I continually find myself lost in the Australian summer. Whether it’s the holidays, the Christmas period or school/Uni break, I have always felt that I am missing something in the warmer months.
It’s like I drift away from the reality of a week and the day-to-day grind. I’m not in a rhythm or routine. I tend to get drunk a lot and lose my sense of purpose or direction.
This happens because my ‘normal’ life is from round 1 to grand final day. The appetite-whetters that are the All-Stars game and trial matches start to satisfy me, and the end-of-season internationals simply take the drink from my hands for another year.
The articles written through the off-season and any news of a player switch remind me there is still a drink in the fridge for next year, but life is just not the same.
So in summer, what is it I miss about rugby league?
Is it because I was simply born into the culture of loving league, or because I watched with my dad, and made him kick sky-high bombs to me in the front yard?
The say rugby league is a soap opera, well then my addiction to this soapy is like that of a stay-at-home middle aged woman.
Why do I miss it so much?
1. Rabbits Warren
His voice is a comforting reminder that all is well in this life. I would compare him to how a religious person may view their priest.
Honestly, is there a better sports caller in Australia? He is a living legend and I don’t know how I will handle watching the first season after he says goodbye.
2. The ex-greats
Players are constantly reminded in today’s game to ‘prepare for life after football’. Because all too often in the past, players become depressed and lost without the game.
Some players though will just never be able to give it away. Take Allan Langer, he owns from what I hear a very well run restaurant on the Sunshine Coast.
He could be sipping XXXX overlooking the pacific for the rest of his days. But that’s not for Alfie. He craves the team environment and is still on the paddock running the drinks.
Andrew Johns, Tommy Raudonikis, Ronnie Palmer. These guys will die hanging around the game. They are well respected figures in the game that reporters always love to hit up for a quote when something’s ‘going down’, and the ex-greats rightfully love to have a dig, a say or a spray.
3. The players and plays
The athletically-gifted, the naturally-talented, the characters, the never-give-er-up-ers. The passes, the runs, the plays, the kicks, the tries and my favourite, the dummy. They produce some magical stuff.
4. The funny things
A lot of things happen in a game of rugby league, and thanks to segments like ‘stuff you may have missed’ and the increased coverage of the game, we get to see them. Post try celebrations, funny signs, the crazy fans, the spilt beers, the ‘Hindy’, the weird and wacky, it all happens.
5. The banter
Does anything beat turning up to work on a Monday knowing your team has beaten your mate’s? The cocky confidence your mate had on the Friday that his team had the game in the bag is replaced by the look of a glum loser.
Monday (or Tuesday thanks to MNF) also brings a new week, a renewel of belief, and a new team next week to take on. Debates about who the better players are, or what would be the best team if you could pick any players, are now settled over Supercoach games.
In the last decade the introduction of this American pastime has brought new life to lunch-time gas-bags.
6. The common bond
The ability to become engulfed in a mate-making talk with the random bloke you meet at the train station, pub or shops.
7. The pies and beers and/or Cokes
When you’ve got these bad boys in your hands, you know you’re at a rugby league game. Local games, or at the stadiums, nothing beats a mouse-coffin or two.
You can sometimes smell it, and it often stinks. No that’s just the overflowing portaloos’ on Kogarah hill. The tension, buzz and noises at a game far outweigh sitting on the couch.
There’s always that one bloke about three rows back who yells abuse at the players and ref’s all game. Absolutely no consideration for the hordes of youngsters sitting around him. Great stuff.
9. Geographical separation of teams
Honestly, how boring would it be watching all the teams play at one or two stadiums? Tribal allegiances are built through the geographical separation of teams.
We would never see the beautiful background of Wollongong beach, the legendary Leichardt Oval hill, the roar of the panther at Penrith.
The thrill of a trekking adventure to the opposition’s stadium is all part of the game day experience that makes the NRL so good.
10. State of Origin
It’s a whole different game, culture and experience. But importantly, it breaks up the season and refreshes your interest. It’s basically halfway through the season and if your team is running crap before it, you tend to focus more on Origin.
Once it’s over you re-assess and begin to look at how many you need to win to make the finals and march on in the thrill of the chase.
11. Friday Night Football
If your week has been a boiler or a blast, knowing there’s a couple of games on the box to go with your beers and pizza will always put a smile on your dial.
12. Press conferences
Last year I started watching these pretty closely. I love how coaches slyly drop remarks about certain players knowing full well the player will get a blast in the papers.
Des, Wayne, Bellyache, Elliot, Ricky, Carty…You can be guaranteed one of them will slip out something outrageous in question-time.
13. Faith and Hope
The belief, no matter how confident or faint it may be, that your team can win the comp. They say ‘rugby league is a funny game’, and it’s because miracles can, and do, happen.
Finally, watch this video to see what I mean.