Meaningless NRL Review: Round 9, 2020

Injuries: C.Graham (Boot lodged in face)

What a wild weekend… Matty Ikuvalu scores 5 tries after being in the reserves 15 minutes before kickoff, as the Roosters destroyed North Queensland in the span of half an hour, Josh Reynolds and Latrell Mitchell recreating Dumb And Dumber, Charlie Staines scores 4 tries and a COVID breach on debut, the Bunker is useless, and the Raiders are an injury away from Ricky Stuart having to pull on the boots.

And throw in the usual off-field crap – There was that story from Buzz about Andrew Voss needing emergency retina surgery to avoid going blind… Obviously calling too many Broncos games has made his eyes bleed.

And to cap it off, the chaos at the Bulldogs, Round 9 edition – Jake Averillo was stood down after his parents had dinner at popular hotspot the Crossroads Hotel, and Jayden Okunbor and Corey Harawira-Naera were reinstated by the NRL Appeals Board after they were deregistered for the Coffs Harbour schoolgirl love-in, which means they’re back on the Bulldogs roster, albeit suspended for 14 (Okunbor) and 10 games, and they apparently have grounds for an unfair dismissal claim if they get sacked again.

Dean Pay probably won’t be doing the same, considering he told the Canterbury board “You can’t fire me, I quit!”

Sydney Ikuvalus 42 defeated North Queensland 16 at North Queensland Stadium

Now THAT game is a story and a half.

First, Brett Morris went down with groin soreness in the warm-up, robbing the Roosters of yet another first choice player.

With only 15 minutes before kick off, coming in desperately to fill his shoes was Matt Ikuvalu in the No.21, with all of 4 First Grade tries to his name.

To describe the events mildly, Matt made the most of his chance, and committed more damage to the Cowboys than Wyatt Earp.

In a magic carpet ride of a game, Ikuvalu became first player since Alex Johnston for Souths in 2017 to score 5 tries in a game, and the first Rooster to score 5 tries since Brian Allsop in Round 10 of 1955, and it genuinely looked like Ikuvalu could end up in the company of an Immortal in Dave Brown by scoring 6 tries in a game for Easts.

Of course, we have to remember that the Cowboys scored the first try in a game marred by mind-numbing errors from Scott Drinkwater at the Chooks 10, and Kyle Feldt had this shot from in front to make the score 8-0 just before the half-hour mark.

Even that graphic is slightly off – It was 6 tries in 21 minutes for Easts, ad some of them were just comically easy – Break out of dummy-half, hit a guy in the hole, and score.

If you’re a North Queenslander, that is nothing short of ghastly, and not surprising when you look at some of the runs teams have put on the Cows:

Conceded 34 points in 35 minutes to Wests

Conceded 30 points in 40 minutes to Parramatta

Conceded 42 points in 35 minutes to Easts

It couldn’t have been any coincidence that most of the damage started after Val Holmes re-aggravated his ankle injury… it was a carbon copy of the Warriors game.

Last week Maika Sivo destroyed the Cowboys right edge… This week, James Tedesco (With a below-par 4 try assists) and the Immortal Ikuvalu destroyed their left edge, which by definition, leaves their defence totally and utterly destroyed.

It is funny to think that a late inclusion could get into this Roosters team and score 5 tries, while poor old Ryan Hall, one of the greatest wingers and try-scorers in the history of English rugby league, could even score one bloody NRL try.

I believe you could tell a joke about a patron at a bordello that would apply to Hall.

And perhaps fittingly, the game ended with Hall being denied a try by a forward pass, a situation so comedic that even Ryan had a laugh about how his own luck in Australia was turning out.

Still, just as Boyd Cornder sits out a week because of a failed HIA, Jake Friend also joined him in suffering a concussion.

The perfect Yin and Yang of injured captains.

Gold Coast 16 defeated Once Were Warriors 12 at Cbus Super Stadium

It promised to be one to forget, and I think it lived it up to the lowly expectations.

The flannel-wearing Warriors paying tribute to their country hometown roots.

The Titans being so riddled with injuries they played back-rowers in the centres.

The Warriors scoring 2 tries in the opening 7 minutes and doing absolutely nothing afterwards.

The Titans looking like they were going to get splattered.

The mind-boggling simple errors from both teams.

The Bunker making a questionable no try decision.

The Warriors realising they weren’t in Gosford anymore.

The utter stupidity of the modern scrum.

Tyrone Peachey with a nomination for try assist of the year for Sam Stone.

Jamal Fogarty setting up Beau Fermor’s winning try, and then finishing off the Warriors with a booming 40/20 in the 78th minute.

And, the Titans making a stirring comeback to win their first game at Robina in 15 months, on the same day that Titans founding father and Gold Coast rugby league identity Tom Searle was farewelled.

A great tribute to a great servant… well done to Justin Holbrook and his players.

Back Rowers In The Centres… It sounds like a Midnight Oil Rugby League tribute.

South Sydney 18 defeated Wests Tigers 10 at Bankwest Stadium

In a game where Dane Gagai scored his first club career hat-trick, and Adam Reynolds missed all 4 conversions and only landed a penalty goal, it was left to the other Reynolds in Josh to produce the most accurate kick of the night.

To Campbell Graham’s face chasing a loose ball.

It’s like watching Charlie Brown get revenge on Lucy van Pelt for all those years of the football gag.

Isn’t it peculiar how some traditions just slowly fade away.

Although, the tradition of grubbery doesn’t slowly fade away.

While that Reynolds kick was stupid, reckless/careless accident and a report + 2-game suspension + penalty, what Latrell Mitchell did in response during the ensuing scuffle was blatantly worse, and on a par with what Joey Leilua did last week, no matter what stupid justification Graham Annesley uses.

An intentional round arm cheap shot from behind that drew blood.

And the funniest part of all was that neither Reynolds or Mitchell got sin binned, when they both should have been marched on the spot.

By any chance, did they turn Ben Cummins into a newt before the game?

Somehow, both their punishments were 3 weeks down to 2 with an early plea, while Mitchell was only fined for a lazy intentional high tackle on Luke Garner in the 2nd Half that got him on report, and had Reynolds flying in to call him a “****ing idiot” after he claimed it was an accident.

“There’s a few idiots around there as well” – Ray Warren

I tell you what, if there’s one thing Latrell has succeeded with since he went to Redfern, it’s building on his reputation for stupid incidents, which was simply budding at Easts.

On Friday night, he managed to out-grub a bloke whose nickname is literally “Grub”.

Bloody brilliant – Literally punching above his weight.

I can’t wait to see what he comes up with in 2 weeks.

Anyway, as you can probably tell, the game itself wasn’t exactly a classic contest, simply because the punch-ups were more fascinating.

The Rabbits had huge success against the Tigers left edge (Moses Mbye got roasted alive), as evidenced by the Gagai hat-trick, which most likely came about after WAYNE deluded him into thinking he was playing for Queensland, and it was really only poor goalkicking that prevented the Bunnies from wrapping it up at the half.

In the meantime, Wests’ spine was more than a bit disappointing in attack, but they stay in 8th… which is one spot better than 9th.

Penrith 56 defeated Cronulla 24 at Kogarah

Q: What’s the time in Sydney?

A: 56 past Cronulla.

All with Scotty From Marketing watching on, looking like he’d stepped out of the bathroom of the Engadine Maccas as the Pink Panthers wiped the floor with the Sharkies.

“Typical Labor voters.”

In a game with a point a minute and the Panthers running in 10 tries, the story of the day was the debut of Charlie Staines, cheered on by his mad mates from Forbes who made the drive to Sydney, and what a treat they got following him around in his scoring corner.

4 tries on debut, equaling the First Grade record last set by Jordan Atkins in 2008, alongside Tony Nash in 1942 and Johnno ‘Cunning’ Stuntz in 1908.

Johnno Stuntz, what a fantastic name – True story, he later went and served in France, and died at Bullecourt in 1917.

Of those three, I’d nominate his hat-trick try as the best, simply because of Tyrone May getting the Sharks left edge to bite hard on the double pump, followed by hitting Staines flat on the chest with the long pass to score yet another meat pie.

Simple, aesthetically pleasing football.

Not to mention, to go with 4 tries, Staines produced a 1st Half linebreak and try assist for Dylan Edwards, hitting him in stride to finish off a 70m effort.

A first-gamer scoring 4 tries… it’s the weirdest thing I’ve seen since Matt Ikuvalu scored 5 tries.

Fair to say it would’ve been a piss-up for the ages in Forbes, considering the Post Office Hotel decided to honour the occasion by shouting everyone in the pub a beer for every time Staines scored a try.

From the makers of The Pub With No Beer, comes The Pub With No Beer.

It was also a piss-up for the ages at Charlie’s place on Saturday night, because to finish off this remarkable story, Staines invited his immediate family, his partner’s parents and a couple of mates around to his neck of the woods for a debut celebration, then he had to go to hospital on Sunday morning because of lockjaw…

And is now stood down for breaching NRL biosecurity protocols.

Retire ingloriously, Charlie – You can say you’ve got the best tries per game average in First Grade History.

I would contend that we learned absolutely nothing about the Sharks, simply because I’d say we already knew they weren’t really good enough to beat top teams, but they’ll beat up on the Bottom 8.

Also, to anyone who puts up with Fox League’s coverage, you’d know they play sound effects after a team scores – A Rooster crowing, cackling electricity for the Eels, Souths is just “Glory Glory to South Sydney”.

Whenever the Panthers don the Pink Panther garb, I’m thoroughly disappointed they keep playing that pissy simple 32-bit growl, when Henry Mancini is just sitting right there:

Based on the Panthers of late, they’ll be spamming it every 5 minutes.

Brisbane 26 defeated Canterbury 8 at Suncorp Stadium

With the threat of Gorden Tallis spending the entire week talking about what’s gone wrong at Red Hill, and the other possibility that they might end up last if they lost, the Broncos finally produced something that resembled a turn in the right direction.

Even if it was the massive change of going backwards to being lateral.

As the saying goes, a win is a win, and when you haven’t won for 4 months, you’d be happy getting a win against some dodgy Queensland Cup team like Mackay.

Apparently the key to a team suffering from a lack of decent coaching was to let the players set the training schedule… which also involved having the Monday team review in the midst of a few rounds of golf.

If it involves doing everything short of preparing for the profession you’re mainly paid to perform, then I say go for it.

Bludging during work hours is an Australian tradition.

Obviously the great enigma that is Tevita Pangai Jnr put in a few good rounds with a nine iron, because he was fantastic – His offload game was sound, he scored a try off an error, and I reckon the play that summed him up was dragging 5 Bulldogs towards the sideline…

Before he managed to slip out another offload that landed in play, and sat perfectly for Jamayne Isaako to pick up and score.

He can actually play well when he’s not randomly shoulder charging people in the head.

The sour note from a win was that the Broncs got yet another injury – Skipper Alex Glenn, after finally experiencing joy, was taken out for 2 months after spraining his MCL in a third-man in ‘cannonball’ tackle from Reimis Smith, who only got a 1 game suspension, while Lexi is gone for 6-8.

I’m beginning to see why Buzz, and Vossy to an extent, are beginning a crusade to take out cannonballs.

As for the Bulldogs, the toxic situation at Belmore has reached Three Mile Island levels of danger, and with a 1-8 record and his future absolutely not certain, Dean Pay decided enough was enough, and became the 2nd head coach to leave his post in 2020.

Panthers assistant and former Manly head coach Trent Barrett is on the first line to become the next martyred Bulldogs coach, and wasn’t it hilarious watching Buzz think that Barrett turned Daly Cherry-Evans into an Origin halfback…. Obviously forgetting that DCE had played for Queensland before 2016.

As we say goodbye to Dean, here’s a tribute, from the one and only Elton John.

Losing was tough,
The toughest role you ever played
Belmore created an average coach
And pain was the price you paid
Even when you resigned,
Oh the press still hounded you,
All the papers had to say,
Was that Adam Elliott was found in the nude.

I genuinely feel sorry for Pay – Took the job out of loyalty to a club he loved, copped a shit sandwich of a roster from Day 1 because of the Hasler Salary Cap hodgepodge, which meant the Dogs were always handicapped for major signings. and was devoid of any decent support from the front office.

Still, at least he left with the dignity of not officially being sacked.

In the meantime, Steve Georgallis – May the lord have mercy on your poor soul caretaking this mess.

Formerly Melbourne 20 defeated Canberra 14 at GIO Stadium

To put it simply, the Raiders are in their worst state since William of Normandy drove them out of England in 1066.

Josh Hodgson gone with a torn ACL, all but destroying the Raiders premiership chances, Bailey Simonsson gone with a busted shoulder, losing to the Storm after several self-inflicted wounds…

But hey, at least Graham Annesley apologised for that incorrect sin-binning from The Bunker on Simonsson that cost you a try.

What a piss-up that was – Josh Addo-Carr runs into Bailey Simonsson, rather than the other way round, they have a genuine collision going for the ball…. but in an overanalysed piece of tripe, they somehow come to the conclusion that it was the Canberra player impeding Foxx, turning a 7 tackle set into a penalty + sin bin.

All while Hodgson was writhing in pain in back play.

And Foxx scored a minute later in the very spot where Simonsson would have been defending.

You’ve got to hand it to the Storm, they really know how to rub it in.

Throw in Brenko Lee scoring the opening try when Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad failed to clean-up a grubber kick (You can actually ground the ball in your own goal, you know), Elliott Whitehead knocking on when he was sliding over to score in the 2nd Half, then getting penalised for dissent, countless other chances gone begging, which all left the Raiders 14-6 down, despite having (arguably) more of the play.

Then with a quarter of the game to go, Ryan Papenhuyzen, the best player on the night, added to his eye catching 2020 highlight reel by switching off The Green Machine with a 90m scoop and run off a stray kick.

They jockey didn’t even need the whip.

That was the spectacular sealer in what was Cameron Smith’s 300th winning game from 420 appearances, and what a stat that is…. He’s played in more wins than all bar 39 players in First Grade history have played games.

In game 420, not only did the Storm blaze one for Smithy, they blazed one for the people of Victoria.

Two Grand Finalists cleaned up in 2 games, and with Cam Munster on the sidelines – They’re not quite dead yet.

Parramatta 10 defeated Newcastle 4 at McDonald Jones Stadium

It was mean, it was mad, it was brutal, it was torrid, it was tense… it was a pair of Top 4 teams locked in a nasty contest that caused the skill of both teams to fall down a few pegs because of the sheer heat on the ball carrier.

On the road and playing the unfamiliar confines of the daytime, the Eels eeked out another important win, and for the second game running they kept an opponent to a solitary try, which will have Brad Arthur barring up, but goodness me, they’ll probably be praying for Mitch Moses to come back soon and restore their kicking game.

Apparently repeatedly bombing kicks 20m up in the air playing defuse the bomb is not a valid attacking strategy.

If you want to understand part of the reason why the Knights only scored a solitary try, look no further than this example from Mitchell Pearce, with a rifled cutout pass to an invisible Edrick Lee, who ran over and scored in Imaginationland.

Hit him stride and he beat the imaginary defence…. Sadly this is the real world.

Aside from passing to nobody or just repeated forward passes, another reason for a lack of points was was Tex Hoy being in front of Kalyn Ponga when he appeared to score the game-tying try 4 minutes from time.

Another bad moment for Pearce was giving away the penalty on the last for a high tackle on Clint Gutherson with 15 minutes remaining.

While he was off waving his arms at Gerard Sutton, King Gutho used his big brain to take the quick tap, gain 25m, reel in a sleepwalking Ponga, and feed in Maika Sivo for the only try of the 2nd Half.

Pearce off, Jack.

After the game Eels rookie Stefano Utoikamanu, who debuted and was able to play all of 1 minute, obviously celebrated his debut too hard, because he committed the crime of interacting with what I could only assume was his very happy family in the crowd.

Stef, you may be a rookie, but…



St George-Illawarra 34 defeated Manly 4 at Kogarah

I confidently picked the Dragons with absolutely no confidence, and thankfully, I was not wrong, because they had a live kill sitting in front of them, and they actually put it together.

Corey Norman, Ben Hunt, Zac Lomax, Matt Dufty and Mikaele Ravalawa all performed well in the same game for the first time in 2020, Paul Vaughan played like an Origin forward, and with something resembling a stabilised spine, the Red V produced some dazzling attacking play, which sounds crazy to write about, considering it’s the 2020 Dragons.

Lomax in particular set up 2 tries off intercepts – The first off a DCE linebreak sent Dufty away like the Road Runner to put the Dragons up 12-4, and the other in the 72nd minute confirmed what we already knew – The Dragons were going to win, and win well.

For me, the best of the lot was in junk time – It was Adam Clune’s execution of a no-look banana kick for Corey Norman, helping him split two defenders in stride and score under the posts for what became 28-4.

Those South Australian heathens would call it a checkside.

Meanwhile, we talk about the Cowboys relying on Jason Taumalolo incessantly…. this Sea Eagles team without Tommy Turbo could end up being the worst-performed team in maroon this year.

With all their outs, you’d struggle to find a way to see them saving their season if/when he gets back.

Especially with the way DCE played on Sunday evening.

Tipping Performance

Turns out that Titans-Warriors game cost me a perfect round…. and I don’t remember picking Souths at all – Still, best round of the year.

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