It’s a game that stops cities. Curious enough to venture right out of my comfort zone, I joined the capacity crowd of 81,965 at the Sydney ANZ stadium to watch the Blues (NSW) vs the Maroons (Queensland). The Sydney Morning Herald headline the next day described the game as Fast and Furious. I’d say Quick and Dirty – and scary to boot.
Not a footy fan, I was clueless that State of Origin is Rugby League and that we have two other codes: Union and AFL. This game was the second in the best-of-three series. Described as “sport’s greatest rivalry”, the State of Origin attracts huge television audiences and stadium sell-outs.
Rugby league is cited as the toughest, most physically demanding of team sports. In case you don’t know, the aim of the game is to carry or kick the ball towards the opposing team’s goal line to score a try and then have the chance to kick the ball through the posts for conversion points. Sounds simple enough but here’s the thing – nearly all the ‘game’ involves the opposing teams preventing each others’ progress by tackling the player carrying the ball.
Which brings me to my point: the tackles look like all out brawls. The guy with the ball gets toppled then crushed by a few blokes from the other side. Viewing tackles close up on the big screens in the stadium, I was gobsmacked by the violence. The player at the bottom of the heap flails and squirms while the players on top grapple, punch and generally clobber him. This happens over and over again. And don’t forget these are especially hulking great men who are thumping each other.
If you want to see some of what I saw, watch this
Amongst all this barbarity, each team had a yellow-vested trainer hovering on the field to monitor the players, give sips of drinks and, I expect, the odd playing tip too. It seemed like a sweet touch befitting a primary school game.
For the record, the Blues won 18-8 giving each team a win in the series. The crowd, especially the blue wigged and garbed section of extreme supporters, was delirious. Heaven help the players in the decider on July 6.
I was shocked by the brutality on the field and the gladiatorial fervour of the crowd. Writer Sam de Brito in his weekend article, Angry boys learn to pull punches, said ‘While some people might shake their heads about the violence of football, boxing, movies and video games, there’s an argument they’re actually doing us a service by giving men the chance to vicariously release aggression in socially acceptable ways”.
Maybe. I still don’t get it …..
- why do so many people view these thugs as heroes?
- what does playing football at school to boys?
- do women have an equivalent activity?
‘Football is an incredible game. Sometimes it’s so incredible, it’s unbelievable’ Tom Landry
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