were thrown out. He subsequently led the Roosters to two successive Grand Final defeats, both as favourites. Whispers were that Stuart had little idea of how to get a team peaking at the right time of year.

Those same whispers became booming screams when Ricky Stuart became the first Australian coach in over three decades to lose a major international competition when guiding Australia to a defeat in the 2008 World Cup Final. Australia got about spanking the minnows early in the tournament but were beaten come the final. He was subsequently forced to stand down because of an embarrassing tirade in the hotel lobby against referee Ashley Klein. Stuart has never been one to accept responsibility for losses.

Once Brad Fittler retired and the team of champions the Roosters had in the first half of the decade broke up in 2005, Stuart has gone 52-73-1. He has had four losing seasons out of five and his teams have consistently finished down the bottom of all attacking measures.

He was fired only a year after the Roosters made three Grand Finals because he was found out as a coach with no attacking philosophy, little ability to get his players playing for him, an over-intense mentor who does not understand the meaning of timing and a man who is possibly the worst recruiter in the NRL. His time at Cronulla has only reinforced those notions. He drove out players like Brett Kimmorley only to “rebuild” with Trent Barrett. The Sharks cannot score points. They are currently riding a thirteen game losing streak.

Ricky Stuart is a failure as a coach. He is not a forward thinker, he is not a rugby league intellectual, he is not even a competent first grade coach. It is that simple.

*Check out Crikey Sports Ant Halstead’s Round 4 NRL predictions

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Apr 1, 2010

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100318_ant'sanalysisSunrise, sunset.  My tipping is as inconsistent as the form shown by the Eels.  Ok, ok, so my upsets picks were a bit overzealous, but that’s what happens when you confuse confidence with arrogance (e.g. the Roosters’ Round 3 performance).  Maybe I’m just confused.

What is absolutely free from doubt is that the teams in our great competition continue to test, stretch and bend the rules governing the salary cap.

Scott Prince and the Titans are being called to question over some unscrupulous dealings with a Gold Coast property developer, while the Storm are sitting in their own teacup of salary cap accusations.

I am a big fan of the salary cap.  It may inadvertently cause a player drain, but it props up the clubs less fortunate and is the main reason the NRL is such a competitive and consequently entertaining competition.  My only query is whether too many resources are being spent on creative accountants and lawyers engaged to develop more and more complex third party arrangements. Surely the clubs would be better off spending that money on the development of the game itself?

I wonder how I would look in a salary cap (or a new house on the Gold Coast for that matter).

Storm v Dragons – 2:10pm Friday April 2, Etihad Stadium

This game features two of the three participants in the ménage à trios atop the premiership ladder.  Falling short of the Titans being somehow invited to join this romp on a triangular paddock in a three-way tussle for line honours, we will have to settle for this top of the table clash, and fear not, for this game has plenty of intrigue to whet the appetite.  While both teams boast clean records for 2010, they have achieved those feats in remarkably different fashion.  The defending premiers have won their three games by diminutive margins of 4, 6 and 6 points while the Dragons have steadily increased their dominance by scoring margins of 6, 20 and 25 points respectively.   The Storm were due for a loss last week, and that may have eventuated had Cronk not returned to fitness.  Now they’re overdue, and the librarian is angry. The Dragons have been nothing short of impressive and should overcome any home ground advantage the Storm can deliver.  The Dragons are set to continue their impressive defensive efforts and beat the Storm at their own clinical game plan.

Dragons to win by 8.

Roosters v Broncos – 8:35pm Friday April 2, Sydney Football Stadium

Two demoralised teams. But which one will bounce back?  The Broncos fooled me completely.  I thought that their rubbish performance down in Canberra was a mere mishap for a team that otherwise showed much promise in Round 1.  How wrong I was.  The Broncs were completely outplayed by the visiting Kiwis.  They were so comprehensively walloped in the second half (at Suncorp Stadium!?!?), that I am now convinced they are not the team I thought they were. The Roosters’ spectacular nose-dive against the Doggies was made more enjoyable when Minichiello threw some expletives at his teammates.  Trouble in paradise.  Could they go the same way as Clarke and Bingle?  Carney was horrible.  It was funny at first, but the poor bloke couldn’t put a foot right!  If only the TV picked up some commentary from the Channel Nine audio team “Can’t catch, can’t tackle”.  Carney won’t play like that again.  The Roosters will regroup and return to their winning ways this weekend as the Broncos are not the team they led me to believe.  Oh yeah, and Izzy’s out ’cause he hurt his finger.

Roosters to win by 10.

Sharks v Eels – 5:30pm Saturday April 3, Toyota Stadium

For their long suffering fans’ sake, I hope the Sharks are religious and not superstitious.  They need more than a little divine intervention if they are to emulate Lazarus and Jesus and resurrect their season.  After suffering their 13th straight loss at the hands of an improved Rabbits outfit on Monday, the Sharks will be hard pressed to avoid matching the Magpies’ consecutive loss record in the NRL of 14 games.  It’s not all bad news for the boys from Cronulla, at least they are not about to match University’s loss record of 42 games spanning 1934-36 in the NSWRL.  That sort of performance prompted the Students to withdraw from the top competition, something which I am not suggesting to the Sharks – Yet.  The Eels were well beaten by the Tigers last week as they were unable to match the defensive effort their opposition displayed, but if their backs man-up and Mortimer plays to potential they should run away with this one.  Tim Smith’s addition to the Sharks line-up against his old team could improve the Sharks’ attacking options and take some of the burden from Barrett, but he is no saviour.  The dismal (if any) home crowd advantage will not be enough to save the Sharks.  Little hint to the Eels: Send some bombs to Kelly.

Eels by 14.

Cowboys v Titans – 7:30pm Saturday April 3, Dairy Farmers Stadium

The Cowboys have Thurston and Prince is injured for the Titans.  This game’s tip is an easy decision.  The Tigers v Eels game last weekend demonstrated the importance of having a star player in a playmaker position with the Tigers’ in-form skipper Marshall, directing proceedings.  On the other hand, the Eels’ star player Hayne was unable to take control of the game wearing the No. 1 jersey.  Thurston commands too much attention from oppositions who have a tendency to wait for him to shimmy past them.  Like some strange mating ritual, he dances seductively with ball in hand, distracting the defensive line from the other Cowboys lurking nearby. The Titans are undefeated and have competent playmakers in Bird and Rogers, but without Prince they are an unavoidably different side who will struggle to adjust to his absence.  Even though the Titans are sitting pretty at second on the ladder, the Cowboys at home with a fit Thurston should score a handful of tries.  Here’s hoping they have learnt how to tackle during the week.

Cowboys by 8.

Warriors v Sea Eagles – 2:00pm Sunday April 4, Mt Smart Stadium

Once were warriors?  Cook me some… eggs…! The Warriors were back to their menacing best in the second half against the Broncos last week.  The only trouble is that they need to back it up, with fewer players.  They will be short of intimidation as the Beast is injured, while workhorse Mannering’s services will also be sorely missed.  Manly are not without their own injury woes and big George Rose is having another stint on the sideline.  I’m hoping Terence Seu Seu takes his spot just because he has an excellent name.  The Sea Eagles will put up more of a fight than the Warriors’ previous opposition, and have travelled quite well across the Tasman in the last few years.  That being said, the Warriors got the better of Manly 26-24 in their only match last season on the Northern Beaches.  Dessy seems to have lodged his right boot squarely up his players rear, and they should improve further this weekend.  I don’t see the Warriors being successful with their erratic play against the more structured Sea Eagles defence.  I still have neck brace envy of Tate – Cheating anyone? Manly should get this, but it wont be easy.

Sea Eagles by 4.

Raiders v Tigers – 3:00pm Sunday April 4, Canberra Stadium

Since I’ve determined that the Broncos are actually crap, I can discount the Raiders’ victory in Round 2, and blame it on the Broncos’ inability and inexperience.  The Raiders didn’t show anything against the Titans last week that would make me think otherwise.  The Tigers on the other hand played some quality football – Not only were they impressive in attack but their defensive effort probably won them the game.  I’m sorry Phatass, but I’m going against the Green Machine again this weekend.  Benji and Farah will kick short for tries, and kick deep all day to force the mistakes from the Raiders’ back three.  Canberra Stadium does add some extra “umph” to the Raiders’ performances, but the Tigers’ last visit to the Nations Capital was a pleasant one, leaving 21 point victors.  The Tigers are building their season and addressing the shortcomings in their game week to week.  The Raiders just wish they played at home every week.  Can the Raiders demonstrate some premiership or even finals credentials?  Don’t count on it.  It’s a Sunday arvo game, and I hear Lote really likes Sunday afternoons.

Tigers by 20.

Knights v Panthers – 4:00pm Monday April 4, Energy Australia Stadium

This should be a cracker of a contest.  Both teams have had wins in round 1, followed by a pair of defeats.  Not a whole lot separates them in form, and they each have their fair share of quality players across the park.  The best thing about this match, is the fact that the Knights were responsible for booting the Panthers out of last year’s competition in round 26 with a devastating 35-Nil rout.  The Novo Castrians will be out in force on Easter Monday to support their team, and watch them humiliate the Panthers again.  The Panthers will put up a better showing this time around but the scars from last season run deep and may take longer to heal.  Both teams have an unfortunate casualty list, however the Panthers’ current outfit is looking a little more tired and frayed at the edges.  Newcastle have been refreshed by a new coach, and will be looking to register their first home win of the season.  I think the bookies are favouring the Knights more than what is deserved, but the win will be theirs.

Knights by 6.

Rabbitohs v Bulldogs – 7:00pm Monday April 5, ANZ Stadium

In contrast to the Roosters and Broncos who were both thumped last week, these two teams finally posted wins on the board.  The Bulldogs ran in twelve tries against a hapless Roosters outfit who contributed to the Doggies’ cause with nineteen errors, while the Rabbits finally met a lesser opposition in the Sharks.  “At last!” cried the Redfern locals as all of South Sydney joined in a collective sigh of relief.  The momentum built by a solid performance from Issac Luke and a forward pack that was somewhat committed in attack and defence, was enough for the Rabbits to win by 22 points.  But don’t get too excited Russell, it was just the Sharks, it was nothing to write home about, you got the Sharks’ sloppy 13ths.  While they were dominant in most facets of the game, they were still hamstrung by 11 errors, and 8 penalties.  It is that ill-discipline that makes me favour the Bulldogs in this one.  With Ennis and Kimmorley marshalling the troops, the Bulldogs should be able to take advantage of the South Sydney pack who still have much to improve on.  If both teams play like they did last weekend, this could turn into an engaging contest in front of a big crowd at the neutral ANZ Stadium.  While it may be engaging, the truth is that the Doggies have performed better against better opposition than the Rabbitohs.  As both teams have displayed suspect defence and attacking ability, expect plenty of tries.

Bulldogs by 8.

Multi-Magic … My long shot bets for the punter within…

  • Storm v Dragons – Dragons to win
  • Roosters v Broncos – Roosters 1-12
  • Sharks v Eels – Eels -13.5
  • Cowboys v Titans – Cowboys 1-12
  • Warriors v Sea Eagles – Sea Eagles 1-12
  • Raiders v Tigers – Tigers 13+
  • Knights v Panthers – Knights -4.5
  • Rabbitohs v Bulldogs – Bulldogs 1-12