It’s so easy to keep kicking Jamie Soward
St. George Illawarra Dragons' coach Wayne Bennett (centre) with Jamie Soward andf Trent Merrin celebrate thier teams win over Sydney Roosters during the NRL Grand Final at ANZ Stadium, Sydney, Oct. 3, 2010. Dragons defeated the Roosters 32 to 8. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
I never eat solids within 24 hours of watching any match that involves the Dragons. Want to know why? Because every time I see Jamie Soward perform his absurdly superfluous goal-kicking routine, my last major meal returns.
Lucky for me, the Dragons’ modus operandi is to slowly toil their way to wins on defence and not shoot the lights out with blazing attack and piles of razzmatazz.
If they were ‘try happy’, my throat and stomach lining would be shredded like good coleslaw by now.
For some indefinable reason, Soward is widely maligned by the league community.
From day dot, he’s been easy to poke fun at, whether it be about his garden-gnome size, the sooky looks he shoots at the referees when he’s spitting the dummy or his ability to look like a mozzie on a lorry in defence.
A by-product of this public criticism is the defensive siege mentality he’s now developed with fans and the media.
This acts like a stream of $50 notes into a stripper’s knickers for the punters who are inspired to keep the train of bagging rolling along.
You would think a Regular Joe would like to quell a situation like this by cutting the fat and keeping a low profile in an attempt to deflect some attention elsewhere.
So why does he do things such as make a goal-kicking routine look like a combination of stoned disco dancing and an OCD-riddled chicken slowly retracing it’s steps in search for a lost dinner seed?
Does he have a manager or an advisor who provides even occasional feedback on what the whole ghastly procedure looks like?
Surely this prolonged practice of mind-numbing monotony is a sin-bin offence somewhere in the laws of the game, perhaps under time-wasting or even contrary conduct.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for muscle memory, mind control and all of that other mental trickery that sports psychologists and kicking coaches make their moolah from.
I’ll high-five any footballer who has whipped his mental demons into shape with a small set of instructions they obediently follow whenever they’re putting the ball on the tee.
But I bar the celebratory palm slapping when you add a 1950′s milk-bar two-step, a series of melodramatic facial contortions and an extra 45 seconds to what should be something basic and concise enough to trick a dense footballer into kicking straight.
I don’t recall ever reading ‘polish every blade of grass within three metres of the ball using the top of your boot; then suck oxygen like it’s going out of fashion’ in the no-nonsense goal-kicking manuals of Jason Taylor and Daryl Halligan, from the halcyon days of the 1990′s.
These black-dot beasts must also re-taste their ham sandwich every time they see this travesty unfold.
If he kicked with a success rate of over 80%, then it wouldn’t matter. He could place the ball and give someone a haircut, for all I care.
But he isn’t. So Jamie, please trim the extras from your kicking program.
To the diminutive Dragon, I give this free and friendly advice.
Put the bloody ball on the tee; count four steps back and two across; look at the target; and slap that bad boy over the cross-bar.
All within a reasonable time frame, of course.
Footy clocks, dance aficionados and your sanity will thank you.
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