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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Crowds Coming Back 

After the usual mid season lull the NRL crowds have picked up again as the playoff race home starts up in earnest. The Tigers broke the ground record at Leichardt (22,877) and the ground actually had to turn away an estimated 20,000 bucks worth of patrons. The Tigers after a bit of a mid season lull themselves have now won four straight for the first time in their history (since Balmain and Western Suburbs merged). They didn't disappoint, thrashing traditional local rivals the Rabbits by 42-20.

The Warriors also had their biggest crowd of the season along by miles with 18,361. They have the third worst average in the league at the moment with 12,067. I was at the game and was snapped out of my day dream by the booing that followed the announcement of Monty Betham's name. Fucken funny and hopefully a nother message to the club that he should be restricted to the training field and not to actually playing for the team. He offers nothing on attack apart from a guaranteed fuck up in the play the ball every game. Unless of course you consider attack to mean physically attacking an opponent in which case he offers quite a bloody lot. He doesn't even top the tackle count for us so he's not excelling there either. Anyway, back on crowds, the Warriors season average is now a couple of thousand better than the Rabbits and three and half thousand more than the Storm.

They seriously need to look at the Storms continued involvement in the competition. They must be a major concern that just won't go away. They have had one of the best sides in the competition in the last 5 years and play a fast open style. They have the best attack in the competition this year and the best defense and are pretty much guaranteed a playoff spot. But week after week they get awful crowds. I mean 8,212 to see them play the Roosters in the weekend? Get real people! They are getting a new ground built in a couple of years I hear and the current ground (Olympic Park) is a shit hole. But all the same the signs look bad with thousands of old fans not showing up at a time when the league average is going up, up and up. In 1998-2000 Melbourne averaged between 12,717 and 13,756. Since then they have dropped virtually every year from 11,969 to 9,088 to 9,626 to 8,887 to 8,564 this year. Either relocate the team to Perth, or Gosford or Wellington or else build that new ground now and start praying yesterday because if the league average starts to creep up to 17,000 and beyond in the coming years they will be gone burgers.

The Cowboys continued their trend of big crowds with 18,932 in Townsville. Their WORST crowd of the season was 17,038 against the Bunnies.

Interesting looking at the Bulldogs attendances. You can see why they quite like travelling across the ditch to Wellington to play matches. When they play at home at the Showgrounds they average about 8,000 but when they play at Stadium Australia they get 20-30,000 each time. While at Westpac Trust Stadium they have got 27,724 in 2001, 24,251 in 2002, 21,989 in 2003 and 13,772 in 2004 when the Warriors had lost 4 from 5 to start the year and were about to implode.

I'm curious about their future. I wonder if they would ever consider moving to Wellington permanently? They have a lot of New Zealanders in their squad and have a deal jacked up with Wellington Rugby League to get first dibs on their junior players and will play a game a year there from next year. Their fans would go nuts with riots in the street but I don't hear much complaining now when they move home games all over the show.

The season average is now up to 16,125 with the total at 2,225,212. They should fall a little bit short of the 3 million mark but I wouldn't be surprised to see that mark felled next season.

And that's enough bloody crowd stats from me.

On the football, in breaking news Hazem El Masri might miss the rest of the season with a visit to a specialist to check out his medial ligament knee injury suffered v the Broncos. He might be out for up to 8 weeks which would basically be until the grand final if they got that far. Without their sharp shooter you can throuw their odds of retaining the title out big time.

The Warriors have named an unchanged lineup to fuck up v the Panthers on Saturday night. Note that if these links aren't opening for you it's because you need to register for the Sydney Morning Herald. It's free and it's a bloody good online paper with stacks more news than you get from the NZ online news sources.

There's mention of the forward pass missed by the refs for the winning try in the Newcastle - Parramatta game here. It was one of those ones where you could use the lines on the field to judge how forward it was. I'd love a dollar for every try I've seen awarded in rugby following a pass between one and 5 metres forward. A recent one being Umaga's pass to Sivivatu which was a good 2 metres forward in the Christchurch test. Hey, not that I was complaining at the time! Some of them are so blatant it's just ridiculous. And forget this "it went back at first but then floated forward". that is basically a physical impossibility. If it ends up going forward from where you threw it then it was probably sent there straight out of your hands. Passes can't turn sideways just for the hell of it.

And anyway, here's a good little article about the recruiting/performance of a few clubs by Roy Masters.

I'll cut out ze bits I like and stick zem up yer panzar!!!
Manly are back in their familiar role, spending big on players developed by other clubs.

The signing of the Storm's Matt Orford for megabucks, forcing incumbent half Michael Monaghan to hooker, is reminiscent of the Sea Eagles buying Western Suburbs hooker Ray Brown when they had Max Krilich.

Manly are the jewellery store of the NRL - if you have a problem, spend up big to solve it.

Wests Tigers, who have now won four games in a row, are lovable underdogs once more. With fans sitting on the roofs of houses overlooking Leichhardt Oval, watching exciting young halves such as Benji Marshall, the joint-venture club combines the entrenched passion of Balmain supporters with Wests' recurring capacity to produce new talent.

Tim Sheens's players are recession-proof. They have an expansive style that means they won't play negatively, or within themselves, when behind or after a couple of losses.

Sydney Roosters are back in their customary role of rich players performing poorly. The "transit lounge" club dumped half Brett Firman, whom they bought from the Dragons, sending him mid-season to North Queensland, where he starred on Saturday night for coach Graham Murray - also shown the door by the Roosters. The Bondi boys are horribly out of sync, just as they were in the days Ron Jones ran the club and bought players like a millionaire making his first visit to a supermarket. They have too many packets of soap powder and not enough sausage.

The Dragons are winning at Kogarah with a centre named Gasnier, supported by strong forwards recruited from the Illawarra region. With fans sitting in trees outside the ground watching a forward named Young, time stands still at Kogarah.

Parramatta chief executive Denis Fitzgerald continues to resurrect his ancient prejudices, making life harder for his players, who have now lost two in a row. With his little black book grown to the size of the Yellow Pages, he risks turning Parramatta into his personal fallout shelter.

If the Storm should gain a home final against the Eels, Fitzgerald's demand that Melbourne be axed from the NRL will resonate in the Olympic Park home dressing room.

Melbourne supporters now understand the game as well as their vocal counterparts at Kogarah or Aussie Stadium, screaming advice to the referee.

Former Rooster Brad Fittler watched forlornly at Olympic Park on Sunday as referee Tony Archer blew petty penalties against his team, saying: "Another penalty for the crowd."

While AFL fans ridicule the notion that someone can announce he is joining another club in the forthcoming season, bringing into question his commitment, Orford offered yet another reminder that rugby league players render the argument ridiculous. When he threw a pass that was intercepted, he beat the ground with his fist in frustration.

The Bulldogs are back, winning tight encounters. As Benny Elias might also say, "There's a bit of dog jevu" about Canterbury's relentless rise to repeat as premiers, meeting the resurgent Knights, led by the revitalised Andrew Johns, away from Newcastle.

Gallop had some hint that the Dogs were back barking when the family pet, Shirley, went down with strychnine poisoning.

Gallop's wife, Kathy, returned from netball with Shirley and the neighbour's dog gasping their last breaths.

A high-speed rush to the vet, with the dogs attached to canine life-support systems of drips and anaesthetic, rigged up by a next door medical specialist, allowed the mutts to survive.

Having outlayed $3700 to ensure Shirley lived, Gallop saw the links with the resurrection of the Bulldogs, fined $500,000 for salary cap breaches in 2002.

"You can't keep a good dog down," he conceded.

He could have also said, "You can't keep the salary cap screwed down" because new allegations of breaches are circulating around the game.

In a season in which yesterday's ritual lies on a scrap heap waiting to be reborn as tomorrow's trend, the most symbolic speech came on the eve of the third and deciding State of Origin match in Brisbane.

QRL chairman John "Cracker" McDonald, noting that the series was tied 1-1 and that, after 25 years of the contest, the number of games won by the Blues and Maroons was equal, told the assembled guests: "It's going to be a different night but in the end, it's going to be the same."


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