It had its moments, but the NRL final was a snore
JARRYD Hayne brought two left boots to the Grand Final. Has there ever been a more tragic footy omen?
The kid from Minto, whose whole life had been preparing for this night, chucked his gear in his kitbag, got on the bus and only realised when it was too late that his signature red boots were both the same.
Parra officials ran around looking for spares. The Eels were gone before the band struck up the national anthem.
The Storm came to play last night. Greg Inglis did everything that NSW league fans feared he would. He was relentless in defence and attack, running Joel Reddy ragged on the right edge, terrorising tired forwards in the middle and there when the Storm needed a field-goal to kill off the Eels’ surge at the death.
Billy Slater gave Hayne a lesson in performing under pressure and showed why his Kangaroos jumper isn’t even up for discussion.
As grand finals go, the game was a total snore. The Storm came out as we knew they would, methodically completing their sets, Cameron Smith working it up the middle before shifting it to Hoffman and Inglis blah blah blah. The first 20 minutes was about as exciting as the SBS test pattern. I found myself ignoring the ball and just settling in to watch Hindy.
How many tackles did he make in that first 20? The records show he made 38 in the first half and 59 in the game. There are halfbacks who go a whole season without making 59 tackles, just to put that figure into perspective.
When Eric Grothe bashed his way over the line to make it 10-6, Eels hearts fluttered. But when it stretched to 16-6, the pins and needles started up the left arm.
At 22-6 the patient was clinically dead. Then Reddy plucked one out of the air and Burt converted. The Eels put on a magic set from the kickoff and 80,000-odd people wondered whether it was possible. When Fuifui got over in the corner in what must rank as the best grand final try by a forward since Steve Jackson won it for Canberra in 1989, we dared to dream.
But this was not a night for fairytales. Whether or not Tony Archer should have awarded a penalty for the leg-pull on Slater in the dying minutes was irrelevant. The Storm was always going to find a way to close this one out and it was fitting that Inglis should be the man to do it.
The Storm did their lap of honour in front of three homeless blokes and a stray cat. It seems ludicrous that the NRL trophy keeps going south of the border, but you have to hand it to them. They’re a class outfit.
And Parra? You’d like to think there’s something in the adage that you have to lose one to win one, but I get the feeling the Eels have missed their chance. The salary cap makes building dynasties all but impossible and the Eels now farewell key players that laid the foundation for their finals surge.
I ran into Steve Mortimer after the game. He was there to watch his nephew, Daniel, play in his first grand final at just 19. I trotted out a few clichés about the baby Eels being better for the experience, but Turvy wasn’t buying it. “We all tell ourselves that but the fact is when you’re out there and the siren goes and the other team start hollering – it’s the loneliest place on earth.”
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