Patrick Carrigan of the Broncos looks dejected after a Roosters try. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Patrick Carrigan of the Broncos looks dejected after a Roosters try. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Roosters rout shows what Broncos are sorely missing

In 1935, Canterbury were in their first year of existence and were on the end of an 87-7 hiding at the hands of Eastern Suburbs.

Eighty-seven points. Can you imagine? And mind you that came with three-point tries, so on the modern scale it would have been 106-8. Easts scored a try every 4.2 minutes. It would have gotten surreal very quickly.

 

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That's the second-heaviest defeat in premiership history. The heaviest was also in 1935, and Canterbury were also on the end of it, and it was seven days earlier against St George. The poor old Berries went down 91-6. The two matches are the only two times in premiership history a team has conceded more than 80 points in a game.

Brisbane weren't so bad as that in their 59-0 loss to the Roosters, but they weren't far away either. Here's five things to takeaway from this absolute massacre.

The Morris brothers are still excellent

How did we let this happen? How did we let the Roosters sign Brett Morris on bugger all money last year, watch how good he was during the finals series, and then fall asleep at the wheel and let them sign Josh Morris again at the start of this season, once again (presumably) for bugger all money? We all knew this was coming! We all still knew how good the twins were! We should have known better!

The Morris twins are still excellent players, and probably still will be in their mid-50s, when they'll combine to captain-coach the Kiama Knights to 10 straight premierships. Brett played fullback in relief of James Tedesco and looked like he'd been there all his life. Josh was solid as a rock, grabbed a try and helped set up a couple more. Fair dinkum, we make it too easy for the Roosters sometimes.

 

Kyle Flanagan had his best game for the Roosters. Picture: Darren England/AAP
Kyle Flanagan had his best game for the Roosters. Picture: Darren England/AAP

 

Flanagan took giant strides

Replacing Cooper Cronk was always going to be a tough ask for anybody, let alone someone of Kyle Flanagan's experience but the former Shark had his best game as a Rooster in this one. He might have been on a flat track, but Flanagan still did all the little things right - he made the most of the opportunities the Broncos defence gave him, supported well through the middle and showed plenty of nous at first receiver.

Such is the all-round quality of the Roosters side, Flanagan doesn't need to stand out like Cronk did, he just needs to play his part, hold up his end, and do all the little things right. Based on this performance, he's perfectly capable of doing that, if not a whole lot more, for the rest of the season.

How fast is too fast?

There were plenty of stats being thrown around about the huge margins we've seen in the early stages of the one-ref, six-again era, and this was another lopsided blowout. In the first round, there was just one game decided by less than 12 points and such is the momentum generated by the six-again rule that merely conceding one often results in prime field position for the attacking team.

As such, once a team is down on the canvas they have, so far, found it impossible to get back up. The sample size is still too small to make any definitive declarations either way as to whether this is a permanent change or merely a teething problem, but it is notable.

 

 

Brisbane need adults

Everybody knew how badly Brisbane were undermanned for this game - they fielded the most inexperienced front-row in their history and had two debutants - but Anthony Seibold hasn't made it easy on himself with some of his decisions. Pat Carrigan carries the ball well, but he is not defensively sound enough to play such lengthy minutes and his lack of experience shone through when he challenged Jared Waerea-Hargreaves in the lead up to the game. It was foolish of Carrigan to poke the bear, but what else could Seibold expect when he handed the captaincy to a player with less than 25 games of first grade experience?

Accepting that Tevita Pangai Junior, David Fifita and Alex Glenn were missing, Brisbane's lack of experience in the middle of the field and their inability to give even a respectable account of themselves would have been truly stomach-turning.

My God, Brisbane got smacked

The Roosters beat the Broncos like they stole something, they beat the Broncos like a drum, they beat them until the Broncos didn't have a tooth left in their head and then when they slumped to the ground the Roosters kicked them in the guts for whinging about it.

It is the second time in five outings that Brisbane have suffered the greatest defeat in club history. The memories of the belting from Parramatta in the finals last year are still fresh and the scars are still raw, and the Roosters made it all happen again. This was a traumatizing defeat, an existentially terrifying loss, the kind of loss that makes Broncos fans stare at the wall in a dark room and question why they put up with this shit. What else can be said?

 

 

No more Knightmares: Proof battlers have turned corner

The Knights have been through years of abject hopelessness since their last finals appearance in 2013, but things feel different under Adam O'Brien, even if we're only three games into his coaching career.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that most - if not all - of the Knights teams from 2015 to 2019 would have totally crumbled had they copped the rough trot Newcastle did in the early stages against Penrith.

Down 14-0, already without Kalyn Ponga and losing Connor Watson and Mitchell Pearce along the way, they were forced to rely on three debutants to play big, big minutes in a gruelling, physical encounter.

 

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The Knights should be proud of their efforts. AAP Image/Dean Lewins.
The Knights should be proud of their efforts. AAP Image/Dean Lewins.

It was a daunting ask for any team, particularly one who have long had a soft underbelly.

But the Knights' willingness to fight and fight and keep fighting, and slowly grind their way into a match against a Penrith team that were increasingly frustrated by the Novocastrians flat refusal to surrender made their 14-all draw one of the best performances the club has put together in recent years.

Were it not for a wayward Bradman Best pass, they would have stolen the win but even the stalemate should give them a great deal of encouragement and confidence.

A hallmark of the Nathan Brown era at Newcastle was the failure of talented junior players to kick on and become regularly productive first graders. O'Brien has already helped several players take a great leap forward - most notably the Saifiti twins and, before he was injured, Mitch Barnett. Three games does not a winter make, and the Knights face a more daunting test this week in the Raiders, but the signs out of Newcastle are as good as they've been in a long time.

Saifiti has improved greatly under O’Brien. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images.
Saifiti has improved greatly under O’Brien. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images.

BATEMAN'S TOUGHEST CALL: MONEY OR POWER

From Belmore to Belconnen, from Woden Valley to Wigan, from Canberra to Canterbury to Wigan, they all want a piece of John Bateman.

The star Englishman has been named to return from injury for the Raiders, the premiership favourites and last year's runners up. The Bulldogs, anchored in a bottom four cage of their own making, want him to come and fix them. Wigan, where he made his name, want him back.

Bateman is one of the best half-dozen second rowers in the league, and that's important because the difference between the best second rowers and the very good second rowers is a fine but substantial line. There are plenty of strong, mobile hole-runners who defend stoutly and give an honest, 6/10 performance every week. For a second rower to stand out, and to demand the kind of money Bateman is reportedly after, they have to offer something else.

Viliame Kikau, for example, offers a greater running threat than any other backrower in the game. He doesn't need to hit a hole, he creates them on his own. David Fifita is special because of his speed, Wade Graham because of his skill, Boyd Cordner because he does all the little things better than anybody else.

 

Bateman is one of the best half-dozen backrowers in the league. Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images.
Bateman is one of the best half-dozen backrowers in the league. Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images.

What makes Bateman special is his toughness, his physicality, his unending desire to compete and fight and win, plus his skill, his guile and his cunning. Canberra took on many of those aspects last season, and Bateman was the face of their transformation from glass cannons to hard-nosed, brutal competitors who would choose death before surrender.

One of the indelible images from the aftermath of the grand final last year was Bateman staring at the celebrating Roosters until he was literally dragged away by Ricky Stuart. Bateman hates losing, he truly despises it. He might hate losing more than he likes winning.

Bateman has never been on a bad team, not really. Apart from his three seasons at Bradford at the start of his career, he has always been on teams that contended for silverware. The Raiders are premiership favourites, and regardless of what else happens over the course of this season they likely will be again next year. Canterbury are at as low an ebb as a club can be, and so are the Dragons and Titans, the other NRL teams loosely linked to signing Bateman and as transformative as Bateman has been for Canberra it will take time for a second metamorphosis.

Bateman helped transform the Raiders in 2019. Picture by Brett Costello.
Bateman helped transform the Raiders in 2019. Picture by Brett Costello.

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For the Raiders, Bateman was one of the final pieces. For the Titans, Dragons and Bulldogs, he'd be the foundation of a rebuild that might not be complete for several years.

So the choice is simple - how much money is Bateman prepared to sacrifice to be on a team that wins? How much is a chance at a premiership worth?

It's very easy for fans to say Bateman should sacrifice the dollars, but it's not a fair comparison. Each and every one of us would give up almost anything to play football professionally, but for Bateman - indeed, for every player - the financial realities of the situation have to play a prominent role, just as they do for normal people in their own careers.

Premierships don't pay the bills when you're 35 with knees shot to bits. Glory and grand finals and Clive Churchill medals might be treasured memories but memories don't keep the lights on and a man's life isn't just the years he spends wearing footy boots.

Nobody should begrudge a player getting paid, because nobody hesitates to call for their heads once they're old and past it. A proud legacy doesn't feed your family 20 years after you've retired.

Fans expect players to be loyal to clubs, but these things need to go both ways.

It's not an easy choice for any player to make. Football may be their passion, but it's also their job. They're not heroes if they take less money or villains if they take more.

Players are three-dimensional people, like all of us, and too often they get dehumanised because they're on television and in the papers and because they do larger than life things, like Bateman does nearly every time he takes the field.

Could Bateman head back to Wigan. Photo by Alex Dodd/CameraSport via Getty Images.
Could Bateman head back to Wigan. Photo by Alex Dodd/CameraSport via Getty Images.

The talk around the traps seem to have the Bulldogs as the heavy favourites to sign Bateman, with Wigan also making a play for the Englishman. The lure of home, and the prospect of living closer to his daughter, may well dwarf Canterbury's money and Canberra's chances of winning the premiership.

The Raiders aren't that far removed from struggling with recruitment more than any other team in the league - fans will remember the James Tedesco backflip, and how they chased Michael Ennis, Kevin Proctor and Josh Mansour very, very hard, only to be knocked back by all four players, mere months after sacking Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson and losing Anthony Milford to the Broncos.

From those dark days, when it legitimately felt like Canberra would never sign anybody ever again, the Raiders built a powerhouse from the ashes.

Now, the Raiders are something of a destination. Bateman choosing them when he came down from Wigan is proof of that, as is landing Curtis Scott from Melbourne. They don't have to beg Bateman to stay, as much as they would like him to.

Losing Bateman would be a tremendous blow, but the Raiders proved on the weekend they can still play very good football without him - Bateman is a superior player to Joseph Tapine, but Tapine is no slouch and would improve if he was allowed to permanently play on the edge.

Canberra probably can't win this year's premiership without Bateman, but they'll feel good knowing Tapine can step into the breach if required in 2021.

Tapine was excellent against the Storm. AAP Image/Scott Barbour.
Tapine was excellent against the Storm. AAP Image/Scott Barbour.

Canterbury would improve with Bateman, but the things he brings are not necessarily what the Bulldogs lacked - effort and intensity has not been their problem, but scoring points certainly is and has been for some time. Bateman would immediately become their best player, and he would lift the players around him but surely their money is better spent on halves, or a top class hooker, or some strike outside backs?

Bateman's decision to test the market has brought out the usual hand-wringing over the sanctity of a contract, but this is like complaining about the rain when you're already wet.

Contracts have been less of an absolute and more of a vague idea ever since Super League. If a player really wants to get out of a deal, he can. If a club really want to move a player on, they will.

It cuts both ways, and it's never going to go back to the mythical period that some seem to remember, where handshake deals were honoured and sacred oaths to see out a deal were written upon a sacred parchment.

That world doesn't exist any more, if it ever did.

From a Raiders perspective, allowing Bateman to leave for Wigan would undoubtedly be preferable to letting him go early to play for another NRL club but Shaun Wane, who coached Bateman at the Riversiders, doesn't believe Bateman would be interested in a return to the club where he made his name.

But these are semantics. There's not a Raiders fan who wants Bateman to leave nor a Bulldogs fan who wouldn't want him to come to Belmore nor a Wigan fan that wouldn't welcome him home with open arms.

Only Bateman can decide how much he's willing to give up to stay on a winning team, or how much it would take for him to spend at least a year or two away from the heights to which he has no doubt grown accustomed.

Unusual field goal kickers

And now, in honour of nobody from the Panthers or Knights managing to kick a field goal, here's some weird players who kicked field goals and some things I know about them.

Alan Tongue

The Raiders hero knocked over a field goal in Round 5 of 2007 to stretch a 36-28 lead over the Roosters to 37-28. It was absolutely pointless, and also it was the greatest day of my life.

Anthony Minichiello

There was something in the water in 2007 - Mini kicked the only one-pointer of his career against the Sharks in Round 11 of that year, a golden point effort that delivered the Roosters a 13-12 win.

Mark Carroll

The big unit banged one over in a 15-2 for Souths over Parramatta in 1993. Why? I have no idea.

Paul Gallen

For all the accolades Gallen got over his long career I am sure the one he treasures most is the inaugural Golden Hombre award for Outstanding Achievement in the field of Big Man Season, which he won when he put over a field goal in Cronulla's 25-8 win over the Tigers in the final round of last year.

You love to see it. Picture by Brett Costello.
You love to see it. Picture by Brett Costello.

Short shots

*Tohu Harris played a great game at lock for the Warriors in their win over the Dragons, but just as impressive was Isaiah Papali'i, who was back on the edge where he's always belonged. I've been a tremendous fan of Papali'i for some time, but his move to the middle this season was always puzzling to me. Papali'i has been named in the middle this week, but with a bit of luck Stephen Kearney will make the same switch as he did last time around.

*There's been plenty of chat about the move back to one referee and the new six again rules ending the wrestle in rugby league and making the game flow better and curing coronavirus and all the rest. While the matches on the weekend were certainly of an excellent standard, I'll hold fire on proclaiming them stone cold winners just yet - don't forget that everyone loved the two ref system and the Bunker when they were first introduced. Let's wait and see what happens once the honeymoon is over.

Tex Hoy wouldn’t look out of place at the Gem Saloon. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images.
Tex Hoy wouldn’t look out of place at the Gem Saloon. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images.

*This is a staunchly pro-Tex Hoy column. There should be more players with names like Deadwood characters.

*On an intellectual level I respect a player's decision to maximise their earning potential, but on an emotional level I want every single player from the 2019 Raiders to stay with the club for the rest of their careers. Give me Dunamis Lui packing down in the front row at age 45 or give me death.

Golden hombre

In these troubled times we must take comfort in the things close to our hearts. For some, it is family and friends, and the feeling of community. For me, it is front rowers taking shots at goal, or putting in ill-advised chip kicks or perhaps throwing totally adventurous, almost foolhardy cut out passes.

The Golden Hombre is the only thing left to believe in anymore, and Campo's Corner will hand it out each and every week to the big man moment of the round. Big Man Season lives forever in our hearts.

Josh Papalii played another blinder against the Storm, but the Raiders prop's finest moment came after the siren when, in his 200th NRL game, he was given a celebratory conversion. Papalii's kick never got off the ground and never looked like going over. I shouted the bar when the Raiders got up (shout out to my guys at the Sneaky Possum), and if Papalii had kicked the goal I would have done so again.

Originally published as Roosters rout shows what Broncos are sorely missing


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