Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 8: St George Illawarra v Manly – When parking the car is the only highlight

Little victories linger longest. The big ones are just too rare, too otherworldly. Difficult to predict and impossible to control, the big victories always exist in the realm of dreams- tantalisingly close yet inevitably elusive. The big victories are that metaphorical carrot leading the horse. They keep us moving but ultimately aren’t what moves us. No, that fuel is more akin to the frequent dips in the feedbag generously doled out by that cosmic strapper called life.

As a Dragons fan, it shouldn’t be too difficult to work out what my biggest victory was. Now, not three years removed from that October night, it already seems like another lifetime. Faced with a middling, talent-deprived but not terrible team, it’s hard to even imagine the feelings of ecstasy and elation I experienced after that drought breaking premiership. Little victories on the other hand can be found anywhere, even on Monday nights in Carlton.

In planning my trip to Jubilee, I had made the criminal error of failing to factor southbound peak hour Princes Highway traffic into my calculations. By the time I hit Rockdale it was a car park, with the clock drawing ever closer to kick off. At 5 to 7 Jubilee Oval was in sight, but the Sizzler opposite remained frustratingly out of reach. That Sizzler served as my beacon of hope, signifying the point where I would turn left, in doing so ending my stay in the purgatory of gridlock and beginning the next phase of hell- scrambling to find a park.

With the inside lane at a standstill, my hopes of booing the Eagles onto the field before hearing the familiar refrain of “The Saints Are Coming” accompany my boys out were fading rapidly. It was 6:57 and I had barely moved. The south-eastern entrance, my gate of choice, was in sight but it might as well have been in Wollongong. I was all but resigned to my fate when I looked up to see the most beautiful phrase in the English language.

“Clearway 3pm-7pm. Monday to Friday”.

I must have read it a dozen times before allowing myself to believe it. With glee I flicked off my indicator, put the car in park and switched off the ignition. I gingerly left my vehicle, still in shock at what had just taken place. Suddenly a voice broke through from behind me.

“What are you doing?” the angry female motorist barked at me.

“I can park here at 7.”

“But it’s not 7 yet. C’mon mate, it’s peak hour traffic.”

“It’s 7 by my watch. Sorry.”

It was a lie, but only just. Surely this woman could not be so mean-spirited as to deny me my life’s greatest accomplishment Regardless, I remained unmoved, shrugging my shoulders in a manner to firmly but sympathetically indicate the sentiment. I took one last look at the glory that was my parking space, snaked my way through the still static Princes Highway traffic and before I knew it I had found my mates on the hill and gone for a round of beers, all before Jamie Lyon’s annoyingly capable feet had even touched a blade of Kogarah grass.

As it turned out I would have been better served staying on the Eastern side of the Princes Highway and heading straight for the Sizzler dessert bar. The Dragons had some clever ideas in attack lamentably offset by abysmal execution and an absolute contempt for defence. Despite having over 60% of possession the home team was down 18-0 at the break. That lopsided weight of possession came into play in the second half as the Red and Whites levelled the scores. Then, Jamie Soward, whose goalkicking in 2013 has been nothing short of ghastly, shanked a regulation 2-pointer wide of the posts.

The impotent Dragons followed it up with some more unforgivably feeble goal line defence to allow Jorge Taufua to cross for the match winner. With the game done I commenced the almost comically short walk back to my car and made my getaway. It’s not a match that will linger long in the memory. That time I jagged a park right outside Kogarah Oval on game night on the other hand…

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