There’s nothing like home town loyalty.
And nowhere is the passion for a place more obvious, than at the footy ground.
Stadium or cow paddock with posts. Doesn’t matter. You’ll get a fair read on what the locals stand for, by the way they support their team.
I saw it first hand on the weekend. Ventured south, for a weekend with some old boys. Mates who know more stories about me than I’ve forgotten.
We met while involved in rugby league in North Queensland many moons ago. We’re ancient now. But we catch up in a different place every twelve months, and will continue to do so until we walk with frames, or forget our own names. Meaning we only have a few years left.
This year, we followed the mighty North Queensland Cowboys to the Hunter Valley, for their clash with the Knights. And in Newcastle, we found a city bursting with pride.
You can tell something about a town by how excited folks are on the way to the game.
Walk with them, or share the bus, and listen. No better way to discover the heartbeat of their home.
These Knights fans, they’re hard-core. Just about all of them are decked out in the colours of their team. A few from the club’s early years. They wear them, some unwashed since the first premiership, like a badge of honour.
Inside the stadium, the loudest message comes from the kids. The young ones wave their flags. Teenagers not the slightest bit embarrassed about proclaiming their loyalty. Here, it’s cool to be involved.
One of the great things about being a supporter, is that everyone’s the same once they take their seats in the stand. No-one cares what you do, or how big your salary is. If you’re sporting the right colours, you’re ok.
Strangers bond. People who might have little to cheer about for the rest of the week, suddenly find their voice. Life might be tough. But giving the ref a blast from Row G is a wonderful tonic.
For some reason, the member of our party responsible for tickets decided it would be handy to be high up in the stand. This meant we were a picnic rug away from disturbing air traffic.
When I wasn’t attending to my nose bleed, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the loyalty of those in blue and red around me.
On the same night, in that other code, the Collingwood faithful headed north, and turned the Gabba black and white. They set up camp in Brisbane, and made it look like a home game. That’s what passionate supporters can do.
I’ve heard Lions fans say that they were made to feel uncomfortable in their own ground. Hate the visitors all you like, but give them points for having hides like rhinos.
They also don’t care what others think of them. Joke all you like about their lack of dental care. Who needs front molars when the boys are kicking straight?
Even our giant modern stadiums can’t dampen the enthusiasm. Suncorp Stadium is one of the world’s best. But you’ll still find Broncos fans making life hell for anyone wearing opposite colours.
All that pride and passion will be on show in coming weeks, as State of Origin consumes us once again. The only thing better than cheering for your home town, is screaming for your home state.
If you’re an over-the-top fan, I take my coloured hat off to you. Keep waving those flags. I’d whistle with you, but I can’t find my teeth.