Rugby League Mailbag

So we are now 10 articles into my blatant attempts at becoming Australia’s Sports Guy. I figured it was time to rip off one of Bill Simmons’ long running traditions and do a “Mailbag” column.

As I don’t have an attached email for people to write to, these have come from various sources. Email, Facebook, message boards, text and the comments section of the blog. So if you want a starring role in my next mailbag column, be sure to give me your thoughts via the comments section at the end of each article. So without further ado, these are actual comments/questions from actual readers.

I’ll break these down into categories in terms of what article (if any) they were in relation/response to


He Played How Many Games for NSW?

Q: David Barnhill 9 games, and was Tim Brasher worthy of 21 call ups for 3 tries? Domino

A: David Barnhill was mentioned on more than one occasion, but I just don’t see it. Maybe I just had a higher opinion of him than others. I always saw David Barnhill as a good solid tireless second rower. The type of player that got the dirty work done without any fuss or fanfare. Every successful team needs them.
Barnhill played in 4 consecutive Grand Finals from 1990-1993 (admittedly, only with one win) and then again in 1996 (another loss) But 5 grand finals from a 10 season NRL career is an amazing return.
If he was a Queenslander, I think he probably would have played about 15 Origins. Which is one of the primary reasons he didn’t get a nomination here.

Tim Brasher however is an interesting one.

He was one of those players that no matter how he was going at club level, was in the mix for Origin selection. I remember his time as an origin player fondly, and he always seemed to step up for the big occasion, and while he doesn’t have the try scoring statistics to back it up, the game was played a different way back then. Hell, Gary Jack is a Blues legend and he only has 1 try to show for his 17 matches.

He was good, but was he 21 caps good? I mean that puts him behind only 5 players in the number of Origin matches played for NSW. Is he really our 6th best player? It certainly warrants consideration. Good call there Dom. 1 all.

Q: Could you form a serious post as to why all evidence suggests that Geoff Toovey is a complete and utter psychopath?? Todd

A: Great question Todd. And I can. And I can do it as a photo essay. (note none of these photos are mine)










Q: You need an article on why Terry Hill is a shitc*nt. Caddy
Q: Terry Hill dribbled on my shoulder once. It was Rank. He is a total shitc*nt. Josie

A: Both good points, and neither of them questions. Considering this was in response to a 2 part article that culminated in my “Terry Hill is a shitc*nt” feelings I think I’ve made my position clear.

It’s All Relative

Q: Michael Blake. Domino

A: Holy Shit! How do I have no memory of Michael Blake? When I was young, and before my body shape dictated that I was a forward and not a half, Phil Blake was my idol and the player I most wanted to be like. I was gutted when he left Souths in 1991 and have always considered him up there as one of the most under-rated players in the history of the game.
So, how on earth do I have no memory of Michael!?
He played for Souths in 87 and 88 (when I was only 6 and 7 respectively, but that was when I first started following the Bunnies like a mad man!) and he is a massive candidate for getting by on his brother’s name when you look at the movements in his career alone. He also started at Manly and when the Rabbitohs picked up Phil, Michael was picked up and taken along for the ride in what I can only assume was a package deal to get their main man to switch sides!

If I didn’t know better, I’d think that I suffered some massive trauma around the end of the 1989 season that forced my brain to wipe part of my memory.

Michael Blake. A glaring omission. It’s 2-1 to Dom here.


Q: Quick question, would you pay me Ben Ikin’s media career from a Wayne Bennett son-in-law perspective? I’m still scratching my head as to how he is on my TV, he’s marginally less creepy a salesman than Tom Waterhouse. Jon

A: Ben Ikin is up there as one of the worst sports commentators in the country as far as I’m concerned. I am absolutely certain that the only reason he was hired at Nine and then Fox Sports, was to give those networks an in to talk to the notoriously media shy supercoach Wayne Bennett. That obviously wasn’t enough to keep him employed at Nine as they celebrated his resignation and happily got rid of his charisma vacuum of a personality which was not fit for broadcast in any medium.

On this subject, I have to assume that it is only a matter of time before the same treatment is given to Darren Lockyer. He can surely only rest on his resume for a certain amount of time before even the gushing fanboys at channel Nine can see that Darren Lockyer is second only to Gary Larson as the last person that should have a career in the media. Not just his voice, but his complete lack of humor or ability to speak outside of a cliché.

But at least he DOES have that career to fall back on and explain his appointment. Ben Ikin’s astonishing 17 Origins is the strongest proof of all that QLD’s ‘pick and stick’ philosophy is flawed.

Good luck Fox Sports. Good luck.

Q: Here’s one on a different tangent – Shannon McDonnell. Got a hefty contract from the Tigers purely on the back of his old man being the ‘recruitment’ manager . Laloa Milford

A: Firstly, who knew Laloa Milford stayed a Tigers fan after leaving the club? I certainly didn’t. How do I know that Milford is a Tigers fan? Because only a Tigers fan would even remember Shannon McDonnell such was the anonymity of his career.

Warren McDonnell was appointed the recruitment manager at the Wests Tigers part of the way through the 2005 season and was tasked with (obviously) recruiting the players for the side going forward. Now I’m not going to lay the blame for the Tigers horrendous run from 2006 onwards on McDonnell, but to take a premiership winning side and not have them make the finals for the following 4 years is a bit alarming for everyone involved in the football department.

Giving your son a contract extension as one of your first orders of business probably isn’t ideal either.

McDonnell is still in charge of recruitment at the Tigers too, and in all honesty, in the past 8 years I can think of two big name and in demand players that he’s managed to sign. Gareth Ellis and Adam Blair. 1 good signing every 4 years does not a good recruitment manager make… And one of those hasn’t worked out so well.

I think I just found a new scapegoat for the Tigers

(edit – since I wrote this, the Benji Marshall thing happened. The Tigers fans may have found the scapegoat before I could tell them!)


Q: Here’s Brian Smith describing James McManus – ”So what NSW has in the ranks with Jimmy McManus is an experienced, in-form [NRL leading try-scorer], specialist winger who knows his own game deeply. Having never been the standout junior player, James worked hard to be excellent under pressure at what he was already good at. He will go hard at what is required of him and stay in his areas of expertise. These are the most solid of foundations, which gives him the best possible chance to produce competency in all areas under extreme pressure. I can’t wait to see him get on with his business again on the game’s biggest stage. A richly deserved opportunity for one of the most professional players in our sport.”

Couldn’t you just change the name to Nathan Merritt and it is the exact description you would give when he was selected for game two…? Anonymous

Yeah ok, I wrote that to myself, because how dumb can Brian Smith be to be against Merritt but for McManus and give that reasoning.

Oh wait, he’s Brian Smith.

Never mind, moving on…

Q: I’ve often wondered what the state of professional rugby league would be like if the Brisbane premiership (now the Qld Cup) was the dominant competition in Australia rather than the Sydney premiership such that the NRL was largely constituted by Brisbane suburban teams. Would guys like you and me be Toowoomba Clydesdales or Wynnum-Manly fans? What would the Sydney team be called, etc? It can keep a man up at night, you know! Richard

Cha ching! I just found the topic of my next article. See you all again once I’ve written it!

One thought on “Rugby League Mailbag

  1. McDonnell’s ‘responsibilities’ have been relaxed recently – he’s only in charge of the youth recruitment network I believe.
    Tuqiri is the other big name we signed in recent times, bit of a mixed bag. Immense in 2010, barely put a run of 5 games together since due to a series of different injuries.
    His big recruitment drive post 2005 yielded Keith ‘Keithy’ Galloway (legend), Sam Harris (AWOL, assumed deceased), and Ryan O’Hara (HE played for NSW?!).
    Shine on Ronald.

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