What Do You Reckon?

News Limited's leading sports columnist, Mike Colman writes for Suncorp Stadium about the issues and personalities associated with the three codes of football played here. Agree or disagree, his weekly column "What Do You Reckon" certainly engages the fans.

May 2018

I reckon this weekend’s NRL round should be renamed ‘Maroons Hooker Trial Round’. In this column last week I wrote that Broncos number 9 Andrew McCullough was the game’s unluckiest hooker to be stuck behind Queensland legend Cameron Smith. Well what do you know? Seven days later Smith has hung up his rep boots and the door is wide open for McCullough. Trouble is, there’s two other top-class players who are dead keen to get through it before him. Wayne Bennett has made it clear that he believes that McCullough is the pea for the job, and Paul Green is just as adamant that his man Jake Granville would look good in maroon. Ask Roosters coach Trent Robinson and you can rest assured that he’ll vote for Jake Friend. Of course there’s only one coach whose opinion matters, and that’s Kevin Walters. The good news for Kevvie is that he’ll get the chance to see all the candidates under the best possible circumstances on the weekend. As luck would have it the Broncos and Roosters just happen to be playing each other at Suncorp Stadium tomorrow night. It’s a crucial game for both sides, but the battle of the number 9s will be worth the price of admission on its own. Then on Sunday afternoon the Cowboys are up against South Sydney in Townsville. With the Rabbitohs’ Damien Cook odds-on to be the Blues hooker and Granville keen to be the one lining up against him in Game 1, I reckon by Sunday night Kevvie Walters is going to have plenty to think about. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon we’ll see Queensland’s greatest-ever hooker running around at Saturday’s Suncorp Stadium double-header – and it’s unluckiest. The Storm’s Cameron Smith and Broncos’ Andrew McCullough won’t be lining up against each other, but it will be worth going along just to see them both in action. There’s little doubt that Smith will become an Immortal when his playing days are over. The 42 Origin matches he has played – and still counting – will make sure of that, but my question is this: if Smith hadn’t played those 42 Origins, how many would McCullough have played? Since 2003 Smith has missed just one Origin through injury. That was in 2010 and Manly’s Matt Ballin was his replacement. After the way he came back early from a serious elbow injury to take his place against the Bulldogs last week you wouldn’t rule anything out when it comes to McCullough but it would appear Origin might have passed him by. It’s not the first time a very talented player has been stuck behind a great one. I remember Queensland five-eighth Alan Smith telling me about his one and only Origin game, the first in 1980. After that, he said, Wally Lewis was handed the number six jersey “and that was that”. Even so I reckon Wayne Bennett wouldn’t swap McCullough for any other hooker in the competition – except maybe Cameron Smith. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the double header at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday week could be prove to be one of the most important rounds of the season for the four clubs in action – especially for the Manly number 7. If the Sea Eagles and Titans are to stay in touch with the leaders they are going to have to pull off a couple of mighty upsets, and if the Storm and Broncos are to be a real force this year they’ll have to be absolutely ruthless against two teams that are desperate to stay alive. It all makes for a fascinating few hours of footy. The double-header concept has been a huge winner for the NRL since it was introduced and this will be the third time that Manly and Melbourne have each given up a home game to play at the country’s number one rugby league stadium. There’s no question the Sea Eagles will make a healthy financial profit from their decision to play on the road, but they’ll need a win against the Broncos to really make it worth their while. Both clubs have been hit hard by injury this season and giving away home ground advantage will only make it harder for the Sea Eagles in what will be a must-win game. Adding spice to the contest will be the fact that a keen spectator will be Queensland coach Kevin Walters who will get the chance to see a host of Maroons hopefuls in action, most notably Daly Cherry-Evans who has made no secret of the fact that he is sick of watching Origin on TV. As for the Titans chances against the reigning Premiers? Well, you wouldn’t back them with my money but given some of the results we’ve had so far this season I reckon anything is possible. What do YOU reckon?

April 2018

I reckon all those so-called experts out there who think Wayne Bennett has passed his use-by date should open their eyes. Have they been watching what is happening this season? Plenty of the negative comments I read about Bennett mention the fact that he “only” won premierships at Brisbane when he had a team full of Origin stars. Well, that’s not the case now. It seems to me the true worth of a coach, and a club, is how they go in the tough times, not the good, and right now the Broncos are very much in the former category. They started the season without a top class halfback, their biggest off-season signing was coming back from injury and way off full fitness and the captain wasn’t much better. Then, of course, there was the controversy over Matt Lodge. Throw in the loss of Matt Gillett and Andrew McCullough, to my mind the two most important players in the team, and you’ve got any number of reasons for a side to turn it up and reach for the box of excuses. So what happens? They keep slugging away, plugging the holes and producing youngsters from nowhere who become household names overnight. Eight rounds in they’re four and four and they’ve just beaten a Rabbitohs side that a week ago was touted as having the best backline in the comp. If that’s the sign of a coach who can’t cut it anymore then I reckon there must be a few other coaches worried about their jobs right now. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon there’s a real symmetry going on with the Reds’ milestone game against the Chiefs at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night. It is Queensland Rugby’s 1000th capped game – and it also marks the first appearance this season of George Smith who must have played 1000 games in his career. Having spent the last few months researching the recent history of the Wallabies, it is staggering how many times Smith’s name comes up, and just what an incredible contribution he has made to the game here and overseas. He tried his heart out for the Reds last year in a side that never really clicked. With the arrival of Brad Thorn and his youth policy this season the Reds showed plenty of fight and potential in their early matches. It was always going to be hard for the youngsters to maintain momentum in the tough Super Rugby environment and they have struggled over the past two rounds. They needed an injection of experience and leadership, and there is no better on-field role model in the game than Smith. I reckon he is the right man at the right time to help give the Reds their second wind. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Nathan Brown overstepped the mark in his attack on Wayne Bennett last week. I’m all for a bit of banter between footie coaches – sports reporters wouldn’t have much to write about if officials didn’t open up every now and again – but getting personal like Brown did after the Knights win over the Broncos was not on. Having worked in the UK for a couple of years I’ve seen blanket media coverage of coach-speak at its absolute heaviest. There is not a word that an EPL manager utters at a media conference or post-game interview that is not reported, dissected and interpreted from every possible angle. Likewise there are some genuine feuds between many of the biggest name officials in the game. Believe me, there is nothing put-on or contrived about the animosity between Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger. It even got physical one time when they had a bit of sideline push and shove while Mourinho was in charge of Chelsea. But even those two would never stoop to making comments about each other’s private lives. We don’t accept our politicians dragging family matters into their debates and I reckon we should never accept it in sport either. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the coaching machinations in Queensland right now are almost more interesting than the footy. The departure of Kevvie Walters from the Broncos, the to-ing and fro-ing over Paul Green’s contract negotiations at the Cowboys and the endless speculation over Wayne Bennett’s future is like the NRL version of Days of Our Lives. To hear one version of events it seems that Walters was frustrated by Bennett’s refusal to let him implement his ideas on improving the Broncos’ attack. Given Bennett’s long-held – and very successful – belief that if you get your defence right the attack will follow, that theory makes sense. But then there is the school of thought that Kevvie was concerned that his dual-roles at Brisbane and the Maroons were impacting on his effectiveness in both jobs. It wouldn’t be easy rocking up to Broncos training having just sacked a key player from the Origin squad now would it? As for Green’s reluctance to sign a long-term contract with the Cowboys, is that because he has been told he has the inside running at the Broncos when Bennett steps down? And if that is the case, where does that leave Kevvie, who many believe is the right man for that job? I reckon it’s the best footy show since … well, The Footy Show. What do YOU reckon?

March 2018

I reckon calls for the Gold Coast Titans to be relocated to Brisbane are off the mark. Brisbane might be able to maintain another NRL club but I don’t think packing up the Titans and sending them up the highway is the answer. The Gold Coast is a rugby league town, there is no question about that, and the NRL should do everything it can to continue to have a strong presence on the Glitter Strip. The problem with running a team on the Coast is just that – it’s on the Coast. The weather, the beaches and the lifestyle make it hard to attract fans away from the other natural attractions of one of Australia’s favourite holiday locations. Which is not to say that rugby league should walk away and leave the market open to the big-spending AFL. The game must remain on the Coast in some form or another, but I am not a big believer in relocation. Rugby league is a tribal game. Fans give their allegiance to a club that represents their town, region, or patch of dirt. Flying in a club from somewhere else and simply saying, “we are now yours, support us” never works in my opinion. I reckon another club could be representing Brisbane before too long, but it will be a brand-new entity, not an old one transplanted from somewhere else. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the Broncos are right in making the signature of Matt Gillett their number one priority but I would be just as keen to lock up Tevita Pangai Jnr long-term before his current deal expires at the end of the season. Gillett is the club’s marquee forward at the moment, but Pangai is the man the club can build its future on. His performance against the much-vaunted Cowboys pack at Suncorp Stadium last Friday night was as good as anything I can remember from a Broncos front rower. The most impressive part of his game was that it didn’t rely on any one element. His defence was as good as his attack, and that’s saying something. The former Knights junior showed last season that he has some sublime ball skills – who can forget his no-look flick pass to set up James Roberts against the Titans? – but it was his overall energy and enthusiasm that really impressed in Friday’s Queensland derby. He was everywhere, leading the way for a side that had plenty to prove after the first round loss to the Dragons. Pangai Jnr credits his current form to cutting back on the fast food and slimming down from a 127kg blimp to a 112kg stealth bomber. I reckon the Broncos should pull out the cheque book and pay the Tongan terror whatever he wants to stay at Red Hill for years to come – and make sure he doesn’t spent it all on Maccas and KFC. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon there was a silver lining to the Broncos’ loss to the Dragons in week one, and that was the return of Andrew McCullough. He might not have played the full game, but just seeing him back on the field and getting through his work without any issues was almost as good as a win for Brisbane fans. McCullough might not get the wraps of some of his bigger name team-mates, but for mine he is the heart and soul of the Broncos and the team will need him to show the way when they play what could be their most important game of the season on Friday night. I know that sounds ridiculous after just one round, but if Brisbane are going to find the self-belief needed to make an impression in 2018, they have to aim up against the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium. I’m not saying they definitely have to win, but at the very least they must put in the kind of performance that proves to the fans – and most of all to themselves – that they have the personnel to match it with the best. And let’s face it, that’s what the Cowboys are. Their win over the Sharks was not a classic by any means. Johnathan Thurston was understandably well off his best, Matt Scott was also short of a gallop and Michael Morgan was on the sideline, but if the Cowboys can still register a win against a top side despite those setbacks, it shows just how good they are going to be at full strength. The competition favourites up against a Broncos side with everything to play for? I reckon it’s going to be a ripper. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Queensland Reds fans saw the future at Suncorp Stadium last Friday night, and hopefully this Saturday they will see the present. The Reds’ 18-10 win over the much-favoured Brumbies was a stunning result built on youth, enthusiasm and, above all, good old fashioned guts. It had Brad Thorn written all over it. With five players aged 21 or under the Reds could have been expected to buckle late in the game but if anything they got stronger. It is that sort of mental and physical fortitude that Thorn epitomised throughout his incredible career and now he is instilling it in the next generation of Queensland rugby. Saturday night’s Suncorp Stadium showdown with the Bulls from South Africa will be another huge test. The demands of professional rugby take a huge toll on young bodies and minds and backing up week after week will be a tough ask, but on what they showed on Friday this team is building a platform that will win back the respect – and fans – that have been lost over the last few seasons. I reckon in two or three years we will look back at the signing of Brad Thorn as one of the most significant moments in Queensland rugby history. What do YOU reckon?

February 2018

I reckon the decision to hold an Origin game in Adelaide makes as much sense as holding that one in the US back in 1987. No offense to South Australian rugby league supporters, but their State deserves an Origin game as much as California did. I’ve got no problem with Adelaide having an NRL team. If they can raise the dough and put together a decent side, good luck to them. It’s the same with Melbourne. The Storm is a champion outfit and they bring a lot to the competition. It’s just Origin where I draw the line, and the NRL should do the same. As I have said time and time again, Origin isn’t just a game. It is a tribal contest between Queensland and NSW, and it should be played in Queensland and NSW. Simple as that. It represents passion and tradition and history. To sell it off to the highest bidder is simply not on. I heard an NRL official this week saying how they had to take the game on the road to raise the necessary money to put into grass roots development. Sorry, but if you can’t run the game with the huge money that the broadcast deals bring in then you’re either not getting enough or spending too much. I reckon if people from Melbourne or Perth or Adelaide – or Long Beach, California, for that matter - want to watch an Origin game they should come to Brisbane or Sydney. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the sighs of relief when Cowboys coach Paul Green named his side for Saturday’s pre-season trial against Wests Tigers would have travelled all the way to Brisbane. There at the top of the list was Johnathan Thurston. While seeing JT back on deck, even if only for 20 minutes or so, will mean everything to Cowboys fans hoping to go one step further in the premiership than last year’s second spot , it will be even more exciting to everyone planning to get along to Suncorp Stadium on Friday February 23. The JT-Cameron Smith testimonial match is without doubt the most eagerly anticipated trial game in the history of rugby league. Green wouldn’t even consider risking JT if he wasn’t 100 per cent fit, so confirmation that he will face the Tigers means everything is on track for the grand final replay. With proceeds from the match going to charity, both sides keen to put on an entertaining show and Queenslanders turning out in numbers to salute their Origin heroes, I reckon this is going be a night to remember. What do YOU reckon?

January 2018

I reckon Queensland Reds supporters should get along to the Global Tens at Suncorp Stadium on February 9-10 if they want a preview of how their side is going to perform this season. Anyone who thinks this tournament is just a bit of pre-season fun obviously doesn’t know Brad Thorn. When it comes to football Brad doesn’t do fun. In fact, his favourite word when it comes to rugby is ‘war’. Ok, I admit that might be taking it a bit far, but who is going to tell that to Brad Thorn? Either way, I can’t see him taking it anything but seriously. After the steady downslide the Reds have suffered since winning the Super 12 in 2011, Brad has a huge job on his hands to restore pride and credibility. Having seen first-hand the way he turned around the Queensland Country side last season – taking them from wooden-spooners to national champions – I have no doubts that he can do the business at the Reds, but it won’t be easy. He has retained faith with many of the youngsters who did the right thing by him in the NRC and is currently melding them together with the experienced old-heads like Scott Higginbotham, James Slipper and George Smith, but there’s not a minute to waste. Brad showed he means business when he sacked Quade Cooper and I reckon we’ll see even more of his intent when the Reds take on some of the best from New Zealand, Fiji and France at the Global Tens. What do YOU reckon?

December 2017

I reckon 2017 is going to take some beating as the best year Suncorp Stadium has ever had in terms of unforgettable sporting events and mind-blowing entertainment. Considering Suncorp took on the naming rights in 1994 before the major redevelopment into Australia’s premier rectangular stadium in 2003, that’s saying something, but the top five events for the year set the bar pretty high. First up you’d have to put the Jeff Horn-Manny Pacquaio Battle of Brisbane. With 51,000 fans and the local kid beating the 11-time world champ, it was one for the ages but don’t take our word for it. The Sports Federation of Queensland voted it the Sporting Event of the Year. At number two I’ve gone for Australia’s Rugby League World Cup final win over England, a match that - like the tournament itself - delivered far more than many expected. Anyone predicting a 6-nil score-line before the game would have been laughed at, but this was a real old-fashioned bash and barge Test match that revived memories of the mighty battles between these two great rivals in the 1960s and 70s. Third place goes to the Bledisloe Cup game that saw the Wallabies defy their critics to upset the mighty world champions in a 23-18 thriller and end a seven-match losing streak in the process. We couldn’t have a Suncorp Stadium Top 5 without an Origin series-clinching win, and while the 22-6 scoreline lacked the closeness, drama and JT-inspired theatre of Game 2 in Sydney, rubbing the Blues’ noses in the turf in the decider was something to savour. Finally a non-sporting highlight: Paul McCartney’s unbelievable concert in which the 75-year old ex-Beatle defied the years and the threatening skies to put on arguably the best show ever seen at the Stadium. I reckon 2018 is going to have to be something out of the box to beat that line-up – but I’m sure looking forward to seeing it try. What do YOU reckon?

November 2017

I reckon Saturday night's Rugby league World Cup final at Suncorp Stadium will be the biggest Test match we’ve seen since 2008 which, incidentally, was when the Wayne Bennett-inspired Kiwis did a job on the Aussies in the same match at the same venue. Given that Bennett is now in charge of England in the showdown against Mal Meninga’s Kangaroos it’s shaping as an absolute classic, with both keen to show on the biggest stage of all, who really is “super coach”. Bennett’s side have played well throughout the tournament and are worthy finalists, but the controversial end to last Saturday’s semi-final has left a bad taste in the mouths of anyone who watched it. I still can’t believe that referee Matt Checchin didn’t go to the bunker for confirmation before disallowing Andrew Fifita’s “try”. The game has spent millions getting the best technology available to ensure that situations like the one we had last Saturday night don’t occur. It was the final play of the match, the most important decision of the tournament and one that could have a major bearing on the future of rugby league and yet Checchin ruled no-try without consultation and headed for the sheds. When I think of the number of times referees send obvious-looking decisions in meaningless games upstairs for countless replays, I’m still in shock that he felt this one didn’t warrant a second look. While it would have been nice to see the Tonga war dance one more time, it is what it is - a battle of two traditional heavyweights and Suncorp Stadium staging its second world title fight in a year. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Rugby League administrators should think very carefully about where the next two World Cups are played. This year’s competition has been a phenomenal success and moving away from the growth areas of the game shouldn’t be done lightly. The next two tournaments have already been scheduled for the UK and the USA and Canada, but Blind Freddy could see that the Pacific Islands is where it is all happening and that is where the future expansion of the game should be promoted while the iron is red hot. With two enthralling semi-finals this weekend - Australia versus Fiji at Suncorp Stadium and England against Tonga in New Zealand – we are in for a feast of rugby league, with the final in Brisbane guaranteed to be an absolute blockbuster. But regardless of who ultimately lifts the trophy at Suncorp Stadium on December 2 this is one occasion when we can honestly say that the game has been the winner. The abiding memories will always be the “duelling hakas” when Tonga played Samoa and New Zealand, the incredible crowd scenes at Port Moresby and the unbridled emotion of the Tongan and Fijians after beating the Kiwis. The game of Rugby League will never make in-roads in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and cracking the US is a pipedream. The game should stick with the template that it has created this year, with pool games in PNG, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa and Australian regional areas, with the final in Brisbane. What better example of its success than Fiji reaching the semi-final against Australia here on Friday night? I reckon if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What do you reckon?

I reckon Jeff Horn is right. Conor McGregor would be one of the easiest fights of his career – but that wouldn’t stop me wanting to see it. I admit that I was an early critic of the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight. I thought it would be a mismatch and a farce and I was right. On the first point anyway. It was a mismatch. There was no way a cage fighter was ever going to come close to a top class boxer under Marquis of Queensberry rules. As for it being a farce? Not so much. It mightn't have been a true world title fight, but it sure was an event and I doubt anyone went away disappointed. I didn’t pay money to watch it on Pay TV, but given half a chance I would have been first in line to get a ringside seat in Las Vegas. It would have been one of the most memorable days of my life – just like the Jeff Horn-Manny Pacquiao fight was at Suncorp Stadium. There is nothing quite like the atmosphere at a big title fight. Having been to quite a few in my time, I said before the Horn-Pacquiao bout that the people of Brisbane were in for a treat, and they sure were. The same would be true for a Horn-McGregor showdown at Suncorp Stadium – maybe even moreso. UFC boss Dana White says the chances of the bout taking place are slim to none, but as Horn’s promoter Dean Lonergan rightly pointed out, they said the same thing about getting Manny Pacquiao to Brisbane and look how that turned out. I reckon it would be an absolute blast. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Australia will make the Rugby League World Cup final at Suncorp Stadium on December 2. No great shock about that, but I reckon the team they will play against is Tonga. Not only do I think that will be the case, I hope it will be. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I believe the decision by Jason Taumalolo and other members of the Kiwi Test side, along with Aussie rep Andrew Fifita, to play for Tonga this year is the best thing to happen to the tournament since it was first played back in 1954. In that time only three countries have won the Cup – Australia 10 times, Great Britain three times and New Zealand once. While there is no doubting the improvement of sides such as New Guinea and the Islander nations in recent years, for the tournament to really fulfil its role as a lightning rod for development of the code internationally, it needs the emergence of some more genuine contenders. That is never going to happen if the best Polynesian players continue to turn out for Australia and New Zealand. The rules of the World Cup were designed to make it possible for eligible players to cross from one country to another without jeopardising future selection, but up until now none had done it when already named by one of the three “superpowers”. Taumalolo and Fifita, two of the biggest names in the game, have opened the door for others to follow. Not only that, the opening performances of Tonga and Fiji showed that they cannot be taken lightly by any other team in the world. I reckon Tonga can make it all the way to the final and once there, as New Zealand showed against Australia at Suncorp Stadium in 2008, anything can happen. What do YOU reckon?

October 2017

I reckon Kevvie Walters’ appointment as Wayne Bennett’s assistant is the most momentous signing at the Broncos since a little halfback from Ipswich named Allan Langer put pen to paper back in 1988. When Kevvie was sacked from Bennett's staff in 2005 you would have got long odds of him ever filling the head coach’s role at his old club, but by welcoming him back into the fold Bennett has all but anointed him his successor. Those past 12 years haven’t always been easy for Kev but from Ipswich to France to Melbourne to Newcastle and back to Brisbane he has served possibly the most arduous and ultimately successful coaching apprenticeship in the game’s history culminating, of course, in his outstanding performance with the 2017 Maroons. There have been plenty of Bennett’s former assistants who have stepped into the Supercoach’s giant shoes when he has moved on, such as Ivan Henjak, Steve Price, Rick Stone and Anthony Griffin, but none has lasted long. Current assistant Jason Demetriou was strongly tipped to take over at the Broncos when Bennett finally calls it a day, and Cowboys coach Paul Green was also said to be the man, but the guesswork can finally end. All going to plan, Kevvie will finnally get the job he has wanted all his career – and I reckon the club will be in the best of hands. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the Wallabies will give the All Blacks a run for their money on Saturday night. Before you start calling me all those names that some of you came up with when I suggested that Jeff Horn would beat Manny Pacquiao and the Cowboys would make the NRL grand final, hear me out. First, there’s the venue. While we haven’t exactly dominated the Kiwis at Suncorp Stadium they haven’t really dominated us either. In the six matches between the two great rivals played at the stadium the Wallabies have had a win and a draw, and the losses have all been tight – one by seven points, two by four, and, back in 2014, by the just the one. Then there is the way the teams have performed this season. OK, the All Blacks have won just about everything on offer, the only slight blemish sharing the three-Test series with the British and Irish Lions, but the Wallabies gave them a giant scare last time out. To come back from an absolute drubbing in Sydney and then be considered unlucky to lose late in Dunedin after twice fighting back to take the lead said a lot about Michael Cheika’s team. It’s been a long time between drinks since they made the final of the 2015 Rugby World Cup but on home soil, with their best forward Adam Coleman back in the side, and it all to play for, I reckon we could be in for a golden night. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the upheaval at the Socceroos this week could have a positive effect for supporters of the A-League. With a new coach taking over the national squad there will be opportunities for players who haven’t got the nod for the Socceroos in the past. Change can open doors that you thought were locked forever. Just ask Brisbane Roar stalwart Matt McKay who was convinced his one-match international career was over when Socceroos boss Pim Verbeek made it clear he had no time for A-League players. When Pim departed, his replacement Holger Osieck had different ideas. He gave Matt a second chance and he went on to earn 59 caps and play in a World Cup. While Ange Postecoglou has never been backward in giving youth a chance in his four years in the hot seat, there has been one thing that his Socceroos have never been able to master, and that is the art of scoring goals. The last play-off against Syria was a perfect example. Time after time the Australians put themselves in a position to score, only to fall short either through inept finishing or poor options. In the end it was left to Tim Cahill - the only Socceroo who seems able to consistently find the back of the net – to get us out of a jam. Given that Tim is 37 years old and aiming for his fourth World Cup, surely this is a major concern. Where is the next generation of Australian strikers? Hopefully in the A-League and now, with a sniff of opportunity in the air, that should mean open, exciting football over the next months as they aim to impress whoever is handed the reins at the Socceroos. I reckon we could be in for some goals. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the Queensland Reds have just made one of their best-ever calls by appointing Brad Thorn as coach for next season and beyond. The Reds coaching job has been something of a revolving door since Ewen McKenzie master-minded the team’s 2011 Super Rugby triumph and then departed to coach the Wallabies soon after. Richard Graham and Nick Stiles both gave their all in trying to replicate the magic that McKenzie and his players produced, but despite a great work ethic and deep love for the Reds, the task proved too great. In Brad Thorn the Reds have a winner. In fact, he is arguably the greatest winner either of the rugby codes has produced. In rugby league he won two NRL premierships and a Super League title with the Broncos, played in a series-winning Queensland Origin side and a Kangaroos Test-series win over the Kiwis. In rugby union he won the Super Rugby title with Canterbury and the Heineken Cup with Leinster. In his 59 Tests for the All Blacks he won the Bledisloe Cup, Tri-Nations and 2011 Rugby World Cup. In both codes he played in sides that won an unprecedented 17 major titles. Of course being a great player does not translate immediately into being a great coach and the Reds did the right thing by signing Thorn in 2016 as forwards coach for the Under 20s Elite Development Squad and bringing him along slowly. He was also an assistant for the Queensland Country side that won just one game in the National Rugby Championship. This season Thorn was given the reins at Country and has currently got the side sitting at the top of the table. The Reds had seen enough. He is ready. His coaching style is quiet, direct and combative. After his team beat Brisbane a couple a weeks back he told me that he was instilling in them a love for the man-on-man physicality that drove him to the pinnacle in two codes. He described it to me as “the war”. I reckon that will be music to the ears of long suffering Reds fans. What do YOU reckon?

September 2017

I reckon the crowd size at the Roosters-Cowboys preliminary-final at Allianz Stadium last weekend was an embarrassment. For a grand final qualifier involving Sydney’s so-called “glamour team” to attract just 28,000 to the 45,000-seat ground proves yet again how far NSW has fallen behind Queensland as the country’s rugby league powerhouse. That the corresponding AFL match in Melbourne between a local club and a Sydney team drew 95,000 makes the crowd at Allianz seem even more pathetic. If ever there was a case to be made for an NRL Grand Final to be played in Brisbane, this was it. With talk that the NSW government is soon to sign off on a major redevelopment program that could put ANZ Stadium out of commission for up to two years, it would appear that a grand final at Suncorp Stadium is a no-brainer. Not if the Victorians have their way. They are dangling the carrot of 100,000 seats in front of the NRL and a big pot of Victorian government money counting on the fact that it will be Queenslanders who will make the trip south to fill their hotels, restaurants and stadium to give them a return on their investment. That’s hardly a good way for the NRL to repay the very people who are keeping their boat afloat all year. I say the NRL should forget about the bottom line for once and support the people who support them. Rugby league in NSW has become a TV show. In Queensland the people get out and cheer on their teams, and the players respond: Origin champions 11 out of the last 12 series, three Queensland clubs in the last three grand finals, 22 Queensland Origin squad players taking part in last weekend’s preliminary finals, Broncos highest average home crowds for the season, Broncos versus Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium biggest crowd of the season … the list goes on. Yes, Melbourne might have the largest stadium in the country, but that doesn’t make it a rugby league town. I have attended many Origin matches in Melbourne and each time I have written the same thing: the people down there don’t deserve to host the “jewel in the crown”. I reckon they don’t deserve the Grand Final either, and after last weekend I’m starting to think the same thing about the people of NSW. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the Broncos’ and Cowboys’ charge to just one step away from the grand final says as much about heart as it does about talent. A lot has been written and said about the Cowboys’ remarkable effort to make it to the preliminary final after the loss of key players Johnathon Thurston and Matt Scott, but the second half of the Broncos’ campaign hasn’t been smooth sailing either. Season-ending injuries to Andrew McCullough and Korbin Sims, and the hamstring strain that sidelined Darius Boyd could have meant the end of the road. You get the feeling that for most Sydney clubs, it would have been. Yet here are the two sides still in with a big show of going all the way. It has helped that both coaches took out “insurance policies” that have paid off: Paul Green signing Te Maire Martin, and Wayne Bennett picking up Benji Marshall for a song, but it is lot more than that. Both clubs have come together to overcome obstacles and, as Jason Taumololo said after Saturday night’s inspiring win over the Eels, “play for each other”. That doesn’t happen in a club without spirit, and for me that spirit was epitomised by what I saw on the Fox coverage of the match. After fulltime, as the Cowboys sat in the sheds enjoying a beer and savouring the moment, a familiar figure could be seen quietly in the background, picking up empties and rubbish like discarded tape, and putting it in the bin. He then took a couple of cans from the ice box and offered them around to the men of the moment. It was Johnathon Thurston, arguably the best player in the game, behaving with the humility of a first-season rookie. I reckon that’s what makes a champion club, a champion player and a champion person. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the Broncos can still give the premiership a shake if they get past Penrith. Before all the haters start bleating, hear me out. Finals football is all about momentum, and there is no better place for the Broncos to get on a roll than in front of their fans at Suncorp Stadium. Right now it’s the Panthers who are coming off a win but I honestly can’t see Brisbane playing as badly as they did against the Roosters two weeks in a row. Missed tackles, dropped ball, by their own admission they were awful, but if not for James Roberts being totally off balance when steamrolled by Latrell Mitchell, they still could have got away with the win. A week off wouldn’t have done them much good. A win against the Panthers will. It’s a big ask. Anthony Griffin has a good record against Wayne Bennett, but Bennett has the best finals win-loss in the game. As for taking on Melbourne, I honestly like the Broncos’ chances. If the Eels can come close to beating them, why not Brisbane? All they need is to get their defence in order and for the referees to crack down on the Storm’s “stacks on the mill” defensive tactic. With two extra men lying on the tackler, you can go to the fridge for a beer and be back before the play-the-ball. I reckon if the Broncos playmakers get a fair shake the likes of Roberts, Milford, Hunt, Boyd and Oates can get the points. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the Broncos’ 52-34 thrashing at the hands of the Eels at Suncorp Stadium in the second-last round of the competition could prove to be the loss they had to have. It’s not often that Wayne Bennett sends out an SOS late in the season if things aren’t going to plan. We all remember the talk about Kevvie Walters being brought in late last year to work with Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford – and how Benny knocked it on the head at the last moment. Which just shows how seriously he viewed the Broncos defensive lapses against the Eels. By bringing in two-time Broncos premiership-winning enforcer and noted defensive coach Peter Ryan to put the starch back into the side, Bennett was going against his usual routine, but it proved to be the right move at the right time. Brisbane’s defence against the Cowboys last week was outstanding, one of the best of the season. No doubt the anti-Bronco brigade will attempt to downgrade that by pointing out North Queensland's injury woes, but don't take too much notice of that. True, the Cowboys were missing their two champions Thurston and Scott - as they have been for much of the season - but they still had plenty of big names, including rep stars Morgan, Cooper, Hess and Taumalolo. Add in that they were playing at home and fighting to save their season and this was no gimme. I reckon when Broncos fans look back on season 2017 they might just be offering the Eels a vote of thanks. What do YOU reckon?

August 2017

I reckon there is only one team with a hope of stopping Melbourne from winning the NRL premiership, with the rest just making up the numbers. Based on what we have seen over the past few weeks I believe the Broncos are the only side showing the necessary improvement, confidence and momentum to mount a credible challenge to the Storm. Barring injury to key personnel (read: Anthony Milford) the Broncos are on track to force a replay of the 2006 grand final, and with some luck and the bounce of the ball, they might just get the same outcome. Of the others, the only team I rate are the Sharks, based mainly on the fact that they did it last year and experience counts for plenty, although even their most loyal supporters would have to admit they are nowhere close to the form they showed twelve months ago. As for the others, you can write off the injury-ravaged Cowboys and shell-shocked Sea Eagles. North Queensland will be lucky to field eight fit players let alone make the eight, while Manly will never get over their loss to the Tigers. With four points still up for grabs neither is guaranteed a finals spot but even if the Dragons and, miraculously, the Raiders make it, they won’t go far. The Eels have shown signs of life but they’re not far behind the Cowboys in terms of their injury list so will struggle unless they get some talent back. Of the others, the Roosters spend too much time running cross- field to worry the top defensive sides, and while the Panthers look to be heading in the right direction and could cause some trouble in the finals, they are still a year or two off going all the way. All of which, I reckon, leaves just the Broncos and Storm. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the Broncos can repeat history over the next few weeks. Wayne Bennett’s rearrangement of the deckchairs after the unfortunate loss of hooker Andrew McCullough reminds me very much of what went on back in 2006. First it was hooker Barry Berrigan who was ruled out for the season and then his replacement – a young kid by the name of Michael Ennis – went down for the count as well. What was Bennett to do? He moved Barry’s younger brother Shaun from the centres to the number nine spot and said, ‘do your best’. He sure did. The Broncos went from spluttering along like a ‘62 Zephyr low on gas, all the way to the premiership, with Berrigan the Clive Churchill Medal winner. Not that Berrigan was the only player out of position on the biggest day of the season. A few weeks earlier fullback Karmichael Hunt had picked up an injury and Bennett needed a stop-gap replacement. Again he looked to the centres and gave the fullback role to Justin Hodges. Hodges was having a terrible season with injuries but he absolutely blitzed it in the number one jumper, so much so that when Hunt was fit Bennett played him on the wing. So who played centre in the grand final you ask? Backrower David Stagg. Which all goes to show that injuries don’t have to derail a season. Sometimes they can even be the spark that revitalises one. I reckon Ben Hunt to hooker and Kodi Nikorima at half might just be the switch the Broncos had to have. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon reports that Kevvie Walters is about to sign a two year extension as Maroons coach is the best news Queensland league supporters have had since … well, since Kevvie signed his first contract. Anyone who took over from Mal Meninga was on a hiding to nothing. Origin is hard enough to coach without having to follow the biggest winning streak in the series’ history. To say that Kevvie has filled the Big Fella’s giant boots with aplomb is like saying Artie Beetson had a fair offload. In truth though, it is doing Kevvie a disservice to even compare him to Mal. The way he handled himself this year and ushered in a new generation of Maroons on the way to a spectacular comeback series win means he is well on the way to creating his own Origin legacy. To my mind it all started last year when Kev banned eight of his Emerging Maroons squad for 12 months after they ignored curfew and had a boozy night out. It would have been all too easy to give them a rap on the knuckles with a feather duster and brush the whole thing under the carpet. Instead Kevvie put his future on the line and made a statement about how things would be done on his watch. Fast forward a year and six of those players - Dylan Napa, Jarrod Wallace, Valentine Holmes, Anthony Milford, Cameron Munster and Ben Hunt – played a part in one of Queensland’s greatest-ever series victories. At the same time the NSW media is still holding a witch-hunt over Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson disrespecting Blues coach Laurie Daley and hitting the grog on the eve of Origin III. I reckon that says it all. What do YOU reckon?

July 2017

I reckon Darren Lockyer was on the money when he said that the Broncos could upset the Storm this season, but I don’t think they are the only ones. If last year’s grand final taught us anything it is that any team can be beaten on the day. The Sharks were worthy Premiers, but given that they were up against basically the same Storm side that is running around this season, there were plenty who felt that the experience of Smith and Cronk would be too much to overcome. That is still the prevailing attitude today with lots of people believing it’s a one-horse race. Maybe, but a lot depends on how Cameron Smith and Billy Slater recover from their current injuries. Cronk and Munster are a good pairing, but there are some other good playmakers who will give them a run for their money. If the Storm are competition favourites, then looking down through the contenders I agree with Locky that the Broncos have strong claims, especially with Hunt and Milford hitting their straps and Boyd back in harness this weekend. The Roosters have been rolling along nicely but I can’t get too excited over a side with Mitchell Pearce calling the shots, even though his club form has been good. Saints look like falling over every week but somehow keep winning, with Gareth Widdop the key. The Sharks have done what they did last year, hanging in until the final whistle, and then there’s the Cowboys. Remember how everyone said they were no hope without JT? Not so much. Given all that, I still think the premiership is the Storm’s to lose but if they are upset, I reckon the team to do it will come either from Queensland or Cronulla. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Joey Johns was right. The Blues have no idea what Origin is all about. That amazing 22-6 win in the decider at a pulsating Suncorp Stadium proved it for once and for all. That was the only thing Joey got right on the night though. When he said before the game that NSW had the best forward pack I nearly fell off my seat. Based on what? Once the rookie Maroons got the hang of things midway through Game II, the Blues were like under-8s taking on the Broncos 2006 Premiership side. The only time Andrew Fifita looked dangerous on Wednesday night was when the TV cameras caught him bursting through the impact pads in the dressing room before the game. When he actually got out onto the field he found out it’s a lot harder when you’ve got four Queenslanders hitting you with everything bar the goalposts every time you even look at the ball. As for Aaron Woods, if it wasn’t for the long hair and bushranger beard, would anyone even know he was on the field? Still, I guess he will be remembered for one thing he did in his Origin career – trying to dive on top of Michael Jennings after he scored the series-winning try in Game 3, 2016, missing completely and falling flat on his face. Not that you can’t blame him. The Blues haven’t had much practice at celebrating over the past 12 years or so, and given the way Cameron Munster and the other Queensland young guns performed this series I reckon that won’t be changing any time soon. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Queensland sports fans are about to be the lucky recipients of the best one-two punch in the State's history. We've been hearing Victorians gibber on forever how Melbourne is the sporting capital of the world, but if they think they can match Jeff Horn versus Manny Pacquiao followed by the Origin decider then they're kidding themselves. As one of the 51,000-plus gob-smacked fans fortunate enough to be at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon to see the local kid overcome the odds and snatch the world crown, I can vouch that it was one of the most exciting, emotive and emotional sporting events this country will ever see. Maybe not up there with Cathy Freeman winning Olympic gold, but still on the podium. How can you possibly follow that? With one of the most eagerly anticipated of all Origin encounters, that's how. No JT, no GI, no Scott, Boyd or Milford, and the Blues picking the same team in an entire series for the first time since Laurie Daley's hair colour was natural. Which means I reckon the Maroons have got them right where they want them, so get ready for the knock-out blow. What do YOU reckon?

June 2017

I reckon I can tell you the winner of Sunday's Manny Pacquaio-Jeff Horn fight before a punch has even been thrown. It's ... Queensland. l'm usually a mite sceptical when I hear politicians predicting the economical benefits a major sporting event will bring to their community. Seeing the rivers of red ink that can flow after Olympics and Commonwealth Games have packed up and left town in various countries around the world can do that to you. This one is different. This time it looks like the Queensland Ggovernment and Brisbane City Council have nailed it- and I'm speaking from first hand knowledge. Needing to spend a few nights in Brisbane over the weekend I went through the usual process and found there wasn't a room to be had. Hardly surprising, given the figures I've gleaned from a reliable source. With a crowd of over 50,000 expected, I'm told that upwards of 13,000 are from interstate and 1000 jetting in from overseas. Manny's entourage alone is around 120 and is taking a couple of floors of one of Brisbane's top hotels. Add in food and entertainment for tens of thousands of cashed up fight fans and you're talking big bucks and that's not counting the international media exposure. ESPN alone is estimating a TV audience of 95 million. Those kinds of figures show why events such as this are so sought after by State and Local Governments. Some turn out better than others, but I reckon this has been a knockout win for Queensland. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Manny Pacquiao could be in for a bit of a shock on Sunday week. The record books and Manny’s millions of followers around the world would tell you that Brisbane schoolteacher Jeff Horn is a million to one chance of snatching the world title in the Battle of Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium but if there is one sport where the record books can be wrong, it is boxing. Last Tuesday morning, just by chance, I turned on Foxtel and what should be on but a replay of Mike Tyson versus James ‘Buster’ Douglas in 1990. Before that fight started the commentator said it would be a miracle if Douglas was still upright at the end of the second round. After Tyson had been knocked out in the tenth, that same commentator was calling it the biggest upset in boxing history. If Horn can beat Pacquiao it will have to run a close second. So, why do I think Jeff is in with a chance? Because the day before I watched Tyson-Douglas on TV, I was at Horn’s second-last sparring session before he takes on the Pac-Man. For the past few weeks Horn has been giving his Filipino sparring partner Czar Amonsot a torrid time. It was no different in the 12 three-minute rounds they fought the day I was there, but the thing that stood out for me was that Horn got stronger the longer their bout went. At the end of the session Jeff’s trainer Glenn Rushton told me the plan was to take Pacquiao somewhere he hasn’t been for a long time – to the closing rounds of a fight against a young, strong, opponent. To hear Glenn tell it, Pacquiao’s 38 year-old legs will be no match for the fitness of the 29 year-old challenger. Of course, just like that commentator said about Buster Douglas, there are many people who think it will be a miracle if the Hornet even makes it past the first couple of rounds. From what I saw in the gym, I reckon if Jeff is still throwing punches going into the home stretch, anything can happen. What do YOU reckon?

May 2017 


I reckon the sun is going to shine brightly on the Wallabies this month. Michael Cheika's men have been stumbling around in the dark since their brilliant showing at the 2015 World Cup, but the staging of three daylight Tests this season will like a breath of fresh air. Brisbane gets its turn when the Aussies take on Italy at Suncorp Stadium from 3pm on Saturday June 24. With the exuberant, boisterous Italian supporters sure to be out in force it will be a flashback to the 1970s and 80s when Saturday arvo rugby was as much about the social scene off the field as what was happening on it. Not that there won't be plenty to play for. After the touch-up Eddie Jones and his England team gave the Wallabies last year, this game will be a crucial part of the build-up to the Bledisloe Cup series that climaxes at Suncorp Stadium on October 21. It will also be a chance for France-based local boy Will Genia to further his case for a return to the Queensland Reds. There's no doubt that Bledisloe will be the main course for Brisbane rugby fans this season but I reckon the Italians will serve up a tasty entree. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Kevin Walters is the bravest coach the Maroons have ever had. With only one series behind him and a second about to kick off, only time will tell if Kevvy is up there with the best Queensland coaches in terms of results, but already he is responsible for two of the biggest calls in Origin history. The first was in the lead-up to last year’s series when Kev banned eight of the State’s best up-and-comers for breaking curfew during Emerging Maroons camp. Picking up the reins following the unprecedented success of Mal Meninga, and knowing that he was the QRL’s second choice behind Paul Green, Kev could have quite easily swept the youngsters’ indiscretions under the carpet and considered using the likes of Dylan Napa, Anthony Milford, Ben Hunt and Valentine Holmes. The Maroons won the series without them, but Walters wasn’t to know that at the time. He made the tough call and set the standard for Origin camps to come, but even that decision pales against the bombshell non-selection of Billy Slater. Leaving Billy the Kid out of the 17 instead of playing him in tandem with Darius Boyd at the back could be a masterstroke, or it could be a disaster. Either way, I reckon Kevvie is playing with balls of steel. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Johnathan Thurston will be right for Origin 1. I base this on the scientific fact that, well, he's Johnathan Thurston and as he has shown us many times over the past 12 years in Origin, you can never count him out. However, in saying that, there is always a first time for everything. As his club coach Paul Green said last week, "JT was always a quick healer ... in his younger days." So if the unthinkable happens and Thurston doesn't make it to the starting line at Suncorp Stadium on May31, who will wear the maroon number 6 jumper? A week ago I would have said Daly Cherry-Evans had a slight edge over Michael Morgan but the way Anthony Milford sparked the Broncos to a comeback win over DCE's Sea Eagles threw the cards up in the air. Then Morgan's first-half performance against the Sharks had me changing my opinion again, but that was before the probable Blues five-eight James Maloney cut loose in the second 40. If that wasn't confusing enough there is now strong mail that Cameron Munster will get the nod in order to keep the Storm "spine" together. I'm not sure about that one. Queensland selectors are more loyal than than a Labrador, so I'm tipping Morgan to start with DCE on the bench. I just hope it doesn't come to that and JT pulls off another miracle. What do YOU reckon?

April 2017 


I reckon the Jeff Horn-Manny Pacquiao world title fight at Suncorp Stadium on July 2 will give Australians something they have been waiting a long time for – a fair dinkum stoush. Over the last few years we’ve been promised some great contests, but more often than not they’ve been over-hyped money-grabs for the aged, infirm or simply under-talented.  Not this time. Manny Pacquiao is one of the all-time greats who, while a veteran of 67 fights, is a universally respected world champion whose fistic skills are working at peak efficiency. And Horn is a young lion with both eyes on the prize. Quiet, polite and modest, he matches astute intelligence with awesome power. One of the things that has really impressed me during Pacquiao’s whistle-stop tour of Australia is the mutual respect the fighters have shown. No ridiculous posturing and trash-talk cynically manufactured for the cameras, just two fit, focussed professionals preparing to give their all on July 2. I’m told tickets have been flying out the door to eager fans in 10 countries, as well as big sales from NSW and Victoria. With every indication that it will be a 55,000 sellout, I reckon this is going to be the hottest sports ticket of the year – if not the decade. What do YOU reckon?     

I reckon Thomas Broich should get a grand-final style farewell when he plays what will almost certainly be his last A-League game at Suncorp Stadium as a Roar player in the quarter final blockbuster against Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday night. Arguably the A-League’s best-ever import – certainly the most successful – some of the German-born playmaker’s greatest moments have been on the turf of Suncorp Stadium. The two-time A-League Player of the Season played a major role in all three of the Roar’s grand final wins at the stadium, earning the Joe Marsden Medal as best on ground in the 2014 decider against, significantly, Western Sydney. The Wanderers fanatical supporters will never forget the way the Broich-Berisha combination sunk their title hopes that season, just as Roar fans remember all too well how the Wanderers came back from 3-nil down in last year’s semi-final to snatch an unlikely 5-4 victory and deny them a grand final appearance. The Wanderers fans played a big part in that amazing win, just as Broich and his team-mates will be hoping the Roar faithful will lift them on Friday night. Anyone who has experienced an A-League grand final at Suncorp Stadium will attest to the incredible atmosphere produced by 50,000 orange-clad supporters cheering the Roar to victory. While Friday night’s game is “just” a quarter-final I reckon if anyone deserves a big crowd send-off after all he has done for football in Queensland, it is Thomas Broich. What do you reckon? 

March 2017  

I reckon the Broncos better be prepared for an ambush when the Sea Eagles fly into Brisbane for the double-header at Suncorp Stadium on May 13. A couple of weeks ago the Round 10 clash looked like it might be a walkover. After the job Daly Cherry-Evans and co did on the Bulldogs last weekend it is shaping up as one of the Broncos’ biggest home games of the season. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a turnaround in form like what Manly has shown. I know there has been plenty of criticism of the Bulldogs’ performance, but like Des Hasler said, they hadn’t been travelling too badly up until their trip to Lottoland. True, they might not have had the wins, but they hadn’t been that far off. I hate to say it, but Manly would have blown any other team in the competition off the park that day. Cherry-Evans was superb. For the first time since he did the dirty on the Titans, he actually looked like he is worth the motza the Sea Eagles are paying him, and he had plenty of mates. The Trbojevic brothers, Brian Kelly, Curtis Sironen, Marty Taupau, Blake Green, Apisai Koroisau … they were all outstanding. I never like to talk up Manly, but I reckon Trent Barrett finally has a team that can take it to Brisbane in the double-header. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon we’ll see something special from Anthony Milford at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night because nothing gets the juices flowing more than coming up against your old club. Ricky Stuart did everything he could to keep Milford in 2014. The Raiders coach says he has nothing but admiration for Milford but we all know how much Ricky hates losing. No doubt he’ll be expecting the Green Machine forwards to pass on his best if they get their hands on his former fullback. Even so, I’m putting my money on Milford. He was superb in round one when he stepped his way through the Sharkies. Two tight losses since will have all the Broncos desperate to turn things around and their halves hold the key. In Blake Austin, Milford has a worthy opponent. The two five-eighths are amongst the most slippery in the competition. While they say that forwards win matches, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these two packs cancel each other out and it will just be a moment of magic from one of the number 10s that make the difference. I reckon it will be that tight. What do YOU reckon?   

February 2017

I reckon Peter Sterling and Shane Warne should go to tipping school. There’s no question that they were both champions of their sports, but as tipsters they’re D Grade. Warnie reckoned Steve O’Keefe couldn’t spin a top, and we all know how that turned out. Sterlo tipped the Broncos to finish out of the eight. Now I know there’s still a long way to go before that question is answered, but on first showing Benny’s Boys look to have a fair bit in the tank. To beat the waning … sorry, reigning … premiers when down a bench player for the entire second half took a lot of guts. So much for Bennett having lost his aura. That looked an awful lot like a team wanting to win for each other and their coach to me. There was so much to like – James Roberts doing what he is paid to do and using that amazing speed, Anthony Milford playing like, well, like Anthony Milford, and a battered Darius Boyd putting in a true captain’s knock. Then there were three less high profile players: Jordan Kahu, Tautau Moga and the newbie Korbin Sims all showing they’ll make big contributions as the season unfolds. For me the only major disappointment was on the other side of the field. I paid big bucks for Paul Gallen in my Supercoach side and he looked like an old man out there. I reckon it might be time for him to be put out to pasture. Like Sterlo and Warnie. What do YOU reckon?


I reckon the Queensland Reds will be the top Australian Super Rugby franchise this season and, given some luck with injuries, could give the entire competition a shake. I know that’s a big statement given the Reds’ tepid results in recent years and, more crucially, the strength of the New Zealand sides but I can’t remember when I have been more excited about the start of a season. When the Reds run onto Suncorp Stadium to take on the Sharks on Friday night they will be fielding arguably their strongest-ever Super Rugby team, potentially even better than the 2011 championship winning side. It is hard to believe the quality of the squad coach Nick Stiles has at his disposal. Stephen Moore, James Slipper, George Smith and the born-again Quade Cooper have 377 Wallaby caps between them; Kane Douglas and Rob Simmons were the starting locks in the 2015 Rugby World Cup final and 32-Test Wallaby Scott Higginbotham will add size and aggression at the back of the scrum. With a world-class pack in front of them I’m tipping big seasons from scrum-half Nick Frisby and fullback Karmichael Hunt. Then you've got two internationals in Hendrik Tui and Leroy Houston fighting it out for a back-row spot, and I know that Stiles is expecting big things from young, aggressive Emerging Wallabies front rower Taniela Tupuo and outside back Isaia Perese. Yes indeed, after a few lean seasons I reckon the good times are about to roll again. What do YOU reckon?


I reckon the Gold Coast will be the NRL’s big improvers in 2017. The perennial also-rans finished strongly to squeeze into the eight last year and they are looking stronger heading into the new season. They have had some losses, notably Greg Bird, David Mead, Luke Douglas, Josh Hoffman and the perennial Nathan Friend, but you have to like the inclusion of Kevin Proctor, Jarrod Wallace and Daniel Vidot. Personally I’m looking forward to seeing how Wigan import Dan Sarginson adapts to Australian conditions – once his feet harden up. Add in a fitter Jarryd Hayne after a full pre-season, try-scoring prop Ryan James and a more experienced Ashley Taylor, and Neil Henry will have plenty to work with. Suncorp Stadium fans will have the chance to see the Titans in action on May 13 when they take on the Storm in the Round 10 Double Header. The Double Header drew 52,500 to the stadium last year, making its return this season a no-brainer. Last year’s two matches were beauties and the rare atmosphere created by fans from four clubs was something special. This year the clash between noted “goer” Proctor and his old Melbourne team-mates should be worth the price of admission alone which, considering the Broncos are taking on the “ever popular” Manly in the other game, is really saying something. No matter which way you look at it, with special Early Bird prices available until February 10, I reckon the Double Header has to be the best value buy of the year. What do you reckon?

I reckon Darius Boyd will be the NRL redemption story of the season, but it will take more than one player to win the Broncos the premiership. The media was full of the Boyd good-news story during the week, and rightly so. The way this once lost young man has turned his life around, thanks in no small part to his coach Wayne Bennett, is inspirational, but in order to lift the 2017 premiership trophy the Broncos will need more than just an outstanding captain. After all, there was nothing much wrong with Corey Parker’s leadership last year, but in the wash-up that wasn’t enough to win them any silverware. So if the Broncos are going to go all the way for the first time in 11 seasons, they’ll need an entire roster carrying the load better than they did in 2016. Obviously injuries will play a big part in every club’s chances in 2017, but it seems to me there are five key players who hold the Broncos hopes in their hands. First up, of course, is Boyd. His ability as a fullback is unquestioned, but how he copes with the added duties of the captaincy will be crucial. Next is Ben Hunt. Hunt took a while to get over the trauma of the 2015 Grand Final last season and, now that he has already signed with St George-Illawarra he could go one of two ways: let the pressure get to him again, or say goodbye and thanks to the Brisbane fans with a huge season. I’m tipping the latter but how Hunt goes will have a major bearing on Anthony Milford’s season. With Hunt taking the heat off him by going to the line and keeping the defence guessing, Milford can be amongst the best attacking sparks in the game. Just like Alfie Langer and Kevin Walters, they are a one-two combination punch but one without the other is only half as good. James Roberts is another with a big question mark over him. He showed glimpses last season of the lightning bolt he could be – but not often enough. The early off-field signs haven’t been good, but he couldn’t possibly have a better captain to show him the way. Finally, I think Korbin Sims might just be the signing of the year for the Broncos. One thing they were lacking last year – and it was the thing that every other top club had – was genuine size. Bennett missed out on the Titans’ Ryan James in a blaze of publicity, but picked up Sims almost in secret. He’s young, strong, keen and fearless. I reckon he could be the Broncos’ dark horse for 2017. What do YOU reckon?     

November 2016 

I reckon the FFA should name a medal after Tim Cahill – and make him the first recipient. When it was announced that the Socceroos’ greatest-ever goal-scorer was being paid a multi-million dollar deal to play in the A-League at the age of 36, there were those who said it was money wasted. They felt that he would only be here to pick up the pay-cheque and that his best days were long behind him. His scorcher of a goal for Melbourne City in his first match for the club showed he still had a few tricks up his sleeve, but to me his real benefit to the code in this country has just as much to do with what he is does off the field, as on it. Take his recent game against the Roar at Suncorp Stadium as an example. The home crowd of 20,198 who turned up to watch was more than 7000 above last season’s average. You can bet that the majority of the non-regulars were there to see Cahill. By his own standards he did very little against the in-form Brisbane side apart from cracking his head open in a duel for the ball late in the second half – and the crowd let him know it. For most of the match they gave him a hard time but even so, he was still standing at the fence signing autographs, bleeding head and all, 90 minutes after fulltime. Anyone he thought that Cahill wouldn’t be giving it his all in the A-League doesn’t know him too well. I’ve been lucky enough to see him go about his business close-up while on Socceroo duty over the past couple of years and I can honestly say he is one of the most enthusiastic, committed athletes I have ever seen. There’s no question that the A-League is up against it in Australia, and a crowd of 20,198 is small change in comparison to what the Broncos attract to Suncorp Stadium week in week out, but if the round ball game is ever going to go to the next level in this country I reckon it will be due in no small part to the interest created by Tim Cahill over the next couple of seasons. What do YOU reckon?   

October 2016

I reckon if the Four Nations tournament in the UK has shown us one thing, it is that the Four Nations tournament shouldn’t be played in the UK. There’s nothing wrong with the concept, as long as it is played in Australia or New Zealand, with a team from either Samoa, Fiji, Tonga or PNG winning the right to fill the fourth spot with Australia, England and NZ. Cobbling together a side for the UK tournament with players from the NRL and Super League, like they have done with Scotland, is a waste of time. They are doing nothing more than make up the numbers, while the inclusion of a South Pacific team in this part of the world would do wonders for the development of the game in their home nation. Which is not to say that an end of season tournament in the UK is a bad idea. The form the England team showed against the Kiwis on the weekend proved how strong the game is over there. So strong, in fact, that it is time to bring back the Kangaroo tour. The Kangaroos are in England for a month now for the Four Nations. Why not use the same amount of time to have a proper tour, fielding the “Emus” against club teams midweek, and taking on combined Great Britain in a three-Test series on the weekends as it was in the good old days? If they are serious about promoting the game in Scotland and Wales, play a Test in Glasgow or Cardiff. They could even have a Test against France on the way home. I reckon that would promote the game in the Northern Hemisphere far more than handing Australians a blue jersey and calling them Scottish. What do YOU reckon?  

I reckon if Mal Meninga wants more protection for Johnathan Thurston on the Four Nations tour he should borrow a suit of armour from one of those castles over there and dress him in that. It wouldn’t do much for JT’s kick-and-chase game but it’s the only thing that will stop him getting belted. Forget the referees. By the time they get the whistle to their mouth when Thurston has been flattened, the damage has already been done. What are they supposed to do, start handing out 10 minute stints in the sin-bin every time he goes down? The way JT plays, the opposition would be down to seven or eight players every week. The key words in that sentence are “the way JT plays”. Now I think we are all in agreement that if Thurston is not the best player in the game right now, then he’s certainly in the top three. And why? Because he is fearless. He takes the ball to the gain line every time and delays the pass until the last possible moment before offloading to a support. That’s what makes him great. If he put the brakes on for fear of getting hurt, or passed deep instead of flat, he wouldn’t be JT, he’d be just another player. The same with his kicks. If he kicks too early his chasers can’t pressure the catcher or go for the ball themselves; it’s a wasted play. The fact that he is prepared to put his body on the line and wait until the defender is in the air and heading towards him like an incoming missile, week in, week out, is what has made every team he plays for a champion outfit. The opposition will always take advantage of the fact that Thurston’s bravery makes the difference between “late tackle” and “committed to the tackle” almost impossible to judge – and Thurston will always put his team ahead of self-preservation. I reckon that’s what makes him a shoo-in for Immortal status. I just hope he’s still in one piece to accept. What do YOU reckon? 


I reckon the Broncos signing Benji Marshall isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds – but it would be even less crazy if he was 30 centimetres taller and 50 kilos heavier.  Wayne Bennett rarely pulls the wrong rein when it comes to signing players and if he thinks there is another 12 months left in Benji’s tank, who are we to argue? Admittedly Benji looked pretty ordinary for the Dragons last year, but who didn’t? They were a pretty ordinary team all around. It’s no secret that Benji and Dragons coach Paul McGregor didn’t see eye to eye, but “Mary” is no Wayne Bennett. With just one season left in his career, Benji might surprise a few people – and it’s not as if he is going to cost a motza. The Broncos will pick him up without putting a dent in the salary cap and if he can fill a hole and lead the youngsters around the paddock when the stars are away during Origin, it could be the difference between squeaking into the finals or snaring a home final. I just wish he was a lot bigger. Seems to me rugby league went back to the days of the “Big Bopper” last season. Look at the sides that finished the strongest in the finals and they all had massive packs and one or two big men who could tear the opposition apart: Fifita, Taumalolo, Proctor, Bromwich, Boyd, Papalii …  The Broncos have got a good honest pack who are mobile and tenacious, but they are hardly Land of the Giants material. I reckon if the Broncos are going back to the winner’s circle any time soon they should forget about signing veteran five-eighths looking for one last swansong and go shopping for hungry young monsters with plenty to prove. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the NRL got it spot on when they set the selection guidelines for the up-coming Kangaroo tour. I’m not talking about whether it was right to leave Corey Parker and Paul Gallen at home or if Blake Ferguson was more deserving of a spot than Joey Leilau – those kinds of calls have always been contentious, and always will be. I am referring, of course, to the decision to put the red line through Andrew Fifita and Semi Radradra. I’ve read plenty of comments from supporters of Fifita who claim that he shouldn’t be punished for simply “sticking up for a mate”. Really? There’s plenty of ways to do that without using the platform of the NRL to do it. If he wanted to support convicted killer Kieren Loveridge he could have gone to visit him in jail. Quietly, on his day off. As for Radradra, the only mystery behind his Four Nations non-selection was how he got picked for the Prime Minister’s XIII that just visited Papua New Guinea, a country with a shocking domestic violence problem. Anyone who criticises the stand taken by the NRL just doesn’t get the big picture. Rugby league is a minnow in terms of world sport and it is engaged in a daily dogfight to attract new spectator and corporate support in a fiercely competitive market. When sponsors weigh up whose shirt to put their logo on, they look at a lot more than the points on the scoreboard at full-time. We will never know if Fifita and Radradra would have made the Kangaroos a stronger team on the field had they been chosen, but I reckon they definitely made rugby league a stronger brand when they were not. What do YOU reckon?    

September 2016

I reckon the NRL grand final on Sunday will be one of those games in which you support the team you want to lose the least, rather than the one you want to win the most.  Yeah, yeah, I know the Storm is chock-full of Queenslanders and Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk are Origin champs but this isn't Origin.  It is club footie, and can anyone seriously say that Melbourne is an easy club to love?  Even the Storm coach Craig Bellamy looks like he is going through 80 minutes of root canal treatment watching them play every week.  Bellamy has produced a well-drilled, professional, successful team that sticks to the game plan and manages to push the rules to the point of breaking without upsetting the refs, but that doesn't make them entertaining, just efficient.  Given me the exuberant ball play of the Cowboys, Raiders or Panthers any day.  And on the other side of the field we have the aptly-names Sharks, man-eaters with few friends led by the Three Stooges: Gallen, Ennis and Fifita.   Adored by the Shire, abhorred by just about everyone else.  Other than for genuine Storm or Sharks fans, it's pretty much Hobson's choice.  Do you tell yourself it's a continuation of the Smith versus Gallen Origin feud, go for the Storm because you just can't cop the Sharks, or jump on the Cronulla bandwagon and leave the port light on for Harold Holt?  Me?  I'm hoping the Sharks win a premiership just so we can finally stop hearing about the fact that they never have.  Either way I reckon it's going to be a cracker with plenty to talk about on Monday.  What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Johnathan Thurston can win back-to-back grand finals for the Cowboys, but it will be Jason Taumalolo who has to get them there.  Thurston was at his best against the Broncos; his skills, leadership and competitiveness once again showing him to be the most consistent player in the competition by a country mile.  Take Thurston out of the Cowboys and they would be a good top-eight side, but they would never win a premiership.  Back on 2011, when Thurston was injured in Origin III, the Cowboys were cruising along nicely.  With Thurston missing for five weeks, and then hampered on his return, they limped into the finals and were eliminated first-up by Manly in a 42-8 thumping.  Little wonder whenever Thurston is slow getting to his feet after the inevitable late hit following a kick, all of North Queensland holds its breath.  Against the Broncos Thurston was everywhere before delivering the knockout blow, but it was Taumalolo who had Brisbane reeling.  His wrecking ball performance was reminiscent of the power of Les Boyd and Gorden Tallis, combined with the stamina of Shane Webcke.  Together, he and Thurston were a tag-team, one softening up their opponent with body punches before the other put him asleep with a crisp punch to the jaw.  Thurston will be the same 100 percent competitor against the Sharks on Friday night - he always is.  The big question is whether Taumalolo can reproduce last week's man-of-the-match performance against a Cronulla outfit desperate for a first premiership, or revert to being the sleeping giant he was against the Storm two weeks ago.  He sais it was embarrassment over the much-publicized "Egg-gate" incident that fired him up against the Broncos.  That being the case, I reckon if I was Paul Green I'd be buying him a carton or two of eggs, pointing him towards the coaches' car park and saying, "Do your best, son."  What do YOU reckon?

I reckon whichever team wins this weekend’s semi-final between the Broncos and Cowboys can book their flights to Sydney for the grand final on October 2. The Sharks showed plenty of guts in getting over the top of the Raiders despite the loss of key forwards Paul Gallen and Wade Graham, but I can’t see them beating either of the Queensland teams in a final, even with those two players back in the fold. The obvious problems that Cronulla have in the halves will be too big a burden to carry. Tell me the last time a coach benched his halfback one and half games out from the grand final and still went on to make the victory lap. Shane Flanagan might have pulled the right rein in dragging Chad Townsend against Canberra, but he has messed with the kid’s head something shocking. If he brings him back for the final, he’ll be a basket-case. If he doesn’t, the Sharks will have to change their entire pattern just a few days out from the biggest game of the year. Against last year’s grand finalists, it is extra pressure they don’t need. As for the other semi, the Raiders have been the form side of the past 10 weeks, but nothing is better than momentum in finals footy – and the Panthers were like a runaway train against the toothless Bulldogs. You’d back the ultra-professional Storm to be too well drilled for the winner of the entertainers in the final, but I reckon it would be something special to see a team of youngsters willing to throw the ball around up against one of the Queensland heavyweights in the grand final. What do YOU reckon?  

I reckon we’re going so see some fireworks from two of Australian sport's most enigmatic and fascinating characters at Suncorp Stadium this weekend. I refer to Jarryd Hayne and Quade Cooper. Both have returned to Australia after much publicised ventures overseas and both are out to restore their reputations to the lofty heights they once enjoyed. You only had to look at Hayne’s temper tantrums late in the Titans loss to the Cowboys on Saturday night to see how frustrated he is becoming as he strives to reach match fitness after a year in the NFL. I doubt that Gold Coast management are too concerned, despite the big bucks and massive hype surrounding his return to rugby league. Hayne is a class player but he was never going to pick up exactly where he left off before heading to the US. The Titans will be prepared to give him time, but being the competitor he is, Hayne is impatient. The Raiders’ thrashing of the Tigers on Sunday has given the Titans – and Hayne – another chance to prove themselves on Friday night's semi-final against the resurgent Broncos. He will be desperate to make the most of it. On Saturday night it will be Cooper’s turn. He is a vastly different person to the will-of-the-wisp playmaker who sparked the Reds to the Super Rugby title in 2011. In recent years he has become almost Zen-like in his attitude to life, but even he must realise that time is running out for him, and the Wallabies. They have yet to win a match in 2016, and South Africa provides them and Cooper with an ideal platform to show they are not a spent force. I reckon witnessing the way Hayne and Cooper react to the challenges in front of them this weekend will be worth the price of admission alone. What do YOU reckon?

August 2016

I reckon Neil Henry is a shoe-in for Coach of the Year, with Ricky Stuart runner-up and Brad Arthur honourable mention. There’s still a long way to go before the final chapter in this NRL premiership is written but I saw enough on Monday night to make me take my hat off to Henry and his Titans. Anyone who said before the start of the season that the shell-shocked Gold Coast would be pushing for the finals this late in the year – and giving the competition front-runners the fright of their lives – would be accused of having rocks in their head. Still, that’s exactly where we find ourselves right now. The performance against the Sharks was full of grit and grunt and, most of all, self-belief – and you have to give Henry credit for that. The Sharks’ forwards have bullied their way to the top of the table over the past few months but the Titans not only stood up to them, they totally rattled them. Paul Gallen might boast that his team’s record winning streak is still alive thanks to a draw, but if you ask me the Titans proved that Harold Holt won’t be walking up Cronulla Beach anytime soon. I reckon Henry and the Titans put the skids under the Sharks good and proper, and Storm and Cowboys fans shouldn’t wait too long before booking their grand final flights. What do YOU reckon?  

July 2016

I reckon all this criticism of England coach Wayne Bennett “poaching” Australian players for next year’s Rugby League World Cup is a load of rubbish. Matter of fact, I believe it shouldn’t just be Bennett who gets to pick the eyes out of the NRL, it should be the Pacific Island teams and everyone else as well. The last Rugby League World Cup copped a bagging in some circles over lopsided scores involving the so-called minnows, but I thought it was a huge success. Sure in the end it turned out to be a three-way contest between Australia, New Zealand and England, but did anyone ever think it wouldn’t be? Those same three teams will be fighting it out for the right to play in the final at Suncorp Stadium on December 2 next year as well, but that is not the point. To me the best part of the last tournament was the outstanding performances of the minnows such as USA, Fiji and Samoa in the pool rounds. The improvement they showed not just from their showing at the previous World Cup, but through the tournament itself, was proof positive that it has a big future. The knockers might say the minnows will never make the grade, but I say look at the Rugby World Cup. In 1995 Japan was beaten 145-17 by the All Blacks. Last year they beat South Africa and Samoa. They did it with an experienced coach in Eddie Jones and an influx of players who had learnt the game in tough international competitions. I reckon that is exactly what the Rugby League World Cup needs in order to promote the game in new territories, and bring the minnows ever-closer to the Big Three. What do YOU reckon. 

I reckon the Men of League got it spot on when they named Darren Lockyer as their Captain’s Captain this week. Some might say that Lockyer was an obvious choice given his sterling efforts as captain of club, state and country during his great career but when it comes to rugby league awards the obvious choices don’t always win. I still can’t believe that Wally Lewis never won the Rothmans Medal as best and fairest Brisbane club player, and don’t get me started on Andrew Johns being voted as the most recent Immortal. If Johns was a more deserving recipient than Mal Meninga, Norm Provan or half a dozen other players who retired before him, I’ll walk backwards to Bowraville. But at least with Lockyer they got it right. That’s probably because it was voted on by former players without the input of historians and journalists. Unlike people who prefer to shuffle through pages of statistics, they see up close what a captain does, and while the likes of Wally, Big Mal, Max Krillich, Cameron Smith and every other Kangaroo captain over the years were all strong in most of the areas required of a leader, Lockyer was tops in all of them. He was a brilliant footballer capable of pulling out the key play when required, an inspiration to his team-mates through deeds rather than words, and a modest young man who always had time for the public and media. He also never got sin-binned, let alone sent off, in his 458-game career. I reckon his was one of the rarest rugby league awards of all time - that being one that will never cause an argument. What do YOU reckon?  

I reckon the Maroons’ Man of the Series should be Kevin Walters, and not because of any on-field master-strokes or motivational ploys.  No, Kevvie’s greatest moment came weeks before the team for Origin 1 was even announced. It was when he banned the seven Emerging Maroons for breaking team curfew. It might seem an obvious course of action now that the series has been won, but the magnitude of that decision was enormous. Here he was, a first-time Origin coach who had fought harder than just about anyone else before him to get the role, placed in a position where he had to make a call which could have very well have cost Queensland the series, and himself the job. In risking everything on a matter of principle, Kevvie showed exactly how much coaching Queensland meant to him. He also showed the next generation of Queensland players how much wearing that maroon jumper should mean to them. With his success this year Kevvie has cemented his position for years to come, but the once-in-a-generation senior players who supported him in his disciplinary action – and vindicated it on the field with their performances – might not be around for as long as he is. In many cases their places will be taken by the players who Kevvie banned this year – and they will be better players for it. I reckon the tough-love that Kevin Walters showed before the start of this season will one day be recognised as one of the most important turning points in Queensland Origin history. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Kate Jones might get to do a lap of honour when the NRL Grand Final is played at Suncorp Stadium in three years’ time. News this week that Brisbane is favourite to get the nod when ANZ is out of commission due to renovations – and better still,  the statement from Tourism and Major Events Minister Jones saying the government is all set to “sit down with the NRL and work out a deal” – was music to the ears of Queensland rugby league supporters. One of whom happens to be Kate Jones. Anyone who knows the Minister will attest to the fact that she is no Johnny-Come-Lately when it comes to rugby league. Ms Jones could not help but be impressed with the spectacular pre-match entertainment that lit up Origin that night and she will be dead keen to showcase the State and the stadium again for the  first-ever NRL grand final to be held outside Sydney. With rival bids expected to come from Melbourne, Perth and Auckland, the Queensland government will have to pull on the boots and stick in the mouthguard for an Origin-style battle, but surely it is a no-brainer. Queensland rugby league has been leading the way for years: best teams, best supporters, best stadium. I reckon it’s now up to us to get the NRL to come to the party.  What do YOU reckon?   

June 2016

I reckon the Maroons’ Man of the Series should be Kevin Walters, and not because of any on-field master-strokes or motivational ploys.  No, Kevvie’s greatest moment came weeks before the team for Origin 1 was even announced. It was when he banned the seven Emerging Maroons for breaking team curfew. It might seem an obvious course of action now that the series has been won, but the magnitude of that decision was enormous. Here he was, a first-time Origin coach who had fought harder than just about anyone else before him to get the role, placed in a position where he had to make a call which could have very well have cost Queensland the series, and himself the job. In risking everything on a matter of principle, Kevvie showed exactly how much coaching Queensland meant to him. He also showed the next generation of Queensland players how much wearing that maroon jumper should mean to them. With his success this year Kevvie has cemented his position for years to come, but the once-in-a-generation senior players who supported him in his disciplinary action – and vindicated it on the field with their performances – might not be around for as long as he is. In many cases their places will be taken by the players who Kevvie banned this year – and they will be better players for it. I reckon the tough-love that Kevin Walters showed before the start of this season will one day be recognised as one of the most important turning points in Queensland Origin history. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Kate Jones might get to do a lap of honour when the NRL Grand Final is played at Suncorp Stadium in three years’ time. News this week that Brisbane is favourite to get the nod when ANZ is out of commission due to renovations – and better still,  the statement from Tourism and Major Events Minister Jones saying the government is all set to “sit down with the NRL and work out a deal” – was music to the ears of Queensland rugby league supporters. One of whom happens to be Kate Jones. Anyone who knows the Minister will attest to the fact that she is no Johnny-Come-Lately when it comes to rugby league. Ms Jones could not help but be impressed with the spectacular pre-match entertainment that lit up Origin that night and she will be dead keen to showcase the State and the stadium again for the  first-ever NRL grand final to be held outside Sydney. With rival bids expected to come from Melbourne, Perth and Auckland, the Queensland government will have to pull on the boots and stick in the mouthguard for an Origin-style battle, but surely it is a no-brainer. Queensland rugby league has been leading the way for years: best teams, best supporters, best stadium. I reckon it’s now up to us to get the NRL to come to the party.  What do YOU reckon?   

I reckon if the Broncos win the premiership this year they can thank Corey Parker. Not because he was in the team this season, but because he won’t be in it next season. You only had to see the way the Queensland Origin side reacted to the news that Parker was retiring to see the effect that same news will have on the Broncos for the rest of the competition. Coach Kevvy Walters said that the Maroons wouldn’t be talking about Parker’s retirement as a way to get them up for Origin II. They didn’t have to talk about it. The respect that he generates from those he plays alongside is such that words weren’t needed. Everyone wearing a maroon jersey on Wednesday night knew that it was Parker’s last Origin game on Suncorp Stadium and they were determined to send him out a winner. The way his team-mates chaired him off at full-time was testament to that. I have been covering rugby league for over 30 years and I have seen quite a few players honoured by their team-mates and club supporters when it has come time to retire, but for the most part it has been the superstars and playmakers who have created the biggest stir. Parker is different. No-one is saying he is not a good player, but throughout his career he has never generated the same kind of media buzz as a Wally Lewis, Alfie Langer, Darren Lockyer or Johnathan Thurston. Yet I’m pretty sure if you asked those players they would tell you that without a Corey Parker-style “bread and butter” type player to do the grunt work and lay a platform they could never have been the players they were. As Wayne Bennett said during the week, “He’s not going to make big 40 yard runs, but what he does is take that dirty hit-up other players don’t want.” That’s why he has such respect from team-mates, supporters and opponents alike, and why the Broncos will miss him so much. I reckon it’s also why the Broncos are going to be just as desperate as the Maroons were on Wednesday night to send him out on top. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the newspaper article this week that described David Klemmer as “the future of NSW Origin” is only half right. He’s the future of Queensland Origin as well. From a fan’s point of view anyway. Like most Origin analysts I have looked at the Blues side this season and seen some worrying signs. Mitchell Pearce isn’t playing, Paul Gallen has said this is his last series, and Greg Bird can’t be far behind. All of which raises the question for Queenslanders: who are we going to bag? If there is one thing that Origin needs, it is someone to boo. NSW fans gave it to King Wally for years; the Maroons in the stands screamed themselves hoarse yelling abuse at … well, how much time have you got? In recent years it has been Gallen, and let’s give him his due, he did a great job playing the villain. Mitchy Pearce was a different kettle of fish. It wasn’t his thuggery that got the Queensland supporters out of their seats, it was his ineptitude. But without them to stir the juices, who is going to step into the role? Klemmer looks like a great substitute. He has a big mouth, doesn’t mind putting his foot in it, and by taking on Corey Parker in Game II last year – and going on with it this year even after the shellacking the Blues got in Game III – has shown that he’s a glutton for punishment. Paul Gallen is going to leave some huge boots to fill in the Boo a Blue department at the end of this season, but I reckon David Klemmer might just be mad enough to do the job. What do YOU reckon? 

I reckon Eddie Jones must be feeling like a wallflower at the school dance right now. He’s all dressed up and Michael Cheika won’t ask him to dance. The war of words and wits between the former Randwick rugby club-mates was going to be one of the highlights of the current Test series between the Wallabies and England but so far it’s all one-way traffic. Eddie has been laying the baits but Cheika has been too smart to bite. Even when reporters have tried to get the Wallaby boss to acknowledge that Eddie has been insulting him, he’s shrugged it off. “It’s not as if he’s calling me fat or saying I’m going bald,” he said, but you get the feeling even if he had, Cheika wouldn’t have been too upset. Not that he’d let on, anyway. That’s the beauty of this current series. It’s as much about what is going on between the coaches off the field as it is about what is going to happen on it. And that’s going to be plenty too. Forget what happened during the World Cup. Eddie Jones is no Stuart Lancaster, and the England team that runs out onto Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night isn’t going to be the same confused, badly selected, poorly prepared rabble that had their backsides spanked at Twickenham. I reckon this is the start of a fascinating personal duel between the two most interesting coaches in world rugby that is going to continue all the way the World Cup in four years’ time. What do YOU reckon? 

I reckon the Blues are going to need more than new refs if they are going to come close to Queensland in Origin 2. If Laurie Daley honestly believes that it was the men with the whistles that cost NSW the series opener then his team is in more trouble than we thought. Laurie should be looking at his side’s ineptitude rather than anything else if they are to have any hope at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday fortnight. What about the brainless game plan of trying to run it up the middle all night against a Queensland defence that refused to buckle? Or the inability, year after year, of the NSW wingers to defend against a simple extra man play? And even if you are going to use the on-field referees as an excuse for a loss, at least get your facts right. Firstly, there were just as many wrong calls go against Queensland as against NSW, such as the blatant strip on Sam Thaiday that went un-penalised or the forward pass from James Maloney that led to Boyd Cordner’s try. Secondly, the call that had the Blues bleating the most, the no-try decision against Josh Morris, had nothing to do with the on-field refs. In fact, the ref and touch-judge had ruled it a try. It was the bunker that had the final say. No sorry Laurie, I reckon you’ve got far bigger problems to worry about than the men in white – and precious little time to get them sorted. What do YOU reckon?    

May 2016

I reckon Justin O’Neill is going to be the X-factor for Kevin Walters’ first-ever Origin side. There was plenty of discussion about who Kevvie should bring into the backline following the retirement of Justin Hodges and the injury that ruled Billy Slater out of the series. As I said in this very space after the first game of the NRL season, Corey Oates was made for Origin. With every match he played from then on, he became more of a certainty to make the team this year. O’Neill was never as much of a talking point. People were far too interested in whether Kyle Feldt would get a maroon jersey, and if Gavin Cooper should get the nod ahead of Nate Myles. Let’s not forget there was even a push for  Kevvie to  lift his ban on Dylan Napa after one huge game against the Rabbitohs. While all that discussion was going on, O’Neill was quietly going about his business – and Kevvie was taking notice. If anyone has any doubt about whether O’Neill can handle the biggest arena in the game, they should have a look at a replay of the grand final. His performance was absolutely outstanding. The only question that Kevvie and the other Queensland selectors faced was whether O’Neill would be better off his Cowboy team-mate Feldt alongside him, rather than sticking with Dane Gagai whose season with the cannon-fodder Knights has been anything but enjoyable. I understand it was the last decision they made, and I reckon it was the right one.  Gagai will be like a kid in a candy store getting the opportunity to play on the end of the best backline in the game – and no matter who is outside him, Justin O’Neill is going to be around for a long, long time. What do YOU reckon? 

I reckon Gavin Cooper’s time has come. There has been plenty of talk in recent days about whether the Cowboys forward will ever get the nod to play Origin, but it seems to me there will never be a better time to bring him into the Queensland side than this. I know that the Maroons have always had a policy of sticking with the tried and true, but in recent years there have been plenty of newcomers brought into the side and while club form doesn’t always translate to Origin, no other forward candidate can boast what Cooper can. That is, that he is Johnathan Thurston’s favourite go-to man. You only have to look at tape of last year’s 52-6 shellacking of the Blues at Suncorp Stadium to see how much Thurston enjoyed having his Cowboys team-mate Michael Morgan alongside him in Origin. It was reminiscent of the way the Storm trio of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater have seamlessly taken their club partnership to the next level. Slater won’t be there this year of course, so why not add another club pairing to the mix in the shape of Thurston-Cooper? Cooper scored 11 tries last season and has bagged a try a game in the last six rounds of this season. The stats aren’t available, but if you guessed that 15 of those 17 tries were from Thurston passes, you wouldn’t be far off. Now I’m not saying that we should just hand all of the Cowboys an Origin jersey and say “go out there and play against the Blues like you do against the Broncos”. For starters I think the calls for Kyle Feldt to get a start for Queensland are way premature, but I reckon Cooper running off Thurston in the rarefied air of Origin would make the Blues’ nightmares even worse. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon if the decision-makers at the NRL want to see the rugby league capital of the world, they only have to come along to the double-header at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night. A full house of around 52,000, with fans travelling from four major city centres and three states to get here - to say nothing of the fact that the two best teams in the game hail from this side of the border  … what more evidence do they need that Queensland is where the heart of the game beats strongest? Yet for some reason they seem determined to ignore Brisbane’s legitimate claim for a grand final. And not just because they are committed to Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, either. That they would even contemplate taking the game to Melbourne when ANZ is undergoing renovations, is staggering. They can say all they like that Melbourne can offer more seats, but surely this is about more than how many people you can fit into the stadium.  Queensland players and Queensland fans have been the backbone of the NRL for years – and with news this week that Suncorp Stadium can provide a financial package the equal to, if not better, than any other venue in Sydney, it would seem a no-brainer. But you know what? We should forget about anything except enjoying a magnificent spectacle on Saturday. Queensland’s champions taking on two great opponents – one we love to beat; the other we love to hate – I reckon it doesn’t get any better than this. What do YOU reckon?   

I reckon you shouldn’t wait too long to get your tickets for the Wallabies-England showdown at Suncorp Stadium on June 11. This three-Test series is going to be capital B Big. In fact, I’m tipping it to be the most absorbing and newsworthy international rugby to be played here since the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Why? I can sum it up in two words: Eddie Jones. The former Wallabies, Reds and Brumbies coach might not have been universally loved by officials and players, but you ask just about any journalist who’s had anything to do with him, and he’s right at the top of their favourites list. Say what you will about Eddie; call him obsessed, workaholic and a control freak, but one thing you can never accuse him of is being boring. He’s always got something to say, the more over-the-top, the better. The half-Japanese Australian was so combative at his press conferences during his stint with the Wallabies that the local media nicknamed him ‘Fighting Harada’ after the former boxer. Eddie has waited 11 years to coach a team against Australia and he’ll be absolutely fixated on getting some of his own back after being sacked as national coach in 2005. As he told me last year when he accepted the England job, “I didn’t divorce Australia, Australia divorced me.” I know for a fact that he was very disappointed when Japan just missed out on snatching a quarter-final spot against the Wallabies in the last World Cup. The chance to knock his old team out of the competition would have been like winning the lottery. Now 12 months later he’s got a better team and, after the drubbing the Wallabies gave England at Twickenham last year, even more incentive to get one over his old club-mate Michael Cheika. I reckon what might have been just another Test series has been taken to a whole new level, all thanks to the Jones Factor. What do YOU reckon?   

April 2016

I reckon the Parramatta Eels deserve a pat on the back for the way they have handled the Keiran Foran situation. The club could have been following a blueprint entitled ‘How To Deal With Your Best Player’s Breakdown.’ Step one, offer unconditional support. Step two, get the best help available. Step three, give him all the time he needs away from the pressure of competition and, step four, be upfront with the media. Put that way it doesn’t seem all that difficult, but over the years clubs in all sports seem to have trouble working it out. The situation with Ben Barba back in 2013 is a case in point. What could have been dealt with quickly and effectively turned into an ongoing and very ugly saga. Not because the Bulldogs had done the wrong thing initially, but because they had not been transparent in their dealings with the public and the media in the first place. The Eels have learnt the lesson and because of that Foran will be able to get the time and care he needs to get his life back on track. Which, of course, is the main thing. Those so called “fans” who have called on Foran to “man up” and get back onto the field are, as former player Mark Geyer so rightly labelled them, nothing more that “online idiots”. Yes Foran is the Eels’ most valuable player, and yes he is paid good money by the club, but he is also a person. A partner and father dealing with the break-up of a long-term relationship and all the emotional and psychological stress that comes with that. The last thing Foran needs is the added pressure of carrying a football club and its supporters on his back. You can rest assured that if the Eels felt the need to give Foran “indefinite leave” to cope with his issues, that this is no easy-fix situation. Keiran Foran is universally respected as a player and a bloke. I reckon every rugby league fan, regardless of the club they follow, should wish him all the best for a full recovery. What do YOU reckon? 

I reckon the Victorians were cracking jokes by even suggesting the NRL grand final should go to Melbourne during ANZ Stadium’s refurbishment. Surely it was a late April Fools’ joke. Of course the people running events down there want the grand final – who wouldn’t? But there is a big difference between want and deserve. The grand final is more than just a revenue earner for the people of Queensland – and that is all it would be in Victoria. I take my hat off to Melbourne Storm supporters. They are true rugby league believers keeping the flame burning in hostile territory. Actually, that’s not really correct. The general populace of Melbourne aren’t hostile to rugby league; they are totally indifferent to it. Unless it is “their” type of football they couldn’t give a damn. Sure for the true Melbourne Storm faithful a Victorian grand final would be an experience they’d remember all their lives, but they would be a minority. The other Victorians in the stands might as well be at a circus: a chance to look at the animals and clowns and forget all about it the next day.  I went down to Melbourne to cover the third Origin match in 2006 – the one in which Darren Lockyer snatched the Brett Hodgson pass to set the Maroons on the way to eight straight series. The next morning I went on a TV show with two Melbourne football writers to discuss the game. One gave it lip service, trying to show that he knew something – however tiny - about rugby league. The other canned it mercilessly and asked why it was even being held in his town. He was totally dismissive of the game and insulting about the people who had travelled to Victoria at great cost to watch it. “I’ve never seen so many bogans in my life,” he said.  And these are the people who want the NRL grand final? I can tell you from personal experience that those who would go along would do so for just two reasons: because it is on, and so that they can compare it – unfavourably – to their type of football. Queensland has been carrying the NRL for years. The state has the best teams, the best players and the best supporters. I reckon Victorians can want the NRL grand final all they like, but Queenslanders deserve it. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Rugby League Week was onto something when they floated the idea this week that a Queensland B team could beat the Blues this Origin series. The magazine picked a side of up-and-comers and almost-theres (and an oldie or two) who could do the business for the Maroons, just like the old Australia A one-day squad back in the days of World Series Cricket. As RLW rightly pointed out, the Broncos scrum-base duo of Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford would walk straight into the NS...W side tomorrow if Laurie Daley could somehow doctor their birth certificates. The journo added the likes of Cameron Munster, Edrick Lee, Valentine Holmes, Justin O’Neill, Corey Oates, Korbin Sims, Jake Friend, Dylan Napa, Gavin Cooper, Ethan Lowe and Chris McQueen to make the Queensland B run-on side, and had Chris Grevsmuhl, Jake Granville, Ben Hannant and Daly Cherry-Evans on the bench. I would swap Kyle Feldt for Edrick Lee and bring in Moses Mbye as 18th man, but other than that, it’s a pretty decent outfit. Of course it’s all academic – especially with almost half the squad suspended for 12 months by coach Kevvie Walters – but I still reckon they could give the Blues a shake. What do YOU reckon?  

March 2016

I reckon we saw one of the great rugby league partnerships taking shape on Good Friday. I’m not just talking about a Broncos pairing here. From the glimpses we saw last week, Anthony Milford and James Roberts could quite feasibly go on to stand alongside some of the best in the game’s history. When Milford came to Brisbane just over a year ago there was talk of him and Ben Hunt becoming another Allan Langer-Kevin Walters scrum-base combination. That still could happen, but the combination of Milford’s step and Roberts’ sheer pace has the potential to take them to another level. It was there to see in Roberts’ try off Milford’s second-half break on Friday night. Check it out on YouTube; the way Roberts surged up alongside Milford and then left the rest of the field behind as he cruised to the line was a frightening sight for opposition coaches. For the first time since joining the club Roberts found the confidence to impose himself on the game – just like Milford did 12 months ago. If they can stay fit and motivated for the next few years I reckon the Milford-Roberts brand will one day roll off the tongue as easily as Langer-Lewis, Kenny-Sterling, Stuart-Daley and other great rugby league pairings. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Origin is coming early to Brisbane over Easter. Suncorp Stadium is hosting three enormous events over the holiday weekend and while most of the talk is about Friday night’s NRL grand final replay, there’s also a couple of Queensland versus NSW showdowns which will get the interstate passions bubbling. Saturday night the Roar take on Sydney FC in a match that is vital to their chances of a top two finish. John Aloisi’s boys hit a road-bump against Melbourne City but they are a different side with a big home crowd behind them, and any Queensland side taking on an outfit from down south is always assured of massive support at Suncorp. Sunday it’s the Reds against the Waratahs - to which, a couple of weeks ago, the reaction of most sports fans would have been ‘who cares?’ After their improved showing in securing a point against the Blues last week, things have changed. There’s a new feeling of optimism around the Reds camp and they might just pull off an upset, to cap off what I reckon will be one of the biggest weekends of sport in Suncorp Stadium history. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the loss of Billy Slater for up to eight months will be enormous for Queensland in terms of what he has meant to the team since making his debut 12 years ago, but not as great in terms of how it will affect the Maroons this series. Obviously no side ever wants to lose a player as talented as Billy the Kid, but happily for Queensland supporters Kevvie Walters has plenty of depth at fullback, just as Mal Meninga did when Billy was ruled out for Origin Two and Three last year. There are many judges who believe Greg Inglis is the best number one in the game, and Darius Boyd is no slouch either. With Dane Gagai and Will Chambers performing so well last year, Justin O’Neill a survivor of the Emerging squad fiasco, and hopefully Corey Oates back from injury in time, Kevvie has plenty of options to cover the loss of Billy and retirement of Justin Hodges. What cannot be as easily replaced is the spark and personality that Billy brings to camp. He is always “up”, always happy to interact with the media and public, and that enthusiasm translates into his performances on the field. The crowd rises to its feet when Billy has the ball, and they have rarely been disappointed. Mark Coyne’s 1994 try, in which the ball went through nine pairs of hands, is rightly considered the best in Origin history, but I reckon 20 year-old Billy’s double kick, chase and swerve around Anthony Minichiello at Suncorp Stadium in 2004 just shades King Wally’s 1989 effort as the best individual try of them all. What do YOU reckon.

I reckon Wayne Bennett is right in telling the media to be patient in waiting for James Roberts to hit his straps in Broncos colours, but they’re not the only ones. Roberts is going to have to be patient too. The Broncos play a very structured style of football, and right now that structure doesn’t include Roberts as much as he would like. It was plain to see in the season opener against the Eels that the majority of play went down the other side of the field, with good results. Corey Oates had a blinder with all the ball he was getting and Wayne Bennett isn’t going to change things just to give Roberts more action. When the ball did come Roberts’ way, he was over eager and rushed things. What he should do is look at the tapes of Justin Hodges to see how to get himself more involved in the play at times of his choosing. Hodges was never one to wait for the ball to come to him. He went looking for it; with his dummy half runs a huge part of the Broncos success over the years. At the Titans, where there was not as much talent around him, Roberts was the focal part of the attack. At the Broncos, he is just a cog in a smooth running machine. I reckon Hodges is correct is saying Roberts will be a big success at Red Hill, but that success won’t land in his lap – and it won’t come overnight. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the happiest man watching the Broncos get over the top of the Eels in round one would have been Kevin Walters. Not because he’s a former Brisbane captain and assistant coach, although that would have helped. No, Kevvie’s excitement would have had nothing to do with the past, only the future. Kevvie would have been looking at the first match of the season through maroon coloured glasses and he didn’t have to wait long to see the answer to his prayers in Corey Oates. When Kevvie was forced to ban eight of his up and coming players after they broke curfew at the Emerging Maroons camp it left a huge hole in his plans. Obviously all eight weren’t going to get close to an Origin call-up any time soon, but some of them sure could have – Anthony Milford, Ben Hunt, Valentine Holmes and Dylan Napa amongst them. Not having those players to call on should he be hit with a big injury toll left Kevvie in a fix. The sensational first half turned on by Oates against Parramatta, on top of his grand final performance last year, must have had Kevvie licking his lips – and breathing a sigh of relief. Oates might not play in the 2016 series, but just knowing he is there if needed is a huge boost. Looks very much like the kid is made for top-flight rugby league – he’s big, strong fast and can play wing or backrow. I reckon he’s got Origin written all over him. What do YOU reckon?  

February 2016

I reckon the Broncos are on a winner with their “new” captain. When I say new, Corey Parker was co-captain with Justin Hodges last season and he has been part of the furniture at Red Hill for 17 years, so he’s no Johnny-Come-Lately. But that’s the amazing thing about him. At 34 years of age he doesn’t seem to have lost one iota of his enthusiasm, passion or on-field fitness. Not that those are the things that make him such a good selection. It seems to me that Parker epitomises everything that has made the Broncos the powerhouse they have become in such a relatively short time. From Wally Lewis through Alfie Langer, Gorden Tallis and Darren Lockyer, amongst others, the Broncos have had on-field leaders who inspire through their actions, not words. Best of all, he was brought to the club by the late great Cyril Connell, the veteran scout who the Broncos foundation CEO John Ribot once described as the best signing he ever made. I reckon if he was good enough for Cyril he’s got the pedigree needed to take his place alongside the great Broncos captains who have gone before him. What do YOU reckon.

I reckon an Indigenous All Stars game could be a huge money-spinner for the NRL. Just not in its current form. There’s nothing wrong with the concept of an indigenous game, but playing against an NRL or even “world” All Stars team is only ever going to be an exhibition game. That doesn’t stop big numbers showing up mind you. There will be close to 40,000 at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night and if Todd Greenberg can’t make a buck out of that he needs to buy a new calculator. Still, if Todd wants a real blockbuster that will give rugby league’s indigenous stars the showpiece they deserve, how about this: an annual “Test” match between the Original Aussies and the New Zealand Maori. The Kiwis have a red hot rugby union Maori side that plays against international teams, so why not a league version? England took on a Maori side made up of former Test players as a warm-up for the 2010 Four Nations, but how good would it be to see a side of current Maori stars running on against JT, GI and co in Brisbane? The Bledisloe Cup and Four Nations finals at Suncorp Stadium against New Zealand rival Origin for crowd numbers and passion. I reckon an annual Indigenous All Stars versus NZ Maori clash would be one of the biggest events on the sporting calendar – and give Todd Greenberg the cash cow he wants. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon those young blokes breaking curfew on the Emerging Maroons camp will prove to be the best thing that could have happened to Kevin Walters. Kevvie was always going to have to stamp his authority as Origin coach and this was the perfect opportunity. Banning players for 12 months who were at long odds to play in the 2016 series anyway is the ultimate win-win. He gets to prove he’s no soft touch, and it hasn’t cost him anything in terms of The Big Show. If you’re going to wield the big stick, far better to do it five months before Game 1 than five days before Game 3. How much would Laurie Daley have liked to have been in the same position over the last couple of seasons? Two years ago he copped it from NSW supporters when he dropped Mitchell Pearce for being a goose, and then last year he copped it from Queensland supporters when he didn’t drop Michael Jennings for being an even bigger goose. Although speaking of gooses, (I know, I know, it’s geese, but it doesn’t flow as well) how big of one do you have to be to not only sneak out of the team hotel after being told not to by the coach, but then get caught trying to sneak back in? I reckon some of these young fellas are lucky they can catch a football, because they’re never going to make a living as rocket scientists. What do YOU reckon?

December 2015

I reckon the NRL is on to a winner with the changes that have been made to the Indigenous All-Stars match. The concept was always a good one; giving a showcase to some of rugby league’s best talent, while at the same time providing an opportunity for Indigenous people to celebrate their heritage, but by changing the opposition to a World All Stars side, it has got even better. The inclusion of Sam Burgess alone is enough to give the February 13 match at Suncorp Stadium even more credibility. Not because Big Sam is the most popular personality in the game, but because he has something to prove – along with several other players named in the match. Robbie Farah will no doubt be wanting to send a message to his good mate Jason Taylor, and Ben Barba has plenty to play for in the number six jersey. James Roberts will want to have a good game too after all the fuss about his market value. But personally, I’d like to see the Indigenous side put up another good show to lend weight to an argument I’ve been pushing for years: that they should be recognised as a genuine international team and play Test matches. Well why not? If the NZ Maori can play rugby union internationals, why can’t the Australian Indigenous league side take on England, New Zealand, New Guinea, Fiji or Samoa? Surely they have as much right to play in a Rugby League World Cup as Lebanon or Greece or Ireland. They certainly have the players to give any side in the world a run for its money, and unlike some of the so-called “national” teams in the World Cup, they could field 17 footballers with a genuine emotional and spiritual affinity for their jersey. I reckon an Indigenous side taking on the Poms or Kiwis in a World Cup semi-final would be sensational. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the Maroons are in the best spot imaginable: a win-win situation. No matter whether they signed up Paul Green or Kevin Walters as coach, the QRL were on a winner. They are both great blokes with terrific football minds, and they are Queenslanders through and through. Because of his famous partnership with Alfie Langer and his time as one of Mal Meninga’s assistants during Queensland’s recent record run of success, Kevvie has the bigger profile in Origin, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that Green had his moments in the game’s toughest arena as well. He was the man who moved from halfback to hooker to make way for Langer when Wayne Bennett called him back from the UK in one of the greatest two-card tricks of Origin history. At the same time, Kevvie’s credentials as a club coach seemed to be downplayed a bit in the to-ing and fro-ing over the Origin job. He learned the ropes under Bennett at the Broncos, took Ipswich Jets to a grand final, did a good job assisting Craig Bellamy at Melbourne and took Catalans Dragons to the semi-finals of the Super League in 2009. That’s not a bad resume and you wouldn’t be surprised if the Wests Tigers are now wishing they had opted for him to replace Mick Potter instead of Jason Tayor. Greenie’s credentials at NRL level are of course impeccable. You can’t do better than winning the premiership, and it doesn’t hurt your reputation to be the first coach to beat Wayne Bennett on grand final day. I read a lot from down south about the FOGs wanting Kev for the job. That just shows you how much times have changed. If the great Tosser Turner was still around there wouldn’t have been any discussion. If the FOGs (read: Tosser) had wanted Kevvie to be Queensland coach, he would have been Queensland coach. There was talk too, that Mal had recommended Kev as his successor, so why even talk the Greenie? Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Mal’s Maroons are inevitably going to go through a changing of the guard over the next few seasons and the QRL figured some new ideas were needed. Either way, as I said, I reckon the Maroons were holding both winning tickets in a two-horse race. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Good Friday should be renamed Great Friday for rugby league fans this year. The 2016 NRL draw has been very kind to Suncorp Stadium patrons; we’ve got the double-header on May 14, with the Cowboys taking on the Storm and Broncos against Sea Eagles; the return of ‘Hook’ Griffin with his Panthers on July 22 and the big regular season finish of Eels, Dogs, Roosters. But if there has ever been a more anticipated club match than the Grand Final replay between the Broncos and Cowboys on Friday March 25, I don’t remember it. Actually, I do remember it. Broncos versus Manly at Lang Park, round one 1988. The difference was that back then the Sydney hot-shots headed up to Brisbane thinking they were in for an easy afternoon against the competition newcomers. They never knew what hit them as Wally and the boys walloped them 44-10. This time around JT and co will be under no false illusions. This will be an absolute cracker. A few months back these two teams gave us the first all-Queensland grand final, the first (and possibly last) Golden Point grand final, and arguably the best-ever grand final. We can all be forgiven for thinking that Good Friday will bring us the best-ever club game as well. Which raises a good question. What was the best club match you ever saw? Plenty of old timers will opt for that first-ever Broncos win, although as an old Bears fan I still get goose-bumps thinking of a 26-12 win over Manly at North Sydney Oval one Sunday afternoon in 1984. While we’re at it, what’s your best-ever grand final? The Cows’ win was sensational, but I still reckon you can’t go past Raiders-Tigers in 1989. What do YOU reckon?

November 2015

I reckon Jonah Lomu should get a statue at Suncorp Stadium – and every other stadium where professional rugby is played, for that matter. It wouldn’t be right to say that Jonah was the reason that rugby turned professional – it was inevitable – but it was his performances at the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa that convinced the media money men that this was a game, and a personality, that could drive pay TV subscriptions around the world. Jonah inspired athletes everywhere to take up the game; and not just youngsters. Wendell Sailor first started thinking about making the switch from league to union when reporters began questioning how he would go in a one-on-one contest with the All Black superstar. When Dell went over to union he famously pointed to a set of turnstiles and said, “Watch me make these babies sing”. Well, if Dell got them to sing a song or two, Jonah was responsible for a string of operas and the entire Beatles collection. Nobody sold tickets like Jonah. In his eight-year international career, sadly cut short because of his illness, Jonah played just one Test at Suncorp Stadium – the 32-25 win to the All Blacks in 1996. Part of the first-ever professional Tri-Nations series, it was also the first time Queensland fans had the chance to see Lomu in action after his sensational performances in South Africa, and didn’t the turnstiles sing for that game. The roar and sense of expectation that went around the ground as Jonah ran on the field that day was reminiscent of the reaction as Wally Lewis led out the Maroons. Rugby – maybe even sport in its entirety – had never seen anything like Jonah Lomu before, and I reckon we never will again. What do YOU reckon?   

I reckon John Grant and his wise men should stopping mucking around and appoint Mal Meninga Australian coach before he tells them to take a hike. To say he can’t coach Queensland at the same time is ridiculous. It didn’t seem to worry Michael Cheika too much that he stayed in charge of the Waratahs while turning the Wallabies around did it? More to the point, it didn’t worry the Wallabies, and it shouldn’t worry the Kangaroos if Mal is in charge of the Maroons either. Comparing what is happening in Australian rugby league now to what happened back in the 1980s is like comparing chalk and cheese. Terry Fearnley took away an Australian team in the middle of a fiercely contested Origin series, and it turned out to be a disaster, but that was back in the days when the Kangaroos were thought to be so far in front of everyone else that it wasn't funny. When Fearnley’s team lost to the Kiwis it was a bigger upset than Prince of Penzance winning the Melbourne Cup. Times have changed; the Kiwis are now the top dogs and it is a case of the Aussies catching up, not just staying in front. And why do the men in black have the wood on the Kangaroos? Because they play trans-Tasman footie with the same passion that Australians can only muster for Origin. If a Kangaroo side is ever to get back to the glory days it must become a true team, united in a common goal. A band of brothers who genuinely want to play for each other year after year. In other words, a team like the Queensland Origin side that Mal has moulded for almost a decade. The Origin spirit is what the Kangaroos need. Mal Meninga is the most successful State of Origin coach of all time. He was one of the proudest and most successful Kangaroos to ever wear the jersey in a playing career that included 40 wins from 46 Tests, and he knows the ins and outs of every rep player in Australia through either coaching them or studying them since 2006. I reckon it’s a no-brainer. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Sam Burgess should get back to South Sydney as fast as he can climb up the steps of James Packer’s jet. The way Burgess was treated by the English rugby community was appalling. He owes the game and its supporters nothing. He was used by the administrators to promote the Rugby World Cup and offered up as a scapegoat when the home team’s campaign fell flat. Being in the grandstand from day one of Big Sam’s abortive rugby adventure to its crushing end, I can tell you he was never a hope to be the star that England coach Stuart Lancaster and the local media made him out to be. His first representative game, against Ireland B, was embarrassing, and his second – a Test against France – was nothing more than adequate. After just a year in the game he did exceptionally well to hold his own in top company, but to say the expectations heaped on him before the World Cup were unrealistic is an understatement. They were a joke, and everybody except Lancaster and certain sections of the English press seemed to know it. No-one builds up their national sporting teams better than the English – and no-one rips them apart with as much relish when they fail. In Sam’s case they didn’t have to blame the entire team; the leaguey was the perfect fall-guy. No wonder he wants out. Sam’s rugby club Bath says he isn’t going anywhere and Leeds Rhinos say they’re in the market to pay a “transfer fee”, but with the price tag to buy out his contract said to be $1.7 million there’s only one person with the readies, and that’s Souths’ joint-owner Packer. I reckon Sam should ask his good mate Russell Crowe to put in a call to James, and write the whole thing off as a bad dream. What do you reckon?

October 2015

I reckon Suncorp Stadium will have to put up the Standing Room Only sign if the Wallabies win the Rugby World Cup on Sunday morning. Michael Cheika’s team will take on England in Brisbane in June followed by the Springboks in September and I wouldn’t be leaving it too late to get tickets to both Tests. Has a side ever gone from the basement to the penthouse so quickly? When Ewen McKenzie resigned after the Wallabies’ last-gasp loss to the All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium a year ago, anyone tipping them to make the last two at the World Cup would have been accused of dropping into too many Caxton St bars on the way home. Yet they’ve done it, and in great style. Having been lucky enough to be up close and reasonably personal with this side as a reporter on the Spring tour of the UK I can tell you just what an amazing feat it has been. When they arrived in London 12 months ago – four days after Cheika had taken on the job – they didn’t have a clue what he was on about. To their credit they have bought into his philosophy on and off the field, and the results have bordered on the miraculous. When he took over the side its public image was at an all-time low. His aim was to give Australians a team we could be proud of. I reckon he’s done that, and we should all be right behind them on Sunday morning. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the current debate over the next Immortal only reinforces what I said here last week about Joey Johns. The whole system is flawed. Surely there has to be some sort of time span component and proper criteria in place so that we don’t have another case of “queue jumping” and that inductees are selected on merit rather than emotion or parochialism. What I wasn’t happy with was the way players from earlier eras were overlooked because memories of their feats had faded from memory. Former greats such as Norm Provan, Mal Meninga, Peter Sterling and Alfie Langer should definitely be considered for the honour. You have to wonder if Reg Gasnier and Graeme Langlands would ever have got a start if they weren’t in the original induction. I know for a fact that there were judges on the panel were too young to ever see Norm Provan play, and in years to come that disparity is only going to become more pronounced. Should an Immortal be chosen because of what he did, or because of what the judges saw him do. This week the debate has come down to between Big Mal and Darren Lockyer – Norm Provan seems to have been totally forgotten - and Wally Lewis is quite right in asking how come Alfie never seems to rate a mention any more? The Immortals concept came about because a magazine wanted to sell copies and some bottles of commemorative port. It has grown to become something that the public takes very seriously. I reckon it has to be organised just as seriously. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Andrew Johns should be stripped of his Immortal status. Failing that, the whole concept should be scrapped. I’ve made no secret of my feeling that the election of Johns to what has become known as rugby league’s highest honour was wrong – and it had nothing to do with anything he did off the field. My gripe was that there were other players who should have been selected ahead of him based on the era in which they played. In other words, he was a queue jumper. The memory of the sporting public is very short. Yes, Johns was a dominant player during his time in the spotlight, but no-one will ever convince me that he did more to deserve entry to the game’s most exclusive club than Norm Provan, Mal Meninga, Peter Sterling, Brad Fittler or Alfie Langer. That is one issue. The other one is the fact that, like it or not, the Immortal tag brings with it certain responsibilities. On a day when rugby league should have been celebrating one of its greatest ever grand finals between two superb football teams, what was splashed all over the headlines? Claims of a mother of three being insulted by an ex-player turned-TV commentator, complete with pictures of him asleep on an airport floor. On a scale of one to ten, Johns’s very public indiscretion at Toowoomba wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the shocking revelations that came out soon after his retirement, but it was made even worse by the five words that started every news report – ‘Rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns …’ If you are going to accept that title, you have to respect it. I reckon Andrew Johns is not worthy. What do YOU reckon?

September 2015

I reckon on Sunday the Broncos will cap off one of the most amazing years ever by a Queensland team. To my mind the all-Queensland grand final rates right up there with the greatest “firsts” in the State’s sporting history, alongside the first Origin, the Broncos’ entry into the national competition, the club’s first premiership, the first Sheffield Shield win and the Commonwealth Games. It’s just that big: two Queensland sides battling out a competition that they were barred from competing in for almost 80 years. And while Queenslanders are holding both winning tickets in a maroon quinella, the achievement of the Broncos in reaching what the commentators now call “The Big Dance” is nothing short of phenomenal. When I watched the Broncos play their first game of the season, in the World Club Challenge in the UK, if you’d offered me 500-1 on them making the grand final, I wouldn’t have wasted my money. They won, but it was anything but convincing. They had a five-eighth who had next to no idea of what was going on, a “new” coach who was trying to rebuild a side that had unravelled in the six years he had been away, and their biggest signing was out for the first half of the season before a ball had even been kicked. Well look at them now. Wayne Bennett is Dally M Coach of the Season, Anthony Milford is being described as “better than Joey”, Darius Boyd is fit and in form, and the so-called “washed-up” Adam Blair has turned back the clock five years to when he was the number one forward in the game. But more than that. This team might not have some of the stars that took the club to six previous premierships , but it is as close, committed and confident as any side which has ever worn the club jersey. No wonder more than 100,000 people have walked through the gates at Suncorp Stadium to watch them play their last two games. I reckon these Broncos are incredible. What do YOU reckon? 

I reckon if the Cowboys get to their second grand final with a win over the Storm on the weekend they can thank Paul Gallen. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better performance from Matt Scott, and having the opportunity to run right over the top of his good mate Gall had a lot to do with it. Say what you will about Gallen – and I’m guilty of it more than most – but he sure brings out the best in Queenslanders. He really should take it as a compliment, but I guess when he was lying in the dressing room at Townsville last weekend packed in more ice than a Mr Whippy van, he probably wasn’t in the mood for looking on the bright side. Now we have both the Cowboys and Broncos just one win each away from ruining the NRL (that’s Newsouthwales Rugby League) party and fighting out the first-ever all-Queensland grand final. The Storm has been a quasi-Queensland side for years with the number of Maroons in the side, but the Cows are the real thing. And if Gall brought out the best in Scott, you can only imagine what his little mate Mitchell Pearce will do for the Broncos. No disrespect to the Storm and Roosters, they’re both mighty teams who deserve to be there, but I reckon if we’re ever going to see two Queensland sides run out for a grand final, these are the boys to do it. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon I’ve heard it all now. When Gus Gould said he felt “a little bit jealous” of the spectacle put on by the Broncos and Cowboys – and their amazing fans – at Suncorp Stadium last Saturday night I thought I’d better get my hearing tested. Luckily I had it on tape so I listened again and yep, that’s what he said. Still, who can blame him? When Darren Lockyer down on the sideline says that the atmosphere is right up there with Origin, you know something special is happening. And special it was. From the quality of the play to the involvement of the crowd, it was a blueprint for everything the game of rugby league should be. Matter of fact, it was everything a grand final should be. So much so, that Gus even said that he'd like to see the two Queensland teams both get into The Big One and have another crack at each other to decide the premiership. Difference would be , of course, that it would have to be played in Sydney in front of tens of thousands of NSW-centric spectators who would sit on their hands for 80 minutes. Sure the Broncos and Cowboys players put on a great show, but they were helped by the incredible atmosphere created by playing on the best rectangular ground in the country, in front of the NRL's most passionate fans. If Saturday's match proved anything -apart from the fact that Gus Gould can admit he's wrong - it's that Brisbane must host a grand final, and sooner rather than later. I reckon the days of anyone seriously believing that Sydney deserves a monopoly on the biggest club game of the year ended on Saturday. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the key to Saturday night’s all-Queensland blockbuster will be two Broncos who came into the season with giant question marks hanging over them. Adam Blair was lambasted for his lack of involvement when he played his first few games for Brisbane, and I admit I was one of many who felt that if Wayne Bennett could turn Anthony Milford into a five-eighth, he really was miracle worker. Well, wrong on both counts. Blair has gone from “why did they buy him?” to an absolutely vital part of the Brisbane pack, and like just about everyone else, I’ve run out of superlatives to describe how far Milford has come in a short time. But the Broncos’ finals charge could end all too soon if these two don’t hit top form over the next few weeks. It all starts on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium. On paper the Cowboys have the goods. Any side that runs out with Johnathan Thurston in its jersey is already in front. His combination with Gavin Cooper has been an under-rated X-factor this season and the Cowboys have the required muscle up front in James Tamou and Jason Taumalolo. On the other side of the field everyone talks about the combination between Ben Hunt and Milford, but don’t under-estimate how well Milford runs off Blair. I reckon the Broncos have shown enough in defence this season to suggest they will be able to shut down the rest of the Cowboys, but it will be whether Milford and Blair can match the spark of Thurston and his “Three Amigos” that will decide which side goes through to the preliminary final after the week off, and which one has to do it the hard way. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Paul Gallen is right when he says he needs to hire bodyguards for when he arrives and leaves grounds, but not to protect him – to protect the public. Gallen’s latest drama just further underlines the problems this bloke has. Seems to me just about every other player in the NRL – and other sports as well – manages to sign autographs for kids without ending up in a major brouhaha. Actually that’s not quite true. I remember Willie Mason getting himself into trouble by signing someone else’s name on a youngster’s poster because he thought it would be funny, but that just proves my point. Only an idiot or a bully would knock back, or insult, a young fan. Gallen denies that he swore at the kid, but he admits he may have refused to sign an autograph. Sorry, but in my book it’s the same thing. Doesn’t this bloke realise that the only reason he earns his six-figure salary is because the kids who look up to footballers talk their parents into taking them to games, paying for pay TV and buying merchandise? Of course, as always, Gallen is playing the victim, saying the boy’s father is the one in the wrong. Just like Nate Miles was the guilty party when Gallen punched him in the head, or it wasn’t his fault he used obscene language in abusing the NRL. What did they expect after suspending him for allegedly taking performance enhancing drugs? Oh, and by the way, that wasn’t his fault either – the club trainer made him do it. And this is the bloke NSW wants to build a statue of? I reckon Paul Gallen is a disgrace. What do YOU reckon?

August 2015

I reckon any clubs talking about breaking away from the NRL and starting their own competition should think very long and hard about it. Seems to me we’re only just getting over the whole Super League fiasco 20 years on. The last thing Rugby League needs right now is another disruption which will turn away fans and put even more pressure on an already under-siege administration. I was a reporter in Sydney when the Super League war broke out and it was the most exciting, interesting story of my career. For about two weeks. After that it became an exercise in self-destruction. The game of rugby league had nothing to do with what was happening on the field. It was all about greed, lies and life-long friends turning on each other - and the fans turned off in droves In the end the ones who benefited most were the lawyers, with the player-managers coming in a close second. Some players might have pocketed a truck-load of cash up-front, but with the amount of public derision they had to cop, they’d tell you they earned every cent. Admittedly some good things came from Super League. Changes to the way the game was played, marketed and presented were long overdue, but it took years to win back the public’s faith. OK, it’s true that rugby league isn’t perfect right now, but it’s still great, and as long as the fabric of the game is intact, the rest can be sorted out. I reckon if Super League proved anything, it’s that spitting the dummy and walking away from the table can only end in tears. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Nick Kyrgios could have learnt an awful lot if he’d tuned into some US sport on TV last weekend. Nick proved once again recently that he is lacking somewhat in the maturity stakes with the disrespect he showed his opponent Stan Wawrinka. You have to wonder what would have been going through his mind if he watched the way Australia’s US PGA winner Jason Day and world number one Jordan Spieth treated each other as they came down the final stretch. They actually congratulated each other on good shots, chatted amicably as they walked down the fairways and, when Day sunk the final putt, Spieth was genuinely pleased for him. Then there was the performance of Jarryd Hayne in his debut for the San Francisco 49ers. Now there was a bloke who talked about getting out of his comfort zone who actually meant it. There were no money guarantees in Hayne’s move to the NFL, unlike other code-hoppers who talk about challenge but really see dollar signs. This was a million to one shot that needed guts, determination and humility – and it looks like coming off. But it’s not just the sensational results that both these young men achieved that should make Nick sit up. It’s that just like him, they went through some behavioural issues as they grew up. Happily for both, they woke up to themselves before they spun totally out of control. Jason’s mother was so worried that her son was headed off the rails after his father’s death that she sold her house to get him to the school where he met his coach and mentor Col Swatton. Hayne was your typical over-paid, over-confident rugby league rookie before discovering his roots on a trip to Fiji helped him turn it all around. I reckon Nick Krygios can do the same before he becomes a cautionary tale, but he better not leave it too much longer. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Ray Warren is going to leave the hardest shoes to fill in rugby league. When a top players retires we always think there’s never going to be another one like him, but if there is one thing I’ve learnt over the years it’s that footballers are like taxis. There’s always another one coming around the corner. Peter Sterling, Alfie Langer, Brad Fittler, Joey Johns, even the king himself, Wally Lewis, … every time one of the them hung up the boots you’d swear the world was coming to an end, but then along comes JT or Greg Inglis or Bill Slater or Cameron Smith, and the game keeps rolling along. But Rabbits is different. With news that he can’t see himself going too much longer the question over who is going to become the next voice of rugby league is one of the biggest in the game. Over the past 25 years or so there have been plenty of other callers, but to my mind anyway, none has come close to matching the mellifluous tones of the great Mr Warren. So who will be next cab off the rank? Ray Hadley is Channel 9’s number two, but he’s already as busy as a one-armed paper hanger. He’d have to give up radio to have the time to wear Rab’s many hats and I can’t see him leaving Singo. Andrew Voss has hung on like the creature in Alien after getting the boot from Nine a few years back, resurrecting his career in New Zealand then getting the call-up from Fox, but will Nine risk losing face and bring him back? It’s not their style to admit a mistake. The ABC’s Andrew Moore has a great voice, and head, for radio and I’d like to see him at least given a chance. Warren Smith does a solid job on Fox but why move from a good safe gig to enter the shark tank hat is commercial TV? Someone I would love to see get a start on Nine is Brandy Alexander. He’s so far in front as a number two/analyst that it’s no contest. No matter who they go with it’ll be a long time before anyone can come close to matching Rabbits. I reckon hearing his voice is as comfortable as pulling on an old pair of slippers. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Manly was the loss Brisbane had to have. The Broncos had been cruising along in clean air for a few weeks, beating teams that were struggling at the bottom end of the table, and earning all the headlines. In some ways you’d say that they couldn’t have struck Manly at a worse time and a worse place. Clubs invariably lift themselves when their coach is sacked. Look at the Cowboys when Neil Henry was shown the door a few seasons back. There is always plenty of emotion involved; rarely as much as with the sacking of a club legend like Geoff Toovey. An us-against-them scenario between players and management is often the spark a team needs, and nothing lifts a player like knowing that a new coach is soon going to be looking through the roster with the aim of cutting dead wood. Add in the fact that the Broncos were playing in front of a pro-Manly crowd in unusual surroundings at Gosford, and they were on a hiding to nothing. It wouldn’t be right to say that the Broncos were caught unprepared – the Sea Eagles away are never a soft touch – but they were hit with an intensity that they hadn’t been up against for some time. Looking at it another way, Manly came at exactly the right time for Brisbane. There’s nothing worse for a club than to finish at the top of the table and get tossed out of the finals in straight sets. Far better to identify some harsh realities at a time when they can be faced and addressed, ahead of the sudden-death matches. Wayne Bennett has been in similar situations before. I reckon he won’t be too concerned about one speed bump on the way to the finals. What do YOU reckon.

July 2015

I reckon this is the season that Sydney’s nightmare could finally become a reality: the year when two Queensland clubs gate-crash the NRL’s biggest party of the year. It’s hard to know who would feel worse if it's a Broncos-Cowboys grand final: the league bosses who, except for the fact that north of the Tweed is the only place a game can pull a decent crowd, would like to forget that they ever invited Queensland clubs into “their” comp; the Sydney punters who bought grand final tickets hoping their team would make it through to the Big One and now have to sit through 80 minutes of two “foreign” sides fighting out the title, or the NSW-centric TV commentators who won’t have a “home team” to blatantly favour in their call. Or maybe it will be the Broncos and Cowboys supporters who make the trek down to Homebush knowing their hard-earned will be going straight into the coffers of NSW hotels, bars and restaurants, knowing it should be Queensland taxpayers benefiting from the sterling efforts of their athletes. It would serve the NRL and NSW Government right if Queensland supporters decided to stay home and watch the game on TV after the way they have monopolised the biggest club game on the calendar of the so-called “national” code. Of course that won’t happen. Broncos and Cowboys supporters are too loyal to their teams, and they deserve to be there when they make history, but I reckon if an all-Queensland grand final doesn’t make the people in charge of rugby league open up their eyes to the fact that the game belongs to the fans, and not the Sydney-based administrators, then nothing will. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Johnathan Thurston became an Immortal last weekend, and it has nothing to do with anything a bunch of judges decides next time they sit down to vote. If you ask me the whole Immortals concept went out the window when they picked Andrew Johns ahead of Mal Meninga or even Norm Provan. To me it was a slap in the face of history and a case of being blinded by the razzle dazzle of recent memory. How anyone could line up the records of Meninga and Johns and figure that Joey was more deserving than Mal is absurd. I don’t remember Mal playing too many Origin matches out of position because the selectors thought he couldn’t cut it. Sure Joey was a top player in his day, but was he any better than Alfie Langer, Peter Sterling or Freddie Fittler when they were dominating their eras? By leapfrogging them, does that mean the judges can never go backwards when choosing an Immortal, or are they saying that Joey was the best player of the past 30 years? Now it seems that the calls of four or five years ago for Darren Lockyer to be elected have been drowned out by the recent hype about JT. They better vote them both in quick before the next superstar comes along. Seems to me rugby league immortality lasts just as long as the memories of the people who were watching. That’s why JT has made it in my book. Great player as he is, it had nothing to do with any pass or chip and chase. It was when he apologised to that ballboy for kicking the tee away, and shook his hand. I’ll never forget that,as long as I live and I reckon that’s what makes an Immortal. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Melbourne’s self-proclaimed title as the “Sporting Capital of the World” just got booted into the top tier of the grandstand at Suncorp Stadium. We heard it from Phil Gould on the night of Origin lll when he said, “ANZ was great, Melbourne was great, but this is something else”. Knowing how much Gus loves all things Queensland, he must have almost choked on the words, but he was spot on. With a record breaking crowd, record breaking score and a lifetime of memories, it was one of the biggest nights in Queensland’s sporting history. And it was just the beginning. In coming days Suncorp Stadium hosts its first ever “quadruple header” weekend: an opening training session for the mighty Liverpool FC on Thursday, then Friday’s Liverpool versus Brisbane Roar blockbuster followed by the kick-off of the Wallabies World Cup season with their Test match against the Springboks on Saturday, and the table-topping Broncos up against the Wests Tigers on Sunday arvo. Cop that Melbourne. I reckon when the crowd starts singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ on Friday night, it’ll rattle the windows at the MCG. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the genius who came up with the idea of writing off the Maroons as too old and too slow in the lead-up to Origin III should get Queensland’s man of the match. If the Blues brainstrust didn’t know that laying down the challenge squarely at the feet of proud, experienced campaigners such as Corey Parker, Matt Scott, Nate Myles, Jake Lillyman and Justin Hodges was going to back-fire big time, then they haven’t been paying attention for the past 35 years. Still, you can’t blame them for under-estimating the effect the misguided master plan would have on Captain Fantastic Cameron Smith and his team. Not even the most one-eyed Queensland supporter could possibly have predicted the total annihilation the Blues received in the decider. The Maroons were beyond sensational. Back in 2011 Queensland was said to have played the perfect 20 minutes of Origin football when they raced to a 22-nil lead in Game III at Suncorp Stadium. On Wednesday night they stretched that to 80 minutes at the same venue. In reply to a belting in the forwards and Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk and co in full flight in the backs, the much-vaunted Blues pack could only resort to gutter tactics, resulting in nothing more than one penalty after another. This was a Maroons victory for the ages, and the record crowd lucky enough to be in the stands should savour it, for it is doubtful its like will ever be seen again. With Hodges definitely stepping down and other Queenslanders certain to follow, it is the end of a golden era. Sadly, some key Blues have also certainly played their last Origin, which is a real shame because the Maroons will no longer have Paul Gallen to belt, or Mitchell Pearce to run through. The scoreline might not have had the edge-of-the-seat closeness of some epic battle of the past, and despite the hype from their cheersquad in the southern media, the Blues were simply the worst, but I reckon this was close to being the most amazing Origin ever played. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the Maroons have got no-one to blame but themselves for the Robbie Farah-Michael Ennis fiasco. Imagine being suckered into a “gentleman’s agreement” with NSW. You only had to hear their captain Paul Gallen mouthing off about the affair to know they’re no gentlemen. Admittedly it was the Maroons who first used the “TBA loophole” to have Lote Tiquiri cleared to play in 2002, but after the Blues howled like two-year-olds the QRL accepted that it wasn’t in the spirit of the game and both sides agreed that it wouldn’t be used again. Until the first time NSW needed it, of course. The Wally Lewis Medal for best performance this series should surely go to Laurie Daley for the way he kept a straight face when he said that Farah was a good chance to play. If he couldn’t get through a short plane ride to Coffs Harbour, what hope was he of seeing out an Origin decider? Of course if Ennis so much as set foot in Origin camp he would have been ineligible for this week’s club game and, if found guilty at the judiciary, would have had to count Origin as his suspension. Unlike Lote 13 years ago, Ennis didn’t become TBA – To Be Announced – but Farah became TBKA – To Be Kept Around – instead. Gallen, in his warped perception, said the Maroons couldn’t whinge about NSW going back on their word (or Josh Jackson having his charge downgraded, or Michael Jennings getting a green light to obstruct police) , because Greg Inglis chose to play for Queensland instead of the Blues nine years ago. With that logic it’s a wonder when the ref asks him which side he wants for the coin toss that he doesn’t say, “What are the choices?” Still, I take my hat off to Gallen and the Blues for continuing to remind Queenslanders why Origin means so much. I reckon Wednesday night is going to be epic. What do YOU reckon?

June 2015

I reckon the NRL should change its name back to the NSWRL – the SW standing for “So What?” As in, so what if Josh Jackson lifted Jamie Soward and drove him into the ground? So what if the judiciary have been coming down hard on just this sort of offense in the wake of the Alex McKinnon injury, and so what if anyone who has been following the game this season knows that it was a two match suspension every day of the week? Still, what can we expect? Jackson is a Blue and there’s an Origin decider just around the corner. Before you call me biased, do some research like I have over the years. Check out Glenn Lazarus having his penalty loading discounted so he could play in 1988; or what about Nathan Hindmarsh and Jason Ryles being able to count a City-Country game – that they weren’t even selected for – as a suspension served in order to free them up in 2002. At least they were charged with an offense. Andrew Johns got off scot-free in 2004, but even that comes second to Jarryd Hayne in 2010. Five minutes before he was to appear, the judiciary changed the definition of his offense, let him off, and changed the definition right back again when he walked out the door. And while we’re on the subject, how does Laurie Daley figure Michael Jennings getting arrested for putting his hand on a cop in a blue uniform is less severe than Mitchell Pearce getting arrested for putting his on a girl in a yellow dress? Pearce, who had been playing like a busted piano gets dropped, but Jennings who is Man of the Match in a winning side, gets a pat on the head. I reckon the whole thing is a rort. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Mal Meninga should throw out the loyalty card when he picks a side for Origin lll. Mal has always been a disciple of the late great Tosser Turner and stuck by “his boys” through thick and thin – a policy that has worked time and again for Queensland over the years - but on what we’ve seen so far this series it is time for some changes. We all know that playing at Suncorp Stadium is worth points to the Maroons but whether the home ground advantage will be enough to counter the youth, power and aggression of the Blues in the decider is debatable. The NSW pack finished all over Queensland last time around and while there will be some forced changes with Slater and maybe Cronk on the sideline, Big Mal can’t just send the same team out again and hope for the best. No-one has a bigger heart than Jake Lillyman but the Maroons need the impact of Josh Papalii, and there’s also a big case for Dylan Napa to add some muscle. As for Daly Cherry-Evans, Mal has started with him twice in big games and he has yet to deliver. If Cronk is out, the tried and tested combination of Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan cries out for selection. With age getting the better of some of his stalwarts, Mal is going to have to make some big calls next year. I reckon he might as well do it now while Queensland still has one hand on the trophy. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the video referee who robbed Queensland of an Origin win on Wednesday night has done us all a favour. How he ruled a no-try against Greg Inglis is beyond me, but even so, he has set up a decider at Suncorp Stadium, and there is nothing better in rugby league than that. Now all that Queenslanders have to do is pray for Cooper Cronk to get onto the field. Maybe it was the mental pressure of knowing that he’s on the nose with his own supporters, or perhaps fatigue from the physical exertion of carrying all his money to the bank, but once again Daly Cherry-Evans failed to make the impression that Mal Meninga and Queensland required. An occasion in the first half when he and his captain Cameron Smith botched an inside pass, said it all. Smith and Cronk know each other’s games inside out. Together they control the play and move the Maroons around the park like chess pieces. Cherry-Evans, as his recent behaviour off the field showed, is an individual, looking to make the big break himself and hoping the others follow. Becoming a key part of the Maroons machine will come in time for the $10 million man, but right now time is something Queensland doesn’t have a lot of. I reckon they need Cronk back, and they need him fast. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Daly Cherry-Evans will be cheered by the Queensland crowd in Origin II but that doesn't mean they like him. No Queenslander will ever boo a player in a maroon Origin jersey, but it will take a lot of Wally Lewis medals before DCE is out of the doghouse. Even without the fallout from "The Great Brookie Backflip", the $10 million man has some big fences to mend. Let's not forget that the last time Cherry-Evans filled in for an injured Cooper Cronk, Queensland lost the game, the series and didn't score a try for the first time in 15 years. With Ben Hunt and Michael Morgan both playing the house down right now you wonder why Mal Meninga has given him a second chance. The answer? Mal has always said he'd stay loyal to his players and he's sticking to his word. Now there's a concept Cherry-Evans could learn a lot from. I reckon Queenslanders will be able to forget what DCE did to the Titans for 80 minutes next Wednesday night, but it will take a lot longer than that for them to forgive. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the Cowboys are a huge show to finally win the NRL premiership this season – and not just because they’ve notched nine on the trot. What convinced me was how they bounced back to beat Manly after a shocking call by the referees on the weekend. No other club in the competition has been dudded as badly by the whistle blowers as the Cowboys have in recent years. In three straight finals series we’ve had Kieren Foran’s blatant knock-on, the Sharks scoring on the seventh tackle and, last year, the video refs ruling a debatable Robert Lui knock-on to deny Johnathan Thurston a spectacular match-winner against the Roosters. There was no grand final on the line against Manly on Saturday but the nonsensical ruling by the refs to disallow a Cowboys scrum win against the feed was right up there with any of the previous crook decisions that have knocked them out of the comp. In previous years that call might have been enough for the Cowboys to drop their heads and say, “here we go again”. On Saturday, they regrouped and Jake Granville, Lachlan Coote and Thurston combined to put Matt Scott over for the winner. It helps to have players like those, plus Michael Morgan, James Tamou, Jason Taumalolo, Gavin Cooper and co in your roster, but I reckon winning grand finals is as much about refusing to be beaten as it is about talent. What do YOU reckon?

May 2015

I reckon Mitchell Pearce will prove to be one of the great Origin selections – for Queensland. Is Laurie Daley serious? Picking a half-back who has made two line breaks in 12 Origin matches is strange enough, but picking him out of position at five-eighth is lunacy. Maybe you could understand it coming from a coach who had played his entire career in the front row and had no insight into the importance of the number six role. Even then you’d be thinking that he’d packed his head into too many scrums. But this is Laurie Daley, the silky-smooth five-eighth who by his own admission froze like a deer in the headlights of a 4WD when he was pitchforked into his first Origin series at the age of 19 by Jack Gibson. You have to wonder what Jack would have made of Pearce being picked ahead of last year’s winner Josh Reynolds, or Pearce’s club-mate James Maloney – or just about any other NSW-eligible five-eighth in the game for that matter. Other than Pearce the Blues have picked a solid side but I reckon he’s the weak link the Maroons will be snapping like a twig all series. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Mal Meninga should go buy a lottery ticket, because his luck is well and truly in. Right now Big Mal’s NSW counterpart Laurie Daley is faced with the question that has been driving Blues’ coaches to distraction since Wally Lewis went to the barber twice a week – whether to go with loyalty, or form? Mal has no such problem. He can go with both at the same time. With just a week to go before the Maroons announce their team, just about every player in the selection frame is either hitting top form or well on the way to getting there. Billy Slater and Darius Boyd have returned from injury and proved their fitness with solid performances, Justin Hodges had his best game of the season against Penrith, Wayne Bennett’s tough love approach to Sam Thaiday has worked a treat and, after a two months in the doldrums Manly finally woke up and gave DCE a platform to show some spark. Matt Scott and Josh Papali were solid on the weekend after taking a while to hit their straps and JT has been the form player of the competition week in week out. The only one of the regular crew to be struggling is Nate Myles but as everyone knows, off-field issues have put him under enormous pressure. He was a long way off his best against the Kiwis and Raiders but that is the beauty of Origin. The Maroons’ set-up gives players a chance to leave their worries at the door and bask in a cocoon of mateship unlike anything else in Australian sport. Nate know this could be his last hurrah and he’ll be out to make the most of it. I reckon the only thing that can stop Queensland getting back in the winners’ circle is injury. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon we’re a mob of bad losers. In all the post mortem of the Anzac Test that I’ve read and heard, 99 per-cent is about how bad we were, with only a passing reference to how good the Kiwis were. Tim Sheens has got to be sacked, this player has played his last Test, this player is on his last legs, why was this player even in the side? Why can’t we just admit to the fact that we got thumped by a better side that were pumped up for a huge performance and delivered big time? All this talk about the Aussies being complacent is rubbish. What have they got be complacent about? The Kiwis regularly give us a touch up. If we don’t know that by know we’re kidding ourselves. It’s been going on since Olsen Filipaina and Clayton Friend were in short pants. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. The Kiwis come together once or twice a year to play for their country. There’s no interstate rivalries or any other rep games that they consider more important. This is it. National pride is off the scale. The Kangaroos see the Anzac Test as a selection trial for State of Origin. If they were being honest they’d admit that they view Origin as a bigger stage, and they don’t want to get too matey with each other before they pull on those maroon and blue jerseys. Still, if the mighty performance of the Kiwis on Sunday showed us anything, it’s that we can never listen to their pleas to be allowed into Origin. I reckon they’d smash us. What do YOU reckon?

April 2015

I reckon the Blues still don't get it, and they never will. Last year, after NSW finally won an Origin series, we were told it was the start of a dynasty. They were even talking about putting up a statue of Paul Gallen outside their stadium for crying out loud. According to their coach Laurie Daley, after eight straight years of losing they had worked out how to win the physically toughest footie comp on the planet. And how was that? By copying Queensland of course. No more dumping players after one or two games. No more picking sides on club form rather than rewarding loyalty. From now on it was all about sticking with the players who had got the job done; creating an Origin side built on trust and mateship. And how long did it last? Less than 12 months. Already we have cracks appearing in the Blues power base, with Joey Johns saying he'd be "terrified" to go into this year's series with last season's halves Trent Hodgkinson and Josh Reynolds, and Daley's tepid response being anything but a ringing endorsement for the pair. There's even whispers of the Blues recalling Mitchell Pearce because "he's been there before". Sure has - 12 times for nine losses and no series wins. I reckon Pearce would be a great selection as Blues halfback. For Queensland. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon the NRL administration is being saved by the players right now. There’s plenty not to like about some aspects of the game with supporters’ blogs chock full of complaints after every weekend. From the judiciary, to referees, to some club officials only opening their mouths wide enough to stick both feet in; it seems there’s always something for the fans to be upset about. But you’d have to be very hard to please if you weren’t impressed with the standard of football on show the past six weeks. What about last weekend with the Cowboys-Warriors, Sharks-Rabbitohs and, most of all, Raiders-Eels matches? They might not have been rugby league at its purest, but boy were they entertaining. And the best thing is, it’s not the competition favourites Souths and Roosters who are making the biggest noise. The AFL has been trying for years without success to work out a way to stop their competition being a two or three horse race. The NRL has managed it – or more to the point, the players have managed it with their performances. A soccer or AFL fan would no doubt tell you that NRL players are nowhere near as skilful as their players, but I defy any footballer from any code to control the ball in the wet like Cronulla did on Monday night. I’m not saying that the Sharks, Raiders or even Dragons are going to win the premiership – cream will always rise to the top – but I reckon this is the best start to an NRL season we’ve seen for years. What do YOU reckon.

I reckon Wayne Bennett is playing possum. At the start of the season Benny said it would be two years before the Broncos could win the premiership. From what they've shown the past few weeks he could be selling their chances short. About two years short. I'm not saying they will go all the way this season but they have certainly given their supporters reason to hope, and isn't that what sport is all about? Not everyone likes Bennett, but even those who bag him must respect him. If anyone had said after the drubbing they received at the hands of the Rabbitohs in round one that the Broncos would be top of the table five weeks later, you'd laugh in their face. Who's laughing now? So what has Bennett done to this team that is so revolutionary? Drop Sam Thaiday to the bench? Make them pay for any gear they lose? Disband the old fines system? All of the above and none of the above. He's just been Bennett. After that amazingly gritting win over the Roosters Bennett praised his predecessors Ivan Henjak and Anthony Griffin, telling reporters "they weren't as bad as you blokes made out". Maybe not, but recent results would suggest Bennett is every bit as good as those same reporters paint him. What has he got that the others don't? An aura. And I reckon that's what he's given back to the Broncos. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle must have been kidding when she said the NRL had “drawn a new line in the sand” over the James Graham incident on Good Friday. Does she really believe that abusing a referee has ever been acceptable in rugby league – or any sport for that matter? The NRL simply acted the way they always have. It is up to the Bulldogs to draw the line in the sand. Never once in her short statement did Ms Castle condemn Graham, David Klemmer or Michael Lichaa for berating, intimidating and, in Lichaa’s case, calling referee Gerard Sutton a “dog”. She didn’t even name them. Like many, I am a huge James Graham fan. He is the type of player ever supporter would love to have in their side, but he has to learn to control his emotions for the good of the game. Biting an opponent in a grand final and shaking his fist in the face of a referee are hardly setting a good example. Just look at the way his team-mates, and club supporters, followed his lead on and off the field on Friday. Still what can be expected from the Bulldogs when you look at the attitude of those in charge? Coach Des Hasler has made his feelings for referees, administrators and the press well known. The line in the club statement saying that Ms Castle was only commenting “in light of the interest around the charges” was a thinly veiled inference that the whole thing was a media beat-up. You could be forgiven for thinking that Des had dictated it. I reckon if the Bulldogs are fair dinkum about cleaning up the image of the game they have to do some cleaning up of their own – starting from the top. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon we’ve just had the most interesting NRL round for a long, long time. It’s not often that you can tell how the year is going to pan out after just four weeks of football, but this one was like looking into a crystal ball. How good was it to find out that the Rabbitohs are beatable? And by the Eels no less. Up until fulltime on Friday night you’d swear the competition was a one horse race. You still wouldn’t bet against the Bunnies making it two in a row, but at least it gives the supporters of other clubs hope, and that’s what it’s all about. Just ask Knights and Dragons fans. Who’d have thought they’d be travelling how they are after four rounds? And, down the other end of the scale, Manly fans too. Crisis is an over-used word in rugby league, but if the Sea Eagles aren’t in one, they’re so close they can smell it. Other things that round four showed us are that Johnathan Thurston is still the man you’d want next to you in the trenches, Ricky Stuart is to continue his long run of outs at the Raiders, the Titans will be a force when DCE arrives, and Issac Luke needs to pull his head in. Oh, and I reckon Geoff Toovey better make sure his accountancy licence is up to date. He could be looking for a job soon. What do YOU reckon?

March 2015

I reckon the NRL might as well scrap the video official altogether if the performance by the referees at the Gold Coast on the weekend is the best they can manage. How video ref Gavin Badger could rule a try to Dane Gagai after Korbin Sims appeared to blatantly knock-on is the biggest mystery since Phar Lap. As Kevin Walters put it so succinctly on Fox Sports commentary, “That was a knock-on when I was in the under-7s, and it still is.” Add in Badger telling on-field referee Adam Devcich to sin-bin David Taylor for an infringement that was actually committed by Greg Bird, and you have to think that he should be sent down to under-7s. Not that Badger was the only ref dropping the ball on the day. The problem with the video system is that it takes responsibility away from the people who are supposed to be running the game – the ones with the whistles. Refs are now so frightened of getting decisions wrong that they simply don’t make any. Time and time again they “go upstairs” for rulings on tries that they should be giving themselves. There is no doubt that Badger was the only person in the ground or watching on TV who saw it as a knock-back – even after looking at seven replays - but I reckon the real question that should be asked is this: how did the two referees on the field miss it in the first place? What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Johnathan Thurston will be lucky to see out the season – and he won’t be the only one unless the NRL takes steps to protect its star players. The way Thurston was targeted by the Knights on the weekend was nothing short of a disgrace. It was reminiscent of the bad old days of the 1960s and 70s when the game was known as thugby league and the all-important female market was being turned off in droves. No-one wants rugby league to stop being a contact sport, but at the same time, crowds pay to see creativity, flair and imagination as much as collisions and confrontation. Not that the way Thurston was singled out had anything to do with legitimate defence. It was aimed at taking him out of the game, pure and simple. The same thing is happening to Greg Inglis. Opponents might claim they lift his legs to stop him standing in the tackle, but you don’t have to be Einstein to see their aim isn’t to stop him passing. It’s to have him carried off. It isn’t that far off an incident I witnessed in the 1980s when a coach, who is still connected with the game, sent out one of his players with instructions to re-break the leg of the opposition captain who was returning from a bad injury. Mission accomplished, they are still boasting about it years later. I reckon the NRL can make all the wiz-bang TV ads and commission all the fancy branding they like, but if they don’t protect their stars, they won’t have a game left to promote. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Manly supporters are kidding if they expect any sympathy over Daly Cherry-Evans signing with the NRL-backed Titans. I read an entry from one on Twitter that said, “Another example of Manly getting done over by the NRL”. To which the Poms would say, “You havin’ a laugh?” As one of my colleagues so succinctly put it, Manly have made an art form of ripping clubs apart – and with the backing of the people who run the game. Through the 70s until the end of the Super League War they were actually one and the same, with Ken Arthurson head of both organisations, keeping an office at Manly Leagues Club and another at Phillip St. Forget the fact that Manly’s first-ever first grade team was made up almost half of North Sydney players from the previous year – and was captained by an ex-Bear – just look at the talent Arko signed from other clubs during his time at the top: Ken Irvine, John Gray, Bruce Walker, Mitchell Cox, Paul McCabe, Cliff Lyons (Norths), John O’Neill, Ray Branighan (Souths), Noel Cleal, Kerry Boustead (Easts) John Dorahy, Ray Brown, Les Boyd, John Ribot (Wests). And that’s just the points of the compass. Throw in Michael O’Connor from St George and you could field a rugby union side. Add in the fact that Walker, McCabe Ribot and Boustead were all proud Queenslanders – as is the homeward bound DCE - and I reckon you’ve got the definition of karma. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon a lot of footballers are like children. They have to be kept busy so they don’t get into trouble. Which is why no-one will be happier that this week marks the start of the NRL than the NRL. Think about it. Almost without exception the biggest scandals that hit rugby league happen in the off-season or, even worse, around the season launch. Former NRL boss David Gallop used to call them “double demerit” periods, like times of extra police action on the roads, such as at Easter or Christmas. Over the years you could almost circle a date in your calendar and say, “something bad is going to happen right around now” – clubs playing up on pre-season trips, players getting shot at in Kings Cross the night before the launch, false allegations against a player the night of the launch, and now the catastrophe on the Gold Coast – this list goes on and on. It’s almost as if the bad eggs believe it’s their last chance to misbehave before the serious stuff starts. So if you think you’re happy that the footy season is finally starting, spare a thought for David Smith and co. They’ll be doing cartwheels. So how do they curb the problem? I reckon they should play footy all year round – keep those naughty boys too active and too tired to get into strife. What do YOU reckon?

February 2015

I reckon any punishment dished out by the NRL to anyone found guilty of misbehaviour in the latest annual pre-season scandal should include a stint in the English Super League. Not as a player, as a supporter. Having just sat through the World Club Series on successive wintry nights in Warrington, Wigan and St Helens, I couldn’t believe the passion of the spectators, or “speccies” as they call them over here. They come out of their nice warm homes in rain and sleet and freezing conditions to cheer on the players. They sit there wearing five layers of clothing and chant and sing when they could be in front of an open fire watching the game on TV, and then they stand around afterwards to get autographs or just call out “well played, son”. It’s no different to the support the players receive in Australia, but under conditions you wouldn’t believe. I reckon some of our so-called role models should have to try being on the other side of the fence themselves once or twice to make them realise that without the goodwill of the fans, they wouldn’t have two-bob to rub together, let alone toss up against a wall. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon “Arizona-gate” could be just the spark the Rabbitohs need to go back-to-back. Speaking to Greg Inglis at the launch of the World Cup Challenge in Manchester this week I got the stock standard, “It’s brought us closer together” line. But you know what? I believe him. The one thing the high-flying Bunnies were lacking going into 2015 was the-whole-world-is-against-us mentality. Wayne Bennett cultivated it for years at the Broncos, and look how well it worked for them. Now Souths have got it. Team captain John Sutton getting belligerent in an Arizona bar might not have been a good look, but it was hardly a hanging offence. What made it special in the eyes of his team-mates was the way Luke Burgess came to his aid when the bouncers arrived. To them, that wasn’t a crime, it was a badge of honour. As Inglis told me, “We stick up for each other. That’s what teams do.” Fair enough, but the recent media blitz over the incident – and the NRL’s handling of it – and Sutton's subsequent sacking from the captaincy, have taken it from “what goes on tour stays on tour” in the eyes of the Souths' players to something else entirely. A solid dose of persecution complex. Nothing spells success in rugby league more than a good siege mentality, and now the Rabbitohs have got one I reckon they’ll be even harder to beat. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Queenslanders are in for a treat when one of the biggest musical acts in the world comes to Suncorp in July. A group called Liverpool FC. There have been some great musical performances at Suncorp over the years – U2, Robbie Williams, One Direction and Andre Rieu to name a few – but nothing even they can pump out can compare to the emotion of a packed stadium singing the Liverpool anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. The song has been heard around the world, but nowhere outside Anfield was it sung with as much passion as when the Reds played at the MCG two years ago. The YouTube footage of those amazing few minutes went viral, with millions watching in disbelief. Which means only one thing: it’s going to be even bigger in Brisbane. Victorians don’t get to play State of Origin, so Queenslanders just have to beat them at something else they boast about – being good supporters. Of course there will also be a game of football in there as well, with the Merseysiders taking on our own Roar and a win to the home side would be spoken about for decades. But regardless of the result – and come on, can anybody tell me the final score from that MCG match in 2013? – I reckon Queenslanders are in for the experience of their lives. What do YOU reckon.

January 2015

I reckon the Titans would be crackers to offer Daly Cherry-Evans $1 million a season, and I reckon Daly Cherry-Evans would be just as silly to take it. Quite frankly, I can’t see how this whole reported deal is ever going to come off. One day, we hear that the Titans are as a good as broke and can’t find a sponsor; the next that they are on the verge of making DCE one of the biggest offers in the history of the game. How does that work? But forget the financial machinations of the deal for a moment and look at what it would mean to Cherry-Evans. Sure, it’s great money, but what would it do to his career? DCE has the chance to become one of the best players in the game, but will that happen behind the Gold Coast pack? They have three big name forwards in Nate Myles, Greg Bird and Dave Taylor, but how long will the Titans be able to hold on to them if all that money is being spent on Cherry-Evans? And when those three go, how will they be able to attract any decent replacements if there is no money left in the piggy-bank? I reckon if I was Daly Cherry-Evans I’d be heading to a strong club, and if I was the Gold Coast Titans I’d be investing in junior development so that one day I wouldn’t have to make ridiculous offers in order to attract someone else’s talent. What do YOU reckon?

I reckon Wayne Bennett is about to face the biggest opponent of his career. A bloke by the name of Wayne Bennett. No-one has come close the filling the giant shoes that Bennett left behind at the Broncos when he headed to St George-Illawarra in 2009. The big question is whether Bennett can fill them himself, six years later. I have to admit that when I heard Bennett was returning to coach Brisbane, I had my reservations. The man left an enormous legacy and a record that will probably never be broken: 21 seasons, six premierships, and a reputation that borders on sainthood. It is an act that is almost impossible to follow. What is the pass mark? What will his teams have to achieve for his second stint to be deemed a success? After all, players like the ones who ran out for Bennett-coached teams between 1988 and 2008 don’t come along too often and the man who discovered most of them, the incomparable Cyril Connell, is no longer with us. When Bennett left the Broncos, people said his greatest challenge would be winning a premiership with the Dragons. He did it. They then said he couldn’t turn the Knights into contenders. He got them to within one win of a grand final. But nothing compares to the expectation of matching, or even surpassing, what Wayne Bennett achieved at the Broncos last time around. I reckon if anyone can do it, it is a bloke by the name of Wayne Bennett. What do YOU reckon?


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