SET OF SIX
Casualty of the Nines: Lachlan Coote. Photo: Getty Images
1. NO HARD FEELINGS
Lachlan Coote hasn't given up on playing again this year despite suffering the fourth serious injury of a comparatively short career. Coote was a casualty of the Nines, ruled out for six months with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. ''I definitely want to get back and play with this bunch of boys,'' he said. ''It will be a goal for myself to try and get back.'' Coote wasn't taking out his frustration on the new Nines concept. ''We've still got another trial next week and it could have happened then. Footy is a cruel game.'' Zac Santo is the early favourite to replace Coote at fullback.
2. OFF THE HOOK
Congratulations: Sam Thaiday of the Broncos shakes hands with Brad Fittler of the Roosters. Photo: Getty Images
''They were terrible, the refs in our game,'' Brad Fittler told an NRL video crew after his comeback on Saturday (the first game, not the one with the intercept). Then there was a grin. The match officials were walking behind Fittler in the tunnel's 'Mixed Zone'. ''Can I bag refs? Can I get fined? I'm retiring at the end of the day!'' Fittler didn't play on Sunday due to a hamstring injury. Andrew Johns' comeback in the media match was less successful; he hooked himself for a horrible pass at one stage and the NZ team beat the Aussies 3-2.
3. SUSPENSION ENTERS DANGEROUS GROUND
The decision to suspend Melbourne's Richie Kennar for one Nines match in 2015 for his grade four careless high tackle against St George Illawarra is, on the surface, eminently sensible. The game in which he committed an offence was not rugby league as we know it and if he had committed a serious offence, it would have been referred to the judiciary and his ban would have included 13-a-side games. But the precedent is dangerous. The lobby for suspensions meted out in trials and Origin games to only cover those arenas will be emboldened by this decision. And what if his hit had impacted upon the rest of the event? Would we have been as comfortable seeing him play for the Storm next weekend?
Suspended for one Nines match in 2015: Richie Kennar. Photo: Getty Images
4. JILTED JOURNOS
Media types were happy enough Warriors owner Eric Watson visited the Eden Park media box and dispensed some quotes. Watson also said the Nines should stay in Auckland forever and reckoned England signing Sam Tomkins was valuable because he would remedy a communication problem at the Warriors. But when the media opp was over, Watson remarked the view from the press box was so good it should be sold as a corporate suite and the hacks kicked out. Journos might be left wishing he had not paid them a visit.
5. PAINFUL TRUTH
Signed with England: Sam Tonkins of the Warriors (right). Photo: Getty Images
Injuries led to the demise of the World Sevens in 2004, along with poor crowds and declining TV interest. With the return of truncated rugby league to the NRL, casualties also returned. Lachlan Coote, Todd Carney, Curtis Sironen, Jarrod Mullen, David Stagg, David Williams, Ben Barba and others all return home sicker and sorrier. So why is no one calling for the Nines to be canned? Because clubs are so well compensated? Because organisers have spent money courting the media? Because, as Eric Watson says, clubs no longer dislike each other? Or is it because the league media is less negative than a decade ago?
6. LUCKY LOCALS
Brisbane endured their worst season last year and North Queensland were dudded by a refereeing error. So while fans at Eden Park were disappointed at the Warriors missing the final, it was still a feel-good story. Yet things could have been different. South Sydney's Dylan Walker grounded the ball just outside an upright in the quarter-final against the home side. Had he put the ball down inside the woodwork, meaning a five-point try, the game would have been tied. The scoring system confused everyone.