One of the best moments to occur in the wake of the NRL grand final was an exchange between an ex-AFL player and a rock star.
Brendan Fevola tried to disparage rugby league’s choice of pre-match entertainment on Twitter by way of emoji.
Now, I don’t speak the native tongue of social media, so I’ll re-write Fev’s crap using words:
“NRL pre game entertainment *facepalm* *thumbs down*”
In response, Donnie Borzestowski – the drummer for the pre-game entertainment in question, Gang of Youths – served up a burn for the ages.
“Grand Final appearances: Gang Of Youths: 1 – Brendan Fevola: 0”
Grand Final appearances: Gang Of Youths: 1 – Brendan Fevola: 0
— gang of youths (@gangofyouths) September 30, 2018
That Newcastle born-and-bred Borzestowski wore a Knights jersey – from back in the day when Henny Penny was the major sponsor, no less – while he slammed the skins at ANZ Stadium before slammed Fev only made me love the bloke more.
Gang of Youths are one of 2018’s most important bands. More importantly, they’re one of the best.
Their 2015 debut, The Positions, was an unflinching dissection of frontman Dave Le’aupepe’s harrowing preceding years. As he put it, “I was in a four-year relationship with a girl who had a terminal illness and then I made a concept album about it with my friends.”
It was critically acclaimed and announced the band on the national stage.
As for the notoriously tough second album? That was 2017’s Go Farther in Lightness, which was one of the best records of last year (with no need for the caveat ‘Australian’). It debuted at No.1 in Australia, blitzed the ARIA awards, and had three tracks make the top ten of Triple J’s Hottest 100 this year.
In short, it’s a cracker.
And the NRL – if you’ll pardon my French – fucking nailed the brief by hiring this band for their biggest stage.
More than a few people have pointed out that the AFL got the Black Eyed Peas and Jimmy Barnes for their grand final, and suggested the NRL phoned it in by getting a lesser-known, local act.
To that, I would like to wheel out a bit more of the aforementioned French. Like, you’re f-ing kidding, right?
BEP are undisputedly far more famous than Gang of Youths, but they haven’t had a hit in ten years, didn’t bring the full band for the gig and were mediocre at best.
As for Barnesy? I won’t say a bad word about the great man – hipsters and bogans have done their best to ruin ‘Khe Sanh’, but it’s an addition to the lexicon of which our whole nation should be proud (doesn’t matter that he didn’t write it, it’s his song) – but he hasn’t had a hit in 20 years.
Nothing wrong with him turning up and putting on a show, which he did, but let’s not pretend he matters more than Gang of Youths in the current climate.
And Gang of Youths especially matter in the NRL’s current climate – as a Venn diagram, there’s so much crossover.
They are a group of young blokes from western Sydney (and Newie – cheers Donnie), who aren’t afraid to talk about the issues that matter – like toxic masculinity, homophobia and mental health. This is stuff the game needs to not only be across, but lead the conversation on.
What’s more, the bloke who stands front and centre is proudly Samoan, while guitarist Joji Malani is Fijian. In a game with such huge Polynesian representation, this was well overdue.
But most importantly, their songs are awesome. I’m listening to Go Farther in Lightness as I write this. Bloody hell, I forgot how good it is – it’s an album Bruce Springsteen might have made if he grew up in Burwood and drank Resch’s.
Look, it’s fine if you didn’t like their set. Truth be told, they didn’t blow my mind, but I’ve seen some of the greats at the height of their powers – I caught Kanye West touring The College Dropout, Ryan Adams play one of his last ever shows with The Cardinals and wept with joy as The Strokes opened their 2010 Splendour set with ‘New York City Cops’ (humble can piss off, that’s me just bragging).
But the NRL hired a current, young, socially aware, fucking great Australian band to play the grand final.
What the hell else are they supposed to do?