Jockeys and halfbacks have a lot in common.
They’re usually on the smallish side. We know that. Those that get too big end up changing roles. Jockeys who get heavy and can’t sleep late become trainers. Halfbacks who slow down and bulk up become hookers. In scrums.
Best of all, hoops and number sevens are a cheeky bunch. In my experience, the cheekier they are, the better they usually perform. It’s all about attitude. In the stable and on the paddock.
League lovers have always celebrated a good little man. Think of Allan Langer, and Sterlo, and the great Tommy Raudonikis. Snapping the legs from under lumbering Pommy forwards. Sniping around the dressing room. Always with a cheeky grin. Loving nothing more than stirring up someone a few divisions heavier.
No one did it better than Alf. He gave hope to anyone who was too small to be picked first at lunchtime. Every time he donned those tiny boots, he had a small army cheering him on. No thought of self-preservation. Size didn’t matter. Bravery in a kids size jumper.
Check out a tape from the seventies of Tom Terrific in action. There’d always be a bit extra for the biggest bloke on the ground. The older he got, the crankier he became. In an era when the Magpies were the toughest birds around, Tommy was the bloke the opposition’s big fellas didn’t want to tangle with.
Our best jockeys carry that same fighting spirit. The self belief. Same brand of courage. Watch them in action on the Gold Coast tomorrow. Negotiating those tight turns in packed fields, race after race. If you get the chance, head out early one morning and listen to the banter at trackwork. No-one is spared. Especially trainers and yawning journos.
We might be onto another reality tv series here. How good would it be to see the hoops and the halfbacks change roles. Our best jockeys slipping into the number seven. It might stretch some salary caps, but here goes.
Imagine Chrissy Munce firing up that struggling Canberra pack? They wouldn’t dare take a backward step. His kicking game might be a concern though. Not sure how much distance would come from that little right leg.
I could see Jimmy Byrne leading the Broncos out. Proud Queenslander. He’d grow a few inches on Suncorp Stadium.
Gai would have a fight on her hands to keep Nash Rawiller away from Wayne Bennett. He’d fit right in with the Dragons. Benny would probably make him skipper. And then take him to the Knights.
I’d love the Cowboys to snap Bossy up. Move Thurston to five-eighth if we had to. Nothing like some Group One mentality.
The Gladiator would want someone special for the Bunnies. Money would be no object. Probably Beadman back from Hong Kong.
The Roosters would also open the cheque book and buy Corey Brown.
There’d be a queue to join the Titans. Only the best behaved for John Cartwright and Gilly. Glen Colless would be perfect.
Kiwis Larry Cassidy and Damian Brown would head home and fight out the gig for the Warriors. Don’t worry. They’d be back in Brisbane within three months.
While all that was going on, we could get the old halfbacks to mount up at Eagle Farm as part of the winter carnival. Alf might be restricted to riding topweights these days. And Tommy would be charged with leg pulling. You’d still want to have a dollar on them though.
It’s all about attitude. Little blokes who can do anything they put their mind to. Find the best, and back them every Saturday. Even if they are cheeky buggers.