All posts by AJ MacNeil

The Silent Grand Final Week

NRL referee Ben Cummins

The media is buzzing, open training sessions, midweek Viking claps, the most talked about Calf in the world this week. It can only mean one thing………IT’S GRAND FINAL WEEK.

6 teams preparing to play the game of their lives.

Best of Luck to the Burleigh Bears, Newtown Jets, Brisbane Broncos, St George Illawarra Dragons, Sydney Roosters and Canberra Raiders. It all comes down to this.

But it’s not just 6 teams that face the pre game nerves, the training, the realisation that all their hard work has paid off and they have made it to the big show.

The 7th team is involved in every game this week have also named their team in the last 48 hours.

Families celebrating about who got picked and disappointed people for those who missed out.

The 7th team named for the big dance is as follows – Morel, Nolan, Schwass, Badger, Whitehouse, Teague, Brough, Smith, Maxwell, Galea, Beashel, Butler, Sutton & Cummins.

Yes, the 7th team, is the officials for the 3 games. The men and women in the middle, on the touch line and in the bunker that will be judged by how little impact they have on the game.

This is the silent grand final week. Minimal media (outside of the appointment announcement), No fans at training, no special Nordic whistle blowing welcome on to the ground.

The thankless job, that no matter how well the game is officiated this weekend, the best the refs can hope for while receiving their game medallions (one of their proudest career moments), is to not be booed too loud.

NRL referee Gerard Sutton

Grand final week, just like the players, will be one that the referees coaches will be hoping is without drama, has plenty of focus and hard work, and has a favourable ending on Sunday night.

Saturday morning and Sunday morning respectively would have been recovery. Monday morning, the team would meet for video review of the weekend games.

Potentially Monday afternoon, but more likely Tuesday, the appointments would have been announced.

No real fanfare, 2 very happy referees, 2 very happy touch judges and the bunker officials.

But there will always be the disappointment and what ifs?

Grant Atkins and Adam Gee, both perilously close to the best moment of their careers, but falling one game short.

NRL referee and touch judge Chris Butler

While the appointments of the NRL grand final were as expected, there was a feeling that just maybe, the NRL would go with one of the teams that ran games last weekend – Sutton/Gee or Cummins/Atkins.

I would have loved to have seen Cummins/ Atkins get a go, but Sutton has friends (or brothers) in high places.

However, putting aside their disappointment, one, or potentially both Atkins and Gee will need to be ready for Sunday as they will be the standby ref.

I don’t know whether you’ve seen how the referees train, but it is mind blowing just how fit these athletes (and yes, they are athletes) are.

Conditioning work would rival most NRL teams without the need for as much weights training.

Then it is on to the gameday training. One of the most amazing pieces of equipment is the decision treadmill.

Referees are asked to run whilst watching a game of footy.

During this game, they need to take on the role of referee, make decisions under fatigue and all of this is video reviewed to check for correctness under pressure and fatigue.

While we all like to give the refs a piece of our mind when things aren’t great or your team isn’t going well, I guarantee one thing – that referees never want the game to be about them.

NRL referee Ben Cummins

The less noise, the better game.

This is the grand final week we don’t hear about, the grand final team most of us don’t give 2 thoughts about in the lead up, but the grand final would not happen without our referees and officials.

Good luck to all players and officials this weekend and if you can find it in your heart, please don’t boo when they get their recognition.

They’ve put in more work over their careers than most and will never have a trading card, never get asked for an autograph and are still more unpopular than a parking cop.

Good Luck team 7. “Six to go, play on”

The Rulebook

Devoted Supporter to Fair-Weather Friend – Rugby League Fandom through The Ages

I have often been called a “One-Eyed” supporter, and this is totally untrue … I have two perfectly normal and healthy eyes, as it happens, I just have one that is completely Red and the other, 100% White.

Conveniently born at a time when the St. George Dragons were just rolling into their historic “11 in a row” Premiership domination period, and with a father who, even now at almost 98 years of age, is a Dragons man to the core, it was my fate, indeed my birthright to become a life-long devotee of the almighty Red V.

Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on the hill at Kogarah Oval and the Sydney Sports Ground with my dear old Dad yelling “Go you Dragons” at every opportunity.

At such a volume, it’s now quite clear to me how the substantial hearing loss in my right ear came about initially.

In fairness to my Dad, some of that hearing loss admittedly can also be attributed to a Marshall Amplifier, a Fender Stratocaster, and a complete infatuation with all things Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd in the 1970’s. Anyway, I digress ..

In those magical days as a kid who lived for his footy, you didn’t just hope your team was featuring on the Match of the Day on the telly, you were there at the game rain, hail or shine.

You’d get there early enough to watch all three grades play, and then, when your 1st grade side would run out onto the field, you’d get tingles down your spine, your heart would begin to race and you’d leap to your feet.

Graeme Langlands

The excitement around the ground was palpable.

The Rugby League fan of those days was a VERY different animal. Opposing fans would sit interspersed amongst each other, you’d say “G’day” to familiar faces, and everybody was polite and considerate of those around them, regardless of who they we supporting.

At the end of the day, if your team went down at the final siren, it was disappointing for sure, but it wasn’t the end of the world as we know it.

You’d offer congratulations to the opposition, shake their hand and mutter things like, “Well, your lot certainly outplayed us today, but we’ll get you next time”.

There’d be good natured ribbing and banter, everyone would have a laugh, and you’d make your way out of the ground, regrouping and looking forward to next week’s game.

Fast forward now if you will to 2019 …

As a regular user of Twitter (yes, you might be surprised/shocked to know that even us old dudes use social media), I will follow pretty much anyone who claims to be a St. George/Illawarra Supporter, it’s only natural.

Reg Gasnier

It simply staggers me how many so-called “Dragons faithful” are bleating and moaning about the Dragons’ performance so far this year.

They’re calling for Mary McGregor’s blood, throwing poisoned darts at club management, and in general, verbally tearing this great club and it’s wonderful legacy to shreds.

During one rather long, and very heated thread on Twitter recently, out of frustration at all the negative and nasty comments I was reading, I posted my own thoughts.

Suggesting that if they really have such little respect for the club, officials, coaches and players, they could perhaps do themselves, (and the rest of us), a favour and go follow one of the other 15 clubs running around in the competition.

Imagine my delight at being bombarded with responses along the lines of “Why don’t you shut the **** up and *** off.”

Such is the camaraderie of some (not all) of the people who claim allegiance to the Red V.

Sad, very sad. I’m almost starting to think they might need to build a special “Cry Room” at the Taj Mahal (St. George Leagues Club) to cater for the needs of all the disaffected, shattered snowflakes that can’t deal with the “unfairness” of not being able to win ALL the time.

In fairness though, it would appear that this attitude is rife throughout most, if not all, of the clubs in the NRL .. We’ve gone from a sportsman-like “winning isn’t EVERYTHING”, to a hard-nosed, “winning is the ONLY thing”.

Tyson Frizell

Even at the Brisbane Broncos, (who have arguably the most tight-knit fanatical supporters in the game), after a few losses on the trot they start turning on each other and eating their own!

Here’s some breaking news folks …

Not EVERY team can win EVERY week, and if your side is going through some tough times, such is life in the real world. Getting all angry and shouty ain’t gonna change NOTHIN’.

Throughout the history of our wonderful game, every club, every coach, every player has experienced a lean patch that they’ve just had to work through, learn from, and find ways to move forward out of the funk they find themselves in.

If you’re a 100% committed supporter of your club, then YOU are a part of that process too, and tearing down good people who are doing their best is anything but helpful.

REAL supporters are there “through thick and thin” regardless of current performance or position on the table.

A specific note to my fellow Dragons’ tragics .. Stop for a moment and consider how it must have felt for the supporters of all the other clubs during the Dragons amazing “11 years in a row” achievements!

If we really love the game and truly back our chosen teams regardless, we need to learn to become more patient and learn what the word “supporter” really means and put it into practice.

Jai Field

Remember, every Dog has it’s day .. as does every Dragon, Cowboy, Shark, Bronco, Tiger, Titan, Warrior, Stormer, Raider, Panther, Sea Eagle, Knight, Rabbit, Eel and Rooster.

In the words of a wise old somebody, “Suck it up Princess .. build a bridge and get over yourself”