Being a Rugby League media type can be a difficult job. You’ve got to pump out articles on deadline, cover the latest arrest/embarrassment/scandal while refraining from banging your head against the desk, all while trying to catch about 640 minutes of football a week. It can be tough to find the hours.
Completions are important? It’s a narrative, not a fact. Queenslanders are always loyal? Another narrative. You have to lose the big one in order to win it? Just a story they’ll hopefully be telling teary kids in the Shire on Sunday night.So it would be no shock that it seems some journalists and commentators tend to rely on narratives rather than watching games. For the uninitiated, narratives are the stories we tell about the game.
At their best these narratives can provide context and nuance to this wonderful game. At their worst they are short-cuts, the equivalent of stereotypes we use because we’re too stupid or too lazy to work out the truth
We started this space because we were sick of journalists spinning those stories rather than doing their job. We started writing about the Raiders because not only do we love them, but also because we saw an entire media that at best ignored the Raiders, and at worst just got it straight wrong about them.
So it’s of no surprise that we’ve seen another narrative emerge in the lead up to tonight’s Dally M award. With Josh Hodgson likely to finish amongst the medals (although it seems unlikely that he’ll win), we’ve seen the appearance of a new story: no one saw him coming.
We’ve heard it on Foxtel. We’ve heard it on the radio. And this morning we saw it on the ABC:
If you knew who Josh Hodgson was before the 2016 NRL season, you were probably a diehard Raiders fan, a miserable Hull fan, or a member of the Hodgson family.
We have to admit we are one of those things. We’d like to be two, but that would require a change of the Marriage Act, an understanding wife and some of the best wooing skills this side of the Murray.
Regardless, we have been perplexed by this story. Anyone who had watched the Raiders play in 2015 knew immediately that he was something special. In round 5 of 2015, we wrote this about Hodgson:
Again the play of Hodgson was a highlight. We’ve been impressed with Hodgson at almost every turn. Today he kicked well and again allowed our forwards to run with an advantage. His use of misdirection continues to impress. The subtle threat of attacking one side of the field only to send the attack the other direction routinely gave the Raiders forwards space.
In June we were already railing against the national media’s predilection to focus on the (admittedly impressive) play of Blake Austin over the quiet brilliance of Hodgson. Then at the end of the season we noted that “the young hooker… was unleashed on the National Rugby League in much the same way he had unleashed on that door in Auckland…”
It was clear last year he was good. While he didn’t have the gravitas of Cameron Smith or Michael Ennis, he was already one of the best hookers in the competition.
Meanwhile Rugby League week ranked him the 13th best hooker in the competition, behind such luminaries as James Segeyaro (no longer in the league), Mitch Rein (currently without a team) and Robbie Farah (dropped and banished).
And look, we’d like to pretend that we’re anything but die-hard Raiders fans. We’d love to be talent scouts for Rugby League teams. But to be honest, we are not experts – our other passions have included Mitch Cornish, Todd Carney and David Milne. We only know what we see on the field. We watched Raiders games and, like anyone else, could see that Hodgson was a special talent.
This was hardly news. If you had two eyes you could see that. And so when he started this year fast we were excited but hardly surprised. Sure he’d improved, but the talent was there if you’d been watching.
But I guess maybe this is the difference between us and large swathes of the Ruby League media. To write about the Raiders all we really had to do was sit down and watch the games.
And maybe if they had done the same, they wouldn’t be so surprised.