If Paul McGregor goes, who is his logical replacement?

It’s been reported that Friday’s clash against Parramatta will be Paul McGregor’s last game in charge of the Dragons. Considering he has just eight wins from the last 31 games, it’s impossible to put a reasonable case forward to defend the coach.

So who replaces ‘Mary’ at the Red V?

There will be an elite group of coaches available in 2022 in Wayne Bennett, Shane Flanagan and maybe Craig Fitzgibbon. So there is an argument to appoint an interim coach for 2021, then make a big play.

Possible interims would be Dean Young or Ben Hornby, which would offset the payout to McGregor.

But if Bennett, Flanagan or Fitzgibbon aren’t the long-term options, who else is an option?

Anthony Griffin
Griffin has coached 173 matches across stints with the Broncos and Panthers. He is currently a member of the continuous call on 2GB.

Known to be an uncompromising coach, he was sacked under controversial circumstances at Penrith when the Panthers were well established in the eight.

Still only 53, Griffin is the strongest candidate available.

Geoff Toovey
A club legend at Manly as a player, Toovey was coach from 2012 until 2015, for 105 games, then a further 23 in charge of the Bradford Bulls in 2017.

Toovey would bring passion and commitment, but he may need good support staff around him.

Paul Green
Only recently left North Queensland, he has the best record of the coaches available, featuring two grand finals, one premiership and a World Club Challenge.

The Cowboys aren’t the first team to struggle to rebuild after the loss of generational players – Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott – and Green would have a better group to work with at the Dragons.

Paul Green at a press conference.

Paul Green (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Todd Payten
The interim coach at the Warriors passed on the head coaching role to pursue the job at North Queensland. The playing group and prospects are superior at the Dragons, so perhaps he could be tempted.

Neil Henry
The coach of 248 games across stints with North Queenland, Canberra and the Gold Coast, he fell out of favour at the Titans because he didn’t get on with Jarryd Hayne. Given Hayne’s implosion, perhaps Henry was hard done by.

Henry is generally well regarded, despite having a losing record, and is known to be both intelligent and an excellent tactician.

John Cartwright
Cartwright was the inaugural coach of the Titans and is currently an assistant to Des Hasler at Many.

Generally known as a nice guy and a smart coach, Cartwright would be an improvement on McGregor but there are better options.

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Michael Potter
The coach of 263 games across stints with the Catalans Dragons, St Helens, Bradford Bulls and Wests Tigers, Potter was then Nathan Brown’s assistant at Newcastle.

Brown spoke highly of Potter and of course Potter is a St George club legend, winning the Dally M Medal in 1991.

Well that’s my list, please let know of your thoughts in the comments, hopefully better days are not far away.

Top three NRL Fantasy players from each position for the run home

There has been plenty of controversy surrounding who is the correct player to buy or keep in your NRL Fantasy squad for 2020.

Participants have utilised their trades based on inconsistencies from their players to upgrade to a better player, or to downgrade to a cash-cow option in an attempt to make some cash for their squad.

In saying all this, I will provide my top three players from each position currently in NRL Fantasy for the run home in 2020.

Winger/fullback

1. Kalyn Ponga
Ponga has been in fine form the last few weeks with an average of around 77 points in his last three games, and not to mention an outstanding performance last week in Round 13 with 103 points. Ponga is most certainly a must-have if you haven’t got him in your squad already.

2. Ryan Papenhuyzen
Papenhuyzen has shown some signs of inconsistency earlier in the season, but he has proven to be a very handy player to have in your team, averaging around 56 points in his last three games and 53 in his last five matches.

3. James Tedesco
Yes, we all know that Tedesco hasn’t been in his best form whatsoever in terms of racking up the points in NRL Fantasy, only averaging 42 points in his last three, while only putting up a score of 20 in Round 13. But besides all that, he is still a must-have in anyone’s team.

James Tedesco

(Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Centre

1. Zac Lomax
While there has been heaps of speculation on who the best centre options are. Lomax has proven to be one of the most consistent centres all season. Producing a season-high performance of 75 last week, and an average of 53 points in his last three matches, Lomax is definitely an automatic recruitment in the centres.

2. Stephen Crichton
Crichton has produced consistent numbers also, but has not been in the best form, but is still a very important option for that other centre position and will most likely hit the ground running for the remainder of the season for the Panthers.

3. Tyrone Peachey
With an average of 55 points in his last three games, Peachey is finally starting to show signs of strong performances for the remainder of the 2020 season. Peachey also has that dual position option of a centre/second row forward as well. If centre positions are already full, Peachey would be a handy bench option for your team as well.

Halves

1. Nathan Cleary
There is absolutely no doubt that Cleary is the best option for that half position in anyone’s team, while also being a very popular captain as well. With an average of 80 points in his last five matches, Cleary looks to continue his outstanding form for the Panthers in the 2020 season.

2. Daly Cherry-Evans
While Manly is experiencing a mid-season slump, Cherry-Evans has easily been Manly’s best player Fantasy-wise this season, as he averages 70 points in his last five matches.

3. Ben Hunt
With Hunt temporarily switching from the halves to the centres, Hunt was a very handy cheap option for a half spot in your squad. However, he has now switched back to halfback but has continued some good form, averaging 67 in his last five.

Ben Hunt celebrates with Josh Kerr

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Second row

1. James Taumalolo
He is most certainly a popular option for that second-row spot in anyone’s team, averaging a whopping 74 points in his last three games.

2. Isaah Yeo
Yeo has been very consistent all season for Fantasy players this year. He averages 62 in his last three.

3. Tohu Harris
Harris has surprisingly been very good for the Warriors this season and for Fantasy players. He averages 66 points in his last three games.

Front row

1. Payne Haas
There is absolutely no doubt that Haas is everyone’s first choice front-row option in everyone’s team at the moment, and has been one of few consistent performers for the Broncos this year. Haas averages 71 in his last three games and is a reliable captain option as well.

2. Patrick Carrigan
Carrigain started off very cheap at the start of the season and has made plenty of cash for the coaches who pounced on him towards the start of the season. He currently has a price tag of $769,000 and averages 63 in his last five games.

3. Josh Papalii
Papalii has been yet another consistent forward for Fantasy coaches this year, averaging 62 in his last five.

Josh Papalii runs the ball.

(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Hooker

1. Cameron McInnes
McInnes has been the best player for the Dragons this season and has certainly paid off in anyone’s Fantasy squad. He has an all-season average of around 74 points and is also another good captaincy option as well.

2. Apisai Koroisau
Koroisau has now come back from his short injury and looks good for the run home. He’s averaged around 62 points all season.

3. Kurt Mann
Now that Mann has switched to the hooker position due to the horrid run of injuries for the Newcastle Knights, Mann looks to be a handy option at hooker if you are a bit tight on cash. He is also a reliable bench option, averaging about 49 points all season.

Keys Blues in form, but who will post-season Origin favour?

Just as COVID has affected the rest of the competition, and indeed the world, in 2020, it is set to affect the Origin series too.

We still don’t know where the matches are going to be played, just that they will be on three consecutive Wednesdays in November. The first match is slated to take place just ten days after the grand final on October 25.

Normally played before a parochial crowd, is it unlikely we will get anything close to that this season. With crowds carefully capped during the regular season, and the situation in Victoria, there is virtually no chance we will see the sell-out crowds of series past.

While the timing and schedule of Origin always seems to be a topic of discussion, this is hardly the perfect model for our showpiece event. But with the world the way it is at the moment, the NRL just needed to get the series scheduled at whatever cost, to maximise the already reduced revenue of this season.

David Fifita of the Maroons runs the ball

(Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

It is hard to see at this stage who this scheduling is going to benefit more as the season wears on. We have a pretty clear idea of the NRL teams that will be there at the pointy end, with only a couple of sides towards the bottom of the eight in any real danger of missing out. Some players are going to be asked to go right through to grand final day, and then back up ten days later. On the other hand, others will be having more than a month off before playing Origin.

For those going all the way to the grand final, Origin is a big ask. Normally players get ten or so days to prepare for Origin 1 after being selected, however that is normally ten rounds into the competition, not off the back of a finals series. By the time we get to grand final day there are normally a number of players who are managing niggling injuries among the regular fatigue of a long season. Then we have the celebrations or commiserations that come with the result of the grand final.

How this will all work for Brad Fittler and Kevin Walters is intriguing too. By the end of the regular season they would have a pretty good idea of their first choice side, regardless of form in the finals.

Picking more players whose teams have bowed out for the season represents an opportunity to get them into camp earlier and freshen them up while keeping them fit. Relying on others to not just stay fit, but also handle fatigue, could prove to be a gamble. Players often go into surgery straight after the season concludes to maximise their recovery time for next season. Fittler and Walters will be having to carefully consider who they pick in extended squads so that they don’t rule any players out this way.

Josh Addo-Carr

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

A case could be made at the moment that the Blues have more players set to go deep into the finals than the Maroons, particularly in key positions. The top eight teams as it stands are littered with potential Blues candidates. It is a great luxury for Brad Fittler to have so many potential players in such great form. Nathan Cleary has been sensational at Penrith, Luke Keary looks set to finally debut with his performances for the Roosters, and James Tedesco is as consistent as ever. Jack Wighton is keeping the Raiders in contention and Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been resurgent at the Eels. It’s the tip of the iceberg with plenty of potential Blues enjoying good seasons.

For the Maroons, the form – of lack thereof – for some key players is cause for real concern. Kalyn Ponga is the only genuine option at fullback, and they better count on him being fit and firing. Likewise with Cameron Munster in the halves, but that is where the good news for Queensland stops in the spine.

Corey Norman and Ben Hunt played halfback and hooker respectively in the decider last year. Anthony Milford and Michael Morgan have also featured in the halves in series gone by. None of them are in the kind of form you would want if Origin was going to be played tomorrow. Norman and Hunt have been shuffled around the Dragons team to no avail, with the Dragons out of finals contention.

Milford as one of the highest paid Broncos has failed to spark them this year, while Morgan has battled injury and now faces propping up a struggling Cowboys. Daly Cherry-Evans is likely to be the halfback at this stage and while he isn’t solely responsible for the Sea Eagles dip in form, he isn’t having the impact you would like as a Maroons fan either.

Daly Cherry-Evans

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

You get the sense that at the moment the Blues team could virtually pick itself, and has some depth to it, but they are probably going to be playing deeper in the season. The Maroons however are really going to struggle in some areas to pick a competitive side, but may have the luxury of a better preparation.

Everyone gets up for Origin. It is a long way away, and some of these players for both sides will rise for the occasion. The story of last year’s series tells us that with both teams lifting themselves off the canvas at points. The Maroons drew first blood in Game 1, as underdogs and had two games in hand to win the series.

The Blues made wholesale changes in key positions, and had to win in Perth to keep the season alive, and did so with a commanding victory that put them in the box seat heading to Sydney. In that game alone, the Blues looked home only for the Maroons to storm back into the contest and nearly force extra time. In the case of either team, both looked incredibly likely to win the series at some point.

In any case, this Origin series is intriguing. Sides are pencilled in for a reason, and with so much footy still to play, anything can change in the next few weeks. At the moment though, the Blues appear to have their key players in better form. What the build-up already suggests is that Origin needs to stay where it was after this weird old season we are having.

To ask the players to back up after a long season for our showpiece event, so soon after the grand final, is too much. That combined with trying to manage players who are all in very different stages of their season, or being forced to make decisions between surgery and potential representative honours, is just as significant.

It is imperfect in the middle of the season, but it has lasted so long because it is the best option we have. It spices up the depths of winter, and is always an enthralling storyline. In front of sell-out crowds, and with record TV audiences, some things in our game don’t need to be tampered with too much.

That being said, in a year with so much disruption, it will be another welcome distraction to have Origin in November.

Warriors set for more years of disappointment with Nathan Brown at the helm

For a side that has consistently underperformed over the years, there seems no more fitting appointment than Nathan Brown as coach of the New Zealand Warriors. 

Brown will take on the role in 2021, after he signed a three-year deal with the club over the weekend.

It was a seemingly quick appointment for the role where the likes of Geoff Toovey didn’t even get an interview. 

For those who may have forgotten, here is a refresher for Brown’s coaching record in the NRL:
 
• 245 games 
• 104 wins 
• One draw 
• 42 per cent winning record  

In his nine years of coaching in the NRL, Brown made the finals four times. Let’s not forget he also won successive wooden spoons with Newcastle in 2016 and 2017.

Yes, that’s right folks, a man with consecutive wooden spoons beat out another former coach, who in his first three years at Manly took them to:

• One preliminary final
• One grand final
• One semi-final

So why did the Warriors appoint Brown? As he said in his goodby press conference last year with the Knights, he helps the battlers. The teams that need to form those foundations for success. And while that’s all well and good, is it his coaching that provides that platform?

Newcastle this year are miles ahead of what Brown had them at in his four years. And while it may seem cruel to compare this team to his wooden spoon sides of 2016-17, a case can still be made.

The years 2018 and 2019 were meant to successful for Newcastle but while they would start well, they flamed out in both years. The mental fortitude wasn’t there and that was on the coach.

Newcastle Knights

Knights players celebrate the win after Mitchell Pearce scores a field goal (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

However, this year’s side is different – they are not only more capable of playing finals footy, they believe it as well. 

New coach Adam O’Brien has entrusted his team with more ownership and more guidance. Look at the development of David Klemmer with a new-found freedom in offloading the ball. Kurt Mann, a player trapped by his own utility value, looked to languish between reserve grade and the number 14 jersey before O’Brien placed faith with him in the five-eighth role. Before injuries forced him into the dummy half position, he was easily Newcastle’s best player all year. That development was never shown under Brown

Right now, the Warriors represent a hugely talented squad but lack a hard edge to contest for finals football. Interim coach Todd Payten has them performing admirably amidst trying conditions, where they have left their families and have had to field opposing players in their squad. Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck leads the charge and guys like Tohu Harris, Eliese Katoa and Peta Hiku are not too far behind.

But with the era of Brown about to begin, it seems inevitable the Kiwis will revert back to their ways of showing potential early on before failing to make the top eight. Sounds strangely similar to the Knights team of old.

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After years of disappointment and underachieving in the Hunter, why do the Warriors think Brown is the right man? He left the Knights in a better position than when he arrived, but they still failed to deliver on promise and potential.

It’s stupid and reckless to hire Brown just to fill in for three years until a more successful coach walks in, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from the Warriors now. They’re a club with so much promise yet they continue to fail.

And it seems with Nathan Brown’s looming appointment that trend will continue. 

History of Brisbane Rugby League: The Great Norths Dynasty (1959 to 1969)

The 1960s were the decade of the North Devils. They won six titles in a row between 1959 and 1964 to rival St George’s dominance in the south.

They won again in 1966 and 1969 to claim eight premierships in 11 years and were also runners up in 1967 and 1970. There has never been a period of dominance like it in Brisbane club football. With 8 titles from 11 attempts and a further two grand finals, it was as close as anyone has got in top tier competition to matching the great St George side of the era.

For previous articles in this series, please see here.

In 1960 Redcliffe were admitted to the competition. They would become a financial powerhouse (if not always reflected by premierships) and formed a healthy rivalry with their fellow Baysiders, Wynnum-Manly. They established their big spending credentials early securing Wests international fullback Ken McCrohon for 1,000 pounds to lead the Dolphins in their first season.

While Norths dominated, two other traditionally strong clubs also found success. Valleys were Norths’ great rivals in the early part of the decade, going down to the Devils in three consecutive grand finals between 1960 and 1962.

Brothers emerged in the mid 1960’s going down to Norths in the 1964 and 1966 deciders, before finally defeating the champion side in the 1967 grand final, the first to see a crowd over 30,000. A whopping 36,000 turned out the following year to see the Brethren make it back to back titles.

By the end of the decade Valleys re-emerged, losing the decider to Norths in 1969 before dominating the league in the early 1970s.

It all started in 1959 when Norths pulled off an absolute coup. Australian captain-coach Clive Churchill was in dispute with South Sydney and the Devils swooped with a 1,000 pound offer.

This was sensational for the competition and nearly 10,000 fans turned up for the club’s first trial match. Churchill was gone to England on the Kangaroo tour by finals time but Norths surged on to take the title.

Wynnum enjoyed some success that year, finishing third and winning their first ever semi-final on the back of sensational new winger, 19-year-old Indigenous player Lionel Morgan. Norths and Brothers contested the decider, with Brothers making their sixth grand final appearance in a row.

However a hard campaign saw the Brethren forced to field a number of injured players and Norths took the match 24 to 18 after trailing 8 nil early on, to secure their first premiership since 1940.

Brothers subsequently sacked coach Bob Bax despite having appeared in six consecutive grand finals. In a move with long-lasting ramifications, Bax replaced Churchill as coach of Norths.

At this time, Brisbane still was not the undisputed centre of rugby league in QLD. North Queensland was in the middle of a strong era boasting state players like Jim Paterson, Elton Rasmussen and Bobby Banks. In a challenge match in 1959 North Queensland easily defeated Combined Brisbane by 36 points to 17.

1960 saw contrasting fortunes for the prior year’s grand finalists. Brothers dropped out of the finals entirely for the first time in seven years, while Norths went from strength to strength with their new coach, despite losing 13 players from their victorious 1959 squad.

The Devils started poorly winning only two from their first eight, but then went on a ten-game winning streak. They defeated Valleys 18 to 15 in the decider to claim back to back premierships, the first club to do so in over 30 years.

In 1961 Norths became the first team since Valleys in 1919 to win a premiership hat trick. They were challenged firstly by Redcliffe in only their second season. The Dolphins, led by star captain Ken McCrohon, finished the regular season in second position. However their lack of finals experience told and it was Valleys who lined up for their second successive grand final.

Norm Pope, the Diehards’ veteran fullback, brought Valleys from 14 to 7 down to defeat the Dolphins in the preliminary final with three second half try assists, this after being dropped to reserve grade midway through the season.

The planned design for the new stadium in the CBD of Townsville (Credit

It’s hard to believe, but at one point North Queensland rivalled Brisbane as a rugby league powerhouse in Queensland. (Credit: Queenslandgovernment)

In the grand final Norths ran away with the game 29 points to 5 after leading only 3 to 2 at half time, Their 21 year old winger Jimmy Sutton scored three tries to make it seven from his two finals appearances.

Sydney club Balmain toured Brisbane at season’s end and Norths thumped them 42 to 10 to enhance their reputation. 1961 also saw Brisbane win the Bulimba Cup for the first time since 1950, in a tight encounter against Toowoomba.

1962 was a repeat of the previous two years, a dominant Norths defeating Valleys comfortably in the decider to become the first club in Brisbane history to win four consecutive titles. The 22 to nil thrashing in the grand final left Valleys as the first team in 50 years to fail to score in a decider. Cult hero Fonda Metassa, ‘The Golden Greek’, scored two tries and powerful prop Jim Weier scored from a bullocking 50 metre run!

Norths made it five in a row in 1963, this time defeating Souths by 18 points to 8. Australian prop Henry Holloway joined Redcliffe as captain coach and helped the Dolphins to third place. Wynnum won their first 8 games after signing international five-eighth Johnny Gleeson from Toowoomba but faded and missed the finals once he left for the Kangaroo tour. The tour also dashed Wests’ hopes as they crashed out of the semi-finals without test stars Barry Muir and Ken Day.

Instead, Souths stepped up to challenge the champions and they produced a massive upset to belt Norths 23 to 3 in the major semi-final, with international fullback Frank Drake starring for the Magpies.

Norths bounced back to knock Redcliffe out of contention and then their forwards got over the Souths pack to win a tight grand final. Long term Captain and centre / five eighth Bill Pearson left for Bundaberg at the end of the season.

The Norths juggernaut kept rolling in 1964, although finally some cracks were starting to show. Valleys returned to form and won the minor premiership ahead of Brothers, with Norths relegated to third. But the Northsider’s big match experience prevailed in the finals.

Brothers met them in the grand final, with club legend Brian Davies returning for a final season after years at Canterbury and St George. Unfortunately Davies was injured in the major semi-final, which would not have helped The Brethren’s chances of an upset.

Norths nearly fell in the preliminary final, only winning 9 to 7 after Valleys captain Des Mannion missed four shots at goal. The winning try was scored by new recruit Elwyn Walters, who would end up at South Sydney. Then in a dour grand final, a single try scored by Norths’ Fonda Metassa was enough to seal a sixth consecutive title.

1965 is a year close to my heart. After only five years in the competition the mighty Redcliffe Dolphins won their first premiership. Included in their side was a talented youngster from Roma, Arthur Beetson and a speedy winger, Kevin Yow Yeh.

Of course, after winning their first premiership it was inevitable that the floodgates would open … but in fact that was the last title for Redcliffe for nearly 30 years, well after the BRL had lost its top tier status. I guess it’s some compensation that the Dolphins have won a further eight titles since then, with the next best in the post 1987 era being Wynnum and Burleigh with four each.

But back to 1965. Coach Henry Holloway switched young Arthur Beetson from the centres to the pack and in a season where the top four teams were very evenly matched, it was the Dolphins who emerged victorious. Brothers, led by test forward Peter ‘Pedro’ Gallagher, finally ended the Norths dynasty in the minor semi-final. Meanwhile Valleys advanced to another grand final with a tight win over Redcliffe despite trailing with only four minutes to go.

Redcliffe then turned on the class, with Kevin Yow Yeh scoring two tries in each of their preliminary final and grand final victories. The preliminary final win over Brothers with a man down for most of the second half was brave. The grand final victory was even better after they lost both starting props to injury during the week. In front of a record crowd of over 25,000 Redcliffe held Valley’s try-less to win 15 to 2.

The Dolphins’ success in 1965 was short-lived. Their two stars, Beetson and Yow Yeh were both snapped up by Balmain the following year. 1965 also saw three Brothers players taken by Wests in Sydney, while the QRL took rep players Ken Day and Mick Veivers to court to try and prevent their defection south, to no avail.

Norths returned to winner’s circle in 1966 but it took a mighty effort to defeat Brothers in the grand final. The Devils bolstered their stocks in the offseason, signing QLD representative Bob Duncan from Toowoomba plus others from Ipswich.

Just as Sydney’s rise damaged the BRL, the movement of funds towards the cities harmed country football. Brothers matched this offseason drive, nabbing test players Johnny Gleeson and Dennis Manteit from Toowoomba. That year, Gleeson captained Brisbane to victory over the touring British, their first since 1932.

Suncorp Stadium generic

Rugby league looks different in Brisbane in the modern era. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Norths advanced to the grand final in a close win over Brothers. One of those Ipswich imports, fullback Peter ‘The Boot’ Lobegeiger, kicked a 55 yard penalty goal to put Norths in front. The finals were all close affairs that year.

Valleys knocked defending premiers Redcliffe out in extra time and were then themselves defeated by Brothers by a single point, with the Valley’s winger pulled down 5 metres from the line as the full time siren sounded. In the grand final, Norths scored in the first five minutes and that was the only try as defence ruled the day, The Devils winning 9 to 6.

It was later alleged that coach Bax had issued instructions to his team to take out rival star five-eighth Johnny Gleeson, who was knocked unconscious by a late, high tackle in the 30th minute. It was a controversial match all round with two players sent off and a spectator attacking the referee before being hauled off by two of the players.

In 1967 Norths finally lost in a grand final, to their great rival Brothers. It coincided with the end of the unlimited tackle rule, which also ended the run of the great St George side in NSW. The QRL also continued to look at ways to prevent their best players heading south. Players representing QLD had to sign a contract to not take up a Sydney offer for 12 months.

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Coach Henry Holloway left Redcliffe for Valleys and brought the minor premiership to the Diehards. But finals specialists Norths and Brothers were too strong at the business end of the season. Norths advanced to the grand final over Valleys in a match where Norths winger Fonda Metassa scored the only try. Brothers joined them, leaving Valleys to go out in straight sets.

The grand final in front of over 30,000 was won by the Brethren 6 points to 2 with no tries scored. No quarter was given in a match described as “gripping” and “one of the hardest and closest grand finals in history”, with Brothers’ star number 6, Johnny Gleeson having 6 bottom teeth broken off by an opposing front rower but playing on.

Brothers went back-to-back in 1968 in a season overshadowed by controversy. Boasting two Australian representatives and a number of QLD players, the Brethren were in the midst of a strong period. They dominated a rising Easts side in the grand final winning 21 to 4.

But this was overshadowed by 25 test veteran, Wests’ halfback Barry Muir being ejected from the BRL competition. Firstly Muir took his team off the field in a game against Valleys after being set off, forfeiting the match. He was suspended for four weeks as a result.

In August Muir was dismissed again and this time spat on referee on his way off. This was beyond the pale and he was banned for 12 months and the Brisbane referees association further banned him from playing for life and coaching for five years in any match they officiated.

After serving his ban Muir returned to coaching in Brisbane. He later put some steel into an outgunned QLD team during the 1970s, coining the term Cockroaches for the men from the south.

In 1969 Norths closed out the decade and also their golden era with one final victory. The league was now a TV product with replays on Saturday and Sunday nights and in an early bit of brand awareness teams first adopted standardised nicknames and logos.

Norths recognised the importance of field goals in the limited tackle era, when they were still worth two points. They found an Australian Rules player, Barry Spring, who was signed for $200 after putting them over from everywhere in a pre-season training session.

The contract was written up on the back of a beer coaster! Field goals were the order of the season, including five in one game.

Wests returned to the finals with Australian second rowers Richie Twist and Ian Robson, while the champion Brothers side missed the finals. Valleys proved to be the surprise packets, but were shut out of the grand final by a dominant Norths forward pack led by Peter Hall.

Veteran Fonda Metassa scored a try in his fifth title with the Devils and his last game of football. With ‘The Golden Greek’ moving on the Norths era was finally over.

A Team of the Era (1959 to 1969) (finals appearances, grand finals, premierships)
Fullback:
– Peter “The Boot” Lobegeiger (Norths, Easts) (QLD 7 games) – 10,4,1. 1 try, 30 goals and 2 field goals in finals.

Three quarters:
– Fonda Metassa “The Golden Greek” (Norths) (QLD 13 games) – 18,6,5. 13 tries in finals. 2 tries in 1962 grand final, 2 tries 1964 minor semi-final and one in the grand final, 2 tries in 1968 minor semi-final, try in the 1969 grand final.
– Bill Pearson (Norths) (QLD 5 games) – 11,4,4. 1 try in finals. Captain 1960-1962.
– Mick Retchless (Valleys) – (QLD 3 games) 19,5,2. 11 tries and 2 field goals in finals. Captain 1969-1971 Man of the Match 1970 and 1971 grand finals.
– Henry Hegarty (Norths) – 16,6,5. 5 tries in finals. 2 tries in the 1961 grand final. Man of the Match 1966 grand final. Captain 1968. Came down from Cherbourg to play with Valleys but they didn’t pick him up from the train so he went home. Came down for Norths the next year and lived with Bob Bax’s mother. Played in 5 out of North’s 6 straight premierships.

Halves:
– Johnny “Swivel Hips” Gleeson (Brothers) (10 tests, QLD 20 games) – 8,3,2. 1 try in finals. Went on two Kangaroo Tours and only ever lost a single test match. In 1966 captained Brisbane to their first win over Great Britain in over 30 years.
– Ross Threlfo (Valleys) – 21,5,2. 3 tries in finals. Captain 1965. BRL Best and fairest in 1965, tied with Arthur Beetson. They shared 50 pounds.

Forwards:
– Peter “Pedro” Gallagher (Brothers) (ARL Hall of Fame, 17 tests, QLD 12 games) – 17,6,2. 2 tries in finals. Captain 1964-1967. Captained Australia in 1 test and went on two Kangaroo Tours.
– Les “Bowser” Geeves (Norths, Easts) (QLD 4 games) – Hooker. 17,6,4. Captain 1966-1969. Man of the Match 1966 grand final. Later became a QLD and Australian selector.
– Lloyd Weier “The Kilkivan Colossus” (Norths) (3 tests, QLD 1 game) – 9,3,3. 1 try in finals. Man of the Match 1962 grand final.
– Arthur Beetson (Redcliffe) (Immortal, ARL and QRL Team of the Century, ARL Hall of Fame, 29 tests, QLD 3 games, NSW 17 games) – 6,2,1. Captain 1981.
– Dennis Manteit (Brothers) (4 tests, QLD 15 games) – Forward. 8,3,2. Man of the Match 1967 grand final. 1967/68 Kangaroo Tourist.
– Ian Massie (Norths) (QLD 5 games) – 13,5,4. 6 tries in finals. Man of the Match and 2 tries in 1963 grand final.

Reserves:
– Bob Poulsen (Norths) (Brisbane rep) – Forward. 9,4,4. 2 tries and 1 goal in finals. Man of the Match 1959 grand final.
– Des “Big Red” Mannion (Valleys) – Forward/Half. 20,4,0. 2 tries, 12 goals and 2 field goals. Captain 1967-1968. Played for QLD schoolboys in cricket but chose rugby league. Another player described him as “He was just a complete footballer he played lock as well as five-eighth, he could kick the ball, had a great step and wonderful timing with his passes.”
– John Bates (Norths) (QLD 1 game) – 13,4,4. 4 tries in finals. Man of the Match 1961 grand final.
– Wayne Abdy (Brothers) (QLD 3 games) – Lock. 8,1,1. 2 tries and Man of the Match in 1968 grand final. Considered one of the fastest forwards in the game and scored a try in Brisbane’s famous 1966 victory over Great Britain.

Other notables: Clive Churchill (Norths), John Wittenberg (Wynnum), Lionel Morgan (Wynnum), Ken McCrohon (Redcliffe), Henry Holloway (Redcliffe), Frank Drake (Souths), Elwyn Walters (Norths).

The NRL’s Integrity Unit continues to be maddeningly and bafflingly inconsistent

What are the NRL doing with the $45,000 (and counting) they received in fines last week? I reckon they should give the money to Dylan Napa.

Seems every time there’s an off-field incident in rugby league, the governing body find new ways to be inconsistent.

When we first went into COVID lockdown, Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr and Nathan Cleary got busted for flaunting social-distancing rules.

The punishments for the former two were $50,000 fines, while Cleary was whacked with ten grand – although 60 per cent of all three were suspended.

The trio also received one-match bans, with that also suspended for the rest of the year.

Cleary’s punishment shifted as the full extent of his breach was made public and I wrote at the time he received a manifestly unfair punishment – just two weeks on the sidelines – for lying to the Integrity Unit when compared to the four weeks Payne Haas copped for essentially the same misdemeanour.

But back to the fines meted out to the three players who failed to stick to social distancing, Peter V’landys said of the punishment at the time, “The next one will be harsher. We’ve given them the benefit of the doubt in this instance.”

So late last week, as coaches, players and support staff left, right and centre failed to respect the integrity of the bubble, what “harsher” penalty did the NRL hand down?

A $20,000 fine to Souths coach Wayne Bennett, a $10,000 fine to Dragons prop Paul Vaughan and $5000 to each of Allan Langer, Ryan Whitley and Blake Duncan, who are support staff at the Broncos.

The fines are to be paid in full – no suspensions this time – but how is that a reasonable reaction after Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr paid $20,000 each and still have a further $30,000 hanging over them for the rest of the year?

Acting NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said when handing down the original punishments back in April that matters needed “to be handled on individual merits”, which is fair enough.

So how come Wayne Bennett – who helped create the rules regarding rugby league’s bubble – ends up with a total financial sanction equal to that of the Souths and Storm players’ unsuspended amount?

For the record, the guns and motorbikes in Mitchell and Addo-Carr’s cases were not noted in the NRL’s official media release regarding the sanctions, which instead said the players “have each shown a blatant disregard for public health orders, guidelines and advice and in doing so have brought significant reputational damage to the NRL.”

Bennett has also shown blatant disregard and brought about significant reputational damage – he’s arguably the elder statesman of the game, yet can’t stick to rules he helped create?

And he admitted his lunch at Grappa wasn’t the only time he went outside the bubble. How have they let that go without further investigation?

Last time out, the NRL preached harsher penalties handled on individual merits. Bennett has admitted to ignoring the rules he helped form on multiple occasions. As a minimum penalty he should have copped the full $50,000 handed down to Mitchell and Addo-Carr, and been suspended from coaching for two weeks.

Instead, all financial penalties handed down for last week’s indiscretions are lighter than the high watermark set by the first incidents.

What’s more, none of the latest lot of social-distancing flaunters are technically being suspended for games. Granted, they aren’t allowed in their teams’ bubbles until they have undergone a fortnight of isolation and returned negative tests for coronavirus, but that’s a health measure.

By comparison, Cleary missed two games as punishment and had six Dally M points stripped from his tally, because players lose three points per game missed for suspension.

Vaughan is no threat of claiming the game’s most prestigious individual award but he isn’t losing points, because technically he isn’t suspended. Likewise, Bennett has been coaching his team via Zoom because he’s on COVID hold – he hasn’t been suspended.

If I was Mitchell or Addo-Carr, I’d be filthy on this outcome. What they did was stupid, sure, but they were the first ones caught and their punishments were supposed to be a warning shot: “If we do this to the first two, just imagine what we’ll do to anyone dumb enough to do it after them.”

And now we know what happens to those dumb enough to breach the bubble – smaller fines and no suspension.

So what’s all this got to do with Dylan Napa?

Dylan Napa

So, does someone owe Dylan Napa an apology? (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

It’s essentially been forgotten in the midst of all the drama in Brisbane – Darius Boyd quitting the leadership group, Anthony Seibold now in his own two-week exile after breaching the bubble (albeit with his employers’ blessing), Tevita Pangai Jr also busting the bubble to be at a bikie-barber shop, the aforementioned trio of support staff copping fines for hitting up the Caxton Hotel – but the big story out of the Broncos early last week looked like being Kotoni Staggs.

The young centre was caught up in a sex-tape scandal, with Queensland police having since charged a woman for distributing the footage.

I’m going to be crystal clear about this: Staggs has been the victim of a crime. He obviously deserves no punishment from the NRL after what must have been a mortifying week for a young man.

So how come early last year, when footage of Dylan Napa involved in various sex acts were leaked to the public, the Bulldogs prop was slapped with a huge fine?

Specifically, Napa lost ten per cent of his 2019 wages – somewhere in the vicinity of $60,000 – after a number of “lewd videos” were made public.

“It was decided not to suspend him because this is an historical incident with the videos dating back five years and due to the player’s incorrect assumption that the material would not reach a broader audience,” the NRL said when announcing his sanction.

“However the NRL has warned that any video damaging to the game which is filmed and date stamped from today will incur significant penalties, including suspension.”

Napa was a willing participant in at least one of the videos, but then so was Staggs. Neither of them wanted the footage in the public domain.

So how can the NRL say one bloke is a dickhead who deserves to lose ten per cent of his livelihood for the year, while the other is a victim?

Nathan Cleary passes the ball

And what about Nathan Cleary? (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Again, to be clear, I’m not saying Staggs deserves any kind of punishment. Of course he doesn’t. But Napa was a victim as well, primarily of timing, because his videos came out during the NRL’s 2019 summer of hell.

He did some weird shit on some tapes but didn’t ever intend for it to be made public – as Kane Evans, who appeared in one of the Napa videos, told AAP last February, “If we knew it was going to get leaked, no one would make those videos.”

It’s time the Integrity Unit start acting with, y’know, integrity. Consistency in punishment would help with that, as would making amends for past mistakes.

They’ve got a fresh injection of at least $45,000 coming into the coffers – probably more given we are yet to discover what Pangai and Newcastle duo Starford To’a and Simi Sasagi will cop for breaching social distancing rules.

The Integrity Unit could do worse than reimburse Dylan Napa for the unnecessary and inconsistent penalty he received after he was the victim of a crime.

But more importantly, the people supposedly looking after the comp’s off-field integrity could start drawing up a framework for how they punish those who bring the game into disrepute.

Because at the moment the whole thing is a crap-shoot and the ongoing ‘line in the sand’ moments are a convenient excuse for the fact there is zero consistency.

And you can’t preach integrity if you’re consistently inconsistent.