Almanac Rugby League – The battle for the wooden spoon

The excitement last week of Parramatta’s extra-time loss fuelled the Golden Girl’s fire to make it to Skilled Park for the final match of the season for the Eels and Titans.

The fact that it was also the final of the Wooden Spoon- a dreaded consequence of a poor season – made it an appealing clash. Whereas finals are normally about winning-this piece of woodenware goes to the loser.

Courtesy of the Titans we put a crew of 20 together to watch the clash. All the regulars were there including the Flame, the Old Timer, T Squared, Picasso and the rest of this mixed group.

All were feeling that it would be a Parramatta victory but some felt a tinge of support for Preston Campbell who has been an ornament to both rugby league and to the purists who feel that the great game should be able to be played by all shapes and sizes.

Skilled Park is an excellent venue for rugby league although it is difficult to get to with the strict no parking rules. In season 2011 Skilled has not been a graveyard for visiting teams to the tourist strip. More’s the pity in 2011 the Titans have not struck fearnto any side.

The greatest fear I felt was when the bar attendant charged me $8.20 for the Golden Girl to have a single glass bottle of Tyrell’s Old Vintage Shiraz. Gus Gould speak – Wow. Even the bar attendant apologised.

I asked if there was a buy four get one free deal. Negative. I won’t be plying the Golden Girl with that vintage. I went for the Fourex Gold in a plastic cup. $6. Paddy Fitzgerald would have his broad smile wiped off his face at that taste.

Unlike Paddy’s spiritual home Lang Park, where you can buy a decent beer at the Northern end and drink it nice and cold from the stubby (until you leave the area of course)

Pies – say so. You guys no the rest about big stadium food. Corporate boxes full of canapés and prawns. I’m on the plastic wrapped pie and the 60 cent squeeze tomato sauce. The Golden Girl is sampling the soggy chips. Same tomato sauce deal.

Back in our seats with anticipation building Power Stream were belting out their hits that I have never heard of. Kick off to the strains of Welcome to the Jungle piped through the speakers. An early scare for the Eels when Preston made a long range break only to be tackled by that tyro Hindmarsh 10m out. Bad Luck Presto. Titans knock on back on the 10m line. Two competitive players only worried about the game. A classic moment.

Burt is playing in the halfback role for Parra. It certainly has been a troublesome spot for Eels coach Kearney. Parramatta attack- Ken Sio scores on debut with almost his first touch. Only the devout Eels followers would be aware of Sio’s try scoring ability.

With his season ruined by injury Sio showed he may develop into a long-term prospect. Six-nil and worrying signs for the Titans. Soon after the first try another Titans mistake and the Hayne train delivers for the Eels. The most spectacular aspect of the try was the blistering acceleration of Titans winger Mead, who almost caught Hayne. In the US, Mead would be a track and field star or a wide receiver. Tonight at 12-nil he will be wishing he was somewhere else.

Welcome to the Jungle may have to be replaced wit the Teddy Bears Picnic.

The Titans look disorganised and coach Cartwright must feel as though all his good work has evaporated. Bailey who was been so good for the Titans over the last three seasons looks tired and has come up with a poor knock-on.

Parra attack, Morgan in. 16-nil. The signs for the Titans are not good. Parra look the goods.  Oh no. Coach killer. Parramatta make a mistake from the kick off. Knock on. Penalty. Knock on. This is a wooden spoon thriller. Parramatta are back on the attack. Hayne to Morgan for number two and it is 22-nil. The Titans attack looks clueless and Parramatta must for once feel comfortable with that half time score.

Our crew are mainly concerned with the double. I have a leg in with the nine for the Titans. The Flame has never won a double and has two legs alive. The Big Fella’s  kids also have a leg in so we are actually cheering for certain Titans players to score. Drinks anyone.

With 20 minutes to go and after two identical Ben Smith tries Parramatta are up 32-nil. The good sized crowd are starting to leave. Parramatta are actually playing well within themselves and controlling the play well. Burt is the consummate professional. Playing halfback he has guided the side around well. Kicked well and given Hayne the room to move that makes him such a dangerous player. On the other hand the Titans offerings are as limp as the Golden Girl’s soggy chips.

Double pressure is starting to build with 10 left on the clock. Finally the replacement Ridge breaks the line and puts the other replacement O’Dwyer in for a try.

Doubles dilemma. The actual jersey numbers for the double are Titans 17 Eels 18. When Sio scored 7 was the only number not on for Parra. The only back not on for the Titans is Number 3. The flame has 3 in the double. An early crow by the Flame comes out “Drinks on me”.

Hang on get the Flame before it’s to late. Official double 4 and 7. Too late. I’ll drink to the Flame as he has gone off to fight with the Rotary double selling staff. David Gallop will have to answer to this. The Flame is arguing that Titans number 4Toopi was on and O’Dwyer scored. I think he is right. The Flame is down $500 for the double he has not got and $100 for the round of 20 for the early crow.

That burns. On fulltime we go to the video ref. The Titans finish on a mini high for what was a poor performance tonight to win the wooden spoon in style. Parramatta most probably did not deserve it and may now finish 14th.

It is bring on 2012 for both clubs. The Titans must be concerned and be hoping for the fresh faces like Idris to win back the fickle fans of the Gold Coast. Parramatta on the other hand have brought on some new faces who they will be hoping give them some depth. They have introduced some big forwards in Allgood, Lassalo and O’Hanlon, Under 20s captain Brien and backs Loko, Morgan and Sio. Add the Tonga’s and Sandow to the roster and fourteenth place will be unacceptable for the faithful in 2012.

PS The Flame is on his way to the NRL over what he calls ‘Doublegate’. Gracie and I are going to a nice little wine bar to cleanse the palate.

Parramatta 32(Tries: Morgan (2), Smith (2), Hayne, Sio Goals: Burt 4)
Gold Coast 12 (Tries: O’Dwyer Mead
Goals: Campbell Laffranchi)

Venue: Skilled Stadium
Crowd: 18265
Votes: 3- Burt, 2-Hayne, 1- Hindmarsh
Milestone: Last game for Preston Campbell, Try on debut for Sio


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