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THE WEEKLY: "No way to prevent this," says only team to which this regularly happens
Titans make NRL history against the Dolphins in a bad way, Kyle Laybutt, the NRL is a borderline authoritarian state persecuting the Broncos, ANZAC Day reflections and Super League votes
"No way to prevent this," say only team to which this regularly happens
The first Brawl on the Beach delivered both the most Titans and the most Dolphins results imaginable. If you want points and chaos and a team with the backbone of a hagfish, the Titans are your team. If you want simplicity and resolve and a team with a vertebral column, the Dolphins are for you.
This has to be the result that puts Holbrook in the hot seat. Holbrook’s been in charge since 2020. He’s now coached 76 NRL games and won only 28 of them, less than 40%. His only finals appearance was in a season where a 10-14 record got you into the dance.
Holbrook has been at the helm while the Titans have blown not one, not two, not three but FOUR twenty-plus point leads - three of them against SEQ rivals - in two years. No other NRL team has ever blown more than three leads that size. The Titans had never done it, even the really bad ones, before his arrival from St Helens. Once is a mistake, twice is complacency but four times is just straight up dumbassery. These are his guys, he’s had his time and it’s just straight up bad.
Des Hasler remains available.
I understand that the team looks a bit more promising this year than it has in the past, and even I’ve been a bit sucked in, but this can’t keep happening. It just can’t.
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Moment of the Weekend
KYLE LAYBUTT LIVES
Did I choose this because it segues nicely to a link to a 4,500 word long read where Laybutt is the framing device?
While that try was not particularly spectacular, and last week’s Moment of the Weekend was inexcusably weak, and Sua Faalogo didn’t play this week, so I’ll give you a bonus Moment of Tristan Sailor kicking for Souths Logan’s Jordan Pereira in the corner.
It would be too much to compare this to authoritarianism but…
It's fairly clear at this point that the NRL's modus operandi is to punish based on perception and outcome, rather than the actual process. If it looks bad, someone must be blamed and pay a price. If someone gets hurt, there must be a perpetrator to punish. The NRL must be seen to be doing something, even if that action is unproductive or counterproductive, to avoid criticism.
This allows the NRL to sidestep the difficult matters of following their own definitions of things they would like corrected, acknowledging there may be edge cases that don't neatly fit into a category and accepting scrutiny from a moronic subset of the media who insist on being catered to by rugby league, despite offering nothing of value in return1. If there is a possibility that a tackled player might be out for 10 weeks, irrespective of the tackle's technical merits, it is easier to penalise now and work out the details later, utilising one or more of the increasingly byzantine judicial organs the NRL has at its disposal, than it is up to be precise about what's wrong with specific types of tackles, enforce penalties on that basis and accept there will be room for criticism with the definition and the enforcement.
You will no doubt recall 2021’s head high crackdown as a series of increasingly comical binnings, instigated by worried mums around the country and insisted on by an administrator drunk on his own power and ending in what should have been an embarrassing backdown for the NRL as the dipshits that prop up its edifice were shown to be just that, for the umpteenth time (but of course nothing of the sort happened as V’Landys was allowed to lie his way out of it). That this current, largely vibes-based aberration in the usual understanding of the principles of justice comes so soon after suggests no one has learned anything.
Few in the wider public will care because the team on the wrong end this time are the high flying and largely hated Broncos but you know what they say about voting for the Leopards Eating People's Faces Party.
Anyway, it was nice to have Corey Oates and his hard runs and yardage back.
I half watched the Cowboys game and it seemed like they finally came out on top but made it look like the hardest thing in the world. The opposition’s own fans thought they would be getting the spoon pre-season and, while the Knights are better than anyone realistically gave them a chance to be, they have been hamstrung by injuries. Given that might be the toughest two points North Queensland earn all season, the ratio of strength of opposition to effort invested is not encouraging.
A programming note
As people who read the BMD premiership QW last week will know, the plan is to get The Weekly out on Mondays, Stats Drop on Tuesday and a statewide comp Quick Wrap on Wednesday (focussing on the women’s comp for the next few weeks and then switching to the men’s). I also plan to do a Preview post on Thursdays but that really feels like pushing it for time at the moment, so we’ll see if I can find a way to produce it super efficiently later in the year.
This week, I'm skipping the BMD game, as first plae beating last place by 30 is not particularly instructive but if you're dead keen on finding out how Souths Logan dismantled Tweed in words, Rugby League Writers’ Jason Oliver wrote it up for the Seagulls. Stats Drop will follow tomorrow instead.
If I finish part two of the Cowboys and Titans are Sydney-cucks saga sometime this week, that’ll drop next Monday or Tuesday, with The Weekly fitting in around that and Stats Drop following on Wednesday. A couple of leads have popped up, which would suggest it might be better holding off for a little while longer to do some capital-j Journalism, so regular programming may instead resume.
Whether we get to the QW for BMD depends a bit on Qplus but it looks like they’ll do Norths versus Tweed as a featured game, which is meaningless in the context of the premiership and two teams I’ve already covered. Unfortunately the interesting games are in Townsville and Rockhampton this weekend, which means I’d have to go sans commentary. We’ll see how we go.
If ANZAC Day is a day for reflection, then here’s mine.
Dad did the minimum stint in the army in the 80s to get himself sorted out, which was a relatively common career path in his side of the family, and fell in between Vietnam and Iraq, sparing himself a lifetime of post-traumatic stress. It's also where he met Mum and how he ended up in Queensland. Mum’s father did national service and his father was a civil engineer and deemed more important to home front than being sent into the meat grinder.
Dad’s paternal grandfather volunteered for the army in World War II and he was - and I quote my grandfather here - “rejected on the grounds that, being too sensitive, he could not be relied upon to kill anyone”, which is as good a reason as any I guess.2
Dad’s other grandfather served in the Royal Navy on the HMS Curacoa. Let’s find out how 337 people died:
On the morning of 2 October 1942, Curacoa rendezvoused north of Ireland with the ocean liner Queen Mary, which was carrying approximately 10,000 American troops of the 29th Infantry Division. The liner was steaming an evasive "Zig-Zag Pattern No. 8" course at a speed of 28.5 knots, an overall rate of advance of 26.5 knots, to evade submarine attacks. The elderly cruiser remained on a straight course at a top speed of 25 knots and would eventually be overtaken by the liner.
Each captain had different interpretations of The Rule of the Road believing his ship had the right of way. Captain John Wilfred Boutwood of Curacoa kept to the liner's mean course to maximize his ability to defend the liner from enemy aircraft, while Commodore Sir Cyril Gordon Illingworth of Queen Mary continued their zig-zag pattern expecting the escort cruiser to give way.
At 13:32, during the zig-zag, it became apparent that Queen Mary would come too close to the cruiser and the liner's officer of the watch interrupted the turn to avoid Curacoa. Upon hearing this command, Illingworth told his officer to: "Carry on with the zig-zag. These chaps are used to escorting; they will keep out of your way and won't interfere with you." At 14:04, Queen Mary started the starboard turn from a position slightly behind the cruiser and at a distance of two cables (366 m). Boutwood perceived the danger, but the distance was too close for either of the hard turns ordered for each ship to make any difference at the speeds that they were travelling. Queen Mary struck Curacoa amidships at full speed, cutting the cruiser in half…
Those who witnessed the collision were sworn to secrecy due to national security concerns. The loss was not publicly reported until after the war ended, although the Admiralty filed a writ against Queen Mary's owners, Cunard White Star Line, on 22 September 1943 in the Admiralty Court of the High Court of Justice… Mr. Justice Pilcher exonerated Queen Mary's crew and her owners from blame on 21 January 1947 and laid all fault on Curacoa's officers. The Admiralty appealed his ruling and the Court of Appeal modified the ruling, assigning two-thirds of the blame to the Admiralty and one third to Cunard White Star.
As Australia tries to work itself into a patriotic fervour as a cheap facsimile of the American religious reverence for The Troop, powered by the Department of Defence, all I can think is that if any of those men had any clarity in their final thoughts as boilers exploded and steel crushed limbs and pierced organs and water filled lungs, it probably would’ve been that this is a pretty fucking stupid way to go.
Redcliffe beat Townsville in the Mal Meninga Cup final, 36-18. It wasn’t particularly close in the end, with the Dolphins getting out early and staying in front, despite the Blackhawks landing a few metaphorical punches. Hopefully both teams learn to tackle before they get to the next level.
Cowboys confirmed last Monday, just a few hours after the last The Weekly dropped, that Jason Taumalolo is having a knee procedure and is expected to be out for four to six weeks. NQC already tanking for draft picks?
If we're stealing ideas from the NHL, it shouldn't be getting a point for losing in overtime, it should be blasting a deafening air horn when the home team scores a try. The NRL should also consider getting rid of the salary cap for the post-season.
While we're on American sports, the NRL should team up with the Athletics, another equally well-run organisation and long standing Vegas institution, if they're serious about kicking off in Vegas (they’re not). I think it’s funny the mooted Vegas kickoff would feature four Sydney teams, which either represents a gross overestimation of the power of those brands, or a recognition that the games played in Queensland actually have commercial value that isn’t to be pissed away on a meaningless fishing expedition.
Peter V'Landys has never once landed a zinger and talking back to the other codes was one of his alleged strengths. Some in the media’s natural instinct for boot licking means any attempt at humour has to be described as “cheeky”, “brilliant” or a “joke”, none of which are actually applicable to anyone who’s ever heard a joke before. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for some consequences for giving away $30m to Nine so they could keep union afloat, and for insisting on negotiating from a position of weakness during covid while the AFL makes bank.
Two weeks ago, I passed on a rumour that Fran Goldthorpe was coming from England to the Gold Coast. Last week, it was North Queensland, where she could be joining recently signed Kirra Dibb. At a minimum, Goldthorpe is definitely coming to Australia. The Titans have picked up Niall Williams from NZ rugby 7s. The Broncos have, unsurprisingly, signed Hayley Maddick, Lauren Dam and Hannah Larsson. The worst kept secret in the NRLW has been confirmed as the Roosters have signed Millie Boyle but, also curiously, Amber Hall.
The Tigers’ Colts team fielded a young man named Antioch Faitala-Mariner at centre on Sunday, or as he’s sometimes known, “The Holy Hand Grenade”.
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow stays on with the Phins until 2027. They've been quick about stitching up Marshall-King and Lemuelu for the longer term. Smart stuff. You'd be kicking yourself if your club had let him go because they couldn't get the best out of him, especially if that was following a litany of retention failures over the last five years or so, so the club could start Jake Granville in the middle in 2023.
Oscar Pannifex from Rugby League Writers had a good write up on the Titans' Kruise Leeming. I haven’t given him too much detailed attention so far but my overall impression is positive. Still, that this signing may be working out shouldn’t hide the fact that the Titans put themselves in the position of needing to sign Leeming and Mikaele in the first place, never mind how they get used.
Not rugby league but I thought kind of interesting: How the former home of the Broncos can become the home of the Lions. I've long wondered what's going to happen to QEII and this seems as good a use as any, at least until the surplus of SEQ NRL teams means we need another 50k+ venue, at which point it would need to be demolished and rebuilt. Semi-relatedly, I also think there's value in making more of the Showgrounds’ main arena as a CBD equivalent to Dolphins Oval.
If you want to read Our Game by Steve Hadden or Heartland by Joe Gorman, there are multiple copies at Chermside library. There are no excuses to not know what I'm talking about when I refer to these texts.
NRL North Standings
We’ve gone from three to four Queensland teams, so three to six derbies and six to twelve matches, so there should in theory be one every two weeks. The quirks of the draw mean that the NRL North divisional games are front- and back-loaded into the season. The Brawl on the Beach was the last Queensland derby until The Classic in round 17. The NRL North and the Queensland NRL Lineal Championship will return then.
It is important to have a passing familiarity with the world of rugby league outside of Queensland.
No one needs any more coverage of the Sydney game and I don't have any more time personally but if I could clone myself, the clone would do a version of this newsletter that was entirely focussed on European football3 under my byline.
For those who are like-minded but lack the will to watch rugby league at 5.30 in the morning, Kayo are doing minis of the broadcast Super League games this year, which is usually two 18 minute packages, and there are highlights on Youtube. Put it all together and it’s about 45 minutes of content each week, which I think is the perfect amount of time to invest.4
The two Queensland storylines from Super League so far this year are
The sophomoric struggles of Leeds under former Norths Devils coach Rohan Smith. This is his first full season after rescuing the Rhinos from relegation in 2022 and Leeds are currently 5-5 and outside the finals positions.
Former Hunter Edwin Ipape blowing the doors off the comp for the Leigh Leopards.5 As the Leopards' rake, he scored two tries against Leeds on the weekend.
While the former is undermining my contention that Super League clubs should look to Cup for coaching options, the latter is reinforcing my contention that Super League clubs should look to sign Cup talent on the way up, like Ipape, and not has-been veterans on the way down, like Joshes Reynolds and McGuire.
To business and IMG have outlined their plans for reformatting Super League over the next decade or so. Like rationalising clubs in Sydney, the proposals seem to have the general agreement that something like this - a blend of licencing with criteria for the big clubs and more traditional pro-rel for the rest - needs to happen but it shouldn’t happen in a way that negatively impacts any specific club, as if the two can be divorced.
The Super League clubs have accepted the proposals in what must be the most shambolic voting process in the long history of democracy. Firstly, the two French clubs were excluded from voting, for reasons that can be best described as “backwaters xenophobia”, although Catalans and Toulouse were broadly supportive of the proposals.
Secondly, some of the handful of clubs that definitively voted against the reforms did so over concerns about the specific mechanics of promotion and relegation that had gotten muddled in the last couple of months. This seems like the kind of thing that could be resolved with an email.
Thirdly, clubs voted against the proposals when they meant to abstain and abstained when they meant to vote in favour. Mascord has a breakdown of the issues but it seems it wasn’t clear what was being voted on. As anyone who has tried to run a meeting will know, an agenda is critical and it’s unfathomable that this miscommunication could have occurred at this level of professional sport.6
It is possible that some clubs, realising that their votes were not secret and not wanting to appear antiquated, announced that they had voted wrong but doesn’t that make you look like an even bigger idiot? This vote will define the professional vision of the sport in England and France until 2034 and you can’t even use the voting software properly? Really?
Yes, really, because this is Super League.
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Two sides of that coin are that the NRL can never make these people happy so should stop trying, and that the media needs something to complain about because their capacity for intelligent analysis has withered to nearly nothing and outrage is all that fuels them.
During World War I, his uncle “gave up the Jesuit priesthood because he had been assigned to looking after the mulitilated bodies of soldiers back from the front some in orange boxes with no arms and legs, as that was all the facilities available to them” so you could probably draw some lines there.
The Red, White and Blue Observer? L’Observateur de Treize?
Highlights on Youtube is actually a really time efficient way to watch sport, especially if you’re like me, and picked up a bunch of habits during the pandemic and the only way to maintain them is in 9 minute chunks with three ad breaks.
He should be in the running for Man of Steel but that award is as much a waste of time as the Dally M. Anyway, Leigh’s branding and owner are a complete joke but they are endearing themselves to me with their squad this year.
FIFA delegates like to fall asleep in meetings so maybe its not so unfathomable.