When the crackdown on punching on the field was announced I have to admit that I personally thought it was something of an overreaction. But given the events of the past few days and the behaviour of a small percentage of our NRL stars I have been more convinced of the validity of the decision made.
Whether it is a generational thing or not, there appears to be a disconnect in what is deemed acceptable in society and what some players believe is appropriate behaviour.
Punching someone in the street is a despised act capable of doing serious damage. Perhaps by telling players that it won’t be tolerated on the rugby league field any more, we go some way to establishing new standards of acceptable behaviour, on and off the field.
As our countdown of the Top 100 moments of the past 50 years reaches its exciting conclusion, I thought I’d reflect on the greatest moments I have personally witnessed.
Billy Slater’s breathtaking Origin try in 2004 (No.44 on our list): It was my first Origin at Suncorp and after three minutes I heard the most deafening roar I have ever experienced at a footy ground. And it was just for a Maroons line-break that didn’t even lead to a try! Needless to say when Billy scored, the stadium shook.
Darren Albert’s 1997 Grand Final try (No.3): My dad hates Manly and as we lived in Coffs Harbour growing up we had something of an affinity with Newcastle. Darren Albert jumped high in the air after scoring the match-winner; my dad leapt even higher off his lounge chair.
Nathan Merritt’s SCG field goal in 2009 (No.100): At nine months of age, this was my son’s debut at an NRL game. We sat in the Members Stand at the SCG and Merritt’s strike from wide out was on a direct line to our seats; Harrison was lucky not to get thrown off the top tier in excitement. After the game we went down onto the ground and I fed him his Heinz Apple Custard as we sat on the hallowed turf.
Wally Lewis beats NSW single-handedly (No.13): I hated Wally Lewis the same way I hated West Indian cricket great Viv Richards. In many respects I am envious of Queenslanders who were able to revel in Wally’s magnificence rather than cursing his existence. It wasn’t until I became a more mature individual capable of recognising greatness beyond my own team – about three years ago – that I saw Wally for what he was; an absolute legend of our game.
But they’re my favourite moments. I hope some of yours have appeared during the past few weeks and that perhaps some of them made their way into our top 25.