NRL Finals Week 1: New Territory

by Russel Hansen

 

 

Today South Sydney play two finals matches in Melbourne. What a bonus: before the NRL qualifying final, Souths play the enemy – the Roosters in an elimination match in the Toyota Cup.

In some ways, it is still a little surreal. A lifetime of ribbing and sledging, particularly living in Brisbane has been my lot as a Souths tragic. The sledgers are a mixture of family, friends, colleagues, and in my case, as I am into my 25th year working in schools: students of all ages! The standard line is quite often, “why don’t you support the Broncos, or the Cowboys?”

Usually the first weekend of the finals means a decrease in interest in NRL for me. Sure, I’ll have the radio on Grandstand or the Continuous Call and I’ll still be hoping teams we love to hate – there are several – including Brisbane, the Roosters and Manly, don’t get through to the decider. No major viewing though, sometimes not even the big one. I love listening to sport on the radio.

Dare to dream … by 10pm tonight Souths may be one game from the grand final, and if the Cowboys do the expected in Townsville, that team from Brisbane – the team that commands all the media attention in this part of the world, could be preparing for mad Monday.

Today has a very different feel to 2007, when under Jason Taylor Souths last played a semi – final match.  My recollections of that match were: we were not really given a chance by anyone, Dean Widders- yes, the same man the co owner Russell Crowe declared ‘I love you Dean Widders’ to during the Southside Story on ABC TV during 2007, played in the centres, and generally we were lack lustre, cannon fodder for the silvertails on their dung heap at Brookvale. We played at 8:30pm on the Saturday night. Thanks David Gyngell and channel 9.

My wife claims I am a hoarder (great rugby league name I say!) Of course she is correct.

I don’t have a scrap book as such these days, however I do have the article by Margie McDonald “Kick it to me, veteran Mellor challenges Manly’ from The Australian on the eve of the 2007 finals in my files.

Interesting take on the game … now Mellor is part of the refereeing ranks.

The Rabbitohs team list read:

Feltuli Talanoa; Shannon Hegarty; Nigel Vagana; Yileen Gordon; Paul Mellor; Joe Williams; Jeremy Smith; Peter Cusack (capt); Shane Rigon; Roy Asotasi (capt); Manase Manuokofoa; John Sutton; Ben Rogers. Interchange: Isaac Luke; Dean Widders; Luke Stuart; Michael Greenfield.

Note: we just had the two co captains in 2007! Isaac Luke was on the bench, as he is today, John Sutton was in jersey 12 in the second row. Joe Williams had just signed with Penrith. All of the tipsters in The Australian – Dan Koch; Stuart Honeysett; Brent Read; Peter Kogoy; Michael Hagan; Laurie Daley and Margie McDonald all correct tipped Manly.

Richard Hinds wrote an outstanding piece in the Sydney Morning Herald today ‘You’ve come along way, Bunnies’

We have read many versions of the similar story line, the debt, the poor facilities, asbestos, rats and the journeymen players.

Why does today feel different? Because we are a genuine chance! Moving on from the theme of ‘how far have we come’ we are a genuine chance today because we are a well coached, well prepared team, and finally the on field performances are matching the off field side of the operations at Redfern.

Today’s team sheet contains a mixture of proven class players – Inglis, Burgess, Croker. The enigma  DaveTaylor. Local juniors Nathan Peats, Jason Clark, Nathan Merriit. Rookies Andrew Everingham and Adam Reynolds.  John Sutton, back in the number 6 shirt these days, has been relatively consistent in 2012. If Sutton runs tonight, we are a huge chance. Isaac Luke off the bench, likewise.

We used to hear of the membership numbers and sponsorship, while on the field, Souths were at best, inconsistent. Round 26 for the last two years, with a finals spot on the line, we were smashed by the Dragons and Knights respectively.

As a student of coaching and the coaching process, I would say Michael Maguire is clearly an outstanding coach.

I spoke to him briefly the morning after Souths lost to the Broncos at Suncorp earlier this year. It was a Friday night game. Most Broncos games are.  It’s good for channel 9’s ratings apparently.

‘Madge’ told me had already watched the video several times. He was not happy, and in a very quiet, steely way said ‘we will beat them if we have to play them again (in the finals).’

Souths are in good hands.

In a change from 2007, Laurie Daley has tipped Souths today – perhaps Nathan Merritt may be some chance of making Origin next year?

I must get down to the TAB. Souths to win, Merritt to score the first try.

Glory glory

 

 

 

Russel Hansen

SSFC member #6199, Brisbane Saturday September 8th 2012

rabbitohruss@gmail.com

Twitter: @Russel_Hansen

 

 

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