Monday, October 19, 2009

Looking Back on the Year in League

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It was a tale of two stories for rugby league in 2009. On the field it was a fantastic year with spectacular rugby league being played. Off the field it was a disaster with scandal after incident after controversy.

It began even before a match was played when Brett Stewart was pulled up following the season launch. The champion fullback’s indiscretion caused the commercials the league had filmed to be altered as Stewart was the star of them.

As the year progressed there was no respite, in fact it got far worse. A 10 year old incident with Matthew Johns was brought to the surface meaning that Johns had to resign all of his positions. Nate Myles defecated in a hotel corridor and Greg Inglis had to face charges of assaulting his girlfriend.

If these three weren’t enough, countless players were fined for drink driving and getting into various types of trouble.

As bad as that, it was breathless on the field.

Once again the State of Origin was incredible. Queensland have won four series in a row but New South Wales bounced back when they won the last match in a very fiery display.

In the domestic competition, Wayne Bennett’s arrival at Kogarah took the Dragons to the top of the ladder. They won the minor premiership for the first time in 24 years. They were playing aggressive, passionate football and were looking good for the title. Elsewhere, the Bulldogs had a remarkable season. They bounced back from a poor 2008 to finish second on the ladder. Gold Coast Titans also did well to finish third. The Melbourne Storm weren’t as dominant as they were in recent years but still finished fourth. Then followed the Sea Eagles, Broncos, Knights and Eels.

The finals series began with a bang when the defending champion Sea Eagles were eliminated following the Dragons’ defeat to the hands of the 8th placed Eels. Not only did this give the Storm the week off but gave them a home preliminary final.

In Week 2, both the Titans and Dragons would go out without winning a final. The Eels and Broncos both advanced to the final four. With the Eels having to play the Bulldogs for a place in the Grand Final, a wave of nostalgia followed. Everyone was excited for the game by previous Eels-Bulldogs encounters and it resulted in the biggest ever crowd a non Grand Final. The Eels continued the dream while the Storm were simply too strong for the Broncos.

The experienced Storm had too much for the Eels in the Grand Final and made it two from four Grand Finals. The Eels will be better for the experience and are a favourite in NRL betting for 2010.

David Wiseman writes for this blog. He is looking forward to the next Melbourne Cup.

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