Death Blow 2006 and the First Carriage Out of Town

Filed in Other by on December 5, 2010

Character is formed in the stormy billows of the world
-Johann Wolfgang Goethe

I have read a lot of Goethe over the last week. I plowed through Faust. I sat up all night, cranked on red wine and finality, and read every word of The Sorrows of Young Werther. I ignored all phone calls from bookmakers, publishers and creditors and sat solemnly, cross-legged, through Elective Affinities.

After the tragedy of last Friday night-forty minutes from The Big Dance- Goethe was the only solace. He was the only man wise and pure enough to drag me from the drunken depression that engulfed me and the small town Central Western New South Wales town of Grenfell last weekend. He makes Shakespeare look like an illiterate belly-poker and Blake a thieving bum with a taste for homely beasts.

At around 8:40pm last Friday evening, as the half-time siren sounded loud and proud at the Sydney Football Stadium, surrounded by my brethren, fellow travelers in the Blue and in the White, I did not envisage Grand Final week would be dominated by German poets and an underlying current of disappointment. Leading 20-6 and looking world beaters, the mighty Bulldogs were headed to another Grand Final. They would be fighting it out, chasing down their third title in five years. Anyone who wants to argue 2002 can throw hands with Old Punt any day of the week. I’m not feeling all that magnanimous right now, so expect some serious ball-stomping.

All was looking pretty damned positive, like flopping a decent old boat. Bet heavily and smile. No team was going to run down Canterbury with a 14-point lead. This is Canterbury. Not Cronulla or Parramatta. Then the cards were turned over and you’ve been beaten by four two’s.

Things went bad. Parramatta bad. Through a general lack of pride, common sense and footballing ability, the Dogs fucked it up, X-men style. All Canterbury fans had the ignominy of feeling like they supported Cronulla. Finals disgrace is their bag, not ours.

With five minutes to go, destiny sealed and the 2006 Death Blow landed, I skulked off with head down and spirits lower. With a bottle of Jack and the Wok wrapping it all up, I fled west. With the portable telephone buzzing like a nympho’s best friend, it was on to the Central West for a weekend of heavy gambling, heavier personal abuse and even heavier drinking. I took the first carriage out of town…

It was an interesting trek. Details are sketchy and the sequence of events is known only by the Lord above and any stalker I may have. Pauline Hanson was there and snubbed your august pen-man, preferring to mingle with her 37th glass of champagne. The Legend, Steve Mortimer, was also there. We hugged and commiserated over some stolen ale. The CWA put on a mighty spread. Some broad had the most frightening shoulder blades one has ever seen. Local punks started getting rough. Shirtless South African immigrants started getting rough. Bets were won and bets were lost. The Sting slept standing up, the missing link to the bovine world eventually found. No room service. Violent hangovers. Henry bloody Lawson everywhere.

It all helped in the quest to forget. But then you sober up and the comedown is brutal and it only gets worse when chards of reality hit the consciousness.

The first chard was the worst. I was forced to retire Old Faithful. The grandest of all T-shirts had ridden his last back. After nearly a decade-and-a-half of proud and loyal service, he could not go on. Through heated summers and jelly wrestling, wild boar hunting and throwing up in a Tokyo alleyway, Old Faithful has been there and seen it all. Anyone who knows Uncle Punt knows Old Faithful. He has been on part-time duty of late but he can go no further. His time has come. He will be sadly missed and his record streak as number one in the rotation will never be broken.

Then I picked up the papers on Monday morning and all I could see were words and pictures of the Sydney Swans. I hurt deep inside. It was Grand Final week and there was no rugby league on the front or back page. I loathe the Swans and I wish them every failure and misery. For the sake of rugby league and the sake of seeing those who have jumped on that vastly over-crowded bandwagon get violently mauled as said wagon screeches to a mean and sudden halt. I cursed the nationalisation of sport with fury and guttural anger…  
Punters in towns and villages and cities north of Albury and east of Broken Hill should be giddy for rugby league. Giddy for the Grand Final, where legends are made and memories are forged. For all the disappointment of Canterbury, this Grand Final is still a wonderful match that will capture the attention and affection of any real rugby league fan. And fans should be rejoicing the fact that that vindictive maniac Steve Clark missed out on the game he thought he was destined to officiate. The Karma of sending Terry Lamb to the sin bin in a pre-season semi-final over a decade ago and the subsequent hatred he has shown for and directed at the Canterbury-Bankstown club has come to seek equilibrium.

Any fan who thought last year was a finer match-up than this season needs to have a number of tests run on them to determine their chemical make-up and overall sanity. The Storm and the Broncos are two wonderful rugby league outfits, the second and third best teams in the NRL. The Storm have a sharp, electric backline and a hardworking pack. The Broncos have a fearsome collection of forwards and a backline littered with gamebreakers.

This will be a formidable and intense affair that may rival 2004 in brutality. And with names like Lockyer, Inglis, Hodges and Slater floating out wide, the potential of danger is always present. Add the subplots of beloved front-rower Shane Webcke’s retirement and the final NRL game for enigmatic Storm playmaker Scott Hill, this match has all the ingredients for a classic.

The Broncos have it all to lose. At their best, they have an edge over the Storm. Their pack is a little stronger and can do more damage. And if Lockyer lights it up, the Storm will struggle to shut him down. The way he sliced through Canterbury like The King of the Butchers was a sight to behold and the Storm fringe defence is their weakness. And they have the most revered Bronco of all time to play it for. As outsiders, they are a super bet.   

Come late Sunday evening, after a bloody classic, Shane Webcke, tear on cheek, will wander an eerie Telstra Stadium retired and victorious. It is a fitting finale. Fitting now the Dogs are finished.


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