During last week’s test match Joseph Manu set up one of the great tries with a ridiculous one-handed, held up, double pump, outside to inside pass.
As a result, he is being hailed as the next great centre in our game.
However, you might also remember the first half when Manu laid out the red carpet and scattered rose petals for Latrell Mitchell every time he took the ball down the flank. Was Manu the best or worst player for New Zealand that day?
It got me thinking, who do we love? The steely-eyed professional who specialises in the ‘one per centers’ and loves ‘the grind’? Or is it those players who can win and lose a game?
Those who can make the footy field their backyard playground, even if only for a moment, who believe defence is what other players do, those who make us sigh, laugh, cry and exclaim ‘shine on you crazy diamond!’
To help you decide if you are a dazzle or grind type of person, here is a quick match up of two sides that to me personally, define each type of player.
I’ve only gone back to 1979, when I first watched the footy.
Who gets you to pay your admission fee and who wins you the game?
1. Jarryd Hayne – At some point in the crazy 2009 season the NRL tweaked the rules to decree that no one was allowed to tackle the Hayne Plane, even when he was walking or skipping backwards.
2. Dale Shearer – Rowdy loved the chip and chase, and the crazy side step. Narrowly beat out Adam “Mad Dog” McDougall and Mick “Three Knees” Hancock, the two angriest players to ever assault the field of play.
3. Latrell Mitchell – A man playing against boys who sometimes makes toddler level errors.
4. Greg Inglis – Used to go missing for weeks at a time. Specialised in being anonymous in State of Origin Game one each year. Game two then became the GI show after a wave of criticism. What a show it was.
5. Josh Addo-Carr – Try enthusiast with a penchant for length-of-the-field tries. No kick return is boring.
6. Phil Blake – For two years Phil Blake was the best player on this or any other planet. Then the opposition found out he couldn’t tackle.
7. Steve Mortimer – Turvey could have been on both lists. This is the 1979 model, full of chip and chases, cover defending specials and tries from the scrum base (remember those before second rowers were allowed to break early?).
8. Artie Beetson – He was so good that it didn’t matter he could only last 25 minutes before needing a pie and a rest. “Half a Game Artie”.
9. Kerrod Walters – Running upright, head thrown back, locks flowing, special plays with his brother. Kerrod was the least of the brothers in career terms, but he was the one that the crowd stood up for.
10. Paul Osborne – The best prop in the game for those magical 15 minutes in the 1994 grand final.
11. Mark Geyer – Explosive in every sense of the word.
12. Martin Taupau – Offload after offload, until he tires after 20 minutes.
13. Jason Smith – chain smoking crazy man who had the ability to physically slow down time when he was jogging with the ball in hand.
1. Michael Gordon – Super safe, super reliable, super boring.
2. Graeme Atkins / Neil Hunt / David Liddiard / Mick Delroy – Who? Who is the odd man out in this backline list? Peter Sterling, Brett Kenny, Eric Grothe, Steve Ella, Mick Cronin, Atkins/Hunt/Liddiard/Delroy. They are collectively the boring other winger in the greatest backline in rugby league history.
3. Chris Johns – Played for Brisbane, NSW and Australia. Now, try to remember a single moment.
4. Paul Bowman – The definition of stalwart. Did he score any tries, like ever?
5. Jason Nightingale – Possibly the slowest high-quality winger in football history.
6. Cooper Cronk – The man is professional enough to play out of position. Cronk was not born, he was made in a watch factory in Switzerland. Need a last second field goal to win a match? Cronk is so methodical that even that is predictable.
7. Kevin Hastings – Three-time Rugby League Week Player of the Year in an era of Mortimer, Sterling, Steve Morris and Tommy Raudonikis. Now, try to remember something, anything (apart from the Mo). I tell you what I remember, eight out of ten in the RLW ratings – every single week.
8. Aaron Woods – Apart from the hair, everything is slow motion. Effective yet boring. That’s why he has great stats but no one believes he can actually play.
9. Max Krilich – Just played every week, forever.
10. David Klemmer – What you say? The man with the crazy eyes, bald head and inkling for abusing referees? Now, try to remember an offload. Just one. Master of taking the second hit up.
11. Craig Fitzgibbon – He ran, he tackled, he kicked goals, he played the same way every minute, every hour, every week, every year.
12. Steve Folkes – Super player, supremely fit, only ran the ball if there was no one else to do it. Tackled forever and never missed one in his entire career.
13. Ashley Harrison – The funny thing is he had designs on being a playmaker, but even when he did that it was dull.
Two Canterbury coaches round out this list.
Ted Glossop created the entertainers from a potpourri of Mortimers and Hughes’ while Warren Ryan was responsible for the Dogs of War and the most boring series of grand finals in history.
A special mention to the most extreme case of dazzler versus grinder in the history of rugby league.
Alan Langer, The man who invented the term ‘mercurial’, versus Ricky Stuart the long kicking, perfect passing Iceman to Langer’s Maverick.
Langer was known for putting grubbers through for himself, stealing the ball from unsuspecting forwards, “not” tripping opposition forwards and engaging in the Dodgeball school of ball running (dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge).
Stuart, however, was precision in every pass and raking kick for boring field position, enabling his exciting teammates (Gary Belcher, Brett Mullins, Noa Nadruku, Mal Meninga, Laurie Daley, etc) and letting them thrill the crowd.
Every year the national selectors would be seduced by Langer’s brilliance. Every year after a game or two they realised that no one except the Walters boys, who grew up with him in Ipswich, had a clue what he was doing, and they turned back to Mr Reliable. And Mr Reliable got the job done.
And then Stuart threw that dummy, made that 70-metre run, and offloaded to Meninga to snatch victory from the Poms. I bet he regrets that now, because it got him thrown off this list. He’s coached angry ever since.