Yvonne Sampson, NRL.com
Nursery rhymes were taught to us as children to soothe us, educate us and help us understand what little boys are made of; snails and puppy dog tails apparently? So with just three rounds left before the NRL’s finalists are decided, I was wondering what rhymes and fairytales the coaches are telling their young flock to inspire, motivate and perhaps even frighten their sides into making the top eight.
The real nightmare is the bottleneck between 8th and 13th on the ladder. Just two points separate the Raiders, Broncos, Cowboys, Panthers and Warriors. In a way they are all ‘Incy Wincy’ clinging to the hope of making the cut-off. “Incy Wincy Spider, climbed up the water spout, down came the rain and washed poor Incy out. Out came the sunshine and dried up all the rain, so Incy Wincy Spider climbed up the spout again!”
Or what about “Hey diddle, diddle, the Titans are in the middle, the Cowboys are over the moon. The Bulldogs laughed to see such fun and the Eels ran away with the spoon.”
Yep, Parramatta are in the throes of an historical slump – but Ricky Stuart mustn’t forget: “This is the house that Jack built. This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.” If Sticky unleashed a few stories about the original supercoach Jack Gibson, maybe the Eels could still have a slim chance avoiding back-to-back wooden spoons.
Craig Bellamy, I’m sure, can tell a tremendous tale. If he needs any inspiration: “Cam and Cronk went up the hill to fetch another Premiership. But Cam fell down and broke his crown and Cronk came tumbling after. Up Cam got and home did trot, as fast as he could caper. He went to Billy who bandaged his head, it ended up on the front page of the paper.”
‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ has to belong to Manly and that magnificent blow-up from Geoff Toovey. “Up and down the city road, in and out the eagle. That’s the way the money goes, pop goes the weasel.” Not that Tooves is a weasel, but the passionate coach certainly felt the pop of being $10,000 worse off.
The Bulldogs’ is a little-known rhyme: “Hark, hark the dogs do bark (Doggies!). The beggars are coming to town (rebuilding after the salary cap scandal). Some in rags, some in jags (an olden-day term for jersey). And one in a velvet gown (can’t you imagine Des Hasler resplendent in a blue-and-white velvet, floor-length gown in the coaching box?).”
Hanging somewhere in the Cronulla training sheds should be: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away. An apple in the morning – doctor’s warning. Eat an apple going to bed – knock the doctor on the head. Three a day, seven days a week – ruddy apple, ruddy cheek.” Much healthier than trying to digest an ASADA investigation spanning an entire season.
Next are the Knights and I’m almost certain the ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ was written for Wayne Bennett. “The Grand Old Duke of York, he had ten thousand men. He marched them to the top of the hill and then marched them down again. When they were up, they were up. When they were down, they were down. When they were only half way up, they were neither up nor down.” This is the story of Newcastle’s season.
John Cartwright kept the Titans ticking over while his co-captains Greg Bird and Nate Myles were on Origin duties. The Gold Coast now though are in danger of dropping out of the eight with a tough run towards September. “Two little dicky birds sitting on a plate, one named Greg and other named Nate. Fly away Greg, fly away Nate. Come back Greg, come back Nate!” Cartwright needs both his leaders for the next three rounds to have any hope of staying in the right side of the cut-off.
While the aim at the moment is to still be thriving in September football, it’s never too early to start thinking about Grand Final day. Here’s some motivation: “Thirty days hath September, April, June and November. All the rest have 31, except October. Mark down the 6th – it’s the only day that matters!”