Cup final fails to settle top dog tag

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 March, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 March, 1995, 12:00am

AS it turned out, Football Club coach Bryan Hain did not have to rely on sex improving the performance of his side - as we had suggested in last week's column.

His side were never really going to be threatened by Valley in Saturday's Knockout Cup final after it emerged midway through last week that the League champions would be missing four of their best forwards.

With the modern game reliant so much on winning the set-pieces, which in turn means the side which has the better pack are certain to finish on top, Club were always outright favourites to win.

It was a pity that Valley were unable to field their best side. Although Hain and Club captain Grant Jamieson were quick to point out after the game that the 63-19 win by Club was a true reflection of the side's dominance this season, most people might tend to disagree.

Both Hain and Jamieson said: 'Winning five out of the seven times we met Valley this season is a fair indication of our dominance.' While this has a ring of truth, it should also be pointed out that at the start of the season, many of Valley's key players seemed to have lost all motivation to perform - first in the grading tournament, which in hindsight was an absolute waste of time, and then after returning from the Asian Rugby Football Tournament in late October.

The carrot for Club, however, was the lure of the League - and the opportunity to defeat a side which this season has taken on the role of villain for their initial objection to the Union's draft system and belated attempts to rectify the lop-sided league.

These latter moves are seen by many as Valley's way of remaining top dog. Many weeks ago, Hain said he wished Club could win the League title this season, and then he would press for a change in the league structure - by fielding two equal strength sides next season.

'Our aim is to win the League this season and then we can get on with the business of making it a more competitive one for all teams next season,' said Hain.

He wanted to split Club right down the middle and field two sides in the First Division. This would mean Football Club would field three teams (with Dragons). Valley would also be asked to follow suit and field two sides, Kowloon two and with Police, it would make up an eight-team league.

But whether Club will go ahead with the splits remains to be seen now. While Hain and Jamieson might think that Club are top dogs this season, Valley - and even this column - beg to differ.

As Valley coach Ian Brownlee pointed out: 'The League and the Knockout Cup are two completely different tournaments. While one is based on a team's performance over a long period of time, the other depends on who is available.' And Valley were missing forwards Stuart Krohn, Neil Alton, Andy Fields, Toby Bland and Simon Litster last Saturday. No team can take a loss of five key forwards and expect to remain competitive.

As a contest, the Cup final, was a mockery and ironically summed up the season's one-sided nature. It was a pity that we did not get the chance to see Valley at full-strength, take on Club - to settle the debate of which side was the best this season.