Like a raving mad homeless man on a city corner, this week McClintock is screaming about big issues. Although, in truth, he barely discuss them at all.
The Big Issues
As Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski said, “I got issues, man.”
Or was it “a rash”?
Perhaps it was both.
Nevertheless, this country has issues, man!
We’re drowning in refugees, cheap milk, a budget deficit and The Great Barrier Reef is dying before our very eyes. All this while our planet slowly heats up in a desperate attempt to kill us all (can you blame it?). I don’t mean to understate it here, but I think we’re fucked. Thank heaven Bill and Malcolm have all the answers. Don’t they?
I’m not sure …
Trying to get a gauge on the major parties positions on big issues this week has been tricky. Especially as several of their own candidates have shown they don’t even know what they are. Usually this wouldn’t bother me so much – heck, I don’t even know my own position on some of the issues – but what was alarming was that a couple of the heavy-hitters were guilty of this heinous crime.
What do I care if some Liberal schmuck running for office in Shitsville, South Australia, doesn’t know his party’s policy on Medicare? No offence to those in Shitsville, but Julie Bishop and Sarah Hanson-Young are figureheads of their parties. Strong, articulate and powerful women who have their shit together, basically. But they dropped the ball this week. Will they come back like Thurston or capitulate like [insert any New South Welshman]? Only time will tell.
The biggest issue this week was, of course, State of Origin. New South Wales and Queensland electorates certainly couldn’t give two hoots about what was going on in politics over the past seven days. Queenslanders especially.
Should another nation ever want to invade Queensland, Origin week would be a good time to do it. If they poured their army across the border on the Wednesday afternoon, I doubt anyone would notice. As long as they avoided Caxton Street, but they could always just dress their soldiers in maroon and most would think it a parade.
They would need to ensure full and secure control of all government buildings come Thursday though. Lest they’re faced with an army of wild eyed, fiercely proud, off-purple lunatics that morning. Nursing mild hangovers and a salivating, rabid loyalty to their state, they’re likely to come with everything they’ve got. Win or lose, the night before.
So this is perhaps why, in a week when Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party MP Robert Borsak admitted to killing and eating Dumbo, and probably also consuming Bambi’s mum, Bill Shorten’s blooper in calling Queensland ‘the Storm’ may have been the most costly by far. He surely thought it a harmless faux-pas, quickly forgotten and consigned to the chuckle factory, but he has certainly lost votes.
You might be able to fuck with a Queenslander’s Super and get away with it, but you certainly can’t disrespect Cam and the boys.
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 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.
I recently penned a piece about the joyous relief of letting one’s self devolve into a bile-spitting drunken lunatic during State of Origin, and indeed argued that it was perhaps a necessary outlet for your (and your family’s) ongoing survival.
Well now, two games in and with the series effectively over, I’m experiencing the come-down. The guilt that comes after a particularly aggressive wank – or eating Macca’s. I also fully expect to contradict myself, so please, don’t go back and read the initial article.
My guilt and disgust have little to do with my own behaviour (for once). Apart from a few expletives hurled at my own television, I was a model citizen during the first two games. My shame is a direct result of the games themselves and the circus that has surrounded the entire series thus far.
In fairness, the first game was pretty good. Tough footy, with a bit of razzle dazzle and overflowing with heroics. The ‘best ever’, as some claimed? Well maybe not, but it was up there. The fall out afterwards is when it got ugly.
You would have thought New South Wales had lost, the way they carried on about the referees (which, by the way, seems to be a given in rugby league these days – if we lost, it was the ref’s fault, nothing to do with the quality of our opposition).
I agree that the referees have in fact been shit-house in both games, but it has gone both ways (like Beau Ryan?). Sure, a few dodgy calls went Queensland’s way in the dying minutes of Game One, but NSW clearly got the rub of it for the first 70.
Queenslanders then started this ridiculous nonsense about conspiracies, only furthering their justified reputation as sore losers (if we lost, there must be some deep, organised machinations conspiring against us!).
Brent Tate broke the unwritten rule of what happens on the field, stays on the field, in doing so outing himself as an incredible hypocrite and leading to Greg Bird actually being a voice of reason, which should never be the case, considering he is also on record as saying “the punches, the cheap shots, that’s what I love about the game.”
The whole thing was ugly and even a little pathetic. And the build up to Game Two was even worse.
There is so much hatred come Origin time it is ridiculous. Queensland and NSW have no cause to hate each other. They are pretty much the same people, except their bogans drink a different beer and Queensland’s rich tend to be a bit more country and conservative.
There might have been some cause 20 years ago, given the whole NSWRL v QRL thing, but you know, with three teams in the NRL, several Brisbane Bronco’s premierships and eight Origin victories in a row, maybe it is time Queensland got the fuck over it?
As the Middle East descends into chaos and our country is run by a xenophobic, homophobic, misogynist, narcissist (and no matter who you vote for, those are undeniable facts), maybe it’s time Queenslanders started caring about something more than an over-hyped game of football?
I am all for friendly rivalries, but there is nothing friendly about Origin chat anymore. It has gone beyond banter to full on shit-slinging and blatant threats. How long before someone is actually killed during a game, either on or off the field?
And given NSW fans booed Brent Tate as he left the field with a potentially career ending injury, will the opposition even care? Or will they cheer? I don’t know if that young kid being shot in Sydney after the game really had anything to do with the match, but it would not surprise me one bit. It is (or was?) inevitable, should this hatred go unchecked.
It has never been more obvious than in Game Two itself.
Game Two was little more than a glamorous MMA bout under the guise of a rugby league match, with 34 highly unlikeable blokes beating the shit out of each other. I saw very little rugby league actually being played. I saw slaps, punches, forearms to the head, knees – the cheap shots Mr. Bird loves so dearly. Potentially crippling tackles. A cacophony of whinging. Yet very little I would consider entertaining.
I also saw two referees completely out of their depth. Seemingly adopting a holy fuck, let’s just get through this mentality. And who could blame them? They were on a hiding to nothing, and, given the way Paul Gallen approaches referees, probably thought they might actually cop a hiding.
On the topic of Paul Gallen, let’s not sugar-coat it: Paul Gallen is a c*nt. I am of the opinion that rugby league players should never be considered role models – and anyone who says that is an automatic failure as a parent – but the sooner this bloke is banished from our football fields, television screens and newspapers, the better.
This may seem like the moaning of a disappointed Queensland fan, but I assure you I had actually turned the game off while Queensland was ahead in Game Two. Sure, I had an inkling NSW might pinch it, but I was so over the whole thing I switched over and watched the end of some movie about the blokes from Monty Python. I so despised even the Queensland players that I no longer cared who won.
I have spoken before about the lack of likeable characters in the NRL, but there is now an alarming growth of unlikeable characters. It is a disturbing fact that a sizeable percentage of the players on the field last Wednesday have either been implicated, or charged with both sexual and physical assault against women.
Sure, most of them got off (the double entendre is intentional), but this may say more about our judicial system than anything else. It is hard to like these blokes, indeed it is even hard to remain neutral with a lot of them.
But maybe I am overthinking it. Should I just sit back and enjoy the ride? Have I fed my dark too much and now I need a little bit more yang to the yin? Maybe watching Origin is like watching a stripper, it’s best not to wonder too much about how she got there and what her uncle actually did to her, but just stare at her tits?* Maybe Paul Gallen isn’t a c*nt? Maybe.
But I’m pretty sure he is.
By Alasdair McClintock
* I am not suggesting all strippers have been molested, or do not enjoy their jobs, but there is an interesting correlation between strippers and rugby league players – both effectively sell their bodies; both usually have limited career options before, during and after; and both get frequently yelled and gawked at by drunk blokes.