Why (insert your state) will win this year’s Origin series

Want your interstate ego stroked for Origin 2013?

Dane Eldridge and Paddy Effeney are two blokes from either side of the border, and they’ve decided to joust it out to determine which of their states is a stone cold moral certainty to varnish the shield in the sponsor’s product this year.

Eldridge’s case for Blue

My dear blogging cohort Paddy Effeney is a sterling bloke who plays the forums hard but fair. I have the utmost respect for him and his fine literature, except for at Origin time. Because he’s from Queensland.

Even though my beloved NSW Blues sit at a woeful 0-7 after their last 7 hitouts, you will never see me do the Ben Creagh back-pedal when my cross border compatriot asks me to dance with him as a Harragon to his Bella.

Regardless of the fact there is virtually nothing to cling to other than the unlikely occurrence that his team is decimated by ASADA findings, I’m going to fight back against his hypnotic pro-maroon prose with a view through one sky blue eye.

So besides delusion, why do I think NSW are going to win this year’s series?

Possible?

Possible?

It’s because I can see the writing on the wall from a country kilometre away. Cameron Smith and his smug bunch of yippee-yayers are ripe for a good old-fashioned ambushing, Queensland-style.

You see, the Maroons today are what NSW used to be. Flush with the finest personnel, facilities, fruit store mafia cash and theme parks that are the envy of the free world.

On the other hand, presently the Blues are what they used to be. A state with honest and serviceable talent stocks, just enough poker machine moolah for training kits and no Wonderland on the city’s outskirts.

The seven consecutive years of torment at the hands of a unit stacked like a 1992 NSW seconds side has consigned the southern state to being the have nots. The northerners, with their pretentious swag and ability to excel without a real coach, are the haves.

But in 2013, the humiliating comeuppance for the enemy is coming, and the blueprint for their demise has been lifted from one of their own.

It’s going to be a southern-style 1995 Fatty Vautin con job. Just replace your Wayne Bartrim with a Robbie Farah and your XXXX with Tooheys Blue.

Down here in the premier state, the collective rumble can be felt in the plums already.

For the first time in a while, those uncontrollable issues that exist on the periphery- sometimes non-tangible, often largely irrelevant and always most important to those lacking ability- seem to be playing out in NSW’s favour.

The big name Queensland cogs have been faltering in the lead-up, there’s panic over a picked pack that you need a magnifying glass to see, a couple of stars don’t know if they are coming or going, Johnathon Thurston’s kid is going to enter the world right on kick-off and all the while, Meninga is in Bundaberg cracking lame dad jokes about tropical fruit.

Compare this to Camp Blues, or ‘high performance paradise’ as it is currently known.

There’s a snarling forward pack full of athletes and leviathans, bustling backs high on confidence, an unscarred new coach who thinks nothing of horseback riding, and not a single bench spot being wasted on an expendable utility.

(We love you, Gids. There’s just no room for you.)

Compared to the tidy and well-kept palace of Laurie Daley’s digs, where Bach plays serenely on the gramophone while Greg Bird recites Dickens to a well-behaved squad, Mal Meninga’s dude ranch is in filthy frat-party disarray.

Right now, NSW are leading before kick-off, and all our boys have to do is just protect the buffer for 240 minutes.

With 99% of momentum in favour of Paul Gallen’s troops (I lopped off 1% for Shayne Hayne’s appointment), it’s apparent that the swarm of the underdog is upon you, Queensland. What was once your secret weapon spinach is now your kryptonite.

With these kinds of precursors and two games in Sydney’s rollicking colosseum, it’s all pointing to a famous triumph for the recently oppressed.

And if Maroons fans want to accentuate a positive, then just think about it this way. After the horrendous belting our boys inflict upon your fading outfit this year, all of the poor cousin traits so treasured by your state will be all yours again.

And really, isn’t that the way it should be?

With a rainmaking Blues win, the yearly interstate contest will finally return to its most popular format. An event that Queensland uses to repress their inferiority complex.

The Blues will return to their familiar role of affluent pantomime villain as everything goes against the downtrodden Maroons, just like old times.

And that, my friends, would mean we would be treated to two victories in this year’s series.

One for NSW, and one for rugby league.

Effeney’s case for Maroon

I was challenged to a debate earlier this week by a fellow sports blogger and all round good guy Dane Eldridge. Given the measure of the man who made the request, I accepted the challenge. But to be honest, the very fact that he asked me to argue on such a topic is laughable.

Nevertheless, let the mud flinging begin…

The fact that I’m even deigning to write this piece ‘debating’ who’s going to win this year’s State of Origin is a measure of the respect and friendship I hold for my opposite mental jouster.

Unfortunately, years of sustained, bumbling buffoonery has meant that my team, the Queensland Maroons, hold little, if any, of the same for that excuse for a football team dressed in Blue.

Because in reality this series has devolved, unfortunately but necessarily in my view, into something more akin to a Harlem Globetrotters v Transylvania No-Hopers game than a genuine, meaningful contest.

Probable.

Probable.

The Queenslanders don the famous colours, trot out onto the pitch, show everyone what they can do, score a few meat pies early, before dramatically letting the New South Welshmen back into the ‘contest’. The crowd feels good about it all as NSW show some fight and some heart, before the Queenslanders, through an outrageous piece of skill from one of their transcendent superstars, clinch the game and consign any false hope of a NSW victory to the dustbin.

Year after year, we hail this Queensland side as the best in history. So it goes, on and on.

Does it get tiresome being a perpetual winner? Yes is the short answer; no is the long one. But in either case, the question lacks meaning.

For you see, it’s no longer a question that’s in my hands; nor is it in the hands of any mortal. It hasn’t been since the start of Queensland’s historic seven-year run of victories.

It was long thought that NSW had the right to win State of Origin, and any Queensland victory had to be chalked up to either a blowing of a tire from the men in blue or a freak aligning of the football stars allowing the Maroons to sneak over the line.

NSW had it all. The money, the fame, the big players and pretty well all the professional teams worth their salt in the country.

It was from this neglect of the northernmost of Australians that the chip on the Queensland shoulder grew. Now that NSW don’t have their customary horde of superior players to choose from they are finding out that beating a superior side is tough when you don’t have an edge.

So don’t ask me who’s going to win this series in earnest. There’s only one side that’s going to show up with an edge, and it’ll be the blokes wearing maroon. They have the edge in character, in quality and in that bloody-minded determination to stick it up those who sneered down their cans of Tooheys New at them for so long.

What those folks holding cans of the strong stuff didn’t know was that the very fabric State of Origin was built upon was to be upturned.

There is a very basic principle State of Origin had to maintain to remain dynamic and interesting: the NSW team has to have better players. The opposite state would result in a decade of dominance, or so the prophecy foretold. And now, with the state of play as it is, we are seven years through.

That prophecy, reportedly inscribed on the inside of a XXXX can (note that it’s mid strength) that had been shotgunned by the King, Wally Lewis, told of a time when Queensland would show everyone just why passion in Origin is so valuable. It spoke of a team who would suffer 10 years in purgatory to teach them the ultimate Origin lesson: don’t take it for granted you smug bastards.

So while Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Justin Hodges are still running around, Dane, you won’t have me biting on matters Origin.

It’s not because I don’t like shooting the proverbial about it; au contraire. It’s just that it would simply be a waste of both our time.

It’s been written in the stars. The result is forgone. Queensland win. Have a nice day.

You can follow these charming clowns on Twitter: Dane @playup_roosters & Paddy @warmingthepine, and you can follow Paddy’s blog right here. 

Athlete’s owe us squat!

Today, voluntary media mute Darius Boyd walked past a channel 10 news crew, brushing past them with the arrogance of a year 12 student trudging through the infants playground. Unsurprisingly, people blew up at Boyd’s perceived rudeness, labelling him a “dickhead” and calling him “ungrateful”.

Let me start by saying that I’m no real Boyd fan. But neither am I a fan of the media or the way they operate.

Athletes are (in most cases) exceptional competitors in an area usually requiring an elite level of physical ability the rest of us (the ordinary folk) can only dream about, whether that be to run like a Bolt or Dazzle like a Warne, Leap like a Jordan or swing like a Woods.

It is the admiration and understanding of exceptional talent which drives “normal” folk to pay attention and watch a skill performed at a higher level to which they themselves could not do. It is human nature to admire and it is human nature to seek out the source of the admiration. Why? Because viewing coveted skills unfold before our eyes provides people with inspiration, drive and above all pleasure.

Athletes, are first and foremost, exceptional due to their talent. Personality, marketability and looks are secondary bye products which may one day become features in their own right, but are yet still grounded and underpinned by the athlete firstly qualifying as…. well…an athlete.

So since an athlete often gets to an elite level in his or her chosen competition by firstly: a) having the talent and drive to get there, and b) is often selected by higher authorities and is therefore a wanted commodity. Should the people (us) who seek out the viewing of skilled athleticism and high level competition demand that these athletes have an obligation to make free their time in order to satisfy the fiscal positions of a ravanous institution (the media) who feed the unquenchable cravings of sports hungry fans? Do the fans “own” athletes? Was it the fans who gave the athlete his or her gifts?
The answer to all these questions is a slam dunk in the ring for NO!

In no way should an athlete be obliged to answer questions or make time for journalists and their organisations. Is Joe Blow from the pub obliged to answer questions from a pack of 17 year olds dying to know what a beer tastes like? No, of course not. Yet both are examples of one group coveting the ability and activities of another and the yearning to understand something of which they are not a part of.

Now I know there will be some who will say “but without the fans athletes don’t have an income”. To this I would reply that competition would not exist without the desire to win and to out perform your rival. Elite Athleticism and physical excellence are reached due to this principle and are not reached as a result of awed onlookers. In other words, an athlete’s skills and competitive desires were not gifts given to him or her by the fans.

So to all the sports men and women who wish to decline the spotlight thrown on them, and who wish to remain silent while they compete in their chosen activity I say kudos. We are simply here to watch you play, marvel at your skill and admire your competitiveness. For what it’s worth, you owe us normal folk….squat.

Mick Potter: Reasonable coach. Excellent fellow!

Today the Wests Tigers faithful are rejoicing in the fact that their team has finally located a pulse. It may be waterlogged, but it’s beating.

The process wasn’t pretty, but last night at Leichhardt Oval they eventually emerged from the mud wrestle on top of the Cowboys in a sodden contest that involved some fortuitous video decisions.

It was a soggy win in front of a handful of the hardy that temporarily brought to a close a nightmare seven week period for the Tigers, and as one of those friendly clubs that is hard to dislike, I’m happy for the team to enjoy a win or two while ever it remains in a non-threatening position miles out of the top eight.

As a person with no emotional attachment to the club whatsoever, my opinion is in no way influenced by their recent stint of mediocrity, nor am I under any obligation to not turn a one-win molehill into a mountain. That’s why I’m going to revel in the heat of the moment and heap unlikely credit on coach Mick Potter.

This man with the softly spoken disposition of a cinder block has been downright dogged in the eye of a raging cloudburst of crap so far in 2013.

From the start, the double Dally M Medallist was always going to taste the whip by taking the job at Wests.

He was flick-passed a plundered playing group from Tim Sheens, and with the low exchange rate on credibility for Super League success in trade with the Australian game, public patience was always going to be thin.

Over the course of a so-far forgettable campaign where most things have gone south, not once has the new boss really lost his rag.

Not a mope, finger-point, buck-pass or media meltdown. At least in the public forum anyway.

It’s a super effort from the new guy, considering the assembly of projectiles flying in his direction that would’ve given him grace to catapult his toys from the cot, a la Des.

He’s had a team list violated by injury, a dysfunctional board hamstrung by factionalism above him and an inherited list that is low on depth and top heavy with some wealthy underperformers.

Add to that a procession of horrific beltings, and you can see why it’s amazing that he hasn’t walked in to Concord Oval for a Monday debrief and just gone postal.

Potter contemplates where to hide Braith Anasta. He held this pose for 18 hours.

Potter contemplates where to hide Braith Anasta. He held this pose for 18 hours.

As each record-setting pasting unfolded in front of his eyes, not once did Potter pick up the coaches manual and turn to Ricky Stuart’s foreword or the 560-page chapter on referee evaluation by Geoff Toovey.

No way. He just copped the chinning on the iron jaw of his stony-face and got on with the job of preparing his undermanned team to be lapped the following week.

Sure, he might have blotted his copybook once with the wee boo-boo of benching Benji Marshall. Apart from inspiring the fine ‘Benchy’ headline, it wasn’t an acutely shrewd move, but hey, who hasn’t pissed off the boss at work before themselves?

As the stupor of his folly set in, he never offered any sugar-coating of the situation, and when the move eventually combusted in his face, he owned up to his error and crumbled to Beau Ryan’s badgering by immediately reinstating the skipper to the starting line up.

Potter’s perpetual state of steely composure in 2013 is admirable and many others would’ve crumbled by now with a hole in the coaches box fibro.

His stoic nature is comparable to his playing days where he was an unflappable fullback who was repeatedly bashed under the high ball, a torturous exercise akin to the majority of his press conferences this year.

I admit he might not have shown himself to be one of rugby league’s great coaches yet. But you can’t deny, if there was a bonus point system for exemplary behaviour and commendable conduct, the Tigers would have a few more in the bank thanks to Potter’s gentlemanly coolness, and an extra half a point for Steve Humphreys’s decision to give himself the arse.

Well may he be given a sustained run at the head coaching role at Wests, free of board room assurances, impatient fans and maybe if he’s lucky, Adam Blair.

Walsh debunks the rigmarole of kicking for goal

Wowsers. What a collector’s item of sparkling goal kicking from Luke Walsh last night!

The Penrith halfback’s spotless 11 from 11 was a magnificent showcase of accuracy from sideline to sideline, not to mention a perfect accompaniment to the razzle dazzle being served up by the Panthers on the CUA turf against a porous Warriors defence.

But it wasn’t just the results of the metronomic slipper show that knocked my socks off. In my eyes, there was something else that stood out from Walsh’s marksman masterclass.

Walsh. Not a jig in sight.

Walsh. Not a jig in sight.

The whole thing packed minimal histrionics.

With every raise of the touchies’ flags, it affirmed the fact that there is still a place in the game for a dull dime-a-dozen kicking action.

In recent times, boring and undistinguished routines have been under attack by a wave of alternative converters and their intricately detailed approaches.

So why is the ‘Goalkicking for Dummies’ manual slowly becoming eroded as a reading choice by the sharp shooters across all codes?

Up until recently, capably kicking a dead ball used to be so simple.

Settle down, wipe away some sweat, secure your mouthguard in some disgusting pocket of your body, take some right-angled steps and slot the thing through to papa.

Too easy!

But somewhere along the timeline of kicking history, theatrics and contortions became de rigeur. Just punching the footy over and/or through a set of poles is no longer enough.

Nowadays, you need an abstract statue pose followed by an audition for the Bolshoi Ballet to be in the running for kicking tee duties.

Cast your mind back.

Remember the uproar when ‘around the corner’ kicking first came in to the codes? Traditionalists of the toe poke lost their shizen at the time at what was considered a totally ludicrous newfangled method!

Then fast forward to the emergence of Ian ‘Chook’ Herron.

This wacky winger was considered a rugby league outcast with his blend of neck twisting and hot-stepping. Nobody imagined that things were going to get any weirder than him.

But no!

Cue Jonny Wilkinson in the heavenly game with the first of the stone sculptured poses, and then the nutcase workings of Mark Riddell, who seemed to be placing some kind of mid-air blessing on the Steeden just before he gave it the boot.

This lead to the current golden era we find ourselves in.

There’s one of modern footy’s most bizarre and long-winded routines with Jamie Soward’s version of a sedated soldier whose compass is playing up, which is complimented by Quade Cooper’s regular reminder that his favourite comic hero is Superman.

James O’Connor jumped on board for a while with his own zany stylings before coming to his senses when he realised the robot dance went out of fashion for a reason.

Don’t forgot those who appear to be experiencing debilitating stomach cramps while they carefully hold a fragile baby chicken in cupped hands, that being Adam Reynolds, Berrick Barnes and Jarrod Croker.

And the insanity isn’t just confined to the rugby codes either.

What about in the AFL?

There are extra trimmings on the usual stale bread and butter provided by West Coast’s Josh Kennedy and St Kilda’s Ahmed Saad.

Kennedy’s attention-seeking feet take over the whole show and regale the crowd with their version of the stutter rap, while Saad somehow incorporates a lazy Sunday arvo stroll that seemingly stretches from Coogee to East Perth.

There’s no doubt about it. The modern kicking culture has evolved in to something weirder than that slouching windmill dance your uncle does at family functions.

Does anybody have an intelligent explanation to this?

I’m sure many would say that it’s another sign that the psychological aspect of professional sport is becoming further prevalent, and fair enough. But could it be more than this?

Are managers and marketers encouraging their charges to build a brand through individuality? Is it time wasting? Or loss of bets with long-term consequences?

Or are footy players convinced that pretending to pray in a state of semi-constipation is genuinely effective when piloting a leather pillow on a beeline?

Whatever the reason, long may it continue.

I acknowledge the successes of guys like Walsh and their staple routines. Good luck to them all.

But there’s no doubt there is something entertaining about watching athletes blindly devote to their boot-scooting security blankets.

For some kickers, it seems keeping it straight relies on being slightly twisted.

 

 

Exclusive: leaked email reveals pre-meditated send-off at Brookie

In an exclusive, Stand Spray and Deliver has obtained a copy of an email that proves the decision by Matt Cecchin to send-off Jared Waerea-Hargreaves against Manly on Monday night may have been the pre-conceived actions of a raving madman that were inspired by a directive from above.

The email, sent on Sunday from senior official Shayne Hayne to referee’s boss Daniel Anderson, contains explosive information about Cecchin’s bizarre behaviour and mental state in the lead up to the game, along with references to a reminder from Anderson to “use the old marching orders.”

It also contained a strong suggestion from Hayne to “just do anything” to replace Cecchin for the clash between the Roosters and Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval otherwise risk looking “stupider.”

Travolta says 'go.'

Travolta says ‘go.’

This discovery, along with last night’s curious decision, adds further fuel to the widespread belief that the referee’s department is a bunch of disturbed and confused nerderlingers that operate on knee-jerk reactions, especially after coming on the back of weeks of public pressure to begin utilising heavier penalties for those who resort to foul play.

It also proves that News Limited aren’t the only ones who can Assange the daylights out of an inbox, and that when it comes to the game’s worst firewall, the Sharks aren’t entirely on their own.

 

 

From:  Shayne Hayne 
Sent:  Sunday, 12 May 2013 9:17am
To:  Daniel Anderson
Subject:  Cecch yourself before you wreck yourself

 
Dear Ando,

I’ve been meaning to pass this info on to you for a while now, but I’ve been flat out in the tanning bed. I hope sending this to you by email, as well as referring to you as ‘Ando’ is cool by you.

I’m not sure how else to break this to you, so I’ll just give it to you straight up.

You know that us referees are kooky types at the best of times, but lately our friend Matty Cecchin has completely re-written the book on bonkers behaviour. I reckon he could be on the verge of doing something stupid real soon, and I’m not talking about growing comically large sideburns.

The way he’s been carrying on, it’s like he’s really itchy to put his disciplinary foot down and send someone off in a game. And for more than 10 minutes and/or to get a gash cleaned up!

Can you believe it? Yeah bro, I know. It’s totes bananas. He probably still thinks scrum penalties exist!

In all seriousness though, he’s all types of whack right now. Tell me if you think this following behaviour is crook:

– Spending time alone off-site reading a rulebook full of post-it notes on the foul play section whilst watching old videos of Gorden Tallis and Mark Geyer

– Playing the music of the Bee Gees in the sheds before games whilst practising disco dancing complete with an unhealthy amount of finger pointing. (He looks like John Travolta on the gear. Not pretty but still kind of a LOL.)

– Becoming very short with the rest of the boys over simple matters like restaurant choices and Gatorade flavours. Whenever he won’t get his way, he just interrupts the discussion before telling us to ‘Go. Just go.’

– Repeatedly requesting to cover any game involving Luke O’Donnell or Richie Fa’aoso

– Constantly referring to players as ‘Gough Whitlam’

Seriously Ando, I know you reminded us the other day about using the old marching orders, but I think Matty is a bear-trap ready to snap at the tiniest indiscretion.

We all know the almighty dismissal is there for the big stuff; disembowelments, squirrel grips, Steve Matai etc, but I think he’s ready to lower the threshold to something minor just to get his fix!

I’m talking about something as trivial as a little tap around the nose, a grapple, maybe even five spear tackles. Geoff Toovey and Ray Hadley will be all over us! And life is already bad enough with having to wear weekly salmon garb.

I know you want us to show some spuds when it comes to calling on the early shower, but I’m worried there’s not enough Rheems to install to keep Matty at bay. That’s why I reckon you’ve got to replace him for tonight’s game at Brookie.

Make up a story, call in a bomb threat, call in Sean Hampstead. Just do anything! Otherwise he’s going to make us look even more stupider. We’re counting on you, Ando.

Call me if you need any further intel. I’ll be in the spray tan booth.

Stay onside,
The Shayne-Plane

PS: Have you seen Tony Archer lately? He’s got my Gossip Girl DVD. Need it back.

Hey NSW, Queensland has problems too

Listen to all of those whining rugby league people from NSW. Like myself.

As another State of Origin loss approaches, it’s nothing but headlines of impending terror from the tabloids, chaff-bagging from the shock jocks and verbalised doom and gloom from the fans like the following.

(For best realistic grouchiness, I suggest reading these out loud in the flinty and crabby voice you utilise when you repeat the statements of a person you’ve just argued with.)

“We’ve lost our fullback and now we have to reshuffle.”

“We’ve lost our winger and now we have to pick someone ordinary.”

“Our captain is going to be underdone.”

“We can’t decide on a five-eighth.”

“The coach likes Mitchell Pearce.”

And so on and so forth.

Should be playing for NSW.

Should be playing for NSW.

It’s like a room full of unfed tabby cats. Unless you indulge us with some kind of quail to take our mind off the pangs, the discontented shrieking never ends.

As a whole state, we are so stung by the past that this event is now just an unbearable annual burden on our ever-weakening shoulders.

I reckon if we could all just voluntarily contract chronic conjunctivitis around May so our eyes are welded closed by crust for the entirety of the series, we probably would, because we all know how it’s going to finish in the end.

But what we NSW folk need to realise is that we don’t hold the rights to interstate league anguish.

Sure, it may seem like we do after eight years of pain and regular doses of bad fortune and bewildering selections, but have you ever stopped and spared a thought for the Queenslanders and their plight?

Quite inconceivably, they have problems of their own too. And right now they are suffering in their flannelettes thanks to one big pickle in particular.

The poor and unfortunate winners from up above us, drunk on success yet still not inebriated enough to stop being served, have to decide between two of the game’s greatest ever players for one vital position in their spine.

After another bulldozing performance for the Rabbitohs last night that included two tries and much strewn damage, the Greg Inglis case for the Queensland fullback role has now become officially real.

Up until now, it’s been a stone cold moral that the annoyingly adroit Billy Slater- a handy fellow to have in your team as considered arguably the greatest fullback in the game’s history- would be slotted in at the back where he belongs, in the spot he has earned over a long period of dominance, and rightly so.

After years of remarking the boundaries for custodial conduct, it should take something monumental to usurp a player of his abilities, right?

Well that monumental something is happening right now at Souths.

Up until recently, while ever Inglis had been scorching turf outside of Origin selection time (or in Slater’s absence such as game three last year), the world beating of the Rabbitohs fullback has been considered nothing more than just a funny joke about being uber-rich to Mal Meninga and the Maroon state.

The old garage full of Maseratis and where to park them. Always a hoot for a bunch of rum-quaffing fat cats.

But no longer is the laughter echoing from the cane fields.

It has been replaced by the sounds of flailing sheets as sleep is interrupted by the racing minds of a state, with Meninga sure to be the worst hit by the unavoidable tragedy of his imminent decision to shunt a one-in-a-million player.

It is becoming a stark reality that the team can potentially be improved further with Inglis’s silky battering-ram qualities at fullback.

It is also fact that the team is already disgracefully sterling, and much of that is down to Slater’s influential enterprise in the role over the years.

Which way does Queensland go?

One of the game’s greatest all-time players with a thousand runs on the board? Or 2013’s stand-alone untouchable who is turning everything he touches to platinum?

Sure, Inglis could just be casually placed back in the centres, but that’s probably what NSW would prefer, and Meninga has made his coaching bread and butter in making sure things for us are as difficult and miserable as possible.

But wasting Slater out on a wing is undoubtedly in breach of a number of rugby league’s commandments.

It’s just a complete mess. What a terrible predicament the Queenslanders find themselves in.

You’re not a human with a beating heart if you don’t weep on the inside for them. C’mon benevolent and accommodating members of the community, surely one of you has set up a charity that I can make a donation to?

So next time we Blues fans want to cry foul about being the poor cousin of mate-against-mate, spare a thought for the poor Queenslanders. They have quandaries too.

Well, at least one anyway.

 

 

 

Hawking for clarity at marking contests

Has anybody heard much from Stephen Hawking lately?

Nah, me neither.

I reckon that’s because he’s been spending all of his time locked away in his research laboratory applying every ounce of his significant cognitive clout to nutting out the solar system’s latest perplexing enigma.

No, I’m not talking about translating a piece of Seal’s feedback on The Voice.

Hawking: tough on 'holding the ball' calls and not afraid to use the video system.

Hawking: tough on ‘holding the ball’ calls and not afraid to use the video system.

I’m referring to the AFL’s new marking contest rules.

And unfortunately for Hawking and the people of the game, something tells me we won’t be hearing a triumphant ‘I’ve cracked it!’ from the king brainiac’s voice emulator anytime soon.

The laws of the one-on-one contest have been fidgeted from a comprehensible and unbroken function to an intricately detailed mess, a state of affairs termed by furious footyfolk as “totally stuffed beyond recognition” and by the AFL as “better than before.”

It was once an area of the game that was easily adjudicated thanks to its concise legal parameters, but now it’s an indecipherable mechanical minefield that requires disentangling from all stakeholders involved in a blink of an eye.

In comparison, fellow famous IQ bruisers of the world like additive combinatorics, multidimensional forensic psychometrics and the AFL Match Review Panel’s grading system seem like something you should find on the underside of a bottle-top.

Going off results so far, it appears that Andrew Demetriou and his umpiring overlord Jeff Gieschen are in stark need of some accomplished Harvard graduates, some highly sophisticated androids or even Hawking to be out in the middle with the whistle to successfully interpret and implement this brain-sapping rule.

Once the simplistic domain of grappling goal-hording primates in an enthralling power struggle, the marking contest is now a withered shadow of its former self due to this law fiddling that was mainly driven by two factors.

Firstly, the gross over-analysis by the gophers at the Laws of the Game committee, and secondly, the application of these guidelines to genuine OCD standards by Gieschen and his whistle men.

This was a free kick. FOR TEARING OUT THE GAME'S HEART.

This was a free kick. FOR TEARING OUT THE GAME’S HEART.

No longer can one viciously Greco-Roman their opponent as the Sherrin approaches the drop-zone like the good old days when yesteryear’s rock solid blokes spat mortar if the game offered them protection.

Under the new law, your opponent is cotton-woolled from contact by a myriad of conditions that act like a release of strategically placed funnelwebs on their torso.

Wrap your cerebral cords around this.

Bumping, blocking, pushing, holding, dabbing, probing, stroking, inspecting or impinging upon your adversary is now off-limits, lest you cough up expensive free kicks right in front of your own pegs and/or make your coach test a handset’s strength on a bench and/or spark a week of community caterwauling.

However, the trade-off is that you can use your lever ‘like a bumper bar’, provided you don’t move it wildly, extend it or straighten it, unless you are carrying a T-square and protractor so you can measure out a quarter, half or three-quarter nudge, and as long as it doesn’t look like two movements.

Piece of cake, right?

Bring 'em back!

Bring ’em back!

Yeah, maybe if you’re a savant.

Or somebody who has refereed at a breakdown in a game of rugby.

It’s fantastic that the ravenous AFL press pack is being given this rare gem of footy nannying to keep the quiet days of the week ablaze, but this is just hands-waving-in-the-air, calling-talkback-radio and letter-to-the-editor madness.

But before we go completely ape, let’s take a breath.

If we put down our pitchforks, be positive and look forward, there may be one thing we can take from all of this brouhaha.

Amongst all of that prohibited contact, I can’t see anything outlawing the use of the feet, shins and knees.

An evolution that sees the return of regular high-flying hangers, anyone?

 

Bulldogs got back?

In the interests of perpetuating the stereotype of rugby league’s fickle water cooler, where memories are short, determinations are rash and a week is a long time, I’m going on the record today by saying the Bulldogs are back, baby!

For those reasonable and sensible who don’t exaggerate whilst canvassing over a plastic cup, this equates to last year’s grand finalists gradually inching towards being ‘back’.

So far, their return is more like a surreptitious entry through the rear fire escape at a party rather than a burst through the front door in a birthday suit while the speeches are taking place.

All you other brothers can't deny. The Dogs may be ready to party.

All you other brothers can’t deny. The Dogs may be ready to party.

But you get the sense they are just grabbing their first beer and planning to get naked and hijack the karaoke, if you get the drift of my soiree metaphor.

With the currency system of Australian rugby league still trading in typical fashion, where wins squash controversy and losses inflate it, after a few victories on the trot it looks like Des Hasler’s men could be slowly getting back in to the black for playoffs cred.

Last night’s 40-4 thrashing of an undermanned Tigers side was another quiet step in their 2013 rebuild that should have all the Canterbury peeps grinning in approval, mainly for the relief that reparations have finally begun and also for their convenient lack of exposure to the spotlight.

Sure, nobody is poppin’ Criss over a cruisey demolition of a withered schoolboy side and a lucky rust-coated win against the Sharks, but at least there’s healing afoot.

What has also helped kick-start the restoration of the club’s ego was a culmination of positive bit-part stories over the last few weeks that has kept the tabloid naysayers elsewhere.

Obviously, there’s been the rather tentative but much welcomed return of Ben Barba.

Then there was rapid-fire securing of signatures with Aiden Tolman, Greg Eastwood, Frank Pritchard and Josh Reynolds committing to the club long term.

Now with James Graham returning from the Luis Suarez rehab facility along with Sam Kasiano’s eventual recovery from a ‘leg’ ailment- an absence speculated as being somewhere in between a kebab problem or a protest- and on paper things are slowly beginning to look all ‘2012’ again.

So with all of this fuzzy feelgood news being served up with a pinch of that winning feeling, it looks like the dark cloud hanging around the Bulldogs may just have been fire-blanketed, at least for the time being until another female journalist approaches their compound.

This break in mud-flinging and tabloid attention was much needed after an autumn of discontent that included some soap-style catastrophe classics.

There was rumoured infighting. Supposed inter-club sleazing. Ben Barba’s issues with the re-spins. A humiliating belting at the hands of a former employee. Todd Greenberg jumping ship for the greener pastures of subordination. Tony Williams. And the losses. My God, the losses!

But now in true rugby league style, suddenly it’s all good in the hood at Belmore again, which is evidenced in a slow-rising continuity in attack and an increase in cheek from Michael Ennis.

Hasler has returned to giving the officialdom a good toasting at game’s end, and heck, even Williams is getting across the stripe!

Sure, a 3-5 record is still underwhelming and lacking a few big fish, and the winning must continue if they want to experience nice things like sparse attention from the press and the satisfaction of a good frolic in September.

But if they do, then they really will be ‘back’. And that could mean nudity.

Forget innocuous injuries by praising the panel-beaten

Modern day footy has always been an extreme high-risk venture with a reputation for inflicting severe long-term injury upon those who take part.

Recently however, the mutilating hasn’t always been caused by an overseas trip with the West Coast Eagles or one of Richie Fa’aoso’s many spear tackles.

In 2013, footballers have hit a new jittery height of fragility and the MediCabs are running hot from coast-to-coast as a result.

What we are seeing are those pesky invisible landmines and well-concealed snipers causing bewildering injuries from thin air, and nobody important with a clipboard, stethoscope or microphone can really work out why.

In a bizarre change of scenery, the part of local footy where you get ferociously bashed at high speed by a waiting pack of gorillas has now become the easy part of surviving Australia’s top flite codes. Players nowadays are nervous over dealing with a silent and intangible sweepstake of bad fortune that is a real pickle to identify.

It’s the most meagre contact with an opposition player or a deceptively flat playing surface that now possesses the ability to interrupt the harmonious strum of ligaments with a sickening twang, disconnect a shoulder from the torso like ready-to-retire Lego, and inflict eye-rolling concussion with what appears a feathery brush.

The buzzword is ‘innocuous’. The bogan word is ‘soft’. But this serves to only label the carnage. All we want to know is why the hell is this happening?

Can we blame training workloads, fatigue or poor medical advice? Is it the increasing speed of the games? Or is it Robert Lui’s cousin’s fault?

Upon contacting the major codes for an explanation, I was met with the response of ‘Stuffed if we know’ from the AFL, ‘It’s probably just a coincidence’ from the ARU and was encouraged by the NRL to ‘Start calling Todd Greenberg about this stuff from now on please.’

My neck, my back...

My neck, my back…

With a dire lack of leadership on this issue, the durability of our footballers in question and nothing showing on the arthroscope as a solution, I thought it best that we lift the spirits of the nation by celebrating those immune from these recent ills.

I’m talking about the panel-beaten hombres who resurrect before our very eyes, who appear as though they’ve won the knee-pop lottery or a well-earned snooze before springing back to life and contributing within the very match they were nearly pronounced dead.

The respective footy codes could do a lot worse than to swab this trio and inject the strain in to the current generation of glass.

Steve Matai

Rugby league isn’t rugby league without the Kiwi centre trying to decapitate his opposite before halting a game with his 78th serious neck injury. On a good night, this will spread down to the shoulder and arm region to give the impression that has he not only broken his neck, but he’s also suffering from a heart attack too.

Regardless of the ailment, Matai always seems to rejuvenate steadily from the critical ‘death’s door’ to the stable ‘heroic refusal of a stretcher’, before amazing all by rising to his feet as if been healed by an American pastor, ready to belt the next Burgess brother that comes his way.

If he wanted higher socks then he should've just asked.

If he wanted higher socks then he should’ve just asked.

Is odds-on for a contract with Nurofen should he survive his football career.

Tatafu Polotau-Nau

As the bodies peel away from a breakdown in a Waratahs game, you can guarantee that their laborious hooker will be found at the bottom in a lifeless heap faintly clutching at a cavalcade of paralysing aches from top-to-toe. He is rugby union’s ultimate mystery cocktail of body trauma.

Polotau-Nau spends more time on his back wrapped in bandages on a rugby field than Heidi Fleiss doing an Egyptian Mummy role-play. And again like Fleiss, half the time he’s sleeping through it before miraculously rallying for the next ruck after a simple sip of a drink and a decent strapping.

So seriously busted does his troublesome knee appear at regular points in a game that he has had to block Lars on Twitter due to constant harassment.

Joel Selwood

You know you're crook when your wake-up call requires four humans

You know you’re crook when your wake-up call requires four humans

Concussion rules were introduced to the AFL to prevent maniacs like this bloke from producing repeated heroics on the field amidst habitual narcolepsy.

Due to fearless and selfless attacks on the ball, Selwood can often be found dozy and/or bleeding at the bottom of packs and seemingly done for the day. However, give the man a simple pat on the scone with the magic sponge and he stunningly relaunches to continue on his ferocious merry way of high-octane physicality.

The inspirational Geelong skipper has a penchant for the fashionable head gash, and if he isn’t already a share-holding ambassador for Elastoplast, then perhaps they too suffer from regular trips to Disneyland like him.

 

Warming the Pine

Sport for those with comfortable couches.