Almanac Rugby League – Monday nights

Monday night was good for nothing much at all in the old days. Except rissoles and mash and getting over the trauma of returning to work. Footy training was on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I do remember one Monday night, though, in the mid-80s when my mate PJ and I decided to go to the Keperra Drive-In to see The Meaning of Life which was just out. I had a Mini-Moke and, top-down, it was dead-set freezing (yes, really, in Brisbane). So we took doonas.

PJ had played breakaway at school, for the Nudgee fourths, retiring to drink rum as a dentistry student at UQ, and to surf.  When he was in fourth year he fashioned gummy Madge, the barmaid at the Royal Exchange Hotel, Toowong, her first-ever set of dentures.

PJ was a mediocre rugby player, but he could have drunk Bundy for Australia, and there’s no doubt he thrust his name before the selectors that night at the drive-in, in the interest of keeping warm. I was driving, so I tried to do the same with potato gems, which were all the rage then. It didn’t work.

There was only one other car in the entire joint, and it caused us much mirth when, at intermission, out of it emerged rugby league commentator Billy J. Smith wearing a pair of tracky-dacks and the sloppiest of Joes. Billy was a good football commentator – so good he was elevated to his famous role hosting It’s a Knockout. He was an even better MC. No-one was safe in his presence. I once saw Billy J. sledge the archbishop for how he said grace.

Monday nights in those days was for Four Corners, and it was the time when Michael Somare was on Monday Conference every week. Brian Moore did Match of the Day. And we were all in love with Krissy from Man About the House.

How things have changed. Now, if you love your footy, it’s a smorgasbord. And the buffet is well-and-truly open on Monday nights. So I sit down, in Melbourne, where it’s cold, to watch the Raiders play in Canberra, where there may be occupational health and safety issues for the players who actually run out. The fans are brave, and loyal, with this being the absolute last roll of the dice for Canberra.

I am in very good sports-watching form having seen much more of the Tour than usual, much more of the British Open than usual, and most games of footy since the cold fronts started sweeping across the south.

The Raiders look awful. Their defensive line is not actually a line. It has zigs and zags in it, and that means gaps. In attack the Raiders make mistakes. The Dragons put it through the hands and Morris scores.

The Raiders fight back with a try of their own, but the Dragons machine grinds away and they just don’t make a mistake. They complete set after set and Shaun Fensom is on pace to knock up the ton of tackles. The Dragons score another couple tries but Soward can’t find his range.

With half an hour to go, the season looks even more gone than it was. Dugan gets mobile. The Raiders don’t give in, and so do his mates, and with minutes to go pull off a dramatic victory which means the season’s embers have a hint of colour in them. Mathematically possible?

It’s a fine finish to a pretty good game. It makes Monday night more palatable.

And means Tuesday night football is possible. Likely, even, if the NRL is to get $1.4billion for the broadcasting rights. And change the world even further.

Addendum: That was last Monday night. Yesterday the Raiders got flogged in New Zealand, and that’s game-set-and-match time. Tonight the Eels play the Storm in Sydney. I reckon I’ll be putting the kids to bed, then checking out the various AFL couch shows. There’s a lot happening around the place.


About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. You could always slip into ‘Civic’ for a bit of solitary confinement John.

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