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'Pride' is described in the dictionary as, "a sense of one's own proper dignity or value". If Rugby League had its own dictionary then it might read something more like, "the propaganda tool used by a club to convince people that the players are still trying their absolute best each week despite having no chance of making the finals and being soundly walloped every time they take on a side that still actually has something meaningful to play for".
The Sharks, Roosters, and Warriors have about as much chance of climbing the ladder as a carton of beer. They are planted at the bottom and going nowhere. Combined these three teams lost on the weekend by a margin of 140-26. Their negative for-and-against records are almost long enough to be pin-numbers. Though they won't admit it, lately one gets the impression these guys would rather be selling hot dogs in the grandstand than be carved up like roast lamb every time they take the field.
So how do the cellar dwellers turn such disastrous seasons around? How do they end the nightmare on a positive note? With pride, according to Sharks coach Ricky Stuart. "We just have to try and finish with a bit of pride for the jumper" he said after their 56-10 capitulation against the Tigers. Three more defeats and the club will post its worst ever losing streak. But they say pride comes before a fall, Ricky. Not after it. And these teams fell over a long, long time ago. All lack the intensity required to achieve victory. If they played each other now I'd be tempted to tip the draw.
Clinging to a 'mathematical chance' of reaching the finals is never a nice position for a club to find itself in. In fact when you're down to a mathematical chance of completing anything other than a maths problem it pretty much means you're a near certainty to fail. However the beauty of hope is that, no matter how false it may be, a team will enter the battle with determination as long as it exists. Insipid, humiliating displays are usually seen from those who have either lost all hope, or lost all their play-makers.
There must be something concrete to play for, like a spot in the finals. There must be some point to charging fearlessly at a wall of defenders; some point to diving on that loose ball as the chaser drops his knees; some point to performing that fake, overly dramatic try celebration in front of the referee to fool him into ignoring the help of his video companion and, subsequently, awarding the try despite a sneaky little knock-on. There must be a point to all that effort, even if it's as pointless as a remote mathematical chance.
Without hope, without a chance, all that remains is seventeen footy players looking forward to Friday night pub crawls and island holidays. Admittedly nobody wants to come last. There's no pride in that. But there's not a whole lot of pride in coming second-last either. "That was the amazing year we narrowly avoided the spoon, son" isn't a tale told too often by retired stars.
So who is going to take the wooden spoon? The Sharks or the Roosters? The team with the least pride, I suppose, although the team with the least victories or worst points differential is probably a fair bet also. Assuming neither side wins another game - which seems a decent assumption at this stage - the boys from Bondi Junction would appear to be in trouble.
Perhaps a bit of pride in the jumper can save them. Unless the Sharks show equal pride in their jumper. The two sets of pride might cancel each other out. It makes you wonder why they didn't just apply some of this pride early in the season. Or in the middle. Or even towards the end. Pride, it seems, only becomes a necessity once you've hit rock-bottom. Or is it that you know you've hit rock-bottom once you start talking about pride?
For more of Kalon, visit his blog leaguelarrikin.blogspot.com