May 212008

As I write this (type?) the annual thug-fest masquerading as sport is underway in Sydney. Yes, it’s the rugby league State of Origami….oops, sorry…..Origin.

Look, I used to take a lot of interest in rugby league, right up to some nine or ten years ago, but something happened which dulled my interest in the sport. Maybe it’s being married to a total non-sport oriented woman, but if so, why am I still besotted with motorsport? No, I actually think it’s a combination of jaundice with the way Rugby League has evolved, and an intense dislike of the competitive nature of those who do follow the sport.

It’s a game, that’s all it is, and all it will ever be. More refined than that, it’s a sport, or at least is meant to be. These day’s it’s a profession for the lucky elite athletic male, who, in general, lacks a certain level of higher societal mores or at least an ability to acquire same. The players are young, inexperienced in life skills and grossly over-paid for what it is they do. The flow of money into pockets of such people tends to corrupt a great many and cast a pall over the lives of those they come across. The stories about appearances of players before law courts are legion.

The game itself has changed markedly. Scrums are no longer ‘fed’ with the ball being tossed between the legs of two opposing front rows. It either never enters the scrum at all, or is deliberately fed into second row of the side in possession. Sacrilege in my day! Then there’s the plethora of less than artistic tackling methods, from attempting to break an opponent’s arm, called the ‘chicken-wing’, to Alan Langer’s favourite, the Cumberland Throw. Little more than a trip. What ever happened to the diving, wrapped-up legs tackle?

I’ve been to the Cauldron several times and watched what I regard as the true artisans in the sport. Wally Lewis, Paul Vautin, Peter Sterling, Paul Sirronen, Greg Dowling, Benny Elias, Mal Meninga, in fact any of the classes of 1980 through to 1995 or thereabouts. Hardened players and skilled craftsmen in their art. The current crop, to me, are simply highly paid pretty boys in it for the money. A fast game’s a good game and let’s make a motza before we get too old.

Then there’s the intensely parochial nature of the rugby league follower. Proud team supporters have always been a part of the football environment. I used to play golf many moons ago with a dyed-in-the-wool Cronulla fan. Back in the late eighties-early nineties when Cronulla couldn’t win their way out of a wet paper bag, it was both amusing to listen to the pathetic wailing, and somewhat frustrating that this man who I’d know for more years than I care to recall, didn’t really have much more conversational variety than football or horses. It’s as well that he played a mean golf game.

At work today and doubtless tomorrow morning, and before/after each of the next two games, the questions are always posed. "Hey, the game’s on tonight. Queenslander/Blues, eh?" then the inevitable pride or disgust depending on who you follow. It’s an obsession among proponents and an expectation that anyone the supporter talks to will be interested enough to agree, disagree and generally correspond with similar zeal. Those who have no interest, like myself, are suddenly pariahs or considered something of an oddity when the lack of interest is expressed. Frankly, I think it’s rude, but then again, that’s a mark of the society we live in, I think. Blogging bears that out.

So, tonight’s the first game of the mungo mug meet and I’m grateful there are only three games. The hoopla is relatively short-lived. The next game will be the worst, given it’s in Brisbane. Traffic will be horrendous, as if it’s not horrific anytime before 6:00pm anyway. The safest place is at home, well away from the drunken football follower and the inevitable crowds of people who pay scads of their hard-earned for three hours of ear-shattering human vocalising, the odd brawl, and for those with more money than sense, watered beer and a stressed bladder. Been there, done that. Don’t need it anymore.

Maybe that’s why I’m so anti-Origin? I’ve been there & done it. It’s a huge bore and not at all like it used to be. Maybe I’m just your average fifty year old, jaded and intolerant grumpy old man? Just don’t ask me who I follow or try to engage me in strategies & tactics for games two & three. I’d much rather chat about the finer points of V8 Supercar Regulations.

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