Sunday afternoon was meant to be a special occasion for Wests Tigers fans.
The Tigers’ Round 5 fixture against North Queensland was held at Leichhardt Oval, a source of magic in itself. There might be a long line for the bathrooms, but there is a sense of old-school nostalgia every time you visit the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’.
Given the Cowboys’ appalling record to start season 2021 with four straight losses and the Tigers’ spirited performance against the Parramatta Eels the week before, many footy fans thought the home team had this one in the bag.
To add to the sense of occasion around the Tigers’ first game at Leichhardt for the year was the passing of Tommy Raudonikis late last week. An icon of the game and a Western Suburbs Magpies legend, fans flocked to the venue in their black and white jerseys, hoping that the sense of occasion would not be lost on the players.
But fairy tales don’t always have a happy ending.
While the Tigers fought back and the game finished close at 34-30 in favour of the visitors, the first half was a disgrace. It was riddled with errors from the Tigers, dropped balls and ineffective, arm-grabbing tackles.
The Tigers went into the sheds at halftime down 28-6. The players were no doubt afraid of the spray that was about to be unleashed in the sheds from coach Michael Maguire but were also sent off the field with a resounding boo from their supporters.
This booing triggered a debate on Twitter as to whether fans of a footy team should boo their team.
It was kicked off with a tweet by Sydney Morning Herald journalist Andrew Webster, who said: “I know the Tigers were poor, but real fans don’t boo their side as they leave the field.”
I know the Tigers were poor, but real fans don’t boo their side as they leave the field. #NRLTigersCowboys
— Andrew Webster (@awebster1975) April 11, 2021
Footy is all about being part of something bigger than yourself and about being part of something you can’t control. Sport has the ability to muster all the human emotions: joy, sadness, anger and frustration.
I have always been a glass-half-full supporter and I choose to see the positives even when they are few and far between. That means that I don’t boo my team, no matter how bad the performance. I also tend to have a soft spot for players that are battlers – those who work hard but may not necessarily be the most talented on the field.
In fact, other than in my younger years, I don’t even think I boo the opposition (unless it’s the Melbourne Storm… and even that has dissipated over time).
But even though booing isn’t my preference, I can certainly understand why some do it.
Even though fans cannot directly control the result, they want to be heard. They want a place to share their frustration. Some choose to do this at home by throwing a remote at the television, some choose to do it at the pub and some choose to do it by booing.
Additionally, most fans who turn up are spending their hard-earned cash. For those who acquire memberships, particularly more than one, this can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.
Even someone who attends one game a year with their family, by the time you buy tickets, and get the kids a pie and a drink, you are looking at more than a hundred dollars.
Don’t these people have the right to let their team know when they are disappointed?
Some fans might even argue that booing can be a source of motivation for the team. I’m not sure whether it was the booing or Maguire’s words at the break, but the Tigers certainly rallied during the second half. Even though it wasn’t enough and they still lost, at least the end result was not a complete embarrassment.
Where do the Tigers go from here?
They truly are the Jekyll and Hyde of the NRL. One week you think you have them figured out and then the next week they perform like they did in the first half against the Cowboys.
It must be extremely frustrating for the players, the coach and more importantly the fans.
You won’t catch me booing from the hill at Leichhardt or from the stands at Bankwest Stadium, but I completely understand why others may want to.
That doesn’t make them any less of a footy fan. It just may make them slightly noisier than you or I and they may express their fandom in a slightly different way.