You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
Manly coach Geoff Toovey and Newcastle coach Rick Stone have both been told their services were no longer wanted this week.

Andrew Voss gives his thoughts on the sackings of coaches Geoff Toovey and Rick Stone, the Warriors' chances without Shaun Johnson and the story of the inspirational John Tassone.

What is the best story in rugby league this year?

I think I have it, and it's worthy of leading my column this week.

Many league fans know of John Tassone, particularly those attached to the Wests Tigers.

Way back in 1989, as a 15-year-old rising rugby league star, John was dealt a bad card. A regulation tackle while playing for Holy Cross College Ryde, a clash of heads, his vertebrae dislocated, left a quadriplegic.

For the past 26 years John and his loving family have been through good times, but many dark times as well.

All through though, John has maintained a love for rugby league.

Last week, John Tassone added premiership-winning coach to his list of life achievements. John was given the job of coaching the under-14s at the famous league college, Holy Cross, for 2015. 

He got the boys to the final and they came from behind to win in extra time.

I am told by those at the game that the sight of the boys sprinting off the field as the final whistle was blown to hug their inspirational coach was as an emotional moment in sport as you will get.

I have nothing to do with the NRL's One Community Awards but can I suggest that if we can't come up with an award for John, he should be the man to present the Ken Stephen Medal.

John Tassone is an inspiration and a credit to himself, his family, and rugby league.

How do we achieve greater respect for referees?

I think we are headed towards zero tolerance against offenders at all levels of the game.

If a player knows he will be sent to the sin bin if he challenges a referee's decision then surely he won't do it, just as the punching ban has been effective since being introduced to the NRL.

I can't really think of a negative for the game adopting a zero tolerance approach.

Players shouldn't rush the referees when a decision is about to be referred. No more should a player continue to question a call he is unhappy with. 

It's just not allowed in the NFL. Why not the NRL?

Were Manly right to sack Geoff Toovey?

In my opinion no. But that's not to say I don't have a healthy regard for his replacement Trent Barrett.

Toovey has runs on the board as a coach. Three seasons before 2015; three finals campaigns and one grand final.

The bloke is a club legend after 286 matches played for Manly and the Northern Eagles combined.

If his performance levels are the benchmark for future sackings, then get set for a high turnover of club officials. Or will some be 'untouchable'?

Classy Toovey disappointed with sacking
Manly owners address coaching changes

What about Newcastle and Rick Stone?

I can't see the benefit in replacing a coach with six weeks of the season to go, if the immediate successor is not the man who will have control the following year.

Last Saturday night against the Rabbitohs it was obvious some players tried their hearts out, but the same could not be said of all 17.

I had always seen the culture of the Knights as being "one in, all in". They rally together when times are tough. 

Let me point out a few facts. After Round 20 last year, the Knights were on the same number of competition points they are now. In Round 21, 2014, they were handed a 50-point flogging by South Sydney.

Wayne Bennett was a massive investment for the Knights, but how do fans feel now he left the club on his own terms. Did he leave Newcastle in better shape?

Wayne realised he couldn't help so he threw in the towel and moved on. And he's the best coach the sport has ever produced.

Sadly, it appears there is more than a coaching problem in Newcastle.

Are the Warriors gone without Shaun Johnson?

They can still make the eight, but I can't see them beating the top sides without him.

The fact is, even with Johnson in their side the Warriors have lost this year to all of the current top-four teams.

But as you look at the ladder, the Warriors' destiny is in their hands as they stand two points clear of the 9th- and 10th-placed Raiders and Dragons.

To be sure of qualifying for the finals, they have to win four of their last six, and this Saturday against Cronulla now becomes the biggest match of their season.

As I have written previously, Tui Lolohea is my favourite for rookie of the year and he really gets to now show his talents, but in my opinion it's Sam Tomkins who has the biggest role to play.

What a farewell present he can leave the Warriors before returning to the Super League if he can step up and become match winner over the next six weeks.

His resume says he's capable. Over to you Sam.

How good are the PNG Hunters going in the Intrust Super Cup?

I started this week with a positive story, and I'll end with a positive story.

Actions speak louder than words.

The Hunters and their fans in Kokopo experienced a great day last Sunday as they beat competition leaders the Townsville Blackhawks, hanging on in a thriller 28-26.

The PNG side is now level with the Blackhawks at the top of the Intrust Super Cup ladder, three points clear of the Ipswich Jets in third.

And I credit one my Twitter followers for what should happen next for the sport in the league-mad country.

Footy fan Paul Craig suggested to me that the Gold Coast Titans should explore the chance of playing two 'home' games there each year, just as Hawthorn take a few home matches to Tasmania in the AFL each season.

I am told the new stadium built in Port Moresby is sensational. Opportunity is certainly knocking here.

Giddy Up!

Follow @AndrewVossy on Twitter


Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

Premier Partner

Media Partners

Major Partners

View All Partners