In our household, State of Origin means Special Dinner. As Locky leads the Maroons out, I’ll be tucking into a plate of nachos Billy Slater couldn’t leap over.
Kick off is just over a week away. Amazing how quickly it comes around. Game One. State versus state. Mate versus mate. And my footy feast.
Like the players, a bloke needs his Origin routine. Mine is finely tuned. If a ticket to the Cauldron hasn’t magically appeared, we revert to our regular roles.
The nachos thing started by accident in Bundaberg about twenty years ago. Nice and basic. Possibly the Treasurer’s sneaky way of suggesting I should have been firing up the BBQ. But the plan backfired.
There was something strangely soothing about yelling at the old Rank Arena through a mass of melted cheese and corn chips. I backed up for Game Two, and by Game Three the Kraft Tasty was so thick there was a paramedic on standby.
We took the hot plate tradition with us to Cairns, and then the Gold Coast. Different lounge rooms, same artery-clogging meal. Brisbane too. The only change of late has been who’s cooking.
The Treasurer has passed the salsa spreading baton down the line. Not Daughter One. Cooking is not her thing. Unless it’s pancakes or chocolate. Daughter Two, however, is a whizz in the kitchen.
She has made some subtle changes. Slightly less cheese, with a dab of avocado. Something about trying to make me eat healthier. I can’t complain. There are still cool drinks involved.
Origin routine. Every family has it. Dad’s special spot. Mum’s lucky jersey. Flags on the wall. And the golden rule. No talking while the game’s on.
I love it when local businesses get involved. The butcher’s snags. The baker’s cakes. All done in Origin colours. Special game night pizzas. Do they still do them? I remember they were big a few years ago. Not that we needed them in our house.
Street parties. Split down the middle. Blues over there, thanks. Maroons get the comfy chairs. The kids playing their own Origin battle out the back before kick off.
I’ve been to plenty of Origin functions over the years. Pubs and clubs chockers. Huge nights for local footy clubs. I enjoyed them in the early days. Free beer until the first point is scored. We’d pray for a wet night and slippery ball.
Now, I’d rather be at home. Total focus on the big screen. Volume up. No distractions. Yelling mindlessly at every play. Jumping out of the chair. Waving fists at you-know-who, throwing early cheap shots.
Of course, the only thing better than being at home, is being at the ground. Experiencing Origin live is something everyone should get to do. It never disappoints. And there’s nowhere better than the Cauldron.
I never tire of hearing tales about the old Lang Park. I interviewed the legendary Choppy Close once. He told me the story of how he and his mate used to climb over the fence to get in for free. The scam worked a treat, until the day the security blokes spotted them.
Choppy’s mate had a wooden leg, meaning he didn’t quite have the great man’s speed. In the drama of the chase, his makeshift pin fell off. Both rolled down the hill. Reckon that’s ever happened at the Olympic Stadium?
No climbing the fence now. That’s ok. There’s no better place to watch a game of anything. It’s world-class. And best of all, the daunting, ear-splitting spirit of Lang Park is never far from the surface.
I love that kids all over Queensland will live in their Maroon jumpers for the next week. Especially in the bush. A concept originally designed to keep interstate footy alive, now makes an entire state happy. Or sad. Depending on the result.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. For those staying home, there’s a menu to be worked out. Remember, nothing fancy. And if there’s any family tensions, just quote me. You’re not a true fan if there’s no cheese.