The year that was: brilliance, Barba, biting

Andrew Marmont Roar Guru

By Andrew Marmont, Andrew Marmont is a Roar Guru

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6 Have your say

    Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs rugby league player Ben Barba and Ainslie Currie arrive for the Dally M awards in Sydney, September 4, 2012. (Image: AAP/Paul Miller)

    Related coverage

    What did we learn from this year’s rugby league season?

    Test match football continues to be the pinnacle

    Nothing compares to good Test match footy. In 2012 we were blessed with two fierce contests featuring the Kiwis and the Kangaroos, both of which came down to the final minutes. The venues were outstanding: a hostile Eden Park contrasted with a passionate capacity crowd in Townsville.

    With England playing Wales and France in a Tri-Nations tournament and a packed Test match schedule around the world right now, the World Cup looms large in 2013.

    Origin contest the best for years

    State of Origin contests prior to this year were as predictable as a sideline conversion from Jonathan Thurston. Yet, inspired by a determined Ricky Stuart, New South Wales pushed their more fancied Queensland rivals close in all three matches, even managing to win game two.

    However the quality was as much about the manner of the contests – they were the toughest ever, according to some pundits. Phil Gould certainly thought so. Is there a renewed interest in State of Origin? You bet.

    Melbourne the greatest winner

    A premiership was always going to taste particularly sweet, considering the well-documented lows from which the Melbourne Storm had to emerge.

    After the depths of 2010, and a failure at the penultimate hurdle in 2011, Melbourne became the supreme winner this year after defeating a gallant but out-classed Canterbury Bulldogs side 14-4 in the big one.

    Yet some would say their biggest win was watching Mahe Fonua debuting in the NRL – the team’s first Victorian born NRL player.

    Cameron Smith is the best there is

    Taking the NRL premiership with Melbourne, winning a State of Origin series with Queensland and retaining the Bill Kelly Memorial cup against the Kiwis – the Melbourne Storm, Queensland and Kangaroo captain Cameron Smith must go down as the most influential player of 2012 in what was arguably his finest year yet.

    His calm demeanour and brilliant playmaking ability has laid to rest any doubts over Smith succeeding former Maroons and Australian skipper Darren Lockyer.

    Smith added an exclamation mark to his season by being named the RLIF International Player of the Year this week as well.

    The year of the fullback

    Ben Barba was named Dally M Player of the Year – a scintillating return from a player who had supposed frailties under the high ball in 2011 – and thrilled everyone on his way to the crown.

    Yet Billy Slater was at his magical best throughout Australia, Queensland and Melbourne’s matches, Josh Hoffman was one of the Kiwis’ best in their two Test matches, Manly’s Brett Stewart continued to score lots of tries and Josh Dugan showed real form for Canberra. Rugby league certainly has its share of entertainers.

    Coaching is harder than it looks

    Few coaches had greater expectations put on them than Brian McClennan. ‘Bluey’ had previous success on the international stage (a Tri-Nations crown with the Kiwis) and Super League success with Leeds.

    The man who bleeds New Zealand league, as much perhaps as the Mad Butcher, securing the Warriors head coaching role was a match made in league heaven.

    Unfortunately, the dream ended too soon, and McClennan was sacked before the season ended after a string of poor performances.

    Throw in Stephen Kearney’s early departure from the Parramatta Eels and Tim Sheens’ axing by the Wests Tigers, and I’m thinking that snorkelling might be a better past time.

    Special mentions
    Bill Harrigan and the spotlight on the referees; Mal Meninga’s promotion to Sales Director for Queensland, his target market being New Zealanders; the Newcastle Knights floundering; the Warriors’ dramatic fall from grace and the Bulldogs’ rise under Des Hasler. Also, James Graham and his alleged snacking habits certainly gained some coverage.

    If you could choose from any and every NRL player in the competition, who would you pick in your rugby league dream team? Let us know with our team picker right here, and be sure to share it with all your league-loving mates.

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • October 18th 2012 @ 3:01am
      Adam Everitt said | October 18th 2012 @ 3:01am | ! Report

      Cheers for the article, Andrew I enjoyed that!

      Can I add my own special mention – the shoulder charge – which seems to be getting chased out of every hiding place in the game!

      • October 18th 2012 @ 8:33am
        eagleJack said | October 18th 2012 @ 8:33am | ! Report

        Will be very interesting to read the Canavan report, the research prepared by Brian Canavan on the shoulder charge, due out next week. Now that he is back in charge of the Roosters, who have signed SBW on big coin for one year, anyone else think the report may have undergone some changes over the last few days? I’m guessing the shoulder charge is here to stay. Well atleast for 2013 🙂

      • Roar Guru

        October 18th 2012 @ 8:41am
        Andrew Marmont said | October 18th 2012 @ 8:41am | ! Report

        Thanks Adam, cheers mate!

    • October 18th 2012 @ 5:21am
      Johnno said | October 18th 2012 @ 5:21am | ! Report

      A good article Andrew.

      -Test footy should be the no 1 the pinnacle in the sport of rugby league. And winnign the world cup no 1 should be the pinnacle, then winning the grand final no 2.

      -Id like to think test footy is no 1 , but i am not sure if the tv ratings for the Townsvlle test were higher than any of the 3 state of origin matches that were played. Bit the Townsville test the crowds, the energy and atmosphere sure did return test footy back into winning the heart sand minds of rugby league fans.

      -I’d ban the shoulder charge. Tough suspensions are not worth having if someone gets killed not worth it.

      -Bring in a card system like rugby union and soccer. Rugby league if it markets itself as a global game should copy the other footy codes with this card system. Card system allows ref a framework and confidence to make tough descions in big games. Yes you got the sin bin now but it gets used too loosely. A card system would clean the game up. You do a 2nd offence like a proffesional foul or too much wrestling or back chat , you get a yellow card, you do it again or any other offence you get a red and sent off simple as that.

      -For example in grand final you would have the guts too send of a player give them a red eg like James graham biting incident or terry lamb hit on Ellery Hannley.

      -And bring back ASHES kangaroo tours every 4 years as part of the 4 year cycle.
      Play 3 test vs GB maybe a tour warm up game, then of too France for 1 test. Kiss method. Keep it simple stupid

      -1st year ASHES kangaroo tour
      -2nd year 4 nations
      -3rd year rest off season nothing freshen up
      4th year- Rugby league world cup

      Easy as .

      ANd if expansion is too happen which sadly own’t until the next tv deal. Make rugby league into a conference thing like super rugby.
      eg a QLD conference or Northern Zone conference, or South-eastern zone conference.

      -It means more local derbies , and allows greater flexibly to expand and marketing of the game if conferences are brought into NRL.
      And strengthens the old BBL or QLD cup sadly lost with the NRL when the Broncos came in. Brisbane desperately needs a 2nd team to end the Broncos monopoly, in Brisbane. Have one other side of the river or at ipswich, coz many fans can;t relate to the broncos in brisbane coz they relate to there BBL team eg sunnybank or , Wynamm-Manly, Redcliffe, Ipswich, Souths Brisbane.

      -And with conferences allows more local derbies like super rugby. Fans have shown they don’t want to watch Manly VS Nth QLD, or Penrith VS Nth QLD, it simply doesn’t rate or interest fans.

      -All in all good but must fix up the rep clanger and have rep windows or weekends, And include pacific islander matches in that, eg NZ VS samoa on weekend of origin like have on the friday night. Origin too me is best Saturday night, it;s the weekend everyone excited and ready to watch footy on a Saturday Night. And scrap city VS country match. It hasn’t been a rep trial in 20 years.

      -And cut interchanges back by 2 more to 8 interchanges or 9 . Keeps little men in the game more eg Alan Langer types, cliff lyons, benny elias, benji marshall, phil blake types, . Sick off seeing many players eg wingers and centres being like props eg Greg inglis types who are massive and man Vautuvaui or T-rex guys who could just slip into the front row or 2nd row like that. Bring back the little men and endurance men like Gary Larson or Paul Marquet, cut the interchange down to 8 or 9. Less big behemoths.

      -And bring back scrums, and allow clean strips of ball, and also begin able to soccer for possession at the play the ball time like the old days. A splay the ball time has become a joke and sloppy, coz the other team knows they can get away with being lazy as the defending team know they can’t soccer the ball back. So basically all these thing should bring in multiple body shapes back to the game eg for scrums, and other ways to fight for possession and contest possession.
      -But all in all rugby league is doing well but it still needs to make some tinkering especially with rep scheduling, and making sure test footy is rightful returned to the no 1 pinnacle in the sport. Not a state of origin in the future a series played only between 2 states int the whole world , that being as your pinnacle is not a good look globally for a sport trying to promote itself as a global sport in 2012 and beyond, or for a sport promoting itself as a national comp. I am losing my passion for origin as it just doesn’t feel exciting or rught especially with all the kiwis, which they are now in the off season trying to fix and coming up with some ideas.

      -1 idea they are doing is the 50% rule. Where you can’t play origin until you have lived 50% of your life in OZ.
      And bringing in junior kiwi under-16’s and under18’s schoolboys, and have them play NSW and QLD under 16 and under 18’s in a junior tri-nations good idea.

      -But whatever happens going forwad beyond 2012 I hope test footy is made no 1, and origin a definate no 2.

      • Roar Guru

        October 18th 2012 @ 12:21pm
        Mantis said | October 18th 2012 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

        I could only manage to read the first bit of your comment Johnno, but you raised the point I was going to raise anyway. There is no way that test footy is number 1 in league. It should be, but its not. It is number one for countries outside of Australia, but no way is it bigger then origin for Australian players.

        I dont know how you judged test footy to be bigger, but in terms of number of spectators, tv audience etc… there is no way international league is bigger. I dont know any facts or figures, but I’d guess that origin pulled a bigger international audience then any of the test matches.

    • Roar Guru

      October 18th 2012 @ 8:19am
      Andrew Marmont said | October 18th 2012 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      Thanks guys, appreciate the great feedback, ideas and enthusiasm! The game is surely moving ahead, and international football went forward this year for sure…..

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