Saturday, 16 July 2011

In Loosely Tied Shorts We Trust. Tight Ones Too.

Rivalry round, bitches!  Gird those Loins!

I am a total whore for history. I think it's because I feel so profoundly uncomfortable and ill at ease in the here and now. The prospect of a sepia-tinged rivalry round never fails to stoke my imagination, even though I don't really buy what the NRL are selling here.

Apparently this round is meant to evoke ideas of bloodstained histories, proud heritages, simmering grudges and ongoing class divides. This is what we're supposed to believe, anyway. I don't know if any of it exists anymore, I really don't. But we allow meaning to be ascribed to things far more unbelievable than this, so I'm happy to play along and indulge in a little embellished imagining.

It would be immeasurably easier to do this if the NRL actually got into the spirit of things and abstained from blanketing the field with alcohol advertising, and maybe suspended forcing Centrebet plugs down our throats for a minute. That'd be nice, wouldn't it - imagine not being urged to have a punt FOR A WHOLE ROUND! What would they fill all the those extra minutes spent telling us the odds with, actual talk? That would be some heritage-listed shit right there. Pies in the sky, I know, I know.

Nevertheless. The Passion still rages. How else to explain these good folk?

So. I looked forward to the Roosters Rabbitohs game like some heavily armed zealot looks forward to Zion. I wanted to see if the Roosters could hold it together after last week, and, on the flipside, I really, really wanted to see the Rabbitohs come undone. Those were my two objectives. Both of these are entirely legitimate reasons to watch a game, of course. Is there a team in the NRL who are able to unravel with such spectaucular, theatrical flair as the Rabbitohs? No, no there isn't. When they are off, the Rabbitohs are operatic in their awfulness. It's a skill worth bottling.  Or baking into a cake. Mmmmm, the taste of Failure!

The Rabbitohs are that one team for me - the team that I loathe but love to watch. Not so much when they play well, but that hardly ever happens so I'm rarely troubled. The other teams I hate passionately I have no interest in watching - Broncos, Dragons, Titans, STORM, Manly - but this may be because, with the exception of the Titans, they're all highly competent and clinical sides who defend like fucking wolves in territorial takeover mode.

Just on that - this is the lowest scoring season since 1993 or some absurd date. I blame teams like those mentioned above grinding their opponents into the fucking ground with relentless, tedious tenacity. They make my eyes glaze over and my jaw lose all elasticity.

Anyway, here's what happened, according to me.

-Russell Crowe was there. I'm not gonna lie. Knowing he was on the premises definately added a certain frisson and a handful of stardust to proceedings, even if he was wearing a fug anorak. And having Todd Carney, Braith Anasta AND Russell Crowe under the same roof? Talk about star power, it nearly blew my superficial little starcrossed mind and I wasn't even there breathing their air and experiencing severe heart arrhythmia.

Crowe was in man-of-steel mode last night, meaning he did not emote freely and extravagantly as he has in the past.

-Mitchell Pearce did good from the get go. He threw a ball in the tenth minute that made me stop chewing my toasted cheese sandwich for at least twenty seconds. Sam Perrett lost it and got thrown into touch but no matter, no matter at all. Exquisite.

-Baby Burgess was out there for the Bunnies. I could tell it was him because his flanks were whiter than a water-logged corpse.

-The Bunnies started in on the bizarre play early in the piece, predictable as ever. Nathan Merritt let a Carney kick bounce in very curious circumstances. A minute later Eddy Pettybourne lost a loose ball and bellowed at - HOW DARE HE - my favourite ref Brett Suttor in frightening fashion. Audio picked up Suttor snapping peevishly at the other ref that "he's swearing at me and I don't appreciate it". Neither would I, Brett, neither would I.

-Things started going a little haywire from here on in. The Chooks repeatedly rip open the Rabbits like they're casually segmenting an orange. John Sutton does nothing much other than prowl around looking surly as hell. Ex-outlaw sandwich technician Jake Friend works like a maniac and wins my approval. The Roosters play some promising footy but fail to make anything of it. No-one seems at all interested in giving Greg Inglis the ball. He looks incredible, by the way. Staying well away from the white bread, by the look of it. I don't despise him nearly as much as I used to, I can't figure out why, and I worry briefly that this will knock on to the other players I hate - will I start feeling a dim affection for them too? This is not a line of thought I want to continue with, so I cease and desist.

Bra Boys represent.
Chris Sandow, represent.

Second Half.

-Braith ("It's Braith, Bitch") Anasta blows his stack and several fuses when the Bunnies score off a dubious pass that looks blatantly forward. Braith blowing up gives me an enormous sense of well being. I feel like he'd be the guy you'd want with you in a hospital emergency room or any place where the causing of a scene in order to get urgent attention is necessary. No wonder Jodi Gordan wants him to put a ring on it. WHO WOULDN'T? is my unanswerable question.

-A bit later, in the corner of the screen, Braith plays the ball and Chris Sandow gets up on his tippytoes and pushes his hand into Braith's head with what looks to be a fair bit of force. Braith makes a lunge and I get ready to start miming uppercuts. Nothing comes of it, sadly. That is a fight I would climb over my mother to see, trust.

-The 70s called Steve McQueen, they want their hairstyle back.

-The Roosters keep touching and hugging each other, it's hot.

-Shannon McPherson bangs heads with Frank Paul Nuasala and comes up with a massive crevass-like gash over his eye. He gets several metres of white bandage and an entire roll of electrical tape wrapped around it, and while that happens we are treated to at least four super slow-mo replays of the collision, from every conceivable angle.

-Souths sabotage themselves every time momentum swings their way. This falls squarely into the 'what I like to see' category.

-Sandow struggles out of a tackle and unloads into Shaun Kenny Dowell with tiny fists of fury. He is a runt, so he looks ridiculous and terrier-like. SKD, who is tall and lithe, appears untroubled by the flurry of punches being thrown somewhere below him, in the direction of his mid section. I once saw a Rooster fan with a sign that said SKD ROW. Brilliant.

Pearce & SKD & Carney have happyclappy times last year. This seems a long time ago.

-The Roosters respond to Sandow's inanity by taking the ball the length of the field to score in the next set. Cut to John Lang writhing in his sideline seat in obvious and unadulterated anguish. Doubley brilliant.

-Anthony Mitchell is finally injected into the game in the 68th minute. I approve of this because he's adorable and he looks awful pretty in his new Roosters colours. I thought when he left the Eels he might leave a gaping, handsome-man-sized hole in the team but Reni Matuia sailed right on in after his two year suspension and refilled the hot quota to capacity. Well played, coach Kearney, well played.

-Croker - I have no idea what his first name is - drives his whole head into Nate Myles' torso in a tackle. He gets flung back and hits the ground like a felled tree, flat on his back, lights extinguished. Everybody holds their breath, everybody wonders if he's broken his enormous neck ala Ben Ross. The medi-van arrives to ferry him off but he hauls himself to his feet like a bear recovering from a tranquilser-dart induced coma and lumbers off to the side. Everybody exhales.

-The game goes to golden point. Frenzied scenes in the stands.

-The awful pretty Anthony Mitchell gets KO'd and departs for Disneyland. When he makes it to his feet he reels and staggers drunkenly and a minute later, when he gets the ball from a scrum the effects of his concussion become clear because as well as his eyes being rolled well back in his head, he passes to Jason Ryles instead of, oh, say, Anasta or Carney, both of whom are waiting to receive the ball and win the game. Ryles is forced to try for field goal and throws up his hands in astonishment and disbelief the minute the ball leaves his boot. Mitchell remains serene, i.e. OUT.OF.IT.

-Chris Sandow brings Russell Crowe to his knees when he pots a 49 metre field goal. This is an unfortunate outcome, and one I wish to forget immediately.

I managed to do this because the good times kept coming. Was that a night for rugby league lovers OR WHAT? If Gus Gould had been commentating he would have melted down from the excitement of it all  - he would have seen me my heart arrhythmia and raised me a stroke, for reals.

Anyway, more golden point out at Penrith, more heart-in-mouth stuff.

Luke Lewis got caned and caused me to murmur "oohh, mein schatz" - 'my precious', in other (English) words, Jarryd Hayne had a blinder at five-eighth and Reni Matuia looked reptilian and scary and hot all at the same time. He has mad skills, does Reni. And cold snake eyes that burn, too.

Anyway, what happened was that Parramatta failed to rage against the dying of the light and Penrith snuffed them out and as a result Nathan Hindmarsh's smile after the game - his 300th - had a somewhat forced, 'fuck this shit' quality to it. This was a shame.

Still, he managed to maintain the tradition of repeatedly losing his loosely tied shorts and, for me, that was more historically significant than any rivalry round or anniversary occassion.

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