The Charity Shield season opener – more history than anything else…

There was a time when the annual charity shield match between the St
George-Illawarra Dragons and the South Sydney Rabbitohs could be regarded as a
genuine guide to the season ahead.

Tomorrow night’s match can be regarded as no more than an interesting
game between two traditional, and, in recent times, under performing teams. How
times change.

In times gone by Souths had more political clout than Dick Honan of
Manildra fame (or infamy). Its Patron was Patrick Darcy Hills, the powerful
“Minister for Everything” in the Wran and Unsworth Governments (And Chairman of
the SCG/SFS Trust). But its Co-Patron was Nicholas Frank Hugo Greiner, Leader
of Her Majesty’s Opposition. So all bases were covered!

Today Souths are basically backed by a well connected, though very much
“ex ex-politicians”. The same Honourable Nicholas Greiner, The Honourable
Laurence John Brereton, and, his sister, the Honourable Deidre Grusovin.

On the other hand, the Dragons claim powerful, and very contemporary
political backing.

The number one ticket holder is one John Winston Howard, a life long
Dragons supporter, who is old enough to well remember the Dragons’ glory days!

Last year he was momentarily “challenged” for that position, and
another one, by “Iron Mark” Latham…but both challenges came to nought, and
now we hear that Iron Mark is moving to Perth (hasn’t someone told him the
Western Reds were a sad victim of the Super League/ARL “settlement”?”

But the club also enjoys the support of one of the true “human dynamos”
of Australian politics, Ms Cherie Burton, State Member for Kogarah, the driving
force behind the return of the Dragons to their traditional home, Kogarah Oval.

And the Dragons Leagues Club Chairman is the Honourable Douglas
McClelland, whose son is the local Federal MP and a Shadow Minister.

Now you might be wondering why I am babbling on about the Rabbitohs’ and
Dragons’ “political connections”?

Well, it’s much easier to do so than to try and preview tomorrow night’s
match! And its possibly just as productive and informative.

On the basis of last year’s form, you would have to think the referee
has the best chance of being the “winner” tomorrow night, because both teams
must surely regard the 2004 season as being a case of “the less said the
better”.

The
Rabbitohs ended the season stone motherless last…on 16 points,
having won five games, lost 17 and drawn two. And the last game of the
season was about as inglorious as it gets – the Rabbitohs were
absolutely
thrashed by the Canberra Raiders 62-22, and the Raiders were hardly the
standout performer of 2004, finishing in eighth place.

And speaking about the Raiders, did you see who has just joined the
Board of the Canberra Raiders? The Director General of ASIO, Dennis Richardson.

The founding DG of ASIO, Brigadier Sir Charles Spry, must surely be
spinning in his grave. Even Spy’s ASIO office was a “state secret”, so the idea
of the boss of ASIO being on the Board of a Rugby League Team must surely be
revolutionary.

Now to the game tomorrow night.

Even though the Dragons are well short of full strength due to injury
etc, you’d think they would win in a canter,

But the Rabbitohs have generally performed well in the charity shield
season opener. Though last year the Dragons walloped them 34-8.

Even though the Rabbitohs have done some good off season recruiting,
you would have to think it will take a while for the recruits to blend in. But,
for the sake of the game (and the Rabbitohs long term future) one has to hope
they do better than in 2004.

The Dragons had a mixed season in 2004 as well. While the team made the top
eight…its season ended ingloriously when the quirks of the “final eight”
system saw the team knocked out after the first round of the semi finals even
though it ended the competition rounds in 5th place.

A season that showed some promise ended in utter disappointment.

One suspects that coach, Nathan Brown, will have to do well this year.
Unlike the Eels, the Dragons are practised at ditching coaches!

Nathan Brown is one of the genuine good guys of the game. But that will
count for little if the Dragons don’t perform well this year.

Finally, I am grateful to the readers who have e mailed me supporting
my attack yesterday on the NRL’s “superannuation solution” to the loss of
players to rugby union.

I don’t know if the Players Association’s Tony Butterfield read the
column, but by lunch time he was dismissing it as well.

The two guys who have been made look rather foolish as the NRL CEO,
David Gallop, who should have known better, and the NRL’s newest Board Member,
Gorden Tallis, both of who hailed the super plan as a trail blazing move to
stop any exodus to union.

But you could hardly expect much more from Gorden could you?

When asked for a comment after his first NRL Board Meeting the best he
could offer was the observation that the sambos were fresh and the drinks were
cold!

Is it any wonder a significant number of clubs regard his appointment
to the Board with utter cynicism?

Outside Centre can be contacted at outsidecentre10 @hotmail.com