Hello and welcome to the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Raiders fans, because apparently one of our top referees made a blue in a quite important game on Sunday night.
And the age-old question of ‘What If It Happened in a Grand Final?’ has been answered.
And the answer is this: everyone loses their freakin’ mind.
Now, regular readers of this malarkey may have just twigged as to the allegiances of the author in this our National Rugby League.
So it might surprise types that I don’t blame Ben Cummins and his mate in the pocket for the Raiders’ grand final loss to Sydney Roosters.
Instead, I’m blaming another entity: the Sydney Roosters.
Because they were just bloody too good.
The Raiders had their chances against 12 men for ten minutes and a three-man bench for 67 minutes, and could not score more than the one meat pie. They didn’t cross the line in 50 minutes of trying.
The Roosters, the hard bastards, weathered a massive storm of attack and chances are they’d have weathered another set of six had the Raiders benefited from an ironically incorrect call of “six again”.
And they’d have weathered another set of six after that.
There have been quotes – “they were on their knees!” And even if that were the case, they’d have kept tackling and tackling, from their knees, and the Raiders were no guarantee to get through ever.
And then after they’d worn all that attack the ball went to Luke Keary, Latrell Mitchell, Daniel Tupou and James Tedesco – all of whom had done little outside bloody tackle – who took their one chance and won the bloody game.
Respect. What else can you say? You throw everything at them, all you have. They’re just too good.
And then I was quite sad. And I sat there for quite a while before schlepping out of ANZ and bypassing many bars.
Very proud of the team, of course, they’re a great bunch of blokes. And a cracking team to follow. They play footy for fun and don’t die wondering.
And in the great Ricky Stuart, they have a top bloody coach who got the best out of a disparate group of men. And they’ll be back, and with a new halfback from England. And 2020 looms large for we green machinists.
Of course, still, all anyone can talk about, still, is “#six-again-gate”, the blunder by the refs on Sunday night.
And my theory is that people – neutrals, mostly – felt robbed of their feel-good story.
People wanted the Raiders to win and when Canberra was not given another opportunity, people believed they were robbed of the premiership.
That they “deserved” to win.
That it was “unfair”.
But all that? It’s bullshit.
There’s no fair. There’s just footy. And as in life, it’s sometimes not fair.
The bad call was no more unfair than Mitch Aubusson going off in the 13th minute. It is what it is. And fact is Canberra had ample opportunities to beat the Roosters but couldn’t do it.
No shame in it. The Chooks are as tough a nut as any of the great premiers – Bulldogs, Storm, Dragons, Broncos, Raiders – anyone with a mini-dynasty. The Roosters are the best and were in that contest for 80 minutes. They did what they needed to win.
The keening about the call being unfair reminds of the constant baying for consistency. And here’s a thing about that: you can’t have that either. Because human beings are by nature inconsistent.
Players, administrators, referees, callers, fans. There are no robots.
And consistency is overrated anyway. With consistency you get knock-ons that aren’t, forward passes that don’t go forward. People have mistaken consistency for uniformity, and calls are consistently wrong.
Rugby union has gone down this path and is now penalising the playing of rugby union.
World soccer has its VAR and consistently gets things wrong, just in slow-motion. It’s not better.
Rugby league demands perfection it can never have and so will never be happy. Rugby league’s default setting is Not Happy Jan.
And so folks are piling into the NRL and the referees boss, and Graeme Annesley (a master communicator of political spin) and demanding that the NRL fix refereeing.
Very few if any people have mentioned how.
Remove a referee? They have two on the field and two touchies and the blokes in the bunker god box telling them stuff, and they got the six-again call right, eventually.
If he’d stuck with his six-again call and there are three blokes in his ear telling him it’s not six-again, and he doesn’t change it, it’s #six-again-gate for another reason.
But neutrals may have been cool with that because the Raiders may have won, and people wanted that to be the happy ending to the story of the match.
So – what’s your fix? Four referees? Annesley and Greg McCallum in the bunker with Phil Gould, Andrew Johns and Buzz Rothfield?
The group think is that refereeing needs to be fixed.
But what is the fix? I haven’t heard any solutions among all our Not Happy Jans. There’ll never be perfect refereeing just as there’s never, ever been a golden era of perfect refereeing.
I watched the game from Row 650-something and the story of the game – by which I mean the one you made up on your own and not from listening to the shouty narrators on television – was that it was an absolute ball-tearer of a game.
The six-again was a stuff-up, you could tell that.
But for the fan in the nosebleeds, the Raiders had a thousand chances and plenty of breaks, and luck went their way on enough occasions for them to ice it if good enough.
But the Chook D was just better. It was too good. I haven’t researched how many sets they defended in their own 22 – and how many with Cooper Cronk off – but I’ll go with lots. Yet Canberra couldn’t get through. And the Chooks are worthy champions.
People have been telling me I’m magnanimous – which I’ll take, of course – but for mine the tale of the tape is Roosters 14 defeated Raiders 8 because the Roosters scored a try in each half and the Raiders did not.
And a footy game is 80 minutes of swings and roundabouts. And the Roosters scored a try after doing little but tackle.
The runner thing early? The great Timmy Gore writes a column in these e-pages and ripped into the NRL operations over the charge-down that rebounded off the runner.
I’ve never seen it happen. And again I can chalk it down to bad luck. Elliot Whitehead probably would’ve got to the ball first unless Tedesco ran him down, and they’re both as big an if as Cummins sticking with six again.
The narrative of the match is that the reversed six-again call robbed the Raiders more than the charge-down. But really both events equally affected the result.
As did a hundred others.
They were better.