Gauging how hard David Kidwell hit Willie Mason on Saturday night is not as simple as observing the shiner that was left behind.
In case you haven?t seen it, the Kiwi second-rower let fly with a shoulder charge that floored Aussie firebrand Mason and it has left a lasting impression not only on Willie?s eye socket, but the Australian team?s psyche.
Now, hear me out before you try me for treason?
If I was a Kiwi right now I?d be happy that whilst the Aussie?s won Saturday?s Test on points, my countrymen put them on the canvass a couple of times. And now the Aussie?s have turned into a chorus of whingers, playing into the hands of New Zealand.
As far as I can see Kidwell?s hit was legal. He put Mason, as well as himself, on the ground with a shattering blow then got up and offered some verbal insight. For me, it was the highlight of the game. I love watching bodies collide and reel backwards without control. The ongoing war between Mark Carroll and Paul Harragon in the 90?s was a contest most League fans remember fondly.
Although illegal, Shaun Edwards?s poleaxing of Brad Clyde at Wembley in 1990 and Wally Lewis?s burial of Darrel Williams in 1989 (even if he was aiming for Brendan Tuuta) stick out in your mind.
But what is disappointing is the reaction by the Australians following the incident.
The labelling of Kidwell as a ?cheap-shot merchant? by Australian coach Ricky Stuart is simply astounding. I consider Kidwell to be somewhat of a niggler, but 2006 has been his best season by far and he seems to have taken most of that malice out of his game and channelled his aggression into positive football.
Kidwell played under Stuart in 2002/03 before linking with the Storm, as did fellow former Rooster Michael Crocker, who headed south this year. Both players have excelled under Craig Bellamy after being a little wayward at Bondi Junction.
Moving on to Mason ? he has accused Kidwell of coming from the side and not hitting him front on ? I guess that?s an allegation of unfair play. Willie?s head is obviously damaged more than we realised from the hit as all the footage I?ve seen of the incident shows them virtually running a straight line at each other.
Besides which, what kind of a stupid call is that to make? It?s a contact sport after all!
I smell a bit of jealous rage in Willie?s tone. Mason, who like Kidwell has just finished his best season in my opinion, got smashed by a bigger man and can?t, or doesn?t want to, admit it.
As the biggest player on the field, it would be a hard thing to face up to, but why not issue a challenge to his counterpart? No, instead nitpick that he isn?t playing the way you think he should, even if the cameras suggest otherwise.
Next we have Darren Lockyer complaining that people shouldn?t stand over people and remonstrate after smashing them. Apparently it?s a ?bad look? for the game. Perhaps we should arm all players with handkerchiefs with which to award their grounded opponents should they be unceremoniously dumped on the broad of their backs?
Even stranger than that is the allegations of hypocrisy stemming from Mason?s pre-game swear-a-thon during New Zealand?s performance of the haka. Mason claims he was aiming his tirade at Kiwis fullback Brent Webb for being born and raised in Australia before moving to New Zealand and adopting that as his country.
This is a bizarre twist, given the Auckland-born Mason plays alongside fellow ?Aussie? Karmichael Hunt who spent his formative years in New Zealand before moving to Queensland and embracing Australia.
I wonder how Mason feels about Tonie Carroll, a man who has represented both Australia and New Zealand!
But I suppose it isn?t all bad. Even though the quality of the game failed to attract the headlines, International Rugby League is on the back page of every newspaper and firmly in the mindsets of the public.
I can?t wait for the rematch in Melbourne and the controversy surrounding Game I won?t hurt the crowd. I hope that the Kiwis turn in a more polished performance though, as Australia?s finesse and skill will only improve with more time on the paddock.Like