It was October 1990: I was a skinny runt of a 15 year old, walking to school on a bright, clear morning with the sunshine beating on my back.
Today was one of the rare “mufti” days where us kids could throw our suffocating school uniforms in the corner of our bedrooms and dress in any casual attire we chose.
There were the cool kids who wore flash outfits, the lads with daggy shirts and stone-washed jeans and the grungy kids who couldn’t care less and wore their stained tracky dacks.
And what did I wear? Naturally, I proudly donned my South Sydney Rabbitohs jersey – the one with Smith’s Crisps emblazoned on the front and a number six on the back in honour of my favourite player, the mercurial Phil Blake.
Now, this was the year that this once mighty club finished last on the ladder with two measly wins, after finishing as minor premiers the previous season. While my choice of attire didn’t cause a reaction from my school mates, I recall my chemistry teacher saying, “Gee, you’re brave wearing that after the season you’ve had”.
Little did she know that I had in fact attended every Souths home game that year (along with my best mate Glen, who was a Roosters supporter), so the scars were a lot deeper than she could have imagined.
Wearing the jersey was my own personal way of saying that, despite the fact that the Rabbits were clearly destined for a decade of mediocrity (it actually turned out to be two decades), I would proudly wear my jersey, always.
I can’t help but feel that the psychological turmoil suffered that year, leaving the Sydney Football Stadium every fortnight dejected and deflated by another loss, has in some way formed the self-deprecating, optimistic bloke I am today.
Having stared mediocrity in the face, you learn to love life for what it is and start to see the world through rose (rather than cardinal and myrtle) coloured glasses.
And my chemistry teacher was partly right. Wearing my jersey, despite a win loss record of 2 – 20 and a points differential that would make a grown man weep…well, I did feel brave. As well as a little foolish, but certainly not embarrassed or ashamed.
However, I am embarrassed, and a little ashamed, by the behaviour of a small group of Rabbitohs supporters lately – particularly in the many blog forums I’ve been wading through.
So, as someone who loves my club and always will, I want to put forward a reality check to my fellow Bunnies fans – call it a ‘Community Service Announcement’, if you will. So here goes:
1. We haven’t won it yet
“It’s too easy this comp”, “Yet another classy win by the Premiers elect”, “We’ve already got one hand on the trophy”.
These are some of the comments I’ve read on blogs. It’s all well and good to be optimistic, but boys, I have news for you: gloating is arguably one of the least attractive traits that anybody can display.
Gloating makes you sound like a tosser. Worst of all, gloating gives ammunition to your mates to get stuck into you should the Bunnies fall at the final hurdle.
Nobody likes a gloater, especially one who has endured 20 less than admirable years in the comp and therefore hasn’t had much to gloat about.
So, please stop gloating. Follow the lead of Greg Inglis, or even better, John Sattler.
Be humble. Accept the victories with grace and the defeats with style. Whatever you do, don’t gloat.
2. The NSWRL is not against you
It’s obvious that all league fans have their own perceptions about individual clubs. I have for example heard the Melbourne Storm labelled as the league’s “untouchables”, apparently favoured by the administrators and allowed to get away with more than any other club.
Then again, I’ve also heard the untouchables label applied to other teams: notably Souths, the Roosters, Manly and Brisbane.
It does get a bit silly because fans of each of the clubs named above often believe that their own club is the whipping boy of the league, hated and harassed by administrators and the judiciary. Of course, you can’t be an untouchable and a whipping boy at the same time, so I choose to believe that the NRL behaves fairly under the circumstances.
Which brings me to some of my fellow Souths fans. You guys should know that the league is not out to get you.
They don’t want you out of the comp. They don’t want to deny you a premiership. Talking that way makes you sound like a paranoid conspiracy-theorist. Stop doing it. Please.
The above is not discounting that there are some players whose success at avoiding suspension does lead one to believe that they are “untouchable” to the referees and judiciary – I’m talking to you Billy Slater. But that’s an article for another day.
3. Stop whining about Origin
Following from point two, please stop whinging about Origin selections. We have 17 players in our run-on squad. Greg Inglis is a Maroon (albeit, a controversial one).
So too are Ben Te’o and Chris McQueen. The Burgess brothers are Poms. Isaac and Bryson are Kiwis. So, a big chunk of our squad is ineligible to wear the sky blue jersey.
Granted, Nathan Merritt is deeply unlucky never to have been selected over the years, but there are strong arguments for and against his selection, so I’ll cop that one.
I do think that Adam Reynolds is superior to Mitchell Pearce in almost every facet of a halfback’s game and should be given a go, and Johnny Sutton was no doubt very unfortunate to miss out, especially given the foolish way in which his drill with Josh Reynolds was conducted.
But the reality is that there are a lot of players unlucky to miss out. This year I would add the names Todd Carney and Tim Grant to that list. If I was either of those guys I would feel deeply aggrieved at being overlooked.
Given their strong form all season they should both be there. But I don’t hear Sharks or Panthers fans having a constant whine about it. So please stop.
So there you have it – my Community Service Offering for fellow Red and Green fans.
Like you I’ll be hoping to don my old Smiths Crisps jersey (which remarkably still fits, if a little bit tighter than in the old days) on that final day in September, passionately cheering my team all the way.
But without the negative stuff.