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When exactly did being a 'grub' become a rugby league badge of dishonour?

Grub (noun)

1. A soft, thick wormlike larva or maggot of certain beetles and other insects.

2. Slang commonly used to describe dirty, slimy person who does not have proper hygiene, talks in incomplete sentences and generally displays uncouth behaviour.

3. Food served in a pub: i.e. "After a hard afternoon of cheering on the boys from the hill, Dave needed some pub grub. An epic, extra-saucy, greasy, cheesy chicken parmi immediately."

So when exactly did being a 'grub' become a rugby league badge of dishonour? Doesn't every team need a bit of mongrel? In a game where too often nice guys finish last or at least don't draw enough penalties, don't we need to encourage those nigglers, those opportunistic and intimidating players?    

Ask around any rugby league circle and the word 'grub' usually crops up. In fact fans have dreamt up entire teams in honour of the NRL's best grubs.

The usual suspects like Ennis, Myles, Thaiday, Waerea-Hargreaves and Gallen are all listed as honourable mentions, hell Josh Reynolds' nickname is "Grub".

But I don't think those players are grubs. To me, they are competitors. Fierce competitors, perhaps even antagonists, who have a win-at-all-costs attitude.

They are also match winners, proven performers who can leave a devastating impact and can break a game apart. I'm not convinced that is a bad thing in the game.

If rugby league history has taught us anything, it's the fact that everyone loves a villain. 

Tommy Raudonikis and his fibro warriors from Western Suburbs were a team that head-butted and knuckled their way into rugby league folklore. A mob of unfashionable footballers that hated Manly so much they slapped EACH OTHER before playing the silvertail enemy. But those bloody wars that played out at Lidcombe Oval have left an unforgettable legacy on the game.  

You can't forget the gritty Balmain and NSW hooker of the 80s who was in just about everything. Benny Elias was booed at every ground he ever played at, often by fans who had applauded him only a week before. Hate Benny… or hate Benny… the image of him and his mother with blood smeared across their faces will be shown as long as rugby league is played. 

And what about one of the greatest that's ever been? The King? 

Wally Lewis's game of forehead wrestle with Mark Geyer in the 1991 State of Origin was not only a niggly bit of sportsmanship but a masterstroke in strategy. When Wally shirt-fronted a raging MG, trying to entice a response out of the young forward, it just gave Queenslanders another reason to love him and it has become a lasting moment in Australian sporting folklore. 

Blues coach Laurie Daley has compiled a dossier on the so-called Queensland grubs, ear-marking players like Justin Hodges and Nate Mayles as potential trouble-makers. Also on the radar is captain Cameron Smith and fullback Billy Slater; both Dally M Medallists as the NRL's Best and Fairest and named as consecutive Golden Boot winners as the best players in the world.

Danger players? Yes. Leading Maroons architects? Yes. Australian game changers? Yes. Grubs? No.  

Smith and Slater were born on the same day in the same state. They were destined to combine for greatness. Where Smith is accurate, Slater is urgent. When Smith is a leader, Slater inspires. When they combine, it's breathtaking at club, state and international level.

Hodges thrives on mastering the sledge. He does it better than drawing penalties. Who could forget the '07 Origin Series where a grinning Maroons centre was keen to point out to Blues captain Danny Buderus that he was the "number two" hooker behind Cameron Smith who was "number one".

Nate Myles has been accused of using accidental head-butts and leg-twisting tactics.  Truth is in Game 1, 2013 he stood with hands by his side when Paul Gallen landed two straight punches flush on his jaw. Myles commented the next day he was "disappointed Gallen was charged" following the Origin stink. 

These players are celebrated for being physically and mentally tough. Grubs? 

You can decide but I'm certainly cheering for them.

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