The game’s just not the same. Words of footy wisdom from blokes who know.

July 16, 2013

We always end up on the same table when we’re back at home, at our original pub.

No-one organises it. It’s just what we do. Perfectly aligned to the bar and the small screens.

It doesn’t take long for the stirring to begin. It’s a tough school. The wrong shirt or a dodgy haircut is enough for some unified bagging.

The talk turned to footy, as it usually does. Timely, with one of the great Origin games on the way.

There are hundreds of games between us. Lots of blood, sweat and broken bones. With a few cool drinks sprinkled in between.

Half of those at the table turned to coaching after playing days. These blokes know the game. Some have sons still involved.

The races weren’t even done when it became clear this mob was unhappy. Everyone saw a problem with the modern game. A few of the boys have even stopped watching on a Friday night.

We went around the table, and everyone had their say. Voices of real fans. I wish I’d made a recording, and sent it to the NRL.

Weird Harold hates the wrestle. In his day, he was a tough forward, who tackled, and was tackled. Always around the legs, as we were all taught. He can’t stand blokes grappling, and being kept upright, to allow defensive lines to re-group.

We all agreed. The Cannonball tackle, where a third defender comes in and hits a player’s knees while he’s being held by others up top, makes me sick. It goes against everything we were ever taught.

Smithy bought a round, and we went quiet, thinking about why this great game keeps getting tinkered with.

Coffs broke the silence. He thinks they’ve got the defence all wrong. He can’t stand slide defence. When it doesn’t work, wingers keep scoring in the corner, game after game. Boring, he reckons. Get back to defenders attacking attackers. Coaches over-coaching. It’s one of the reasons the game is short of playmakers. He would know. There were few better with the footy in his hands.

They both can’t stand how technology has slowed things down. The mind-numbing delays, when video refs are trying to make a decision.

It makes the game so much slower. Teams are unable to create pressure, while a director is rewinding yet again. And pressure on the footy field can bring the best of teams undone.

Richo hates how they form scrums today. Anyone can stick their head in there. They amble over, with any number on their back. No-one pushes, or attempts to win the ball over. Drives him nuts.

Bez doesn’t say much. Just stands, and nods. We’re assuming he’s not happy either. He would come off the field, covered in dust. Without the energy to say anything. Nothing much has changed there.

I agreed with all their gripes. I think the game is best when there are minimal stoppages, and the skills of the athletes are on show. I want big blokes to get tired, so little blokes can create magic. Fast men being put into holes. That’s what kids will copy in the backyard.

It’s still a wonderful game. We agree on that. Just stop changing the things that make it great. The speed, and the strength, and the skill, and the toughness.

Let’s hope the Origin decider is all of those things, and more. Keep an eye out for Cannonball tackles. Boo if you see one. And for Richo’s sake, let’s hope we don’t have a winger packing into a scrum. It might be the end of him.

Tips on how to enjoy State of Origin night. Wear a beanie, avoid other people, and give me your ticket.

May 22, 2012

A bloke’s life story can be told through his viewing of Origin.

There are phases we go through. Early on, the experience could last for days.

Now, the smart money suggests I’ll be asleep before they announce the man of the match

So many ways it can be done. With huge crowds, or home alone.

As you chill the drinks and prepare the dip ahead of tomorrow night, let’s reflect on how to make the most of the big event.

#Go To The Game – (highly recommended).

Everyone has to experience at least one Origin at the ground. It’s the ultimate for any footy fan. And I’m talking all codes here.

You will breathe in the colour, the noise, and the passion. Come kick-off, your heartbeat will match the players.

If you’re lucky enough to watch a win, you will be overcome with a desire to celebrate, as if you scored the winning try yourself. On the way out of the ground, you will share that joy with fellow fans. And make life hell for the opposition. Like I said, everyone has to do it once in their lifetime.

#Go To The Game And Sit In A Corporate Box – (very highly recommended).

If you’re lucky enough to jag an invite to an Origin box, we officially hate you.

You’ll enjoy all of the above, as well as sampling free drinks and lashings of decent tucker.

There is also the added bonus of boasting to workmates before, during and after the event.

A word of warning though. You might end up with people who have absolutely no interest in sport. They are easy to identify, because they have their back to the field, and talk about things that you don’t care about.

If this is the case, you have permission to ask security to eject them. Or, if the discussion moves to shoe shopping, do the job yourself. No court in the land will convict you.

#Go To A Pub With A Huge Crowd Of Drunks – (recommended only for the young and foolhardy).

There was a time when this option held great appeal. In fact, it’s how I watched many Origin games in my youth.

We would be stuck in the middle of hundreds of drunken, sweaty fans in footy jumpers. Of course, the availability of cool drinks played a part.

These days, I would rather remove my toenails with rusty tools while listening to Andre Rieu’s latest CD.

The problem is, you can’t hear the game. You’ll be bumped. And have a colourful cocktail splashed all over you.

There will be a fight nearby, you’ll spend the first half stuck in a line for the bar/toilet/hot chips, and when it’s done and dusted, you have absolutely no chance of finding a taxi.

If all that appeals to you, good luck, and see you next week.

#Go To A Party Hosted By A Neighbour Or Friend – (recommended if you have no food left at home, or your tv is on the blink).

Some people think Origin is the ideal evening to host a party. They invite lots of people, who have to rush home from work and put proper clothes on.

The problem is, most of those people will want to talk to you throughout the game.

They’ll see it as the perfect opportunity to discuss the latest Walk-to-School initiative. Just as Billy Slater crosses for his second try.

In this instance, you are well within your rights to order everyone out of the room, except for those who are former State of Origin greats.

#Host A Party For Neighbours And Friends – (seriously, are you nuts?)

Don’t do this. Under any circumstance. You’ll see none of the game. Someone will drink your beer. And you’ll have to do the washing up when they finally go home.

#Stay At Home, Take The Phone Off The Hook And Eat Nachos – (if you’re REALLY lucky).

Yes, it’s come to this. If you can’t be at the game, the perfect Origin night is in your very own lounge room.

No disruptions. You can wear your warm pyjamas, and no-one will know. Just make sure you add your Queensland beanie.

Heat up the nachos at the end of the national anthem, grab a cool drink, and hit your comfy chair. You won’t miss a second of the action. And you can yell mindless insults as much as you like.

Wherever you plan to watch the game, good luck, and enjoy your night. Just don’t disturb me.

Home ground advantage. When it comes to footy fans, the louder the better. Teeth optional.

May 15, 2012

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.