Seven days in rugby league: Blind faith in Freddy as Blues get the broom out

BONDING SESSION: NSW coach Freddy Fittler has certainly altered the meaning of getting blind at the Blues' Origin camp. Picture: AAP
BONDING SESSION: NSW coach Freddy Fittler has certainly altered the meaning of getting blind at the Blues' Origin camp. Picture: AAP

THURSDAY

The phone rings. “Dillo here, mate,” the regular Seven Days In League scribe says. “Book-signing tour is going gang busters. Unfortunately, I have got writer’s cramp and the doc has ordered a bit of R & R. You’ll have to cover for me.”

“But,” I interject, “did you see the Newcastle Jets won a tournament in China. How about the World Cup? Apparently, England are bringing it home.”

Beep, beep, beep.

Yours truly is not the only veteran pitched into a new role.

Rugby league journeyman Darren Nichols becomes the oldest rookie since Frank “The Tank” went Old School. After stints at the Tigers, Wyong Roos, Mounties, North Devils, Rabbitohs, Broncos and Panthers, plus a couple of years in France, Nichols gets a crack at the Dragons No.7 jersey. Steve Linnane was unavailable. He comes in for Ben Hunt and responds by kicking his first grubber dead.

The Dragons are in front 18-16 approaching oranges when old Melbourne stayer, Ryan Hoffman, sells a dummy and heads off down the straight at Flemington. He is dead set going up and down on the one spot - like most horses I back - over the final furlong but has enough to get over by a nose.

What was supposed to be a slug fest between the two best defences, turns in to a game of tennis. After going shot for shot, Melbourne grab a 40-30 advantage.

Two minutes later, Riley Jacks produces a winner down the line. Game. Set. Match.

FRIDAY

The Choccie Soldiers are without 1000 Origin players they said, the coach is on the nose they said, the Once Weres have won five on the road they said … Note to self, never ever tip the Once Weres again.

Brett Hetherington rumbles forward for 158 metres off the bench for the Choccie Soldiers. Not bad for a 47-year-old. When did he leave the Raiders? Oh, it was his son, Jack. Play on. 

SATURDAY

Richmond get the Tigers off to a roaring start to the weekend with a mauling of Adelaide on Friday night. Next morning, the Blonde Nugget (son No.2) comes across in cover like Junior Pearce and makes a desperate tackle at the death as the mighty South Kotara under-7s hold out the silvertails from Merewether. The bride shakes her head. Apparently, a copybook tackle around the legs is not allowed in soccer. Pfft. Completing a memorable treble, Balmain pockets two points from the bye.

I settle in front of the box for a night of footy. Unfortunately it’s anything but super Saturday. You guessed it. Matt Nable. Poor Bedsy, weekend off from Origin duties and he gets coupled with the Logie nominee and Gaz.  “That was a tackle that had to be made,” Nable bellows. He’s no Gus Gould.  

Not all is lost. Mates of mine have started a Nable drinking game. Whenever he gets a name wrong, everyone has to skol. They are blowing bubbles by half-time.

On the field, the Dogs are doing it in style, leading 28-14 with 14 minutes to go. Enter Blake Austin. The $6 million man scores a try, busts three tackles, makes five line breaks, charges 98 metres and earns a rich deal in the English Super League. The Green Machine salute 32-28 to finally ditch the Faiders tag. Sticky even manages a smile.

ALL SMILES: Ricky Stuart

ALL SMILES: Ricky Stuart

SUNDAY 

Sam Thaiday wishes he had brought forward his retirement after a run-in with Titans angry ant Keegan Hipgrave inside the first minute. Two tackles later the lunatic goes at Matthew Lodge. They lock horns like two old rams. Isn’t Hipgrave the bloke who was sinbinned twice in the one game earlier this year? Love him. Unfortunately, in an err of judgement, he then goes low on Joe Ofahengaue and cops a knee to the melon. The Titans fight is knocked out with him as they get pantsed 34-0.

Scorps coach Adam Bettridge reveals on twitter that he found a present – a wooden spoon – in his letterbox on Saturday morning. The Real NRL premiers respond with a 22-all draw against the Butcher Boys to move off the bottom of the ladder and just five points shy of the competition lead. Funny game rugby league.

MONDAY

Blind faith, flying blind, blind spot, blind Freddy … call it what you like. The Blues wear blindfolds in a training drill aimed to improve communication. Only fullback James Tedesco, halves James Maloney and Nathan Cleary, hooker Damien Cook and wingers Josh Addo-Carr and Tom Trbojevic are spared. Whatever works Freddy. I know a state who will happily get blind if the Blues can record a clean sweep of those filthy Cane Toads.

TUESDAY 

Poor Marty Taupau. If spending longer in an airport terminal than Tom Hanks wasn’t enough, the Manly hard man now has to answer to rumours about him bailing from Brookie.

"How would you feel if your boss was to say, or rumours were saying you're not wanted there or you were rumoured to go elsewhere?" Taupau said. Word is that the salary-cap stuck Eagles are shopping the firecracker around despite him leading the comp in offloads and sitting fifth in run metres and eighth in tackle busts.

Over to you Browny.

TRUE BLUE: Tommy Raudonikis presents Nathan Cleary with his No.7 NSW jumper.

TRUE BLUE: Tommy Raudonikis presents Nathan Cleary with his No.7 NSW jumper.

WEDNESDAY

Freddy saves his best trick until last. Looking for extra motivation ahead of Origin III at the cauldron Lang Park, Freddy gets on the blower to Tommy “Terrific” Raudonikis. Tommy is in his third battle with cancel which followed a quadruple by-pass a decade or so ago.

“I gave my all for NSW so this means a lot to me,” Tommy said after presenting the players with their Blues jumpers. “I am very, very proud and I think we have a wonderful team.”

And if all fails on Wednesday night Tommy: “It would be nice to see the cattledog back but I don’t think so.”