Scene: C-Bus Stadium, Gold Coast. It’s the twenty-first of April and we’re in round 6 of the 2019 National Rugby League season. At around a quarter to three in the afternoon, the referee blows the whistle for half time.
The Newcastle Knights are down 22 to nil after the worst forty minutes of football in recent memory. The Knights conceded three long range tries to the Titans off the back of errors, compounded with extremely lazy defence.
The Knights fervently loyal fanbase has endured years of failure since the financial demise of Nathan Tinkler in 2014. The club’s ownership was turned over to the NRL and a horror run followed, including three straight wooden spoons and fielding an historically bad 1-22-1 side in 2016.
The club, under the new ownership of the Wests Group, signed Kangaroos prop, David Klemmer, in the 2018-19 off-season. His acquisition was seen to be the last piece of the puzzle to bring the Novocastrians back into contention, joining young superstar Kalyn Ponga and premiership winning halfback Mitchell Pearce.
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I have now read every Origin perspective Twitter has to offer and have synthesised my own searingly hot take of Game 1, 2019.
Queensland played well but not exceptionally so. Plenty of opportunities presented themselves to blow the game open (Napa should be dropped for not grounding the ball properly) and the Maroons only won by four with the margin created by a fortunate interception. Will Chambers contained Latrell Mitchell, despite concerns that he would be unable to hold back the “world’s greatest player”, but should never be passed the ball ever again. His function is to be a decoy while Cherry-Evans cutout passes to Gagai, who pulled his usual superman transformation from Club Gagai into Origin Gagai. Ponga was bad in the first half, much better in the second half and turning himself into a flying speed bump in the dying seconds of the game (pictured below) probably saved the win for the Maroons.
The forward pack did their job, winning the metre battle and we saw some great work out of Arrow, Kaufusi and, to a lesser extent, Gillett. I say Gillett because I actually noticed he was on the field, which is a step up from his typical form at the Broncos. Cherry-Evans, Munster and Oates (foot going into touch aside) did what was expected of them. Cherry-Evans’ kicking needs a slight polish but this is unsurprising, given this is his first game in weeks.
Anyone telling you Ben Hunt played well at hooker did not watch the game. A hooker has two jobs: pass the ball and make tackles. I saw a small man getting carried by NSW’s starting forwards while “making” his tackles during the opening phase of the game (also a time in which dummy half responsibilities were being shared among six players) and I saw plenty of passes through the rest of the game go to ground before reaching a Maroon jersey. His two redeeming features were a single 40/20ish play and the fact that NSW cooked their rotations so he didn’t get smashed in the closing stages. “But he made the most tackles!” Spare me. If tackle counts mattered, you’d be rating Hunt higher than Cook and that makes no sense. I expect a starting hooker, probably McCullough, will take Hunt’s place in the 9 for game 2 and Hunt will move to 14. But here’s a crazy thought: you don’t actually have to play Hunt at all.
It’s that time of the year again. The weather has just turned cold and the NRL season has built just enough momentum to be interesting and has now been brought to a screeching halt. It’s State of Origin time, the world’s only all-star game that the players actually care about. Naturally, the first question anyone needs to consider is: which team looks stronger on paper?
When it comes to assessing representative games, we don’t have access to the usual team rating tools and, even if we did, the gaps between matches and changes to the teams are so significant that Elo ratings aren’t particularly useful. This year, we can evaluate the Origin teams using Production Per Game (PPG), which is a player rating tool.
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The Origin period is a tough time for tipsters. The systems that we’ve been using for the last eleven weeks start to break down over the next six weeks, as selections play havoc with overall team quality and on field cohesion.
Word to the wise is that the Elo rating systems (Archimedes and Eratosthenes) and Poseidon don’t account for these changes. The Elo ratings see an amorphous mass known as “South Sydney” or “Brisbane” whose only inputs are the final score or, in Poseidon’s case, the number of tries scored and goals kicked. By their design, the team ratings will adjust after the fact, not before.
If you have a keen eye, you might have noticed a change of advertising on the blog in the last week or two. I had an idea last year that there’s lots of rugby league logos around that go by the wayside and that some might look good on a cap or a t-shirt. I found a print on demand service and taught myself to trace in Illustrator and produced a couple dozen designs from old photos and crappy scans.
I launched pythagord.com (Pythago RD or “pi-thag-ord”) earlier this year and it was extremely well received on Twitter and generated a few sales off the bat. I then sent emails to a dozen clubs to see if anyone was interested in being partners, with me doing all the work and paying a cut to clubs to avoid any potential intellectual property disputes, as well as trying to generate some revenue for them. With any luck, I could ride their coattails and their fans would help turn a profit at some point. I got a nibble from Wests and a very polite no from Glebe (which was fine, as they were pretty much doing the same thing) but otherwise it was met with silence.
It took me a while to realise I wasn’t getting anything back. It took me longer to work out what to do about it and then longer still to actually do anything. I held off on promoting the site in the meantime. I ended up reformatting most of the products to remove references to the original club – except the BRL and QComp club stuff, which should exist anyway and it’s a crime that it didn’t so now it does – but you can find what you’re looking for using the team nickname.
The aim now is to make some return on my investment. In the absence of reliable cooperation from the better known clubs and trying to avoid a minefield of trademark and copyright law, I’d like to expand the offering in these ways. If you:
- Know of any rugby league club, whether they be juniors in search of some revenue or seniors with a suitably interesting logo or name, who would like a cost effective, low risk merchandising solution with no minimum orders or stock keeping;
- Are a budding or accomplished graphic designer and have some rugby league designs that might look good on a piece of clothing and want to see some royalties;
- Produce a podcast or blog and want to sell some t-shirts to sympathetic friends or families to raise some beer money (Sports BFs is already on board)
Hit me up.
If you bought something under the impression that a cut would be going to the club, my apologies but they don’t appear to be interested in your money. I gave it to Men of League instead (and matched it with my own money), so if nothing else, some good came out of this:
Also some cool rugby league stuff happened in Barcelona and Blackpool on the weekend but you should already be across that. The vista of rugby league’s future continue to expand despite itself.
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Here are the tips for this weekend’s action:
National Rugby League
Intrust Super Cup
Magic Round was fun. Do rugby league teams remember fun? I’m not sure all of them do. The ones that attended Magic Round definitely couldn’t avoid it. But don’t take my word for it, let’s hear what the fans had to say:
On the experience
Other than the field goal, there are few more exciting kicking moments in rugby league than the correct execution of a 40/20. The 40/20, meaning that the kick is taken behind the player’s forty metre line, bounces in the field of play and goes into touch inside the opponent’s twenty metre, gives a huge advantage for the kicking team, as it advances the ball forty metres down the field and offers a fresh attacking set.
Introduced in 1997 for the Super League competition and retained for the NRL, the 40/20 doesn’t happen very often. You might see a successful attempt every five to ten games. Indeed, we see more field goals.
Just as a bit of a trivial aside, Daly Cherry-Evans has kicked the most 40/20s in the NRL between 2013 and 2018, with sixteen, or one every 8.8 games he has started. The other players in double digits are Chris Sandow (14), Cooper Cronk (12), Cameron Smith (11) and Blake Green (10). Funnily enough, probable Immortal Johnathan Thurston never kicked a 40/20 in this period.
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