I had a bad feeling about things yesterday. The Raiders, because they are maddening and mysterious, cannot be relied upon to win the games they are even vaguely expected to. Ever. So going into the Eels game, it felt like it could easily become one of those seventies exploitation movies where marauding inbred hillbillies set upon foolish interlopers who are looking for gas. And, y’know, rape them and stuff.
Luckily, Jarryd Hayne didn’t appear to be in the mood for such frivolities. Football, either.
Still, this foreboding, this muted dread continued for the first fifteen or twenty minutes while the Raiders got themselves organised out there. More conventional teams tend to undertake this element of their preparation before the game actually starts – it’s sometimes referred to as a ‘warm up’ - but no matter, no matter.
So. Basically, the Raiders won and the Eels continued the particle by particle disintegration of any hope that they will ever win a game, ever again.
It was also an afternoon of very strange football from which even a more stable person might have drawn disturbing conclusions. Happily, since I have been away, enveloped in hostile Himalayan mountains and isolated from any entertainment whatsoever aside from my mother’s very particular style of humour (she’s a nurse, so bodily emulsions and excretions feature prominently), I found the game to be pretty fucking great. Certainly it was highly stimulating. I mean, perhaps it wasn’t so great for those who are fans of defense (left side, anybody? Bueller..??) and finesse and consistency and Jarrod Croker making tackles, but these subtle shortcomings were all part of the fun. It was truly top notch entertainment. The fact that the Raiders won was a pleasing but entirely incidental benefit.
Another (far less pleasing) incidental was me spending spent 24 days with a keen Sharks fan while away. By the end of it, NAY – from the start of it – I would have rather wallowed in a pool of fragrant vomit - which I actually did do, horrifyingly – than spend any more time in his presence. Not because of the Sharks thing, though. More due to the fact that he was just such a dick. ThankGOD for the Sharks thing, really, because it gave us weighty topics to talk about – Paul Gallen, for one. And Blake Ferguson.
I also spent time with a cop – A COP , for chrissakes - from Wodonga, who confessed his deep-seated desire for Taser use to become widespread in Victoria and his longing to Taser Todd Carney. Or, as he put it, to “MAKE HIM DO THE CHICKEN.” Because that’s what they call it, don’t you know. He even gave a physical demonstration, which really did resemble what I imagine the movements of a hysterical, epileptic chicken with many millions of volts administered by a dimwitted fascist running though it would look like. Toddy, for the love of God stay the fuck away from Wodonga. Albury, too, to be safe. Unless you’re passing through on your way to mine, of course, in which case stick to the Hume and drive like stink.
Anyway. How is the talk surrounding the Eels? The apocalypse cometh!! Jesus. Hey, the other day? When my mother was rubbing crème into my feet (you heard me) and she made the observation that I had the beginnings of a corn on my little toe? Well I too am on a slip-stream to the apocalypse. I mean, aren’t we all?
Still, the Eels were groping around like eyeless worms for much of the game, they do look pretty poxy. Whatever. Forget them. Here are my three favourite match moments:
1. Jack Wighton, who Laurie Daly had previously referred to as one of the game’s ‘merchants of speed’, scoring the winning try in the final minutes. Blake Ferguson grabbing and kissing his head and making my heart kick against my ribs. Football. Bringing us spurious, savage tokens of manhood from around the time that Christ was a hunk of flesh hanging off a cross.
2. Blake Ferguson looming up into the camera while talking to that goose Mark Gasnier post-match and blurting “Aye can I just say g’day to my pop – my nan and pop in [insert random flyblown town name here] – how youse goin’!! –“. It was adorability itself. Gasnier looked slightly bewildered, mildly sheepish, and entirely idiotic. As usual.
3. Man of the match Josh Dugan saying “Body’s 100% and I’m feeling fresh” YES IT IS, BITCH, YES IT IS.”
Speaking of looks, how about Nathan Hindmarsh’s impersonation of a sweating, shambolic itinerant derro yesterday? His fucking jersey was midriff! It was riding halfway up his goddamn torso, shit was unseemly! Also, seeing him give lumbering chase as Blake Ferguson scored that spectacular long-range try (Sample text: “Go Frogboy GO”) vividly underscored the fact that the march of time is an absolute fucker, whichever way you look at it. The hooves of destiny beat for Hindmarsh and doesn’t he damn well know it. He looked like he should be slumped on a stool inside a coastal RSL club belching beer fumes into some two-bit barmaid’s face. He looked like he wished he was.
When it was all over, Josh Dugan tweeted a picture of himself sitting in his kitchen eating ham. Just kidding. He was without a shirt looking like he’d been kicked in the ribs by Gestapo boots. Like he isn’t fierce enough already, fuck! After his Raiders beating the Eels and Todd Carney’s Sharks beating the Storm and Billy Slater being binned this was more than my fevered brain could metabolise. I practically started seeing parades of pink elephants hurling past my retinas. Years of hermetic seclusion have run down my tolerance levels.
The other, obvious highlight of the round was Johnathan Thurston having to pull down his shorts and have his junk closely attended to. Midgame. As an entire stadium of Newcastle fans howled their approval. This excited me. A lean, dark and hungry looking man of doubtful repute dropping his shorts? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT.