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When the choking stops in the AFL and NRL

Expert
11th August, 2011
24
1624 Reads

When the Collingwood Magpies and St George Illawarra Dragons won the AFL and NRL premierships respectively last year, it left every other clubs’ fans with no unifying sledge, along with deleting a major subplot for each particular sport.

That’s because neither team could be labelled ‘chokers’, something that had been attached to both organisations for a long time.

It’s not much fun when teams or individuals who have traditionally underperformed on the big stage, finally break through and win, thereby shedding their reputation as ‘chokers’.

When a team or individual has a history of ‘choking’, it allows everyone else to unite and gang up on the under-performing team, individual and/or fans. But when these athletes finally deliver and win the grand final or premiership, your left feeling a bit hollow, sledge-wise.

Between 1958 and 1990, Collingwood lost eight grand finals and were dubbed ‘the Colliwobbles’, as they were heavily favoured in most of those games, but failed to win. But as the confetti settled on Collingwood’s 2010 AFL premiership, it left fans unable to mention the ‘Colliwobbles’.

Likewise, when perennial underachiever’s St George-Illawarra won the NRL title last year, yet another historically under-performing team shed its tag of ‘chokers’, and left rugby league fans without one of its great stories.

Specifically, non-Dragons fans were no longer able to be assured that, no matter what else happened during the season, the Dragons wouldn’t win the title.

But before anyone gets too down, there is a glimmer of hope that by the end of this season we will once again be free to yell out ‘chokers!’ at both the Magpies and Dragons.

Collingwood have been the dominant team in the AFL all year long, and anything less than a flag would be deemed a choke. Likewise, the Dragons were a class above every other team for most of the NRL season, yet are currently struggling, losing three games in a row, and six of their last eight. The once mighty Dragons are looking anything but premiership certainties.

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Both clubs would have believed they were free from the dreaded ‘choke’ sledge after their premierships last season, but rest assured, there are many fans out there from both codes who cannot wait to once again have fun at the expense of Collingwood and St George Illawarra, and their fans.

The Magpies and the Dragons aren’t the first team or individuals to overcome a reputation for choking or under-performing. There have been others that were the butt of jokes in their respective sports, and whom opponents and fans alike took great delight in teasing – until they ended the fun by winning:

Sydney Kings: Hated and laughed at by the rest of the country due to their inability to ever actually win anything, the jokes stopped when Brian Goorjian came on-board and led the team to three consecutive titles in 2003, 2004 and 2005, thereby erasing the Violet Crumbles nickname in the process.

Boston Red Sox: The Sox had one of the longest championship droughts in baseball history, called the “Curse of the Bambino” after the team’s sale of Babe Ruth to the rival Yankees in 1918. It kicked off an 86-year period without a championship, before Boston broke the curse by winning in 2004.

Queensland cricket team: Queenslanders had to endure 68 years of teasing by other states before they finally broke through and won the Sheffield Shield in the 1994/95 season. A sad day for the rest of the country, as this was one of the great hoodoo’s in Australian sport.

But fear not sports fans, for time being, we still have two favourite targets who are yet to shed their ‘choker’ tag: LeBron James, and the All Blacks.

You can follow Ryan O’Connell on Twitter @RyanOak http://twitter.com/#!/RyanOak