THE WEEKLY: Alchemy
The magic of a Magic Round Queensland grand slam, Valynce Te Whare, Rhys Jacks, the death of the Queensland Cup, Ben Ikin is the CEO of the QRL and the semi-finals of the BMD Premiership
The alchemical transformation of state government funds into Schoolies for Dads is done and we thank the thaumaturges at the NRL and Tourism Queensland for their occult work. Their reward? The second Queensland grand slam.
I wrote about Friday night’s Broncos match and my experiences with Magic Round, which dropped on Saturday:
Here’s a photo I forgot to include in the post:
It was early in the first game, hence the huge gaps in the expensive seats.
On Saturday, the Dolphins shed their reputation for slow starts and exploded out of the blocks to take an unassailable 30 point lead over the Sharks and grossly exposing Cronulla’s defensive deficiencies along the way. While Cronulla would put some self-respect on the scoreboard, it was a foregone conclusion and the crowd worked on their Mexican wave instead. Don’t tip against the Dolphins in Queensland. Also, Valynce Te Whare.
On Sunday, a torrential downpour at kick-off defined the Cowboys’ clash with Sydney City. North Queensland smartly capitalised on the errors of the Roosters and sunk a team that never looked much like scoring with half an hour left to go on the clock. Taunoa-Brown, McLean and Cotter put in big shifts in what fans will be hoping is a turnaround in form for the forward pack. I’ll need to see more of this, and in dry conditions, before I believe it.
In the final game of the weekend, the Titans went behind early but, in extremely un-Titans fashion, capitalised on Clint Gutherson’s sin bin by immediately scoring two tries. Gold Coast then seemed intent on embarrassing him at every turn, with Khan-Pereira turning the Parramatta fullback inside out on a break and later taking an intercept off him to the house. Also, in extremely un-Titans fashion, their defence was a credit to them. It’s far from perfect and, despite the efforts of Phil Sami, Sivo scored a hat trick anyway. Still, the Titans did enough instead of not enough, and that’s a big improvement for them.
Here’s my current theory for where each of the Queensland teams are at:
If you can beat the Broncos, then you’re probably a contender for the top four and the premiership.
If you can beat the Dolphins, then you should be in the race for the finals.
If you can beat the Titans, that tells us nothing because we don’t know which Titans turned up without more information.
If you can beat the Cowboys, so can everyone else. Except the Roosters, which really only proves my point, as they are the Sydney Titans.
Naturally, there will be exceptions (Dragons defeating the Dolphins looks like a massive aberration now) but that's the vibe I'm carrying forward.
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Moment of the Weekend
Valynce Te Whare scoring not one, but TWO, tries on debut. I told you it was time.
Te Whare looked a bit at sea on occasions in defence and perhaps he found the increase in pace required surprising but he’ll get there in time. It’s clear he has the power and the strength, if nothing else, to cut it at this level.
Honourable mention to Rhys Jacks tripping over the feet of Jerome Veve and falling over from the scrum base as Wesser Tenza scoots through for the easiest try of his career.
QCup is on its last legs
In March, the Courier Mail reported rumours that the Titans were considering entering the NSW Cup with a reserve grade side if they couldn’t have a standalone team in the Queensland Cup. It sounds like the kind of tantrum people who grossly overestimate their intelligence and importance throw but they may have correctly assessed the level of interest (i.e. none) because even suggesting that should make them a pariah in the state, had anyone cared.
Over the weekend, the same column in the Courier Mail claimed that both the Cowboys and Titans are making applications to the QRL to enter standalone teams in the 2024 Queensland Cup and claims the QRL is “open to the idea.”
While I could mount a series of arguments, both rational and emotional, to maintain the status quo, that the Titans think this is a good idea should be sufficient evidence that it’s not.
Evidently, representation of communities, access to pathways for regional areas, preserving what’s left of the state’s club heritage, the development systems for players, coaches and administrators, and the copious examples of first class players whose careers were made in the Cup as it stands don’t matter to the people who run the Titans, the Cowboys or, for the most part, the Queensland rugby league-watching public.
If it sounds like I’m being overly dramatic, you only need to consider the performance of the Ipswich Jets. Since the pandemic and without a NRL affiliation, they’ve won seven games, drawn one and lost 36. Introducing standalone Titans and Cowboys clubs sucks fringe first graders out of Burleigh, Tweed and Townsville and puts them into their eponymous reserve grade teams.
This creates a caste system, with the Cowboys and Titans in the top tier with access to the most fringe talent, the Broncos’, Dolphins’ and Storm’s feeders in the middle class with a few players each, and the Cutters, Pride, Bears and Tweed joining the Clydesdales and Jets in the bottom tier1. While it’s hard to imagine a club of the quality of Burleigh struggling even so, the others have a much steeper battle and I assume the Blackhawks will cease to exist.
While it doesn’t guarantee a win in every game by multiple scores, as evidenced by the Blackhawks’ current performance (2-5), it tips the scales in the balance of the upper class at the expense of the lower class, a concept very much in line with the NRL’s actual ethos, if not rugby league’s mythological one. Over time, the upper class will succeed and the lower class will disintegrate from lack of results which prompt the twin assassins of lack of interest and lack of money. As the tail end whittles away and the upper class moves out of reach, the powerful will wonder why they bother and detach themselves and leave what’s left of the middle and lower classes behind.
Whether that is a national reserve grade or something else, who can say. It may take a few years or it may take a decade for this to shake out and it’s hard to know what the administration landscape will look like at that time. It’s hard to know if the QRL lacks the vision to see through the simple logic of what will come, or lacks the will to prosecute the fight to protect their clubs and players, or possibly both, when it says it is open to the idea of dedicated reserve sides.
Once that happens, if you’re a player that washes out of a NRL system, there will be no path back to first grade for you because the gap between district footy and the NRL will be simply too large for anyone to pay attention to you. They have decided they can do without you.
Anyone making the argument for the importance of player cohesion needs to understand that most of the evidence that player cohesion is critical, is entirely backwards. Good teams don’t make changes because they don’t need to. Bad teams do. The cohesion results from the quality, not the other way around. It also ignores the reality that first grade clubs don’t promote entire edges from reserve grade. Players come up one at a time and then have to learn a whole new set of combinations with the established first graders, combinations which are themselves constantly changing due to injury and form. Good players and coaches manage, bad players and coaches don’t, which looking at the two clubs in question, is entirely the point, isn’t it?
Despite no other major professional sport in the world organising itself along these lines, rugby league continues to press ahead by ensuring that the sport can only be viewed through the lens of the NRL. We will all be poorer for it.
Ikin to the QRL
The Courier Mail reported Ben Ikin had an interview to become CEO of the QRL last Wednesday, and then on Sunday confirmed that Ikin would be leaving the Broncos for the top job at the state body. Ikin will give up his surprisingly low-paying job - at least, relatively speaking to the amount of dung to shovel - at the Broncos and take on a role with far less scrutiny but far more opportunity to positively impact rugby league in this state.
Ikin and Walters seemed to be fighting a political battle behind the scenes and results, not rationality, decide who wins these things. Given Walters seems to be falling ass backwards into a top four finish, I’d say not having to go past a political rival to do your job would be a bonus of leaving for Ikin.
Given Ikin’s comments in defence of the existing feeder arrangements (quoted at length in What happened to Kyle Laybutt?), he might give the QRL a bit more starch in protecting its turf. Without him at the Broncos, it remains to be seen if Red Hill decides to join the Titans and Cowboys in pushing to tear up the fabric of Queensland rugby league. If he doesn’t slam the door shut on them, I don’t think the Queensland Cup is long for this world.
Family commitments - as in I didn’t think it was fair to leave my wife with a near-three-year-old and a three-month-old for an entire weekend - kept me out of Magic Round. I thought I might be able to make Davies Park for 10.30am when Souths and Wynnum kicked off their semi-final but I wasn't able to wrangle the older child in time2.
In many ways, I’m glad I didn’t. The Magpies were 7-0 entering this game but Wynnum had given them some trouble in their first meeting in round 2 with only the narrow margin of two points separating them. Wynnum got aerial to get Julia Robinson over for their second try, something that worked twice in their previous rendezvous, and the first half became an arm wrestle, only broken when Shaniah Power got over the line on the half time siren for the Seagulls to take a lead into the break.
The Magpies’ propensity for mashing their opposition into the turf didn’t desert them but also didn’t seem to be all that helpful in defending the line, as the Brisbane teams got into the shoot-out. Both sides were more than happy to capitalise on broken play and find points against disorganised defensive lines. A missed conversion on Souths Logan’s Longopoa’s try at 51’ might have been the difference but it was a series of errors around the hour mark that doomed the Magpies, as Wynnum got the upset, 30-28.
Some brief notes:
Evania Pelite looks sharp again.
Jasmine Fogavini looks ready to stamp her name on the game.
Emily Bass did a heap of important work in yardage and out wide with speed.
Can see why the Titans are giving Sienna Lofipo a go.
If my NRLW club needed a three-quarter, even at depth, I’d be giving Georgia Wilson a look.
Kicking off at a quarter past noon, two of the three teams that have a primary colour of maroon in the eight team BMD premiership, Burleigh and Mackay, played the second semi-final, with only a strip of sky blue on the on the Cutters’ shorts to separate them.
The Bears swept out to a huge lead early in the game. Riding a surplus of possession, it was 16-0 after 20 minutes and 22-4 at half time. Mackay didn’t give up and worked their way back into the game, putting ten points on in the ten minutes after half time and scoring 14 unanswered. The Cutters continued to press their advantages but simply ran out of time and opportunities to overhaul the early advantage they had given the Bears and Burleigh snuck home, 22-18. Goal kicking was decisive, with three conversions missed from four attempts by the Cutters.
Some brief notes:
Zehara Temara looks in cold, clinical form.
Romy “Swiss Army Knife” Teitzel was everywhere.
Chelsea Lenarduzzi seemed to be enjoying herself.
If my NRLW club needed a three-quarter, even at depth, I’d be giving China Polata a look.
The grand final will be played at Logan Metro Sports Complex, Browns Plains, at 1.15pm next Saturday.
“I looked over my shoulder and saw it was Yeoy chasing me, Isaah Yeo, and I just thought 'run you little bastard, don't let him catch you'. … I definitely didn't think I'd ever have a mural. Maybe in Dingo, but not in Brisbane.”
I still don't care about the Suncorp surface, especially now that we've completed yet another successful Magic Round. Stop talking about it like it's interesting. It's grass, you losers.
Brimson out for a month due hamstring tear.
Oliver Gildart - remember him? - is apparently leaving the Dolphins for high flying Hull KR. I, for one, can't believe he'd want to leave sunny Rockhampton for dull old Hull.
Bye points: it’s been explained and it still sounds incredibly stupid.
The Dolphins released their indigenous jersey and it looks good. I also thought their ANZAC jersey was relatively restrained insofar as these things go, so maybe, despite what we thought initially, they’ve got a handle on good branding.
Idly wondering when NSW are going to give equal pay to their Origin players, like Queensland does, and if that has any impact on women’s Origin being two games instead of three?
Sareka Mooka signs for the Cowboys NRLW.
Speaking of, the NSW Cup had a Magic Round on the weekend. Where’s my QCup Magic Round with heritage throwback jerseys at the Exhibition Grounds?
Time for my Queensland Cup scheduling whinge, which is, ironically, better scheduled than the Cup itself. It would make a lot of sense for the QRL not to schedule a full slate of games, including the women’s semi-finals, against Magic Round. At the very least, the venues should be Townsville, Cairns, Mackay, Port Moresby, Toowoomba, Rockhampton and whichever is further from Suncorp of Bokarina or Piggabeen. It would, in fact, be the ideal week for Country Week. Of course, there were not even any games on Thursday, with no NRL to compete with, and Souths Logan and Wynnum instead played a rivalry game for the Mitch Cronin Cup on Saturday in Brisbane, while the Panthers beat the Warriors at Suncorp. Assuming I’ve been completely hyperbolic above, if the Queensland Cup is to survive into the future, it needs to accept that future is as a broadcast product.
The QRL has been uploading weekly highlights packages to Yotube of one standout Colts performer as their Heavy Lifter, which I think is pretty neat. Last week was Dudley Dotoi of the Blackhawks:
It is important to have a passing familiarity with the world of rugby league outside of Queensland because this is a parochial, but not an insular, newsletter.
If I was being generous for a moment, I’d guess that the strategy is to keep the NRL in the news in the lead-up to the marquee round of the season, with whatever can generate headlines, while ignoring the NRL's track record of ruining their own marquee round. If I wasn’t being generous, I’d say, we sure are in the “stupid-ass ideas” phase of the season. Even the Pasifika Bears4 has more sense than 2 Melbourne 2 Books playing in Las Vegas.
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At time of writing, the Cutters, Jets and Clydesdales have a grand total of two wins.
We went to a shit park in Scarborough instead, where I overhead one kid ask his grandad about the Dolphins.
The name is a coincidence and if anyone copied anyone, it was me doing it subconsciously and unintentionally.
North Sydney got Dean Ritchie to write an article about them engaging a consultant used by the Dolphins and Macarthur Bulls to lay the groundwork for their glorious return to the NRL, on the same day that Tasmania got an AFL licence. Guess which one people paid attention to?