BY CURTIS WOODWARD
Another world away from the imperious kingdom of League Central – a warm, fuzzy cocoon of backslapping and self-importance – the Campbelltown Warriors A-Grade team run through their plays on a chilly Thursday night at Worrell Park.
While the Rugby League Players Association and the NRL continue to fight over profit share, salary cap increases and minimum wages – the Warriors freeze in the winter air.
There are no arguments over profit share here. These discussions are about what time players will be at the ground on Saturday, who can help mark the lines, who is selling the meat trays at the local pub for State of Origin III.
Not a single player is being paid either.
Due to insurance costs these men are forced to pay almost $300 out of their own pockets just to play the game they love. Every Tuesday and Thursday night they leave their families at home and on weekends they risk their jobs and livelihoods in the pursuit of victory and camaraderie.
There are plumbers, storemen, labourers, stonemasons, carpenters and traffic controllers – some of their other responses can’t be published.
On Saturday, the Warriors are shooting for a fourth consecutive win against Five Dock.
And yes you read that correctly.
This barren wasteland was once home to a thriving A-Grade competition – now local teams travel as far as Greenacre and Five Dock just to get a game.
The struggle is real.
So how do I know all this about the Campbelltown Warriors?
Because I was silly enough to decide that pulling on the boots again was a good idea. You could call it unfinished business or simply an itch that had to be scratched.
I get great joy in writing about rugby league and even more on the weekends calling the Intrust Super Premiership for Steele Sports but there is nothing like pulling a jersey over your head and running out onto a field with twelve mates knowing that you’re about to do battle.
Perhaps (definitely) the diet can improve and maybe (definitely) I can cut down on the beers but at least I’m scratching that itch. After all, I am only 31 in August and although my body resembles a big old milk bottle these days, I can wake up on Monday and honestly say that I am enjoying myself.
I digress – back to the Warriors.
Four weeks ago the team was struggling. The luck of the draw meant we had already played top team Greenacre twice who have since been moved up a division. It’s one thing being excited to play again and it was another to play these crazy bastards. There were times in our clash with them at their home ground where I didn’t just question my return but I questioned why God put me on this earth. They were big and hit like cement trucks. That day however made the Warriors. Down on troops, we walked onto the paddock with one fresh reserve. We got bashed but we kept getting back up.
Before that game we were our own worst enemy and I saw first-hand new ways for a team to shoot itself in the foot. In Round 7 we led East Hills before losing 18-10.
The following week we were awful against Hinchinbrook but scored after the bell to win 20-18.
Two weeks ago we travelled to Bankstown to play the Bulls.
Busy weekend. Radio tomorrow, sister-in-law BDay party tomorrow night and playing Sunday (I must be mad). Constantly sore. pic.twitter.com/S9HX8ZNeN2
— Curtis Woodward (@woodward_curtis) May 19, 2017
Let’s just say the pre-game entertainment was better than the on-field action as an Under 15’s game became a slanging match in the car park between opposing parents.
But we won again.
Last weekend though was another big moment – like the day we were hammered by Greenacre.
We’d played Valley United earlier in the season and narrowly lost a game any other side in the world would have won. To make it just a little tougher last Sunday, we faced Valley without two of our best forwards which was just great news for a broken down has-been like myself because it meant more minutes and more work.
Funnily enough we led at half-time.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, half-time had become a death sentence. For whatever reason, we’d do the exact opposite to what our coach Danny wanted us to do in the second stanza.
Complete our first set of six? Drop the ball first tackle.
No offloads in our own half? Offload on our own tryline.
Get to a kick? Kick out on the full.
Things got worse for the Warriors as the second half dragged on.
To all those that give up their weeknights and weekends because they want to play the greatest game of all. Even in the middle of winter 💪🌨🌬 pic.twitter.com/gMGeWC9SCZ
— Curtis Woodward (@woodward_curtis) July 6, 2017
Valley put a towering bomb into the air with our fullback and winger unable to get to the ball allowing Valley to swoop and score. In the very next set of six, they carved us up down the right side and extended their lead to 16-10.
The old Warriors would have rolled over.
This Warriors team fought their way back into the game winning 24-16 making it three wins on the trot.
On Saturday at 6.30pm, the Warriors host Five Dock looking for a fourth consecutive victory.
Just reward for the time they give up and the effort they put in.
And for the record – I’m off the nuddy run and that’s a win for everyone.