Eaten Alive By Sydney
February 9, 2010 – 2:49 am | 5 Comments

When the prospect of a shift to Sydney is raised, the doomsayers often rise as well. And they’re nasty! The manner of one’s demise is always different, but the result is always the same – …

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The NRL Matrix

Submitted by on March 16, 2012 – 12:50 pmNo Comment


I’m late…late…for a very important fate. March is here, the NRL has just kicked off and I haven’t chosen which of the nine Sydney clubs to support. Do I follow the white rabbitoh? Cheer for a grinning cat – Panther or Tiger? Or fly with an Eaglet?

Who does a Sydney Newbie support in this rugby league-mad city where nine of the 16 teams hail from? Is where you reside the sole determining reason for pledging allegiance…or should the quality of a team’s apparel, nickname, home ground, entertainment and atmosphere – not to mention the number of on-field stars and their playing prospects – be factored in as well?

To de-vex these questions I’ve turned to a Sydney favourite for guidance – the Matrix. Except my matrix doesn’t have Keanu Reeves nor Keanu Reeves. “Whoa. Deja vu.” 

What I do have are the names of all the Sydney teams atop nine columns and then eight rows of criteria to evaluate them.

After plugging the clubs into my NRL matrix I’ll be able to determine the best fit and who to cosy up to and start a relationship with – buying their gear, bookmarking their website, attending their events and writing in support of their players when they get up to off-field mischief.

Mascot & nickname (team branding)

I enlisted the help of two of my three sons for this exercise (the other is only five months old…and prefers cricket to league) and the Tigers easily fended off the challenge of the Dragons for the coolest nickname and mascot. The Sharks have the bite on third place with the Bulldogs and Panthers also receiving nods of approval. The Eels, however, were when the nicknames became icky or naff. The boys said the Roosters would keep waking them up (a call echoing around the corridor of many a hotel) and they were only keen on the Rabbitohs if they delivered Easter Eggs. They weren’t fans of the constantly squawking Sea Eagles either, reckoning those gulls would try to nick their pie and hot chips at the game. “Mine. Mine. Mine.”


I like the maroon on the Manly boys (but aren’t a big fan of it on Queenslanders), so they just pip the boys in blue – the classic tricolor ensemble of the Roosters, the sky blue of the Sharks and the blue and white of the Bulldogs. Having pooh-poohed the garish brown that saw them nicknamed the Chocolate Soldiers, Penrith have risen in the fashion stakes with black their dominant colour, but at the other end of the scale all-white (even with the odd piece of red trim) is never in vogue over winter, so the Dragons poll poorly, especially as white highlights stains and also looks a bit like England’s core colour. But at least they don’t wear green and red hoops. Souths, it doesn’t matter if you wear Armani off the field if your playing uniform looks so vile. A dazzling array of new colours have been developed in the 100 years since the choice of cardinal and myrtle. Move on, for the sake of retinas everywhere.


The easiest ground for me to get to is the Sydney Football Stadium at Moore Park, so the Roosters are favourites on the proximity front, although direct access via train would be hugely appreciated. The Tigers play the majority of their home matches there as well, but also hosting in Balmain and Campbelltown drops them down the rankings. ANZ Stadium for the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs and Manly’s Brookvale Oval are also pretty handy so I’d prefer the Bulldogs not to return to Belmore Sports Ground and I’d be rapt if Manly could ease traffic on the Spit Bridge. As for the teams on the outer, trekking to the Shire to support Cronulla has as much appeal as shark wrestling, I’d have to be delivered by helicopter or limousine to contemplate catching the Dragons in Wollongong (or Kogorah for that matter) and commuting to Penrith to support the Panthers is as daunting as trying to spell, or tackle, Petero Civoniceva. Thank goodness he’s headed back to Brisbane.


For pure quality of stadia the Bulldogs and Souths win gold with ANZ Stadium at Homebush, venue for the blue riband events of the 2000 Olympic Games. The SFS is a little tired but still scores brownie points for the Roosters and Tigers before we start dipping into the ‘suburban’ grounds. Brookvale Oval is a venue for the die-hards and it seems ludicrous that the star-laden Eels should do battle in a cauldron that barely fits 21,000. The Dragons’ home stadium is by the water in Wollongong and looks picturesque, but the new roof of their western grandstand buckled under gale-force winds last September and seems as safe as Kings Cross at 3am on a Saturday morning. No wonder Wayne Bennett left. And using imported Chinese steel instead of metal from the Port Kembla steelworks just down the road? Mighty unAustralian methinks.

Style of Play

For unabashed on-field entertainment value the Benji-marshalled Tigers are my top pick for delivering excitement, with Manly equally impressive in terms of style and point-scoring ability. Souths’ left side attack, featuring superstar Greg Inglis and man mountain Dave Taylor, secures them the bronze medal, with all three teams on my podium averaging around four tries a game in 2011. If the Dragons unleash the beast after three seasons of putting safety first they’ll be worth watching, as will the Bulldogs and the Panthers under new coaching regimes. In recent years the Sharks have been the team I’d least like to watch (especially if sizzling fullback Nathan Gardner isn’t playing), but in the past few years the Eels’ flagrant abuse of their natural talent, starting with hard-charging front-rowers and ending with the electrifying Jarrad Hayne, has been the most criminal of acts. Chris Sandow could be the catalyst for change, but I’m not holding my breath. As for the Roosters, if they continue to win cockfights with miraculous last-second tries (like in Round 1 of the 2012 season) they will go from capons to crowing cockerels in no time.


The quality of athlete in the NRL these days is just phenomenal. And while the fullbacks and the halves may be the rock stars, the purist derives just as much pleasure from watching the grittiest of competitors, like workaholic Shark skipper Paul Gallen, or the coolest of characters, such as Eels wrecking ball Fuifui Moimoi. I’m a big fan of Panthers centre Michael Jennings when he is fit and focused and I’m rapt to see the best of British – Souths’ Slammin’ Sam Burgess, the Tigers’ Gareth Ellis and Bulldog James Graham – adding oomph and flavour to the comp. For sheer magnetism and the ability to break games wide open Tigers’ stand-off Benji Marshall is in a league of his own, Hayne – in the right head space – can be spectacular for the Eels and Inglis is a freak when injury-free. Watch out for huge Manly second rower Tony Williams to throw his considerable weight around this season, Dragons playmaker Jamie Soward to continue his impressive development and the Sea Eagles’ halves pairing of Keiran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans to continue igniting a pacy, skillful back division.


So many questions! The Sea Eagles or the Tigers? Are these the Sydney teams to stand up to the threat of the NZ Warriors, Melbourne Storm, Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans (I can’t see Newcastle doing the bizzo this season even with master coach Wayne Bennett on their considerable payroll)? The Sea Eagles are the defending premiers and have much the same roster, but can they lift again under new coach Geoff Toovey? The Tigers are due and with the popular Ellis signalling his intention to head back to Blighty at the end of the year they’ll have plenty of motivation to go with their talent and coach Tim Sheens’ tactical nous. Ex-Manly coach Dessie Hasler will have the Doggies jumping through hoops, but it might be a season too soon to snare a title and the Bunnies may need a month or seven to bed in the strategies and structures of new coach Michael Maguire. Similarly, can the Panthers and Dragons flourish under new coaches? And can the Roosters’ Brian Smith finally win a Grand Final after almost 30 seasons of being an NRL bridesmaid? The Dragons certainly have the squad and experience to surprise, but is it worth even mentioning the prospects for the Eels and Sharks? Um…probably not.

Off-field drama

Being a rabid fan is about sticking by your team for better or worse, during the good times and the bad. But there are times when you have to make a stand, stick by your principles and say appalling and boorish behaviour simply can’t be tolerated. It amazed me that the Warriors were infinitely more popular than the Sea Eagles in the lead-up to the 2011 Grand Final, but it simply reinforced the feeling that them Manly blokes and their dysfunctional board are hard to like, let alone love. The Stewart bros feud with NRL boss David Gallop is disgraceful and Anthony Watmough has not only been the most penalised player on the field three of the last four years, he’s also been one of the biggest knobs off it. The Roosters have had their fair share of drama too, with Todd Carney and Nat Myles generally at the centre of the booze-fuelled mischief. Now that they, and ginger-nutty hooker Anthony Watts, have moved on they might make headlines for all the right reasons. Other notorious headline grabbers in recent times have been Robert Lui, the partner-bashing halfback that the Tigers have punted north to the Cowboys, fellow partner assaulter Isaac Gordon of the Sharks, betting scandalised ex-Bulldog Ryan Tandy, rehabbed drink-driving and drug-taking former international Reni Maitua, now with the Eels, and troubled Arana Taumata, notorious for being sacked by four of his seven NRL clubs. And he hasn’t even turned 23! Club administrators aren’t immune to scrutiny either. Boardroom dramas have been commonplace at Parramatta and their last two CEOs left under clouds, while the Panthers board was under fire last season for a disconnect with team and fans, highlighted by their sacking of popular coach Matthew Elliott. Looking at the positives, discipline hasn’t been a problem for the Dragons during the Wayne Bennett era and the Rabbitohs have essentially been drama-free during the phone throwing romper stomper Russell Crowe. Go figure!

The Big Decision

The Tigers have clawed their way to the top with the Bulldogs just pipping the Rabbitohs for the runner-up spot.

Punted Into Touch – Sharks and Eels (8th equal), Dragons (7th), Panthers (6th) and Roosters (5th).

Not At Any Price – Manly (4th)

Close  But No Cigar – Souths (3rd) and Bulldogs (2nd)

Clearcut Winners – Tigers (1st)


Tigers Panthers Eels Rabbitohs Roosters Sea Eagles Sharks Bulldogs Dragons
Mascot/NN 1 5 6 9 7 8 3 4 2
Colours 6 4 8 9 2 1 3 4 7
Travel 5 8 6 1= 1= 4 7 3 9
Ground 4 7 5 1= 3 8 6 1= 9
Style of play 1 5 7 4 6 2 9 3 8
Stars 1 8 5 2 7 3 9 4 6
Prospects 2 7 9 3 6 1 8 4 5
Off-field drama 6 3 4 2 8 9 5 7 1
TOTAL 26 47 50 31 40 36 50 30 48
FINAL RANKING 1 6 8= 3 5 4 8= 2 7



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