The end of an era
KEYTO’S NRL HITS (and misses) – I started seriously following rugby league in the mid-90’s and remember attending my first game in 1995, watching Darren Lockyer’s early games at Brisbane’s version of ANZ Stadium.
His retirement is a big one for me, but so is everyone else’s this season. These are guys I have grown up with in rugby league and really, from next year, there will be no one left from my own personal ‘old-school’. Today I will pay my own tribute to the other 2011 retiring stars.
I remember Ryan debuting with the Parramatta Eels a long time ago and quite frankly, he hasn’t changed a bit! He has always been the hardworking, committed team man who never chases the headlines or rewards. My greatest memory of him was captaining the Bulldogs in their Grand Final win before calling injured skipper Steve Price up to share the moment. Andrew Ryan has been all class on and off the field.
This guy … I hated this guy. As a young Broncos fan, Wendell Sailor was THE man. Then along came ‘Mad Dog’ MacDougall who took the fight to Dell and often came away a points winner. I remember he came up with a one-on-one steal against Wendell, in perhaps a semi final, and streaked away to score a long range try. Gosh I hated when he had the ball and hated him when he did well! But that is a huge credit to him. MacDougall is one of the few genuine characters in the NRL at the moment and it will be sad not to watch him next year.
Do you know how many times I’ve cursed the Broncos for kicking the ball to this little guy!?! He has always been so quick, elusive, clever and dynamic even though he would often get belted. Campbell has to be one of the toughest to have ever played the game. I will miss his attitude, character and excitement he produces on the field. I will also miss his genuine love for the sport he portrays off the field. It’s sad to see Presto leave but I’m sure we will see him again doing something in rugby league.
This is a guy I do actually believe I grew up watching. I remember him debuting for Penrith as a chubby little fullback, wearing headgear, who would drop as many bombs as he caught. Then, seemingly from nowhere, it all clicked for the Wesser-man. He became safe as a house in defence and electric in attack. Suddenly he was doing it for Queensland as well and doing a damn fine job. I watched him grow as a player and he always seemed humble, quirky and polite in interviews. I’m glad he’s had a decent season to finish a proud career.
The greatest compliment I can pay to Alan Tongue is I wish he was a Queenslander. He would have easily played 20 Origins for the Maroons and it’s a damn shame he never got a look in for the Blues. Tongue won’t go down in history as one of the greatest ever players – but he was the heart and soul of his team. I have often admired everything he achieved in the game and I don’t think the Raiders will ever forget his contribution. Of all the retirements, Tongue will be the most missed by his current team.
Todd Payten is a guy I will remember as the halfback trapped in a front rower’s body. Payten always had a neat pass or might fancy a little kick in attack and had he been blessed with a different body, may have been a decent playmaker. Payten also came across as the ultimate team man and the honest, hard worked everyone needs.
Mark Gasnier left the game and been farewelled once before, so this year has been a bit lower key. He always screamed ‘danger’ when he had the ball and never lost any of his class. He too seems a good person off the field and I doubt he will be lost to the game.
Chris Walker was electric when he broke into the Broncos side and soon after the Maroons. He was also enigmatic and even somewhat mercurial, but always entertaining. Injuries cruelly stalled his career but he was always one of the “must-watch” players in the game.
Carl Webb came into the game at the same time and he was just a “man-beast” of a player. Queenslanders will remember the explosive try he scored, barging through the Blues to announce his arrival. Webb had great aggression and as a viewer, you knew something was going to happen.
This is the greatest player I have ever seen and I will be dedicating an entire column to Darren Lockyer. So stay tuned for that one!
Tips – Dragons, Cowboys, Titans, Warriors, Roosters, Manly, Tigers, Broncos
Last Week – 5/8
Have a fantastic week,