Hindmarsh kicks himself into history
It took Parramatta legend Nathan Hindmarsh the last few seconds of the last NRL game in regulation to create his own niche in rugby league history.
With the Dragons leading 29-6, Parramatta was awarded a penalty 24m out between the left hand upright and touch.
Skipper Hindmarsh decided he was going to retire with a bang, electing to have a shot at goal.
Ignoring a kicking tee, the skipper built an old-fashioned mound of sand, did a 360, and nailed his only shot at goal in 330 games for his beloved Eels, prompting the 45,862 at ANZ Stadium to go berserk. Their excitement forced me to turn down my TV volume it was so loud.
And to their credit, every Dragon clapped the feat.
It was a rare moment in a game that featured rare moments.
For the first time in NRL history, four long-serving players retired from the same game. Even rarer, all four enjoyed one-club careers of distinction – Hindmarsh and Luke Burt with Parramatta, Ben Hornby and Dean Young for the Dragons.
Hindmarsh (32) is the senior player of the quality quartet, lasting 15 years at the top, winning 22 Kangaroo caps, and 17 Origins, while playing those 330 games for the Eels, making an all-time record 11,981 tackles, 4,408 career runs, and 33,711 metres gained – an awesome set of stats. No wonder his body has had enough.
Burt (31) played 273 games for the Eels over 13 years, amassing 124 tries to eclipse Brett Kenny’s previous club record of 111, and scoring 1,791 points, second only to the mighty Mick Cronin’s 1,971.
Hornby (33) played one Test and three Origins, captaining the 2010 premiership side among his 272 games for the Dragons over 13 years, scoring 278 points, and finishing on a high note last night as man-of-the-match.
And Young (28), his career cut short by persistent and painful knee injuries, played one Test and one Origin over 10 years, with 208 games for the Dragons scoring 20 tries.
But rugby league rarities in 2012 don’t finish there.
I’ve been watching, covering, or calling the 13-man code for over 60 years, and there’s never been such an extraordinary array and depth of world class fullbacks in the NRL.
In alphabetical order – Ben Barba (Bulldogs), Matt Bowen (Cowboys), Greg Inglis (Souths), Billy Slater (Melbourne), and Brett Stewart (Manly), every one of them a match-winner in his own right.
And if Ricky Stuart can revive Jarryd Hayne’s mojo at Parramatta next season and plays him at fullback, it will be even stronger.
Throw in Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, and Cooper Cronk and little wonder 2012 has been one of the best seasons in memory, with quality and excitement across the park.
And there’s a lot more in store.
Tomorrow night at the Dally M’s, will the pocket-rocket and electric Barba win the coveted Medal? Some of his 21 tries this season rank among the most spine-tingling of all-time, especially the length of the field four-pointers which made even his opponents blink in disbelief.
On Friday night the blockbuster between defending champions Manly and the frontline contending Bulldogs or, more specifically, the coaching clash of the year between Geoff Toovey and Des Hasler for coach of the year.
Saturday isn’t too shabby either, with Melbourne and the Rabbitohs, as well as the Queensland derby between the Cowboys and Broncos.
Nor Sunday with the Raiders and the Sharks.
Magnificent rugby league as the business end of 2012 begins.
But for the moment, let’s just savour the history-making Nathan Hindmarsh goal, a special niche in the special career of a special player whose last touch of the ball was so significant.
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