Assessment: Brisbane finished as expected by most this year though the faithful are no doubt devastated at missing the finals for the first time since the ’91 season. They were sitting on 11-9 with a month of the season remaining and had beaten the Dragons, Melbourne and the Gold Coast twice but they turned in some shockers like their 30-22 round eight loss to Newcastle. Consistency was a big problem for Brisbane and they relied too heavily on their top tier players. Defence was their biggest problems with Brisbane recording the second most missed tackles per game along with conceding the second most line-breaks and metres per game. They have the youth and have recruited well enough to improve in 2011 but there is no doubt those in Brisbane were most disappointed with the 2010 season.
Jack Gibson is considered by many to be the greatest rugby league mentor ever and arguably the greatest Australian coach of any sport. His record is certainly something to behold.
The rugged yet highly intelligent Gibson made an impact right away in coaching. In 1967, Gibson took over as head coach from Bert Holcroft at Eastern Suburbs after the Roosters had gone winless in 1966 and who had gone 8-63-1 over the previous four years, winning three wooden spoons in the process. In 1967, Eastern Suburbs returned to the semi-finals and did the same in 1968 with 13 wins and 14 wins respectively. The turnaround of the Roosters was almost entirely Gibson’s doing. He did very little outside recruitment, preferring to promote from within with the likes of Johnny Peard, Bill Mullins, Johnny Mayes and “Bunny” Reilly- the core of the Roosters premiership teams in ’74 and ’75- all developing and debuting on Gibson’s watch. Gibson had turned the Roosters from easybeats to a fast, defence oriented team who could win football games.
Mad Men rates as the best television shows of the last five years. It is challenged only by Breaking Bad in terms of quality dramas and sits well above other fine and eminently enjoyable dramas like Friday Night Lights, Weeds, Californication and The Sopranos. Comedies such as 30 Rock, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, How I Met Your Mother, The League, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Arrested Development and Community all rate historically, at least in my imaginary book, as some of the best sitcoms ever but even a lover of dodgy sitcoms such as your valiant author cannot place any of these in the same league as Mad Men.
The Fantasy Football League, the unimaginatively titled home-run fantasy league I have participated in since it was formed on that brilliant Tuesday evening back in 2006, just witnessed its most thrilling match with this year’s Grand Final determined by 2.1 points. The League is winner-take-all in every sense and while the margin of 2.1 points was inscrutably close statistically, it was a gulf the size of Nate Myles’s head in actuality.
News Limited did the right thing in firing the Storm’s four independent directors soon after the Deloitte report into the Melbourne Storm salary cap scandal was received at News headquarters in Surry Hills. Chairman Rob Moodie and his litigious and deluded cohorts had to go. They were doing irreparable damage to rugby league and the Melbourne Storm and News Limited had little choice but to remove them from the Storm board. John Hartigan had given the directors ample time: to explain themselves, to enter into mediation with News Limited, to stop their legal action, to assist with the investigation into the salary cap rorting, to resign their positions once they became untenable.
We are fifteen rounds in to the 2010 season and the best team in the competition is destined for the wooden spoon and the competition favourites and only team to stake legitimate title claims are perennial chokers St. George-Illawarra. Players are now defecting to AFL while those who have buggered off to play rugby union cannot wait to get back into a real sport. Good teams are bad and bad teams are good and weirdness reigns supreme. Welcome to the 2010 NRL season, where not a lot makes sense.
“I know you’re worn out
But I’m worn out too”
-Richmond Fontaine, Post To Wire
For good or ill, you reach a number of lucid realisations when you are riding the porcelain bus after a heavy night of popping vodka and ginger ale like creaming soda on a warm summer’s evening, throwing up seemingly every organ you think is jammed inside you, a kind of masochistic internal cleansing crossed with your own personal disembowelment. It is a bitter Melbourne morning and the wind blows off Bass Strait and rain drizzles and you are keeled over in an all-body sweat that drips into your eyes as you wretch up everything from last night’s walk-home hot dog to some dark coloured substance you hope is bile. It is usually at this time, be it due to the hallucinations or the hope that you will make it out alive, that you ponder the heavy issues.
“O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?”
-Futility, Wilfred Owen
There are times when I sit alone, looking deeply into my half drank whiskey as Merle Haggard or Johnny Horton or Patsy Cline plays softly in the distance and wonder what the point of it all is. I feel like I am butting my head against a brick wall. My voice is hoarse and my vocabulary drained and still the New South Wales selectors have their jobs and the same ridiculous selection philosophy is employed and the Blues continue to lose. When deep in the throes of those Nashville blues, as I was last Wednesday night, the sense of futility is overwhelming and you do consider just giving it all away and declaring yourself a Queenslander. Frustration has never frazzled my nerves to such a fray.
Rugby league is a resolute sport born entirely out of a working class ideology that prizes egalitarianism and justice for the working man. The great split of 1895 came about over broken time payments and the refusal of the Rugby Football Union, fearful that their sport was heading to the masses the same as soccer, to allow Northern clubs to pay their working class players for time missed at work. Only those who could afford to play should, was the distinctly snobbish middle-class line touted by the union administration. From the time of the split until the time union threw away amateurism, their primary tool of working class exclusion, any association with rugby league would result in a lifetime ban, a position that gave rugby league a pariah status. This position of being an unwanted outsider provided league with, according to Tony Collins in his book Rugby League in the Twentieth Century: A Social and Cultural History, “its sense of identity-not just northern and manly but also resolutely working class.” The game came to represent the exertion of the limited political and social muscle of the working class and was viewed as a source of pride by working class communities and a creative outlet and accepted vent for working class men bound by their social status, limited means and family responsibility.