Punting Ace’s Nick Tedeschi writes:
Sport is full of curses.
The Chicago Cubs blame their failure to win a World Series in over a century on the Curse of the Billy Goat, a hex placed by a billy goat owning fan after he and his goat were thrown out of Wrigley Field. Japanese baseball sees the Hanshin Tigers believe in the Curse of the Colonel with the team failing to win a title since hurling a life-size statue of Colonel Sanders into Dotonbon River. The AFL has the Curse of Norm Smith to explain why the Melbourne Demons have not won a premiership since firing their legendary coach midway through the 1965 season. There is the Sports Illustrated Cover jinx, the Andretti Curse and the Curse of Biddy Early.
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Rugby league is not to be left out with the St. George-Illawarra Dragons struck down by the Curse of Canberra.
The Dragons just cannot beat the Raiders. They have not won in Canberra since 2000 when Raiders coach David Furner and former Dragons coach Nathan Brown both played. Only four players- Trent Barrett, Luke Bailey, Alan Tongue and Todd Payten- remain in the NRL today. The only time the Dragons have beaten Canberra since the 2001 season was in 2007 when St. George-Illawarra shocked the rugby league world with a 58-16 win over the Raiders.
Canberra have downed the Dragons in eight straight matches at Canberra Stadium while the Dragons have been successful in only one of their last thirteen clashes with the Raiders. These results have come during a period where the Dragons have been considered perennial premiership contenders while the Raiders start each season favoured to win the wooden spoon.
The hex continued last Sunday when the Dragons blew a 4-0 half-time lead to lose 32-16. A win would have secured the minor premiership for the Dragons. It was the most points the Dragons have conceded all year, it was the first time they have allowed more than four tries and it was only the fourth time the Dragons had conceded 20-plus points this year.
More worryingly for the Dragons faithful is Canberra’s late season finals run that could see the Green Machine sneak into the finals. If Canberra does make it to September then the likelihood is they will finish eighth and will play the Dragons in week one of the playoffs. The Dragons team is worried enough about yet another late-season choke without being burdened by the mental lead bag that is taking on the Canberra Raiders.
Back-to-back minor premierships followed by back-to-back losses to the lowest ranked team in the finals would send sharp currents of fear throughout the team and those who barrack for them. The Dragons may not bounce back. Talk of the Dragons choke will become commonplace and history suggests the club does not respond well to such allegations.
The Dragons have clearly been the best team in 2010. There is a significant gap between them and the pack. They look to be shortening stride though and we are still a long way from finishing pole. If the Dragons are to go post to wire they are going to need a kick because the Dragons of 2010 look no different to those Dragons teams who have been run down in the shadows at other times throughout the last decade. The Curse of Canberra makes their task even more difficult.
Another loss to Canberra and the Dragons may be calling on the witch doctor before it is all said and done. Dragons fans are living in fear and it is those plucky little Raiders that have them on their knees.