Jack Howes

Hot Taekes: League tops for entertainment

Jack Howes’ Hot Taekes credits League for delivering fresh controversy on a rolling basis, giving us the low-down on the men still standing – and where they stand – in sport worldwide.

 

Have to say, it’s been a fun week in sport. Roger Federer lost to a 12-year-old; the NRL has kicked off for the year with a first round that saw nine players put on report for various offences; the NFL went off with some ridiculous trades and retirements; and England lost to Bangladesh in the cricket World Cup in a new low for a country that knows a thing or two about new lows.

I think it’s fair to say at this point that no Australian code does week-in week-out scandal like League. Sure, AFL has had the long drawn-out peptide nonsense, rugby had the whole Kurtley Beale – Di Patson texting saga, but League remains alone at the top of the mountain – if only for managing to deliver something new on a rolling basis.

Fortunately at the moment it’s remained on field, with Junior Paulo given a nine-week suspension for a fairly horrific throw. Parramatta’s Paulo wrapped Manly hooker Matt Ballin in a tackle before driving him head first into the ground. It’s extraordinary that there still remains a League culture of reckless disregard for safety – one that saw Felise Kaufusi given a week on the sidelines for attacking the legs of Benji Marshall. James Hasson, James Garvey and Josh Reynolds will all be receiving some time off as well. For some unknown reason the Tigers’ five-eigth Mitchell Moses escaped suspension for a wild high tackle, while the Raiders’ fullback Jack Wighton got off with a mere sin-bin for throwing a punch that started a brawl.

Quite why League has proved almost unique among the oval-ball codes in maintaining the levels of casual violence seen in the ’80s, I’m not sure. I suppose in some ways that’s half the fun. In a relatively limited and simple sport, raw physicality has a huge role to play. There’s something of the circus of Rome in watching these men do whatever it takes to get themselves over the line.

Just have to hope there aren’t too many injuries along the way.

Fortunately it seems that players are beginning to key in to the potential long-term damage sport played at the highest level can do to their bodies. Three high-profile NFL players retired during the week – San Francisco 49ers’ linebacker Patrick Willis; Tennessee Titans’ quarterback Jake Locker and Philadelphia Steelers’ linebacker Jason Worilds. All are aged 30 or under. Willis, an almost certain future Hall of Famer, retired citing persistent foot injuries. Locker, a prototypical athlete, has dealt with an injury-riddled career and has given the game away at only 26 claiming he’d lost his passion for it. Worilds seemingly had the world at his feet. He was 27, in his prime and due for a big contract extension – estimated to be in the range of $15 million guaranteed. Instead he’s given it up to work for his church. It’ll be interesting to see if more players take this approach. Playing through their first contract, earning high six/low seven-figure dollars, before retiring with phenomenal business contacts and a very reasonable savings nest. While they might miss out on the potentially huge dollars on offer, they also save their bodies from an enormous amount of abuse.

Along with the retirements, there were some big trade moves. The New Orleans Saints’ Jimmy Graham, arguably the second best tight end in the league, moves to last season’s runner up in the Seattle Seahawks in return for centre Max Unger and Seattle’s first round pick. The Seahawks also get a fourth round pick. The Seahawks, who have had the league’s best defense for three years running, were in desperate need of a big receiving target. In Graham they have that. The man is 6’7”, weighs 118kg, has a 38.5” vertical leap and 35” arms. He’s a physical marvel, a genuine freak. Whether he’ll be able to take the Seahawks to their second title within three years remains to be seen.

Elsewhere, the Philadelphia Eagles traded quarterback Nick Foles to the St Louis Rams for their quarterback Sam Bradford. Draft picks were exchanged as well, but the big news is the quarterbacks. Bradford arguably has a higher ceiling, but has been consistently injured since he entered the league. Eagles fans are furious having also lost their number one receiver, Jeremy Maclin, and number one running back, LeSean McCoy, in the trading period.

The last of the three big trades saw the Baltimore Ravens’ future Hall of Fame tackle Haloti Ngata traded to the Detroit Lions for a pair of middle round draft picks. The Lions needed a tackle after losing their All-Pro tackle Ndamukong Suh to the Miami Dolphins on a record deal in free agency. Constrained by the salary cap, the Ravens needed to cut some assets and the Lions moved smartly to take advantage.

The highlight of the week though truly was England losing to Bangladesh, if only because it inspired this piece of Twitter magic.

There’s a lot about Australia’s relationship with England that just screams of desperate insecurity. At times like this it’s absolutely worth it. Why wouldn’t you laugh, laugh, laugh some more, and then do a bit more laughing after that?

 

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