The Grimaldi-Anderson Cycle: The Lord Giveth, the Lord Taketh and the Balance of the Rugby League Universe

Filed in Other by on December 5, 2010

Oh, ye of little faith!

Non-believers and the weak of conviction!

Brothers…Sisters…members of my congregation have doubted!

Of course, loyal readers and distrustful letter writers, I will devote a column to the retired warrior Tony Grimaldi. Of course he is not just an addendum. Of course, the man needs a fitting tribute from the only man fit enough to write one.

It was a harrowing week when the reality of Tony Grimaldi and his bum neck and his last game of rugby league had set in. These snippets of news tend to crack into one’s chest like a giant cannonball hitting the wobbly belly of some fat carnival freak who gets his kicks at the end of a fat gun-barrel. While it was worthy of only a few paragraphs in the major newspapers and some brief filler seconds on most news bulletins, it meant a hell of a lot more to those who really understand and really love rugby league. As the Great Grimaldi Moments flashed through my consciousness in a blurred montage of tackling and clever football, the news failing to fully register with my internal computer, I could feel nothing but numbness. I was stuck in emotional purgatory, dulled and cold from head-to-toe, unable to comprehend the finality of the news that had just shot from the wires.

Then, as the minutes ticked by and the hours dragged on like a sleepless Sunday night, the real sadness set in. Melancholy reigned supreme and there was nothing that could be done. It hurt more than the giant cannonball. When I saw Tony last, I asked him how the neck was. “It’s fucked mate” was all he could say. At the time, the ominous finality of those words slid over my eternally optimistic rugby league conscious. “Next year” was all I could say, slapping his back and imagining Big T running out Grand Final day.

It was a moment that you look back on and struggle to comprehend how you could not grasp the importance at the time.

I am not ashamed to say I shed a tear when he graced television screens along the East coast telling how he could not risk going on, how he’d had a good run but he had to think of his family. Selfless to the death.

I tossed and turned all night. I thought of those Great Grimaldi moments, a lifetime of blurry highlights, and smiled and cringed at once. A young reserve grade captain rolling around the field with the zest of youth; the brilliant run of the ’98 finals series and the heartbreaking finale that squashed a fairytale; endless perfect tackles and intelligent decisions; taking on the number thirteen jersey as his own; teaming up with names like Reardon and Ward and Ryan; the great exaggerated dummy try; the field goal shot in the dying seconds of 2005 that would have seen the Dogs lose by 17 rather than 18; the unexpected drafting of him in the fourth round of fantasy football; last try scorer bets that saluted; the toughness of his final effort; the loneliness of the retired footballer.

Endings are hard to deal with. Grimaldi in the past, rather than present, tense was not easy to adjust too. I felt old and wretched, seeing off another hero. Hearing of the finale of Tony Grimaldi’s rugby league career, knowing I would never see Grimaldi running around again, was a defining moment of my sports life. In my dying days, it will be a well marked point on the Timeline of Tedeschi.

Rugby league just didn’t seem important. It appeared, for a brief period in the depths of personal and professional reflection, that rugby league was just a game. Like a devout wife who questions how the Lord took her husband, faith wavering and belief strained, I doubted The Game and the meaning of it all.

Then, in the space of a day, I was saved. In a miracle akin to the Red Sea parting, Chris Anderson was called from the wilderness to save the Roosters. The greatest coach in the modern game, having been buried and left for dead by Cronulla apologists and vengeful propagandists, returns on a chariot of glory and salvation to the plaudits of all true believers.

The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge– Ezekiel 18.2

Those who had slandered Anderson, driving him from the game he knows and loves believed they would never see him again. He was dead and they could write his history. To them, he was a vicious grudge bearer and a stupid fool. He tore teams apart and he could not coach. He was a troublemaker. And these seeds were sewn and the wheels of history were put in motion…

Now, those hacks and perennial losers are fighting a rear action battle and the soldiers are fleeing. The wise old head Nick Politis looked at the jokers giving it to Opes, looked at his incomparable record and told the bums to go to hell. When the pigslappers who run Newcastle and Canberra believed the lies, Politis was smart enough to realise the motives of the defamers and step on their fat poisonous mouths to hire The Man.

Ando will take the Roosters to the finals in 2007. He will see in their 1000th victory and he will make their 100th season a success. Chris Anderson is a winner. Pure and simple. And I laugh joyously at all those stupid enough to suggest otherwise.

Within 48 hours, balance had been restored in the rugby league universe. The Grimaldi-Anderson cycle had completed itself. When one hero goes,another tends to takes his place. If you’re lucky, an old hero returns.

This time, an old hero has.

His name is Chris Anderson.


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