Last night saw a depleted Roosters side surge ahead, and then hang on against a fast finishing Rabbitohs squad. While everyone should clearly be spending today lauding the praises of the boys from Bondi and revelling in the defeat of South Sydney (one that will likely aid them in missing out on the finals) instead we’re scratching our heads and again thinking just what is going on at League HQ?
A Roosters/Rabbitohs clash is the pinnacle of an NRL rivalry, there is no sweeter victory than one over the old enemy and there is none older than this, with bad blood stretching back to the very earliest days of Rugby League in Australia and festering in the 109 years which have since passed. The question must then be asked, how does this match get relegated to an Origin affected round, where less than the best that both sides have to showcase is available? With the way the NRL schedules it’s draw now, determining the majority of the matchups well prior to the season kickoff, it’s not always possible to predict which sides will be performing well and contributing players to their state come Origin time. What isn’t in question however is the importance of classic rivalries to the NRL as a way to generate interest. Easts v Souths used to scheduled for opening round every year and was guaranteed to draw a crowd. Not just from the Rabbitoh and Rooster tragics, but from Rugby League fans of all clubs keen to see the next chapter of this storied rivalry unfold and appreciative of the history held within. Before I’m accused of Eastern Suburbs favouritism, and let’s be fair, I should be, this isn’t the first clash this year where the timing has left me scratching my head. Round 15 also found a raft of star players out with Origin II looming. The NRL in its infinite and valued wisdom chose this round to schedule Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys. Aside from being two of the top sides over recent years, between them they feature the top three, ARGUABLY top four current players in Rugby League and even Mario Fenech could tell you that they’d all be having the week away for Origin. Why the NRL elects to shoot itself in the foot in such a way is beyond me, my understanding of the implementation of the current scheduling system was that it should negate bonehead moves such as this.
Still, all credit to the boys in red, white and blue, overcoming the loss of their top 4 players to secure a win which is often more about heart and desire, than ability.