New Website

Hello readers,

First of all I want to thank you for reading this blog as it has developed over the last couple of years.

Due to the popularity of the blog, I have decided to expand it to a website, with a couple of additional contributors.

So if you wish to continue reading more articles, please visit and keep up to date with everything!

The current article is The Alan Jonestown Massacre about the radio personality’s time in charge of the Tigers

Thanks again


Why Don’t We Rate Perth?


Do we finally have to admit that Perth Glory are a good side? It seems an odd question to ask of the team leading the league by 4 points at the mid-point of the season, but if you put any faith in betting markets, ‘the people’ still don’t think they are real contenders!

It is easy to understand why people don’t want to accept Perth as a serious contender. Whilst they may have been a powerhouse club in the NSL, the A-League hasn’t been kind to them. They are the only foundation club without a significant trophy that is still playing. They have only made the Finals 3 times in the 9 year A-League history and have only finished above 5th once*

Heading into this season you could easily be forgiven for writing them off.  They had splashed cash to bring in successful players from other clubs. They had handed a former Assistant Manager the reins and hoped for the best. They had filled out the squad with journeyman A-League players. You know, the standard Perth Glory drill that sees them finish just outside the top 6 most years.

But just to show how close failure and success really are, they got one simple element right for this season and it has changed everything. They got their imports right. To call Nebojša Marinković a journeyman would be an understatement. But his role in Perth’s rise this season has been fundamental. Much the same could be said about Irish striker Andy Keogh who finally filled the goal scoring void that the Glory had hoped to get from Shane Smeltz.

But really, it is more than that. Kenny Lowe seems to be the first manager that has been able to convince the one group of people that have had the hardest trouble believing in the Glory – the Perth players themselves.

Being far removed from media speculation on the other side of the country, has helped the club in some ways, as they have been given more time to try and develop players with less scrutiny on poor performances (though they have rarely had a coach capable of doing so), but it has also hurt them in that many experienced professionals on good money have taken the opportunity to have a bit of a holiday.


After a strong opening in the first two rounds, things looked to be going as expected when Adelaide United comfortably took care of Perth at Coopers Stadium and the honeymoon period of the new season appeared to be over. Luckily for the Glory, their next two games were against a couple of awful sides in Newcastle and Central Coast. The old Perth may have grabbed a draw or two here, but this side didn’t have their belief shaken by the loss to Adelaide and came out of that with 2 wins having them on 12 points after 5 rounds.

A good start, no doubt, but the knockers were out in force. “They’ve only played one decent team, and they lost!” is what they I said. The Wanderers had started really poorly but we all thought it was just a matter of time before they turned it around, and if that was going to happen, it would likely be against Perth. But their Round 6 match came and went, and Perth had another win while the Wanderers had another loss. So of course this meant that the Wanderers were in dire straits and obviously Perth still hadn’t played anyone of consequence.

Next up was a rematch of round one against Wellington, which the Glory again won and nobody could understand why Perth had such a soft draw to start the season**, especially since they were playing the free falling Brisbane Roar the following week – a game which saw them get their first draw of the season.

But Round 9 was the one that would see them face a real test of their credentials. The undefeated (at the time) Sydney FC – in Sydney. So of course when yet another win was added to the tally for Perth, it didn’t help their cause, it only made people begin to (rightly in hindsight) question Sydney’s credentials.

A few more easy games against the lower teams (Jets, Mariners and City) saw 2 wins and a draw, and the Perth lead at the top of the table extended even further. The real test was about to come though. The title favourites Melbourne Victory were due for their first meeting the Permiership leaders in Round 13. This was the match that all the doubters were waiting for to put Perth back in their place.

Only it didn’t happen. The Glory were glorious in their victory over the Victory. But is this enough to convince people they are a genuine title contender? Of course they played on Monday night against another title contender in Adelaide United, and lost to them again. Does this mean that they are not a great side, or just that United seem to have the wood on them this year (given that they also won the FFA Cup Final against them)? No. Their only 3 losses this season – in all competitions – have come against one side, and that tells me that it is just a matchup issue. One that has plenty of time to be worked out.

Look, I am not here to declare that Perth are certainties for the Grand Final. This middle section of the season has them up against Sydney, Victory and Adelaide in the first three games after the Asian Cup break, and that may ultimately decide where they finish. But you don’t get this far into a season with the number of wins that Perth have, without having a quality football team. Can they go all the way? Only time will tell, but they need to start being put in the conversation.

*That one time – when they finished 3rd – saw them make the grand final and be robbed by a Besart Berisha dive that fooled the referees. The league has had shit referees since day dot.

**In reality they had already played the top two sides from last year, but they were both playing terribly, so it didn’t seem like a tough draw.


It is that time of year again. The time that brings presents, food, and articles titled “The Year That Was…” This is one of those articles (sans title). It is time to acknowledge the awesome things for the year 2014 that just so happened to be my favourite (or least favourite)*

Best Female Anything

Jennifer Lawrence. I know, I know. You’ve already read so much about her, and really if any year was her year, wouldn’t it be 2013? Of course it was. But I have news for you, she has just gone back to back after a brilliant 2014 too. Sure she was only nominated for an Oscar this year, and only won a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe.** But she also became the highest grossing female action hero of all time. She also broke the internet for real (as opposed to the forced and unsuccessful rubbish of that Kardashian shoot) when the fappening happened. She looked better in her selfies than some other (previously mentioned) celebrities did in their highly stylized advertorials/photo shoots, which caused people the world over to lose their minds. But the way she responded to that is what really gets her this award. She has long been a fantastic role model and these leaked photos do not change that at all. Can you imagine any other person being able to pull that off? I can’t. Here’s to J-Law going for a three-peat and having a fantastic 2015 too.


Honourable Mentions: I am just using this as an apology to Victoria Azarenka. Clearly the pressure of being the 2013 winner of this column’s Best Female Tennis Performance was too much for her to bear! She had her worst year since 2010! Hope to see you on the comeback trail in 2015!

Worst Job Security

It has been a while since coaching in the NRL was considered a safe job, but it seems to be getting even worse for anyone crazy enough to back themselves at this level. Of the 16 coaches that walked into off season training with their clubs a the end of last year, only 9 of them will still be at the helm for Round 1 in 2015. Only 6 of those coaches were in their job at the start of 2013. In fact Craig Bellamy at Melbourne is the only person to have coached his team since at least 2011. Where it has gotten even worse is that once upon a time, for a coach to be fired, a team would want to have another coach lined up to take the job. A coach with strong credentials, a proven track record if possible, maybe even a ‘name’ that could be sold to the fans. Now it doesn’t even seem to be a consideration. The Assistant coach is given the job on an interim basis and the club just shrugs and says “We’ll see what this bloke can do”. In many cases that same interim coach can fail to generate any real results and be handed a multi-year contract!*** There are so many NRL clubs that just do not look to be a chance of winning a title in the next 3 years. Too many clubs have no plan. So when that no-plan brings them no success, the axe keeps falling on the coach.

Honourable Mention: Leeds United Manager. Talk about clubs with no plan. Neil Redfearn is their 5th manager of 2014. FIFTH! Additionally, he is their 9th manager since 2012. Ridiculous.

Best New TV Show

I, like many others, was extremely skeptical when I read that they were making a Fargo TV series. I, like many others, thought that it was a mistake to try and re-create anything about the quirky Coen Brothers film. I, like many others, thought that even if the script was good and it was well made, calling it Fargo put too much pressure on the show. I am happy to report that I, like many others, was completely wrong. Noah Hawley’s rendition of 2006 Minnesota shares a similar tone, a sociopathic murderer and mountains of snow with the original Fargo, and that is where the comparisons should end. Where Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective turned out to be all style and show with no substance, Hawley didn’t have to fool us into thinking the Emporer was wearing new clothes. The direction of the series was superb. The characters that inhabited this world were both eccentric and startlingly grounded. The story itself was compelling, realistic (given the premise) and was actually able to tie up loose ends. For all of the plaudits that McConaughey got for his performance on TD, the acting in Fargo was second to nothing on the small screen this year. Billy Bob Thornton came back from the acting dead in a performance that felt so natural, I would almost guess that the role was written for him. Martin Freeman has come a long way since The Office and even the smaller acting roles (Bob Odenkirk, Adam Goldberg, the always fantastic Stephen Root) were top notch. But the biggest plaudits should be reserved for the powerhouse performance delivered by Allison Tolman. It was the breakout TV performance of the year, and it wasn’t even close. Time will tell if this was just the perfect role or not but I will be WILDLY disappointed not to see her career deservedly flourish from here.


Honourable Mentions: Cosmos – A Spacetime Odyssey may not have technically been a “new” TV show being that it was a remake of an old series, but it was outstanding television. Visually stunning, compelling, and educational and the world could do with more of it. Also, Silicon Valley and Broad City were both powerhouse new comedies for this year in completely different ways, and I loved both of them. It is so rare for comedies to hit their stride right from the beginning, but both of these managed to and anything that gets Kumail Nanjiani and Hannibal Buress on TV will always make me happy.

Best Rivalry

Aussie Basketball Potential v Boomer Reality wins this one. Ever since Shane Heal stood up to Charles Barkley in a 1996 friendly, Australia has fancied itself on the world stage of basketball. There have been many lean years since that 96 team played off for a Bronze medal in Atlanta, but as the years go by and more and more players begin to get meaningful minutes in the NBA and College basketball systems, the hopes of the nation rise again. We’ve never had a full starting line-up of NBA players but as the last NBA season wound down, we were as close as we had ever been with a starting line-up that could boast 4 NBA players. Of course as we moved closer to the Basketball World Cup, the same thing happened that always happens. Our star Centre and defensive lynchpin, Andrew Bogut pulled out. Then our star scorer and freshly crowned NBA champion, Patty Mills pulled out. Then we tanked a game to avoid playing the US until the Semi Finals, and lost to Turkey anyway. Boomer Reality beats down The Potential and continues its winning streak. But as ever, there is hope for the future. The 2016 Olympics hold an opportunity for the greatest ever assembled Boomers team to really have a run at a medal. A starting five of Bogut, Aron Baynes, Joe Ingles, Mills and Matthew Delavadova has solid NBA experience. Fellow NBA player Dante Exum will have developed into the type of player that could lead a second unit off the bench. A bench which could contain Chicago Bulls PF Cameron Bairstow, Zaragosa guard Chris Goulding as well as two of the top NBA Prospects over the next couple of years in Ben Simmons and Thon Maker (who are currently only 18 and 17 respectively) if they are even good enough to make the squad (something that wouldn’t even be up for question just a few years ago). It is the Boomers’ time. At least until reality kicks in anyway.


Honourable Mention: You can take your pick between;

Wanderers vs attractive football – The run to win the Asian Champions League made Greece in 2004 look like Spain in 2010.

Wanderers players vs owners – for it to all come to a head right before the World Club Challenge was embarrassing for all.

Wanderers vs Al Spitty – Rivalries, both at home and continentally, are what makes football clubs. The Wanderers are now on their way to moving from a franchise to a club. Good for them.

Best Music that I actually paid for this year

This comes with the usual disclaimer that I almost never get to hear music the year that it comes out, and that my musical taste is far from ordinary etc etc. But for 2014 nothing really blew me away.

This has been the hardest section for me to write. I didn’t have high hopes for Opeth’s Pale Communion or Cynic’s Kindly Bent To Free Us, but both of them turned out far more interesting and fun than I expected, though still not as good as previous releases. I was heavily anticipating the new Bloodbath album, but the vocals from newcomer Nick Holmes have left the album falling a bit flat. I enjoyed Citadel by Ne Obliviscaris, but have not actually purchased it, so it is ineligible for this award. So when I look through my purchases for this year, the album that stands out the most for this year is not a musical album, but a comedy album. Hannibal Buress released his Live From Chicago album before he recently got some odd fame through his Bill Cosby rape jokes instigating some proper investigation into the decades of allegations against one of America’s most beloved comedians.  There is nothing particularly controversial on the album, but it is an interesting and hilarious look at Hannibal’s world. From gods real problems and unrequited love to just how weird it is to be a comedian, Hannibal’s unique delivery thankfully doesn’t wear thin and keeps the laughs coming for a solid hour. I really hope that this Cosby stuff doesn’t end up hurting the man that is probably our next great stand-up comedian^

Honourable Mentions: See above

Feel Good Story

The 2014 Football World Cup set records for goals scored and the whole group stage of the tournament was absolutely riveting. Spain getting demolished in their opening match and never recovering? Fantastic. Italy and England BOTH not getting out of the same group? Magnificent. Cristiano Ronaldo sulking his way to another early exit? Outstanding. Costa Rica being a Penalty save away from making the final four? Superb. Germany absolutely humiliating the host nation in the semifinal after Brazil had so many calls go their way earlier in the tournament? Delicious. But those few minutes that the Socceroos led the white hot Netherlands in a World Cup match? Absolutely glorious. We may not have got a point in the tournament, but we’ll always have that Timmy Cahill goal and that feeling inside of us that we were better than Pim Verbeek or Holger Osiek allowed us to be. That felt good.

Honourable Mention: The recent Martin Place tragedy seems to have brought out the best in more people than a misanthrope such as myself expected. The #illridewithyou campaign was good, but what was great is that it appears as though it wasn’t really needed!


The NFL is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that is run by very successful and intelligent businessmen (basically the 32 owners). So, how they could allow Roger Goodall, as commissioner of the league, to just be SO FAR off on the issues that have come through his office this year is really beyond me. The issue of domestic violence in the NFL may not be any higher than it is in society, but the handling of the Ray Rice situation (among others) was simply baffling. The brutal video that came out and FORCED the NFL to change the punishment was an embarrassment to the league. It is difficult to tell what is worse – that they almost certainly knew about the video and hoped it would go away, or that they didn’t take the issue seriously enough to track down that video.


In one of the great turn-arounds of the 21st century, the NRL Grand Final went from last year’s worst thing of the year to this year’s best. Is this wildly biased because I have waited my entire life for South Sydney to win the competition? Sure. Is this a list of MY favourite things of 2014? Definitely. The Bunnies are the most successful team in the history of the competition. So successful in fact that they have kept that mantle in spite of going 43 years between Grand Final wins. But besides all of that, the NRL Grand Final was a winner this year because for the first time in a few years, a likeable team won the competition. Credit should also go to the Bulldogs fans who, in spite of their poor reputation, were exemplary on the night and a credit to their club. I sat right behind them and didn’t hear or see a single negative thing from them all night. Gracious in defeat and friendly all day.  Penrith weren’t able to knock over the Bulldogs to give us our first Grand Final since 2005 where BOTH teams were likeable, but the Rabbitohs ensured the right result was had, and the streets of Redfern became the party of the year.


Let me know what your favourite things of 2014 were. What did I miss?

*As with last year that is deliberately broad

**Sounds like a pretty bad year so far! *rolleyes emoji*

***Which, as you may have guessed, does not provide the job security that it implies

^As we entered this new Millenium, Chris Rock was the reigning Heavyweight Champion of the World in Stand-Up comedy. I simply will not enter into any debate that he wasn’t. To be the Heavyweight Champion of the World in stand up, you have to be both the biggest and the best. Being good isn’t good enough. You also have to be big. But being big isn’t big enough. You also have to be good. Examples here are numerous. People like Dave Attell, Colin Quinn, Patrice O’Neal or Jim Norton are some of the funniest people to ever have lived, but without that next level of success in terms of being big, they can’t be the Heavyweight Title holders. But by the same token, Jeff Dunham may sell as many tickets as anyone on the planet, but when the comedy is lazy, safe, lowest-common-denominator stuff, then that also doesn’t get you the belt. With that in mind, by my reckoning, since 2000 the belt has gone at various times and for various amounts of time to the following people – Dave Chappelle, Dane Cook, Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Russell Peters, Kevin Hart, Louis CK and Bill Burr. I think Hannibal has the talent to reach this level in the next few years.

When the Grand Final was King


I complained last year that we have only had one Grand Final in the last 12 years with two likable teams involved* and while all five of the “hateable” teams made the finals, last weekend’s results saw four of them lose and two of them eliminated as a result (a massive win for Rugby League) so it seems we may actually be in with a chance of having a good Grand Final again.

Having popular teams in the finals is an issue for the league, and not for the obvious reasons of ratings etc. In my opinion it is one of the main contributors to the perception that has crept in over the last decade that Origin is the pinnacle of the game. By the time the Grand Final rolls around, nobody cares who wins. Not because their team is out, but because the teams that ARE there are so often detestable.

Growing up however, the Grand Final was everything. Winning the competition was the pinnacle of the game and that was unquestioned. My team had won the competition more than any other and it had been a while between drinks but we were surely due again any time soon.

So with this thought in mind, I want to celebrate the greatest Grand Final that the competition has ever seen; the 1989 decider between Balmain and Canberra. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the game that is the undisputed best Grand Final ever**, and it is worth celebrating the wonderful match that it was. But before we do that, there is another story to be told in the lead up that is close to my heart.

It had been 18 years since South Sydney, the league’s most successful team, had won their last Grand Final and by the mid-point of the 89 season, they were riding on what would end up being a 12 match winning streak and were leading the competition. This was going to be their year. By the end of the regular season they were 5 points clear on top of the table and near certainties to break the drought. After a first up loss in round one of the season, they had lost only 2 matches in their next 21 with both of those losses coming against quality opposition in fellow finalists, Penrith and Cronulla. They had the best defence in the league, as the only team averaging less than 10 points conceded per match, and as the old saying goes, attack wins matches, defence wins premierships.

The finals format back then was such that only the top 5 teams made it and there was a major reward for the Minor Premiership winners. In the first week of the finals 4th played 5th with the loser being eliminated and 2nd played 3rd with the loser playing the winner of the other match and the winner playing the Minor Premiers. In the Minor Premiers’ first match, they can win and go straight through to the grand final or lose and still get a second shot. So for the Minor Premiers to win the competition, they only had to win 2 matches.

Not only that, but If you finished in either 4th or 5th, you needed to win 4 consecutive sudden death matches to win the Grand Final. The difference between 1st and 4th was enormous. Especially compared to now, where they play each other and the loser gets a second chance while the winner (even if it is the 4th placed team) assumes all of the benefits that the Minor Premiers would have gotten. Just like the upstart Panthers have done this season.


But I digress. The Rabbitohs got to sit back and watch week one of the finals as the streaking Raiders*** demolished a tired Sharks outfit who had to win a mid-week playoff with Brisbane (after finishing in equal fifth) just to get to the finals. In the other match, Souths got the result they wanted. The only team that they hadn’t beaten at all that year – The Panthers – had been beaten by the third placed Tigers. They were the biggest threat to ending the drought and the Tigers had done Souths a favour and taken them out of the equation.

So of course this set up a clash between Balmain and South Sydney for a direct line to the Grand Final. In their only meeting of the season, the Rabbitohs had prevailed 10-8 in a tight contest and that game was played at Leichhardt, where the Tigers  only lost twice all season. This is significant, because Balmain’s home form is what carried them to their 3rd place finish. Their away form left a lot to be desired. They only won 5 of their 11 matches outside of Leichhardt Oval and the fact that this game would be played at the SFS was a significant factor to tip the scales even further in South Sydney’s favour^.

The one thing that the Tigers did have on their side was finals experience. They had made the Grand Final the season before only to be belted out of it when Terry Lamb took on Ellery Hanley early in the match. So it was with this battle hardened mentality that they used experience to outpoint the Minor Premiers in a 20-10 victory that gave them a chance to make up for the previous season.

In the other match, the Panthers had been bounced out of the finals in straight sets as the young and talented Green Machine began to gather momentum for another tilt at the title with a 27-18 win. The Raiders had made the Grand Final in 1987 but lost to Manly, who were the dominant side that season and on the day. Since then, the emergence of two future superstars had begun with halfback Ricky Stuart and (at the time) centre Laurie Daley – both in their first full season in the top grade – beginning to take centre stage along with the already established stars like Mal Meninga, Gary Belcher and Brad Clyde in Canberra.

So the Final match to see who would join the Tigers in the big one at the end of the season was set up between the surging Raiders and the beaten Bunnies. With four rounds to go, the Raiders weren’t even in the top 5, and from their final position of fourth they had a chance to go to the Grand Final with one more win over the competition’s best team. But this wasn’t going to be easy.

The Raiders had been comfortably beaten on the two occasions that they had faced the Rabbitohs during the season, and in spite of having the best attack in the competition (averaging 21 points per game) they had only managed 14 total points in the two full games, including being held try-less by the Bunnies for the only occasion in their whole season.

When my Dad told me that he had gotten us tickets to the game, I was immensely excited. It was the biggest game the club had played in since I was born (granted, I was only 8) and I couldn’t wait for that Sunday afternoon to come.

We had great seats. On about the 20 metre line, and to my father’s delight, we were directly behind the Raiders Cheergirls. To his further delight, the ladies got quite a workout that day.^^ The Canberra attack found its way through the Bunnies’ famously strong defence to the point that it completely ruined South Sydney to its core^^^. The final score line of 32-16 doesn’t tell the full story. Canberra were dominant from start to finish. The three tries that the Rabbitohs scored were all by forwards as the backline was completely shut down. The game was over with 20 minutes to go. With 10 minutes to go Dad asked if we could leave early to beat the traffic. I was a depressed 8 year old and agreed. As we left the stadium another cheer went up. I knew it was the Raiders who had scored and my shoulders slumped a little more. “What is wrong with you?” he asked me. Bewildered I looked back up at him and all I could say was “Souths lost!” His reply of “Was there a game on?” went over my head at first. Then I remembered the cheerleaders that he had spent the whole day enjoying.


So the Grand Finalists were decided. The 3rd placed Tigers and the 4th placed Raiders. Never before in the history of the league had neither the first or second placed team made the Grand Final. On top of this, Canberra had never won the competition before and Balmain hadn’t won in 20 years. Due to this there was genuine excitement about the Grand Final – regardless of who was going to win.

There used to be a saying about Rugby League Grand Finals that ‘you have to lose one to win one’ meaning that you simply can’t win a Grand Final on your first go. You need to have the experience of Grand Final day, and Grand Final week for that matter, under your belt before you can win a title. Losing that first grand final not only prepares you and the club for what is needed to win, but the crushing feeling at the end of the match which regularly sees grown men crying gives you extra motivation. The Tigers had been there the previous year and the Raiders the year before that. They were both ready, and both (kind of) unexpected to be there just a few weeks earlier.

Canberra were on a roll with an outrageously exciting backline, while the Tigers had an absolutely world class forward pack. It wasn’t so much a clash of styles, as a test of which was more important. The media and bookies thought that the Tigers forward pack would be enough to stop the young Raiders backline.

As the game unfolded, the Raiders took the upper hand and looked the most likely, though their inexperience began to show as they struggled to turn that into points. This was all the invitation that the Tigers needed. Against the run of play, the Tigers scored an intercept try through their rugby convert winger Brent Todd. They then pushed further ahead with a wonderful try to deserving Test Second Rower Paul Sironen. At half time Balmain led 12-2 and the bookies looked to have been right to not trust the inexperience of the flashy Canberra side against hard headed power in Balmain and the coaching of old head Warren Ryan.

This part was important too. Tim Sheens was coming off a 4 year stint as the head coach of the Panthers, that saw them make the finals just once – admittedly for the first time in their history, but one finals in 4 season is not a successful stint by many measures. His first season in Canberra saw him inherit a team that had made the Grand Final the previous season, take them to a 3rd place finish and to be bundled out of the finals with two consecutive losses. Even with a few weeks to go in the season, the Raiders had not been guaranteed a finals place and it was only this outstanding run of form that saw them reach the Grand Final. A lot of people were not convinced of Sheens’ credentials as a top level coach. Many still aren’t.

On the other hand Warren Ryan was coaching in his 5th grand final of the previous 6 years and his 6th Grand Final of his career. Balmain was the third club he had coached at and the third club he had taken to a Grand Final. He was considered a bit of a modern coaching marvel at the time. Even if you were impressed by Sheens as a coach, there was simply no way that you could rate him higher than Ryan.

Canberra had played well, they just didn’t seem able to translate that into points. Some calm half time words from Sheens appeared to have worked. They came out for the second half as a more composed side and got themselves on the board through the evergreen Chicka Ferguson finding Gary Belcher in some space to score their first try and narrow the gap. But the Tigers were not going to go quietly into the night and they stepped up their efforts. Speedster Mick Neil went agonizingly close to scoring, being stopped short by a lunging ankle tap from Mal Meninga, and when Wayne Pearce dropped the ball cold with an open try line in front of him, the man they called The Wok decided that the footballing gods had made up their minds and were simply not going to let them score again. So he had to defend the slim lead that his Tigers had built.

In what has now become the most controversial coaching decision in a Grand Final since the white boots in 1975, Warren Ryan decided to pull his test forwards, Steve Roach and Paul Sironen, from the field. He sent on fresh legs to simply tackle their way to the win. Elias was charged with getting the field goal needed to put the match beyond doubt, and after he had his first attempt charged down, he took his second shot. It never looked solid, but seemed as though it might just have the legs to get there. Unfortunately for the Tigers, it hit the cross bar and came back out. Regardless, the defensive tactic almost worked. With just 90 seconds to go, the Tigers were still in the lead. Then the ball was given to the transcendent Ferguson. In the biggest play of his career, Chicka got the ball on the left side from Daley with Tigers defenders pouring across the field to cover. With a succession of left foot steps in side, Ferguson not only scored, but scored close to the posts, to enable a simple conversion for Meninga to level the scores and send the game to extra time.

This is where the decision to replace Roach and Sironen really backfired. Under the interchange rules back then, they were not allowed to come back onto the field for extra time, now that the team needed the attacking impetus that those two were so famous for.


The momentum that Canberra finished regulation time with was always going to transfer into extra time, and when Garry Jack knocked on two minutes into extra time, the game was as good as over. From the ensuing scrum, Canberra Five Eighth Chris O’Sullivan kicked the field goal to put the Raiders ahead for the first time in the match. The sides battled back and forth and with just a few minutes remaining, Raiders replacement Steve Jackson showed a feat of strength fitting of Lou Ferrigno. He got the ball 15 metres out from the try line, beat two defenders and then carried three further defenders for almost ten metres as he willed himself over the line to put the match beyond doubt and deliver the first ever title to the nation’s capital.

No write up could really explain the greatness of the match and the buzz that came all the way through to the televisions that day. If there is any justice in the world, Foxtel will be showing replays of this game in the week leading up to the Grand Final and I urge you all to watch it if you get the chance.

The Raiders went on to win the Grand Final again in 1990, lose it in 1991 and then win it again in 1994, all under the eye of Tim Sheens, with that same core of players. Sheens parlayed that into an unsuccessful stint as the Head Coach of the North Queensland Cowboys, and then another title in 2005 with his nemesis from that fateful day, the Tigers, and is now the coach of the Australian national team.


Warren Ryan on the other hand did not go on to much further success. The following season the Tigers scraped into the finals in a playoff and went no further and Ryan moved on to Wests where he again scraped into the finals for a couple of seasons, then guided them to a couple of 13th place finishes. He then left coaching for a few short seasons before coming back and leading the Knights to a couple of semi-final series losses#. He never coached in a Grand Final again and eventually moved into a commentary role for radio which he was recently fired from in a storm of controversy over allegedly racist remarks. His career essentially took a slow downhill slide after this match, and I can’t help but wonder what might have been had he not made those changes late in the game.

So as we mark 25 years since the greatest grand final, let’s all hold our breath and hope for another one this year. At the very least, let’s hope we don’t all hate both of the teams that make it.

*The one is obviously the 2005 Grand Final. The only Grand Final I have actually attended in my life.

** You want proof? It is the only pre Super League Grand Final to have its own Wikipedia link as I write this. If that’s not proof, then there probably isn’t any. So there isn’t any.

***They won their last 5 games of the season to finish in 4th spot. Their last loss? Souths.

^Funnily though, Souths’ form at home wasn’t THAT great, with all of their (admittedly few) losses for the season coming at the SFS.

^^Dad is a Newtown fan, and while he does follow Souths now as a default, at the time, he wasn’t particularly bothered by who won or lost

^^^Seriously. This is no exaggeration. Souths finished last the following season, and didn’t even make the finals again until 2007 – a full 18 years later – while picking up 4 wooden spoons along the way!

#This may have been a little more impressive had the Knights not won the competition the very season after he left and 2 seasons prior to his arrival. As it stands, he may have been holding them back.

2014 MIP


All 12 of my regular readers may remember that last year I ranked the NRL’s top 25 Most Important Players in deciding where the Premiership ended up in 2013. It is a tradition that I am going to continue this year, so before I get into it, I want to run over the ground rules again.

I’m looking for the Most Important Player (MIP) in the league in terms of deciding where the Premiership for 2014 ends up.

This of course means that a players value is heavily weighted towards how well his team is doing and how much of a chance they have of actually taking home the title.

So, a player like Jake Friend might not be the player that Jarryd Hayne is, but given that the Roosters will be fighting for the Minor Premiership this weekend and the Eels will be extremely lucky to sneak into the Top Eight. Friend would be the more IMPORTANT player.

I’m officially using the following criteria to judge –

  1. How much involvement does he have in his team’s fortunes? Meaning, is he influential within the team? Does all of the attacking play go through him? Does he score a lot of tries? Does he do the hard work in the forwards? Is he the teams tackling machine? (Involvement Value)
  2. How replaceable is he? If he was to cop a 5 week suspension, or injure his hamstring this weekend, just how much trouble is his team in? How much of a drop in quality is his replacement? (Injury Value)
  3. How likely is his team to win the premiership with him in good form? How likely are they to win the premiership if he is in poor to average form? (Title Value)

So with just a little adieu in the form of an honourable mention list – Alex Johnston, Jarryd Hayne, James Graham and Sisa Waqa – here are my 25 Most Important Players in deciding the 2014 NRL title

25. Jake Friend – Last Year – N/A

The running example in my explanation from the last 2 seasons has cracked into the top 25 this year with his strongest season to date. His injury and possibility of missing the final round match against the Rabbitohs has the potential to take the wind out of the sails of a team that is coming home faster than any other at this time of the year. His Injury Value is important here as the Roosters simply don’t have a replacement for him that is ready to take this role

24. Josh Reynolds – Last Year – N/A

The man that they call Grub* might be the only thing that can stop the Bulldogs’ rapid slide down the NRL ladder. With only 2 wins from their last 7 games, the team that was on top of the ladder half way through the season finds themselves clinging to a top 8 spot with no “points differential” to fall back on.  If Reynolds can come back into the side and bring back some of the grit that saw the Bulldogs winning the close games earlier this year, they are a chance of making it to October, but if not, they are without a hope

23. Josh Mansour – Last Year – N/A

How Josh Mansour was not picked on the wing for NSW in game three of this year’s State of Origin is absolutely beyond my comprehension. Mansour has had a fantastic year. His 14 tries in 19 matches as well as his total metres run leads the Panthers – a team that doesn’t REALLY have a stand out star. This young team may find themselves a year or two away, but you can bet that if they make a run, Mansour’s form will play a significant part in getting them there. He has strong Title Value for a winger

22. Dylan Walker – Last Year – N/A

After a solid debut season last year, this teenager (yes he is still just a teenager) has begun to come into his own. The added responsibility of being moved to the number 6 jersey earlier in the season has seen Walker become more willing to try and take a game by the scruff of a neck and create plays on his own. Sometimes he does this to his own detriment as the play goes nowhere, but the reason he is so important is that if Inglis is having a quiet game (which happens occasionally) Walker is the only other real unpredictable spark in the allegedly predictable South Sydney attack

21. Anthony Watmough – Last Year – 13th

The leader of the Manly pack has lost a little bit of impact this year as he appears to have fallen out with the club and looks to get his future settled, but it is never more evident how much the Eagles need him than when he is gone. Against an inferior Penrith side** the Manly pack was pushed out of the way and it almost cost them the game. Watmough’s toughness and workrate combined with his skill were sorely missed and he can’t come back soon enough to help Manly try and secure another match in October 

20. George Burgess – Last Year – 18th

While not as dynamic as last season, George has taken on a different role as simply a wrecking ball runner that tries to set up the Rabbitohs’ attack on the right foot. He isn’t used to set up tries or to be a devastating and hard hitting defender, though he gets through more than his share of tackling, but of the four games that George has missed this season three of them were losses for the Bunnies 

19. James Segeyaro – Last Year – N/A

With a bullet, James Segeyaro has come from absolutely nowhere to be one of the most influential players on the Panthers side as they try to finish in the top 4 (or top 8 at all for that matter) for just the second time in 10 years. He is their attacking spark with a strong Involvement and Injury value as evident in the Panthers’ disappointing performance again Melbourne 2 weekends ago which Segeyaro had to sit out.

18. Michael Jennings – Last Year – 9th

Jennings has struggled to have the same impact this year as he did in 2013 – which was always going to be a tough ask. He has missed some games through Origin and Injury, but he has still managed to score 11 tires in his 17 games. Should be well rested for what is looking to be a well-timed finals run for the tri colours. Interesting stat, the last Roosters game that Jennings played that resulted in a loss was in Round 10

17. Jonathan Thurston – Last Year – 24th

Since the REAL season began 7 weeks ago the Cowboys have the EXACT same record as South Sydney (including points differential) which would put them in Second position on that hypothetical ladder*** with their only loss coming by a single point. This is almost exclusively down to Thurston’s ability to control a game single handedly. His dismantling of the red hot Rabbitohs 2 weeks ago was a sight to behold. They have beaten the Bunnies both times this season and I am certain that if Souths finish with the minor premiership they will be especially keen to avoid North Queensland. If the Cowboys can avoid another refereeing disaster, they could be a big chance of winning it all

16. Steve Matai – Last Year – N/A

I can’t remember the last time I watched a Manly game where Matai didn’t get his close up by clutching at an apparent injury. There’s no doubt he is a showman, but his impact for the Eagles when he is available to play is palpable. In spite of all the apparently minor injuries, he has only missed 1 game this season and his 12 tries put him second on the Manly roster. He is a hard hitter who takes care of one of Manly’s edges – the danger area that most teams focus their attack

15. Adam Reynolds/John Sutton/Luke Keary – Last Year – 6th/11th/N/A

The South Sydney halves, in some combination, are likely to have a significant impact on whether or not the title ends up in Redfern this year, but they kind of tend to cancel each other out in terms of their Injury Value. With Sutton at 6 and Reynolds at 7, the Bunnies have played a large portion of the season in the top half of the competition. When Sutton went down for a few weeks, Keary went to the number 6 and led Souths to Premiership favouritism. This weekend we get to see Keary at halfback with Sutton back at five eighth and if the 20 minutes that they played together in these positions are anything to go by, this may be their best combination yet

14. Jamie Lyon – Last Year – 8th

As the Manly halves have come into their own this season, the Eagles captain has taken a more subdued role in running the side. That was until last weekend. Needing two tries to win the game with only a few minutes remaining, Lyon took it upon himself to drag his teammates over the line and keep the Minor Premiership within their grasp by scoring one and miraculously making the second one possible. Has the big game experience and skill to come through in the big games when he is needed, and last Sunday showed that he still has it.

13. Anthony Minichiello – Last Year – N/A

A true Indian Summer for The Count in his final season in the NRL. His 14 try output has not been matched since 2005 – a time when he was playing for Australia. He hasn’t missed a game all season and his steadying influence on a team that has struggled with second year syndrome at times is invaluable as they head into another Finals Series.

12. Brett Stewart – Last Year – N/A

He may not have scored as many tries as he would have liked this season, but the use of Brett Stewart as a decoy  and a facilitator has increased and allowed other players in the backline to cross the line far more often. Additionally, the fact remains that he has sheer ability when it comes to scoring tries and if he turns it on, Manly will be even harder to defend. He has a high Injury Value as the Eagles just don’t have a replacement that is ready to fill the same role Stewart does.

11. Billy Slater – Last Year – 5th

It seems strange to say that someone has had a bit of a quiet year when they have scored 12 tries in 20 games, but for Billy Slater that is a quiet year. However, he has started to come into form at the right time, with 3 tries in his last 2 matches. But overall, as an attacking weapon, he has fallen off a little. This is likely due to the Melbourne attack beginning to get a little stale and teams finally catching on to their tricks, but either way, his impact has been lessened this season so he misses out on a top 10 spot by the slimmest of margins

10. James Maloney – Last Year – 12th


Although they find themselves playing tonight with a chance of taking home the Minor Premiership again, this year’s Roosters team has not been as strong as last year. The slow start to the season saw Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney both lose their Origin spots. Since then, the Roosters have turned their season around. Mitchell Pearce’s game has shown no signs of life, and certainly no signs of the form he had last season, but Maloney has been flying high. He is equal third in the league for Try Assists and second in the league for Line Break Assists. If The Roosters are to defend their title, Maloney is an integral part of getting them there

9. Isaac Luke – Last Year – 14th


In spite of having a fairly capable replacement in the South Sydney team, Luke is still one of the most irreplaceable players in the team or the league. It is no coincidence that as the Bunnies meandered through the middle of the season it was with Luke on the sidelines. Few players in the league have the toughness of the Rabbitohs hooker, let alone the ball skills and eye for a lazy marker that set him apart from most in his position. The ability of the rest of the forward pack to get over the advantage line is only so useful to Souths because of Luke’s ability to take advantage of it like few others. His availability for tonight’s clash with Easts – and managements will to fight for him – could be the deciding factor in the minor premiership

8. Cameron Smith – Last Year – 4th


The only Hooker in the game that is better than Luke right now, and the man who has been the lynchpin in everything his team has done for several years has dropped 4 spots from last season. This is partly down to the Storm amazingly not even being guaranteed a finals spot heading into the final round^ and the fact that his Involvement Value has decreased a little this season. If we’re being honest, it is also due to the fact that he hasn’t quite been the dominant force that he once was. He looks tired. And who can blame him? He has played 20+ Regular season games for every one of the last 12 seasons, plus an average of 2 finals matches per season while also playing 33 games for Queensland and 38 for Australia. The guy needs a break if he is going to take Melbourne back to the top

7. Cooper Cronk – Last Year – 7th


But one player that hasn’t moved at all is the consistent halfback in the most structured team in the league. Cronk suits Melbourne’s style and Melbourne’s style suits Cronk. Another player that was looking tired earlier in the season, managed to get injured and buy himself a bit of a rest. This will be the first time in 10 seasons that Cronk plays less than 20 regular season matches, and his form is all the better for it. In spite of missing matches, he is second in the league for Try Assists, fourth in Line Break Assists and all of the teams kicking goes through him. His Involvement Value has sky rocketed as he takes a bigger hand in running the team on the park and it is because of these reasons that he maintains his spot in spite of Melbourne’s struggles

6. Jamie Soward – Last Year – N/A


If you had told me this time last season that Soward would be in the top 25 I would have laughed you out of the pub. For him to be one spot out of the top 5 is unbelievable, and especially so considering I give the Panthers almost no chance of winning the competition this season. Penrith have shown themselves to be pretenders since the real season began with their 3-4 win-loss record, and while they still might finish with a top 4 spot, they probably don’t deserve to. I wrote in an article earlier this year that they may make the leap this year, but they look to be a bit short of becoming an elite team at this point. Having said all of that, if the Panthers manage to go on a run over the next month to put themselves in contention, Soward will be the centre of it all. He has the highest Involvement Value in the competition easily. There isn’t a thing that the Panthers do that doesn’t go through him and their success this season relies almost solely on his shoulders

5. Greg Inglis – Last Year – 1st


A fall from last year’s number one spot but still within the top 5. The question is why? To answer that question you have to go back to the form he had last season as he became the most dominant player in the game, capable of single handedly taking over a game and was consistently a threat to any opposition, while being the best last line of defence in the league. It was always going to be tough to maintain. But even still, his form this year has been inconsistent. He has only scored in 6 of his 20 matches thus far, he has drifted out of more games than he has drifted into and his normally rock solid goal line defence has slipped a bit. The real question is how is he still in the top 5? That answer is easy. Even the average bad Inglis game comes with a line break or two and an offload that leads to a 50 metre run. Then when he is on, he is the single most devastating player in the competition. He single handedly beat Brisbane – a top 8 team – three weeks ago, and it wasn’t just a win, he destroyed them. He is one of only about 5 players that is good enough to win a grand final by himself, and not all of those players are in this top 5. He still has a role to play this season. It might be by winning a title by turning up for the finals, or watching Souths bow out again because he didn’t, but either way, his contribution will be significant.

4. Sonny Bill Williams – Last Year – 2nd


Another player that was rated highly in 2013 – and probably ended up being the difference in last season’s title – only to see a slight drop in his impact this year, albeit only a 2 spot drop. He has spent a bit of time on the sidelines this season, with a couple of injuries, but for a player with the unbridled talent of SBW, that just means he is well rested and ready to have a shot at the finals. In spite of missing 6 matches, he is still third in the league for offloads. He is a devastating runner of the ball and hits as hard as anyone, but I am left to wonder if winning the competition last season has taken a little bit of the hunger away. Tonight’s game against the Rabbitohs will tell the real story as he goes up against his running nemesis from the South Sydney forward pack. If SBW can win two titles in his two years back in the code, he will have to move into a different conversation of greatness when looking back on his time with the game.

3. Kieran Foran – Last Year – 16th


It feels like he has been around forever, but Foran is only in his 5th full season of NRL football. The reason it feels like that is because he plays the game like a wily old veteran. He isn’t the percentage player that Cronk is, but he also isn’t the wild card of a Chris Sandow either. He knows when to take his risks and he knows when to take the smart option. He can occasionally get lost in a game and let it overtake him, but most of the time he knows how to get the right result. It is this clever and steady hand, along with the Eagles’ rise to the top that have seen Foran rocket up the charts from last season. If he keeps making the right decisions, the Eagles will be in a good position to take the title.

2. Daly Cherry-Evans – Last Year – 23rd


The figurative captain of the ship (though obviously not the actual team captain) at Brookvale has had his best season in his relatively short career this year. He is in the top 10 in the league for both Try assists and strangely enough, offloads! When Manly are in trouble he is the man who they throw the ball to, to get them out of it. If that means a field goal, he can do it, if it means a precision kick for a corner he can do it, if it means taking on the line or finding the perfect pass, he can that too. He can occasionally get caught out trying too much and it falls apart (as it did in the Souths game at the SCG). But outside of that he has steered Manly into pole position for the Minor Premiership. His injury and involvement value are both high and his form is likely to be the deciding factor in whether or not Manly are able to win another title this year

1. Sam Burgess – Last Year – 21st


In what may prove to be his last ever season in Rugby League (though I am skeptical), Burgess has hit the peak of his powers and won the coveted Most Important Player award. He leads the league in hit ups, is second in offloads and 11th in tackles. Also, he has scored 10 tries – the same number as team mates Greg Inglis and Dylan Walker. I have been his biggest critic at times in his career but as the season as really ramped up, he has been brilliant. In an important match last week he did something that no other forward in the game is really capable of doing. He put the entire team on his back and beat a top 8 side by himself. It is a role normally reserved for the flashy backs of the game, but Burgess showed how far he has come in the last 12 months by pulling the struggling Bunnies out of a hole that most players couldn’t. He has more motivation than anyone else to succeed this year and his form in the finals will directly translate to how well Souths do. His Title Value is the highest of anyone on the list. If Burgess is breaking the advantage line it allows Luke to take advantage of the quick play the ball and get the ball to whatever halves combination the Bunnies end up using to bring the likes of Inglis and Walker into play. But it all depends on Big Sam. No pressure buddy.





*Though he isn’t even the grubbiest player in his own team by a long shot. Hi, Michael Ennis.

**That is no great slight on Penrith, I’ll save my great Penrith slights for later. But Manly are on top of the table and deservedly so in spite of some hiccups of late.

***All three of the Cowboys, Bunnies and Roosters have 6 wins and a loss but the Roosters’ Points Differential is just 8 better than the other two

^Something that hasn’t happened since 2005 if you take out the salary cap affected season

It all started with Robin Williams‏


…But it’s not really his fault

In 1992 the team that was putting together Disney’s traditional animated features were riding a wave of popularity that was unprecedented, and would eventually see the company spearhead the next generation of animated films that continues today. But there was a single decision that they made in a casting room that took the future of voice acting in a direction that is loved by some and loathed by others (particularly voice actors).

The Little Mermaid had been a huge success, raking in over $200m at the box office and marking somewhat of a triumphant return for the Disney studio. It was the first time since The Jungle Book 22 years earlier that a Disney animated film had done that well commercially. The following years film – The Rescuers Down Under*- was very disappointing in comparison taking in only 10% of the box office sales that the Little Mermaid did. Luckily Disney had already doubled down on their European fairy tales and were set to release Beauty and the Beast in 1991. That film did amazingly well and set new box office records for an animated film, grossing almost $425m.

The question was, could Disney maintain this momentum and create another golden age for the studio. The next bullet in the chamber was Aladdin. A movie set in a fictitious Middle Eastern city in the middle of the Gulf War. It was nothing if not brave. But the movie had an ace up its sleeve.

The part of the Genie had been written specifically for Robin Williams, which was a big swing from a studio that wanted to take one to really solidify their status as the undisputed animated film kings. If he were to take the role, it would be the first time that an A List movie star had taken on such a role in an animated feature (with all due respect to Jerry Orbach and Angela Landsbury obviously!) The part was larger than life, and while technically a supporting role (it is called Aladdin after all), it was essentially the lifeblood of the entire film.

But Robin wasn’t convinced, and it’s hard to blame him. He was coming off a 5 year run that included Good Morning Vietnam (the film that launched him as an A Lister – this is important in a minute), Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, and The Fisher King** – which netted him 3 Best Actor Oscar nominations and 2 Best Actor Golden Globe wins. Like I said, it was a big swing to even go for him. But Disney didn’t just give up. They leaned on the fact that it was them who gave him the part in Good Morning Vietnam (told you), and the writers got together with the animators and put together what was essentially a short film of the Genie to some of Williams’ already recorded stand-up routines. As history goes, it worked. But there were conditions attached. He would do the movie for “scale” pay (which was just $75,000 at the time) but he didn’t want his name or image used to promote the film and he didn’t want the Genie’s image to be more than 25% of any posters produced to promote the movie, given it was only a supporting role. In essence he didn’t want this to be about him. He didn’t want to be the star actor waltzing in and taking the spotlight

It seems an odd and selfless request, but it also had to do with the fact that he had a competing movie (the heavily derided Toys) coming out within a month of the release date for Aladdin. In Toys he was the undisputed star and given how much his name was a draw at the time, it was beneficial to that film to be the only one with his name and image splashed all over the advertising.*** The other stipulation was that Robin believed that the voice of the Genie was his intellectual property. He didn’t want it imitated in any possible future straight to DVD releases (which he would not be part of). He obviously knew that he would make the part his own and didn’t want a cheap knockoff of the character to ruin everything.

The good news is that Disney agreed to the conditions. The bad news is that they broke each and every one of them.


It caused a bitter fallout between Williams and the studio, that wasn’t fully resolved for over 15 years. It was a decision that the studio obviously decided they could live with, and given that the film grossed over $500m at the box office and took the mantle of the most successful animated feature of all time, I am certain they felt as though they made the right decision.

Williams’ performance as the Genie is an all-timer. Without that performance, the movie is not even close to the film it is. Remember – this movie, set in the Middle East, made half a billion dollars during the first Gulf War. You can’t just discount that. I challenge you to name 2 other actors in the film. I have watched it 30 times this month (I have a 3 year old) and I can name one.^

So the bean counters at Disney obviously realised the significant impact that a famous name could have on the box office draw, they went all out and septupled down on famous names. Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Whoopi Goldberg, Rowan Atkinson and Nathan Lane all had parts in Disney’s next feature – The Lion King.

It was uncommon enough for Robin Williams to be in Aladdin that having that many names in an animated film was quite simply unheard of. But Robin opened the door. His career didn’t take a hit and he won multiple awards for his work, further increasing his popularity. In reality, the ‘big names’ from the Lion King, were popular in their time, but for the most part they weren’t really A-List like Robin Williams. They were stars for sure, and WAY more well-known than any voice actors that they took the jobs from, but they weren’t knocking on Oscar’s door every other year with realistic shots at the biggest prize in the industry. Williams opened the door for these people to give it a shot, and it was the success of that ensemble cast of celebrities that flung the doors wide open, and kept them there.

Now, it seemingly didn’t hurt that the music and soundtrack in The Lion King were spectacular, the visuals were stunning and ground-breaking at the time, and that the opening scene is 3 minutes and 48 seconds of utter perfection – but the film made $987 million at the box office alone. For the third consecutive time Disney had shattered their own record for the highest grossing animated feature^^ and this time they had taken it to a place that nobody thought was even possible. At the time, it was not just the highest grossing animated feature, it was the all-time second highest grossing film of ANY KIND behind only the mammoth of Jurassic Park. Back then, cartoons just didn’t make that kind of money. Not even close.

But until that time, animation was for kids. The Lion King showed that it was for everyone. The celebrity voices, rightly or wrongly, were credited with taking it there.

There was no chance that any other feature in the works would top The Lion King; and there was even less chance that Disney were releasing another one without a star.

Pocahontas had pre-racist Mel Gibson and Billy Connolly and did well. Toy Story had Tom Hanks and Tim Allen (and everyone else) and did well enough at the box office – though not as well as I expected when you consider the cultural phenomenon that it has become. The Hunchback of Notre Dame had Demi Moore and Kevin Kline. Mulan had Eddie Murphy and any even mildly famous Asian actor. I think you get the picture.

In the meantime, the new era of animated films had been ushered in, beginning with the aforementioned Toy Story. Computer Animation burst onto the scene thanks to the Disney subsidiary Pixar, who led their field and their style took the world by storm. I can’t even begin to get into how much it changed the animation game without getting side-tracked from the article at hand, but it essentially ruined the traditional animated feature film. It made them look old fashioned and dull. It was like watching something on a black and white television instead of a flat screen HD television. But I digress.


The first issue with the celebrity voices was that almost all of them were essentially playing themselves. Voice acting is a skill, and one that is still used extensively in Television animation, but these people weren’t voice acting. There were no wild characterisations and no over the top vocal gymnastics. In Monsters Inc, Billy Crystal sounded like Billy Crystal. In Antz, Woody Allen, sounded like Woody Allen. In Finding Nemo, Ellen sounded like Ellen.

Not being a voice actor myself, I can’t tell you with 100% certainty, but I think this was one of the biggest thorns in the side of the people whose jobs these celebrities were taking. The value of their specialty had been made redundant. People were coming to hear Will Smith, Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller all be themselves.

There were exceptions of course.

Mike Myers not only put on a voice, but a Scottish accent to play Shrek and Steve Carrell is almost unrecognisable in Despicable Me, but these examples are few and far between.

The celebrity obsession in animated films has gone so far that an absolute, all time A-lister like Brad Pitt accepted a 5th billed role to be in Megamind – a film that really isn’t that great. In fact try and name 3 A-List actors that have never voiced a character in an animated feature… I’ll wait. Ok I won’t wait. There are some, but not many.

The real problem though is that the studios got lazy. They never realised that it wasn’t just the celebrity names that made these films. The Lion King a fantastic film. Toy Story and its subsequent sequels are all phenomenal. Finding Nemo is a brilliant adventure. The celebrity voices took these great stories to a wider audience and that is where the money came in. But it didn’t take long until the celebrity was the movie. Lazy writing was glossed over with stunt casting. The movies still made money (which at the end of the day is all that the studios REALLY care about) but they didn’t blow anyone’s socks off by any human measure. The focus shifted from a good script (and this is not exclusive to animation) to who was in the movie. Eventually studios with once strong reputations like Dreamworks started to lose the prestige they once had. Even Pixar has lost a bit of its lustre over the last few years with sequel after sequel simply looking to cash in rather than push the boundaries like the company initially did.

But there is hope. An over saturation has seen it at least take the first step towards tilting back to the TV stars now over Film stars. It’s a start.

Disney’s next due feature – Big Hero 6^^^ – features Scott Adsit of 30 Rock, Damon Wayans Jr from New Girl and Silicon Valley’s T.J. Miller. The next Pixar movie, Inside Out (which sounds like a brilliantly original idea – another bonus), stars Amy Poehler of Parks and Recreation, Lewis Black from the Daily Show, Bill Hader from SNL and 2 former stars of the Office (U.S.). Even Dreamworks – who has been more star struck than others in the past – is releasing a movie next year with The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons in the lead role.

But the biggest point to note is the recent release of the outrageously popular Frozen. There is only one real celebrity in the cast, and while Kristen Bell has been in a few movies, she is hardly a movie star. To many people she is still Veronica Mars. Either way, it isn’t an ensemble cast of big names – but it just became the new highest grossing animated feature of all time reaching almost $1.3 BILLION in box office revenue!

Of course these tv people are still very famous, and did/are certain to be doing their own voices, but the A-List seems to be shying away from these roles again. If the studios are paying attention, they may note that Frozen didn’t play on the fact that Kristen Bell was the star. I didn’t know until after I had seen the film. And it still did this well. You can only hope that it forces the studios to look for better scripts again.

In fact, critically, two of the most lauded animated films of the last few years were Up and Wall-E. Neither of which had big celebrity voices to rely on, and in Wall-E’s case, no real voices at all. But they did have good stories.

Funnily enough, both of those films grossed more than Aladdin.

Which is how we got here in the first place.

*An odd choice in the first place given that the original Rescuers film from 1977 only had a gross box office of around $70m

** I am begrudgingly leaving Hook off this list. I love that movie.

***As it turned out, Jesus himself couldn’t have saved that movie. It lost about $20m

^The distinct tones of Gilbert Gottfried as Iago.

^^A title that lasted for 16 years until Toy Story 3 broke the billion dollar barrier.

^^^Which I was relieved to read is not the sixth instalment of a franchise that I had completely missed somehow, but an original film in its own right.

2014 NRL Pre Season

With the conclusion of Monday night’s matchup between the Panthers and Broncos we saw the close of the final Origin Round and essentially the beginning of the NRL Season for 2014.

The first 18 Rounds, or Pre-Season, is like the first 2 days of racing at a Formula 1 Grand Prix, where they work out the course and jostle for position on the grid. The people at the front have the best chance of making the final podium, and the people at the back aren’t technically ruled out of getting there, but it would take a series of highly unlikely events for it to happen. In the NRL the teams leading the way right now are likely to make the finals, and while the Sharks aren’t mathematically ruled out, they are paying $51 on the TAB to make the finals for a reason (Gamble Responsibly).

This idea may seem a bit far-fetched but how else are the fans of the 16 Clubs in the NRL expected to view this part of the year? The NRL clearly doesn’t think it matters as they continue to run other competitions parallel to it. Some of the game’s best players are unavailable for their teams and those teams are forced to try out new combinations, and younger players are given an opportunity to win positions in the team. That sounds like a trial match to me.

I am constantly baffled how a competition can take itself seriously when it continues to run while the equivalent of their “All Star” games are played over a 7-8 week period. I can’t think of anywhere else in the world that does this. The first 18 Rounds of the NRL appears to be supplementary to the real competition – the State Of Origin. It is regularly referred to as the pinnacle of the game, so the State Of Origin can’t be a supplementary competition to the allegedly more important NRL competition. The only logical way to see it, is that the first 16 games that each team plays for the ‘season’ is the fight for pole position for the season proper – A vital run of 8 matches to decide who the top 8 teams will be left to play the next competition; the semi-finals.

It’s a strange format for a competition, but one that the NRL has fallen into. So it is with the age old premise of “pre-season form means nothing” in mind that I make the following declaration… I’m not convinced there are any good teams in the NRL this year.

My assessment at a similar point of the last A-League season was that there was one good team, one pretty good team, and an ok team. In this NRL season so far, I think we might have 5 Pretty Good Teams, 2 OK Teams, 3 Borderline OK Teams on the right day, and 6 Utterly Awful Teams. But no good teams


The Pretty Good Teams
Manly, Bulldogs, Souths, Penrith, Roosters. In that order.

Manly for mine are currently the best team in the pre-season so far. If I were to place them in last year’s competition, I would put them below 2013 Manly, but above 2013 Cronulla. That doesn’t place them in last years top 4. They haven’t strung more than 3 consecutive wins together all year but have managed to get a win against each of the other Pretty Good Teams that they have met so far this season* and that is more than I can say for the other teams on this list.

The Bulldogs, have fought hard and ridden their luck so far this season, and those two qualities can take you a long way in this game, but it is hard to get past their inability to impose their will on opposition teams. Outside of an early season blow out against the Storm, the only two teams that they have beaten by double figures are the Sharks and Dragons – two teams that have made the {SPOILER ALERT} “Utterly Awful Teams” list below. Also, they only beat Souths by 1, they beat the Roosters by 1 and lost to them by 20. Beat Manly by 7, but lost to them by 22 and were not able to beat Penrith in their only matchup so far this season. That is not the making of a great team.

Souths have been wildly disappointing for extended periods this pre-season. They started the season by thrashing the Roosters, but followed it up with 3 straight losses. They looked to be on the verge of emerging as the competitions top dog after winning 8 of their next 10 games heading into their first bye of the year, but they came out and lost two consecutive close games against a couple of dud teams in North Queensland and the Gold Coast ruining that idea immediately. They currently have the best points differential in the league and it is a good sign that they haven’t been blown out by any team this year** and all but one of their wins has come by 16 points or more – but that points to an inability to win close games. The opposite of what you want at the pointy end of the year.

Penrith are on a run at the moment where they have only lost one match in their past eight attempts. The information I have left out is that 4 of those matches came against Utterly Awful Teams, 3 of them came against Borderline OK teams (one of which they lost) and the other was against an OK Team, which they won by just one point. Through pure luck the Panthers have had an incredibly soft draw through the pre-season***, that sees them second on the grid heading into the real stuff. The bad news is that of the 8 games to be played, 3 of them are against the Pretty Good Teams, one against on OK Team and one against a Borderline OK Team. I think that the ladder position of the Panthers is very flattering and they are the most susceptible to a crash in the next 8 weeks.

The Roosters have been a complete mixed bag this season. They have played 5 games against the fellow Pretty Good Teams, and won only 1. When they have been on their game they have blown teams away, with 5 wins by 20 or more, but then they have a 32 point loss to an Utterly Awful team on their books too. You never know which team is going to turn up.

It is also important to note that all of the teams on this list have at least one loss to a Borderline OK Team or worse on their records for the year.

The OK Teams
Brisbane and Melbourne are OK. But not much more. Neither team’s results have any rhyme or reason. They win and lose against Pretty Good Teams, and they win and lose against Utterly Awful Teams. In fact Melbourne only make this list out of past achievements. If you take out the first three rounds, they have won 5 and lost 8. They have some stars coming back and could be a dangerous team in the bottom half of the finals draw, but they would need to have some drastic improvement.



The Borderline OK Teams on the right day
The Warriors, Parramatta and the Tigers have all shown that they could be top 8, OK Teams and even borderline Pretty Good Teams if they could play the same way from one week to the next. I wrote earlier in the season that the Tigers were going to be rocks or diamonds from one week to the next, and that is exactly what they have been. There were strong early season wins over Souths and Manly, but also heavy losses to the likes of St George and the Gold Coast. Meanwhile, Parramatta have had a win by 20 and a loss by 48 against the Warriors in the same season, as well as a loss by 52 and a win by 2 against the Roosters. On their day they are a tough team to beat. But when it is not their day they are the re-incarnation of Annandale RLFC.

New Zealand are a completely different beast though. A month or two ago they would have been at the bottom of the pile by any metric you could come up with, however as we head into the season proper, they appear to have found their rhythm with only one loss in their last 6 games. As is always the problem with the Warriors though, I would be hugely surprised if they were able to maintain it for much longer. They are just as likely to revert to the side that lost to the lowly Cronulla by 31 earlier in the season.

The Utterly Awful Teams
The Dragons, Cowboys and Titans are trying to masquerade as borderline OK teams, but deep down they are just awful and the Knights, Raiders, and Sharks have nothing to hide behind. They are just terrible, terrible football sides.

The bad news is that there isn’t much on the horizon to suggest that this is going to get any better in hurry. There aren’t many young stars that look set to break out in the next couple of seasons. Even the best of the latest crop of young talent (Dylan Walker, Luke Brooks, Anthony Milford, Josh Mansour etc) have gaps in their games that suggest they will need to make a huge improvement over the next few seasons to take a step up into the league’s most important 25 players list.

The good news? Like I said, pre-season form means nothing. The real stuff starts now and there are several teams capable of tightening things up and making a run at being an actual good team this year. For the sake of keeping me interested, I hope someone does.



*They are yet to play the Panthers
**Their biggest loss was by 13 points against the Storm
***And for the season as a whole. They only play the other four teams in the Pretty Good list 6 times throughout the season. The Bulldogs play the others 8 times, Manly, Souths and Easts 7 times.