Rugby League – the code of hate?
In 1895 a baby was born in Huddersfield, northern England. It was a squawking, difficult birth, replete with the sound and fury, pain and anguish that such a difficult delivery can produce. (Mother and baby are doing fine.)
Rugby league crashed into the world riding on a wave of player dissatisfaction, anger and hate. For most of its existence, the hatred of its parent has motivated it to succeed. We call this form of hatred an example of ‘class war’.
Hatred is promoted and cherished in ruby league. A player must put aside his or her finer emotions for 80 minutes and hate the players opposite. We call this form of hatred ‘passion’.
Fans of club X reserve a special hatred for clubs Y and Z. There could be deep historical reasons for this hatred or it could be motivated by the hatred of a particular player in that other team. We call this form of hatred ‘tribalism’.
Fans hate the referees, or at least hate their decisions if they go against their own interests. Amplify this by an order of magnitude to gauge a coach’s feelings towards the referees. We call this form of hatred ‘fun’.
Fans hate grubs. Any form of illegal play intended to injure another player, any form of cheating, players who take dives, players who seem too eager to brawl – all of these players are branded cheating grubs by fans who have long memories.
Recall the all-round hatred generated by the Super League war, an especially bitter hatred that still reverberates down the years. Some scars don’t heal well.
The code born of hate, motivated and sustained by hate, entertains us with the natural, primal, primate response to those feelings. Watch the Tests between Australia and Great Britain, especially from yesteryear. Behold the extra whack in the tackles in matches between the Roosters and Souths, or the Dragons and the Sharks.
Revel in the barely-disguised glee that Queenslanders feel as they grind their collective heel into the metaphorical throat of New South Wales. Anticipate the pent up rage and hatred that we’ll see flowing northwards once the Blues finally get their own back. That’s going to be some good hate, right there!
This is a code that seriously cashes in on hate. It’s easy for non-fans of the game to bang on about how it’s a game for thugs. I mean, just watch a game! Those players are trying to hurt each other! What an affront to civilisation and all things pure and wonderful.
Surely there can be nothing good about such a state of affairs. All it’s going to do is teach our kiddies that violence is the answer; that if someone is going to get in your way it’s perfectly legitimate to grab his or her legs and pull them to the ground, your shoulder crashing into their ribs, your weight bearing down on top of their prone, vulnerable body, your hand grabbing a fistful of face for good measure.
Wait a minute, what’s this? It seems there’s been a development that goes against the script here. Just when I’m getting on a roll, the Australian Rugby League Commission goes and wins a prestigious international award:
From the article above, the impossible-to-hate Preston Campbell has accepted the International Governing Body of the Year award at a “gala ceremony” in London.
Quoting further, the award was presented by “Beyond Sport, a global organisation that promotes, develops and supports the use of sport to create positive social change across the world, [which] paid tribute to rugby league’s life-changing education and health programs, its commitment to helping Indigenous communities and for providing a national stage for practical reconciliation.”
Rugby league in Australia has made strides to promote and fund initiatives such as ‘rugby league Reads’, ‘Learn, Earn, Legend!’, ‘One Sight-One Community’ and other programs. Plus there’s the All Stars preseason exhibition game which celebrates the huge Indigenous Australian contribution to the code and generates millions of dollars to assist Aboriginal communities by way of thanks.
Just when you’ve made the case that without the basest and ugliest of human emotions the sport of rugby league wouldn’t exist, just when you’ve convinced your readership that professional rugby league players are purely in the business of converting hatred into cash, just when you’ve got them eating hate-cakes out of your hand.
Damn it all, I’m going to need a new premise. Don’t you just hate that?
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