All posts by @pauldalligan


The last time that NSW won a State of Origin series against Queensland I was a single man living in Sydney.  That night, buoyed by the jubilance of the result, and perhaps fuelled by more than a few pints, I marched up to the woman who would later become my wife.  Given my wife will readily tell you that I didn’t exactly show Usain Bolt type speed in proposing the fact that I am now married with a family and long settled in Melbourne shows how long ago it was the last Blue Moon shone down over the rugby league landscape. 

Being a rugby league fanatic and living in Melbourne is like being Sting’s Englishmen in New York.  But come State of Origin time it is always easier to sell the greatest game of all to those in this AFL obsessed city as there isn’t much else in the way of quality live sport on a Wednesday night at prime time.  And quality it is as even the most hardened AFL fanatic will usually tune in to watch teams from Queensland and NSW belt the living suitcase out of each other on the sport’s greatest stage. 

I am always explaining to the locals, well those who will listen anyway, that there really is nothing like this event in AFL where the best of the best are on show, putting the Poms and Kiwis to one side for present purposes.  Sure the AFL has their Grand Final, but Judd, Bartell, Swan, Franklin and Goodes wont all be on the field at once like they would be in their rugby league equivalent. 

The NRL in their wisdom decided to play Game One of the State of Origin series of 2012 in Melbourne, much to the annoyance of the Sydney press which had been abuzz with a chorus of disapproval, led primarily by the NSW coach Ricky Stuart. Sticky queried why NSW would sell themselves up the river (or down the Yarra in this case) and discard the treasured home ground advantage when it was so intent on stopping 6 years of Queensland dominance.  The rumour that the Victorian Government is in discussions with the NSW and Queensland government to obtain the neutral game each and every year at the MCG, thus ensuring an even series each year, did nothing to calm the baying masses in blue. 

It was with a heady mixture of excitement, nervousness and anticipation that I ventured to Etihad Stadium on 23 May 2012, hoping that the maroon fortress built from 6 years of domination would finally start to crumble. 

There may be no bigger gamblers in Australia than seen in nearby Crown Casino, but surely on this night Ricky Stuart would take the mantle of Australia’s biggest punter. His main gamble was the selection of Todd Carney, a man who at times in his life would make Brendan Fevola look more on the rails than a Swiss train. It was hoped that Carney would provide the spark that was needed to stop the brilliance of Inglis, Thurston, Smith and Slater but it was the equivalent of trying to win Crown’s Magic Millions with a pair of sevens. 

It had always been hard to watch Greg Inglis star for Queensland, given that he was born and raised in Bowraville, a town that wont appear on any map of Queensland given it is several hours drive south of the border.  NSW fans were however now hamstrung from any cries of unfairness given that our best forward on the night, James Tamou, is about as true blue Aussie as Jake the Muss. 

NSW came out firing in the first half with their set plays looked more structured than a German kindergarten.  It was a welcome change from previous Origin series, where any structure went out the window as soon as Queensland applied the inevitable blowtorch but tonight it seemed that finally we were ready to roar.

When the Fijian Flyer (ahem again to the Inglis from NSW argument) crashed over it looked like NSW may be in for a magical night.  But as sure as bad news stories follow every Mad Monday, Queensland took the lead after a wild brawl which resulted in Michael Jennings from NSW being sent from the field.

The final cruel nail was delivered when Greg Inglis (I won’t start) crossed for the most controversial scoring play since Wayne Carey was found in the toilets with a teammate’s wife. Even those in Maroon in my vicinity declared that the video referee should have been wearing a balaclava as “you was robbed” (I quote). But to the victors go the spoils, and as I stated on the night I know of no other sporting team in Australia who have more tenacity, spirit and courage under fire than the Queensland Origin team that has developed into the greatest in the history of rugby league. 

But onwards and upwards we go to Game 2 in Sydney, where somehow NSW is the bookie’s favourite. Sticky Stuart is still gambling with Todd Carney and I more than any man am hoping his ace in the pack will somehow trump the Royal Flush that has been the past six years of Queensland dominance.

Even if tonight ends with me seeing red, or Maroon in this case, I can take plenty more of that pain. I am also a Rabbitohs fanatic after all…. 
23 May 2012
Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Queensland 18
Tries:                           Boyd (2), Inglis           
Goals:                          Thurston 3/3
New South Wales 10
Tries:                           Uate, Jennings
Goals:                          Carney 1/3
Crowd: 56,021 
Best:                           Myles, Inglis, Tamou

LA Story – my Dodgers experience

Even before my plane from Melbourne had touched down at LAX, the Los Angeles Times was telling me that the city had fallen out of love with the LA Dodgers.  That, “now batting for the Dodgers, well who cares” and, even worse, that the current Dodgers team had become “unwatchable”. 

I felt like a soccer fanatic on a pilgrimage to Barcelona, only to be told that the city of unbridled passion could no longer find any passion for Barca F.C.  But when it takes a day of your life simply to get to LA, as an Australian baseball fanatic I wasn’t going to have my spirits dampened by a cynical press.

So on a balmy June night I headed straight from LAX towards my date with the Dodgers.  Being from a country where the sporting stadiums are usually a line drive from the CBD, I had thought my taxi driver was lost when he started driving up a mountain.  But then I saw it, the baseball Mecca in the Mountains of Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers baseball sanctuary high up in the hills of Los Angeles.

I had arrived at a time of high anxiety for the Dodgers – in fact it wasn’t even known who owned the team as it was the subject of divorce proceedings filed between high profile husband and wife Frank and Jamie McCourt.  Whilst bitter divorce cases usually involve houses, cars or the occasional speedboat, given that this was LA perhaps the fact that this divorce involved a tug of war over a Major League Baseball team wasn’t so surreal after all.

Due to the financial woes of the McCourts the players weren’t even guaranteed to be paid their salaries by 30 June 2011.  During the 18 hour flight from Down Under I had nightmarish visions of arriving at Dodgers Stadium only to hear the Dodgers players were on strike, and having instead to occupy my time in LA with the dreaded “Secret Celebrity Homes” tour.

On arrival at ths stadium I was elated to find a crowd of nearly 40,000 whose passion for the game and their beloved team quickly embraced me.  In a 3 hour flurry of excitement a Major League Baseball game delivers something for everyone.  It is no surprise that Australia’s favourite pastime cricket has now shifted its focus from five-day epics and day long marathons to a shortened three hour 20/20 style format.  This is no doubt inspired by the Americans who work more magic into their three hour sporting spectacles than David Copperfield could ever manage.

Every Dodgers player arrived at the plate to a musical interlude that reverberated around the stadium. I particularly enjoyed the arrival of Dodgers infielder Juan Uribe to Rihanna’s “Whats My Name”.  It was an ironic choice of song name given this era of self promotion, where too many players often talk about themselves in reverential third person tones.  The ultimate irony of the song choice however was that Rihanna was the last flame of the Dodgers’ biggest star Matt Kemp, before she (reportedly) started batting for the other team.  Big Matt obviously bears no ill will about her departure from his life, or change of team, given that every time he goes to work he is now loudly reminded of her.

Even the romantics in Dodgers Stadium were catered for with “Kiss Cam”, where the cameraman between innings would zoom in on a couple in the audience and they would kiss to the roar of 40,000 people. Cupid missed only once, when his arrow zoomed in on a middle-aged couple where, as the man leant in for his obligatory kiss, the woman pulled away like he was breathing fire.  The local media would have you believe her loss of passion was sadly symbolic of the attitude of LA fans to their Dodgers, but thankfully the reality I experienced in Dodgertown was far different.

Over two nights I saw dominant performances from Dodgers’ pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, local pitchers raised through the Dodgers farm system.  However, the most exciting player I saw however was Devaris “Dee” Gordon at shortstop, another local product who lit up the Dodgers grand stage of baseball with a combination of fleet footedness, rocket armed throws  and a hot bat bordering on a .300 average for the season.

It is one thing we certainly love in Australia, the home grown kid made good, and the Dodgers fans were certainly singing their approval from the same songsheet.  Deep in the game and with the local hero Kershaw due up at the plate, the Dodgers Manager Don Mattingley stuck with Kershaw and didn’t call for a pinch hitter, his loyalty rewarded when Kershaw pounded in the winning runs.  The Dodgers pitchers take their hitting very seriously, another sign that while the local media seemed to have given up on the team, the players were still competing feverishly in every aspect of the game.

Deep in the game and with the game hanging in the balance, a recorded interview with Tommy Lasorda was shown on the big screen.  After 6 decades of loyal service as a player, manager and now club ambassador, Lasorda would appear in any dictionary where “Dodgers Legend” is defined.  Everyone in the stadium listened intently to the great man, whose simple words contained more passion than you would find at any Spanish film festival.  He finished with the immortal words that “….to me this place is not Dodgers Stadium,  it is blue heaven on Earth”.

In a city where the hills are treated like Scrabble racks, his words are appropriately captured as a backdrop to the stadium.

Late in the game, and after polishing off a few hot dogs washed down with the always fantastic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, I got talking to a local about those damn fine “Dodger Dogs”.  I was told that not only are they the best hot dogs in baseball, but they are proudly made at a local farm where the recipe is a more closely guarded secret than Coca Cola.  The dreamy eyed fan even pointed towards the farm somewhere in the distance, as if I could gaze across the hills like a kid outside the gates of Disneyland and suddenly spot the magical land of hot dog heaven.

It was a fitting moment that not only do these fans love their baseball team, they also even talk up their hot dogs as if they are the most treasured culinary treat on earth.  On a balmy June night in Dodgertown they were as I woudn’t have traded that Dodger Dog for anything served up by a Michelin-starred French chef.

On leaving Dodgers Stadium and gazing out at the hills around me I asked a local resident whether locals like the fact that the only thing many people from overseas may know of LA is Hollywood.  That surely the locals would want the world to know that there is so much more to their fine city than the glitz and glamour of showbusiness.

I was however immediately told that “every person in this city loves Hollywood – because we tell the world its stories”. 

And on two nights in June 2011 I saw a few stories of my own.  A tale of bitter divorces, backroom dealings, players playing with passion but with the threat of no pay, and through it all their fight to emerge victorious from the dark shadow cast by a scornful local press.   An epic worthy of Universal Studios indeed.

With my first child due to arrive next month, my next trip from Down Under will surely be more Mickey Mouse than Mickey Mantle.  It was an honour and a privilege while I could to be able to spend some time with the true fans of baseball in Dodgertown.  Now to see if my local stadium will try and replicate those Dodger Dogs.

The Melbourne Aces – The Heat Is On….

Well here it is…crunch time. 

Your Melbourne Aces face their biggest challenge of the season starting this Thursday night  January 13 when they take on the second placed Perth Heat in a 4 game series to be played at Melbourne Showgrounds, Flemington.

The Aces and Heat will play 4 games on 13 -15 January, with 7pm starts on Thursday 13 January and Friday 14 January.  There will also be a massive double header starting at 4.30pm on Saturday 15 January 2010 with Game One at 4.30pm and Game 2 at 7.30pm.

And in a first for the Melbourne Aces, Southern FM is proud to announce that it will be broadcasting live from Flemington Showgrounds on 15 January 2011, going to air at 7pm for the crunch second game of the Aces v Heat double header.

The two teams will then head across the country to play 4 more games in Perth to finish the ABL season from 20 – 22 January.

Whilst making the finals is any club’s main goal at the start of the season, the main prize is being able to play those finals at home in order to benefit from that extra lift in intensity that only home supporters can provide.

The ABL table currently stands as follows:

  Club PCT  GB  *ELIM #       
  Adelaide 18 12 .600        
  Perth 18 14 .563 1.0        
  Sydney 17 14 .548 1.5        
  Melbourne 16 15 .516 2.5        
  Brisbane 13 17 .433 5.0 7        
  Canberra 11 21 .344 8.0 3        

Only the top 4 teams will make the playoffs, and with fifth placed Brisbane recording some strong wins of late the Aces need to make sure they put up a strong home stand against the Heat before heading across to face Perth in their home cauldron to finish the ABL season.

In the ABL playoffs, the team finishing first will host the team finishing second in a best of 3 series from January 27 – 29.  The winner of that matchup will have the honour of hosting the Australian Baseball League Championship in a 3 game series on February 11 – 13.

Unlike our American baseballing compatriots, where the World Series goes back and forwards between the two cities involved, in the Australian Baseball League all 3 games will be on the home turf of the team that wins when first plays second.

The team that finishes third for the season will host the team who comes fourth for a 3 game series on each night of January 27 – 29, and the winner of that matchup will face the winner of the first v second series to determine the other team in the Championship Series.

The equation is simple – for your Melbourne Aces to play finals baseball at their fantastic home ground, the Melbourne Showgrounds, they need to finish the season no lower than third place.

The Aces will need to be at their best to catch the third placed Sydney. Given however that Sydney plays the struggling Canberra Cavalry in their last 4 games to end the season it is absolutely vital that the Aces come out firing against the Heat in Melbourne.

Dare we say, the Perth Heat have been in sizzling form, managing to win all 4 games at Sydney to surge into second spot and in contention to play for a place in the Championship Series in week one of the finals.

Perth Heat starting pitcher Matt Zachary was last week named Player of the Week for Round 8 after throwing down seven complete innings while conceding just four hits, no runs, and no walks while striking out four Blue Sox batters.

Perth’s Robbie Widlansky is also 6th in the ABL for batting average for the season with a very impressive average of 0.328.

The Aces have the second and third best batting averages for the ABL season in Melbourne’s very own Andrew Russell and Grant Karlsen who have averages of 0.363 and 0.354 respectively.  These local lads have no doubt caught the eye of many of the 28 of the 30 Major League teams who have sent scouts to Australia to scour new talent.  Andrew Russell has also belted an ABL high 7 home runs for the season, and will be looking to go deep against Perth at the Showgrounds.

 It will be a massive series against the Heat, and the Aces season may very well ride on whether it can head to Perth with a few victories under its belt as it attempts to secure that all important top 3 finish.  With the Aces dropping their last 3 games against league leaders Adelaide they are desperate for your support against the high flying Heat.

Get out to the game or join us live on 88.3 Southern FM from 7pm on Saturday 15 January 2011 with your host The Professor, Sean Callanan and Daniel Eade who are all very excited to bring Melbourne Aces baseball to the airwaves for the very first time.

McDaniels of the Denver Broncos – there may be smoke but sadly there is not enough fire….

It is never a good situation when as a coach in the NFL your Wikipedia page has been hacked and someone has changed your name to ‘Fire This Bum’.

But in the case of Josh McDaniels of the Denver Broncos that is exactly what is happening out there in cyberspace right now. At the tender age of just over 30 when he was appointed, there was always going to be a danger that McDaniels would be overawed on entering the cauldron of football fanaticism that is the city of Denver. This is of course the city whose home team the Denver Broncos have sold out EVERY game since the 1960s. The city where the only way to get yourself season tickets is in a will or buying the house of people leaving town who have left their tickets on the kitchen bench.

At the time of his hiring, the Broncos made McDaniels one of the youngest ever head coaches in the NFL. McDaniels certainly had showed promise during his time as an Assistant Coach at the Patriots and arrived in Denver full of passion and momentum. In his first few games as head coach McDaniels prowled the sidelines with all the enthusiasm of a 6 year old at Disneyland. The fist pumps, the wild eyes and the audible roars after a great play would have reminded many of the cauldron of simmering fury that was the previous Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, whose match day complexion made Alex Ferguson look positively albino in comparison.

But sadly for Denver Broncos fans, that was where the similarities will end.

Because while they may share the same wound up persona on field, McDaniels (sorry, ‘Fire this Bum’) will never now match the record of Shanahan who managed to win two Super Bowls during his 11 year reign as head coach of the Broncos.  McDaniels may still be the head coach of the Broncos but it will only be a matter of time until their owner pulls the trigger, especially after a woeful Monday Night Football performance against their biggest rival the Chargers.

Monday night is the night when an already sports mad country steps up their fanaticism to maximum intensity. Surely that would have been the perfect stage for McDaniels to find some of that old fire as his team tried to keep their season alive.  As the game wore on however McDaniels seemed to retreat more and more into his shell on the sidelines. It looked like someone had spiked coach’s Gatorade with prozac as McDaniels looked about as ambitious and energetic as a three toed sloth.  What really made the Broncos fans howl however was McDaniels incredibly conservative play calling. When you are down by 30 points, it is time to roll the dice. McDaniels on several occasions decided to punt on 4th down, rather than find those dice and throw them with caution to the wind like wedding confetti on a windy day.

Punting on 4th down is usually a wise choice, but when you are down by such a big margin it is the equivalent of standing on 12 against a dealer’s 10 in blackjack. The game was well and truly over and even trying anything could seem like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, but surely the fans deserve to see their coach at least giving it a shot.  Exactly why McDaniels decided to close the shutters and play out the game with all the intensity and excitement of a man serving his sentence on death row is well and truly beyond this observer.

Broncos fans can take some comfort from the fact that McDaniels days are numbered in Denver. Until that day they will simply have to endure the Titantic that the Broncos season has become, with a coach who promised so much but has now become too scared to sail the stormy seas.

POSTSCRIPT: Since the time of writing this article McDaniels has been faced with one of his assistant coaches being caught spying on and recording an opposing team. In worse developments for McDaniels only today the Denver Broncos lost at home to the previously woeful St Louis Rams – it can’t be long until there is an axe being wielded in Denver…

State of Origin II – I guess that's why they call them The Blues….

I spent the first 30 years of my life in Sydney before moving to Melbourne.

Every year in my adopted state I would don my NSW jersey with pride and try to roar NSW home.

Tonight Queensland has won Game 2 and becomes the first team to win five series in a row.

All that this once proud New South Welshman can say is congratulations – and respect.

The reason I say once proud is that this NSW “team” has left me embarrassed and disgusted.

Not because of the magnitude of the scoreboard, as Queensland was clearly the best team. They are a true wonder of the world who play with passion, commitment and a sense of teamwork that would inspire even the great teams of this World Cup.

I am instead embarrassed about NSW due to the racist comments from a player who I used to think was the best thing the game had produced – and I am even more embarassed about people who say his comments weren’t wrong as they were never meant for a wider audience.

Racism is racism whether it is heard by one person or the world.

I am disgusted about players like Luke O’Donnell whose headbutt and cheap shot on a player who was being held would be called barbaric even by UFC standards, yet more cowardly than anything seen in those cages.

Many NSW fans hoped that our “enforcer” Paul Gallen who was missing in Game  1 would make a difference. Gallen has made a living from playing close to the edges of the game – tonight he went right over the edge, and hopefully out of State of Origin forever.  NSW needs cold steel right now, not loose cannons.

And our “Captain” Kurt Gidley was named tonight to start on the bench. Please lead our State Mr Gidley – but don’t think you will be out on the field doing it.  All it would have taken is for Gidley to have chased a few cheerleaders around the bench during the game to a zany musical backdrop, and we would have a skit that Benny Hill would be proud of.

At least it would be comical if it wasn’t my State sliding into oblivion…

I will of course watch Game 3 but it will take plenty for NSW to win this once proud fan back.

Is it too much to ask for a new coach, new selectors, a team that plays hard but fair, and a captain that actually plays with the team….

A team that a whole State can be proud of. Not just Benny Hill…

Dalligan on League

Border Jumpers…

Hello all..

Not sure whether I take it as a compliment, an insult or a threat that some of the best talent in rugby league is being poached by the cashed up AFL.

Fosters was cashed up once and they decided to buy Southcorp – and they have actually now managed to lose money selling beer to Australians. Possibly a first…

Part of me hopes that the AFL circus act follows the same path – I feel for those doing great things in the VFL.  The next Podsiadly or Barlow could provide Western Sydney with their very own hero but they are being passed over as the AFL pillages other sports.

Why look for talent in your own backyard when your millions will buy you greener pastures down the road…

Paul Dalligan – your panellist on all things rugby league…