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The start of a sentence whose ending will only make the reader dumber
Tigers win, Cowboys lose, Broncos win, Titans wins, upcoming slate and responding to things that don't merit having read in the first place
Queensland Cup final
In case you missed it:
Watching Easts fans be happy might be the most sickening thing I’ve seen at a rugby league match in a long time. I can’t wait to see how they parlay this into them getting the next NRL licence, on top of their $135 million asset base1.
In other random thoughts from the game:
I’m still glad I went, even if I was extremely ambivalent about the time, day and teams going in. The game had plenty of tension, which was not just me after breaking the seal. I could live with an evening grand final if it was on Saturday, not Sunday, and the benefits outweigh the costs (see below).
It’s someone’s job - and I’m not sure who - to ensure that I don’t buy front row seats again next year. Just in time for me to buy the next round of grand final tickets, I have forgotten how annoying the ball boys, the touchies, the cameramen, the sound guy and the speakers all are to the viewing experience at the previous year’s final. About half a dozen rows back would be better.
Leaving, I had the same feeling when the Dolphins lost a close game to a Sydney team. I wasn't really invested in someone winning - neither of them are my team - so much as someone losing and I was denied that. That probably reveals something pretty bitter about me.
Now, I'm just glad I minted that experience into 1800 words of (I think, pretty good) content.
I’ve thought that Pezet doesn’t look especially outstanding in this space, considering the future he is thought to have in the NRL, but you’d rather a half like him than the performances Hamilton and Roberts turned in when it mattered.
Apologies to Sami Sauiluma for misspelling his last name.
It’s disappointing that we will be denied a Bears-on-Bears national final. Despite the potential, we’ve never had two teams with the same nicknames contesting the NRL State Championship. As it stands, the options are Burleigh vs North Sydney in the Bear Bowl, Souths Logan vs Western Suburbs in the Magpie Match or Ipswich vs Newtown in the J-Off.
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Moment of the Weekend
Ah! Well, nevertheless…
Corey Thompson still goes out a winner, unlike the loser Sydney Tigers franchise he played for, and we’ll always have week 1 of the 2021 finals.
NRLW Round 9
COWBOYS: They got flogged. It was a hardly unsurprising end to the season for the Cowboys. They did well to be in touch at half time but got blown off the park in the second half, as the Roosters are wont to do. North Queensland got rolled for a few hundred metres and made it too easy to either get punched through the line or find a way around to have serious ideas about keeping Sydney within reach. The Cowboys can take solace in their early victories over the Knights, still really strange in retrospect, and the Tigers but there’s plenty to work on over the off-season.
BRONCOS: They flogged them. This was both boring, in the sense that the result of the game was never in any real jeopardy, and heartening, in the sense that the Broncos are getting closer to getting it figured out. Brisbane had a surplus of possession, nearly double the number of the Dragons’ running metres and 14 line breaks to one (1). You could tell it was getting dire because Teagan Berry decided she was just going to do it herself on offence, which sometimes can work but it would not be enough to make the Dragons even remotely competitive, and then found herself steamrolled a few times on the line by bigger bodies on defence.
TITANS: They flogged them. It was 18-0 before I’d even had a chance to start watching the match and there was still plenty of time left in the first half. The Titans’ defence has been their strength all season, having conceded as few points as the Roosters and Knights but without having scored anywhere near as many (so presumably spending a lot more time on defence), and it looked rock solid against the Raiders. It’s difficult to know whether 30 points scored against a team with a 12 point handicap in their last game of the season having to overcome an early deficit, is indicative that the Titans issues on offence have been fixed. More from The Sportress.
Then there were three.
Saturday 19h50: BRONCOS vs WARRIORS in NRLM preliminary final
The biggest obstacle to Brisbane advancing to the grand final are themselves. Walsh and Mam could drop the ball a lot. Reynolds could have a wayward night with the boot. Walters could let the blood rush to his head and think he’s his father. Farnworth could get selfish, Staggs and Cobbo lazy, and Arthars could find himself out of his depth. Haas never really has bad games, so I suppose he could get hurt early. The rest of the pack could believe the hype and get rolled. Tyson Smoothy could be on the field for more than the absolute bare minimum amount of time.
But, while earlier in the season I thought the Broncos’ relatively high risk offensive strategy would cost them more games in the long run, we really only saw them pay that price in round 6 against the Raiders and then again in round 17 against the Titans. Since the Slow Your Brain game, the only Broncos to lose were the Queensland Cup All Stars that fronted the Storm in the last round, almost all of whom will not be playing in this match.
I don’t think there a lot of paths to victory for the Warriors. The Broncos won more games, scored more points and conceded fewer on a much tougher schedule than the Warriors. The Broncos beat the Warriors in Napier earlier this year, sending over a second string side in the Origin period to take a tough four point victory over a New Zealand XIII that shares 11 players with their starting lineup for Saturday night. The Broncos have proven to be a better football team and start as deserved favourites.
Sunday 14h05: BRONCOS vs KNIGHTS in NRLW preliminary final
Here’s some trivia. The minor premier of the last two NRLW seasons has been rolled in the semi-final. The 4-1 2021* Broncos lost to the 2-3 Roosters and the 4-1 2022 Roosters lost to the 1-4 Eels. In the former case, the upstart went on to win the grand final and in the latter, the upstart got horribly embarrassed by their opponents. Can the Broncos do it in 2023? Yes. Is it likely? No.
The only game the Knights have lost this season was when the Cowboys held the ball for an uninterrupted 15 minutes. If the Broncos can do that, they’re home. Crucially, that would avoid of a repeat of the last 15 minutes when the Broncos actually played the Knights, coughing up 16-4 lead to lose 20-22. That was not great.
The Broncos will need to work out how to contain Tamika Upton. You can at least get after Jesse Southwell if you take away her time - sounds like the perfect job for Chelsea Lenarduzzi - but Upton can practically teleport through the line. If she works out she can run at Hufanga or Maddick and make the easiest line break of her career since 2020 Origin, the Broncos are screwed. Even if we assume the Broncos can patch those defensive shortcomings, and even noting that the Broncos have the advantage at some positions, the Knights play like a team and the Broncos, to date, generally have not. If they’re not getting sliced and diced by a highly motivated Knights side, then that cohesion will be the difference.
Sunday 16h15: TITANS vs ROOSTERS in NRLW preliminary final
Taliah Fuimaono has been elevated from #22 on last week’s team list to #18 this week. If she was fit to play, even having missed most of the season, the price of the disruption of bringing her in would more than offset the benefit of getting Brown back to hooker and having a more experienced hand on the tiller in the halves. I think without that hope, as slim as it appears to be, it’s an uphill battle for the Titans and probably would be either way.
While the Titans’ defence has been good over the course of the whole season, Gold Coast crucially shipped 30 points in round 5. The Titanides have only averaged 11 points conceded since but the Roosters’ attack hasn’t been dulled either. Tarryn Aiken has been as sharp as ever and Jocelyn Kelleher has proven no slouch. While the Titans’ pack has been good, and significantly better than last year, the Roosters also boast a number of rep-calibre forwards, including the return of Millie Boyle. It’s wonderful to have your strengths equalled, if not more than offset, by the opposition’s strengths.
Unlike the Broncos, the Titans have looked a more coherent side through the season but like Brisbane, Gold Coast will need an all-timer out of almost every player, including their five senior and four U19 Origin stars, to get over the top of this Sydney team.
Mindless commentary to fill column inches
“Penrith chief executive Brian Fletcher has called on the NRL to…” is the start of a sentence whose ending will only make the reader dumber. Another example is “Panthers fans have flooded social media asking…” What doesn’t appear to be understood in Penrith is that Brisbane are a big market team, that play in a big stadium. Penrith are a small market, borderline regional team, that play in a small stadium, serving as the token Sydney representation in this year’s finals series.
Preliminary finals are big games for big stadiums. If Penrith want to play at what they consider their home, and not 40km down the road in the same western part of the metropolis that they inhabit, then they should get a big stadium. Failing that, you’d have to frame the return to “neutral” (read: exclusively Sydney, so not at all neutral for non-Sydney teams) venues in such a way that it obviously won’t lose the NRL money if you want to get any traction with the big dogs. It’s a wonder a CEO doesn’t understand this but Fletcher has a history of the absolute worst ideas and embarrassing histrionics that hacks love to run with and I, for some reason, feel compelled to note and respond.
Across the ditch, Kiwis are annoyed the preliminary final will kickoff at the usual time of 7.50pm AEST, instead of a time that suits their audience, i.e. 4pm or 6pm AEST. While more people in New Zealand might watch an earlier kickoff, fewer people in Australia will. Case in point, I didn’t watch the Warriors dispatch the Knights because it kicked off at 4pm and I have responsibilities. If it had kicked off at 8pm, I would have watched it. I was literally a marginal fan for that match and this is how real people, and not just extremely online monomaniacs, make decisions about how they spend their time.
Often doing what those same extremely online monomaniacs say they want means lower ratings2, meaning fewer fans watching the game, which is presumably not what anyone wants. The game’s interest and the broadcaster’s interest can actually align sometimes.
Does Australia’s audience matter more to the NRL than New Zealand’s? Obviously yes, probably by a factor of six to eight times. Does the Australian audience contain a large portion of Warriors fans? Yes. Would those Australian-based Warriors fans suffer for an earlier kickoff? The marginal ones would and the diehards are unimpacted either way. The NRL is always going to do what maximises the value of the audience. Once you accept this, and reject the banal idea that the Warriors made sacrifices to save the game from covid3, everything gets a lot clearer and you can save yourself plenty of disappointment.
Blackhawks shut out the Tigers in the final Colts final, which is very funny.
“[A] landmark move for NRL clubs to be given salary-cap relief by luring American football players to rugby league” and “We’ll do a four-day combine in Vegas and rugby league scouts from the clubs will be there with an opportunity to sign them.” Sure. This sounds about as worthwhile investing my intellectual energy into as the partnership between the Rams and the Broncos (the Broncos are staying in Los Angeles and will use the Rams practice facility when they go to Vegas). Kudos to Badel for using the r-word, even though the team has changed its name twice.
Bulldogs submit NRLW application. As I said last week, I don’t necessarily buy the arguments about the depth of talent and quality of the competition as currently constructed4, or that the cons of expansion would offset the benefit of engaging more clubs in the women’s game and the benefit having more, established broadcast inventory for the next TV deal and couldn’t be addressed in part with a women’s reserve grade. However, it’s clear that the depth argument is a concern for a lot of people outside of NRL HQ and it’s not clear what adding the Bulldogs or Souths would do to resolve this. There isn’t a secret wellspring of women’s players in NSW that aren’t in the NRLW (although there probably is in New Zealand). A smarter administration would set a roadmap for when NRLW licences will become available so clubs and fans can prepare accordingly. I’m not holding my breath.
The ARLC bought another hotel, with the Quest adjacent Shark Park joining Gambaro Hotel on Caxton Street in the portfolio. Peter V’Landys’ stated aim is to expand the game’s asset base and so far has made two purchases, the latter for an undisclosed value, whose yield is deeply tied to the rugby league trade. The ARLC should consider starting a dry cleaning chemical transactional holding company.
“This week the footy spotlight shines on Brisbane as it hosts more finals in the major men’s codes than either Sydney or Melbourne.” What a satisfying opening sentence. And I think the final sentence, “Sherrin or Steeden? This week in Brisbane, that question misses the point” reflects a better understanding of the state of play here than you get from Sydney- or Melbourne-based administrators and media pasting their pathos onto another city.
Congratulations to all the QRL award winners.
Dolphins hit with a breach notice for inducing Deine Mariner to break his contract. The fine is $50k, so let's not get too excited. Mariner is signed with the Broncos until 2027. If only the fine was paid to the Broncos, the party actually harmed in this case, so they could use it to pay the fine the NRL will levy for Brisbane attempting to tap up Ben Hunt.
This past weekend was the first round of NRL finals not played in Sydney since week 2, 2016 (obviously skipping over the 2021 series that was played entirely in Queensland due to the then-novel coronavirus).
Dolphins are adding a home game at Suncorp to memberships. Presumably this will come at the expense of the Dolphins’ “home” game in Perth, so was always going to happen, irrespective of their crowds this season. That’s eight at Suncorp, three at Redcliffe and (presumably, although it unstated in the release) one at Sunny Coast in 2024. The Dolphins’ 32,250 average over seven games at Suncorp is a better home attendance than any team in the league bar the Broncos’ 33,793 at the same stadium.5
An interesting, but perhaps unsurprising given the above, list. Seems Sydneysiders will only turn out for rugby league if you pair it with nauseating patriotism.
Also begs the question whether it is time to relocate Souths to Perth? I’m just asking questions. Specifically, I’m asking questions about a club that has drawn a decent home crowd to a regular season game in Sydney once in the last half century and whether that club is moribund in its current guise.
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The Tigers have not clued in that this race isn’t about who has the biggest financial schlong but are getting this stuff printed anyway.
Sometimes you might get higher attendances in exchange but often these ideas are just bad, full stop.
As if the NRL wouldn’t have taken the Warriors player contracts and handed them to the Dolphins if the Warriors franchise had fallen over at any point between 2020 and 2022. Their reward is that they’re still in business.
While I acknowledge the available supply of under 19s has been tapped up for various clubs, the quality of play in 2023 is miles ahead of where it was even in 2018.
Neither include Magic Round attendances.