Almanac Rugby League – Justice

I was watching a program on SBS last week (insert obligatory “not that sort of show” comment here) on the problems involved with online gambling and it got me thinking how the changes in gambling had affected our day to day lives.

Now, in my mind, if you can find your way through all the Senator Xenophon inspired rhetoric, claiming that Australia’s gambling addiction is due to the increase in online facilities is a bit like saying that the size of waistlines within the community is directly related to the relative proportion of Mr Whippy vans servicing the neighbourhood. But I digress.

What struck me was not that online gambling has affected the levels of debt incurred by gamblers but rather that it has displaced more traditional forms of gambling. Principal amongst these would be the simple bets between friends, mates and comrades. These bets were generally based heavily on the teams the respective bettor supported and were usually paid out in packets, cartons or cases rather than more officially recognised forms of currency. The parties to the bet were also unlikely to take note of what appeared to be irrelevant matters such as lines, margins and statistics.

With the influx of information available to potential punters, it has become far more difficult for a couple of rival supporters watching the footy to have a “friendly bet” on the result of the contest. I mean who can expect Bob to accept Bill’s offer of a six-pack on the result of the Jets-Bears NSW Cup clash, when Centrebet are telling him he could get 2 1/2 times his output given the same result.

I had forgotten the true joy that could be experienced from taking money from your friends and family, rather than a faceless betting agency. That was until I sat down to watch the Tigers- Warriors semi final on Friday night in the comfort of my living room.

At the start of the season, whilst attending a family wedding I had become involved in an intense conversation with one of my brothers regarding predictions for this years NRL season.  Now, in the course of this discussion, which I didn’t actually recall until I was reminded whilst in a bit of a haze the following morning, we agreed to a bet on who would finish higher between the Tigers and the Warriors, with the successful bettor receiving a case of unspecified beer from the losing party.

So it came down to this – two brothers, one game, one case of beer. As a diehard Tigers supporter, my brother was adamant that the Tigers were lay-down miseres to taste premiership glory. He had indicated that all the other teams were simply wasting their time in competing in this year’s competition. It was this smug attitude that he took with him to the SFS on Friday night to watch the Tigers annihilate the overmatched Warriors. It may as well have been a fait accompli.

As the game began I understood the reason for his confidence. It appeared as though the NRL had appointed the Tigers as this year’s protected species, who were to receive every possible call in their favour. It was the worst display of officiating I’ve seen since Greg Hartley turned out in the 1978 Grand Final with a Frank Stanton sponsored plane ticket to the UK in his back pocket.

Keith Galloway knocks the ball on. Referee conveniently unsighted. Robbie Farah trips over his feet. Penalty. Matt Utai does what Matt Utai does best and drops the ball. Penalty. Blake Ayshford does his Matt Utai impersonation and drops the ball. Penalty. Feleti Mateo brushes Tim Moltzen’s jersey. Penalty. Kevin Locke tackles a player around the legs. Penalty.

Mark Geyer mentioned on The Roast Sunday morning that the game had that “red hot” feel about it. After “considering his statement” during the commercial break, Geyer retracted his remarks stating that he wasn’t insinuating that the referees had deliberately influenced the game. I’m sure that the potential prospect of defamation proceedings had no bearing on Geyer’s reconsideration.

By this stage I had gone from relaxing on the lounge whilst casually sipping a few refreshing beverages to standing about 10cm from the TV screaming at anything and everything related to the Wests Tigers and the officials. To make things worse I was also receiving text messages from my brother attempting to justify this blatant thievery. Who would have imagined that a Tigers v Warriors game would provoke such a reaction?

Then somehow, in spite of this incredibly one-sided officiating, the Auckland All Blues managed to pull within two points of their fortunate opponents with a few minutes left on the clock.

In a moment which brought back memories of Sharks semi-final failures of years gone by, Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall decided to run the ball down the short side on the last tackle. The Warriors advanced the ball down the field and put up a Johnny Peard towards Krisnan Inu, a player who not exactly renowned for performing under pressure. In what could be looked at as a true modern miracle, and also double as a moderately amusing Benny Hill skit, the ball somehow found Inu’s hands whilst all the Tigers players slipped, fell and fumbled around him, and the Warriors emerged victorious. For that one night, Krisnan Inu became my favourite non-Sharks player in the world.

In a jubilant state, I decide to finish the night with a quick message to my brother, which concisely summed up my feelings on the night.

“Justice. Oh and Boags will be fine.”

Nathan Boss

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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