Wests' 'Gasnier complex'
When St George beat Wests in the grand final 50 years ago this year, the Magpies were accused of having a "Gasnier complex".
This Friday night, the Magpies might have morphed into the Wests Tigers and St George into St George Illawarra, but the major threat in the Dragons' backline is still named Gasnier and Wests' "complex" might have developed into a full-blown phobia.
In 1961 it was Reg Gasnier who so commanded the attention of the Magpies' defence that holes appeared inside and outside him, to the extent that he saw very little of the ball. "Wests went into the grand final yesterday with a Gasnier complex," wrote Tom Goodman in the Sun-Herald. "They concentrated on the brilliant centre as the No. 1 menace. They hung off the men with the ball and, as a result, let St George through for two of their first three tries."
On Friday night Wests Tigers will be paying plenty of attention to Reg's nephew, Mark, when they clash with St George Illawarra in a game billed as "the match of the season" at Sydney Football Stadium.
Mark Gasnier has terrorised the Tigers for the best part of a decade, crossing for an incredible 21 tries in 15 matches against them since 2001. It is a staggering tally that represents 23 percent of his career total.
And there is little question that Tigers centre Chris Lawrence faces another massive challenge to shut his opposite man down. He'll have the high-calibre support of Englishman Gareth Ellis just as he did last September when Lawrence nullified Gasnier's threat for almost all of the preliminary final classic between the clubs at a packed ANZ Stadium.
Only once did Gasnier cut loose as he combined with winger Jason Nightingale on a break-out 10 minutes into the second half. It finished with Nightingale taking an inside pass from hooker Dean Young and scoring against a stretched defence.
Lawrence was rehabilitating from his dislocated hip when Gasnier added to his phenomenal tally at WIN Jubilee Oval in May. With almost no room to move, Gasnier outfoxed Robert Lui and Mitch Brown to touch down in the corner, yet again providing the Tigers with heartache.
Wests Tigers had already experienced nightmares at the hands of Gasnier when they lined up against him at Kogarah in 2004, and on that day his dominance was absolute. He crossed four times to equal the joint venture's try-scoring record held by centre partner Matt Cooper, as the Dragons cut the Tigers to ribbons, winning 50-0.
On three other occasions Gasnier crossed for hat-tricks against Wests Tigers (once in 2002 and twice in 2006) to establish a level of dominance by an individual over one team that has been rarely matched.
The great Dave Brown created nightmares for the fledgling Canterbury side in 1935 when he produced hauls of 45 points (still the premiership record) and 38 points in the one season. His tally included an incredible 11 tries and 25 goals in just 160 minutes of football.
As awesome as that performance was, it was short-term "terror" compared with Gasnier's threat which has been ongoing for a decade.
Those 21 tries from 15 games are enough to excuse a "Gasnier complex" for Wests Tigers, but they will do well to heed the lessons of old because the Dragons have players right across the park who can inflict maximum damage. Too much concentration on Gasnier will open the door for Darius Boyd or Matt Cooper or Jamie Soward to dominate.
It happened in 1961 when Reg Gasnier was kept as quiet as a church mouse by Wests' defence. His team-mates like winger Eddie Lumsden (three tries) and five-eighth Brian 'Poppa' Clay took up the running as the Dragons cruised to a 22-0 victory.