Holden Cup – What is it Good For and World Cup Round of 16 Review

Is the Holden Cup all that it is cracked up to be?

This is certainly not a knock on the talent running around in the Holden Cup. A large number of players plying their trade in the Holden Cup eventually matriculate to the NRL. Is it the best way of introducing top tier junior talent into the NRL or is there an alternative that is more apt? The Holden Cup is certainly not a flash in the pan. The NRL have been running the U/20s competition since 2008 so they’ve given it a red hot go. Let’s break this down pros and cons style because that’s how we roll on the Westside.

Pros 

  • One only has to look at the team of the year to see that the Holden Cup is a veritable smorgasbord of current NRL talent. For instance, here is the 2008 Toyota Cup (as it was then known) Team of the Year: Lachlan Coote (Penrith), Jharal Yow Yeh (Brisbane), Justin Carney (Canberra), Tony Williams (Parramatta), Kevin Gordon (Gold Coast), Ben Barba (Bulldogs), Chris Sandow (Parramatta), Russell Packer (Warriors), Masada Iosefa (Penrith), John Kite (Bulldogs), Joel Thompson (Canberra), Daniel Harrison (Bulldogs) and Shaun Fensom (Canberra). The bench was Ben Hunt (Brisbane), Matt Mundine (Dragons), Jordan Rapana (Titans) and Ben Matulino (Warriors). Nine current first grader’s, one career over due to injury, one incarcerated player, some serious gambling debt and a smattering of fringe talent.
  • The NRL has taken a coordinated education/trade focus for the Holden Cup competition which is a beneficial approach to take given not every player in the Holden Cup will be able to make a full time career out of Rugby League. Plus the shelf life of a professional footballer isn’t that long so having a back up career isn’t a bad idea.
  • Playing against players at a similar stage of development and experience should produce less injuries (no medical evidence to back this up – just speculating).
  • It has led to a renaissance in the Queensland Cup and the NSW Cup which now has greater access to A-Grade fringe players. In turn teams like the PNG Hunters have emerged.

Cons

  • Cricket scores, not much more to say but it is pretty clear they aren’t learning defence down there.
  • No correlation with current A Grade squads. For instance, the teams on the top of the Holden Cup ladder at the moment are the Knights and the Broncos. It may be an indicator of the depth of the club but there is no correlation with how the first grade squad is going.
  • Players are not adequately prepared for A Grade and are often seasoned in NSW Cup and QCup to get them ready for the NRL.

Verdict 

I can see both sides of the argument on this one. I happen to like the almost accidental improvement of the QCup and the NSW Cup as a result of the Holden Cup coming into existence. I think there needs to be more done to make this tier visible during NRL games though. It is effectively Reserve Grade and should be played as the curtain raiser to NRL games more often. I’m a bit of a fence sitter on this one.

Thoughts from Brazil

  • Penalty shootouts are heartbreaking and besmirch careers unnecessarily, just ask the English and Gareth Southgate in particular. It is a big ask to play for more than 2 hours then ask 5-7+ of your players to back up for an individually focussed skill demonstration in a team based sport. Football should develop alternative methodologies for deciding the game. The best alternative I have seen isn’t a penalty shootout but a variation of golden goal called drop offs. Drop offs are played in Touch Football and involve a player from each team leaving the field at certain pre-determined time intervals. An example of how it could work in Football is as follows: Regular time ends and teams both commence with 11 players during extra time. After five minutes have elapsed at the next stoppage the referee stops the game briefly and one player from each team leaves the field. This continues at five minute intervals until a team scores. That has to be better than penalty shootouts and would often take less time. After 30 minutes of extra time if the teams still haven’t scored a goal then each team would only have 5 players on the pitch. Couldn’t see many scenarios where the teams would still be playing at that stage.
  • Spare a thought for Dirk Kuyt. Started the game on the left wing for the Nederlanders in blazing sunlight and 40 degree heat (104 degrees for our American friends) in Fortaleza against Mexico. After half time when he was able to swap to the side of the pitch in the shade, Louis van Gaal implemented a tactical change which placed him on the right wing and back in the blazing sun. He would have lost 4kg in fluid (at least), especially with the energy he puts into the game.
  • Thing always ratchet upwards for the knock out stages of the World Cup and this tournament is no exception. The scrutiny has been intense for each team but the quality of play has been amazing.
  • Still thinking it is the best World Cup ever, although I enjoyed 2002 just because it was in my time zone.

World Cup Grades so far (Updated)

Once Bitten Twice Shy

Uruguay 

Betting Rank (utilising betting odds prior to the World Cup) – 10th (29.00)

FIFA Ranking (again prior to the World Cup commencing) – 7th

Appraisal – As predicted, not the same team without Luis Suarez. Solidly beaten by the James Rodriguez inspired Colombians.

Grade (these aren’t based in a vacuum and are influenced by what a team has done with the talent available) – B-

Champions of Africa

Nigeria

Betting Rank – 24th (272.86)

FIFA Ranking – 44th

Appraisal – Pushed France through to the very end, the best performed African side can hold its head high. They didn’t leave anything in the tank.

Grade – B+

Exceeding Expectations

Greece

Betting Rank – 25th (274.86)

FIFA Ranking – 12th

Appraisal – Should be satisfied with their Round of 16 foray and went perilously close to taking out fellow upstarts Costa Rica. Penalty shootouts are always a toss of the coin.

Grade – B+

United States of America

Betting Rank – 22nd (182.86)

FIFA Ranking – 13th

Appraisal – Pipped in extra time and couldn’t quite pull that last goal back against the nervous Belgians. Will be disappointed they didn’t make it to the Quarter-Finals but they should be proud of their body of work as a whole. Hopefully they can hold on to Jurgen Klinsmann. He has the eye of the Tiger.

Grade – B+

Algeria

Betting Rank – 30th (1358)

FIFA Ranking – 22nd

Appraisal – Outlasted and eventually outclassed by the Germans, Algeria will (hopefully) use this as a stepping stone in future tournaments. They certainly were a pleasant surprise.

Grade – A-

Loss was probably a product of their matchup

Switzerland

Betting Rank – 15th (105.71)

FIFA Ranking – 6th

Appraisal – Narrowly edged by Argentina, the Swiss will feel this was a match that could have gone either way. Only one defensive lapse was enough in the end. They have a young side and like the Belgians I expect them to be better in the short to medium term.

Grade – B

Mexico

Betting Rank – 16th (143.57)

FIFA Ranking – 20th

Appraisal – The defensive juggernaut showed plenty of attacking enterprise in the first 50 minutes and almost defended their 1-0 lead against the talented Dutchmen for the whole game. Unfortunately, mistakes started creeping in during the last 10 minutes of the game and they were made to pay. They will consider the World Cup a pass mark only. They were hoping for so much more.

Grade – B+

Chile

Betting Rank – 13th (43.43)

FIFA Ranking – 14th

Appraisal – Played Brazil down to the wire but were cruelled in the penalty shootout. Could have probably beaten 6 or 7 of the other teams in the round of 16. Unfortunately, that was the luck of the draw. Oh and they lost to the Dutch as well.

Grade – B+

Take a bow – It’s been fun but it’s over now

Uruguay vs Costa Rica - Photo by Danilo Borges - CC-BY-SA-3.0-BR

Uruguay vs Costa Rica – Photo by Danilo Borges CC-BY-SA-3.0-BR

Costa Rica

Betting Rank – 31st (1608.14)

FIFA Ranking – 28th

Appraisal – The good ship Costa Rica continues to sail on after their penalty shootout triumph over Greece. Probably the end of the line for them but who knows. Next up, the Netherlands. Unlike Mexico if Costa Rica get a lead they will keep moving forward which should help them. Should get a nice bump in their World ranking as well.

Grade – A+

Belgium

Betting Rank – 5th (18.88)

FIFA Ranking – 11th

Appraisal – Narrow winners over the underrated USA (and in all their previous matches when you think about it), they will be hoping to put their nerves aside in their next match against Argentina. If they play to their potential could make it to the semi-finals. Hazard yet to really hit his straps. Wonder if he played more centrally whether Lukaku might be more effective. Not quite clicking at this stage.

Grade – A-

Upset potential

France

Betting Rank – 6th (24.25)

FIFA Ranking – 17th

Appraisal – The French are definitely on fire this World Cup and probably could have beaten every other side in the quarter finals (on their day) but the Germans. Anything could happen but I think the organised Germans will be too much for them.

Grade – A

Colombia

Betting Rank – 11th (29.57)

FIFA Ranking – 8th

Appraisal – Like the rest of the World I can’t get enough of these Colombians (especially James Rodriguez whose transfer market price tag is surely heading steadily upwards). They will be making Brazil extremely nervous after despatching the Luis Suarez-less Uruguayans with aplomb.

Grade – A

Should make the final but still have question marks

Argentina

Betting Rank – 2nd (4.95)

FIFA Ranking – 5th

Appraisal – Argentina keeps squeaking by every game. They continue to do just enough to win. Unless Belgium provides an improved performance I expect that trend to continue at least until the semi-finals.

Grade – B+

Brazil

Betting Rank – 1st (3.88)

FIFA Ranking – 3rd

Appraisal – Brazil will have to play their Grand Final to get past Colombia (who at this stage have little to lose). Their reward, a matchup against dangerous France or Germany, then the Netherlands or Argentina.

Grade – B

Favourites but will the weather eventually get to them

Netherlands

Betting Rank – 12th (31.00)

FIFA Ranking – 15th

Appraisal – Probably had the most difficult tie along with Brazil in the round of 16 and only just survived. Should be able to withstand Costa Rica but surely the heat must be taking its toll on the Nederlanders. Fortunately for them their next game is the later start and not in the blazing midday sun.

Grade – A

Germany

Betting Rank – 3rd (7.19)

FIFA Ranking – 2nd

Appraisal – They have been steady and dynamic all the way and should dispatch France. Like Brazil they now have one of the hardest roads home. Firming up well though and have the greatest number of players in their prime. Every chance of hoisting the Cup, especially if Colombia can dispatch Brazil.

Grade – A

What was sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • Fiji residents team in the NSW Cup. Taking a leaf out of the PNG Hunters book. Should be good for the development of the game in the Pacific Islands. I doubt that it is threatening Union for its hold on the hearts of Fijians but providing an alternative is a good start.
  • Just a feast of sport at the moment. World Cup, 3 codes of Football, Wimbledon, Tour de France, Baseball and Commonwealth Games looming. Just awesome.
  • The Sharks finally showing some signs of life. Although within days they had lost their interim coach and primary playmaker so situation normal. Dragons and Knights also showing signs of a pulse again.
  • Michael Lichaa is looking the real deal now that he is getting some minutes. Bulldogs will be happy.
  • Cows first half performance.
  • Warriors gaining some momentum. Could be smoky again for the premiership. Certainly got some wind in their sails. Mt Smart is certainly their home ground. That is for sure.
  • Hoping the rumours about Frank Lampard signing up for the MLS and A-League are true. Hoping to see David Villa, Damien Duff and Frank Lampard running on to the pitch for Melbourne United.
  • Nick Kyrgios. Restoring some lost Australian pride at Wimbledon. It will be nice to see someone holding up the flag beside Sam Stosur.
  • Rafael Nadal. Classy post-match interview. Dignified.
Nick Kyrgios (cropped) - Photo by Sirobi - CC-BY-SA-3.0

Nick Kyrgios (cropped) – Photo by Sirobi CC-BY-SA-3.0

What wasn’t? 

  • Todd Carney – Enough said. Although I would advise the Cowboys to chase him. Might be able to get him for 30 cents in the dollar for one season. Might need to run that past the NRL first though.

Other random thoughts 

  • Queensland certainly playing for pride this Wednesday. It is hard to say that a team coming off the back of 8 straight series wins is under siege but it certainly seems that way.

Bill James Award 

Jarryd Hayne – Run Metres – 303, Tries – 1, Try Assists – 0, Tackle Breaks – 12, Tackles – 6, Offloads – 1, Line Breaks – 1, Errors – 1 and Age he was when NSW last won the Origin – 8 (Jokes).

Tips for Round 17 

Home teams first

Bulldogs vs Sea Eagles – Sea Eagles (I don’t know why they play these top of the table clashes during Origin – I guess the Bulldogs are doing better this year than last. Kieran Foran should get the Eagles home)

Dragons vs Cowboys – Dragons (Dragons have started playing better of late. Cowboys abysmal away and without JT. Take your pick but there is a good chance they are flying home disappointed)

Roosters vs Sharks – Roosters (Sharks briefly came to life but will sink back into the abyss sans Todd Carney)

Tigers vs Panthers – Panthers (I think that the Panthers will bounce back strongly against the Tigers. Tigers will miss Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods too. Penrith not missing too many players either)

Rabbitohs vs Titans – Rabbitohs (Titans quickly sinking towards the bottom of the ladder with their spine continually suffering from injury issues. They will miss Greg Bird as well. Rabbitohs will be too big, too fast and too strong)

Last week – 4/7 

Season so far – 68/117 

Interesting link

Classic story on Tim Howard, the new U.S Secretary of Defence, apparently. Loved the tweet about Howard. Difference between Tim Howard and Jesus – Jesus had 11 guys he could trust.

Question for you

Is it time for a change? Should the Holden Cup stay or go?

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 10 July 2014 titled ‘NRL Second Trimester Report and Semi Final Review’

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