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. With all the bad press around the mass sin bins/send offs, we need some good news right now.
*- this may not be a weekly column; more likely fortnightly (or longer) depending on content.
It’s Good News Week
MAGIC ROUND CROWDS
While Magic Round attracted a lot of controversy thanks to the NRL’s crackdown on head high tackles, the Lang Park faithful still embraced the footy, further proving that Queensland is the self-proclaimed heartland of rugby league, with fans from all 16 teams attending.
There were 41,367 on Friday night, 45,122 on Saturday afternoon/night, and 43,537 on Sunday afternoon/night. Not even watching all three Queensland teams lose could put the fans off. These excellent numbers also show that live sport is slowly returning to capacity following capped crowds in 2020 due to COVID-19.
There’s no surprise that Brisbane is locked in again for Magic Round 2022, though it may expand to other parts of Australia, or New Zealand, in the future.
JAKOB ARTHUR’S DEBUT TRY
After another finals fadeout in 2020, the 2021 season is looking good so far for Parramatta, sitting in third place with a 9-2 record. Their 34-18 win against the NZ Warriors (on a glorious Sunday afternoon at Lang Park) was made even sweeter when Jakob Arthur – son of coach Brad – scored the Eels’ final try. What was even better was the post-match video in the sheds, with an emotional Brad embracing Jakob. You love to see it. Hopefully this the start of a long NRL career for Jakob.
BRAD SCHNEIDER’S DEBUT VIDEO
Speaking of debuts, Ricky Stuart pulled a left-field decision last Tuesday (May 18), picking NSW Cup player Brad Schneider in the Raiders’ NRL team to face the Melbourne Storm. While the selection was necessary due to the suspensions of Jack Wighton, Josh Papalii, and Josh Hodgson, the video doing the social media rounds of Ricky’s announcement and Schneider calling his father with the good news would’ve melted even the most jaded critic. Even better was seeing former Raiders Darrel McDonald (who played for the Raiders from 1991-1992) and Jamie McInnes (1985-88) present Schneider with his debut jersey.
Expected to be a premiership contender, Canberra’s 2021 season has been disappointing, with a five-game losing streak (finally broken during Magic Round), sensational second half collapses, and more off-field drama than a cheesy soap opera, so moments like this give frustrated fans a reason to be cheerful.
While Schneider only played 10 minutes against the Storm (with the Storm comfortably in front), hopefully it’s just the start of a long NRL journey for the Adelaide-born Queenslander.
Thursday night (May 20) was a celebration for Jason Taumalolo. With the Cowboys enjoying a prime-time footy slot, the Queensland Country Bank Stadium fans turned up to celebrate him passing 200 NRL games (Thursday was his 201st).
There was a special guest to greet Taumalolo as he ran out, with his beautiful dog Ollie waiting for him. Like all good doggy daddies, JT made a beeline for his best friend, giving him cuddles and Ollie giving him kisses in return. The outpouring of love for Ollie was universal. Nobody can resist a cute dog story.
It was a mixed night for Taumalolo: while he was sin-binned in the first half, he also managed 194 meters as the Cowboys won 36-20.
BURTON THE HOMETOWN HERO
It’s been a big year for Matt Burton; putting aside the will-he-won’t-he conjecture with Canterbury-Bankstown, he’s committed himself to Penrith for 2021, shifted to centre to accommodate Nathan Cleary, and reaped the rewards.
The Dubbo-born Burton scored a hat-trick at Apex Oval as the almost-invincible Panthers destroyed Souths on Sunday.
Not only is it wonderful to see the NRL return to the bush again, but it’s just as wonderful to see the ‘bush boys’ prosper in front of their home crowds. To quote the Cold Chisel classic “Flame Trees”, do you remember, nothing stopped us on the field, in our day?
On a glorious Sunday afternoon in Dubbo, Burton was unstoppable in his field!
LUKI’S BOTCHED POST-TRY CELEBRATION
Speaking of the Cowboys, Heilum Luki celebrated his NRL debut with the final try of the night, capped off by a hillariously botched post-try celebration. Full of adrenaline after scoring the try, Luki attempted to punt the ball away in celebration but missed it and nearly slipped over; he didn’t have time to be embarrassed though, as he was swamped by celebrating teammates. However, you can bet he was good-naturedly ribbed about in the privacy of the dressing room, and it’s sure to make an appearance in the Cowboys’ post-season blooper reel.
As fun as a good post-try celebration is (remember when The Footy Show used to run the “post-try celebration” competition in the early 2000s?), seeing a bombed one is even better: we all remember Aaron Woods’ epic fail during Origin, completely missing his teammates while trying to jump into the celebrating pack. It’s almost an iconic an Origin moment as Queensland’s SFS miracle try in 1994.