How old is he again?
Courage, passion, pride, determination and entertainment – these should be the five words used to describe the recently played representative round. Instead, one game managed to overshadow all the rest, with the assistance of multiple brawls, a slur and a decorative piece of wrist tape.
Like the games that preceded and followed it, the Under 20s State of Origin showcased some strong talent and highlight-reel moments. However, if there is one thing we were reminded of in the days following the representative round, it is that boys will be boys.
Or more directly, kids fresh out of high school can always be relied upon to act like kids fresh out of high school.
Realistically, is it any surprise that the lowlights from the weekend came from this particular fixture? This is not an excuse for their actions, but reasoning as to why such things can, and will, continue to occur.
Wests Tigers’ prodigy Mitchell Moses has taken his punishment for a poorly-mannered and indecently delivered slur, the roots of which scream homophobic but are more likely the reflex words of a young man not far removed from the schoolyard.
South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who are no strangers to controversy, would suggest the meaning of a word can change or become completely lost and the very nature of calling another man ‘gay’ has no actual reference to sexuality.
Much in the same way that calling someone a ‘dog’ is not intended to be a direct slight on the lovable canine species, rather the implication of a low act.
If we can try to understand the actions of Moses, we may determine this was the wrong thing said in the heat of the moment. Regardless, whatever his intentions, Moses should part ways with this behaviour, knowing this conduct is not acceptable in public life, and especially damning in the vicinity of a microphone.
Which brings us to Matt Lodge and that wrist tape.
While writing on wrist tape has been a custom used by many senior players, it is usually reserved for motivational purposes. Jamie Soward, for instance, would commonly write, “Don’t carry your divots” on his tape as a reminder that hurdles can be leapt.
Which makes Lodge’s scrawled message ever the more interesting.
The junior Melbourne Storm forward was caught, both on-field by referee Chris Sutton, and afterwards by match officials and media, for scribing on his wrist tape a colourful four-letter word that rhymes with hunt.
The predetermined nature of this incident makes it even more bewildering, but perhaps suggests something about the character of a man who wishes to intimidate through appearance and actions.
We haven’t seen a whole lot of Matt Lodge yet, but enough to already know that he is a product of a bygone era. An era where a flurry of punches would see you end up on the highlights package of the post-game show, not sitting in the naughty corner thinking about what you have done wrong.
Lodge is the kind of player who would have thrived in State of Origins of yesteryear. He is a barbarian. He has mongrel. If any player were to write such explicit content on their tape, it is a man who fits the above description.
Unfortunately for Lodge, that mould is being steadily erased from rugby league. Aggression is still an asset but it needs to be controlled, and if Saturday night was anything to go by, control is an attribute sorely missing from Lodge’s game.
Like Moses, this young front-rower will spend time on the sidelines unless he can successfully convince NRL authorities that he is a supporter of English football club Scunthorpe United, and that the wear and tear on his tape caused a few choice letters to rub off.
The under 20s State of Origin was a heated battle, no doubt. It was an adrenaline-fueled contest from the first minute to the 80th. In between all the loving shoves and flying fists, a game of football was actually played and subsequently won by New South Wales.
But we must spare a thought for referee Chris Sutton, who certainly had his hands full. Like a teacher trying to control his more unruly students, Sutton remained in charge. He sent two kids to detention and reprimanded many others for poor behaviour.
When class was dismissed at the 80th minute, let’s just be grateful these kids hadn’t already desecrated the surface of Centrebet Stadium with etchings of male genitalia.