Almanac Rugby League – The Form Slump



The once-mighty (often mighty, actually, when you consider the 11 premierships in a row) Dragons are in a slump. The reigning premiers played the very sharp Melbourne Storm outfit on Friday night, in far-off Melbourne town. The slump is about to get deeper.

Those close to me would argue that of all the elements that make up a sporting life, it is the form slump about which I am most qualified to write. My long-term golfing adversary, rival, and nemesis The People’s Hero (the bloke who predicted the Raiders’ revival last year) says I have been in a sporting slump for the entire time that he has known me. Thirty years.

For many years we locked horns weekly on the Indooroopilly Golf Course (which was inundated in the January floods, but has recovered I’m told). We also played an annual tournament at the water-on-every-hole Ocean Shores in northern New South Wales. This included hard-fought contests like The Muscular Christianity Stableford Classic, The Sasha B Memorial, The J. J. Read Fertility Classic and the Fairy Penguin. Most tournaments have been won by The People’s Hero or a bloke called Otis (My Man) whose 70 footer at the 71st hole which went in off a beetle in 1989 may well be the subject of a forthcoming feature film.

I was usually in contention, but crashed on the final day, my game dismantled by the deep desire to beat the little bastard. It was all ego. No soul. Finally, after many, many years I won one: The Boysenberry Dream (named when the provedore for the week – The People’s Hero – bought eight litres of boysenberry swirl ice-cream, and not much else). I only won because I was so far ahead going in to the last round the rest of the field didn’t take it seriously, so it remains something of a hollow victory for me (more ego?)

I have had my slumps with the willow. I’m no G.S. Chappell (who claimed, after his seventh successive duck to be in reasonable form), but like Mark Waugh (whose nickname became Audi after four successive ducks and Tubby Taylor was going to call him Olympic if he scored another one) I once had a run of four noughts until the skipper Vincent van Geiger (now passing himself off as a Maths professor) tapped me on the shoulder saying the good of the team had surpassed the amusement  the lads were deriving watching me shoulder arms to balls en route to the leg stump.

I also played for a rugby league team that won one match in four seasons, me orchestrating every move from five eighth like Sam Backo in a blind-fold. I retired mid-slump  to build on my promising golf career.

What The People’s Hero doesn’t know is that many years ago I was one of the favourites for the club championship at Oakey, a golf course cut from the wilga and brigalow scrub on the Darling Downs where a handful of wheat farmers swung ancient Spaldings bought when times were better. A fortnight out I hit a serious slump, the burden of expectation too much. So I re-built. Everything. I got Billy Casper’s golf manual and I started with the grip. I got a texta and drew where the grip was supposed to be on the palm of my left hand, and I belted balls into a blanket hanging from the clothes line.

The  main effect of this manic and tortured practice was that I won the ire of my dear mother for taking divots. Yet somehow I started to make reasonable contact, and the rest is history: one minor triumph among tired farmers in a career of frustration and excuse-making. I understand the victory as good fortune; as the gods being on my side. A card-carrying rationalist, The People’s Hero says that is rubbish.

He is all for physics, biomechanics and muscle memory. For sports psychology and about being persistent in performing as well as you can, so you give yourself the best opportunity (not chance).

Having played A Grade in the BRL, and represented Queensland Universities (against Tubby Taylor) in a curtain-raiser to a State of Origin in about 1987) and coached sub-district sides, The People’s Hero knows rugby league. He admires the Storm’s Craig Bellamy because he has taught his players that basic technical skills matter – passing, good play-the-balls, tackling. Performing simple tasks consistently helps build belief.

“Belief?” I once asked him. “What’s that?”

“You wouldn’t have a clue,” he said.





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. I think the People’s Hero has been kind to you.

  2. Your footy team makes up for any personal failings JTH. You’re blessed! Or is it ying and yang?

  3. Alovesupreme says

    As we say in Sunderland “It’s the hope I can’t stand” (plagiarised of course from John Cleese).

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