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THE WEEKLY: Phinsupopoly
Dolphins win, Titans lose, Tyson Cleal, RLPA and NRL fight, the sequel to What Happened to Kyle Laybutt and the U19 Origin teams
It’s a shame the Titans didn’t see the sign.
At half time, it looked like the Dolphins might need the Titans to score another try or two to really give them something to chase down. It wasn’t clear if the Dolphins had played their bad half or good half in the opening 40, with a completion rate of 90%, admittedly inferior to the Titans’ perfect rate, but only six points on the board.
The Tans looked almost confident of being able to crush the Broncos wash-outs that comprised the Red Fish’s backline in the second half, forgetting that those same wash-outs had largely dominated the Titans during their tenure at Red Hill. The wrong Haas, Fa'asuamaleaui, Fifita and neither Brimson were wearing the blue and yellow, which made it hard to maintain the lead in the face of a staunch commitment to playing a fundamental game of football. When that happens, in their good half, the Dolphins wait for their chance and then take it.
I was left unsurprised by the final result, even if Tanah Boyd did surprise me by taking a field goal to send the game to golden point. In 26 appearances in Cup and his previous 55 NRL games, Boyd had never kicked one.
We saw a brief reappearance of Bad Jamayne Isaako, with a kickoff out on the full, but I’m not sure there’s many in the league I’d prefer to taking shots at goal to win the game, especially in as structured an environment as Bennett’s Dolphins provide, a stark contrast to Seibold’s Broncos or Holbrook’s TItans.
My only other takeaway from this second edition of the Brawl on the Beach (I also like the Titans’ Sunshine Showdown) was a vision of Valynce Te Whare working on his agility, positioning and defense in the off-season and becoming a minted first grader in 2024. The Rhino of Waikato looked a little like a man drowning, facing down the Titans’ imperious left side attack, but he coped and he showed resolve in doing so and that’s half the battle. The other half is not getting skittled by your dipshit fullback shoulder charging the opposition on a break.
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Moment of the Weekend
This was a game with plenty of well targeted hits but I didn’t note them down, so you have to settle for Tyson Cleal going over for the least likely try for a big man.
Honourable mentions to Jordan Lipp of the Clydesdales for his length of the field interception.
And this team effort from the Pride to put Julian Christian over.
RLPA and NRL have a slap fight
The RLPA is refusing to allow players to do media duties on and around game day for the foreseeable future, as the negotiation over the new enterprise agreement continues to drag on. The previous agreement expired in November last year and the NRL hadn’t even appeared at the table by that point, despite the NRL hiring Hugh Marks, former CEO at Nine who was forced to resign for fucking his assistant, to carry out the negotiations. While some progress has been made since, at least in terms of agreeing the headline numbers, there still seems to be work to do to finalise the details.
My natural inclination is to support the players but it’s actually quite difficult to determine who is right or wrong or, more accurately, being reasonable or unreasonable. The most interesting conundrum was the NRL’s supposed proposal to expand international player payments from Australia and New Zealand to include Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. The RLPA shot it down. Buried deep in the reporting is the small matter that the NRL isn’t increasing the pool of money available for these payments, and instead Kangaroos and Kiwis would need to take a pay cut from around $30,000 per match down to $5,000. Naturally, this is a huge increase for the other four nations, who are sometimes playing for hundreds of dollars or for free while their governing body pays the rugby union 7s team to go to Hong Kong.
The calculus on whether to retain high match payments for 60 or so Australian and New Zealand players, or to add another 100 to 150 players for more modest payments, is fascinating. While I would like Kangaroos and Kiwis to take a pay cut on match payments to make internationals a little more financially viable, at least until the new TV deal gets sorted out in 2027 where internationals should have some monetary value attached to them, that’s a big cut and I have no faith that the NRL would organise more internationals in any case.
Neither side has done a particularly good PR job in making it clear what their specific aims are, but then perhaps that is because neither side wants to use the public as a bludgeon to get what they want in an effort to act in good faith. Since the media blackout was announced, plenty has been written in the last week, implying that the RLPA or the NRL or both are acting dishonestly, mostly as bad feints to wedge apart otherwise united fronts, so perhaps that good faith was only temporary.
What I would actually like is for the NRL to lay down its plans for how it plans to spend the rivers of gold it has discovered (largely by gutting every other part of the game), other than hand waving at a $300 million slush fund that will be absolutely used for political favours, rather than investment in rugby league infrastructure to ensure that the sport has a future. Some of that should involve paying players more, especially the female ones, even if just to keep pace with inflation but there are other areas that the NRL could (but won’t) spend on.
Players refusing to talk to the media as a means of drawing attention to their labour action has been taken as a slap in the face by the usual hacks who seek to make the situation about themselves, rather than the actual issues at hand. In doing this, they are desperately trying to make this into something it is not. That is to say, they are trying to make this look like the interesting bit, when it is patently not.
The same hacks, appearing behind chyrons reading “Fans lose as access denied to players” on NRL360, as if anyone involved in that show cares about the fans, are trying to convince people this will have a material impact on ticket sales or TV ratings or any other metric that might indicate that the ongoing decline in quality and collapsing circulation is, in fact, not happening and actually, journalists remain Very Important despite all evidence to the contrary, not least that most of them have only ever practiced something closer to stenography than journalism.
One wonders how they will ever fill their column inches without being able to regurgitate the words of players that somehow have no informational content.
Somehow I think they’ll be fine. They haven’t even tried to bring back the Bears yet.
Also, instead of taking an Origin game, what if there was some sort of combined Queensland and New South Wales team that could play a combined New Zealand team? I think that would be neat.
Scramble for Queensland
The sequel to What Happened to Kyle Laybutt? went out yesterday.
When I wrote the Laybutt piece, I thought the sequel would come out a lot sooner but the draft I had lacked a hook to hang it on, and so I waited for something to happen. I even considered making my own enquiries with the clubs. Last week it all snapped into place.
I didn’t build the story around a player this time, preferring to engage in some historical pretentiousness and baiting Reddit with a completely unnecessary use of “Sydney-cucked” because direct thematic sequels often bomb, but the impacts will be the same at Tweed as they were at the Blackhawks.
Guys like Laybutt at the Blackhawks had to make way for the Cowboys’ preferred prospects, a thing I think about every time I open QPlus. Guys at the Seagulls, perhaps the Prince of Piggabeen himself, will need to make way for Titans refugees from the Bears, including Keano Kini, Tony Francis, Ken Maumalo, Fa’asuamaleaui the Younger and Jacob Alick, unless the Titans get a standalone team and then Tweed need to find players to fill the gaps left by their NRL-contracted players.
At least unlike the Townsville case, there’s a bunch of other clubs within a two hour drive. Perhaps McGrady the Elder will join his younger brother at Redcliffe instead?
Under 19 Origin teams announced
I defer to my superiors on the topic:
The men’s guide will be coming later this week which is as good a reason as any to subscribe to RLO.
Apparently there’s a third men’s game of State of Origin this week. Tomorrow, even. Who knew? Not sure I’ve got the juice to get that one out on Wednesday night unless Queensland really cleans up.
The Titans are the first team to notch up two losses to the Dolphins. The Roosters, Cowboys and Knights all have the chance to join this exclusive club before 2023 is out.
Toby Sexton has left the Titans for the Bulldogs, presumably to replace Kyle Flanagan while Karl Olapau is injured from playing *checks notes* lock, and is signed up to the end of 2025. It’s an interesting turn of events for a franchise that only a few years ago would’ve been expecting to run around with Fogarty and Sexton in the halves and now neither of them are there. Instead, Kieran Foran and Tanah Boyd and maybe Ben Hunt will be.
Marty Taupau (new ground announcer voice: Kapow!) extends for another year with the Broncos. Tristan Sailor picks up two more years.
Georgia Hale will captain the Titans NRLW.
Dolphins Monopoly. Dolphinopoly. Phinsupopoly. Dolphonopoly.
Despite the weekend’s results, and that I rarely watch non-Queensland teams these days due to lack of time and that the regular season is 27 weeks long, I stand by my endorsement of the Eels over the Warriors.
Not Queensland: Super League’s grading criteria has been released (I have to say, it looks pretty dumb), Red Star Belgrade won the Balkan Super League for the fifth time and PNG academy launched to identify the next Olam, Ipape or Albert.
Code coming in hot with some good praxis: “While the expansion versus relocation debate has been going on since before Super League, the NRL continues to be left behind by AFL in the race to become a truly national competition. But the reason the debate needs to start again right now is because all NRL club licenses expire on October 31 this year. So if there is ever going to be a decision made to potentially move any of the existing nine Sydney-based clubs to assist further expansion, it must be done before the next license deal.”
Yes… ha ha ha… yes!
“…writes Paul Crawley.”
Ah… the Sydney clubs must be protected at all costs.
NRL North Standings
In beating the Titans, the Dolphins are Lineal Queensland Champions for the first time. Only the Cowboys can take it off them this year, otherwise Redcliffe will hold the belt until 2024.
As a bonus, if the Dolphins win their game against the Cowboys and the Broncos lose theirs, the Dolphins could theoretically sneak home as division winners if the points difference between them swings by about 170 points.
Ipswich coughed up another half time lead, going down to Townsville, 40-26. PNG ran Burleigh close in a physical affair filled with cool Morea Morea moments, 30-22. Easts smashed Western in the ten minutes before and after half time to cruise home, 34-18. A late comeback by Sunshine Coast was not enough to beat Souths Logan, Magpies 34-22. Wynnum were never in trouble against Northern, 30-14. Redcliffe snuck home with a late penalty goal over Tweed, 26-24. Norths had the bye.
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