The Mad Men of the NRL

Filed in Other by on December 11, 2010

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.

Everybody who has seen Mad Men has fallen in love with it. It is vodka for breakfast, sexual harassment for lunch and Lucky Strikes all day long. Men want to be Don Draper and women want to be with him. Every red-blooded male with an ounce of sense is so madly in love with Joan Holloway that they would take twelve years off their life to get a whiff of her perfume.

For the uninitiated, Mad Men is an AMC drama sporadically shown in Australia focussing, originally, on fifties advertising firm Sterling Cooper and now Sterling Cooper Draper Price. It is, essentially, a period drama filled with outstanding story-telling, compelling storylines, deep characters and a living insight into a different time. There is arguably no better written or produced show on at the moment. Sadly, it has been jacked around in Australia and despite the fact we are now five episodes into season four there has been no mention of a free-to-air showing date.

The key to the show, without doubt, is the quality of characters. So for sport and some levity as we dig deeper into the belly of this election beast, the NRL equivalents to the key characters on Mad Men:

Don Draper (Cameron Smith): Don is the alpha male who has made a career out of being the best at his job. He is uncompromising, hard working and impatient and as such achieves a somewhat idyllic life at a relatively young age. He has the attractive wife, the house in the suburbs, professional respect and loving kids. The same holds true for Smith, the alpha male of a sport made for alpha males. Smith had won a premiership, captained Australia and skippered Queensland all before the age of 25 and is a player who has been lauded for his leadership, playing ability and workhorse ethic. Just as Don has declined in the latest season, his drinking becoming increasingly sloppy and his womanising becoming clumsy and sad, Smith has this year seen his reputation battered by the Storm salary cap scandal with Smith the highest paid player at the club and one accused of receiving off the book payments. It is also rumoured that Cameron Smith has stolen the identity of a fellow classmate from Marsden High School.

Betty Draper (Jarryd Hayne): Betty, wife of Don, initially comes across as much hotter than she actually is with her attractiveness diminishing as her cold and unlikable personality comes to the fore. Hayne, similarly, looks like a much better player than his actual contribution warrants. Betty is also rarely happy, is continually ungrateful and is somewhat of a loner. The same characteristics are true of Hayne who is continually reported as being unhappy with his coach, his pay-packet and the state of the game as a whole while his style of play is individualistic to the extreme. Betty eventually leaves Don and it won’t be long before Hayne leaves Parramatta. The consequences for Don have been somewhat disastrous and the outcome for the Eels will likely follow a similar path.

Peggy Olson (Jamie Soward): Peggy is a copywriter at Sterling Cooper who starts out as an office girl and rises through the ranks to become the only female outside of the secretary pool and is eventually recruited to join Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. She is ambitious and talented but has found it difficult to rise through the ranks as she encounters a culture of sexism. Soward is an outstanding player who has survived in the NRL on talent alone despite a long line of critics willing to slam him. Soward should have played Origin football two years ago but has been stopped by a selection panel unable to recognise his obvious ability with Soward suffering from a structural prejudice against his size and style. Peggy‘s confidence has increased since going to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and Soward’s confidence has climbed dramatically since playing under Wayne Bennett.

Joan Holloway (Alan Tongue): Both Holloway and Tongue are flaming redheads renowned for their professionalism, lauded for their leadership and respected for their discretion. Joan is often underappreciated in her role at Sterling Cooper, particularly when she works as a script reader, doing a venerable job before being replaced by a young, less qualified male. Tongue, due to the unfashionable style of his work and his location in Canberra, is often overlooked by ignorant and blind representative selectors with his work often underappreciated outside of Raider heartland.

Pete Campbell (Mark Gasnier): Pete Campbell is described on Wikipedia variously as being from “an influential Manhattan family” and as “ambitious”, “sexually aggressive”, “eager to advance” and driven by money and status. Mark Gasnier is from influential Dragons stock who has always been talented but who has always wanted more, be it power or money. Gasnier demanded to be moved to five-eighth under Nathan Brown while also pushing Brown to play Ben Rogers in the six jersey ahead of regular five-eighth Jamie Soward in an elimination semi-final against Manly. The Dragons lost 38-6 and Nathan Brown has not coached in the NRL since. Gasnier also defected to rugby for the quick payday and his “fire up bitch” text-a-thon suggests he is also quite “sexually aggressive”. The Campbell-Gasnier parallels are plentiful.

Roger Sterling (Trent Barrett): Sterling is a partner in Sterling Cooper and then Sterling Cooper Draper Price whose position in the company and standing in the industry stands in direct contrast to his contribution. Sterling seems to do very little but drink, smoke, womanise and lay about, living on a reputation long ago attained. Despite the fact Barrett’s game has been in decline for at least a half-decade he continues to be regarded as one of the top five-eighths in the code and was even appointed New South Wales captain this year. Both Sterling and Barrett live a charmed existence.

Bert Cooper (Tim Sheens): Cooper is the eccentric senior partner of Sterling Cooper who is treated with reverence even by Roger Sterling and Don Draper. Sheens is generally regarded as an unconventional coach who, despite a recent record that has seen him take a team to the finals only once since 1996, is consistently rated as one of the top coaches in the game.

Ken Cosgrove (Nathan Hindmarsh): Ken Cosgrove is an account executive at Sterling Cooper universally liked around the office for his sense of fun as well as the honourable way in which he does business. Cosgrove is also regarded as extremely accomplished and supplants Pete for the top executive job at the old Sterling Cooper, a job the two of them shared for a period. In NRL circles, Hindmarsh is the most popular figure and is revered for his workhorse ethic and his honest style of play.

Lane Pryce (Gareth Ellis): Pryce is the financial officer for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce who is diligent about his work, focussing on the minutiae of the business. Ellis is similarly diligent about the way he goes about rugby league with Ellis being a player who can always be relied upon to do the small things properly. Plus, they are both Brits in foreign lands.

Freddy Rumsen (Nate Myles): Freddy is a copywriter who worked at Sterling Cooper before getting fired due to his drinking problems that eventually saw him drink so much at work that he wet himself and passed out before a major presentation. Nate Myles once got suspended for six weeks for defecating in the hallway of the Terrigal Crowne Plaza before being found naked in a fire escape after a heavy night of drinking. In twin tales of redemption, Rumsen sobered up and returned to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce while Myles has laid off the drink in 2010 and has had the finest season of his career.

Harry Crane (Ryan Hoffman): Harry Crane is a media buyer at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce who climbed the ranks because he happened to be at the right place at the right time when television became increasingly important. Hoffman has managed to win Origin and Australian jerseys on the back of being in such a champion Melbourne Storm team (as well as, quite probably, being Craig Bellamy’s love child).

Paul Kinsey (Brian Smith): Kinsey is a copywriter at Sterling Cooper with beatnik tendencies, a snobbish attitude and limited abilities. Smith considers himself a rugby league guru who has full confidence in his abilities despite failing to win a premiership in 22 years as a head coach at NRL level. Kinsey responded with anger when he found out how he was considered when Peggy was taken to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Smith has only reacted with sadness when punished by the likes of Wayne Bennett in any number of September failings.

Duck Phillips (Daniel Anderson): Both Duck and Daniel seemed to be on the wrong end of political power plays. Duck was shown the door at Sterling Cooper. Anderson probably isn’t far away from the same treatment at Parramatta.

Jane Siegel (Benji Marshall): Jane is an ambitious and vain secretary who marries Roger Sterling. Benji Marshall is a vain player who often takes the glory option over the common sense play.

Lee Garner (Willie Mason): Lee Garner is the boss of Lucky Shot cigarettes who gets off on being the big shot and playing the bully. Willie Mason similarly gets of on being the big shot and playing the bully. Both get away with it because of what they bring to the table though Mason’s diminishing on-field abilities have seen clubs less willing to accept the never-ending sideshow that follows him.

Glen Bishop (Adam Cuthbertson): Glen is a strange kid who deliberately walks in on Betty going to the bathroom and then breaks into the Draper house and vandalises it when he develops a crush on the Draper girl. He is freakish, scary and capable of anything. Adam Cuthbertson will throw offloads in his own half, call out former coaches and drop the ball constantly. He is also scary and capable of anything.

Lois Sadler (Luke O’Donnell): Lois is a secretary with Sterling Cooper who came to prominence when crippling a man while driving a ride-on lawnmower in the offices of the ad agency. O’Donnell seems to enjoy hurting and maiming and crippling other players. Michael Monaghan will attest to that.

Smitty and Kurt Smith (Fuifui Moimoi and Taniela Tuiaki): Smitty and Kurt are an odd duo who work together in creative at Sterling Cooper. Moimoi and Tuiaki are an odd duo who live together somewhere in western Sydney.

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