Friday, 24 June 2011

The First Rule of Fight Club Is

Word to the Storm: I am allll up inside your shit. WE ALL ARE.

There's nothing like being camped comfortably at the top of the table to make a team feel hunted and persecuted and hated by all, is there? Not if you buy into the Storm's cough *bullshit* cough attitude there isn't. It must be terrible for them, all that winning. Only, here's the thing. Call me particular, but employing an objectionable tackling style is no way to command the respect of adversaries. Neither is assuming any kind of a seige mentality. The very idea of a team as successful as the Storm taking up an 'us against the world' stance makes me feel....less than serene.

The way I see it, this mentality can only be seen to be credible when it's coming from an underdog team. Any footy fan worth their salt knows that to be a true underdog is in its own peculiar way a precious position to be in. A team that struggles to attract media attention and/or top talent is, basically by default, a team that struggles to attract respect. It's been shown time and time again that being underrated by other teams - being afforded valuable underdog status, in other words - can work very much in an 'under the radar' team's favour. Right now, coming into Round 16, do you think teams are going to prepare to take on the Raiders with the same intensity as if they were to be facing a benchmark team like the Dragons or  - god help us - Manly? Please.

Craig Bellamy is as cunning and wily as a fox and he's obviously an incredible coach, but the whole 'everybody's only talking about Sika Manu's crusher tackle because we're at the top of the ladder' defense? Belly, please. We're all talking about the crusher tackle because it's a dirty, dodgy move, and because we all know the Storm lead the way in employing controversial - read: dirty, dodgy - tackling tactics.

It's no coincidence that Manu also dropped his knees into Gareth Ellis' calves in what appeared to be a blatant effort to slow down the play-the-ball. You really think if the lowly Titans or Bulldogs busted out the same martial-arts style moves they wouldn't attract exactly the same kind of scrutiny, not to mention the wrath of Robbie Farah, that you guys have?

Just on that: was Farah fuming or what? I love seeing Robbie all wound up. It suits his defense-force like demeanor down to the ground. The man is a tightly coiled spring, of which I approve entirely. Well, you don't want a captain who looks like they spend all their down time in a hammock, do you?

Anyway, as you will recall with ease if you've been committing these posts to memory (and if not, why not?), I love to see a captain screaming at a ref with unbridled, enthusiastic hostility. It's hot. It even endeared me to Corey Parker once. Briefly.

no-one does this better than Gal

So when Farah yelled at Ashley Klein something along the lines of "THEY DO IT ALL THE TIME AND GET AWAY WITH IT!" and then said later he's seen Manu do the same thing "one thousand times" I found myself nodding sagely and saying "I don't doubt it, Robbie, I don't doubt it." He's very credible, is Robbie. And, of course, the Storm have employed a martial arts master as their wrestling coach for the last ten years - unleashing the chicken wing, the rolling pin, the grapple tackle and the crusher onto the unwitting NRL. Yup, they all originated in Melbourne. Show me something good to come out of this city - other than Eddie Perfect and The Age - and I'll show you something better that Sydney produced without any of the self-conscious fanfare. Sorry, Melbourne, but that's the way it is. Next.

The chicken wing holds a special place in my heart. I remember well the first time I heard the term, and the fact that I learned what a chicken wing was and paid a visit to the Big Prawn all in the same afternoon was a treat beyond dimension. I have to reign it in here and steer myself away from discussion of the BP lest I irreversibly inflame my righteous ire and lose all focus, but expect a stand-alone post on the subject of the BP's shameful state of neglect forthwith.

So. To the chicken wing, years ago. It was my brother - one minute sitting serenely next to me in a Ballina pub watching the Raiders being destroyed (most probably), the next minute leaping out of his chair and bellowing "RAGDOLL 'IM!" - I imagine in anticipation of an impending, violent tackle - who first brought the whole concept of bizarre, WWF-style tackles to my attention. I didn't pay rugby league then the attention I do now, more's the pity, but you don't have to have any feeling for the game at all to find the idea of rag-dolling innately brilliant and emotionally stirring. It really broke me up. I fell apart even more when, bolstered by my sudden, saucer-eyed  interest in matters of brutality he explained to me, in vivid language and with lavish gestures, what it meant to 'chicken wing' somebody.

Then the publican came over and asked him to lower his voice so he lowered his voice and then the publican asked him if he could kindly put his pants back on too, and had to supply him with a broom so as he could unhook them from the ceiling fan.

I'm just kidding, of course. We left the pants.

Anyway, chicken wings have occupied my thoughts off and on ever since.

Was this before or after the Cameron Smith grapple tackle controversy of 2007?

I have no way of knowing: other than looking it up in old notebooks, of course, for which I lack both the stamina and the inclination. Even if I did'nt, I'm distracted right now by trying to restrain myself from referring to said grapple tackle scandal as 'grapple-gate', because anytime I read or hear about another paltry incident that's had 'gate' tacked onto the catch-word I quietly start to emit smoke. I mean, honestly. Watergate to Brynne-gate, are you fucking kidding me? How did we as a society get from Richard Nixon and the American presidency to a two-bit whore from Oklahoma and Dancing With the Stars? Is it any wonder the mere act of living strains my patience almost beyond belief? I don't think so, no.

This seemingly irresistable compulsion to attach 'gate' to any mildly surprising or vaguely controversial incident deemed worthy of a two minute story on Sunrise or, if it's really thought to resonate, a special three minute report on The Morning Show (Larry Emdur I love you, but, really, you push it) and the fact I find it such a rank affront is symptomatic of a much wider trend, which is of course the dumbing down of all news. This is what really yanks my chain. Sometimes I sit through almost entire news bulletins before realising, usually around the time when I'm readying myself for the sport report, that I've actually been watching Entertainment Tonight or E News all along.

All of this brings me back to the good old grapple tackle (actually it doesn't, but I had to get back there somehow). Unless you have the brain of a mollusc you'll have noticed I have a terribly low tolerance for the Storm. I don't even like the Storm when I'm drunk. Especially not when I'm drunk, actually.

In light of this, I'm clearly not the person to be paying heed to if it's an objective or lucid discussion of grapple and crusher tackles you're after. You'll be far more likely (guaranteed, in fact) to get an objectionable and slanderous diatribe, frankly, except at this point I can't even be bothered delivering that.

I will say that Cameron Smith was guilty as all get-out back in 2007. Maybe all the clubs were grappling back then, sure, but it cracks me up to this day that Smith, maniacally competitive over-acheiver that he is, was the one who took the grappling to a whole other level and who, accordingly, copped an extravagent punishment - also on a whole other level - for his efforts.

Is that what they call poetic justice? Is it irony? I don't even know anymore, but it's funny as hell whichever way I look at it.  Speaking of which....

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