Referral system fails again
Melbourne’s Mahe Fonua was denied a potential match-winning try in the final minute of the Storm’s 26-22 loss to Parramatta by a ridiculous referral system that promotes ambiguity and continually invites controversy.
Video referees are too scared to overturn whistleblowers’ on-field call – which they are forced to make – far too often. But it’s not the fault of the men in the box; they are being hamstrung by a rule that paints them into a corner.
The NRL needs to scrap the requirement on referees to make an on-field decision, because that on-the-run decision is simply carrying too much weight in instances where they genuinely have no idea. The previous ‘Ref’s Call’ system, used when footage was inconclusive, was infinitely more sensible and fair.
Manu rewrites the history books
Warriors wing behemoth Manu Vatuvei has garnered plenty of attention for his feat in becoming the first player in premiership history to score 10 tries in 10 consecutive seasons – and deservedly so. The achievement not only requires an extraordinary nose for the try-line, it points to ‘The Beast’s’ remarkable durability. Playing enough games every season for a decade to be in a position to rack up double-figure try tallies is impressive in itself, and the oft-maligned Vatuvei – who has a history of hamstring and knee problems – has managed at least 17 games a year since 2006.
Origin II – most at stake
Trent Hodkinson: One of the heroes of NSW’s 2014 triumph, the out-of-sorts Hodkinson is not only playing for his Blues future, he needs to turn his form around to secure an NRL contract beyond this season. Reportedly on the outer at Canterbury, the playmaker has to prove his worth on the big stage to attract suitors.
Laurie Daley: The coach has unquestionably built an excellent culture within the Blues’ setup, which was vital to last year’s breakthrough success. But his selection policies have crippled their campaign this year and a 3-0 series loss now seems inevitable; he needs a miracle at the MCG.
Paul Gallen: The skipper is one of the greatest forwards to ever grace the Origin arena, but he is severely underdone after playing just one match in the last two months. The inspirational 33-year-old could be exposed by Queensland’s more nimble ball-runners.
Billy Slater: The Melbourne champion made the startling admission that a bad knock to his troublesome shoulder could prove season-ending. The Blues would be crazy not to target the fullback, and while Greg Inglis, Darius Boyd and Michael Morgan provide ample in-game cover should he be forced from the field, a long-term injury would cripple the Storm’s 2015 campaign.
Daly Cherry-Evans: The under-fire Manly halfback has the twin motivations of putting his controversial contract back-flip behind him, and atoning for a subpar campaign deputising for Cooper Cronk in last year’s series. Cronk’s absence was pivotal to the Blues’ watershed triumph, so DCE will be desperate to play the saviour role on Wednesday night.
Blunder of the year
It was only a matter of time before Jonathan Wright cost the Warriors a match after the club made the bewildering decision to sign the erratic former Parramatta, Canterbury and Cronulla three-quarter. After a rocky start to his tenure in Auckland, Wright had produced a few handy performances on the flank…but that was all washed away by a moment of in-goal madness in the dying stages against the Roosters.
Pitched into the uncustomary fullback role in the latter stages, Wright incredibly made a play at a missed field goal attempt that was on its way over the dead-ball line. Inevitably, Wright muffed the catch. Instead of a seven-tackle set and a great chance at slotting a late one-pointer, the Warriors conceded a goal-line dropout, before Blake Ferguson bagged the match-winning try with 45 seconds to go.
Wright wasn’t to blame for the Warriors’ all-too-familiar surrendering of a 14-point second-half lead, but his appalling bungle was further proof that the enigmatic club can still find brand new ways to lose.
Rabbitohs get Carter
South Sydney has made a mid-season acquisition that may just provide the necessary X-factor for its spluttering premiership defence, signing former Gold Coast utility Paul Carter for the remainder of 2015. Carter has had his problems off the field, with repeated high-range drink-driving offences resulting in his sacking from the Titans, but his ability can’t be questioned.
A dynamic, tough, hard-hitting, ball-playing backrower in the Greg Bird mould, Carter was one of the most impressive rookies of 2014. By all accounts, the son of former Penrith premiership-winner Steve Carter has got his act together off the paddock, and he should be an outstanding addition to a Rabbitohs squad that has been pounded by injuries all season.
Raiders’ risky hire
The fact Newcastle was open to releasing one of the NRL’s most devastating centres mid-season should have had alarm bells ringing at Canberra HQ, but the Raiders are nevertheless certain to bring the hot-headed Joseph Leilua into the fold before the June 30 cut-off.
Do they really need him though? The Raiders have been one of the competition’s genuine surprise packets, with Jarrod Croker and Sisa Waqa performing strongly in the centres. Winger Jordan Rapana is the most likely candidate to make way for Leilua, an undoubted game-breaker but whose arrival may turn out to be more disruptive than advantageous for the Green Machine.
Rookie of the Year update
A week after being given an absolute bath by Dylan Walker, Warriors centre Solomone Kata took a giant step towards the Dally M Rookie of the Year gong with a stellar performance against the Roosters. Scoring two tries and making a break to lay on another for Tuimoala Lolohea, Kata also defended superbly opposite Blake Ferguson.
In a solid rookie field that also includes Titans half Kane Elgey, Dragons centre Euan Aitken and Warriors front-row tyros Sam Lisone and Albert Vete, Kata’s main challengers for the gong look to be gifted Cronulla utility Jack Bird, who has dazzled at five-eighth, and dynamic Rabbitohs forward Chris Grehvsmuhl, who has future Queensland Origin rep written all over him. But my money’s on the nuggetty Kata, a raw talent who has already bagged a team-high 11 tries in 13 outings.
Underachiever of the week
Souths appeared to have turned a corner via their dominant 36-4 drubbing of the Warriors in Perth, while they were boosted by the return of Adam Reynolds for their encounter with the struggling Tigers and had only Greg Inglis missing on Origin duty. The Tigers, who were without Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods, and fielded several NRL novices, racked up a 34-6 scoreline on an insipid Rabbitohs outfit.
Overachiever of the week
Heading on an undesirable Auckland road trip without Origin stars Mitchell Pearce, Michael Jennings, Boyd Cordner and Aidan Guerra, the Roosters could have been forgiven for failing to come home with the two points. At 20-6 down early in the second half, the result seemed a foregone conclusion. But James Maloney – who once again gave Laurie Daley a taste of what the Blues are missing out on – dragged the Tricolours back into the contest and led them to a nail-biting, courageous 25-21 success that may prove a launching pad for their run to the finals.
My new favourite player
Match-winning field goals, runaway tries, classy ball-playing and now scintillating cover tackles – burgeoning Bulldogs utility Moses Mbye can do it all. His effort in mowing down Titans speedster Brad Tighe was yet another reminder as to why the club is willing to jettison NSW Origin halfback Trent Hodkinson and make the Noosa junior their main man.
John Olive (Rabbitohs): It was an inauspicious match to debut in, but the 18-year-old winger nevertheless gave a solid account on debut, making seven tackles and nine runs for 77 metres in the 34-6 loss to the Tigers.
Shaun Lane (Bulldogs): The 20-year-old backrower Lane enjoyed 46 minutes off the bench in his maiden NRL outing, racking up 10 runs for 106 metres and 20 tackles.
…Paul Carige: Jonathan Wright’s howler invoked memories of Paul Carige, the enigma’s enigma, and his notorious display at fullback in Parramatta’s preliminary final choke against Canterbury in 1998. Carige never played in the NRL again after making a shocking in-goal play in the dying minutes before his game completely unravelled in extra-time. Compelling viewing.
…the Parramatta Wall: The Warriors’ controversial block play, giving Shaun Johnson protection to snap a field goal, has been deemed legal by the NRL and was another example of Andrew McFadden’s innovation. Watch for it to become a common ploy. Meanwhile, it revived memories of the infamous Parramatta Wall, which the Eels used to great effect before Canterbury wild-man Geoff Robinson busted it down.
Form Origin teams
Each week, we name the State of Origin line-ups that would take the field if form was the only criteria. Just four of NSW’s form 17 will line up at the MCG this week, while Queensland have picked nine of our side for game two.
NEW SOUTH WALES