In Touch: Golden point is pure gold
Supercoach Wayne Bennett uses words the way Lady Gaga uses clothes: sparingly and with massive impact.
Every word that growls reluctantly out of the corner of his mouth is listened to with care by anyone who follows league.
He knows the game inside-out and he gets results. I, on the other hand, talk drivel all day long, and know little, but I’m going to go out on a limb and disagree with the great coach to say golden point is pure gold and it needs to stay.
If it wasn’t for the steam coming out of his ears at the Dragons’ post-game press conference last week, I would have thought Bennett was joking when he fretted about his team playing an extra 10 minutes of golden point time to try to decide their draw with the Eels.
"I'm reading about all the supposed changes we should be making and I'm sitting there watching them go another 10 minutes tonight. And I'm thinking 'are we kidding ourselves or what?'” Bennett said.
"I'm just so pleased that they've got a 12-day break now, some of them … because they will go to Origin.”
Yes, it is a big call to ask players to back up for a club game within 48 hours of bone-crunching hits and Origin intensity, and the debate about stand-alone games or Monday night clashes is welcome, but 10 minutes of golden point play nine days later? I don’t get it.
And I’m not the only one. Bennett’s comments sent footy fans scrambling for their laptops, as they posted in their hundreds on online forums.
Simon Maxwell of Sydney: "Wow, they get paid to play footy and complain they have to work extra 10 mins poor poor blokes."
Razzle Dazzle of Ryde: "Oh... dear.. Thats why they get paid to do.. Play football.. Most of the time extra time provides a result….bloody whingers i say.. All you do is train to keep fit and play footy.. Man.. Life is tough being a footballer.. Seriously.. Get over it."
MR BU11DOG of WOLLONGONG: "Oh boo hoo Mr Bennett! You and your players need to eat a concrete sandwich and harden the **** up!"
While cement sandwiches might be taking things a bit far, Wayne Bennett should be thanked for his passionate commitment to player welfare, including his plea to consider a less punishing schedule next season. He’s spoken about reconsidering the mid-season Test and the City-Country game - both events that I for one wouldn’t particularly miss.
As he said in The Australian last week, the competition is so close that the game is changing: "it's a lot tougher game and it's a lot physically and mentally more demanding than it's ever been".
But surely the 10 golden minutes that could decide an already thrilling game are worth the extra effort?
Two of league’s most respected players, Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns, certainly think so. Both threw their support behind golden point on Nine’s Sunday Footy Show. While Peter Sterling argued a draw is a draw, Joey said he absolutely loved golden point, and Freddy said when it happens he just buckles in for the ride.
One of the best games I’ve ever seen was the Wests Tigers-Roosters clash in the first week of the finals last year, and I don’t think you even needed to be a Chook to enjoy it (Tigers fans excepted, of course ).
With seconds on the clock, Braith Anasta sent flying a 35m precision missile to equal the score, but it took 20 more minutes of fingernail destroying golden point play before a Shaun Kenny-Dowall intercept and 60m run saw the Roosters win 19-15.
Mitchell Pearce played that game and is another golden point supporter: "I think when you know golden point is coming players lift and it makes you focus a lot more. You get excited and all players get pumped when you get ready for it. It's exciting for the players and fans."
Storm dynamo Billy Slater takes his support even further, saying he’d be keen to play on for as long as it takes to score … oh Billy, if only you were a Rooster!
So Wayne, as Blues captain Paul Gallen so eloquently said last week, sometimes you “just have to suck it up and play on”, at least for 10 measly but gripping minutes.