Almanac Rugby League – Free of the rubbish and smiling

I love rugby league.

A few years ago, I was asked by a neighbour whether I had watched the Bledisloe Cup. I explained that I had not, because it clashed with 13th placed Penrith playing 14th placed North Queensland in the mud, in front of 5,000 people. He still thinks I was joking.

And so, I approach my beloved Roosters’ last clash of the year, not like Ronald Ryan taking his final walk but like Anthony Mundine entering the ring – I’m excited, I can’t wait to get there, and I know that someone has arranged for the opposition to be hopeless.

I’m excited because, after a horrible year, the Roosters are on a roll (of sorts), because the blokes I go to the footy with every week are great people who I won’t see over summer and because, of course, I hate Melbourne.

Like all true league fans, I hate all 15 other teams, for various and very specific reasons. On Friday night I delighted in the failure of Souths (who I hate the most, for 103 years worth of reasons) despite the fact that they lost to Newcastle (who I hate marginally less, in no small part due to Andrew Johns’ mouthguard throwing in September 2000).

I hate Melbourne for the obvious reasons: they cheated, they’re from Melbourne, they have (to quote Chris Walker) “ruined rugby league” [I blame them for this, despite not thinking it has been ruined] and because Billy Slater is a complete cat. The greatest fullback ever? Quite possibly. A complete cat? Put your house on it. I could go on but, apparently, I’ve only got 750 words.

I’m also excited because for the last four weeks the Roosters have played great footy. They’ve attacked, they’ve put on big hits, they’ve hung in. They’ve stopped waiting for Todd Carney to do something, and for Nate Myles to get up and play the ball. They look happy. As a fan who’s not mad (a small group, I’ll grant you) you know you’ll have good years, and bad but what you can’t cop is a team that doesn’t seem to care as much as you do. For much of the year, we had that. Now, it seems, we do not, and we are loving it.

Suffice to say, we smashed Melbourne. Sure, they rested players, sure they had players suspended, sure they had one eye (or maybe two) on next week, but let me repeat:  we smashed Melbourne. 40 – 8.

BJ Leilua scored a hat-trick, and his third was a body-bending corner put down that once would have been hailed as mind-boggling and is now a weekly event in the NRL. Aiden Guerra scored with his now famous (at least in my circles) hit and spin. Jake Friend had a complete blinder and Lama Tasi put a hit on Adam Woolnough that made him wish (or maybe even think) he was still backpacking. I haven’t even mentioned Braith Anasta’s volleyball spike for Justin Carney’s try.

Perhaps best of all, Dane Nielson got the ball by mistake and shanked a clearing kick that went 10 metres forward and 30 metres sideways into the crowd. Absent a concussed front rower playing the ball the wrong way, rugby league doesn’t get better than that.

I know that a meaningless, late season win can get you through a full summer (ask Souths, they’ve been living off them for 40 years) but the Roosters have, to those who bother to look, the best crop of young forwards in the NRL. Masoe, Tasi, Kennedy, Takairangi, Cordner and Guerra are all future stars and Ethan Lowe and Kane Evans have yet to debut.

Now that the club has (seemingly) cleared out the crap, I think that 2011 will turn out to be an aberration, rather than 2010.

At least, that’s what I’ll be telling myself all summer, as I try to convince myself that Nathan Lyon is Derek Underwood, and not Jason Krezja or Ray Bright or Xavier Dougherty or Beau Casson or … Go the Roosters

SYDNEY ROOSTERS 40 (Tries: Leulia (3), Minichiello, Pearce, Carney, Guerra Goals: Anasta 6/7)
MELBOURNE 8 (Tries: Duffie, Champion Goals: Widdop 0/1, Cronk 0/1)

Venue: Sydney Football Stadium

Crowd: 8,753


Brett Oaten


  1. Love it Brett, real parochial passion. Your “…ask Souths, they’ve been living off them for 40 years…” a beauty, best of the best. (Personally, I don’t mind Souths – am just acknowledging great wit when I come across it).

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