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Festivus in July: It’s time to air my NRL grievances

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart isn't happy. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)
Expert
19th July, 2018
113

In the 1990s TV show Seinfeld, the great Frank Costanza created ‘Festivus’, an alternate holiday to Christmas where an aluminium pole is erected instead of a tree, and a dinner held.

At that dinner there are the airing of grievances – where you tell those closest to you how they’ve disappointed you during the year.

Well, I’ve erected the pole, I’ve had dinner and I now declare it to be Festivus in July.

I gotta lot of problems with you people – and now you’re going to hear about it!

1. Cruel and unusual scheduling
While totally freezing my posterior off at Canberra Stadium last Saturday night, part of me was enjoying the boys from Far North Queensland being subjected to the coldest weather Canberra has to offer.

The slow-mo replays of Johnathan Thurston shivering behind the try line did give me pangs of schadenfreude. It seemed fair payback for all of those times when my Raiders have been scheduled to play in the Townsville heat in March, or in the middle of a 40-degree day in Robina.

That seems to happen all the time. Then it hit me: it does happen all the time. Three of the last four times that the Cowboys have played in Canberra it has been on a freezing winter night.

Two of the last four times the Raiders have played in Townsville were Round 1 matches in the extreme March heat.

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That is cruel and unusual scheduling.

To quote the great Tooves “There’s got to be an investigation into this. Someone has to be accountable for this.”

We need to identify the people responsible for this scheduling and hold them to account for it.

And I have just the way to do it.

Whenever a match is scheduled at venues for times likely to inflict extreme weather on the players and fans, those who schedule the matches must also go to the venue – wearing only as much as a player or official does – and walk laps of the field the entire time the players are out there.

Let’s see how often games are scheduled at times of likely extreme weather once that rule is imposed.

Johnathan Thurston

JT has been cold in more ways than one this season. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

2. Who the hell cares who got the Wally Lewis Medal?
Seriously people, get over it. Sure, Billy Slater should not have received the award. However, Who was the standout contender that was robbed?

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Nobody, that’s who.

Billy Slater

Billy Slater won the Wally (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Sure, James Tedesco, Damien Cook and Tom Trbojevic all did well, but none of them were consistent game breakers. Tedesco scored two good tries and broke the line a few times, but he wasn’t dominant by any means.

Damien Cook was solid in defence and three or four times made good breaks, but it wasn’t a stand out series. Tommy Turbo’s main achievement was not cracking under the pressure targeted at him.

Not one Blues player stood out in two, let alone all three, games. No NSW player was robbed. The closest thing to robbery I could find was Valentine Holmes making over 600 metres and scoring 28 points over the series.

The awarding of the 2016 Clive Churchill Medal demonstrates that anyone who bets on such things is a fool. In that game Andrew Fifita was clearly the best player on the park.

Cam Smith was a clear second. Yet somehow Luke Lewis was awarded the medal. That was robbery.

Billy Slater getting the player of the series was not. Further, if Laurie Daley and Darren Lockyer say it was Billy then that’s pretty high praise indeed.

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Not too many better players laced on a boot in Origin than those two, playing a combined 59 games, with both captaining their respective states.

And it doesn’t matter anyway, time to get over it.

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3. It was perfectly understandable that Joey Leilua gave the Dogs players a serve
So many people got on their high horses about Joey Leilua giving the vanquished Bulldogs left edge defence a spray after he scored the last gasp winning try in Round 17. Joey was called all sorts of names and his character soundly trashed.

The people doing that – including you, Peter Sterling – need to pull their heads in and consider the context for that action.

The Raiders have lost five games in season 2018 by a combined total of ten points. All of those matches have seen their leads run down.

That’s after they lost five games in 2017 by a combined total of 11 points. They’ve been called pea hearts, chokers, losers, faders.

Every side that plays them tries to twist those knives of self-doubt in each of the Canberra players. Leilua is a volatile player at the best of times and, as a result, he’s a particular target for sledging.

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Raiders centre Joseph Leilua

Joey Leilua. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

He was having a shocker against the Bulldogs. He gave away penalties, committed stupid errors and he missed tackles. Rhyse Martin scored three tries through Leilua’s section of the line.
And I can guarantee that the Bulldogs players were letting him know all about it the whole time.

So when he crashed over to win the match for his side in the sort of comeback that had been inflicted on his side so often in the last two seasons he gave his would be tacklers an earful.

All the frustration of ten narrow losses over two seasons – every single one of which Leilua played in – erupted from the Raiders number four.

It was an involuntary release. And a completely understandable one at that.

People having a go at him for it need to get a grip. It is a game of constant sledging. Much of it is not obvious to spectators, but I guarantee it’s always happening.

There was nothing clandestine about the spray Joey delivered, but maybe there’s more integrity in that.

4. What the hell bunker… Seriously. What the hell?
No airing of grievances would be complete without the officials getting a mention. When referee Jon Stone referred Rooster Sean O’Sullivan’s grounding attempt for a try in the 34th minute of their game against the Titans it seemed very clear that it would not be awarded.

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It was clearly a knock on. O’Sullivan could be seen clearly telling his teammates as much.

However, Bryan Norrie and Steve Chiddy in the NRL Bunker saw it differently and awarded the try.

That night referees boss Bernard Sutton came out and said that it shouldn’t have been awarded.

Unsurprisingly Titans Centre Dale Copley wasn’t impressed.

The question keeps arising as to how the Bunker keeps getting these decisions wrong when they are so obvious to the punters.

My prediction is this grievance will also be aired next Festivus.

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Now it is your turn. What grievances do you have to air?