For too long in every sport we�ve heard about success stories, great accomplishments, inspiring victories and the like. No one has bothered to �celebrate� the miserable performances, debacles and tragedies�until now.
When you think about Rugby Leagues history, you can�t help but recall the Dragons� eleven consecutive Grand Final victories and Souths� total of twenty premiership victories among many other great highlights.
Therefore, on the other end of the scale, we shall celebrate the dismally consistent performances of Parramatta who, between the years of 1956 and 1961, won six consecutive wooden spoons. In this six-year period Parramatta won a meagre 16 games out of 108 played.
Arguably the most dominant team after the inception of Australian Rugby League was Souths. Between the years 1908 and 1918 they won four premierships, were runners-up three times, finished third twice and the other two seasons they finished fourth, a truly remarkable record for such a long period of time in the early days of the games existence.
While Souths were blitzing the competition, Wests were putting in the hard yards and achieving nothing at the other end of the table. One of the most offensively inept teams in the games history, Wests averaged a downright pathetic 6.82 points per game between 1908 and 1916. They conceded almost three times more points than they scored. In 1910 they conceded a then massive 383 points in 14 games. Bear in mind this is in the days of three-point tries.
This record stood until the new wave of wooden spooners and underachievers were admitted into the competition. Those teams being Annandale (1910-1920) and University (1920-1937).
Annandale finished mid-table in their first two seasons, but after that they managed to have the worst win percentage by any team over a nine year period, at just 12.80% between 1912 and 1920. They saved their absolute worst for last though. From the last match of 1916, to their last ever match on September 1, 1920, they played 56 games, won 2, drew 3 and lost 51. A record you�d believe would stand the test of time.
Enter University. A team whose career would have been the worst ever had they not made it to the final in 1926. Their last 57 games actually made Annandale�s record look good. From July 22, 1933 to their last game at the end of the shortened 1937 season, University played 57 games, with 2 wins and a draw. That�s a record no team has ever, err, beaten.
While we�re still talking about University, they also hold the competitions record for most consecutive defeats. After their 4-3 victory over Norths in Round 1 of 1934, University played and lost their next 42 consecutive games. Their streak ending in the last round of 1936, when they defeated St.George 13-11. Their record in this time:
Played 42, Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 42, For 304, Against 1293.
Not all the hopeless team performances were carried out in the early days of Rugby League. Today, we are witnessing one of the modern catastrophies. Souths are inadvertantly becoming the most ordinary team for the longest period of time. Ever since 1990, Souths have failed to succeed on a regular basis. They have won 74 of their last 307 games, a record which is quite poor considering the quality of the game and its players today.
Now while we have looked at long-term failures, some of the short term disappointments are worthy of celebration, such as Wests� lack of defence in their last two seasons before they merged. They let in 1746 points in 48 games, averaging just over 36 points a game.
Also there are the monumental efforts by every other team against Canterbury in 1935. Canterbury lost 91-6 to St.George and 87-7 to Easts in the space of 7 days. By seasons end they had conceded 140 tries, and 660 points in just 16 games, the worst defensive effort by any team in one season. Only the Wests side of 1999 came close when they conceded 944 points in 24 games.
Bravo to all teams and their hopeless efforts.
So next time you find yourself pondering about the brilliant moments in the game, you must realise that if it weren�t for inept performances, there�d be fewer brilliant ones.
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Sources: Statistics calculated from data provided in: Rugby League 1995: The Official Yearbook Of The ARL - David Middleton Rugby League 1999: The Official Yearbook Of The NRL - David Middleton Rugby League 2000: The Official Yearbook Of The NRL - David Middleton Rugby League 2003: The Official Yearbook Of The NRL - David Middleton Rugby League 2004: The Official Yearbook Of The NRL - David Middleton Big League Yearbook: Season 2004 NRL official website