Origin week Blues – when does a bloke qualify as a Maroon?

May 24, 2011

It’s time to cheer. And boo. And jump from your chair and wave fists in the air. Origin time.

You can hug neighbours, whether you know them or not. Do that little jig that makes the kids shake their heads. Whistle as loud as you can. Origin time.

Are you Blue or Maroon? Or somewhere in between? Stuck in the footy fan’s version of twilight zone.

State of Origin isn’t simple. The term isn’t quite accurate. For the players, it’s not about where you were born. Otherwise Greg Inglis would be a Blue, and Peter Sterling would be a famous Maroon.

It’s all about where you played your first proper footy. So a bloke’s birth certificate doesn’t come into it.

For fans, the rules are much tougher. It’s hard to change sides. Trust me, I know.

I was born a Blue. Not my fault. But I now regard myself as a Maroon. There’s no official ceremony. You don’t get a certificate. No pledge to Wally and the Bundy Bear. You just do it. Quietly.

This, of course, annoys a great many people. The mere mention sends those south of the border a deep shade of angry. The texts have already started. Mates I grew up with call me nasty names. Such language.

But it’s no smooth sailing up here either. We’re shunned, my kind. Becoming official is more difficult than grabbing the front seat on the space shuttle. Rightly so. You can’t hand out the Maroon to anyone. A bloke needs to earn his place.

When is one worthy? I’ve been here 21 years. More than two decades, living life as a Queenslander. Babies born and raised here. Relatives buried here.

I’ve had my share of XXXX. The odd Bundy too. I’ve survived cyclones and floods. Been to reef and rainforest. Sat in pubs where you can still tie up a horse. Watched the Cowboys play their first game.

I’ve stood in sand on an island way up north, where you could hit a decent 2 wood to Papua New Guinea. Been to cattle sales out west. Munched on a steak or two at the Brekky Creek. Quenched my thirst in Caxton Street.

And I got to know Lang Park. Cautiously at first. No longer a Blue, but not worthy of Maroon. That bloody twilight zone. I’d enjoy the footy, and let the atmosphere wash over me.

But my time would come. Blame Matty Bowen. Game One, 2005. I’d been reserved, as usual. But it was epic. One of the best ever. After eighty minutes, the scores were locked up. Origin was heading into Golden Point.

Four minutes into extra time, the little fullback with the twinkling feet snatched an intercept from a disbelieving Brett Kimmorley, and set sail. The stadium erupted. And I was on my feet. Cheering the Maroons home. For all the world to see.

They won the game but lost the series. So don’t accuse me of joining the winners. Although I’ve been something of a lucky charm since. Mates on both sides of the border are screaming at that.

Since then, I’ve fessed up to those who ask. No big deal, but I support the locals. The Bulls, and the Reds, and the Lions. This is home now. I’m proud of that. And I want us to have all the trophies we can get.

I know not everyone agrees. Plenty of friends who live up here are from New South Wales, and are still passionate supporters of the Blues. They’ll never change. I get it.

The Treasurer remains a Blue. So too her mother. I suspect they’re ready to launch an attack on my football morals, if Mal’s men struggle anytime soon. Don’t hold your breath ladies.

I should add that I’m proud of my own origins. Always will be. A small coastal town, an hour and a bit away from Sydney. Still full of loved ones. A town that’s laid back and friendly. A place that reminds me so much of….Queensland. Might as well give them something else to yell about.

The Maroon purists will say I’m not there yet. Thanks, but no thanks, they’ll say. You may not have noticed, but we’re not short of faithful fans. Another twenty years, then come and talk.

I don’t care. Call me traitor if you like. Deserter. A turncoat. I can take it. You mightn’t like it, but a bloke has to follow his heart. After all this time, I’m at peace with the football gods. And there are plenty of others just like me.

I’m not going anywhere. The rest of my days will be spent north of the Tweed. You’ll eventually find me in a nursing home not far from Eagle Farm, muttering about failed photo finishes, with a maroon blanket over my knees.

Until then, I’ll try to match the passion that’s gone before me. I have a supporter’s scarf for Game One. Yes, it was a late call up, but I’m going to the game. No nachos needed. I’ll cheer, and boo, and there’s every chance I’ll be jumping out of my chair. It’s Origin time. And it’s great to be a Queenslander.

#Postscript .. 2.30pm .. 25/5 .. Since this was published, there’s been debate on 4BC about who REALLY qualifies as a Maroon, and now Anna Bligh and Campbell Newman are in a State of Origin birthright stoush. Does that mean someone is actually reading this??