So the business end rears its ugly bulbous head. The Meat and Potatoes. The Pointy End of the Stick. The Fantasy Football finals.
Depending on what competition you’re in, six months worth of mate-baiting, malicious slander, and inappropriate comments blocked by league forums, have come to a head, and now it’s just you, that bloke who used to be your mate and Shaun Fensom’s tackle count in the spotlight.
So what of this phenomena? Ten years ago the idea of Fantasy Football was akin to playing Magic the Gathering and making out with your cousin (not the hot one). Now it has embedded itself so far into mainstream culture it even has its own page in the back section. Men can be heard talking out loud in pubs about it. Children think Corey Parker is the greatest player ever and Darren Lockyer is rubbish because he doesn’t have the stats.
Players have become like stocks. Their values and performances closely monitored by beer-bellied dreamers who could never throw a cut-out face ball, but got an A in maths at school. Now too fat, lazy and uncoordinated to ever actually take to a sporting field again, they put in the long hours at work analysing Nathan Hindmarsh’s form graph and searching for that unheard of superstar-to-be, the “Cash-cow”, that you can buy cheap, sell high, and then consolidate your back row.
Maybe this is partially responsible for Australia’s slowing economic growth? Key players in the market are too busy assessing the pros and cons of getting rid of Benji Marshall and are forgetting to buy those JB Hi-Fi stocks they meant to?
And like the stock market, all the preparation and analysis in the world can be blown out of the water by something as innocuous as a boozy night out, or Paul Gallen’s lashing right boot (OK, well maybe those things wouldn’t actually affect the stock market, but you get the gist). All of a sudden you need a new 5/8 and you haven’t got the trades left to do it. You pray for a miracle. You pray Gallen gets off. Carney wasn’t drinking. Or in your darker moments you pray that Glen Stewart does a hamstring at training because Johnno has him in his side and it would even the ledger.
So like all competitive things it brings out the best and the worst in us, or perhaps just the worst. Friendships are scorned, relationships are put on hold whilst you search for an extra few bucks to bring in Parker (although if you don’t have him already, what have you been doing? Are you even in the finals?), children are neglected, left to forage for their own food in the neighbour’s bin because their single father has forgotten they even exist, but hey, at least we have one more reason to talk about football!
So strap on your headgear, dig out your old high-school jersey, and start loitering around Brookvale Oval with a well-concealed crowbar if you must. For most of us this is probably the closest we will ever come again to premiership glory. You got a taste for it turning out for the Woy Woy under 9’s and it has been elusive ever since. It’s Showtime!
By Al McClintock