Why Queensland care more, and NSW couldn’t care less
NSW has the Snowies, Queensland’s got the Reef. We’ve got Byron Bay, they’ve got Noosa. Sydney has the Sydney Opera House, Queensland has, um, the Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach. NSW has the tiny border town of Jennings, pop. 130, Queensland’s got the neighbouring town of Wallangarra, pop. 385.
Wallangwhere? Wallangarra, thank you very much, the town which is the symbolic home of the one Queensland commodity which NSW can never seem to match. Passion.
Wallangarra is where Qld State of Origin legend Billy Moore grew up. Actually, he was born in Tenterfield NSW, because the base hospital is closer than the one in Stanthorpe, on the Qld side of the border. But as Moore told The Punch this morning, “my Mum assures me I was rushed over the border before the oxygen had time to affect my lungs.”
Moore represented Queensland in 17 Origin matches between 1992 and ’97. Solid but rarely brilliant onfield, he’s best remembered for his impassioned, throaty call of “Queenslander” as he took the field for an Origin game in 1995.
Many people think Moore invented the chant. Not so. It had actually been around for a decade or so, and was – and still is – an onfield rallying call when the Maroons really need to dig deep.
That fateful day in 1995, the entire team was doing the call in the sheds before the game. But for one reason or another, Moore was the only bloke still doing it as he walked through the tunnel. He admits it’s possible he was in a trance. Either way, he’s happy to be remembered for that moment.
Moore played his entire 211 game NRL career in Sydney with the now defunct North Sydney Bears, so he’s seen life on both sides of the border. For him, Queensland’s superior passion is a classic case of big brother/little brother syndrome.
“Things that big brothers get complacent about and take for granted, little brothers don’t,” he explains.
“Everyone talks about how much more a State of Origin victory means to Queenslanders, and [NSW coach] Ricky Stuart is trying to flip it around this year. It’s worked too, which is why the stadium is a sell out tonight.
“But passion is something ingrained in Queenslanders. Each year, we go out there with something to prove, and no amount of words can change that.”
No less a rugby league entity than Wayne Bennett weighed into the passion debate in today’s Daily Telegraph.
“NSW has a passion for it but not the tribalism of Queensland,” he wrote. “It’s the opposite with club football. The fans of clubs down here are more tribal than the fans of Queensland club sides.”
Bennett’s point about tribalism at club level rings true. Go to an NRL game in Sydney, and even though you won’t see the numbers of an AFL match in Melbourne, you will feel genuine love for club and hate for opposition. Some of the feuds date back a century, and you can feel it.
At State of Origin matches in Sydney, the emotion is not quite the same. Queensland are portrayed as the hideously ugly cane toads you’d like to whack back over the border with a seven iron, but in truth, they’re more of an annoyance to most fans, like the mossie you want to flick off your leg.
The Origin hate used to run as strong and deep as the Darling in a good year when Wally Lewis was around, for never did a more loathsome apparition rear its head upon a sporting field. But since Wally retired, Origin for the NSW fan has been a case of “Whatever. I hope we win. The sun’ll still rise tomorrow if we don’t.”
As Billy Moore rightly points out, Ricky Stuart has tried to change that, in cahoots with a bunch of NSW Origin legends who are trying to drag the passion of the 80s heyday into Origin’s fourth decade, and infect the public. Whether that passion takes hold permanently south of the Tweed remains to be seen.
For all this, there is one other reason why Queenslanders have such passion, be it for their sporting teams or their state in general. Victorians have it too, and the clue is in the names.
Both “Victorian” and “Queenslander” are one-word names. They roll off the tongue and make a perfect war cry, as Billy Moore so succinctly displayed in 1995, and Bill Lawry has showed countless times in his cricket commentary.
The term “New South Welshman” is hopelessly cumbersome. It also doesn’t include the female half of the population. It never has been, and never could be, a word for the masses to rally around.
Maybe we should change the name of our state. What part of South Wales did Botany Bay remind that old bastard Captain Cook of anyway?
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