This week in Big League magazine...
Last week we ran a feature on those players who were coming up against their former club for the first time; well it heats up even more this weekend with some cracking old rivalries and new ones that are bubbling to the surface.
Rabbitohs-Tigers clashes go back to the very first year rugby league was played in this country while Brisbane and the Gold Coast have had an on-again-off-again feud since the Broncos and Giants were introduced to the competition alongside each other back in 1988.
The greatest rivalry of the modern era has its latest chapter written at AAMI Park when the Storm host the Sea Eagles; while two of the most passionate fan bases will find full voice when the Eels travel to Wollongong to take on the Dragons.
The man of the moment, Blake Ferguson, single-handedly generated animosity between the Sharks and Raiders when he headed to Canberra in 2011 and a club that, he believed, “could win a premiership”; while Ivan Cleary’s departure from the Warriors to coach Penrith and subsequent recruitment of Lewis Brown and Elijah Taylor will make for interesting conversation in the Centrebet sheds after the game.
Willie Mason and Michael Ennis both line up against former clubs when the Knights host the Bulldogs and we have clubs engaged in perhaps the fiercest and certainly oldest rivalry in the game at the top of the table: the Rabbitohs and the Roosters.
The increasingly transient nature of players makes developing new rivalries easier than ever and the emotion they evoke is what makes sport so wonderful. Wins mean that much more and losses cut deep when you really care about the result and have strong feelings towards those on the opposing team.
There are some issues surrounding the game at present but a good old-fashioned rivalry is always worth celebrating.
A few weeks ago I spoke of my admiration for the way rugby league fans conducted themselves at games in the light of some disturbing scenes around a couple of A-League fixtures. On Friday night we saw a flare let off in ‘The Burrow’, a section of proud South Sydney fans, just prior to kick-off that caused me some concern.
I have since spoken to people who were in The Burrow that night and the reaction to the flare from those in the immediate vicinity reassured me that this rogue element won’t find a place in our game.
Those surrounding the perpetrator – who was not wearing any visible South Sydney attire – quickly gave him up to security and let those he was there with know that that type of behaviour would not be tolerated among their fan base.
People such as that gentleman aren’t there to support their team or rugby league and we must remain vigilant in ensuring that while we can create a vibrant, exciting atmosphere, it should never be at the expense of the safety of those around us.