Archive for June, 2012

Raiders name seventeen captains, ARL Commission praises “innovation”

Following in the footsteps of Port Adelaide coach Matthew Primus, the Canberra Raiders have named seventeen captains for this week’s fixture against the Dragons.

Hoping to further press the Green Machine’s advantage over the Dragons, a team they have defeated in twelve of the last thirteen meetings, coach David Furner said that having seventeen captains would ensure there was stronger leadership across the paddock.

“I think in the past we have been guilty of not having enough leaders in the team. By bestowing the captaincy upon all seventeen, I think that really gives us the best opportunity to showcase our captaincy skills as a unit, and as we all know, too many cooks spoil the broth,” Furner said.

Dragons captain Ben Hornby, visibly scared after hearing the news, said: “If the Raiders think they can intimidate us by selecting their entire team as captain then they are absolutely right.

“Since hearing the news the boys have prepared terribly, and are regretting our choice to play professional football at this point.

“I am curious to see how the toss will work though.”

Furner failed to answer questions about how seventeen men can feasibly toss a coin, which has only fuelled speculation from the game’s top thinkers. So far, the pundits have suggested a ‘best of seventeen’ coin toss, in which every Raiders captain tosses one coin for Ben Hornby to call. It’s sort of like two up, but not really.

In what was a rather confusing press conference, Furner also related his controversial yet canny decision back to the ubiquitous and largely imaginative fight against the marauding hosts of AFL folk from south of the Murray.

“I really feel that this is an area that the AFL has been making significant gains on us for a long time, and just like in Western Sydney, I think it’s time we took the fight to them.”

The coaching masterstroke has been praised universally by AFL coaches and players alike. Trailblazing Port Adelaide coach Matthew ‘Optimus’ Primus admitted that he didn’t know it was possible to pick more than seven captains.

When asked about Furner’s decision, Primus said: “I’m aware that our footy club has long been a leader in this field, and we have been proud of the role our footy club played in that.

“But honestly, I think what Don Fervid has done at the Raiders other-type-of-footy club is revolutionary.

“Sometimes you just have to sit back and realise that sometimes people at other footy clubs  just have better ideas than you, and the only person we can really thank for these ideas is baby Jesus.”

NSW Origin coach Ricky Stuart has reportedly considered following in Furner’s footsteps, conceding that “not having enough captains” has been the largest and possibly the only factor in NSW’s failure to win anything in any form of sport, ever.

When quizzed on whether he would name injured backrower Glenn Stewart as an ‘eighteenth captain’ were he not to take the field on Wednesday, namesake Ricky replied: “Look, captaincy of injured squads is something we’ve been experimenting with. At this stage maintaining that level of leadership off the field while the rest of the squad is actually playing Origin Football seems crucial to our success.”

In other relatively related news, NSW have named Jamie Buhrer, Trent Merrin and Jamie Soward as captains of dumped players from the last few series, and the Maroons have named Chris Sandow, Ashley Graham, Scott Bolton and Sam Kasiano as captains of those who haven’t played Origin Football yet, but may do so in the future.

It’s all in the attitude

It’s lucky that the NRL isn’t subjected to the same scrutiny as the parliament, because last Thursday’s episode dedicated to the Women in League round would have been shown to have as thin a guise as Beau Ryan’s Tommy Raudonikis. In fact, Beau Ryan’s Tommy only contributed to the disastrous five minutes that could have cost someone their job.

It is not all bad that the slip ups largely escaped censure, because for the most part it was a nice and fitting celebration for the women involved in Rugby League. Overall, one got the impression that the hosts, the writers, the anchors and the crowd were genuinely celebrating what they told us they were celebrating. I will give them credit and say that it really looked like they were trying to celebrate women’s role within the game.

May I say too that Leila McKinnon made a really good guest host and a nice change of pace for a show that can be often be a buffoonery overload. It is wonderful to see someone who really did her research and showed a better understanding of some aspects of the game than the other hosts have in the twenty years the show has been running. Statistics on the footy show that don’t come out of  David Middleton’s mouth? Who’d have thought?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but notice the quizzical look on Leila’s face (I’m going out on a limb and say that Leila looks and sounds to me like a good journalist, a well informed person and someone who will not tolerate casual sexism) when Fatty said that “unfortunately” Germaine Greer is still alive. For all her bad stigma in Rugby League circles for whatever reasons,  I doubt that Fatty fully understands Germaine’s contribution to society. And for the eternal deity’s sake, Fatty, can you save the jokes about Germaine for episodes that aren’t ENTIRELY AND EXCLUSIVELY DEDICATED TO WOMEN IN THE GAME OF FOOTBALL? I REALISE IT’S MOSTLY DUDES WHO PLAY, BUT WE’RE TRYING TO SHOOT AN EPISODE THAT CELEBRATES THE ROLE OF PEOPLE WITHOUT A PENIS THIS WEEK. IT WOULD HELP IF YOU DIDN’T MAKE JOKES CASUALLY RIDICULING WOMEN THIS WEEK, AND PROBABLY FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS JUST TO BE SAFE.

Thankfully, Beau Ryan as Tommy Raudonikus saved the situation, humourously remarking that Fatty’s job is “Gooooooooooonnnnne.” It could well have been had there been a political correctness brigade watching the show.

Unfortunately for Beau, he too made a couple of sexist gaffs. Firstly, addressing Leila as “Love,” even as Tommy Raudonikis, ain’t on. Secondly, using the word “women” in a derogatory sense, ie. “The Queensland team is full of women,” is not ideal in an episode about how great women are for Rugby League. By this stage the producer would have had no teeth, fingernails or hair.

I suppose Beau could have meant that women are in fact superior to men, and that Queensland’s team has been full of women for the last six years, thus their dominance. But this was patently not what Beau meant, and it was, in fact, meant as an insult.

While none of these things are not super sexist, and didn’t prompt a media shitstorm or a Mel Gibson revenge movie, I do question the value of these Women in League rounds if the attitude of men within the game is still that backward.

Only this year two players were banned, but not for life, for assaulting their girlfriends. The league celebrates Greg Bird despite his past indiscretions against women. I know they don’t speak for the game, but even Fatty saying it was unfortunate Germaine hadn’t carked it or Beau saying the Queensland team are women shows that the attitude of the game hasn’t progressed as far as the Women in League celebrations would have us think.

But allow me to be positive. They really really tried. They tried to celebrate the women’s role in the game that has a 41% female fanbase, but a little more research and a shift in attitude would make this seem a lot more genuine.

And some basic briefing from someone with a bit of sense might have helped. Tip for the hosts: Don’t associate things female with things necessarily bad or weak. Don’t call females “Love” and “Toots.” And don’t pay out Germaine Greer. Especially on the only week of the year you dedicate the show to women.

You got away with it this time Footy Show, but it’s really time to put your money where your mouth is with this whole Women in League thing.

Stop hanging me out to dry, Bill!

I am aware that incorrect refereeing decisions are made every week in the NRL, AFL, Rugby Union and pretty much every other sport on earth where there are a set of rules officiated by third party officials. For years we were told as youngsters there was nothing we could do about it, and to be big boys and accept the decision and move on with our lives. In the NRL, it seems, no one was brought up with any spirit of fair play or respect for officials, and we are left in this ridiculous position of watching Bill Harrigan and his offsider (onsider?) Stuart Raper fronting up to the swarming journalists and telling them who made a wrong decision and why.

Journalistic dynamite.

None of the arguments I will make in this piece will be overly persuasive, and I put this down to the fact that everyone, and I mean all the stakeholders in football, has a different view of almost every single incident that happens in a football game. How different people’s views are depend a lot on the incident and their position in relation to the incident. NRL referees are paid to be a neutral observer in contest in which there is a lot at stake. In the NRL they are playing for sheep stations.

Like footballers, referees make mistakes in their trade. Footballers earn the ire of the supporters, predominantly the opposition’s supporters and sometimes their own whether they make mistakes or not. Referees seem to earn the ire of everyone, again whether they make mistakes or not. If one was to believe Brian Smith, his team has been hard done by by the officials every week of his 500 game coaching career. But you know what, I don’t believe Brian Smith. His players have not had to triumph in the face of officiating adversity every single time they take the park. And that fact that this man so vehemently believes this, and he is listened to and echoed by countless numbers of fans shows me that they just don’t get it.

Referees don’t have a vendetta on players, coaches or fans. They like the game they officiate and want it to be played attractively and fairly. Fairly. Fairly! They want the game to be fair! Get it? If we were to play under Brian Smith’s rules no one would watch, because the Roosters would get a penalty every ruck and no tries would ever be scored against them. Enforcing Brian Smith’s rules would be unfair.

The worst thing about all of this, though, is not that Brian Smith is listened to by fans, or that this culture is spreading throughout all clubs. No. The worst thing is that Bill Harrigan has decided to out all the referees that make mistakes, however small or large. The fact that Bill sees it fit to dignitfy this bullshit, and it is bullshit, with an “official response” (pardon the pun) is beyond ridiculous.

Not only that, but as a referee, I would hate having my boss nitpick over my performance every week in front of the entire media flock. Brian Smith doesn’t stand up at a press conference with a projector behind him and go over every mistake Mitchell Pearce made last week. Nor do the media expect him to. We shouldn’t then expect it of our referees. Leave the criticism to the critics, and have some solidarity within the organisation. I’m all for transparency, but thin skinned players and coaches don’t deserve Bill’s apologies with the way they go about things.

The only thing this achieves is making the coaches and players believe that their complaints have some validity. Yes, the referees make mistakes, but it is not for the referees boss to say whether this offside decision cost the Bulldogs the game. Leave that to Ray Warren, Phil Gould, Paul Kent, and people who comment on the Fox Sports website saying that the standard of refereeing is worse now than ever.

The coaches never stop telling the referees how they should get better. If I was Bill Harrigan and I had a press conference today, this is what I would say.

“If you, the coaches, think your team deserves to win the game then prove it. Play better than the opposition. Take the referees out of the game. When a decision is made, don’t cry about it blame it for a momentum shift. Have the self belief that you can defend your line better and score more tries than the opposition. Look to yourselves for answers. And don’t expect me to come out every week and dignify your whinging with a response. My refs cop more than you ever will.”

Do it Bill. I dare you.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair