Friends, a momentous event is happening before our very eyes. Like a solar eclipse, or the attempted monetisation of a Shane Warne thought bubble, the Crown of Thorns is moving.
The Crown of Thorns is a perpetual trophy awarded to the club adjudged to be the most bafflingly incompetent and disastrous rabble in the great game of rugby league. To claim it, and the accompanying Sceptre of Shame, requires a mix of glorious stupidity and tragicomic misfortune. The honour roll is long and distinguished.
Parramatta appear most regularly, on account of their 30-year search for the next Sterlo (Tim Smith is a genuine contender), their habit of signing players five years after their prime, and their constant, dizzying internal feuding, with board elections that Zimbabwean democracy enthusiast Robert Mugabe once described as ‘a bit too vicious for my liking ‘.
Last year, when they were caught a lazy $174 million over the salary cap and had noted probity advocate Eddie Obeid working his magic behind the scenes, the Slippery Eels had the famous Crown pretty well sewn up. I mean really, nothing says Crown of Thorns like your dream signing being linked to Eddie Hayson.
That sort of thing attracts high marks from the Crown judging panel. They must have thought they had it wrapped up for a while.
They didn’t count on the tenacity of fellow honour roll regulars Newcastle, boldly finishing runners up in 19 consecutive games and having their captain fail a drug test to firmly seize the title. Again, the Mullen doping scandal is pure Crown material, not least because there was so little evidence of enhanced performance on his part. The Knights had the Crown firmly wedged atop the armour, with the plume poking up the middle.
Now though, I venture, there is another firm gravitational pull on the prized title. All the ingredients are there. Bitter internal strife. Staggering recruitment and retention decisions. A player skimming a bit off the top of his own charity auctions then dumping his teammates in it for getting on the Colombian marching powder.
A coach once arrested for *allegedly* weeing in a cup and hoiking it over fellow spectators at the SCG. And of course, early optimism followed by anguish and deflation. All the ingredients are there. The Tigers are poised to seize the crown.
The Knights have had a win and come close in their other two games. The green shoots are obvious. At the very least they look likely to reach a point where they can lose by less than twenty without being described as ‘courageous’ and ‘gutsy’ in the media. The Tigers, by contrast, are facing all the stuff listed above, and have been linked with a $1.7 million deal to sign Chris McQueen.
Their coach, in addition to his penchant for sending urinal gravity defiance, has Crown pedigree, and will stop at nothing to wear its jewels. He heroically led his South Sydney side to the prize in 2009, when he managed to convince the famously passive David Fa’alogo to punch his lights out.
He made a dramatic charge for the title last season with his power struggle against the famously conflict-shy Robbie Farah, and his revolutionary decision to play a three-man hooker rotation against Parramatta (not a coincidence) on Easter Monday.
The club have strong form too. For one thing, their recruitment and retention gurus have notably allowed Andrew Fifita, Blake Austin, Martin Taupau, Marika Koroibete and Josh Addo-Carr to move on saner pastures. It is genuinely surprising that the Roosters haven’t convinced them to hand over James Tedesco in exchange for some magic beans.
It’s all there. The time is near. Soon the mighty Crown will travel to whichever of the Tigers’ 46 home grounds they elect to host it. Alert the Governor-General and book the Cathedral.