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?