I was born in the family home at Balmain, a stone’s throw away from Birchgrove Oval, the birthplace of rugby league in this country.
As was the way in those days, I was naturally a Balmain boy through and through, and like the rest of my family and those who lived in the area, loved the Tigers with a passion.
At the ripe old age of ten, I was gutted when I found out that Arthur “Big Artie” Beetson had to miss the Grand Final through suspension. Surely it was not fair to rub a bloke out of the ‘big dance’ for something he did in an earlier game but, as my very wise father explained it to me at the time, “No-one’s bigger than the game son”.
19 years on and another big fellow and also a Balmain legend, Steve “Blocker” Roach copped the same fate and, although my dear old Dad was no longer around to say it, his words echoed in my ears, “No-one’s bigger than the game son”.
Ah yes, Dad was always the voice of reason in our family and I’ve never forgotten this idiom, and how true it is because others have also been forced to miss the grand final due to indiscretions committed in earlier games.
For goodness sakes, even the “referee whisperer” Cameron Smith himself was ruled out in 2008 due to his penchant for trying to remove a blokes arm from its socket.
Billy Slater fans will argue that his shoulder charge on Sosaia Feki is nowhere near as dangerous as a chicken wing, however, there is something that needs to be considered here when the panel meets tonight to discuss his fate.
The NRL brought in this rule because it deemed that this style of tackling was very dangerous. So dangerous in fact, that it cost one young man in Queensland his life, and this is why it comes with the minimum of 200 points, or if you like, an automatic one-game suspension.
I wonder if there would even be any debate at all if Slater’s shoulder charge had been a little ill-directed and Sosaia Feki ended up with a broken jaw? Most likely not.
Look, I have no truck with Billy Slater, I’ve never met him.
He seems a nice enough kid to me and is one heck of a good footballer but one thing I do know for sure is, that just like his captain, and Blocker and Big Artie before him, he’s not “bigger than the game” and if he’s exonerated tonight and free to play Sunday, I won’t be tuning in.
I know this won’t bother the NRL one little iota but it should, because in a season where fans have been turning of in the tens of thousands due to inept refereeing, stupid rule changes and enforcements, as well as rubbish administrative decisions, this is their last chance this year to show that they are at least, a little bit fair dinkum.