On The Road: A tale of four cities
“Rockin’ to the east and rockin’ to the west/I sleep all day but I never get rest.”
Replace ‘rockin’ with ‘reportin’ and that song lyric by eighties hair metal band Cinderella was the most profound ever written by the time your correspondent got to the end of round 16, walking out of the not-quite-finished WIN Stadium at 10.30pm Monday, across the road to the Steelers Club.
Please excuse any self-indulgence but when this column was renamed ‘On The Road’, my editors clearly wanted to hear about periods like the last four days – Perth for South Sydney-Brisbane, the Gold Coast for Titans-Cronulla, Auckland for Warriors-Melbourne and Wollongong for St George Illawarra-Manly.
The best sleep I got in that time was 9am to 3pm at the Gold Coast Airport Motel on Saturday and 1.40pm to 4pm at the Wollongong Ibis on Monday. Slept all day, got no rest.
The rest of it was a blur of cabs, airport security, bad food and pretty gripping footy. So, with apologies to those interested in the four games I did not get to, here’s the first real ‘On The Road’ column.
The NRL should refuse to re-admit the Western Reds until they get more cabs in Perth. Your correspondent was left standing outside Myaree Fitness First for one hour on Friday night, missing an ABC radio cross, because there aren’t enough of the blighters. In that time, not one taxi even picked up what would be a $40 job. Aunty’s local sports commentary all-rounder, Clint Weeldon, had to come and pick me up.
“If you could go work in the mines with little training or education and earn $150,000 a year, why would you be a cabbie?” he said. Good point. One more thing: Perth rugby league corporate functions have come a long way since Western Suburbs played Melbourne in 1999, when the entertainment at Lathlain Park comprised a comedian obsessed with rather unconventional sex acts.
The funny thing about games in the wet is that things which would normally be regarded as dangerous just looks like fun. The players sliding in the puddles at fulltime were probably at just as big as risk as Brisbane prop Scott Anderson when he was dumped heavily by David Taylor. The referees, video referees, telecasters and media all missed the Taylor challenge – because, I suspect, they were all caught up in the ‘slippery romp’ mood. It took someone in a warm, dry room to detect it.
Mario Fenech arrived in Perth late at night last week and tweeted “no wonder they call it the red eye”. Actually they don’t. What your writer caught at 1.25am to Coolangatta on Saturday morning was called the red eye; he had the red eyes to prove it.
Travel tip: a day room at the Gold Coast Airport Motel costs $100. It’s worth it. A taxi from there to Skilled Park isn’t that much less! But taking your own car will subject you to more checkpoints than the Khyber Pass. Thanks to Wayne Heming of AAP and his better half Ann for the lift to the Formule One, Brisbane Airport. A big bag from a week in Perth was left in an airport locker for the next nine days because there was never going to be any time to collect it in Auckland.
One angle which seemed to be lost from Cronulla’s 36-12 win over Gold Coast was what Sharks captain Paul Gallen said about the club’s transferred home game in round four against the Warriors, which was played in Taupo. “I think we lost some confidence along the way,” said Captain Paul Gallen. “Early on, we took that game to New Zealand and it knocked the wind out of us. We struggled for a long time after that.”
Centre Colin Best agreed, saying: “It would have been a home game for us. We had two wins against the Dragons and Panthers, we went over there for a week and it’s not easy playing the Warriors over there. Those three weeks were short turnarounds and it sort of zapped us a bit.”
I have unwittingly stumbled across a new training regime that should be a hit in the NRL. The player is forced to sit completely still for three hours. He must then sidestep about a dozen pensioners very slowly, before breaking into a flat-out sprint, wearing a backpack.
Even the fittest player in the game will pull up, puffing, within 20 metres, I guarantee. That’s what happened to me when EK 434 landed as the Warriors-Melbourne game was kicking off. I could blame the Chilean dust cloud for that – but probably not for the Sunday traffic jam at Onehunga. That would be roadworks. Transport thanks to the uncle of Omar Slaimankhel (aka the Afghan Warrior), tonight’s cab driver.
One report on the Storm’s 16-8 win pointed to the contrasting fortunes of the fullbacks, Billy Slater and Lance Hohaia. One scored two tries, one made errors that led to two tries.
But what about the halfbacks? Cooper Cronk’s kicks led to two touchdowns, Brett Seymour: a) was put on report for a swinging arm; b) was penalised for blocking; c) dropped a kick-off; d) finished the day with a suspected broken thumb. It’s as if Slater and Cronk had packed voodoo dolls of their opposite numbers.
Home sweet home, the Jewel of the Pacific. Having lost my licence (physically, as in misplaced), it was the train from the International Airport via Wooli Creek for OTR (actually On The Rails in this case). And who’d have thought the ground where I once saw royalty do a lap of the dog track would one day hold 18,974 people with around a quarter of its capacity cordoned off?
Not only is the new press box freakishly close to the playing surface but – as far as I could see – it had no concrete pylon obstructing the view!
Ricky Stuart’s worst fears were realised with injuries to five-eighth Jamie Soward (hamstring) and second rower Glenn Stewart (back). But on the plus side, centre Beau Scott (knee/eardrum) says he ran on match eve and is no longer in any doubt at all – just like St George Illawarra clubmate Ben Creagh (ankle), who got through the 24-6 win strongly.
However, Scott has not been on a plane since his perforated eardrum in Origin II. Apparently he set off for Brisbane by car straight after watching the Dragons win without him....