Almanac Rugby League – Just like the old days

It’s a wet, miserable day in south-east Queensland even though the temperature is that of a good spring day south of the Murray. I’ve slept poorly, up at 4.45am to pick up the paper from the driveway so it doesn’t get soggy. I can’t get back to sleep, so by 5.22 I’m in the lounge spending an hour and a half over the paper. Kathleen Noonan has been reading my all-time favourite novel, Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All That, and Mike O’Connor is his Mum’s son in more ways than one. The wife sleeps on.

After the 7am news (ABC, of course), I check on her and she’s slowly emerging from her torpor. I get her breakfast in bed and put on a load of washing before slipping a pair of shorts and a top over my pjs to go down to the shops to get the Weekend Australian and a couple of takeaway coffees. Another hour and a half in bed with the (second) paper – this is the life. The morning drifts on. The wife goes out for a few hours to “the shops”, a description that covers a multitude of possibilities.

My local team, the Redcliffe Dolphins, is on today’s ABCTV game in the Intrust Super Cup, better known as the Queensland Cup. Their opponents, the Tweed Heads Seagulls, are unbeaten this year – 19 wins and a draw. If they beat the Dolphins today, they’ll break Redcliffe’s Queensland Cup record of 19 wins in a season.

I set up the ironing board. It’s a ritual – I do the ironing while I watch the footy. It takes my mind off the drag of the task and gets it done with a minimum of pain. Today it’s four shirts, a pair of trousers and a pair of jeans. I’m done before half-time.

When we cross to Quentin Hull and David Wright at Piggabeen Sports Ground, it’s pouring with rain, the field is already cut up from the lower grades, the centre area is a quagmire and there are pools of water scattered across the ground. Very 70s! (For all you AFL types, imagine Punt Road, Arden Street or Glenferrie in late July circa 1972.) A few hardy patrons have paid their hard-earned to be uncomfortable. Bundy rum is the order of the day. It’s a situation tailor-made for the forwards. In the old days, they used to be called “pigs” because they got down and dirty, thriving in the conditions.

The Seagulls dominate the first half with a clever kicking game to pin the Dolphins deep in their half, forcing no less than five goal-line dropouts. By half-time, Redcliffe has made 60 more tackles than the Seagulls. It’s the proverbial “arm wrestle” (or should that be “mud wrestle”?), but the Dolphins dig deep and defend bravely.

You have to admire their grit. Fullback Joe Bond is a standout for the Dolphins, playing safe when required, looking to attack if there’s even a sniff. A chip and chase play with Josh Hunt is called back for a forward pass with a try in the offing.  It’s predominantly one-out, up-the-middle stuff. The ball handling is surprisingly good in the conditions. The Dolphins score a moral victory going into the sheds at half-time with a 0 – 0 scoreline.

The rain increases, the pools of water spread, the element of luck grows. Will the ref call it off? When did that last happen?  An early second half penalty to the Dolphins puts them ahead before the game bogs down into a war of attrition. The waterboys are more concerned about washing the mud from the players’ faces than they are about rehydration.

Seagulls captain Brad Davis is not happy with the referee. He has an arguable case of being the victim of a lifting tackle and mouths off.  The ref is unimpressed and penalises Davis in possession – a cardinal sin, as Liam would say. The Dolphins seem to have that fickle commodity known as momentum but can’t trouble the scorers.

Unsurprisingly, the conditions conspire to thwart one team. A Seagulls kick ahead hits legs and then a puddle of water, stops dead and leaves a defender grasping at thin air. A second kick ahead appears to be covered by fullback Bond but he slips in the wet and a wicked bounce on a rare piece of firm turf sits beautifully for centre James Wood to score. Davis misses the conversion: Tweed 4 – 2.

It’s not pretty but there’s a certain beauty to it all. The closeness of the scores has me enthralled. This is rugby league at its old-time best. The downpour continues; more frequent errors creep into the game. Redcliffe get within a metre of the line and the defence gives away a silly penalty. Georgetown kicks the goal to tie it up at 4 –  4.

(Big Petero, a Redcliffe boy and the master of grind, would have loved playing in this game. Just watch him early in the second half of Origin III this year. NSW has a sniff of a comeback, so Meninga brings on Petero to slow the game down and turn it into a yardage grind. It’s forward play poetry.)

The Seagulls always look the more likely to score and so it pans out. With five minutes to go, a sweetly delayed pass close to the line exposes a gap in the Dolphin defence and it’s 10 – 4. (Wasn’t that the cops’ and truckers’ code for “message complete”?) In spite of a last minute rally by the Dolphins, they fall short. Game over.

The Seagulls continue their unbeaten run; they break the Dolphin’s record for most wins in a season; their lead at the top of the table will be at least 11 points at the end of the round. They look to be a very good thing heading to the finals.

Best players? Scorers? Crowd figure? Mere statistics. Check the press for details. This was olden days, wet weather footy at its best. All 34 combatants “played well, done good”. The ref had a very good game, especially considering the conditions.

I’m a Dolphins supporter but I’m not disappointed. They came close but never looked quite good enough. They can take heart from their defensive effort. They could argue that a pool of water and a tricky bounce undid them.

I head off to Dan Murphys for the weekend tasting. There are several good reds there to warm the heart on a grey day.

About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

Comments

  1. IJH, I do recall coaching the Under 13s v St Pats? Shorncliffe where one of the priests was encouraging his young forward pack by yelling. “Go you pigs”.

  2. Rocket Nguyen says

    Quentin Hull’s father, Allan, is one of the best country radio broadcasters I have heard.
    He used to do the races (Saturdays) and South West AFL (Sundays) down in the Riverina for many years.
    His trademark opening to the reading of the footy scores on a Sunday morning on 2WG was:
    “It’s a beautiful morning as I look out onto the Wollundry Lagoon” (in downtown Wagga Wagga).

    I would occassionally sit with him in the broadcast box on away games – ostensibly to select the best player – but mainly to enjoy the spendid afternoon teas supplied by the ladies auxiliaries. Coolamon was the best!

  3. Allan Hull has called many of my losers from Narromine to Wellington, Albury to Gilgandra.

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