Almanac Rugby League – Hope is a glorious thing

Strangely a game with no sense of ‘The Grudge’. This on the most hate-fuelled, bloodthirsty, full-mooned weekends in recent memory, some say in a decade, strangely with this match post ‘Battle of Brookie’ the only game without a ‘Let’s get it on’.

As usual, New Zealand were referred to as the ‘Dark Horse’ of the final eight contenders, arguably because their games are consigned to the Foxtel graveyard shifts and never on free-to-air, the result being most mainlanders miss them, so I’m never really sure what’s under their hood.

But let’s also not forget that Wayne’s sainthood is resting most heavily on this game. The man who stated ‘I’ve achieved what I came here to do’ has thousands who would beg to differ. Maybe Wayne is reenacting the Ali ‘Rope-A-Dope’ method.

Would the hoodoo that original St George supporters believe affect the team, ie: not wear the Big V, strike again, as they run out in the Gong, draped in emasculating, groveling, Steelers soccer-style All Red jumpers. Please explain?

Wayne, with a sweep of the wand, fused, Albus Dumbledore style, the two regions back to its former Great Southern Wholeness, no need to give the tokenistic nod anymore. We are the Red V, simple! Please don’t get me started.

The game itself not only had no pre-existing hatred, it held no purpose for the Saints mob whatsoever, except to witness the slow climb back to respectability that had so mysteriously vanished in recent weeks. We just needed to beat somebody, anybody!

What a start. Not one, but two penalty giving kick offs from old Benny ‘Toot Toot’ Hornby, Mr Conservative, the rudder no less, succeeding in adding a little more tilt to the climb.

Admittedly no ‘Beast’ for the Warriors, but they looked to have the early wood as I, quietly confident whilst still assuming like all self-respecting tragics do, that at least one of the two refs could bugger everything at any moment. My fingernails have taken a hammering over the last month and this game was no exception. A very bizarre late ‘held’ call on Beau ‘The Bodyguard’ Scott, allowed a sneaky try from Le Gaz. We’ll take it.

At this point maybe I should try and explain the St George Fan State of Being.

A little like Dorian Gray, gifted in youth with winning ways, only to find the midlife ugly reality keeps perforating the childish dream of perpetual exalted status (except our decay is out in the open). But the expectation never goes away, as Larry Writer said “Never Before, Never Again”, in reference to the 11 straight years. I lay claim to being a 65’er.

As a very young boy my dad took me and the mob to the now infamous Grand Final in ’65 where St George did Souths 12 – 8, not that I noticed the details.

I was surrounded by 78,056 drunken, urinating, screaming, fighting MEN! Well at last count there was 78,056, you see the SCG only held 40,000 odd, so throw in the rooftops, surrounding rooftops, the oval, the urinals, towers and god knows what else and you might begin to understand the impact on a young lad’s mind and ensuing expectations ever since.

Then of course there was Brisbane circa 90s, Choc Mundine against Melbourne and Hollywood Bill in the 99 decider so after many failed final campaigns, we feel the pain, we are unexceptional in this, I know it’s the staple building block of being fandom.

Which brings me back to this afternoon in Wollongong against a team that I hardly noticed, willing the Dragons to do the job and get us back in the main game for the finals.

What happened? Well vague details like Dean Young doing what he does best, stupid forward passes, quick tries to a genius NZ kiddie named Kevin Locke and his smiling assassin mate Kristin Inu to give me the aforementioned blunt nails, Gaz bagging aforementioned cheap one, Soward looking barely early Bennett therapy level, B Moz back to altitude, then apparently it’s oranges and 16 -10, but what do I know, I’ve got my eye on the future, like Darius Boyd.

Speaking of Ol’ Dead Eyes, he’s realising he has only one purpose in life, and that is to win on the paddock, so he does. Nightingale has no loyalty issues against the homeland and gets a now-traditional wingers welcome in the ribs try, soon 24 – 16, all wrapped up, but no, just to get those nails a little closer to god, Feleti Mateo ambles over, thanks Gaz, 24 – 22.

Who but the man I’ve always loved, Darius Boyd again steps up, winks at me and is gone. 90m, a near try, quick pressure penalty, 26 – 22 done! Go home grinning and planning on a good weeks sleep, with Muhammad Ali copping plenty from George Foreman and Norman Mailer whispering sweet Soward nothings in my ear. Ah, hope is a glorious thing.

Stephen Ferris

About Nick Tedeschi

Nick Tedeschi was the chief rugby league writer at Punting Ace for five years after a career in politics and bookmaking. He has written freelance for a number of organisations including Back Page Lead, Crikey and Betfair and now runs his own website. He writes an annual NRL betting preview and is a diehard Canterbury fan who lists Craig Polla-Mounter, David Stagg, Tony Grimaldi and Daryl Halligan as his favourite players.

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