It is long overdue, but the Kangaroos and Sydney
Roosters fullback, Anthony Minichiello, has finally
won the recognition he deserves with the award of the “Golden Boot” as the
international game’s leading player.

Readers of this column will know that I have long
trumpeted Minichiello’s cause, and I have done so
because not only is he good, but consistently good. And I guess his award restores the credibility of the
“Golden Boot” after last year when it went to a UK player who
promptly switched to rugby union. There is no chance Minichiello
will do that, with the Roosters keen to sign him to a long term
contract.

At the awards night in Leeds, the Coach of the Year award went to Wayne Bennett –
not a surprise given the Kangaroos’ continued dominance of the international
scene. And Tim Mander was named
Referee of the Year – I hope the ARL/QRL officials in attendance felt
suitably embarrassed given that he has never controlled a State of Origin
game.

When the Kangaroos meet the Kiwis on Sunday morning,
they will need Minichiello to be at his best because
the Kiwis will believe they can end Australia’s two decade or so
dominance of the international game.

Next year’s Tri-Nations series will be held in
Australia and
New
Zealand and it will be interesting to see whether
the ARL gets it right for once and takes some of the matches to major
regional centres.

Meanwhile, back on the home front, the “plot” regarding the
demise – in 2007 – of the Parramatta Eels coach, Brian Smith,
thickens. It now appears the all-powerful Eels CEO, Dennis
Fitzgerald, lost out in a boardroom revolt over Smith’s
future. And that is why his departure after next
season, has become public even before full training for the 2006 season
begins.

It appears one of the coaches being targeted by the Eels
is the Newcastle Knights coach, Michael Hagen. Interesting, given that Hagen’s hold on the
Knights coaching job seems to be less than secure.

As a reader had pointed out, the Eels probably have
difficulty terminating Smith before his contract runs out given that he is
reportedly on one of the most lucrative contracts of all NRL
coaches. And the club would find an “unfair dismissal” court case
a hazardous one, given that Smith did take the Eels to the minor premiership
this year.