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Opinion

'You're rooting for clothes': What's more important, player or the shirt?

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Roar Pro
2nd July, 2021
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With all the player movement going on this season, it reminded me of a funny Jerry Seinfeld skit.

He discusses how people can go from loving a player to absolutely hating them when they go to a different team.

“Loyalty to one sports team is pretty hard to justify. The players are always changing or moving to another city. You are actually rooting for the clothes. You are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city. Fans will be so in love with a player but if he goes to another team, they boo him. This is the same human being in a different shirt, and they hate him now! Boo! Different shirt! BOOOO!”

It got me thinking – how many of us cheer for the shirt or the player?

We all know how much rivalry there is between certain clubs. For a lifetime when a Souths or Roosters player jumped the fence it would start a riot. But over time, did the fans learn to love their former foes, or was there still hatred regardless of the new shirt they were wearing?

Despite who you support, we all have a player that we just cannot stand and dread the thought of them ever playing for us. Or the hero at our club, if they ever left you, you just couldn’t see yourself ever getting out of bed again.

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When rumours start to circulate over the possibility of a player moving, heated debate from fans quickly follows, arguing why he should or shouldn’t come to their team, or why they do or don’t want him to leave their team.

When the whispers started about Will Chambers moving across to the Shire, the Sharks fans were up in arms. They did not want to have their arch nemesis from Melbourne, with a history of heated battles with their beloved Paul Gallen, to come to their team.

But he signed with the club and moved into the neighbourhood. He seems to have settled in well and is doing pretty well on the field.

Is he still public enemy number one because of who is, or has he been accepted now that he is not wearing purple?

A quick trip down the highway takes us to the Dragons. Earlier in the year the club were looking at signing Israel Folau. The fans did not want a bar of it – and they let management know. Social media was in overdrive, petitions were getting signed, phones were running off the hook from members threatening to cancel memberships and burn their jerseys.

Israel Folau.

(Raymond Roig/AFP via Getty Images)

The board withdrew their interest in Folau and the fans rejoiced. But then you could just hear a few murmurs from supporters saying, ‘hang on, he is a good player though. He may have helped us’.

Had the club just made a decision from a business level rather then an emotional one, would the fans have accepted Folau after they saw him in the Red V scoring tries? Or do they support the shirt and not the player?

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Because Josh McGuire – another player the Dragons fans weren’t too keen on – seems be getting a lot of love now.

The same hoo-hah that the red and white army made about Folau, the Knights’ fans were making about Matt Lodge. When there was a possibility that Lodge was going to join the ranks, there was a massive uproar.

Lodge’s off-field record has not been forgiven by all, and the fans were divided over whether they wanted him at the club.

It seemed that half were happy to have him, and half refused. The happy half were of the ‘forgive and forget’ mindset and were excited for a strong forward to join the ranks.

The other half did not want someone with Lodge’s past to join the team and said they would no longer support the club if they signed him.

In the end the latter’s voice was louder, and the board withdrew their interest in Lodge.

He has since signed with New Zealand. How does that sit, Warriors fans?

Matt Lodge

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

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The Souths faithful have been left distraught after the club only offered local junior and captain Adam Reynolds a two-year contract to stay on, when he was looking for longer. Reynolds made it very clear that he did not want to leave, but an agreement could not be reached.

He has now booked his plane ticket to Brisbane for 2022. While many fans are directing their anger at the board for not throwing everything they could at Reynolds to get him to stay, others are saying he should have just taken what was on offer if he loved being at Redfern so much.

Will the Burrow still love him when they see him run out for the Broncos next year, or will seeing Reynolds in different colours be too much for them to bear?

And then we go to the next level – State of Origin.

Are Tigers fans who were left broken-hearted when James Tedesco left them cheering his name when he plays for the Blues? Or is he forever dead to them?

Do Broncos fans take down the dart board with David Fifita’s face on it when he runs out for Queensland? Or does the hatred live on no matter what?

Do most of us who hate Manly cheer for Tommy Trbojevic when he crosses over for another NSW try?

It’s an interesting thought.

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Did Dragons fans ever forgive Gorden Tallis for ditching them to head to the Broncos?

Have Bulldogs fans let go of the anger towards Sonny Bill Williams when he left them in the dead of night?

Do Storm fans still have a soft spot for Cooper Cronk after he left them for the Roosters? Or Greg Inglis after he headed to Souths?

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Do Knights fans still hold a grudge against Ben Kennedy and Adam Muir for joining Manly? And did Manly fans even support those two players since they came from Newcastle?

Will Cowboys fans welcome Chad Townsend with open arms, since the reaction to his signing has been below average?

Tell me Roarers, who left your club that you never forgave?

Who came to your club that you never thought you could cheer for, but you did?

Do you support the player or the shirt?

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