Austin, Roberts, Gower and everything great about rugby league

John Macdonald Roar Rookie

By John Macdonald, John Macdonald is a Roar Rookie

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    Keen-minded fans might cite several unacknowledged examples of modern rugby-league skills, far in advance of days of yore.

    Skills that should have been celebrated at the time.

    They could point to a Blake Austin’s unremarked-on 70m goal-line dropout for the Canberra Raiders. Astonishing, and not wind-assisted.

    They could highlight a James Roberts’ 30m flat spiral pass while he was on the move. Jimmy the Jet might be known for his speed and deception, but this was remarkable.

    Try to replicate it, then understand the degree of difficulty, or look at black-and-white film of matches from the dark ages, see harbour-bridge passes travel less than 10m.

    Austin and Roberts; providing moments to remember.

    But for the unacknowledged highlight of the season, and an early nomination for highlight of any season, another camera on David Gower, please.

    The multiple no-shows saw Parramatta reserve and occasional bench forward Gower picked for City against Country at Mudgee.

    After City’s win, Gower was interviewed on television and dropped the F bomb.

    Predictably, this got the ink and Gower momentary notoriety.

    But it was what Gower also said that should have been highlighted….no, celebrated and replayed at all presentations and on highlights reels.

    Asked what the game meant to him, Gower said it was a representative match and the highlight of his career.

    Gower had seen age 30 come and go, was the archetypal journeyman, no certainty to get a weekly run on an NRL field, was never going to play State of Origin or for Australia.

    Yet he had reached a summit, had scaled his peak.

    So had Cronulla’s rocks-and-diamonds bench player Joe Paulo, a picture of joy behind him.

    In the time of State of Origin and the celebrated names like Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith, Andrew Fifita and Jarryd Hayne, who have metaphorically climbed all the big mountains, Gower’s is the name to celebrate.

    As the John Grant controversy has passed and we await the next officials drama, the next inevitable scandal, there are truisms.

    There will always be accusations of administrative incompetence, another scandal; it’s been that way since 1908.

    But you can punch, stab, poison, strangle, shoot or bomb rugby league, it will survive. Or decapitate it, and another head will grow.

    It’s indestructible. That’s what makes it the greatest game of all.

    And in a time when money rules and the country neglected, there will always be a Gower playing for love, always be a game played in a Mudgee, or Tamworth or Wagga Wagga.

    And excited fans to watch if the NRL names come to town.

    Gower and Mudgee gave another example of administrative short-sightedness and why City versus Country should survive.

    When they put out the posters and run the promotional films, Gower’s should be the image that embodies the greatest game of all.