Monday 13 May 2013

NRL 2013: Blue Fergo? #Setof6 | Round 9 Complete Set + #NRLTweetPOTY Votes

COMPLETE SET: Blue Fergo? Gould's Joy Ride, Hope for Cellar Dwellers, Walter's beauty, Souths for JJG? Quotable Quotes
Round 9 News and Views and @NRLTweet Player of the Year Votes

2013 NRL Premiership

By W D Nicolson - May 13, 2013

This is a regular feature on - every week we will post a Set of 6 Tackles that form a Complete Set by the end of the Round. It also features Votes from Round 9 of The @NRLTweet Player of the Year Awards. Let us know what you think of each topic via @NRLTweet

ROUND 9 SET OF 6: Plenty to digest this week - read on below for more... |
The almost certain NSW and QLD Game 1 Teams are here
Blake Ferguson a Blue? Not so fast...

The kid carved up Timana Tahu, then Alex McKinnon in Canberra's 44-14 thrashing of the Knights in Canberra yesterday - but isn't the 'NSW certainty' talk just a little much?

There's no denying the kid's talent or his form the past two weeks... that is the key part of the equation though, the past two weeks.

Ferguson reminds me a lot of the pre-Parramatta-bulk Timana Tahu in the way his size and skills can look all world one week and mildly ineffective the next, and believe me - that's not a bad thing.

You need game breakers at Origin level - but more importantly, you need playmakers.

NSW could have picked this version of Ferguson in most of the last six Origin series and we wouldn't have seen the best of him in Blue, because NSW kept picking dud playmakers time after time after time in key positions... or perhaps more disappiontingly - not enough mediocre playmakers that would make up one decent playmaker.

The point is - you can have all the talent in the world in your backline, but if you haven't got actual playmakers getting the ball to them - it makes no difference against a balanced offensive team.

Queensland are not only balanced across the park, they've got an overflow of quality playmakers.

That's why they can plug Darius Boyd (a playmaker in his own right at fullback) and Brent Tate onto the wing and get value from them - because of the quality playing inside them. And that's why they win - they can manufacture much needed points when they have to, the key area where NSW has struggled mightily in recent years.

Now Ferguson might actually have that quality this season - if NSW make the right choice and pick Jarryd Hayne at fullback, James Maloney or Todd Carney at five-eighth and Robbie Farah still has energy (he's playing himself into the ground at the Tigers - which is not the wrong thing but he's working overtime in a bad team that's not responding - more on the Tigers below) to play hooker.

I've left off Mitchell Pearce because he's not a playmaker. He's a busy halfback with decent organisational skills, a solid kicking game and his best asset is his support play and kick-chase. But he's not a playmaker.

And following that thought - is Ferguson a winger?

@NRLTweet Player of the Year - Round 9
Votes from Round 9 so far are below.

Because that's where Laurie Daley would have to pick him if he actually does.

Josh Morris hasn't been great this season but he accompanied Daley to an Origin function at ANZ Stadium a week ago - so he's going to be picked and Michael Jennings has been playing like Ferguson's last fortnight all season. Morris and Jennings will be the centres.

Hayne will slot into fullback for the injured Brett Stewart, opening one wing spot and Brett Morris needs to play in either Round 10 or 11 and prove he can run if he is to hold his wing spot.

That means that if Ferguson gets picked it is on the wing... not a position he is not familiar with but where is he playing his best footy right now?

At centre.

Now Daley said he was comfortable picking Hayne on the wing for Origin 1, but would he be as comfortable picking Ferguson there ahead of Michael Gordon (who has extensive wing experience - but admittedly like Ferguson - has played fullback, thus 'out of position' this year), Nathan Merritt and the ever-falling-out-of-contention Akuila Uate?

I wonder... 

Mind you - I'm happy if Ferguson gets picked, but it wouldn't stun anyone if he gets targeted defensively on the flank by Queensland. A factor that might be evened out if the group of actual playmakers NSW pick can get him the ball...

So NSW if you are going to pick Ferguson - surround him with playmakers!

Do you think Ferguson is a NSW certainty? If so what position does he play and who misses out?
Please comment below or reply on Twitter.

Each week's Complete Set of Six (though technically you get 7 points if you include the Quotes) will be on each Monday and Tuesday.

Round 9 - Six points that emerged from a four day footy week.
A tip of the hat to the SMH's 'Set of 6' and Andy Wilson's 'Set of 6' for the name, as Complete Set just doesn't roll off the tongue quite as well, and we'll call it flattery that you've already used it.

1st Tackle
Are the Dragons on a winner with Dugan?
Despite their coach not wanting to know what was on the former Canberra fullback's 'history' (don't use rap sheet people or the 'Red V defenders' will misunderstand what facing charges in court means) the St George Illawarra Dragons really have very little to lose by signing Josh Dugan to a contract.
And they've got the Canberra Raiders to thank for this. 
WHY? Read more here.

2nd Tackle
Is this really Gus?
Gus Gould's Got IT...
Whatever IT is...
Now I know it is lazy to use a whole Tackle by linking to someone's else writing but just do yourself a favour and read Phil Gould's fly on the wall piece of how Ray Warren may just as well be President of Australia given how he made things happen to make the Titans-Dragons game at a decent hour... the pilot's answer is priceless.
Gould is the best colour commentator in the business - in print or TV because he has a way of conveying what he thinks or feels that no one can match: whether you agree with him or not.
Just do it - thank me for the link later.

Bottom of the NRL Table though Round 9...
3rd Tackle
Cellar dwellers still have plenty of time...
Granted two of those bottom five teams won in Round 9 but it is hardly a reach to suggest that the Panthers, Dragons, Eels, Warriors and Tigers are grossly overmatched by the better teams in the competition right now. We knew the Panthers and Eels would struggle to win more than half a dozen games this year (each... if not between them) but the Tigers have taken a massive step backwards after punting Tim Sheens in the off-season.
Before we get to the Warriors and Dragons, it's worth noting that new coach Mick Potter hasn't done much wrong yet... but is there any sign of 'his touch' on the Tigers right now?
Clearly Benji Marshall was rushed back lame and Robbie Farah needs a break before Origin like you wouldn't believe, but apart from Aaron Woods working with Farah in the middle of the field - no one else looks like doing anything constructive for the Tigers at the moment.
Granted the Tigers fell away last season and missed the Finals after being a contender for a number of years, but Sheens had done a wonderful job of getting the Tigers back into contention after the years lost post-2005 with Marshall injured.
The Tigers decided to move the current Australian coach along and picked Potter... and 9 rounds in, the Tigers look like a worse team in 2013. So sans Sheens, it is very much a case of: Over to you Mr Potter.
The good news for Tigers' fans however is this - they are in good company in 2013.
Because the Warriors (we hadn't forgotten about them) are sitting nice and low on the table as well at 2-7, just above the Tigers at 2-7 on differential, while the 3-6 records eked out by the Panthers and Eels is also held by the Dragons... a team that isn't much better than the other four really but who knows how they are playing right now - all we hear about the Dragons is who they have or will sign for 2014!
But fret not - as we write every team listed above remains in contention for the Top 8, because in this day and age of Rugby League when you play 24 games - you can stay in contention up until the high teen rounds at the very least.
The bad news is right now - all those sides just aren't very good.
Mind you - Penrith beating Melbourne was a fair effort given the Storm's recent dominance in that clash... check out the stats (Click on head to head) but over 24 rounds the good is generally well separated from the bad... it's up to these five teams to prove they don't belong at the bottom over the next few months.

4th Tackle
Quotable Quotes from Round 9
  • "Put your hand up here if you thought Zillman's was a try," John Cartwright is so frustrated with video refereeing he's resorting to a straw poll of the assembled media... Nb: The Titans won the game.
  • "I think that's what kills us, travelling so far to North Queensland back and forth," James Tamou isn't using playing for a Townsville team as an excuse, he's just stating the facts. The facts also suggest they have to find a way to overcome that negative at the pointy end of the season if they can't finish in the Top 4.
  • "I know Laurie and Bozo (NSW selector Bob Fulton) are over the moon about the way Jarryd Hayne is playing and they are the most important people," Ricky Stuart confirms what everyone was hoping to be the case... Daley will pick Jarryd Hayne at fullback for Game 1.
  • "We have to find that love of wanting to go out there. I don’t know why they are not excited about playing footy again. It’s what they choose to do," Craig Bellamy isn't happy about his team's apathy but it's also not new territory with the Storm... they showed similar signs at the back end of the Origin period in 2012, then went on to win the title playing on another level to everyone else.
  • "Don't kick it Terry!" Jason Robinson pleads with Terry Campese not to kick the ball after a Jack Wighton forward pass with 5 seconds to fulltime in Canberra... Terry kicked it.
  • 'At 2.42pm we land at Coolangatta. A car is on standby at the foot of the stairs of the plane, lights flashing, to race us to the helicopter.
    Rabbits asks the pilot: ''How often do these things crash?''
    ''Only once,'' laughs the pilot.
    Ha, ha, ha. Good one, mate. I swear I'm going to wet myself.
  • Gus Gould at work... more quality in the piece.
5th and Last
Brad Walter delves into areas that needed delving
A week or two ago I went to Twitter with a cryptic tweet or two that something was poised to happen in the world of Rugby League that was potentially - GREAT for the game.
Deliberately I didn't specify what I'd heard, just said that if it happened, the game would benefit and the move backfire on those considering it.
As it turned out my tip wasn't far off - given it had alleged that one major media organisation was threatening to withdraw coverage of the NRL in retaliation for how they were treated over a story that allegedly didn't take into consideration how a family felt about a story they ran... (you following?).
SMH reporter Brad Walter contacted me to follow this up almost immediately, as he'd also got wind of this alleged plan and then spent the next week researching the details...
The resulting piece in the SMH was a long overdue look into how the Rugby League is finally waking up to the fact that they don't need the media... rather the media needs them. Given Walter works for Fairfax Media - this is an article that pushes the truth above an agenda as the NRL may well not 'need' any media arm in the future (they will still engage and encourage them for coverage however).
So if you missed the feature length piece in Saturday's SMH - do yourself a favour and make the time to read it.
While the alleged media organisation didn't pull coverage altogether - they did scale back what they did run over the rest of that week... inadvertently allowing Walter to identify not only that decision, but other tricks of the trade that they allegedly also have used in recent years.
It is fascinating in its detail... and refreshing in its honesty.

Can Souths hold on?
Melbourne might have dropped two in a row - a story in itself - but look at the top of the 2013 Premiership Ladder... and South Sydney sit at 8-1 and all alone in 1st place.
There are still 16 rounds left in the season, but after displacing the Storm after 9 rounds - is there any real pressure on the Bunnies to hold onto the Minor Premiership even this far out?
I had a conversation with Andrew Bryan at the NRL this week about expectation, and he asked if South Sydney are managing or reacting to the level of expectation on them in 2013... I replied with an emphatic yes.
The reason is this team under coach Michael Maguire has spent every waking minute since they were beaten by the Bulldogs in the Preliminary Final last year with their eyes firmly fixed on a title push in 2013.
Finishing as Minor Premiers would go a long way to making meeting this expectation a reality... but now the hunter becomes the hunted don't they?
The next four games...
Rabbitohs: v Tigers, @ Sharks, v Knights (Origin 1 week - no rep players), BYE, v Titans.
Storm: v Sea Eagles, @ Roosters, BYE (Origin 1 week), v Sharks (Origin 1 players backup), v Newcastle.
Based on the next month alone - is it out of the question if we see the Bunnies kick 2 or 4 points clear of the Storm by Origin 2?

Warrick D. Nicolson
@NRLTweet Player of the Year Award
Round 9 Votes

As regular readers of and followers of @NRLTweet know - we run The @NRLTweet Player of the Year Awards each season (starting in 2010) and they return once again for 2013 with another group of excellent Rugby League judges.

You can follow the Votes live after each game via this Hashtag #NRLTweetPOTY

One of the reasons we set this up is the Dally M Award lacks the kind of objectivity that a true player of the year award really should have, and while we aren't claiming our system is perfect - it is judged on what happens on the field with reputations and bias left by the wayside.

This is how the votes were handed out for Round 9.
@NRLTweet Player of the Year - Round 9 Voting will be updated after MNF
SOU 28-10 NQL
8 - G Burgess S Burgess, 1 - J Thurston J Sutton.
Voters | W Nicolson and B Hoese |
WTG 6-30 CRO
Voters | B Jones and M Spillane |
WAR 16-24 CBY
Voters | J Davies and A McMurray |
PAR 19-18 BRI
Voters | M Duncan and M Tsialis |
CAN 44-14 NEW
Voters | G Delaney and B Jones |
GLD 15-14 STI
Voters | M Trodden and M Vickers |
PEN 12-10 MEL
Voters | A McMurray and M Trodden |
Voters | M Spillane and W Nicolson |

 Round 8 Leaderboard: (Update for Rd 9 added Monday)
31 Votes - Cooper Cronk, MEL
26 Votes - Shaun Johnson, WAR
25 Votes - Johnathan Thurston, NQL
23 Votes - Billy Slater, MEL
22 Votes - Sonny Bill Williams, SYD
21 Votes - Greg Inglis, SOU
21 Votes - Trent Merrin, STI
20 Votes - Adam Reynolds, SOU

You can follow the Votes live after each game via this Hashtag #NRLTweetPOTY

Share your thoughts on the footy so far by commenting below or replying on Twitter.

The NRL Injury List is updated regularly during each week of the season, making it an invaluable Fantasy and Tipping Tool alongside our Weekly NRL Previews once again.

Remember if you want game-specific Late Mail every week, then check out our Round Previews Every Wednesday and they are updated with all the very latest Late Mail on Friday.

If we are missing any players on this list - please comment below, reply on Twitter or email this address.
Who will take Ben Barba's mantle as champion in the 2013 @NRLTweet Player of the Year Awards?

The Prestigious Award returns for a 4th season in 2013.

Remember you can track all the votes each week after each match in 2013 via the Twitter hashtag #nrltweetpoty