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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
I reckon sport is probably the furthest thing from most people’s minds right now. After all, how can anyone put importance on the progress of an inflated ball going up and down a field, or spend hours debating whether a pass went a centimetre forward or backwards, when our country is grieving over the loss of one of its favourite sons? Well, maybe that is the very importance of sport. It is one of the few things in life that can so totally engage us that it helps overcome the pain of grief, if only for an hour or even a minute. Over the past 12 months we have seen some amazing sport around the world, in our country, and right here on the turf at Suncorp Stadium where over 1.2 million patrons watched 45 events. There was the elation of the Roar’s grand final win, the start of the Four Nations with almost 48,000 watching the double header, the passion of the Origin series and the frustration of the Wallabies losing in extra time to the All Blacks, and there will be plenty more to come next year. It might all seem meaningless right now, but little by little sport will help bring back the smiles and I reckon that is what makes it important. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon if Mike Mulvey can get sacked as coach of the Brisbane Roar, no coach is safe. That’s not to say that the Roar didn’t make the right decision. I remember once hearing Leigh Matthews say that coaches are salesmen. They sell belief. Once their players have stopped believing in what they are selling, they might as well move on. From all reports Mulvey had lost the support of his players. There’s nothing new about that, it happens all the time. Ask former Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie. He admitted as much and, in his own words, exited stage left. Mulvey didn’t get the chance to make his own exit, the Roar management did that for him but it seems the writing was on the wall. Yes, Mulvey had led the Roar to glory, but his time was up. Players don’t have to like their coaches any more than the coaches have to like their players. What is important is that they respect each other. I reckon once that is gone, there’s no point in postponing the inevitable. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon it’s about time the Socceroos ditched the “unlucky losers” tag and started repaying coach Ange Postecoglou for the faith he has shown in them. The team showed enough in the first half against Japan to suggest that they can be a force in the Asian Cup next year, but then did what they do just about every time they run out: faded out like an old candle. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of hearing about the Socceroos’ “honourable” losses against some of the best sides in the game at the World Cup. What I want to see are some quality wins against some of the best teams in Asia, not the promise lots-deliver little performances of recent months. The Asian Cup is the biggest tournament ever held in this country and it is imperative we put on a good show both on and off the field. If Australia ever wants to host a World Cup, it will need more than a puerile video presentation featuring surfing kangaroos and grinning Prime Ministers. It will need the football world to take us seriously as a playing nation. Seeing our superb venues packed with fans cheering on the Socceroos in January is an exciting prospect, but the team has to give them something to cheer about. I reckon their fans, and their coach, deserve it. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon all is not lost for the Brisbane Roar. Sure they’re the first A-League team to lose their first four matches, but they’re also the first and only team to win two consecutive grand-finals and three altogether. Seems to me, for the fans it’s a case of taking the bad with the good. Not that they shouldn’t be bleating about their team’s plight, or giving it to coach Mike Mulvey. That’s what football fans do. Look at the UK. Liverpool supporters thought their manager Brendan Rodgers walked on water this time last season, now they’d like to put him on a slow boat to China. Five games into the season Newcastle United fans were holding up signs calling for the sacking of their manager Alan Pardew. Now they want to build a statue of him. Same with the players. They’re not like other codes. They don’t hold it in and say, “we’re just taking one game at a time”. If they’re upset they take it out on each other. Shane Stefanutto having a crack at keeper Jamie Young would hardly get a headline in England. That sort of stuff happens every day. It’s a passionate game, the people who play it and watch it wear their hearts on their sleeves, and getting upset about your team doing badly is as much a part of it as cheering when they’re doing well. To say nothing about having 3000 suggestions on how to improve things. I reckon that’s what makes it great. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon ARU boss Bill Pulver should take Kurtley Beale's $45,000 fine and buy Sean McMahon a new car. Bill recently declared that the scandal that has been dragging Australian rugby through the mud was over. Actually, it will only be over when the Wallabies start winning back the public's respect on and off the field. Which is where McMahon comes in. The 20 year-old Brisbane kid played an absolute blinder last weekend when he came on as a replacement against the Barbarians at Twickenham and has been rewarded with his first Test start against Wales on Sunday morning. New coach Michael Cheika couldn't believe his luck. Here he is trying to show that there's a new sheriff in town and in rides McMahon. The kid can play, there's no doubt about that, but he's just as impressive off the field as well. Travelling with the Wallabies, as I am at the moment, I can see there's plenty of good young men on this team. I reckon they'll win back the public, but it won't be done through words. It'll be through their actions. What do YOU reckon.
I reckon the NRL was spot on in fining Paul Gallen $50,000 for his offensive rant on Twitter. If a coach can be hit with 10 grand for criticising a referee why shouldn't the NSW captain get five times that for what he said about the game's administrators? If nothing else, maybe Gallen's payout will send a message to other athletes to keep their fingers away from keyboards when they feeling more stupid than usual. He should consider himself lucky. A top footballer in the UK just got fined the equivalent of $50,000 for replying to an abusive fan on Twitter and used the word "sket" which the Football Association looked up in a book and found was a rude word. They wouldn't need any book to know what Gallen was saying. I reckon if he doesn't like the fine, he shouldn't pay it - and then quit rugby league. It doesn't seem to be working for him right now. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the start to Saturday’s Four Nations clash between Australia and New Zealand will be explosive. And I’m not talking about what happens after the kick-off. I mean the haka. I don’t know about you, but much as I love watching it, I’m just about sick of all the song and dance that goes on about this glorified song and dance. Good on the Australian under 20 rugby league players for standing up to the Junior Kiwis last week. If someone sticks their nose in your face and pokes out their tongue, what are you supposed to do? The way the All Blacks have bluffed the rest of the world over their “culture” is an absolute joke. It is intimidation pure and simple. You only have to see the one that features the throat-slitting action to know that. The International Rugby Board, under pressure from the precious NZRU, has banned opponents from even walking close to the haka, but rugby league is not so stand-offish. I seem to remember Willie Mason giving the Kiwis a gob-full one year and I don’t think Sam Thaiday, Beau Scott or Greg Bird will be hanging back on Saturday either. I reckon this is going to be one heck of a clash – and the game will be pretty good too. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the Wallabies have dug a big, deep hole for themselves and the first step to getting out of it starts here on Saturday against the All Blacks. If someone was looking for a blueprint on creating a public relations disaster, the current situation at the Wallabies would be top of the pile. Maybe if they had been putting it all together on the field, the off-field debacle wouldn’t seem so shocking – although, in saying that, the reverse is true as well. A team that is content, happy and all pulling together off the field is invariably a winning team that in turn will have total public support. Instead, the Wallabies – guilty and innocent alike - have painted themselves as a boy’s club with a total ignorance of public expectation. All of which makes Saturday’s game at Suncorp Stadium one of the most vital in the Wallabies’ long and proud history. A win won’t get them out of the mess they’re in but it will at least show some character. Against the Old Enemy who are coming off their first loss in almost two years, local hero Quade Cooper sure to get some game time, and the carrot of redemption being dangled – I reckon the ingredients are all there for a cracker of a game. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon this will be the Brisbane Roar’s most crucial season so far. The reigning A League champions line up against Adelaide at Suncorp on Sunday as the most successful club in the competition’s history. More importantly they are currently the most successful football team in Queensland. Over the last few years they’ve pretty much had the stage to themselves in Brisbane with the Broncos and Lions struggling after the loss of supercoaches Wayne Bennett and Leigh Matthews. That all changes in a few months when Bennett returns to town in a move that is being tipped to be worth millions to his old club in sponsorships, ticket sales and merchandising. With only so many dollars up for grabs in a tight market the Roar are going to have to be right on their game both on and off the field. Given all they have achieved in recent seasons, the thought of them raising the bar even further is an enticing prospect. Broncos supporters are rightly excited about the return of Bennett but I reckon he could prove to be winner for Roar fans as well. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon George Piggins should brush Russell Crowe if he tries to shake his hand at the Grand Final – not that I think Russell should be offering. No-one deserves to be at the big game more than George. The sight of him walking through the gates with his wife Noelene will become one of the most famous pictures in the game’s history. If it wasn’t for him there wouldn’t be a Souths, but after staying true to his principles and refusing to go to a game for eight years since Russell took over, why should he suddenly embrace his sworn enemy just because the team is successful? Same with Russell. He has invited George to every function the club has held since 2006 and never got so much as a reply. If he does bump into George on Sunday, instead of offering to shake his hand shouldn’t he be asking, “Hey George, where we you when the only thing we looked like winning was the wooden spoon?” They’ve both done great things for their club and won plenty of respect without having a bar of each other. I reckon they should keep it that way. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon it would have been great to see the Cowboys make it all the way through to the Big Dance but with that not happening I’m glad the Bulldogs got through. At least it gives us someone to death ride. Think about it. With a Souths-Panthers grand final you’d have an each way bet. After all they’ve gone through, Souths are most people’s second team but even if the Panthers won you couldn’t feel too upset. They’re hardly a rugby league super power that pushes their weight around; they’ve gone through some pretty lean years, and if it wasn’t for Gus Gould you’d be hard pressed to find one thing about them that is irritating, let alone interesting. And where’s the fun in that? The Bulldogs on the other hand, how much time have you got? In captain Michael Ennis they’ve got the most annoying man ever to strap on a boot and their coach Des Hasler is so sour he redefines the old Jack Gibson quote, “They’d boo Santa Clause, this mob”. Des started whingeing when the doctor smacked him on the backside the day he was born and he hasn’t stopped since. I reckon that makes for a great grand final. The team that wouldn’t die against the team that won’t shut up. What do YOU reckon.
I reckon Johnathan Thurston should get a medal for not blowing his stack after the Cowboys got shafted in the finals for the third straight year. In fact, the NRL should refund the $10,000 they fined Paul Green the week before as a reward for Thurston’s restraint. How he kept his mouth shut in the minutes after fulltime is a mystery almost as big as how the video refs ruled than Robert Lui knocked-on before JT “scored” the winning try. I’m starting to think the Cowboys are cursed. Three years running they’ve got to the finals – and had a team good enough to go all the way – and three years running they’ve been bundled out courtesy of a dodgy decision. Have they changed the knock-on rule while I’ve been out of the country? I always thought the ball had to be propelled forward towards the opposition try-line. These days it seems it just has to be dropped. Or maybe not. Sonny Bill Williams dropped the pill cold as a spud but the ref handed him a penalty to get the Roosters in position for the winning field goal. You can say all you like that the Cowboys deserved to lose after their shocking first 30 minutes, but did the Roosters deserve to win after their woeful last 50? JT might not say it, but I reckon the Cows were robbed, plain and simple. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Gus Gould is right. The video ref is ruining rugby league. Not just because they get things wrong. Because they get them right. The decision to rob the Melbourne Storm of arguably the most exciting try of the season was technically correct, but seriously, if you have to go back that far, slow the play down that much and replay it that many times to find evidence of the most minuscule of knock-ons, is it really in the spirit of the game? Everyone knows that humans are prone to make mistakes – even using the best technology available the men upstairs don’t always make the right call – and sport is all about humanity. Rob it of that and you might as well play computer games. If you do want to use video to rule on tries, restrict it to the put down only. Let the refs rule on the lead-up. As for replays on TV and at the games, just have one replay, and at normal speed. Let the crowds see what the refs see. I reckon that way we would have less controversy, less pressure on referees and more entertaining footy. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the NRL should ban Mad Monday, or the Sharks. Maybe both. Surely the latest hoo-har over the Sharks end-of-season blow-out should mark the end of the out-dated tradition of well-paid professional athletes behaving like a bunch of naughty schoolboys who have broken into their parents’ liquor cabinet. The excuse that they are entitled to celebrate after a long season just doesn’t cut it. Especially not in the case of the Sharks. What could they possibly have to celebrate? But regardless of the club involved, the sight of footballers behaving badly, often dressed up like drag queens, is not what a professional organisation like the NRL needs associated with its brand. As for the club executives who turn a blind eye, don’t they realise the combination of footballers, alcohol and the inevitable media coverage is a dead-set recipe for disaster? The list of atrocities that have occurred – and been reported – on these outings, from allegations of sexual assault to coaches being knocked out to reporters being abused, is as long as Todd Carney’s tattoo bill. Nobody is naïve enough to think that footballers are angels, but to gather them together once a year in one place, fill them full of booze and give the TV cameras a free shot is just plain dumb. I reckon if the clubs aren’t strong enough to call fulltime on Mad Monday it’s time the NRL did it for them. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the NRL should seriously look at poaching some players from the AFL. Swans star Kieren Jack threw the cat amongst the pigeons when he admitted on a Sydney radio show that he would consider following in his father Gary’s footsteps if offered a contract with a rugby league club. I say, why not? As a league supporter I must say I get a little annoyed when other codes throw enormous cash at big name league players in order to promote their games and the NRL does nothing more than wave them goodbye. Union did it with Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and Mat Rogers before the 2003 Rugby World Cup and the AFL shamelessly used Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt to whip up interest in their new clubs in Western Sydney and the Gold Coast. It’s no secret that the NRL is struggling to attract crowds outside Brisbane and Townsville. Perhaps that wouldn’t be the case if Buddy Franklin was playing in the back-row for the Roosters, Gary Ablett played halfback for the Titans or Kieren Jack was wearing his father’s old number one jersey at the Tigers. Maybe they’d make it like the three union boys, or flop like Izzy at GWS, but I reckon it would still create a heap of interest – and give the AFL a bit of their own back. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Paul Gallen copping a plea with ASADA seriously taints the NSW Blues' record breaking Origin-winning run of one. How can it not? As Gallen himself has said, even while claiming to have taken banned substances unknowingly, by grasping ASADA's life preserver he will now forever be branded a drug cheat. If that doesn't taint his greatest achievement in rugby league, what would? Sure Gallen was only one of 25 NSW players who finally managed to wrest Cameron Smith's fingers off the Origin trophy after eight years, but he was definitely the most influential. If captains Artie Beetson, Steve Mortimer and Wally Lewis can be credited with inspiring historic Origin wins, why not Gallen? Already one influential Sydney commentator is calling for Gallen to be stripped of the Blues captaincy but how about retrospective action? Obviously his case differs to those of say Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones - he has admitted to nothing other than stupidly, and plays a team sport - so there is no gold medal or yellow jersey to be repossessed. I reckon he should be made to get a pair of pliers and cut off one 25th of the '2014 NSW' plaque on the trophy. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the worst off-the-ball hit of the weekend was the one the NRL put on that poor little ballboy from Parramatta. For crying out loud, how can a kid be expected to keep up with the rule changes of rugby league when the players don’t seem to have a clue what’s going on? Remember when Golden Point came in and the only people in the game who had less idea of what was going on than the players were the coaches? And now here we have an 11 year-old kid crying himself to sleep because he doesn’t know the intricacies of the latest 40-20 rule. Well guess what? He wasn’t the only one. If Parramatta winger Val Toutai had any idea he could have thrown the ball back to the ballboy and told him to place it on the line, or played it off the line himself - he had time. Either way, how can a crucial play in a multi-million dollar professional game be left up to an 11 year-old? I reckon the one hauled over the coals shouldn’t be the ballboy; it should be whoever came up with the dumb rule in the first place – and then compounded the error by not ensuring that everyone involved in the game knew how it worked. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the Grub should buy a lottery ticket. The jury is still out on whether Josh Reynolds is the dirtiest player in the NRL but he is definitely the luckiest. Seems like Reynolds can do what he likes on the field with virtual impunity as the judiciary appears to have a different view of the seriousness of his actions to everyone else. Everyone else, that is, except Bulldogs and NSW Origin fans. To say people north of the border were gobsmacked when the man affectionately known to his friends as Grub was allowed to play in Origin II after his part in a tackle which could have had unthinkable ramifications for Brent Tate, is an understatement. For him to now get off with little more than a “tut-tut” after a complete brain-snap against the Broncos on Friday night is just plain unfathomable. I reckon the NRL judiciary needs to show some backbone because the Grub and his supporters are laughing at them - all the way to the finals. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon that great win by the Waratahs in the Super 15 final is just what the Reds need to get back on track. Maybe Queensland’s disappointing season was compounded by the success of the Tahs. It wasn’t that long ago that it was the Reds doing the victory lap after downing the Crusaders at Suncorp Stadium and on the weekend the boys in blue did the job on their own home track. All season Michael Cheika’s side has played rugby the way it should be played – the way the Reds played it when they won the title. If there is one thing guaranteed to get Queenslanders motivated it’s being overshadowed by New South Wales. Former Wallaby coach Rod Macqueen said the best thing for Australian rugby was when all our sides were fighting it out to make the Super finals. With the Brumbies one win away from the final, the Tahs winning it and a World Cup just around the corner I reckon this season’s result could be great news for the Wallabies – and the Reds – in 2015. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Usain Bolt is right. The Olympics are better than the Commonwealth Games, but I also reckon the English press are way off the mark the way they are trying to belittle them. Of course the world’s fastest man is going to prefer to compete against the best on the planet but that’s not what these Games are about. And as for The Times newspaper comparing winning times in Glasgow with those in London two years ago, they’re kidding. Different conditions, different training cycles, different fields, different pressures. The Commonwealth Games are what they are: good experience for elite athletes. a good experience for the “minnows” who wouldn't get the chance to compete at this level otherwise. I reckon if you don’t like them, don’t watch them. It won’t bother the athletes. The ones I’ve seen over here look to be having a ball. Except for Usain Bolt of course. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Anthony Griffin won something more important than any trophy in the past week. The jury might still be out on whether Hook has what it takes to be a premiership coach but the respect he earned by the way he handled himself in the midst of what must have been the most painful time of his professional life was universal. No-one realised more than Griffin the enormity of the task ahead of him when he replaced Ivan Henjak as Broncos coach. Like Henjak before him, Hook was stepping into the biggest shoes in the game. No matter what he did, his results would always be judged against the record and presence of Bennett. It was always an almost impossible act to follow but when it was announced that Bennett was returning to Red Hill, Hook was all class. With the tap on the shoulder coming just days after his gutsy decision to stand down three players for disciplinary reasons – followed by an away win over the tough Warriors – plus the dignity with which he accepted his fate means Griffin leaves with his head held high. I reckon Wayne Bennett will have some pretty big shoes to fill himself. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the Queensland Reds should pull out the cheque book and try to sign Wayne Bennett. Rugby league’s most successful coach is looking for a job and says he wants a challenge and right now the Reds are about as challenging as you can get. Plus it brings him back home to family and friends. So what if Benny has never coached rugby union? A few years back I asked another great coach, Leigh Matthews, about swapping codes and he said the skill set of managing and motivating players was transferable; it was things like rules, tactics and decision making in the immediacy of a game situation that would be a problem. Which is why you don’t hire Bennett as coach. You put him in as manager, in a Sir Alex Ferguson type role. He runs the show, builds the culture, motivates (or in Sir Alex’s case, frightens) the players and generally plays God, while Richard Graham does the day to day coaching. It has worked with Phil Gould and Ivan Cleary at the Penrith Panthers, I reckon there’s no reason it couldn’t work at Ballymore. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon there were two great halfbacks playing for Queensland on Wednesday night. Too bad only one can wear the number seven jersey. The courage shown by Cooper Cronk in coming back from a broken arm after just six weeks inspired the Maroons and the flair shown by Daly Cherry-Evans in setting up Cameron Smith’s try proved that the Maroons’ future is in good hands. It was a pity that Cronk, just centimetres behind Smith in the chase for the ball, didn’t get the four-pointer he deserved. It was also a pity, but inevitable, that Queensland’s remarkable eight year winning streak had to come to an end. That being said, this was the way to do it. Not with a meek surrender, but with two fighting losses followed by a spanking win. NSW supporters are crowing, and good luck to them, this is their time and they should enjoy it while they can. I reckon the way Mal Meninga marshalled his team – and the way they responded – shows that the latest Blues dynasty might be a very short one. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the World Cup has taken over the Olympic Games as the biggest sporting event on the planet. It seems to me – and I have covered six of them going back to Barcelona in 1992 – that the Olympics have moved so far away from the original concept as to be unrecognisable. I recently read a book about the proliferation of drugs in sport and an expert on the issue said something along the lines of that due to doping the Olympics were no longer a fair sporting contest, but rather theatre – which is all very well if that is what you are after. The World Cup on the other hand, despite all the politicking and under the table deals regarding who gets to host them, is still at its core exactly what it was when it first kicked off back in 1930: footballers playing football. Being in Europe right now and seeing for the first time the way the competition is embraced outside Australia makes me realise how sad it was that Frank Lowy’s dream of bringing the World Cup down under in his lifetime could not be realised. Maybe we were never a realistic chance, maybe we were dudded; whatever: the fact is, we would have done a great job and the game would have been better for it. Still, we do have next year’s Asian Cup and while it might not be the World Cup, it is still a chance for Australians to get a taste of the greatest show on earth. I reckon it will be sensational. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon it would take a genius sculptor to capture the real Paul Gallen. With word that a statue is being planned to recognise Gallen's great contribution to NSW sport, the sculptor would need to be Michelangelo and Walt Disney combined. He'd have to show Gallen whingeing to the refs, thumping unprotected opponents, passing the buck, putting the knife into his own coach and then doing a bigger backflip than Nadia Comenici. Still, anything is possible in a state which describes a team that manages one series win in nine attempts as "history-making". You have to wonder what that makes the team that won eight in a row. As for Gallen's inclusion on an Olympic Stadium Walk of Fame; walk of shame would be more like it. Forget for a moment the cheap shots, the "he started it, ref" whineing, and blaming everyone but himself for his teams' shortcomings; let's focus on how he put the boot into a coach who has taken on the worst job in rugby league - and then tried to deny saying it (never a good idea when you've shot your mouth off on live radio). If that is the sort of "history-making" Blues captain that NSW wants to immortalise in bronze all I can say us, I feel sorry for Steve Mortimer. I reckon there is one bright spot though. If ever Queensland Origin players and supporters need any added motivation as they walk into the enemy fortress, it'll be there staring them straight in the eye. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Origin II was the defeat Queensland had to have. Come on, face facts, all dynasties have to end, and if the Maroons were going to finally loosen their grasp on the trophy it might as well have happened in a spiteful, turgid, arm-wrestle which neither side really deserved to lose - or, for that matter, win. The way NSW ground out their victory: without imagination, flair or panache, was the way they’ve been playing for years. The sad thing is that Queensland was finally dragged down to their level. The likes of Paul Gallen and Greg Bird have been trying to turn Origin into a street fight since they first pulled on a blue jersey. Last year Nate Myles wouldn’t be suckered into it. This year, for some reason, the Maroons tried to go toe to toe. No-one is denying that Origin is tough, uncompromising rugby league, but in the past the great Queensland sides have combined grit with flowing backline movement, brilliant individuality and the confidence to go around the brick wall rather than attempt to punch a hole through it. Maybe it was the pressure of keeping the dynasty alive, maybe it was the loss of Cooper Cronk and Matt Scott at crucial times, or maybe it was simply time catching up with them. I reckon having the weight of history off their backs will allow the Maroons to lay the foundation for another golden period, starting with Game 3 at Suncorp. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Israel Folau is the best investment Australian Rugby has ever made. Back in 2002 when the ARU paid the astonishing sum of $600,000 a season to poach Wendell Sailor from rugby league there was talk that they had overpaid. I said at the time, and stick by it today, that Wendell was worth every cent. The publicity he brought to the code in the lead-up to a home World Cup was priceless. The AFL tried to do the same thing when they paid Izzy a fortune to promote their new Western Sydney franchise. Sadly for them, they did their dough. The NRL dropped the ball when it came to getting Izzy back and their loss was union’s gain. Whatever the ARU is paying him isn’t enough. Double it and they’d still be getting a bargain. The performance Izzy put on against France at Suncorp Stadium last weekend was the best advertisement for the code since the likes of Ella, Campese, Farr-Jones, Eales and Lynagh hung up their boots. In the weekly battle that is the Australian football market, winning ugly is not enough to capture hearts, minds and hard-earned. Crowds want excitement, entertainment and the wow factor. In other words, what Israel Folau provides week in, week out. Word is out that the French are willing to pay whatever it takes to lure Izzy to their club competition. I reckon whatever they are offering, the ARU should add a zero or two. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the Blues’ win in Origin I was the perfect result. Before you start collecting kindling to burn me in effigy in Queen St Mall, hear me out. Sure Queensland supporters cry tears of maroon blood whenever NSW wins a game but seriously, isn’t it nice to see some signs of life from the opposition every now and then? The build-up to the contest was superb. From unveiling Mal’s statue to retiring Big Artie’s jersey to Billy Moore’s Queenslander call, it was all set up to be Queensland’s night; and then NSW did the unthinkable. Hate the Blues as much as you like, but you have to admit that was one gutsy performance. You’ll never hear a Queenslander say that Origin is under threat, but the cold hard facts are that it takes two teams – and two sets of supporters – to make the concept work. After eight years the Blues fans needed a reason to believe. They got that in Game l. And if Maroons fans needed any more reason to be fired up, they got it thanks to the judiciary's astonishing decision on Josh Reynolds. It all sets the stage for this to be one of the all-time great series: Mal getting the show back on the road, DCE needing to make the big step up, the Blues losing the Morris boys as they head to their own paddock, the prospect of a blockbuster decider at The Cauldron. I reckon it doesn’t get much better. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the judiciary’s decision to downgrade Josh Reynolds’ dangerous throw charge was one of the worst I have ever seen. It was also one of the most damaging to the image of rugby league. Coming as it did in the aftermath of a similar tackle which had such tragic effects on the life of Newcastle’s Alex McKinnon – and in the biggest, most watched game of the year – it was a charge that simply had to be upheld. No-one who saw the way Reynolds lifted Queensland’s Brent Tate and propelled him head-first towards the Suncorp turf in Origin I could have been anything but horrified. The fact that Tate was not injured was miraculous and, in the context of the judiciary, totally irrelevant. Surely the tackle should have been judged on its intent, not its outcome. If Tate had been badly hurt could the judiciary members honestly say their decision would have been the same? It is a ruling that makes a mockery of the league’s stated intent to prioritise player safety. I reckon the players deserved better, the fans deserved better and the game deserved better. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the best story of this year’s Origin series is the one you’ll never read. It’s the story of Jake Friend, or more correctly the story of his selection as Queensland’s 19th man. You won’t read about it because chances are Friend won’t get a run. In fact, when the Roosters’ hooker was seen arriving at Suncorp Stadium for Monday’s team announcement the question on most observers’ lips was, “what’s he doing here?” There hadn’t been a hint that Cameron Smith was in any sort of doubt and, even if he was, the logical standby was surely Manly’s Matt Ballin who had played one match as Smith’s replacement in 2010. But there was more to Friend’s invitation to join Queensland’s most exclusive club than a slighter than slight chance of playing Origin. His is a story of redemption; of a talented kid who went off the rails and stood at the crossroads. Just four years ago he could have thrown it all away, but he chose to work hard and show respect for himself and the game. Those are the qualities that Mal Meninga spoke about at Monday’s announcement; the qualities he looks for in his team By picking Friend, Meninga sent a message to every player who dreams of wearing the maroon jersey: ‘This is who we are. Play by the rules and the rewards will come.’ I reckon whether he makes it onto the field or not, Jake Friend is already the biggest winner of Origin 2014. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Laurie Daley will have to change his name to Houdini if he can pull an Origin win out of his hat this year. I’m not talking about a series win by the way; I’m talking about winning a game. Not since 1983 have the Blues been in a bigger pickle than they find themselves now. The 1983 series is best remembered for the elbow to the jaw that Darryl Brohman copped from Les Boyd in Game l, but the real carnage came a few weeks later when the NSW selectors had to pluck unknown Paul Field from Cootamundra to make up the numbers. Not one Blues player featured in all three games of the series and this year is shaping up the same way. Laurie’s favourites have been dropping like flies due to injury, suspension and, potentially, off-field misbehaviour, but even with a full complement it would be hard to see any 17 players in blue worrying the Maroons. As one Twitter wag noted after the City-Country game ended in a draw: “Two NSW teams played an Origin trial and they still couldn’t get a win”. Still, that’s the greatness of Origin. Sometimes adversity proves to be the best selector of all. The Blues actually won the second game in 1983, having made 12 changes from their initial side. Of course Queensland did thrash them 43-22 in the decider, which just goes to prove that class will always prevail in the end. As Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Greg Inglis and Melbourne’s Big Three showed on the weekend, Mal’s Mighty Maroons are all class. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon in the past four years the Brisbane Roar have earned a spot at the very top of the Queensland sporting ladder. If anyone had told me when the A-League was formed in 2005 that the Roar would soon be up there with the Broncos, Lions, Reds and Bulls, I would have laughed in their face. Following Sunday’s heart-stopping grand final win over Western Sydney Wanderers it’s the Roar and their supporters having the last laugh. It’s not just that the men in orange turned on a amazing, incredible, sensational season finale in front of 51,153 delirious fans at Suncorp that puts them at the very top echelon of Queensland’s all-time great teams; it’s the fact that they’ve now done it three times. When they came back from 2-nil halfway through extra time in 2011 we said we’d never seen anything like it and never would again. They came close to matching that performance in 2012 and if they didn’t top it on Sunday, then they came darn close. How’s this for stats: in their three grand final wins the Roar have never scored before the 84th minute and have led for a total of only 14 minutes – eight of them after Henrique scored in extra time on Sunday. They play with all the skill, grit and determination of any of the great Queensland sides and while it is impossible to compare different codes and eras I reckon without doubt they are consistently the most exciting grand final-winning team this country has ever seen. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Queenslanders will be in for the time of their lives if plans to bring the Wladimir Klitschko Show to Suncorp Stadium come to fruition. Having spent the last week in Germany covering the Klitschko-Alex Leapai fight I can tell you a chance to see Dr Steelhammer in action is something you should never pass up. The maximum 60 minutes of boxing is just part of the experience. The build-up and entrance, choreographed with all the hoopla of a U2 concert, is something else again. After the fight Klitschko’s handlers said they want to take their champ to the world and the co-promoters who put together the Leapai fight are talking seriously about finding the finances to bring him to Suncorp Stadium. Newly crowned Commonwealth champ Big Daddy Browne versus Klitschko for the title and Leapai up against motor-mouths Tyson Fury or Shannon Briggs on the under-card? Sounds good to me. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the next week will be the most important in the Queensland Reds’ season – and they won’t be playing. With their million dollar back-line the Reds promised plenty this year and except for a few glimmers of brilliance they have delivered very little. Seems to me it’s not the razzle dazzle they need to work on during their much needed bye. It’s a dose of reality. Forget the glory days and ticker-tape parades of 2011, the Reds should be looking at their poor cousins the Western Force if they want to learn how to win matches. Flick passes and miracle plays might look good on YouTube, but it is ball control and grinding away for the full 80 minutes that earns premiership points. The Reds have two tough games over the ditch before a crucial three match spell at home. Two more away games and then the ultimate promoters’ dream of a Suncorp showdown with the Waratahs to end the section means this season still has a way to go, but I reckon it’s attitude, not aptitude, where the Reds need improvement. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Luke Brooks is the next Allan Langer. I’m not saying the kid from Wests Tigers will reach legend status; what I am saying is that Laurie Daley should bite the bullet and hand him a blue jumper for Origin 1. Now before you start throwing out words like “lack of first grade experience”, “handful of NRL games” and “too young, too small, too soon,” let’s think back to 1987. The Queensland selectors gambled on Alfie on the recommendation of coach Wayne Bennett and manager Tosser Turner after a three-match tour of New Zealand – one of which he was too crook to get out of the bus. His only experience was with the Ipswich Jets and he was so tiny NSW media thought it was a gee-up. But Queensland needed him and he played Origin like he was born for it. If NSW sticks with Mitchell Pearce they deserve to lose 20 on the trot, and Brooks played all over the apparent Blues 7-in-wating Adam Reynolds on Friday night. NSW needs a miracle, Origin needs a contest. The best thing about a kid like Brooks – and Alfie back in 1987 – is that sometimes they don’t know they’re too young, too small and it’s too soon. They just go out and play footy. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Besart Berisha will be the difference between the Brisbane Roar winning or losing their third A-League grand final. The only thing consistent about Berisha is his inconsistency. One minute he’s got the footwork of Fred Astaire, the next he’s about as subtle as Fred Flintstone. It’s getting to the stage where if he can get through the full 90 minutes without being sent off he does a lap of honour. At one stage Roar supporters would say Berisha’s indiscretions were a small price to play for his brilliance but surely, now that he has turned his back on the club in favour of Melbourne Victory even they must be having their doubts. He has shown too many times this season that he cannot – or will not – curb his emotions for the good of the team. It’s fair to say the expression “discretion is the better part of valour” doesn’t translate well into Albanian. Despite the great goals Berisha has scored over the years I reckon his short fuse has become a luxury the Roar cannot afford. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the Reds will run onto Suncorp for their match against the Stormers on Saturday and kiss the turf. Never will the green, green grass of home look better. The stitch up job that James Horwill and co received against the Lions in Johannesburg last weekend wouldn't have been out of place in a Hong Kong tailor shop. Coach Richard Graham was being diplomatic when he said the Reds should never have lost after taking a 20-3 lead at half-time but it's pretty hard to keep your mind on the job when you're in grave danger of being hit in the eye with the pea from the referee's whistle. Reports vary on whether the penalty count was 16-4, 17-4 or 19-4, not that you can blame the journos covering the match. You'd need a scientific calculator to keep up. Still, the Reds misfortune in South Africa might just prove to be the best thing to happen to Brisbane rugby since Buddha was a little fat kid sitting on a Nudgee mountaintop seeking enlightenment. With zero from two on tour the boys are now playing catch up. Even the Western Force are above them on the Australian table. They need bonus points and that means tries, tries and more tries. Quade Cooper has never needed extra motivation to reach into his bag of tricks but I reckon he'll make Houdini look like a reserve grader as the Reds go for broke. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon we haven’t seen the last of Jharal Yow Yeh. Not by a long shot. When the 24 year-old announced on Monday that his courageous comeback attempt had fallen short he did it with his head held high. As we’ve come to expect, he was all class. First time I met Jharal was when I was seated next to him at a schools' sports development function. He was polite, engaged, and happy to sign autographs and pose for photographs with the kids. In short, everything I have come to expect from a young player who has come through the Broncos system. It was only a year after his shocking injury, when I heard him interviewed by Peter Psaltis on 4BC; that I realised just what an impressive young man he is. Thoughtful, articulate, and with amazing strength of character, he is destined for far more than catching a football or scoring tries. I can see him doing great work with FOGS in their indigenous youth programs; he would be a natural for TV commentary – I’d start him beside Psaltis on the Intrust Super Cup ASAP – and he could be an inspiration to young people facing their own challenges in any number of areas. On Monday Jharal said, “everything happens for a reason”. In this case I reckon he’s right. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the Broncos could do a lot worse than sign Chris Sandow to an incentive contract. What have they got to lose? The Eels are so keen to dump their "best ever signing" that they'll not only pay the majority of his salary, but drive him to the airport and see him onto the plane. Anthony Griffin was showing admirable loyalty to his current pairing when he said he had no interest in Sandow but come on Hook, it's not like you've got Alfie Langer and Darren Lockyer running out in the halves next week. Sandow has had his troubles but he's not Robinson Crusoe in that department. The Broncos were willing to offer Ben Baba a lifeline and it wasn't that long ago that Sandow was being talked about as a future Origin half. At the very worst he could keep Ben Hunt on his toes. Back to his best, with Baba running off him and Anthony Milford a season away, I reckon he could be a sensation. What do you reckon?
I reckon the biggest feel-good story of the 2014 rugby league season was written a week before the NRL kicked off. The PNG Hunters’ first up win over Redcliffe might not have been what Dolphins fans were hoping for, but it was a huge shot in the arm for the future of the game. A lot of critics wrote off last year’s Rugby League World Cup, claiming minnows such as the PNG Kumuls had no right to be on the same field as the likes of Australia, New Zealand and England. OK, maybe they don’t have the depth right now to compete at the top level but there is one category in which PNG leads everyone else. It is the only country in the world in which rugby league is the national sport. The population is obsessed with the game and playing in the Intrust Super Cup is only going to take that interest to untold heights. It’s also going to showcase the talents of a whole new generation of players good enough to follow in the studmarks of Marcus Bai, Adrian Lam, Neville Costigan and James Segerayo, all the way to the NRL. And once that happens, I reckon it won’t be long before the minnows grow some teeth. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Queensland Origin supporters are missing just one thing: a decent song to sing. Last weekend I achieved a lifelong ambition when I was in the crowd at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, for the Wales-France Six Nations rugby union clash. For over 50 years I've dreamed of hearing 70,000 voices providing the pre-match entertainment as they sing along to the band of the Welsh Guards, and it was everything I hoped it would be. When the French fans sang Le Marsellaise, and the Welshblew them away with Land of Our Fathers, I felt I really was eating the Bread of Heaven. Then the game started and you know what? Even with 20,000 more seats, a closed roof and a reputation for having the most passionate fans on the planet, I thought the atmosphere at Millennium lacked the intensity of Suncorp on Origin night. No sporting event I have witnessed anywhere in the world can compete with the build up of raw emotion that erupts like a volcano with the first tackle of Origin, and no crowd maintains its energy from kick-off to fulltime like the Maroon faithful. They just need a song, and heartfelt as it may be! I reckon: 'The Blues Can't Play' just doesn't cut it. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon regardless what position Ben Barba plays Broncos fans will have to be patient before he is the game-breaker they so desperately want. The Barba of two years ago would have turned the NRL Nines into a one-man show. Instead, his highlights package from the weekend runs no longer than Usain Bolt over 50 metres. There is no question that Barba is a class act but no-one, no matter how talented, could go through what he did last season and not be affected. His return to top form will take time and there will be challenges for all concerned: player, fans and coach. Barba will be frustrated that he can’t just pick up where he left off, the fans will want instant results and Anthony Griffin will have sleepless nights deciding whether to play him at one or six as injuries and contract disputes cut down the options. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Rugby Australia could save themselves a lot of time and money as they wrestle once again with the issue of a second tier competition.The ill-fated National Rugby Championship resulted in the demise of CEO Gary Flowers and almost sent the game broke. Now the powers-that-be have gone back to the drawing board with no indication their next attempt will be any better. My solution will cost the price of an airfare and a pint of lager. Last weekend I watched a round of the Six Nations in a packed pub in London. That's what Australia needs, the passion of parochialism, not guns for hire playing for teams with silly names that no-one relates to. Queensland vs NSW, ACT, Victoria and WA. No imports, genuine rivalry, a showcase for newcomers and an incentive for the "minnows" to improve and grow their own talent. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon an NFL match at Suncorp Stadium would be an absolute sensation. Personally I have been a big fan of American football since I was blown away by the majesty of the 49ers quarterback Joe Montana in the early 1980s. Joe Cool (or Chicken Legs as his team-mates called him) was the Darren Lockyer of his game, never flustered, never rushed, and never, ever beaten. It is the opportunity to see the US athletes in action, rather than an in-depth knowledge of the technicalities of the sport, that would make a Brisbane game such a spectacle. Yes, the games last for ever, and yes the number of personnel on the sidelines is bigger than the population of some Pacific nations, but if the Queensland Government and Suncorp Stadium management can get this one into the end-zone, I reckon it'll be a guaranteed touchdown What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the Origin cold war has started early this year and the Blues are already shooting blanks. The Sydney media report that Dane Gagai missed a training session at the Emerging Maroons camp after a big night out was a fair yarn, but the comment from an un-named "source close to the Maroons" who blamed Gagai's sleep-in on "the arrogance that comes with winning eight straight series" was laughable. As for the tug-of-war over South Sydney number seven Luke Keary, if a kid who hasn't played a minute of first grade is the answer to the Blues halfback woes, NSW supporters are in for a long wait. Laurie Daley needs a playmaker now, not in three years when Keary or the next great Blue hope ditches the trainer wheels. Maybe he should have a word to Brad Fittler. Anything has to be an improvement. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Quade Cooper could be the unlikely saviour of Australian rugby. They say in business if you are not going forward you are going backwards and rugby in this country has been doing just that for years. Bogged down by boring tactics, poor results and an incomprehensible rule book the game has seen interest levels plummet. Talk that Cooper could be the Wallabies next captain, while laughable 18 months ago, offers rugby its best chance of connecting with the next generation of paying customers. He is the antithesis of the leather-patch old school rugger chap but he is also exciting, unpredictable and followed by 500,000 on Twitter. Coach Ewen McKenzie has shown he is prepared to make the big calls and they don't come bigger than this, but Cooper has never let him down. He showed maturity and glimpses of brilliance on the last tour. Is he ready to lead his adopted country? I reckon he is. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the Broncos might have lost a captain but they've gained a player. Some footballers, like Wally Lewis, are natural leaders. Others, like Darren Lockyer, need time to become comfortable in the role. Unfortunately for Sam Thaiday, Brisbane's poor form in 2013 meant he never got that time. Of course he was disappointed to lose the job, but Broncos' supporters should be delighted. That little c next to Sam's name was like an anchor around his neck. As he proved in Origin Thaiday is far more potent running around creating mayhem when he doesn't have the pressure of captaincy on his mind. Corey Parker is an obvious choice as replacement, although the co-captaincy with Justin Hodges is puzzling. Hodges has never had a problem giving orders in the past. Maybe it's a clue to where he'll be during Origin. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the Blues have got as much chance of ending Queensland's Origin stranglehold next year as Lance Armstrong has of being elected president of WADA. The release of the 2014 schedule, confirming two games at Suncorp, sentenced NSW coach Laurie Daley to six months of sleepless nights but it's not the draw that is his biggest nightmare. It's his halfback. Or, more correctly, his lack of a halfback. Daley's inexplicable proclamation months before Game 1 of 2013 that ineffective Mitchell Pearce would be his number seven throughout the series all but handed the shield to the Maroons. After 12 games for a return of just three wins and five series losses surely Pearce's time is up, but will his probable replacement Adam Reynolds be the answer to the Blues' prayers? What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the English cricketers should have some cement with their tea and scones and harden up. All their whining about sledging and crowd behaviour makes them sound like a bunch of sooks, which is hardly surprising because that’s obviously what they are. They should take a look at the NRL if they want to see how real men handle a bit of harmless banter. As Gorden Tallis once said about opposition crowds, “If they pay their money they can yell out anything they want. As long as they don’t throw things or insult my family, I love it.” There’s only one sure way to shut up a loudmouth – on the field or in the grandstand - and that’s to do it on the scoreboard. The Poms have got three more Tests, maybe they should stop whingeing and try scoring some runs. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Quade Cooper should get the Laureus Comeback of the Year Award. The way he performed during the latest Wallaby tour – both on and off the field – was the biggest career turnaround since John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. Coach Ewen McKenzie sacking six players for being out on the grog wasn’t the major shock of the tour – it was the fact that Cooper wasn’t one of them. Then there was his sublime performance against Six-Nations champs Wales that finally showed what he is capable of against strong opposition. The combination of a coach who understands him, the responsibility of the vice-captaincy and the absence of his two amigos James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale was the making of Cooper. Bring on 2014, I say. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon if Anthony Milford wants to move to Brisbane the Raiders are morally obligated to let him go. Let’s not forget that this is the club that lured Ricky Stuart away from Parramatta with three years to run on his contract. Surely when Canberra boss Don Furner said Milford would be forced to honour his agreement his tongue was firmly in his cheek. Stuart and the Raiders used “family issues” to justify him deserting the Eels and given his situation it would be a hard hearted person who begrudged him the opportunity to move home to the ACT. So how is that different to Milford’s case? His father is seriously ill. He wants to be near him. Furner should pat him on the back and wish him well. It’s that simple. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Brisbane Roar faces its biggest-ever challenge when they host Western Sydney Wanderers at Suncorp on Friday night. I’m not talking about the players; I’m talking about their supporters. The Wanderers fans have taken A-League support to a level unknown in this country. The Red and Black Bloc – RBB -wouldn’t be out of place on the terraces of the EPL, European or even South American stadia with their chant of “Who do we sing for?” and the “Poznan”, a huddle where they turn their backs on the field, link arms and bounce up and down. The Wanderers have easily usurped Sydney FC as the city’s number one team, and they provide Brisbane fans with the closest thing to a State of Origin game that round-ball football can produce. As long as the locals show up in numbers that is. I reckon it’s time for the people of Brisbane to show the RBB who we sing for. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the form of Daly Cherry-Evans at the Rugby League World Cup is the perfect example of why NSW is so far behind the Maroons. If Cherry-Evans had been born in Redfern and not Redcliffe he would have been picked by the Blues, fed to the wolves and thrown on the scrapheap like Jarrod Mullen and Peter Wallace by now. The way Mal Meninga nurtured DCE until he had the physical and mental maturity to make an impact in the toughest arena of all was a Melbourne Cup preparation worthy of Bart Cummings. The confidence he gained from the Origin experience has paid huge dividends at club and international level as well. With the biggest stars of Queensland's eight year unbeaten run now retired or starting on the back nine, DCE is poised to be the Lockyer, Thurston and Smith of the Maroons' next generation. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon it’s about time the NRL acknowledged that Queensland is the beating heart of Rugby League and give something back to the fans who keep the game alive. The decision last week to hold a play-off between the winners of the NSW Cup and Intrust Super Cup as part of next year’s NRL Grand Final was driven by Queensland people power. Sport director of 4BC Peter Psaltis pushed it on his nightly program, his listeners got on board and the NRL saw the light. If it was left to the people of NSW the idea would have withered and died – just like Origin if not for Maroon passion. Yet while the NRL is happy to profit from Queensland imagination and enthusiasm, it steadfastly refuses to take the game’s showpiece to its number one supporters. I reckon the NRL owes it to Queensland to bring at least one Grand Final to Brisbane every five years. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Harry Kewell should call it quits. The career of the one-time pinup of Australian football has been marked by two things: his skills and his injuries. When he was at Liverpool and Galatasaray if Harry managed two games in a row management would hire an open-topped bus and hold a street parade. The scoresheet from his latest stint with the Roar’s Sunday home opponent Melbourne Heart stands at one from three. That’s games, not goals. Since leaving Leeds in 2003, Harry has spent more time on the physio’s bench than on the field. It’s a crying shame because in his prime he was a joy to watch and a mighty performer for the Socceroos. He deserves to be remembered as such, not as an overpaid crock. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Matt McKay was bang on the money when he said the current Roar squad is stronger than the club’s two premiership sides but I wouldn’t be putting down the glasses just yet. After two rounds of the A-League you don’t have to look hard to see how quickly a team can go from rooster to feather duster. After their first-up win Sydney FC were touted as competition favourites but when ADP limped from Suncorp the wheels fell off deluxe. Same at Melbourne Heart with Harry Kewell sitting in the stands, and waiting for Emile Heskey to make his first appearance for Newcastle is like leaving the light on for Harold Holt. With talent all over the park the Roar can handle an injury or two, but there still a long, long way to go. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon Alessandro Del Piero is one of the greatest footballers in any code ever to play in Australia. The Italian superstar who leads Sydney FC against the Roar at Suncorp on Saturday night is 38 but he is still a class above anyone else in the A-League and a joy to watch. They say the top players always have time. Del Piero never seems rushed, his movements appear effortless and yet he guides the ball with laser accuracy. A World Cup winner, nine Serie A titles with Juventus: I put him up there with the likes of Wally Lewis, Gary Ablett, Bobby Fulton, Darren Lockyer, Andrew Johns and Tim Horan and say we’re blessed to have him here. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the Clive Churchill Medal needs an overhaul. No question Daly Cherry-Evans was great in the grand final, but was he that much better than someone on the winning team? If James Maloney wasn’t up there, I must have been watching a different game. The medal is chosen by the Australian selectors and for logistical purposes voting has to end 10 minutes before fulltime. Two problems: the outcome isn’t necessarily settled and the selectors, consciously or not, will be looking for potential Aussie Test players. The medal is named after an Immortal, why not give the vote to the six remaining Immortals? As for the time issue, surely Telstra has the technology to get a message down six flights of stairs instantaneously. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the Channel 9 commentary team’s obsession with Sonny Bill Williams is getting out of hand. Sure he’s a good player and his abs look like they’ve been photo-shopped, but seriously he’s not the only rooster running around. On Saturday night we had one of the game’s greatest servants Danny Buderus going around for what proved to be the last time, but the pre-match gabfest was the SBW and Burgess Brothers Show. There are plenty of other good players on both sides in Sunday’s Big One. I hope Gus and Rabbits can put their SBW man-love aside for 80 minutes and give them all equal time. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon getting the Newcastle Knights to within one win of an NRL grand final is Wayne Bennett’s greatest coaching achievement. The man might have won seven premierships, but never with a team like this. At the Broncos he had superstars all over the paddock, while at St George he inherited a talented side that just couldn’t get over the line. In contrast Newcastle was a basket case just one bad season away from becoming another Parramatta. Bennett says all he had to do was make them believe in themselves and each other. Maybe, but more importantly they also believe in him – and why wouldn’t they? The man is the best there ever was, the best there ever will be. What do YOU reckon
I reckon refereeing is the biggest issue facing rugby league. Bigger than drugs and gambling, bigger even than the Blues’ inability to win Origin. They can be fixed with tight security, harsh penalties and a halfback with a decent kicking game. But how can the game prosper when its officials can’t count to six? This season we’ve had more controversies than a Melrose Place box-set. Gallengate, Sinbingate, Touchiegate, Seventacklegate, Younameitgate. You can’t sack them all. No-one would be silly enough to take their place. The pressure from media, fans and higher-ups puts refereeing up there with Grizzly Bear Manicurist on the job desirability list. The NRL charges $1 billion for its TV rights. If it doesn’t fix this problem, they won’t be worth seven (or should that be six?) bob. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the Cowboys can go all the way this season. Well why not? Going into this weekend’s finals they are the form team of the competition. They have momentum, confidence and, best of all, emotion, on their side. Mention any other team still alive and someone will give you a reason not to like them. They’re either too dirty, too rich, too cocky, or they’re Manly. But how can you not like the Cows? They’re the Hollywood story of the comp. Coach gets sacked and no-hopers turn it all around, winning six on the trot. Throw in the last roundup for the greatest cowboy of them all, Matt Bowen, and it’s a wonder Disney isn’t making a movie. Actually, that’s not a bad idea – all we need is the cast. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon it’s now or never for Israel Folau. Australian Rugby’s marquee signing has had more chance of catching a cold that a decent pass from his Wallaby team-mates so far this season but the stars come into alignment on Saturday. He’s up against the less mobile Springboks, the game is at Suncorp where the Boks haven’t won in seven outings, and it is the happy hunting ground of coach Ewen McKenzie and five-eighth Quade Cooper. If the Wallabies can’t manage to get the ball to Issy with some space to move this time around they might as well hang some lights on him and say they’ve bought a million dollar Christmas tree. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon there’s only one thing more useless in rugby league than Fui Fui Moi Moi’s hairbrush, and that’s a contract. It was Hollywood producer Sam Goldwyn who said “a verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”. The same could be said about a rugby league contract. Seems like every year around this time there are two types of players: those who have been told they no longer have a contract, and those who wish they didn’t. The likes of Ben Barba, Anthony Milford, Blake Ferguson and even Will Hopoate have found more get-out clauses in their contracts than raisins in a Christmas pudding. All of which raises the question: why bother to sign one in the first place? What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the NRL should tell Channel 9 to go jump. The Rugby League TV rights deal has always been a case of give and take. The footy fans give, and Channel 9 takes. Last time around the NRL finally showed some gumption and said it should be them, and not the broadcaster, who decides when games should be played. Now, after less than a season of playing by the rules, word is Nine is going to spit the dummy and demand a return to the dark ages. It's true crowd numbers have fluctuated but surely the answer lies with keeping the fixed system and being smarter, ensuring the best games are played at the best times. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the Broncos would be crazy to let Scott Prince go. Sure he might not be as fast on his feet as he once was but as the late great Jack Gibson would say, he’s still plenty fast between the ears. He’s got guile and he’s got experience, and those are two things Brisbane is going to need plenty of next season.
If, as mooted, the Broncos are going to buy every fullback available on the open market and then try to turn them into halfbacks and five-eighths, it would be a good idea to have someone in the joint to point them in the right direction. Besides which, the way Prince has been going the last few weeks, they’ll need to be playing well to take his spot. What do YOU reckon?