The quoted headline for this article – Phil Gould’s patented catch phrase for when Mark Gasnier puts on his (equally patented) in and away side-step – ignites an outrage in this writer’s membrane. Why? Because the only sound I can hear is my inner league fan screaming “overrated” at the top of his passionate little lungs.
Gasnier’s performance last Wednesday night in State of Origin 1 merely confirmed this for me. He of “four toey humans” fame struggled to make any impact, instead limiting his scintillating wing-partner, Akuila Uate by starving him of any quality ball, much like the cold-hearted Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist, who took relish in withholding boarding house rations from the book’s eponymous child hero. “Gaz” was cut down time and time again by a hungry and tireless QLD defence. His knock-on in the 79th minute effectively ended NSW’s hopes of winning the game and was simply the icing on the cake.
A substantial number of NSW fans appear to agree with me, with rugby league internet sites and forums inundated with posts calling for his head. One poster claimed that “the only reason Gasnier gets a look in, is his bloody name. If my surname was Gasnier then I’d be a bloody international too.”
Another post by ‘Sharkie4eva’ provided refreshing context with this comment: “Gasnier only looks good in a world class team like the Dragons, but he would struggle in a side like Cronulla, unlike our captain courageous Paul Gallen.” While ThePublicApology hastens to quote internet pseudonyms as a rule, these comments from frustrated fans do indicate that public sentiment has shifted dramatically against “Gaz” in the years since his explosive debut.
Grizzled rugby league stalwart Tommy Raudonikis has also weighed into the debate, lambasting Gasnier’s mentality in the past few seasons. “As soon as he pulled back on the schooners, that Gasnier has looked like a scared little schoolgirl out there on the field,” Raudonikis told ThePublicApology. “He’s lost his mongrel, he has.”
“Maybe a few more of those late night cab rides might actually do him some good. That sort of thing always helped back in the old days,” Raudonikis added, referring to the “Good Old Days” when one could drink unlimited schooners without attracting public scorn, or sexually harass women without fearing the wagging finger from feminist groups and media shock-jocks.
The Public Apology’s co-editor, Mike Davis, who broke the Gasnier cab scandal in 2004 after hiding a dictaphone in his pocket while disguising himself as Craig Wing during a NSW drinking session, said some punters believed Gasnier’s evolution from knockabout leaguey to mild mannered role model was “forced and unauthentic.” Davis was later heard making the same observation about a mildly spiced Tom Kha Gai he’d ordered to-go at Thai Times II in Newtown.
Perhaps this identity crisis is affecting Gasnier’s performance on the field? It is rumoured that Gasnier’s time in French Rugby Union infected him with the virus – found, peculiarly, solely within the species of rugby union players – of trying to appear urbane and intelligent despite possessing less brain cells than your average amoeba. A particularly aggressive strain of this same virus was responsible for Stirling Mortlock’s dramatic fall from grace after being appointed Wallabies Captain in 2006.
One thing is for sure: Gasnier will be one of the first picked by Ricky Stuart for Game II. That famous name still has a bit of a mileage left in it. But how much of that mileage Mark Gasnier himself is responsible for is a question that will fascinate mungo baller aficionados around the world for some time to come.
By Mikhail Ushakoff with Dave Edwards