Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 1: Dogs v Cowboys – Who’s Gonna Make the Gravy?

The main question going into this clash was inevitably centered around someone who wasn’t playing. Ben Barba, the talismanic fullback who tore defenses apart with consummate ease in 2012 is nowhere to be seen. He’s been exiled, isolated from the game so he can confront his personal demons. Uncertainty and speculation surround him, but there is nothing uncertain about the Cowboys, who score in the opening set of six after a crunching tackle by Brent Tate forces the ball loose and Ashley Graham picks up the scraps.

Before you can blink the Dogs run one of their sweeping plays, but the passes don’t quite stick and the ball hits the deck. It bounces around until Josh Reynolds pounces on it like a mongrel on a bone, and scores. Reynolds, the epitome of Bulldog footy, throws up his hands to make an X, just like Barba used to do.

Steve Turner crosses a few minutes later, and the Dogs are flying. They’re biting everything that moves, but unfortunately that includes a Thurston dummy. The Cowboy maestro pops a pass for Gavin Cooper to put it down. A few minutes later he’s at it again, threading a wonderful kick into the in-goal for Winterstein. As much as Barba means to the Dogs, Thurston is ten times as valuable for the Cowboys. He is at the fulcrum of everything they do, a piece without which they would be an unsolvable puzzle.

Brent Tate is still the angriest man in rugby league. His chin is horrifyingly large. Tony Williams, gifted with immense power and strength, is quiet for his new club. Reynolds is in everything, his inexhaustible energy reminiscent of a dog fetching a stick for hours on end.

David Klemmer is on debut for the Bulldogs, and he looks like he should live under a bridge. He clashes with another monster, Cowboys Jason Taumalolo, and the foundations of Bluetounge Stadium shake. Halftime comes and goes, and the longer the game goes on the better North Queensland look. Bowen and Thurston keep doing their thing, combining with effortless ease. Penalty goals edge them ahead.

The game is tough and hard, with dashes of magic. Thurston gets up very gingerly at one stage, and everyone north of Rockhampton holds their breath. He recovers, and Graham scores his second to put the men from the North up by twelve. Drury Low flashes down the right, and for a second it looks like Barba is back. The hulking Williams is stopped right on the line by Kane Linnet twice. Reynolds tries every trick he knows, but he can’t drag the Dogs back.

The match was a battle, with no quarter asked for or given. The Cowboys are worthy winners, and it is a win to be proud of, as any win over a team as committed as the Bulldogs is always prized.

One of my favorite songs ever is “How to make Gravy” by Paul Kelly. The song is about a man who’s in jail, and sends a letter to his brother asking about the upcoming Christmas lunch. The jailed man asks “whose gonna make the gravy? I bet it won’t taste the same”.  Is it unreasonable to suggest that Barba is worth 12 points a game? Could he have made the difference?

The Dogs were powerful and gallant in defeat, just as the Cowboys were impressive in victory, but the gravy didn’t taste the same.

Nathan Hindmarsh Medal

3 – Jonathon Thurston

2 – Josh Reynolds

1 – James Tamou

Do me a massive favor and visit my blog Or follow me on Twitter @campo37. Their both tastier than a bit of KFC and twice as crispy.

About Nick Campton

A young sportswriter trying to get his foot in the door. Do me a solid and check out my collection of ramblings

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