THE JOY OF SIX: Round Five

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD

1. CRITICISE THE CRITICS, EPSIDODE 10,761

WAYNE Bennett criticised the critics last night, on behalf of his former club St George Illawarra. Here’s how it works: Commentators and journalists criticise losing team. Coach, player and sometimes administrator claim they aren’t listening but after having a win, hit back anyway. Bennett, being a losing coach at another club, gave us a welcome variation on the routine last night. But the only thing you can rely on more faithfully in the endless cycle of sport is winning and losing. Coaches coach, players play, critics criticise and then the cycle starts again when the coach tells the players about the criticism. Yet we still allow ourselves to invest so much emotion in a process as arbitrary as a ball moving through the air when it is thrown. Why? Because as fans, we are willfully blind to the repetitiveness and triviality of sport. When you think about it, following a bunch of grown men dressed in bright colours chasing a synthetic bladder around a park is pretty ridiculous anyway.

2. TEST FOOTBALL HAS A LOT OF CATCHING UP TO DO
NEXT Sunday in the hallowed surrounds of the Sydney Cricket Ground, the Australian side to play New Zealand will be chosen. Yet from round one of the domestic season, all we have read about is the make-up of State Of Origin teams. This is a World Cup year and yet the first time the Australian side’s composition was seriously discussed in the media was a matter of days ago. How can it be argued Australia’s dominance is the cause of this when New Zealand currently hold the World Cup and many Australians don’t seem to have much interest in how it is to be won back? International football desperately needs the sort of help from Australia that NSW gave Queensland by agreeing to Origin’s introduction – deliberately bolstering their opposition to their own detriment – 33 years ago.

3. PUBLIC CARE FACTOR
YESTERDAY in the Sun-Herald, colleague Phil Gould wrote about the “care factor” of our players. What have the first five rounds told us about the care factor of our fans? Massive crowds at Easter indicate a growing – or steady – hunger for events of the sort other sports provide. Disappointing crowds in western Sydney and even on the Gold Coast and Townsville indicate markets that have grown weary of their teams, either because of lack of success or unattractive opposition. Something good should come of this – next year the right games should be played at the right venues with more matches outside traditional areas than ever. It’s called the stadiums policy and it’s sorely need.

4. MODESTY WILL GET YOU … A TEST FRONT ROW SPOT

LATE on Saturday night, outside the Cowboys’ gym at Kirwan in suburban Townsville, North Queensland, NSW and Australia prop James Tamou told reporters he did not believe he had done enough to keep his Test jumper, for Canberra international against New Zealand on Friday week. Tamou had just run 199 metres against Penrith. Yesterday on ABC radio, Australia coach Tim Sheens said that it was actually pretty hard to get dropped from the green and gold side. “We’ll go with the majority of the guys from the Test at the back end of last year,” he said. In other words, Sheens and his four selectors have the sort of patience Bennett laments rugby league journalists do not. But if it helps you fire yourself up for the Broncos on Friday, Jim, good luck to you.

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5. THE FOOTY’S NEVER BEEN BETTER? CODSWALLOP!

IT’S often been said that a “high quality” game is not necessarily an entertaining one. But many matches so far this season are neither, containing neither the ingredients to please a fan or those that would satisfy a coach. Australia coach Tim Sheens commented yesterday that the division between “haves and have-nots” is pronounced in 2013 – and the have-nots seem happy to label themselves as such. “We’re not a fancied team and there are reasons for that,” Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said after his team was beaten 30-0 by North Queensland on Saturday. The previous Monday, Parramatta’s Ricky Stuart reckoned there would be many more nights for his team like the 50-0 pizzling meted out by Sydney Roosters. “The obstruction rule will be fixed before we are,” he said. . Stuart was right – but only by a matter of days.

6. AND THE PRICE IS … BETTER

WITH a couple of wins on the board, St George Illawarra coach Steve Price is beginning to let his guard down a little. Those who know Price report he is a funny, knockabout bloke. But following Wayne Bennett at arguably the world’s most famous rugby league club is no joking matter – and neither is starting your second season with three consecutive losses when your employer has openly offered your job to some else. But at the end of a MMM radio interview after the 19-16 win over Newcastle, Price asked the boys in the box a question of his own. “What’s happening with the bike ride, Gal?” Price quizzed NSW captain and part-time commentator Paul Gallen. It was a reference to Gallen’s promise to ride a motorcycle naked for charity next Sunday (It looks like it’s happening). Hopefully we’ll see more of Price the man.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

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