Almanac Rugby League – A sad way to go: Gold Coast v Canberra

I thought about taking the train from Bris Vegas to Skilled Stadium at Robina on the Gold Coast with my 12 year old daughter. It would be Alan Tongue’s last game in Queensland and it would nice to say goodbye. Tongue has been our mutual hero for different reasons. I like how he plays every game like it means something. Like he is playing Origin in a green jersey. If he was from Toowoomba and not Tamworth he would have played plenty.

My daughter likes him because when she writes fan mail to him he responds straight away. She is a fan for life. She says Tonguey is tops.

Now he is retiring and we will miss him. So will the Raiders.

But I just can’t bring myself to get on that train to Robina. Beside the fact that I have no affinity for the Titans, as a Raiders fan, 2011 has been too painful to endure any more punishment. The Raiders have never won at Robina. Plus, they have been hammered in recent weeks by Newcastle and Souths and are a broken side.

Although Tongue is playing, the mail is that he is a wounded soldier. Even if he isn’t, he can’t do it alone. We decide our goodbyes will be via the fan mail we know he reads.

The Titans have had a tough year as well and are down on numbers. They have their own legend retiring at the end of the season. Preston Campbell has shown a tenacity and fearlessness for the contest that belies his pint size. Neither Tongue nor Campbell deserves to go out with a wooden spoon.

I figure that both teams have something to play for and watch the match on Fox.

It doesn’t take long to work out that I was wrong. The game lacks intensity, passion or desire.  This is a slow motion train wreck. Neither team seems worried about a wooden spoon. Errors top the stats column.

In the midst of the drudgery, the Titans appear the most likely to score. Their best young talent, a rake called Matt Srama, is causing headaches around the ruck with quick hands and quick thinking. Campbell is busy and Greg Bird is out-muscling a diminished Raiders pack on his own. The Raiders somehow resist and counter intuitively are the first to score through Joel Thompson sporting a haircut a US marine would be proud of.

But any Green Machine momentum disappears as the Titans hit back quickly with a try to the curiously named Dominique Peyroux on the back of some clever Bird lead up work. Peyroux has the physique of a Cuban born “Adonis” who could easily be third bat for the New York Yankees and be batting .345.My guess is he is batting a thousand!

Another try follows to Will Matthews on the half-time hooter care of a Blake Ferguson dropped bomb which he amazingly fails to lay a finger on. A Blake Ferguson special!

The teams retreat to the oranges at 12-6. This match is a race to the bottom. It is reserve grade standard at best and I am not feeling so guilty about not making the trip. Tongue hasn’t taken the field, which is an ominous sign his injury is playing its role. I hope he isn’t watching. He would be better served answering fan mail.

The second half continues as the first finished. A runaway try to the speedy and athletic Titans winger David Mead will make it an easy choice for the editors highlight reel. It is quickly followed by another to Steve Michaels, who has the audacity to outleap Ferguson in a bomb contest in which Ferguson again manages not to get a hand on the footy. Ferguson is a confidence player and he is deep in deficit and sadly out of luck. In the form he is in, he would do well to stay away from the blackjack tables post game or risk recruitment as the casino “cooler”.

Tongue is called upon in the second half but despite his obvious effort, the contagion has spread and even he is knocking on from dummy-half. He won’t be leading by example tonight and the decorated farewell he deserves will have to wait. Sentimentality is a romantic concept and it is in short commodity tonight.

At least retirement will protect him the misery of such insipid defeats.

Despite late tries to Milne and Shillington there will be no Raiders comeback victory.  The Titans are deserved winners. Beating the Raiders might not provide inspiration for greatness but they do have genuine speed, athleticism and hunger, if not polish. They might get my daughter and I to Robina yet.

Gold Coast 26 (Tries: Peyroux, Matthews, Mead, Michaels Goals:Campbell 5/5)
Raiders 18 (Tries: Thompson, Milne and Shillington Goals:Croker 3/3)

Best: Gold Coast: Srama, Bird, Campbell. Raiders: Fensom, Williams, Shillington

Venue: Skilled Stadium, Robina, Gold Coast

Crowd: 10 230

Referees: Tony De Las Heras, Alan Shortall

Votes:3- Srama (Titans) ,2- Bird (Titans),1- Fensom (Raiders)

Mick Pearson


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