The Footy Almanac: Channelling Tricky

Filed in Other, Uncategorized by on September 8, 2011

I was born into an Aussie Rules family and growing up on an aboriginal mission in central Australia I was totally unaware of the existence of Rugby League for the first ten years of my life.

When I was in year three my parents went on a sojourn to Europe for three months and as they had obviously decided I would hinder their festivities, I was made to live with friends of theirs in Sydney. They were great people who had a young bloke only six months older than me, so I left my School of the Air surroundings and attended St Andrews in Town Hall. I traded the dirt bowl of the Red Centre for a roof top playground in the heart of Sydney and there it was that I first discovered Rugby League.

Harry was a mad Balmain supporter and as impressionable as I was, I followed suit. The die was set. My first live experience was the round six clash in 1991 when South Sydney took on the might of Balmain.

Still not having any great affinity for the game, and being more awestruck by the amount of people, I watched nervously with anticipation. It was a cracking game. Balmain held an 18-10 advantage with about 10 minutes to go when a little bloke named ‘Tricky’ took centre stage. A scoot from dummy half and he was into open field, a side step and an inside ball and the Rabbits were over. Converted. 18-16.

In Souths’ next set Tricky again made a break from dummy half with a big right-foot step. Approaching the Balmain fullback he shelved the step and went for the chip over the top. He regathered and sprinted the final 30 metres to score under the posts. Converted. At 22-18 with only minutes remaining, it was now my firm belief that Tricky was the best player to ever lace a boot. My opinion on Tricky was heightened further when he calmly slotted a field goal with the last play of the game. My despair that Balmain was beaten was overshadowed by the fact I’d seen the greatest at work.

It would become abundantly clear to me over the next few years that Tricky most certainly was not, the greatest player in the game. Not by a long shot but for those few moments, a footballer with plenty of talent captured the imagination of a sandy haired boy from Hermannsburg and a love of Rugby League was born.

The Sharks went into round 26 on a hiding to nothing. No chance to make the finals and playing the form team of the competition. The fans that watched were hoping for some inspiration. A Tricky-esque performance to add some life to the game. Dead rubbers rely on individual acts of brilliance and determination to keep the punters interested and we got plenty. Marshall started it off in the Tigers first set with a neat inside ball to put Moltzen into space. A draw and pass on the fullback and Mitch Brown was over in the corner. The beginning of an avalanche it seemed.

In the ninth minute Robbie Farah scored his first for the night with a sneaky dart from dummy half preying on some lax Sharks defenders. The big guns from the West were getting it done and the only question remaining was how many would the Tigers rack up.

Paul Gallen had other ideas and after some bustling runs in the middle of the ruck, he loomed out wide and threw the last pass in a solid second-man play that allowed John Williams to cross the stripe. It was a cracking ball from Gallen that Marshall or even Tricky himself would have been proud of.

Moltzen answered quickly for the Tigers and the lead stretched. Enter Jeremy Smith. This journeyman player has played a pivotal role in premiership sides but has often found himself the victim of salary cap constraints. A bustling run straight over the top of Chris Heighington and he was through. His skill and decision making shown to great effect as at full pace he rolled a perfect kick into the corner for Stuart Mills to pounce and the Sharks were in the fight again.

Benji then added to his try assist tally putting Tuqiri over in the 35th minute to ensure the Tigers went to the main break with a comfortable lead. A first half that yielded six tries all laid on by the big guns.

The second half was more of the same with Gallen again displaying his talent with another try assist putting Smith over next to the posts. The Sharks had a glimmer of hope but this was snuffed out with man of the match Robbie Farah crossing the stripe twice more the bring up his hat-trick with some jinking dummy half runs, strength and determination.

The Tigers emerged victorious 30-22 to extend their winning run to 8 and maintain their momentum into September. The Sharks finished another disappointing season with a ray of hope for next year. Another nothing game was made compelling by the individual brilliance of players on both sides. Farah, Marshall, Gallen and Smith all getting it done in the true Tricky way. Six thumbs up. 


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