Almanac Rugby League: Bits and pieces from here and there

I see myself as an observer of the footy rather than someone who is particularly involved. Consequently, I tend to keep an eye out for incidents, facts and figures, personalities and so on to enhance my enjoyment of the game. Here’s a collection from the weekend.

 

Firstly, huge congratulations to the Gundagai Tigers who took out the NSWCRL Group 9 Grand Final at Wagga Wagga late on Saturday afternoon. Going into the match as clear underdogs, the Tigers put up a gutsy effort to overcome an early setback to win a tough one 13-6 against the highly-fancied Southcity Bulls who were chasing their third consecutive premiership. Well done to James Smart who finally won a title as player/coach after several near misses over recent years. In Gundagai, that just about makes you an immortal! And congrats to best-on-ground James Luff – I saw this bloke get belted to the outhouse in the 2015 GF but he just kept coming back for more and eventually triumphed on the day. And well done to the likes of David Tout, Marty Hay and Steve Rose, just some of the workers behind the scenes. They’re a great lot in Gundagai and I’ll bet it was humming at the Services Club on Saturday night.

 

Jacob Lillyman exited the code at the weekend but, tragically, was robbed of a farewell appearance for the Newcastle Jets due to injury. Lillyman was a ‘Mr Reliable’, no-nonsense forward who gave it all for the Cowboys, the Warriors and the Jets. He was one of my ‘Unfashionables’, those blokes who just get in and get it done without fanfare, not necessarily the most talented but more than making up for it with their commitment, durability and hard work. Lillyman will go down as a true FOG, having represented the Maroons with distinction during ‘The Streak’. Take a break, Jacob, you’ve earned it.

 

In the QCup we saw a couple of upsets in the Elimination Finals played on Saturday. Ipswich Jets play an unconventional style of footy under the coaching of the Walker brothers. They snagged a premiership a couple of years back, so why fix it when it ain’t broke? They travelled to Townsville to take on the more fancied Blackhawks and came away with the lollies after a dominant first half. Beats me how you’d coach against them given their ad hoc style. Marmin Barba had a day out with the boot, knocking over several sideline conversions that never looked like missing. And wily old Wes Conlon showed that he’s still got it in his final season. In the other game, Easts Tigers, who got absolutely towelled up last weekend by Burleigh Bears, flew north to Cairns and walloped the Northern Pride by 32-0. Perhaps they should get swabbed!

 

Three cheers for Gavin Cooper. A unassuming and undemonstrative but highly resilient and skilful exponent of the code, Cooper has thrived on his excellent combination with JT, scoring numerous tries along the way. How fitting that in JT’s last game they should be at it again, this time courtesy of a cross-field kick, overhead take and grounding. In doing so, Cooper broke the decades-old record for tries scored in consecutive matches by a forward – he’s now up to nine in a row! The record was held by recent Immortals inductee, Frank Burge. Let’s see if Gavin can get it to double figures in Round 1 next year.

 

Did you see Kodi Nikorima’s audition for a job as a groundsman at Lang Park during the Broncos v Manly match yesterday? In the process of scoring a try, James Roberts carved a huge divot out of the ground’s surface with his knee. Before rushing to his team-mate to celebrate, Kodi thoughtfully replace the divot and gave it a good stomp to make it secure. I think there might be a slight discrepancy in the comparative pay rates, Kodi!

 

Staying at Lang Park, Corey Oates had a day out with four tries and was unlucky not to have a fifth to create a club record. All four were special, each in its own way. The first was a perfect read, running a great angle onto a grubber just 60 seconds into the game. The second came after taking a contested high ball just metres out from his defensive try-line before recovering his balance and powering away down the wing to outpace the defence for a 10 or possibly 12 point turnaround. In the second half, one included the now not unusual flying place-down inches in from touch after some slick backline passing. But it was the other that caught the eye. Deep in defence, Milford gathered a dangerous through-ball inches out from his own line with his back to the oncoming attackers. Hunching his shoulders and turning in one movement, he regained his balance and turned defence into attack. Sensing that he couldn’t outpace the defence, Milford looked for support and heard the call from Oates who had followed him upfield. Milford’s deft left foot, end-on-end kick ahead put the ball in front of Oates who still had a lot of work to do. A high bounce saw Oates and two Manly defenders converge but the bounce favoured Oates by mere centimetres, he regathered at full pace and raced away for number four. Full marks to Milford for his instinct, vision and execution and to Oates for turning a half chance into a scintillating play that brought the crowd to its feet. As Richie would have said, after a short but meaningful pause, “Marvellous!”

 

On the other side of the ledger, Brad Parker had a daylight nightmare! Parker committed several handling errors throughout the match, his direct opponent scored four tries and 40,000 spectators cheered every bit of it, let alone the television audience. Parker is a good player and I’ve seen him put in some very good performances. Let’s hope the experience doesn’t scar him too much. (I just realised that I felt concern for a Manly player. Sacre bleu! Anyone know a good shrink?)

 

Daly Cherry-Evans doesn’t get a good press because he made one mistake a few years ago. Admittedly, it was a shocker but how long must he serve his penance? Yesterday, he again showed why he is captain of his team. On the receiving end of a flogging from Brisbane, DCE never gave up trying. He directed his team around the park constructively, schemed in attack and kick-chased enthusiastically. He was in the front line of defence, tackling above his weight and, more than once, gave pursuit after Broncos linebreaks, even when he had no chance of catching them. That’s what captains do.

 

I tend to watch television matches with minimum volume to avoid listening to the commentators. I take particular exception to Gould and Hadley whenever they commentate on Broncos or Storm games. They just cannot bring themselves to say much that is positive about either team, seemingly preferring to focus on any misdemeanour or error, real or imagined, made by them. By way of contrast, their preferred teams can do little wrong. It’s a pity that Sterlo, Fatty and Wally (and, to a lesser extent, Locky) have to put up with such mediocrity. (Even at 65, I still live in the hope that the phone might ring one day asking me to come to the microphone. But it would not be for television since my brother says I have a great face for radio.)

 

Finally, a word about the referees in the last Round. Essentially, they were invisible. Gerard Sutton wins particular kudos for his handling of an ill-disciplined Panthers side in the first half in Melbourne. He had the patience of a saint, and his correct dismissal of Tamou finally brought Penrith to its senses. Once they concentrated on the footy, they won!

 

 

Ian Hauser served the code best by playing it as little as possible and leaving it to those who could. He much prefers to play with words. You can check out his editing services here.

 

About Ian Hauser

A happy, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I appreciate those beautiful moments in sport (and life) that capture the spirit rather than the law of the game. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. I offer a comprehensive editing service for both new and experienced writers. Check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au Queenslander!

Comments

  1. There was a lot happening in the world of rugby league on the weekend. Astute punters would have taken advantage of the likelihood high scoring games would prevail as teams built their tallies in the interest of climbing the ladder. The Broncos chase in the last 15 was pretty entertaining.

  2. Thanks Ian. Although not a “real” league follower, I do watch every Broncos game, and of course State of Origin. Not a Queenslander through and through, but enough to want all Queensland sporting teams to win.

    Not sure who wrote the editorial introduction to your piece on the home page, stating: ‘the greatest game of all’, but I’d definitely have to disagree! No footy game can top our Aussie game.

  3. Jan, there is history behind the “greatest game of all” accolade for rugby league. During the 1950s and 60s, there was a Brisbane-based radio commentator of rugby league named George Lovejoy. He called games for about 20 years and was the doyen of commentators north of the Tweed. He was passionate, evocative and brought the game into many homes every week during the season. At the end of each broadcast, his signature sign-off was, “Rugby League football, the greatest game of all!” I have vague memories of him from my childhood, listening to “the wireless” in the kitchen at home on the farm and later on the transistor radio. His was always an engrossing, dynamic commentary. George Lovejoy is a part of Queensland rugby league folklore. An annual memorial lecture honours him. If I’m not mistaken, John Harms presented the 2012 lecture on the topic, “Yes, Virginia, there is meaning in rugby league”. It’s a cracker!

    I grew up and now live in Queensland but had a spell of 14 years in Adelaide in the 70s and 80s. Consequently, I enjoy all the footy codes with the exception of rugby union which is far too pedantic and all too susceptible to Napoleonic referees. (I must admit, however, to a grudging respect for the NZ All Blacks who play tough but also expansively.) I appreciate the skills, etc of each code, even if I also think that the modern version of most of them is not as good as they were “in my day”. So, go the Double Blues (Sturt in the SANFL) and the Bombers in Australian football, Arsenal (EPL) and the Brisbane Roar in soccer, and the Redcliffe Dolphins (QCup), Brisbane Broncos and Queensland Maroons in rugby league.

  4. Thanks again, Ian. I have heard the expression “the greatest game of all” around the traps, but had no idea of the history behind it. Being a Melburnian, we only ever knew or read about VFL. In fact, I knew nothing about either of the rugbys until I went to live in Brisbane. And even living there for 22 years, I didn’t follow league at all. It was only when I moved to Sydney in 1998 that I started watching the Broncos on television, and have followed them ever since. Same with State of Origin.

    I’m also a mad Queenslander when it comes to cricket. We were members of the Cricketers’ Club at the Gabba, and rarely missed a Shield game for over 20 years. Must say, the main thing I miss about Brisbane is the cricket, but moving to Sydney to be closer to my beloved Swans has far outweighed any cricket misgivings! Having said that, we do get up to Qld if we’re playing Shield Finals, and never miss the first game each year of the Ashes.

    Where would we be without our sport!

  5. Damian Roache says:

    Hi Ian,

    Sadly the George Lovejoy Memorial Lecture was very short lived wrapping up after only a few years.

    Attended the lecture that JH spoke at and looked forward to hearing more …but alas it was not to be.

    The QRL runs the Ross Livermore Memorial Lecture ( originally named the Harry Sunderland Memorial Lecture but renamed when Livermore passed away) which i attend most years.

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