Why I’ll watch the A-League instead of the NRL tonight

Greg Prichard Columnist

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    Manly's celebrate Tom Symonds' try during the NRL preliminary final between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Manly Sea Eagles at ANZ Stadium. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

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    I’ll watch the television coverage of tonight’s NRL game between Manly and South Sydney – but on delay. I’m going to watch the A-League game between Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar live instead.

    That is more interesting and exciting to me at the moment.

    Now, before you get stuck into me for mentioning my viewing plans as if it is a guide you should follow, that wasn’t my intention.

    The reason I mentioned it is because I wanted to explain the reasons why – and see if any other people felt similarly.

    There has been nothing remotely resembling a big build-up to the clash between the Sea Eagles and Rabbitohs. It’s been boring – the same as the lead-up to the opening game of the season between Sydney Roosters and Souths.

    Manly and Souths – the clubs and their fans – used to hate each other, going back to when Manly started stealing Souths’ best players in the early 1970s.

    But the hate is long gone. No one stirs up genuine rivalry between clubs anymore. Players, coaches and officials, they say nothing.

    Three reasons. One, they want to avoid the opposition seizing on anything controversial that might be said and using it as motivation. Two, they distrust the media. And, three, coaches are control freaks. They drive the agenda.

    It’s a different percentage of these reasons with different clubs.

    But, please. This is professional sport. If something the opposition says is going to take you higher than whatever it is you’ve been doing to prepare all week, it says less than zero for your preparation.

    When the people involved do have something to say, it adds spice. It creates a buzz, increases interest – and, yes, dare I say, increases crowds sometimes.

    Really good pre-match publicity – some genuine hype – helps get people talking and can sell tickets.

    Last Friday, I wrote a feature story for Rugby League Week lamenting the disappearance of hatred from the game’s rivalries – particularly that which used to be associated with Manly and South Sydney.

    The magazine wasn’t hitting the news-stands until yesterday, but I was as sure as I was of the sun rising on each of the six days in-between that nothing would happen to make me a look a fool.

    And, of course, nothing did. No one said anything to stir things up pre-match.

    In the story, I quoted former Souths and Manly player Mark Carroll, who, thank God, has always been prepared to say something.

    He said: “No one says anything anymore. Officials and players used to say stuff that would ignite things, but now the players are told what to do, what to say and what to eat. It’s all the same, so there’s no reason to really hate a team.

    “You might dislike a particular player, but you don’t hate a whole club.

    “The players are all friendly now. They’re shaking hands and even cuddling, with the shoulder bumps, at the end of games.

    “When I was playing for Manly, if we lost I was scared to go back to the dressing-room because ‘Bozo’ (coach Bob Fulton) would be there – and he wouldn’t be happy!”

    I’m talking about this because of the issue of lack of media access to players that has been a story in itself this week.

    Now, please, spare me your complaints along the lines of: “Why should anyone talk to the media when they just write crap about them anyway?”

    First of all – and so obviously that I feel like an idiot explaining it – not even remotely are all stories “crap”.

    But balancing that, I’ve been in the media all my working life and I’ll readily admit the media has done the wrong thing plenty of times in the way it has covered stories.

    Some stories are negative and that’s just the way it is. But then there are times where the subjects of stories are treated unfairly.

    I’ve got a suggestion that might help with that.

    If NRL chief executive Dave Smith is serious when he says the media access guidelines are going to be reviewed – they are ridiculously tight as they stand, compared with major sports overseas, and not policed by the league anyway – then he should consider creating the following position.

    A media officer with the specific role of monitoring coverage of the game and addressing complaints and issues affecting both sides of the fence – the media and the people they are writing about – with a view to improving the relationship and maintaining it at a good level.

    Greater media access leading to improved coverage of the game can only be good for you, the league fan, because you’re going to learn more about and, so, be able to identify more with the individuals and teams you follow.

    Finally, back to tonight’s game. Unlike maybe some people who are rabid league followers and wouldn’t for a second consider watching the football instead, I’ve enjoyed covering both codes at different times over the years.

    I don’t feel compelled to watch one over the other, so I’ll watch what I feel like watching at the time.

    Tonight, it’s the football. I’ll watch a replay of the league later.

    What I’m interested to know is whether there are other people out there who are league fans but who also like the football and are favouring the A-League tonight.

    Greg Prichard
    Greg Prichard

    Greg Prichard has spent all of his working life in the media, from way back when journalists were still using typewriters. He has covered rugby league, football, AFL and various other sports for News Limited and Fairfax newspapers and also worked for magazines, radio and pay television. Twitter: @gregprichard

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    The Crowd Says (215)

    • Columnist

      March 14th 2014 @ 6:46am
      Kris Swales said | March 14th 2014 @ 6:46am | ! Report

      Ironically, there’s been little pre-match hype for the soccer tonight either.

      I’m going to the SFS, but because I’m a Roar fan rather than any protest at NRL players not talking.

      Will be racing home for the Broncos/Cowboys after though, because it’ll be a cracking game – which, incidentally, has had no build-up in the Sydney press at all.

      • March 14th 2014 @ 8:26am
        Storm Boy said | March 14th 2014 @ 8:26am | ! Report

        Lance Franklin missed a media session but I am still going to see the Battle of the bridge Swans Giants. The hatred between these Sydney clubs is well known.

        • Roar Guru

          March 14th 2014 @ 8:42am
          Simon said | March 14th 2014 @ 8:42am | ! Report

          The Manly-Souths game last year – one of them at least – was described by Ray Warren as the best game he had seen in 10 years (and he would know). I just wish you would stop watching league altogether (and thus stop writing about it). You’re a drain on the sport.

          • March 14th 2014 @ 3:44pm
            BA Sports said | March 14th 2014 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

            Don’t kid yourself. Ray Warren watches two games a week. The one he does on a Friday night and the one he does on a Sunday afternoon. That’s it. He doesn’t do any preparation anymore and it shows

        • March 14th 2014 @ 9:15am
          seajay23 said | March 14th 2014 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          Yeah, amazing traditional derby, nearly as traditional as the Sydney FC, WSW clash.
          Love the way AFL and A League don’t rely on marketing hype; I mean ‘Battle of the Bridge’, been on the tip of my tongue for years.
          And that hatred between the Swans and the Giants – in their blood mate, in their blood.
          Fact is, no one is allowed to hate Souths anymore; they are the NRL and Nine network pin-ups butthey remain a hopeless bunch of losers who haven’t won anything for forty years and are unlikely to win anything for another forty years!
          Well, me,’Sleepy’ Bucknell and half a million other Manly supporters haven’t forgotten the arrogant Souths of the past and we look forward to keeping up the fine tradition of victory tonight.

          • March 14th 2014 @ 8:38pm
            Evan Askew said | March 14th 2014 @ 8:38pm | ! Report

            I’m no rugby league expert bud didn’t Souths win the minor premiership in 1989?

          • March 15th 2014 @ 2:19pm
            WestieRBB said | March 15th 2014 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

            I can assure you that even before the alleged racism last week in A-league Sydney derby those two teams hate each other. No marketing required to sell this one out now!
            Its split on demographic and as league knows from fibros vs silvertails there is nothing better to fuel a rivalry over a long time.
            The AFL ‘derby’ is plastic… very flimsy plastic.

        • March 14th 2014 @ 11:31am
          Allan said | March 14th 2014 @ 11:31am | ! Report

          You are joking aren’t you ?

          The battle of the bridge is as fake, plastic, manufactured as you can get it.

          No wonder no one cares about it.

          • Roar Guru

            March 14th 2014 @ 1:13pm
            Steve J said | March 14th 2014 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

            Battle of the bridge is an awful term – better just the Sydney Derby or Eastern Derby as the Western Derby is a winner .

            …. even better still the Mardi Fracas! Or Harbour Grudge or Handbags at 40 paces

            • March 14th 2014 @ 6:41pm
              rob said | March 14th 2014 @ 6:41pm | ! Report

              can always pick a league fab by their homophobic jokes taken straight from the fifties. no wonder this game is dying

            • March 14th 2014 @ 11:18pm
              Nathan said | March 14th 2014 @ 11:18pm | ! Report

              Would’ve thought the homophobia would’ve been omitted given the entire game of rugby league is based around wrapping your arms around other men, and sometimes getting a little frisky, as history has shown.

              • March 14th 2014 @ 11:26pm
                Cathar Treize said | March 14th 2014 @ 11:26pm | ! Report

                Same history as AFL players taking pics of themselves naked in hotel rooms like the St Kilda boyz or the slapping that goes on in an AFL called a ‘melee’. Can’t even call it a fight lol

          • March 14th 2014 @ 2:22pm
            Australian Rules said | March 14th 2014 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

            The Swans v Giants rivalry is 2 years old.

            In no way whatsoever does it compare to the “F3 Derby” between the Jets v Mariners…which is 9 years old.

            • March 14th 2014 @ 2:29pm
              albo said | March 14th 2014 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

              m1 derby

      • March 14th 2014 @ 9:23am
        Coalpepper said | March 14th 2014 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        I have no doubt that A league will grow in this country. It may even become the No1 sport in this country a decade from now but for me, the only thing that matters is the spectacle on the field and this is where the A league is as boring as dog excrement. That is why I will never watch A league.

        Tried it a couple of times, bored the pants off me a couple of times, time to watch the NRL.

        • March 15th 2014 @ 11:09am
          Scott said | March 15th 2014 @ 11:09am | ! Report

          That’s your opinion chief. I suggest you enjoy the NRL while it lasts. It’s dying a slow painful death as a sport in this country. Poor attendances, poor administration, and zero interest from any sports fan except for the diehards in Nsw and Qld.

          • Roar Guru

            March 16th 2014 @ 11:39am
            code 13 said | March 16th 2014 @ 11:39am | ! Report

            I bet you believed the Mayan apocalypse was going to happen as well

    • March 14th 2014 @ 6:50am
      Nathan said | March 14th 2014 @ 6:50am | ! Report

      The only hate that is currently happening is marldons hate for the sharks

      • March 14th 2014 @ 9:33am
        Coalpepper said | March 14th 2014 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        No evidence of this Marldon’s hate here but I can sure see yours.

    • March 14th 2014 @ 7:03am
      Red Dog said | March 14th 2014 @ 7:03am | ! Report

      The only real rivalry is State of Origin. In the NRL, I’m always surprised to see opposition players embrace each other at the end of a match. Its tells the fans that losing the match doesn’t hurt them.

    • March 14th 2014 @ 7:07am
      Steve said | March 14th 2014 @ 7:07am | ! Report

      I’m not sure whether we should be promoting or celebrating hate. Competitive spirit and pride in the jersey – sure.

      But do you really expect footy players to hate those from another club in this day and age? When you consider they may be playing for that club next year or lining up with the players from a rival club in a rep game. I don’t really see the hate in A-League rivalries either.

      • March 14th 2014 @ 8:52am
        Kasey said | March 14th 2014 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        Do the workers at Maccas hate the workers at HJs?
        taking away the suburban roots of the sport seems to have killed the inherent passion that clubs generated by virtue of their location and the hatred of ‘that mob over there’ that mob over there are just like us just in different jerseys now.

    • March 14th 2014 @ 7:51am
      Storm Boy said | March 14th 2014 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      Another league reporter dumping on their own code. Imagine an AFL reporter doing this.

      Please tell us where the hate is between 5 years old clubs Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar? Was it in the newspaper this week? Did their players bait each other on tv? I must have missed it.

      The NRL has killed the club hate by the salary cap wrecking teams and swapping players at the end of each year or like Fifita and Sharks at the start. The game is so much like touch footy there is no time for hate on the field anyway. If you tackle too hard the pink officials will penalise you. Where is the chance to sledge an opponent?

      Plus club ceos don’t want to publicize away games and coaches don’t want to publicize any full stop.

      • March 14th 2014 @ 9:23am
        Bumps said | March 14th 2014 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        There is a bit of history, if you followed the A League you would be well aware of the incident between Boss and Berisha up at Suncorp a couple of years ago. Yes the rivalry is new and is not as intense as that felt by SFC vs WSW, but it is there.

        • March 14th 2014 @ 10:24am
          Kasey said | March 14th 2014 @ 10:24am | ! Report

          Don’t forget SFC were the team that beat Brisbane to end their 36-game unbeasten streak!

          IIRC in terrible conditions at Kogarah Jubilee Oval.

          • March 14th 2014 @ 6:05pm
            Ballymore said | March 14th 2014 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

            First goal-scorer was none other than Brisbane Roar #23 Dimi Petratos.

      • March 14th 2014 @ 12:39pm
        Winter is Coming said | March 14th 2014 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

        Firstly, 10 year old clubs. Secondly, the article in no way says anything about SFC and the Roar hating each other. Thirdly, there IS animosity when it comes to SFC vs ROAR which harks back to the whole Big City vs Overgrown country town, QLD vs NSW rivalry. The games between these two teams are always hotly contested. I can’t wait, will watch the A-league then flick over to watch the end of the Broncos vs Cowboys game. Can never have enough sport.

    • March 14th 2014 @ 7:53am
      Ret said | March 14th 2014 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      Even though I’ve been a Bunnies fan for nearly half a century, I won’t be watching tonight in protest at the shocking treatment dished out to the members of that most honourable profession, journalism.Yep. Seriously mate, give up. Do you really believe that club imposed restrictions on media access to players influences whether fans keep supporting their team? Self serving drivel yet again.

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