Robert Dillon: Seven Days in League

GRIPPING STUFF: The Waratahs' Maya Stewart employs a Josh McGuire-style defensive technique to stop Wanderers Tayla Sampson in last week's rugby union grand final. Picture: Marina Neil.
GRIPPING STUFF: The Waratahs' Maya Stewart employs a Josh McGuire-style defensive technique to stop Wanderers Tayla Sampson in last week's rugby union grand final. Picture: Marina Neil.

THURSDAY

HIS abusive, X-rated, hand-written letters arrive several times each week, regular as clockwork, but mercifully I haven't heard the Maitland Maniac’s trademark gravelly voice for months.

Like treading in dog poo, however, you know it's only a matter of time.

Today he phones in with a fearless prediction: his beloved-albeit-hopeless Doggies to beat the Sharks and finish ahead of the Knights on the ladder.

James Gardiner’s heart sinks. He has also tipped the Dogs, and if they lose, co-leader Mike “Old Bull” Trypas will pip him for the Herald tipping comp title.

Jig knows he is doomed. The Maniac is officially the world’s worst tipster. 

In 2007, for example, the delusional dipstick brazenly declared: “The Bulldogs to win the NRL, John Howard to beat Kevin Rudd. Beware of the underdog.”

We know how that went. 

It has been proven many times since that the Maniac couldn't tip a winner if Winx was racing.

Rest assured, the Doggies will lose and the Old Bull will be crowned champion.

FRIDAY

GOOD old Benny Elias. When it comes to mangling a cliche, he has a God given knack.

Over the years, the man with the curious “Backdoor” nickname has tossed up some gems on TV and radio, including: “this has come down to a battle of nutrition”, and “for every player, that's the carrot at the end of the rainbow” and, famously, “it's a try, a try, it's a T-R-I”.

His latest nugget of gold comes during an appearance on one of those Foxtel footy panels. 

He’s tipping the Roosters to win the grand final, but he warns: “Cooper Cronk needs to pull his fist out.”

He’s no Rex “Moose” Mossop, Benny, but he’s no mug.

SATURDAY 

IT’S Old Boys’ Day at McDonald Jones Stadium, and Seven Days is always intrigued by how the heroes of yesteryear are holding up post-footy.

Some of them, like 57-year-old Gary Wurth, still look fit enough to run out and play in an NRL grand final. Others appear as if the most strenuous exercise they get these days is trekking from the sofa to the fridge.

(Not that there is anything wrong with that.)

Watching the Roosters towel up the easybeat Eels, I find myself wondering what sort of tonnage Parra prop Siosaia Vave will register once his playing days are over. In an era when clubs employ full-time dietitians and nutritionists, it’s pleasing to see there is still a place for a bloke who knows his way around the pie shop.

SUNDAY

SERIAL loose cannon John Hopoate provides a candid self-appraisal as he reflects on the 10-year suspension he copped for his ill-fated comeback with Narraweena Hawks.

“I’m always the first to put my hand up when I carry on like an idiot,” Hoppa says.

“I am a shitbag on the field, I am a grub, but I back it up. Don’t be a grub and then run and cry to the ref. I put my hand up for everything.”

Insisting he blew up after receiving racial taunts from Forestville Ferrets players, Hoppa admits diplomacy is not his strong suit.

“I don’t give a shit who you are,” he says. “I told one of the judiciary panel men that I’d slap him too if he called me a black monkey. That probably didn’t sit well with him.”

Nobody could ever accuse Hoppa of being a slow learner.

MONDAY

DARIUS Boyd makes an emotional plea for fans and the media to lay off his former teammate, embattled Dragons halfback Ben Hunt.

“We’re all human beings,” Darius says. “We play rugby league for the love and the fun of it.

“Yes, it’s a business and there is criticism – it should be constructive – but it doesn’t matter what you get paid and what you do for a job … there’s no reason to put people down and be negative all the time.

“In my opinion we all do the best we can in life and if someone wants to pay you what they pay you then congratulations, you’ve done a great job in life. 

“Just because we’re in that public spotlight … you don’t need to start tearing them to shreds.

“The criticism has been very unfair and unwarranted. Unfortunately that is life sometimes and we have to put up with negative people and naysayers. I think it has gone too far.”

It’s a valid point. I mean, it’s not Hunt’s fault he’s massively overpaid and poops himself in big games.

Then again, do we have to go easy on him just because he’s soft?

TUESDAY

WE wake to front-page pictures of Bulldogs players getting nude, vomiting and lying unconscious on the ground outside a pub in The Rocks.

Good on them, I say.

Most other clubs lock their players away on Mad Monday to shield them from the prying eyes of the media and general public.

But surely there is no point disgracing yourself in private. What’s the fun in that? The fans, I’m sure, will have enjoyed the interaction with their heroes and appreciate the fact that they are real people, not cardboard cut-outs. Congratulations, Canterbury, on upholding a proud rugby league tradition.

WEDNESDAY

NRL boss Todd Greenberg reaffirms his reputation as the world’s biggest wowser by threatening to sanction the Bulldogs.

“I just do not understand the fascination with footballers who want to take their clothes off ... it's idiotic,” Greenberg fumes.

My learned colleague James Gardiner, a veteran of many Mad Mondays with Wanderers rugby club, offers a contrary view.

“There’s a time and a place,” he says. “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, Todd.”

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