Item One - Newtown 8 Wentworthville 12. After a record 24 minutes of sudden-death extra-time and nineteen missed attempts at golden point field goals by both sides, the Maggies ended it with a try. For the second time in three years, the Bluebags have lost the NSWRL Cup GF in extra time after falling for a kick-a-field-goal-from-anywhere-on-the-ground strategy. Credit where it's due - Wenty dominated the second half and the bulk of the extra time.
The only game that matters today kicks off at 12.15pm. Newtown will face Wentworthville in the NSWRL Cup (Reserve Grade in a past life) Final. It's revenge time for the Jets, having lost a golden-point Grand Final to Parramatta in 2006. The Wenty Magpies are the Eels' proxy in this year's reserve grade comp.
My pick: Newtown by 14.
It's the centenary year of competitive rugby league in Australia in 2008, although it could be argued that the game is in a sorrier state these days since its Faustian encounter with News Limited began thirteen years ago. It's no coincidence that News Ltd owns 50 per cent of the NRL while also owning 100 per cent of the current premiers Melbourne Storm, who are also 5/2 favourites to win the premiership this year.
Today, 8 January 2008, is the centenary of Australia's first rugby league club, Newtown RLFC.
Known for many years as the Bluebags, Newtown was given the nickname the Jets by then-coach Jack Gibson as an act of American cultural cringe. Alas, the name has stuck.
I've just learned of the passing this morning of one of my real heroes. The voice of Frank Hyde calling the rugby league on Saturday and Sunday afternoons was an integral part of my life for about two decades. His career as a broadcaster stretched back far before that, and even earlier came his playing career with Newtown, North Sydney and Balmain. Everyone loved him, he was such a charming man.
Life is full of ironies. An AFL grand final without a Melbourne team, and an NRL grand final without a Sydney team. In a year when I have become more and more apathetic about rugby league, today I am going to my first-ever Sydney rugby league grand final.
I should say, however, that it's really the Premier League fixture, the second curtain-raiser of the day at Telstra Stadium, that is my main attraction. Newtown (who, to be fair, is a glorified Sydney Roosters Reserve Grade this year) take on Parramatta. A remarkable comeback for a club that was kicked out of the NSWRL comp in 1983, went broke, re-emerged through minor competitions and became something of a cause celebre for the anti-Super League true believers.
The Jets beat North Sydney 28-4 at Henson Park tonight in their Premier League trial match which doubled up as the first leg of the Frank Hyde Trophy.
Newtown scored seven tries to one, with kicks at goal not being taken in this game. Newtown are a feeder team for Cronulla this year, while Norths have become a feeder for the Melbourne Storm.
It wasn't a bad crowd at Henson Park for a mid-February trial game, probably 500 or so.
February 1 is the tenth anniversary of the aus.sport.rugby-league newsgroup, the first newsgroup on Usenet to specialise in the discussion of the sport of rugby league. I know this because I was its creator :-)
I'm happy that Canterbury-Bankstown won the NRL grand final last night. Not so much for the club as for the fans. Most of the fans. The Doggies came from 13-6 down at half-time to lead 16-13 and hold off a late Roosters surge to win. Kicking a field goal in the first half and then losing by less than a try, yes wasn't that smart?
This year we all start equal.
Kids paint signs.
And I am seven again.
I know I will see my heroes soon.
I feel the excitement.
I have hope in March,
and I might share the glory in September.
Blow that whistle ref!
Send that ball soaring!
Blow that whistle ref!