On the Road: Dragons' Canberra hoodoo lives on
“There’s some extra special hatred for those Dragons ... Red V, we see red.”
This morning we find ourselves contemplating one term in rugby league. If I was being paid by word by NRL.com, I would sneakily try to get away with making it two: “hoo doo”.
How can Canberra beat St George Illawarra for 11 years straight at home, securing their latest right on the siren after Jamie Soward kicked what for all money was the winning field goal with a minute left?
Is it a self perpetuating myth, based on a belief born out of a run of co-incidental victories? Is it down to style of play? Clash of cultures?
Or is it hatred?
Josh McCrone had only just put in the grubber kick that gave Josh Dugan the winning try when he spoke to this correspondent in the middle of chilly Canberra Stadium on Monday night
His sweat was turning to ice but it was still what you would call the heat of the moment. He was asked why the Raiders have such a special – and successful – rivalry with the joint venture team. “There’s some extra special hatred for those Dragons,” was his answer.
Why? “I don’t know. Red V. We see red.”
Dragons coach Wayne Bennett, in a manner only he can pull off, dismissed a hoodoo question during the media conference – and then acknowledged the hoodoo to make fun of another question.
Skipper Matt Cooper correctly observed: “We pretty much owned that first half. We scored some good tries and it felt like we were more in the lead than what we were.”
And heading for the exit, Dragons chairman Warren Lockwood said: “I didn’t believe in hoodoos – but I’m starting to.”
Match-winner Josh Dugan said simply – and cruelly: “It’s a great feeling to always have the wood over St George. Hopefully we can keep the run going.”
In many ways, in these days of salary caps, mid-season transfers and coach assassinations, it’s good to know “the wood” that some teams have on others is still hard, reliable and capable of being swung with the same brutal force as at any time in the last century.
Rugby league history may not be preserved in glass cases and archive rooms to the extent it should be, but when a team that fears defeat is faced with one that believes in its manifest destiny to win, history burns fiercely in footballers’ minds.
Use your illusion.
The difference between hoodoo and voodoo: hoodoo is a practice, voodoo is a religion. The Dragons may have to kneel at the feet of the Hoodoo Gurus today – but they aren’t about to line up at a Wall Of Voodoo.
St George once won the premiership 11 years in a row. But losing in Canberra for the same period is just a run of co-incidences, isn’t it?
“We’ll run with that, “ Cooper said, grinning wryly. “We’ll run with that.”