So with only three rounds of the NRL season remaining I think it is fair to analyse the performance of the players in the 2013 season. However, the Dally M’s have an official team of the year and plenty other places will put forward their team of the year, so I decided to go the other way and do something I don’t normally do, at least on purpose. I’m going to be a bit of a dick and name my Anti-Team of the Year. A team made up of players I think are either terrible always or maybe just had terrible seasons. I present to you, The Ben Roberts All Stars (BRAS).
So what are the criteria for the BRAS?
First and foremost, as the team name suggests, the team must be captained by Ben Roberts. Most of you can probably assume why, but I’ll explain in more detail when we come to him.
If a player is highly paid and badly underperformed then their salary will be considered as part of the reason they are eligible for the team. So whilst some may argue a player isn’t the worst at his position, if they are supposed to be really good and are paid accordingly, then they are preventing their team using that money better elsewhere.
Also a very important factor is the player has to have played some first grade this year. They don’t have to be first choice, but they have to be regular enough to warrant mentioning. For example (and to prove the lack of Rabbitohs isn’t purely a bias thing) but had Shaune Corrigan played first grade this year as he did last year, he would have been an automatic inclusion in this team.
The players on this list all seem to get a lot of criticism from footy fans when watching their games and many/most of them are even disliked by fans of their own team, which is the truest test of sporting inadequacy.
Also I have chosen a starting 13, a bench of 4 and then the (dis)honourable mentions fill out the NRL sized 25 man squad.
So without further ado, I present to you the 2013 Ben Roberts All Stars.
1. Steve Michaels (Gold Coast Titans) – Michaels isn’t a natural fullback and has probably played the least amount of first grade in 2013 of any player on this list, but every footy fan I know thinks Michaels is a terrible player, whether it be at the Titans or previously at the Broncos. The fact I am playing him out of position at fullback is more a testament to the fact that I don’t think any legitimate fullback has been poor enough to warrant selection. The league is full of strong fullbacks at present and Michaels will have to do as he needs to be in the team somewhere.
2. Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters) – The only Rooster in the team given the strength of their squad, SKD is the bane of the existence of most of my friends who support the Tri-Colours. He had one great season in 2011, which got him a big contract extension, but has since regressed back to the mistake prone liability he always was before. He is talented, but he constantly seems to take more off the table than he brings to it. The Roosters have the depth to drop him, but seem to stick by him no matter what; although there were rumours they were looking to offload him. He fills a wing position as he can play wing or centre and we have two centres to come.
3. Jarrod Croker (Canberra Raiders) – Croker is a pretty good attacking player and a decent goal kicker. But his defence is really subpar, his attack doesn’t seem to make up for it and the Raiders have such great young talent in his position that I always wonder why he is picked ahead of their other options. I have spoken to a few Raiders fans and some completely agree with me whilst others still like him. But I’ll take the fact that some agree as confirmation.
4. Ben Pomeroy (Cronulla Sharks) – This selection was easy. When I told a Sharks fan I was writing this article the response was that Pomeroy and one other player (coming up later) absolutely had to be selected. Pomeroy is supposed to be a solid defensive centre but he honestly isn’t that good defensively and has never been good at attack. He is very similar to Kenny-Dowall in terms of his errors and brain explosions and Sharks fans can’t stand him. When I thought of doing this article, Pomeroy was never in doubt.
5. Nathan Stapleton (Cronulla Sharks) – OK so I am not trying to pick on the Sharks here and Stapleton isn’t their first choice in the position. But the Sharks do not have a good backline and Stapleton since coming into the team has been poor every time I’ve watched them play. He is small, but doesn’t seem to make up for his lack of size elsewhere. He struggles under the high ball and defensively without being a particularly dynamic attacker. Also I don’t know why he plays ahead of Nathan Gardner who is a very good player. Anyway, this was a tough selection, sorry Nathan.
6. Ben Roberts (Parramatta Eels) © – The captain of the team in perpetuity. Pretty much everything that needs to be said about Ben Roberts has been said, but basically he is the running joke of the league. The fact he won Man of the Match a couple weeks ago made me and others I’ve spoken to literally laugh out loud. Roberts LOOKS like he should be good. He looks like an athlete, he is fast and he even has the sporting genes by being Tim Cahill’s cousin. But seriously he is so bad. Maybe he is a winger or centre who has been played in the halves for years for some odd reason, but I can’t do justice in writing to how bad he is as a half. He also has a tendency to be that guy who kills it when he gets dropped to NSW Cup, but then looks like a bad park footballer at NRL level. Bless you, Ben Roberts.
7. Robert Lui (North Queensland Cowboys) (VC) – Robert Lui makes this team both for on field and off field reasons. First on the field he is talented in attack but shows it too infrequently. When he burst onto the scene at the Tigers he looked like he could be good, but then his defensive issues and bad decision making caught up to him. Speaking of bad decision making, he also shouldn’t be allowed to play NRL at all. The guy viciously assaulted his girlfriend (pregnant one of the times) on Mad Monday TWO YEARS IN A ROW. The specifics of the case make me sick and seeing him play during Women in League round made a farce of the entire cause. It kills me that the only good game I’ve seen from him in 2013 was against the Rabbitohs recently.
8. Fuifui Moimoi (Parramatta Eels) – This one might be contentious as he is a cult hero and does run the ball hard. However, Moimoi is an example of a lot of sizzle with not enough steak, especially this season. The Eels are terrible right now in part because of how much their forward pack has been getting killed. Moimoi runs the ball hard, but he constantly gets “turtled” onto his back leading to a slow play the ball and he can be very lazy in defence. He has one thing he does well and then undoes a lot of that elsewhere. Parramatta are having a clear out this offseason and I would include Moimoi in the list if I were building their team.
9. John Morris (Cronulla Sharks) – This is the other Sharks player my friend who supports the Sharks included with Ben Pomeroy. How John Morris has over 250 NRL games baffles me. He simply isn’t good at football and never has been, regardless of where he plays. Now that he is older he is also slower than ever and I can’t think of one thing he actually does well. Offers nothing in attack, is a mediocre defender and doesn’t even seem to provide that “guides the team around the park” type of leadership people like to talk about from veteran playmakers. He was an automatic selection in this team and probably would have made the team for the past decade.
10. Adam Blair (Wests Tigers) – Well I’m sure many of you predicted he would make the team. Playing him at prop, where he has played a bit, because I needed the back row room. Blair is one of the highest paid players in the league and if not for that alone he would have been dropped several times. I liked him a lot at the Storm and thought the Tigers signed a good player, but so far he really has looked like a product of the Storm system. He doesn’t look like he has his head in the game right now and if the Tigers could find a taker I’m sure they would love to offload his contract, even if they have to pay a portion of it.
11. Mark Minichiello (Gold Coast Titans) – I watched the first part of the younger Mini’s career closely when he was a Rabbitoh and I feel like I understand the player he is. He gives it is all every week and tackles hard. But he still misses tackles with bad defensive reads, negating how many tackles he does make. Add that to the fact that he has hands like feet and it pains me to say that Mark has become a liability. I like him, but I am trying to be objective and whenever I see him play nowadays I tend to find myself shaking my head.
12. Ben Creagh (St George Illawarra Dragons) – This could be the most controversial selection in the entire squad. Some Dragons fans adore him and he has played numerous Origins over the years. Also, in his younger days I thought he was a very good player. But I’m sorry to say that the 2013 version of Ben Creagh is simply not a good footballer by any calculation and obviously he is being paid like a very good one. He used to be that player who did well at NRL level and failed at Origin, but now I watch him play and he isn’t even that. He falls off tackles, drops balls, gives away penalties and doesn’t make much of a positive impact anymore. Not all of that can be attributed to having poor halves or a poor coach.
13. Matt Prior (St George Illawarra Dragons) – A much easier selection from the Dragons back row. Have heard numerous Dragons fans over the years scream at the field or their TV screen to berate Prior when he does something boneheaded. He looked a talent as a junior and as a rookie, perhaps even a Creagh 2.0… unfortunately he then morphed quickly into the player Creagh is now and not the player Creagh once was. Plus I recently heard him called a lookalike for Princess Diana and now I can’t see him as anything else.
14. Chris Sandow (Parramatta Eels) – Many would say Sandow should be starting in this team over Lui and if it wasn’t for Lui’s off field behaviour I may have done it that way. I hope Sandow gets the help he needs in rehab, he is a very gifted attacking player and if he gets his head on straight and a decent team around him, he will be ok. He may never live up to the contract he is on, but he could be a good player if he gets himself sorted, but for 2013 he has to be on this team.
15. Braith Anasta (Wests Tigers) – I never understood this signing by the Tigers. Like I understand they wanted a veteran leader and name, but did they not watch Anasta last season? This is not a criticism of his career or talking about whether he was overrated back in the day, but the fact is in 2013 there is a giant fork sticking out the back of Braith Anasta. He is done. No Roosters fan was sad to see him go and no Tigers fan was happy to have signed him. Those instincts have proven true and I have seen nothing from Anasta this season to suggest he has anything left. He will have a good career in media after he retires and he should get into that full time next season rather than continuing to basically steal money from the Tigers, a club that can’t afford it.
16. David Taylor (Gold Coast Titans) – OK so I have included several players that used to play for my team and have since left, but I don’t think I’m being unfair including them. This one is pretty self-explanatory in much the same way the Adam Blair selection is. Taylor was an Origin player and a dynamic attacking weapon, signed as a star recruit on big money and has fizzled badly. He has looked unfit, somewhat uninterested and just hasn’t gone on with it at the Titans. A lot of Rabbitohs fans weren’t devastated to lose him as even though he could be a match winner, he could equally be a match loser and had a tendency to dominate games against weaker opposition and disappear against the good teams. His talent is unquestioned, same for his size, but until he decides he really wants to be a dominant player he simply won’t be one.
17. Tony Williams (Canterbury Bulldogs) – I’m going with back to back monsters on the bench with the Coal Train and T-Rex. I could almost copy and paste the Taylor paragraph here as well. High profile recruit, coming off an Origin and Test season, changes clubs and a seeming lack of interest or mental toughness derailed him. Whether he got complacent after getting paid or other issues are at work, T-Rex is on huge money as a very mediocre player in 2013. Probably the biggest flop of this season’s new recruits.
Honourable Mentions/Filling out the Squad:
18. Joel Romelo (Canterbury Bulldogs) – Romelo is an angry little man. He is constantly starting things with bigger, better players when he simply isn’t that good. There would be a place for that mongrel if he offered more than that.
19. Matt Keating (Parramatta Eels) – A lot of what I said about John Morris goes for Keating. Probably because he learned under him. Keating just isn’t good and I don’t know what else to say.
20. Kris Keating (Canterbury Bulldogs) – Kris is at least the better of the Keating brothers, but that’s not saying much. Finally was replaced by the much better Trent Hodkinson and the ‘Dogs are much better off.
21. Shaun Berrigan (Canberra Raiders) – Another player with a fork in his back. Once was a good utility player and Origin selection, but nowadays playing hooker at the Raiders he has looked horrible. Raiders need a hooker in the worst way and I’d move McCrone there and bring up Cornish at half.
22. Dane Tilse (Canberra Raiders) – Tilse is super tall and looks like he is a good player, but then he is so soft. He often falls as soon as he hits the defensive line and he gets tired and starts falling off tackles or missing them completely. Also good for some knock-ons and penalties. Not to mention something that allegedly happened back in his Newcastle days, which I always think about when I see him (he was never tried or convicted and I am not saying he did it, just that I think about the story and allegations).
23. Jamie Buhrer (Manly Sea Eagles) – Remember when he was selected for Origin last year and everyone laughed and cried at the same time? He may never have deserved the selection but he seemed like he was headed in that direction, right? Well this season I haven’t seen him actually do anything. What happened?
24. Nathan Fien (St George Illawarra Dragons) – It was very difficult for me to leave Fien out of the 17, but couldn’t drop those ahead of him. Fien is terrible. He was once a decent bench hooker but he was never a good halfback and at his age he is a really, really bad one.
25. Vai Toutai (Parramatta Eels) – This might be tough on a rookie playing for a terrible team, but I wanted another outside back and whenever I’ve seen Toutai play this season I have trouble seeing him ever getting it. He is big and strong and all that but doesn’t actually seem to have any idea when it comes to actually playing footy.
Coach: Neil Henry (North Queensland Cowboys) – Henry gets the nod as coach for just how badly his team underachieved and the fact he is being replaced at the end of the season because of it. On paper the Cowboys have a great team and they also have one of the best home field advantages in the league. There is no way the Cowboys should miss the finals and even if they end up scraping in it won’t justify how badly they underachieved, which has to fall on the coach.
Assistant Coaches: Steve Price and Ricky Stuart – Both are coaching teams with mediocre playing rosters, but they also have to wear a lot of the blame themselves. Price has done nothing to improve the Dragons since getting them job and they play so uninspired. Ricky should at least have gotten the Eels on the same page and playing hard and doing what the Sharks did when he was there. But he hasn’t even gotten close to that level of effort or structure from them.
If you are still reading this, congratulations for getting through my thoughts on the worst team in the NRL. I would love to hear your thoughts on players you would include, who I was too harsh on or anything I missed.
And finally, a special thanks to Ben Roberts. Keep being you buddy.