Friday Night Lights

Lock the doors, tranquilise the kids, and make sure the missus (if she?s an AFL fan or, heaven forbid, a Ra-Ra one) is out with her friends. Why? Because it?s that time of year again, and your Friday night drinking time now requires that you multi-task a little. The task of lifting a beer from the fridge and to your lips now requires that you keep one eye focussed on the television.

?What in the name of Christ is he ranting about?? I hear you cry. Some of you (or most, I would hope) will have guessed that I?m talking about the return of Friday night football. It seems like an eternity since I laughed my drunken ass off at the Dragons? fans as they realised, with growing terror, that their loss to Penrith might still see them ejected from the finals.

Well, when you spend your off-season in a village of fifty, I guess it is an eternity?

Friday night football just can?t be topped, or even rivalled, when it comes to sheer excitement and entertainment value. While Sunday afternoon will always have a small place in my heart, methinks experiencing most Sundays hung-over has forever jaded me against the event. No, for me, Friday night football is more than just two teams (last year it was the Roosters and Bulldogs, more often than not) fighting it out. Friday night football has all of the big clashes. It?s where you get to see the golden point thrillers, the last minute corkers, and everything else from nuggetty front rowers to whatever other new phrase Warren Smith, Andrew Voss, or Ray Warren invent in a moment of blissful, toe-curling verbal ejaculation.

Let?s face it, by the time Friday rolls around, we?d all settle for a replay of the 2000 grand final (hereafter known as the snorefest)- but thankfully the level heads at Channel Nine continually pick the best matches of the round (or try to, bless them) and serve them up to us with a side order of too many commercials.

As a footy fan, it would be impossible for me to isolate the all time greatest Friday night games, so without further ado, I present to you my five favourite Friday night crackerjacks from 2004.

In no particular order:

Round 1- Penrith 14 lost to Newcastle 20 Like a wink from a gorgeous woman at the bar, this game gave 90% of Newcastle fans a healthy dose of false hope heading into what would eventually be a shithouse season for the men in red and blue. Still, beating the reigning premiers on our defence was a thrill. Pity about the rest of the year?

Round 10- Newcastle 17 defeated Brisbane 16 What can I say? I?m sure the Brisbane fans enjoyed seeing Kurt Gidley?s graceless field goal sail over the black dot as much as I did. As a Newie fan, this was one of the few remaining highlights of the season. If only I?d known, I?d have taped it.

Round 13- Canterbury 40 defeated Sydney 12 Need I explain? I?m sure we all derived a lot of pleasure out of this one. The absence of the legendary ?Gouldie? dance was, in my eyes, quite refreshing.

Round 20- Canterbury 24 defeated Wests 20 The Tigers may not have been in anyone?s proposed end of season top eight, but the tenacious sons of bitches fought tooth and nail, and pushed the eventual premiers to the very edge in this top notch thriller. While many Tigers fans still cry foul over the ending (hell, a lot of other fans too), it remains one of the underrated candidates for game of the year.

Round 24- St George/Illawarra 24 defeated Newcastle 22 When Clint ?I?ll Take Your F*$&ing Head Off? Newton let his nervous twitch get in the way of a good tackle, I feared the worst. The Knights showed why they?re the passion of many a Novocastrian in this game, fighting like men possessed but ultimately unable to cope with the one man advantage the Dragons had.

While I?m sure some of you are shaking your heads, I think the above list highlights a few memorable clashes from the 2004 season. 2005 promises to provide even more moments that?ll inspire us to toast a legendary player, throw back another bottle of New, and dance like absolute idiots in celebration and defiance as whatever side we support scores an upset win, or at the very least, injures an opposition superstar.

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