Archive for May, 2013

Why [insert your state] will win State of Origin this year

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.

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.

This year's winners photo. Yes, even Petero wil be there

This year’s winners photo. Yes, even Petero wil be there

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.

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?

Dane Eldridge: Livin' on a prayer

Dane Eldridge: Livin’ on a prayer

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.

You can follow these charming clowns on Twitter: Paddy @WarmingthePine and Dane @playup_roosters. You can also find Dane’s blog right here.

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Refs should be thanking the new fall guy in sport

It used to be that the sourest of sportsfolk would predictably turn their heads toward one minority at the end of a close loss. Or an embarrassing loss. Or a loss marred by controversy. Or a completely uncontroversial loss. Any loss, really.

I talk, of course, of the endgame barrages delivered to referees that have become both commonplace and complacently common. Ricky Stuart is one of many who have turned the blaming of referees for his side’s losses into an artform. Sure, it’s not as well expressed as a Tom Wolfe exposé, or as aesthetically dazzling as a Raphael, but it still forms a kind of guttural, mildly amusing art.

For a coach in the NRL, performing in this genre is easy. He simply must express his frustration to his club officials, week after week, at those interminable referees and their attempts to foil his side’s cheating. Then he must convince them that it’s worth 10,000 of their dollars (which surely could be better used in developing grass roots or some other ideal proffered as another of the many reasons his mighty game is losing the battle to AFL, or football, or ping pong) to let Ricky slag the refs after a particularly difficult game. Then Ricky Stuart hands a cheque to the NRL, paid in full by his club’s board, and gets a ‘fairer’ rub of the green for the next couple of games, as refs are scared that ol’ man Stuart is going to run after them with his musket if they don’t penalise the stuffing out of the other team.

But I’ve noticed that there haven’t been nearly as many articles about how clueless the referees are since the darkest day in Australian sport. Ever since ASADA has left their perch high above the Aussie sporting landscape and descended to the level of the daily sporting grind, they have become the new whipping boy for clueless columnists who want to create smoke where there are barely fire hazards, let alone a fire.

Every day we are exposed to one or another personality in the rugby league community break out the tar and brush analogy. Inevitably we then see another tired joke about Australia’s tar shortage. This leads to an article in response to the previous statement about how the investigation has to be over before we can give people the results, something people still don’t seem to get. Then we get a couple of hours of lull while there’s actual football on, then some idiot asks about ASADA again and we’re back to square one. This has been going on for two months now.

I must say it’s a lot more interesting than referee-slagging. The structural form of ASADA-bagging isn’t nearly as well defined and therefore is poorly constructed in comparison to the well-developed genre of bagging match officials. But we’re certainly getting to a point where people are blindly saying the same thing over and over again the public arena, heeding conventions no one knew existed three months ago. No one listens, but no one points out the ridiculousness of it all either.

Phil Gould is flip flopping on whether he likes ASADA more than a freshly caught fish deciding whether his left or right would be the better side to expire on. One day he understands completely that the investigation will take time, and that there is substance to these allegations. The next he’s columnising about how those up in their ivory towers (no doubt just as pompous, arrogant and disrespectful as those darned referees were) are just sticking their noses into the ‘Greatest game of all’ to have their moment in the sun.

ASADA, by giving themselves the exposure they have, have hampered their cause if anything. But consider this: when that announcement was made, with Jason Clare and Kate Lundy and Andrew Demetriou and Benji Barba, and they told everyone they were hot on the heels of a bunch of people who were cheating by using performance-enhancing drugs, do you think that clubs that did have an institutionalised illegal doping program (that is if there were any) would have continued on their merry way? Or do you maybe think that the announcement on that dark, black, opaquely noir day for sport would have prompted clubs to undergo a thorough cleaning out of the draws as well as a disposing of their programs, at least while the investigation is ongoing.

If there were clubs doping, I wager they would have stopped. The cleaning out of the cupboards bit is why the investigation is taking so long. I’m sure everyone involved would have been told to zip it if they were part of a club that had been cheating.

But I will say to those who continue to rant about how unfair all this is: they wouldn’t have announced anything if there was nothing to announce. Cooperation is extremely unlikely. We have a case in point down on the Sutherland Shire, where folks still seem to think it’s ok to turn up to a legally binding meeting in trackies and thongs.

And just as you had to get used to referees making mistakes, you’re just going to have to get used to this ASADA thing.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair