They say you can have too much of a good thing – a moniker seemingly encapsulated by the non-stop debate around Sydney’s NRL clubs (see the recent discussion of conferences).
But what others view as a profligate concentration of top-flight rugby league clubs, I see as a positive.
Outpourings of communal attachment for a large city that bring a great deal in terms of rivalry, tribalism and attention to the sport.
If London can have sustained ten different Premier League clubs throughout its iteration, then surely another world city can support 8.5 sides with far lower wages and far lesser demands on police resources.
On a personal level, my brother has recently made it to Sydney and been reunited with his girlfriend (cheers lads, appreciate it). Now, I feel duty bound to find him an NRL side to support.
The trouble is: who to go for? An FA Cup, out-of-the-hat style draw? Throwing a dart blindfolded at a Sydney Metro map?
Of course, I’m writing from the other side of the world, which makes such a discussion a tad more difficult. But local geography is not so much of a determinant here, considering so many of the clubs have a very loose attachment to their patch.
As a Bunnies follower, I could try and imbue him with the same family following. But there’s something different between support passing down from a parent than between siblings, and it just doesn’t sit right.
It’s got to be an organic decision.
He could settle for the Eastern Suburbs. Yes, he’d have to deal with sky-high prices, and very few rugby league fans around. But it’d be just like being back in the south of England.
After two weeks of idle hell in hotel quarantine, the last thing that I could inflict on him is the dirge of Canterbury-Bankstown. No one should have to sit through that much boredom in one lifetime.
I harp on a lot about tradition, sentimentality and attachment, especially when it comes to the clubs’ stadiums and the value of retaining an atmosphere. But, in the case of Manly-Warringah and Brookvale, it would be better if that atmosphere didn’t contain asbestos.
There’s still part of the purist resentment against the way that mergers were carried out, leaving a dark mark against the merged Wests and the Dragons sides.
Even if one takes this as a given, the way in which these ‘partnerships’ have come to be dominated by one of the partners isn’t exactly the height of fair-play.
On the latter, a trip to Wollongong once a month, lovely as it may be, is not top of the agenda for the moment.
The fact that I forgot to include Cronulla-Sutherland, while speaking volumes of my lacklustre knowledge, is probably symbolic of why he may not barrack for them.
Picking Penrith, just as they appear to be entering a period of top-quality competitiveness, risks attracting the ‘glory hunter’ moniker. By the same token, Parramatta have been without glory for so long that not even the floods a few months back could wash away this drought.
AFL loyalties are already tied.
That wasn’t exactly a difficult decision, with the Giants based out of Canberra long enough to claim Parliamentary expenses. But there should be no reason why, providing there’s interest, one cannot support sides from more than one sport.
It’s often said that you don’t pick who to support, but that the team chooses you. But in this instance, as in the case of so many immigrants, sometimes a bit of a gentle cajole is needed.
It can’t be repeated enough that fans are the lifeblood of the sport. Back in England, five out of six Super League matches have been pushed back to Monday to allow some limited capacity fan attendance, even though this will actually cost many of the clubs.
The partisanship and support of NRL clubs is something that should celebrated more. The behind-closed-doors COVID games should serve as testament to just how important the fans are.
With that in mind, back to the main question: there’s a need to find a new NRL club to support.
Which one should it be, Roarers?