Everyone has had their say over the Manly-Melbourne brawl last Friday night, but among all the mayhem of the game was an act of respect and care for an opposition player that deserves applause.
Billy Slater is no favourite of mine but last Friday my respect for Slater grew immeasurably when he cradled the head of a seriously injured David Williams.
The Manly winger who was later diagnosed with a fracture to a neck vertabrae, after effecting a try-saving tackle on the Sea Eagles flyer.
If it had been an NFL game, the tacklers would probably have danced some complicated jig and high-fived each other, while their opponent was fitted for a neck brace.
So kudos to Billy Slater for his attention to the plight of an injured opponent, even in this most fierce of rivalries.
Which brings me to Roy Masters. In his Sydney Morning Herald column, Masters made mention of the Slater incident as part of a wider flaying of rugby league administration.
And hidden in the article was his usual potshot at the Manly Sea Eagles, where he wrote:
“… the Brookvale crowd on Friday night bayed for blood, believing that Melbourne’s 2007 premiership was won via the chequebook.”
He then added, “Brookvale, as any observer of Manly’s spending powers circa late 1970s knows, continues to be rugby league’s last bastion of old-fashioned hypocrisy.”
When will Masters put this 30-year-old grudge to bed? For the uninitiated, it was Masters who coined the term ‘Fibros vs Silvertails’ in the late 70s as a way of introducing a class war to rugby league.
He did it ostensibly to motivate his team Western Suburbs, especially in their clashes with Manly, who signed three Wests players in 1979; John Dorahy, Les Boyd and Ray Brown.
It was a thinly disguised motivational tactic in a game where blood, fists and brawls were a common part of the game in that era.
Backed by a robust Leagues club, Manly had money to spend and rugby league was on the verge of entering a world of full-time professionalism.
However, it was a game that never strayed far from its working class roots in any area, no matter what Masters tried to make people believe.
Players still supplemented their incomes; Manly’s Max Krilich was a plumber, Terry Randall was a concreter, Balmain’s Olsen Filipana worked on a council garbage truck, Wests captain Tom Raudonikus ran a fruit market.
Supporters came from working and middle class demographics, and even Masters couldn’t have been blind enough to know that there were areas where Manly drew their support which were every bit as ‘working class’ as his ‘Fibro Brigade’ who ate up his every ignorant word in their support of the Magpies.
What Masters conveniently forgot to mention was that Manly’s attempts to recruit the best players were based on a model similar to a club from the 60s who became obsessed on unseating St George at the top of the premiership.
That club was Western Suburbs.
Did his motivation work? Well, given that it still resonates three decades later, he was very successful at the hype.
As a coach, he never won a premiership with either Wests or St George, who he went on to coach later in his career (a cashed-up St George who were building the “Taj Mahal” of Leagues clubs in Kogarah. Roy’s working class values were conveniently forgotten, obviously)
And so to the present, where Masters has decided that Melbourne’s salary cap cheating was no different to Manly’s spending powers of the 1970s.
Of course, there is no comparison, and any reasonably informed fan of the game would know this.
Melbourne have got on with the job this season after their punishment of 2010, and, barring a miraculous set of results in round 26, will win the minor premiership. They have got over it after 12 months.
33 years down the track, Roy Masters shows no signs of getting over his own twisted viewpoints. Frankly, it’s getting very boring.