Rugby League Is Clinically Depressed

Paul Gallen is the human representation of the NRL. If he is depressed, it means Rugby League is also depressed.

Rugby league has been showing classic signs of depression for years.

It has been having trouble remaining interested in daily life. It no longer enjoys once pleasurable activities such as international football – it’s simply been going through the motions for the past decade and a half.

The embodiment on rugby league
The embodiment of rugby league

Rugby league also engages in self loathing, reckless behaviour. It makes decisions, like trying to make new friends in Melbourne, which have the unintended effect of turning it’s existing friends in Sydney away.

Rugby league feels helpless and hopeless. Caught between not knowing whatever it wants to be a global entertainment package or a tribal sport with strong Australian roots and rusted on local support, it is riven with a deep existential angst.

"What do I want to be when I grow up?"
“What do I want to be when I grow up?”

Rugby league needs time out. It needs a break and a bit of separation from the negative influences in its life. A weekend break to Bali will not be enough. It needs a one to two year sabbatical in Barcelona, Berlin or somewhere equally foreign.

But rugby league will need more than a break. It will also need psychoanalysis. It needs to lie down on the couch and have a 50-year-old woman with horned glasses and a Germanic name gently probe into its past.

Over the course of twelve one-hour sessions, rugby league will drill down into its own psyche. Deep insecurities stemming from a troubled family life will surface. Events including the messy divorce of parents Kerry and Rupert in the mid 90s, which resulted in the abandonment of children Rabbit, Steel, Bear and others, will be identified as a key driver of rugby league’s current malaise.

The court cases were especially traumatic
The court cases were especially traumatic

But the therapy sessions will go beyond blaming family for all of rugby league’s troubles – for rugby league must accept responsibility for its current predicament. The alcohol-fuelled benders, domestic violence charges and steroid abuse, viewed so often as a symptom of rugby league’s problems, will come to be seen as a fundamental root of the problem, and something that must be addressed in its own right through a series of courses on anger management and substance abuse treatment, as well as daily Transcendental Meditation.

There will be crying and there will be anger, and rugby league will have to ask itself a lot of hard questions. It will go to some pretty dark, disturbing places, yet with the guidance of our therapist, a solid support network of family and friends, and some good old fashioned hard work, rugby league may one day be healthy enough to regain its place as a functioning and contributing member to Australian society*.

By Ben Shine

*This article is not intended to cause offence to those suffering mental illness. For anyone facing difficulties, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.


Is Todd Carney the Next Kylie Minogue?

I was enjoying a drink with a gay friend of mine last weekend and we got chatting about the whole Todd Carney fiasco. I mention that he is gay not because, like those dreadful girls who have watched too much Sex and the City, I absolutely have to have a gay friend to drag around like an accessory, but because it is relevant to his opinion.

Anyway, he admitted that he thought the photo was actually ‘hot’, something I hadn’t even taken a second to consider in my analysis of the act (I just thought it was hilarious), and that others in the gay community also felt this way. Obviously one bloke and a few of his mates aren’t the most reliable sample field, but it got me thinking; could Carney become a gay icon*? And furthermore, where have all the gay icons in sport gone? That is, if there were any in the first place.

I can’t think of one currently ‘out’ athlete in Australia still competing. Matthew Mitcham is the only one who springs to mind, but I can’t work out if he is still actually diving competitively or just appearing in terrible TV shows. I am sure there are a plethora in women’s hockey and netball**, but let’s face it, those sports aren’t at the forefront of the national psyche. I feel like an AFL player may have come out recently, but once again, I have a suspicion he retired before doing so.

Not gay
Not gay

The most recent recognised study I could find on homosexual statistics in Australia was from 2003. It found that just 1.2% of Australians are gay. Interestingly, a more recent study in the United States (2011) found a whopping 3.8% of Americans are gay, which suggests to me (although I have little social science to back this up) that as attitudes have relaxed significantly over the past decade, more people are willing to admit, perhaps even to themselves, that they are indeed more interested in the wizardry of their own genitals.

It is impossible to presume that these statistics transfer flawlessly into the world of athletes, as athletes are generally an exceptional group of people in one way or another, but it is safe to say there are more than a few Australian athletes out there who choose to remain in the closet. Do they fear the backlash? Believe that Australia isn’t quite ready for a bunch of homosexuals running around in our top leagues and being broadcast into our lounge rooms?

Well I say, fuck it! Australia is ready! Come out! And anyone who has a problem with it can quite simply fuck off back to their conservative caves!

Could it be more than that though? Perhaps they fear the athletic world in which they live isn’t ready. This is something I can only speculate on, but as someone who played in more than a few sporting sides growing up, I can tell you these would not be easy environments to come out in. I am not saying these environments were homophobic, but more thoughtless and long overdue for a shake up from within. Having openly gay players in the system is the only way this is going to happen and it needs some brave men and women to step up to this challenge.

Who will be first?
Who will be first?

The darker side of all this is that these are very difficult environments for those who are not completely unequivocal regarding their sexuality. How many tormented geniuses have we seen acting out when all good sense suggests they should have surely learned their lesson by now? I am not saying that all of them are homosexuals, but I do wonder how many gay athletes have turned to drugs and alcohol to escape the depression that usually comes with being unsure of yourself.

What does this all have to do with Carney taking a piss in his own mouth for the amusement of his ‘mates’? Well, I don’t really know, the mind tends to wander, but you don’t have to be gay to be a gay icon*** and the notion of Carney suddenly deciding to chase the ‘pink dollar’ is something I am incredibly comfortable with. You can’t say he wouldn’t look fantastic in some budgie-smugglers, angel wings on his back and atop a Mardi Gras float, singing ‘Spinning Around’ with Kylie by his side.

By Alasdair McClintock

* I would like to get in early and state his article is in no way suggesting Todd Carney is in fact gay. But if he is, more power to him!

** Stereotyping here, and I’m sorry… but it’s true, isn’t it?

*** Really want to stress this – I’m not saying Todd Carney is gay. (But also, if he is… more power etc.)

I Will Reluctantly Watch Origin 3 Tonight

I don’t want to watch the third State of Origin game tonight, but I will.

Like a father spending his Saturday watching under 13s cricket while he waits in vain to see his son bat at number eleven, I will loyally tune in to channel 9 at precisely 8:17pm tonight – thus avoiding the pre-game hype – to see the Blues and Maroons play out a dead rubber that many of us had forgotten about.

It seems odd to be in this situation, when a matter of weeks ago the Origin series was something that was so highly anticipated, and the entire state of NSW yearned for its first series victory in eight years. But here we are, thousands of league fans going through the paces of State of Origin, simply because tradition compels us to.

I could easily forego watching Origin tonight. I’m sure there are plenty of other, productive things I could be doing with my time like going to the gym, reading a book, or writing another article bemoaning the state of rugby league.

But no, instead I will spend almost two hours watch a game that means nothing. Why? Because rugby league is a sport unique in its ability to foster a sense of obligation from its fans.

Like a charming friend with a debilitating drug addiction, we will continue to lend rugby league twenty bucks, even though deep down we know he won’t be spending it on a cab fare to get to a job interview. He’s going to spend it getting high. Like a fool who never learns, our trust will be repeatedly abused, but we will never abandon the relationship.

"Thanks mate, I'll pay ya back, I swear"
“I’ll pay ya back, I swear”

In this case, obligation is a one-way street. Rugby league can change, but the fans have to keep showing up. We are obliged to keep going to games, even though our team is terrible. And because our clubs have long-since stopped playing at their local ground, we are obliged to keep watching their games on TV. And we are further obliged to buy the latest jerseys, even though our club changed its colours this season to coincide with the release of the latest James Bond movie onto DVD.

Obligation is a noble value. People who stick by their families out of a sense of duty, or are committed to a cause or their country, through the good times and the bad, are revered and lionised by societies across the world. But when it comes to rugby league, it just all feels a bit silly. Are we really giving up our precious Wednesday night for a game we don’t care about, and the outcome of which will have absolutely no bearing on our lives, simply because of a sense of loyalty to a sport that has long since abandoned such antiquated notions?

Probably. Or, we could skip the game and wake up early for the FIFA World Cup Semi-Final between Argentina and Holland. Because unlike rugby league, Australia’s relationship with soccer is a no-strings casual hook-up through Tinder. It’s fun, there are no repercussions and we’ll forget about it in a month’s time.

By Ben Shine