Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Two More Words

A while back I retold he tale of two blokes sitting in a pub and looking up at the silent screen of an old flickering TV in the corner. A face appeared and a comment was made. The comment was understood, reciprocated and accepted. The bloke on the telly was a shit bloke and nothing more need be said. This is the story of another.

Last Saturday saw my NRL team, the all conquering Melbourne Storm claim a place in their third consecutive Grand Final. They lost the big one in 06 and then whipped the Sea Eagles last year. This comes on top of their finishing top of the ladder for the third successive year as well. It follows years of building a strong team from young but promising talent coupled with giving second chances to unwanted, discarded and ‘has-been’ players from other clubs. For those who don’t know, the National Rugby League is a primarily northern states based code born in northern England at the turn of the century as a working man’s alternative to the private school, big business sponsored Rugby Union.

In Queensland and New South Wales the game is king – although the ‘fans’ are fickle, the crowds parochial and small and the game run by old men with too much self interest and not nearly enough forethought – and they are very protective of their patch. In Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania the AFL rules. To the point where a parade of the Grand Final teams on the Friday before the game in Melbourne attracted over 100,000 people – that’s something like 5 times the number of fans who turned up to the NRL Preliminary final in Sydney the following night.

To put it simply, the League-Heads hate us. They envy our success, they are embarrassed by the support their own game gets in the enemy territory and they can’t get over the fact that the players of their own game love living and playing down here out of the Sydney media spotlight. In the last few years, as the Storm’s success has grown, so too has the campaign by the Sydney clubs and the Rugby League media to undermine and counteract it. In short it began after we won their precious trophy in just our second year and they accused us of unfairly using the interchange system – unfair in that we kept beating them. The rule was changed and a limited interchange introduced.

Fast forward a few years and with the Storm on the verge of new era of dominance the rival coaches, through their friends in the media, launched a series of attacks on the fact that the Storm were becoming too dominant in the ruck through the use of wrestling tactics. The fact that these were within the rules and nobody else was doing it half as well had nothing to do with their angst. Not. So the ‘Grapple Tackle’ controversy was born and while the league and its judiciary did nothing to stop the trend, the attacks on the team continued.

Last week the coach of the Storms opponent in the Grand Final qualifying game came out after the Storm’s captain and last year’s world’s best player was charged with a grapple tackle and called for him to be rubbed out by the tribunal. How you can pre-empt and influence a judiciary decision before it is handed down is beyond me. How the League’s head honchos and power brokers could allow him to get away with it is beyond any thinking person. Accusing the Melbourne coaching staff and football manager and CEO of being out of touch with the games ‘culture’ was just puerile and embarrassing for him.

Anyway, cutting to the chase, Ricky Stuart got his wish; Cam Smith became the first player to be made an example of and was suspended for two games – including the Grand Final. Stuart’s Sharks were installed as favourites to defeat the battered and judiciary crippled Storm and make it through to the Grand Final. The Melbourne Storm came out and handed the Sharks – and Stuart – their own arses on a platter to the tune of a 28 to nil shellacking. Stuart came out and attacked the Storm for being ‘flips’, ‘wallys’ and other childish names after his opposite number dared to criticise the comments he had made through the week. Stuart’s team, which has waited for all of its 41 years in the comp to win a flag would have to settle for a shit sandwich yet again and the Storm got to travel to Sydney again to battle the Sea Eagles again for the 2008 title.

Beer Karma strikes again. Ricky Stuart; shit bloke, no trophy.

Go Storm. See you all in Sydney on Sunday.

Prof. Pilsner


Tim said...

Coming from Cronulla, its a shame to see your local side managed by a pack of idiots. The fact that after 41 years we still don't have a trophy is due to politics within the club and the appointment of Bevan's like Anderson and Stuart who promise the moon and deliver a performance like Greg Norman (choking on the finishing line).

Don't start me on players like Greg Bird. Anyhow, I'm a long time Rugby man and used to play semi-professional and hate league. AFL is too confusing for us simple northerners, plus I don't do short shorts!

Beer Blokes said...

Love your work! Yeah, there are a few clubs who seem intent on self destruction - Souths, Cronulla, Rooters, Bulldogs ... all through a culture of pig headedness and an unwillingness to change - and when they try change they stuff up as well!
As to Rugby, us Southerners just can't get used to a game where blokes TRY to kick the ball out of play and then everyone claps! Well, that and the bum sniffin'!!