My beloved is an avid footy fan. The Manly Sea Eagles are her team of choice. And my God, isn’t she a woman of passion when it comes to her boys in purple.
It’s Sunday morning, there were three (yes, THREE) games on yesterday and she watched two and a half of them. And we’re about to watch the second half of the third game. Even though we know who the winner is. And this season, it’s a pretty safe bet that it won’t be Manly.
But wait, it’s not all bad. You see, I’ve adopted the “If you can’t beat them, join them” mentality, and I have now
randomly carefully selected a team of chumps sportsmen to barrack for. I like to call them the Pandas, however they’re the Panthers. And now that I have a team, I like to think I am somewhat of an expert on the game. So here is what happens in a typical NRL game.
1. They players are all neat and tidy and they do a funny back slap hug shaking hands thing. Then they make a line and run onto the field. Ladies shake pom poms and the crowd either cheers or jeers.
2. Someone plays the National Anthem. The players put their arms around each other. Most of the players stand there like they have a problem with their footy sock, like it’s slid down in their shoe and they’re not sure if they can do a full game with their sock like that. One or two will sing. Then there is another big cheer and everyone stops hugging and they run into positions on the field.
3. One team gets the ball and they throw it to each other then run forwards, directly into the other team. The other team encourages the player with the ball to have a little rest on the grass, then they do a massive “STACKS ON!” and all lie on top of him. This happens six times, and they either do a big kick or they run towards a white line then have another lie down, this time with the ball as a pillow.
4. Sometimes, during the six run and lie down sequence, a player will do something that is considered thuggery. Everyone yells and dobs and points and waves their arms around. A man, who wore pink last year but this year is wearing yellow, comes and huffs and puffs. Then he will make a decision and the players grunt and groan and wave their hands.
5. When players do a lie down over the line with the ball as a pillow, the man in last year’s pink or this year’s yellow will make two hand signals. The first indicates whether or not the player has tried hard enough. The second is to get someone else to look at the footage to decide if the player has tried hard enough. The someone else is known as the Video Ref, and is apparently a bit of a fuckwit. But the pink (or yellow) ref seems to like to keep the Video Ref in the loop, and so most things go to him to have a look at. Then a swirling sponsorship logo loads on the big screens and if it is red then they player hasn’t tried hard. If it is green then the player has tried hard enough, and everyone does the back slap hand shake cuddle thing again.
6. If the logo goes green, then one player from the team who tried hard gets to kick the ball through the goals. This is called converting a try. I am not sure what they are trying to convert the try to. But this is done by giving the ball an almighty kick and hoping it goes through two metal posts. I think this seems a little unfair. Because sometimes they choose to kick the ball from a very odd angle, or from a very long distance away from the posts. And to be honest it would work better if they could take the ball a little bit closer. The other thing that might help is if the player were to lick their finger then hold it up to see if there is any wind.
7. This continues for 80 minutes. Yes, 80. It’s important to keep an eye out for a couple of distinct moves. The first is the “rooting the air” move. This happens during the STACKS ON moments. The player at the bottom of the pile thrusts his crotch into the air with a tenacity that interests even this little gay duck. The second is the big group hug that my beloved tells me is called a scrum. I’m not certain of the purpose of the scrum. Basically, the two teams cuddle up close and someone pops the ball in at their feet, and then they push backwards and forwards until the ball pops out. Now, given the player who puts the ball into the scrum tends to put the ball as close as he can to his team, it’s a given that that team will “win the scrum”. But it would be more impressive, I think, if the ball was placed centrally.
8. At the end of the game, one team will have had a sleep on the ball more than the other, and they get points for doing that. And the team with the most points wins. They win the right to walk on the grass in a circle and wave to their fans, while the opposition’s fans throws things at them and swears.
9. One player is named Man of the Match, and I think his mum has to wash the team jerseys.
10. Between games, the players like to train, disgrace themselves publicly, and smile at each other when they stand in cold water.
That’s pretty much it, as far as I can tell. And it goes on and on and on. For weeks. And about halfway through the season, when all the players are tired, they suddenly mix them all up into two teams and they then play three Very Special Games, called The State of Origin. It is peculiar to think it takes three extra games to decide The State of Origin, because it would be much quicker to ask each player what state they come from. Then make a special graph, and the state with the most players is the winner. Quicker, and also removing three games of footy from the TV.
Because ultimately, that is what the game is about for me. Finding ways to minimise the impact of it all. And if that means I cheer for the Pandas when they run and lie down and play stacks on and hump the air, then that is what I do.
I’m classy like that.