Posts in April

Suburban is Best…
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Suburban is Best…

One of the pressing concerns for the newly created Australian Rugby League Commission is surely the call last week for NRL clubs to abandon their suburban grounds for the wide open and usually empty environs of the Allianz or ANZ stadia (or the SFS and Olympic as we used to call them). The Commission should boot the idea into touch right now, unequivocally and without further ado. The proposal seems to have emanated, surprise, surprise from the bigwigs of the big budget stadia themselves and their eagerness to drive revenue in a competitive and volatile market.  OK may have a point for some of the larger, so called blockbuster games but only them – the vast majority of games should still be played at Brookvale, Parramatta, Leichardt, Penrith, Campbelltown, Kogarah and Shark Park.  Once again this proposed move is couched as one the AFL undertook years ago. Melbourne games are now played exclusively at the MCG and Docklands and suburban grounds are now mistily recollected bygones of another age. Anything the AFL does or has done is viewed as the magic bullet, the cure all, the panacea but Sydney is an entirely different marketplace socially, logistically and geographically. Rugby league has a soul, a remarkable and resilient soul that survived the ravages of overt corporatisation due largely to the deep engagement of the communities surrounding the clubs. Try as they might, Rupert and Kerry couldn’t clone it, it is at a cellular level – part of the DNA of the code and everyone who supports it.  And the venues form part of this complex nuclear model – part and parcel from grassroots to the elite. This has been soccer’s main problem – disengagement from grassroot fan who paid the bills. The sectarianism needed to be dismantled but in so doing the precious DNA of the sport was irrevocably altered. Some would argue that the suburban games are sell outs and therefore deserving of higher status. Maybe, but my sneaking suspicion is that the reason they sell out is not undersupply but the very fact they are being played in grounds close to the communities that support and nurture them at a time dictated by fans not television. The Commission is here to protect and uphold the traditions of the game, a tall order indeed but they would do well to listen to the suburban heartbeat of rugby league. No stethoscope required.

This post first appeared as Monday’s Expert in the Northern Star on April 14th

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Old Guys Rule!

Talking over the weekend with a couple of mates, firstly at a local fashion outlet (never thought I‘d say that in a column) and subsequently at a restaurant over a beers we were lamenting the youth of today. The typical prejudiced laden chatter of your typical 40 odd year old blokes wallowing in the mire of middle age.  The centre of the conversation was the fact that Murwillumbah fielded more than there fair share of 40 year olds in their reserve grade league fixture versus Ballina last week. Not only that but one of their number (who is 51) scored a try to become surely the oldest player to score in NRLLL competition ever?).  Also among the meat pies was an ageless prop who notched a brace in the Trojans rugby union win over Grafton. A myriad of other sports tell similar tales of aged exploits. Whilst we were to a man in gobsmacked awe of their exploits the inevitable questions arose as to why they were in these situations in the first place as there are hatfuls of sporting options for over 35’s to amuse themselves.  Sure, some compete because by dint of genetic happenstance they can (and more importantly are allowed), but all of them? It seems not.  Some have to play to ensure their team does and therefore avoid the sporting ignominy of forfeiture. This led, quite naturally to stereotypical ramblings trotted out regularly by Grumpy Old Men in their sermons: ‘the young are lazy, too many computer gadgets, Gen Y have no loyalty’ and of course the hackneyed ‘it wouldn’t have happened in our day’!  That’s as may be but do we have the right to expect them to do as we did? Just because we trained apparently without question and come rain, hail or shine on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6pm does it mean they should too? I’m not suggesting the magic bullet is a swift return to sensible haircuts, an instant Twitter ban, black boots and jerseys made of a cotton/polyester mix rather than Teflon.  Far from it. I’m suggesting us oldies, as temporary keepers of the sporting flame should view things not from our misty eyed perspective but from that of a young adult confronted by an unfettered and option filled life. The world has changed but has the sporting world changed similarly?

This post first appeared as Monday’s Expert in the Northern Star on April 13th

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