More like a state of mass hysteria, filth and fury

Kersi Meher-Homji Columnist

42 Have your say

    State of Origin Game I, 2011.

    Thank goodness it is over, I said to myself last Thursday. The super-hyped State of Origin rugby league series was over. But is it? The Maroons coach Mal Meninga is trying to keep the embers burning with tasteless remarks on tasteless remarks.

    “It was a victory against the very rats and filth that tried to poison a monumental team with lies, personal attacks, arrogance and disrespect”, to quote Meninga’s recent newspaper column.

    We have heard of sore losers, but a sore winner?

    I am typing this away with a helmet (the ones jousters wore in Ben Hur and El Cid, not what batsmen wear today) and silver body armour. My passport and visa to an unspecified country are in my bag.

    Why?

    Because I’ll be attacked by every true blue Aussie! My nationality will be questioned despite my knowing the batting average of Don Bradman and gulping down three cans of beer in a session.

    May I be bold enough to ask an ignorant question? Why this mass hysteria about State of Origin matches?

    They are not internationals but only between two States of Australia: Queensland and New South Wales.

    Still, Australians go ‘Lady Gaga’ during those three matches, which go on for weeks (and seems to me to be forever).

    There are previews, reviews, analyses, parades before those matches and “rats, filth and fury” after.

    And over 50,000 spectators purchase tickets for each State of Origin match weeks in advance.

    I agree, the best players in the country participate in these matches and the standard of play is very high. The last hurrah for the legendary Darren Lockyer added a sentimental aftertaste.

    But a Sheffield Shield cricket match between the same two States barely attracts a crowd of 250. Probably, with Test stars included, it may attract 5,000 in four days.

    But 190,000 spectators watching a total of four hours of three State of Origin matches is beyond belief. Especially the media for promoting a semi-domestic tussle into a do or die death defying mega event.

    To me, it is mass hysteria.

    I recall a Doris Day and Rock Hudson movie in 1950s in which a medicine was promoted so vehemently that the demand was in millions despite the medication not even being manufactured, let alone tested by the Therapeutic Drugs Administration.

    I realise Australia also stops working during Melbourne Cup in November, but the horses come from many countries which makes it an international gala event. Also, it is an occasion to dress up and hat up, making it a social extravaganza.

    If not international, why not make State of Origin a national competition by including all or most States of Australia? If I lived in Victoria, I would be livid.

    Melburnians, where are you? Sydney and Brisbane are having a picnic and you are grounded.

    Over to you, review committee chief Greg McCallum, and you Roarers, too.

    Kersi Meher-Homji
    Kersi Meher-Homji

    Kersi is an author of 13 cricket books including The Waugh Twins, Cricket's Great All-rounders,Six Appeal and Nervous Nineties. He writes regularly for Inside Cricket and other publications. He has recently finished his new book on Cricket's Conflicts and Controversies, with a foreword by Greg Chappell.

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    The Crowd Says (42)

    • July 12th 2011 @ 7:19am
      Doug said | July 12th 2011 @ 7:19am | ! Report

      Hi Kersi, sure its sports promotion from the Don King / Vince MacMahon school of publicity. But the games are usually good. And because of all the hype channel 9 does something very unusual for Victoria: it shows Rugby League at a reasonable hour. Which is much better than the usual 12.32 am plus or minus 43 minutes just to make sure you cant tape the game.

    • July 12th 2011 @ 7:46am
      JCVD said | July 12th 2011 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      Hi Kersi,

      To understand the hysteria surrounding SOO you have to look at its past where QLD used to be flogged by NSW by QLD players!! It’s all about the passion and hatred 🙂

      Essentially, SOO do have the best players in the world competing against one another – which makes it attractive to watch in the first place. If we turned it into a national state competition (i.e like the Super 15 Western Force Vs The Rebels) it won’t have the same feeling about it as the bulk of all those players predominantly come from ‘rugby’ states such as QLD and NSW. It’s all about pride from where you come from.

      Hope this helps

    • July 12th 2011 @ 7:58am
      sheek said | July 12th 2011 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      Kersi,

      I’m with you on this. We talk about our heroes playing with controlled aggression, & keeping the passion on an even keel.

      It’s time the media & fans did likewise. Obviously everyone is losing their objectivity, looking for the next headline, or emotional hit.

      The whole thing is getting out of control – I cringed watching the pre-match farce for SOO1 & refused to watch any pre-match hype for SOO2 & SOO3.

      • July 12th 2011 @ 8:45am
        Tom of Brisbane said | July 12th 2011 @ 8:45am | ! Report

        What about if Australia make or even win the RWC final later in the year? Bet you will be watching and probably participating in the over the top media hype then.

        • July 12th 2011 @ 10:13am
          sheek said | July 12th 2011 @ 10:13am | ! Report

          No Tom,

          I’ve matured…..I think……….

    • July 12th 2011 @ 8:44am
      oikee said | July 12th 2011 @ 8:44am | ! Report

      You think it was bad this year, mate my blood is boiling and next year cant come around fast enough. The magnificent 7 has a nice ring to it, and the one thing not you, the law courts, Freddie Mercury or Doc Nelson can change or disrupt is the desire by every Queenslander to see the blues off.
      Lewis Meninga Lockyer and co are untouchable here in Queensland, you pick a fight with them , your picking a fight with the whole family.
      Melbourne has the final and their big events, Sydney has the final and harbour, Queensland has origin and we have now made it our own.
      Surely you cant begrudge us this small luxury. 🙂
      Bring on next year, i am already pumped.

      The rats and filth who Mal is reffering to should hold their heads in shame, turning Lockyers fairwell into nothing more than a blues circus act, and this is why rugby league until we see off these old dinosaurs ruining the game will keep it cocooned and hidden.

      This game need some class, look at the superbowl in America, then look at the pumpkins running our sport, i say no more.

    • July 12th 2011 @ 8:45am
      Ken said | July 12th 2011 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      Hey Kersi,

      Honestly I’ve never really understood why ‘internationalism’ would be considered a major factor in a sporting contest. In some ways it might even be considered an ugly concept (although I suppose no less so than the bickering going on across state lines at the moment!). More to the point though wouldn’t we judge sporting contests by the skill level and passion they generate? In sports like Cricket, this certainly manifests itself most intensely at the international level but in RL it peaks at Origin.

      While I concede that the hype is now out of control, at least this was a somewhat organic creation – it was never intended to overshadow the international rep games (or even to be an ongoing concern) but the contest that resulted demanded that it be considered the pinnacle.

      re: only QLD and NSW being represented. It’s a tough one, changing the format will almost certainly dilute the contest – yet there is a stated goal of the game as a whole to grow. It’s not really a genuine issue at the moment, but it might be upon us quickly once it starts with the Storm under 20’s team (with a high percentage of Victorian juniors) currently killing the Toyota Cup. Not sure what the answer is there, eventually Origin will probably have to change for the good of the game.

      • Roar Guru

        July 12th 2011 @ 9:50am
        The Cattery said | July 12th 2011 @ 9:50am | ! Report

        Yes, it has to be said that the majority of Australians agree with Ken’s opening statement – we have voted with our feet and eyes.

        Ultimately, Rugby League has made a success of its SOO concept – no one can begrudge them that – they have earned it themselves.

        As a Melburnian, I don’t buy into the mass hysteria, but I’m not going to whinge about it either – good luck to them.

        As one Roar poster said recently: those Wednesday nights belong to League – it’s their time.

      • July 12th 2011 @ 8:54pm
        Sam said | July 12th 2011 @ 8:54pm | ! Report

        I don’t think having (hypothetically) superstars emerge from states outside NSW/QLD will be a problem. Noone really minds that Benji Marshall, one of the best players in the world, can’t play Origin. Its more about the QLD vs NSW mentality that has evolved over the years. QLD and NSW will always produce great rugby league players, because that is league heartland, so it will always be a great contest.

    • July 12th 2011 @ 8:55am
      Futbanous said | July 12th 2011 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      I guess in most competitions you have to earn the right to be there at the end. In QLD this year the Roar,Firebirds,Reds all did that .
      SOO you just turn up so you need something extra to capture attention. Unadulterated hype takes the place of actually putting in the hard yards to be worthy of competing against an opponent who has also earned their spot.
      Also worthy of media attention.
      You dont really need to express an opinion on this living in Qld anyway,just make observations of people you know.
      Last weekend at a gathering the SOO was discussed by people who having known for decades have zilch interest in Rugby League ie dont follow NRL etc.
      I was waiting for the Reds well earned win to be discussed from the previous night.
      Not one remark, I mentioned it but got blank stares.
      Whilst theres obviously genuine interest from RL fans,there is no doubt also a mass hysteria if you like element surrounding SOO in Qld at least that attracts non fans,built up over 3 decades by intense publicity by both the media outlets & sponsors. If you watch channel Nine its in your face over the period.
      Why does it attract non fans.
      Simple really its the water cooler effect. Workers get a midweek break from the mundane by discussing SOO.
      Same as mentioned by Kersi as the Melbourne cup.
      How else can you explain a 2 state out of 5 state clash year in year out , playing an essentially English provincial sport.
      I dont buy the best players in the world business either. In fact yes its true on one level,because few other places play the sport,but in reality to be that they have to be genuine world class players in the true sense. Unless you consider that players developed in Qld & Nsw are representative of the world as a whole. A nonsense.
      So SOO gets priority in Qld(Nsw people can speak for themselves) over the ,Roar,Reds,Broncos Lions,Firebirds,Bulls by default, not because it has really earned it in the true sense of sporting competition for team sports.
      Whilst people are bored out of their minds by midweek at work,the ratings team at Channel Nine etc will milk it for all that its worth.

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