Another NRL season is now over, and as the realisation dawns on many fans that they won’t get a chance to whinge about the refs for another six months, the only comfort I can offer is that it also means it’s time revisit my fearless predictions.
If Dragons fans weren’t aware before Thursday’s pulsating Anzac Day fixture against the Roosters, they would be aware now.
And they would be aware of this: three halves won’t – or at least should not – fit into the three rather important jumpers marked one, six and seven.
And nor should they. Not when there, in the wings, is a fullback like Matt Dufty.
For after Dufty’s running game so electrified the Sydney Cricket Ground, you wonder how Dragons clipboard types could have ever believed that Gareth Widdop should be the fullback in his stead.
Paul McGregor’s off his melon.
While a terrible shame for Dragons fans, Widdop and fans of Widdop – of which I am definitely one, he’s a ripper – the man’s injury has been a blessing in disguise for it forced McGregor’s hand.
He had to put Dufty into the No.1 jumper. And the Dragons looked dangerous.
Dufty was more dangerous than anthrax.
Maybe not that dangerous. But dangerous, man. Dangerous.
He was electric. There’s so much speed in him, such great ability to dart many ways.
He scored a try in the 52nd minute that Jarryd Hayne would’ve sat back and said to Jarryd Hayne, “Jarryd Hayne? How about that piece of happy man-action? How about me, Jarryd Hayne? How about me!”
How about it indeed.
See it again: Dufty took the ball 34 metres from his own line and darted 19 different ways. He beat upwards of 38 people.
He made 38,414 human beings ride their seats like jockeys, joyous that they were there to see it and to tell each other about it, to look forward to drinking a beer with a man in 2049 and saying, “How about that try by Dufty?”
It was one of the great Anzac Day tries. Perhaps the great Anzac Day try. It was a piece of gold bullion.
And G. Widdop, for all his skills and nous and all-round footy game, could no more have conjured it than ridden home to England on a magic carpet made from James Graham’s back hair.
Granted, few outside Dufty, Hayne and Jimmy Tedesco could have conjured it, for it was truly a sublime and speedy bit of kit.
But mainly the play was not in G. Widdop because he is not a fullback. Widdop is to kick return as Paul Vaughan is to open space.
Widdop is a five-eighth as Corey Norman is a five-eighth and Ben Hunt is halfback.
And to put one of those guys at fullback because you had to fit the other two in the halves while Dufty carved up for Illawarra Cutters… well.
It was madness.
Yes, he dropped the ball in the 76th minute and Sio Taukeiaho – who in 54 minutes plundered a game-high 253 metres, all hail Sio Taukeiaho, oh ye of name with all the vowels – ran through some porous prop defence to score the match-winner.
But dropped ball happens. It happened throughout the match. Dufty’s knock-on in the latter minutes we’ll remember because it put a fork in the match, it was done.
But it was, really, no more telling than the dozen other knock-ons in the circuitous narrative of yesterday’s fixture.
His try through, we’ll remember forever.
Maybe not that long. But long, man.
And while one is loath to critique Mary McGregor given he’s coached 122 more NRL games than me and probably you, and basically been involved at the elite level of first grade rugby league since 1987 – well, Widdop’s no more a fullback than gnarly old silverback Paul Vaughan, who was so surprised to have stepped a fullback into open space he fell over.
And Dufty indubitably is a fullback, as he showed in yesterday’s fine game of Anzac Day rugby league.
The game? Great game. The NRL has the tone of the Anzac Day match right. The reverence for the Diggers, the Last Post, the anthems, the flags, the horses, all very good.
And a packed house at the SCG, well. Nothing like it. The old girl scrubs up a treat.
And if they could somehow slide the grandstands in closer to the pitch it would be one of the great venues.
But they can’t, so it isn’t.
And the Dragons once had three halves and a fullback, and brushed the fullback.
And now they just took best side in the comp deep. Bit of luck they’d have won it.
And they would know the error of their ways.