Once upon a time. That’s the usual start a fairytale.
“Who is going to win the NRL premiership in 2018?”
That can start a fairytale, a fantasy story, a dream or a stream of bulls##t.
But starting with the end in mind is apparently a good way to plan a story. So if the 2018 NRL in pre-season is a fan’s own ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’, what needs to happen for your team’s fairytale? How does your rag tag bunch of characters to steal the ultimate reward? How do they overcome?
How do they win the battles against all the other cunning adversaries, thieves and Pokemons? I’m sure your guess is as good as, if not better than, mine. But this is how the story would have to go for each team to win the competition this year.
Their forward pack need to set the tone for forward packs. In the freezing cold, Viking clap filled cauldron of Canberra Stadium, that forward pack needs to be relentless and destructive.
They need to frustrate their opposition into favourable penalty counts and their halves need to step up and control the game, not let it come to them, or frustrate themselves because it doesn’t.
Reminding players that two hands out in front and running forwards is good, and getting tackled with the ball isn’t the worst thing that can happen. One of your wingers needs to be leading try scorer if the Raiders win the flag.
Make sure the cheques clear.
Anthony Milford needs to finish his incubation and emerge as a Wally Lewis-like butterfly. Jack Bird and James Roberts need to have the seasons of their careers. It’s a team where if everyone does their job, they get the job done. Wayne Bennett starts taking hallucinogens and grows a beard and has long, chilled out chats with reporters.
At the end of the season, he runs for Lord Mayor on a pro marijuana platform. That story becomes a great documentary on Netflix in 2019.
By Round 5, Nathan Cleary is known as the most dangerous player in the NRL, he wins the Origin for NSW and has ball on string in finals. Finding James Maloney is like finding gold on the side of the road, he is often the difference in close games – and for them to win the whole thing, I mean that in the positive sense.
Normally Knights are either really important in a story, and get to sit at a round table, or they just get slaughtered in battle. Is Mitchell Pearce a big game winner, or a just a loser in a big game?
Will he lead for 80 minutes, or end up as lead story on 60 Minutes? Their roster reads like an old Roosters team and their on-field performance needs to fight the notion that the Hunter might just be where old stars from the Eastern Suburbs move to get on with their addictions in peace and quiet.
For them to win, it would need to be one of those stories where a team full of players no one wanted, pulled off a dream run. There’s a long haired guy, an albino, a fat guy, and an old no hoper pitcher or quarterback (or halfback) with the bung arm, who when it counts pulls off a miracle, guided by a ghost.
Can a grown up Panthers juniors team get mixed with some of Queensland’s most talented juniors from around the same time and form a unit? Can they quickly bond and form a team, like those stories of early soldiers, who somehow just found it when the situation required it?
Individually and together they figure it out? Or is 2018 when they learn about the gap between where they want to be and where they are?
For them to win, they need to figure out how to live on the Gold Coast and not just love life, want for nothing, and have a view from your balcony that takes away your desire and care about the importance of winning football. Not sure it’s possible.
Bully your way into the top eight and make the best of it from there with speed, experience and luck.
Believe they can and not lose penalty counts in ways described as ‘silly’. Greg Inglis is the greatest footballer I’ve ever seen. He can make anything happen and he only needs you to get it wrong once, he’s a highlight reel waiting to happen. Everybody else, show up, do your bit and don’t drop it.
Nobody gets injured. They define aggression, work hard, Luke Brooks from the group formerly known as the ‘Big Four’ becomes ‘the big one’. They become spiritual and they Eat, Pray and Pray.
They pray that Laurie Nichols breaks into God’s office, punches him in the guts, drops him to floor, and takes over the controls with ten minutes to go in the grand final.
Don’t be fancy, it’s okay to just to run over the top of people. It’s okay to be scary. They also learn that putting the ball into touch in and soaking up minutes works better than using that time to make mistakes.
They save their magic beans for finals time, then they climb the beanstalk, and we know the rest. A Warrior sticks his metaphorical knife into metaphorical heart of a giant, like John Thurston or Cameron Smith, and interrupts some other amazing metaphorical narrative.
The prize, a premiership, could be the goose that lays the golden egg for New Zealand Rugby League. With 78 minutes gone in the grand final, just when the person you thought was the hero has the metaphorical victory there within his grasp, he gets run over by a non-metaphorical freight train from New Zealand.
Keep doing what the old wizard says. Help new Cooper Cronk Baggins settle into his hobbit-hole.
If Rocky didn’t coach Creed, I still think he would have won. But digging up all the old Bulldogs from the player’s football card collections might be as useful as giving them the sticks of chewing gum leftover from the packets. But if they win, 2018 is 1988, Aaron Woods becomes Peter Tunks, or very Tunk-esque and Foran needs to be Lamb-esque. But Hopoate don’t need no has-beens in his corner.
It never ends well for Dragons in a fairytale, even if a fan of the Dragon tells the story. The Dragons won a lot of fights in a row in medieval times. To win, Ben Hunt needs to be Robin Hood, Englishmen Gareth Widdop, the trusty marksman and James Graham, the brut or Little John, and the rest of the team are those other guys in the forest.
What am I talking about? The Dragons are not winning the premiership, killed by a Storm or Cowboys, photos of exhausted forwards on the ground crying, having given 110 per cent again. But if they win, commentators are constantly describing the work of Tyson Frizell as ‘freakish’.
Potential, speed and skill to burn, for them to win, Eels games seem to go quicker than 80 minutes. Mitch Moses and Corey Norman and their staff part the Red Sea and miracles happen.
People forget Hayne is there because French is dominating and just when you forget he exists, Hayne reminds you when you’ll hate him the most for it. It sticks when it needs to stick and it’s electric – and their sets of six after tries don’t go to waste. Forwards become household names and synonyms for tough.
The Sea Eagles
In this story, Daly Cherry-Evans finds a friend. They bond over video games and the fact that for some unknown reason, his friend finds the weird things Daly says funny.
If Netflix has taught me anything, it’s to watch out for guys with three names, but this is a fairytale not real life. So the friends bond and go on adventures and by the end of the story, the power of friendship helps them win the premiership.
After the game, someone pours Gatorade on Geoff Toovey and his reaction goes viral. The Trbojevic brothers win all the awards and unlike all other NRL brothers, everybody agrees, it is actually impossible to quantify which one is better.
“Let’s keep rolling, and do it again, Michael, I love what you’re doing. Okay, this time, Johnathan we just want you to come in and improvise. Okay, and, action!”
How does your fairytale 2018 season play out for your team? What needs to go their way in your book for 2018? Tell me how your story goes.