Tony Butterfield: JT no mere Immortal

TENminutes is a long time in top-flight rugby league. It was for Danny Levi last week as he wandered aimlessly off the pitch for a stint in the sin-bin. Andit was for a Knights team who strode into the sheds at half-time looking for all the world like a top-eight outfit.

Their first half was a triumph in planning and execution,and then came the 10-minute break. Been there, done that.Half-time can kill ya.

If you’re travelling well, themindset coming into the sheds should be: “How did we gain the advantage? What disciplines did we employ that slowly gave us the ascendancy?”

The key is patience, grasshoppers. Start again. Re-earn the right to play footy by re-building the same base you did in the first half. The result should then take care of itself. That said, we were leading for all but the last twominutes. So not a bad day out by any stretch.

Of course, the other mob usually have something to say about one’s plans.

And they did. None more influential than the old maestro, Johnathan Thurston, who would sink us one final and some might say, fitting, time. Out of sorts with injury and the like, plenty have written him off.

Sure, he missed two try tackles, along with his defensive bodyguard, Gavin Cooper. But he either scored or set up all four Cowboys touchdowns.

In between, he took a grip on proceedings and throttled the second half. “Old fella” limitations be buggered, his strength was having the ball in his hands, and with monotonous regularity he testedthe integrity of the line until the set-up moment arrived. JT at his “follow me” best.

In comparison, former Cronulla lockGavin Miller was one of the best I’ve seen in this space. Of course, Andrew Johns and Allan Langer had a similar dominance. In other words, it’s rare.

With all this interest in the retired “Immortals”, league lovers should enjoy one still playing for the next fiveweeks.You can bet the old gun-slinger has got a few rounds in the chamber yet before he rides off in the northern sunset.

I’ll be cheering the Cowboys home and dofffrom a distance my hat for his long, distinguished and inspiring example, which is not finished yet!

As to Friday night’s match against the Tigers match, Newcastleare close and should prevail with greater discipline and plenty of effort. Knights by two.

* THEStorm clouds roll on. Shooting for their ninth straight victory, can they be stopped from here, regardless of Friday’s top-of-the-table Bunnies clash?

Using last season as a measure, whenthey won 10 straight to hoist the trophy, this year they need 16. Fanciful maybe, but Bellamy, Smith and companywill be at grand final intensity one game at a time and are unlikely to give an inch any time soon.

Firming favourites to take it out,if they can do it, what a phenomenal and profound achievement in the annals of the game. Bloody Storm!

As to the rest, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll make up the numbers in this year’s race.

One thing is for sure, the Storm v Rabbitohs match-upwill be a beauty as the dominant bulls size each other up for the big games ahead.

Other than the Eels v Titans clash, every other game hasramifications for the vanquished and victor alike.

The interesting race for that final spot in the eightseems tantalisingly close for the sole survivor barely attached to the back of the main peloton. The hit-and-miss Tigers have to beat the Knights or it’s curtains, if not already. The Warriors,right on queue, have got the wobbly boot on like an old auntie at a B&S ball.

They may hang on for eighth spot, but as sure as eighth plays first in week one of the semis, their days are numbered. I might be wrong, cuzzy-bros.

* IT became alittle undignified this week as the big-end-of-media-town types got their noses out of joint over who should decide the new “Immortals”. Dropped, the three media luminaries went for all the story was worth, essentially offended by the shabby treatment by the organising committee.

Get over it.

In the end, the far better-credentialled selection committee covered themselves in glory by surprising all and setting the ledger straight. Those champions that built our game have finally been acknowledged, while Norm Proven and big Mal Meninga will at last take their rightful place, in the pantheon of legends.

MASTER CLASS: Johnathan Thurston might be in the twilight of his career, but he was too good for the Newcastle Knights in Townsville last week. Picture: NRL Photos

Nowwe can move forward.

* MYtip to Todd Greenberg:rather than talk the game up, how about we lead the way for once? Our brothers and sisters on the land need support now and for some time to come. Could the game dedicate the rest of the season to raising funds to take some pressure off these proud folk and their kids?

Absolutely, they need rain. But how and where can we help while they stoically wait?

Grim conditions threaten tobecome desperate as spring and a long summer beckons. Already, future plantings are at risk and thousands of head of cattle are desperate for a feed.

Kangaroos and wombats, seeking the morning dew by the roadside, litter every major thoroughfare west of Cardiff Heights. In the absence of rain soon, these are but early indicators of worse to come.

The question that should be on Greenberg’s mind if he’s to retrieve his community licence and do something substantive this season is: “What can our game and its mostly coastal devotees do to help?”

Buy a bale of feed or a tanker of water and ship it up. Supplies of food and basic necessities would help as well. Who knows, enough community support and our governments might stop pointing the finger and do what is expected of them.

That’s the rugby league way. At least it was. Just saying.

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