Souths, Bulldogs, bad times and Bob McCarthy
Dave Taylor is tackled by Gareth Ellis during the Round 21 (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee McKay)
Dominating cheesy montages this week is bound to be the vision of a lanky, slick haired Bob McCarthy streaking away to dive under the posts in an iconic Instagram-style grand final memory.
‘Offside McCarthy’, as he was known to my Berries loving grandfather, is a living link between this weekend’s two warring clubs.
As far as footy players go, you would say he had a pretty good run: Grand finals. Boozy ‘Roo tours. Team of the century player. Cushy selectors job cracking jokes with Bozo over a Chinese businessman’s lunch.
If there was one blip on Bob’s otherwise textbook career, it would be his time as a coach in the NSWRL.
After success in the BRL with Souths Magpies, McCarthy was chucked in the deep end as the coach of a Gold Coast-Tweed Heads Giants side that was stinking it up years before GWS Giants made it cool to be routinely lapped by the opposition.
Much like McCarthy himself, his two alma maters share an honour roll of former glories, tinged with shades of struggle.
For South Sydney, these bad times are otherwise referred to as ‘the last twenty or so years.’
There are plenty of examples in Australian rugby league’s history of times when teams went through bad patches. University got a few spoons. Norths were the butt of many jokes. Newtown endured periods of premiership irrelevance.
But for any poor sap who thought it would be fun to jump onboard the Rabbitoh express after they took out the ’89 minor premiership, they’ve just emerged from footy’s equivalent of the dark ages, blinking furiously and babbling like a mad man.
Crappy performances, lost juniors, drugs charges, defecated shoes…then exile. Followed by redemption! Then crappy performances, lost juniors, etc.
In comparison to the Bunnies woes, one could argue that the Bulldogs have enjoyed a pretty plush ride to the top of the NRL.
But, look a little harder and you can see there have been some blotches on the Canterbury copybook too.
Salary caps. Coffs Harbour. Crowd concerns. Sonny Bill Williams.
Like Souths they’ve had to rebuild, to revaluate exactly what they wanted to be and rise above the also rans to turn back the clock to better days.
Sure a willingness to throw piles of money at the objects of their desire is something the clubs also have in common, but there are plenty of Karl Filiga’s getting around in rugby league land happy to take the green stuff from the foolish.
Both clubs have excelled under solid leadership. Hardnosed new coaches have tamed inconsistent attacks and improved discipline, while still allowing the Ennis’ and Crockers of this world to still ‘challenge’ opponents.
But perhaps most importantly the two clubs have developed front offices, headed by a movie star and the game’s next mover and shaker, that show a willingness to act big.
Something the great Bob McCarthy could have only dreamed about back at his time with the jolly old Giants.
Follow Chris on Twitter: @Vic_Arious
Chris Chard is a sports humour writer commenting on the often absurd nature of professional sport. A rugby league fan boy with a good blend of youth and experience taking things one week at a time, Chris has written for The Roar, Rugby League Player Magazine, US Sports Downunder, the QRL and People. Tweet him @Vic_Arious