THE room was dark and smoky. The regular sound of poker chips coming together gave an unsteady rhythm, replicating the mood of the players left seated at the table. Onlookers shuffled around nervously, sensing that something big was about to happen.
"I wonder how many knife-wielding maniacs are sitting behind us?"
An innocent question from the girlfriend - she was only being half serious - but still a question worth thinking about. After all, we had managed to get ourselves seats at Aussie Stadium for the Panthers vs Bulldogs qualifying final match surrounded by the infamous 'Bulldogs Army'. According to everything I had read, as an "outsider" I was pretty much guaranteed a beating at some stage of the match ... and possibly a firecracker or two as well. The fact we were planning to cheer for the Panthers was the final nail in this imaginary coffin of mine.
FLASHBACK: The year is 2002, the match is Warriors vs Roosters at Aussie Stadium - the one just before the finals, and also the one where the Warriors were flogged by a rather unhealthy looking scoreline of 44 to blot.
ONCE upon a time there were two football teams who often played each other in the local park down the road. Although one of the teams was a little bigger and more experienced, the younger team would always try to put up a good, honest fight - but would inevitably be walloped into the ground by the bigger team, who had a reputation as being a bit of a bully on occasions. (Big meanies!)
ST George Illawarra fullback Ben Hornby had just dived over the line in the 79th minute to assure victory for the Dragons in their final match of the 2002 regular season against Newcastle. But the size of the victory meant that for the first time, the Warriors had finished as minor premiers.