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THE WEEKLY: Titans (?!) save the Misère
Queensland clubs have a rough weekend except for the Titans, Flynn Camilleri, NRLW draw, women's Origin, Magnus Carlsen, the international game
Titans (?!) save the Misère
Back in round 1, all four of the Queensland NRL clubs won their games. I called this a “Queensland Grand Slam” because there's four of them - just like a grand slam in baseball scores four runs and there are four grand slam tournaments in tennis - and it sounded good.
“Slam”, in the sense of winning every trick in a card game, originated in whist in the mid-17th century and eventually became a “grand slam” in bridge and from there, to baseball, tennis and other sports. That means the opposite of a grand slam is “misère”, which is, to quote Wikipedia, “the player who bids misère undertakes to win no tricks or as few as possible, usually at no trump, in the round to be played”. We will ignore that winning no tricks would actually mean winning the game if the player did indeed bid misère.
We didn't quite get the Misère because the usually mercurial Titans took care of a Trbojevic-less Sea Eagles side in a surprisingly sensible manner. That was all that saved the collective blushes after the Cowboys got pantsed, the Broncos got pantsed in the second half and the Dolphins spent twenty minutes with their pants around their ankles before pulling them up and taking the Raiders to golden point and then still losing.
I didn’t do any NRL QWs this weekend because I didn’t think it was particularly useful to stay up to 11.30 each night pumping out the same takes as last week. Like a piece of meat that I'm pretending to know how to cook, I wanted to let the narratives rest for a minute. Instead, you’ll get a couple of QCup QWs later in the week and longer read in the vein of Conflict on Caxton, Broncos at the Heart of Brisbane and Dawn of the Dolphins for Magic Round next weekend.
I don't think the results were terribly unexpected and can be used to confirm the narratives. The Broncos are good but not great, and decidedly more average without Haas, and rarely clinical in any case1. The Dolphins are the NRL's median team but show a simple resolve to keep going, unless they are horribly out-classed and then they pack up and wait for next week. The Titans are chaotic and are as likely to play a royal flush to beat the Storm’s four of a kind, as be unable to top the Dolphins’ three of a kind. The Cowboys are bad in a way no one seems to be able to cleanly diagnose but I suspect it starts with a weak pack that will have neither Taumalolo nor Nanai for the next month. There's just the faintest whiff of Vlandoball in the air to boot.
We’ll touch more on the Cowboys in this week’s Stats Drop, if that’s of interest.
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Moment of the Weekend
Port Moresby might be the last place in the world you want to get a significant spinal injury, say from landing on your head from the height of about Brandon Nima's shoulder. Fortunately for Flynn Camilleri of the Mackay Cutters, he miraculously manages to not only score the try but also brace his impact with his arm, roll onto his shoulder and claim it all in one movement.
More on this game on Wednesday.
NRLW draw drops
The NRLW season will kick off at 12.50pm on 22 July with North Queensland playing the Gold Coast in the first women’s edition of The Semi-Classic.
The women are getting every game on free-to-air and on Fox, which is good exposure, but the scheduling is all over the place once more. The Broncos and Titans will kick off at 5.40pm on a Thursday night at the Gabba, which is the same night as Australia versus Nigeria in the women’s World Cup at
Suncorp Brisbane Stadium. Good luck negotiating Brisbane that night, especially around the Gabba which famously never has traffic snarls during major events. At least five more games are slated to kick off in the morning, to fit in around the NRLM’s scheduling.
Since the introduction of the NRLW in 2018, the Broncos have played three (3) home games at Suncorp and the Broncos will continue their run of not playing at Suncorp, with home games scheduled at Sunshine Coast, The Gabba, QCB in Townsville (also the venue for an away game) and Totally Workwear (Langlands) in Coorparoo. The Cowboys get three home games at QCB, one at Totally Workwear and one at C-Bus Super on the Gold Coast. The Titans get all home games at C-Bus Super Stadium.
You can do the math on how many are multi-headers and curtain raisers to spare the broadcasters. Never mind trying to build habits around actually attending games separate to the NRLM.
All times are god’s time: Australian Eastern Standard.
Some NRLW games will, purposely, clash with NRLM games. Roosters vs Broncos in round 1 will be on Nine and Fox on Saturday night, while the men’s game (Cowboys vs Eels) is exclusive to Fox, so it will be interesting to see how the audience splits. The Saturday 3.10pm slot from rounds 1 through 6 are up against NRLM games. Rounds 7, 8 and 9 coincide with the NRLM finals, so the Thursday night and Sunday afternoon slot frees up in round 8 and 9.
Scheduling aside, the NRLW skewers the idea that the women’s game delivers no value. Nine and Fox are producing and broadcasting the games at no extra cost, albeit in weak timeslots, provided that the NRL ensures the NRLW draw caters to them. If there was no value to be had, the broadcasters wouldn’t do it (see: state cup disappearing from Nine). It’s unfortunate that the NRL has traded actual revenue for in-kind support, so that value has tended to and will continue to accumulate to the broadcasters, rather than the sport or its athletes.
While the execution is lacking, I don’t particularly have a problem with this strategy but the NRL should be upfront that this is what they’re doing. It would then become possible to attempt to evaluate whether they are getting fair value and critique or praise accordingly. As it is, the NRL keeps making slightly mystifying decisions, like rushing expansion and not increasing the pay to keep pace with the growth of the women’s game, which makes a little more sense with the above context.
As I said last year, the women’s game seems to rate at about 20-25% of the men’s games, so theoretically should be worth about a similar proportion of the men’s broadcast deal. That means we could have full-time female athletes sooner than you think but, based on the current CBA, that won’t be until after 2027 when we see if the NRL is serious about negotiating for actual money.
Women’s Origin announced
I think one of the great things about women’s sport is that you now get a second edition of your favourite sporting events2. It's a testament to the power of patriarchy that this lucrative opportunity has been ignored by every sport in the world up until the AFL invented women's sport in 20173.
Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium will host the second women’s Origin fixture this year on Thursday, 22 June. The first game will be 1 June at Western Sydney Stadium.
It’s good that there is a game in each state, as the years of the Maroons having to travel to Sydney to win was irritating - I don’t think anyone down south realised that the Maroons were being annually robbed of home ground advantage or, if they did, they didn’t care because North Sydney Oval, I guess? - and that was only interrupted thanks to covid with two years on the Sunshine Coast. Presumably the timeslot is for max ratings but its going to take a few more years of growth to fill 25-35,000 seat stadiums on Thursday nights, although it will probably happen a lot faster than people think.
It’s still extremely weird that it’s only a two game series. It seems a drawn series will default to the last winner, like the men’s, instead of something more sensible, like deciding by aggregate, with a tiebreaker of away points.
My outlandish suggestion in the past has been that there be a single Origin shield, awarded over a seven game series: open men, junior women, junior men, open women, open men, open women and open men. Maybe it’s four men’s games and three women’s and, in alternating years, four women’s and three men’s.4 I can’t believe Nine hasn’t already come up with this. Think of the RATINGS.
Souths Logan have won the QRLW minor premiership, finishing the regular season unbeaten (7-0, +128). The Burleigh Bears (6-1, +84), Mackay Cutters (5-2, +84) and Wynnum-Manly Seagulls (4-3, +52) round out the finals places. The minor premier has yet to win the actual premiership, after Valleys fell to Burleigh in 2021 and Central fell to North Queensland in 2022, albeit both finals were very close. Both semi-finals will be at Davies Park next weekend, with the Magpies playing Wynnum at 10.30 and Burleigh playing Mackay at 12.15.
Tweed pick up their second spoon in consecutive seasons (0-7, -126), having only won one game in that time (round 1, 2021 vs Gold Stars, 24-16).
The PNG Hunters’ Rodrick Tai and Morea Morea have been invited to train with the Dolphins. Josh Kerr joins the Dolphins next year through 2025. Khan-Pereira extends another three years with the Titans.
Dolphins vs Eels at Sunshine Coast Stadium sold out in two hours.
Cook Islands rep Chantay Kiria-Ratu signs for Titans NRLW, along with academy products Sienna Lofipo, Destiny Mino-Sinapati and Rilee Jorgensen. Fran Goldthorpe was finally announced by the Cowboys.
The Raiders avoided being the first NRL team to lose to the Dolphins twice, saved by a golden point field goal.
The more noise that gets made, the more likely this seems to be happening. This week, it’s the AFR, where rugby league was once referred to as “rape-ball”. A PNG team in Cairns just about makes some sense and the Pasifika element seems to be going by the wayside but can we please lever the Bears out of the equation? Seems like you'd end up with Australian government pulling funding after China does a Japan circa 1991 and the whole enterprise just becomes the Bears, who then move back to Sydney, after gouging a hole in the Cowboys territory and leaving PNG high and dry, and becoming a huge drag on the league.
As for where such a team would play, if the Tasmania stadium deals are anything to go by, it’s time for Cairns (or Ipswich) to be going to the federal government for money and getting themselves some “infrastructure”.
The Ipswich Jets and Mackay Cutters remain winless after seven rounds of the Queensland Cup. The Jets lost to the Clydesdales, again, handing the newest franchise their second win after handing them the first two weeks ago. The Cutters and Jets will play each other in round 16.
Here are some rugby league faces of calm and serene sanity5:
A Half-Baked Theory
Is rugby league bigger or smaller than chess?
Putting aside my opinion that while chess is competitive and could theoretically be entertaining, it is a game and not a sport, the answer to the question is how you define scale.
More people have heard of chess, more people would be familiar with the rules of chess and more people would have played chess. Rugby league has never had a cultural touchstone as big as The Queen’s Gambit (never saw it).
On the other hand, Australian rugby league alone generates a cumulative audience of over 100 million each year, compared to 250,000 streamers for the chess world championship, and rugby league mints a few millionaire players and coaches each year, so the commercial imperative leans heavily towards the thirteen man game.
Both have a Bluey episode and neither are in the Olympics, so we may have to call this a draw.
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.
Tonga to tour England. While this is being celebrated as some sort of move in the direction of independence for the smaller nations, because they’re SNUBBING the mooted but in no way real Four Nations, it really should be seen as two things. The first is a failure of the NRL to complete the CBA in a timely manner, which is supposedly what has held the IRL up from publishing their 12 year calendar for the international game. Indeed, we’re still waiting for the calendar. The second is a failure of international rugby league to work collectively for the umpteenth time. Tonga can tour England but it shows that there’s no one in charge if countries can agree to do whatever bilaterally without a larger framework. It’s the same attitude Australia displays when they screw over the international game to suit the NRL clubs by, for example, withdrawing from the 2021 World Cup. Finally, there is also absolutely no doubt in my mind that if Tonga make any money on this, it will be squandered by the TNRL.
Meanwhile, England demolished France, 64-0, in both the men’s and women’s matches. Now the English are talking about reviving the War of the Roses, their take on Origin, a concept no one seems to like and doesn't get to the root cause of the problem in any case but I suppose one has to keep going in circles.
The NSW women's premiership final finished 1-0. Not a typo.
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Your view on the precise ratio between those states may vary depending on how serious you think the Broncos’ premiership credentials are, which for me are not likely to be serious at all.
Except the Super Bowl.
I can’t find the quote that instigated this meme but real ones know anyway.
If that all sounds stupid, check out how many sports are introducing or have mixed relays:
We did 20 takes, and that was the best one.
Lack of patience, lack of strategic knowledge, lack of practice.