Woody Harrelson's character Billy Hoyle from White Men Can't Jump famously told Wesley Snipes' Sidney Deane that "...brothers (would) rather look good and lose than look bad and win". He could also have been talking about the Wests Tigers, South Sydney Rabbitohs, and North Queensland Cowboys - three teams that missed the NRL play-offs despite ranking first, second, and equal third for tries scored during the season (a facet of the game generally considered to be quite important). Take the lowly twelfth-placed Cowboys for example. When they were good, they were oh so good. And when they were bad, well they actually weren't all that bad. In fact they frequently appeared to play like one of the better credentialed sides. They may not exactly have looked trash-talking, cap-backward, showing-off-to-the-crowd Wesley Snipes good, but they still looked good. No surprise for a team with a massive, steamrolling forward pack and the calibre of Thurston, Bowen, and Tonga providing the polish. Unfortunately they often lost. The same can be said for the Tigers and Rabbitohs, who both frequently entertained spectators regardless of their poor positions on the ladder. On five occasions during the season the Cowboys went down by six points or less. Turning only two of those narrow defeats into victories would've seen them jump higher than Michael Jordan himself; five places up the table and into the most open finals campaign in recent memory. That's gotta hurt. Not as much as Matt Bowen's right knee, but painful nonetheless. What's also painful is the fact they scored eighty-seven more points than they conceded during the season, yet for nothing. That ranks them fifth in points difference out of all sixteen teams. Nine of their eleven victories - incredibly over eighty per cent - were by twelve points or more. Six of those times they went beyond a twenty-point gap and left stunned opponents shaking their heads like it was some sort of street-game hustle. If only the season was one big long extended match without a break. North Queensland would've had it wrapped up months in advance. Poor Cowboys. Poor Tigers. Poor Rabbitohs. All those flashy tries. All those resounding wins. And it all counts for less than an expired gift voucher. Statistically these also-rans have been some of the most formidable combatants in the NRL. As we know, however, statistics don't often paint the full picture. Sometimes they paint barely the outline. And in these particular examples it's debatable whether the statistics even own a brush or canvas. The sides are now licking their wounds, although in Bowen's case one hopes not literally - the thought of the little custodian hunched over trying to put his dodgy knee back together with saliva is a rather unpleasant one. How will they all recover next year? In White Men Can't Jump, Sidney fought back from being burglarized and broke before teaming up once more with Billy in a final, glorious victory on the court. Can the men from Townsville, Leichhardt, and Redfern find a way to look bad and win? Or will 2010 be another year of looking good and losing? No doubt fans of these clubs are hoping for the former.
For more of Kalon, visit his blog leaguelarrikin.blogspot.com