Published by Tom Squires, 28 August 2018 on foxsports.com.au
AS A lifelong St George Illawarra fan, this comes from a place of love: the Dragons should not play finals this year.
And I’m working on the system to make that happen.
Yes, the Dragons have enough points to make the final eight. Yes, they led the competition for much of the season. Yes, the finals is a “totally new competition” and “anything can happen”.
No it isn’t. And no it can’t.
St George Illawarra’s total capitulation to the Bulldogs at Kogarah on Sunday, playing in honour of Lance Thompson, was the final, boo-inducing straw. Thompson operating alone would probably have offered stiffer defensive resistance than Paul McGregor’s fading troops.
The Dragons will not suddenly breathe fire come September. They will continue to exhale a rancid, emphysemic wheeze. Best they seek urgent medical attention now. There’s a specialist named Dr Bennett who may be called in, once he’s done annoying the Broncos to another premiership opportunity.
So, what to do?
The NRL finals series promises to be one of the most open yet. Any team can win — apart from the Dragons and Penrith. Probably not the Warriors either, now that I think about it, but they’ll scare plenty.
So why not do the decent thing and send the big Red V and the formerly big Brown Chocolate back to the drawing board immediately.
In their place, under my brand new Wildcard system, come the Raiders — the best team to miss finals in decades — and the Cowboys, with a line-up capable of anything in the big games.
Plus, there are a couple of people who have not yet had the chance to personally say goodbye to and thank Johnathan Thurston. More kicking tees and headgear to hand out to kids. His epic farewell tour deserves to extend into post-season. Think of it as a Sense of Occasion rule.
Naturally, teams in the top four are immune from the Wildcard, but anyone who splutters into the bottom of the eight on an empty tank and bald tyres is susceptible.
The Raiders are flying. Let them play. Like new Prime Minister Scott Morrison, they weren’t in the original mix, but once installed in the contest, who knows how far they can go?
Give the people the finals they want.