INTO its thirteenth year of existence, the Forum 7's Competition is as strong as ever, with writers continuing to pump out quality articles which put most journos to shame. This week one of our favourite articles to be submitted is by user Bubbles, who put together a strong piece on player loyalty.
SO, it?s August 2006 and I?m contemplating another September without the red, white and blues. I?m disappointed, but philosophical, surviving on the scraps of promise littering our late-season performances, hinting at a better 2007. But, it is not the Roosters I think about now, rather it?s the Eels and more specifically, a family of Eels, who pervade my thoughts.While September will bring its usual cacophony of cheers and elation, tears and despair played out between eight teams, for this family September brings heart pounding grief and remembrance and the hope that rides on the blue and gold backs of seventeen young men.You see, last September this Eels? family lost one of its members in the prime of his life, having only had a meagre thirty years of this life. He was my best friend?s husband. His name was Craig.My friend and I shared much of our lives, our joys and hurts over the years, but had maintained this friendship largely via telephone as her she worked the erratic and unfriendly hours of the hospitality industry, while I worked the standard nine-to-five. This is how I got to know Craig, through mistimed phone calls. I believe that football is the greatest bridge upon which to build friendship with a stranger - that spark of recognition of a fellow die-hard; that fire in the larynx when debate flairs over Origin selections, or the latest controversy. What I learnt about Craig from early conversations was that he was smart and that, coupled with being a huge smart arse, made him an always interesting, and often infuriating conversationalist, whose barbs forced you on your toes once the usual pleasantries had been paid homage to and footy talk commenced.After his death, my friend admitted to me, as if it were a sacred and secretly held truth, that Craig had really not liked the Roosters. I laughed at this, for one thing Craig never was, was complicite. But full credit to him, he was never blatant. He just simply wasn?t interested in hearing about them, thank you very much! He would allow me perhaps five minutes of ?rooster-talk?, before he would launch into ?Eel-speak?, segueing into his rhetoric as subtly as an Adrian Morley high shot! When I visited, Craig would remonstrate with his eldest daughter not to tease and taunt the guest with jibes about the Roosters, or to tone down the innocently obnoxious heralding of another Eels? victory that can only come from the mouth of a six year old, untouched by years of hope fallen short. But this tempering of a young spirit was only a loose gesture towards social etiquette on his part, as once the conversation got louder, probably to be heard over the clink of ice, niceties were all but set aside.Visits after an Eels loss were the most interesting, as I would be greeted at the door by the six year old making such an announcement like, ?Daddy broke the clock.? Even if I didn?t watch all the games, at that point I would know the fortune of the Parramatta side, along with the latest offensive inanimate object within Craig?s reach. Jerseys were flung onto the road, one was even burnt after the great debacle of 1998 against the Bulldogs. Craig lived and breathed his club, bound in a cycle of love and hate, familiar I would dare so to most Eels? supporters. The morning of his death he grinned through tubes that protruded from his nose and mouth when he heard that Nathan Hindmarsh would be returning from injury to play in that weekend?s final. As it turned out, Hindmarsh didn?t play, but it was a small solace that put a smile on the face of a man who by this time realised he would not be there to watch the game, nor any game thereafter.Now I live with my friend?s brother, close to their parents. I celebrate with the family all special occasions and I cry with them when the anniversaries of a shared life come and go without him. On the brink of this dreaded month I hope with every fibre of my being that the Eels can come through and give this beloved family some happiness, long deserved and overdue. And maybe, just maybe, Craig may have some conception of his long hoped for, but never witnessed, Parramatta grand final victory. R.I.P Craig Bennett. Husband. Father. Son. Eels Supporter.
LIFE is biggerIt's bigger than youAnd you are not meThe lengths that I will go toThe distance in your eyesOh no I've said too muchI set it up?with hope in my heart and a twinkle in my eye the 2006 season starts for the Roosters. Tempered enthusiasm; aware but wary of the ?rebuilding? sign hanging over the club - hope stirring in a heart atrophied after an average 2005 season - new recruits; the next ?big thing?; post-Fittler recovery; bring it on!That's me in the corner?foetal position, head in my hands. Star recruit failing to live up to prophesy of salvation ? Moses is not leading his people to safety. Old favourites tired and perplexed as positional shuffling resembles a manic game of chess on acid. A young hopeful (future of the Roosters) thrown in and dragged out of the limelight, eroding self-confidence with pin-pricks of doubt and empty promises.That's me in the spotlight?four straight losses. Headlines blaring from the smudged print where my sweaty fingers have clutched, as if trying to extract an answer from the very question itself - What is wrong with the Roosters ? the coach ? internal strife? Only questions, never answers?maybe next week.Losing my religionTrying to keep up with you?clinging to the eight by chewed fingernails and desperation ? can?t afford to slip further, don?t lose sight of the goal. Each rare win merely a cruel twist of hope ? ?maybe this is what?s needed to kick-start the season??And I don't know if I can do itOh no I've said too muchI haven't said enough?no end in sight to the downhill spiral, positional pawns, overpaid and underperforming players; frustrated and disillusioned fans ? women and children to the lifeboats, the iceberg fast approaches.I thought that I heard you laughingI thought that I heard you singI think I thought I saw you try?performances mirroring the antics of a Parisian cabaret act; take it on the road, do it at home, just watch the trapeze artist - we all like to see a tightrope act gone awry!Every whisperOf every waking hour I'mChoosing my confessions?can?t and won?t make the trip down to Sydney each weekend to witness the slow and painful demise of what was a powerful and ferocious beast. One game attended in a season ? disgrace - forgive me Freddy, for I have sinned!Trying to keep an eye on youLike a hurt lost and blinded foolOh no I've said too muchI set it up?can?t force my eyes from the screen, iridescent light burning holes in my iris just as the acts of folly and foul play sear my heart. Laughter is the best medicine and the half-back-cum hooker-cum five-eight, surrounded by his cohorts, provides the side splitting, slapstick comedy of the Keystone Cops and I am the healthiest supporter in the League.Consider thisThe hint of the centuryConsider thisThe slip that brought meTo my knees failed?aargh! The only light in an otherwise dark and dank six months ? the big man England-bound without a last hoorah in the tri-colours ? Moooorley?Moooorley!What if all these fantasiesCome flailing around?mathematical possibility ? the phrase an insult to the true contenders, cruel words mocking the inevitable and deserved fall from grace, words providing no safety net for the flightless bird?s spiraling death dive.Now I've said too muchI thought that I heard you laughingI thought that I heard you singI think I thought I saw you try?were you there? Did you turn up? Lost in a flurry of blue and red - players like spinning tops - damsels in distress with no Galahad in sight. A performance of atrocious statistics - embarrassing to watch and a long train trip home on the Newcastle line to top it off after, being beaten like a wayward child by the one-man team.But that was just a dreamThat was just a dream.?the end of all mathematical equations - thank god, I was always better at the arts. The season gone accompanied by the death knell sigh of a fifteen year old mutt with no hearing, no eyesight and a broken hip. Thank goodness the misery is over and I can now get on with enjoying the football again!
ROLL up! Roll up! You will be amazed! You will be dumb-founded!
I shudder as the material falls over my head and slides down my torso; the hairs on my arms stand on end, as if trying to provide a buffer between my delicate skin and this alien material.
SO the long wait is finally over. Summer has passed in a haze of sunshine and insect repellent; sight of sunbathers like so many rotisserie swine rotating for maximum UV exposure; smell of barbequed beast blending with the pungent smoke wafting off mosquito coils; sound of double-pluggers flapping against the pavement, a thin veneer of protection against the burning asphalt. All are going the way of our hard-earned tans; fading to memory.
SO, the Eastern Seaboard of our land has seen its fair share of rainfall in the last week (thanks for that Captain Obvious!), and it started, in Sydney at least, Friday week ago fifteen minutes before scheduled kick-off between the Roosters and the Eels. I know this, because it coincided with the precise moment that I pulled into a parking spot outside the stadium. No umbrella ? check. No hood on my jacket ? check. Excellent forward planning - check!
THE term ?mate-ship is bandied about the breadth of this sunburned county of ours; a term that invokes passion and pride, exemplified by the ideals of the ANZAC tradition we honour once a year.
PATIENT Notes by Dr. (Anonymous)
JUST how difficult is it for our hard men to play hard these days? And no, this has nothing to do with Viagra!