Apr 21, 2010


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:

Phil Gould, the Daily Telegraph and this author rarely all agree on anything when it comes to rugby league. It is as rare as finding a four leaf clover embedded in a hen’s tooth as Halley’s Comet floats on by. When it comes to referees boss Robert Finch, however, we are all in unison, a united triumvirate demanding Finch be held responsible for the damage he has done to rugby league.

100421_teleFans, coaches and players have lost faith in the referees and the system of officiating. The responsibility for that loss of faith along with a total frustration that has come with the ridiculous rule interpretations, the key performance indicators and the egotistical manner in which referees talk to players all rests with Robert Finch. The current system is his doing and it must be his head that is served up to appease the masses need for blood.

The sin bin will not do.

Robert Finch must be sent from rugby league, an example of what will happen to those who want to mess with the game considered by many to be the greatest of all. Nothing short of dismissal will stop the rot so nothing short of dismissal will do. It is time for David Gallop to act. Now, before it is too late.

The damage Finch has done to rugby league is immense and his failings are too numerous to lay out in such a small space. A brief analysis of the last few weeks should provide an adequate picture of Finch’s work, however, though it makes for brutal reading.

The video refereeing is a shambles and it has very little to do with wrong decisions. For the most part the video referees are making the correct decisions based on the rule interpretations they are coached, rule interpretations determined by Finch.

Three examples from the last three weeks.

The Steve Matai try against the Warriors was determined to be a four-pointer despite the fact Matai had no control of the ball and did not force the ball onto the ground. Had that play occurred anywhere else on the field, it would have been a knock on. Yet Finch has decided that a player does not need to control the ball and after a number of slow motion replays that do not give an accurate picture, the try was awarded.

The Brett Morris no try against the Broncos was determined to be a not try because Dragons centre Matt Cooper was deemed to have obstructed a Brisbane defender. Cooper did not touch a Brisbane player. He merely ran an inside line and attracted the attention of the defender while the ball carrier dummied to Cooper and then hit Morris on the outside. This is only the latest and most appalling example of the nitpicking used with the obstruction rule. Finch justified the decision by saying the pass had no depth though he could not offer an explanation as to how much depth was required.

The Ben Smith try against Canberra after the ball his Smith’s shoulder and chest when Smith was acting as a decoy runner was a disgrace. It was a clear knock on but under Finch’s black-and-white interpretation it was awarded a try because it didn’t come off Smith’s hands. The Raiders were penalised for pressuring the ball carrier and moving up off their line.

On the field, the situation is no better.

Cameron Smith was penalised against the Titans for taking a drop out one second over the allotted time. He was also penalised for rucking in the scrum. Referees are forced to stop play and call out captains after five penalties and use the sin bin when the count nears twenty. The referees have no room to officiate to the feel of the match. Referees are coached to have egos, talking down to players and making decisions that make them the centre of attention.

Last weekend in the Parramatta-Souths match, the referees lost control. They sent the wrong player to the sin bin before sin binning another for a non-sin binnable offence in an obvious square up. Finch then showed how little he actually understands about the sport when he dropped those two referees for sin binning the wrong player when it was actually their inability to control a match that was far from ill disciplined that was their actual failure. Sin binning the wrong player is acceptable if a sin binning was actually justified but it wasn’t even though Finch disagrees.

We could continue but for the sanity of us all we won’t. Robert Finch has caused immense damage to rugby league. He has left all the stakeholders frustrated, angry and confused. He has created a system driven by ego and nit-picking while giving the referees no latitude to interpret the match or understanding of the sport. His grade as referees boss is an epic fail. Finch has to go and if he won’t walk then David Gallop must fire him immediately.


Apr 20, 2010



Apr 20, 2010


100420_twicketAlas, Fremantle’s winning streak is over. And the Western Bulldogs lost. The mood was grim in Crikey HQ, but Crikey cartoonist First Dog on the Moon and Production Manager Leigh Josey fought through it. After all, today is L. Ron Hubbard Exhibition Day.

Leigh Josey: Morning Mr Onthemoon. It’s a beautiful morning here in Melbourne, which some say is the sporting capital of the universe. How has your week been? Enjoy your holidays?

Firstdog Onthemoon: It was a working holiday so no. My week has been average. A bit up, a bit down, sort of rummaging about in the middle. How about you?

Leigh Josey: Probably a little the same. However it’s been a riveting week in sport. It sounds like a cliché but it’s true. The AFL was great, the NRL was great, there’s an investigation into the IPL triggered, by all things, Twitter. I’m excited. So, talk us through the Western Bulldogs vs. Brisbane Lions. How did you let that one go?

Firstdog Onthemoon: There were a number of factors, not the least of which that we were shit. Apparently the Lions have been gearing up for this one since we flogged them last time and it looks like they might be on to something with Fev and Brown — although Williams and Lake kept them reasonably quiet for most of it, just not enough of it. Our midfield struggled — Picken and Ward are difficult outs for a game like that and of course we missed Aker and particularly Johnno. Also it was in Brisbane and everyone knows the air in Queensland is poisonous.

Leigh Josey: When I saw that guy throw beer at Fev, I thought of you. I knew it wasn’t you, as you were in Melbourne, but I thought to myself “I wonder if Dog would do that?” Then I realised you wouldn’t waste beer, you’d probably throw a cooked chicken at him. I like it how the Doggies didn’t ban the fan in question. He spent two days in lock up.

Firstdog Onthemoon: The punishment surely did not fit the crime. Of course I don’t think punters should be chucking beer on players and the gentleman in question appears to be a dickhead. It does seem odd though that this guy gets two days in the clink and is being investigated by the AFL for pouring the dregs of his beer on Fev’s elbow while Fev was in the process of abusing the crowd and then last year,  the lass who unprovoked, threw a whole beer over Johnno while he was running past gets nothing. Perhaps it is because the water in Queensland is filled with toxins.

Leigh Josey: Rest assured dear Queensland reader, Crikey does like your state. So round 4 of the AFL. St Kilda and Brisbane undefeated. Geelong travelling very nicely. Sydney and Fremantle the surprise packets. A host of slightly disappointing teams led by your mob and Hawthorn. And then Adelaide. And then Richmond. What’s your take on the season thus far?

Firstdog Onthemoon: The season has barely started. I was sorry to see your mob, the Purple Groin Explosion get done by the wicked Riewoldtless saints. But the Freo fairy tale isn’t off the rails yet. Of course I do not tip Freo. Sydney schmidney. Adelaide is a bit of a surprise, the professor looks to be in trouble early. Hawthorn are over and thank goodness for Jeff Kennett and his friendly pack of homophobes down at Beyond Blue. Of course, Richmond getting flogged by Melbourne what can you say… hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Meanwhile the dogs need to hit their straps as they say and we should be alright — we are at a bit of a crossroads (even this early) and Matty Boyd had finger surgery so will miss a week. (Can I just say that if I had a plate inserted in my hand I wouldn’t just miss a week of footy, I would be bedridden for six months — weeping the whole time) Anyway, dogs are 2 and 2 and playing ordinary football so … we are not panicking yet. Did you know that by law, all food sold in Queensland must to contain a small amount of ground glass? True!

Leigh Josey: Profound. A great win by Manly in the NRL yesterday. Crikey‘s NRL tipster Ant Halstead picked Manly by 13 points. He was scoffed at. They only won by two — but Ant picked it. Very hard to beat the Melbourne Storm in Melbourne. The Dragons are flying on top of the table, but Manly, Penrith and the Storm are all playing great football. Cronulla on the other hand, not so much. Sharks legend Gavin Miller has come out today and fears for the future of Cronulla — interesting times.

Firstdog Onthemoon: Didn’t that one guy’s head come clean off?

Leigh Josey: Umm … yeah. Don’t you want to know what’s happening with the Russell Crowes at least?

Firstdog Onthemoon: Oh yeah! And the Mel Gibsons! Apparently it is all over with his new girlfriend who has had one of his children and he still owes $300 million to his former wife who has had 17 of his children and now he is sleeping on Danny Glover’s couch.

Leigh Josey: So to the volcano. There’s always good news when things like this happen. One of them is that US President Barack Obama got time to play a game of golf . Now when it comes to basketball, Obama’s got game. But golf? How’s your golf game Dog?

Firstdog Onthemoon: I know how to play golf! You hit that little ball with that big stick thingy. It is quite complicated and tends to involve chafing if you have to go for all 18 holes. I have had a number of successful golfing adventures in my time! Successful in that nobody died and the rash went away after a few days.

Leigh Josey: Good to hear. Interesting story today coming out of India. The IPL is in hot water. The Indian government has launched investigations into the financial dealings by all IPL clubs, including scrutiny on tax and its payments to its  players. The investigations started via Twitter. Now you know I’m not a Twitter fan, but you are somewhat of a Twitter celebrity. Can Twitter bring down Indian cricket?

Firstdog Onthemoon: Absolutely, in fact it is funny you should mention it because today’s most underreported sport is Twicket which I just invented and is a form of cricket played entirely on social media networks. And of course these days, you have a hilarious idea and you Google it and it looks like everyone else has thought of it before but fuck the lot of them Twicket was my idea and also an Ewok. Anyway, more of that later. But seriously, Twenty20 Cricket is here to stay and One Day cricket appears to be rubbish so why not? Also corruption? That is what happens when you let capitalists from foreign countries run things.

Leigh Josey: Yes, well. I agree. I think. So tell me about Twicket.

Firstdog Onthemoon: It is a made up game I made up.

Firstdog Onthemoon: No wait, it’s real.

Leigh Josey: Fantastic. And that’s copyright pending by the way dear reader. Copyright pending, Crikey Sports 2010.

Firstdog Onthemoon: Yes Twicket. You play Twicket on a wicket, there’s a ball, you have to kick it through nasty prickly thicket, and the ball must hit a picket. If it does you get a ticket which you grab and quickly flick it through the air so you can stick it on a small glue covered dog which you then throw off a cliff into a bucket of moths. There are interesting some similarities to Custardgammon and Hoopity however the game developed completely independently of those other sports and so appears to confirm Jung’s theory of the Collective Unconscious. Spooky!

Leigh Josey: You’re a dickit. But I think Twicket is wicked. My underreported sport of the week comes from the heady world of dog grooming, with the prestigious Intergroom festival in particular not getting the recognition it deserves. This is sport, real sport, at its best people. Animals. Dye. Scissors. All the ingredients sports fans need.

Firstdog Onthemoon: No, it is cruel and merely another indication that humanity’s time at the top of the evolutionary pyramid will soon be over. Aren’t we dickheads. I for one welcome our Bucket of Moths overlords.

Leigh Josey: Sportsperson of the week?

Firstdog Onthemoon: Campbell Davey.

Leigh Josey: The Bulldogs supporter who threw beer at Fevola?

Firstdog Onthemoon: No, funny coincidence though! I was thinking of the Campbell Davey who plays Front Left Mothbucket for the Rajisthan Archetypes in the ITL.

Leigh Josey: OK. Like how there’s a Bryce Gibbs in the AFL and the NRL? Sportsperson of the week, for me, goes to an “unnamed Premier League player” — who, according to The Spoiler, ” is apparently in the rather unappealing position of having to fork out £15,000 every three months as ‘protection money’ to a South London street gang.” I think that’s a very fitting award considering the untimely demise of one Carl Williams. Have a great week Dog.

Firstdog Onthemoon: Well we are facing the hapless Crows this week so that should cheer me up. And if we lose, I won’t be back.


Apr 16, 2010


100318_ant'sanalysisWhat a beat-up. Was the Storm’s loss to the Titans on the weekend controversial? No.  Hopoate’s tactics were controversial.  Changing the NRL anthem from Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’ was controversial.  Losing a game because a referee applied the rules of rugby league is NOT controversial.

The Storm (and in particular Cameron Smith) are just not used to losing.  They are notorious for testing the limits of the rules and the referees, to good effect.  Lets not forget that Bellyache and his players were pioneers of wrestling techniques in the tackle that have since been outlawed including: the grapple tackle; the grinder; the chicken wing; the reverse squirrel grip; Hot Carl; and my personal favourite, the Houdini.

Taking the full 40 seconds before executing a line drop out is just another example of the Storm using the rules to their full extent for competitive advantage.  Nothing wrong with that – but be prepared to get penalised if you get it wrong.  Cameron was given a 20 second and a 10 second warning, if you want to push the boundaries that far, then you have to wear the consequences.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  If you can lose a game because of a referee’s decision, you probably didn’t do enough to deserve the game anyway.

It’s a good thing I don’t get penalised for wasting time.

Titans v Dragons – 7:35pm Friday April 16, Skilled Park

I can smell an upset… The Titans should be buoyed by their home ground advantage, their unlikely victory over the Storm last week, and the fact that the same team that kept the defending premiers scoreless in the second half will take to the field this Friday.  The salary cap issues are behind them, and the Titans have quality upfront in Minichiello and Laffranchi, among others.  The Dragons were dominant against the Broncos last week, but they still conceded 16 points against an embarrassing Brisbane outfit.  The Dragons are further weakened in the forwards with Matt Prior and Jeremy Smith out injured, and to make matters worse, Weyman copped one week on the sideline at the judiciary.  The Dragons have a lot of points in their backs, but as we all know forwards win matches, backs just determine the margin. Neville Costigan is back for the Dragons, but he’s overrated anyway.  Provided the Titans attack the weak links in the Dragons’ line-up they should get away with this one.

Titans by 8.

Tigers v Bulldogs – 7:35pm Friday April 16, Sydney Football Stadium

The Tigers are leading the comp in tries scored this season, but they have leaked more points than any other team in the top 8.  That should give hope to the Bulldogs who have struggled this season with only one win from 5 outings.  The Doggies can hope all they like, but it won’t bring them a win.  Their forwards are struggling to set the platform up for their back.  Ennis can only do so much, while Kimmorley is looking every bit his age.  They weren’t far off beating the Warriors last week, but it was an error riddled and unconvincing performance.  There won’t be a whole lot in the Farah / Ennis showdown, but expect some heated contests in the backline with a lot of skills and big names on both sides.  Are the Tigers peaking too early? Probably – but two points now are as good as two points later, as long as they turn it up at the business end of the season.  Here’s hoping Benji stays healthy.  Bulldogs are a chance, but the Tigers are on a roll.  Momentum will continue.

Tigers to win by 10.

Knights v Cowboys – 5:30pm Saturday April 17, Energy Australia Stadium

So I was wrong about the Titans being able to win without Prince, but the Cowboys are a different kettle of rugby league players.  The Cowboys will struggle without their captain, and their difficulties will be compounded with the absence of Aaron Payne and Luke O’Donnell from last week’s line-up.  With so much of their salary cap sitting on the sidelines, you’ve got to wonder how much confidence the boys from Townsville will be taking into this week’s game.  Don’t forget they’ve got Mason!  Pffffft.  The Cowboys are bringing Carl Webb back to the bench, and he is an angry little man who can always cause trouble.  But when all is said and done, the Knights will take this one.  ‘Captain, my Captain’ Gidley is back for the Knights, and with a strong home crowd advantage, the Newcastle faithful will go home with their second win of the season.  The Cowboys haven’t travelled well this season with two losses from two starts, and the Knights are yet to register a win at home, but the Knights are due for a win.

Knights by 8.

Roosters v Raiders – 7:30pm Saturday April 17, Sydney Football Stadium

The last time the Raiders won two consecutive away games was in the first half of the 2005 season.  Call me a naysayer, but my pessimism in this instance is justified.  The Raiders will not back up the win last week.  They have shown plenty of guts this season, and it was a quality win on Monday night, but to follow that effort with another win outside the ACT – Fat chance.  Mind you, I saw enough last week to rip up my TAB stub for the Raiders to get the wooden spoon.  The Roosters were well and truly outplayed by the Panthers on Sunday.  Their body language was terrible, their commitment was non-existent, and their fans were let down.  They are bound to bounce back this weekend.  With three top class playmakers in Anasta, Pearce and Carney, the Roosters’ attack has already posted almost 50% more points than the Raiders.  The Roosters’ defence is suspect and the second worst in the comp, but the Raiders won’t be able to take advantage of their weakness.  With these two teams, attack will define the victors.  The Roosters have too many pivots, and too much offensive class.

Roosters by 6.

Broncos v Sharks – 2:00pm Sunday April 18, Suncorp Stadium

Baby Broncos versus toothless Sharks…  You will not be refunded if not entertained.  No, no, that’s a bit unfair.  The Broncos have played with gay abandon, and the ‘nothing to lose’ attitude that youth can afford.  Sharks fans on the other hand will not have their memberships refunded.  These two teams occupy the bottom two positions on the ladder, with the Broncos taking out bottom spot with a -71 points differential.  Congratulations, you must be proud.  Both teams have been ravaged by injuries, and neither team have done much to impress.  The reason the Broncos will win this one, is because the Sharks don’t know how to score points.  They have averaged just over 11 points in the first five rounds this season, while conceding twice as many.  The Broncos may not have experience, but they can score points.  The Sharks are not good enough to rely on their defence to win games.  The Broncos will repay the Suncorp attendees for the embarrassing effort they put in against the Warriors in Brisbane three weeks ago.

Broncos by 8.

Warriors v Panthers – 2:00pm (12:00pm AEST) Sunday April 18, Mt Smart Stadium

This is my game of the round.  The Warriors and the Panthers have been playing a brand of football that resembles pass the parcel more than rugby league.  Hot potato, hot potato.  Going into this match, the Panthers look the better side.  They were absolutely dominant against the Roosters last week, and carried on from their second half against the Knights the previous week.  Whereas the Warriors had a close win against the Bulldogs last week, and lost at home against Manly the previous week.  Not only do the Panthers have the form, but the Warriors are without the services of the Beast, Mannering, Luck, Ropati and dozen other top flight players.  It doesn’t matter.  The trip across the Tasman is far too East for the Panthers.  It’s 2 hours to the airport and another 3 on the plane.  They will be dishevelled at best come game time.  The Panthers have strength across the park, so it wont be easy for the Warriors, but it will happen. It was a 32-All draw last time these two played.  I dare you to pick another draw!  Warriors to edge home with the crowd.  I miss Stacey Jones.

Warriors by 1.

Eels v Rabbitohs – 3:00pm Sunday April 18, ANZ Stadium

What a bizarre media conference.  The Eels and Daniel Anderson were moderately pleased with their performance against the Raiders last week!  I guess they were employing the old adage “Expect the worst and you’ll be happy with whatever you get”.  There is obviously turmoil at the club, and it will take some serious Hindmarsh leadership to get them out of the deep chasm they find themselves in.  Will it happen this week? *Cue patronising laughter* The Rabbits were finding form as the Eels lost it.  Crowe’s men have won the last three games in convincing fashion, be it against teams at the lower end of the competition.  With their forwards on song, the Rabbitohs will ask too many questions of the Eels pack.  The Parramatta fans will ask too many questions about what has changed since the end of last year.  Flashy football is risky football, and while luck favours the brave, it is time for the Eels to stop relying on luck and build a structured game plan.  The Rabbitohs’ forwards look the goods.

Rabitohs by 14.

Storm v Sea Eagles – 7:00pm Monday April 19, Etihad Stadium

The Storm have only lost back to back, three times in the last four seasons.  But I’m a Manly supporter who laughs in the face of statistics.  Unless those statistics are of the 40-Nil grand final variety.  And don’t you forget it.  The Storm were beaten in unfamiliar circumstances last week.  They were leading, were chased down, and were kept scoreless in the second half.  Nice work Titans.  If the Titans can do it, surely Manly can!  Manly were impressive at Brookvale against the Sharks, but Cronulla do tend to flatter their opposition.  Still, apart from the first two games that Manly should not have allowed out of their grasp, the Sea Eagles have been comprehensive in attack and defence.  The young half combination of Hogkinson and Foran have stepped up.  Apparently Billy Slater has scored a thousand tries at Etihad Stadium.  Whatever.  Manly will keep their form going, focus on the forwards, with Lyon and Matai free to continue their brilliance.  Kite only knows how to run sideways and spin, he’s no big loss.

Sea Eagles by 14.

Progress Score Round 5 – 25/40 62.5%

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

  • Titans v Dragons – Titans 1-12
  • Tigers v Bulldogs – Tigers -3.5
  • Knights v Cowboys – Cowboys +10.5
  • Roosters v Raiders – Rosters 1-12
  • Broncos v Sharks – Broncos 1-12
  • Warriors v Panthers – Warriors 1-12
  • Eels v Rabbitohs – Rabbitohs 13+
  • Storm v Sea Eagles – Sea Eagles 13+

CrikeySports_markWhat an interesting week in football!

Firstly, the footy was pretty good. Great wins by Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle particularly. The St Kilda juggernaut rolls on. This columnist picked six winners last week children. Six. Put that in your tipping pipe and smoke it.

But footy took a sidestep this week to the Bold and the Beautifulesque theatrics that were played out by the Collingwood and Richmond football clubs.

If you call someone a rapist, then deny you called someone a rapist, and then television shows undeniably that you called someone a rapist, and then you apologise that you called that person a rapist, and then a tree falls down in an empty forest, then is Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse the sound of one hand clapping?

Poor Mick.

He’s copped it from everyone this week. Except from Ben Cousins, who’s busy landing haymakers on drunken team mates.

Poor Benny.

I like the cut of this man’s jib. Sometimes you just need to smack a team mate in the chops. I’m sure at least seven Saints players want to hit Stephen Milne. Maybe even his own mother.

Anyway, was Richmond’s home ground, the beautiful Punt Road Oval, buried on an ancient Indian burial ground or something? They can’t cop a break.

To the footy…

West Coast vs. Essendon — 6.40pm Friday April 16, Subiaco Oval

West Coast. They are a giant of this competition. They are rich  and powerful, and are used to success. But something is going on this season. Winless after three rounds, West Coast ruckmen Nick Naitanuii and Dean Cox were driven to call one of those late night self help lines at halftime during last week’ game against North Melbourne. Coach John Worsfold may come under fire if he continues to play the likes of Chris Masten away from the ball — given his potential and disposal ability. Mark Le Cras is all class but they need this win like Hey Hey its Saturday needs to be pulled off air. Ashton Hams has been named to debut … mmmmm … ham.

In contrast, Essendon had their first win of the season last week against their whipping boys of their past six meetings or so, Carlton. Kyle Reimers and Mark Williams up forward were the difference. Kyle Reimers is one of those guys you just want to punch. Where’s Ben Cousins when you need him? But he can play. The big addition to this Bombers outfit is the inclusion of rising star Michael Hurley. Essendon need Hurley like a drunken 19 year old needs Hungry Jacks at 1am. Will he be the difference this week?

Essendon may be too quick for the Eagles at the vast expanses of Subiaco. Tough one to pick.

Bombers by 7 points.

North Melbourne vs. Sydney — 2.10pm Saturday April 17, Etihad Stadium

Coach Brad Scott tasted his first home and away victory as coach last week. Early reports are it tasted like chicken. Captain Brent “Boomer” Harvey and Daniel Wells ran around virtually unchecked last week and they can be rest assured a disciplined Swans outfit won’t give then that freedom this time round. The Kangaroos have made no changes as Scott aims to build momentum.

Sydney, aka The Bloods. That’s such a cool nickname. Anyway, Sydney look very impressive. Even though they smashed Richmond last week (which is quickly become a weekly bye for whoever plays the Tigers) they are playing with a commitment and tenacity representative of the Paul Roos mantra. As an aside, Paul Roos should bottle and sell his mantra. Heath Grundy has come on leaps and bounds this season and defender Nick Malceski has shown everyone that if you have Luke Skywalker-esque surgery (you know, at the end of Empire Strikes Back he gets that awesome robot hand) on your knee you can come back  better than ever.

Swans by heaps, say 36

Adelaide vs. Carlton — 2.40pm Saturday April 17, AAMI Stadium

The Crows are quickly becoming 2010’s Corey Haim. Too soon? They need a win like Adelaide needs decent drinking water. Too soon? Ravaged by injuries last week, how the pride of South Australia bounce back will tell us how much the 22 players respect the jumper and coach Neil Craig — who is quickly finding himself in dangerous waters. Patrick Dangerfield, Kurt Tippett, Trent Hentschel and Nathan Bock were all high profile injuries last week with Hentschel and Bock ommitted for this round. Brett Burton and Simon Goodwin were the Crow’s best last week, and those old timers need some help from the kids and mid tier players.

Carlton. The only team they have beaten this year is Richmond. Hell, I could beat Richmond. After losing to their must hated rivals Essendon last week the Blues need a massive injection of enthusiasm into their team this game. Come on down Chris Judd! He’s not really enthusiastic is Chris, that was a bad adjective. He’s pretty boring actually. Maybe an “injection of class” and “HTFU”. That’s more apt for Judd. His inclusion may make his Carlton chargers stand a little taller around him. And what’s with Setanta O’Halpin? He is quickly becoming my favourite player to just stand and point and laugh at.

Poor beaten up Crows. Carlton by 29

Brisbane vs. Western Bulldogs — 7.10pm Saturday April 17, the Gabba

Brisbane Lions, as their song says, will “kick the winning score”. And that they certainly will when they have Brendan Fevola and super freak Jonathan Brown in their forward line. Have you seen Rocky IV? There’s this seen where Dolph Lundgren portraying Ivan Drago says of Rocky Balboa: “He’s not human … He’s like a piece of iron!” (In a cool Russian accent — you’re doing it now aren’t you?). Anyway, that’s what Jonathan Brown is like. Iron. And he’s continuing to lead his undefeated Brisbane Lions into battle.

Everyone loves the Doggies. How could you not? There’s is the unrequited fairytale and they play sexy football. Barry Hall is slowly moving up gears as his six goal haul last week shows.  Sadly Jason Akermanis is not playing. I love Aker. And it’s always good watching him play his old team the Lions. If you haven’t yet, check out First Dog on the Moon’s cartoon of the Round 3 Western Bulldogs game.

What a game! Dogs by 4 points

Collingwood vs. Hawthorn — 7.10pm Saturday April 17, the MCG

Collingwood lost last week in a spiteful Friday night game against St Kilda. This week, no doubt, they will play a spiteful game against Hawthorn. It goes without saying that the Pies need more from their forward set up. Travis Cloke needs  to lead the Collingwood scoring charge. There’s a lot to like about this Collingwood team (that hurts even saying that) but they do have class and if they fix their problems up forward they are going to push almost every team in the competition. Random trivia: did you know Mick Malthouse once tried out to be the third member of Manilli Vanilli?

Hawthorn is interesting. They have again lost Lance Franklin to the strange nuances of the AFL Tribunal. He’s out for one week. And defender Josh Gibson is out for three months after injuring a hamstring. The football gods are being quite unkind to the Mayblooms. But Hawthorn still have a fantastic line up. Cyril Rioli has showed the football world what he’s capable of in the past two weeks. This will be a great game.

Collingwood by 12

Richmond vs. Melbourne — 1.10pm Sunday April 18, the MCG

Richmond. What can you say about Richmond? They only put up a fight in a hotel room? Jokes aside there’s nothing Richmond fans can do but sit back and watch the kids develop. Which is sort of like watching crab grass grow. But you can’t accuse Richmond of being boring. Pathetic yes, boring no. Look at this list of ins! Polak, Hislop, Nahas, Collins, Farmer, King, Taylor, Astbury, Dea. That’s like a Brady bunch plus a Partridge family!

The Demons win against Adelaide last week was superb. I was shouting at the TV. I think most people were (at least those non-Crows supporters). Melbourne are quickly becoming a bipartisan favorite among football fans. They have good kids and you want them to do well. Except against your team. The future is bright for the Red Legs and their should be fire in the belly among this playing group for another win.

Luckily for them they are playing the Tigers.

Melbourne by 40.

Geelong vs. Port Adelaide — 2.10pm Sunday April 18, Skilled Stadium

Gary Ablett and Paul Chapman were on fire last week against Fremantle. And when these two modern day Geelong legends fire, the Cats rarely lose. But lose they did. It was one helluva game last week and this Geelong team hates to lose. Brad Ottens, Matthew Scarlett and Cameron Mooney come back in to bolster an already strong Geelong outfit. Like that barking man guy, Geelong will be rabid this week.

Unlucky for Port Adelaide, they take on the Cats at Skilled Stadium this week. The Power too have important inclusions as Robbie Gray is set to play his first game of the season. The Power have had a good solid start to the season and no one gives them a hope of beating Geelong this week. Any this is exactly when you should be wary of the boys from Alberton. Given the history between the two teams it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Power fire up. But I think they’ll still fall short.

Geelong by 43

St Kilda vs. Fremantle — 4.40pm Sunday April 18, Etihad Stadium

Who would have thought this game would be close to match of the round? St Kilda sans inspirational skipper Nick Riewoldt are still are a mighty team. And they’re going to have to prove that too as they look to be without him for most of the year. Justin Koschitzke will also not be there. It’s the first time since 2005 the Saints have been without both of their tall timber. But they have so much class. Goddard, Montagna, Hayes, Dal Santo etc. And coach Ross Lyon has them so organised and so well drilled. How could they lose? And at a venue they have won 20 of their last 22 games at!

Freo is the buzz word in the AFL at the moment. The Dockers are playing highly attractive football and are undefeated so far in 2010. Chris Tarrant is back for Freo and the players, led magnificently by captain Matthew Pavlich, are giving their all for yet to be recontracted coach Mark Harvey. If Fremantle win on Sunday they will sit clear on the AFL ladder after four rounds. Surely, and I say this is a mad Freo supporter, the world will end if this happens.  I have a friend who stands to win $13K if Sandilands wins the Brownlow and Freo make the grand final. I have another friend in Perth  who refuses to take off his lucky Freo boxer shorts as they, somehow, are the key to Fremantle’s winning ways. So much optimism.

Highlight of the week: master pest annoyer Stephen Milne to be on the same field with his apprentice, the barnyard rat, Fremantle’s Hayden Ballantyne.

Surely, St Kilda by 10.


Apr 15, 2010


bigfootyHere is the latest contributions from BigFooty, Australia’s largest and most popular AFL internet forum. Today “Catman Forever″ asks whether too much VFL is a bad thing for AFL players, especially in good teams.

BigFooty’s “Catman Forever”, a lifelong Geelong supporter, writes:

One thing that marks a good club is its depth of players. It’s great to have an A squad that can take on the world and win but if your A team begins to get a few injuries or form slumps then it is more often than not the quality of the B team players that get you through. Geelong is a good case in point. A stable top 22 list of players has contributed greatly to the clubs success in the last three years. The B team has boasted some potential stars at times and we have seen good players leave due to lack of opportunities to crack into the A team.

Players such such Shane Mumford, Brent Prismall, Scott Thompson, Jason Davenport, Charlie Gardiner, Steven King, and Henry Playfair have moved on due to better opportunities at other clubs to play regular AFL.

But there is another problem that I have often noted and again reared it’s head last Sunday against Fremantle at Subiaco.  Geelong had introduced several of the B team players into the squad (with two debuting) and it was fascinating to watch these players try and step up to the pace of AFL football. Podsiadly, Djerrkura, Gamble, and Simpson all were given a spot in the AFL squad to try their hand in the torrid match that unfolded on the day.

The average footy fan usually knows little about how players are going in the VFL squad. It is mostly by word of mouth that we hear so and so is “cutting it up” or “playing like a man possessed!”  So it is with quiet expectation that when we hear of these players getting selected into the AFL side that we wait and see how they will go. Obviously being selected into the A team seems enough to validate the whispers and rumors we are hearing about certain players.

Then the big day comes and what we notice most of the time is that these talents waiting to explode on the big stage usually fizzle and pop before fading away. Then the forums light up with arm chair critics stating that such and such a player is useless, lacks talent, too soft,  and so on.  This is the ever fickle world of footy forums who extol a player like a god one week and then declare they should be sacked the next. Emotions often run higher than actual football knowledge on football forums I am afraid to say.

But as my years of arm chair spectating goes on I have noticed one salient fact with these players. Stepping up from the intensity of VFL to that of AFL is a huge step. Playing well in the VFL is not a guarantee to play well in the AFL.

Case in point, I have seen young Aboriginal player Nathan Djerrkura play several games and I know he has tremendous ability and potential. Yet on Sunday he looked slow, hesitant, and had little impact on the game. When he was on the ground he did try his guts out it was obvious. But he just couldn’t get his hands on the ball.

I had a revelation watching him that what he was doing was probably fine in the VFL and would have seen him be an effective contributor. But in the AFL he completely lacked the intensity and hardness required to play. Is this his fault? Does this mean he is a dud and should be delisted?  No it means that too much VFL can actually be detrimental to trying to crack the big time. Nathan needs maybe three or four games in the seniors to find his feet.  But given the quality of players waiting to come back in this probably wont happen.

So unfortunately for him one game here and there is all he will get to prove himself at AFL level. That is going to be tough for him. I could say the same about Ryan Gamble too, and maybe Pods and Lonergan could turn out the same. But when most of your football life revolves around the B league I think players can begin to have that level and style of play being ingrained into them and therefore makes it harder for them to grab their chances at the higher level.

Of course players with remarkable talent will always rise to the top quickly. But a player with good football skills who say suffers a few injuries and setbacks early on in their careers can find themselves on the fringe very quickly and opportunities are rare for them.  So next time you feel like bagging a B Team player for their performance in the AFL remember that the less opportunities a player gets in the AFL (and therfore the more VFL games they play) the less likely they will be able to dazzle you with their abilities.

Regular players in the AFL are also match hardened as well. Being a fringe player in a great club is a very tough gig.


Apr 14, 2010


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:

I was watching the Canberra Raiders school their more fancied rivals Parramatta last Monday when my phone flashed and buzzed like it had been electrocuted. I had just received three simultaneous texts and all were from those who would be colloquially referred to as colourful racing identities.

Prior to the season we had all decided to lay Parramatta at their short quote for the premiership. There were too many red flags. For the majority of last season, Parramatta was a bad team mired in the bottom half of the ladder. The reason behind their resurgence, Jarryd Hayne, had just signed a massive long-term deal and security rarely encourages top class football. A number of the Eels big name players were renowned for their inconsistent performances.  They were missing a top shelf half. Their pack seemed somewhat shaky with a soft underbelly and aging legs.

When Raiders backrower-cum-centre Joel Thompson not only stood up Eels custodian and assumed New South Wales fullback Jarryd Hayne, every gambler who decided to take on the Eels this year thought the same thing: this is why we wanted no part of Parramatta this year.

Hayne’s effort on that decisive play was emblematic of Parramatta’s failings this year. Hayne displayed little energy in attempting to stop the try. He waited for Thompson rather than take the play to him, as he should have. He fell for an absurd dummy, symbolic of the lack of application and preparation in the Eels game this year. Hayne was then outpaced by a forward when Hayne is supposed to be one of the fastest, most explosive runners in the NRL.

Now Hayne has been far from Parramatta’s worst this year. He has, however, not built on his late-season form last year and if anything he is just a good fullback playing with little hustle. Yet it is assumed he will be the New South Wales fullback this season.

Simply, Hayne shouldn’t be New South Wales fullback. He should retain his spot on the wing for two reasons. Firstly, New South Wales have only one quality winger who is in form available in Brett Morris. Secondly, there are fullbacks in better form than Hayne.

One fullback in better form than Hayne is his opposite number from Monday night, Josh Dugan. Dugan is arguably the most courageous player in the NRL despite the fact he has yet to turn twenty. He has played all of 2010 with a fractured cheekbone. He is continually battered and bruised as he puts his light frame in the path of bigger men and flying boots and steaming bomb-catchers. His style of game is reminiscent of that of former Tigers and Blues fullback Brett Hodgson.

It is not just his courage that makes him an outstanding player. It is his energy, commitment, elusiveness, skill and understanding of rugby league that makes him such a fantastic player. His game is tailor made for Origin football. This year Dugan leads the NRL in tackle breaks with 42. Second place has 30 while Hayne has 18. He is one of only four players to go at over 160 metres per game. He has made eight try saving tackles in only five games, many of which he wasn’t entitled to make.

Josh Dugan is a lock for the Country fullback position. Let’s hope selectors don’t leave him out of the Blues just because they are silly enough to buy into this public perception that Hayne has a mortgage on the number one jersey. Dugan has earned the spot and deserves to be rewarded. For the good of the kid and for the good of the New South Wales Origin team.


Apr 12, 2010



Apr 12, 2010


Crikey Sports has the pleasure of having a guess post from Luke Robert who blogs at Litres of Ink

Litres of Ink‘s Luke Robert writes:

As Canberra Raiders prepare for a Monday night clash with the Parramatta Eels, the Green Machine faithful are lamenting past players and opportunities lost.

In past seasons, attempts to attract top shelf players to the nation’s capital have been as difficult as painting a bed post in the rain with a toothbrush. While stymied to some extent by the 2009 signings of international forwards Bronson Harrison and David Shillington, the emphasis has now shifted to the battle to retain players.

While talk across the competition’s opening rounds has been about see-sawing momentum swings and come from behind performances. The story for Raiders’ fans has been the We Shouldn’t Have Let Him Go ache. The number of Raider alumni killing it for new teams in 2010 is staggering.

A quick glance sees Phil Graham and Todd Carney heavily involved in the Roosters attack. After heading to the Dragons, Michael Weyman shed himself in weight earning an Origin spot in the process. Adrian Purtell is scoring game winning four pointers for the Mountain Men, the Temora Toiler Ryan Hinchcliffe is making a valuable contribution for premiers Melbourne while the ageless Colin Best is enjoying success with the Rabbits. Agonizingly William Zillman is aptly filling in for Preston Campbell at fullback for the Gold Coast Silent Developers…

I could go on and on.

The rueing of opportunities missed or muffed is a common trait amongst sporting fans, it plays right into the underdog aesthetic. It sure beats two years of dwelling on just how a young star threw away his Raiders tenure after urinating in a mate’s mate’s mouth and subsequently had his hometown change the locks on him.

I’d love to acknowledge Raiders general manager, Don Furner as the Billy Beane* of the NRL. Consistently identifying undervalued talent, scouting players overlooked by other clubs who will produce on the field and become profitable assets.

The reality is that the 15 clubs not based in Canberra are the Billy Beanes of the NRL – consistently pinching promising Raiders undervalued by the club think-tank.

Unfortunately we don’t trade blokes in Australian sport, it’s just not the ‘done’ thing. So after identifying youngster and investing club resources into development, the player walks(or in Canberra’s case is shown the door) and the club is left with no compensation – forced to blood underdeveloped youngsters to fill the gap.

Weyman is the textbook example.

It’s easy to question club motives when your side is losing. After all hindsight is a prize fans thrive on. A club repeating past mistakes is frustrating for a fan but in the end only winning will ease the ache.

*Author Michael Lewis documented Major League Baseball general manager Billy Beane and his club the Oakland Athletics methods of identifying undervalued baseball talent (one of many concepts adopted by the franchise). For mine, the Melbourne Storm are the only NRL side to successfully adopt the Moneyball approach of replacing high profile players with previously undervalued players. You can’t argue with four grand final appearances in as many seasons.

If you think it’s worthy and can spare the ink please email your thoughts, opinions to [email protected]


Apr 12, 2010


What a week in sport! Further proof the Apocalypse is heading our way as Fremantle, yes Fremantle, continued its winning ways. Meanwhile First Dog on the Moon is on holidays, swanning around on his day bed. Yet the great man still has time to produce this week’s Jock Wrap with Crikey’s Production Manager Leigh Josey.

Firstdog Onthemoon: Sexy pants Leigh Josey and the purple love mist! Yeah Ooh ahh Baby  baby ooh! squeak

Leigh Josey: Ha! OK, Let’s do this…

Firstdog Onthemoon: I have already started!

Leigh Josey: OK Then! A very Freo-ish start to this week’s Jock Wrap. Never know what you’re going to get. So, good morning First Dog on the Moon. I applaud you for taking time out on your well earned holiday break to do this week’s Jock Wrap. How are you mate?

Firstdog Onthemoon: I am filled with the purple light of love for you my dear friend, Mrs Josey’s little boy! All the Freomaniacs must be pant burstingly gleeful — that place in Western Australia or wherever it is they come from with their mauve anchors and their terrible song. We take it all back! Of course it is going to end in tears, put that down! You might injure yourself!

Leigh Josey: Taking it one week at a time. All about the process. Committed as a team. Going forward.

Firstdog Onthemoon: Hahahah no. You are all going to die! The four purple horseman of the Apocalypse! The return of the Wizard! Perth destroyed in a plague of boiling toads. It is impossible and stop pretending that you don’t run around at home in a purple velour posing pouch screaming Yo Heave Ho at the top of your lungs and frightening the neighbours!

Leigh Josey: You texted me last night after the game. I told you I had a migraine. I wasn’t lying. That’s what happens when the deplorable excuse for a football team you’ve followed passionately (bordering on a sickness) since you were a kid, and you are watching them, and then you suddenly realise you’re actually good, for the first time ever, and something pops in your brain — because you are happy. Hence the migraine. I might have had a few beers too. And I was wearing purple.

Firstdog Onthemoon: I hope it is not terminal. Imagine if you … no let’s not go there. Let us ponder nicer things like Barry Hall’s head.

Leigh Josey: Indeed. A well rounded six goal head. I trust you were at Etihad yesterday for the Bulldogs vs. Hawks game?

Firstdog Onthemoon: I was there yes.

Leigh Josey: Have a good time?

Firstdog Onthemoon: Yes

Leigh Josey: What’s with the curt responses about your beloved Bulldogs? Not happy with how things are progressing? Or is the lid firmly on?

Firstdog Onthemoon: It was a hoot. Mr Hall is my new best friend. It was one of the games where we should have destroyed them and we didn’t. We kicked 9 (nine) NINE points in the third quarter. I was never really worried except at a few points where I was a bit worried.

Leigh Josey: Does Barry know this? We should set up a meeting between Barry and you. I’ll come along so it won’t be awkward … for Barry.

Firstdog Onthemoon: No. I am sure a lot of people are Barry Hall’s new best friend.

Leigh Josey: OK, moving on. Interesting to see that North Queensland coach Neil Henry say that rugby leagues players would be lucky to have a ten year career with the way the game is played, its pace, its collisions, and the resulting injuries. I’m not sure how you remedy this.

Firstdog Onthemoon: Wrap everyone in a doona. Or padding like in the NFL. Or play in waist deep water. Or on the moon where there is less gravity. Have only one guy on each team. The trouble with modern sports administrators is that they refuse to think outside the box. I mean, think of the television rights for a game of rugby league in which there are only two guys wrapped in doonas and wearing helmets while playing in waist deep water on the moon! It would be huge! I know I would watch.

Leigh Josey: Gold. I think NRL boss David Gallop should be worried about his job with you around. What about a caption contest? Cronulla coach Ricky Stuart is under the pump. Crikey Sports blogger Nick Tedeschi wrote a great article about him last week. The Sharks were pumped by Manly on the weekend. Today’s Daily Telegraph has the below picture on its back page. What’s Ricky Stuart thinking First Dog?


Firstdog Onthemoon: “When I catch those pricks who superglued my hands to my forehead I’m gonna fucking kill them.”

Leigh Josey: Fantastic Dog. Here’s a comp for our Crikey Sports readers. We’ll have a caption comp! Enter your caption for what Ricky Stuart is thinking in the comments below. First Dog will pick a winner. The winner will get something. Probably a free subscription or something. So Dog, Phil Mickelson. He’s a champ. He won his Third Masters this morning. I’m glad Tiger didn’t win it.

Firstdog Onthemoon: Yeah caption comp. No fart jokes! Don’t waste a sub on them though, they can have some of those crappy stickers we made. And yes — that one golf guy didn’t win, one of the other ones did. Freaky! I suppose the question is, was it all the extracurricular rooting that made Tiger the golfer he is/was. Or was it the discovery of his horizontal hooha flappery above and beyond the call of duty that made him into the golfer he now was/is? In other words, does the doing of the illicit jiggery pokery make you a better golfer or getting caught for getting caught in a water hazard make you a worser one? Or neither. Is it over for Tigger? Only Christopher Robin knows for sure.

Leigh Josey: I couldn’t have put it better. Underreported sport of the week?

Firstdog Onthemoon: Hoopity

Leigh Josey: Hoopity?

Firstdog Onthemoon: Yes Hoopity. Interestingly, Hoopity is in fact a variation on one of our previously mentioned Underreported Sports of the Week, Custardgammon. Hoopity (or to give it its formal title — Hoopity) is like Custardgammon except that instead of a small dog you throw an envelope filled with ants into the bucket of moths. Much harder as ant filled envelopes tend to be far more flappity.

Leigh Josey: Scandal! I’m going for Sports Stadium demolition derby — courtesy of very cool sports blog Deadspin. 39 year old Texas Stadium was demolished and there’s something cathartic about watching something explode. It’s like that Simpsons episode that had Bart and Homer hooting to an episode of “when buildings collapse.”


Firstdog Onthemoon: That Simpson’s thing is hilarious. And when I grow up, I want a job as a TV news reporter so that I too can do moronic commentary at stadium demolitions. Seriously though, don’t put links to other sports blogs, that will only confirm what people are secretly thinking which is that this blog is shite.

Firstdog Onthemoon: But we still have to talk about the gay thing and Mick Malthouse

Leigh Josey: OK. Mick Malthouse. If people were living under a rock he apologised for calling Saints player Stephen Milne a “fucking rapist”, which he had earlier denied. At first I thought it could have been worse and he was labelling Milne a papist (my lip reading skills are somewhat lacking). Anyway, everyone’s upset. What are your thoughts Mr Dog?

Firstdog Onthemoon: I think everyone who plays football is very rude.

Firstdog Onthemoon: Also, I think it is hilarious that Milne allegedly called a Paul Licuria a “f***ing f***ot” during the AFL It’s OK to be Gay week. Sporting culture is pretty vile and while it mirrors what is happening in the community more broadly it also shines a bright beacon of hope for misogynists and homophobes everywhere and Saturday night was an excellent example. It would have been better if someone had called Milne a “f***ng rapist c**t” and then the circle would have closed and Etihad would have disappeared up its own cloaca with a bright purple flash and a sprinkling of fairy dust and then a little tinkling sound. Like what is going to happen to Freo any week now…

Leigh Josey: Excellent point I think Mr Dog. Except for the Freo thing. Sportsperson of the week?

Firstdog Onthemoon: Johnny “The Doc” Docker for coming out and finally admitting what we knew all along, that he is Ricky Martin

Leigh Josey: Ha! I’m nominating Argentinean football sensation and Barcelona star Lionel Messi. It’s about time the name Lionel had a renaissance. Thanks for your time Dog, enjoy your holidays.

Firstdog Onthemoon: I will certainly enjoy my holidays except I will have to spend the rest of the week preparing (as I do each week) for next week’s Jock Wrap. Because as they say, an unprepared for Jock Wrap is like getting a slap in the face with a wet game of four quarters at the end of the day and I think there is something in that for all of us.