BONDI BEAT: October 2015 – Disneyland, Globalisation & Jarryd Hayne

September 2015By STEVE MASCORD

ONE day, the Jarryd Hayne story will be held up as one of the great sagas of Pacific Immigration, a touchstone for all Melanesian people.

Manoa Thompson, the father of the San Francisco 49ers recruit who you cannot escape hearing about every day (no matter how hard you try) in Australia, was born in Fiji.

In a recent interview, the former Warrington centre recalled how he raised in idyllic conditions, playing barefoot on rough fields without a care in the world.

‘But I had an auntie in Sydney who couldn’t have kids – so my parents sent me here when I was 11,” Thompson told Rugby League Week magazine.

“I lived with my auntie as her son and she eventually adopted me.

“Luckily I played a little footy while I was in Fiji and got straight into it when I arrived, which helped me make friends and adapt.”

You can already see the sprawling movie shots of rough Fijian jungle and the poor south-western suburbs of Sydney, of broken noses and cold nights at training before Manoa had a child when he was barely a man himself.

“Looking back, I wasn’t as professional as I should have been,” Manoa, who made his name at South Sydney, continued.

“I cut corners and didn’t look after my injuries well enough. I didn’t push myself to the max at training. I didn’t enjoy it.

“Those are the lessons I learned and I can’t change the mistakes I made in my career but I tried to pass on those lessons to my son Jarryd when he was young and I think he got the message.”

Thompson played for the Auckland Warriors on their momentous opening night against Brisbane in 1995, before – in his words – being “shipped off” for an ill-fated stint with Warrington. He finished in reserve grade with Penrith and had two stints in France, one with Carcassonne.

Meanwhile, young Jarryd was growing up in Minto, south-western Sydney, mostly without his semi-famous dad.

“I was only 20 when he was born and it was hard – I was playing at Souths and working and he was living with his mum,” said Thompson.

“I didn’t get to see as much of him as I would have liked but we have become very close over the years.”

Jarryd’s journey has obviously already eclipsed even the colourful adventures of his dad. From smashing Darren Lockyer while played for Fiji (Thompson also played for the Bati, against the 1996 Lions) to being shot at in Kings Cross, it’s going to make a helluva second half for that movie.

donate2In trying to figure out what it means, the migration from Fiji to Australia and onto the US over the course of two generations can be seen as a metaphor for the changing face – and increasing globalisation – of professional sports.

Or, as always, it’s the other way around. Sport is a metaphor for life, and for the trends in wider society.

A generation ago, a young Fijian played rugby union for nothing and grew old in Fiji. Manoa Thompson had the opportunity to move to Australia at a time when most islanders didn’t migrate further than Auckland.

Jarryd, in turn, saw an opportunity that his father could never have dreamed of, and took it – in much the same way kids in all walks of life are doing just that now. It might just mean being the first person in the family to study at university or live overseas.

Or it might mean earning millions of dollars as an NFL star.

With each passing year, our horizons in the west get broader and geographical boundaries come down (as these from war-torn and poverty-stricken countries aspire in greater numbers than ever to emulate us, and risk their lives to do so).

Enough of the philosophy, right? What does I mean for rugby league?

The only reason our rugby league players live in Widnes and Campbelltown and Mount Eden and settle for whatever money we pay them is because their skills are not transferable. Rugby league is a specific game with specific attributes and specific historical, geographic boundaries.

In this way, rugby league exists within its own false economy. Regardless of how commercially successful or otherwise the sport is in its various cities and towns, it does not have to pay players the same as a soccer club or a rugby union governing body or … an NFL teams.

That’s because the vast majority of rugby league’s workforce does not have to the option of playing those sports.

But Hayne, Sonny Bill Williams, Sam Burgess and Brad Thorn do not want to be restricted by this quasi-monopoly. They have worked hard at adjusting their skills so they may enter the more lucrative, wider labour market for athletes.

advertise hereThey are breaking down barriers for those who will follow.

When assessing the impact of this trend on rugby league, we need to look at it from the point of view of athletes and from the point of view of fans and the general popularity of the game.

From a playing point of view, it is fair to say more players will look to follow in the footsteps of those above and adapt their skill sets in order to earn more money.

This is where the parallels with economic migration are apt. Economic migrants moving from countries like Fiji to somewhere like Australia will do more menial jobs in the hopes of working their way up the food chain.

Jarryd Hayne was willing to walk out on a sport in which, it could have been argued, he was best in the world – forgoing guaranteed financial rewards – to climb up the sporting food chain. Broadly speaking, over the course of the last 50 years, social and economic boundaries have been coming down for a large chunk of humanity; Thompson and Hayne how quicky this process has accelerated.

But if we accept the NFL is above rugby league in the food chain, what does that mean for our game?

I would submit that depends very much on the vision and courage of our administrators.

Let’s imagine the global popular culture is like the global, homogenised English that everyone speaks now. Local dialects and slang, you may have noticed, are disappearing. When I first traveled abroad in 1990, there were many things I said that locals did not understand, and vice versa.

Now … not so much.

amazonLet’s say 45 per cent of this global English comes from the UK and 40 per cent from the US, with the rest contributed by Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. “No worries” is one of Australia’s very few contributions to global English.

Now let’s imagine pop culture the same way, with the US contributing 65 per cent, say, and the rest of the world throwing in the rest. Global is all that matters, since local customs and tastes are being eroded by technology at an alarming rate

I beleve rugby league can buy itself a seat at a giant room full of seats and tables if it tries. As a curiousity, perhaps. As a niche sport for people who sit up all night and watch whatever is only Channel 57. As global sport’s answer to “no worries”.

But that’s a small piece of a gargantuan pie, a piece that would propel the sport far beyond where it is now.

Put another way, the river channels that flow into the soup of the world sports market are much wider from Los Angeles, London and New York than they are from Wigan and Brisbane. And the flow goes both ways – so the force of what’s coming from those cultural hubs pushes back into our tiny ponds.

If we don’t stop fighting amongst ourselves, putting club football ahead of internationals and sticking our hands out for as much TV money we can get from the governing body, instead of allowing them to pump our product back, we will eventually be swamped by globalisation.

We have to make sure we focus on that central reservoir and accept that soon there will be nothing truly local – even the sport we once used to define where we are from. That’s if we don’t want more kids from Fiji who merely see Parramatta as a step along the road to San Francisco.

The mythology of the US, of Twickenham, of the All Black jersey … they are as powerful as the cash one can earn by chasing them

As Jarryd Hayne’s dad said in the interview: “His little brother Julian cried when Jarryd said he was going to the USA.

“But then I said to him ‘Don’t worry – we will go and watch him play and go to go to Disneyland too.

“And then he was OK.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD

The A-List: Ryan Hall (:eeds & England)

Hall, RyanBy STEVE MASCORD

HE can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 45 seconds, once addressed his team-mates on how Pythagorus Theorum affects every day life and plays saxophone, piano, guitar and violin.

Leeds’ 105kg Ryan Hall may or may not be the best winger in the world – his team-mates call him ‘WBW’ anyway – but half an hour in his presence has convinced A-List he is the most interesting player in either the NRL or Super League today.

Hall, 27, is known to most casual observers as a tank of a man who regularly scores against Australia and New Zealand and who was controversially denied what would have been a match-winning touchdown at AAMI Park during last year’s Four Nations.

But for all his peroxide-headed heroics on the field, the Leeds local is a singularly distinctive character off it – a prodigy who would be studying pure mathematics at university if he wasn’t terrorising his opposite number each weekend as a pro rugby league player.

We sat down with Ryan on Friday morning at the Virgin Active gym in Kirkstall after a recovery session to find out what makes WBW tick.

EARLY YEARS: “I was a footballer. All my core mates at school played football (soccer). I play from seven up until about 11. At that age, football was on Sundays and I found out rugby (league) is on Saturdays. I did both up until 14 and then football changed. I was a goalie. I was a small guy, I didn’t grow until quite late on. I realised I were miles better at rugby than I were at football. I switched back to rugby, I was playing amateur, no rep games or anything. I played for fun. When I got to 17s and 18s, I used to play first grade as well – open age. Our 18s team trained twice, the open age team trained twice, so I trained four times a week and played on a Saturday and a Sunday. I did a lot more rugby then than I do now – it’s quite funny. In comparison to other players, I did get spotted quite late – 17 or 18, playing down at Oulton. I fullback … not much of a passer.”

PYTHAGORUS THEORUM: “At a pre-season camp, Brian (McDermott, coach), got everybody to stand up and address the donate2team. He likes to get you out of your comfort zone. Some of the lads talked about their lives growing up in rugby. I don’t get much of an opportunity to hold an audience. I thought I’d prove to the lads Pythagorus Theorum, using shapes and all that, is real, and where it comes from. That’s basically it. If you could see matrix, you’d see how it works. You’d see the trees breathing, you’d see equations going through. It does affect everything.”

MUSICAL LAD: “All through school, my mum encouraged me to do something different, to add another string to my bow – so to speak. I played violin in year two, junior school, and I gave that up and did saxophone. Technically (it’s my best), although I haven’t played it in a while. Through school … music’s quite transferable. If you can play saxophone, you can read music, you can play other instruments. I was in all the orchestras at school, I was in all the productions. I played in the bands at school and then we went touring. Every year the band would go to Paris, London, nice places like Amsterdam …. I’ve got a guitar. I didn’t play any at school but I thought ‘it’s more sociable. You sit around with people, it’s better to have a guitar than a saxophone’. I can play songs now, I’m not very intricate with it but I can play along with some chords. It’s a bit of an escape for me. People like watching TV – I like doing that.”

@BoringRyanHall TWITTER ACCOUNT: The parody account says things like “Brett Delaney just called me bro – which is very strange because he’s not my brother’. “I’ve got a couple of candidates but it keeps taking right turns,” Ryan says. “I think I’ve got it, and then it throws me. I quite enjoy it, so I’m not too bothered about getting to the bottom of it. I think the fans enjoy it too.”

GOING TO THE NRL: “I’ve never said ‘no’ to it directly but I’ve never had a full opportunity to do it. I’ve always been in a amazonlong-term contract at Leeds. Gary must have been quite smart, keeping me tied down. At the end of the last series, the Four Nations, I said I would like to come over if circumstances were different. If Gary was willing to let go and I was going to a good club, I’d think about it seriously. Here and there (there are whispers) but it goes away from me because it’s a back-room chat. I might regret that in my later life but I’m playing at such a good club in Leeds.”

WORLD’S BEST WINGER: “The boys say it when they’re taking the mick a little bit. It was started by the commentators at Sky, after the 2012 World Club Challenge. It’s nice from pundits to say that sort of thing but it gives people a bit of ammo to have a go at you. It also sets you up for a bit of a fall. At some time, I’m not going to be the best in the world and then they’ll be, like, ‘what’s happened to him?’.”

THAT TRY IN MELBOURNE: “I thought it was a try, speaking honestly. A lot of people said ‘why didn’t you celebrate?’. I couldn’t see the ball. I was diving over GI and just blindly taking a swipe at it. I felt contact with it. But I didn’t know if ball were in air, and I knocked it dead for a 20 metre restart, or I got it down. I didn’t want to start carrying on if I’d knocked it tWLBd41422314935dead. When it got referred upstairs, I thought ‘we’ve got a chance here’ and when there were images showing me touching it on the floor, I thought ‘it’s a try’. I’ve never beaten the Aussies and I’ve been playing them since 2009. I thought that was our chance and it was in their back garden as well.”

THE HAIR: “The first time I did it, it was (charity) Sport Relief and everyone had to do their hair red. You bleach it so the red will take better. It went blond first and then you put the red on top of it. All the lads hated it, they’re all vain – ‘not gonna pull with this hair cut’ so they all got rid of it as soon as they could. But I liked it. I like being different. I kept it. It also ran alongside my girlfriend being pregnant for the first time. I kept it all the time she was pregnant because I thought once I was a dad, I’d have to be a responsible adult. Then I actually quite liked it, I enjoyed looking at the videos of me playing with it, so I kept doing it sporadically throughout the year. I’ll do it again this year, don’t know when.”

RUBIK’S CUBE: “Forty-five seconds is my best. I did it on Soccer AM, the TV show, in just over a minute. That’s maths. You can solve it writing it down on a piece of paper. In fact I went back to my old secondary school and the head of maths is still there from when I was there. He asked me to come in and do some little chats because it’s hard to get people to concentrate on maths at times. If they get someone with a bit of a profile to go in, it makes a difference. So I went in and I wrote it down with the Rubik’s Cube for the classes, to show it’s mathematical, it can be done.”

Filed for RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

DISCORD 2009: Edition 6

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

A COUPLE of weeks ago, British league legend Mike Stephenson let a pretty staggering development seep out onto the world, in the middle of his weekly magazine column.

Stevo wrote in Rugby League Express that he knew of two Leeds businessmen who wanted to enter a team in the NRL. Not a team based anywhere near Australia or New Zealand, mind you.

No, they want to enter a team in the NRL based in Leeds.

“These guys are friends of mine and I would be loathe to identify them,’’ Stephenson told me when I called him at the weekend.

“Their aim is to make the England team stronger and they believe the way to do that is to have a team in the best competition, like New Zealand now has.’’

Stevo went on to say that in his mind the proposal was a near impossibility. But is it? Couldn’t a team playing alternatively in Yorkshire and Lancashire play a month of home games, and then play a month of away games?

Isn’t the travel time that teams have between, say, Christchurch and Durban in the Super 14 about the same as Sydney to Manchester? Couldn’t the teams about to play them be scheduled for the previous Friday night, and the teams who have just returned be given an MNF game?

And how much money would the television rights generate? My God! The NRL would surely salivate at it. Of course, the Rugby Football League would kick up a huge stink – just as the Queensland Rugby League did when the Broncos came in – about the local competition being devalued.

RFL chief executive Nigel Wood told us nothing had come across his desk.

We also called David Gallop to ask if he had heard anything. He hadn’t. We asked him that if he was to receive an approach, would protocol require him to advise the RFL and get their permission, or would they just be another consortium like Central Queensland or the Central Coast Bears.

He declined to speculate. Tell us what you think.

.

I’M not sure if sharks have backs but the Reni Maitua drugs positive should have just about broken Cronulla’s.

They are broke. They have lost $150,000 in sponsorship. They are running last. Their major sponsor is about to pull out. They are at the centre of the year’s biggest off-field scandal.

Here’s what I think. The best option for the game is that they relocate somewhere – Central Queensland, the Sunshine Coast, Adelaide, Perth or Wellington. There’s up to (and maybe more than) $12 million in it for them.

Discord t-shirtBut the best option for the club is to merge. Gallop has admitted the merger incentives are still on the table. That way, they get to play half their home games at Cronulla.

Who, dear reader, should Cronulla merge with?

Gallop would not speculate on whether they would get any money for forming a joint-joint venture with St George Illawarra. Surely, though, the idea would have crossed Peter Doust’s mind.

But the right partner for Cronulla would be a team that doesn’t mind giving away it’s home games already. That team, for me, is the Bulldogs. Even the colours are a decent match.

Dogs CEO Todd Greenberg has said Cronulla should be considering a merger – but has discounted his club from involvement. We’ll see.

That, of course, would leave us one team short in 2010. I asked David Gallop if he had already worked on a contingency plan for fast-tracking a new team into the premiership.

He said ‘no’.

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IT was disappointing to see my favourite player, Terry Campese, not take on the defensive line himself at all on Monday night.

I want to see a fellow who plays with a smile on his face test himself at State Of Origin level but it seems unlikely he will get a shot in the first game of the series after a tentative display against Melbourne.

With John Sutton injured, my choice for the Blues at five-eighth is Trent Barrett. He’s looking a bit battered at the moment and claims he needs the split rounds to recover, given his advanced years!

But he is a determined competitor and has the physical presence to bolster NSW’s defence.

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I’VE left the Matthew Johns imbroglio alone this week but I want to thank everyone who commented on last week’s column.

In many ways it is good to get some of these issues out in the open instead of leaving them behind bedroom doors. I think “broadminded’’ people need reminding how conservative others are and – perhaps more importantly – vice versa.

And I notice that my comments about legal action for defamation may actually become reality. What a terrible court case that would be for all involved….

Meet Joe Burgess

Burgess, JoeBy STEVE MASCORD
RUGBY league often boasts that it can replace the stars it loses with a rookie of comparable talent, almost instantaneously.
But this Saturday at Alianz Stadium, the maxim will be taken to its extreme when an 19-year-old Englishman called Burgess plays against the Sydney Roosters.
Joe Burgess – no relation to rugby union-bound Sam – started the season third choice winger at Wigan behind Ian Thornley and Josh Charnley and got a start a fornight ago because of an injury to Charnley.
He scored a try – and when he was given the nod ahead of Thornley in the World Club Challenge warm-up against the Warriors half a week later, promptly scored four.
“Pat Richards left, which gave me a good opportunity to work hard and get that permanent spot,” the local Wigan junior tells Fairfax Media.
“I played amateur for 11 years, moved onto Wigan when I was 16 and went fulltime when I was 17.”
Young Joe has been to the southern hemisphere once before, on a schoolboys tour, but said playing 48 hours after crossing the world in the 46-22 win over the Warriors was a completely new experience.
“It was tough, he said. “After the first 20, 25 minutes, I started really feeling it in my legs. But it was good to get it out of the way and move onto next week.” One experience the youngers liked was playing under two referees.
“I think it makes the game better – they’re more precise in their decisions. It was good.
“(We have to be) more aggressive, Getting up off our line and really getting in their (Roosters’) faces.”
The latest Burgess has made coach Shaun Wane’s 19-man squad for the WCC; Thornley has not.
“I can’t picture it. It’s been a dream, I can’t imagine the goosebumps. When we do find out the team and if I do get the chance to play, I’ll make sure I’m better than my opposition.”

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

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THE JOY OF SIX: International Season Week One 2014

The Joy Of SixSANDOW SIN BIN

WHEN we went to Parramatta with claims Chris Sandow had played in an aboriginal knockout and been sent off for a shoulder charge followed by an elbow, Eels CEO Scott Seward told us: “He had permission to play. He passed a medical and the coach gave him his blessing. Chrissy has told us he was sent to the sin bin for a shoulder charge on a childhood friend. It was a bit of a joke between them.” But bootleg video on YouTube above appears to show a dismissal – with the elbow chiefly to blame. When Seward put this to Sandow, he insisted he wasn’t aware he had been sent off, only sin binned. We can’t find any record of a judiciary hearing. The title for the Murri Carnival at Redcliffe two weeks ago changed hands when it was discovered the winners, Murri Dingoes Blue, fielded a player who mistakenly believed his drugs suspension had expired. Parra’ refused permission for Joseph Paulo and Bereta Faraimo to play for the US in the Mitchelton Nines on Saturday.

PUNCHING ON 1

WE have often heard this year that “little guys wouldn’t be pushing big guys if they could still be punched”. It was just a theory until the Super League grand final, when little Lance Hohaia pushed big Ben Flower, then lunged at him with a raised forearm. As we know, Hohaia punched Flower twice, the second time when he was on his back, possibly unconscious. They both missed the rest of the game, leaving St Helens to limp to victory as they have all year. Had Flower – who left Old Trafford before fulltime – not opted out of Wales duty, he could at least have counted the upcoming European internationals against what will no doubt be a mammoth suspension. Condemnation of Flower has been widespread and almost unanimous. Soccer star Joe Barton Tweeted he had “little sympathy” for Hohaia because of the provocation, but later stressed he did not intend to defend the Welshman.

PUNCHING ON 2

LIKE Wigan’s Super League campaign, the proud 15-year-plus history of the United States Tomahawks may have come to an end with a punch at the weekend. The USARL is taking over running the game in the US and is likely to dispense with the old AMNRL trademark, meaning it was all on the line when the Americans trailed invitational side Iron Brothers 8-4 with three minutes left in a Nines quarter-final in Brisbane. The Tomahawks got the ball back but sometime-cage fighter Tui Samoa took umbrage to something a rival said and punched him. Water carrier Paulo – banned, as we said, by Parramatta from playing – helped separate them, Samoa was sent to the bin and Brothers scored again to eliminate the US 14-4.

GRACIOUSNESS AND GAFFES

AND what a mixed bag we had for rugby league public speaking at the weekend. On the plus side, congrats to departing Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin, the club’s player of the year Ben Hunt and CEO Paul White for their oratory at the club presentation. “Ben Hunt was entitled to test his value on the open market but he didn’t,” White told around 500 guests. “Although at a backyard barbecue I was at, he did get his message across to me by changing the words of the Status Quo song to ‘down, down, prices are down”. Griffin said: “Whatever I do now, I’ll be a competitor. But I’ll never be a critic of this club or the people in it.” On the negative, St Helens’ Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, at fulltime on live TV: “I’m absolutely buzzing. I could fucking swear”. Yes, he said those words – in that order.

WORLDWIDE LIVE

SOUTHS chief executive Shane Richardson has savaged the running of the international game in Britain’s The Observer. “I look at the state of international rugby league and it just makes me angry,” Richardson – citing the departure of Sam Burgess as a symptom of the problem – said. “I know from the years I’ve spent in the game, and the contacts I’ve made in business, and the places I’ve been around the world, that there’s a potential to do so much more.” Nevertheless, Greece played their first home international at the weekend, beating the Czechs 68-16 in Athens, the Philippines defeated Vanuatu 32-16 on remote Santo and Norway were preparing to meet Thailand in Bangkok. Next weekend, Latin America faces Portugal and Fiji takes on Lebanon, both in Sydney while Tonga take on PNG in Lae and the European Championships commence.

RETIRING ON A HIGH

REPORTS of veteran rugby league photographer Col Whelan’s retirement were greatly exaggerated last year. The NRL weren’t quite ready to take over Col’s operation and he went around in 2014 for one last season – wearing a South Sydney cap to every game. NRL rules prohibit media from wearing club merchandise but the media areas are full of uniformed club staff posting on social media, an inconsistency the irascible snapper sought to highlight. At fulltime on grand final day in the bunnies rooms, players became concerned Col had stopped shooting. He was crying with happiness. At the Red and Green ball, Whelan presented every player with a disc containing 120 photos of their life-defining triumph. What a way to go out – enjoy your retirement, Col.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

DISCORD 2014: Can Duncan Thompson’s ‘Contract Football’ Save Rugby League?

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD
EARLY in a recent Super League game, commentator Paul Cullen remarked: “We’ve been going for 10 minutes and there’s not a blade of grass that’s not been stood on”.
Leaving aside the double negative, you can picture the sort of game Cullen was describing – touchline to touchline attack, from the outset.
Now, I’ve already said that I could not remember a better weekend of football, given the comebacks and razor-edged finishes of the two preliminary semi-finals we had in the NRL.
But plenty of blades of grass went undisturbed.
The structured nature of NRL football could be one reason why the game is better to watch on television than live, in the view of all the people who also left seats at Allianz Stadium undisturbed.
The physical nature of the sport, which is harder to detect from the stands, is highlighted by tight camera shots while the ball movement – a feature of Australian football – is rather limited.
Result: you’re better off watching it at home.
Step right up, Ben and Shane Walker.
The brothers, both former first graders at a number of clubs, have turned back the clock almost a century and have employed at Ipswich Jets a style of football favoured by Duncan Thompson, who captained North Sydney to their only two premierships in 1921 and 1922.
It’s called “contract football” and it works like this: you have a ‘contract’ to pass the ball to your team mate if he is in a better position to me.
“If you played structured football, the way they do in the NRL these days, you make it easier for the defence to get three men into the tackle to do all that stuff I don’t like – wrestling,” Walker told Discord.
“The way we play, we test the defensive like three or four times on a single tackle. The defence can’t get enough numbers in to wrestle and we play off the back of it.”
Thompson, who died in 1980, once said: “Contract football is flowing football – it has no relation to bash-and-barge stuff – it is what rugby league is all about, or is supposed to be.”
Ben Walker says he learned about it growing up in Thompson’s home down, Toowoomba, where it was passed down from generation to generation.
He also says t works.
“It would work better in the NRL, where you can train fulltime,” he said. “You need players who can catch and pass under pressure – but mostly just catch and pass.
“That actually takes a lot of work these days. I have had our players say to me after watching an NRL game on TV ‘we would have towelled them up playing our style of football’.”
The Jets fielded seven rookies in their final 17 man squad of the year; they made the finals this year and next year they will employ their free-flowing style even more.
“I won’t say which NRL game I am talking about but one of those at the weekend, they played block play, block play, block play, kick.
“You could have defended it with your eyes closed.”
,
MY MEMORY tells me Greg Mackey was a player who pre-dated my career as a journalist; someone from whom I sought an autograph but never a quote.
The facts tell a different story; he was at Illawarra for three years that I was covering the game, albeit all of them as a casual reporter at AAP while still in highschool.
“Bluey” was such a good player, I must have interviewed him many times.
But I prefer to think of him as an untouchable footy hero, a flame-haired five-eighth who won a match with an intercept fresh off the plane for the Chatillon club in Paris – not before momentarily stopping when an “idiot” in the crowd blew a whistle.
These were days, for me, when football players and administrators could do no wrong. If I knew about off-field “atrocities” and official incompetence, a rarely paid it any mind.
I just lived for Sunday afternoon at 3pm when men like Bluey would take to Wollongong Showground and throw outrageous cutout passes, chip and chase from their own quarter and upend much bigger men.
These, days, the fact that they lost most weeks seems inconsequential.
Steelers legend Michael Bolt says he last saw Blue on Thursday, and he had “a cheeky grin”. That’s good to know, because it’s the way I remember him too.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD