So the NRL grand final is upon us and we should all be getting excited and preparing for the big night.
The only problem is that – with the exception of the supporters of the two clubs involved – we are really struggling to care that the game is on, let alone who wins.
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It’s hard to think of a match up that has ever struggled more to have a people’s favourite.
Both the Roosters and the Storm are almost impossible to like.
So why do the majority of us league supporters hate them? Let’s take a look, starting with the Storm.
Rorting the salary cap
The idea that the Storm dynasty was set up with deliberate and systematic cheating in regards to the salary cap still irks most of us. While the Storm were stripped of the 2007 and 2009 titles, most of us feel that the Sea Eagles and the Eels should be awarded those titles – because unless this happens then they are the Storm are really still the premiers for those seasons.
The irritating question that hangs in the back of your mind is whether the Storm dynasty would have happened if they had remained within the rules.
Chicken wing/ grapple tackles/ wrestling
If there is something that drives all opposition supporters mad it is the idea that the Storm win because they push the edge of the rules as hard as they can. The grapple tackles, chicken wings and the interminable wrestling have driven me and multitudes of others berserk for well over a decade now.
It seems as one practice is stamped out they figure out a new tactic. And they always seem to be one step ahead of NRL HQ and the referees as well.
Lead referee Cam Smith
The sight of Cam Smith constantly talking to the referees and seemingly influencing the game makes even a rationale human apoplectic with rage. Especially when pretty much every other teams captain gets ignored, disrespected or waved away when they try to do the same.
Cam Smith the referees whisperer is just the worst.
The Purple people
What’s worse than a crowd that doesn’t even know the rules and truly believes that their side has a divine right to win – along with a bloke constantly and inanely smashing on a cowbell?
The Cronulla bloke with the trumpet at least plays a tune – over and over and over again – but at least it’s musical. The cowbell is just pitiful.
Studs out Slater
Billy the Teflon kid seems to barely ever get done. Whether it’s sliding towards players studs first, or Kung fu kicking opponents while taking bombs, or shoulder charging to stop tries, Slater never seems to get called to account for actions that would see others get lengthy suspensions – at least in the opinion of his detractors that is.
Cam Smith’s low rent grubbery
The image of Cam Smith deliberately and dishonourably attacking the injured knee of Raiders captain Jarrod Croker in the 2016 preliminary final – from behind and in a dead ball situation – just highlighted what a low rent grub he can be. That’s easy to hate.
Given that list, it’s pretty easy to see why the Storm are unlikely to get any well wishers from outside their own supporter ranks this Sunday. However, an examination of the Roosters shows that they are similarly challenged when it comes to likability.
The salary sombrero
So, let’s get this straight. You signed up Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco, and then you still had room for Angus Crichton? And did we hear right that you were also talking to Martin Tapau and Cam Munster?
Why don’t we through in Valentine Holmes and Joe Tapine too while we’re at it? It doesn’t win the Roosters any friends at all.
What’s rarer than hens teeth? A Roosters junior. But why would they need to develop juniors when they can just take the ones they want? Seems like an unnecessary hassle really. It’s the sort of thing that drives opposition supporters to rage.
Getting amazing draws
A close examination of the draw the Roosters were given by the NRL for season 2018 showed how incredibly generous it was. It is no surprise to many that they were able to be the minor premiers this year given the dream schedule they were presented.
It was very irritating.
Low membership but plenty of free-to-air matches
You can understand the Broncos, Rabbitohs and Bulldogs getting allocated lots of free-to-air games as they have huge supporter bases and the broadcaster is entitled to make money out of the deal they signed up to.
However, the Roosters have no such massive supporter base yet regularly get the lion’s share of free-to-air games, enabling them to attract sponsorship more easily than clubs like the Knights who barely feature at all. It doesn’t make lots of us happy at all.
So the Roosters also aren’t exactly the team of the people by any stretch of the imagination.
Further, both sides have been disproportionately successful in the NRL era.
This will be the seventh grand final that the Roosters have been in since 1998.
This will be the ninth decider for the Storm over the same period.
They are both seemingly perennial finalists and contenders and – along with all the other reasons listed above (some of which hold far more water than others) – it makes the supporters of all the other 14 clubs wish both sides no success at all.
I’ll be surprised if Sunday’s game is even close to a sell out given the total ambivalence so many have towards both sides.
There is no Cinderella story in the offing here. It’s just a game played between the ugly step sisters as far as most of us are concerned.
Who really cares which one wins?