In the Salary Cap of Sporting Emotion, Queensland are Rampant Cheats

We’re a land of the ‘fair go’ in Australia.

Whether you just read that in a Samuel-Johnson-Secret-Life-Of-Us voice, or a VB-advertisement-voice, it’s likely this is your truth. And although our country’s egalitarianism has more holes in it than a Panama Papers shell company, it’s still our prevailing identity.

That’s right, in Australia the only laws more important than the written are the unwritten, and our first amendment is that we get behind the underdog.

What’s your Fair Go poison? You might drink to the Eureka Stockade. Simpson and his Donkey: there’s a nice drop! Here’s cheers to Ned Kelly and the boys. What about the America’s Cup? Bob Hawke would have skulled from it – what about you?

In Australia, some think sport is just for the capitalists and the Machiavels engaging in a never-ending festival of alpha showdowns. They’re wrong. The Australian Spirit allows for some romance and humanity too. So sophisticated and poetic is our relationship to sport, we offer a Salary cap of Sporting Emotion: an equalisation measure to ensure that the more you lose, the more you’re liked.

The rules of the emotional salary cap are simple: if you win, you forego ‘battler’ status. If you lose, you gain said status. This is where the sporting ‘soft spot’ comes from. If you can’t win, at least you get to assume the identity of the ‘battler’.

Except in State of Origin Rugby League.

Even after a decade of systematic destruction at the hands of Queensland, the New South Wales Origin team has no battler tag, and no soft spot status. In a country (and article) of lazy stereotypes, this is particularly galling for Sydneysiders, for whom status is everything.

How does it come to pass that a decade of also-ran-ship fails to elicit any sympathy? How come the narrative hasn’t shifted? People may point to a century of Queensland oppression at the hands of New South Wales Rugby League, and they’d be right. But modern Rugby League, as with modern politics, operates in dog years. In 15 years the Rabbitohs have gone from battlers to blue bloods to somewhere in-between. Canberra used to be the upstarts, now they’re everyone’s second team. Even Manly made themselves semi-likeable for a while as a suburban recalcitrant in the shadows of corporate Rugby League after the Super League war. It helped that they were losing. When you lose a lot, being likeable is easy.

The institution that is New South Wales Rugby League hasn’t helped its own cause. Whether it’s their brand of street-brawling football, devoid of any playmaking creativity, or their relentless failure to back players for more than a couple of games, or just by virtue of having the strongest state economy with the highest median family income, every move they make smells of blue blooded entitlement. You suspect that Ned Kelly (Victorian) and Simpson (born in England) would be Queensland supporters.

And there is very little redeeming about this year’s New South Wales team itself. With the exception of Aaron Woods, who seems like a nice bloke who has a crack; Laurie Daley, who is largely pleasant and evokes memories of a better day; and the guys who have never played for New South Wales, the large majority of the rest really do battle for likeability. It’s all underworld cavorters, weird fly-punchers, glassings, Pineapple Cruisers, performance enhancing drugs rumours and Manly players.

New South Wales’ supporters don’t help, either. We are nothing if not splintered. We’re opposing lockout laws, backpacking, pretending we’re Bondi locals, living regionally, driving WRXs, watching the Swans, watching the ‘rah rah’, living in London, negatively gearing our third property, listening to Kyle Sandilands, or living in Melbourne. Culturally we’re all over the place, and despite Buzz Rothfield’s best efforts, we don’t bond as one over our deserved underdog status.

This is to say nothing of the Jedi mind trick that Queensland under Meninga et al have imposed over not just New South Wales, but Australia. Even in their pomp, the public reserved some rankle for their beloved Australian cricket team. Not Queensland though. This state has managed to hijack Australia’s most treasured sporting principle for their advantage – they take underdog, battler status, while relentlessly dominating their opposition.

How did Queensland become so likeable? As a kid I was brought up to believe that they were backward, redneck, isolationist, hillbillies. And yet their talisman, Johnathan Thurston, has emerged as a leader of his club, his state, and his people. Same goes Greg Inglis – a man we desperately mock for his ‘defection’ to Queensland, without ever considering the reasons why he did it. It’s whispered quietly but nevertheless well accepted that Queensland unfailingly provide greater support for their Indigenous players than New South Wales. What about Cameron Smith? All efforts to cast him as the nagging referee-whisperer are as comical as they are contrived. He’s a player that wins ruthlessly, and can string sentences together. Sadly, he deeply impresses us.

This year Queensland are more likeable than ever before. Their bona fide villains – Slater and Hodges – will not feature owing to injury and retirement respectively. Moreover, the common refrain that Queensland only win because of the abovementioned trio is losing lustre as the years plough on. Consider this list of elite Queensland players who’ve come and gone throughout the decade of dominance: Lockyer, Hunt, Folau, Price, Civoniceva, Crocker, Tate. At some stage you’d expect New South Wales to have rebalanced the ledger, but they haven’t.

The scariest prospect is that Queensland’s superiority is now systemic – not built on a couple of immortal players, but a culture and identity that stands to roll on generationally. They have eight guys banned from playing due to a misjudged circuit in January! They’re the next ones we have to worry about.

Indeed, these are dark times for New South Wales fans. Our ritzy, thuggish misfits and upstarts, versus Queensland’s imperious and villainless battlers.

I think New South Wales will win game one 14-12.

Sam Perry

Sam Perry will be commentating State of Origin Game One live for The Hill Radio on Wednesday, June 1 from 7.30pm AEST. Head to mixlr.com/thehillradio to stream the game from there.

 

TPA’s Election Analysis: Week Two – The Major Parties

In this week’s half-baked coverage of the upcoming federal election, TPA’s Alasdair McClintock loosely analyses the pros and cons of the three major parties, coming to the inevitable conclusion that there are no pros and, um, they’re all cons.

*****

The Major Parties

The Vengaboys like to party. It’s true. They told us. But do they like the major parties? I doubt it. These are not the parties the Vengaboys are used to. Shovelling cocaine down their noses at Ibiza, I don’t imagine the grey suits in Canberra cross their minds at all. If they do, these connoisseurs of cheesy electro-pop must be on some mind-bending stuff.

And I suspect they wouldn’t be the only ones. Some pretty weird shit has been going on since last week, when I rolled up my sleeves and got elbow deep in the filthy and primal motivations of the men who might lead this country. (I still can’t wash the stench off my hands).

The campaign is heating up. Mud is being flung. Candidates are already falling to the wayside and this street fight hasn’t even really started yet. Can someone please fill up the ice trays and stock up on Betadine? Because things are about to get rough.

What has been evident throughout is that all three parties are prepared to fight dirty – yes, I’m including the Greens as a ‘major party’ – and all seem far more adept at being ‘the opposition’ than actually leading the country. In Australian politics, if the other guys suggest something, it is de rigueur to immediately come out and announce it is a shit idea, and that they clearly have no idea what they’re doing – they may as well be sacrificing goats to some pulsating and phallic false idol, for all the bloody good they’re doing!

A curious object to find in the Prime Minister's office.
A curious object to find in the Prime Minister’s office.

But this simply cannot always be the case. These are educated people. Socially retarded fools in their own way, certainly, but occasionally they’re going to get things right. It would be refreshing for someone get up and say, “You know what? That’s actually a pretty good idea. We didn’t think of it, but we sure as hell might implement it should we get into power.”

Now that would be a head turner! I would vote for that Party, without hesitation, because it says to me that they actually want to lead this country forward, rather than just be the cool guys in whatever dowdy Canberra bars politicians frequent (can you imagine how fucking pompous those places must be?).

It’s not going to happen, though. I don’t know why it’s not going to happen, but it’s just not. The three major parties hate each other at a level that perhaps only Solange and Jay Z could understand. I can easily imagine Shorten going apeshit ballistic in an elevator. In fact, I desperately want to see that. I don’t even care who he attacks. It would be brilliant.

Shorten awaits his next victim.
Shorten awaits his next victim.

But why do they hate each other so much? I have friends with differing political views to myself, yet we can still enjoy a sesh at the local bar without resorting to name calling and underhanded swipes. Most of the time, at least.

My understanding of the major parties, in very simple terms, is: the Libs love big business and believe it stimulates the economy, we all get jobs, we can build stuff and everyone’s happy; Labor believe that an educated, healthy and well looked after society will naturally thrive; and the Greens believe if we continue to destroy the planet at such an incredible rate, it doesn’t matter what else we do, we’re all fucked.

These are all fair theories. The logical thing would be to work with all three and see what we can come up with. Instead we have some sort of distorted cage fight where, in lieu of throwing punches, pale skinned and overfed reprobates hurl carefully worded, condescending insults at each other.

I’m not sure any of them are fit to run a medium-sized business, much less an entire country. Take the Liberal Party’s Peter Dutton for example. What kind of psychotic retard thinks those comments are going to fly in contemporary society? What he said was bad enough, but the stupidity he displayed by actually saying them is unforgivable. If he was working for a large private company in the public eye, he’s lost his job by now, but in government these lunatics get a free pass.*

CK
He’s right, you know.

Is it too much to ask that they all get along? I suppose it is … Can we vote for the Vengaboys?

By Alasdair McClintock

Twitter: @AWJP1983

Read Week One – The Leaders here

TPA’s Election Analysis: Week One – The Leaders

In this eight week tribute to jibber-jabber, TPA’s Alasdair McClintock takes us through the highs and lows of the upcoming federal election. Proving, once and for all, that when it comes to politics, he has no idea what he’s talking about.

*****

The Leaders

What kind of lunatic wants to lead this great country of ours? Are they so naive they think they can make a difference?

Or just power-mad degenerates who yearn for their names in the history books?

It is a thankless job. Australia, as a whole, is such a fickle beast. We are as vile, ruthless and vicious as we are open, forgiving and thankful. So quick to turn on each other, then defend one and other should someone else join in the vitriol. Soaked to our eyeballs in Bundaberg Rum and Victoria Bitter, we are convinced of our own ability to ‘do a better job’ leading the country than those who actually jump through the hoops and attempt it.

And why not? Our leaders have been about as productive as Mitchell Pearce’s State of Origin career of late. Thankfully, the pooches in Canberra have been left out of the scandals, but how long will that last for?

There is a very real and present danger this could happen again.
There is a very real and present danger this could happen again.

We’ve had our fair share of dreamers, narcissists, holy men and alcoholics. Now we have two gnomes men. Driven by what? Power? Fame? Ego? Sex? I can’t imagine many ridgey-didge, jaw-dropping political groupies are roaming the streets of the nation’s capital, desperate for some pasty, white, middle aged flesh to be pressed up against them. So I’m certain it can’t be the sex. You don’t need to be a politician to walk into an S&M club.

And it’s certainly not for the fortune.

Malcolm ‘Harbourside Mansion’ Turnbull could probably buy the country if he wanted to. Wiping out this all powerful budget deficit in one fell swoop, with enough spare change for some raspberry daiquiris at Casablanca in Double Bay. And Bill “Beaconsfield” Shorten could surely make more money in the private sector. Doing what? I don’t know. I’m not sure he’s doing anything now, as it is.

So if not sex, money or power – the traditional motivations of the red-blooded male – it must be ego. Ego: the only thing, apart from our thumbs, that separates us from the monkeys. Or so I’m led to believe. I’ve met some pretty egotistical monkeys.

What the hell is going on here?
What the hell is going on here?

A wise Venezuelan once said to me “Do you know that the problem with the human race is, Aldo?” He then wrote ‘EGO’ in bold capital letters on the notepad in front of him, crossed it out with a furious slash, and confronted me with a tremendous stare that shook me to my boots. Thank you, Roberto. You are an intimidating man, but wise nonetheless.

He was right, of course. In a way. Ego is as much our downfall as it is our success. Could you trust a man driven solely by ego? Maybe, if his interests aligned with yours. Should you? No. Because his interests will never fully align with anyone but himself.

And these are short men, do not forget.* Short men have very little but their egos to keep them going. History has shown us what short men are willing to do, and as exemplified so elegantly in the circus that is the US presidential race, about the worst thing you can do to a proud man is label anything about him “short”.

Needless to say, the Opposition leader has the very word in his last name. This would have been an intolerable cruelty in his high school days. What demons from the schoolyard is Bill still carrying with him? He strikes me as a master manipulator (as all good politicians are) and I do not doubt for a second he soon learned to use bigger kids to act out his dirty work. Bill’s Goons, if you will. Perhaps it’s why he went on to work with the unions.

Turnbull, on the other hand, seems to have fooled himself into believing he could actually be our saviour. From what, Malcolm? Flat screen TVs and annual trips to Bali? You did save us from Tony Abbott, I will give you that, but he still looms like a menacing shadow, all the way from the Northern Beaches to your Point Piper palace. You can’t stab the devil in the back and expect him to go quietly.

A troubled man.

However ignorant, evil and misguided as Abbott was, at least he made decisions. Great leaders are known for their decision making and I don’t think Turnbull even confidently picks his tie in the morning. And that should be his forte. We all fell in love with his charming, self-assured style, when he had no real responsibility and the time to subscribe to fad diets and detoxing. He was once accused of being all style and no substance, but that would now be a generous appraisal.

His time in power must have worn him and his self-belief down to all time lows. The cracks are showing. Gone is the glint in his eye and the charming confidence that only comes with someone who has made their fortune and knows they are a success. Now he looks tired and jaded. He has learned it is near impossible to make a difference and still make everyone happy. Because we are all selfish beings who both fear and love our neighbours and don’t even really know what we want, but we sure as hell know we want it now. One suspects, if it weren’t for his ego, he would pull out of this caper altogether.

So who should we vote for come election day? Which of these men is least likely to completely cock things up for us all? Is it even possible for them to make that big a difference to our daily lives? I can’t imagine my social media feed is going to change too dramatically either way. Is Shorten going to make Game of Thrones spoilers punishable by public flogging? I don’t think so.

For all this talk of the ‘great divide’ between the two major parties, they all seem the same bunch of douchebags to me.

By Alasdair McClintock

Twitter: @AWJP1983

* Google has them down as a generous 1.78m each, but I do not believe it. Even, if it’s true, they hold themselves as short men do, which is perhaps more alarming than anything else.