THE WEEKLY: Permian-Triassic-level extinction event
Titans lose twice, Broncos win twice, Cowboys win, Dolphins lose, Herbie Farnworth, Wemb-Leigh and a monstrous defeat in round 21 of the Queensland Cup
NRLM Round 24
FRIDAY IN BRISBANE: The Broncos haven't had the easiest time against the Eels in the last few years. There was Adam Blair dropping the kickoff and conceding the fastest ever NRL try in round 25 of 2017, officially scored in the zeroth minute by Kirisome Auva'a before Semi Radradra put on a hattrick in the next 20 minutes. There was the 2019 elimination final that will only ever be referred to as “58-nil”. The first COVID era game in 2020 that announced the arrival of Vlandoball and the start of a descent into madness. The mouthy Brisbane-based Eels casuals that came crawling out of the woodwork for the 2021 home opener. There was the elation as the Broncos finally looked ready to compete again in round 19 last year and was shown to be hilariously far from it by round 24. For the Broncos to put up their first half century in five years, the second biggest win ever over the Eels and the biggest in nearly three decades, has a certain cleansing to it.
There’s a set early in the game where the Eels attempt to muscle up on the Broncos. Parramatta limit the gains and crunch Walsh, Cobbo, Mariner and Staggs in turn. Carrigan is given a little more space on tackle five, bringing the Broncos to 35 metres from their line. A wonderfully long kick from Reynolds sees the Eels take possession a few metres from their line. The Broncos repay the Eels for their defensive interest and the Sydneysiders look a little shocked that their intimidation didn’t seem to have made a scratch on Brisbane’s diamond-coated titanium Terminator chassis.
It was, of course, never going to work but from that point on, it was simply a matter of time until the Eels crumpled under the relentless, mechanical pressure applied by Brisbane. The Parramatta middle looked somehow both soft and gassed by quarter time. My new favourite play is when Carrigan punches a hole through them and Walsh follows him. They say it's the little things that win football games but Parramatta forgot to do the big things, like make tackles and score points.
Like any great Broncos team, one simply has to wait and the victory comes. When that victory involves a career first double to the nepo baby himself, Billy Walters, and a sneaky pass round-the-back from Tyson Smoothy1 to put Kurt Capewell over, one wonders whether the words “demolition” or “hammering” or “horror show” do sufficient justice to what we witnessed. “Permian-Triassic-level extinction event”, “apocalypse wrought in nuclear fire” or “wholesale slaughter about which a great many history books will be written, not unlike the Battle of Cannae” might be more apt.
While Eels fans might point to the limitations of injuries or concussions or other whimpy excuses, no one was going to cut the Broncos any slack for having to deal with Anthony Seibold, a real cunctator himself, or fielding any of the physically or mentally broken individuals that defined the later Bennett, Seibold and early Walters years, so the less complaining about fractured eye sockets, not learning lessons about non-consensual touching, Panthers-funded abortions, Make-a-Wish chemotherapy-enduring fullbacks and Bailey Simonsson, the better.
There are now only four games between the Broncos and the grand final.
FRIDAY IN SYDNEY: The Gold Coast Titans fulfilled their contractual obligation to complete eighty (80) minutes of rugby league football against the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, commencing at 6pm on Friday, 11 August 2023, at Endeavour Field, Woolaware, New South Wales, Australia. The final result: Cronulla 36 defeated Gold Coast 6.
SATURDAY IN SYDNEY: One of the promos on Seven tried to convince me that the Matildas qualifying for the semi-finals of a World Cup was an equivalent sporting event to the following VFL game between two suburban Melbourne clubs. At least Nine had the grace to have teams from two different cities feature and the commentators on Fox acknowledged the crowd were distracted through the first 20 minutes (this reality was offset by the delusional assertion that the Roosters can make the finals).
The sterility of the Sydney Football Stadium compared to what the nation witnessed at Suncorp Stadium was palpable but for good reasons. The actual game was neither particularly interesting nor relevant. The Dolphins good half in this one was their first 39 minutes. For what it’s worth, I think Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow is nursing a limiting but not debilitating injury and the Dolphins are so bereft of options, he has to play. Bennett has moved him to the position requiring the least mobility, centre, and put Kodi Nikorima, a guy who can play any backline position but none of them especially well, at fullback. That’s probably as good a summary of the state of things in Kippa-Ring as any.
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Moment of the Weekend
Normally, I’d highlight something from Queensland Cup but every now and again, there’s a NRL moment that cannot be topped. Once Farnworth moon walked his way over the line, I knew this was going to be it.
NRLW Round 4
SATURDAY IN BRISBANE: There were plenty of things to learn in this game. In stark contrast to last week, we saw that North Queensland are indeed capable of a perfunctory and professional performance. The Wests Tigers were a trial that the Cowboys met and passed. While some black and gold fans might suggest that the Tigers would have won that game with Bo Vette-Welsh at fullback, I’ve seen her drop the occasional bomb and both sides were giving away 50 metres a set, so that outcome was far from guaranteed. Failing to penetrate a defensive line less often than Hurricane Hufanga2 managed by herself the week before seems the greater indictment. Moving Cairns’ Tahlulah Tillett to five-eighth over Krystal Blackwater was a noticeable offensive improvement and the Cowboys’ starting pack settling into Harden, Ngatupuna, Power, Long and Weale is a hugely encouraging sign for the rest of the season.
Given the inconsistency of their performance to date (see: the oscillation between ‘the Cowboys are good’ and ‘the Cowboys are bad’ takes I’ve had in the space of a month), it’s difficult to get a gauge on what the Cowboys might be reasonably expected to achieve in 2023. I realised at some point over the weekend that this inconsistency is baked into the competition. The players are semi-pro and the season is so short, so there’s just no time to work it out. Over a longer season, North Queensland might find a level of performance closer to their optimum (or not, depending on the coaching) and a reflective win percentage, but in this format, either it sticks right out of the blocks, it doesn’t, or sometimes you get a bit of both from week-to-week. That’s why you end up with 1-4 teams in the grand final.
While the crowd was fine, we can conclude, as if any further evidence was warranted, that the NRL’s war with the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ has been completely lost. Perhaps a double header of women’s rugby league might have been better attended had the women’s team that Australia is currently invested in not been playing the biggest match in their history five kilometres to the north-west at almost the same time?
The following game had less educational value. The Broncos were patently the better side, both on paper and on grass as evidenced by conceding one (1) try while having two fewer players on the field, but they struggled to put the Eels away. The Broncos won the game in every statistical category, other than completion rate and penalties, and were making over 16 metres more per set than their opposition. Yet with nearly 20 minutes left in the match, it was a one score game and only finished a two score margin. There is still a lot of work to be done to turn this team into one that might conceivably make the post-season, if that’s even possible with the Knights, Roosters, Titans, Cowboys, Tigers and Raiders competing for the same spots. None of the remaining five games on the Broncos’ schedule look like easy victories and a 3-6 season looks more likely than 6-3.
SUNDAY IN NEWCASTLE: Gold Coast never quite got in the game. Their run of errors through the middle phase of the game ended up being the difference between the two teams, as the Knights held the ball for an additional six minutes and Newcastle were skilled enough to convert that into a two score win. It was a situationally efficient performance from the Dames. Sienna Lofipo had her best game in the sky blue and yellow, while Chantay Kiria-Ratu kicked a touch finder that went backwards, and I keep harping on about these two children because they’re the hinges around which the attack pivots while their generational colleague, Jesse Southwell, is being praised as potentially the best ever3. The Titans did well with the limited ball they had but had no answers to the class of Tamika Upton and co. It was an expensive loss. From the three HIAs, Jorgensen and Chapman have already been ruled out of the next game, although Brown at least was fine. With no sign of Fuimaono returning, and with Tarryn Aiken on the horizon, it’s going to get a lot harder before it gets easier for the Titans.
Given this is a notionally Queensland-only rugby league newsletter, here are the Queensland angles to the Challenge Cup final. Former Maroon and star of early 00s sex tape4, Adrian Lam, is Leigh’s coach. His son, presumably also Maroon-eligible, Lachlan Lam is their halfback: imagine a Walters-situation but the nepotism is actually good (for the level he plays at). Edwin Ipape, Kumul and former Hunter, is Leigh’s rake. Other Queensland-adjacent Leopards are Kai O’Donnell (former Bear and Cutter) and John Asiata (128 games for the Cowboys, some appearances for the bad Broncos, as well as the Cutters and Magpies).
Hull Kingston Rovers fielded Matt Parcell (formerly of the 2015 Jets and Broncos), Rhys Kennedy (two games for the Dolphins, 11 for the Devils, and some forgettable appearances for the Broncos), Tom Opacic (37 games for the Dolphins, five for the Blackhawks, and some forgettable appearances for the Broncos and the Cowboys), Brad Schneider (Kirwan High alumnus and graduate of the Blackhawks Colts), Kane Linnett (164 games for the Cowboys) and would have had Lachlan Coote had he not retired mid-season.
In other words, the only way this could have been more of a Queensland rugby league affair was if the Maroons were playing the Queensland Cup premiers. If you’re not aware of the result, then I’d suggest you stop reading this newsletter, go watch the final and then come back to finish reading the newsletter.
While I’m on the record as to having my doubts about the future of English rugby league5, it has its moments.
Leigh winning the Challenge Cup is literally a once in a half century event: they won in 1921, 1971 and now 2023. For a club that was in the second division as recently as last year and has never managed to stick in Super League for more than a season, 2023 has been revelatory. Yes, the owner Derek Beaumont is a bellend and the rebrand from Centurions to Leopards was (rightly) mocked and looks stupid as hell and the roster contains more than a few dipshits and Leigh represent the epitome of the small-town backwater thinking that has dominated the RFL, no more definitely when they were hand picked them to replace Toronto, their rise to the upper echelon of the sport has been phenomenal.
I want a full leopard-print jersey because sometimes this stupid sport delivers.
The Pride held off a late charging Clydesdales to keep their finals hopes alive, 22-20. Ryan Papenhuyzen played a full game, scored the final try and kicked six goals as the Falcons finished the Devils, 40-18. The Bears were not troubled by the Cutters, 24-10. The Magpies beat the Seagulls (WM) eight tries to five (and five to one in the first half), for a full time score of 42-30, on Stradbroke Island6. Cameron Cullen scored a sick try off a chargedown as the Dolphins avoided a last minute draw against the Capras in the Wayne Bennett Cup, 32-26. The Seagulls’ (TH) victory can only be described as apocalypse wrought in nuclear fire or a Permian-Triassic-level extinction event, 72-8, over the Jets. Tweed held the ball for 21 minutes to end the first half (and scored five tries) in a display of control of possession not seen since the 1950s. Easts had the bye.
Only nine teams can land in the top eight, depending on the final round’s results. The Hunters, Blackhawks, Devils, Clydesdales, Cutters and Jets have all been eliminated. Tweed (7th) are playing Sunshine Coast (9th) and the Dolphins (4th) are playing the Pride (8th). The scenarios are:
Tweed victory: Tweed and Pride in
Falcons and Pride victory: Falcons and Pride in
Dolphins and Falcons victory (provided the latter is not by around 240 points plus the margin of Dolphins victory): Tweed and Falcons in
We should know the finalists by end of play Saturday.
The minor premiership will be Souths Logan’s unless Burleigh (2nd) can beat Townsville (11th) and Souths Logan (1st) loses to Central Queensland (6th). Both games kick off at 4pm Saturday.
What a finish to the greatest rugby league competition in the world.
JETS WATCH: The Ipswich Jets lost their final game of the season and will finish the season winless, 0-20. It’s the first winless Queensland Cup campaign since 2004 Brothers-Valleys, the first true winless Queensland Cup campaign since 2003 Wests and the first winless Ipswich team since 1996. After today’s destruction at the hands of the Tweed Heads Seagulls, the Jets lost by an average of 26.6 points per game. That is worse than the 96 Jets (0-15, -22.7) and 97 Logan City (0-17-1, -23.4) but better than 98 Bundaberg (0-22, -32.7), 02 Logan City (0-22, -40.4), 03 Wests (0-22, -30.9) and 04 Brothers-Valleys (0-21-1, -33.9), so only the fifth worst season in the nearly three decades and 347 team-seasons of Queensland Cup. While it may seem I’m revelling in the failure of a club I don’t have any particular affection for, and I am, I feel failures of this scale have similar historic import to successes at the other end of the ladder, and should be acknowledged as such. That said, this isn’t even in the worst percentile of performances.
Tweed Heads won 72-8 over Ipswich. This is: the largest victory of the Seagulls over the Jets, beating the record set earlier in the year; the largest score and the largest margin of victory for the Seagulls in QCup history; and the largest score conceded and the largest margin of defeat for the Jets in QCup history.
The biggest margin of victory in QCup was Norths 92 defeated Logan 2 in round 21 of 20027. It’s the 32nd time a score of 70 or more has been run up in 3,828 matches. Souths Logan were on the receiving end of the last two: 72-0 against the Blackhawks in 2022 and 72-4 against the Falcons in 2019. In fact, of the 32 matches, Logan were on the wrong end of seven and Souths Logan another six8. Tweed have copped it just once, in round 25 of 2016, against Redcliffe, 74-6.
The defending premiers, the Brisbane Broncos, will play in Vegas to open the 2024 season against some loser Sydney team that no one cares about. Sad to see clubs selling their 115 year heritage and taking home games away from their fans for filthy lucre. I hope the Broncos boys have a fun time but not like a David Fifita in Bali-level of fun.
Tickets for the Queensland Cup grand final on 17 September at Dolphins Oval are on sale.
Wynnum and Souths Logan will be Broncos affiliates until end of 2026, thereby securing the United Kingdom of Southern Brisbane and Gold Coast from further incursions.
Jock Madden extends for two more years with the Broncos for an unstated salary as part of a “$6 million retention drive”, most of which I assume will be spent on Payne Haas.
I think the disappointing thing about the QCup finals is that we will be denied a real Jamayne Isaako game.
There was an error in last week’s Watch Guide. My apologies. The person responsible has been dealt with accordingly (executed).
Not rugby league: Rien Schuurhuis competed on behalf of the Vatican City in the men’s elite road race at the recent UCI Cycling World Championships in Glasgow, reprising a performance from a year earlier in Wollongong (you may remember this as the clash that forced the NSW Cup final from Nine to Facebook). It’s not clear how Schuurhuis became Vaticano but if a fervent devotion to Catholicism is all it took for the Dutchman to get an international licence from Athletica Vaticana, given rugby league’s history in Queensland, I think the IRL might have its newest northern hemisphere Tier 2 nation. Could we get the Pope to lean on the NRL to revive Brothers as NRL18? Does Wayne Bennett have another new franchise in him?
Programming note: With apologies to Dolphins and men’s only Titans fans, these two teams will be moved down the priority list over the coming weeks. With the looming finals of the Queensland Cup, the quasi-optimism around each of the three NRLW teams and the Broncos’ tilt at the men’s title (and perhaps the Cowboys as well), there’s only so much time to cover two men’s teams whose narrative for the year is set and are just marking time until they can go on holidays. With all the actual football to talk about, I didn’t even have time to go into Tino being a Titan for a decade.
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How could Melbourne let him go?
The x of y formulation goes out the window when no one seems to know where she’s actually from.
This is obviously not going to be the case. Southwell, like Cleary, needs more time than the representative dimension of the game will afforded them but can do well enough at club level.
Imagine how hard it was to get a sex tape distributed before the internet.
Whether English rugby league can survive the short term seems sufficiently challenging that I’m not all that concerned about the long term.
We all know I love rugby league terroir:
Toowoomba versus Western Suburbs, round 3 in 2003, rang up a total of 98 points in a 78-20 victory for the Clydesdales and the highest scoring game in QCup history.
But dished out one against Norths in 2008, 78-8. Townsville have done three of the last five. Norths dished out seven, Easts five, the old Toowoomba four, Redcliffe and Wynnum three and even Wests disintegrated Bundaberg, 86-10, in 1998.