Adam O'Brien on outer, Melbourne in trophy furore: Good, bad and ugly of NRL round 22

The Newcastle Knights might have a new coach in 2024 in a bombshell development for the club.

Adam O'Brien and the Melbourne Storm with their NRL trophies.

😃 The good: Daly Cherry-Evans joins 300 games club

😔 The bad: Melbourne Storm parade stripped titles

😡 The ugly: Newcastle's treatment of Adam O'Brien

Should Steve Menzies be recognised alongside DCE?

Congratulations are in order for Daly Cherry-Evans, who played his 300th NRL game and celebrated by leading Manly to a vital win over the Dragons on Saturday night. He has been a wonderful and consistent performer for the Sea Eagles over a long time and will finish as one of their all-time greats.

DCE becomes just the 49th member of the NRL's 300 Club, underlining just how difficult it is to reach that milestone in the toughest sport of them all. While his achievement has been rightfully acknowledged and celebrated, can we take pause for a second and again argue the case for another Sea Eagles star?

Steve Menzies played 349 NRL games over a remarkable 15-year career, winning two premierships and representing state and country. While DCE and Manly's other 300-man Cliffy Lyons made their way to the northern beaches from outside the area, the Beaver grew up just a few kilometres down the road from Brookvale Oval.

He went to school in the district and played all his junior football at Manly yet he has been robbed of the title of Manly's first one-club 300-game game player through no fault of his own. Beaver played 69 matches for the Northern Eagles – an ill-fated joint venture between the Sea Eagles and Bears in the early 2000s – and they are considered separate to his Manly tally (280 games) despite his contract always being with Manly.

He never signed a deal on a Northern Eagles letterhead. Menzies is too humble and laidback to kick up a fuss but that doesn’t mean we can't on his behalf.

Melbourne Storm savaged over premiership celebrations

While we're talking about the re-writing of NRL history, Melbourne enraged the rugby league set by celebrating the titles stripped from them in 2007 and 2009 as they marked their 25th anniversary on Friday night. The Storm paraded replica grand final trophies – said to cost $20k apiece – from their (genuine) title wins in 1999, 2012, 2017 and 2020 and included silverware from the salary cap rorting years of '07 and '09 to, according to CEO Justin Rodski, "acknowledge those players from those two teams".

One fan likened it to Lance Armstrong posing alongside his seven Tour de France wins. While most strongly disagreed with the Storm's stance, there are still polarising opinions on how those two seasons should be noted.

Currently, there are no official premiers lodged for 2007 or 2009. Supporters from the two clubs beaten in those grand finals – Manly and Parramatta – have long argued they should be retrospectively awarded the premierships.

Past Melbourne Storm players with their premiership trophies.
Past Melbourne Storm players are seen with their premiership trophies at Marvel Stadium. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

They point out Olympians are moved up a spot in the placings when there's been clear evidence of drug use by rival competitors. The NRL has shown no stomach to follow suit and it’s hard to blame them.

It’d be like whacking a wasps' nest with a stick. How far do you go back in those respective seasons?

Do the clubs defeated by the Storm during the season proper have a case, given they were playing at a disadvantage? What about those sides beaten – make that thrashed - in the finals by a financially-superior Melbourne?

Or clubs who lost players to the Storm because they couldn’t match the money on offer. They all deserve to have their cases heard. That's why the asterisks on seasons 2007 and '09 will remain forever.

Adam O'Brien furore erupts at Newcastle Knights

The mail out of Newcastle is Adam O'Brien is under the pump and may not be head coach at the Knights in 2024. If the mail is right – and that certainly appears to be the case – it is an extraordinary turn of events.

In case you hadn't checked the ladder and results over the past month, this is the same O'Brien who has steered the Knights to four straight wins, including an upset victory over high-flying Melbourne.

It’s the same O'Brien who has the side from the Hunter sitting in ninth spot, just a point outside the eight with five rounds left. It’s the same O'Brien who has taken the club to the play-offs twice in three years.

Adam O'Brien.
Adam O'Brien watches from the coaching box during a Newcastle Knights game. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

And it's the same O'Brien who has Kalyn Ponga playing some of the most consistent footy of his NRL career. Yet, apparently, that's not good enough for the Knights.

The word is they are eyeing off former Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook despite O'Brien having another year to run on his deal. The Knights have been guilty of some wild and whacky decisions in recent times. Removing a winning coach who appears to have the players' full support would be the weirdest of the lot.

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