When You Think You Have Seen It All: Welcome Home, Welcome to the Brutality

Filed in Other by on December 5, 2010

Craig Fitzgibbon is a bum and if I had my way he would be whipped like a mangy dog until he bled from both ears and had contrition flowing from his swollen mouth like a river of sorrow.

I have seen a lot as a professional gambler. There is not much that shocks me. Being in the pit day in and day out is a tough life but it hardens you and it is a path well worth traveling for those with natural gambling instincts and an eager sense of perspective. The whims of the Gambling Gods and the swings of the game rarely rattle the roost these days. It is a tough game and you can’t expect to win them all. You can’t even expect to win the bets you should. Hell, those in charge have a wicked and vile sense of humour and they get their kicks from brutal defeats and weird beatings.

Meaningless three-point bombs to cover the spread. Falls at the last jump. Drug-fuelled comebacks high in the Alps. Tries from rolling mauls five minutes after the full-time siren. Horrible 100 yard fumble returns. Golden point tries. Blown leads and missed three-foot putts. I have seen a lot of weird ways to lose your money and while they leave you slightly bitter and drifting on the cynical side of the street, I take from it all that I at least will not be surprised anymore. When I’m beaten like a bitch by the Gambling Gods…well, you just roll with it because that is how the game goes. It has happened before. It stings but you expect to get whipped some days and you just lie down and take it with a crooked smile like all those married to Fem-Dom’s do every night when demands of a rather vociferous nature are made.

That was until the weekend. The fury is still red hot deep inside. Be prepared for the froth because this will not be pretty. Hell hath no fury like a gambler robbed in broad daylight on a somewhat pleasant Sunday afternoon. People have been shot for less.

I had returned home less than twenty-four hours previous. The Qantas flight from San Francisco to Sydney had the nerves severely frayed and the mind filled with hate and confusion. Cramped and refused the constant flow of entirely necessary alcohol, I frayed and sweated and rambled incoherently, disturbing a number of passengers futilely attempting to sleep. We hit Sydney relatively close to schedule, a trek of some fourteen hours. Then the word came down the wire that Sydney was ensconced in fog and the plane was short on fuel. We are off to Brisbane. There were some wild scenes as those actually heading to Brisbane were informed that they would not be allowed off the plane, that they would sit three hours on the tarmac and return to Sydney to get their connecting flights to Brisbane. Plenty of interesting phrasing was used and finally the attention was turned away from my mumblings and social inadequacies. Strange rustlings after a suicidal-inducing wait in the Customs queue did nothing to ease the stink of doom, nor did the strong-arm insistence that smoking would not be tolerated anywhere and all offenders would be secretly and severely “interrogated”. No exception. Even for weary and dazed writers with a significant need for nicotine and a very loose temper.

The nerves were no doubt frayed and it would take at least a week to return to normality. I was tense and on edge and for reasons not entirely clear, keen to bet heavily. Despite having seen a total of zero minutes of rugby league over the previous month, I felt equipped to take on various bookmakers and acquaintances. My foundations are sound and I had plenty of time to read when hovering over the Pacific Ocean. And I was fresh and that counts for something.

Everything started off swimmingly enough. Three-for-three, against the spread, on Saturday evening. Cronulla are perennial fuck-ups, particularly at this time of year, and would probably be beaten hard. The Warriors have some sick aversion to the Canberra air and cannot win at Bruce regardless of their talent edge. The Cowboys are skirts but they are skirts at home and that is a hell of a lot better betting proposition than the skirts that have to travel interstate. It was all simple logic and the Gambling Gods occasionally engage in a deep appreciation of simplicity.

But the Gambling Gods are known for sharp changes in mood and what was pleasant and financially rewarding on Saturday became brutal and confusing and criminal on Sunday. Turning against the popular opinion that the Titans-Roosters affair would be a low scoring and dour affair, I bet heavily on the overs. The line was 40.5 and despite the rain, it seemed an eminently reasonable bet.

The bet was looking even better at half-time. The points were piling up like a teenage boy’s collection of pornography. Things turned dire fairly quickly from that point. The points dried up relatively quickly and then Amos Roberts dropped the ball underneath the sticks. Nevertheless, I am an optimist and a converted try would get the job done. Hell, that isn’t impossible. And it wasn’t. Sam Perrett, a giant in my heart after leading the incomparable Geurie Greens to premiership glory, tapped and scored with only a few seconds on the clock. The game was over, for all intents and purposes. There would be no pressure on Craig Fitzgibbon for his conversion.

What happened next seemed like a gut-clenching nightmare that results in uncontrollable screaming and violent sweating. Craig Fitzgibbon asked the referee if he had to take the kick and when informed he did not, opted against the conversion. Those who had bet the unders laughed callously and without compassion. Those who had taken the overs were submerged in a frenzy of hate and apocalyptic despair. People who had gambled for fifty years had seen nothing like it. Women passed out and children wailed into the evening. All hope had been squashed by some fool with no respect for rugby league and no pride in his jersey.

Gamblers have a tendency to get a little wild after such a vicious beating as this and I am no exception. The whole sordid defeat was akin to being king hit in the ear. Everything is a blur and you are very sore. Very sore indeed.

The rules surrounding the incident are stupid, the reaction of the NRL showed that the game is run by a pack of hillbillies and the decision by Craig Fitzgibbon not to attempt the conversion had the vile stench of gutlessness, petulance and lack of pride. The fact you are not obliged to take a conversion is ridiculous. If, in the unlikely situation that the team was required to hurry to get another play, it would take less than ten seconds to place the ball on the tee and poke the ball off it and run back to receive the kickoff. The rule shows no respect for the gambling community, whom have significantly boosted the coffers of the NRL through their television deal, and is completely nonsensical. The fact that the NRL would come out and state that they don’t stage the games for gambling purposes showed just how out-of-touch NRL administrators actually are. The games, of course, are not staged solely for gambling purposes but wagering on rugby league has increased the popularity of the game significantly and it is about time the NRL recognised this. Of course, one simple rule change would remedy all of this. Stop the clock at dead-ball situations. It is not a hard concept to grasp nor is it a difficult rule to institute. But the NRL in all their infinite wisdom will not implement it for reasons normal human adults cannot understand.

And now to Fitzgibbon. I once had respect for him. He was a rugged warrior who always seemed to bust a gut. He would tackle and run hard and personify all the great things rugby league stood for. No more, Slappy. His decision to take an early shower rather than add an extra two points to his career tally and the Roosters for this season and the Roosters all-time scoreboard was disgusting and not only from a gambling perspective. It was akin to not tackling when the team was down by twenty. “The game was over” was the excuse. Why even stay out there when you are down by thirteen with two minutes to play? Players stay out there to complete the game and show pride for themselves and their jersey. Craig Fitzgibbon embarrassed himself, his team, his family and the game by not attempting the conversion. It was Fitzgibbon being a sore loser and choosing a warm shower over the game he has earned a living from. Defeatism at its most sickening.

He will get his. Don’t mind that. That is how these things work and Karma will not look too fondly on punks who give up. Craig Fitzgibbon should retire immediately, abandon his possessions and seek solace in the free and uninhibited moonlit skies of the Gibson Desert. These words are harsh but they need to be heard.

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