NRL Round 3 – Canberra v St George: The Hoodoo and the Subaru

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Listening to rugby league on the radio is a frantic experience. Because you’ve no idea of the exact field position of the play, how much a player bends the line or even who has the momentum. But it’s sure as shit better than nothing, and the Subaru is wired to 702 on a hot Sunday afternoon.

I’m in Sydney, Wentworthville to be exact. My Granddad is having his 75th birthday at Wenty Leagues, and the Camptons are out in force. After a serviceable chicken schnitzel and more laughs then I can count, it’s time to get on the Great Western Highway back to Bathurst. It’s my Raiders against the Dragons, and all the talk has been about hoodoos. They way they played last week; the Raiders are going to need every bit of help the jinx will provide.

As I set out, the sun is high and hot, and I roll past Penrith just as the Rabbitohs hold off the fast finishing Panthers. By the time I hit Katoomba, the Waratahs have completed a strong 27-24 win over Auckland, with a dramatic finish that saw the car in front of me beep their horn in delight (at least that’s what I think. The L-plater in front of him was moving a little slow).

Kick-off is at 6:30, and the pre-game chatter winds up after Blackheath. I can just see the “Welcome to Lithgow” sign as the game gets underway. For a moment I consider stopping in at a pub to watch the start, but I’m making good time. From the sounds of things, the Raiders have come out pumped. Brett White, who hasn’t played for nearly a year, is fired up, but it’s the Dragons who cross the line after a kick from Nathan Fien.

Bathurst is 12km away when the Raiders hit back, with Reece Robison dives on a Blake Ferguson kick. It’s only when I see it later that I’ll know that this is one of the sloppiest tries in rugby league history. The first half is coming to a close as I roll into “The Thurst”, and I listen to the next five minutes in the car park. For reasons only clear to Jamie Soward, he boots over a sensational field goal just before the break, and the score is 6-5 to Canberra. I dash inside a dingy pub near my house, and just catch the highlights on television.

The Raiders show more bite in the second half then they have all season. From the very first set Jarrod Croker latches onto an offload and races down to the Dragons line. Matt Prior pulls him down, and the support play flies down to set a backline, with the clear intent to take advantage of the staggered defense. But Reece Robinson doesn’t have time such things, and sneaks down the blind to score untouched.  Former Raider Daniel Vidot scores soon after, and the dour game is alive.

Sam Williams, who could pass for 16 without his headgear, hoists a bomb, and Croker flies high to claim it and score. Not soon after Josh McCrone fires a pass out to Sandor Earl to touchdown, and a booming conversion by Croker makes it 24-11. After the embarrassment of the first two weeks, the Raiders need this win, and they’re showing a commitment that has been conspicuously absent. The Dragons, while lacking flair and execution, are a pack of tough bastards, and Trent Merrin (who has been their best) produces a marvelous offload for the scrappy Nathan Fien to dive over.

The specter of Josh Dugan hangs over this game like storm clouds. His cruiser-drinking mate, Blake Ferguson, is back a little early, and he’s been strong. Whatever his faults (and he has many, i.e. he can be too flashy, he’s a lair and a bit of a wanker) his commitment to the team is very strong. The whispers are that it was all that saved him from Dugan’s fate.

They say that Dugan may be a Dragon before long, and it’s easy to see why. The attack is decidedly lackluster. Dragons fans are praying for his arrival when Jason Nightingale launches off a Hail Mary of a centre kick. Dugan will certainly give this team an x-factor is lacks. But it’s hard to remember Josh Dugan when Reece Robsinon weaves through the Dragons with a swerve and burst of speed. It’s hard to remember him when Robinson stops and props, drawing Dragons fullback Gerard Beale to set up his support in a way Dugan would never even contemplate. It’s hard to even remember last weeks disgrace when Jarrod Croker gleefully accepts the inside ball and scores.

Cynics would say it’s a win by a bad team over a worse team. I say a win is a goddamned win, and I’ll take it.

Nathan Hindmarsh Medal 

3 – Reece Robinson

2 – Trent Merrin

1 – Josh McCrone

Do me a massive favor and visit my blog http://sportssermon.wordpress.com. Or follow me on Twitter @campo37. Both have developed an obsession with Reece Robinson one judge described as “unhealthy”

About Nick Campton

A young sportswriter trying to get his foot in the door. Do me a solid and check out my collection of ramblings http://sportssermon.wordpress.com

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