Stuff That’s Caught My Eye.

Well, with the last of the semester’s workload finally been shovelled, I’m ready to uncork the brew which has been festering inside my bottle of opinionated sport’s diatribe.

State of origin: I still think the Blues can win this series. A slight tweak of the bench options and a better rotation of the forwards should be just enough to wipe the smug smile from big Mal’s face for the first time in 6 years. I mean, let’s not forget, NSW almost got the job done minus Todd Carney. I doubt the Cronulla 5/8 could turn in a performance like his first origin outing even if the night before game 2 included a bender and 6 hookers. So if Carney can turn up, and Sticky can add Watmough and Woods or Galloway to the squad, then NSW should be sipping from the winner’s chalice for the first time in 7 years.

And if we do win, how satasfying would it be to have won without the assistance of Kurt Gidley. Gids, might be a good bloke and a great player at club level, but this chap has to one of the most overrated Origin players in history. His absence will, in time, be viewed as a blessing in disguise for Sticky, especially if we win the series.  The whole obsession with having a utility in the team gives me the shits. QLD do it year in year out without one, and NSW pick blokes like Bird, Lewis and Hayne who could play a number of roles anyway. Sticky, take Gid’s injury as blessing for God’s sakes.

The shield could return this year.

Newcastle: Well, what can we say about Newcastle? Let’s start by taking a look at 3 of the club’s more shinning apples to understand why Newcastle is sitting like fly ridden peach towards the bottom of the NRL fruit bowl.

The hooker: Bederus has been receiving accolades this season for no other reason than his ability to turn up on game day in any other form than in an obituary notice. I mean, if people actually took off their rose-tinted glasses and their nostalgic top hats, then they’d see that Bedsy is barely doing the job for Newcastle.  He’s slow, has no attacking penetration and is well behind other rakes in the competition in terms of ruck creativity. But a bloke of his age must be good at something though? Maybe his skills lie in scone making, knitting or recounting WW II stories to school children. Whatever his skill is, it ain’t footy at the moment, which has prompted Wayne Bennett to shop around for another hooker to start next season.

Hey boys, any chance of making the 8 this year?

Kade Snowden: Kade should be thankful that Darius Boyd has proved to be a bigger dud and a bigger disappointment this year than he is. Every time I see Snowden play, I see dropped balls, soft running and laziness. He certainly did Cronulla a favour.

Darius Boyd: Time for Daddy to give his favourite son a big smack for sulking like a spoilt child for what has now been nearly 1 and half seasons in length. He is another bloke who has lost all sense of what it means to attack. Check this stat; Boyd has made 1 line break in 885min of football…….. And he is a fullback!

Mark Webber: Mark finally broke through this year for a win in Monaco. In a year I thought even a podium finish was looking doubtful, Mark performed well at the prized race, leaving his team mate Vettle for dead. However, Webber also knows that a Go-Cart could win at the prestigious track if it has its nose in front going round the first corner. To say that this season will be tighter than a Jewish sphincter, would be an understatement.

Grant Hackett: Mr Hackett… Mr Nice Guy….. Mr Goody Two-shoes. NOT ANYMORE! And thank God that this clown was shown to be the phony we all knew he was. He can now take his rightful place alongside other sporting nuff nuffs like Robert Lui, Mike Tyson and Greg Bird. How he still has a job is beyond me. If anyone saw the destruction that the former swimming angel left in his apartment, than it’s easy to see that this was more than a simple snap of temper. In fact, the pictures demonstrate a sustained and long rage in which, the former 1500m champion should find himself utterly ashamed. Matt Johns was stood down for less.

If your not f#%king careful girly, your teeth will be replacing the missing keys in my piano!

 

 

Mum… Mal’s crying again

Remember the spoilt kid on The Simpsons who made his generous mum buy 2 copies of ‘Bonestorm’ because he didn’t want to share it with his sister?

Up in Queensland, such grouchy petulance in the face of copious treasure exists in the form of Mal Meninga.

He’s the loaded kid with all the latest toys and gadgets in pristine working order, but this won’t stop him finding a fault to crow about even after he’s been given the latest X-Box.

After another Maroons victory in game 1 last Wednesday, he still managed to find a bee in his bonnet that deserved column space on Sunday.

Mal: watching another dish leave his table.

He stamped his feet over the lack of champagne feedback his troops received, threw around a few of his customary paranoid conspiracy theories regarding the southern media, found some rough pineapples for his side in the adjudication and then iced the cake by stating he agreed with the green light for ‘that try.’

Fair dinkers Mal, what more do you want?

Isn’t 6.33 years of success adequate for you to sit back in your fruit shop and enjoy a mandarin of content?

Is not continually parching NSW’s well of esteem to a dry and crinkly state enough to stop you kicking your dog when you get home?

Obviously he has become stale in the job. Only a man in the throes of the darkest boredom would find something to whinge about from his perch of repeated triumph like he does.

Amongst the passage of fussin’ is a broadside at the NSW media and their supposed counterplot which is a dead-set collector’s piece.

Accusing the Sydney pen brigade’s prolonged post-Etihad bleating of being an attempt to stir up the faithful into a frenzy for Origin II is so absurdly ironic that even black pots and misunderstood kettles around the globe are shaking their heads in disbelief.

These sun-soaked jokers in Queensland have been using this shonky approach from the days when Jesus played on the wing for Nazareth.

Creating a siege mentality and a manic audience sits high and proud on their list of priorities between ‘breathing’ and ‘XXXX’.

And now Coach Mal has put that old chestnut in the sling-shot and prematurely fired it across the Tweed, all from the warm and cosy confines of the bosom of victory.

Can you imagine the poo-flinging and toy-tossing if his mob lost?

There wouldn’t be enough Kleenex and bribing candy to get the former national skipper to be a good boy and stop caterwauling.

We all thought that he had indulged in too much pineapple juice at the end of last year’s series with his outrageous ‘rats and filth’ tirade that simply had to be seen to be believed. But it appears resisting the temptation to unload in the press about trivial pith is not something that his trademark stinging defence can stand up to.

Will this be the last time he spits in disgust at a dish of outstanding quality only because he spots a miniscule stain on the tablecloth on which it is served?

In light of all this, there was one thing in the Queensland coach’s article that I did agree with.

Remember Jarryd Hayne’s fluffy fist to Jonathon Thurston’s head and the following drama sports from the halfback? Meninga thought there should’ve been a penalty at this point in time.

I’m with you all the way on that one, Mal.

Thurston was flopping in the ruck for way too long on that play.

Jamie Soward: easy to kick

I never eat solids within 24 hours of watching any match that involves the Dragons.

Want to know why?

Because every time I see Jamie Soward perform his absurdly superfluous goal-kicking routine, my last major meal returns.

Lucky for me, the Dragon’s modus operandi is to slowly toil their way to wins on defence and not shoot the lights out with blazing attack and piles of razzmatazz. If they were ‘try happy’, my throat and stomach lining would be shredded like good coleslaw by now.

Here’s the best part of the routine. It’s conclusion.

For some indefinable reason, Soward is widely maligned by the league community.

From day dot, he’s been easy to poke fun at, whether it be about his garden gnome size, his sooky looks he shoots at the referees when he’s spitting the dummy or his ability to look like a mozzie on a lorry in defence.

A by-product of this public criticism is the defensive siege mentality he’s now developed with fans and the media. This acts like a stream of $50 notes into a stripper’s knickers for the punters who are just inspired to keep the train of bagging rolling along.

You would think a regular joe would like to quell a situation like this by cutting the fat and keeping a low profile in an attempt to deflect some attention elsewhere.

So why does he do things such as make a goal-kicking routine look like a combination of stoned disco dancing and an OCD-riddled chicken slowly retracing it’s steps in search for a lost dinner seed?

Does he have a manager or an advisor who provides even occasional feedback on what the whole ghastly procedure looks like?

Surely this prolonged practice of mind-numbing monotony is a sin-bin offence somewhere in the laws of the game, perhaps under time-wasting or even contrary conduct.

Now don’t get me wrong; I’m all for muscle memory, mind control and all of that other mental trickery that sports psychologists and kicking coaches make their moolah from. I’ll high-five any footballer that has whipped his mental demons into shape with a small set of instructions they obediently follow whenever they’re putting the ball on the tee.

But I bar the celebratory palm slapping when you add a 1950’s milk bar two-step, a series of melodramatic facial contortions and an extra 45 seconds to what should be something basic and concise enough to trick a dense footballer into kicking straight.

I don’t recall ever reading ‘polish every blade of grass within 3 metres of the ball using the top of your boot and then suck oxygen like it’s going out of fashion’ in the no-nonsense goal-kicking manuals of Jason Taylor and Daryl Halligan from the halcyon days of the 1990’s.

Soil erosion goes at a dangerous pace compared to Jamie marking out his run-up.

These black-dot beasts must also re-taste their ham sandwich every time they see this travesty unfold.

If he kicked with a success rate of over 80% then it wouldn’t matter. He could place the ball and give someone a haircut for all I care.

But he isn’t. So Jamie, please trim the extras from your kicking program.

To the diminutive Dragon, I give this free and friendly advice: put the bloody ball on the tee, count 4 steps back and 2 across, look at the target and slap that bad boy over the cross-bar within a reasonable time frame.

Footy clocks, dance aficionados and your sanity will thank you.

 

The mystery box

The video referee’s box possesses mysterious mind-altering powers.

While not an ever-present force, it does have the unsettling effect of an unannounced visit from the in-laws when it strikes.

It has the ability to jam a rugby league referee’s abilities of comprehension by short-circuiting their database of visual image identification.

Everybody from the sharpest scientists down to dim-witted footyheads have tried in vain to determine the point on the journey from the adjudicator’s eye-ball up to their decision gland that the images seem to magically alter.

So far, nobody has been able to define or cure this intermittent muddling of conception.

This box and its intangible spirit of disorder affects the upstanding and reliable citizens of league administration who have been empowered with the simpler aspect of league decision making. Even the most basic impression or appearance can be skewed.

At half time, when one of the assistants brings the video referee a beverage, he tries to eat it like a pie.

He tries to put trash into his chair and drive his desk home. Then when he gets lost, he picks up his road map and sees the Mona Lisa.

He kisses his pet dog when he gets home and then goes to sleep in his swimming pool.

Spilt milk.

These are on the milder side of its capabilities. When it strikes without warning at the most inopportune times is when it’s dream-shattering powers are at their most devastating.

Last night at Etihad Stadium, the ghosts returned. Not satisfied with a game already jam packed with contents resembling a bulging variety bag on a violent see-saw, they flashed their eternal season tickets and appeared in the box with 7 minutes to go.

The victim this time around was Sean Hampstead.

Greg Inglis had the ball in his mitts and was ready to plant it over the line before it jiggled and then met the boot of Robbie Farah. From there, the ball spilled loose and hit the turf for what appeared a garden variety rugby league knock-on.

Hampstead took a few steady-paced glances at first by running through the footage at normal time and checking the different angles at his disposal. Each vision showed him a bobbling pigskin with no hint of control or fastening to the hand.

Then the replays became slower. And more frequent.

It was at this point you sensed the influence of the box spectre taking over.

The images being transported from the peepers of Hampstead as a fumble had arrived at his processor with a non-conforming description.

What followed was real downward pressure. The index finger of Hampstead onto the green button.

TRY.

And the wailing hasn’t ceased since.

Let’s get serious. The Inglis try may or may not have won the game for Queensland, lost it for NSW or had any bearing on the outcome whatsoever. Remember, it could’ve finished at 12-10 with the Maroons in front.

But what this incident highlights is the video referee’s habit to search for a minute technicality to either grant or disallow a try against the grain when the obvious answer is staring them right in the face.

In real time, there is no doubt that the faux try was a clear as day, run of the mill, textbook standard grassing of the ball from schoolboy to senior level every day of the week.

To the man in the box: sin bin the spectre, quell the mystery and use some common sense.

 

If you sports freaks out there enjoy this sporting slobber then you can also read my pieces and many more pearls of wisdom on TheRoar.com.au. 

You can also catch my dulcet online tones every weekend as the commentator for Roosters games through Play Up Australia. It’s available through iPhone, android or on your crusty laptop. Go to PlayUp.com and fire up!

Incense, chanting and treasured Blue memories

There are raging torrents of negative energy cascading through the chakras of us NSW Origin fans over the recent months and the issue needs to be addressed for the good of our wellbeing.

An affirmative spiritual recalibration is required pronto, otherwise the duration of the series may be spent shielding our pretty blue eyes from the pain by watching cooked turkeys of a different kind on Masterchef.

Don’t we deserve something that we can blindly cling to after the blatantly grotty hand of cards we’ve been dealt in the approach to the series?

2005 Joey: the mid-range hair length days.

Injuries, suspensions and speculation have merged as one overpowering bully and left our humble plans for recovery of street cred cowering like a frightened school kid.

Waves of bad luck have repeatedly dumped upon our plans. Even black cats and broken mirrors stuck in a rut of poor performance have been hanging around the squad like a bad smell in the hope of a confidence boost.

A repetitive and gory nightmare she’s been, and we haven’t even seen a montage of sickly Queensland inspirational plays and memorable moments yet.

So I’m taking it upon myself to pump some essential oxygen back into the deflated chest of NSW by clutching at any notion that can potentially kick negativity square in the nads.

There’s a few basic methods from the kooky freethinker digest that we can employ: lighting some incense and repeating mental images of forceful Chief Harragon hit-ups, crossing the legs into a meditation pose and chanting ‘Freddy’ in a resonant and haunting tone, or donning a sky blue gown and performing a yoga routine that finishes in a nose-to-nose confrontation with an Innisfail banana in the furious Terry Hill motif from yore.

These are all techniques that are new age, progressive and shrouded in tie-dye and lavender smoke, and they may be effective for some. But let’s get footy serious and use our league smarts.

The Italian Mountain Cat.

What about some fundamental mesmeric reinforcement of contented and blessed times by looking way back to the last time we pinched the chocolates?

I’m pleading via the means of Gregorian chant to the League Lama for something lying amongst these treasured memories that we can salvage as a pithy band-aid on our fractured and bloodstained self-esteem.

Play your waterfall CD, close your eyes and don’t think about Michael Jennings. Transport yourself to that spiritual happy place in your grey matter.

The year was 2005. Also commonly known as a bloody long, long time ago.

A time so distant in the rear-view mirror that Billy Slater was dropped for poor form and NSW had the capability to win a series with 2 games in Brisbane.

Enjoy these fading memories.

Game 1: A game that induces NSW puke still to this very day. The Blues started like a cold 1980 Datsun and were down 19-0 in front of a boorish assembly of bloodthirsty Maroons at Suncorp before silencing the lot of them with a late flurry and sending the match to added tick-tock.

Then in one hazardous cut-out pass from Brett Kimmorley it was curtains. Matt Bowen swooped to score the winning try and it ended 24-20 to the home side.

Photoshop is an amazing invention.

Queensland 1 – NSW 0.

Game 2: The return of Andrew Johns for the game in Sydney had the Blues faithful frisky for a leveller, but things weren’t looking cherry ripe at half-time when Queensland lead 12-8.

However, a second half magician’s workshop from Johns that was ably assisted by a virtuoso Anthony Minichiello display saw the Blues dominate and pocket a 32-22 victory to send the series north on a delicate precipice.

Queensland 1 – NSW 1.

Game 3: The tang factor doesn’t get much more tart than an Origin decider, and the build-up to this was no different. Blues fans were stoked when it turned out to be a gigantic anti-climax with their side accelerating to a 32-0 lead after an hour’s play.

They were never headed from there and took the spoils with a 32-10 thumping thanks to another majestic hand from Johns. In an ironic outcome considering the dross effort from the Maroons, former garbo Matt King finished the night with 3 tries.

NSW clinch the series 2-1.  

Fantastic memories. Can the 2012 Blues pull something out of the hat to match this?

Rebels provide biggest bubble in weekend of upsets

Local ball sports experienced more boilovers this weekend than a TAFE cooking class.

But I’m adamant that not even the most clinically insane followers would’ve expected the unforeseen bubble and fizz result of the Rebels win over the Crusaders.

It was one of those results that make you think you’ve actually drunk more than you thought on a regular Saturday sitting of footy and refreshments.

Your pickled brain drives you to quickly stumble out the door so you can trawl through your yellow recycling bin to do a recount on the stubbie intake for the evening.

Nick Phipps about to be wedgied.

But even after all of the eye-rubbing and crooked calculation of standard drinks is finished, the result was still there blazing like a beacon for reality in the top right-hand corner of your screen. It proudly stares you in the face as your muddling tormentor and sends your mind on a mad search for something comparable. 

Trust your VB-soaked pupils, as you are not hallucinating. This is an Australian union miracle.

Was what transpired at AAMI Park on Saturday night the biggest upset in Super Rugby history?

The most successful franchise in competition history, crammed to the back teeth with blue chip Kiwi talent and on a run of 6 wins in 7 games up against a bits-and-bobs outfit from a kindergarten-level rugby city with 1 lonely win in their last 6 outings.

An organisation with a plush and velvety history of repeated success against a mob who only decided on their team colours a few years ago.

The Melbourne Rebels, so easy to lash as the poster boys for the lack of depth in Australian rugby since becoming the nation’s 5th hungry mouth needing a talent feed, somehow came from behind and then closed out a stunning victory against the Crusaders, the biggest and scariest dog in the pound.

These sorts of match results have been known to spike the numbers of inquisitive phone calls to the WADA switchboard or the SANZAR anti-corruption unit in the past.

Crusaders lament a missed wedgie as Beale skips clear.

Fair enough, the Crusaders began the match with internationals Israel Dagg, Ben Franks and Kieran Read inside windcheaters on the pine, but the gulf in class between the two outfits on the team sheets was still Grand Canyon-esque.And it appeared to be a stock standard evening at the work depot for the Christchurch outfit when they defied being on the wrong side of possession and territory to lead 19-10 at half time.

However, only medically-diagnosed fruitcakes and the most rusted-on and delirious of the Rebel’s small but resilient supporter group could’ve dreamt of the astonishing and unlikely froth of the second half.

On the back of a sparkler from Kurtley Beale, a reminder post-it note performance to Robbie Deans from Nick Phipps and some tireless beavering from Hugh Pyle, the Rebels were able to defy arguably the entire international rugby community by keeping the Crusaders scoreless and romping to easily the most notable victory in their short existence.

So what was the spur in the Rebel rear-end that drove this rare rugby trinket for the ages?

I would like to say it was a brilliant tactical rug-pull laced with sparkling turns of dexterity, but it was mainly meat and potatoes rah-rah that got the job done.

Fundamentals like inspired and industrious defence, nabbing points when the opportunities presented themselves and having Danny Cipriani back in the UK  shagging saggy c-grade brit popstars and passing out at Spearmint Rhino nightclub for good.

Rebels coach and household rugby name Damien Hill described it as the ‘best win in the club’s history’, and duly so considering the stuff-all amount of times they’ve sung the team song.

In a weekend of heavenly uncertainty with Goliaths in all corners crying down the phone to their mums, the Rebels were the Davids that shone the brightest.

 

NSW Team

Righto punters I have picked the team I reckon will have a chance of knocking off the canetoads this year.

1. Minichello – Consistant performer in attack and defence, just pips Stewart for the gig

2. Uate – 1st man picked, as Ivan Drago would say he is a little ball of steel. Quality

3. J Morris – Can find the line, the best form centre we have to pick from

4. Lawrence – The best of the rest. Jennings is a lost cause at the moment, even considered Hayne but he has become victom to the struggling parra side

5. B Moz – Try scoring machine

6. Carney – The class we have been missing in the halves

7. Pearce – Cause he went well last year, has been good this season and has played with carney before

8. Gallen – Best forward in the game, plays like a prop anyway

9. Farrah – Cause the rest are shit and Bederus is injured.  Quality player but needs to pick his time to use his skills better, and loose the “its all about me attitude” he has at the tigers where his halves need him to cover for them consistantly.  He can be so much better with a good halves paring.

10. Tamou – Hard working, old school prop, made for it

11. Lewis – As tough as they come and can cover out wide if the need arises

12. Creagh – Can bust the line and hits hard in defence.  As long as there isn’t a fight he will be fine

13. Bird – Don’t like him but he goes alright

14. Hinchcliff – Utility value

15. Woods – One of the form props of the comp to date, no nonsence, get the job done player

16. Watmough – Tough, van have big impact off the bence.  Dunb as dog shit though, need to cut out the silly mistakes and penalities.

17. Hoffman – The type of player every team needs, runs hard, hits hard, just does his job and dees it well

18. T Sims – Unlicky to not get a bench spot but his time will come (probly in this series).

3-2 Win Ends In Heartbreak For Both Teams

It’s not often that both clubs come away disappointed from a 3-2 win, but that’s exactly what happened at Edgar Street, home of Hereford United, in today’s clash with Torquay.

This game was of critical importance to both clubs: Hereford, second-bottom in the table, needed to win and hope relegation rivals Barnet slipped up in order to secure their own safety, while Torquay desperately needed the three points to overcome Crawley and Southend in the battle for third place and automatic promotion to League One.

The Bulls would have been high on confidence for a side fighting the drop, having shocked Crawley 3-0 in their previous outing. Cheered on by the majority of the 5,000-strong crowd at Edgar Street, Richard O’Kelly’s men were certainly in with a chance of surprising the league’s surprise package Torquay. The Gulls had suffered an uncharacteristic blip in form, drawing with Southend and Crewe at home and losing to AFC Wimbledon away, placing even bigger significance on this trip to the Welsh border. Torquay fans had been hoping Hereford would be relegated by the time the sides met on the last day, making their job significantly easier, but it was not to be.

Despite beginning brightly, Torquay were punished by Hereford’s prolific taking of chances: three first-half goals without reply had their fans relishing the prospect of another impressive win that would secure another season in the Football League. The scoring was opened by Delroy Facey, a former Premier League forward with Bolton Wanderers, and the Bulls never looked back: further goals from Harry Pell and Rob Purdie made the lead comfortable and seemingly put the result beyond all doubt. It would take a miracle now for Torquay to grab the victory they so dearly needed. As Gulls manager Martin Ling later admitted “We didn’t play well, but everything they touched turned to gold!”

Hereford’s second came from a penalty after Lee Mansell was adjudged to have fouled Purdie ten minutes before the break. After custodian Bobby Olejnik had extended his excellent penalty-saving record with a spot-kick stop against Crewe a week earlier, Gulls fans would have been quietly confident the Austrian could repeat the trick, but Pell proved otherwise. Purdie found the net himself four minutes later to give Torquay a mountain to climb in the second half.

That mountain was reduced to a very large hill just 13 seconds after the break when substitute Ryan Jarvis dispatched Joe Oastler’s strike beyond Hereford goalkeeper Adam Bartlett. Torquay continued to press for a route back into the game, and just after the hour Taiwo Atieno, another sub, reduced the deficit to a single goal after pouncing on a rebound from Kevin Nicholson’s free-kick. The impossible was now simply unlikely, but unfortunately for the Gulls and their 1,400 travelling fans, that was as good as it got.

As news of a breakthrough from Barnet in their game against Burton reached Edgar Street, the atmosphere among the home fans unsurprisingly become more subdued. Even a win would now not be enough, and the tension on the pitch was evident as Torquay skipper Lee Mansell enjoyed “fisticuffs”, as a Final Score reporter put it, with Bulls defender Byron Anthony in the closing stages.

A mammoth eight minutes of injury time simply delayed the agony for both sets of fans – Hereford were condemned to the Conference and, contrary to the oft-heard chant at Plainmoor, the Gulls were not going up – automatically, at least. Although the Yellow Army will be disappointed to have to endure the lottery of the play-offs after such a great season – the Gulls had been tipped for mid-table mediocrity at best by so-called “experts” – they should look back on Martin Ling’s first season in charge with pride and satisfaction. Whether Ling can conjure a return to form from his small, tired squad remains to be seen. What is certain is that Cheltenham will prove to be tough opponents in the play-off semi-final.

Hereford came so close to saving their skins after showing late improvement, losing just one of their final six league fixtures. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late, and it is fair to say that relegation always looked likely – a dire record of one win in their first thirteen games set the tone for an appalling season that has included embarrassing 6-1 and 4-0 reverses at home. Should Richard O’Kelly, only appointed in March, stick around for next season, they could bounce back at the first attempt. Hereford fans will certainly hope so.

How about we spread the blowtorch around?

The rugby league family is abuzz with a wide range of emotions this morning in light of the God-awful state of the poor Parramatta Eels.

After a more than encouraging opening last night, with included a clean slate of completed sets and a scoreboard advantage, they buckled in catastrophic style to go down to the Dogs by the length of the straight.

And their situation is being chewed over by every Saturday morning expert and his domestic pet today.

Being dominated by a discarded ranga hardly improves the situation for Parramatta.

Some sections are offering a sympathetic ear, whereas others have determined the topic as an unfixable basketcase and therefore have conveniently inserted their head into sand.

Others are too deeply moved by their plight to even mention the subject.

There’s also a gaggle of amateur comedians who are loudly hee-hawing at the prospect of another stock-boosting week of material and some who are downright furious at the dragging down of rugby league’s image.

And I don’t even want to think of what their tormented supporters have to withstand.

Personally, I’ve offered the number of a good counsellor to my brethren in blue and gold along with the guarantee of an endless supply of personal shoulder time for them to use for bawling purposes.

My reasoning is that this is no longer a laughing matter. Being a merciful softie, I can’t continue giggling at other’s misfortune when the act goes from harmless slapstick to grotesque black humour that only the most disturbed niche market could enjoy.

However, somewhere amongst all of this lies one organisation that is secretly overwhelmed with gratification for the limelight-hogging circumstances that Steve Kearney and the Eels find themselves in.

It’s their next-door neighbours down the M4 at Penrith.

The losing subject standing behind the posts. The only way to convey a bad footy team in a photo.

Their recent conduct has been at a waste level that’s comparable- if not worse- than what their counterparts further up the highway have been manufacturing.

Can you imagine the uproar at Parramatta if they went 2 whole matches without scoring a single point like the Panthers recently did?

Stocks of Steve Kearney effigies in Sydney would’ve sold out in a blink.

I was sucked in at the start of the year by Gus Gould’s tractor beam of sunshine and rainbows for the Penrith people. He had poached a boss from last year’s Grand Final, flushed the dispensables and supposedly revamped the culture.

But all he’s done so far in 2012 is send the Penrith faithful bolting for refuge in the Blue Mountains, where they hope to find some Zen-like state amongst the mist and hippies so they can forget that they ever followed the club.

However, all of this torment ensues while the rest of us remain transfixed on the door at Parramatta Leagues Club, waiting patiently for the bosses to come out with Kearney in the stocks and boxes of rotten fruit for flinging.

How can we stand by and blatantly ignore the Panther family suffering in silence?

Shame on you rugby league peeps. It’s time to widen the sights on your rifles of criticism and take a look at the other underachievers in this competition.

 

Premier League finale Taylor made for co-stars

If you enjoy a ding dong battle for a bridesmaid’s bouquet, then I suggest you lock your senses on to the Premier League Darts and it’s worshipped bar flies as the tournament reaches its climax over the next 2 weeks.

van Barneveld got the ceremonial duties out of the way early.

I would love to say that the race for the top gong is going down to the wire, but that would be a porky-pie as big as the gap Phil “The Power” Taylor has over the chasing pack.

He currently holds a 9 point advantage over second place and a whopping 51+ leg difference, and it appears that only some kind of unforeseen darting mishap is going to stop the copy-and-paste engraving of his name on the tin prize again.

However, those that live for a choir-rocked rollercoaster shouldn’t stress. The oche is alight and the flights are flaming amongst the also-rans as the race to be crushed by the Guv’ of Darts in the final becomes tighter than a strictly tied Simon Whitlock plait.

And speaking of our sulphur-crested Aussie hero, he is poised nicely to be the chosen lamb to the Taylor slaughter. Destiny sits snugly in his hands as he’s currently perched in the box seat of outright second spot on 14 points.

Pursuing him is a ravenous 5 man herd of spear-wielding geezers who will be facing off in a magnificent arrangement of white knuckle sudden-death matches next week to decide the last 2 finals spots.

Wade and Lewis discussing if they should even bother showing up for the final.

James Wade, Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld are grouped together on 12 points with Premier League L-platers Kevin Painter and Andy Hamilton breathing down their necks on 11.

This fatefully glorious outcome that has left these warriors within a thread of each other means nothing but damn good times for dart enthusiasts next Friday morning. I suggest a reduction in your usual levels of dawn coffee as the meet at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena is going to have your heart already palpitating with 3 out of the 4 fixtures in the final round having a stake in how the semi-final picture will materialise.

Whitlock: an intimidating force.

The showdown for playoff berths commences with the rookie battle between Hamilton (leg difference -7) and Painter (-5) with both requiring the taste of victory to advance. This is followed by Dutch veteran van Barneveld (-11) against the ever-ballooning Wade (-6) and then the dangerously erratic Lewis (-6) locking horns with whisker fashionista Whitlock (-3).

I hope you all have an abacus and/or calculator at hand, as there’s no way my 2 unit maths brain is capable of mapping out all of the scenarios that could play out on the night. The only thing I can assure is a super-charged spin cycle of high stakes darts ending with 2 grinners and 3 evictees.

Just tune in, and if in doubt, whack on the cork-hat and unleash the boorish passion for our blonde sharp-shooter from Cessnock. Let’s see if we can get him over the line for semi-respectable silver and really put darts on the map here in Oz.

But boofhead patriotism aside, whatever the result on the night and whichever tattooed contestants prevail, I have a message for the Director of Darts Fate and Fortune department, whoever they are and wherever they may be.

You really deserve a tall warm pint of lager and a dedicated rendition of ‘Chase the Sun’ in your honour for placing the Premier League tiles down in this extraordinary fashion.

Determination of the minor placings in Premier League 2012 is going to be one for the ages.

Outlook not fine at number 9

As expected, the forecast for Origin time ain’t predicting blue skies. Again.

All I see is another overwhelmingly large front fanned by howling winds of bad fortune that is descending upon us from the north. It’s just a gigantic and gloomy reminder that we really have bugger-all chance of winning this year’s series.

Danny: the achilles was his... achilles?

Us downtrodden and dedicated cockroaches will continue to spin the rosary beads on repeat in the hope of unexpected sunlight, but we all know deep down that the thrashing downpour is looming.

This year, the radar has identified many vulnerable areas at risk.

I’m putting out a current warning for the dummy half region.

Not long ago, we were cautiously hopeful of compiling an honest cluster of options all possessing nearly 70% of Cameron Smith’s level of ability. The plan was for these guys to inspire each other to greater heights by the thrill of scrapping for a berth in a state side on the verge of another hiding.

But any small progress that was brewing in this area seems to have dissipated.

The popular choice was going to be the return of loveable son Danny Buderus. In a romantic and stirring Origin tale for the ages, the man who plays with the passion legally trademarked by Queensland was to be thrust back in to the bonfire based mainly on the fact that he was around the last time we won a series.

Robbie: power input only adaptable within Leichhardt council limits.

But all of the bluster about a Langer-esque return in sky blue motif began to evaporate as his achilles began to wilt, and he has now been ruled out of calculations definitely.

The next in line is the incumbent Michael Ennis. He typifies all of what we expect in our Origin players; rugged, combative, provocative and compromised by injury.

Ennis: tackles, kicks and smart-arse statements all down in 2012.

All respect to the bloke, he’s busted his Bulldog behind all year under duress, but his detrimental twinges seem to be persevering. His statistical returns in 2012 as well as his half-done clean bill of health wouldn’t be keeping Mal Meninga awake at night.

Then there’s Robbie Farah. He’s punching out decent numbers in the required KPI’s, he’s not carrying any niggles and he’s even shown old school Origin toughness by unloading an angry spear tackle earlier in the year.

Unfortunately for him, his chances are compromised by his reputation.

He’s an adept trick-shot master, but he’s been intrinsically Tiger-tuned by Tim Sheens and seems only fully operational with black and gold batteries. Adapting him to another set of players in the space of one boozed-up camp week may be a bridge too far.

Natural attrition leaves Ryan Hinchcliffe as next in queue. Tough, durable, adaptable and possessing absolutely no experience at this level whatsoever.

Anyone feeling mighty cold yet?

And don’t rule out our selectors adoration of the smoky bolter. Perhaps a Mitch Rein, Jake Friend or Isaac de Gois will be seen as the hooker to provide enough smoulder to keep us warm in this horrendous downpour?

Crikey.

I think it’s time to go and hide in my safety bunker.

Warming the Pine

Sport for those with comfortable couches.