Rugby League applies a weakening choke-hold to news outlets on grand final week as it provides only a solitary game’s worth of inspiration to the poor souls empowered to lay literary bricks in column space.
It is no more apparent in 2012’s decider with lonesome crickets chirping in the judiciary room at NRL base camp and not a banged-up body to be seen racing the clock on either physio table at the stables of Melbourne or Canterbury. It seems that we are hurtling towards this titanic match with all cast members available and in reasonable working order, which cruelly evaporates a good 75% of the journalist’s pool of controversial face-roasting headlines.
It’s a preparatory nirvana for the respective coaching staffs, but for the poor souls feeding the printing press, what is there left to pick over besides Tuesday’s team announcements and a pile of tips and margins?
Unfortunately, there’s nothing but for them to craft manufactured yarns from the minutiae of historical life incidents, forensically-analysed statistics and quotes. Lots and lots of quotes. From anyone remotely associated with either team.
In a week that runs at the pace of a 1986 Sterlo as we count down the tedious working days to kick-off, these stories can be admirable fodder for fuelling the anticipation before spak-filling over the boredom of a weekend that shields us from footy until feeding time for the elderly on Sunday.
Alternatively, if sifting through tabloid pap ain’t the Jason to your Kylie, then save yourself the page-wrestle with this abridged version of a typical 7 days of pre-grand final fish and chip paper.
The Reborn Journeyman
Holy smokes! Can you believe this guy has played for 7 clubs and never even smelt a hot dog at a playoff game, let alone strapped on a slipper for one? After 3 mid-season switches in 2012, it just so happens that this honest-as-buggery toiler got his clearance 2 weeks before the semi-finals and the bloke in front of him on the pecking order shredded his PCL in an innocuous training incident, allowing him to live out his dream of sitting idle on the pine for 80% of a grand final.
“I nearly quit the game.”
This gobsmacking header can be used in many fashions, with the 2 preferred methods for anyone taking part in the big game who has been either a) hideously lopped by a ripping injury in the past where amputation was mentioned by doctors as an option, or b) languishing in the lower grades on $450k after being mistreated by a coach, punted for disciplinary reasons or simply not arsed to care. Rags to riches sells rags.
Possible Premiership Dynasties
Ask any CEO of a grand final club about the road to success and they will always smugly tell you they were breathing easy the whole time. Even when the joint was borrowing coin from a local bottle-o to survive, even when their captain was found with his y-fronts around his ankles in a compromising position with a team mate’s wife and some tackling pads, and even when they were running stone-motherless with no wins in sight, it was all part of the long-term plan to build the club into a superpower. And even though no club has gone back-to-back for 20 years, this team is on the brink of a premiership dynasty.
“We’re really building something here and I want to be a part of it.”
For those scribes hungry to fill a back page inch, the impending off-contract player is the siren song at any time. With clear decision-making non-existent in the emotional climate either side of a grand final, players suddenly decide that their manager is no longer required to navigate their off-field dealings by making a solo foray into negotiations with a misguided public trumpeting that ‘money isn’t a priority if it means staying with my brothers.’ It’s such a feelgood fuzzy notion until they either lose the final or the liquor wears off after Mad Monday.
Former Great Predicts Early Biff
You can set the Town Hall clock to Tommy Raudonikis surfacing for the furnace games. Why look a gift horse in the mouth? The journalists will always welcome that nicotine-stained quote with open arms and tick off the requirement for another day’s headline before Sunday.
Reborn Hard Men
What ever happened to that bloke who sensationally questioned a touch judge’s heritage before storming from the field and kicking the mascot in the aggies as he entered the tunnel in a crucial match last year? He’s in this year’s grand final and he’s contributing to his team’s success as a footballer, not a violent linguist, and it’s all thanks to some kind of turning point in his life that he’s going to spill before the big game, with the usual triggers for his snap chillaxing being fatherhood, the threat of the sack or more horribly, being left with the only option of playing league in England under the coaching of Nathan Brown.
I know it’s hard to believe, but did you know there are actually families out there with blended supporter tendencies? It’s a little sickening, I know, but in grand final week these guys are absolute platinum for filling up half a page with schmaltzy staged photos and earth-shattering quotes such as ‘My favourite player is (insert team captain’s name here).’
Please Say Something
Finally, it’s the granddaddy of all tabloid landfill. Have you strapped on a boot? Had your cranium smashed by one of the greats? Got an infinitely repeated yarn from yesteryear? Can you say ‘referees in crisis?’ Then you are in high demand at grand final time. It’s Wednesday, the coaches aren’t saying anything and the players are on their PlayBoxes so your phone will be flaming. Pick the thing up and say anything remotely controversial. Please