2021 NRL Good News: Round Five

Like the iconic 1990s/2000s Australian variety show/game show, it’s time to celebrate a “Good News Week” in the NRL.

These articles will focus on some of the good news stories in the NRL: the players going above and beyond for the fans, the little good deeds that go unnoticed, and the funny/quirky/unusual stuff. 

It’s Good News Week

Celebrating Tommy

It’s been a sad week in rugby league, with Tommy Raudonikis passing last Wednesday (April 7), a week shy of his 71st birthday.

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The shock of Tommy’s death eventually turned to celebration, as a thousand stories came out on social media about the Western Suburbs, Newtown, NSW, and Australian Kangaroos legend.

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The Wests Tigers announced a fitting tribute to Tommy’s legacy, with all four Tigers teams retiring Tommy’s number seven jersey on the weekend. The halfbacks for the Tigers NRL, Knock-On Effect NSW Cup, Jersey Flegg, and Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership sides all wore different numbers. Each halfback would run out last, with the usual number seven jersey to be placed on the first chair of the club’s bench. It’s a shame the Tigers NRL team didn’t wear their Western Suburbs strip against North Queensland, instead wearing an embroidered home jersey honouring Tommy.

There was also a minute’s silence at all round five games this weekend. It had an immediate impact, as Broncos legend Allan Langer got emotional before the Souths vs Brisbane game on Thursday night.

Latrell’s Family Matters

While Latrell Mitchell has been a lightning rod for controversy in the past, he’s enjoyed a cracking start to 2021, scoring five tries and kicking three goals as South Sydney raced to a 4-1 start. His off-field deeds have been just as good, as he’s just bought a house for his parents. It’s the kind of feelgood story your hear in American sports, where cashed-up teenagers who’ve just made it big give something back to their parents.

He bought the Taree property for his father Matt and his mother Trish. It’s quite spacious, with six bedrooms and on more than 19 hectares of land. 

With so many negative stories about players getting up to mischief, it’s refreshing to see a superstar like Latrell do something like this. While he’s only 23, he’s definitely got his priorities right.

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Sia…The Man of the People

While Iosia Soliola has only been a Raider since 2015, he’s become a part of the Canberra community. After Raiders wins, he begins an impromptu Viking Clap with the fans, banging on super fan Simon Tayoun’s drum. Not to mention all the unheralded things he does off the field, like the following example from the Footy Smiles social media accounts.

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Raiders fan Mandy has been struggling with health issues, so Sia gave her a much needed pep-up, sending his own shirt (signed by the team) with a message of support: ‘To Mandy, we’re with you every step of the way #BleedGreen.’

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According to Mandy, ‘Sia reached out to me via Instagram. He was humble, respectfully asked if it was ok to message me and thanked me for supporting…Canberra. Last night (against Penrith) Sia played his game with my name written on his arm.’

It’s another example of Sia going above and beyond for fans and being an absolute champion of the game.

Via the “Footy Smiles” Facebook page.

It’s Funny/Quirky/Unusual

Penrith Do the Clap

Penrith are flying high at the moment: building on their near-perfect 2020, they’ve won five straight in 2021 and look almost unbeatable.

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Canberra – who were grand finalists in 2019 and preliminary finalists in 2020 – were the latest victim on Friday night. 

While the game was neatly poised with the Panthers up 18-10 with 20 to go, tries to Charlie Staines (his second) and Nathan Cleary ensured a comfortable Penrith win to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their 1991 premiership.

With the game secure, the Panthers fans at a packed-out BlueBet Stadium did their own Viking Clap, aping the Raiders’ famous pre-game ritual.

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There are two ways to look at this: it was either arrogant and disrespectful, or a bit of fun.

In hindsight, it’s a stadium full of happy fans of a young, confident team celebrating a win (and a historic night) with a bit of banter. It also shows how ingrained the Viking Clap has become with the Raiders and the NRL.

It was a little awkward for Michael Ennis, who now works for the Raiders, and was commentating for Fox League.

Ennis mocked the Viking Clap (with less light-hearted intentions) after Cronulla-Sutherland’s shock finals win in Canberra in 2016, and his Fox League co-workers weren’t shy in reminding him.

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Bellyache Sledges The Cheese

While Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy has a reputation for being intense, he can pull out the odd zinger, this time at the expense of The Cheese (Storm hooker Brandon Smith).

According to the Roasted Rugby League Facebook page, Smith explained that he didn’t train all week due to illness. However, Bellyache wasn’t having a bar of it, saying it was a bit of ‘man flu’: “He just had a little cold and a runny nose…you’d think he had pneumonia.”

I think The Cheese might be doing a few ‘extras’ at training to make up for his time off…

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