State of Origin Provides Stability During Times of Great Change

As an adolescent boy yet to discover other life pleasures, State of Origin was the highlight of my calendar year.

The anticipation would build through the entire week leading up to Game One, reaching its epic crescendo on Wednesday afternoon.

That afternoon would be spent playing touch football on the backcourts at school until 6pm, at which point we would go home, shower up, carb-load on spaghetti bolognaise, and drink in Channel Nine’s half-hour pre-Origin primer, hosted by the incomparable Kenny Sutcliffe.

Sadly, this nostalgia is all that I have to go on today. Today’s reality does not match up to yesterday’s blissful ignorance.

Rugby league lives off nostalgia; it relies on it. There’s a reason The Footy Show still exists: it was funny in 1994.

Sterlo, now a serious pundit
Sterlo, now a serious pundit

There is an entire generation of adult men in their mid-late 20s through to early 30s who grew up in the greatest era of rugby league.

This era was, of course, the Winfield Cup. Jimmy Barnes and Tina Turner. Wally Lewis’ mustache. Mal Meninga’s forearms. Benny Elias’ headband. Willie Carne’s hair.

We were young enough to remember this era as great. It was an era when blokes remained on the paddock even when they were bleeding profusely from the head – which in retrospect seems somewhat cavalier, given the AIDS crisis of the mid-late 1980s.

But this doesn’t exist anymore. Men who play State of Origin today do not bleed from the face. They don’t have mustaches or overt body hair. And only on the rarest of occasions will they play the full 80 minutes.

The game is pitched to a wider demographic now; the games are screened into new markets. Gone is Tina Turner and in her place is Jessica Mauboy, or someone else maybe, I can’t keep track.

This was really good
This was really good

Like those of us born between 1979-1986 who have grown up and taken on full-time employment, State of Origin, too, has matured.

Origin has grown up, as has Dave Edwards. We’re both older and more corporate than we’ve ever been. And that’s probably a reflection of the world we live in.

In fact, Origin is 34 years old now – six years my senior – and, if anything, it looks younger than it did the day it was born in 1980.

So what is there left for me to appreciate tonight? The crushing tackles? The constant threat of violence? The crisp Channel Nine editing? The misguided hope that NSW’s fresh halves pairing can finally stop the Queensland juggernaut in its tracks, despite possessing the creative flair of a Christopher Pyne press conference?

The only thing that keeps me watching Origin, to be honest, is that I’ve always done it – and that I don’t know any better. And, really, that’s quite reassuring in a world of constant flux.

But yeah, go NSW!

By Dave Edwards

The World Cup Is Here, But Where’s The Fever?

With the FIFA World Cup now just days away it feels like our Socceroos have both come so far and absolutely nowhere – all at the same time.

With a squad that boasts nine players currently plying their trade in our own flourishing league and an appearance at our third consecutive World Cup, the Football Federation of Australia has every right to feel proud of the direction the game is moving in this multi-coded sporting landscape of ours.

So why do we feel like we’re on a hiding to nothing? A lack of marketability? An absence of recognisable names? Nine players from the A-League? This is what to expect, when you’re expecting… to get pumped.

Kewell, Viduka, Neil, Cahill, Schwartzer, Emerton. Ah yes, 2006 was truly the golden generation of our footballing history. The nation was swept up in proverbial World Cup Fever. We went behind to the Japanese through that somewhat controversial goal and then Timmy Cahill scored a brace in the space of 3 minutes, with John “Mafia” Aloisi slotting one home on the counter to make it 3-1, marking a famous night in Australian sports viewing.

Brand ambassador Aloisi
Brand ambassador Aloisi

Ironically, Aloisi’s match winning penalty against Uruguay in a penalty shoot out to simply qualify us for the 2006 Cup remains the most iconic goal in Australian soccer history. We then lost, admirably, 0-2 to Brazil and then Harry Kewell did his own version of the ‘Hand of God’ goal to level the scores 2-2 against Croatia which was enough to book a date with Italy in the round of 16.

Sure, the subsequent injustice of that penalty decision against Lucas Neill still leaves a sour taste in the mouth but, really, we were extraordinarily lucky to make it that far at all. And that was with our golden generation. A favourable draw; results going our way; favourable refereeing.

So what are we expecting from this year’s lot?

Well this time around we’ve got Chile, Netherlands and arguably one of the greatest international teams ever, Spain. Straight away that is an incredibly hard draw. Bookmakers have Spain and Chile going through, leaving a team that boasts the prodigious talents of Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder – not to mention the new Manchester United boss, Louis van Gaal – on the beach in Rio by the time the round of 16 kicks off.

Match times during the world cup will be 5am and 7am, AEST, which means we can’t even go to the pub and yell obscure obscenities at projectors and spill beer on our work clothes and wear them like badges of honour.

Too early for these ones
Too early for these ones

What will happen is we’ll catch a few minutes of the second half through one blood shot eye, slipping into open un-ironed shirts and slinging a tie around us while savoring a cup of Nescafe Blend 43 and biting a piece of wholemeal toast wondering when Archie Thompson will get subbed on. Then you’ll realise that cult legend, Thompson, isn’t even in the squad.

We’ll sit on trains, buses, ferries and in car pool lanes. Stuck in traffic and refreshing our twitter feeds to see how many Fernando Torres has put past us. There’ll be one bloke streaming Andres Iniesta’s magic on a tablet and four other commuters peering over his shoulder. This is ourWorld Cup Fever.

For 32 years we would have killed just to be a part of this pageantry. This time around, most of the country will just catch the highlights on Fox Sports News along with the real issues, like who’s winning the Brownlow count.

By Ian Higgins  

Immigrant Grandpa Confirmed as Oldest Living Raiders Fan

A 94-year-old Queanbeyan immigrant is the oldest living Canberra Raiders fan, The Public Apology can confirm.

Hakka “Harry” Ibravovic, who was a sprightly 62-year-old when the Raiders first entered the competition in 1982, told TPA that his love for the Green Machine came upon settling in the nation’s capital.

“I left Yugoslavia in 1980, just as ethnic tensions were rising after President Tito’s death – with just a few dinars to my name. And like most immigrant slavs, I quickly developed a unshakeable passion for rugby league. However, I didn’t feel that any of the existing NSWRL clubs were right for me,” he explained.

“When I heard that a Canberra team was in the mix – I sensed the opportunity to join a brand new club from day one. Symbolically, I guess I saw the Raiders as representative of ‘new beginnings’ – a perfect fit for an Eastern European immigrant who was making a new life in Australia.”

However, when asked what he thought of the haphazard Raiders now, Ibravovic replied in perfectly accented Australian English that “they’re a bunch of shit c*nts.”

By staff writers