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The Sydney Morning Herald

TAPPING INTO A SOUND OF SILENCE

Author: ROY MASTERS
Date: 26/09/1993
Words: 1052
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 44
The Brisbane Broncos blinded St George with their light, deafened Tina Turner with their sound and dumbfounded the NSW Rugby League with a new predicament.

While the Broncos juggernaut openly attacked the sensory capacities of the opposition, the crowd and the organisers, the game's other giant, Channel Nine, chose to do it by more subtle means.

The League's telecasters installed secret microphones in the roofs of both dressing- rooms at yesterday's grand final at the Sydney Football Stadium.

About 90 minutes before the kick-off, Brisbane and St George officials almost simultaneously discovered the listening devices in the thin panelling above the rubbing tables in the stadium's dressing-rooms. They immediately sought out officials of the NSWRL and demanded the removal of the microphones

"They're good aren't they?" was the sarcastic rhetorical question of St George chief executive Geoff Carr as he searched for the League's Paul Broughton and Greg Mitchell. "Nine said they would have sound on for one minute but then we discover the microphones."

His opposite, Brisbane's John Ribot, said: "I saw a camera in the dressing-room but that was as per schedule. But I'm an old sparkie who has spent a lot of time in roofs.

"I followed the camera lead and saw it went to the ceiling. We found others and turned them all off.

"I don't mind if Nine want to promote the game with inside info, but they have to give us a choice.

"We are entitled to be asked if we want our dressing-rooms wired for sound."

St George first became aware of the microphones when a Channel Nine technician followed up an audio failure.

St George doorman Brian Kenyon said: "One of their technicians said they were having troubles in the roof.

"One of our trainers got up and disconnected it. He reported it to Geoff Carr and it went from there."

Carr was prepared to interrupt general manager John Quayle from his role as host of the game's VIPs to complain, but Broughton and Mitchell resolved the problem by having the microphones removed.

The guardian of the SFS tunnel, Eric Cox, admitted to having trouble with Nine's hidden cameras and intrusive microphones throughout the semi-final series.

While Nine was trying to wire up Australia to the dressing-rooms, the promoters were also having trouble delivering Tina Turner's song to the crowd

The goddess of the game sang her anthem at a decibel level equivalent to a distant bird humming.

It must be the first time in history that middle-aged men have complained about the softness of rock music.

As many muttered that she could not be heard, an oiled, muscular saxophonist joined her on the stadium stage. He wore a small leather coat which did not appear to disguise a microphone.

The decibel level did not rise by his appearance but later, when the sound lifted, the crowd joined the singing of Simply the Best.

The entertainment was so disappointing that the Bronco's marketing manager, Shane Edwards, said: "People have remarked to us today that after the entertainment they have seen, the Broncos should put in a bid to provide the display at the 2000 Olympics."

After their 14-6 victory, the Broncos were more aggressive and less relieved than last year.

The NSWRL must both learn from and monitor this northern juggernaut. If there was one lesson that could be learnt from yesterday, it is that the game's officials, both club and Phillip Street, are more capable of organising entertainment and security than the highly paid marketing agencies they employ.

But, as so often happens, the game turns upon itself.

All the pent-up anger of Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett at the slights, either real or imagined, levelled at him by his opposite, Brian Smith, poured forth.

Referring to Smith's pre-match promise of a new game-plan, Bennett said: "He should have stuck to his old one."

In reference to St George substitute Phil Blake's domination of the dummy-half position, he said: "It's hard to get a good attack going when your five-eighth is playing hooker."

At one point in the second half, some spectators, including St George's former international centre-winger Brian Johnston, thought there was some preconceived strategy in the entire St George team, minus the left winger, packing themselves into the right-hand side of the field.

It happened twice and on the second occasion the long kick to left field actually worked because Brisbane's Chris Johns was panicked into forcing the ball in the in-goal.

But St George fullback Mick Potter said there was no strategy in the move. "It was just bad play that our blokes drifted to the right-hand side," he said.

"There was no balance. Put it down to keenness or stupidity, but not tactics. The kick came off but it wasn't supposed to happen."

Brisbane now challenge the NSWRL in so many areas, even the Queensland Premier, Wayne Goss, demanded to know why Allan Langer or Kevin Walters was not man of the match.

The Clive Churchill Medal, chosen by Quayle, Don Furner and two St George legends, John Raper and Reg Gasnier, was awarded to Dragon lock Brad Mackay.

Raper, in a remark which is as much an accolade as it is an accusation, said: "If Brad Mackay wasn't there, Brisbane would have won by 50."

 
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