Rugby League in New Zealand has finally arrived

The slow train coming is gathering momentum

New Zealand Kiwis - Photo by Naparazzi - CC-BY-SA-2.0

New Zealand Kiwis – Photo by NaparazziCC-BY-SA-2.0

I cut my teeth on Australia v NZ Rugby League tests in the 1980s and 1990s which ironically were the reverse of today. In the 80s and 90s, New Zealand had a much better chance of knocking Australia off in a one off Test because if they ambushed Australia then the Kangaroos would have to wait a year for revenge. In a Test series NZ would often win or draw the first match only to get poleaxed in the rest of the series. Australia were always far too good. The recent Trans-Tasman Test was the first time it has felt different. For a number of years now New Zealand has been able to beat Australia in a longer tournament format. They broke a very long drought with their win in the 2005 Tri Nations series, a day I never thought I would live to see, which was backed up by wins in the 2008 World Cup, the 2010 Four Nations and finally the 2014 Four Nations. All of these wins were awesome, don’t get me wrong. I still always felt that Australia would balance the ledger in the Anzac Test. I thought NZ would be close but I thought Australia would probably still win in the end. I was hopeful but not confident.

History has taught me that this would be when the Kangaroos would get their revenge. All complacency out the door. Everyone available for selection. For the first time in living memory, New Zealand backed up a successful tournament with a win in the very next match/series.

The big difference was depth in every position. Back in the day if an important player like Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki or Jarrod McCracken was unavailable then the Kiwis were in trouble. There just wasn’t enough depth to cover any losses. For this test, Dean Whare wasn’t available and neither was Jason Taumalolo. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was ruled out and Jason Nightingale stepped in. In fact the Kiwis had the luxury of leaving out Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Benji Marshall, Elijah Taylor and Lewis Brown. Brown was one of the better Kiwi players in the last Four Nations.

Initial media response to the Kiwi win was largely that Australia was too old but prevailing opinion has swung back to the fact that New Zealand was too good this time rather than Australia being too poor. Jesse Bromwich and Ben Matulino bent the line on most carries and Martin Taupau led the bench with more of the same. Manu Vatuvei played one of his best games for the Kiwis setting the tone on most sets with a big hit up from kicks and was polished in his finishing as well. Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran were sublime off the back of that with the NZ spine outpointing their Australian counterparts. In the end the defence of the Kiwis won the game. Australia threw everything at them but with a few exceptions were unsettled because of the defensive decisions the Kiwis were making. The Kiwis discipline also meant that for the most part Australia was starting sets from their own line.

Probably the victory along with the success of the Fiji vs PNG and Tonga vs Samoa games and the international break in general has generated a lot of conversation around how to continue the improvement of International Rugby League.

For instance, one of the proposals being touted is to allow players from second tier nations to play State of Origin.  I generally agree with this proposal, particularly if it strengthens International Rugby League. Countries like Fiji, PNG, Samoa and Tonga will be stronger all the time instead of just at the World Cup. Also combinations can be developed.

The effect that this rule will have on NZ should be monitored though because of dual eligibility for a lot of Polynesian players. Fiji/NSW or Tonga/QLD could be an attractive proposition. NZ could be weakened. And that would be a bad thing given it is taken the best part of 50 years for Australia to have anyone to consistently challenge them.

I think the ledger would tilt closer to PNG if this rule came in as well.

What was sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • NBA playoffs. 7 game series remind me of Test matches in Cricket. Game to game adjustments. Fascinating.

Bill James Award

For the statistically superior NRL human being.

Daniel Tupou – Tries – 3, Run Metres – 121m, Try Assists – 0, Tackle Breaks – 4, Tackles – 9, Offloads – 0, Line Breaks – 2, Line Break Assists – 0, Errors – 0, Penalties Conceded – 0 and is he allergic to the touchline – Yes.

NRL Tips Round 10

Bulldogs vs Roosters – Roosters (Last audition for the Origin halves. Roosters finally hit form last week. James Graham is back. Should be willing)
Cowboys vs Broncos – Cowboys (The Queensland derby couldn’t be any bigger. Cows have won 6 in a row. Broncos on top of the ladder. The Broncs pasted the Cows last time round. Last Origin audition. Plus the Queensland derby would be big even if it was 15th vs 16th)
Eels vs Warriors – Warriors (Battle of the inconsistent teams. The Eels have had a reshuffle dropping Chris Sandow while the Warriors will still be playing off the confidence of the Anzac Test victory)
Titans vs Sharks – Titans (Both of these teams have had their moments this season. The Sharks have been more consistent but the Titans have more wins, if that makes any sense)
Storm vs Rabbitohs – Storm (Rabbitohs will miss Adam Reynolds again. Storm have been very consistent this season)
Dragons vs Raiders – Dragons (Dragons to return to the winner’s circle)
Knights vs Tigers – Knights (The Knights have been on a horrific run of losses but should do enough at home)
Sea Eagles vs Panthers – Sea Eagles (Sea Eagles finally finding some form)

Last week – 8/8

Season so far – 43/72

NRL Fantasy Round 10

Trades

Dene Halatau (Tigers) for Brenden Santi (Tigers) – Origin proofing + Santi hasn’t been playing for the Tigers.

Reece Robinson (Eels) for Eto Nabuli (Dragons) – Ditto.

Starting Team

Robbie Farah (Tigers), Martin Taupau (Tigers), George Burgess (Rabbitohs), Shaun Fensom (Raiders), Corey Parker (Broncos), Tohu Harris (Storm), Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles), Shaun Johnson (Warriors), Jack Bird (Sharks), Iosia Soliola (Raiders), Reece Robinson (Eels), Euan Aitken (Dragons) and Lachlan Coote (Cowboys)

Bench

Kierran Moseley (Titans), Ethan Lowe (Cowboys), Solomone Kata (Warriors) and Mitchell Aubusson (Roosters)

Balance of the squad

Richard Fa’aoso (Eels), Sam Lisone (Warriors), Chris Grevsmuhl (Rabbitohs), Dene Halatau (Tigers), Kane Elgey (Titans), Mitch Moses (Tigers), Delouise Hoeter (Tigers) and Edrick Lee (Raiders)

Round 9 Score

816

Current Points

7,175

Current Position

4,767 of 108,694

EPL Tips Match Day 37

Southampton vs Aston Villa – Southampton 2-1 (Southampton are in danger of dropping out of the European places with Swansea hot on their heels and Villa feeling safer but not safe yet)
Burnley vs Stoke – Stoke 1-0 (Burnley were brave all year but now they are planning for the Championship. Stoke playing for pride as well with top half of the table almost sown up)
QPR vs Newcastle – Newcastle 2-1 (QPR are goooone. Newcastle need one more win to stay up but they haven’t had one of those for a while)
Tottenham vs Hull – Tottenham 2-0 (Like Southampton, Tottenham will want to stave off Swansea’s last minute effort. Hull are looking most likely to join QPR and Burnley in the Championship next year)
Sunderland vs Leicester – Draw 1-1 (Leicester have only lost to Chelsea in the last 7 games and Sunderland will do well to keep them out)
West Ham vs Everton – Draw 2-2 (The battle for 11th place. Not much else to say)
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace – Liverpool 2-1 (Liverpool won’t be playing in the Champion’s League next season. Should still account for Palace)
Swansea vs Man City – Man City 2-0 (Swansea are ending the season on a high but so are City)
Man U vs Arsenal – Draw 1-1 (Swansea finally ended Arsenal’s golden run and Old Trafford will be a tricky proposition)
West Brom vs Chelsea – Chelsea 2-1 (Chelsea haven’t lost in a good while. This game won’t change that situation)
Arsenal vs Sunderland – Arsenal 3-0 (Sunderland may be playing for their lives in this match and that’s not a good thing for them with Arsenal last up)

I’ve adopted the scoring system utilised by Mark Lawrenson on the BBC (a correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth ONE point and picking an exact score THREE points) and even though he wouldn’t know me from Adam we are going head to head all season long. It’s on like Donkey Kong (unless I get a letter from his lawyer or Donkey Kong’s lawyer and then I’m tipping against myself again).

Last week – Me – 3 (3 from 10 with no perfect scores) and Lawro – 12 (6 from 10 with 3 perfect scores)

Season so far – Me – 258 and Lawro – 250 (Lawro making a very late run)

Fantasy Premier League Match Day 37

Transfer of the week

Boaz Myhill (West Brom) for Ben Hamer (Leicester) – Strengthening my bench.

My team this week

Mignolet (Liverpool), Clyne (Southampton), Ivanovic (Chelsea), Terry (Chelsea), Sanchez (Arsenal), Eriksen (Spurs), Henderson (Liverpool), Hazard (Chelsea), Silva (Man City), Kane (Spurs) and Austin (QPR) with Myhill (West Brom), Vardy (Leicester), Bruce (Hull) and McShane (Hull) on the bench.

Current Points

1,936

Current Position

148,264 from 3,496,930

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Saturday, 23 May 2015 titled ‘The DCE Saga should never happen again’

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