Almanac Rugby League – What happened to Gus Gould’s hair?

I’m in Brisbane for the weekend visiting family. It’s the first chance I’ve had in many a year to watch a Friday night game live on television. It’s also the first chance I’ve had to watch Channel Nine’s pregame ‘entertainment” too. Mercy me.

So let’s start with the (actual) white elephant on the commentary panel: Gus Gould. Can someone tell me what has happened to his hair? Did the tatty white QC’s wig look happen overnight like it did to Laura Palmer’s father in Twin Peaks? Is the Penrith GM job really that stressful?… I think I just answered my own question there didn’t I? The defence rests your honour. I pity Ivan Cleary next year.

Kenny Sutcliffe hasn’t aged a bit but he’s wearing a Wimbledon tie. It’s no doubt a silent protest against his employers for dumping the tournament. Let it go Kenny my boy.

We cut to Lockyer in the dressing room and some bloke (is it his Dad?) touching the scarring on his mangled cheek inappropriately. Just leave him alone.

And then comes a piece of Peter Sterling brilliance. He states that the Manly team has “the most experienced inexperienced forward pack” in the competition. What? Come again? Does that mean… never mind.

I bang on about the pregame coverage because the game itself is somewhat anti-climactic. Griffin has gone to the “Do it for Locky” well once too often over the last month and a Wallace-centric kicking game just isn’t producing the goods for the Clip Clops. This was a vastly improved Manly from the team the Broncos had beaten in Brisbane three weeks earlier.

In fact, the only thing that got my family fired up during the game was the heated discussion about the merits of Will “Hotplate” Hopoate throwing in two years of rugby league and $1.5 million to go and fulfil his Mormon duties.

I also spend an inordinate amount of time wondering, asking myself who is the more annoying trainer/14th player on the field – Geoff Toovey or Alan Langer?

But there are moments of brilliance from both sides. Here are five of them:

1.      Jharal “Advanced Hair” Yow Yeh’s extraordinary overhead 30th minute try was, to quote the inimitable R.Warren, “unbelievable in the highest possible level.” It gave the Broncos a sniff going into the break trailing 16-4.

2.      Hopoate had a relatively quiet night but the finishing of both his tries was first class wing play.

3.      Corey Parker’s offload to Peter Wallace to allow him to score next to the goalpost in the 52nd minute was an absolute cracker (and I’m surprised Georgy “Box of” Rose’s attempts to stop Wallace scoring didn’t bring that goal post crashing down).

4.      Kieran Foran displayed a lot of nerve to pluck the ball from Gerard Beale’s grasp following a Cherry-Evans bomb and seal the game with 20 minutes to play.

And my favourite…

5.      One of the more bizarre passages of play for the year started in the 69th minute with some aerial ping pong courtesy of a backwards Matt Gillett kick, a Ben Hannant hand tap, a Justin Hodges weaving run, an offload back to Gillett who was over the try line and putting the ball down when Jamie Lyon loomed up from leftfield to tackle, grapple, wrestle and wrangle Gillett on to his back in the in goal to hold up the Bronco and prevent the certain 4 pointer. Best try save of the year. I can’t do this passage of play justice. Go to YouTube immediately.

With every passing minute of that second half, Lockyer retreats further into the hood of his jumper, just wishing the cameras would leave him alone to suffer in silence.

The only other talking point is Steve Matai’s and Tony Williams’ separate cheap shots on Yow Yeh earning them both a place in the referee’s bad books. Nervous times for both going into Grand Final week.

And that was that with Manly now one step closer to an 8th premiership and the Broncos heading to Mad Monday at the Paddo Tavern.

Thanks for a brilliant career Darren Lockyer. If there’s any consolation, it’s that your game tally of 355 exactly matches the number of wickets Dennis Lillee took in his test career and you both brought me a great deal of sporting pleasure.

MANLY 26 (Tries: W Hopoate 2, M Ballin, B Stewart, K Foran; Goals: J Lyon 3) BRISBANE 14 (Tries: J Yow Yeh, C Parker, D Copley; Goals: C Parker l)

Sydney Football Stadium. Crowd: 31,894.

3 – Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly), 2 – Jamie Lyon (Manly), 1 – Kieran Foran (Manly).



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