Building a Better Bloke

Bandwagon jumpers

Posted in Sport, Wankers by Sam de Brito on October 11, 2009

By El Guapo

I grew up a mental Western Suburbs Magpies fan.

My dad and brother and I endured years of heartache, attending most games in the days you could drive to every venue, lob five minutes before kick-off and find plenty of standing room on the hill.

(I don’t think I actually sat down to watch a match until my 20s. And that was in the early 90s on a demountable, uncovered, plywood and aluminum “grandstand” at Campbelltown Sports Ground that Wests bought on the cheap from the 1982 Commonwealth Games “stadium” in Brisbane.)

Our fervour peaked during the apocalyptic 1984 season which produced one win in 24 matches (a 13-10 home victory over Illawarra). We sat, or stood, through every single match. We drove to Penrith, Wollongong and Canberra. We capped off the season in Round 26 with a drive to Endeavour Field in the Sigma, where Cronulla walloped us 48-10 in front of 3230 fans …

The most noble, and notable, effort was an 8-6 loss to Easts at a rainy Lidcombe Oval in front of 1395 fans (yup, 1400). The Maggies were attempting to avenge a 54-6 flogging by the Chooks in the first round and, I kid you not, we had five tries disallowed.

The ref was former Rooster Alan McKean who would blow the whistle in just one more first-grade game.

Supporting Wests was tough. We had brief flings with success in the late-70s/early-80s and again in the early 90s. But it was short-lived for many reasons: poor management, up-and-down crowds, financial woes and having our best players taken by other clubs.

Tommy Raudonikis to Newtown hurt, as did Terry Lamb to Canterbury, but nothing sucked the life out of the fans more than the calamitous defection of Les Boyd, John Dorahy and Ray Brown to Manly in 1979.

Wests weren’t the only club to be pillaged by Manly – Easts and Souths and Norths copped it too – but that’s not actually my gripe. That’s life, though I still hate Manly.

My beef is with rugby league. It’s just so self-serving and self-aggrandising.

Take for instance dyed-in-the-wool league lifers like Ken Arthurson, the patriarch of that aforementioned Manly club, and later when on to run the ARL’s golden era of expansion which included the immortal South-East Queensland Crushers and Western Reds.

He now bemoans the lack of player loyalty.

He was the godfather and architect of this era of player-swapping and club-hopping, and no one pulls him up on it or calls him out. It was printed in the paper as if it were gospel, as if Jesus himself had uttered it.

And that’s because talking shit is de rigeur in rugby league. It’s all opinions. No facts.

Before the grand final Ken Sutcliffe blurted from underneath the Telstra Stadium goalposts: “Telstra Stadium may hold 80,000, but if it held 800,000 it would still be a sellout, such is the anticipation of this grand final”.

Oh really? Nearly a million people would attend Parra-Melbourne if they could? Hmmmmm, I’d bet a lazy $5 they wouldn’t.

But I shouldn’t be surprised because, after all, league is the “greatest game of all”.

(Yup, it’s hard to find even one counter-argument.)

And its showpiece is State of Origin, one of the “world’s great sporting spectacles”.

(Yup, right up there with the Olympics and World Cup to name but two.)

Especially when it’s played at Suncorp, “the best football stadium in the world”.

(Yup, better than Old Trafford, Wembley, Nou Camp, Loftus Versfeld, Stade Francais, Emirates Stadium, San Siro. Even better than the Dallas Cowboys’ new home ground.)

In a rivalry unmatched, “mate against mate, state against state”.

(Um, yeah. Of course it is. Because, like, every option has been considered. A Brazil v Argentina World Cup qualifier. Or Barcelona v Real Madrid. Or Inter v AC Milan. Or Man Utd v Liverpool at Anfield. Or Celtic v Rangers. Or Boca Juniors v River Plate. Or an All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Or England v France at Twickenham. Or Wales v England at Millennium Stadium. Or Collingwood v Essendon on Anzac Day. Or the century old college football rivalry of Michigan and Ohio State played in front of 110,000. Or a Green Bay v Minnesota NFC Championship game at Lambeau Field.)

Yup, there is indeed little doubt that NSW v Qld at Lang Park (est 1980) is the best.

(Do this straw poll, ask your friends who won the last 10 grand finals, 10 Melbourne Cups and 10 Origin series. I bet any money they get most of the GFs and Cups, and totally stuff up the Origins – even though there’s a 50-50 chance of being right and everyone knows Queensland has won the past four. Or is it three?)

You want some more commonly told shit about league?

“The game’s been hijacked by News Ltd and Foxtel. Bloody pay TV greed.”

What the fuck are you talking about?

Do you know why we went to every Wests game? Because it was the only way we could see them play.

They were never on TV. There were two games televised a week when I grew up: live Sat arvo on ABC or Sun night on a three-hour delay with Rex Mossop on 7.

And yet these days fans whinge about sport being hijacked by Foxtel. What a crock … fans have never had it better. You can see EVERY game live if you cough up for a subscription or go to the pub.

There is no sport in the world that gets better coverage than that. Most sports impose blackout restrictions on local games so fans actually turn up live instead.

“Referees are ruining the game.”

You know why fans trot out this rubbish? Because coaches do. And so do commentators. Because most commentators were invariably coaches. Because we live in a culture of blame and no one in league will cop a loss on the chin.

No one will accept the rub of the green, or bad luck, or that their team played like shit or IS shit.

So the home team gets all the breaks? So they should. The fans should be influential. That’s why it’s called a “home-ground advantage”.

But I digress …

Wests moved to Campbelltown, I was threatened at Bulldogs games at Belmore several times for, you know, wearing a Wests jersey and cheering when we, um, scored. And then Super League happened, later Wests merged and during this time my SCG membership kicked in and … that’s why I now go for the Swans.

Fairweather fan, bandwagon supporter, say whatever you like, I don’t care.

Most everyone following league has jumped on the bandwagon.

The Swans landed in Sydney before the Titans (aka Giants aka Seagulls aka Chargers), the Storm, the Cowboys, the Raiders, the Warriors, the Knights, the Broncos and the St George-Illawarra Dragons existed.

That is, half the NRL.

As for Wests Tigers, thanks to the wonders of modern league TV rights, I watch them on Fox every week, and occasionally go to games. My dad and brother are still nuts and good luck to them.

But I now bleed the red and the white. Of the Bloods. I’ve hardly missed a home game in over 15 years.

So yup, I jumped on the Swans bandwagon. Why wouldn’t I?

Watching the steady procession of league goons on the front page of the paper week in week out is hardly a siren’s song luring me back either. And the game of AFL live is truly superb.

If you hate me, at least I paid my dues. And I’m not going to apologise. I’ve always cared about something. It used to be the Maggies, now it’s the bird of a different feather.

And I’m not one of those blokes who owns a Wallabies AND Souths jersey. How does that work?

And don’t get me started on “diehard Waratahs fans” and their “years of torment” (which amounts to 14) … jeez, must be tough times following your team three months a year. When it’s warm.

And, if you actually go to a game, you get a seat.

El Guapo punts, drinks a little, and says no to cigarettes, drugs, talkback radio and fiction novels. He lives in the same Sydney suburb he was born in 40 years ago. He’s worked in the internet for 12 years, but has also written an advice column for teenage girls, been a bookie’s clerk, fishmonger and altar boy. He loves sport, TV, his wife and son, daughter and dog.


10 Responses

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  1. Grifter said, on October 12, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Fuck the magpies, fuck the swans, the roosters, crows, eagles. They’re all for the birds.

  2. boof said, on October 12, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    They were the days. What a forward pack, Tommy at half with Boland on the wing. Licombe oval with the track around the outside, blokes playing with pride and working during the week. No money but Wests were competitive every year, they were my second team. What the NRL need is the traditional clubs to be successful, Souths v’s Dragons GF, Souths v’s Manly, Souths v’s Parramatta, Souths v’s anyone.

    In 1989 myself and 3 mates drove down from Newcastle to see Souths play Balmain in the semi final at the SFS. Got down there to find it was sold out, ended up at the Captain Cook, bought a carton and drove home listening to Balmain overun the rabbits with my 3 drunk mates carrying on. That Andy Courier pommy scoring near the end of the game. At the time it was the only semi final sold out at the SFS and don’t think there has been one since at that ground.

    The money changed league, players don’t have the same passion anymore. How in the f$ck anyone could watch rugby after the rubbish they played this year is beyond me.

    Here is a game to be remembered, you might have been there. Plus Boyd getting one, great post Guapo.

  3. EL Guapo said, on October 13, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Boof, in fact I was at both games you mentioned. Early in 1989 my Dad and I had backed Canberra at 16-1 to win the comp, so we were watching with interest. The Wests player in the YouTube clip was a guy called George Moroko I was also at this game at Brookvale which erupted (in fact they always erupted; this was just captured on film). Get a load of Manly No.12 Max Krilich’s king-hit on Wests No.9 (who I think is Paul Merlo) at about 0:14. Not sure he even got suspended for that.

  4. EL Guapo said, on October 13, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Oops, here it is

  5. boof said, on October 13, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    The build up to those Wests v Manly games were always high especially after Manly kept poaching players. Roy Masters was an expert at creating the animosity towards the eagles. The fight above plus the one between Newtown and Manly in that semi final are memorable, remember Raudonikus and Boyd grabbing hold of each other but both seemed to back off a bit.

    Canberra won that comp in 89 and 90, it then came to light they had overpaid players(cheated) and the club nearly went broke as a result a few years later, to be saved by the government or the ARL, not sure which.

    The game is certainly not the same without all the traditional clubs, can understand you switching to the swans. Always competitive, Roos has done wonders over the last six years. They appear to be respected by all the other teams in the AFL for their ability to compete, no matter the talent on the park.

  6. boof said, on October 13, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    The other issue with Arko was if you played for Manly you had the best chance of playing for Australia than any other club, the dogs probably being second in line. I think that was also part of the reason many players joined Manly, along with the money. Sort of like a career advancement decision.

  7. cassandra said, on October 14, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Awesome dude, I guess you don’t have any idea how retarded this looks?

    You’re promoting a website called “building a better bloke” and allowing boofhead wankers to publish rugby league fights from 30 years ago like sentimental simians.

    What a PR coup that is for your seminar.

    Imagine some young bloke walks in here to see what kind of “better blokes” your building.

    Ah, Sammy, it’s hard to walk away from the macho-man bullshit isn’t it – all 90 kg of you, I think.

    • Sam de Brito said, on October 14, 2009 at 10:27 am

      Awww, we don’t all fit in one shiny box, Cassandra … how challenging for you. You’ll get a ton of different voices on this site. Some you won’t agree with. Why don’t you stop your whinging and send a submission? Nah, so much easier moaning from the bleachers.

    • boof said, on October 14, 2009 at 12:43 pm

      Sorry Cassandra I posted the first one with Les copping it, you’re obviously not a league fan, my handle being boof probably didn’t help either.

      How many of these ‘young blokes’ you mention sit in front of violent video games all day ? Or watch violent movies that includes glorification of war ? Or watch TV shows which portray men as stupid ?

      I think young blokes are influenced a lot easier and more often by popular culture than a thirty year old rugby league fight.

  8. Mike said, on October 15, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Nice one Cassie! A bit of a fight never hurt anybody. Young blokes growing up would benefit from seeing a fight on the field where it belongs rather than the sanitised version we are forced to watch now. Men being men.

    Grown up loving League but I am more turned on watching the Socceroos and Sydney FC these days. Different strokes…

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