NRL Round 14 – Cronulla v Nth Qld: Goodwin St – Cronulla make it ten against the Premiers

Cronulla Sharks 13  North Queensland Cowboys 10

7:00 pm, Monday 13th June

Shark Park, Sydney

Paul Macadam

 

Remember when we used to wallop the Cowboys for a laugh? Those were some days. If you visited Shark Park for this fixture any time between 1995 and 2002, you’d be guaranteed a cruisy Saturday afternoon watching Mat Rogers and David Peachey cut the then-fledgling North Queenslanders to bits. Nothing cruisy about hosting the premiers on a Monday night, though.

 

For the second week in succession, we’re desperately slow to start. Three minutes in. As the DEE-FENCE-clap-clap-clap chant starts up, the referee calls offside, which serves us right for bringing that ridiculous basketball schtick into rugby league. Winterstein spots a gap and goes in from the resulting attack. Why play Britney Spears’ “Toxic” – a compellingly sinister classic – when the opposition score? Why play any music at all when the opposition score? This doesn’t feel right. Everything is just a bit off.

 

It’s tense in the ground. Each unwelcome decision gets booed more viciously than usual, and the players let it into their heads with a string of errors. Another penalty allows Thurston to push his side’s lead out to eight. It’s soft, having seen the replay.  Yet this is the danger of conceding fouls then backing your defence to hold firm: referees are prone to counting your reputation against you in cases where no wrong has been done. Beale slides over the sideline in claiming an awkward kick when he might have let the ball take its likely course of bouncing out. Easier said. Cowboys scrum, ten metres out. They target the right-edge defence that’s already conceded once. The right-edge defence that keeps you up nights; that Milford, Cronk and Thurston will surely… Morgan’s pass is misdirected. Most players in this situation would do well to knock it down and stop the play. Valentine Holmes isn’t most players. He flicks the ball up, gathers it, realises he can’t outrun Lachlan Coote via a straight line, turns him one way, then the other, poetry in motion tra-la-la-la-la, and he’s off to score one of the best individual tries you’ll see. Maloney converts from wide right, completing a twelve-point swing. A penalty of his own levels the scores at eight. Clips the post on the way in. Just like last Monday.

 

You want the second half to start immediately. You want to ride this momentum, be swept away by this momentum so that it might sweep away the Cowboys as well. Cronulla start with the intention of doing so; forcing the Cowboys to repeatedly kick from their own 30 metre line. The instructions are to allow Thurston as little time with the ball as possible. On one occasion Graham takes this advice a touch too eagerly, though his tackle looks worse than it was. A penalty, but Thurston drops his shoulder (in the soccer sense) just before impact. It’s deflating. All that effort for a lead of two, now it’s gone. Scores back level, and you’ve no choice but to go again.

 

A fight has been brewing nearby. Some klutz in the southern grandstand lost grip of his beer when Maloney’s second pen put Cronulla in front, with the plastic cup partially landing on a young girl standing behind the goalposts. You’re already wound up by the match situation, by wanting another try because this is a next-try-wins scenario but being denied it and we need to beat this lot tonight so we know how to do it in September. Now your anger swells to rage because this girl’s dad is overreacting like a gobshite and she’s having a rough night and why aren’t they standing on the alcohol-free family hill and this type of avoidable aggro alienates women from the game and even though that Barba “knock-on” is a genuinely abysmal decision you’re not helping matters by screaming at the referee like the gobshite you become in these moments and rugby league as a collective can never go more than two months without spilling a beer from the southern grandstand on a young girl.

 

Tamou goes within a yard of scoring. Scott within an inch from the next play. Loses the ball. But it’s all North Queensland. Taumalolo storms through a tired tackle and goes the whole way if not for a two-man tackle from the two smallest Sharks on field. Morgan, thinking about the fifth-tackle field goal instead of the present play, knocks on. Not picking on him. It happens. It’s a huge relief. Gallen wins a penalty from a driving run. Four tackles gone. Go now, you’re yelling go now go now go now with whatever energy you’ve got left, they go now and Maloney lands the one-pointer. An uncanny calm takes hold of you from here, justified by the certainty with which Cronulla close out the final six minutes. It’s miles from the panicked finale to that 2013 semi-final. It’s full-time.

 

On the train back to Sutherland, some kids no older than seventeen have nicked a sign reading “Goodwin St”. Get it? Good-win? They explain the pun to anyone who’ll listen, which turns out to be no-one. There are no signs. No omens. No trends that point to either preliminary final heartache, or an early October bus parade. There are football matches and there is the winning of football matches. That’s all. Just win after bloody-minded win. Ten in a row. Fourteen more, boys. Fourteen more. Up the street-sign-blagging Sharks.

 

Cronulla Sharks 13 (Valentine Holmes try, James Maloney 4 goals, Maloney field goal) defeated

North Qld 10 (Antonio Winterstein try, Johnathan Thurston 3 goals). Crowd: 13 119.

About Paul Macadam

Songwriter under my own name, drummer for Library Siesta. Newly ecstatic Cronulla tragic who also loves Liverpool because life wasn't meant to be easy. Too slow for the wing, too skinny for the second row.

Comments

  1. kath presdee says:

    Both the porch light and the lid are well and truly on for me Paul.

    Beating Nth Qld at Endeavour is one thing; I just hope we don’t face them in Townsville.

  2. Yeah, same here. That’s why it’s vital for us to finish top 2. Finish 3rd or 4th, and our first finals match will either be in Townsville, Brisbane, or Melbourne. Don’t much fancy any of those tbh. Need 1st or 2nd to make sure it’s in Sydney

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