I am an avid and passionate fan of rugby league and greatly anticipate the coming Test matches, the World Cup and the next season. But I’m not alone when I say that something has gone wrong with our game.
I have been a dedicated fan for over a decade, and while that may not seem that long to some, it is just under half my life and this is the first time I’ve felt disappointed by it.
Many have blamed the so called refereeing crisis, saying the officials need to be re-taught the rules but the problem goes deeper than this.
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Being a Queenslander is something altogether greater than being a mere Australian. It allows us to regularly embrace mighty achievements, something that the rest of Australia does not understand.
When 13 players enter the football cauldron in Brisbane for a State of Origin game they unite with the unique pride, spirit and camaraderie of what it means to be a Queenslander. This Queensland spirit is broader than football - there are many examples throughout Queensland history to typify it.
The recent release of the 2011 Australian Census data is a good starting point for illustrating why the rest of Australia fails to appreciate what sets Queenslanders apart.
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When you buy your ticket to the big game, you get certain privileges which don’t apply in the outside world. You get to leave your pie wrapper and beer cup at your feet. You get to yell insults at the match officials. And you get the right to boo to your heart’s content.
This right is not enshrined in the Australian constitution, nor even on the fine print of your ticket. But it should be, because booing at sport is as natural as cheering, even if it’s your own beloved team.
At the Super Rugby this weekend, a significant contingent of the 14,000 strong Sydney crowd booed the NSW Waratahs against the Western Force. They booed at halftime, then again at fulltime when their team’s slender lead had evaporated and they lost a match everyone expected them to win.
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Australia’s national rugby team, the Wallabies, have just just hopped into the side of a very large truck.
The truck was driven by a bunch of Samoans masquerading as professional footballers, and has caused easily the biggest upset in world rugby in a decade.
This sad situation for Australian rugby, just eight weeks out from the World Cup, is made all the more amusing by the above-pictured story on Fox Sports this arvo, in which Wallaby player Nick Phipps was celebrated for his meteoric rise from third grade
I stood at a tin urinal alongside Mal Meninga once.
I know it’s true because at some stage later that evening, post-urinal, amidst the hazy celebrations following a Queensland Origin win in Brisbane circa 1982, and having toasted the victory at several of the city’s nightclubs, I got a tattoo that extended up my inner calf and over the knee joint. It reads: “I stood at a tin urinal alongside Mal Meninga.’‘
Now what happens at the urinal stays at the urinal. I can only say that it was a thrill to be so near a champion footballer who, just hours before, had been tearing up Lang Park on behalf of the state. And suddenly there he was in the nightclub water closet, a bullock balanced on its hind hooves, staring into a cluster of deodoriser balls.
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What a victory for AFL in Sydney, hey? Over 33,000 flood the SCG to see the Swans play Hawthorn, while next door at the Sydney Football Stadium, a crowd of, ahem, 10,000 witnessed the NRL snooze fest between the Roosters and the Knights. A colourful SCG against a stadium in funereal military blue.
That story is all over the papers. That story is easy. Lazy too.
It’s also burying the lead.
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Good communication is critical in rugby and some of the stars of the Australian rugby team have taken it off the field and onto the web with a burst of activity on Twitter.
Perhaps it’s from the giddy highs of their win against South Africa in Brisbane on Saturday, one of the best performances an Australian team has put on for many years. But over the weekend some of the squad’s key players have been hyperactive on the social network, talking to fans and pulling back the curtains on the Wallaby camp as they tweet about their roommates, pets, and practical jokes.
The tweeters comprise most of the Wallaby back line that starred on Saturday: Quade Cooper (@QuadeCooper), Matt Giteau (@giteau_rugby), James O’Connor (@Rabbit832), Drew Mitchell (@drew_mitchell) and Adam Ashley-Cooper (@AdamCoopy).
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What a week. A wave of elation swept the country in celebration of previously unimaginable sporting success. New national heroes were born.
Or you were in Australia, where some world-beating, inspirational achievements went largely unnoticed and the nation is now facing into 18 busy sporting months where victories could well be the exception rather than the expectation.
Depending on your point of view, Australian sport is at one of its lowest-ever ebbs, or in a golden era of success – just in a bunch of sports that nobody cares very much about. Australians now bestride the world in motor sport, snooker, women’s cricket and pole vaulting.
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Here we go. Another footy season, another pointless attempt to instruct trust-fund millionaires and insecure South Australians on the superior qualities of league over union and AFL.
I spent Saturday afternoon on the hill at Henson Park, a hell of a footy ground in the back streets of Sydney’s Marrickville and home to the mighty Newtown Jets. It’s a pure league experience – four bucks for parking, six bucks for admission (kids free) and cans of KB Lager. While the standard isn’t exactly first-class, there are aspects of Henson Park that you just don’t get at the big stadiums.
My favourite part of league is not the collisions or deft plays in attack, but watching a team pull together in adversity. It’s the theatre of watching 13 blokes lift themselves off the deck and put in for each other, regardless of the scoreboard. You see this sometimes in AFL, but almost never in Australian rugby union, where the backs and forwards don’t even train together, which is why the Wallabies will never beat the All Blacks with any regularity.
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As a rugby union fan this is something I have wanted to say for many years and this experiment in discussing the merits of the code is really an excuse to get it off my chest. I can’t stand rugby league.
It is just a bunch of meatheads running into each other repeatedly for 80 minutes. Most games are low-scoring affairs with extended periods of shuffling the ball up the pitch 30 yards before kicking it to the other team. And then it starts again.
For some reason the TV commentators treat this kind of action as if every bloke running into another bloke is the most exciting thing they have seen since the bike Santa left for them when they were five. They use the vocabulary of five-year-olds too.
Against my better judgment I turned on the rugby union on Saturday night to see the Wallabies vs the All Blacks, traditionally the biggest game on the Australian rah rah calendar.
It was probably at about the time of the fourth penalty for lying on the ball, or wrong side of the ruck or possibly, being rugby, driving the wrong make of luxury 4WD, that the remote finger got awfully itchy.
Soon I was simultaneously keeping up with the cricket, the silly science fiction movie on Channel 10 and Gordon Bray’s running commentary on how that wasn’t really a penalty under law 543, sub section b of the improperly binding to a maul code.
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What the hell are the Australian Rugby Union and Lote Tuqiri’s management trying to hide over the winger’s sacking from the Wallabies?
In another strange turn of events today lawyers for both the ARU and Lote have asked that documents relating to the case be suppressed from the media.
Lawyers acting for the ARU have said it would be “undesirable for any publicity until objective arguments were made by both sides”.
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News that the Australian Rugby Union has torn up the contract of Lote Tuqiri is bad news for the Wallabies players and their fans.
Tuqiri has been one of the best and most consistent performers for the Wallabies in what have been pretty lean times in recent years. It was only the year before last that the ARU saw fit to re-sign him on a $700,000 a year contract until 2012.
Yet we can’t really evaluate whether it was justified or not because the ARU isn’t saying why they sacked him.
With a series of recent crises enveloping the NRL and following John Elliot’s revelations about the AFL, the ARU will be super-sensitive to any bad publicity for its code. But the secrecy surrounding Tuqiri’s sacking only begs the question, what are they hiding?
Put simply, this stinks of the ARU wanting to protect its image as the gentleman’s code and not wanting to soil its reputation with details of why one its most highly paid players had been dumped mid-season.
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You use different muscles when you’re fishing, You find that out the hard way on serious fishing trips. Recently I was taken out on the water after the Super 14 season with the fishing gurus from Modern Fishing magazine. I was little nervous as I was out with guys who drop a line, day in, day out and really know their stuff.
By the end of the day I was casting lures, my arms stiff as a board and struggling to match the distance the other guys were getting. I had to pretend that I wasn’t hurting. I couldn’t let them know I was struggling.
Fishing is my way of switching off. I love it. It’s just good to get in the boat and do battle with nature. I am lucky to live in Western Australia where the fishing is great and the scenery perfect. My ideal day is to head out to Rottnest Island with my family or mates and just fish and swim. Throw in a couple of beers and it’s a great couple of days.
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