Sometimes I wonder if I live in the wrong city. Melburnians, in general, are quite passionate about sport and, in particular, AFL which they feel an ownership over. Having been raised a Queenslander and indoctrinated from a young age in the superiority of Rugby League I have sometimes struggled to find like-minded friends. In fact, not only do I encounter apathetic attitudes towards NRL amongst the locals but I am often surprised by the aggressive nature of their disdain for the game. Although, in all fairness, I am apathetic towards AFL. One of the most frequently asked questions in Melbourne is, “Which team do you follow?” I can’t even truthfully say it’s the Brisbane Lions. I can watch a game of AFL every now and then but I don’t care who wins. I just doesn’t have my heart.
See, I love Rugby League. I’ve given up social commitments and organised interstate holidays to fit around opportunities to go to Rugby League games. I’ve screamed and yelled at the television, jumped up and down and thrown (soft) objects around the room in excitement. It physically pains my heart to hear my students taunt me that the, “Broncos are going to lose the State of Origin tonight,” because they clearly have no idea what they’re talking about.
Living ‘below the border’ (‘behind enemy lines’?) has actually afforded me more opportunities than I’d had in my previous locations to witness one of the greatest sporting spectacles available: The State of Origin. State of Origin is like always having your team in the grand final, and then playing that grand final three times a year. As mentioned several times already, being a Queenslander is no small part of my identity (somehow still even after living over half of my life elsewhere) so the rivalry between Queensland and New South Wales runs strong in my veins. Since it is nearly that time of year again, where mate plays against mate, I thought I would reminisce some of the games I got to spectate last year. Game II was played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. My parents were coming from interstate just to watch (and to see me I suppose). At the last minute, my mum couldn’t come so I invited a rare, Rugby-watching friend to join us.
The MCG truly is one of the best sporting grounds in Australia and to see it bathed in maroon and blue light warmed my heart. We had only just held on by the skin our teeth in Game I and even after so many Queensland victories in recent years, the hunger to beat the Baby Blues was still strong. Melbourne has no real vested interest in the traditional Origin rivalry, however, it does have its own rivalry with Sydney which extends to almost all facets of life. Hence, the Victorian crowds tend to heavily favour the Queenslanders, if only out of pure spite for New South Wales. The trip from Sydney to Melbourne is short enough that many Blues supporters deigned the trip down for the game, and many Queenslanders had also traveled considerable distance to attend. So despite the event lacking the home ground advantage for both teams, blue and maroon clad supporters were in abundance.
An almost sold-out crowd filling the MCG is an impressive sight to behold and is quite entertaining in itself. Indeed, the game had the highest ever State of Origin attendance of 91,513 people. However, the entertainment didn’t stop there. The game was well fought out (literally fought out in some moments) with plenty of scoring opportunities. At half time, the scores were close (NSW 14 – 10 QLD). We were behind the in-goal of NSW for the first half of the game so we were hoping to see a second half, Maroon come-back from the perfect vantage point. Unfortunately, there was only one more try scored by Queensland in the second half. While we enjoyed it immensely, it was not enough to get us the win. New South Wales won the game and levelled the series with 26 points to Queensland’s 18.
Luckily, Queensland did comprehensively win the next game and consequently the State of Origin trophy, once again. And it felt just as good as every other time. I love sport. Here’s to another cracking series in 2016.