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2013 Round 4 :: Titans vs Ninjas



Game Thread:
* This is a game thread only. Only game posts can be made here - team lists, substitutions, and articles.
* Any other posts may result in loss of points and is at the discretion of the referee.
* Only original articles, not used in previous games, will be marked by referees.

Naming Teams:
* 5 -V- 5 (+ 3 reseves for home side; +2 for away)
* No 'TBA' or changing players named
* Captains must stick with original teams named

Rules: http://f7s.leagueunlimited.com/rules.php
Official Word Counter: http://f7s.leagueunlimited.com/wordcount.php

Kick Off: Sunday 7th of July 2013 (6:00pm AEST)
Full Time: Monday 22nd of July 2013 (9:00pm AEST)
Referee: Non Terminator
Venue: Skilled Park

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First Grade

1. Amadean
2. madunit
3. Misanthrope
4. Tittolate
5. Titanic


6. bgdc


First Grade
Titanic for the Titans


1 is greater than 22

A mathematical impossibility some may argue but then again this is not a forum for such erudite debate. This platform shoots from the hip. It deals with a sport rooted in power, collision and passion. Hardly the basis of an Archimedean conundrum, however the equation stands … if you are a Queenslander.

For rugby league supporters north of the Tweed River, the relevance of 1 is greater than 22, is indelibly printed on every youth’s psyche from the moment they can spell XXXX. There can be no argument that NSW won 22 interstate series between 1960 and 1980; it’s an historical fact and although there are so many twists in the saga of what constituted a NSW team in those gloomy days of Sydney-centric arrogance the Maroons’ cupboard was bare of silverware.

That changed of course mid-way through 1980 when Queensland, after losing another interstate series, shaped up on a different playing field and won. “A more level playing field” some would argue whilst others suggested that “only the rules were changed”, yet whatever your belief one thing cannot be challenged and that is that Queensland were back in the race.

It would be insulting to the intelligence of the readers in this forum to spend the next ten minutes outlining the statistics of State of Origin; I am certain most of you know them better than I do. Such inanities as Queensland can boast the oldest (Petero Civoniceva) and youngest (Ben Ikin) players to have competed at this level; they can also boast the four (Darren Lockyer, Civoniceva, Alan Langer, Mal Meninga) most capped players; the two (Meninga, Jonathon Thurston) highest point scorers and top three (Greg Inglis, Dale Shearer, Darius Boyd) try scorers.

All of this seems to pale into insignificance when pundits from south of the Queensland/NSW border compare the current record of eight straight Maroon victories with the twenty-two series losses that the Blues so cruelly inflicted on their northern cousins in the latter half of last century but not to a Queenslander. Like a beacon shining through fog, Artie Beetson’s team victory in 1980 erased everything that came before it and every success after that is as equally treasured.

To a true Maroon and their legion of supporters the concept of eight straight has little impact because each and every win is a barb directed at the system which allowed nearly a century of bias and disparity. When former Queensland captain and Australian vice captain Jack Reardon, then a journalist for the Courier Mail, printed his version of Martin Luther King’s “I had a dream”, stating that Queensland players playing in the Sydney competition should be allowed to represent their State of Origin, the shackles were soon to be broken.

Queensland senator and rugby league tragic, the late Ron McCauliffe was quick to seize the opportunity and demanded Queensland’s rights. His NSW colleague Kevin Humphrey’s had little choice but to agree. Oddly enough, the first recorded call for 'state of origin' selection rules for interstate football was made in 1900 by rugby union. A journalist known as "The Cynic" writing for a rugby football periodical called The Referee, suggested that one Stephen Spragg, who had moved to Queensland, should be able to play for his state of birth, New South Wales.

To put all of this in context you would need to be firstly a Queenslander and secondly of an age where the belligerent selection of Queenslanders playing for NSW against their own was the practice. Once freedom of selection was permitted by the grace of all those then empowered in Pitt Street the disparity was righted but the taint of what went before will never be removed.

Here's some encouragement for the now beleaguered Blues: that feeling of hopelessness that is starting to embed itself in the NSWailers' attitude will eventually manifest itself as a need for redemption at all costs and when they reach that, then and only then, will they just begin to understand the Queensland psyche.

This Queensland team will lose eventually, feel bad about it for five minutes but nothing will change ... they will chase their holy grail every year as if it was still 1980 while the Blues will continue to defend what they seem to think is their god given right.

One victory, no matter how close, is worth more to a Queenslander than bragging rights over eight, nine or twenty-two series.
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First Grade
Frank_Grimes for the Ninjas

The Magic of Execution

What makes a special player so special? Is it the ability to see and predict something unfolding on the field that only the most astute fans can follow? Or is it the grace and composure under pressure to do what is needed to get the points, or hold the team together? For me, it is a combination of these things and much more, but for those few players to take the field and show us all just how really special they are, there is something else. Something that, from a smaller man, would be conveyed as arrogance, but from these players only brings shy humility and a higher sense of the team. So often we celebrate when a player is able to take broken play, a gap in the plan, or the execution, and turn it into a magical points scoring situation. But what about the times when it all just runs as it should?

What I'm talking about, is that spark, that ability to put on a play, despite the opposition being fully awake to it, and still pull it off. Over the years we've seen but a few players with this ability.

When Joey attacked the line close to the red zone, you just knew he would either find a man inside him, or duck his head down, and use his stocky frame to burrow over. You knew either of these two things would happen. There was no subtlety in his approach, as the play was written all over his face. Maybe this instilled a false and, at times, downright foolish sense of confidence in the men desperately trying to defend their line. But time and time again, he would find his man slipping past a hapless defender, clutching at nothing but scorched air, as the perfect ball found a runner at the perfect moment. Time and time again you would see him throw a ridiculously short dummy and barge over the line to score, emerging from the scrum of would be tacklers with that cheeky little "told you so" look on his face.

A quick scan through any tight Origin game over the last eight years will quite readily demonstrate my next example. When QLD are struggling to get out of their own half, and listing side to side in what always at first seems like a pointless crab walk up the field, against and solid and determined Blue defensive line, one man is always being searched for by Maroon fans, and hesitantly anticipated by our friends in Blue. Both sets of fans know what is coming. One group licks their lips, and moves forward in their seat, while the other wrings their hands and maybe even gives a silent prayer for a hole to open up just in front of him, and remove him from the game. But the script has already been written. The defending (and sometimes attacking) players just don't know their parts yet, and the inevitable becomes history as Thurston moves wide shaping to link up with a barnstorming Inglis, or Hodges, but instead sells a dummy that only Shelley "The Machine" Levene would be proud of, and scoots through the line, to find one of either Tate, Slater or Boyd screaming through behind him in support.

As fans and students of the game, we know these things will happen. We wait for these moments to arrive, and we hurriedly proclaim to our clueless friends "Watch what he does here..." As experienced opponents, the men out there know that the play is on. They position themselves as best they can and bark orders to their rookie team mates. Of course, as we know, all of their posturing and positioning is in vain. But somehow this doesn't make it any less astounding (or heartbreaking) to watch the script unfold, and the players play their parts, as if some master of marionettes is pulling strings from the clouds above. The fans supporting the play go up as one, some in sheer astonishment at the audacity of the play, others in knowing appreciation of a modern day legend. The other fans put their heads in their hands and wonder how it could happen, or shake their heads in begrudging recognition that they've just been had, yet again by a maestro.

These players work their magic, and for the most part, they do it in a business-like and humble manner. And that is something I believe is truly worth celebrating.

748 words including title.


For the Ninjas.



Wati Holmwood has a lot to answer for.

It was his initial streak, in match three of the 2013 Origin series, that began the most fundamental shift in rugby league since it first started in 1908.

Many people focussed on Wati’s interference in a possible Queensland try at the time. Indeed, Holmwood’s intentions were to help his beloved New South Wales side. However, that was not the issue that eventually lead to rugby league’s great upheaval.

The repeat set to Queensland in a crucial juncture of the match was evidently what stuck in many spectator’s minds. Queensland were nearing the end of their set, and clinging to a two point lead. Holmwood came onto the field and interfered with the play. The play was called up, and the referee correctly ruled that as the attacking side, Queensland would receive the scrumfeed, and a fresh set of six.

At the time, this was written off as a oncer, a freak occurrence that could be easily fixed by more competent security guards.

However, there was a greater cause for concern after that season’s grand final.

As South Sydney headed downfield, the scores tied with Melbourne in that year’s decider, there was under two minutes remaining. They were only just inside Melbourne’s half, too far out for a field goal attempt.

As they reached the final play of their set, suddenly four streakers encroached onto the field, one from each side of the park. Security managed to stop three before they interfered with the play, but the fourth managed to bat down the ball before being swamped by security.

The play interfered with, South Sydney were awarded a scrumfeed 45 metres out from Melbourne’s line. From the resultant set, they worked downfield and slotted a field goal – the rest is history.

The fans were, of course, later outed as Rabbitohs fans, but the trend really took off right from the beginning of next season. Rich fans from each club, or in Nathan Tinkler’s case, club owners, would pay for a group of well-trained streakers for each game, in case the game situation called for a repeat set.

These early groups were usually not sports fans, meaning they did not mind about being banned from NRL matches. As long as their legal fees were paid, they were happy to get their five minutes of fame.

By season’s end 2014, the match streakers were a common and refreshing part of each match. Fans began to appreciate their evasive skills, and enjoyed the tactical juncture that they would choose to enter each match.

2015 lead to further evolution, as many actual fans of each side decided to make unplanned entries onto the field of play. No longer was a hefty fine and banning from the ground enough of a disincentive to prevent spectators from making their contribution to their side’s victory.

The NRL stepped up security, but it wasn’t enough. Wire fences were considered to prevent the pitch invasions, but they were not an option at stadiums that were all shared with other codes and events.

By the conclusion of 2015, NRL crowds were down by 50%, as many of the hardcore fans had been banned for life. The sad sight of that season’s grand final being played in front of a half empty ANZ Stadium was a clear indication that the game had to act.

After a brain storming session of the game’s greatest minds, 2016 saw new initiatives to formalise the game’s streakers and make them a recognised part of the sport. All previous bans for pitch invasions were thrown out. Clubs began training their own rosters of streakers, with each side allowed to send on up to four per match, at the coaches discretion.

All match security fell under the umbrella of the NRL, becoming a full-time squad of tackling machines, to prevent the club streakers interfering with the game.

Fans became happy to leave the streaking to the professionals, realising their chance to make a difference was now possible through each club’s annual pre-season streaking trials.

The streakers quickly became big favourites with the fans. Mark “White Ghost” Nicholson became the first “Wati H” Streaker of the Year, completing a remarkable 17 turnovers and four try saves in season 2016.

In the decade that followed, streakers became the true face of the game, their salaries rising far above that of the actual players.

They should never forget though, that they owe it all to one man. Wati Holmwood, the original streaker.

750 words.
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A Life in League – Pt 3

Yeah I know I’ve been gone a while and if I had fallen in you lot would be the first in there to give me mouth to mouth, I reckon. You try using those dunnies properly and see how many world records you set.

Speaking of your lack of athletic ability, I was telling you about my brilliance during my school days and beyond.

So we’d rocked up in Kallangur still smelling of the bush and we’d survived a suburban summer. It was time to start at high school. This was a scary enough prospect for me but I think mum was picturing some sort of American inner-city ghetto school where the teachers dealt crack to the students. It was a pretty rough school but not as bad as all that – the teachers only had heroin, no crack.

This was the type of school where kids from other schools would jump off the train, walk up the path, get into a gang fight with a few of our kids, bash a teacher or two (with a little help from our kids), then wander off before the cops could arrive. Fun times were had by all, except the teachers. I reckon that’s why they get paid the big bikkies, you know?

Sounds scary? F**k that, it was perfect for me. One thing this place had going for it was a very good rugby league tradition. One PE teacher was an ex-Brisbane comp first grader, another used to run the water for a Sydney first grade comp. They knew their footy.

When I rocked up for the open trials at the end of February, there was a crew of established, older players who helped sort the wheat from the chaff. They didn’t say much when the coaches were around but they made life hell when they got us to themselves. Running skills drills meant looking out for randomly pelted footballs to the back of your head. Tackling drills involved a competition where the winner was the first one who could make a grade 8’er cry.

I made it my mission to drop one of these bastards on their arses if I got the chance.

When the open game for selection came around one lunch time, I was in a pretty fired up mood. The selection match was done in two parts. First all the grade 8 hopefuls were divided into “Gold” and “Blue” and we played a game of two 15 minute halves. The best players to emerge from this game would form a combined team to take on the senior players in what we hoped would be a closely-refereed match. From here the best and brightest would join the Grade 9 team (or Grade 10 in special cases) and the best of the rest made the 8s.

Well suffice to say I did the f**king business and showed them what I could do. I whacked as hard as I could, ran even harder, kicked, passed, set up tries and scored them. Like I said I was in a mood.

Lots of kids played well that day but I know I stood out and I know why. One older kid, he played five-eight for one of the senior teams and thought he was the next coming of King Wally. A ball-hogging show off who always ran at the littlest kid he could find. I’d had enough of him and I decided to risk a little dirty play to get even.

I let this bloke run over the top of me. As he tramped my chest, I reached up and grabbed his nuts as hard as I could. I had such a tight grip that as he fell, his shorts ripped in half in my hand. I wanted to laugh but I was winded.

He writhed on the ground as I got up, screaming what a dirty little grub I was and how he was gonna kill me. At that moment I looked over at the head coach. We made eye contact as he leaned in and whispered something to another teacher and the captain of the senior team. I think I detected approval in the way he made a note on his clipboard.

The call came a week later – I had at least made the 8’s and “just quietly” was in the 9’s.

Footy once again let me establish myself, even if a bloke had to have his tackle destroyed in the process.

749 words
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First Grade
edabomb for the Ninjas

Hit them where it hurts (on a medium term basis…..)

The end of July is swiftly approaching – as rugby league fans that means the State of Origin has recently concluded and the NRL is reaching the business end of the season. It also means that we’ve probably have had 5 – 10 off field incidents that have painted the NRL in a negative light. As a Canberra Raiders fan I’ve already seen three major incidents unfold – so I think it’s safe to say this season has been achieving the average scandal-rate.

Josh Dugan’s sacking is the biggest talking point among Raiders fans. From all indications Dugan basically gave up on the Raiders – not very professional conduct after having signed a $650,000 contract only a year earlier. The indications were there on the field – Dugan no longer threw himself round defensively as he had in his initial couple of years in the top grade. Dugan decided not to show up to a recovery session after the Raiders Round One match – a decision that would see his contract terminated.

Following the drinking session with Dugan that led to his sacking Blake Ferguson swore off alcohol for six weeks. Devastating form and a call up to the New South Wales side followed – things were going well. Then Ferguson relapsed – being charged with sexual assault following a night out with his booze brother Dugan. Ferguson is now suspended indefinitely from the NRL.

As a Raiders fan I’m largely happy with how things have played out thus far. Dugan didn’t break any laws so I have no problem with him being able to sign with the Dragons and resume his NRL career almost instantly. I’m also happy to see Ferguson continue his time on the sidelines – bringing him back so quickly would mean he has learnt nothing. But that is the point to consider – have these guys really learnt anything?

With Ferguson’s case still up in the air I’ll instead concentrate on Dugan. Dugan essentially gave up performing to the best of his ability on the job. It seems his line of thought was as Raiders marquee player he could get David Furner removed as coach as their relationship deteriorated. It didn’t work out that way – the Raiders sacked Dugan as a result and he was free to negotiate with other NRL clubs. As a fan I’m happy to see Dugan move on – we weren’t getting value out of his performances and in Anthony Milford and Reece Robinson we have two talented replacements. My only issue with this scenario was the precedent it set. Dugan decided he wasn’t happy in his current situation and got out of a two-year commitment that Canberra based their entire playing roster around. You just need to think of players that could have been convinced to come to Canberra had the Raiders had another $650,000 free to spend last off-season – finally a first grade quality hooker?

This is why I think the NRL needs to do more to punish players who treat the game with such a lack of respect. Maybe not in suspensions or one off fines – but in docking future contracts. There needs to be more of a deterrent for players that are sacked for disciplinary reasons or criminal charges only to re-sign with another team shortly thereafter. These players should be forced to pay 20% in the first year after their sacking, 10% in the second and 5% of the third to a charity of the NRL’s choice. Not only will this make players think twice when they are indulging their bone headed urges – it would also put a tiny positive spin on things for the NRL. Surely the docking of pay would also discourage repeat offenders if they were notified of how much of their money had been donated at the end each season.

While this idea may seem a bit out there, the idea of enforcing charitable donations been discussed by international corporations [FONT=&quot][/FONT]. Surely if the NRL is to curb player misbehaviour they have to be willing to think outside the square a bit. I know with the half season I have endured watching the Raiders in 2013 that we need to seriously punish those who bring the game into disrepute – or risk turning into the wild west of professional sports.

[FONT=&quot][/FONT] Goldman Sachs May Require Executives to Donate to Charity - http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1953136,00.html

739 words in OWC


Super Moderator
Staff member
madunit for the Titans

Reading Between The Lines

Last week Benji Marshall asked for a release from the Wests Tigers.

To most fans of the game, that sentence is unbelievable. They’ve always considered Benji a one-man highlights machine who seemed to love the game and the fame he has earnt himself off the field.

To this Wests Tigers fan, the writing has been on the wall for half a decade.

This decision by Benji, for me, is akin to turning off the life support for a dearly beloved family member who has lived the last few years in absolute agony. You don’t feel sorrow insomuch as you feel relief that the pain and suffering is over.

Because the last 18 months of Benji’s career has been nothing short of woeful. Turmoil within the club has seen half the squad leave, most of whom were good mates of Benji’s.

Then there was the falling out with former Tigers coach Tim Sheens at the end of the 2012 season, whom Benji had looked to as a father figure.

And this year there was the much publicised contract negotiations which eventually broke down. The stalling point was in regards to a handshake deal Benji had made with former CEO Stephen Humphries that was not honoured by new interim CEO Grant Mayer.

Much has been said by Benji and his manager, a lot of it in frustration, a lot of it misguided, all of it overanalysed by journalists trying to find another angle.

Benji said some things that seemed odd, such as:

“I wouldn’t have taken pay-cuts all those years to help the club be under the cap. If it’s about money, why would I do all those things?”

Benji’s last contract extension had a clause in it that if the salary cap was to go up after he signed, then the club would renegotiate his salary. This happened when the Tigers offered him $750,000 for the remaining 2 years on his current contract. Benji though believed he was entitled to a 4 year contract under a handshake agreement he had made with former CEO Stephen Humphries. If money wasn’t an issue, why did he turn down the increased contract?

“If it’s about loyalty, why wouldn’t I have left five years ago, when I had offers from other clubs?”

Much like this year’s contractual discussions, in 2008 Benji’s contract talks were being mostly aired in the media. During the 2008 World Cup he confided in some of his team mates that he was keen on the leaving Rugby League to pursue a career in Rugby Union. Former NRL boss David Gallop convinced Benji to stay in League after the entire offseason was dogged by ‘Benji to Union’ rumours. If he is loyal, why would he abandon not only his club, mates and fans but the game as well, for another code? The fact he had openly and seriously discussed this option raises doubts about his loyalty.

These seem very hypocritical and contradictory things to say, no doubt, but the thing is, I believe him when he said:

“I’m not a money-hungry, disloyal person with no integrity. If anything, I feel I’m the opposite.”

For some reason, Benji’s manager, Martin Tauber, felt it was the NRL’s fault for not doing enough to keep Benji in the game. Given that the sole purpose of existence for a player manager is to parasitically leech money off players who work hard, like Benji, to do tasks they otherwise could do themselves. Player Managers do whatever they can to drive up the price of their player with no care in the world for the club or the game, only in their commission.

Tauber’s slight at the NRL was that of a man whose negotiation techniques are woeful and saw him get outplayed at his own game. For those who don’t know, Tauber was the man who had Tim Moltzen sign a contract with the Dragons while he was still contracted to the Tigers.

I think Benji is quite simply bored and has lost the ability to motivate himself to keep playing. And for good reason, he’s achieved everything the game can to a Kiwi player, an NRL Premiership, representing your country, winning a World Cup, captaining your country, winning a Four Nations and earning the Golden Boot award for being the best player in the world.

Sadly, Benji will be remembered by some for these recent antics in the media.

But I don’t hate him.

How could I?

He’s Benji Marshall.

749 words, including title



Amadean for the Titans with 743 between the bars



An economist’s guide to the cost-benefit analysis of Benji Marshall’s departure


In this essay we consider a very hard question: how should we, as League fans, feel about Benji Marshall’s shift to Union? The natural, instinctive reaction of most fans is to feel “bad”, or “annoyed”; most fans might not think it is a tough question! But as economists we know that questions that seem simple are often very tricky indeed.

First, some boundaries: we wish to evaluate the impact of Benji’s departure on rugby league in Australia and New Zealand. We could consider the global ramifications of his move, but that would complicate things. We will consider the impact on the four primary stakeholders: Rugby League players, fans, the Wests Tigers leagues club and NRL sponsors. We could consider the impact on associated employees (such as drinks vendors, masseurs, journalists), but you have to draw the line somewhere. We could also consider the impact on Rugby Union players, fans and sponsors, but will not because I don’t give a stuff about them. We could also separately consider the welfare of Benji, but presumably he is a big enough boy to decide what is best for himself.

First, player welfare analysis. The NRL salary cap is technically known as a ‘monopsony’, where a unified group of labour purchasers (clubs) conspire to artificially lower the price they pay for labour (players’ salaries). This has three effects: 1) it makes players poorer, 2) it makes clubs richer, and 3) players must compete against their teammates for wages. 1) is uniformly bad for players. 2) is potentially good for lower-skill players as it increases the number of clubs that can afford to take part in the NRL. The third point is vital in considering the Benji move, as the removal of a single superstar salary effectively increases the amount of potential wages at Wests by 17%, or a ~1% wage hike for the NRL as a whole. Note that, due to the monopsonistic market form, players to do not directly lose out from decreased attendance or merchandise sales.

In Benji’s departure players may also face non-financial costs or benefits. They may value his comradeship, or take particular pleasure in playing against someone of his talents. The New Zealand national team takes great pleasure in winning League games, which may be more difficult without Benji. If crowd attendance falls players may enjoy playing less. Without the media-magnet of Benji, other players may enjoy more attention from fans, journalists and sponsors. But many of these factors may be balanced by the competitive nature of the sport: if Australia is more likely to win ANZAC tests due to Benji’s departure, Australian players will enjoy the victory and be better off. Opposition players who are made to look lumpen and foolish in defence may also appreciate Benji’s absence. These are all important factors, but difficult to quantify and, due to the rivalrous nature of sport, likely to be small in magnitude.

This initial analysis indicates NRL players will benefit from Benji’s departure.

Secondly, fan welfare analysis. The well-documented ‘superstar effect’ on crowd and viewer attendance suggests that NRL fans will be net losers following Benji’s departure. His unusually high skill-set is difficult to imitate, and it is unlikely a player of equally entertaining talent will emerge, even if a similar salary is offered. Econometric analysis of gate-takings variation in response to Benji’s appearing in the starting roster will indicate the base net present value of Benji to NRL fans.

But this analysis is rendered complex by Benji’s indifferent form in 2013, a trend which began in 2012. With waning in-match productivity typically comes a waning ‘superstar effect’, a supposition supported by poor crowd attendance at Wests home games in 2013. By this reasoning, the loss accruing to fans by Benji’s absence may be easily overestimated, as past positive performances are more easy to observe than uncertain (and potentially poor) future performances.

This initial analysis indicates NRL fans will lose out by Benji’s absence, but to a degree that could be susceptible to overestimation.

Due to length considerations, club and sponsor analysis are reported in the Appendices.

This analysis is an early stage, and deep data-driven analysis is yet to be completed. Primary factors influencing the analysis at this stage are 1) unfair competitive practices in the NRL and 2) Benji Marshall’s form.

How should we feel about Benji’s departure? The analysis is incomplete.

But the question isn’t a simple one.


note: there are no Appendices.
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Eozsmiles steaming onto the pill for the Ninjas.

745 OWC

The Circus Leaves Town

It would be the biggest moment of his career, and the most important match in his club's history.

The opposition were driving home a territorial advantage, aspiring to drain the hope from their young foes. Thirty five minutes of the contest had elapsed and the score was level. A five minute period of dominance could be the difference between winning and losing.

What happened next defied any thoughts of pressure.

It was as though the young man had lived this day before. Receiving the ball five metres from his own tryline, he precisely swerved before speeding and powering through the initial defensive line. Passing the twenty metre point at pace, it was already an outstanding counter attack. But not yet satisfied, he then shunned the safety of centrefield, swerving towards the touchline and accelerating like a Ferrari Enzo changing gear.

The momentum of the chase had shifted. Advancing defenders were quickly flanked. The fox had turned the hounds. The fullback was deftly lured, and he instinctively accepted the challenge of ending the hunt with a one-on-one confrontation. The custodian followed the jinking ballrunner laterally, seemingly neutralising the threat by the edge of the field.

Then Benji Marshall flicked that pass.

That pass is part of Rugby League folklore. It symbolises both the 2005 premiership and the Wests Tigers reputation as entertainers. It was daring, unexpected, and perfect. It is more beautiful now, as conservative coaches reward little other than victory. Fans enjoy risque football, but would rather another club take part in it. For many, the Wests Tigers were that club.

Arguably the most successful player in the game is Cameron Smith. Nicknamed "The Accountant" because of his physique, it is a moniker that could also apply to his playing style. Smith is not known to shock. The decisions he makes are rational, dependable, and invariably lead his side to a strong onfield position. Master coach Wayne Bennett can be viewed in a similar fashion. If Smith is an accountant, Bennett is the taxation commissioner. His teams are miserly and marked as dour. His resume suggests this methodology works.

Where those two men and their clubs represent the rigid number crunchers of our game over the past decade, the Tigers and Marshall were the circus. It is not only the array of skills on show that makes a circus astounding, but also the dexterity of mind that conceives the acts. Some coaches believe that talented players, when left to their own devices, can find new ways of doing old things. Tim Sheens may have been the greatest exponent of this coaching philosophy. By instilling Marshall as the long term lynchpin of his team, he became wedded to the trapeze act that typifies Benji. Sideline shifts and short kicks from deep within their own territory were common. The ball was not so much passed as flicked or batted. The intended destination was often unseen.

The fans loved it. Benji Marshall was now just Benji. He was the quintessential superstar. While critics will argue that from 2006 onwards the Tigers results were varied, there was no arguing their worth as a captivating attacking team. When on song, they were mesmerising. For Benji, his ascension was complete when he was awarded the Golden Boot in 2010.

To a child, the circus is full of wonder. The sights seem unworldly. The superficiality is ignored. As adults we are more experienced and sometimes cynical. While the atmosphere and purpose provides pleasure, we can see through the facade. The clown routine is now cliched. The gymnast's harness is visible. The lions are sedated. We see through the illusion and recognise there is little value to the tricks and talents on display.

When the Wests Tigers ousted Sheens, it signalled the beginning of the end for the style over substance era. His replacement, Michael Potter, is more Bennett than Benji. The tight fisted coaches have been successful, and this has spawned disciples.

Now Benji, the ringmaster, has been lost to the game. His imagination and ability with hand and foot can still bring a smile, albeit more fleetingly. We now know that flick passes do not win premierships. It is a game of grind, not glitter. Unlike the trapeze, Rugby League is played without a safety net. When an acrobat's grip fails him, he is still applauded for his nerve. A footballer is admonished for his brazenness and blamed for losses.

For now, the circus has left town.


Staff member
Misanthrope tries a little shimmy shimmy whoosh for the Titans.

A wooden spoon by any other name

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the dish ran away with the spoon - Mathematics and League. Could any two fields of human accomplishment be so different and yet so bizarrely intertwined?

One field resides on mankind’s highest intellectual plane; a place of human contemplation inhabited by multi-dimensional fractals and elegantly sculpted equations; a haven of logic, reason and austere beauty. Each thought is deliberately crafted and every action carefully calculated.

This is the home of mathematics.

The other field lives rooted to the surface of the earth; a place of human physical achievement inhabited by multi-talented athletes and precocious tactics; a place of pain, exertion and intense emotion. Every decision is instinctive and every move the essence of competitiveness.

This is the home of Rugby League.

Such dissimilar worlds; seemingly, so incompatible. Funnily enough, mathematics and League became indelibly printed in our folklore when they crossed paths. This led to unexpected, largely unknown (in some cases unwanted) consequences.

Had you strolled down the corridors of England’s University of Cambridge in the mid 1800s, you would have absorbed the quiet, serene atmosphere of arguably one of the world’s finest education institutions. It was in these cloistered environs that, at the end of the Easter term, Mathematical Tripos undergraduates would huddle together, predicting and fretting while awaiting their examination results. Successful students would be placed into one of three Classes (I, II and III), which would then determine the prestigiousness of their degree. The student with the highest results was henceforth known as the Senior Wrangler. Of course, for every top there must also exist a bottom. The student with the lowest passing examination was duly presented with a wooden spoon.

(For those not familiar with such an object: Wikipedia helpfully describes a wooden spoon as “a spoon made from wood.” I’m glad they cleared that up for us!)

As a booby prize, an actual wooden spoon was dangled over the head of the graduand as he came before the Vice Chancellor to be awarded his degree. Despite how absurd this proceeding may sound, it was always carried out with complete solemnity and the utmost respect. As the years progressed, the size of the wooden spoon increased until, in 1909, the very last wooden spoon was awarded: it was 1.5m long (see picture).

This tradition is now an integral part of a few select sports – rowing, Yawnion, AFL, British ice hockey and of course NRL.

How the wooden spoon traversed the gulf between the elite English mathematical community and the Free World is still a matter of contention amongst League scholars. The most plausible explanation is that Cambridge graduates made up a large proportion of the early history of Yawnion and wanted to commemorate their university’s heritage by instigating this discontinued custom. These fairies may have introduced it, but it took a real sport to perfect it.

Today, the NRL’s wooden spoon is an unofficial, yet fitting, reward reserved for the team that finishes at the bottom of the league table at the end of the season. The current wooden spooners are Ricky’s Parramatta Eels.

As one of the founding nine clubs of the NSW Rugby League and right up until their merger with the Balmain Tigers in ’99, the Western Suburb Magpies hold the record for the most wooden spoons won, impressively stacking up 17.

The Sea Eagles have the best league performance record, in that they have the worst wooden-spoon-winning record: managing a paltry zero spoons in the 61 years since the club’s inception.

The Bulldogs racked up their 4th spoon in 2002 when they were stripped of all their points because of their multiple breaches of salary-cap regulations.

Indeed, this quaint custom has spawned a multi-million dollar betting industry. Bookies now offer odds on which team will finish at the bottom of the heap each season. A quick glance at the latest figures confirms what many Parramatta fans may have feared – after promising not much at all, the Eels are currently clear favourites to bring up the rear.

Without those cheeky mathematicians in Cambridge, today’s League fans and players would be deprived of the pleasure of heaping scorn and humiliation upon their opposition and its followers in the guise of an invisible and metaphysical wooden spoon.

The obvious question on everyone’s lips must be: who will run away with the spoon this year?

Word Count: 739 (including title)


bgdc for the Titans

Split Seconds

Thirty seconds left to play in the Grand Final, our team trails by two but we’ve fed the scrum twenty meters out from their line. The ball rockets between the lock’s feet, our star halfback pounces on it and as he lifts his head ...

… let’s freeze it there for a minute or two.

The supporters’ adrenaline levels are surging, our expectations are high. Perhaps aided by television cameras but certainly with the benefit of a spectator’s perspective - unencumbered by pressure, fatigue, injury or thirteen pumped-up opponents - we “know” what the right option is.

Someone once wrote; ‘good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions’. Even after all the hours of coaching, teamwork, physical fitness and skill drills, in that microsecond as the ball tumbles awkwardly out of the back of the scrum, it all comes down to making the right choice.

Honed by years of practice, players use their programmed decision-making skills to select one course of action from several possible alternatives, in this case, simply to “go left or go right”. Decision-making in any situation can be tough, with most decisions involving conflict or dissatisfaction.

Perhaps the coach demands a particular play from this field position while our half has spotted an opponent’s potential weakness. Avoiding following your instincts often seems safer, however, making your own decision and accepting the consequences is what often separates an average first grader from a superstar.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal”, stated Henry Ford, a man who knew how to make the right decisions. A significant part of decision-making is not only knowing good decision-making techniques but also practising them. I’ve taken our “paused” scrum-base dilemma and created the decision-analysis tree below to demonstrate some of the alternatives:

The squares represent decisions our half can make. The lines towards the right indicate some examples of the available options from that decision-analysis point. The options at Square #1 should be obvious, go left or go right.

The circles indicate situations with uncertain outcomes. At Circle A, he may pass wide or dummy and step back inside. The lines from each circle denote possible outcomes of that uncontrollable circumstance. If he chooses to pass wide, we may score in the corner (Outcome 1). If he steps back inside, he will be confronted with another uncontrollable circumstance at Circle C. That could be to dummy again and score (Outcome 2) or to pass inside to a supporting player who scores (Outcome 3).

These are just some of the options if he "went left”. The more detailed the analysis, the more difficult the choice. For example, we could have extra “numbers” to the left but the opposing wing is an absolute demon in defense, so the step back inside option would be preferable. Furthermore, our lock could be a lethal powerhouse close to the line, so, logically he gets the inside pass, yet, the defense may over-read this, allowing the lock to run decoy and our half to score.

I’m sure you can offer a plethora of suggestions should he chose the right-side option. These complexities only represent one simplistic case. The number of choices available to each player in each tackle in each match, add-in the coaching staff and other mitigating factors such as the referee and touch judges, all make game management extraordinarily difficult. This lack of predictability is what makes rugby league so attractive.

If “go left or go right” was the focus of a boardroom strategy meeting then selecting the best option may be obvious. However, as in this example and repeated countless times throughout a league season, players do not have the luxury of systematically dissecting their choices. In game situations the best decision-making strategy could well be to keep an eye on your goals and then let your intuition take over.

Before you all start howling “Come off it, he’s paid bloody well to make the right decision”, remember that history is littered with the poor choices made by CEO’s with better resources, and paid substantially more, than league players.

Let’s restart the clock …

… he lifts his head, makes his choice, snatches at the ball and knocks it on. The crowd sighs, game lost – brain overload. Forgotten are the arguments of logic, lost in the despair of defeat. Who cares that decisions are the hinges of destiny?

WORD COUNT: 745 including the title


So... TTL's article was posted after FT.

bgdc posted before FT but no official substitution was made.

Up to NT whether bgdc's article is included.

Over to you ref...


Staff member
An official substitution? If Titanic isn't around and one of the team sees we're a man down, how exactly are they supposed to make the substitution?

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