Tackling the rugby league conspiracy theories

Referee Steve Clark, right. Picture: STEVE CHRISTOThere are some Dragons fans who are also conspiracy theorists.They’re the ones who are convinced that the NRL, the referees, the media or some other power brokers are working behind the scenes to steal the premiership from the Dragons.I understand where this sort of thinking comes from – it always feels better to blame someone else when your team loses. It’s certainly easier than admitting that – maybe, just maybe – your team wasn’t good enough on the day. Read more Try Hard blogs But like conspiracy theorists, their beliefs don’t make any sense.For instance, these fans have a huge grudge against referee Steve Clark, stemming from a 1998 semi against the Bulldogs. The fans contend that Clark’s decisions cost the Dragons the game. As he left the field someone poured a “bucket of spit” on his head (which makes you wonder, who brings a bucket of spit to the footy?”).To this day they’re convinced that Clark despises the Dragons and tries to penalises them out of the game. This is despite the fact that he was the ref in the video booth when we played the Dogs and who denied their last-minute try.He was also the video ref who disallowed a try to a resurgent Panthers side in last weekend’s game that, for my money, should have been awarded.And his penalty stats during Dragons games aren’t any worse than for any other team.There’s another conspiracy surrounding the judiciary’s citing of Justin Poore, Beau Scott and Matt Prior.Apparently, that’s been done because the NRL wants to bring the Dragons back to the pack to ensure a tight and more interesting finals race.They seem to forget that Poore’s tackle was a bit dodgy and that, if a Dragons player had been on the receiving end, they would have been screaming blue murder. Scott and Prior’s tackle, however, I can’t even recall. But that’s not evidence of a conspiracy, just of the vagaries of the NRL judiciary.Of course, now that Poore has gotten off the serious charge that’s further proof the judiciary has no ax to grind with the Dragons’ run this year.Then there’s the big one – that the NRL will do anything it can to ensure the Bulldogs win the comp (and, by inference, denying it to the Dragons).There are two reasons for this. Firstly it’ll be a fitting farewell to cleanskin winger and role model Hazem El Masri, who is retiring at the end of the year.Secondly, it would mean the Dogs went from a last-place finish to first in just 12 months – which is a huge feel-good story.The conspiracy fans are right – those two things would make great stories. And the NRL probably would like those stories.But a Dragons premiership would be just as good for the NRL. It’d be an iconic club winning their first grand final exactly 30 years since their last one (1979). It’d be a club who had potential for years but finally realised it. It’d be a club that, after years of struggle, years of getting close, finally got its hands on the trophy. That’s a great story too.It would mean sinner to saint and NRL icon of the year Wendell Sailor could go out a winner (if the rumours of him retiring at the end of the year are true).And think of the bucks the NRL would make in merchandise – a Dragons premiership would be a huge moneyspinner. After waiting three decades for a premiership, Dragons fans would go nuts buying any piece of 2009 premiership memorabilia they could get their hands on. I know I will be.What I won’t be doing is buying into the ridiculous idea that the NRL already has the premiers name engraved into the trophy.That’s just ridiculous. The grand final will be decided by the players. And no-one else.
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