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.

 

Minichiello’s New Paleo Diet Pushes All the Boundaries

Anthony Minichiello’s nutrition advice has Roosters players looking leaner than ever and The Public Apology can exclusively reveal that it is largely to do with a controversial new diet supplement.

In a sick twist, that would even make Stephen Dank squirm, Minichiello has been administering regular chalices of human blood to players to give them an edge over their opposition.

In order to achieve the highest level of performance, fresh blood must be consumed, and players have been partaking in late night ‘bonding sessions,’ involving wild orgies with pale groupies lured into a suspicious looking white caravan in Bondi Junction.

In an unprecedented, and unsettling move, the Roosters have also put in a request with the NRL to ensure all their 2016 fixtures are played after sundown.

When approached for comment, Minichiello burst in to laughter, pulled over his cape and disappeared in a puff of smoke and flurry of wings. Leaving this reporter with only a dusty cough and a feeling of impending dread.

Other clubs are said to be curious about the new diet due to the fact that, as one player put it, “You can’t deny the Roosters players have banging bods.”

By staff writers

The Manly Empire Is Crumbling

There are a few truths in life: gravity, puppies are cute, Justin Bieber is a dickhead, a few other unimportant things, and everybody who doesn’t support the Manly Sea Eagles hates them. And I mean really hate. Cersei Lannister hate. Maggie Simpson/baby with the monobrow hate.

Yet the wider Rugby League community (and yes I’m including myself in that), has been surprisingly reserved in their assessment of the goings on at Manly. There has been much chitter-chatter, but very little merrymaking.

Well I am going to step up on behalf on The Public Apology, and I imagine quite a few others, and scream from the top of the hill, “Fuck yeah!!! Fuck them!”

I am taking great joy in watching them implode. Great joy! I know it is usually considered poor form to revel in another’s misfortune, but Manly and their supporters have been anything but good winners during their years of success. They love the fact they are hated, encourage it even, and continually talk down to everybody and anything around them. I once saw a drunk Manly fan gloating to a cat, true story.*

They are actually very much like the Lannisters in Game of Thrones, when you think about it, and like the Lannisters, sadly, they win more often than not. Fuck me, Geoff Toovey even looks a bit like Joffrey! But (SPOILER ALERT!!!) the king is dead motherfucker!!! And karma is a bitch!**

A bit of a twat
Joffrey: a bit of a twat

I want to make it abundantly clear, mainly for any Manly supporters who might read this, this is not a Tall Poppy thing. I do not begrudge success. I usually admire it. This is a fuck you, you arrogant shits, welcome to reality and learn some common decency, thing.

One of my favourite sporting memories is the 1997 Grand Final. Most will remember it well, Newcastle Knights fan or not (yes, I’m a Knights fan, thus good-hearted, salt-of-the-earth and possessing an unerring ability to make both man, woman and beast climax with a single look). A wounded Joey Johns scooted down the blindside, like a real-life Hans Solo, and set up a young Darren Albert, AKA Luke Skywalker, and took down the empire. There was joy in the streets! Evil had been defeated! The good guy had won!

I can’t think of any other Star Wars references, but Toovey is obviously Darren Albert’s father (paternity test unnecessary, AKA Darth Vader) and Robbie O’Davis, R2D2, in this analogy.

Resourceful, cheeky and a menace around the ruck.
Resourceful, cheeky and a menace around the ruck.

The reason I mention this, is to not bask in former fanboy glory, although that was fun, but to highlight the … ok, it was just a fanboy thing, but Manly losing in the final minute made it extra special.

Now it seems Manly even hate themselves, which is wonderful. They’ve lost their two halves – arguably the best halves pairing in the comp and most likeable blokes in their team – most of their top line forwards and are coming off a shellacking from the team who have ironically benefited most from their demise.

Sure they signed Willie Mason, the most charismatic motherfucker to ever grace a football field, but that’s not enough, even Big Willie can’t fill that gaping hole.

A sizeable task, even for  someone of William's stature
A sizeable task, even for someone of William’s talent

If they offload Dale Cherry-Evans early, the man with this silliest name in the NRL, to the Titans, you can almost guarantee them the wooden spoon.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful? The north shore of Sydney overrun with the spoons of citizenry who actually do send wooden spoons in the post and don’t just talk about it. Hundreds of confused people shuffling through their second drawer completely unaware that the implement they are looking for is being used to violently strike Geoff Toovey upon the buttocks.

“Last, Geoffrey!? LAST!?”

“It was the referees, Bob! It’s a conspiracy!”

“Repent, boy! REPENT!”

Oh the sweet unending joy of it! I want pictures of a naked Geoff Toovey, curled up in the foetal position, in a bathtub full of a wooden spoons at the end of this season. That is art motherfucker.

That is sweet cosmic shit. That is justice. And I will not rest until it has been done.

I also blame Des Hasler for everything, because I am starting to hate the Bulldogs. Anyone else?

By Al McClintock

* This is a lie.

** Also a stripper who owes me six bucks.