I have a confession to make. Although I was born in Nowra, NSW, I grew up in Adelaide, South Australia and consider myself a proud South Australian by upbringing.
That is not my confession though; my confession comes later after a bit of back story regarding my upbringing. Please bear with me, I’ll get there.
Even though I consider myself a sports fan, these days I am more of a sport(singular) fan and that sport is association football – maybe you call it ‘soccer’?
This leaves me with little time for other sports but, on a cold winter’s day, I might still occasionally turn on an AFL game (and, very rarely, some American sports on ESPN if the time-zones are kind). But overwhelmingly these days I find myself frequently bored with the home-grown game and the over-bearing hype and hyperbole that accompany it.
To combat this I tried stepping away from the self-sustaining insular bubble that is the AFL-world and returned to my childhood roots on the terraces of the Parade Oval to follow SANFL (one tier down from the AFL in SA) faded power Norwood.
This helped by removing a lot of the superfluous hype and quasi-nationalistic garbage that seems to follow the AFL world, but I love my round ball game and crave more and more football so inevitably my mind wanders during winter to how long it is until the A-League season starts anew?
“But what about rugby?” some of the north-eastern staters might be asking?
Perhaps it was the fact that nobody had pay TV in the 80s and 90s, but when I read about rugby in the newspaper it developed in my mind that all rugby was just rugby. It wasn’t until I left home and the state of SA at 20 to find my fortune in NSW that I discovered that there were two forms of rugby; the professional code of rugby league and the shamateur (at the time) code of rugby union.
Lord knows what I was thinking but that’s how it was for me as a young adult. I hate to pee-pee on the parade of those rabid expansionists who follow the NRL and see Adelaide as an untapped market, but I dare say I am not the only South Australian who grew up not knowing the difference or even understanding that using ‘rugby’ alone often necessitates a qualifier to determine which game is being discussed, lest some be confused – even these days, with the prevalence of Foxtel.
I’m willing to bet body parts that were I to conduct a random vox pop in Rundle Mall on any given week day, I would struggle to find 50 people who could differentiate between league and union.
I learnt in the military you should never ask others to do what you are not prepared to do yourself – an important consideration to keep in mind when issuing orders to your troops. Do you believe in your own orders before giving them?
As a football fan I frequently shake my head at the ignorance displayed by other sports fans with regard to the world game. Thus I was impressed by the recent efforts made by Roar Expert Andrew Sutherland to attend the Melbourne derby and witness for himself its power and passion.
It actually inspired me to go about removing some of the sporting ignorance in my life.
My first flatmate after leaving home was a Queenslander who played union and so, naturally, when talk over beers would turn to sport the Wallabies would be a topic. I had to scramble to get my bearings and learn more about the game – I distinctly remember thinking that State of Origin was the series that helped the selectors to pick the Wallabies. Face palm!
Having a larger international scene probably helped sway my preference towards the 15-man game over its professional cousin, but lately the predominance of kicking for penalty goals over running rugby has caused me much consternation. I don’t find rugby as interesting as it used to be.
Now for the confession: I have never once sat down as an adult and watched from opening whistle to final siren a complete game of rugby league.
I recognise this is a significant deficit in my sporting knowledge – and I have already stated I dislike ignorance – so this year I am going to do something about it.
By virtue of birth I am a NSW Blue so I intend to fly to Sydney this June to tick off an item on my sporting bucket list – attend a State of Origin game. Problem is, I don’t know enough about the game to fully participate in the fan experience.
I know some of the basics and of course the stereotypes fed to me by the southern media.
I know that, as in the NFL who have four downs to get 10 yards, in league you have a set of six tackles to score a try worth four points, a conversion is then attempted and if successful it gains a further two points.
I know when a player with the ball is tackled he must regain his feet and roll the ball backwards – or ‘play the ball’ – to a team mate, who then will pass left or right.
I know the defending team must be 10 metres back at the play the ball or they could get called offside.
But I don’t know what the penalty for offside is when the ref blows it?
In fact, what I’ve listed above is pretty much all that I know – that and team with the most points after 80 minutes wins.
I won’t bother with the degrading stereotypes that are perpetuated by the southern media and fans of other codes, we all know what they are and it isn’t too helpful to list them here.
So, after the A-League season wraps up, I am going to make an effort to watch some NRL games on TV and learn more about this game before Origin.
But could I ask a favour of my fellow Roarers?
If you could offer one piece of advice to a rugby league (relative) newbie, what would you say?
It could be something ‘to look for’. For example, in Aussie Rules, the goal umpire must see the ball pass over his/her head, so if you’re not directly behind the player kicking for goal, by watching the goal umpires left and right movements you can quickly gauge how close to the target a shot on goal is.
Or it could be something about the culture of the game. For example in SA we have a deep cultural distrust for most things Victorian and consider them to be about as arrogant a group of people as you will find. My grandfather used to say you could always tell a Victorian, problem is you can’t tell them much because they always think they already know it all.
Being born on the NSW south coast helps in choosing a team to follow for season 2013, too bad the Illawarra Steelers no longer exist in their own right, but St George-Illawarra are close enough for my liking so I’ll be looking out for Dragons games on Television.
I am looking forward to trying something different and expanding my sporting knowledge and I hope I learn enough to really enjoy my first Origin experience in June.
But in the meantime, help educate me. What are the things you just expect a league fan to know – stuff your dads taught you from a young age?
I hope I learn enough to really enjoy my first Origin experience in June. Over to you, Roarers!