My favourite player in Rugby League is John Skandalis. He?s possibly the most under-rated forward in the game today. He does a ton of work in each game, he does it with no arguments, has a great offload, and best of all, he?s a Campbelltown man. His first grade debut was in 1996, for the Western Suburbs Magpies (poor guy). He ended up scoring a try in that match. Thus was born the legend of Skando. Well, he?s a legend to us Wests Tigers supporters anyway.
Skando has always been a one-club man. Whenever his contract was up with the Magpies/Wests Tigers, he never looked for another club, nor did the Magpies/Wests Tigers ever consider letting him go. I would have been gutted if he left the Wests Tigers right now. I could handle losing Scott Prince. I could even handle losing Benji Marshall. But not Skando.
Born in 1976, on June the 16th in Sydney, John played his junior football for the Minto Cobras, and attended Camberfield Primary School, and then Sarah Redfern High School. This is one of the reasons I like him so much; he?s homegrown (almost next door). Most Wests fans today have only three names on their lips; Prince, Farah, and (especially) Marshall. All these players are not from Campbelltown, Don?t get me wrong, people can have these players as favorites (I don?t blame them in the slightest). I just like homegrown talent. OK, so Robbie Farah is a Balmain junior and therefore technically homegrown as well, but I don?t care. Sue me.
In my opinion, Skandalis has been most unlucky to miss out on State of Origin Selection for the past four seasons. The only rep footy he has played in his first grade career is representing City in the annual City vs. Country game. My problem with the NSW selectors is this; if the City vs. Country game is to be considered as a genuine State of Origin trial, why in the hell hasn?t Skando been picked? In 2002 he was the best prop on the field, scoring one try and doing a mountain of work from the bench. And for some godforsaken reason, he did not get picked for State of Origin. He has arguably been the Wests Tigers best player ever since their inception. He has played well for about six years. When the hell are the selectors going to pull their heads out of their rear ends and sit up and take notice of this guy?
He is quoted as saying that playing for the Wests Tigers means everything to him right now. Now, if that?s not the most passionate thing I?ve heard all year, then I?ll eat my shoes (but only with barbecue sauce and a side of bacon; I?m not an animal). This man loves playing footy. He loves playing for the Wests Tigers. He loves playing in front of his home fans at Campbelltown. Quite simply, John Skandalis is possibly the most passionate man playing rugby league today.
I think that Skando?s best game he has played to date was against the Manly Sea Eagles not too long ago, on a cold Friday night. You remember the one where we thrashed Manly 49-24? Because I sure do. Skandalis was great in that game. He laid the platform all night for the Tigers? halves to do their stuff. He was making offloads left right and centre. John was busting tackles, putting in great hits, and shouting himself hoarse when he was on the sideline.
That?s not to say he hasn?t had a bad game ever. Just a week after that great win, we had another awesome win over last years? grand finalists, the Sydney Roosters (for the second time in a season). Now, if you?re thinking ?How did he have a bad game and the Tigers still win?? Well, let me address your concerns. Poor John managed to throw some Very stupid passes in that game which were comparable only to Brett Kimmorley?s game winning effort for Queensland in game 1 of State of Origin this year. Secondly, Skando dropped too much ball in that game, like Dene Halatau all of last year. But in the end, John picked himself up, dusted it off, and finished strongly to hand the Tigers their 3rd straight win. At which point I did the happy dance. For fifteen minutes.
John Skandalis epitomizes the Wests Tigers. When I go to a Wests game, he?s the one I cheer for the most.
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