Friday, 1 July 2016

A list that stands plain wrong

Tonight, I discovered that two years (almost) ago, Rugby League Week had written a list of “Nine Greatest Finals Chokes of All Time”:

#9. South Sydney v Manly, 2013 preliminary final
#8. South Sydney v Balmain, 1969 grand final
#7. St. George v Canterbury, 1985 grand final
#6. Parramatta v North Queensland, 2005 preliminary final
#5. Manly v Sydney Bulldogs, 1995 grand final
#4. Parramatta v Newcastle, 2001 grand final
#3. Parramatta v Canterbury, 1998 preliminary final
#2. Balmain v Canberra, 1989 grand final
#1. St. George Illawarra v Melbourne, 1999 grand final

To me, RLW’s list is as bad as any I have seen in my history of reading “lists”. For a first thing, as far as I am aware and have watched rugby league, I could not say that most of those listed were so much as especially bad. Balmain in 1969 were an often-overlooked group that had nearly won the second semi final an had beaten the Rabbitohs on the SCG 16—7 on opening day.

The Bulldogs in 1995 were rivalling their display in the 1985 Preliminary Final – the best I have seen by a team in rugby league – and Parramatta in 2001 had the excuse of Andrew Johns – widely regarded today as the greatest halfback ever, although I would nonetheless still keep the 2001 Eels in this list because they were truly outstanding during the home-and-away season. Balmain in 1989 had the most potent attack in the NSWRL to face and were very lucky to lead 12—2 at halftime as Canberra had had most of the territorial advantage.

Parramatta v Canterbury in the 1998 preliminary final is the one which I have fewest qualms about – the Eels were favoured and had stopped a free-scoring Bronco team earlier in the finals

Some that are badly missing:
  • Cronulla in 1979 – they had the best defence with only 41 tries against but completely collapsed in the finals when viewed the chief rival to St. George.
  • Eastern Suburbs in 1980 and 1981 – this constitutes the worst omission as the Roosters choked twice – most obviously with their lifeless performance as favorites in the 1980 decider.
    • the 1982 Roosters who lost 0—33 on the wettest rugby day since the 1950s in the preliminary would also not be out of place
  • Balmain in 1985 would have been that club’s best choice: they were clear second to St. George (with best home-and-away record after the 1940s), then without excuse via injuries or suspensions were thrashed in the wet by Parramatta
  • Canterbury in 1993 and 1994 choked awfully twice due to their woeful fullback weakness – if they had possessed a fullback like the Eadie of 1978 I often imagine Canterbury could have got close to 48—0 for those two seasons
  • Cronulla in 1999 is another one that seems to possess less logic than those listed by RLW – they were more clearly the best team in the home-and-away rounds than in 1988 and beat the Broncos 42—20, and in my recollection the Sharks’ 8—24 loss to the Dragons felt like a shock

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