Rammo's Rant

On any given day, when speaking about Willie Mason or Brett Finch, we?d probably be snarling at another off-field misdemeanour or on-field tantrum, but not this week.

That?s right Blues fans. These two bad boys delivered victory for NSW in State of Origin I and they should receive just credit. But perhaps this wasn?t just a one-off never to be seen again movie spectacular type thing. Maybe they have turned the corner ? for good.

I remember a day back in 2004. I went into my room and sat down on my chair on a Sunday afternoon as I do. Having a read of the Sunday morning newspapers, while at the same time, eagerly awaiting the afternoon?s matches as I?m sure most leaguies can relate with.

I turned on the radio and began listening to Ray Hadley?s Continuous Call Team. They were holding their regular talkback segment. I must point out; this was around the time the NSW Blues had a late night out which turned into front page news the next day ? enough said.

A group of NSW players were at fault, but the main player scrutinised was Mason ? given that his whole ADHD debacle had surfaced.

I remember salivating to myself. I could not believe the torment which was being directed at Mason, not necessarily whether he deserved it or not, but to me, the extent of the ridicule seemed unprecedented. To this day, I cannot remember any individual being subjected to such scrutiny on a talkback radio station. I wondered how Mason would fight back from such stout criticism from all sections of the rugby league community.

Caller after caller were shouting for his expulsion from the game. Even John Hopoate wasn?t exposed to disparagement of this extent when his antics reached their heights.

Mason subsequently won the Clive Churchill medal in 2004. But at that stage he had only earned the rugby league community?s respect as a footballer ? not a person or ambassador for the game.

Brett Finch could be regarded as an on-field version of Willie Mason?s off-field behaviour ? if you get my drift.

For years, Finch has been subjected to Mason-like criticism ? although in Finch?s case, it was for a lack of on-field performance.

Finch?s is unique given the fact that his harshest critics are his own supporters. And when he made the comment that ?those so-called supporters can kiss my arse,? the Roosters? patience had almost reached boiling point.

Now I can hear people saying: ?Sure, they played great football but how does that illustrate a change in character?? This is where it gets interesting.

After being awarded with the $2000 man of the match award on Channel Nine, Willie Mason donated his winnings to the Cancer Council. And yesterday, Finch, inspired by crash victim Sophie Delezio, decided to auction off his field-goal kicking boot ? with the proceeds to be donated to the Children?s hospital at Randwick.

This previously controversial pair has cleaned up their act. It?s terrific to see and good luck to them both.

But it does beg the question: Do the good have evil in them? Or do the evil have good in them? You can be the judge of that. Here?s to Willie and Brett for their changing in fortunes. RR salutes you both.

Now to a few other issues in and around the rugby league world.

- I think I?ve criticised South Sydney enough this season. So I?ve decided to let Adam MacDougall do that for this week. Here are a few things he had to say after his team was thrashed 44-4 by last year?s premiers, the Wests Tigers.

? ?If I knew it was going to be like that today I would have just turned the oven on at home to 500 degrees and jumped in it.?
? ?I should have given my friends and family tickets behind the goal posts; they could have seen more of me.?
? ?When you have your bad days out wide it feels like you?re in the bottom row of the Titanic, all the water?s coming in pretty quick and there?s not a lot you can do.?

MacDougall has been sacked for these comments, and by the sounds of it, Mad Dog wouldn?t have too many qualms about getting the tap on the shoulder.

- Just when I thought the Dragons were back after a scintillating 38-12 demolition of then competition leaders Newcastle, Trent Barrett is charged with grade five striking and may be on the sidelines for up to six weeks. A huge blow to a club that were starting to gather momentum and cohesion as a unit. Also on the Dragons, their decision to keep Mark Gasnier was a good one, but why at five eighth? I think that?s a big mistake and if that?s the case, they?d better put more emphasis on winning this season because it could be their only opportunity for a while.

- One position we have worked out so far is the competition?s pretenders, namely the Bulldogs. They have absolutely no hope this season and the only reason they?re fifth on the competition table is that they have had simple opponents to this point. Pundits rave about the strength of their forward pack but when they come up against a pack with any real substance, they don?t aim up. Brent Sherwin just doesn?t seem to have fired like his coach would have wanted on his lengthy break from first grade. The Bulldogs could very well miss the top eight this season. Look no further than the Canterbury club for the season 2006 Pretenders? Award.

- I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Cronulla club on its swift handling of the Tevita Latu debacle. The club was informed of the news early last Monday morning, and they didn?t even see out the remainder of the day before sacking Latu. The NRL also didn?t waste any time, de-registering Latu on the same day. Applause all-round for both parties. Perhaps the Bulldogs could take a leaf out of the Sharks? book. Although we must outline some positive Bulldogs? publicity when it becomes apparent. Billy Ngawini was the player who came to the girl?s aid after she had been struck by Latu. A nice touch there.

That?s all for this week. Come and have a read next week of my mid-season report card. Assessing where each team is at the halfway mark, and where you can expect them to be after 26 rounds and leading into the 2006 finals series.

Until next week, enjoy your footy!