Hatred runs deep in the NRL

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

By Ryan O'Connell, Ryan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Ben Lowe on the charge for Souths during the NRL Manly v Souths, Brookvale Stadium, Saturday, June 19, 2010. Sea Eagles won 26 - 25. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee McKay)

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    Watching the game of the year so far on Friday night, as the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Manly Sea Eagles battled it out at Brookvale Oval, it dawned on me just how much hatred plays an integral part in the success of rugby league.

    Every NRL fan wants their team to do well, but they also have a vested interest in witnessing the pain and/or defeat of the opponents they love to hate. And surprisingly, it is not just Manly.

    The Sea Eagles have always been a club that other teams’ fans have enjoyed disliking. It harks back to their ‘slivertails’ days when they earned a reputation of stealing other teams’ best players.

    Yet there is certainly a modern day hatred for the club from the Northern Beaches of Sydney as well.

    Apart from their success – the main ingredient in any case of hatred – a lot of the vitriol towards the club can be attributed to Steve Matai; a player whose frequency of visits to the NRL judiciary means he should pay rent there.

    This is a man who single-handedly prevented Darren Lockyer playing in a semi-final two years ago. The legendary Brisbane Broncos five-eighth was nursing a broken cheekbone, and doctors advised him against playing because they thought Matai might target him.

    That’s right, Lockyer didn’t play in a game of football because of the public knowledge Matai would attack his weakness. Never mind that ‘weakness’ was Lockyer’s head, and targeting it would have therefore been illegal.

    Though to be fair to Matai, he is far from the only reason to hate Manly.

    Coach Geoff Toovey has a PhD in whinging. The Stewart brothers aren’t adverse to cheap shots and punch-ups. Anthony Watmough is the poster child for despised NRL players. Dave ‘The Wolfman’ Williams choked in Origin. Kieran Foran is a Kiwi and Daly Cherry-Evans is a Queenslander, right when NSW needs some halves.

    If it feels like I’m singling Manly out, it’s because I am. I hate them.

    Though in the interests of fairness and objectivity, it’s worth noting I respect the Manly football club tremendously, and the hatred simply allows me to enjoy football even more.

    After all, every good story needs a villain, and it’s nice to be passionate about games my team isn’t even playing in.

    To that point, and for those who don’t already know, I follow the Bulldogs.

    Before you bombard me, allow me to admit that between cheating the salary cap, being involved in something ‘untoward’ in Coffs Harbour, Willie Mason’s mouth, James Graham biting Billy Slater, Josh Reynolds’ niggling, the club’s Mad Monday antics last year, Des Hasler’s crankiness, Michael Ennis’ sledging, Ben Barba getting suspended, and the behaviour of some of the club’s fans, I can certainly appreciate why the Dogs are widely hated too.

    In fact, every fan has a justification, or simply creates a subplot, in order to rationalise their hatred of another team.

    The Melbourne Storm cheated the salary cap, allegedly brought the much-maligned ‘grapple’ tackle into the game, plus they’re from AFL country.

    The Cronulla Sharks have a drug cloud hanging over them, the Penrith Panthers are run by Gus Gould, and the Wests Tigers used to be everyone’s darlings, but now they’re just perceived as petulant losers.

    The Newcastle Knights have Darius Boyd, who makes Wayne Bennett look like Robin Williams when it comes to interviews.

    The Gold Coast Titans seem to always have some off-field dramas, the Parramatta Eels just plain stink, and the Canberra Raiders’ green jerseys are historically ugly.

    The St George Illawarra Dragons gave us Anthony Mundine, Jamie Soward, and will no doubt be signing Josh Dugan any minute.

    The South Sydney Rabbitohs have a developed a superiority complex, the North Queensland Cowboys’ Johnathan Thurston abuses referees, and the New Zealand Warriors are from New Zealand.

    The Brisbane Broncos are very successful, receive the benefit of being a one-town team, and have Justin Hodges giving everyone an earful.

    And the Roosters are the Roosters. Enough said.

    As you can tell from the above, reality doesn’t need to factor into your particular hatred. After all, emotion is very rarely rational, and hatred is just about the most powerful emotion that exists.

    The hatred isn’t contained to fans either. Over the years, feuds in rugby league have often been the biggest stories and have gained most of the media coverage in the game.

    Don’t believe me? Just consider the hatred that runs thick between the following rugby league personalities:

    Phil Rothfield and Gus Gould. David Gallop and Brett Stewart. Mal Meninga and the NSW media. Adam MacDougall and Russell Crowe. George Piggins and Andrew Denton.

    Paul Harragon and Mark Carroll. Mario Fenech and Benny Elias. Jason Taylor and Michael Hagan. Bill Harrigan and Bob Fulton. Peter Sterling/Ray Price/Brett Kenny and Dennis Fitzgerald.

    Ray Hadley and everybody.

    I could easily list plenty more.

    While every sport has their rivalries, along with personalities that don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye, few sports thrive on pure hatred as much as rugby league does.

    Make no mistake about it, there is nothing contrived or manufactured about the bad blood that exists in the code. In fact, in many ways, the hatred is the lifeblood of the game.

    So don’t hide that venom, let it out. You wouldn’t be a rugby league fan if you didn’t have a little bit of hatred in you.


    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (191)

    • April 30th 2013 @ 5:48am
      Dingo said | April 30th 2013 @ 5:48am | ! Report

      I hate this article 🙂

    • Roar Guru

      April 30th 2013 @ 6:16am
      The Spectator said | April 30th 2013 @ 6:16am | ! Report


    • April 30th 2013 @ 6:49am
      Sherry said | April 30th 2013 @ 6:49am | ! Report

      It’s okay to use the word hate in a colloquial way, but the word hatred can never be anything but a despicable emotion and has no place
      in “light” sports reporting. Same on you, Ryan, whoever you are.

      • April 30th 2013 @ 8:43am
        Boz said | April 30th 2013 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        Lighten up Sherry. There is no ‘same’ in hating another football team.

      • April 30th 2013 @ 10:27am
        Nathan of Perth said | April 30th 2013 @ 10:27am | ! Report

        Would you say that you hate the word’s usage?

      • Columnist

        April 30th 2013 @ 10:49am
        Ryan O'Connell said | April 30th 2013 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        I think you took the ‘light’ article – and the use of the word ‘hatred’ – a little too seriously, Sherry.

        • Roar Pro

          May 2nd 2013 @ 10:07am
          PuntPal said | May 2nd 2013 @ 10:07am | ! Report

          Top read mate, awesome article. Happy the only thing you hate abotu Raiders is our jersey…which I love because the Green Machine wouldnt be the same if we had any other colour! Strange as it may seem, but Raiders jerseys are pretty damn popular becuase they stand out so much

        • May 28th 2013 @ 3:50pm
          manlyman said | May 28th 2013 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

          I get that you hate manly and how it helps you enjoy other nrl games because I am the same ever since the ‘bEagles’ stole des hasler from us i like nothing more than watching your pretenders struggle and lose. Your entire team has been purchased from other clubs same with your coaching staff! Not one player remains from your gf team a few yrs back. Your team is a joke with a great coach manlys coach. All the bEagles success last yr you can thank manly for! Theres some hate for you o’connell

          • Columnist

            May 28th 2013 @ 4:04pm
            Ryan O'Connell said | May 28th 2013 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

            You’re free to hate the Dogs, but at least base it on some reality. Or at least take a pot shot that makes some sense.

            The entire Bulldogs team has been purchased from other clubs? Wrong. Josh Reynolds is a Bulldog junior for starters, so there is just one example. In any event, am I’m meant to be upset or embarrassed that we’re good recruiters and players want to play for the club?

            Not one player remains from our 2004 premiership? That probably makes sense, considering it was 8 years ago. How many players remain from your 2004 squad? The Stewarts and Watmough? 3? Really? And that’s somehow impressive?

            And as for Des, yes we poached him from your club. Because he couldn’t stand to be around there anymore. So thanks, we’ll take him.

      • April 30th 2013 @ 10:55am
        mushi said | April 30th 2013 @ 10:55am | ! Report

        Just rub your crystals together and expell the bad energy Sherry

    • April 30th 2013 @ 6:57am
      oikee said | April 30th 2013 @ 6:57am | ! Report

      I ‘like’ any team that beats Manly.

      • April 30th 2013 @ 8:26am
        Mals said | April 30th 2013 @ 8:26am | ! Report

        I use to hate Broncos back when they were a successful arrogant club. However, since Manly keeps beating them again, again & again that hate has now turned to pity 🙂

      • April 30th 2013 @ 8:54am
        toddm said | April 30th 2013 @ 8:54am | ! Report

        me too!!!

    • April 30th 2013 @ 7:06am
      Titus said | April 30th 2013 @ 7:06am | ! Report

      Hater’s gonna hate.

    • April 30th 2013 @ 7:09am
      Chui said | April 30th 2013 @ 7:09am | ! Report

      Manly – Nobody likes us, and we don’t care, especially you Oikee 🙂

      • April 30th 2013 @ 11:23am
        Ryan O'Connell said | April 30th 2013 @ 11:23am | ! Report

        Chui, I enjoy being hated too, actually. It’s a mark of respect.

        My beloved Dogs challenged Manly as the most hated club in the NRL for awhile there, and there are certainly plenty of haters for my other passion, the LA Lakers. (Though this year, the hatred wasn’t as enjoyable, because we were terrible.)

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