The Broncos, Tina Turner and a snoring coach.

October 4, 2015

There were socks and undies in that Sydney hotel drawer, but no grand final tickets.

It wasn’t for a lack of looking. Granted, we were gazing through A Grade hangovers, but surely we would still be able to spot two gleaming tickets through Smithy’s large white Bonds.

We were in Sydney, to watch the Broncos win a grand final. Way back in ’93, when Alfie was leading the way, and Powers sat on the front of their jerseys.

You might remember it. Tina Turner was there. Belting out a few tunes, and cuddling the Brisbane boys. So I’m told. Because we didn’t actually make the game.

It was a bunch of rough heads from North Queensland. A footy trip from Cairns, led by a former Origin player. Who demanded to hold the tickets.

It had been fun, up until the empty-drawer moment. A few beers. Plenty of laughs. I may have even had a punt.

On the morning of the grand final, we treated ourselves to a hearty breakfast, to prepare for the big day ahead.

The boys made their way to respective rooms, to tidy up as best they could, and grab their tickets.

They were waiting out the front for us. Unaware that on Level 6, panic had set in.

Smithy decided there had been a theft. The only explanation could be that a maid with a long criminal history had snuck in, and guessed that he would have hidden the tickets with his jocks.

I suggested that it may have been more simple. That as a former forward .. he may have lost them. Leaving us ticklet-less. And laughing stocks. He did not take this suggestion well.

By now, the boys were making their way onto the bus. A search party was sent to our room. To find us in a blazing row about various levels of stupidity.

Blame then shifted to others in the travelling party. Perhaps the thief was among us. This was met with howls of protest. And laughter. They were in. And we weren’t.

We jumped on the bus anyway, hoping that we might find two tickets under a seat. We didn’t. The laughter was now a little over the top.

We arrived at the Football Stadium, and watched our dear friends disappear through the gates. They were telling strangers, and pointing at us. If Twitter had been invented at the time, we would have been trending.

As kick-off loomed, we accepted our fate. There would be no grand final miracle. We would not see the Broncos, or hear Ms Turner.

By now, we didn’t have the energy to blame the other. The hopelessness of the situation seemed to accelerate our already crushing hangovers. Instead of heading to the nearest pub, we decided to go back to the crime scene.

A two thousand kilometre trip .. to watch the decider on a small hotel room tv.

As we hit our respective beds, I wondered how things could get worse. The answer came, in a bone-rattling snore.

The tour leader, exhausted from the ticket-tragedy .. had fallen into a deep sleep. And that was the grand final of ’93. Victory on tv, with a soundtrack of snoring.

We laugh about it now. Sort of. No doubt he’ll blame me at the reunion. Now you all know the truth. Just in case it makes Twitter.

Barefoot footy and stinky headgear. This is why you should be cheering for the Cowboys.

September 29, 2015

There were tears in Townsville when they lost the last one.

Even the bushies were wiping eyes. Before heading back to the bar at the Leagues Club.

No point dwelling on it. It’s only a game. Two pots thanks love.

The Cowboys faithful had dared to dream. A grand final after ten years. So close.

Reality hit, as the Tigers were presented with their medals in Sydney. Premierships are so bloody hard to achieve.

This club is different to any other. Not bigger, or better. Just different.

When the fans go to home games .. it’s not your normal bus trip. Try four hours each way. And then some.

There are tiny towns dotted through Western Queensland .. where they gather in the pub each Saturday night, to cheer the Cows.

The discussion will turn to the forecast. Any rain out your way? There’s a new Flash Harry PM eh? And with small talk done, they’ll move on to the important stuff. Is JT’s groin stuffed?

Head into the Cape, way up north, and you’ll hear kids laughing. In that cheeky North Queensland way. There’ll be a footy close by. The game could resume at any time. Shoes optional. Don’t fall for his dummy.

That’s how it was every arvo in Hopevale. Not sure if google maps does street view there. Fiji is closer for some of you.

A little bugger named Matty Bowen starred in those never-ending battles in the front yard. Years before be became a Cowboys legend.

The supporters are different too. Not better or more passionate. Just different.

Success on the footy field, gives so many hope. In communities where lifestyle problems make a game of footy seem insignificant. In towns where day to day dramas are much more serious than Michael Morgan’s ankle.

But when the Cowboys are winning, life gets a little sweeter. Maybe it WILL rain soon. If JT can do it, then maybe I can too?

And so, to the bloke who inspires them the most. So much rests on the skinny shoulders of this proud indigenous Queenslander.

Don’t dare call Thurston a hero. He doesn’t want that. He’s a wonderful footy player, who knows life could have taken a very different turn, had he not been inspired to use those God-given talents.

Every time he gives that sweaty, stinky headgear away, another kid goes to sleep, dreaming big.

The beauty of this grand final is that Queensland can’t lose. The powerhouse that is the Broncos, will have the other half of the state delirious if they send Hodgo out a winner.

The Broncos expect it. They’ve won before, and they’ll win again.

I hope it’s not their day. That the Supercoach is denied. I want to hear an almighty roar in the North.

I want farmers to have a little sleep in, because of their celebrations. Just this once.

I want the front yard games to start early, and finish later, with the kids commentating on the match-winning try.

I want a generation of young North Queenslanders, to see that hard work does pay off. That one day, they’ll be giving away the smelly headgear.

Here’s to wiping away a few tears on Sunday night. Before the bushies head back to the bar. With bloody big smiles.

Attention Coach Potatoes – I’m here to help. Your official guide to sporting glory this weekend.

October 1, 2011

It’s been circled on the calender for months.

The ultimate weekend. Forty-eight hours of grand finals and Group Ones.

If you haven’t warned the family, do so now. Strap yourself in. But be warned. This weekend isn’t for the faint-hearted.

I know what you’re thinking. What about handing out some tips from years of grand final weekend abuse?

Consider it done. Here’s my survival guide. Feel free to share with your mates. Just don’t blame me if it lands you in strife.

Saturday Oct 1st.

Morning: Ask loved ones to provide a hearty breakfast. You can enjoy it over the papers. The family is required to provide peace and quiet at this time.

10.30am. Get the scratchings. Double check multi-bets. This can be done with coffee or tea. No alcohol just yet. Unless you’re at the track. If so, you should be on your third by now.

11.30am. Consider yard chores. Don’t think family responsibilities can be ignored this weekend.

11.35am. Shout yourself a cool drink for all that hard thinking. Now assume the position in your comfy black chair.

12.10pm. Randwick on Epsom Day. Race one, and it’s the fillies having their first start. Back your favourite trainer at odds and hope you can jag some play money.

12.30pm. If you haven’t already, check snack supplies and beer fridge. There’ll be no time later. In an emergency, send a friendly family member to the nearest bottle shop/convenience store.

1.25pm. Sport Change #1. We’re off to the Rugby World Cup. That time-honoured clash between the Wallabies and Russia. Bad luck is guaranteed if you miss the national anthem. You’ll be standing, of course.

2.15pm. Sport Change #2. Get your tight shorts on. It’s time for the AFL grand final. And another crack at the anthem. Not my game. But I love their passion. Watch the crowd shots before the first bounce. These fans live and breathe their sport. A bit like Queenslanders.

Now, a word of warning. You need to display some remote control expertise here. Don’t get caught up in the excitement at the MCG. The Group Ones are about to start at headquarters.

3.20pm. Back to the races. After the three-year old stayers strut their stuff, it’s Epsom time. That famous Randwick mile. The highlight of my day.

Remember the play money you snared earlier? Get it on Sincero here. When he wins, stand again, and cheer his knockabout jockey Chris O’Brien. No-one is more deserving of a wrap this weekend.

Late arvo-ish. You now must swap between the remaining Group Ones, the finish of the footy, all with an eye on the Perth quaddie. This is for experienced players only.

With stacks of cash, announce to the family that as a celebration, you’ll be kick-starting the BBQ. Of course, they are responsible for salads, breads, sauces, potatoes and their own drinks. And the washing up. Won’t they be grateful.

Now, off to bed. We have a big day tomorrow.

Sunday Oct 2nd

Morning. Check last night’s bets, including the Perth quaddie. Inspect Sunday paper to ensure there wasn’t a late protest that may provide a surprise dividend.

9.00am. Suggest romantic interlude with loving and supportive partner. Be prepared for constructive criticism.

9.00am and 20 seconds. Return to papers. Do form for another day of racing.

9.30am. (Qld time from here on) Race One at Flemington. Yes, it’s Daylight bloody Saving in the southern states. You have no idea who to back, but it’s always great to have them running so early.

10.40. Race Three .. The Bart Cummings. You must watch this race in honour of the great man.

For the next hour or two, a nap in your comfy chair is acceptable. It goes without saying that no-one is permitted to change the channel.

1.00pm. Your first taste of NRL grand final day. The North Queensland Cowboys are in the Toyota Cup decider. Cheer them loudly and proudly. But not for long. Because….

1.05pm. We’re back to Flemington. Race Seven .. the Group One Turnbull Stakes. Some Cup hopefuls in action here. The very smart December Draw will be saluting.

From here on, times become flexible. You may need to increase your fluid intake. Rugby league lovers know what I mean. There’s nothing like grand final afternoon.

Mates and neighbours will join in. Strangers too. The family will have no problems with you opening your arms, and your esky, to supporters of the great event.

Now, you’re on your own. Enjoy the game, and in an ad break, reflect on how much you’ve achieved in the past twenty-four hours.

One more thing. If you get to do all of the above, can you let me know how it goes? Sounds like a fantastic weekend.