Category Archives: Recaps
While I was sleeping off my Napa-headbutt-induced apoplexy (again), the Catalans Dragons, from Perpignan in the south of France, won the Challenge Cup at Wembley. They became the first non-English team to do so since the competition’s inception in 1896. It’s an amazing milestone in the game’s reconstruction in France and the slow globlisation of the sport. In the last two seasons, we’ve seen:
- The first pro rugby league team in the Americas
- PNG Hunters won the Queensland Cup
- Fiji and Tonga made the World Cup semi-finals
- Catalan Dragons won the Challenge Cup
For the rugby league lefties – as Mascord likes to call them – all that’s required now is a Warriors NRL premiership, which remains a possibility but perhaps not likely, the promotion of at least Toronto, if not also London and Toulouse, to the Super League and a couple of successful end of season Tests. Should we at least get a Wolfpack promotion and Test matches, we could call 2018 a qualified success.
And then Souths won a scrum against the feed, which made me forget all the other items of interest that’s happened in the NRL this year, e.g. Immortals, retirements of future Immortals, topsy-turvy results, Blues winning Origin and a new women’s premiership.
What a time to be a rugby league fan.
News came through yesterday that the All-Stars game is going to change from an Indigenous against the World format to an Indigenous Australia vs Maori NZ game. All I can say in response is, “Finally.” It makes a decision over who to support much more straightforward, allowing for some emotional investment in the game that’s been missing in the past.
Now if there’s a way to ensure some diversity in the commentators, so we don’t have to listen to the same old tired points of view, and the NRL might just be on to something. If the players turn up for it, as Beetson did in 1980, over time it may well build into something Origin-like. Commercially, it’s a winner. Just think of the jerseys. The All-Stars game is now a much easier sell for New Zealand. The real beauty is that, much as the NRL currently flogs off one of the Origin games to Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and elsewhere, they can sell the hosting rights to the All-Stars game to smaller areas, e.g. Newcastle, Townsville or Hamilton, where the stadiums aren’t big enough for Origin but the sport can still offer an appropriately scaled showpiece match in exchange for taxpayer dollars. I imagine something similar might happen with women’s Origin.
It’s a brave new world of relatively smart decision making. Just need the powers that be to organise a decent end of season Test/s and we may be able to make a fist of this rugby league thing without folding a bunch of Sydney clubs.
I suppose if I was going to write an op-ed to open this week’s post, it should be about Cleary’s non-defection to the Panthers and what’s going to happen to Bennett at Red Hill. If I am honest, coach movements are about as interesting to me as bowel movements (or you could read Mascord’s much better take). If I can quote at length from Soccernomics, which offers this insight among many, many others:
A manager might not affect his team’s result, but after the game he’s the person who explains the result at the press conference. He is the club’s face and voice. That means he has to look good – which is why so many of them have glossy, wavy hair – and say the right things in public. The forte of most managers is not winning matches – something over which they have little control – but keeping all the interest groups in and around the clubs (players, board, fans, media, sponsors) united behind them.
With a few obvious exceptions, I’d be surprised if the NRL was much different.
The battle for the soul of rugby league continues, as the vested interests, and their patsies in the media, continue to fling poop at the refs and the organisation and the game like a bunch of bored monkeys. Which is basically what it comes down to: the rich and powerful (at least by rugby league standards), bereft of meaning in their lives, look for playthings to amuse them. The rest of us suffer the consequences.
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about this week. In a strange turn of events, Andrew Johns has called for fewer teams in Sydney:
It was a throwaway comment that we perhaps shouldn’t read too much into but I thought the response was interesting. Those of us north of the Tweed seemed to be praising Johns for the first time ever while the response south was decidedly more frosty and defensive. The best case most Sydneysiders will offer to reduce congestion in their market is to move a given team, which if you dig a little deeper, is inevitably their least liked team. Funny that. Sydney rugby league’s tribalism causes an astonishing amount of petty short-sightedness.
We’ve been talked at a lot about refereeing shockers but the media have been having some serious howlers of late. Here’s a selection of some recent headlines from Fox League:
- ‘Courting disaster’: Experts unload on Widdop’s new hairdo
- ‘Get rid of touch judges’: Elias’ big call after refereeing shocker
- It has been described as one of the worst refereeing howlers in the history of the game… and it has cost the @RaidersCanberra their season.
Then there’s The Roar which, in between really good thinkpieces and standard coverage of, you know, the actual sport, will offer you any angle you like:
I think Donald Horne said, “Rugby league is a dumb game, run by people who share its dumbness.” *
Let’s remember that refereeing is really hard. Running ten kilometres of sprints is hard. Officiating a rugby league game is hard. Trying to do both at the same time is extremely difficult and not something most people could actually do (miss me with “they get paid well”; refs are paid far less than players and media talking heads). Adding a teleconference with the Bunker on top of that is beyond human capability.
Let’s also remember that the referees and the Bunker get things pretty right almost all of the time. The officials are certainly a load more accurate than commentators or punters who get to watch it repeatedly in slow motion without the running. And I think the Bunker is a lot better than most sports’ review systems. Try watching a baseball review sometime.