Australian captain Darren Lockyer waves farewell to Australian fans after defeating New Zealand in the Trans-Tasman Rugby League Test at Ausgrid Stadium, Newcastle, October 16. Lockyer played his final test game on Australian soil. (AAP IMAGE/DEAN LEWINS)
NATIONAL: PHIL MUNDINE* presents his monthly round-up of the winners and losers in sport.
I have never been one to openly make fun of a real champion (and he is), but I was tempted to write this column during the lead up week to the NRL Trans-Tasman Test match between Australia and New Zealand.
A large number of TV promos for the match made mention that this was Darren Lockyer’s last Test match on Australian soil.
This struck a chord as something slightly repetitive as all year during the footy season it’s been, “Darren Lockyer’s last season”, “Darren Lockyer’s last match at ANZ Stadium”, “Darren Lockyer’s last match at SunCorp Stadium”, “Darren Lockyer’s last series in State of Origin”, “Darren Lockyer’s last State of Origin match in Sydney”, then in Brisbane, then his last competition match.
It was “Darren Lockyer’s his last semi-finals match”, his last shot at a Grand Final.
Even during the Test match one of the commentators asked the question, “when will it all end?”
We will of course hear the promoter’s cry “don’t forget to tune your television to the Tri Nations Rugby League competition”.
It is, after all, Lockyer’s last Test match series, his last Test match, his last chance at a series victory.
Come to Lockyer’s Testimonial match? Testimonial Dinner? The opening of the Darren Lockyer Stand? Stadium? Scholarship? Man of the Match award? And, heaven forbid, Lockyer for Parliament?
Lightning Jack is even making a return concert to keep the record for longest final tour in his own name.
But I suspect the “Hell Freezes Over” tour will beat them all, at least I hope.
Speaking of Lockyer’s final test match on Australian soil, did someone forget to tell the Kiwis that it was a Test match?
That although it was a one-off match it still was a Test match?
Do benchwarmers and second graders really make good International players?
The game may have been entertaining for the diehard Aussie supporters who enjoy any sort of one-sided event as long as Australia is winning, but alas I am not one of them.
I spent a large proportion of the middle parts of the match watching the bike racing in Victoria in which there was another Aussie victory by a local NSW Liverpool boy claiming the 800cc World Motor Cycle Championship.
Later in the evening another Australian came third in the South Korean Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Both races, even for non-petrol heads like myself were much more interesting than the exhibition put on by the rugby league.
Many people are getting an idea that I am anti-league. This is not entirely true.
My thoughts are the thoughts of many rugby league supporters.
Where is the game going?
Who are the people running it?
What are their qualifications?
Is working in the media or being an ex-player enough to make influential suggestions to the league executive about anything to do with the code?
One suggestion during the coverage of the last Test match was “should tackling round the legs warrant a penalty”. Uh, duh?
Whatever happened to inside and outside centres?
Why can’t wingers stay on their wing?
Fix up those scrums, and I don’t mean scrap them just because the coach is only interested in winning the game at all costs and finds the scrums a distraction.
By the time players make first grade surely they should have a basic knowledge of all the rugby league skills.
A common cry from referees is, “I am not a coach, don’t expect me to tell the players the rules while on the run during a game”.
Or, “Is my job on the line if I enforce the rules and prevent the game from pleasing the TV commentators?”
In the modern game a player who knows all the rules and has the basic skills is generally regarded as a champion where once this was expected of every first grader.
Once again we come to the usual question.
Why is it that the leading tryscorer (equal tryscorer) for the season cannot make the Australian squad for the one off International match against the Kiwis despite the ability to perform well above his colleagues in any position in the backline.
I’m talking, of course, about Nathan Merritt.
I’ve been told there is a line of thought among some supporters that certain players may need to migrate interstate to get a representative jumper.
It’s an interesting concept. Perhaps some of you readers, being regular match attendees can enlighten me?
Our good friends in the Rugby World Cup, despite the defeat at the hands of those awesome New Zealand All Blacks still managed to make the final four in the world and if all goes well will be in the first three in the world.
Not bad when you see who finished behind us.
There were complaints or, should I say excuses thrown up about a high attrition rate but as I saw it just about all teams suffered about the same.
Some, as some do, are blessed by the Gods of Footy in the timing and extent of the injuries.
I was told a joke (apparently it’s a joke) by an old friend.
The Irish, the English and the Scots were sitting in a pub. The Welsh are still in New Zealand.
A word from Stephen Wright, with his kind permission:
“Manly Sea Eagles are the NRL Champions. Always were, always will be.”
Strewth! Do we have to put up with this for another year?
*Phil Mundine is a Bundjalung man, a legend of the NSW land rights system, and an avid sports watcher.