Adam Mogg is coaching the Redcliffe Dolphins this weekend in whatever the ISP Super Bowl is called. I hope the Dolphins win, not because I have any strong feelings for the Redcliffe. Me pointing to it on a map would be like those old Chaser skits of Americans trying to locate North Korea. I want the Dolphins to win because I love Adam Mogg. To me he represents overcoming expectations to achieve great things. Or, in short, the good shit about sport.
Mogg joined the Raiders in 2003 as a relatively non-descript centre-three-quarter (seriously, why don’t we call them that anymore) from Parramatta. My memory may be jaundiced, but Mogg was always considered a solid defensive centre, but hardly a ball player. The kind of player describe as ‘honest’ or a ‘scrapper’, which are usually euphemisms for ‘not that talented’. But he worked hard. And sometimes people forget that’s a skill in itself.
Apparently he’d been a very good centre for the Dolphins before the Eels had acquired him. He’d not really solidified a position in first grade at Parramatta. But as a solid defender and ‘honest’ ball player he personified the Elliot era Raiders. Tackle. Do yardage work. We’ll work out points later. The kind of side that thinks Matt Gafa is a first grade five-eighth clearly was a place where an honest footballer could thrive.
After what an impartial observer would call some solid years at Canberra, what can only be described as a bucketload of injuries in the Queensland back three found Adam Mogg in game two of the 2006 State of Origin.
This was pre 8-in-a-row Queensland. As funny as it sounds, the “Rugby League is dying” types were still arguing Origin was dead, only this time it was because at 1-0, it looked like the Blues were about to take a fourth straight series. Queensland didn’t need a miracle, but dammit if a few requests were being made of the big man upstairs.
So rather than a miracle worker, what they got was an honest-to-goodness footballer. Adam Mogg was going to play wing (which he’d never really done before). And you can bet he was going to give it his all, tackle his ass off and only ever do what he was capable of.
Turns out that was more than enough. Queensland romped in game two, 30-6. More important than the result, Mogg found his way to the goal line twice, both because Jonathon Thurston is a genius, but also because Mogg did his job perfectly.
For Raiders and Queensland fans like myself it was exciting. For the first time in ages (technically 2002) the Raiders and Queensland were combined. Instead of feeling conflicted watching Toots or Furner or Ryan O’Hara strutting about in Blue, we had one of our own to cheer for Origin. You can’t imagine how much fun we were having.
So you’ll forgive me when me and my mate Ben turned up to game three of the 2006 series with home made Adam Mogg shirts. They weren’t even knock-off Queensland jumpers. They were just maroon pullovers that Ben’s uber talented sister had sewed ‘M O G G’ onto the back of. I’d say you’d have to forgive us because we were uni students but I was actually employed by that stage so I dunno. Maybe I needed more beer money.
People half heckled, half celebrated us as we walked around Melbourne’s Docklands stadium in our budget M O G G jumpers. Our mate Herman, a Blues fan, is too secure to be embarrassed, but a lesser man would have walked a few steps behind us.
Mostly though, people were just surprised Mogg had gotten a crack for another game, and with Schifcoske in the side also. What a blessing.
Sidebar: Seriously, the injuries were that real. Bowen, Inglis, Hodgson, and Bell were out. Brent Tate was the only first choice of the back five that had survived to game three. Clinton, Rhys Wesser and Adam Mogg were the back three – none would play Origin again.
Mogg scored again – early in the game he caught a chip kick from Thurston (who was incredible in that series), and while being flung out managed to ground the ball. It was the kind of athletic effort that would make Jordan Rapana or David Fusitua smile. I’ll never forget that when he got the ball down he almost seemed surprised. Like maybe he didn’t even know he could crack it at this level. But here he was, two games in and blending in like a white guy on Sky News.
You probably remember the game because of Darren Lockyer picking up an errant Brett Hodgson pass and starting in unparalleled period of Origin dominance for the Maroons. It capped an incredible comeback that was made harder by three of the worst refereeing decisions in Rugby League history – two which had gifted the Blues unearned tires and another which stole a try from Toni Carroll.
So it is defensible (ok I am defending it) if at this point I was yelling at Herman, taking out four years (and many beers) worth of Origin frustration on him. But the important thing was Queensland had won and Adam Mogg had been an important part of why that happened.
After the game we wound our way down the the tunnel to the change rooms to cheer off our hero. We even held up our budget M O G G jerseys so the great man could see. A thumbs up was our reward, which in hindsight was pretty apt. I mean, a few weeks earlier no one was wearing an Adam Mogg jersey. Now, he had lunatics turning up with budget versions. The dizzying heights of fame!
Mogg came back from Origin transformed. All of sudden he was darting out of nine, shaping across the field, ball-playing like a pro, all razzle and much dazzle. The confidence built in Origin was oozing off him. Maybe we was more than just honest? Maybe he was damn well good?! Whatever it was, he had tapped into a rich vein of form. For that period at least, he was damn well elite and I will fight you if you say otherwise.
Alas, Adam took the opportunity to take a barrel of cash from the Catalans Dragons. I wasn’t angry. I suspect part of the being an ‘honest’ footballer is that the pay packet matches, and not in a good way. When your career might only last a few more years you have to take the money. Yet again Adam was making as much as could with the gifts he was given. He did return briefly to Canberra in 2010 to finish his career but retired at the end of the season.
And so yet again Adam Mogg returns to the big stage (relatively speaking), to show he, and the men he leads can cut it at the highest level. I hope they beat the Bulldogs.
We only get to live one time. But a few times we get to stand in the sunshine. If he’s being honest, Adam has probably got his share but I hope he gets to bask in the warmth of greatness again. He deserves it.