Tuesday, November 12, 2013

2013 NRL Season in Review: The Good, the bad and the ugly! - By Lauren

I don’t know about you, but I found the 2013 NRL season exhausting. It was a year of big headlines. We had it all. The Good, the Bad, and most certainly the Ugly.

The Good
The West Tigers juniors

The Tigers’ 2013 season was hardly a pretty one. There were few highlights, largely thanks to disastrous second halves. But if nothing else, in 2013 they showed us that they have some of the most exciting young players in the entire competition. David Nofoaluma (28/11/1993) gave us the try of the year which left everyone gobsmacked. Luke Brooks (21/12/1994) had one of the most impressive debuts of the season. Tim Simona (20/11/1991) has proved to be a nightmare to defend with his speed on the wing. Add Curtis Sironen (31/7/1993), Marika Koroibete (26/7/1992), and James Tedesco (8/1/1993) into the mix, let alone Aaron Woods (13/3/1991) who is already playing representative footy, and you have some serious forces to be reckoned with in the coming years. Let’s just hope the club is smart enough to hang onto these ones.

The NRL Rookies

There were 71 rookies in 2013. What a mammoth year in showcasing young talent. George Burgess is a monster. Tohu Harris is the NRL’s BFG (big friendly giant, for those of you who are not Roald Dahl readers). Ben Hampton made a big impression in his mere two first-grade games, and I have already mentioned Luke Brooks’ striking start. Kyle Feldt’s debut for the Cowboys left quite the impact as well. Clubs have already been fighting over Anthony Milford. Daniel Tupou and Korbin Sims are currently playing for Tonga and Fiji in the Rugby League World Cup. Matt Moylan, Dylan Walker. Some of these guys are younger than me, and I am jealous of how much they are achieving.

Cooper Cronk winning the Dally M Medal

Cooper Cronk is an incredible athlete and an even better role model. If you haven’t read his website, I implore you to do so. He is about hard work, and constantly finding ways to better himself both on and off the field. He is about respect and overcoming challenges. He recognises his shortcomings and instead of letting them defeat him, he uses them to drive him to be a better person. He shatters the famous/infamous “Boofhead Footy Player” stereotype. I can think of no one I would want to win a Best & Fairest award more. Oh and don’t forget about all those sinews.

Adam Reynolds’ try assist vs. Warriors (Round 17)

Just watch it. HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN?! Give this guy a Blues jumper already.

The Jon Mannah Cup

Watching the Mannah family cope with the loss of a family member publicly with so much grace was truly impressive. When the inaugural Jon Mannah Cup game rolled around, the Eels were already failing to fire and the Sharks were just starting to face all the ASADA allegations. Both teams needed something special. I will never forget the tribute to Jon Mannah. Prior to the game, they asked supporters of both teams (Mannah’s ex-clubs) to unite not in a moment of silence to mourn, but in a moment of applause in celebration for his life. Both teams played with real heart that day – you could see it in their hit-ups. That game was everything I love about League. It’s hard to laugh at Parramatta when they played one of my favourite games of the season.

Mahe Fonua’s GI-like try assist

“There’s no way he got it. He couldn’t possibly have… OH MY GOD HE DID IT! HE PULLED IT OFF! HOW DID HE DO THAT?!” – My living room at the time. Fonua had been struggling a little with form, but he played the game of his life that day and showed everyone just what he is made of. And you know what they say in sport, everyone. “Vics do it better”. And they’re not wrong.

The Bad
Farewelling retiring players

This is more ‘sad’ than ‘bad’, but on the eve of Grand Final I realised just how many well-loved players were bidding the NRL farewell. To Scott Prince, Steve Turner, Michael Crocker, Matt King, Dallas Johnson, Brett Finch, Nathan Fien, Matt Cooper, Matt Bowen, Danny Buderus, Jason Ryles, Joe Galuvao, Ashley Graham, and Ben Ross; you will all be sincerely missed by many, if not by all.

Losing Alex Elisala and Mosese Fotuaika

Two young lives lost to suicide before they had barely begun. Within just a couple of months. It was a tragic way to start the season, and I hope with all my heart that their families are coping. With everything else that happened in this tumultuous season, this left the biggest impact on me personally. They were not big names, and the story of their tragic deaths got lost amongst all the other drama. They were not mentioned at the Dally M awards, nor in any official ceremony that I saw. And yet, the names Sonny Bill Williams and Burgess are drilled into my brain from being mentioned so frequently. The biggest League media channels lost sight of what should have been the most important thing that happened this year.

These are two players from our family who saw no other way out when it was all too much. We need to send a clear message to the entire Rugby League community - those on and off the field that there is always another way out. There is no weakness in asking for help. The work the QRL has done to minimise the stigma of mental illness has been phenomenal. I just hope we see more of it at a national level.

ASADA investigation

The investigation in itself, if handled the right way, is a positive. I want to know that when I watch the brilliant displays of athleticism that are inherent in this great game that they are done without illegal performance enhancers. Too many supporters, players, and media spokespeople are blaming ASADA for all this drug drama. Don’t blame them. They haven’t done the wrong thing. Blame those who did the wrong thing. And out their wrongdoing. They have brought the game into disrepute. For once, it is a case of “Don’t hate the game, hate the player.”

I for one, find it hard to be sympathetic toward Sandor Earl if for no other reason than a) he was paid a ridiculous amount of money for a TV interview – if clearing your name is so important, do it for free; and b) when someone administering anything into your body tells you not to tell your team doctor, perhaps that should indicate that something isn’t quite right. If you feel like you have to lie about it, you’re doing something wrong. An athlete allowing someone to inject them with substances they don’t have a full understanding of is the equivalent of anyone signing a legal document without reading it.

Sam Burgess’ dirty tactics

Squirrel grip, eye-gouge, high tackles. And yet, apparently he is one of the best we’ve got? I am a firm believer that if you are truly a great player, you play with integrity and respect. Get it out of your game, Sam. Pronto. It’s a disgrace.

Canberra Raiders club culture

It started with Dugan and Ferguson. There was a bit more Dugan. There was a bit more Ferguson. There was a bit of contract drama. There was Anthony Milford and Josh Papalli. There was Shillington being fined for speaking out about all of it. And there was even a bit more Dugan (and he wasn’t even at the club anymore). Time for a change? Good luck, Ricky.

State of Origin

Blues fan. Final minutes of Game III. Down by two. Mitchell Pearce kicking on the third. Can’t even talk about it.

The Ugly

Robert Lui’s return in Women in League Round

Who the hell made that decision? There is already suggestion that we don’t take the Women in League round seriously enough. But having Robert Lui, who was stood down after being charged with assaulting his girlfriend, make his NRL return in that round? That was above and beyond. Even if everyone deserves second chances, someone should have been smart enough to make him wait at least one more week. Honestly.

The ’7th Tackle’ Fiasco

If it had happened to my team, I would be livid. I am appalled enough that it happened to the Cowboys. It was a mistake that, technically speaking, cost them a spot in a final. For the second year in a row. What made it all the more awful was seeing more media and public uproar about JT’s comments following the affair than for the event itself. While I hardly think there is a pro-Sydney conspiracy going on, there is much to suggest that the support out-of-NSW clubs receive is relatively second rate.
How do you solve a problem like Ben Barba?

Ben Barba was stood down at the beginning of the season for what was commonly referred to as “personal issues”. At the time, I thought it was handled remarkably well. I thought Todd Greenberg spoke impressively in the press conference and that the club was good to help Barba before his ‘condition’ led to any public disturbances.

WELL.The allegations that have come to light since his release from the Bulldogs are suggesting that this was far from the case. Barba did not even complete his rehabilitation program before returning to the field. And considering the fact that these are domestic abuse allegations, you would think they would be a little more diligent in ensuring the safety of everyone involved.
Was it a cover-up? If it was, was Todd Greenberg responsible for that cover-up? If he was, why should he be in such a high standing in the NRL? And I’m not even going to ask the question that everyone really wants to know.


I’m pretty much just going to name and shame now. Could Mitchell Allgood and James Tamou please stand up?

Russel Packer urinating on the field
Enough said.

In conclusion, there’s never a dull moment in Rugby League. ”And I couldn’t be happier this school year is ending.” (Because there’s always room for a Mean Girls reference.)

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